Should Christians Try to Legislate Their Morality?

“Don’t attempt to legislate your Christian morality,” we’re told. “This is a secular nation, and the Bible isn’t the law of the land.”

It’s a valid point, at least at first glance. So how do we respond?

As Trevin Wax observes in this video discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Collin Hansen, legislation is always, inescapably moral. The real question, therefore, is not whether we should legislate morality but rather whose morality we should legislate. All laws are morally freighted and, in some manner, discriminatory. Moreover, the idea that traditional marriage is simply “a Christian morality being enforced ignores the fact this isn’t just a Christian point of view, but one held by the vast majority of people in the world.”

Further, DeYoung points out, the purpose of the law is not only to protect rights, but to teach. And it takes some audacity, he adds, to dismiss the traditional view as “bigoted” considering the fact that ”until 15 years ago no country we know of had this alternate form of marriage.” It’s imperative we rightly answer two questions: (1) What is marriage? and (2) What is the government’s role in marriage? To the latter, DeYoung observes that the state’s interest lies in incentivizing whatever type of family structure is best for “societal stability and human flourishing.”

But what’s our standard for making such determinations? As Hansen notes, the question of final authority is a critical one. As Christians, how do we help people find an authority outside of themselves?

To read more on this question from a well-informed, non-Christian perspective, consider Michael J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?.

Should Christians Try to Legislate Their Morality? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.


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  • Steve Cornell

    This is a helpful discussion but it’s important for the Church to remember that Politics is mostly a downstream activity. Rarely are political leaders true agents of cultural change. Wall Street executive, David Bahnsen suggested that, “Politics is a field in which the consequences of culture play out; it is not the field in which the culture itself is formed.”

    The shaping of public opinion is important in a country whose government is by the people. Abraham Lincoln captured it well, “In this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.”

    I’d like to report that churches play a big role in shaping public opinion and, gratefully, many do. Yet churches have been significantly marginalized from the roles they filled in the early days of our country. Some of this is due to deeply misguided distortions of the First Amendment as a vehicle for the separation of church and state.

    But, sadly, many churches have lost credibility because of the misconduct of their leaders. Distrust of pastors and priests (and politicians) is at an all-time high.

    But this must not deter those committed to serving with honor — whether politicians or pastors. We live in difficult times when men and women of strength, character and leadership are badly needed. I pray that we can still inspire young people to pursue roles of leadership and influence.

    I especially hope that the most influential people will not lose heart — moms and dads. If we desire to turn this nation around with lasting change, it must happen in our homes.

  • JF

    The biggest question for me is: what good Christian legislation is, if it affects people whose hearts aren’t changed? More often it drives them away from God than drawing them closer to Him (at least in Poland, I’m not sure about US).

    It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t influence politics, law etc. But I’m not sure that it’s good to force it no matter what.

    • Loren Sanders

      The purpose of the law in a civilized society and in the Bible is not to change the hearts of men.

      In society it is to regulate our actions whether we agree with the law or not. Here in the USA, the number of people murdered each year is ridiculous, even though we have several laws against it, and some states still execute those convicted of it. Were we to eliminate the laws against murder, the death toll would become nearly immeasurable. We dare not abandon the rule of law.

      In the Bible, the law is there to show us our sin, and our need for a Savior. Without God’s law there is no plumb line, and therefore no sin, and if we have no sin, we have no need of a Savior. No need of God. The law of God confronts us and reveals our sins to us and before the world, and we are convicted by “seeing” the evils of our souls brought to light and we in our shame point the finger at God instead, calling Him unjust, etc, and use that as an excuse to run away from God, to reject God, to deny the gospel. God in His unbelievable mercy saves some of us from ourselves and the hell that awaits us, and He does that most often by our hearing of the Word. We dare not abandon God’s laws.

      I once was as vitriolically opposed to God and His laws as any human being can be, and though I struggled for years, still He won out and redeemed me. People who are “driven away” from God and His Word are making excuses (just as I did), and no amount of sugar-coating, no amount of “do as you will” will ever save anyone from the fires of Hell.

      We don’t have to be (shouldn’t be!) deliberately mean, nasty, or self-righteous about it – but we do HAVE TO proclaim the truth. Telling people the truth IS loving them, IS compassionate.

      We do not legislate the spirit of morality by the enforcement of societal law – God changes hearts – but we must enforce the morality of peoples actions within society.

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  • Nathan

    We take cue from Paul here in 1 Cor 5 when he says, “Don’t judge outsiders”. I pastor in a very liberal city and neighborhood and legislating morality would actually serve as an unnecessary stumbling block for many if we were to push that from the pulpit or elsewhere. We “legislate morality” in the church in the sense that we press the gospel and the effects of the gospel into each other’s lives as believers, but as it pertains to outsiders, we call sin “sin”, but spend our time holding out Jesus to them, not law (which cannot change the heart).

