THE LAST WORD: Ten Commandments may be religious, but they set standard of good conduct for all people
The Ten Commandments have been belittled, besmirched and even banned from public property in the United States as religious and therefore needing to be separated from perceived endorsement by the state.
But the truth is, the laws written in tablets of stone by the finger of God on Mount Sinai in the presence of Moses, according to the Bible, have formed the very bedrock of the laws of nations throughout the ages.
Christian theologian Kevin DeYoung, speaking at a Think 2020 conference at College Park Church in Indianapolis a week ago, spoke about “Why the Ten Commandments still matter” during one session of the conference.
The lecture was based on his book, “The 10 Commandments; What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them,” in which DeYoung writes in his introduction that the story of the commandments in Exodus 20 in the Old Testament is “one of the most important pieces of religious literature in the whole world.”
The commandments were given by God to the Israelite nation after their release from slavery in Egypt.
DeYoung, senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in North Carolina, points out that the Ten Commandments “have been the most influential law code ever given.” Representations of the tablets of stone, the Ten Commandments and the image of Moses appear throughout the country in courthouses as a historical contribution to the laws forming our nation. Such images even appear in some architectural embellishments in the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., although critics will insist those are not endorsements of the religious laws themselves.
But the Decalogue has been a basis for Christian conduct in churches of all denominations throughout our country.
Monuments and plaques depicting the Ten Commandments in government spaces have become a legal battleground in the U.S. as such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have challenged their presence in public buildings. The argument is that they violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, while supporters claim the commandments are not necessarily religious but represent the moral and legal foundation of our society.
There can be no denial that the commandments set a standard for conduct that maintains order and civility for mankind.
Here are the commandments from Exodus 20 in a nutshell:
1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. You shall make no idols.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
10. You shall not covet.
DeYoung’s lecture about why these directives from God still matter focused on why Christians should study them and why they should obey them. He said many churches today are ignorant of the commandments, even though the church has historically put them at the center of instruction. And he pointed out they are central to Mosaic law, like the Constitution is central to U.S. law. What’s more, he argues, they require good conduct.
The reason Christians should obey them, DeYoung explained, is pretty simple. God says in his own words in the Bible that if you believe in him you will keep his commandments.
Those who don’t believe in God and oppose the Ten Commandments as a matter of separation of church and state should be sure that their motive is correct. Preventing the establishment of a state religion is proper and right. The Constitution gives us all the right to believe in God or not believe in God.
But as with the laws of man, the laws of God set a standard for the church and a model for all that favors good vs. evil. And whether you believe in God or not, that’s not something any of us should oppose.
Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.