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Culture Through the Lens of Scripture
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Do Christianity and Politics Mix?

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 06:57

There’s a scene at the end of the film The Martian where Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) lays out what is inevitable in space travel. It’s a lesson that can and should be applied to every area of life:

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… Everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?”

A number of readers of the material published by American Vision often ask why we spend so much time on eschatology. Matt Damon’s brief speech is one reason why. Of course, it’s much more comforting to Christians if there is a “rescue in a rapture” than to die with no Earthly or Martianly hope.

Read related article: “Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck Push End-Time Gog and Magog Craziness.”

Let’s get a few preliminaries out of the way concerning Christians and politics. First, there is no doubt that there are few differences between the two major parties. With both Houses of Congress owned by the Republicans, one would think that the claimed differences would have come out and the GOP would have fought for the principles they claim separate them from the Democrats.

This leads to the second observation. Many Christians believe their vote doesn’t make much difference even when their guy wins because their votes are overwhelmed by the GOP establishment majority that dilutes the effectiveness of the constitutionalists.

Third, they are tired of sending people to Congress who promise one thing and then break that promise and offer political excuses for the votes they make. This happened in my district in Georgia. Rep. Barry Loudermilk voted for the 2000-page Omnibus Appropriations Bill even though it continued to fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of $500 million. There’s so much pork in the Omnibus Bill that a devout Muslim wouldn’t touch the paper it’s printed on.

Here’s how a letter-to-the-editor writer praised Loudermilk’s vote:

“But you can’t beat something with nothing, so our delegation used the only currency they had [to get specific issues related to Georgia passed]: their votes for or against the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Thankfully, Representative Loudermilk and the Georgia Delegation put their districts and state’s interests first, and harmful provisions were defeated as a direct result of their efforts.”1

This means that the 300+ million people in the other 49 states (along with Georgia) get saddled with the multi-billion-dollar Appropriations Bill because the Georgia Delegation wanted something specific to Georgia taken out that Alabama had put in. Instead of voting for specific issues in separate bills, they are put into an Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

Loudermilk voted for the bill because “the new House Speaker” had “pledged to bring up for votes the other issues that Loudermilk wanted to see addressed in the bill,” issues that everyone knew Obama would veto.

Disillusionment sets in. But we don’t give up. We look for a better candidate. We raise up a more informed generation of Christian statesmen.

Fourth, millions of Christians are uninformed on issues like economics, education, and foreign policy. They’ve never been taught the foundational principles of the free enterprise system that’s based on the biblical law of “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), even if a majority of people believe it’s OK.

Fifth, the following are some of the theological reasons many Christians do not get involved politically. They believe there are sound biblical reasons why they should avoid the endeavor altogether:

  1. We should just preach the gospel: Paul told the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink from declaring to them the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Being a new creature in Christ is the first step in a whole new life. Being born again does not stop at infancy. We are to grow up in the faith so every area of life is impacted by God’s Word (Heb. 5:11-14).
  2. Politics is dirty: What isn’t dirty? Our job is to clean up the things that are dirty. Diapers are dirty, and we change them. If a politician is dirty, then change him or her.
  3. Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics, so why should we?: There are many things Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t get married, have children, or own a home. Should we follow His example in these areas? The civil magistrate is said to be a “minister of God” (Rom. 13:1-4). It’s the same Greek word ( διάκονός) used to describe a deacon in an ecclesiastical setting (1 Tim. 3:8-13). In neither of these governmental offices are these ministers to “lord it over those allotted to [their] charge” (1 Peter. 5:3; see Matt. 20:25-28).
  4. Our citizenship is in heaven: We have multiple citizenships (commonwealths), with our heavenly citizenship being a priority (Phil. 3:20; see Acts 5:29). The fact that Paul was a citizen of heaven did not stop him from claiming his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25-29) and appealing to Caesar (25:9-12).
  5. There’s a separation between church and state: The Bible teaches that there is a jurisdictional separation between church and state, but there is no separation between God and government, and that includes civil government.
  6. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world: God’s kingdom does not derive its power and authority from this world, but His kingdom is in and over this world whether people acknowledge it or not. We are to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 7:10). Doing God’s will is the manifestation of kingdom living.
  7. Politics is not spiritual: If civil government has been ordained by God, then it is spiritual as is every area of life when governed by the Word of God.
  8. Satan is the god of this world: Satan is no more a god than a person’s stomach is a god (Phil. 3:19). Paul is describing what some people choose to be their god, a limited creature who has been defeated.
  9. We’re not supposed to judge: We are admonished by Jesus to be consistent in judgment (Matt. 7:1-2) and to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
  10. We must render to Caesar what’s Caesar’s: We don’t live under Caesar. We live under a Constitution, and we can remove and replace people in office and “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The people in Jesus’ day could not. We do not have to settle for the political status quo.
  11. Christians should remain neutral: Neutrality is impossible. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30; also see Rev. 3:16).
  12. We can’t impose our morality on other people: All law is the imposition of someone’s view of morality. The question is, What areas of life is the civil magistrate given the authority to do?
  13. We’re living in the last days and Jesus is coming soon to rapture His church so why polish brass on a sinking ship?: How many times have we heard this claim? Even today Christians are pushing the canard that the “rapture” is near, that the antichrist is on the brink of revealing himself, and there is no reason to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titantic. Those in the world are wiser. Ship building did not stop with the sinking of an unsinkable ship. sometimes “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

There’s so much more that could be said on this topic. I’ve covered the above topics and more in my book Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians and Empowers Liberals, Secularists, and Atheists.

  1. Don Stevens, “Why we owe Barry Loudermilk a big ‘thank you,’” Marietta Daily Journal (January 19, 2016), 7A.
 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck Push End-Time Gog and Magog Craziness

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 08:51

I’ve been writing on the subject of eschatology (the study of the last things) for a long time and countering the argument that a near end-time apocalypse is around the corner. Over the years I have participated in innumerable debates, written ten books on the subject, and published nearly 100 articles. If there’s anyone new to this subject, I can assure you that there’s nothing new in what prophetic speculators are saying. It’s all been said before with similar results. They’ve all been wrong.

In the past week former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and political pitchman Glenn Beck have brought up the subject of Bible prophecy for the umpteenth time. The following is from Raw Story:

“Michele Bachmann is fantasizing about the apocalypse again — but it’s hard to tell if she’s trying to stop it or enthusiastically cheering it on.

“The former Republican congresswoman appeared Saturday on the ‘end times’ radio program hosted by Jan Markell and Eric Barger, who she warned that the Syrian civil war was setting up the biblical battle of Armageddon, reported Right Wing Watch.

See related article: “Jan Markell’s End-Time Hysteria Conference.”

“Bachmann predicted world leaders were poised to grant ‘legitimacy to the Islamic State,’ and she said Russian and Iranian military intervention in Syria was establishing grounds for a future invasion of Israel to seize its energy resources — in accordance with the biblical prophecy.

“‘I believe that they are positioning themselves so that someday they could invade Israel to be able to take over the vast stores of oil and natural gas that Israel is controlling,’ she said.”

Islam has been around for centuries. The United States has been tangling with it since the 18th century.

Read related article: “The Truth About Obama’s Claim that Islam Has Always Been Part of America.”

Bachmann is basing her opinion on a faulty reading of Ezekiel 38 and 39. The battle described in these two chapters written around 600 BC is fought with ancient weapons: bows and arrows (39:3, 9), clubs, shields, and swords (38:4-5; 39:23). Horses and chariots are the mode of transportation (39:20).

If this is the type of battle that’s going to be fought in the future, as Bachmann claims, what does Russia need with oil and natural gas? And how would Russian troops transport these energy commodities back to Russia with horses?

Israel’s enemy wants gold, silver, cattle, and goods (Ezek. 38:12-13). There is nothing about oil or natural gas. When you compare Ezekiel with Ezra 1:4, you’ll notice a striking parallel:

“Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”

When Israel returned to their land after their Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, they were loaded down with the very items that are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:13. Israel’s enemies wanted their plundered spoils back (39:10).

Ezekiel’s prophecy isn’t about modern-day Russia and Israel. It’s a battle that has already been fought.

By the way, the Hebrew word rosh, which is found in Ezekiel 38:2-3 and 39:1 does not refer to Russia. The Hebrew word rosh — used more than 600 times in the Bible — means “head” or “chief” (as in Rosh Hashanah, literally “head of the year”) and has nothing to do with Russia. It’s not “the prince of rosh,” as some translations have it, but the “chief prince of Meshech.”

See related article: “Why Michele Bachmann is Wrong about Her Claim that ‘Jesus is Coming Soon.’”

Russia isn’t spelled Rosh in Hebrew but Rusiyah, as you can see from the chart.

Because this type of interpretive nonsense is so pervasive and counterproductive to fixing the problems we face as a nation, I’ve written a book on the subject (see above of which I do not receive any royalties): The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance. It’s a detailed study showing that Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled 2600 years ago. It’s a great way to inoculate yourself against prophetic speculation.

Then there’s Glenn Beck who has decided to read the multi-volume Left Behind series to his children and move to Israel. If beck knew anything about the Left Behind series, he would know that Israel ends up getting the worst of the end times with two-thirds of those living in Israel being slaughtered (Zech. 13:8).

Why bother trying to fix what’s wrong with the world if it’s all leading to a soon and inevitable end? The history of prophetic date-setting has been disastrous. It’s made people question the reliability of the Bible and has led millions of Christians to believe that their only hope is to be taken out of this world to heaven in an event called the “rapture.”

Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith assured their readers in the 1970s that it would all end before 1988. Yet, here we are nearly 30 years later with some of the same people making the same end-time predictions and waiting for an end that never comes while the forces of darkness move ahead unabated.

