One of today’s most insidious idols is called “pluralism.” This great compromise besets various Christian organizations and efforts, especially in areas of law and legal reform. Among its various forms, pluralism has emerged from the crucible of American jurisprudence as the Christian Legal Society’s golden calf.
There is no neutrality in any area of life. When individuals will not give our Lord preeminence in all things, they will be bound to serve another god. Our Lord has ascended to heaven, and he sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to preside as the judge of the world. At an earlier time in history, God’s people were left waiting for a leader and judge whom they could not see. In Exodus 32, the Israelites became tired of waiting for Moses who had ascended to Mount Sinai. According to Aaron, a golden calf mysteriously emerged from a crucible in Moses’s absence, and people began to worship this golden calf idolatrously (Ex. 32:24). Now that the head of God’s people is out of sight, the same trend repeats itself. Perhaps through the influence of Christianity, however, idols in America do not necessarily manifest themselves in graven images. The pluralists of today do not genuflect to golden calves in the public square. Instead, idols become physical possessions, aspirations, and ideologies that compete with the way in which God has revealed himself, and the way in which Christians work in the world.
One can easily understand the lure of pluralism. Pluralism stands for the proposition that people of all faiths should live together in harmony and mutually respect different and opposing beliefs.1.)) For many Christians, this is appealing, especially in the world of academia in which Christians are scorned and their writings are expurgated. The Christian Legal Society (CLS) and many Christian lawyers have criticized universities for what they consider to be failure to honor a pluralistic axiom. Consider Kim Colby, Senior Counsel for the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, who writes in regards to Vanderbilt University’s disallowing the CLS to meet on campus (because the CLS constitution required CLS leaders to be Christian),
But equally importantly, our nation’s commitment to pluralism is lost. The university’s relentless secularization of the marketplace of ideas is fundamentally incompatible with both religious liberty and pluralism.2
According to Colby, all must live in harmony with one another, except for within the leadership of the Christian Legal Society.3 This is indeed a strange argument. Vanderbilt and other schools have “out-pluralisted” [pluralized?] the CLS pluralists by proscribing mutual respect, even within the leadership of the Christian Legal Society itself. Colby acknowledges that in a pluralist society, secularism begins to encroach on the desire of Christians. Isn’t that uncanny? This use of incoherent argumentation regarding pluralism led to the CLS’s defeat in CLS v. Martinez, a case in which Hastings College of Law in San Francisco denied the CLS its ability to meet on campus because the CLS excluded non-Christians from leadership.4 The Christian Legal Society cannot decide whether to bite the pluralistic hand that has fed them for so long. When this incoherent social ethic crumbles before them, they criticize schools for non-adherence to pluralism, even though it is completely harmonious with pluralism to allow mutual religious tolerance in all areas of life. Which is it, Christian Legal Society?
Additionally, do Christians have a duty to uphold pluralism in the first place? The answer most people would give, I suspect, is that this principle is a common axiom—an axiom that one can nonetheless choose to accept or reject. Many dilettantes have criticized the United States Constitution for fostering pluralism through the First Amendment. The text of the First Amendment, however, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .”5 All states at the time of the Constitution’s ratification established state religions and prohibited certain religious practices. Why did the Mormons move from New York to Utah? Even if the First Amendment is incorporated against the states, how would an individual state honor the principle that “Congress shall make no law”? This proscription can only apply against the federal Congress, and not against the states.6 It would seem that a more likely explanation for the rise of pluralism is the that American Christians want it.
There is certainly no ethical obligation for people to uphold pluralism, especially from within the Christian worldview. Gary North devoted over 700 pages tediously elucidating the historical origin, latent dangers, and anti-Christian nature of pluralism in Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism. This book appears on Joel McDurmon’s reading list.7 I also suggest you read it. Returning to the immediate concern, however once a society rejects the CLS’s pluralist axiom (or even applies it more consistently), then where does the Christian retreat? Is pluralism the unchanging standard to which Christian lawyers should be urging the culture’s adherence?
