The Case for Moral Arguments in the Public Square

October 10, 2012

by Ronnie Rogers

Ronnie Rogers is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., a university city cited by the North American Mission Board in 2006 as the most unchurched in the state. Pastor Rogers’ expositional sermons draw large collegiate crowds during the school year as he preaches and teaches (and writes) from a biblical perspective that boldly challenges popular culture.

Part 1

The Legitimacy of Religiously Based Arguments in the Public Square:

The Moral Argument

Elsewhere, I develop this more fully as well as lay out historical, constitutional, and intellectual arguments for an alternative to the “separation” model for governing the relationship of church and state, which I call The Proportional Accommodation and Appreciation Model.[1] This article focus is only the moral argument.

The problem is that secularists often, successfully, seek to summarily dismiss religious arguments from the public square via an extreme “separationist” interpretation of the First Amendment. They advert to generally any idea as religious that is in some way associated with supernatural religion or not derived from secularism. In practical terms, this simply means that an opinion is determined to be religious and therefore unworthy of public policy because it is either a part of a religious worldview, is derived from one’s religion, has an element of faith involved, is partly based on religion, is merely consonant with religion, is an argument with religious implications, or many times simply because the person arguing for a contrary view is a Christian. Like biologist Paul Gross who “derides scholars critical of neo-Darwinism as ‘crackpots,’ ‘bogus scientists,’ or ‘scientific illiterates’ who are driven by religious fanaticism and who are part of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ against the separation of church and state.”[2]

For example, regarding the “Human Life Bill”, the membership of the National Academy of Sciences weighed in with a resolution declaring that the question of when human life begins is “a question to which science can provide no answer…Defining the time at which the developing embryo becomes a person must remain a matter of moral or religious value.”[3] Scientists, secularists, began to respond like one professor who argued, “As a citizen I find it abhorrent to contemplate the force of law being given to one set of religious beliefs.”[4]

After having rightly recognized the question as a moral/religious one, religious input was summarily suppressed by invoking separation of church and state. This is how science remains the sovereign of the public square even when naturalism is not surreptitiously presented as science. One wonders if there could have even been a Declaration of Independence with men like this in charge. I think not.

Thus, the question is: “Is it moral and rational to exclude religious opinions from our republic or democratic public square just because those opinions involve an aspect of faith—a faith assumption?” For the following reasons, my answer is NO.

  1. Everyone believes some unproven assumptions

Even the idea that the public square should be limited to what can be demonstrated by science, or that science should trump all other arguments including the religious just because it is science, is not a scientific concept. Scientists often make claims such as “the process of evolution is blind, mechanistic, purposeless, goalless, unplanned, and completely natural and material.”[5] That may or may not be true, but what is absolutely true is that it is a faith assumption because it cannot be proven.

Einstein said, “To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.”[6] Thus, science is a faith endeavor. The very founding of the United States was premised upon the rational and yet unprovable faith assumption of God, without which America would not exist.

Every worldview bases some of its ideas on faith; ideas that cannot be proven now or may never be, but arguments need only to be rational, not proven; at the heart of this issue is the existence of God. His existence cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but neither can His non-existence. A state that values the reality of the immaterial world assumes His existence, as is demonstrably true in America, whereas a purely secular state like the Soviet Union, China…assumes that He does not exist. Neither can be proven, but both have comprehensive and profound political and cultural consequences.

The U.S. Constitution exempts Sundays from legislative work, Art. I, Sec. 7, which is why the U.S. Capitol building was available for church on Sundays; and this recognition of a Christian Sabbath in the U.S. Constitution was cited by federal courts as proof of the Christian nature of America.

Thus, it seems preposterous to assume that the Founders would smile upon our political, educational, and societal compartmentalization of religion and its concomitant hostility toward Christianity in today’s America. Therefore, since everyone argues from some unprovable assumptions, and our founding documents are premised upon the existence of God and they guarantee protection of that belief to be freely expressed in religious opinions both in private and public debate, it is to be particularly valued and protected.

  1. Both secularism and supernaturalism are worldviews

For supernaturalism, it is that God exists; and for secularism it is that God does not exist or is not knowable, or that secularism is the best way to address human concerns or needs. Since both worldviews address questions, either explicitly or implicitly, like where did we come from (big bang or God), why are we here (no teleological reason or to serve God), what is our problem (religion or sin), what is the essential solution to the problem (education or education and repentance), where are we going (nowhere, we don’t know, or to heaven or hell), and are humans valuable (based upon evolutionary scale, a certain quality, or created in the image of God)? Regardless of the answers to such questions, they have potential public impact, they are unprovable at the present and therefore require faith from which we formulate personal and imposable values, and other ideas. Both Christianity and secularism encompass the “Three primary areas (the nature of reality, the nature of the human person, the nature of moral and political values).”[7]

This question is at the heart of the abortion debate. Christians asseverate that human life begins at conception and is intrinsically valuable, whereas abortionists often base their views of abortion on evolution or Darwinism. “Ohio surgeon George Crile argued that the determination of when human life begins should be answered ‘through the eyes of Darwin and evolution.”[8] Also a letter that cited Haeckel’s work was used to justify abortion to the U.S. Senate.[9] The same could be said about racism and eugenics[10] even though others may have sought to justify the same on different grounds.

  1. Everyone argues from a worldview

Christianity and secularism are both worldviews, which are at play in all public debates regarding what laws will be imposed upon the citizenry.

Even at the most basic levels of developing publicly impossible ideas, these worldviews, whether recognized or not, are present. Take for example, debates regarding such everyday issues as appropriate speed limits. This debate actually involves ideas about what is a human and what is the value of a human life. Now, more than likely, no one will mention this, but at its core is the protection of human life, which leads to a spoken or unspoken perspective about the value of human life, property, etc. For example, few if any, care if cockroaches run into each other at 200 mph, except for maybe believing the more the better.

Consequently, since both secularists and the “traditional religions” rely on arguments that contain varying degrees of faith in such things as unproven assumptions, an authority, process, or tradition, neither should be excluded because of their faith.


End of Part 1. Cont’d

[1] Ronnie W. Rogers, The Death of Man as Man: The Rise and Decline of Liberty. (Bloomington, IN.: Crossbooks, 2011).

[2] Robert H. Ebert as quoted by John G. West, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007), 334.

[3] Cited in the testimony of Dr. Lewis Thomas in the 1980s, The Human Life Bill, 74, as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 333.

[4] Robert H. Ebert as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 334.

[5] Steven Schafersman, head of Texas citizens for science, as quoted by West, Darwin Day, 255.

[6] William F. Cox, Jr., Tyranny through Public Education, (Fairfax, VA: Allegiance Press, 2003), 334.

[7] Brendan Sweetman, Why Politics Needs Religion, (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 77.

[8] West, Darwin Day, 329.

[9] Letter from Milan M. Vuitch to Senator John East, April 22, 1981, in the Human Life Bill Appendix: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, first session on S. 158, a Bill to Provide that Human Life Shall be Deemed to Exist from Conception, April 23; May 20,21; June 1, 10, 12, and 18. Serial No. J-97-16 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), 105 as quoted by , Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2006), 163.

[10] Wells, Politically Incorrect Guide, 162-163.