 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Election-day advice for the Christian (from John Calvin)

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 08:19
[The following is an excerpt from John Calvin’s Sermons on Deuteronomy (1:13), updated into modern English.]

We must also observe this saying of Moses: Choose ye men of wisdom and of good skill, men well-tried, that they may be set over you according to your tribes, even over thousands, over hundreds, and over fifties, as we shall see afterward. Hereby it is shown to us that when we have to elect men to hold public office, we must chose them with discretion and not take on the fly those who thrust themselves in first. Neither must they be taken for favor or for some vanity that appears good, but that God presides over the election and that such men may be selected as are known to be appropriate to exercise the estate to which they are called.

We must especially observe that which is rehearsed in Exodus 18 (as already mentioned), for there Jethro says that we must take men that are virtuous, fearing God, lovers of the truth, and haters of avarice. Who is he that speaks this? A poor pagan man, as I have said already. Yet God governs his tongue in such a way that we cannot have a better teacher than him when we are about to choose men to govern a people. First of all he requires men that are virtuous,1 such as are not effeminate, but have the capacity to be provided with such a charge, and have good zeal, courage, and magnanimity.

Albeit, for as much as without the fear of God all the virtues in man turn to evil, behold Jethro, who never heard one word of the Holy Scripture, nevertheless perceives full well that it is impossible for a man to perform his duty in governing a people unless he fears God. If a pagan man could speak this way, what a shame is it for us today that we should have less discretion than him? And yet a man may see with his eyes how the world goes. Do we consider it, when it comes to electing men who govern, that this must go in the first place, to wit, that the fear of God is there? True it is that men will profess so, and even nature compels us to say that we must have prudent men and virtuous men, as if there were any prudence or virtue if the fear of God does not reign. Again, to express the fruits of the fear of God even better, Jethro adds that there must be uprightness and truth, as if he should say that a man shall never be appropriate to govern unless he have soundness in him so the he is not doubting but proceeds with a good conscience.

And because that bribes do blind the eyes of the wise, and make good men swerve from uprightness, he says that if we will have men fit to bear authority, they must hate covetousness and despise the goods of this world, so that they can find in their hearts to forbear them. Seeing then that such a lesson is told to us by a heathen man, I pray you what a shame shall it be that we which profess ourselves to be brought up in the law of God and in his Gospel, and have our ears so much beaten with it, should still be novices in the doctrine, or at least practice it so poorly among us? And yet for all that, if we do not use it to our profit, it is written to be kept to our great confusion and to make us inexcusable.

So then, let us weigh well this saying where Moses exhorts the people to choose men of understanding and wisdom, and proven men. For if we put a man in office upon nothing but hope, without good knowledge and experience of him, is it not a defiling of the seat of God and of justice? Indeed, God reserves to himself principality over all men, as he is also worthy to have, and yet notwithstanding he will be served by mortal men as by his ministers and officers. Therefore, the seat of justice is (as you might say) consecrated or hallowed to him, as shall be showed in the next lesson. Now, there is taking of men at a venture, and they know not what they ought to do, nor how to behave themselves. Well, such a one needs to test what he can do, and when he is once set in his seat, he will have regard for himself. Shall he that would not take a cowherd or a shepherd into his house upon bare hope, without knowledge or understanding of him what he is, shall he, I ask, go set a man in God’s seat, of whom he has no knowledge, and of whom he has no experience to judge what that man is?

Now then, let us be well advised, when God gives this grace, or rather privilege, of electing men who govern (which is not common to all people), let us not abuse that gift of God in any way, or else we shall be amazed to see ourselves bereft thereof. And behold the reason why so many tyrannies have come into the world that the liberty was lost in all nations, that there is no more election, for which reason princes sell the offices of justice, and things are in confusion and it is a horror. And why has this come about but that when the people had the election in their hands, they abused it, and so were worthy that God should deprive them of the honor he had done them. For is it not as good as willfully provoking God’s wrath, and spiting him, when people having free election, who should choose men to serve God and to be his officers, instead make corrupt bargains in taverns, and even as it were in scorn and mockery of God, choose such as are most dissolute and out of bounds? Do you not see this is to pervert all order?

To be short, it should seem that we wish to expel God out of his seat when we set his enemies in it after that sort, and such as despise him, and such as seek nothing else but to tread his name and majesty under their feet. When this is how it is, is it any wonder that God sends such disorder into the world as we see? Now then, we could all the more stand to note well this doctrine, where it is said that when God gives a people liberty to elect officers, they must not abuse it, but must use discretion in choosing them. Yes, and for as much as we may often times be deceived, we must resort to God that he may give us prudence and govern us with his Holy Spirit, as though he had pointed out with his finger whom we ought to choose. And that is the cause why I said that elections shall never be well ordered except God preside over them by his Holy Spirit.

Notes:

  1. The French vertueux translates intuitively as “virtuous,” but the idea carried a broader meaning in the sixteenth century than perhaps today, ranging from moral honesty and integrity to physical traits of manliness and comprehending spiritual qualities such as courage, confidence, and grace. Based on the description that follows, Calvin seems to have had the full range of meaning in mind.
 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Low-Tech Eschatology

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 07:16

The following is an excerpt from Gary DeMar’s new book, The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance: Israel, Russia, and Syria in Bible Prophecy, available now.

********************

One of the problems encountered by those who interpret Ezekiel 38 and 39 as a battle yet to be fought is that the weapons described are no longer used by nations like Russia, the supposed leader of the invading force. All the soldiers are riding horses (38:4, 15; 39:20). These horse soldiers are “wielding swords” (38:4), carrying “bows and arrows, war clubs and spears” (39:3, 9). There are charioteers (39:20) which means there must be chariots. Many of these weapons are con-structed of wood (39:10), and it is these abandoned weapons that serve as fuel for “seven years” (39:9).

But most end-time writers describe a highly technological future when they say Ezekiel’s prophecy is to come to pass. In the book Future Wave, a prophetic future is outlined that includes computers, space travel, expanding global telecommunications, biotechnology, alter-native energy, microchips, and nanotechnology. Tim LaHaye writes  that “a wave of technological innovation is sweeping the planet.… The  future wave has already begun. We cannot stop it.… [T]he Antichrist will use some of this technology to control the world.”1 Ed Hindson and Lee Fredrickson consider the possibility “that the beast might be a computer” or “the Internet.”2

This presents a problem for those who futurize Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog prophecy. On the one hand, they claim that technology will be used by the antichrist to control billions of people. (How else will those marked with the dreaded number 666 be tracked?) On the other hand, Ezekiel describes a war with weapons that are decidedly low tech. One hundred and fifty years ago there were few interpretive problems since most weapons were of a low tech nature, although I doubt that even then battles were being fought using chariots.3

In the first volume of their Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins devote twelve pages to a discussion of the battle de-scribed in Ezekiel 38 and 39. In their non-fiction commentary on the Left Behind series, Are We Living in the End Times?,4 they never explain how they are able to turn horses, war clubs, swords, bows and arrows, and spears into “war planes,” “intercontinental ballistic missiles,” “nuclear-equipped MiG fighter-bombers,”5 and “chunks of burning, twisted, molten steel smashing to the ground”6 while main-taining a “literal interpretation” where “every word” is to be taken “at its primary, literal meaning.”

The preceding was an excerpt from Gary DeMar’s new book, The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance: Israel, Russia, and Syria in Bible Prophecy, available now.

  1. Tim LaHaye, “The Coming Wave,” in Ed Hindson and Lee Fredrickson, Future Wave: End Times, Prophecy, and the Technological Explosion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 7–8
  2. 2. Hindson and Lee Fredrickson, Future Wave, 214–215.
  3. Henry Adams, the great-grandson of John Adams, wrote the following about the United States as it was in 1800: “Even after two centuries of struggle the land was still untamed; forest covered every portion, except here and there a strip of cultivated soil; the minerals lay undisturbed in their rocky beds, and more than two-thirds of the people clung to the seaboard within fifty miles of tidewater, where alone the wants of civilized life could be supplied. The center of population rested within eighteen miles of Baltimore, north and east of Washington. Except in political arrangement, the interior was little more civilized than in 1750, and was not much easier to penetrate than when La Salle and Hennepin found their way to the Mississippi more than a century before.” (Henry Adams, History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson [New York: The Library of America, (1889–1891) 1986], 5).
  4. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture …And What They Mean (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999).
  5. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995), 10.
  6. LaHaye and Jenkins, Left Behind, 14.
 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Jesus v. Jerusalem: Christ’s Indictment of Rebellion and Faithlessness

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 06:15

Most people don’t realize that many if not most of Jesus’ parables were intended not as general morality tales, but as particular pronouncements of coming judgment and change. Jesus was warning Jerusalem to repent and to accept its new King (Jesus) or else fall under ultimate condemnation of God. In fact, much of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels pertains primarily to that pre-ad 70 crowd, and without reading it in this light, we misunderstand it. And when we misunderstand it, we misapply it.

The following section of Luke requires this understanding. The parables Jesus tells during His final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-20:26) almost all pertain to the rebellion, faithlessness, judgment, and coming destruction of Jerusalem.

Facing Jerusalem

In the Gospel of Luke, an important turning point comes in chapter 9. In Luke 9:51, Jesus decides to make His final ascent to Jerusalem from Galilee, and He turns with strong determination to go that way: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The phrase “set his face” is a little weak in my opinion. The Greek word for “set” here indicates a steadfast resolve: he fixed his face, or firmly set his face. The Greek word sterizo is probably distantly related to the Greek word often translated “cross” (stauros). A stauros referred to the upright member of that Roman instrument of cruelty: a sturdy pole that was fixed uprightly in the ground and upon which the cross-member with the victim of crucifixion would be fixed as well. The word indicates strong fixity.Ironically, Jesus had made His first reference to the cross just a few verses earlier: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23-24). We don’t often stop to think at this verse that Jesus’ audience did not already have the Christian story of the cross in their background. He had not yet explained that He would be crucified. All they would have understood at this point would have seemed like hyperbole: gentle Jesus meek and mild says following Him will be as rough as Roman torture and execution. He expects me to take up a cross?

