- “faith alone, not works, is required to have eternal life in heaven”
- “separation of church and state”
With beginnings four centuries apart, these two misunderstandings have wound their way through the maze of history and are suddenly on parallel paths to the Secular City. Although separate in origin, they have since become inadvertent allies perpetrating the War Against Religion being waged in our country.
The 16th century originators of the “faith alone” belief were not intentionally malicious. However, in their zeal to reemphasize the importance of faith; they ignored the inclusion of good works as taught by the original Church fathers. As a result, they sowed the seeds of error whose fruits are being harvested by the opponents of religion for their own mission today. While it is true that we cannot earn our way into Heaven, good works remain an integral part of the believer’s life. We have been instructed that our faith must be made evident through our works. As we see in:
- John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” 1
- Gal. 5:21, “… I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. 6:7-8, “Make no mistake: God is not mocked for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit
will reap eternal life from the spirit.”1
- John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” 1
- the summarizing quote from James 2:24, 26: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone… For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” 2
By minimizing the importance of good works, those who wish to stifle the influence of religion in daily life feel justified. If good works are no longer essential to one’s faith, then it follows that its practice can be limited to worship activities. Thus, we are hearing some leaders in the federal government referring to freedom of “worship” instead of “religion” as described in the First Amendment. This verbal sleight of hand tips us off to their unsavory agenda of sending religion to an implied “house arrest” within church buildings. They will succeed if the American citizenry forgets that the right to freedom of religion is an inalienable right not subject to the power of government.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, papal nuncio to the United States, cautioned that the problem of persecution begins with “reluctance to accept the public role of religion.”3 Again, if we allow our freedom of religion to be confined to our churches and homes, it ceases to be the light of the world it was intended to be and it encourages additional restrictions, and subsequently, persecutions by emboldened opponents.
The founding fathers of the United States knew that we were indebted to God for our country’s existence, and they understood the value of a society which worshipped Him. They wanted to ensure that the religious persecution left behind in Europe did not resurface here. As a result, we have the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” [emphasis added] Thus, in the early days of our nation, we had a federal government which protected the right of religious freedom.
A presidential letter written ten years later has been misused in our time as an excuse to alter its application. On January 1, 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, which was concerned that its minority status in that state was leading to discrimination against their members. In it he assured them with, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” The “wall” was described earlier by Roger Williams in his 1644 book, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for cause of Conscience, discussed, in a Conference between TRUTH and PEACE.” (exactly as the title was printed) He used a metaphor found in the Book of Isaiah, where people of faith lived in a garden and were protected by a wall separating them from the “wilderness of the world.”
Jefferson’s letter was mentioned by Supreme Court in its 1878 decision (Reynolds v. U.S.). In 1947, the Court referred to his letter as it was contained in that decision, but went further by stating, “The First Amendment has created a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.” The opponents of religion have rationalized that this “wall” meant that secular governmental need not be concerned whether its policies restricted the free practice of religion. This not only disregards the fact that the practice of religion is an inalienable right (as well as being contrary to the First Amendment), but it gives the state superiority over church. The most recent affront to this right is the infamous Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring business entities and individuals to participate in health insurance practices contrary to Church teaching. Its worthless “religious exception” is meaningless as Jesus Himself would not have qualified.
We now have an enemy emboldened by Christians unprepared to fully defend their faith, as instructed by 1 Peter 3:15, and by the Court’s decisions which have proven its fallibility (classic examples being the Dred Scott case and Roe v. Wade). Our mission is clear:
- Educate ourselves and one another of the truths of our faith and its responsibilities
- TAKE ACTION. Our government is “by the people” not “over the people.” Oppose evils such as the HHS mandate by encouraging our legislative representatives to act wisely. Support those offices seekers who have respect for religious freedom. If there’s a shortage of acceptable candidates—become one!
- Increase our efforts in prayer and in sacrifice.
Within the last century, several authors warned of a future “brave, new world” when inconceivable wrongs and disordered behavior would be proclaimed the norm. Any one opposing this viewpoint by defending Truth could face dire consequences. That future has arrived. Should anyone not be convinced, recall the decades old question: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you.”
The fabrications of “faith alone…” and “separation of church and state” have become so ingrained in modern society, they prove that “if you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.”
1 – “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005
2 – “The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition,” Thomas Nelson & Sons, Camden, NJ, 1966
3 – Archbishop Vigano’s November 4, 2012 speech at University of Notre Dame, National Catholic Register, 12/2/2012