    • Michael Herrington

      I would agree that law cannot change the heart. But in reference to some issues does it have to be (or even should it be) an either/or? I would rather abortion be legal and no one was having one due to changed hearts rather than abortion be illegal and still lots of people were seeking them elsewhere or behavior hadn’t changed because hearts hadn’t changed. Is it possible to both engage people’s hearts and fight through the political process for abortions to end? Or another one: Is is possible to engage people’s hearts and want statutory rape to remain illegal? Both of those are legislating morality. One the culture at large is mixed on; the other the culture at large is, at the moment, against. I know the post was dealing with marriage, but the issues range far beyond, and we need other examples to help us think through the issues.

      • Nathan

        Yeah I agree there can be a bit of an either/or. For sure. Abortion is non-negotiable. With that said, I remember hearing a Dobson broadcast years ago where he said, “The most important thing you can do today as a Christian is call your legislator about abortion” [paraphrase]. And that’s the extreme we’re also, simultaneously, trying to avoid. I would never preach that, because I have no text for that.

  • Jeremy

    Is there a Biblical argument to be made in support of Christian involvement in the worldly (kosmos) political process? There does not seem to be adequate Biblical support for Christians’ current political engagement of cultural issues. There does seem to be a Biblical argument against it (see Nathan’s reference to 1 Cor. 5; Mt. 22:21) and certainly a practical argument (it becomes a stumbling block between non-believers and the gospel). I would be interested in a response on this board OR a book/article recommendation if you have any.

    • Tim M.

      I’m not sure one needs to justify political involvement, any more than one needs to justify being a plumber.

      I do think there is a difference between the responsibility of the individual Christian and the respinsibility of the local church.

      Most arguments that I have heard regarding the individual christian’s responsibility to the political process have to do with the nature of our government. If out government invites input, it seems irresponsible for Christians not to give said input. This invitation is a blessing.

    • Michael Herrington

      I don’t see how either 1 Cor. 5:12 or Matt. 22:21 places a restriction on political engagement by Christians. The first is dealing with issues of church discipline and seems to have nothing to do with political engagement. The second is dealing with the state’s right to tax, but the second half of that statement seems to imply that our first priority is giving ourselves to God, not worrying about what the state does. But it is going too far to say that this excludes our involvement in the state in anyway. Neither prohibits involvement in the political process. As far as the stumbling block argument goes: how far do we take that? Should Christians fight against legalization of sex with minors? Of course the law is offensive to people who don’t want to follow it. All rules are. But the question is how do we transition from law to gospel. That has to happen, stumbling block or not. For is there a need for the gospel if there is no law requirement?

  • Jeremy

    Tim and Michael,
    Thanks for your responses. I appreciate your input but my fundamental question is still unanswered. Where is the justification for political involvement in the Bible? Is it even there? Tim, the reason I believe political involvement needs to be defended in Biblical terms is because it has been so damaging to the message of Christ over the last few decades. I would argue that we have not received a calling to engage culture through political action but we have received a calling to share Christ with non-believers. Therefore, anything, including political engagement, that gets in the way of our work to share Christ should be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny. Michael, I agree that the verses I shared do not restrict political action but they do point to the fact that attempts to control the actions of non-believers and to engage in political actions are, in comparison to more important matters such as evangelism, futile. That was the only point I was trying to make and not as important to my main question. Again, I am seeking an honest answer to a fairly straight forward question. These responses, while thoughtful, do not address that question.

    • Tim M.

      I appreciate the response. I completely agree with you that much damage has been caused through the overemphasis of the church on political change. However, this, in of itself, does not make a thing evil. Basically, if you ask me to prove politics are biblical, I may ask you to prove that they are unbiblical, and then we get nowhere. In short, I’m not sure that this is a helpful starting point.

      We all have political philosophies, even if that philosophy is the philosophy that a Christian must not be involved in politics, however, if someone says this, then one might respond by asking the person to prove his starting point.

      At some point, Christians must answer the question, what do we do if we find ourselves surrounded by Christians and without government? Do we say, it would be innapropriate for Christians to form a government, therefore, let us go find some unbelievers to rule over us, because it is wrong for us to be involved in such things. Or is the only biblical option anarchy? Or if you reject both of these optionsand conclude that it is ok for Christians to form a government, because governments are ordained by God, and his servant, knowing that God once formed a government, then what will that government look like?