Now, in Luke 9:51, He fixes His face toward that very destiny for Himself.

The 65-mile journey from Galilee to Jerusalem would take at least three days on foot, and this only if you went directly through Samaria. Many Jews would take a longer route around, wishing to avoid contact with the “half-breed” idolatrous Samaritans (as they saw them). Jesus did not refuse them, and took His message directly to the Samaritans as well: “And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.”

But everyone could see it in His face: He was intent on going to Jerusalem; and thus “the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53).

Being disdained by the Jews, the Samaritans returned the favor. They took something of a puritan position—they accepted only the books of Moses as authoritative, and insisted that the true biblical place of worship was the original place of blessing, Mt. Gerizim (Deut. 11:29; 27:12; cf. Josh. 8:3; 9:7), not Jerusalem. Jesus had already had this discussion with a Samaritan woman (John 4:19-26), and had rejected the Samaritan view.

It is no wonder, then, that when the Samaritans perceived Jesus to be fixed on going to Jerusalem they did not receive Him, for they took His Jerusalem focus as a rejection of their central beliefs. He was definitely not one of them.

In His rejection of the Samaritan view, however, Jesus also rejected the traditional Jewish view. The truth would be something altogether different:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:21-23, my emphasis).

Jesus’ comment here gives us a particular insight into His ascent to Jerusalem that began in Luke 9:51. From this point forward, Jesus would do nothing but elucidate, repeat, and intensify that very message: God is calling out the true worshippers, and Jerusalem would not be a part of the long-term future.According to Jesus, the hour for this great change was coming, and in fact “is now here,” meaning it had already begun in that time, in the first century. His disciples were clearly angered by the cold treatment from the Samaritans. They wanted to call down God’s vengeance:

And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

The less reliable manuscripts include additional text saying how exactly he rebuked them. The King James reads, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (vv. 55-6). But this is almost certainly added to the original text later (in fact, some of these various later manuscripts that include additional text differ from each other in what Jesus allegedly said). The story should read that He simply rebuked them.

This rebuke does not mean that Jesus did not have judgment in mind. Indeed, He very likely had judgment primarily on His mind. But it simply  was not yet time: He did not want immediate judgment, because the ultimate witness to His message had not yet occurred. In just a brief time the Pharisees would confront Jesus demanding a sign. He would respond: “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation” (Luke 11:29-30; see also Matt. 12:39-42).

Jesus’ resurrection had to occur first. Then the Gospel had to go out to all the nations with this very sign as a witness (Matt. 24:14). This would occur (and it did occur—Acts 17:6; Acts 24:5; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:5-6) and “then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). But until that moment came, it was not time for vengeance, only prophetic warning.

I don’t think it has been widely enough noted just how intensely Jesus’ journey ministry (Luke 9:51ff) focused on that warning of Jerusalem’s impending judgment. We have often noted Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24) in Luke 21, and that much is clear. But really from the moment He sets his face to go to Jerusalem, the lawsuit against unfaithful Judaism dominates His message and His journey. The proceeding chapters of Luke right up to the Olivet denunciation in chapter 21 contain no less than 27 separate denunciations and warnings. These were not general warnings against wickedness; they were pointed accusations specifically directed at Jerusalem and the unbelieving Jews.

Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s role of bringing a covenant lawsuit against an unfaithful covenant partner—in this case, Jerusalem. She had been unfaithful. Her idolatries amounted to spiritual adultery. This is why Jerusalem is called the “Great Whore” in Revelation 17-18. Earlier prophets had used the same theme (Jer. 3; Eze. 16:26).

About half of these 27 instances are parables. We have not often enough expressed how directly these parables apply to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus did not simply tell them as morality tales to make good little boys and girls. He told them as barbed warnings against the unbelieving city upon which He had just fixed His face.

Charges of Unfaithfulness

During the journey that followed the turning point in Luke 9:51, Jesus told at least 14 politically charged threats of judgment in parable form. Before the great divorce, Jesus would lay out the whole case. Here is how we should understand the relevant parables in this section of Scripture.

The Good Samaritan (10:25-37)

Jesus had just traveled through Samaria, and in fact might still have been on the fringes of that region. The road to Jericho featured in the story crossed right through that very region (Jesus Himself would travel through Jericho during this journey—Luke 19:1). It was fitting, then, for Jesus to leverage the animosity between Jews and Samaritans for this parable. It was a lawyer who came to Him asking how to inherit eternal life. He was a details man who also had that universal human knack for rationalizing his behavior around minute points of law and fact. The indictment against

Israel here comes in two ways: First, Jesus’ unfolding of the true nature of the law. It is not series of hurdles for which you earn merits for jumping; it is a guide to the great commandment of love. Israel with all of her rites, rituals, and purities had ignored this. Jesus would later berate the lawyers for turning the law into heavy burdens upon people’s backs (Luke 11:45-6). Second, and this was the real shocker, a random Samaritan could better represent true religion than a Pharisee or a Levite! This was direct condemnation of the Pharisees’ boast in their purity and the Levites’ attention to their Temple rituals—both of which had become devoid of God’s mercy and love. Now that was radical. Could it really be better to be a half-breed Samaritan than a Pharisee or even a priest? Jesus had gotten the lawyer to confess this with his own mouth. Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise.” In this parable, Jesus reveals how Israel had perverted and thereby ignored God’s law—the very law of the covenant.

Parable of the Strong Man (11:15-26)

Having been accused of casting out demons by Beelzibub, Jesus responds by arguing that a divided kingdom cannot stand. He immediately applies this for His own kingdom as well, which was not divided:

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you…… Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (11:20, 23).

The illustration of the stronger man binding the weaker was of Jesus binding Satan. It was now time for His audience to choose whether they would side with the Stronger Man or the bound. Jesus had indeed driven out the devil. But should these unbelieving Jewish listeners continue not to accept Jesus into their house, that house would be left empty and vulnerable to attack from Satan.

Jesus began His response here referring to desolation: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Luke 11:17 KJV). The Greek word for “desolation” (from eremoo) has a technical pedigree attached specifically to God’s judgment upon Israel for covenant unfaithfulness. Leviticus 26:21-43 is the seminal promise of desolation for unfaithfulness: the words “desolate” or “desolation” appear seven times within just 20 verses of these covenantal curses. The word then appears dozens of times in the prophets, including Daniel’s famous reference to “the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), all in reference to judgment. Jesus later refers directly to a then-coming desolation of the house of Israel (Luke 13:34-35; 21:20; Matt. 24:15).

Desolation contrasts with living presence. The desolation was not primarily an absence of the people in the land (though this was a product of it), but was primarily a reference to the absence of God from among the people and the land. Whereas for obedience God promised to make His dwelling and “walk among” His people (Lev. 26:11-12), the curse for disobedience meant desolation. We see, for example, God literally leaving the Temple due to the people’s rebellion (Eze. 10-12). The Lord leaves the Temple and goes over to the Mount of Olives.

This corresponds to the house left “swept” (empty) and “in desolation” in Luke 11. God in the flesh, Jesus, was dwelling and walking among the covenantal people (Emanuel, God with us). But they, being rebellious, reject Him. This was the ultimate priestly infraction—to reject and murder God’s chosen High Priest. Thus, He announces the coming desolation of the house. After He arrives, inspects, and finds corruption in the Temple (Luke 19:45-46; Matt. 21:12-15), He literally culminates His prosecutorial lawsuit—just as He did in Ezekiel 12:22-25—by removing His presence from the Temple and going to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:3; Mk. 13:3). From there He pronounces the coming desolation of that house (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).

Not only is Jesus threatening the “faithless generation” (Luke 9:41; 11:29-32, 50-51) with “desolation” (11:17, 13:34-35; 21:20), but there is further textual correlation with Leviticus 26. Four times in Leviticus 26 God promises that if the rebellious Jews do not respond to His chastisements, He will punish them seven times more for their sins (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28). In Jesus’ parable in Luke 11:26, the cast-out demon goes and finds seven more demons to return and possess the desolate house.

In announcing this seven-fold worse punishment, God phrases it this way: “I will set my face against you” (Lev. 26:17). The Greek phrase in the Old Testament Greek (called the “Septuagint” or LXX) is the same as in our turning-point passage here (Luke 9:51): Jesus “set His face” to go to Jerusalem. In Leviticus 26:17, God says His face will be set against the people. This Greek phrase eph’ humas “against you” obviously designates judgment in this context. The exact same phrase appears in the Strong Man parable: “the kingdom of God has come upon you [eph’ humas]” Luke 11:20). In the person of Jesus, the Strong Man, the kingdom had indeed come not only “upon” but literally “against” the unfaithful people.

Some people may find it difficult to believe this “binding the strong man” passage has its primary if not only interpretation in the first-century context of unbelieving Israel. But the parallel account in Matthew makes this context and application explicit. After his version of the story where the wicked spirit is cast out, Matthew records Jesus concluding with this statement:

Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation” (Matt. 12:45).

The last sentence in this verse proves the context: Jesus was applying this parable of judgment to “this generation”—the generation to whom He was speaking. And, that generation Jesus considered “evil,” and thus deserving of the judgment that was to come. He was bringing a legal declaration of desolation to come. He had truly set his face against Jerusalem.

