Military Backs Down For Now, But Illusion Of “Natural Law” Remains Shattered

Many Christian traditions have taught that there is a “natural law”—a universally-evident ethical system that is perceived by all people whether or not they are Christians. It shows people how to be good without demanding that they repent of idolatry and submit to the true God.

Perhaps recent events in the military will teach Christians to give up that myth.

There is good news for now. As of last night, the military stopped calling Evangelicalism a “hate group.” Todd Starnes writes:

The Secretary of the Army has ordered military leaders to halt all briefings on extremist organizations that labeled Evangelical Christian groups as domestic hate groups. The shutdown comes just four days after I reported exclusively about a briefing at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby that labeled the American Family Association as a domestic hate group.

We should thank God for his grace. We should also realize that this is merely a frail support to hold up a rotting house. The cultural consensus, that Christians once believed was the product of eternally-evident natural law, is now obviously a temporary custom. It was never derived from nature—it was the result of the influence and presence of Christians in the world. As Christians became less faithful and as non-Christians gained more influence, the ethical norms also changed.

Thus it is only a matter of time, and probably not much, before we see another conflict. Consider this paper on chaplains refusing to marry two people of the same sex:

While one Army manual says chaplains are not obligated to perform duties “contrary to their faith traditions, tenets and beliefs,” other regulations stress that all chaplains must be willing to provide “religious support” for all personnel in their care.

The “Chaplain Activities in the United States Army” volume notes, for example, that while chaplains “remain fully accountable to the code of ethics and ecclesiastical standards of their endorsing faith group,” this does not relieve them from their duty to provide “adequate religious support to accomplish the mission.”

Thus, it’s significant that Army materials promoting the chaplain-led “Strong Bonds” program indicate that its mission is to help all soldiers — singles, unmarried couples and families — thrive in the “turbulence of the military environment.”

It will be impossible for doctrinally conservative clergy to avoid same-gender couples and families in that context.

Translation: the freedom of Christians to be Christians in public is over. There is no common ground in which they will be permitted to be free to act on their beliefs. Those will soon be a hate crime.

If Christians want to see better public ethics, they need to rely on Christ, not “natural law.” Preaching the Gospel may be an offense, but it is the only possible way our situation can change for the better.

While the Bible teaches that God reveals himself in all creation, He doesn’t give us a universally-evident system of ethics that leaves people as “good pagans.” Rather, such general revelation calls people to worship the true God. However, no one responds to that call. Only the Gospel can break through resistance and bring people to be reconciled to God through Jesus His Son—who died for our sins and was raised for our vindication.