By: Thomas Lee Abshier, NDBook Review: “Is Jesus the Only Savior”by James R. Edwards
Leftist culture warriors continually bleat that it is bigoted to affirm that one religion is superior to any other or that Jesus is the only savior. But now James R. Edwards, a professor of biblical languages and literature, ordained Presbyterian minister, and contributing editor of Christianity Today, sets the record straight — and gives conservative Christians solid ammunition to use when the religious relativists and multiculturalist totalitarians start to attack the Lord and His saving role.
Edwards tackles the tough questions head-on, tracing the currents of anti-Christian modernity from the Enlightenment to the Jesus Seminar and proving that the assumptions of the most skeptical historical-Jesus scholars are no more intellectually defensible than the claims of faith. He gathers together an immense amount of evidence to show that, contrary to liberal scholars’ claims, Jesus from the beginning of His ministry considered himself the unique and saving mission of God to the world.
Then Edwards turns to contemporary cultural currents, laying out a solid Christian response to the thorniest issues and toughest challenges for Christians posed by the modern age: religious pluralism, moral relativism, postmodernism, the role of Christian exclusivity in the quest for world peace, and more. Illustrated with charming real-life stories, Is Jesus the Only Savior? is a solid handbook for meeting twenty-first-century challenges to the faith with the timeless wisdom of historic and unchanging Christian truth.
Do you advocate that the U. S. Government should be operated on the belief that one religion is superior to another?
Background of the following correspondence:
Fred contacted me (Thomas Abshier) after having read the article I wrote on Harriet Meirs. It appears that Fred is a liberal, has studied many of the pivotal Supreme Court cases and important writings of the Founders. He contends that the Founders did not intend for Christianity to be considered a preferred religion over any other. Margo (my wife) responded to his questions and comments with a very detailed citation of many references the Founders made about God and Christianity. Fred’s response to these citations was to discount their veracity, intent, and/or meaning. He reframed these statements and rulings as though they had, in fact, supported his contentions about the Founders intending a nation with absolutely no preference in spiritual allegiance. I assess that there is little point in further discussion because his mind is made up and that no data or reason will dislodge him from his position. Therefore, I confront his commitment to an agenda by speaking the truth as forcefully as I believe is necessary to confront his belief structure. I attempt this confrontation with a posture of love (i.e. care for the well being of his soul and respect for his intention to speak what he considers to be the truth). In contrast to his vision of a Godless America, I present my vision of a Christian Nation which truly allows each of its citizens to freely choose the religious beliefs which most closely resonate with their conscience.
As a nation, we should strive to establish Absolute Truth as our standard as we legislate, judge, and execute the functions of self-government. If Christianity is the True religion and the absolute reflection of the heart of God, then it should be adopted as the moral standard as the governing philosophy and spirit that directs our government and society.
No other religion can claim a Savior who was fully man, fully God, who created the universe and all life, who lived as a man and resisted all the temptations to live a perfect life, died and then rose again to give life and lead humanity in the ways of right living, and offers spiritual redemption for those who will accept the gift. I believe Christianity is superior to all other religions because it provides the doorway to a personal living relationship with the God of the Universe. The government should recognize the superiority of Christianity by allowing the marketplace of religious choice to perpetuate the Christian culture in education, government, and society if that is the will of the people.
We have inherited a society which already has been organized as a Christian culture. It was a hard-won victory, an edifice of faith and societal organization assembled through the great effort of faithful men from numerous preceding generations. We should honor this inheritance and allow our Christian culture to flourish or die on its own merits or flaws. To deny Christianity the tools of media and tax-funded public support is to cripple the society’s ability to fully express itself in its highest and most complete way as a Christian Nation.
I have been involved as a believer, practitioner, devotee, member, and/or student of between 15 and 20 world religions, spiritual systems, and cults. I have experienced to some extent the spirit of each belief system and the culture which they produce. I have come to my own faith in Christianity as a skeptic and a searcher. After seeing the pathways offered by the world religions I have observed that Christianity offers a philosophy, teaching, and relationship with God which is consistent with my experience of life.
