Opinion

People Who Believe in only 6 of the 10 Commandments Have a Big Problem

“According to a poll by YouGov, only six of the ten [commandments] are important to British Christians, with most saying the other four are not ‘important principles to live by’ in the 21st century.”

This might explain what we’re seeing in every area of life – from sexual assaults, homosexuality, governmental tyranny, theft by majority vote, fake news, covetousness that leads to envy that leads to wealth confiscation, and a return to paganism.

The thing of it is, Commandments 6-10 are not moral absolutes without the first two commandments. If there is no God, then why is it wrong to kill? Britain, like the United States, teaches that we are products of blind evolutionary forces. We got here by killing and raping. Randy Thornhill, a biologist, and Craig T. Palmer, an anthropologist, attempt to demonstrate in their book A Natural History of Rape that evolutionary principles explain rape as a “genetically developed strategy sustained over generations of human life because it is a kind of sexual selection — a successful reproductive strategy.” If there is no God to say otherwise, we are at the mercy of benign physical forces. It’s no wonder that

Prohibiting the teaching of creationism in favor of evolution creates an atheistic, belligerent tone that might explain why our kids sometimes perform like Godzilla instead of children made in the image of God.

While evolution teaches that we are accidents or freaks of nature, creationism shows humankind as the offspring of a divine Creator. There are rules to follow which govern not only our time on Earth, but also our afterlife.

* * * * *

If evolution is forced on our kids, we shouldn’t be perplexed when they beat on their chests or, worse yet, beat on each other and their teachers.1

Idol worship (Second Commandment) assumes a competing god or a redefinition of the true God. If there is no prohibition against making images (physical or ideological) and bowing down to them, then anything can become an idol and be worshiped. Today, civil government is often the de facto god-substitute. Calling on God by the State to support evil deeds violates the Third Commandment. Using words like “God” and “Jesus Christ” as expletives, while covered under the Third Commandment, are not the heart of what’s being condemned. The violation occurs when someone defends what’s morally prohibited (e.g., wealth redistribution, same-sex marriage, abortion) by appealing to God.

The Fourth Commandment is about rest. It’s the only commandment that’s explicitly mentioned in the Constitution (Art. 1, Sec 7, Cl. 2). This means that if the President is not forced to work on the Sabbath, no one else should be.

Nightline host Ted Koppel stated in a 1987 commencement address at Duke University,

What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were. The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. Language evolves. Power shifts from one nation to another. Messages are transmitted with the speed of light. Man erases one frontier after another. And yet we and our behavior and the commandments governing that behavior remain the same.2

Koppel is not the first person to make this claim about the Ten Commandments. John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) stated:

The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes adapted to that time only, and to the particular circumstances of the nation to whom it was given; they could of course be binding upon them, and only upon them, until abrogated by the same authority which enacted them, as they afterward were by the Christian dispensation: but many others were of universal application — laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which professed any code of laws.3

He added, “Vain indeed would be the search among the writings of [secular history] . . . to find so broad, so complete and so solid a basis of morality as this Decalogue lays down.”

John Witherspoon (1723–1794), the president of what later came to be known as Princeton and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the “moral law published upon Mount Sinai [is] the publication or summary of that immutable law of righteousness, which is the duty of creatures, and must accompany the administration of every covenant which God makes with man.”4

John Jay (1745–1829) was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and served as the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He wrote the following in a letter dated April 15, 1818, to his friend John Murray: “[T]he law was given by Moses, not however in his individual or private capacity, but as the agent or instrument, and by the authority of the Almighty. The law demanded exact obedience, and proclaimed: ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’”5

Some of the earliest court cases in the United States make statements that show the importance of the Decalogue in the reinforcement of our nation’s legal tradition. In a 1914 case, the court acknowledged, “The laws of spiritual life, of civil life, and moral life are all set forth in the ten commandments.”6

The 1899 West Virginia case Moore v. Strickling argued in a similar way:

These commandments, which, like a collection of diamonds, bear testimony to their own intrinsic worth—in themselves appeal to us as coming from a superhuman or divine source; and no conscientious or reasonable man has yet been able to find a flaw in them. Absolutely flawless, negative in terms but positive in meaning, they easily stand at the head of our whole moral system; and no nation or people can long continue a happy existence, in open violation of them.7

In a 1931 case, Judge Charles Sumner Lobingier declared that “Israel’s law is the connecting link between the earliest and the latest legal systems and has proved itself one of the most influential forces in the evolution of the world’s law.”8 But long before these modern statements, we find that “King Alfred in his Doom Book adopted the Ten Commandments and other selections from the Pentateuch, together with the Golden Rule in the negative form, as the foundation of the early laws of England.”9 America was no less influenced, as H. B. Clark states:

“The Scriptures doubtless have been a potent influence upon American Law. In the early colonial period, the Bible seems to haven commonly regarded among the people as law. Several of the colonies formally adopted provisions of Mosaic law.10 For example, Plymouth Colony in 1636 adopted a ‘small body of Lawes’ largely based upon the laws of Israel. And New Haven Colony in 1639 resolved that “the word of God shall be the only rule to be attended to in ordering the affairs of government in this plantation,”11 and in 1655 adopted a code in which 47 out of 79 topical statutes were based on the Bible.”12

Our founders understood the need for a Law above the law and a Lawmaker above lawmakers. Daniel L. Driesbach, in his newly published book Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers, writes, “A civil governor must abhor the use of his public office for any unjust, private gain, whether through violence, fraud, bribery, or the like, and he must hate covetousness in other public officers. A man ‘who fears God, and has a sacred regard for truth,’13 one clergyman astutely observed, is not inclined to covetousness.” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 183.))

But what if there is no fear of God? Then everything is up for grabs.

  1. Barbara Reynolds, “If your kids go ape in school, you’ll know why,” USA Today (August 27, 1993), 11A. []
  2. Ted Koppel, The Last Word, Commencement Address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (May 10, 1987). Quoted in Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 164. []
  3. John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and its Teachings (Auburn, NY: Derby Miller and Co., 1848), Letter V, p. 61. []
  4. John Witherspoon, The Works of Rev. John Witherspoon, 4 vols., 2nd rev. ed. (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1802), 4:117–118. []
  5. John Jay, The Life of John Jay with Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, 2 vols. (New York: J & J. Harper, 1833), 2:385. []
  6. Quoted in H. B. Clark, Biblical Law: Being a Text of the Statutes, Ordinances, and Judgments Established in the Holy Bible—with Many Allusions to Secular Laws: Ancient, Medieval and Modern—Documented to the Scriptures, Judicial Decisions and Legal Literature (Portland, OR: Binfords and Mort, 1944), 8, note. []
  7. Moore v. Strickling (1899) 46 W. Va. 515, 33 SE 274, 50 LRA 279, 282. Quoted in Clark, Biblical Law, 8. []
  8. 4 China LR (1931) 362 (Lobingier). Quoted in Clark, Biblical Law, 43. []
  9. Quoted in J. Nelson Happy and Samuel Pyeatt Menefee, “Genesis!: Scriptural Citation and the Lawyer’s Bible Project,” 9 Regent University Law Review 89 (1997). []
  10. William Galbraith Miller, The Data of Jurisprudence (Edinburgh and London: William Green and Sons, 1903), 416. []
  11. The Preamble to The Fundamental Orders (1639) reads: “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence . . . [A] people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth.” []
  12. Clark, Biblical Law, 44. []
  13. Stephen Peabody, “Sermon Before the General Court of New Hampshire at the Annual Election,” (June 7, 1797). []
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