QED

God, Caesar and the Scourging of Scott Morrison

Ever wonder what it means to give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s?

You should. It is often taken to mean a separation between church and state. However, this is only a derivative concept though, of course, of great import. State law overriding canon law, has allowed parliamentary democracy to flourish. And, incidentally, as we see around us these days, has allowed parliamentary democracy to subvert decency and common sense. Heck, those are the breaks and clearly putting ourselves back in the hands of ecclesiastical authorities, themselves now much diminished, is not the answer

Scott Morrison was criticised by some, John Hewson (in the SMH) and Kevin Rudd (in the Guardian) among them, for his speech at the Australian Christian Churches national conference. Gerard Henderson (paywalled in the Australian) was in turn critical of Hewson and Rudd criticisms. My view is that all three contributions were thoughtful. That’s possible, by the way, in a world of free speech and civil engagement.

The area of contention was whether Morrison’s belief in God and in the covenant between ourselves and God, which determines how we should behave, affects the way in which he governs. Henderson made the telling point that neither Hewson nor Rudd gave examples showing Morrison’s religious faith interfering in his policymaking. In fact, Hewson, if you read him, is at pains to point out areas which might have benefited from a dose of Morrison’s faith. I agree with him, for example, about the awful bullying of Christine Holgate.

The Christine Holgate affair, and you could add Morrison’s selling our SAS troops down the river and his callous dismissal of the concerns of part-pensioners when he cut their incomes, shows how hard it is to deal with others as you would be dealt with. For good reason, I’m not throwing stones. But Morrison should think on it.

What I think is missed in the debate is the respective areas of the jurisdiction of God and Caesar. My premise obviously is that God exists. Otherwise, there is only Caesar and no point to the debate. That settled, we are not talking here about equal partners in the affairs of men (‘men’ being used here as a collective noun inclusive of women, transgenders and children). God is sovereign over everything. If he isn’t, he isn’t God.

This means that Caesar is there only because God put him there. “The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” says Proverbs 16:4. Moreover, God’s law has primacy. God’s law is just and moral. What this, in turn, means is that Caesar’s authority extends only so far as his lawmaking does not offend God’s law. Because, to quote Thomas Aquinas, approvingly quoting Saint Augustine, “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Replace Caesar with Morrison, or with any current political leader, and their legitimacy is circumscribed according to whether they act justly and morally; where ‘morally’ is rooted in God’s law. Morrison has no real choice as a Christian other than to have, or try his hardest to have, his Christianity inform his judgment and actions. That way he is exercising legitimate authority. Making lawful laws.

Separation of church and state does not mean the separation of God from state. God cannot be separated from earthly action. We need our leaders to try to follow God’s lead as best they can. All else leads to misery. At the same time, there is no detailed script to follow. Judgement is required.

Is a policy of closing the border to those travelling from countries afflicted by large numbers of COVID infections ‘lawful’? I think it is. Is threatening Australians with punishment if they manage to get home from such countries? I don’t think it is. But you can see why praying for guidance is needed.

14 comments
  • RB

    Ok Peter, who’s god?

  • DG

    The state is becoming subsumed under the monist fantasies of the neo-pagans. So the shrill have become ‘god’ and their beliefs are now imposed by the state. It is impossible, finally, to ‘separate’ church/religion and state. The state always has to be underpinned by basic beliefs shared fairly widely, even if it is a mere commanded belief in the power of the state (which is where paganism always seeks to end up). Socrates being a case in point.

  • Harry Lee

    Lot of people ask: “Who’s/What’s “God”?
    But with little actual curiosity.
    Perhaps start here: The images/descriptions of God in the literatures of the three main Abrahamic religions need not be taken literally, or even as full/thorough/exclusive allegorical or metaphorical treatments of the nature of “God”.
    Some people say that the word “God” is a metaphor for all those forces that shape/influence/determine challenges, opportunities and outcomes for human beings and the Earth -that are beyond our rational/empirical means to explain them.
    I find that many people who regard as false/bad what they heard about God at Sunday School or Church during their childhoods, or what they imbibe from authors who are contemptuous of the various Abrahamic God images, are as fundamentally stuck in their non- or anti-God stance as are extreme believers in the literal truth of the what’s in the particular Abrahamic God Lits.
    Mass education simply has ceased to help most people in dealing with the great mysteries of Life-on-Earth.
    And actually, the job seems to be beyond most people.
    Meanwhile, the Church would be smart to focus on the task of helping the Ordinary People find their own way of Walking with God-
    -where God is indeed a metaphor for how and why things happen, beyond our control, often for the best, and sometimes for the worst.
    (Depends on one’s standards for “The Best” and The Worst” and the underlying unexamined and perhaps misguided/non-realsitic beliefs and expectations. “Life-long learning” is a useful metaphor in this regard.)

