Hi, my name is Jim. You guys are both excellent. It seems like you have
a lot of overlap in what you believe -- this wasn't explicitly a Christian
nation, but there was strong Christian influence. I think you both agree
on that. I'm wondering what are the practical implications now. OK, we're
here in the year 2002. I'd like to know where your view of this leads
you. For instance, John, what would you codify into law? Would you now
bring Christian ethics more? Would you re-institute laws against fornication,
adultery, homosexuality? Ed, what would you like to see? Would you like
to see prostitution legalized? Would you like to see homosexual marriages
allowed? Where do you guys diverge now? What you like to see in law? Where
would you bring this?
It's a great question.
It's an excellent question, and I'll go first since you asked me, Jim.
Some of you are aware that I am lobbying the legislature right now to
stop the possibility of same-sex marriage. I've written all 187 legislators
twice now. I've heard from a couple dozen, and progress is going excellently
in terms of stopping same-sex marriage. And the way I'm doing it is
I'm saying that unalienable rights come from the God of the Bible, and
the God of the Bible says one man, one woman, one lifetime. And that
if we are to allow same-sex marriage, we then have to come up with a
new source of rights. And this is the argument I'm presenting to legislators.
I've had some delightful response in the process.
The second initiative I
have is a non-binding resolution I would like to see the legislature
vote on called "Human Sexuality and Civil Rights." And basically
what that does is it says every person, as a person, has unalienable
rights. Marriage is the historic foundation for healthy society. There
are those who live outside marriage. Marriage between a man and woman
should be protected, but those heterosexually or homosexually are free
to live outside of marriage if they want to in private consenting relationships.
Therefore, no anti-sodomy laws. However, the conclusion is that all
people, all people must honor the life, liberty and property of others.
What this means is you have a libertarian ethos that says the government
is not interested in policing your private relationships. However, the
moment they become public and you deprive someone of life, liberty or
property, then you are accountable to public laws. Rape does it; no-fault
divorce does it; prostitution does it; pornography does it; pedophilia/pederasty
also do it. And so basically it's giving freedom for choice between
adults that doesn't injure somebody else and a public consequence. And
this is translating theocracy into non-theocracy, which I could explain
in great detail, but that's the conclusion of how I would do that.
The final observation here
is in all I do - protecting the unborn, seeking to do that as well -
I'm always going to appeal to the source of unalienable rights. And
also, the passionate conviction that we win by persuasion, not imposition.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed false definitions that legalized
human abortion. It was not voted on. I don't want to re-impose what
I think is a true definition. We need to win the hearts and minds of
the nation. And to do so, we have to minister to the brokenness that
leads to bad laws like this. And as a Christian I'm utterly free. If
I win or lose the political debate, that's secondary to the fact of
the Kingdom of God which is my identity and my home.
Well to start with, I think John should continue to have the right to
send letters to all the legislators. But I don't think that legislation
should be passed based only on religious ideas. Certainly I was a little
flippant about him writing the letters. I expect and understand that
every citizen will make decisions about what kinds of things they want
to lobby for or against, based on their belief systems. And so I expect
that Christian legislators and Christian voters will have an impact
on what legislation we get. But the legislation that they pass, in order
to be constitutional, in order to be consistent with our religiously
neutral government, has to have grounds and basis that is not only or
strictly religious. It has to have some other basis for that. It's not
that Christian legislators or Christian voters should leave their religion
out of it. They're not going to even if we tried to get them to. I don't
think they should be asked to. But it's never sufficient. You can't
say, "well it says in the Bible
." And even if you can
show me clearly (I think the Bible is a lot more ambiguous than John
thinks it is), even if you can show me clearly that a biblical principle
is such and such, that's not sufficient. There has to be other grounds.
To give you specific examples,
I'm certainly in favor of
. John and I have lots more debates that
we need to have. Because he and I disagree on abortion, disagree on
same-sex marriages. We disagree on a variety of other things. I think
that most of the opposition to granting gays and lesbians equal rights
(and that's what I would call them, equal rights, not special rights),
is in fact religiously based, and that's one of the reasons I'm opposed
to it. We could get into long debates on all those things. The answer
to your specific question is that I think we have a religiously-neutral
government, and that it should continue to be a religiously-neutral
government. I think that it has had impact on lots of different things.
There are all sorts of myths on it. There's this myth that the Supreme
Court took away kid's rights to pray in school. It never did any such
thing. They never made any kind of ruling that said children can't pray
in school. The old saw that I hear preachers say all the time, "As
long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school."