The is only one True religion, and it will have a teaching which describes life on all levels from an integrated and self-consistent perspective. Science, history, philosophy, subjective reality, objective reality, creation, the spirit world, the meaning of life, justice, cause and effect, government, procreation, education, work, relationship, emotion, and all other domains of human experience should all be understandable and follow logically and naturally from the precepts of the True Religion.
With the exception of Satanism and other death and destruction worshipers, most religions teach principles of right living and a path to God. And, many of the principles of life they teach are similar to the principles of Christianity. But, no other religion has as its spiritual center the man who is God. As a nation, we should choose to guide our nation with the spirit which has the best possibility of guiding the public and private policies and actions of a nation in the ways of true righteousness and justice.
Our nation was established as a Constitutional Republic, which means the people can impose any rule of law upon themselves they choose; we need only satisfy the criterion of majority consensus of the elected representatives. If the people desire to embrace the principles of Christianity in all manners of personal relationship, commerce, and government, our form of government allows for such self-imposed standards. Such a choice by the people is appropriate since that we should choose to pattern our laws after the highest standard of moral conduct.
We should pass no law requiring any citizen to be a Christian, nor should the law require compliance with a State established creed. Nevertheless, every law will inherently and implicitly reflect and embody the tenets of a moral system.
While we should not establish a formal state religion, we should as a culture implicitly choose to hold God’s Law and Way as elaborated in the Bible as our standard of conduct in all matters private and public. No law or edict need be passed to enforce the fact that we are a Christian nation. Rather, we should simply agree as a people to hold Christ in our hearts as individuals and as the spirit governing the group behavior, and laws that reflect that spirit will naturally follow. A nation’s commitment to a spirit cannot be legislated nor enforced, nor should any attempt be made to codify or officially mandate our status as a Christian Nation. The nation’s spiritual allegiance rises naturally from the group whose individual members submit to the Lordship of Christ in their personal lives, and agree that His Way should guide public policy. We should choose to embody Christian/Godly principles in every law and action of the State, and cultivate, encourage, consider and propagate Christianity from the highest to lowest levels of government. All acts of government should be moderated and influenced by the highest and most relevant Christian concepts and the spirit which governs them.
As individuals, most of us have little effect on the national direction and the nation’s philosophy of government. We arrived at the party of life in the middle of history and have inherited the concepts, rules, and lessons of numerous generations who wrestled with the pressures of relationship, control, and survival. But that inheritance does not shackle us to repeating its lessons and following its traditions. In fact, each new generation is obliged to examine the ways of the elders and propose and advocate for the concepts and ways that best reflect Truth.
If the government of this Christian Nation offends a group or individual, he has the right to petition the government for change of policy. Such a petition may be justified based on whatever moral code the advocate believes to be most humanitarian, kind, equitable, and/or transcendent. The single best way to implement Godly government has not been revealed as a Scriptural mandate. The Bible has left many of the specifics of life open to interpretation. The latitude in judgment includes how we should conduct a business meeting, train for an athletic event, or manage a company to survive a recession. The Bible offers general principles which can be used to apply to the management of life. The specific examples and principles intersect only by spirit rather than substance.
Thus, we must use our character, training, and sense of spirit guidance to make decisions about how to handle issues not addressed directly by Biblical mandate. God has given us this degree of freedom in divining the applicable moral principles of a situation to challenge and bring us to maturity in our Godly character. This struggle with the forces of life and death causes us to consider God’s Ways, and in so doing we adopt personal and group behaviors that either resonate with or separate us from His heart and His best intentions for mankind. In turn, our character is shaped, and our soul is imprinted with the goodness that we will take beyond this life. The evil and foolishness we embrace will be burned and separated from us either by complete banishment from God’s fellowship or by its separation from our soul. Thus, life is a soul-training ground for eternity as well as an experience with its own inherent immediate reward with satisfaction or pain.
In this Christian Nation, every man has a right to express himself, engage in the political process of influencing the boundaries of social conduct whether he is Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Cabbalist, Mystic or Scientologist. But, the equality of access to the public debate does not imply an opinion’s equality of value or truth. Likewise, the equality of speech should not extend to requiring equality of access by all religions to imprint their worldview upon the youth of a society. If all religions were given equal educational emphasis, a Christian nation would lose its moral, yet merciful character; its charitable and compassionate culture; its heritage of respect for life, individual rights, and polite discussion; and the foundational concepts that provide societal stability upon which progress and freedom can flourish.
