I am always baffled at the popular notion that politics and religion don’t mix. It is assumed that politics are some sort of neutral endeavor among all men irrespective of their diverse religious views. Somehow we think that a Christian, whose religion instructs him about the normative (and thus moral) role of the magistrate, must cease being a Christian when it comes to politics. But when one says that a Christian cannot have his religious views in politics (especially legislated as law), he is telling the Christian to cease being a Christian. Of course, Christians aren’t the only ones that want their religious views in politics and public policy. Every man wants to legislate the laws of his religion. This is because of the following truths:
- Every man has a personal morality (extended as an ethic).
- All public law is legislated ethics.
- All ethics have a religious foundation.
Assuming that every man has an opinion about what ought to become public law (I’ve yet to meet a man without political opinions–from banning public smoking to executing pedophiles), and granting my three premises, then we must conclude that all men do indeed have religious foundations for their political views. But nearly all will dispute premise three. It will be retorted that morality doesn’t inherently presuppose a God, and thus not all men are religious.
This is the great confusion of our day, and this brief essay will attempt to complete our enthymematic argument. The criteria for having a religion is not whether one can find a given religion in the phone book under Churches, Synagogues & Mosques, or whether one performs rituals or celebrates holy days. Religion has to do with worldviews.
A worldview is a network of related presuppositions in terms of which every aspect of man’s knowledge and experience is interpreted and interrelated.[a] Another name for a worldview is a philosophy of life. The basic components of a worldview are epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics (theory of reality), and ethics (theory of how we ought to behave). Whether or not you’re aware of or can articulate your worldivew, you still have one. For example, when you rise in the morning you don’t expect to levitate off the bed and crash into the ceiling, because you believe gravity will still be pinning you to the bed. Belief in the uniformity of nature (particularly, the law of gravity) is one of many presuppositions that forms your worldview. This may sound trivial but your conviction is based not on your empirical investigation of gravity’s consistency, but on faith in the uniformity of nature. There is nothing logical about believing that x will do y because in the past x has always done y; that begs the question.[b] Rather, you take this connection by faith.
The same is true for ethics. What we ought to to is categorically distinct from what is the case, or from anything we observe in the world. This is because the natural world lacks the absolute and personal character to prescribe. Emmanuel Kant, David Hume, G.E. Moore and other great ethicists/philosophers rightly observed the faulty mechanism in moving from nature to ethics in our arguments; Moore dubbed this the naturalistic fallacy. Like the law of uniformity, ethics is a worldview matter.
Worldviews are not verified by the procedures of natural science. They are elementary assumptions in the reasoning that one brings to the scientific table. Atheistic materialism, for example, is a worldview that claims that all is matter which can be explained by physical/chemical processes. Since God is spirit (not material), then he does not exist. Yet that theory is itself abstract and thus not material. Materialism is self-referentially incoherent, which is a fancy way of saying self-refuting. Did you catch that? No? Then re-read this paragraph because it can be really embarrassing to get into a debate only to deny the foundation you stand on.
Expanding this point, what we’re saying is that while a materialist can examine matter under a microscope, he cannot examine his materialism under a microscope. His problem is that he says all things are matter, yet his worldview is not. Anyone ever seen a worldview? Touched love? Handled the laws of logic? Tripped over a theory? Materialism cannot account for abstract entities. Laws of morality, science, logic, happiness, love, personal dignity, etc., are without meaning for one who denies the patently abstract, incorporeal character of such with his materialistic worldview.
So what? All may have a worldview but not all call themselves “religous.” What do worldviews have to do with religion? Simply that worldviews and religion share the essential quality which elicits the standard discountenance of mixing the latter with politics: the quality of being faith-based. It is said that your private life – not the public square – is the place for faith. God and faith-based religious systems aren’t provable by our senses, so they must therefore involve an irrational leap of faith. Surely we are too intelligent to let matters of faith enter our enlightened discussions of politics. But this is confused.
It is true that we can’t empirically prove that God exists, [c] but it is not true that faith in God (what most imply by the term “religion”) is an irrational leap. In a sense, belief in God is an act of faith, but so is belief in materialism as we showed. The difference is that living by faith in the Christian worldview is a rational decision because such a worldview makes sense of knowledge, reality and ethics.[d] We’ve shown the faith-based system of materialism is an irrational one as it can’t even hold up a stable metaphysic, so at this point it fails as a coherent worldview.
Why anyone allows materialists to say anything about politics (ethics) is beyond me, for their faith-based principle of materialism doesn’t allow for immaterial ethics! The question is never who is brining their faith and religion into politics, but whose faith and religion can even render politics coherent.
Not only are worldviews inescapably faith-based, but they are inescapably authoritative, serving as the final authority as one interacts with data in the world. Worldviews aren’t formed by looking at the facts; on the contrary, they control how the facts are perceived. As you discuss politics (the ethical side of your worldview), you do so with your worldview in hand; as you entertain the supernatural (the metaphysical side), you keep the topic on the leash of your worldview; as you read a book about the divine inspiration of Scripture (the epistemological side), your reading is checked by your worldview.
When you talk politics, learn to look for worldviews because they will set the paradigm of the discussion, determining what is in and out of bounds. I won’t tolerate political legislation going above and violating the ethics of the Bible. Existential libertarians don’t want the State trumping their unfettered and inward “authenticity.” Pure democracy supporters don’t want legislation transcending the will of the people (their meta ethic authority). Their faith-based religions simply will not allow it.
God and Theocracy
As we review the points of this essay we find ourselves facing another surprising connection: If everyone has a religious worldview whose presuppositions are faith-based and authoritative, then that is as good as saying that everyone has a god. The adage against mixing religion with politics isn’t simply about the annoying Senator who brings his faith in Jesus to Capitol Hill. That’s only the perspective of a non-Christian who wants to bring his competing faith to Capitol Hill. Simply put: All men tote their gods into political discussions because their highest ethical authorities are their faith-based religions–their gods. What else may one call that ultimate something beyond which there is no appeal?
One last shocker invariably follows: All nations are theocracies. This conclusion merely proceeds from the definition of a theocracy as a society governed by the rule of God.
We began with some premises that appeared to need some rounding out in order to lead to the conclusion in the title of this essay. In brown we’ve inserted extra data learned above, and now can finish the argument.
- Every man has a personal ethic (morality).
- All public law is legislated ethics.
- Ethics are handled by worldviews which are religiously faith-based and ultimate (serving as gods).
- Thus, all ethics (individual and cooperate) have a religious foundation.
- Reword 4: All men and Politics are Religious
It may be a lousy one, but we dwell in a theocracy and your Congress lives by faith.
b See David Hume’s critique of induction[/ref]
c Although, if one repents and embraces Christ he can and will empirically verify Him in the eternal state of heaven, and as an added bonus he can salvage his philosophical and intellectual pursuits here on earth! [/ref]
d Proving the exclusive superiority of the Chrsitian worldview is beyond the scope of this short essay, but Michael Butler sums it up well with these words: “Thus the Christian apologist may boldly assert that without an absolute personal being as the foundation of all things, there is no possibility of ethics. Without the ontological Trinity as the fount of all being, there is no possibility of unifying the particulars of human experience. Without the combined doctrines of the Trinity and man being God’s image bearer there is no possibility of predication and thus language. Without the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence there is not ground for inductive logic and science. Without a good and all-powerful God that creates both man and the natural realm there is not reason to believe that our senses are reliable.” Michael Butler, “The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence” in The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg L. Bahnsen, Steven M. Schlissel., Ed. (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 2002)[/ref]