And I think that may be true. The rights of every individual, student
and teacher, to exercise and believe as they wish should not be interfered
with, and the courts have not made any attempt to interfere. The only
thing they have restricted is the right to impose your religion on someone
else, or to give the appearance of having the government endorsing a
religious view by having a prayer before school that implies that the
correct or the moral or the appropriate thing to do is to pray to one
or another deity. That should be a private matter. Everybody should
have the power to do that anytime they want to, including in school,
as long as they don't interfere with the functioning of the school.
But they don't have the right to impose it on others. I don't know if
I answered your question or not.
Hi, my name is Jim. My question I guess is mainly directed to you, John.
I think you both did an excellent job in presenting your viewpoints.
The problem I had was you keep referring to the Creator, or your God,
as the source of unalienable rights, and the source of unalienable rights
as the philosophical basis of the Declaration of Independence. Now what
I learned back in High School is that when they referred to the Creator
-- it wasn't simply from one history instructor, it was actually a couple
- when they referred to the Creator, it was simply a convention of the
time much like "in the year of our Lord." So I want to know
on what basis other than your interpretation, what factual basis that
you interpret it that way?
Well, I think that's a good question. Another question is what is a
"convention of the time"? With the phrase "convention
of the time" do we short sell the historical assumptions of those
who agree with Jefferson's language? If you look at the signers of the
Declaration, they were overwhelmingly biblically-convinced Protestant
Christians. This was in a country that was growing in religious liberty.
They are tracing themselves back to the Reformation. And so if you look
at all the scholars that will tell you about to whom they were referring,
the Creator. You can say, well, a convention they were referring. But
look at it deeply. They had to come up - and Jefferson's the one who
gave us the language in terms of writing the actual words - but they
had to come up with an authority greater than King George III. So it
wasn't just a convention of the time. You see, what's so powerful about
those who signed the Declaration, was unlike so many other revolutions,
they wanted a moral basis in the sight of God for what they thought
was covenant breaking. Why was that? Because they understood the biblical
God who kept covenant, and kings were supposed to keep covenant biblically.
The divine right of kings is a post-biblical idea against which they
were rebelling. So in that context they were seeking to have moral authority.
So when they said "the Creator" and "nature's God,"
it was far more than a "convention of the time," it was conviction.
And there is no other Creator to whom they were referring. That's historically,
inescapably the case.
Well, you won't be surprised to hear I disagree, somewhat. I do agree
that it's not just a matter of the "convention of the time."
The Declaration of Independence was in fact a revolutionary document.
It was a break with the past. A very strong break. One of the ways that
it broke with the past, especially the Judeo-Christian past, was to
refer to "the consent of the governed." It certainly did have
some allusions to a god. Jefferson certainly was a believer in some
sort of a god. Not a Christian God, he was very explicit about that.
Of course there were Christian influences, but it's an insult to the
framers and to the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say
that they meant for that to be a document that was rooted in Christianity.
They didn't say so. They could have. There was no reason why they couldn't.
Same thing goes for the Constitution. They chose not to. They were explicit
about that. John Adams, as I said in his defense of the Constitution,
the one referring to the Declaration particularly, was explicit about
this notion that this was not a religious-based government that they
were establishing. That's why the Treaty of Tripoli in its language
is important. The Treaty has long since been overturned. It wasn't very
effective anyway. We went to war with Tripoli a few years later. But
the sense of the founders, and I would believe this was correct even
if it wasn't what the founders wanted, was that our government (the
federal government, they weren't talking about the state government
at the time - we can get into that conversation if you like), the federal
government should be neutral with respect to religion. There were some
exceptions like chaplains in Congress that came before the Constitution.
Oo, I'd like to talk some more about that. But we'd better let more
questioners come in.
I appreciate the civil exchange of diverging ideas, and you folks have
both done a great job doing that. My name's Bob by the way. I have a
couple of quick questions that I'd like to direct to Ed that really
shouldn't require elaborate answers. And then I have kind of a larger
philosophical question that I'd like both of you to comment on if you
would. Do you, Ed, ascribe to any transcendent truth at all?
To what do you place your faith or hope that this free society that
we enjoy here in America will abide?
Well, it's a good question. And it relates of course to the thing that
John's been talking about. What's the source of these unalienable rights.
It is a social contract which exists as long as we think it exists.
