By Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.,
The left seems to delight in chipping away at our nation’s Judeo-Christian foundation. A recent example occurred when President Biden’s appointee to head NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center was sworn into office.
The standard traditional practice is to swear in on the Holy Bible. But last week, Dr. Makenzie Lystrup chose instead to be sworn in on a book by the late Carl Sagan.
In a tweet of the ceremony, NASA Goddard quoted Sagan: “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
Sagan used to be an anti-creationist. But he died, and I believe he instantly became a creationist, since he was confronted by the Creator.
Sagan was a professor of astronomy at Cornell who celebrated the “Cosmos” but rejected its maker. In John 3:16, the famous Bible verse that declares that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, the word for “world” in the Greek is cosmos.
Do oaths before God matter? In a highly secular age, does it surprise us that people who reject the Bible would reject taking an oath on the Bible and saying “So help me God,” referring to a Deity they claim not to believe in?
America’s founders said our rights come from the Creator. Remove belief in the Creator, and we ultimately remove the foundation of those rights. Thomas Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
But today’s secularists wield their chisels and hammers, busily chipping away at our nation’s spiritual foundation.
Judge Darrell White founded the group Retired Judges of America. He commented about this recent story of Lystrup and her oath: “If this new NASA director had been taking the ‘judicial oath’ (28 USC 458) instead, she might still have positioned her palm upon Sagan’s book, but her concluding sentence would have been ‘So help me God.’”
He added, “If you wonder how that can be in light of our Constitution’s Article VI declaring that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for holding office or public trust under the United States,’ here’s the profound answer: America’s founding generation—those who fashioned both the Constitution as well as the Judiciary Act of 1789 mandating that oath conclusion (“So help me, God”) regarded the acknowledgment of God as America’s philosophy of government; not a ‘religious test.’”
Four times the Declaration of Independence mentions God. This is our nation’s founding document. It spells out why we exist as a nation.
When the founders declared in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” it is widely understood that they were rejecting the idea, at the federal level, of an established denomination.
At the time the founders adopted those words in 1791, many of the 13 states had statewide denominations “by law established.” This was the kind of establishment to be prohibited at the national level.
The last of these statewide, established churches to go was that of Massachusetts, in which the Congregationalist Church was “by law established” until 1833.
But the founders did not view the prohibition of an establishment of religion at the federal level as somehow prohibiting the acknowledgement of God, even in public settings.
Beginning with George Washington and continuing through Joe Biden, all of the presidents have been sworn in on the Holy Bible and have taken the oath, “So help me God.”
Why are oaths taken that way? Because they recognize that we are accountable to God who sees all and who will one day judge us all. In fact, one of the references to God in the Declaration is to call Him “the Supreme Judge of the world”—that is the cosmos.
One of the big breakdowns in our society today is the loss of belief in God who will hold us accountable. But the founders believed He will.
For example, founding father Noah Webster produced his first Dictionary in 1828, which contained many Bible verses to illustrate the meanings of words. He said one aspect of “Religion” includes “a belief in a state of rewards and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God.”
This is why oaths have meaning. They recognize our accountability to the Almighty.
In his Farewell Address, George Washington said, “Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?” Take God out of oaths, and they have no real meaning.
In short, when we die, it is God who will hold us all to account, not Carl Sagan. Our tradition of oath-taking was predicated on belief in God.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is the executive director of Providence Forum, a division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air contributor. He has written/co-written 33 books, including (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Dr. Peter Lillback), George Washington’s Sacred Fire.