      In short, I’m not sure that being apolitical is the default starting point for a Christian. The Bible seems to think of governments as a good thing and if we agree, some sort of engagement in politics seems encouraged?

      • Tim M.

        The problem is the fact that there are many commands of Scripture that depend on a Christian interacting with the state at some level. So stealing and murder are wrong. What should a group of Christians who are on the proverbial deserted island do when one of their group begins to murder members of the group in an unrepentant fashion? I believe the only biblical choice would be for the group to form a government and that government would need to form laws which would rewards good behavior and diacourage bad behavior. I don’t know what else to call this but political involvement.

    • casey

      Jeremy – here’s one: “love your neighbor as yourself”. There is a lot of loving your neighbor that can be done with political involvement. Politics is not the mission of the church – I would agree. But neither is plumbing yet we have no problems with Christians being plumbers. Our vocations are opportunities for us to serve God and man in the day to day activities of life. I think this applies to politics at least as much as other professions.

      Unless all human government can be Biblically shown to be inherently bad and off limits for Christians (which I think the opposite case can be made fairly easily) then I believe it opens up other opportunities for loving our neighbor and bringing glory to God through work and service.

      That doesn’t mean that its mandatory for Christians to participate. It doesn’t make politics the church’s mission or the way we spread the faith. It doesn’t give open license to force particulars of the christian faith on unbelievers (is that really loving?). But it does give us an opportunity to stand up for justice and contribute to a just society – for example civil rights laws in the 60s (which I guess you would have opposed Christians supporting then) or new laws around human trafficking today.

    • RedDoor


      Check out Jacque Ellul, especially his writings on Christian Anarchy (Anarchy and Christianity, aptly named) and William Stringfellow (Conscience and Obedience). Ellul would say participation in a political system is in fact participating with Babylon (something he expounds in his Revelation commentary) and is something Christians should avoid at all costs. After you read a bit on Xian Anarchy, read his work on technology. It’s excellent and very descriptive of today’s world.

  • Adam

    I was one of those gravitating to the “don’t legislate morality” position. I had a change of mind as I considered the biblical teaching of government and its function. I think as American Christians we need to see two things. 1. Romans 13:1-7 is clear that government is bound to the righteousness of God. They are, in fact, supposed to be agents of God’s good. 2. This understanding proposed in the video was understood by the Founders of the Untied States of America. They posited this believe in this way, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” The only rights people have are the ones that God gives, and therefore, the founders voiced time and again that the Republic can only survive as it functions on Christian virtue. The point made here, that the law teaches, is crucial. My mind goes back to Gal. 3:24, “So then, the Law was our guardian…” (ESV). Their point is valid. Moral law helps keep lawlessness at bay within a society, and the rebellion of such check and balance is one of the evidences of the nearness of Christ’s return (2 Thess. 2:3a). I am understanding better why it is that with the increased hostilities towards Christianity comes like and equal hostilities toward the U.S. Constitution. I only wish this discussion was longer. Good stuff.

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  • Luke

    I just want to understand this: What determines, for the Christian, which biblical morals should be legislated and which ones should not? What principles do you use to choose between different sins? For instance, idolatry is one of the great abominations of human sin. Should we therefore outlaw all forms of worship that don’t conform to Christian beliefs? Why or why not? What principles do we use to help us answer this question?


  • Christian Vagabond

    Here’s the distinction i would make: if your moral position is dependent on your religious beliefs, then you have no business legislating it. If your moral beliefs can be defended in purely secular terms (without ever citing the Bible or religious beliefs), then it is acceptable to legislate it under those terms.

    Here’s a few examples: if you want to cut entitlements because you believe churches should provide those services, then you have no business cutting them. You’re forcing your religious beliefs on people who don’t agree with them , and you’re imposing the church into the lives of people against their will.

    On the other hand, if you want to cut entitlements because you buy into libertarian economic theory and you can supply non-governmental alternatives that are not dependent on forcing churches to fill the void – and you also believe that the Bible calls for a libertarian model – then you can legislate your moral beliefs. The difference is that you can present the argument for your legislation in nonrelgious terms even though they align with them.

    This is where the gay marriage debate fails. All of the arguments against gay marriage rely on religious beliefs. You have no right to make people live according to those beliefs. On the other hand, you can make a legal argument against polytheism because there are verifiable secular consequences: the only wife in a polytheistic marriage who has legal rights is the first wife. All of the other wives are at the mercy of the first wives’ generosity.

    • JohnM

      Christian Vagabond,

      What makes it wrong to force religious beliefs on people who don’t agree with them and impose the church into the lives of people against their will?