And when we stop thinking it exists it'll quit existing. And there aren't
any gods to keep it in place. It's only up to us human beings. It is
in all of our best interests to understand that even though we're sure
we're right about religion, liberty demands that we allow other people
to be sure they're right, and to not impose religious ideas on each
other. And that includes atheism. I know of course that there are historical
examples where atheism has been imposed on people, and it's been a terribly
destructive and dangerous thing. Just as it is terribly dangerous and
destructive to impose Christianity or Islam or any other religion on
citizens. What's my hope for the future? My hope is that we will all
keep believing in unalienable rights that John and many of you will
believe in it as something that came from God. That secular humanists
like me will believe that it didn't come from God, but it's still awfully
important, because it works, it protects liberty for all of us. It protects
not just liberty, but our ability to progress and to stay at peace and
not kill each other off.
If I could just give a quick addition to that. The question I would
ask Ed is, why does it work? In other words, if there is no transcendent
power, then might makes right if people aren't satisfied with what the
consent of the governed gives to them, and they have the might to impose
their right. What happens is that when we do not have a transcendent
power to whom we're all accountable, then it becomes a free-for-all.
My assumption would be from your perspective that it so happens the
free-for-all is working OK right now in this country. But history gives
us no guarantee it will continue to work that way. So the real contrast
in terms of what works, is since I assume that we're all made in God's
image, it works because it produces the best possibility for peace,
order, stability and hope, short of the second coming of Jesus. If we
are the by-products of a cosmos that doesn't know we exist, then freedom
is no better than slavery -- other than your opinion, with which I agree
it is better, but there's no reason it has to be.
There's no reason it has to be. I don't think might makes right. I think
might makes might.
The right in terms of those who have the might.
I believe that those who have the power will win. I don't think they
will necessarily be right. I don't believe that that proves that that's
But what is right with no transcendent source? Isn't right just the
opinion of who has the power?
Why not? Your opinion might be different than a tyrant's opinion, and
he's just as much a product of evolution as you are.
Do you want an answer? I'll give you one.
It probably won't be one that will satisfy you, and I understand that.
It would be a wonderful thing, in my opinion, if we could all believe
in the same transcendent reality, and that that could be the source
for our respecting each other and not trampling on each other's rights
and so forth. In one sense that would be a wonderful thing. But that
doesn't make it true. That makes it useful, but not true. In fact, George
Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and John Adams
- and this is one of the reasons that it's hard to piece out what their
religious views are - all believed that religion for the masses was
a good thing. They believed that the poor schmucks who were doing all
the work in the country, that the whole country was better off, if people
believed this. They didn't present that as a reason why religion was
true, just why it was useful. Do I think there is a transcendent reason?
No, I don't. But do I think it matters? Yes, of course. You understand,
you're looking at somebody who thinks this is the only life I've got.
There isn't another reality. There isn't anybody or anything that's
going to come along and save me or my son or my wife, the things I care
about, except human beings. They're not guaranteed to. I certainly agree
with John that it's not guaranteed. It's not guaranteed if everybody
believes in God, either. If the World Trade Center attack doesn't show
you that, I don't know what would. Belief in God is not sufficient,
and it's not necessary. It can be helpful if everybody has the same
belief, but they don't. It's not just Islam versus Christianity, it's
Christian versus Christian. Christians don't agree on a lot of the things
John and I don't agree on. Christians don't agree on abortion, they
don't agree on capital punishment, they don't agree on same-sex marriages,
and on and on and on. We don't have uniformity of religious belief.
It's not easy. I'm not trying to tell you that establishing moral standards
and getting people to accept those moral standards is an easy thing.
It's something that humanity has struggled with for hundreds of thousands
of years, and done so imperfectly. And there have been many instances
in the history of our kind of terrible, terrible things done by people
who had power and who did them because they had power. Some of those
people said they were doing it in the name of Christianity, or Islam,
or atheism, or what have you. So, having these transcendent beliefs
isn't that helpful. History tells us it's not. But is it important that
we all accept that the other guy has these unalienable rights that we
all have? It's very important for our future, for our happiness. It's
not guaranteed. The best hope is that we all agree that we have these
rights to disagree on things which are very, very important. It's hard
to do. Because it's hard to say, "I believe that this is the one
true way." But I don't think it's worth threatening to kill you
to get you to agree with me. It's a tough thing. It's tough for every
ideology or religion, not just for one or another.
This is an historical matter that I'm interesting in having you both
remark on. And that is, do you see any relationship between the philosophical
underpinnings of the French Revolution and the American Revolution,
respectively, and their outcomes?