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

The Dome of the Rock will make a nice Church some day

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 07:38

There is absolutely no need to replace the Muslim Dome of the Rock with a Jewish Temple. Why is that you ask?

Well, first of all, the Dome is very pretty, and, as I said in the title, it sure will make a nice Church some day.

But secondly, the idea that people are still talking about how a Jewish Temple must one day (soon) stand in the place of the Muslim Dome of the Rock is pure superstition. It is founded upon a tradition of the Jews—infused with some imagination—and not upon any command of God’s Word.

With all of the talk and Bible study concerning the Jewish Temple Mount, you would expect the Bible to have much to say about that particular Mount. But most Christians—especially the ones who lecture us most about a coming rebuilt Temple—would certainly be surprised by how little the Bible actually says about that location. Most of what is assured to us today—and what is the subject of geopolitical tension and theological fighting—is founded upon little more than assumptions.

We are told in 2 Chronicles 3:1 that Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah, and that this was the location of Ornan’s threshingfloor which David purchased. Today archeological evidence places the site of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple, the one which stood when Jesus walked the earth) where the golden-domed Mosque now stands. But surprisingly, there is no archaeological proof that the first Temple, Solomon’s Temple, stood on that same location, although there is no evidence of it being anywhere else, either. So, we are left with no proof—biblical or historical—that the current Temple Mount is in the same place as Ornan’s threshingfloor. But this is not the main point of the story.

Before we go further, we should remember that there are actually a series of mountains associated with the city of Jerusalem: Mounts Moriah, Zion, Olives, and a few others that have little or no biblical significance of which we can tell. Mt. Zion is the highest peak, and stands almost half a mile west of the Temple Mount itself, which is Mt. Moriah. Between the two is a considerable valley. Even farther east of the Temple Mount, across an even deeper valley, rises the Mount of Olives which is also higher than Mt. Moriah. From this peak, Jesus and His disciples looked westward upon the Temple, and Jesus declared its pending destruction (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). A picture from the Mount of Olives today reveals the Mosque to the west where the Temple once was, and the clearly much higher ridge of Mt. Zion farther in the western background. Here’s a simple cross-section on Wikipedia illustrating the relationship in size and location of Mt. Zion (left) and the Temple Mount, Moriah.

The Biblical Data

On what grounds was the Temple ever built on Mt. Moriah to begin with?

For the location of the Temple, the Bible tells us Solomon chose Mt. Moriah, “where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chron 3:1 ESV). “Appointed” is more properly “prepared,” as the KJV and NAS have it. David not only appointed this place, but actively established, made ready, or set up the site. And why did David establish this as a site for a permanent Temple? Did he have a command from God to do so?

Not really. The story of David and Ornan is told a few chapters earlier in 1 Chronicles 21. God had sent a plague upon the people of Israel as punishment for David numbering the people (1 Chron. 21:1–14). Via the Angel of the Lord, the plague killed 70,000 men. When the Angel reached Jerusalem, God stopped short of destroying the city, and the Angel was stopped at the point of Ornan’s threshingfloor.

Then God sent the prophet Gad to instruct David to go to Ornan’s threshingfloor and set up an altar in that place. This would have been a simple altar of uncut stones and without steps, according to God’s law (Ex. 20:24–26). David obeyed. The altar was eventually set up, David offered sacrifices and prayers to God, and God answered by fire from heaven upon the altar. All said and done, the Angel of the Lord was commanded to sheathe his sword, officially ending the plague upon Israel.

It is important to note all that was required of David, and the purpose for it. David was only required by God to build an altar, not even necessarily to sacrifice on it. And the purpose of the altar was clearly in response to the presence of God’s wrath via the Angel of the Lord and the temporary instance of the plague. There is no indication anywhere that God intended this to be a permanent location, and there certainly is no requirement, commandment, or statute that it should be so.

Ornan, however, was actually willing to donate the whole property to the King for this purpose. David insisted on paying for it. The transaction went down. Therefore, the property legally belonged to David. Since God never indicated any need to dedicate the property to the Lord or a Temple or Priesthood, then we can only assume that for the rest of David’s life, the property legally belonged to the King.

Consequently, it was purely David’s decision—not God’s command—that the Temple be built at the site of Ornan’s (Araunah in 2 Sam. 24) threshingfloor.

But David himself was not allowed to build a house for God; God forbid him to do so because he had been a man of bloodshed and war (1 Chron. 22:8). Rather, David’s future son would build the house, and “his name shall be Solomon” (1 Chron. 22:9). He would be a man of rest.

As a side note, we could easily assume that God referred to David’s then immediate son Solomon. But remember, when that Solomon was born, it was David who named him Solomon; but God sent the prophet Nathan to give the child a different God-given name, Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:24–25). God did not see David’s “Solomon” as Solomon, but Jedidiah. Moreover, David’s words to Solomon indicate that the son who would build the Temple and bring peace was yet to be born: “Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest” (1 Chron. 22:9). Obviously, as David spoke, his Solomon was already born, alive and listening to his father speak. We are left to conclude that the ultimate Solomon—“peaceable and perfect”—which God promised David was Jesus. In the mean time, Solomon would provide a type of that yet-to-come True Solomon.

When Solomon later built a house to the Lord, he followed through with what his father had already established and prepared (2 Chron. 3:1). Like his father, Solomon had no explicit direction or command from God where to put the Temple, but only directions to build it and how. In addition to having bought the real estate and established it as the site, David also prepared raw materials, construction supplies, organized labor, and secured government clearances, support, and aid for the construction project he put before his son (1 Chron. 22:2–5, 14–19).

The whole project, from conception to completion, was David’s design. The only exception was the pattern for the Temple and its instruments: these God supplied to David (1 Chron. 28:11–19). But of the location of the Temple, God commanded nothing. It was David’s decision.

David decided this location not because he had a command from God or directions from the prophet, but because he was afraid of the Angel of the Lord that had been stationed at Ornan’s threshingfloor. Even though God had accepted David’s sacrifices, the Angel of the Lord had sheathed His sword, and the plague and threat were ended, David nevertheless was afraid.

Meanwhile, the actual priesthood, the tabernacle, and the ark of the covenant were all fifteen miles away in Gibeon (1 Chron. 21:29; 16:37–43). But, “David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord” (1 Chron. 21:30). Yet in the very next verse (22:1), we find David declaring of Ornan’s threshingfloor, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”

So not only did David not have a command from God where to build, but he never even asked God. Afraid to leave the place he was at, he just declared it, unilaterally, the site of God’s House.

Thus the location of Solomon’s Temple was the result of David’s momentary weakness and self-interested convenience.

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

Zion or Moriah?

Many people have argued that the site on Mt. Moriah is significant for the Temple because it is the same spot where Abraham bound Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God provided the substitute. Thus David’s altar was upon the same spot as Abraham’s altar, and thus the Temple belongs there. The proof of this is supposed to be in Genesis 22:2, where God tells Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” But notice here God does not designate “Mount Moriah” as is designated in 2 Chronicles 3:1. Here it only says the “land of Moriah,” which is a general area. Remember that this area, assuming it is the Jerusalem area, has several mountains. In this general area, God promises to reveal to Abraham “one of the mountains” on which to sacrifice. In the rest of the story in Genesis 22, we are never told exactly which one of the mountains God chose.  Anyone arguing that it must be Mount Moriah is trying to get away with an argument from silence—a pure assumption unwarranted by the Scripture.

But there is good reason for this silence. God does not want any particular geographic location to become an idol for His people. He wants us to be free from all idolatry, including inordinate attachments to the rituals and rudiments he once commanded. At other times, God has “hidden” certain things in order to prevent idolatry. He would not allow the whereabouts of Moses’ body to be known after his death (Deut. 34:5–6). Similarly, He allowed the ark of the covenant to be lost (contemporary claims notwithstanding), as the Jews had allowed the mere presence of it along with the Temple rituals to become idolatry. Even after the Solomonic Temple was destroyed and the Second Temple rebuilt, the ark was never restored. Thus the writer of Hebrews could not speak of its existence (Heb. 9:5). Likewise, nowhere does Scripture specifically prescribe the location of the alleged Temple Mount. The word “Moriah” only appears in Scripture in two places (Gen. 22:2 and 2 Chron. 3:1), and “Mount Moriah” only the one time, and this latter was David’s choice, not God’s.

Scripture does say where God has chosen to dwell forever, and it is, in fact, in Jerusalem. Psalm 132:13–14 says it plainly: “For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: this is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” But this does not require a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt at all, let alone on Mt. Moriah. Even if we presumed to interpret this literally (as we shall see, we should not), and presumed that God’s “dwelling place” indicates a literal Temple, then we should more properly desire a Temple upon the higher peak of Mt. Zion rather than Moriah; for the text says, “the Lord has chosen Zion.” Now, many times, especially in the Psalms, Scripture uses “Zion” to designate the entire city of Jerusalem. But this would rather expand the available real estate rather than narrow it to the so-called Temple Mount: we should then be open to place a Temple anywhere in Jerusalem.

I will summarize all I have said to this point: Scripture nowhere designates the so-called Temple Mount as a necessary place for a Jewish Temple. It never did, God never said it, God never required it, and He does not require it now or anytime in the future.

A Re-Built Temple?

