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"IN THE NAME OF GOD" is the heading of a near to one page article in the Adelaide Advertiser.

Adelaide Advertiser,  Feb,17, 1999, p. 19

The story ? The Adelaide City Council has, it is reported, been in the habit of having prayers in this name before meetings. Now there is dissension. Because of the bearing of all this on the change to the Australian Constitution which is imminently in view, it is worth here regarding.

It appears that one school in the Council wants the panache, or the formalism, ceremonial, to be kept as a link by tradition with the verve of the past. Another is offended at God's name being brought so forcibly to their attention, wanting instead a time of silence, maybe, a time to reflect on the importance of one's duties. (This is not bad for 'God' substitute! my work is important, rather than His work is important - actually, in terms of magnitude of the person, that represents a change that is INFINITE, which to be sure, is somewhat ... radical).

A more inclusive name, say some, and not surprisingly, a representative of the Uniting Church among them, so that broader religious traditions may be represented.

These teasings bring up the far more important but still related issue of taking out or retaining the name of  Almighty God in the Australian Constitution, a very active and most present issue that could even be resolved one way or another next year!

Let us look at this objectively, rather than in terms of interest groups and distaste (or taste)!

It is a fact that Australia was founded in our society, by a Government which was OFFICIALLY and FORMALLY linked by its royal ruler, to the Bible, to Protestantism, to Christianity. It was specific, specialised and defined. The national church of the founding country, being Anglican, is one decidedly laying claim to the name of "Christian" and the ultimate protective authority of God Almighty. It is true that this church is becoming notably less Protestant; but that was the formal position.

Hence in the Victorian Constitution in the 1850's, Christianity is actually STATED to be the 'preferred religion' and based on immigration statistics, lands or even salaries could be apportioned in these terms.

In the preliminary wording of the Commonwealth Constitution, much later,  Almighty God is certainly mentioned, and not for its educational value merely. It is a rallying point and an authority recognised. The phrasing is this : "HUMBLY RELYING ON THE BLESSING OF ALMIGHTY GOD". That is what is there.

IN THE CONTEXT, that represented, where question might arise, a Christian concept, because of the past and the need to annul the assumptions and forms and connections of the past, if change were in view. True, the actual words did not there require Christianity, but the historical context was that.

Now the question arises: HOW can atheists be expected to like that! or agnostics! or people who do not think much of God's divine power! or for that matter, people who want a whole lot of gods... Is it SOCIAL, is it REPRESENTATIVE, is it FAIR! and so on, goes the call and the cry. Mr Howard the Prime Minister is reported in our article of today, as preferring to retain this name nonetheless, in the preamble to the Australian Constitution. I can only agree in this.

The reason is as follows. Australia is singularly blessed. It has moved FAR indeed from the name of God in practice, far in principle, and it would be quite wrong to call it a Christian country, for the divine law is by no means operative in it, by its choice. It is true that this divine law has been involved in an indirect way for a long time, by various intimations from references multitudinous; but it is equally true that the law of God is far from requisitioning parliamentary minds! It is not cited as a power base in discussion, far less used with conviction and finality in resolution of issues in the Australian parliamentary body. It would be FALSE to fact to retain the name "Almighty God" if it were intended to mean that this was the stark acknowledgment of all the occupants of this land.

IT IS the stark acknowledgment of many in it; but these alone do not govern, nor is it even in the slightest degree likely that these would be a majority. It is true that there may indeed statistically be a majority of those who "believe in God" in Australian people of voting age; but when one would try to define the term, and in particular require the phrase "Almighty God" as currently in the wording, the results could be very different. With the Biblical mooring largely gone for millions, the meaning of the term may be unclear to many, whether or not this be deemed strange. Lack of foundations often causes cracked superstructures which do not seem to do anything 'right'. Ignorance of the Bible teems like the Queensland floods.

Resolution ? LEAVE THE TERM 'GOD ALMIGHTY' in the Constitution because this should not be done in such a way as to require those who are in the land to believe this, or to imply that they in fact do so, that being their own business to be assessed in the day of divine judgment. It would be done so that such implications would expressly be removed. Rather it would reflect simply what the country in the last resort has CHOSEN to be a flag to wave, a conviction to voice and a post to regard. It would be put that the country works with reverence to God Almighty at its final authority; and if the people vote this out, then that is their power. They cannot vote God out, and that is His power. The difference in power is also very great between programmed creations, gifted also with spirit, who are born and die, and the maker of the same.

If however it is NOT desired to do this, to make the acknowledgment on the part of the land as one whole, without implying (and explicitly without implying) that all believe in Him, then there will be a change. NO LONGER will the form, the phrase, the acknowledgment be made. Fast and furious though the decline from God may be in the land, this would formalise it. Bad manners in the family are one thing; express divorce is another. It is a momentous step, and one counsels against this added insult to God Almighty. He is neither dumb nor weak; and if ever a land ought to acknowledge His blessing, it is this one! There has been an immense inpouring of Christianity into it, however little heeded it has been by increasing numbers. It has had enormous effects.

Nevertheless, if like cranky and unstable exemplars of the 'teen-age life, the nation wants to divorce, so be it. It could be free as if gods, for every whiff of opinion, as insubstantial as air, but less real. Standing for nothing, it could then fall for anything.It would seem sure, that though God is most patient, this ingratitude and explicit realignment of regard for His authority would bring due and just  return. What! dismiss the Almighty with a sweep of a blessed hand, and expect Him to serve in silence as if one's will did not happen to exist! Say it and suffer it is mere equity. To dismiss mercy, is assuredly not to find it.