Sure. There are some overlaps and some similarities and some connections.
There are some differences, too. Thomas Jefferson for example was a
strong Francophile. He loved the French. I found out a year or two ago,
Thomas Jefferson was actually in Paris when they stormed the Bastille,
July the 14th 1789 I guess it was. There were some similarities, but
in general most of the Americans, like most of the British thought that
the French Revolution went way too far. That it went berserk in destroying
establishment principles. I'm opposed to beheading people under pretty
much all circumstances. The philosophes, Diderot and DeHoback, had some
limited influence on Franklin and Jefferson, and to some extent on the
rest of American thinkers. Jefferson, because he knew a number of these
atheists in France, wrote explicitly about the fact that he believed
that atheists were moral people. Their morality did not come from belief
in God, or from a god. Now, he was not an atheist; I'm not trying to
say he was. He very clearly was not. I sort of agree with John. I don't
think the word "deist" is the right description for him, either.
He believed in an afterlife and some other stuff that isn't consistent
with the strictly deist point of view. He was certainly not a Christian.
He wasn't a Christian if to be a Christian you have to believe that
Jesus died for your sins and rose again. Because he didn't believe that.
He didn't believe in the Resurrection. He didn't believe in Atonement,
etc. He described himself as a Christian. Did you have a more specific
question about the French versus
Bob, I think it's a superb question. And actually it's one I wanted
to raise earlier. Ed, when I asked you for the source of unalienable
rights, and you traced it to the Enlightenment
Then I'm interested in the other parts as well. But that's a part that
I do not accept because the difference between the two revolutions is
overwhelming. This is where my radical Protestant nature comes to the
fore. A genuine Protestant wants the reformation of the whole church.
The Reformation was in part rebelling against a culture where church
and state were united in scratching each other's back to keep elitists
in power over and against the common people. That had become so odious
in French society and a Roman Catholic society that the revolution was
against religion as well as establishment of church. The American revolution
was a revolution in favor of religion against establishment of a church-state
monopoly. And consequently what we have in the French revolution is
because it was getting rid of God as well as a falsely imposed religion,
you had the Reign of Terror, and once the Reign of Terror ran its course,
you went back to the kingship of the military dictatorship of Napoleon.
That issue is there to this day. What I see redemptively is that since
we were a nation founded on the principle of the Protestant Reformation,
which began before the Reformation with a simple radical idea of printing
the Bible in English or in German, so that people other than priests
could read it. And so, with those ideas coming to fruition in the United
States, and we began not to beat up on each other, and embrace religious
liberty that I trace back uniquely to Genesis, the difference is phenomenal
to this day.
My name is John, and I'm finding tonight's discussion very informative.
I have a question for Ed. It actually relates to what you were just
discussing: the origin of Thomas Jefferson's concept of unalienable
rights. You discussed it earlier and mentioned just in passing how he
was deriving this idea in some ways from the Enlightenment and also
English common law. But you didn't go into detail. I'd like to understand
more how you understand his derivation of that concept.
Well, I shouldn't pretend that I'm an expert on that, because I am not.
But it's very clear that Jefferson did not believe that it came from
Judeo-Christian sources. He was very bitter about what he considered
to be a terribly corrupted religion. That's why he took the Bible and
cut it out. He didn't just cut out the miracles, he cut out any reference
to the deity of Jesus and so forth. He was a brilliant man. He was really
screwed up on some things, but he was a brilliant man. He read and spoke
about seven or eight different languages. He cut the Bible from a number
of different languages and eliminated the parts he didn't like. On what
grounds I don't know. I don't think anybody else does either. He created
what is now called the Jefferson Bible. It's clear that he was influenced
by Locke. It's clear that he was influenced by the French. Some of the
influence in Jefferson's thinking by the French came after the Declaration,
not before. And certainly he was not satisfied with the way the French
Revolution went about. I certainly don't agree with John that the French
Revolution was against God and government, and the American revolution
was only against the king. It was not anywhere near that simple. It
was much more complicated than that. Some of the founding fathers were
in fact anti-religious. Many of them were in fact quite religious. But
they all agreed that they needed to keep government out of religious
matters. That's the primary thing that I want to urge you all to agree
with me on.
The English common law derivation, that part, could you
Yeah. Jefferson claimed, I don't know how accurately, that he wrote
about this not once but several times and at great length in letters
to other people, that the ideas of property and justice that we have
adopted, derived primarily from English common law, which in turn was
developed before Christianity came to England. Now, Christianity was
first introduced to England briefly and then came back again later.