But many Christians today, swayed by the old dispensational school of theology, believe strongly that the exact location of the Temple Mount, Mt. Moriah, must be the location of a future Jewish Temple. And, of course, the problem is that large golden-domed Al Sakhra Mosque (and actually a second mosque as well, the Al Aqsa, sits within the southern wall of the Temple Mount) sits on that location. Supporters of a rebuilt Temple, therefore, wish for the day that Mosque will be removed. For example, one dispensationalist woman in the video Waiting for Armageddon is so committed to the claims of that system that she punctuates her tour of the Temple Mount with the exclamation: “There’s no place for that Mosque. It has to be removed.” In the same production, tour guide and dispensational scholar H. Wayne House imposes his belief in a rebuilt Temple via Photoshop: he displays a picture of the tour group with Temple Mount in the background, but has digitally cut out the Dome-of-the-Rock, and spliced in a rendering of the Jewish Temple. Voila! A digitally-answered prayer for a future re-built Jewish Temple on Mt. Moriah.

This prayer bears two parts: 1) that a future Temple must be built, and 2) that it must be built exactly where the Dome sits now.

The first claim often makes reference to Revelation 11:1–2. There John is told to “measure the temple of God.” Dispensationalists assume that this must refer to a Temple that will be built in the future. One reason for this is due to their belief that Revelation was not written until AD 90, when no Jewish Temple was left standing. But this assumption rests on highly fragile footing, surprising considering that so many people are ready to stake an international holocaust on it. But the work of Kenneth Gentry and others on the dating of Revelation has left this “late date” view severely crippled. His book Before Jerusalem Fell has established for decades now that Revelation was much more likely written before AD 70. David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance shows why such a dating allows the book to make much more sense: it mostly pertained to localized events of that time and place. And with an “early date” of AD 66 or 68 or so, it makes sense for John to be told to “measure the temple,” because the Jerusalem Temple was still standing.

Nevertheless, even if we granted that Revelation 11 speaks of a future Temple, it says absolutely nothing about where that Temple must be located. Silence. Anyone who assumes it must be Mt. Moriah, in the place of the Dome-of-the-Rock, is adding to Scripture here in a big way.

Why Not Start Tomorrow?

So we are absent any—and I mean any—Scripture mandate about where a Temple should have been, or should be located. This is no big deal to a preterist, of course, since he or she would not expect a rebuilt Temple anyway. But it should be quite freeing to a Zionist or a dispensationalist. For these people now no longer have to worry about replacing the Dome-of-the-Rock (perhaps, for my service in providing this illumination, they may desire to send a donation to American Vision). Since the whole complex of mountains called “Zion” is at their disposal, they could biblically, prophetically, start building a Temple tomorrow, or even today.

But, if the Jews want that Mount so badly as to insist on it, they should do what David did: pay fair market value. And if the Muslims don’t want to sell at any price, tough lamb chops. Go somewhere else.

Israel has control over all of Mt. Zion except the Mosque-domed Temple Mount. But Israel doesn’t need this, biblically speaking. So, I have a proposition: every Zionist, Orthodox Jew, Dispensationalist, and Premillennialist who believes there must be a rebuilt Temple ought immediately to start a foundation and a movement to build a Temple anywhere in Jerusalem that Israel already controls. This will hasten the last days and the coming of Jesus Himself!

Of course, failure to do this will be a tacit admission that all of these parties are more interested in bashing Muslims than advancing their own religion. Thus, their motivation to capture the Temple Mount when they don’t really need it will be revealed as pure envy.

Such a motivation may be masked by arguments about the special significance of the actual rock beneath that Dome—being the rock on which Abraham meant to sacrifice Isaac, or David stood, etc.—but we have already seen how none of these arguments has merit. To insist on these positions is to declare oneself in the service of the traditions of men, or ancient Jewish superstitions. Ironically, to do this puts the Christian or Jew on no better grounds than the Muslims who occupy that rock now, clinging to the superstition that Mohammed ascended to heaven from than spot.

Why trade one superstition for another? Especially with the risk of bloodshed and war, which cost David the privilege of building a Temple to begin with?

Conclusion

There is no biblical reason that any Temple should ever stand (or ever should have stood) upon Mt. Moriah. If anything, it should be upon Mt. Zion, taken either as the particular peak named Zion—a half-mile West of Mt. Moriah—or as anywhere in the general area of Jerusalem. To insist on anything more specific is to trade the dictates of Scripture for superstition.

I say let the Dome-of-the-Rock stand. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it would be non-Christian and unbiblical to call for its replacement by a Jewish Temple. Rather, in due time, Christ reigning from his current throne will spread the Gospel and subdue all His enemies—even the Muslim and Jewish enemies. He will bring them into the Church—His body—the only True Temple and Dwelling Place of God. Even Zion has been “spiritualized,” if you will—revealed to be fulfilled in the person of the Ascended Christ: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:22–24). (Was the writer of Hebrews really guilty of “spiritualizing” the text?!)

What is Zion but the Spirit-Indwelt people of God? What is the Temple except these same Indwelt people of God? To trade this truth for any stack of concrete blocks on any hill is to trample the Son of God underfoot and slap God in the face.

Someday, even Muslims and Jews will be converted and understand this truth. Some dispensationalists may see it, too. When that day comes, that beautiful golden-domed Mosque may just make a very pretty church.

Before then, I would hate to see it spoiled with the worthless blood of bulls and goats, and the idolatrous incantations of would be Sadducees (Heb. 9).

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

“All Israel will be Saved”: What it really means

Thu, 01/14/2016 - 13:16

In response to my views on Jerusalem and the Mother of Harlots in Revelation 17, some readers expressed their predictable denial. God would never write off ethnic and physical Jerusalem in that way, they say, because He made an eternal covenant with Abraham and his seed. One reader objected thusly:

You are forgetting about God’s promise to Abraham, which is eternal in nature. God made a covenant “between me and thee forever.” Either God meant forever, or He did not. Yes, the Jews have been disobedient literally for centuries in denying Christ, but they will be restored in a total and comprehensive manner at the Second Coming. This is why Paul was very clear on the subject in Romans 11, to make sure that our liberty in Christ does not give reason to be boastful:

He then quotes Romans 11:31–34. Verses 31–32 are the relevant part here; they read: “Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”

The commenter wishes to emphasize the “them” for us. He adds, “Note verse 32. It refers that God, ‘hath concluded them [Jews] all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.’” Thus, he sees the “them” as referring exclusively to the Jews—he even edits it in just so we don’t miss the point.

Unfortunately, the “them [Jews]” interpretation is questionable at best. It is based upon a misunderstanding of an unhelpful translation (which, in this case, is the KJV). The word “them” does not directly appear in the Greek texts. The Greek word for “all” here does not carry any personal pronoun, but rather a definite article. Were we to translate it in a wooden literal fashion, it would say “the all.” But this common feature of Greek is simply smoothed into proper English as “all.” Why the KJV added “them” to the text is not clear. It is a totally unnecessary addition to God’s word.

For this reason, nearly all modern translations leave it out. The ESV translates verse 32: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” The NAS reads, “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” Even the ancient Latin Vulgate got it right, rendering the Greek “tous pantas” as simply “omnia,” or “all.”

So the emphasis upon “all Jews” as special objects of God’s mercy evaporates with a clear understanding of the text itself.

What then does the text mean? The emphasis of this verse is properly on God’s mode of salvation being mercy, and thus that whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, they all may be saved. God does not play favorites, and God does not go back on his promises. All men are in prison to sin, and all men can only be saved by God’s mercy. Despite the Jews remaining in unbelief for the time (the time that Paul was writing) and God opening and turning His mercy to the Gentiles, nevertheless He had not thereby cast away the Jewish people altogether. They may also return to God through His mercy. This simply reiterates the main argument Paul had started already in chapter 9 (really chapter 2, but that much of the argument would require considerably more space to cover than I wish to take here).

Consider the comment with which Paul begins chapter 11: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” He had just finished mentioning how Israel continually rejected God, while God revealed himself and was found by those who did not seek him (Gentiles; see 10:20–21). In light of this, Paul sees it as necessary to head off the possible retort that God has completely rejected Israel while turning to open His mercy to the rest of the world. Paul uses himself as proof that this is going too far: he himself is an ethnic Jew, a physical child of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, and yet he is not only a believer and saved but an apostle, a teacher of believers. So he is living proof that God still shows mercy to ethnic Israelites.

But the question that arises from modern Zionists, dispensationalists, and others who wish to see some form of restored physical Israel and temple, is whether God intends to save the whole physical nation of Israelites in the future. Does Paul’s argument that “all Israel will be saved” pertain to physical, ethnic Israel?

I think the context makes that impossible.

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

The Remnant Principle

Since individual personal experience is not enough to prove a doctrinal point, Paul turns to the only infallible rule, Holy Scripture. As Scriptural support for his ability to be saved yet as a Jew, Paul does not provide support for the view that all (or even most) physical Jews will be saved. Rather, he references the account of Elijah and the tiny remnant of faithful people God preserved. He teaches, in reference to God’s people, the remnant principle:

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:2–4). (See 1 Kings 19:10, 18.)

In verse 5, Paul directly compares his situation with the remnant principle found in Elijah: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” Due to the comparison, the Greek is more pointed than the ESV says. It more emphatically says, “In the same way, and in the present time. . . .” In other words, Paul is drawing a direct parallel between the tiny remnant of Israelites saved in those former times and the conversion he expects now. “Just like then, but now” was the essence of his point.

The main principle at work here is God’s election, not Israelite ethnicity or bloodline. Paul does not want us to miss this, so he clearly emphasizes this aspect in the very next verses: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Rom. 11:6–7).

This phrase, “The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,” provides a key to what Paul is trying to teach throughout the book of Romans. From these two principles—election and remnant—we must deduce two things about physical Israelites. First, salvation is based purely on God’s gracious election. This is indisputable. Therefore, only that remnant of elect Jews are saved. Secondly, since “the rest” of the non-remnant “hardened” Jews are contrasted with the elect, therefore some (most) Jews are not saved.