The strict Law of the Old Testament, and the Mercy and Grace of the New Testament wedded together and incorporated into the soul of governmental processes produce the excellent social results manifested in American life and its government. The flaws we see in modern American life are a reflection of the imperfect implementation of Spiritual principles, rather than being an indictment of those principles. We cannot proof-text government from scripture, or man-made law, since the letter of the law kills, while the spirit of mercy and grace tempers the law to produce the highest level of individual liberty. But mercy is only deserved when the heart recognizes the error illuminated by the letter of the law. Thus, mercy and grace without the anchor of God’s law, lead to anarchy and societal dissolution.
The background spiritual consensus that we are a Christian nation is akin to the nutrient broth milieu of a bacterial culture. The proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, special metabolites and environment all influence the health and expression of a bacterial culture. For example in a broth depleted of a particular nutrient, the colony will adapt to compensate for that deficiency by reducing various metabolic functions and thus enter a state of suboptimal health. If the deficiencies are sufficiently severe or numerous, the colony will die or change its foods source.
By analogy, the underlying spiritual assumptions about the nature and rules of life are the background milieu that influence the society’s expression on many levels such as recreation, communication, production, and exchange. As a Christian nation, our assumptions have guided our establishment of law on all levels, and if we attempt to ban the pre-eminence of consideration of Christianity’s moral code and spiritual influence, we will change and degrade our societal health. At some point, we will lose the nucleus that maintains its influence on our culture and it will collapse. Unless we continue to press toward manifesting Christian principles in our individual and public lives we could lose that inheritance and be overtaken by the Godless tyranny of Secularism, a Taliban style Moslem rule in the name of honoring the people’s democratic choice, or we could simply balkanize into enclaves of disparate religious-political allegiance.
Such societal devolution would effectively terminate the American culture established by the Founders. The highly ordered and God-directed assembly of America which truly reflects the moral-legal structure directed and authorized by God Himself would be disbanded and replaced with the more familiar and vulgar organization around tribal, pagan, and sub-God spirits.
Our background polarization of the nation toward Godliness is tenuous and depends on a self-creating cycle of regeneration between the nation’s founding principles, and the spiritual health and commitment of each constituent citizen. Every weak or toxic link in the spiritual societal-system reduces the health of society. A robust system can tolerate the presence of a percentage of defective subsystems and still maintain its stability and function. But, at some point, sufficient force may be applied against the system and it will lose its self-correcting ability and flip into a new stable system. Such is the desire and effort of the modern-day “liberals” and “progressives” of the ACLU and People for the American Way. They wish to establish a God-Free nation, based solely upon man’s own judgment of what is best, with no superior standard upon which to reference society’s laws. Such a reduction of standards will produce its own pain and reduction in freedom. At that point, to re-establish our Christian moral-political foundation may require revolution or massive spiritual revival.
As a Christian Nation, we should seek to maintain our orientation and spiritual milieu by educating the youth with a deep understanding of Christian history, principles, and thought. By studying the genesis of Christianity, the student comes to understand the validity of Christianity from a simple archeological-historical perspective. By studying Christianity in relation to the nation’s legal-political-economic-social system, the student comes to recognize the importance of the moral-spiritual assumptions that underlie a society. In turn, such education prepares the next generation to influence the current economic-political-social milieu to more properly reflect the highest potentials of the Christian worldview. Without passing on the Christian spiritual polarity of the founders to the succeeding generations, the society will go through a continual evolution directed by various benign and malevolent spiritual-social forces. A student well grounded in Christian culture can compare the Christian world-view with the breadth of world-religions and tempting social theories without fear of seduction.
