Will Tennessee’s Christians Seize the Day or Seize Up?

Jan 12, 2022 by David Fowler

Will Tennessee’s Christians Seize the Day or Seize Up?
Many Christians today seem intent either on preserving the United States or making it great again, depending on how they view its current condition. But what must be preserved or recovered if they are to succeed? The upcoming legislative session will reveal what we think it is. 

The Historical Political Context for Christians of Today

In the first century church, it is clear from the subjects touched on in the Apostolic letters that Christians grappled with who God is in relation to issues of authority, e.g., husband and wife, masters and slaves, etc. And in regard to civil government, here is how the late Francis Schafer described the situation regarding civil government:
Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. They were not killed because they worshipped Jesus. . . . Nobody cared who worshipped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels. . . . Thy worshiped Jesus as God and they worshiped the infinite-person God only. The Caesars would not tolerate this worshiping of the one God only. It was counted as treason.”
You can see how this situation might present questions for the Apostle Paul about authority and jurisdiction addressed in Chapter 13 of his letter to the Romans.

Scroll Forward to the Founding of the United States

Our Founding Fathers understood these issues of authority and jurisdiction and, to address them, they set up a system of dual sovereigns with designated jurisdictional authorities—federal and state government. State governments were intended to be a check on the federal government exercising a nationwide jurisdiction not given to it. 
Moreover, they distributed the powers held by each of the two jurisdictions among three branches of government according to the three functions of civil government—making law (legislative), executing the laws (executive), and resolving disputes between different parties involving the application of the law to them (judicial). 
Importantly, each branch was independent of the others as to how it thought its functions should be discharged. This constituted a check on claims to superiority in power of any one branch over the other two.
In America, authority and jurisdiction was not to be consolidated in any person, any branch of government, or in any one government. Claims to a transcendent authority were denied to all as each was a check on such a claim by the others.
All of this has since been lost.

Applying that Fundamental Belief and Governmental Structure to the Situation in Tennessee.

As explained in a previous commentary, Tennessee, by virtue of its marriage licensing statutes, has claimed total jurisdictional authority over the marital relationship. A man and woman have no right to marry in Tennessee without first getting the state’s permission and once given, that right expires, along with the authorizing license, in 30 days. For a Christian, this is a claim to transcendent authority over what God created and He gave to man and woman.
The governors of our state, as I have explained, have claimed a jurisdictional authority to effectively amend the legislature’s statutes to eliminate male and female as the fundamentally defining characteristic of marriage because they wrongly think the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal body and a judicial one at that, can authorize them to do so.  Constitutionally, only a legislative body can authorize a governor in the executing-the-law branch to do anything!
Moreover, for a Christian, no one, not even a Republican governor, has any transcendent authority by which he or she can redefine what constitutes a marital relation.
And speaking of the Court, in 1938 it repudiated the idea of transcendent authority in toto, and, not surprisingly, eventually asserted that it had the authority to redefine marriage for the whole nation. We will look at that beginning next week.

What Does This Mean for Christians?

Not to resist these various governmental claims to transcendent authority—a Creator as referenced in our Declaration of Independence—means today’s efforts to preserve what made America great or to make it great again will fail. Not to resist is to reject the fundamental belief that led to the creation of the United States as a new nation in the first place.
Moreover, for Christians not to resist is, at a minimum, tacit repudiation of God’s transcendent authority over all things inclusive of civil government. As William Penn said, if men will not be governed by God, they will be governed by tyrants.

How Can Resistance to Fundamental Error and Repudiation of the Constitution Be Expressed?

The clearest way to resist this denial of God’s transcendent authority over all things and disregard of constitutional distributions of authority and jurisdiction is to support enactment of the Marital Contract Recording Act.
The legislation is consistent with the Christian belief that the meaning and purpose of the marital relationship (as is true of all things) is to be found in God. It is consistent with the Christian’s belief that the distinctive of male and female and their unity as human beings and unity and distinctive of male-female marriage represents to us the unity and distinctives of the Triune. 
Can those who believe in God be content to let the legislature, the governor, or the U.S. Supreme Court think the marital relationship is “their thing” to grant or abolish[i] except on such terms as they prescribe? Will they seize the moment or just seize up in fear? 
To this the words of the writer of Hebrews seem appropriate:
[S]ince we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (12:2)
The race to legislative adjournment has already begun. It will be over in a few weeks.
Information for ministers or that can be given to ministers is at this link.
Information that can be given to legislators is at this link.
The governor’s phone number is 615-741-2001 and his email contact form is at this link.
Contact information for your state Senator and Representative can be found at this link.
[i] Providing a means by which a marital relationship in the nature of a valid contract can be proved and notice of it be given to the public is a legitimate government function. Saying the relationship can only be formed if government’s permission is given is quite another thing. Effectively, the power to permit is the power to abolish.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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