Notice, in light of this, that Paul does not simply say “God has not rejected his people,” but rather, He has not rejected His people whom he foreknew.” Among the mass of Israelites past, present, and future, God foreknew some unto salvation. These foreknown (and therefore elected and predestined ones (Rom. 8:29)) God has not rejected. But the rest, including every non-elect, unbelieving Jew, he has hardened and rejected. God only saves those whom he specially foreknew, whether Jew or Gentile.

Paul references the remnant principle as an answer to the question whether God has rejected Israelites. The issue is election. Following the logic of this argument forces us backward into the previous chapters. The issue of the salvation of Israel heads up chapter 10: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” That chapter ends with Israel rejecting and being rejected by God. Then follows chapter 11:1–7 with which we have just dealt, and which returns us to the doctrine of election. In order to hear the beginning of this doctrine in relation the salvation of Israel, we must jump back yet another chapter and begin at 9:3. The issue of election brings the context of chapter 11 within the larger context of chapters 9 and 10 (especially 9), of which one could argue that most of chapter 11 is merely a subhead or even a codicil.

Election and the Remnant

In Romans 9:3, Paul effuses, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” He is clearly including ethnic “flesh” Israel, and he desires their salvation. He then spells out God’s gifts to this Israel: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (9:4–5). It is clear that salvation is “of the Jews” as Jesus put it (John 4:22). Therefore, it is clear that Paul thinks the promises of God yet apply to Israel.

Why then was not all of Israel saved and believing now that Christ had come? This was the obvious question to which Paul immediately responded, for his next words assume the issue: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed” (9:6). Now why would anyone think that the word of God had failed? Only if they thought all ethnic Israelites were indeed saved due to God’s election of “Israel.” If so, the obvious fact (then and now) that so many Israelites reject Christ and disbelieve would mean that God’s promise to save them had failed. Indeed, according to an ethnic Israel view, if only a single ethnic Israelite failed to believe on Christ, then God’s word would have failed. But Paul says it has not failed. Why not? Because the issue is election, not ethnicity.

Paul therefore immediately adds the most important qualifier, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (9:6, ESV). The Greek is curt and the syntax is a bit difficult here. The KJV gets closer: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” I think, however, that the original is more literally rendered: “For not all these from Israel are Israel.” The point, in any case, is to show that not all Israelites (physical, ethnic) are actually elect Israel (true Israel, or some even say “spiritual” Israel).

Paul expands this argument for the primacy of election. Not all Israel is true Israel, and “and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring” (9:7). He finds proof simply from two Old Testament instances of election: Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau. He explains,

“Through Isaac [not Ishmael] shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:7–13).

Thus we must conclude, as we did from Paul’s argument in chapter 11:1–7, that it is not physical ethnicity that determines the scope of the fulfillment of God’s promise, but God’s own election. Election is the primary issue. And on this issue, Paul spends the next several verses.

A review of the next few verses reveals that Paul here develops and proves the same themes that he carries through the end of chapter 11 (and really the end of the book). The doctrine of election as Paul has so far described it raises a question. Paul uses this obvious question to assert the themes:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills (Rom. 9:13–18).

He gives us three primary themes: God’s choice, mercy, and hardening. And after a brief bit of teaching about God’s right and power to make those ultimate determinations (9:19–23), Paul argues that God has opened election and glory to Gentiles as well as a remnant of Jews (9:23–26), yet also that a large portion of the children of Israel will not be saved. For this he quotes from Isaiah 10:22: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,” (Rom. 9:27). Of all the millions of ethnic children of Abraham, God would only save a remnant.

This is God’s choice, for “Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth” (Is. 10:22–23), and “the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay” (Rom. 9:28; Is. 28:22). For these “sons of Israel” excluded from the remnant, destruction is decreed. More on this later.

Thus when Paul arrives again at the remnant principle in chapter 11, he exhibits these same themes. Just as in Elijah’s time (and we may assume as in Isaiah’s time as well), “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” “Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Rom. 11:6–7).” In other words, God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:18). He chose the remnant for mercy, and the rest of the Israelites for hardening.

So as not all of “Israel” is true Israel, we must understand that God never intended to save all ethnic Jews, and according to the principle of the remnant, He never really intended to save them in mass, but only a few. Paul expected this same principle to continue in his day.

Yet according to the principle of the remnant, Paul knew for a fact that God had not completely shut the door to Israelites. Thus, while he did not expect a huge massive conversion, he did expect to save some. He says this explicitly: “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them” (Rom. 11:13–14).

All Israel

How in the world, then, can Paul go on later to say that “All Israel will be saved” (11:26)? All Israel? It is clear from the unity of the argument in chapters 9 through 11 that “Israel” in 11:26 cannot mean all ethnic physical Israel, but must refer to elect Israel. Since Paul has labored for almost three whole chapters to establish, define, and prove the doctrine of election with special regard to Israel, to show that a vast majority of Israelites never received election but were hardened, to argue for a saved remnant for his day just like in Elijah’s, to say that Israel has not obtained it but only the election has, we must therefore conclude that not all of ethnic Israel will be saved.

But while we know for a fact that not all of ethnic Israel will be saved, we also know for a fact that the elect remnant of true Israel has indeed obtained God’s mercy, and therefore all of elect Israel shall be saved. Therefore, we can only understand this verse rightly to be using the term Israel just as Paul did in his paradoxical-sounding passage in Romans 9:6—elect Israel, the Israel of the promise. “Not all these from [ethnic] Israel are [elect] Israel,” and therefore not all ethnic Israel will be saved; but, “All [elect] Israel will be saved.”

So, all Israel shall be saved, but not all Israel. Get it?

But many interpreters and commentators see a hindrance to this exegesis in the preceding verse. It says, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25). Here, Paul has just used the word “Israel” in contradistinction to the word “Gentiles.” Thus, many will reason, he must have had ethnic Israel in mind, for that’s the only way in which Israel stands in contrast to “Gentiles.” It is then assumed that this distinction carries through into verse 26, where “all Israel will be saved”; and this must therefore mean that all ethnic Israel will be saved.

Nevertheless, some have explicitly dismissed the connection between Romans 11:26 and 9:6. Even some Reformed interpreters argue that this cannot be the soundest interpretation. John Murray, in his classic commentary on Romans, does just this by assuming a necessary connection between verses 25 and 26 as I described above.

I do not have time yet to address Murray’s arguments in detail. Suffice it for now to say that while they represent a strong attempt to present the old future Israel view, I nevertheless find them unconvincing and flawed. Part of this, I think, stems from an attempt on his part to get as close as possible to the Westminster Larger Catechism (Q. 191) doctrine of a future calling of the Jews and the fullness of the gentiles as part of the coming of God’s Kingdom. I think, therefore, that on this point he was more subservient to the man-made confession than to the strict text of Scripture. But this is speculation.

Murray argues the exact opposite as I have above: he says that “Israel” in 11:26 absolutely cannot refer to elect Israel as opposed to all national Israel. In short, I think this is partly a false dichotomy. Since Paul spends the whole of chapters 9–11 arguing for both the election of gentiles and a remnant of elect Israel, Romans 11:26 can easily refer to both ethnic Jews as opposed to gentiles, and yet only elect Israel as “All Israel” because only elect Israel, Paul has already established, is really Israel.

More importantly, and more simply, there is no reason that 11:26 has any necessary relation to 11:25. It seems more natural to me that 11:1–25 stands as one long, complex argument to the question asked in verse 1, “Has God rejected his people?” Paul essentially reiterates the question in verse 11 showing continuity of thought through the arguments in those verses. This question and its answer come as part of the larger context that began in 9:3, and the controlling theme overall is God’s free election and grace as the basis for all salvation. 11:26 begins the conclusion to that larger context.

I hope in the near future to address Murray’s views further as well as add further background to the remnant principle drawn from the prophecies of Isaiah 11. I plan also to add the historical context and show why the Jew-Gentile issue seems to drive the whole book of Romans.

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Do You Polish the Brass on a Sinking Ship?

Wed, 01/13/2016 - 07:30

I had to chuckle a few days ago when I once again read that old premillennialist’s canard, “The world is a sinking Titanic. . . .”

This metaphor was made famous, of course, by the 1950s radio preacher J. Vernon McGee, who warned his listeners with the rhetorical question, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?”1 Apparently, McGee used the metaphor often, elsewhere referring to the “sinking ship of civilization.”

The image has always been used to scare Christians away from works of charity and cultural improvement. These are derogated as far secondary to the main “last days” work of soul winning. And when they say the Christian’s job is soul winning, they mean only soul-winning, and winning only souls. Anyone who spends time implementing God’s law in the areas of education, politics, economics, family, business, charity, work, etc., will receive unto themselves the damnation of the dispensationalists. McGee followed his “sinking ship” remark by condemning those Christians who do “polish the brass” as he put it:

if they’re working on setting up new institutions, instead of going out and winning the lost for Christ, then they’re wasting the most valuable time on the planet earth right now, and that is the serious problem.…

The same image recurs today in dispensational denunciations of dominion. As Gary DeMar (ironically, for an article on sinking ships, “DeMar” literally means “of the sea”) quoted the other day, modern-day Israel idolator Jan Markell insists:

The church is not in the business of taking anything away from Satan but the souls of men. The world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment, not Garden of Eden perfection. Jesus will take dominion of the cleansed earth. For men to speak of doing that before the judgment of this earth is spiritually arrogant. I encourage you to flee such false teachers.

Logical Problems

Despite its durability, the problems with the “sinking ship” image are numerous, both biblically and strictly logically. For starters, McGee’s question commits more than one informal fallacy of reasoning. It commits the fallacy of “Complex Question” by loading an assumption into it. This is akin to the form, “Does your wife know you’re having an affair?” The question assumes that its target is indeed cheating on his wife. Whether he answers yes or no, he allows the assumption to stand, and thus condemns himself by answering. Instead, he should criticize the question first.