      • Christian Vagabond

        Let’s say tomorrow a law is passed that says all of the women in your town must wear burqas, and if they don’t wear them, then they will be arrested. Would you go along willingly with that law? Or would you feel that, since you’re not a Muslim and most of the people in town aren’t Muslims,you shouldn’t have to obey the law? You can wait for the next election cycle to try to get the law repealed, but until then the women in town will all have to wear burqas, and the police will have to enforce it.

        Or let’s take it a step further. What if churches and bibles are banned in town because they go against the beliefs of your local government? Wouldn’t you be outraged? IIf you have no problem with people imposing their religious beliefs on you, then you’ll happily comply.

        As for imposing church upon people,let’s say your grandmother needs money for chemotherapy. Entitlements are now the church’s responsibility, and the local Catholic Church is the only church able to provide funding for her. But part of their condition for funding her chemo is that she must be baptized Catholic, attend Mass every Sunday, and have her current marriage annulled because it is her second marriage. If she does all of those things, then she gets the chemo and she lives. If she refuses, she dies.Does that sound like a good system?

        • JohnM

          You’ve given me how-would-you-like-it scenarios but the question was: What makes it wrong? Fundamentally I mean.

          Any time you say something is wrong (or right) you are making a statement about morality. One you seem to be making is that it is inherently wrong to impose rules based on ones own beliefs about right and wrong, if those beliefs are informed by ones religion. Says who? On what basis, with appeal to what authority, what principle etc., would you make justify a statement? There might be an answer, but what is yours?

          What is your bedrock? In what are your moral beliefs rooted? If mine were rooted in creeds that are not explicitly religious, say Libertarianism or Marxism , would it be okay for me to legislate rules for non-Libertarians or non-Marxists, given that those rules were rooted in my Libertarian, or Marxist convictions regarding right and wrong? If so, why should convictions rooted in religious creeds be singled out for exclusion?

          • Christian Vagabond

            I’d like for you to address my questions, then I’ll answer yours.

            • JohnM

              I asked mine first, so truly you are the one obliged. But for the sake of moving forward – and hopefully getting an answer….

              Would wearing a burqa make a woman a Muslim? Is that how Muslims view it? If so, that would amount to forced conversion to Islam. I would resist conversion.

              Or do they simply view it as a matter of decency, like we do when we arrest women for going topless…something acceptable in other cultures? I would object, but it would have nothing to do with Islam, my objection would be the same if irreligious authorities required it citing “purely secular” reasons. And I would agree that a certain degree of public decency can be required, I would disagree with radical Muslims as to what was reasonable, necessary, and respectful of women’s human dignity. Of course the convictions of my Christian faith would have very much to do with latter, so maybe in your hypothetical situation…I ought to just let it go?

              Churches and bibles banned in town because they go against the beliefs of your local government? You mean like the Marxist government I asked about? The kind that has actually done what you describe? That kind of government? How about you – do object to governments imposing secularism, or only to governments imposing religion?

              Can the grandmother be said to have an “entitlement” in the first place if it can be denied to her? Can she be said to have an entitlement if it is not the government requiring and overseeing it? If the secular government defers delivery of entitlement to a religious body then who exactly is guilty of imposing religion? What if the grandmother is a militant atheist and doesn’t want anything from a church, even if there are no strings attached, but still wants the chemo? And what obligation does the church have anyway? I might say Christian charity, but I dare you to say it.

            • Christian Vagabond

              If it’s okay to impose religious beliefs on people who don’t agree with them, then logically it’s okay for people to force their religious beliefs onto you. If we choose to live by your edict, then you have no right to complain if you find yourself in a Marxist community or a Muslim community that chooses to ban Bibles.

              My point is that it’s wrong to impose rules if those rules are based solely on religion. That’s why I gave my example to Brian regarding Mormons and caffeine. It is unreasonable for Mormons to expect others to go without caffeine just because they believe it’s wrong to drink it. This is why we have separation of church and state, and why it’s in a Christian’s interest to maintain it. The majority of people in this country support gay marriage. Under our current system you can attend a church that chooses to condemn gay marriage and refuses to preside over them. But your position that it’s okay to impose religious beliefs on people would raise the possibility that your church may be forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies simply because the majority endorse it.

              That’s the distinction between legislation based on religion and those based on philosophy of government. You can’t make someone practice your religion or live by your religious beliefs, but you can make them live by Marxist or libertarian laws provided they do not impose upon your religious beliefs. Religion can and does inform government philosophy of course, but the diversity of religious beliefs in this nation means that religious arguments for legislation falls on deaf ears. Approximately 50% of the country is Democrat or Republican, which are secular philosophies. But while evangelicals are the largest religious group, they only comprise 26% of the population, so any given appeal to Biblical Christianity will fail to persuade 74% of the nation..

