WE HAVE LEARNED from our previous studies (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) that there are provisions made
by the courts of the U.S. to protect the faith of a religious person who
is found in violation of the law as long as that faith is determined by
the court to be a "Conviction." They have said that all religious
beliefs fall into two classes-they are either "Convictions or
We also learned from our study last month that the Court likes to cite
the faith of certain Bible characters as examples of "Conviction." One
such case is the trial of the three Hebrew Children in Daniel 3 who were
cast into the furnace of fire. We concluded that Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego were successful in serving God, not because he brought them out
of the fire, but because their faith caused them to go in.
Likewise, Daniel's faith was not proved by God bringing him out of the
den of lions, but his faith was proved by his going in. The three
Hebrew children told the furious ruler, King Nebuchadnezzar, that they
would not bow to the graven image (which act was against their faith),
and that God would deliver them out of the fire, but even if He wouldn't
deliver them, they still wouldn't violate their faith and bow.
The Court says (paraphrasing), "If you have to be assured of success
before you will stand, your beliefs are preferences." Some people going
to trial will ask their lawyer, "Do you think I'm going to win?" Listen,
your lawyer can't guarantee you'll win, but if you take a stand for what
God requires no matter what men do to you, God will count you faithful
and that is enough. The Lord says, "But be thou faithful unto death and
I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2: 10).
Remember, the apostle Paul was not a success because God gave him a
miraculous recovery after being stoned and left for dead at Lystra. No,
Paul was a success because in the face of persecutors he said, "Woe is
me, if I preach not the gospel!" His faith was proven to be what the
Court today would call "Conviction" time and again, because he could
say, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear
unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry
which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the
grace of God" (I Corinthians 9:16; Acts 20:24).
THE COURT SAID WE WILL PROTECT CONVICTION BUT NOT PREFERENCE
The Court says, "We still have a problem... We have determined to
protect Convictions... You are telling us that your faith is
Conviction... You say there's a book where your Convictions are all
written down... We know that somehow on the witness stand you're going
to be able to tell us what you believe out of that book... BUT HOW DO WE
KNOW THAT IT'S REALLY CONVICTION?"
The Court knows that you are going to find out what the tests are and
you may have a lawyer to instruct you to use the word "conviction" on
the witness stand as many times as you can. He may tell you, "Work it
into your speech as often as you can... Make it your middle name; make
it your last name... You know, 'My name is John Conviction Doe.' It
doesn't matter how you get it in there... I'll wave my tie at you or
something... Just keep it coming."
The Court said, "Unfortunately, these lawyers are going to prepare these
people coming up to the witness stand because they know what the tests
are in advance (and there is nothing wrong with that), but we don't
really know whether a person up on that witness stand is telling us the
truth or not - HOW DO WE REALLY KNOW THAT HE DOESN'T REALLY HAVE
PREFERENCES THAT HE IS TELLING US ARE CONVICTIONS?" AND...
THAT MUST BE DETERMINED IN THAT COURTROOM
Attorney Gibbs said, "Now, I don't know if I have ever seen any
ministers lie on the witness stand... I have seen a few who were a
little casual with the truth as they stood up there." The Court said,
"We need a test. There has to be some way of establishing whether this
is right or wrong." And they said, "We think we have one."
Now the test the Court came up with, amazingly enough, is not at odds
w1th the Scriptures at all. As a matter of fact, it is just what the
word of God teaches. The Court said, "THE TEST IS THIS - CAN WE SEE THE
CONVICTION IN THEIR LIVES, IN THE WAY THEY LIVE, AND CAN WE SEE IT
Remember Jesus asked, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of
thistles?" And then He said, "By their fruits ye shall know them"
(Matthew 7). Later, the New Testament says, "Even so faith...if it hath
not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith,
ana I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show
thee my faith by my works" (James 2:17,18).
The Court said, "If we can't see it, it isn't there. So, NOT ONLY DO WE
WANT YOU TO STAND UP AND TELL US WHAT YOU BELIEVE, BUT WE WANT TO
EXAMINE YOUR LIFE SO THAT WE CAN SEE IF YOUR LIFE ADEQUATELY REFLECTS
WHAT YOU ARE TELLING US YOU BELIEVE." Who has a quarrel with that?
Jesus tells disciples. "Let your light so shine before men that they may
see your good works..."
THE FINAL TEST
The Court said. "That will be the final test - we need to see it - not
just see it, but see it consistently - not perfectly but consistently."
One judge told a preacher, "I don't want your people to be perfect, but
it seems to me that they are sort-of perfectly imperfect."
The Court said, "IF WE DO NOT SEE IT IN YOUR LIFE, AND WE DON'T SEE IT
WITH SOME DEGREE OF CONSISTENCY, THEN WE ARE GOING TO HOLD THAT IT
SIMPLY DOESN'T EXIST FOR YOU."
In a landmark case referred to simply as Wisconsin vs Yoder the U.S.
Supreme Court was asked on December 8, 1971 to decide whether the
responsibility of a state to ensure the adequate education of children
should override the religious conviction of the Amish that eight years'
schooling is enough. This case which pits the state of Wisconsin
against Jonas Yoder and two others was the most critical religious
freedom question to come before the high court in many years.