One of Greg Bahnsen’s discoveries is that “non-discrimination” rights flow from “liberty” rights.8 Those who are not legally permitted to do something may not enjoy protection against discrimination. It is permissible to discriminate against thieves by requiring them to pay back what they have stolen because theft is a proscribed action. Conversely, those who enjoy a “liberty” right to act in a certain way may not be discriminated against on the basis of their permissible actions. This is largely why pluralism is so unhelpful to the CLS. When the CLS attempts to discriminate against prospective members on the basis of their preexisting adherence to Christianity, there is a conflict with the alleged right to religious freedom. If religious freedom is, in fact, a “liberty” right, then it is inconsistent with pluralism itself to discriminate against prospective members on the basis of religious affiliation. The objection that all religions are free to create their own organizations, just as the CLS has created, is artificial. Absent the CLS’s desire, non-Christian membership in the CLS is not logically precluded by the governing maxim of pluralism.
Absent a consensus among men to honor this commitment to pluralism, there would be no pluralism. The unfortunate thing about a consensus, however, is that it is subject to change. At this point in history, nothing logically prevents this paradigm shift. If popular thinking becomes antagonistic of Christianity to the point where Christians will not be allowed civil rights at all, where will the CLS turn? In contrast to pluralism, God’s word is fixed and not subject to change (Psalm 119:89). God’s Word—and not a commitment to the United States Constitution or the pluralism advanced by even the Constitution’s most adamant fanatics—must be the standard for political ethics.
Indeed God Himself has not exhibited a great amount of deference toward pluralism. He sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s alter, thus attesting to His might. Following this demonstration of God’s verity, the false prophets who supported Baal were executed per Deuteronomy 18. All this occurred the last time two religions tried to coexist peacefully in Israel (1 Kings 18). Is pluralism sleeping? Has pluralism gone on a journey? Call out with a loud voice. Maybe pluralism has gone inside. Maybe the CLS can answer these questions for us.
Moreover, religiously affiliated law schools are required to sacrifice Christian truth on the altar of pluralism. This is painful, given the intimidation that Christian law schools face, especially the prospect of losing ABA accreditation. To espouse Christian Reconstruction to the American Bar Association would spell certain death for any religiously affiliated law school today. That is why Christian lawyers and law professors will not publicly announce plans (or even attempt) to speak against unjust laws and in favor of explicitly Christian ethics. They attempt instead to appeal to a more popular and favorable authority to surreptitiously accomplish what they perceive to be the goals of Christianity. Among these popular mediums for “smuggling in” Christian ethics are Natural Law Theory, pluralism, and secular libertarianism.
Pluralism allows Christian lawyers to fit in. It allows Christian lawyers to say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, but I’m just as committed to fostering tolerance for homosexuals as everybody else. See? Look at how much we have in common!” Then, in the middle of the night, Christian lawyers can vie for pro-life legislation. Natural Law Theory, in turn, allows Christian lawyers to espouse Christian ethics without attributing them to the God who revealed them. This is why the pluralist, pro-life movement often appeals to neutral, scientific arguments to establish that life begins at conception. They know full well that non-Christians will reject biblical arguments for the sanctity of life in the womb, but Natural Law enables Christians to speak freely about their beliefs without the inconvenient and embarrassing attribution of those beliefs to the God of the Bible. Indeed these Natural Law arguments are accepted by the average person in the public square. Christian lawyers and political theorists do not stop to think that perhaps these Natural Law arguments are accepted for the very reason that they are specious, and do not acknowledge the Christian God.
Time and time again, many people will claim something to the effect of, “I really like this whole biblical law spiel that you Reconstructionists are after, but it’s not practical.” Not only do these people feign to have knowledge that they do not have regarding which political theories can take root in society, but they also accept a fraud as a substitute for the truth of the Bible. In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge deposited (Col. 2:3). This means that in an a maiore ad minus (greater to lesser) fashion, all truths for the foundation of law are deposited in Christ. By pretending as though non-believers possess the same wisdom and knowledge autonomously by rejecting God and His revealed will, Christians freely allow these treasures of wisdom and knowledge to be despoiled to the altar of pluralism. The world has nothing but the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of man (1 John 2:16). The Christian (and the CLS) who exchanges all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge for no treasure of wisdom and knowledge is the only one truly acting impractically, foolishly, and unfaithfully.
Donald Soles is a third-year law student, and a Senior Editor for the Journal of Global Justice & Public Policy.
American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Visit www.AmericanVision.org for more information, content and resources