            • JohnM

              You really still haven’t answered my fundamental questions. Never mind for a moment what my position is, or you think it is. I was asking you. Asking you some down to the moral bottom line questions. Perhaps it is my fault for not phrasing them clearly enough.

              How can anyone say it is wrong to (fill in the blank with whatever it might be)? Or that there is such thing as wrong? Wrong based on what? In your case, what is it that informs your understanding of fundamental right or wrong, that which tells you for example imposing religion is inherently wrong? Or that neglecting sick grandmother is wrong? Or that disregarding the effect my choices have on society is wrong? The question is not rhetorical.

              The secondary question is: If your moral bedrock is something you would define as secular, why is that inherently privileged, privileged per se, over something you would define as religion? Also not rhetorical

              If your answer is “Well if X can happen it logically follows that Y can happen” I can turn it around and back at you. That was my point ref. Marxism. In communist countries explicitly secular governments explicitly imposed secularism. And some other than communist governments (like ours) do so to a lesser degree. Is imposing irreligion on the unwilling any less wrong than imposing religion? Is so, why? Also not rhetorical.

              Finally, and maybe I should have asked this up front, how do you define secular anyway? Also not rhetorical.

              Please try to answer the questions with something other than “for instance” or “you wouldn’t like that” if possible. I might try to explain a little more of what I really think if you do.

            • Christian Vagabond

              I believe that Christ and the Bible are tour moral foundation . But in terms of government, my opinion matters no more than the atheist living next door to me. One person, one vote means that i I shouldn’t be granted more power to control the nation’s political policies than she does. My beliefs are not privileged because we do not live in a theocracy. Our constitution and our government are secular by design. The dictionary defines secular as:

              1. of or relating to the worldly or temporal
              2. not overtly or specifically religious
              3.:not ecclesiastical or clerical
              4. not bound by monastic vows or rules; specifically : of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation

              As for imposing irreligion, see my earlier example. You’ve stated that it’s okay to impose religion onto others. Therefore, since atheism is a religious belief, it must be equally justifiable to impose irreligion on others. Your philosophy allows for autocratic restrictions on religion. My view, which is separating church and state, does not. Faith in the Bible does not mean that one is obligated to force people to live under Biblical authority. The old Testament Law only pertained to Hebrews, not the Canaanites or Edomites. Jesus’ command was to go make disciples, not go petition Rome to outlaw sexual rituals in Corinth.

            • JohnM

              If you believe that Christ and the Bible are our moral foundation, I assume that is your starting point for determining right from wrong. Is it from that starting point that you reach the conclusion it is wrong to impose moral beliefs derived from your overtly religious moral foundation? Do you not see the catch-22?

              If your beliefs are not more privileged than the atheist living next to you, neither are they less privileged. If you are not granted more power neither are you granted less than the atheist because Christ and the bible are your moral foundation. That would include the opinions of the functional atheist, the one who says we should proceed with indifference to the possibility of a transcendent moral authority. Of course that is impossible because without that transcendent moral authority there is no “should”. My question to that person, you might say to the “not overtly or specifically religious” is the same as it was (in other words) to you: Where do you get your should?

              Where did I state that it’s okay to impose religion onto others? I wanted to know on what premise you would base your own emphatic insistence that it is not. I insist that is no more acceptable to impose irreligion onto others, and wonder why you wouldn’t agree. I probably would disagree with you somewhat on what constitutes “imposing religion” in the first place. But I never stated either that it is or is not okay to impose religion.

              As it happens, and as I have said in other forums, my view is that it is not the mission of the church to make non-Christians behave like Christians. I might even say for the most part Christians needn’t trouble themselves over what people outside the church do. For the most part that is.

              On the other hand it is the role of government to require citizens to follow certain moral standards,.e.g. refrain from stealing, (to name an easy one in order to make the point) or face the consequences for behaving immorally. To the extent that Christian citizens have input into government they have the same right as anyone else to let their conscience guide their input. And I would expect a Christian’s faith to guide the Christian’s conscience.

            • Christian Vagabond

              Your first question to me was “What makes it wrong to force religious beliefs on people who don’t agree with them and impose the church into the lives of people against their will?” Since you didn’t back off or clarify your question, I took it to mean that you see no problem with forcing religious beliefs on people who don’t agree with them .

              for the most part it sounds as though we agree on more than it was first apparent. The distinction I would make is that with stealing, religious conviction is not the only rationale for making it against the law.Some of the other things we’ve discussed – like caffeine or wearing burqas – rely exclusively on religious convictions.