To boil down the situation as it developed you need to know a little
about the Amish people. They are a unique people that generally live a
very primitive type of lifestyle. They are largery rural and farming
people. They dress very plainly, and in many parts of the country, they
ride in horse-drawn buggies. They are charming but are known for one
overwhelming quality - "they are mule-headedly stubborn" as one man put
it. When one makes up his mind about something, to try to talk him out
of it is like arguing with a stump. He's not going to change his mind.
They pride themselves on that.
Many Amish have a belief that education ruins people. We're not so sure
they're wrong. One Texas preacher said, "Giving a preacher a degree is
something like pulling whipped cream on an onion... It just goes down
funny." We think he might be about right; we've never known of a
preacher who could preach better after he went and got a degree.
Many Amish believe that too much education can be a very negative thing
and so they take their kids out of school when they finish about the 6th
or 8th grade. They just won't send them. Although there were others
involved in the case, we will focus on what happened to Mr. Jonas Yoder
from the state of Wisconsin.
WISCONSIN VS YODER
The dialog went something like this. Mr. Yoder told the officials, "I'm
not going to send my kids to your schools." They asked, "How come?" He
said something like, "Well, first of all, I think the schools ruin
them." They asked, "Ah, What makes you say that?" Mr. Yoder replied,
"Go look at you graduating class." They conceded, "Yes, they are
wrecked aren't they... But it really doesn't matter whether you want to
send them or not... You've got to." Mr. Yoder said, "Well, I don't
think you understand something." They guestioned, "What's that?" He
responded, "I said, I'm not going to."
So the state of Wisconsin said to him, "Now, Mr. Yoder, this is a real
problem... We may have to sue you." His response was, "Boy, I wouldn't
1ike that." "Have you ever been sued before?" they asked. "No, sir, I
sure haven't." "Well, get those kids in school so we don't have to do
this to you." Mr. Yoder calmly answered, "I don't think you heard me...
They're not going. My faith precludes them from going." The officials
said, "We don't care whether your faith says they're going or not
going." So they sued him!
Mr. Jonas Yoder didn't fare so well in court - he lost! And the other
people came back like everybody does and said, "Now look, the Court said
you're wrong." Dear reader, be careful here! The Court doesn't
determine whether a Christian is right or wrong...God does! If you,
brother, sister, go all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme
Court says you're wrong and the Word of God says you're right - you're
This is precisely what happened to Peter and the others when they were
brought before the High Court of the land in Acts 6. The Council
commanded them that they should not teach in the name of Jesus any more,
and Peter replied, "We ought to obey God rather than men."
Next, the Wisconsin officials threatened, "Look, Mr. Yoder, if you don't
send those kids to school, we may have to send you to jail." He
replied, "Boy, I'd hate that." "Then put those kids in school," they
demanded. Well, same old story - he told them, "I don't think you heard
me, they're not going to go."
He went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and the Court
greeted him - "Mr. Jonas Yoder, we're glad to see you. Mr. Yoder, you
do not have to send your children to that school. As a matter of fact,
Mr. Yoder, you don't have to send your kids to any school, because it
violates your religious beliefs." They continued, "You know, Mr. Yoder,
we looked at your life and we have seen a strange thing - The state
officials threatened you with a law suit, and that didn't make you
change. They got the whole community down on your back, and that didn't
make you change. They took you to court and that didn't make you
change. They won in court and that didn't make you change. They
threatened to send you to prison, and that didn't make you change." The
Supreme Court said, "Mr. Yoder, we don't think you're going to change...
And Mr. Yoder, that is Conviction!"
They said, "We can look at your life and see it...You don't have to tell
us it's there, we can see it...We just look at what happened and we can
see it...And Mr. Yoder, Conviction is going to be honored by the First
Amendment to the Constitution."
Dear reader, what about your faith? Do you have Conviction or
Preference? We have talked about what the Court says is necessary to
have Conviction. Is it any different from what the Lord demands of you?
Question - Would you be willing to give up your freedom, and possibly
your life, for your faith? What if the law begins to prohibit public
assembling because of communicable diseases? Would you remain faithful?
What if it became illegal to drink from a common cup in communion
because of the threat of AIDS or some other disease? Would you still
assemble and commune or would you change it because these things are
merely Preferences with you? What if a woman demands to speak in your
public assembly and the ACLU or some other group backs her up and
threatens to take you to court, would you still stand for the Bible way?
What about your faith then?
Now days many have gotten in trouble for disciplining their children.
Are you willing to continue to spank your children as the Bible demands?
Have you thought about going to prison over this matter? What about
rendering evil for evil? If you retaliate toward others verbally or
physically already, how can you resist the demands the government and
the court might place on you to fight and kill? It might be a good idea
to look at all spiritual issues and ask yourself - "Are these matters of
Conviction or Preference?" On the things you find are demanded by God
the question then really is: "Do you have saving faith?"
[This series of articles has appeared in The Christian Informer due to
several requests to print the material which we have preached in various
places. We express our appreciation to Attorney David Gibbs for the use
of his summarization of events referred to and points of law.
(Permission to use this material was submitted by written request). We
feel that this simplification has helped our listeners' and readers'
understanding the points involved. Thanks to brother George Battey for
sending material on the subject. If you would like to study further the
Supreme Court case, the decision of which was summarized here, you might
want to read "High Court Hears Amish School Case" and other material
found on the Internet by searching for Wisconsin vs Yoder. - R.N.]