The following commentary by Dr. E.H. Zimmermann, former president of the Synod’s Indiana District, appeared July 25 in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. In this column, Dr. Zimmermann refutes a previous commentator who asserted that the public display of the Ten Commandments is tantamount to the government’s promotion of one religion over another. This article is reprinted with permission of The Journal-Gazette. –Ed.
Regarding the [July 3 Journal-Gazette] column by Dan K. Thomasson, “Rulings hit women, press, non-Christians”:
Mr. Thomasson should get his facts straight before he pontificates about the Christian faith. He writes, “Since the commandments are the foundation of Christianity [their] display … would seem aimed at promoting that religion.” This is wrong. The Ten Commandments are not now and never have been the foundation of the Christian faith.
If the “Christian rights” people wanted to post a memorial honoring or promoting the foundation of their faith, they would post a statue of Jesus Christ or a cross or a crucifix. This would promote their religion. The Ten Commandments are all law: “Do this. Do that. Do something else. Do it right and you can get to heaven!” There isn’t an ounce of Gospel in them, nor is the law used by Christians as the way to get to heaven. If Christians thought this were true, Christianity would be like every other religion in the world. Christianity is the only religion that holds to the biblical doctrine, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:7-8 NW). And in another passage: “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). There are many more passages that say the same thing.
Do Christians snub the commandments? No. They are like a mirror that shows our sinfulness and the wrongs we have committed and commit daily in thought, word, and deed. They show us our need for a Savior, for Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us from the curse of the law by taking all our sins upon Himself. They show us the kind of life God wants His people to live. Actually the Ten Commandments were respected by the Founding Fathers of our country. They call for a personal and civic behavior that became the basis for much subsequent legislation.
Further, the displays in question today show the Ten Commandments etched on two tablets of stone. This is an Old Testament symbol depicting the two tablets of stone that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai about 1500 B.C. The commandments were given by God for the people of Israel. They are quoted in their entirety in Exodus 20. Even then the commandments were not the foundation of the Israelites’ faith but rather a clear statement of the righteousness God expected of His people. Sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins symbolizing the sacrifice the promised Messiah would make for the sins of the whole world.
A final word. The U.S. Constitu-tion does not deny the right of government to promote religion, but rather the promotion of one denomination (or religion) above another. At the time of writing the Constitution, the major concern was about establishing a state religion, one denomination above others, as many of
the Founders had experienced in England. Since the commandments — the moral law — do not belong to one denomination or religion, it is a stretch to say they symbolize and promote Christianity above other religions. The Ten Commandments are not the foundation of the Christian faith, nor do they belong to Christians only. Christ Jesus is the foundation of Christianity.
Posted July 29, 2005