And so it's a bit confusing. But Jefferson insists that the Anglo-Saxon
predecessors of any Christian influence were the basis for trials by
jury and things like that, and for our codification of law, and implicitly
at least our ethics. They didn't come from Christianity. He picked out
particular legal books of the day and showed how they were wrong in
their interpretation in his opinion. I don't know with certainty whether
Jefferson was correct about some of those things, but I do know that
that was his view that Christianity was not the source of the rights
of an Englishman, which he wanted to enlarge on.
This really helps me to hone my principal point. That is that if we
take the Bible on its own terms of creation, sin and redemption, and
we take seriously the corrupting effects of sin, and the looking for
the Redeemer, what we have in Jefferson is a brilliant and sometimes
confused man. When Ed talks about his bitterness and bitter complaints
against corrupted religion, I say amen brother. Because corrupted religion
is far worse than corrupted irreligion. Why is that? Because true biblical
religion claims to be the source of genuine humanity. When you corrupt
something that's true, it's far more dangerous than corrupting something
that is false, which means you're corrupting something that's already
corrupted. So what happens is, that Jefferson was a person who saw hypocrisy
in the church. I think the number one objection to a biblical worldview
and Christianity is, don't shove it down my throat. Why? The church
has shoved it down the throats of people for centuries, and it had no
excuse to do so biblically. Pagan religion was based on the assumption
of the gods shoving it down each other's throats, and shoving it down
our own throats. Therefore, when Ed also says it's a complicated matter
between the French Revolution and the American Revolution, in many of
the personalities that's true. But what I think is incredibly wonderful
is what won out in terms of the framing of our Declaration and Constitution.
It was utterly hospitable to religious liberty by not being an imposed
Christian nation or some other type of imposed religion. In that context
I might give a different theological oomph to the discussion if I were
present two and a quarter centuries ago. But I would be completely happy
with the non-christological language, "from our Creator,"
because that affirms the image of God within all of us. And so if we
understand the image of God, and I don't know about the common law thing,
that's a new argument I'm hearing tonight about Jefferson, talking about
the common law being prior. Certainly trial by jury precedes the influence
of Christianity in Europe. But trial by jury under whose authority?
Not under a concept of unalienable rights. There were many societies
that tried to have consent of the governed, and tried to get along.
And that just testifies to the image of God. But none of them codified
the unalienable rights or knew its source. We know it, we codify it,
and that's why I celebrate it.
The only thing I would add, John refers repeatedly to taking the Bible
on its own terms. But the thousands of people who take the Bible on
its own terms, and say that that's what they're doing, come to very,
very different conclusions about many, many different issues. I'm not
talking about some atheist reading it and distorting it or taking it
out of context. I can do that if you like.
I am talking about sincere,
and this is not new either. John Calvin, who
is one of the folks that you've referred to tonight, thought it was
perfectly all right to allow somebody to be put to death for having
the wrong religious beliefs. John Rankin doesn't think that, and I'm
on John Rankin's side in that regard.
My name is Al. I just wanted to let Ed know that I think God is after
your soul more than you think.
And very graciously.
Well Al has certainly been gracious. We had a wonderful supper at his
house, and I'm grateful for that.
Question to you, Ed, is really a question that you posed to John earlier.
What if government decides to impose itself upon him and he has to make
a decision and compromise his religion. What about the reverse and you
were put to the test? Not unlike Daniel, and say OK, it's that or the
fire. John said he would die first. Where would you stand in that respect?
Well, I haven't been given that choice so it's hard to know.
It's rather academic at this stage.
Yes. I hope it remains that way.
I think the important answer
to the question is that I, and this is something I am convinced that
John and I thoroughly agree on, that no government should ever ask any
of its citizens to make that choice.
That's academic too, right?
Yeah. If I were asked to make the choice, if they said either you say
you're a Christian or we're gonna kill you, odds are pretty good I'd
say I was a Christian. Now would that make me a believer? No, it wouldn't.
Would it change my desire
to do everything I could to go back to working for religious liberty
and for the liberty of somebody who doesn't believe, as well as somebody
who does. It wouldn't change that. I don't know what the practical circumstances
would be. You've got to remember, I don't think I've got but one life,
so I'm not gonna give it up too quickly or easily. But that doesn't
mean I wouldn't give it up for anything. I would lay down my life for
my wife or my son, and under some circumstances for my country and for
many principles. But if all I had to do was say I was a Christian
It was more a question of your belief. Your foundational thing which
you're here for.