  • ChrisPer

    Contemptuous atheists have long hated the idea that religious people of any kind get to speak in the public debate, for any reason. Until the 1990s the media had no idea who to ask for contriburtions on ethics questions, and the go-to was often a minister of religion.
    This is a big part of the hatred of the Milligoon and her ilk for George Pell; they cannot admit that there exists any legitimate alternative view to their activist viewpoint And they must silence anyone speaking for that alternative view.
    Now the media don’t need anyone to discuss how to think about ethics; they know everything already because they were told what to think every day of their education and work experience.

  • Harry Lee

    This Thursday is Ascension Day. Lest We Forget.
    It’s a good day to express thanks to all the white, non-marxist Australians and Europeans whose hard work, practical ingenuity, sacrifices and generosity have made it possible for other whites -and esp non-whites from everywhere- to live here in material comfort.
    Comfort not feasible in the non-Western and anti-Westernist parts of the world whence come an increasing number of parasites and destroyers to join our own home-grown parasites-
    -those pathetic people encouraged, endorsed, rewarded to be nett consumers by the marxist-inspired ALP-union-Greenist forces that now dominate Our Once Fair Land.

  • padmmdpat

    The Apostles Creed states – ‘He (Jesus/ God) suffered under Pontius Pilate.’ Religion and politics don’t mix? Oh bugger off. I also remember, as I am sure you do, the Hungarian(?) saying – “I feel at home here as much as Pontius Pilate does in the Apostles Creed.

  • Stephen Due

    It seems to me the gloves are off. They were on during the nineteenth century in Australia as the apostles of the atheistic enlightenment battled it out quietly (for the most part behind the scenes) with the churches for control of marriage, morals, the family and the schools. We all know who won.
    If Scott Morrison were to run for office on a Christian platform – outlaw abortion, outlaw euthanasia, reinstate Israel Folau, abolish gay ‘marriage’, ban transgender ‘therapies’ etc etc – he would not be elected. Hence his silence on a whole range of issues.
    Actual, lived Christianity in the modern democratic state is political suicide.

  • Rebekah Meredith

    Exactly, Stephen Due. To be completely accurate, not all believers are Christians. Salvation is “the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). We receive it when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for us.
    Being a Christian means being, not just a believer, but one who is Christ-like. No Christian ever attains actual sinless perfection, but there are some things he certainly does not do.
    No Christian–one who is like Christ–would demand that His churches cease to assemble together. Our Prime Minister, who dares to call himself a Christian, lumped churches in with pubs and nightclubs as too dangerous to keep meeting. Bottle shops were “essential”; God’s house was not.

  • Bernard

    “… to quote St Augustine, approvingly quoting Thomas Aquinas, ‘an unjust law is no law at all’.”
    I must be misreading this. Augustine could not possibly quote Thomas Aquinas, since he preceded him by some seven centuries.
    Please correct me.

  • Peter Smith

    Well spotted Bernard. I put that in to test QoL readers. Or, if you don’t believe that which you shouldn’t, a gremlin got in and changed the names around. Or, I put the names in the wrong way around. Plump for that one.

  • padmmdpat

    Peter Smith – re St Augustine quoting St Thomas Aquinas: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to write an article – ‘Mozart’s Dept To Puccini.’

  • padmmdpat

    Debt – neva good at speling – like Evilin War.

  • Peter Marriott

    Peter, good piece clearly enunciated as usual. The separation of church and state into doctrinal orthodoxy I think was made by the C5th Pope Gelasius 1, arguing that God granted 2 swords for earthly government that of the Church for men’s souls, and imperial power for day to day affairs, and I think C14th Marsilius of Padua finished it off stating that it’s the state not the church that guarantees civil peace, and reason, not revelation, that should prevail in temporal affairs. This seems fair enough in a democracy like ours, but the government being merely ‘man’ has to be kept on track and reminded that they can be voted out, and in my view it should be easy for this to happen, i.e. easier than it is at present due to our compulsory two party preferred system, and compulsory voting itself. An optional preferential or first past the post system and non compulsory voting would keep them much more honest… which is probably why they don’t want it ?

  • nfw

    I wonder if Morrison wears his face nappy on RAAF VIP flights or if that is only for the little people to keep them scam scared?

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