The Impossibility of ‘Secular’ Conservatism: Why The Right Needs God

Two prominent American protestants addressed a plenary session of the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 9, 2024: Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Reformed pastor and theologian Doug Wilson, a faculty member at New Saint Andrews College.

Dr. Al Mohler

In his address, Dr. Mohler insisted that conservatives must remember their need for God, the Christian tradition and ontological truth.

“To be conservative is to hold allegiance to certain fixed truths and principles,” Mohler shared, adding,

Tradition, without a fundamental commitment to truth and that truth being fundamentally transcendent and theological, will soon evaporate.

Fixed religious truths, as well as traditions, are grounded in specific acts of divine revelation on which we are entirely dependent.

Some on the “right” – think Andrew Tate and Hannah Pearl Davis, to name just a couple – have attempted to adopt the “brand” of conservatism without recognizing a need for a public acknowledgement of God, the Judeo-Christian tradition and a reliance upon our Creator for public morals and duties.

Dr. Mohler explained why this flavor of “conservatism” will fail.

Any worldview that does not ground itself in divine revelation, in the moral character of a self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient God … is going to evaporate.

Without an ontological commitment which is grounded in theological conviction, I don’t believe there is any lasting conservatism to be found. It has to be a commitment to truth.

Pastor Doug Wilson

Pastor Wilson gave rousing remarks exhorting Christians to engage in the public square and politics. He forcefully denounced those who demand Christians keep their faith private, and out of public debates.

Pastor Wilson recounted that the conservative right has been held together by a “fusionistmix of individuals for years – primarily originating from three different strains of political thought – including free market libertarians; social conservatives; and national security hawks. Former President Ronald Reagan described this as the “Three-Legged Stool” of the Republican Party.

But, according to Dr. Wilson, implicit in this fusionist agreement is the relegation of overtly religious claims and public acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian tradition to one’s personal, privatized prayer closet.

“One of the root assumptions of fusionism … [included] keeping the virtues and pieties of millions of American Christians privatized, or as our adversaries would put it, sidelined and out of the way,” Pastor Wilson declared.

“It used to be that the sexually troubled had to keep their kinks hidden in the closet,” he added. “Now it is the conservative Christian who needs to keep his virtues hidden in recesses of the closet. And so it is, in a historically Christian country, that millions of Christians are so deep in this closet, they can see Narnia.”

Pastor Wilson continued,

Political authorities really do not like the idea of the Lordship of Jesus Christ being proclaimed in the public square, but they should have thought of that before they crucified Him there.

He pointed out that,

If there is no God with absolute moral authority over states and their collective moral choices, then anything goes, including the worst forms of absolutism. …

If there is no God above the lunatic state, then the lunatic state is God.

In other words, Pastor Wilson encouraged Christians to not be ashamed to acknowledge religion in the public square, and as the grounding for political beliefs and opinions.

Some faith or morality will serve as each country’s “governing religion” – the only question is, will it be Christianity? Islam? Secularism? LGBTism?

“Towns, villages, corporations, tribes, parties, states and nations are all moral agents. We all know this because we routinely praise and blame them in moral terms. Our praise and blame are ethical. We are appealing to a standard that, of necessity, is a transcendent one,” Pastor Wilson declared.

Public flagpoles will always have flags on them. It’s not whether you will have a flag, it is which flag you will have. If you will not have the appeal to heaven flag, then you will have the transgender flag.

They accuse us of wanting to impose morality. But all laws are imposed morality, with the only question being which morality. All laws impose morality, and nothing but morality.

Good legislation cannot bring about heart regeneration. But it is possible, and necessary, to legislate morally, which requires a standard.

This reality is something that our Founding Fathers affirmed. As our nation’s first President George Washington said in his Farewell Address, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Due to our need to publicly acknowledge God as the source for true religion and morality, both Mohler and Wilson agree that recent efforts to reintroduce religion into our nation’s schools – a commonality of American life during the Founding, but since removed largely through an overzealous Supreme Court – are an unmitigated good.

Please pray that more Christians will get involved in politics, and consider getting involved yourself.

To learn more about the Christian faith, check out C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. You can also listen to Focus on the Family’s award winning Radio Theater: C.S. Lewis at War.

If you want to better understand the Bible and be part of God’s redemptive mission, check out RVL Discipleship: The Study.

To speak with a family help specialist or request resources, please call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).

Related articles and resources:

Mere Christianity

RVL Discipleship: The Study

Focus on the Family: Faith

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