ll truth belongs to God. All facts are God’s facts. Everything relies upon, belongs to, derives from, and points to Him. Abraham Kuyper’s famous quotation encapsulates this fact: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” The objectivity of reality — as well as its uniformity, reliability, and predictability — all owe their credit to the God who sustains, upholds, and carries His creation from one day to the next, moment to moment, sunrise to sunset. All of creation belongs to, points to, and praises the Creator.
In the book of Isaiah, we see an explanation of God’s world and of the mind behind creation that makes and sustains everything:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
By virtue of being the “creation,” this world belongs to the one true and living God. We as His creatures are likewise unable to hide ourselves from Him. Everywhere we turn, we have to assume upon the sustaining hand of God, gracious in every disposition.
Every time we declare truth, we say something about God. Every time we rightly name something as beautiful, we give glory to God. Every time we properly call something good, we assume a standard of goodness that again points to God. These transcendentals, to use the classical term, are currency in God’s world. They are the mounds of metaphysical capital that define our friendships, our families, our institutions, our nation, and in every facet of life in God’s created world. This capital is “borrowed” when we use it, but don’t name it, when we rely on it but don’t credit its true Lender — the God of Scripture.
Reliance upon God’s ways yields access to His capital, His credit so to speak. Scripture illustrates this in a passage that is often worn smooth and reduced to a moralistic proverb, but nevertheless expresses a transcendent and profound truth:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:7 ESV)
Paul’s reminder of this to the church in Galatia is a reminder to us as well — when we reason in the way God reasons, we reap the benefits. When we live according to His ways, we will prosper. When we do not, we will not. And when we knowingly abandon God’s ways, God will not be mocked: We are abandoning a foundation we cannot afford to stand without.
The latter description largely characterizes America today. We increasingly deny God and neglect His ways, yet our society still subsists on basic truths inherited from the Christian worldview.
Christian Truths in Government
One of the most significant pieces of borrowed capital in our day is the U.S. Constitution. It represents a set of Christian assumptions that have informed American governance for centuries. Whether the Founders were Christian or deists is beside the point here. What is key is that they all drew upon Christian truths from the Christian worldview they had inherited.
For example, the Founders embraced a Christian view of man as fallen and sinful. In light of this anthropology, they consciously designed the institutions of government to restrain human sin as much as possible. They understood (from both Scripture and experience) that when power was concentrated in the hands of a few, government would become tyrannical and oppressive. This is why the idea of the separation of powers and having a plurality of leaders is a brilliant one. America’s institutions of government are arranged in such a way as to constrain one another’s vices and tyrannical impulses.
Since the Fall in Genesis 3, the effects of sin have been universally felt. Christians understand that these effects will only and finally be undone when Christ returns — until then, the creation groans with the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). This is largely why central planning as a governing philosophy will never work — it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of human beings. Central planning assumes that man is basically good. It assumes that government is competent to micromanage our affairs, and that it is morally beneficent enough to do so impartially and justly.
But man is not basically good. Man is fallen and inclined toward corruption. On this point, James Madison, who was instrumental in framing the Constitution, wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Madison and the founders recognized that man’s sinfulness would result in corrupt government, and so they saw the need for a constitutional blueprint that would serve to restrain government. The result was a system of checks and balances. These checks harness man’s sinfulness by pitting sin against sin, power against power, interest against interest.
In correctly recognizing our post-Genesis 3 anthropology, the framers exemplified true exceptionalism: reasoning according to the truth of God’s world. They borrowed capital from the Creator and used it to lay the foundation of our constitutional order.
Borrowed Capital in Our Day
As our nation becomes increasingly “post-Christian,” we are losing all awareness of where truth comes from. We are increasingly rejecting truths that society once took for granted, and this includes the anthropological truths that undergird our constitutional order. That raises the following questions:
In keeping with the monetary analogy, the answer to these questions can be phrased as follows: Taking the good without acknowledging the Giver of the good is a violation of the loan’s terms and conditions. The common grace of God’s truth specifically requires that its users name its source and proclaim the gospel that belongs with it. Before Christ’s initial coming, when the work of Christ had not been completed, the nations lived in ignorance. Yet because they lived in God’s world and remained His image bearers, they borrowed pieces of the Christian worldview, as everyone must. Today, some nations continue in ignorance, yet they too still borrow capital from God’s world. They can reason based on the natural revelation, which God generally and continuously pours into His creation (Rom. 1, Ps. 19:1).