    • Brian

      Christian Vagabond,
      “if your moral position is dependent on your religious beliefs, then you have no business legislating it”
      That sounds like a very slippery slope that can catch a lot of things that we as Christians, along with many non-Christians consider immoral, but that some could see as acceptable, and also brings back into the picture the issue of where people’s moral positions come from. For most(or all, I would argue), their moral positions are derived from their religious beliefs, whatever those may be(and I mean actual religious beliefs, not what they would profess or even think themselves to believe). For instance, assisted suicide. Many(both non-Christian and Christian) would consider it good, many would consider it bad. Although some of my feelings may lead me to give it some merit, ultimately, my religious convictions lead me to oppose it. Let’s take another example: pornography or other drugs. As Christians, should we oppose them in whatever way we can? Yes. Would we feel the same way if we were not Christians, or at least to the same extent? No, at least most likely not in the case of pornography. Should we then fail to pursue measures to prevent the production, distribution, use, etc. of those things because it is our religious beliefs that make us feel the way we do about them- and therefore it is not our business? I should certainly hope not.

      • Christian Vagabond

        My point is that opposition to drugs, for example, can be grounded in science and sociology as well as religion. If one relies exclusively on religion, then you force people to comply with your religious beliefs even if they don’t subscribe to them. Temperance laws in many communities forbid the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Why should your atheist or Buddhist neighbor have to abide by those laws? Sunday means nothing to them. You’re unnecessarily infringing on their choices to get them to pay respect to your Christian day of worship.

        And drugs laws are a great example. Some Native American tribes use mescaline in rituals, but few Americans respect their religion enough to allow for legalized sales of mescaline. On the flip side, I’m sure you’d be outraged if a Mormon lobby managed to get caffeine and coffee banned from your town. You shouldn’t be denied coffee just because they don’t believe it’s appropriate to drink.

        As for assisted suicide, if you want to ban suicide because all suicides go to hell, that’s a bad legislative argument. If you want to ban it because it’s in the public’s interest to affirm life and health, that’s a more constructive legislative argument. You can still believe that suicides go to hell, but you have to make your case to people who don’t follow your religion.

        • Brian

          At some point, however, one as to recognize, Christians at least, that what the Bible says is true and its ideal should be lived by to the fullest extent possible. In a democratic society, the people(the voters anyways) are the rulers, and thus have both the authority and responsibility to put into law a framework for a way of life that best promotes human thriving and the honoring of God. We can’t play by the rules of not offending anybody, because somebody’s always going to be offended or feel oppressed by something. Instead, we must rely on objective truth for legislation, and not cater to the whims of unsound or demonic doctrines. I would oppose legalization of mescaline because those religious rituals are, if anything, demonic, and because the drug itself, barring some sufficiently researched medical application, can be dangerous. I would oppose the banning of caffeine or coffee because they are not dangerous in normal doses, they can have health benefits, and they can be generally useful. Most importantly, there is the key difference that Christianity is true, but atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. are not. In the past, people were instructed to be subject to the government insofar as it does not prevent them from obeying God, they were under a much different style of government. In a democracy, WE are the government that God has given to punish wickedness and praise that which is right(1 Peter 2:13-14), and thus we have to steward that responsibility.

          • Christian Vagabond

            The problem with your answer is that your demonic doctrine is someone else’s “Gospel truth”, and your Gospel truth is someone else’s demonic doctrine. In God’s court, your view may be true, but this is a secular government filled with a wide array of beliefs who each have a say in what laws we should live by. So while you’re correct that we’re the government, you’ve miscalculated what that means. It means that at any given moment in history America is its demographics, so right now only 26% of Americans describe themselves as evangelicals.

            So while you say that “At some point one has to recognize.that the Bible is true,” the answer is that, in governmental terms, no they don’t and they won’t. On the day of Judgement, they will have to be held accountable, but until then they are under no obligation to give your religious beliefs priority over their own.

            So while it might be true that someone will always be offended by laws, evangelicals have to accept that sometimes they’re going to have to be the ones who are offended .There’s no getting around the demographics, which is why the people calling for changing the nation one soul at a time stand a better chance of success than those who argue for changing the nation through legislation. We just don’t have the numbers.

            • casey

              We could try to get at it form various ways but I’ll just come out and say it. The problem with your thesis I think is that any conception of morality or justice ultimately will appeal to and be based on an ultimate. this is religion. If something is really right or really wrong it must rest on something outside of human subjectivity. Christians rightly recognize that as God. There is no other standard by which right and wrong, justice and injustice can be measured. Legislation conceived on a purely secular basis must rest on some moral rules that are just assumed and accepted as axiomatic, though they will not be able to ground them beyond that.