I'm very much committed to my foundational beliefs. I do in fact think
they're correct. I'm not just having fun with debates, although I do
enjoy them. I really believe these things. I don't want to overstate
the courage, but I have stood up for my beliefs and taken some serious
heat for doing so, more than once. I will do so again, not only for
my irreligious beliefs, but for other beliefs and ideas as well.
Thank you. I think God's tugging at you.
I'm glad you think so.
Just very briefly, I was doing a forum at a Unitarian church in Montclair,
New Jersey. I don't know if you know Dr. Bob Price.
Yes. And Bob is a former Gordon-Conwell graduate, now an atheist.
I didn't realize that.
Yes. He doesn't advertise it on his website. Our topic was the historical
nature of Jesus. This fellow came up and he had a loaded question. Ah,
I just made a pun without knowing it. He had a loaded question. He said,
Dr. Price, if I took a gun and pointed it at your head and said, renounce
your atheism or die, what would you do? He said, I'd renounce it. And
then he turned to me and said, if I pointed the gun at your head, John,
and said renounce your Christianity, what would you do? I said, I won't
renounce it. And that is my conviction. You know, if I thought I only
had one life, would I give up my integrity? I mean, you know, if you
live fifty-six years or eight-six years, what's the difference? Three
decades? So my sense is that a biblical worldview allows you to have
integrity in the face of anything. I think it's that quality of integrity
that leads to be willing to give up your own freedoms and life if necessary
for the freedom and lives of others in quintessential capacity.
I would strongly disagree that integrity is best defined that way.
But you said, for the moment you would profess to be a Christian if
it purchased your life for the moment.
I said that and I meant it.
That's what I mean by integrity.
Well that's not what I mean by integrity. Integrity to me is wholeness
and commitment to your own ideas and being willing to stand up for them.
But you don't stand up for them.
You have told me that if
I put a gun at your head, you wouldn't renounce your religion. We don't
know. Nobody's done that to you yet, have they?
And even if you did, if somebody put a gun to your head and said, renounce
your religion or die, and you renounce the religion at that moment,
I don't think that would mean you had lost your integrity if in fact
you didn't change your belief, and didn't change your commitment to
work as hard as you could for those beliefs in any future circumstance.
Not if you were to grasp
Now in practical terms, is it worth dying for your beliefs? It depends
on the circumstances. If in fact you put me in front of a national forum
and there is a gun pointed at my head, and I sacrificed my life and
gained religious freedom for non-believers forever, I believe that I
would then say, fire away. I don't know, because I haven't been there.
Integrity is not such a simple thing that you can measure it based on
a specific reaction at a very limited period of time. How you live your
life is what matters. Not how you live one particular moment. Now, is
it better to not tell a lie even under those circumstances? Yes, if
you can manage it. If it's doable, yes, you should. But I don't think
it is reasonable or fair to say, because John says he would take the
bullet, and I say I probably wouldn't, that he has integrity and I don't.
Doesn't make sense to me.
What I'm saying is that when you're based on no transcendent power,
you can maintain your sense of integrity while doing that. And I'm saying
that you perhaps do not grasp the reality of God in my life. And I would
rather die than give up my relationship with the Creator who made me.
And that's rooted in the conviction of the transcendent. When I'm raising
the issue of integrity, obviously you're going to have a different view,
because you have a different source.
OK. Let's have the next question.
I think there is a difference here between looking at the law as useful,
and looking at it as life itself.
There's a difference. I just want to thank you both for doing this.
Ed, you've had a great heart in the way you've exchanged ideas. I think
it's done far too infrequently on both sides.
I agree with that for sure.
And especially the secular humanist view. I don't want to beat a dead
horse because we've touched on this subject a few times. I think a lot
of times when we get into these discussions, we use words like freedom
and rights and stuff. It conjures up different ideas in everybody's
mind. A lot of this is semantics. It's the definitions of the words
themselves. I think all of us would have to agree, and probably you
too, Ed, that there can be no such thing as absolute freedom. To give
a certain aspect of freedom to some people is going to inherently have
to infringe upon freedoms of some other people. We see that happening
within our country today. I think that's where especially the Evangelical
Christians have a concern, because we see secular humanists wanting
rights and freedoms for themselves that they're not actually willing
to extend to us. I would think that in public schools, especially, you
would probably very easily have the freedom to go speak in a public
school, but I would think that John Rankin would have much more difficult
time presenting his views in a public arena, in the public school than
you would. But I don't want to go there. I just want to ask you this
question. As Christians
You've already gone there.