As a Christian Nation, we should embrace the most general principles, symbols, and teachings of Christianity in our songs, mottos, teaching, and history. Such was the case until the Supreme Court rulings of 1962 and 63 barred the active propagation and training in the principles of the Christian faith in our schools. Until this time, the schools functioned as (poor) surrogate parents in the continued instruction and honor of Christianity as the religion of America. While scarcely adequate, at least a modicum of recognition of our Christian heritage was supplied so that none of us doubted that we were a Christian nation. No one felt threatened or ostracized for being Jewish, Hindu, or any other faith. Those outside the nation’s background of Christian faith were always welcomed to partake and share in the blessings of the good news of Jesus. Such is the nature of Christianity, tolerance of civil diversity, sharing of the gospel to non-believers, speaking the truth in love against error, and erecting a firm wall against evil.
But, with the barring of prayer and Bible reading in the classroom, people such as yourself, who are committed to removing any breath of Christianity in government, have been emboldened to declare that there has been a ”Violation of the Separation of Church and State” at every turn. These modern-day ACLU witch hunts have sought to expunge every trace of the display of symbols, principles, spirit, and words of Christianity from the public square. Any expenditure which could be construed to have Christian implication is now cast in terms of the ultimate pejorative of “Congress passing laws which establish religion.”
[I speak below critically, having seen your writing and your responses to significant quantities of legal and historical commentary. I have made an opinion about who you are, and your political and spiritual polarity, and as such, I speak to you. If I am shown to have misjudged you, I shall apologize and moderate the comments which follow.]
You strain at gnats in your arguments against the quotes of the Founders which speak of God and their intent to honor and include Him in public life. You attempt to prove at every turn with never-ending vigilance that the Founders intended to keep every vestige of any religious (Christian) expression totally separated from the government.
Your religious practice appears to be one of commitment to preventing any expression of Christianity by the State. There is no argument that could meet your criteria to adopt a change of perspective regarding our Christian heritage and the inclusion of Christianity in our public sphere. There is no historical record, no precedent of history or culture, no statement by any leader or citizen, no act of legislation, no court decision, and no executive order that could convince you otherwise. Your mind is totally closed to the possibility that Christianity should be included as the principle and spirit that governs our country. You are simply an advocate for the anti-Christian political polarity. You claim to be open-minded, to follow where the evidence will take you, but the solidity and breadth of the quotes from our Founders we have offered you, and your rejection of the entire spirit and essence of that collection has convinced me that there is no evidence that could possibly satisfy you and convince you of any position other than the one that you hold. It appears that you have an agenda, and you will continue to pursue that agenda your entire life unless you meet Jesus. I see no other possibility that would affect your transformation.
As you currently represent yourself with your words and arguments, you do not speak like a man of spirit. You speak like a man of flesh and words. You have adopted a political belief system that reflects your spirituality. In the name of seeking the truth, you have assembled a vast array of documents to support your proposition that we are a secular nation. Your mental/spiritual filter does not allow any data to penetrate the fortress of your belief structure. Nothing that contradicts your preconceptions is allowed to be taken as valid. As such, it is impossible for any argument or data to affect your position.
You have adopted a belief structure that satisfies your inner nature. A man of the flesh loves the things and ways of the flesh. A man of the spirit will pursue establishing the ways of spirit regardless of whether or not men have established an altar to a secular god. You do not see the magnificence of the pattern and spirit of the Christian faith, and hence you do not want to retain it as the beacon that guides our nation. You have exalted the (Anti-Christian) Godless nation as the ideal social order. You have assumed that man is wise enough to simply know or feel the pattern of ultimate “right” by his own wisdom and sense of truth.
I consider both a secular and a theocratic state to be equally poor forms of government. Man has shown himself incredibly foolish in patterning secular societies. And, when men establish a theocratic priesthood rule over a secular state, a tyranny of abuse or corruption follows. Our nation has threaded the needle between these polarities and did so successfully until Everson (1947 Separation of Church and State fiat ruling) laid the groundwork for the 1962 and 63 banning of Prayer and Bible reading. At that point, we began our downhill slide toward the self-imposed tyranny and foolishness of the Secular Nation.
Every nation will choose a moral code by which to live and govern society, and each nation will suffer or be blessed based upon how near or far from Godliness their laws fall.