              Laws based on Christianity do not require that we force our religion or vertical justice on people. They require that we force some degree of earthly or horizontal justice on people, as ultimately defined by God – think of the first few commandments vs. the last set (or the two tables of law as commonly referred to) – though I’m not advocating law based directly on the Mosaic Law by any means.

              Not forcing your religion through law is a Christian idea, later adopted and modified by secularists. In fact Christianity has given modern secular liberalism its basic moral foundation and starting points (i.e. human rights). Ultimately if the secularists get rid of Christianity as many would like they also remove the foundation of their own moral systems.

            • Christian Vagabond

              I think you’re confusing the questions of moral foundation with the logistics of government. Brendan gives a great illustration below. He lives in Canada, and the Canadian people are so overwhelmingly pro-choice that there is no point in attempting to propose pro-life legislation. THat doesn’t mean that the conservatives in Canada aren’t pro-life or aren’t passionale. about saving children’s lives. It means that there is no way the government would ever consider passing pro-life legislation.

              Out o f curiosity, how would you define a law based on Christianity? A libertarian Christian would say that legalizing gay marriage would be a law based on Christianity. A traditional Catholic would say that a law outlawing all contraception would be a law based on Christianity. Appeals to Christianity as a foundation for law overlook the wide variety of Chrisitanities in this country.

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  • Russell Johnson

    Christians should vote for government representatives that represent their views. They should vote or against initiatives that either do or do not represent their views when given the opportunity. Christians should seek public office when it is done for the right motives. It would not seem to me that the Bible would prohibit any of these activities.

    What the Bible does mandate is that we do all of these things with love for others and with respect for those with whom we may disagree. This would seem to be the area where we have failed. The term “angry, white evangelicals” didn’t just appear. It is based in reality because our political activity is marked by anger, distrust, lack or respect, caustic rhetoric and yes seeming hatred for our poitical opponents.

    Our other downfall is that political activity has become our PRIMARY method of social change. Politics should always be a distant second to our primary method, which is, of course, the life-changing and societal-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Brendan

    We establish that Abortion should be legislated based on the moral fact that killing humans is wrong. Going further, how should a Christian approach legislation when it comes to safe sex? While we would say that sex outside the context of a marriage would be against our morals, can we realistically expect others to follow those rights? If not, why do we not promote safe sex legislation?

    • Brian

      Because there haven’t been any(or enough) legislators with the combination of morals and guts to push for such legislation, and/or those that do have been occupied with more feasible or urgent legislation, and/or they’ve been too busy trying to fight back against immoral legislation.
      As for your point about “can we realistically expect others to follow those rights?”, you seem to have fallen into the trap of confusing what is practical for what is right, as G. K. Chesterton put it, “Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen, it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.” We should not cease working towards something because it does not seem practical or even possible. Going by that standard would give us reason to abandon the endeavor to continue growing in holiness.
      Singapore has managed to illegalize pornography, and the country has managed to avoid the apocalypse that people seem to think would result from such an action, so I see no reason why such legislation shouldn’t or couldn’t be pushed for elsewhere, especially in a “Christian” nation such as the United States.

  • Brendan

    South korea also has made pornography illegal and has the highest rate of consumption in the world.

    Politics is all about compromise. That is why I believe so many Christians have a hard time with it. There will never be anything from the far right or far left that will move a nation forward (at least not today).

    • Christian Vagabond

      I agree. I think the far right and left are (in mot cases) rendered irrelevant by virtue of their extremism. Since they are locked into voting for just one party (or a third party that wil elect the candidate furthest from their values), the party they align with can safely ignore their demands and still count on their vote.

      Michelle Bachmann is a classic example. For all of the publicity she received, none of her proposed bills or legislation ever became law. There are exceptions though at the state level, particularly if your state is very red or very blue.

    • JohnM

      Brendan, How do you know South Korea has the highest rate of (pornography)consumption in the world? Or for that matter that pornography is illegal in South Korea? Not rhetorical questions if you have a credible source of information, but I’d like to know what it is?

      If you are correct isn’t it just possible the ROK government knows they have a societal problem, hence the prohibition?

      Regarding your last statement: Do you associate Christians with the far right, or the far left, and if so, based on what? Maybe you first want to define far right and far left.

      • Brendan

        A quick google search would give that to you but I can link it here as well. Here’s the wiki on internet censorship in South korea ( or Feel free to check out the sources it uses.

        And here is the South Korea is the highest per capita ( or

        Also- I am from Canada. So when I engage in discussions on American politics a lot of it is form observation only. In Canada- our conservative government would be what most “conservative Christians” vote for. Interestingly, Stephen Harper (our prime minister) and the Conservative government have clearly stated that they will not talk about or address abortion at all while they are in government. Now, this isn’t a good thing, but frankly it’s the reality of politics. There will always be more grey areas than definitive black and white.

