Will the New Year Really Be New?

Dec 21, 2021 by David Fowler

Will the New Year Really Be New?
I can only answer the question posed by this week’s commentary headline for me and the organization I help lead, but the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The “new” for me is the predicate for the new organizationally. And that new will result in something new being offered to pastors and politicians during the upcoming legislative session.
The “new” for me has been a long time coming. I now see the whole of the mess we are in as a nation (and globally) as springing from the denial or disregard of God. Of course, that is totally non-revelatory to many Christians, and for years I have concurred in that statement. But the way in which I now find that statement true is what is “new” to me. 

I have come to conclude that this denial or disregard of God across our nation is a natural and necessary consequence of the evangelical church de-emphasizing the doctrines of creation ex nihilo[i] (“out of nothing,” meaning there is no material cause, God alone being the cause) and the Trinity[ii].

Why Creation Ex NihilO Is Now So Important to Me.

There are several reasons, but pertinent to whether the “new for me” will translate to my work with pastors and politicians in the new year is that creation without the existence of any pre-existing material—ex nihilo—is the only belief system that logically maintains a distinction in essence between God and the world and those of us in it. 

Thus, this belief and the assertion of it by Christians is the only true and real barrier between civil government and totalitarian government. If humans think they are free to be god over what exists, then, watch out, when some of them get power and act like it. Oh, I forgot, many already act that way. 

But creation ex nihilo also means “everything was created with a nature of its own and rests in ordinances established by God” and “their distinctive natures [are] in keeping with their own increated energies and laws.”[iii]

Adherence to this belief and the assertion of it by Christians is the only true and real reason unborn human beings ought not be killed in the womb, biological boys ought not compete in sports against biological girls, and the nature of marriage ought not be redefined. 

If there is no fixity to what it means to be human and the relationships that exist between humans, then those with power will redefine what it means to be human. Oh, those in power are already doing that or allowing their colleagues in power to do it.

Why the Trinity is Now So Important to Me

In sum, I have come to see that without the doctrine of the Trinity I cannot adequately explain anything and not without multiple contradictions seeping in. 

Without belief in the Trinity, there is no reasonable or logical basis upon which both unity and diversity or law and liberty can be formulated and reconciled without the predominance of one over the other leading either too chaos or tyranny. 
In other words, the more God has provoked me to plumb the depths of this doctrine (and its critical and fundamental relation to creation), the more I have come to understand why the Apostle Paul said that in this doctrine are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), and why, without that knowledge and foundation, I have been so easily deceived by others (Colossians 2:4), even well-meaning Christians, about so many things, including my work in law and politics.

How This Changes Law and Politics

These two doctrines have changed everything about the modernist understanding of law and politics that I have unconsciously embraced since law school.

For example, I usually tried to argue for various positions in law and politics on practical or prudential grounds. I tried to avoid making any direct moral truth claim, let alone assert any transcendent foundation for that truth claim.  I did that to “win the day” and avoid contentious religious pushback that might derail support from legislators who didn’t want to look “religious.” But here two things I did not understand about embracing that methodology.

The first is this, and it is huge: 
To concede to rules for engagement in law and politics that prevent any consideration of “being,’’ that is, consideration of any given, fixed and immutable norms about human beings and human relationships, is for me to capitulate to atheism, to revolt against God, deny what I believe to be true, and leave in place the root problem in our society, namely, a human egoism that seeks its own transcendence in order to make its own laws of existence for its own selfish and self-interested purposes.

The second is that my advocacy in no way glorified God as God or reflected the importance of the glory of God to me. Surely, I thought, “winning” in the legislature was a sufficient good in God’s eyes. Can you say with me what God said, “righteous deeds” can be nothing more than “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)?

What This Change Looks Like in ‘Real Life’ Law and Politics

What this “new for me” and in the organization I lead looks like is found in the Marital Contract Recording Act. This is what it looks like for pastors, and this is what it looks like for politicians.

Notice that both are appeals to one’s conscience before God. After all. God is the one to whom we all must account, not the people around us, the people in the pews, or voters.  

This is the “new” I will offer, and with respect to that, this is a new year for me.

Want to Know More?

If these thoughts are brand new to you or are even unintelligible, or if you think exploring them could be valuable to your understanding law and government or even who you are and why you exist, then join me for a new series on God, Law, & Liberty that begins today entitled, “Foundations.” And look for a new series of commentaries about upcoming legislation that will begin next week. I will start with a look at the U.S. Supreme Court.

[i] Darwin certainly helped evangelicalism de-emphasize creation. Christians, by and large, were and still are embarrassed by it, though naturalistic evolution is wrapped up in some huge contradictions. But I also suspect many came to believe, and still do, that the doctrine of creation was immaterial to a salvation experience. Why make God look bad and anti-science if it wasn’t necessary to get saved?

[ii] I do not know why exploring or plumbing the depths of the Trinity on Sunday sermons largely disappeared, but even 18th century theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, whose subjective oriented, touchy-feely emotive theology is on display in so many of today’s churches, didn’t know what to do with the Trinity. 

[iii]  Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, “God and Creation,” chapter 8.

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

Subscribe to Email Updates


Donate to FACT

Make a Donation