You contend that the founders intended to establish and perpetuate a Godless nation, a totally secular nation in its direction, having no religion superior in its consideration to any other. You have based your logic and arguments for how we should currently govern ourselves based upon the premise that we must follow the patterns of the founders in their Godless directive. You use their words of debate, imputations about their character, and their acts of state to verify that this Godless state was, in fact, their intention and purpose.
I totally disagree with your interpretation of what the founders said and their intent. Having read your rebuttals to the various words of the Founder’s regarding Christianity, I believe I can safely say you are a True Believer, a chauvinist, a man dedicated to a single undying mission. You are set in your ways, and you will delete, distort, and generalize anything anyone says to maintain your perspective. I do not believe that arguing with you on such issues will be productive in terms of changing your heart or mind.
But, just to let you know my own polarity and intransigence; I stand on the opposite pole. As an illustration of my own fixed position, let us assume that you are correct in your contention that the Founders intended to create a nation where there was no expression of Christianity in any form by government. If this were the unambiguous historical fact, I would then fight to create the laws and traditions of a Christian nation where we include consideration of the Scriptures in every act of State.
I hold my bias because I believe that our nation will be blessed to the extent we pattern ourselves according to the Godly prototypical patterns of government. If the Founders had said, we “must” be a secular nation, and included such a statement in the Bill of Rights; I would advocate a constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the preferred pattern governing our moral system.
The Constitutional Amendment I would include is the First Amendment as it currently reads. I would simply reiterate that Congress shall pass no law establishing a religion, or restricting the free exercise thereof. I do not want a government which could use the color of Constitutionality as an excuse to establish a theocracy. I believe the Founders recognized this threat, and wisely chose to avoid any mention of Christianity in a manner that would give men the authorization to legislate according to an orthodoxy established by a priesthood operating within the halls of governmental power. Instead, the Founders trusted that we would continue on our path as a Christian nation, guided by our individual commitments to Christianity, without the interference of the federal government. And in the genius of compromise between small and large, they allowed individual expression within the States, allowing jurisdiction as each saw fit to fund Christian activities as desired by the governed.
I do not believe that government should require worship in any particular way, compel membership in any church or force belief in any particular doctrine. These are elements that indicate the establishment of religion. The anti-Christian zealots have extended their judgment against every conceivable symbolic action of government which is based on Godly Christian morality as an example of an “Establishment of Religion”. Such government-imposed restrictions against laws, speech, and symbols which have Christian roots, act as a de facto enforcement of a Secular religion and prevent the free exercise of the Christian religion.
A Christian nation that is maintained and perpetuated by the will of the people is the highest and best combination of religion and government. As I have stated, it is impossible to govern in a moral vacuum; there will necessarily be some de facto moral code that underlies all law. And, to the extent that the people have embedded the words, principles, and spirit of Christ in their hearts, the social order will be peaceful and prosper. As a nation and society, we are required to pass laws that govern our group behavior based on a moral system of some sort. There is no such thing as a legislative decision passed without a moral underpinning. The only question is what moral code we use to justify, guide, and rule our social interactions. I believe that the Christian code of conduct is the highest, best, and most Godly.
Laws based on Christ-based principles produce the best results because they resonate most clearly with the boundaries that God has innately established for the human heart. Moral codes which contradict Christian principles will generate inferior laws that will in some way irritate the soul’s sense of propriety and perfection. Thus, the moral, spiritual, principled part of Christianity should be overtly considered in every executive, legislative, and judicial case.
Please note, I am not blind to the virtues of the world religions. Many, maybe even most, of the major religions have principles coincident with Christian principles, and I applaud the excellent principles that guide societies toward goodness. We should resist the temptation to use the current prosperity or peace of a culture as an absolute indicator of the value of the Spiritual system underlying a culture, although over the long view, it can guide us well. When a nation turns from God, forces begin to operate that can bring it sudden and utter destruction. Likewise, a pagan nation can rise to prominence to bring down a nation which has rejected Him.
Our Founders did not intend this to be a totally secular state. This new religion of Secularism pretends to be religion-free, but its philosophy is simply an alternate religion with which to replace Christianity as America’s religion. Secular Humanism wishes to expunge every vestige of Christianity from public law and symbols and replace the Christian moral code with the worship of the lesser gods of democracy, equality, tolerance, choice, and privacy.