Sorry. That wasn't my question. My concern is this. I think when we
refer to America as a Christian nation, we obviously know it's not a
church-state type nation. We believe that freedom was rooted in the
majority of the common people agreeing to the concept of a moral transcendent
law that was higher than themselves. We as Christians would probably
see that most clearly expressed in the Ten Commandments. To let you
know, Ed, I lived as a secular humanist for years. I've lived on the
other side of the fence seeking absolute freedom, which did limit the
freedoms of others and ultimately mine also.
Is this another place you're not going to go?
I would like to say this. When we remove this concept of a moral transcendent
law, and we look at whatever law we have as just simply being useful,
then who therefore and what are we going to replace it with? And I say
this with deepest respect to you. But my concern is rooted in as I look
at governments now, especially socialist and communistic governments,
which are rooted in a secularistic and atheistic, humanistic worldview,
when I look at their track record of granting basic human freedoms,
it doesn't seem like it's that good to me. So how could you address
us here tonight as Christians assuring us that if we abandon a transcendent
moral concept of right and wrong, what would we replace it with? And
what is going to cause us to think that they don't just look at this
as useful to get what they want, and then eliminate who they don't want?
Maybe by beheading.
OK. Let me go several of the places you didn't want to go.
I did want to go further than that.
First of all, I would love to go to public schools and talk about secular
humanism. I've tried and I've never been allowed to. Now, do I think
I should be allowed? Only under the same circumstances exactly as John
should be able to. I don't think that the public schools should endorse
irreligion or religion. I don't think that things should be brought
into the science curriculum based on religious views or irreligious
There's where I want to get
I know, we can talk about creation and
No, explain that. What's the difference between endorsing and allowing
somebody else freedom to express those views?
Well, it is extremely complicated.
That's what I mean. We're talking about words, but your concept of endorsing
and my concept of endorsing
If you were to do something like
this in public school, I wouldn't see this as endorsing anything. I
would see it as just presenting worldviews, world concepts before an
audience. And we would like to have that same freedom, but we don't
quite see that extended as much. You would have to agree with us that
most of the curriculum in schools has removed all religious concepts
out of it. And obviously as a result of that is coming more from a secular
humanist perspective than a Christian one.
I don't think that's obvious at all. I don't think secular humanism
is taught in schools. I don't think it should be taught in schools.
I think it should be secular, that is, neutral with respect to religion.
But not my philosophy or anyone elses in term of religion. It is true
that the public schools do not and should not encourage belief in God
or discourage belief in God. They shouldn't be engaged in any religious
curriculum or an anti-religious curriculum. They should be neutral with
regard to these matters. It's true that it's complicated in situations
like, do you teach creationism or not? The basis for that should be
whether it's good science, and whether the scientists conclude that
it's good science, and not anything else. Shouldn't be based on religious
If I could give a brief response to that as well. In one of my forums
with Barry Lynn who I'm sure you also know, head of Americans United
for Separation of Church and State, he said he wanted to teach values
in public schools. I asked him what values. He agreed that the values
that should be taught are values consistent with secular humanism, but
do not allow a religious liberty. When we look at the issue of unalienable
rights, and yet we ban honest science from even talking about the Creator,
because to believe in a Creator doesn't mean you believe in one view
or another about science.
I think science should get to decide what's science, and not religion.
Well, here's the thing.
Science by definition won't allow discussions of, and then there was
a miracle. That's not science, that's religion.
We can have another debate on creationism.
Science is the open-ended pursuit of knowledge as the facts present
themselves. And so anyone, from whatever their presuppositional basis,
should be allowed to put their presuppositional basis on the line, as
they are accountable to good science.
Let's not kid ourselves. Freedom is simply defined by status. The criminal
that is on the run is free to run. The person taking his last breath
is free. Now when you cross the line between freedom and liberty, now
you're bringing religion into it. One other thing, John. You keep separating
human secularism from religion. Religion is nothing but a person's heartfelt
belief. And every human being that ever lived has a heartfelt belief.
He expresses this heartfelt belief as you two gentlemen are, in the
way that he thinks, in his actions, his political actions, his social
actions, etc. And law is nothing but the rules of action. Our heartfelt
beliefs determine what our laws are. The laws emanating from people
recognizing the Creator means you recognize an object of relationship
to God. You are an object of his creation. A subjective relationship
would be following Christians, Muslims, etc. The distinction with Christianity
is, and this gets back to your comments about "We the People."