        Morally, we know that this is not true (as much). There are some things that are wrong, and as Christians, we know that it’s wrong. But transferring this view to government and politics can be ostracizing if you actually want to accomplish something while in office.

        • JohnM

          Brendan thank you for answering. I don’t discount Wikipedia, but I don’t regard it as the final authority on anything either. Note also the article was about internet censorship generally, and not pornography specifically. Thing is, I’ve been to South Korea and know at least a little about what goes down.

          I’m not quite sure how much credit to give the other source either, the one citing South Korea as the highest pornography consumer. Oh, they have it, I know that, but highest rate?Maybe or not, but I wouldn’t accept the question as settled just based on that one source alone.

          But thanks again for providing your sources.

          • Brendan

   – ALso- did you read the other post- I have two links on each?

            That familysafemedia says that south korea has over $500 per capita rate of consumption compared to 45 in US.

            JohnM- I have checked out pornography usage in South Korea a bit more. And it seems that it is censored everywhere for everyone, but it is not illegal to own pornography if you are over 18.

  • KC McGinnis

    I think the answer to, “From where does a secular society get its morality?” can probably be answered pretty simply: Laws are created on a utilitarian basis, based on what is going to help the society run the most smoothly. There is no need to mention rights, or personhood, or morality. The question they’re trying to answer is: at a strictly practical level, what is the best thing to do?

    Not that I agree with this, but I think that’s where most of my secular friends are coming from, and why they would approve of, say, legalized abortion.

  • Nick

    It’s absolutely correct that legislation always has a moral component, but there is another option that is typically overlooked: why legislate at all?

    There was no state in the Garden of Eden to “license” Adam and Eve’s marriage. The whole idea of licensing marriages is humanistic and un-Biblical. God, the true Sovereign, instituted marriage as one man, one woman for life. For the state to contradict that is sin. For the state to “license” it, as if to give man’s worthless stamp of approval to Almighty God, is also sin. When Christians take what is a spiritual battle that can only be won by the power of God, and instead drag it before the pagan rulers of the state in some battle over legislation, they’ve already surrendered.

    The first state was Babel, founded by Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10) and in rebellion against God (Genesis 11:1-9). How could an institution formed in rebellion to God be sanctified? It is of the world, and Satan is the “god of this world.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan tempted Christ by offering to give Him control over all the kingdoms of the Earth (Matthew 4:8-10). Who controls the kingdoms of the world? Satan.

    Keep in mind that when Paul wrote Romans 13, it was to the Christians in Rome: an empire that was murdering and imprisoning them, and which ultimately executed Paul himself. So a contextual exegesis leads us to conclude that Paul was most definitely not saying that the state is morally good; he was saying that God uses it for good just like He uses everything, even evil, for good (Romans 8:28). Caesar didn’t bear the sword in vain (Romans 13:4) just like Hitler didn’t bear the sword in vain; it’s all under God’s absolute sovereignty.

    Jesus’ instructions for the Church’s work in the world wasn’t to try and sanctify an ungodly institution by legislating; it was to “make disciples.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

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  • David Bowen

    The whole discussion seems to be predicated on the basic assumption that all legislation is morally engaged. I’m not sure that’s true at all, and I wish they had attempted to defend that a little, in case someone (I) were to disagree. It’s true that *some* laws seem only to be based on lawmakers’ moral sentiment, but the act of legislating a law, and the essence of a law, is not basically moral. The endless tax laws in the United States, along with most other laws, are prescribed for the purpose of fostering a successfully operating society, with no recourse to whether or not something lawful is “good” or something illegal is “bad”. Unfortunately, the rest of the discussion is moot because I don’t accept their premise, and I don’t think the majority of individuals would, either. Ironically, the person who makes the statement that Christians should not legislate their morality wouldn’t accept the assumption that all lawmaking is morally related; you have to argue for that! Agree? Disagree?

    • Collin Hansen

      You could hardly find a better example of legislating morality than taxation. Certainly the founders of the United States believed it wasn’t moral to tax without representation. The first federal income tax appeared in the 1860s to pay for the Civil War, a moral decision if there ever was one. President Obama frequently cites his preference for higher rates on top earners so they will pay their “fair share.” You can’t define “fair” apart from moral judgments. The fact that the United States doesn’t tax the lowest earners represents a moral decision. The same goes for exempting non-profits from taxation and making their contributions deductible.

    • JohnM

      The notion that revenue should be raised in order to foster a successfully operating society is moral sentiment (one I share), as is any notion that some particular thing *should* be done.