The same thing goes with Dr. McGee’s, “Do you polish the brass on a sinking ship?” The victims of this question should force the presumptive inquisitor first to prove that the ship is indeed sinking. We will press this issue in a minute.

The question also engages in the fallacy of Epithet, which refers to using descriptive words that skew the weight of meaning in the question. By characterizing Christian institution-building as the menial task of “polishing the brass,” McGee essentially demeans the endeavor to begin with. Whether the ship is sinking or not, polishing its brass hardly takes priority of many other matters, for example, navigation or engine maintenance.

Even given that the ship was sinking, we could still find a better metaphor for Christian work in society. While it would be pointless to polish brass on a sinking ship, it may not be unimportant, for example, to repair the breach in the hull. Christian social reconstruction may in fact be a vital job in regard to the ship of society, and if so, should be represented this way by preachers like Dr. McGee.

Additionally, such a possibility demands first an assessment of the nature and degree of the damage. This is another assumption the escapists load into the image: not only is society a sinking ship in their view, it is irrevocably sinking, doomed to be sunk, beyond repair, beyond hope.

Christian Reconstruction, Dominion Theology, etc., sees the picture differently: While soul winning is of extreme importance, it is merely the beginning of Christian life. This New Life is meant to develop into that of a mature Christian, readily conforming to God’s law in every area of life, family, work, church, government, etc.

The “sinking ship” mentality ignores—in fact, condemns—such maturity because that mentality makes fatal assumptions and fallacies up front. It is a presumptuous and fallacious question.

Biblical Problems

But more importantly, this anti-culture “sinking ship” metaphor is simply nowhere found in Scripture.

Has ever a single non-Scriptural piece of pulpit poetry ruled such a large portion of Christian thought for so long (60+ years)?

Think about it. In Scripture, the image is just the opposite—that of an ark which remains afloat despite the greatest of storms and floods. Peter calls upon the image of Noah’s ark in order to assure his persecuted readers and hearers that Jesus has prevailed over the grave (which the flood symbolized, in part) and by His resurrection has saved us, His baptized (“flooded,” so to speak) believers, as well.

Traditionally, therefore, the “pew” or middle-section of a church building has been called the “nave.” The word is brother to our word “navy.” Both derive from the Latin navis, meaning “ship.” The Church in which baptized believers receive God’s Word and Sacraments is, figuratively, the ship, or ark, in which we are saved.

The same Jesus who overcame death has power over the forces of nature. Thus, while the sea-faring disciples despaired as “there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:37), Jesus had no concern at all.

But the ship was full of water, about to sink! And what was Jesus doing? He was doing something significantly less productive even than “polishing the brass”—he was sleeping. He was fast asleep, as the text says, “on a pillow” (Mark 4:38).

In other words, he was so far from worried about the ship sinking that he purposefully found a pillow and took a nap, and even snoozed right through the storm.

He did, anyway, until his worried disciples awoke him. Then he rebuked them—not for waking him, of course, but for having no faith in the midst of the storm, and thinking that the ship was sinking (Mark 4:40).

This rebuke serves well for today’s faithless shipmates as well. The premillennialists have convinced themselves that Satan rules the world and that decline in society is inevitable, so any attempt to face the storm, stay the course, endure the swells of secularism before Jesus shows up physically is an exercise in futility. But these have misunderstood the Scripture. This same Jesus expected His disciples to exercise their own faith without needing His physical presence (His spiritual presence is always here anyway). This is the exact message we get from Jesus at the Great Commission:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18–20).

What we learn from just this passage completely blows the “sinking ship” metaphor out of the water (forgive the expression):

First, Satan does not have rights or power over society; Christ has all power in heaven and on earth.

Second, “therefore” means “in light of this fact”—the fact that Jesus has all power. In light of His power over all things, we are to go and make followers of all the nations.

Third, making disciples involves baptizing them. Baptism—a little flood—represents death and New Life in Christ. We are literally to flood the nations and resurrect them in New Life. This is just the opposite of the premillennialists’ view. Rather than secularism and Satanism flooding and sinking the ship of society, Christians are to flood out the secularism by making disciples. It is by the waters of Christian baptism that the ship of society remains afloat.

Fourth, please note that according to Christ, disciple-making involves more than “soul winning.” We are to aim at more than that beginning part of Christ’s message that saves the soul. Rather, we are to train the nations to “observe”—that is, “obey”—all that Jesus has commanded us. This includes all of God’s word; not just the tiny portion that speaks of the souls of men, but also the vast majority which teaches law and wisdom for living, rearing families, learning, doing business, running governments, etc.

Finally, Jesus assures us that in this endeavor, He will be with us. Despite the fact that He soon ascended into heaven out of these very apostles’ sight, He assured them that He would remain with them in the Commission that He gave. In other words, the premillenialists’ insistence that Jesus must be physically present upon earth in order for His kingdom to change society fails to live up to Jesus’ own words. His physical presence here is not needed for this to happen. He has all power in heaven and on earth, and He can calm the storms of earthly society as easily from His throne in heaven as He did from His pillow in Mark 4.

The ship is not in danger of sinking. Jesus is the captain of the ship, and He will not allow it to sink.

Waxing Worse and Worse

Nevertheless, I have said above that victims of the “sinking ship” question should force the presumptive inquisitors first to prove that the ship is indeed sinking. This they believe they can do, and often attempt to do so by pointing to Scriptures that they construe as predicting a decline of society before Jesus returns. One favorite passage of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3, which says,

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

The premils reason from this passage thusly: How closely this describes our own times! And since it says this will come about “in the last days,” well then, we must be living in the last days.

Our “sinking Titanic” proponent, Ms. Markell herself, uses this very argument against those Christians who would dare try to impact society: “There is no Biblical support for this belief, for the Bible teaches just the opposite. In the end of days, bad things will wax worse and worse.…”

Unfortunately, these reasoners do not make much of the rest of the very passage from which they quote:

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men (2 Tim 3:8–9).

Notice, that despite how bad some people get “in the last days,” they nevertheless do not prosper. “They will not get very far.” Just as Pharaoh’s magicians opposed Moses, so these types of men oppose Christ. And, just as Pharaoh’s magicians were defeated by Moses, so these bad men will be overcome by Christ, and this will happen in a way that is plain to all.

These Last Days

Even more convincing is the biblical usage of the phrase “last days.” For Paul, everything he said about these decadent persons was meant to be immediately instructive to his audience at that time. It is fairly clear even in 2 Timothy that the references pertain to the rise of false teachers that had already come among them then (see 2 Tim. 2:16–17). Thus, his warnings about false teachers in 2 Timothy 3 have reference to problems the church faced already at that time. Thus, “the last days” pertained to them already.

This grows even more clear from other Scripture references to “last days.” Hebrews 1:2 makes it absolutely undeniable that the last days were expiring then, at the time that letter was being written. It in fact not only refers to “last days,” but specifically to “these last days.” While God had spoken at many times and in diverse ways in Old Testament times, the author says, He has now (that is, in the first century while he was writing) spoken definitively “in these last days” through His Son.

This means two things: first, it means that the time in which the writer was writing was the last days. The author of Hebrews makes this clear with the near demonstrative pronoun “these”: “these last days,” refers to the days which that author could call near to him. Second, it means that the time in which Jesus was revealed to the world was the last days. This information comes out again in other places, such as Hebrews 9:6 and 1 Peter 1:20:

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:6).

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1 Pet. 1:20).

Both passages confirm that the time in which Jesus appeared was indeed the last days, or the end of the age.

Peter had affirmed the same, essentially, earlier during his Pentecost sermon. After the Spirit fell, the flames appeared, and the tongues revealed, Peter explained to his audience that “this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…’” (Acts 2:16–17). For Peter, then, Joel’s “last days” prophecy was fulfilled in the Day of Pentecost event. This means, again, that the apostles and their contemporaries were living “in the last days.”

So it is no wonder that Paul would refer to the false teachers that perturbed Timothy’s church as products of the “last days.” Similarly, Jude addresses the rise of false teachers among his immediate audience by reminding the Church of the words of Jesus and the apostles, that false teachers would come “in the last time” (Jude 17–18). If the predicted false teachers had already come, then Jude was affirming that the last days pertained to his contemporary time.

Why did they understand their days to be the last days? All the apostles and earliest Christians judged the continued clinging to Old Testament forms and structures as apostate and Satanic, ripe for God’s judgment which was, to them, right over the horizon within a generation. Since unbelieving Jewish society had rejected the Messiah and His New Covenant, they had condemned themselves (Matt. 27:25) and their contemporary society was waxing worse and worse toward that Judgment Day. In those last days, the end of that age—the last days of the Old Covenant system, the end of the Old Covenant age—false teachers and godless people were waxing worse and worse, persecuting the Christians and trying to corrupt the fledgling Church.

Jerusalem, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations

Jesus had predicted Jerusalem would fall because she was responsible for “all the righteous blood shed upon earth” and that she was “the city that kills the prophets” (Matt. 23:35, 37). From this sweeping condemnation we can learn that the city called “Babylon” in Revelation 17 and 18 is not the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, but Jerusalem mystically named Babylon because she had corrupted herself and become like that ancient Empire:

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet [colors of the chief priest and the Temple], and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:4–5).

And how do we know this blasphemous Babylonian “mystery” whore is indeed Jerusalem? Because she is pronounced guilty of the exclusive crime which Jesus earlier pinned on Jerusalem:

And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.… Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more.… And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth (Rev. 17:6, 18:21, 24).