One of the divine dicta is this: that "they shall eat the fruit of their doings" (cf. Proverbs 1:20-27, 31, Isaiah 3:10). The fruit of such graceless impudence after His name has been used for so long, might indeed be this:

"The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens" - Jeremiah 10:11.

Released from any even formal reliance on Him, the nation could then experience a sort of situation like that in Britain in 1940,  when so many then streamed to the national churches; except that it would not be in any sense a national matter. Moreover, the new national licence here might then provoke just as it caters to, a streaming in a very different direction. The present stream could then become a cataclysmic flood; for the constantly resurgent forces of complacent and unrealistic secularism have hit hard upon youth, education and business, seeking to swallow even old age in their squalor and beauty in their self-expression, self-fulfilment and self-exploitation.

Let us be clear. It is not good to have a national church for the simple reason that the nation is not definably Christian which then runs it! But to sever even an historic tendril of recognition from God, that is something far more extreme. It puts up the colours of the nation in SOME OTHER PLACE. False gods are useless. They are the only alternative to the true ONE, and non-existence is without resources, very necessary in time of trouble, and in fact very delightful when one knows the true and ever sufficient God.

In this our Web site, we have shown in a logical certainty never overthrown in many years of challenge, both here and in several nations before that, that God Almighty is. As a matter of fact, He is definitively expressed in Jesus Christ in the human format and His word is authoritatively and expressly presented in the Bible*1, for the race of mankind.  Hence we have so reasoned and demonstrated here. But what is the response ? Believe in Him or not - it is a wilful exercise to reject Him which no law can prevent - by such NATIONAL severance as is here contemplated in the preamble to the Constitution, you come nearer to defying Him AS A NATION. For the sake of the nation, one could not wish that!

  • MANY nations have this or that proclivity, and preference, principle or past. SO has this one.
  • If it wishes, without in any way reducing the freedom of its citizens or presuming to replace their thoughts with other ones, to express its OVERALL reliance on Almighty God, well.
  • If it wishes to REMOVE this expression, not so well; but it is possible.

In either case, no one is misrepresented; it is simply that the nation which once so gave this measure of respect, would withdraw it. "Righteousness exalts a nation," says Proverbs 14:34; and it does; and this is right, as we have argued. To reject it formally is to wear a face of rejection for the national body. If this is desired, it is perfectly certain that much that is not, will occur.

Back to the Council: IF the council wants to have this form of address in the beginning, well. It is true that it should not have PRAYER, however, in His name. As I once in effect, counselled a U.S. Senator-to-be (State): you would have to tell people wanting you to pray in a political meeting, that you could not pray without the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as this is your faith; or with it in this setting with all, since firstly it is not that of some of the others, and secondly, it is entirely useless so to act. Why ? Because it would mean bypassing the key,  mere forms of prayer  being despicable (since they would dynamically imply something for all  which would not be true, or act as if God found some other name acceptable than the One He Himself  had supplied  - Ephesians 1:19-23). I advised the senator-to-be that he could tell the meeting in some such words as these:

'IF you want me to pray, I can on one condition: the regenerated believers in Jesus Christ join with me in His name, and the others tune out.'

Only in that way is principle of prayer  not violated, for it is expressly forbidden by PAUL in Corinthians, to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (II Corinthians 6:14ff.). This is a spiritual criterion, and where expressly spiritual co-operation is in view for Christians, this is divine law, and in this case, of course, divine prohibition.

If however, without prayer, but in the  very different issue  of formal Council allegiance as a whole,  the Council wishes to name the name of the Almighty as its resource, that would need to be done in such a way that it expressed the overall desire of recognition, and did in NO way imply that all agreed. In that style, it is certainly ethically possible.


*1The Biblical direction to State righteousness and responsibility before God is not unclear: Romans 13:4-7. The Government has propriety in the last analysis as an agent for God; and people are in order to give it WHAT IS ITS DUE, as it seek to deal with disorders and evil inventions. It is properly, quite simply, "a minister of God to you for good", that is a servant.

If it attacks God, then as Peter and John made so clear to the legal-national-religious body which met them, the one enjoying some status from Rome and its imperial might: "We ought to obey God rather than men" - Acts 5:30. If a captain teaches revolt against the General, he is due for Court-Martial, not obedience! In practice, governments err some more and some less, and in this country there has without doubt been an enormous restraint on frank evils for many years (not at all a removal, but a restraint) relative to many nations. In the case of straying churches, the misuse of divine authority by attacking it in its own name, is considerably more horrendous, its dimensions being exhibited in such scriptural sites as Jude, II Peter and Jeremiah 23. But let us return to the political arena.

INVASION of one's faith is not the work that Government is created for; that is mere confusion of man and God in political paranoia and betrayal of trust. But obedience to government duly carrying out its needful offices is directly required of Christians. Convenience is not the criterion for disobedience, but assault on the faith of the God who gave government its mandate. Just as "righteousness exalts a nation", so the surrender from it debases it and is betrayal. Governments as well as individuals can sin, but in their case they can bring devastation upon a nation.