But there are two problems here. First, God’s natural revelation to those ignorant nations is not sufficient to save. It is only sufficient to damn, for it yields a basic knowledge of God and therefore leaves everyone morally culpable for sin. Second, the United States does not fall into this “ignorant” category — from its earliest colonial days until the present day, the U.S. has been thoroughly evangelized with the gospel call of repentance (Acts 17:30). Thus, our Christian cultural inheritance amounts to an inordinate amount of borrowed capital, which we are currently squandering. As a culture, we are simultaneously suppressing the truth of God and also relying on it daily. We still retain numerous gifts from our Christian past, yet we openly reject the Giver of those gifts.
In this ever-intensifying suppression of truth — exemplified by the profaning of marriage and the murdering of the unborn — we are both giving ourselves over to evil today and planting the seeds of further judgment to come. In opposition to the things God declares good, we exchange God’s truth for lies. The result is that we appeal to many of the same moral standards from years past (e.g. that it is wrong to murder), but we lack any ultimate grounding for those standards. To be sure, most sensible people want these things in their society, but more and more people are left only with their conflicting intuitions. Dreadfully ironic and tragic are those who say, “Murder is bad, but abortion must be allowed.”
Does America now simply await a sudden act of judgment from God for this great inversion of His values? Maybe. But God’s judgment does not usually come in tornadoes, earthquakes and fire from heaven — though these are never outside God’s purview. The most sure form of judgment, rather, comes in being handed over to the very sins that we have chosen, as Romans 1:18-34 makes clear. God is not mocked when we suppress His truth and sow our own seeds; when the poison that springs up in our harvest is eagerly consumed, we are the mocked ones, not Him.
The United States cannot avoid judgment by simply becoming a nation of deists who inch closer to God’s truth and borrow His capital, all while refusing to give thanks to Him. The gospel call has gone out, and most quarters of American culture continue living in suppression of the truth, not in ignorance of it. Time is running out before our loan gets called back. Our regression down the path of secular ethics is a rejection of God and His blessings. We cannot hope to build a just and humane society while spurning the One who gives us our very life and breath. And as a nation that has heard the gospel, we will be especially condemned. Scripture shows that God’s judgment is harsher upon those who have more truth, and United States has been endowed with an abundance of truth time and time again (Matthew 11:20-22).
Since we cannot go back to being pre-evangelized, only two options remain: 1) Return to Christ and be renewed in our minds, embracing a comprehensive Christian worldview, or 2) continue to reap more bitter fruit as the result of suppressing God’s truth. If we take the latter option, one result is we will have fewer children to inherit our society. Gay couples cannot produce offspring, we continue to terminate children in the womb, and even many Christians minimize their influence by only having only one or two children. Such a society cannot compete with Islam, which encourages its adherents to have ten children and to overwhelm the infidels with Muslim offspring.
How much time is left, then, for a nation whose capital is running dry? How long will God’s common grace uphold us while we continue, not in ignorance, but in full knowledge of the Gospel and still in rejection of it? At some point, the logic of the godless worldview will catch up with our practices and will bring consequences.
The gospel is the only thing that can restore us to right relationship with God. But the gospel is not the total sum of the Christian worldview. The gospel of salvation saves and secures us, but we must also bring all of life captive to Christ. Once saved, our worldview must be sanctified. This changes our position toward others, which in turn invites more of God’s gracious gifts to return in the harvest. But this return of grace comes on His terms as spelled out in Scripture, not on the faithless terms of borrowing His capital and continuing to reject Him. America must repent, yes, but America must also reform its entire way of thinking — individually, corporately, and institutionally — to appreciate the true source of the grace we have been subsisting on for so long.
Will such a miracle occur in our land? Will the Giver of life put down our rebellion and open our nation’s eyes with a flood of grace? Time will tell, and the time is at hand.