One Nation Under God, Liberal Theological Revisionism, and Confessing Pastors

Jan 29, 2021 | Perspectives

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The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States contains the phrase “one nation under God.”  The word “God” is capitalized making it a proper noun.  A proper noun is a word for a particular person, place or thing, and is usually capitalized.  The person named in the United States Pledge of Allegiance is the God of Bible.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the reference to “God” in our Pledge of Allegiance attracted the hostile attention of secular humanists aided significantly by those promoting liberal theological revisionism.

Revisionism is defined as “a departure from any authoritative or generally accepted doctrine, theory, practice, etc.” 1  The term liberal theological revisionism as used herein is defined as “a secularized evolutionary interpretation of Theology.”  It is not disconnected with the ideas of secular humanism, revisionist Theology” 2 and “process Theology.” 3

One of the most significant outcomes of liberal theological revisionism has been the marginalizing of the Bible as the sole source of theological truth, and the promotion of ideas that merge theological interpretations with secularism in a blend that diminishes both the Bible, and the God of the Bible.  In short, it has resulted in a kind of universalism that demotes the God of the Bible to the god of Deism (the belief that a single creator may exist, but is revealed in reason not in revelation).

Blended with the teachings of humanism, liberal theological revisionism has given encouragement to both secularists, and cultural Christians who accept the diminishment of both the authority of the Bible, and God as revealed in the Bible.   

Today, many no longer consider the United States to be a Christian nation, and in the broader sense, that is not inaccurate.  According to most current estimates, only about 70% of Americans identify their religion as “Christian,” and within that number liberal theological revisionism is significantly influential.

For example, according to the Gallup organization, only 24% of Americans believe the Bible is the literal Word of God (the lowest in Gallup’s 40-year trend).4   There is currently no evidence that supports a reversal of this trend.

How have we come so quickly to a time in American history when the authority of the Bible, and the God of the Bible are increasingly viewed through the lens of universal Deism?

A revealing answer to that question may be found in an example from the modern history of another nation.  A nation that once trusted in the God of the Bible, but lost its national soul aided by liberal theological revisionism.  It’s a nation from which tens of millions of Americans can trace all or some of their ancestry.  And, like America, it was at one time a beacon of Christian light to the rest of the world.  It is the nation that gave birth the Protestant Reformation – Germany.

The national motto of the German Empire from 1871 until the total control of the Nazi party in 1933 was “Gott mit uns” (God with us).  But what god did that God eventually come to represent?  The God of the Bible or the God of liberal theological revisionism?

In the aftermath of World War I, because of the political and social turmoil that took hold of Germany, conservative church leaders had to contend with Social Democrats who mostly held to a strict separation of church and state, aided wittingly or unwittingly through the influence of the secular views of philosopher Immanuel Kant, and the religious views of liberal theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, and their colleagues.5

They helped to bring about the rise of the seemingly harmless sounding academic aegis of the neo-German school of Biblical Higher Criticism;  which as it turned out, was not so much concerned with Biblical criticism of a higher sort, but in practice the weakening of Biblical orthodoxy .

Beginning in 1919, aided significantly by this rise of Protestant liberalism, and the lack of opposition from most of the mainstream clergy, the Weimar Republic attempted to implement a number of plans, which included:

• cutting government subsidies for the church

• confiscation of church property

• abolition of theology as a course of study in universities

• banning school prayer

• banning compulsory religious instruction in schools

• prohibiting schools from requiring attendance at worship services.

Upon Hitler’s rise to power in January of 1933, the Nazis’ further controlled the German Protestant church by extending government reach through:

  • removal of all pastors unsympathetic with National Socialism
  • removal of the Old Testament from the Bible
  • removal of “non-German” elements from religious services
  • loss of privileges for nonconformist churches
  • nonconformist clergy being  forbidden to take collections
  • adoption of a more “heroic” and “positive” interpretation of Jesus.

Arguably the most significant corruption was the publication of a “dejudaized” version of the New Testament (NT), titled “The Message of God,” released in 1940 with about 60% fewer words than in Luther’s 1522 translation of the NT (which is considered a literary masterpiece, and for more than 400 years had been the primary text from which German children learned to read).