As a Christian Nation, we allow freedom of religion, in that we do not enforce the practice of a State religion; rather, we freely and openly embrace Christianity as our commonly known pattern of moral guidance and group worship. It is time to reject the notion that the embrace of Christianity in symbols, words, and moral code conflicts with the prohibition against “Congress Establishing a Religion.”
But for me, this discussion is not about what the Founders said. I believe they intended to support Christianity in every way except the enforcement of a creed. I believe our Founders promoted the generalized principles of Christianity, and believed that Christianity provided the best model for the ideal implementation of good government and social stability. They had seen their ancestors develop and work the model on a local level, and it produced freedom and prosperity. For them and for me, this is a fight about what is True and in turn defining a vision of the godliest social order.
I believe you are overtaken by a spirit of unbelief, which has prevented you from seeing the Truth of the God of the Bible. You do not actually consider arguments given to you that could open your heart to the validity of Christianity. Instead, you hide behind your fortress of Founders’ quotes and use them for your own purpose rather than even considering arguments that could challenge your foundational assumptions.
The system you promote has already severely restricted Christian prayer and Bible reading in public buildings. It has censored the free display of religious documents and symbols in and around public buildings that remind us of our good God, His righteous Law, and our public commitment to this generally held belief/moral system. Such restriction of expression does not represent the freedoms and liberties the Founders gave us in our founding documents.
The censorship of Christian expression in the nation clearly demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Secular Humanist’s cries for tolerance. We see evidence of the coming strong suppression of Christianity as Christians are disrespected, jailed, charged with “hate crimes,” and publicly vilified for expressing opinions which are not “politically correct.” The enforcers and propagandists for Secularism have the concept that simply speaking words which convict the heart and define the borders of righteousness are the equivalent of physical violence.
The climate of the society toward Christianity and its place in the culture has changed drastically from the times of the Founders. Christian positions and speech were broadly accepted by the Founders, spoken to encourage in battle, give moral justification to our legislation, and used as the foundation for social-moral training of children in our public schools. But the Secularists have used the Orwellian tactics of the Ministry of Truth to rewrite our history; they now use the very words the Founders spoke about God to show that such speech is not tolerable.
The religion of Secularism is exercising a strategic move to possess the hearts of a people foolish enough to adopt the simplistic slogans of this erroneous, ego-attractive, and broadly practiced spiritual path. Under Secular Humanist policies, the infirm and unwanted are killed under the guise of slogans such as “right to die” and “quality of life”. The unsuspecting victims of its ideology blindly follow the spirits behind this religion which seek only spiritual territory and the pain and bondage of souls enlisted into its service. This trade of convenience and pleasure for euthanasia and infanticide moves us strongly down the slippery slope toward the mass murders of Militant Moslem regimes, the Third Reich, and Communist totalitarianism. The sacrifice of lives on the altars of false gods strengthens the spiritual hold on the devotees, as does societal reinforcement, personal devotion, and familiarity. Once established as a dominant social norm, an idolatrous culture will usually stay for a few generations unless a disaster strikes or a move of God brings revival to the hearts of the masses.
So, even though I do not regard the Founders’ words as the final elaboration of truth; I do see them as wise men that were gifted by God to see a pattern of society which could endure and prosper. It appears that you wish to interpret their words and vision as promoting a totally secular nation where the Christian religion is expunged from the public support; and that they wished to indoctrinate the succeeding generations with the principles of secularism. Such an interpretation of the Founders’ vision eviscerates their spirit and genius. I totally disagree with this revision of history, and I remain convinced that the Christianity-free government you advocate would produce a suboptimal, and indeed a degraded and debased, social order, which the Founders would find disgraceful.
I have a vision of restoring this nation to a state where we overtly speak of Christian principles in government, academia, media, and science. When we consider the way of Christ at the center of every social, political, and business interaction of our nation, God will prosper and elevate us as an example of hope for the world. I am committed to manifesting this vision in my own small way. I invite you to join me.