The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, contained in the Bill of Rights, particularly guaranteed that coercion should not be used by the government of the same to force any to believe anything contrary to that which their free use of conscience would constrain them to believe.
This is a return to that which is of the New Testament, though not all the framers of these things held to that Christian worldview which many today think they did, and while we may question the founding father’s beliefs, we cannot fault that which was the prevalent thought of the New Testament, regarding men and whether they believed or not.
This is not saying that men exercise a freedom of conscience that is uninhibited by what their very nature, or innermost man, determines for them; factoring in the nature of a person, when it comes to believing the gospel or not, is the purview of God’s providence and grace, as well as His righteousness and wrath.
What this is saying is that men will choose according to that nature and conscience which dominates their thought process, and so their world view, and they will act accordingly.
The transcendence of the Triune God of the Scriptures puts Him beyond criticism in such matters: He is shown, by the Scriptures, to be beyond that which a man may think of as good, while revealing that He is good beyond what a man may deem as such.
Opposition to that special revelation of the Triune God of Scripture is thus shown to be that which, while permitted by Him, will, at the time of the final judgment, be punished by Him.
Those who do not understand that grace-given eternal life by God certainly cannot understand that the opposite must hold true, for He has shown there is no partiality with Him – in saying such, we mean exactly what the Pharisees with the Herodians stated in Matthew 22:15-16: Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. In this, it is seen the popularly espoused view of the various churches that claim for themselves the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are decidedly mistaken when they use that fact that God does not respect persons, therefore He freely offers His forgiveness of sins and new life in the righteousness Christ obtained for His own to all mankind for all time, dependant upon their acceptance or rejection of the same, as if He considered all humanity over the course of history good enough to make such an offer to them, enabling them to sit on the judgment seat, if only for this one time, in assessing the value of either eternal damnation or eternal life, as if they could assess that which God does with the impunity of the creatures He created for His pleasure, not of necessity, but to show forth His glory in multiple manner.
Such a view of God shows an elevated view of man, while at the same time, showing a creaturely concept of God, as if He were subject to reason, logic, and morality on a human level, when He has asserted exactly the opposite (Isaiah 55:8-11; Romans 11:33-36); that is, “good,” when attributed to and as possessed, in eternal and infinite measure, by God, is beyond anything that a man may understand, for it consists of the complete holiness of that same infinite and eternal character of God which is as far beyond the finite creature He created as “East is from West.” If a person can understand exactly what the meaning of infinity and eternity are, which God, who has always existed, and who sustains Himself in complete satisfaction with all that He is, exists as and beyond, then such statements would be unnecessary; however, our Lord plainly stated that no man can even understand enough to determine what such “goodness” is, as pertaining to both God and man (Mark 10:18). Since only God is good, it follows that only God gives that which is good, and those who do not recognize this fact have, in fact, not received either of His goodness or His wisdom, for the greatest that He has to give to man – that which is the highest expression of His goodness – is that new life in Christ Jesus, with all that such inherently means: forgiveness of sins, repentance of the same, faith to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, all encompassed within that “new life given” whereby “the old has passed away, all things are new.”
So, those who framed our Constitution actually said that which has always been the case, but not in recognition of divine fiat, but rather, the obvious truth that man, fallen, will choose that which is according to his fallen nature, and that the exercise of any religion of men which does not recognize the true God of Judeo-Christian Scripture is due to the lack of the desire, which comes with that goodness, or grace, of God with a new nature, as He wills, is actually rebellion against Him, for which the Son will exercise that judgment that the Father has given into His authority (John 5:22).
Yes, as the First Amendment states, men are free to believe what they want; as it does not state, however, they will believe anything but the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ if God does not graciously grant that rebirth of the fallen human nature that is His alone to grant, with all the gifts inherent in such an exercise of God’s goodness, or holy grace as given “in Christ Jesus.”
No doubt some of the framers of our Constitution understood this, while others did not; in putting such forth in the First Amendment as they did, they merely affirmed that the One who controls all is yet firmly in control, and such will always be the case.
19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
1 Corinthians 15:19-28 (ESV-2001)
To God’s alone glory – Bill Hier