There was opposition from what was known as Germany’s Confessing Church movement, but powerful government sanctions blunted much of its influence.  Conservative Confessing Church leaders such as Martin Niemöller and Heinrich Grüber, were sent to Nazi concentration camps. While Grüber and Niemöller survived, not all did: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was sent to Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he was hanged at age 39.6

Hundreds of other Confessing Church pastors were persecuted, fined, imprisoned, tortured, and executed (as well as an unknown number of laymen).  Perhaps not surprisingly,  it is estimated that only about 20% of German Protestant pastors supported the Confessing Church movement.

Does any of this sound unsettling familiar?  Is America today still “one nation under God?”  If so, which God?  Liberal theological revisionism works its work only if the gatekeepers of Biblical Theology allow it (or participate in it).  The true gatekeepers of Biblical orthodoxy are pastors – not members of the government, not educational theologians, but pastors – the grassroots educators of the laity.

How might our world be different today if instead of an estimated 20% of German protestant pastors supporting the Confessing Church movement the numbers had been reversed – 80% supporting, and only 20% apathetic or consenting?

Surely someone will cry “STOP!  Are you actually comparing the United States of America to Nazi Germany?  Are you crazy?”  No, I am not (on either count).  What I am suggesting is that when liberal theological revisionism is allowed to redefine the God of the Bible, Deism will be the first step toward agnosticism which leads ultimately to atheism.

Deism, agnosticism and atheism are theologically and philosophically compatible with socialism, and socialism can only survive in the polluted environment of a Godless society.  A Godless society is a monstrous society with checks and balances, freedoms, and rights dictated ultimately by an oligarchy – an oligarchy of the Godless.  It happened in Luther’s Germany, and if we are following even a slightly similar path, why could it not happen here?

George Washington, the founding father of the United States said, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” The God he referred to is not the God of today’s liberal theological revisionism.  The God of liberal theological revisionism will fail our nation, because he is no god at all, and will ultimately be acknowledged as nothing more than a myth.  Once he is a myth, he will cease to have influence, and every man will do what is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25; Proverbs 12:15).

History has proven that the only real hope of living in a free and prosperous society is to live in a nation “whose God is the LORD” ( Psalm 33:12).  All others eventually become instruments for evil.  Look to history – look to our day – what do you see?

I speak now to my fellow pastors.  I urge you to be the Confessing Church pastor of our day.  What are the hallmarks of a Confessing Church?  While there are many, they all flow from three cardinal hallmarks:

1.  The full Deity of Jesus.
2.  Salvation only in Christ.
3.  Sola Scriptura – only the Scripture (for faith, doctrine and practice).

Sound simple?  Sound easy?  Those who live it know otherwise.  It has always been so.  This is why Jesus said “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven”  (Matthew 10:32-33 NASV).

Pastors, to be confessed before the Father in heaven we must confess Jesus Christ on earth.  We must confess Him from the pulpit; we must confess Him in the privacy of our home; we must confess Him in the privacy of our own mind; we must confess Him in the public arenas of life; we must confess Him in the company of our friends and family; we must confess Him in the choices of our entertainments; we must confess Him in the financial choices we make; we must confess Him in our scholarship and knowledge of the Bible; and because we are the grassroots leaders of Christianity in America, we must confess Him whatever it may cost us – and if it should come to it – even our very lives.

There is a troubling spirit abroad in our nation today, and in a very real way, it has not come only into the church, but it has also come from within the church. It is the spirit of liberal theological revisionism.  It is a spirit not to be embraced, but to be resisted

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.  They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:1-6 NASV).

We are called to be pastors who confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and to nourish the flock of God on the spiritually rich truths of the Bible.  In doing so we will be found at all times and in all ways to be living up to the highest ideals of “one nation under God.”


Dennis D. Frey, M.Div., Th.D., President

Master’s International University of Divinity
https://the.mdivs.edu

Foot notes:

1.  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/revisionism
2.  https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/revisionist-theology
3.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_theology
4.  https://news.gallup.com/poll/210704/record-few-americans-believe-bible-literal-word-god.aspx
5.  https://www.theopedia.com/theological-liberalism
6.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessing_Church

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