Of oaths, God and the Bible

To the Editor:

A bad and self-serving theology governs the civil religion of America in our day. Humanism has erased the consensus regarding both God and the Bible. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), either individually or collectively, disagreement is inevitable. The world “God” no longer necessarily refers to the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “God” is now more generic than particular, meaning God is whatever anyone wants it to mean or nothing at all. The Bible is no longer the only standard for doctrine and practice, the absolute authority for faith and life, properly understood, but a wax nose that can be twisted and shaped into whatever one wants it to mean. So today a president can take an oath of office with his hand on two Bibles and swear in God’s name to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

If public ceremonies mean anything, they are at least symbolic, even if the symbolism escapes us. The mainstream media made a big deal of the fact that President Obama swore, not just on one Bible, but on two — one used by Abraham Lincoln, and the other by Martin Luther King, Jr. Historically in America the Bible represented ultimate authority because its Author is God. Thus God and the Bible are corollaries. That relationship is lost on not a few today. The fact that both God and the Bible were involved in the latest presidential inauguration is significant. But the significance lay not in their use but in their cover for reality. It is nice to think that both God and the Bible were there revered as what they truly are. Clearly, neither is the case.

To swear in the name of God and on the Bible implies that both are taken seriously. Presumably this means that one believes what the Bible teaches, properly understood. Yet the president rejects the Biblical position on abortion and homosexuality, thereby making himself “god” by overriding the God of the Bible. Granted, people may differ regarding what the Bible means by what it says in some instances. But there can be no doubt about what it says or means in regard to either abortion or homosexuality. Thus to promote both abortion and homosexuality is a direct defiance of both the Bible and the God of the Bible. This is complicated by the fact that an oath in God’s name is the legal recognition of God. How does one recognize God as the legal (law) basis of society (the Law above the law) and simultaneously reject the created orders of God (sex, marriage, family and children) protected by His laws?

Normally the swearing of an oath belongs to our fallen human situation in which man’s word is not always trustworthy. An oath is thus a person’s promise/commitment to overcome that deficiency, implying that God will hold him guilty who violates the oath (second commandment: “the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” [AV]; “the LORD will not let anyone who misuses His name go unpunished” [AAT]). Moreover, an oath made on a Bible implies some kind of recognition of the validity of its contents, unless of course it is only being pragmatically employed to impress an indifferent or undiscerning public, in which case it is a false oath, an oath designed to deceive.

When Obama publicly declared in his inauguration address that he will attempt to guarantee abortion rights and gay rights, how does that fit his pretended adherence to both God and the Bible, which were at least symbolically represented at the inauguration? When the very symbols of truth and righteousness are denigrated with impunity and with no hint of accountability in an official public ceremony, we are witnessing the fact that both God and the Bible have little meaning in the American Constitution (the spiritual and moral makeup of the people), which also explains why the Constitution is virtually meaningless as well.

Paul Neipp

Story First Published: 2013-02-13