"We the People" is unique to Christians, because if you will
recall, and obviously you're very versed in the Bible, at the time of
the death of Christ, the veil was ripped top to bottom. At that point
in time, there was no longer to be a human figure standing between God
and men. It became "We the People" one on one with God, which
is the nature of our government. So we are unique to those Christian
principles. So when we get into the secular humanism side, you're talking
about wills and opinions being exercised by decree and prohibition,
without any objective belief in anything. Your own idea is to be the
essence of law. Now if I accept that, then I have to ask a very blunt
question. By what rights, if that's the essence, did America have to
go against the Nazis?
You're asking me, right?
I'm asking anybody that wants to answer it.
It's very interesting that Hitler, who was a Christian, who said he
No, he wasn't a Christian, sir.
Now wait a minute. Who gets to decide who's a Christian? What's the
definition? Who gets to decide?
The definition of a Christian is, I just said, is a heartfelt belief.
Well, according to Hitler
You asked me a question, a heartfelt belief as a Christian is recognition
of Christ, his principles, his actions, his ways, his attitudes. I can
call myself an elephant. Am I one? You see what I'm saying?
I see what you're saying but I don't agree with you. Hitler insisted
that he was doing Christ's work. Now, was he perverting the Christian
message? Yeah, but so were a hell of a lot of other people, including,
in my opinion, John Calvin.
The main point you're trying to make I think is that a lot of this is
No, it's not arbitrary.
That it's difficult to pin down exactly what the sources of things are
if we don't have a God. My point is it's difficult to pin down, whether
you believe there's a God or not.
Then truth has to emanate from your own will and opinion, if it has
no object relationship to anything. Then at that point in time, there
is no law. There is no truth. There's nothing. I hate to say it. I wish
I could say otherwise. That's reality, sir.
I don't agree with you, and I guess we should leave it at that.
Let me give a very quick observation here. "We the People"
is biblical, because God does care for us as people. If you read Hitler's
Mein Kampf, it was his war against those who disagreed with his
ego. That led him into the occult, into hatred of Jews and Christians
alike. Remember, he's the one who hanged Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
My name is Dave. I'm very puzzled by this question of where did this
whole idea of unalienable rights pop up from. Where did we get our Constitution.
I haven't heard really a clear historical statement of it. Maybe it's
hard to get back to those times. Maybe it was just given, I don't know.
But from what you've discussed so far, it is not clear to me, except
in perspective, that it had a Christian basis. You say clearly at the
time that many of those men did not believe that it was a Christian
Some did. Some didn't.
Where did it all come from? How did this develop? How did it happen
then? And as your question said, if it's a Christian thing, why didn't
it happen many years before? That's a very gray area from everything
that we've talked about so far.
I think it's because the truth is gray here and not black and white.
In fact, he said, we've got to come up with some source that's bigger
than George III. So we'll pick the Christian God. In my opinion, what
Jefferson did was to say we're not happy with this. We want some source
bigger than George III. If God will do for the moment then we'll take
it. The other thing you need to remember, which apparently we're not
paying any attention to, is that the Declaration of Independence is
not our governing charter. It's an important precedent. It makes a difference.
I'm not suggesting that it's not important. It's not a Christian document.
It's absurd to say that it is when there's nothing in it that's Christian.
These people weren't uneducated, stupid folks. They could have put whatever
they wanted to in there, and they didn't put any Christian reference
in it. Not any. When we got to the Constitution, which is our governing
charter, there is no reference to any God, not even to the Creator,
nature's God, etc. They were self-consciously creating a human government
with a human basis, based upon rights of human beings. They were in
fact quite conscious of the rights of an Englishman. This was not revolutionary
with the idea of individuals having rights, because Englishmen did before
this. But it was revolutionary with respect to keeping religion out
of it entirely.
Very briefly, the legal structure of the Constitution would not have
existed apart from the philosophical assumptions of the Declaration
of Independence. That's explicit in the Amendments, the Bill of Rights,
which were all based on biblical assumptions. I say biblical. Christianity
is the fulfillment of a biblical worldview, but it's not imposition
of a Christian specificity. That's why I'm very confident in the foundations
of Genesis. So the Constitution is based on that. The whole "life,
liberty and property" being protected in the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments, legally codifies the "life, liberty, property/pursuit
of happiness" of the Declaration. Only one historical source, Genesis
1 and 2.