It is hardly possible that two cities can both be guilty of killing all the prophets and all who have been slain in the earth. Jesus clearly attributed this crime to Jerusalem; so we must conclude that here in Revelation, “Babylon” is a “name of mystery” because it symbolizes what Jerusalem had become.

Thus, it is highly likely that when Peter wrote his first epistle from “Babylon” (1 Pet. 5:13), he was literally writing from Jerusalem, which he had by then already condemned “in these last times” (1 Pet. 1:20) as Babylon. It was not uncommon practice in that window between Christ’s ascension and Jerusalem’s destruction that the New Testament writers symbolized Jerusalem with the names of the great enemies of God’s people down through the ages. Thus, Revelation speaks of “the great city” where the “Lord was crucified”—obviously Jerusalem—“that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8).

How anti-Semitic of that John! Calling Jerusalem “Sodom” and “Egypt” instead of “praying for her peace” as dispensationalists demand we do. The nerve of him.

Thus it is understandable when Paul compares the false teachers creeping in the church to Pharaoh’s magicians (2 Tim. 3:8–9). Likewise, Matthew 2 presents Jesus as the New Israel fleeing from the new Pharaoh who kills all the male babies. Except the roles are reversed: Jesus’ family has to flee into Egypt in order to avoid this new Pharaoh, who is Herod. Lesson: Israel has become like Egypt, the enemy of God’s people, and Jesus is the true Israel.

Thus it is further understandable that the inspired writers would refer to their persecutors and false brethren in their Church as “them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9).

Conclusion

We are not living in the last days. The writers of the New Testament were living in the last days of the Old Covenant. Thus they could write of “these” last days. The decline of society, false prophets, etc., spoken of as occurring during those last days pertained to the days in which the apostles were writing. Thus, we are not to expect an inevitable and irreversible decline of society which teachers like Ms. Markell claim, certainly not based on 2 Timothy 3.

Besides, even if we should expect a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3 today, the passage does not conclude that the evil men will completely sink the ship of society. Rather, it says their folly will be clear to all, and that they will not prosper. But since it is so clear from Scripture that the New Testament era was itself the last days, then we can understand the destruction of that Great Whore and Synagogue of Satan, Jerusalem, as that very defeat of God’s enemies that would be so clear to all. The destruction of Jerusalem was the Victory of God’s Church.

Indeed, Paul had promised as much to the Roman church which had been so beset with agitations from false Jews (Rom. 2:25–29). He told them, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20). What could he have been referring to that would happen under their feet “soon” (not 2000 years in the distant future for his audience)? I believe he was anticipating the destruction of Jerusalem, which would end the Old Covenant system which had been the source of so much division and strife in the Church.

This is all in our rearview mirror. Thankfully, the ship of society has divine rearview mirrors—the history revealed in Scripture. They lived in the last days. They witnessed the decline, apostasy, and false Christs. They saw God’s judgment fall on the Whore of “Babylon,” just as Jesus predicted in Matthew. They began the Great Commission.

Our job is not to fear the ship will sink, let alone abandon all the necessary work that the Great Ship of Christianity requires to be done. Our job, rather, is to build more ships, encompass more of the world, and spread the glory of Christ from sea to shining sea—every sea in the world.

And if the brass gets polished in that process, then the shining seas will shine all the more. Praise the Lord.

[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]

  1. Quoted in Gary North, Rapture Fever: Why Dispensationalism is Paralyzed (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1993), 100
 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Jesus, Guns, and Self-Defense: What Does the Bible Say?

Sat, 01/09/2016 - 16:33

Good Christian? Bad Christian? It all depends on who’s doing the evaluating. The reaction to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s comments on encouraging students at Liberty University to be armed in case there is an ISIS attack at the school has led to a great deal of theological and political angst.

Brian D. McLaren, described as “one of the most influential Christian leaders in America and . . . recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America in 2005” has written a long article condemning Falwell’s comments.

There have been others. Peter Enns has written a muddled article for the Boston Globe. I’m not sure if Enns is supporting the Bible or condemning it.

Jonathan Merritt, writing for The Atlantic, has also condemned Falwell’s comments. He at least uses the Bible in an attempt to make his case but does so selectively.

McLaren’s long article about Falwell’s gun-arming message didn’t spend much time actually quoting the Bible and arguing for his opinion based on engagement with specific passages:

“For us, authentic Christianity is the loving, peaceful, just and generous way of life embodied in Jesus. It is characterized more by self-giving than self-defense, by pre-emptive peacemaking rather than pre-emptive violence.”

“Authentic Christianity” includes the whole Bible. Being loving, peaceful, just and generous, and self-giving do not nullify our responsibility to be prepared with a good “self-defense” strategy if we are ever confronted with a San Bernardino type situation. Being armed and willing to defend ourselves, our family, and our neighbors is not being unchristian or even unloving. Self-defense can go a long way to protect the innocent from people who are intent on murder for whatever reason.

How “self-giving” should Christians in Paris or San Bernardino have been when confronted with the worst kind of human evil? Would it have been more “self-giving” by dying at the hands of murderers or would it have been more loving to stop those who were pumping bullets into people?

McLaren’s article is devoid of any actual biblical argument. Jesus tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9), but He doesn’t tell us what our response should be when someone, despite our best efforts to be peaceful, still wants to steal, rape, and murder. We need to look at other parts of the Bible for help since the whole Bible is God’s word and not just the words in red.

John Piper’s anti-Falwell’s comments made it all the way to the editorial pages of the Washington Post. The same is true of evangelical preacher Robert Schenck. All of a sudden the Post is interested in what the Bible says when evangelicals come out against arming for self defense but have no use for the Bible on the subjects of abortion and same-sex sexuality.

For Further Reading: “A Biblical Response to John Piper’s Denial of the Right to Bear Arms.”

There’s Jesus’ injunction to “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5:38-39). Jesus does not say to keep turning your cheek. His message is about not escalating the situation. There’s quite a difference between slapping someone across the face and someone wanting to take a baseball bat to your head or the head of your wife and/or children. Self-defense is a biblical option in such cases. Consider this passage from biblical case law:

“If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft” (Ex. 22:2-3).

The homeowner can assume that someone breaking into his house at night has nothing but bad intentions. He may be armed or not. The homeowner does not have to ask any questions to find out. The homeowner can respond by striking the intruder “so that he dies.” If this happens, even if the attempt was only theft (unknown to the home owner), the homeowner is cleared of all guilt in the thief’s death.

Daytime is a different story because the victim can make a better assessment of intent. If two people enter a building with AR15s and other weapons, killing these people before they kill you and others is the right thing to do. Being loving, peaceful, just and generous, and self-giving do not apply. To put it simply, there’s no time.

James B. Jordan has some helpful comments on the issue of self-defense:

“Under pagan influence, Western civilization has sometimes adopted a notion of ‘fair fighting.’ There is no such thing as a fairfight. The notion of a fair fight is Satanic and barbarous. If a child or a man finds himself in a situation where an appeal to arbitration is not possible, he should fight with all he has. If the neighborhood bully catches your child on the way home from school, and your child cannot escape by fleeing, your child should poke a hole in him with a sharp pencil, or kick him in the groin. If the bully’s parents will not restrain him, call the police.
“If you or your child has been trained in self defense, of course, you may be able to dispatch your assailant with a minimum of force. Always realize, though, that the man who attacks you, or your wife, has forfeited all his rights to ‘fair’ treatment. Women should be prepared to gouge out the eyes of any man who attacks them.” (James B. Jordan, The Law and the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 111-112.))

In the 1959 film Ben Hur, there is a discussion between Balthasar and Judah Ben Hur about seeking revenge, which is another subject altogether and not a self-defense issue (Rom. 12:18-21):

Judah: I must deal with Messala in my own way.

Balthasar: And your way is to kill him. I see this terrible thing in your eyes, Judah Ben-Hur. But no matter what this man has done to you, you have no right to take his life. He will be punished inevitably.

Overhearing their conversation, Sheik Ilderim says, “Balthasar is a good man. But until all men are like him, we must keep our swords bright!” If all those in the world had the heart of Balthasar, then there would be no need to discuss what the right response is regarding self-defense. That’s why Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18)

The story of David and Goliath is helpful since “five smooth stones” and a “sling” are the closest equivalent to a handgun we can find in the Bible. David seems to have been armed with his sling at all times. There was no way he could run home to get his sling when a lion or a bear was about to attack his flock (1 Sam. 17:31-37, 41-54).

It’s possible that Jesus had the Old Testament case law in mind when offered this injunction to His disciples:

“But be sure of this, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt 24:43).

But of course you rarely know when someone is going to break into your house, therefore, you must be on guard all the time. The same is true in situations like Paris and San Bernardino.

But being on guard are not enough if you are unarmed and have to face an armed intruder.

In another passage, Jesus is teaching by analogy:

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder” (Luke 11:21).

A fully armed strong man is a deterrent to a thief. It’s the fact that the strong man is armed that protects the potential thief from being harmed. Another strong man will think twice about ever trying to rob or harm someone who is armed.

The two San Bernardino Muslims who murdered 14 and injured 17 never would have gone to the community center if they had known the people had followed something like what Jerry Falwell Jr. was calling on the student body at Liberty University to do.

Here’s what Falwell’s critics miss: Armed people save lives by making evil people think twice about attacking a person or place where there might be some armed push back. One could say that it’s loving to be armed since it might stop someone who has evil intent from not following through with an evil act.

The most famous New Testament passage is a command of Jesus for His disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38). Personally, I do not believe this is a good proof text for being armed, but it does show that being armed was a norm for that time, and Jesus does not object.

Peter impetuously uses his sword against a servant of the high priest (John 18:10; Matt. 26:51; Luke 22:50) who had come out with a crowd armed with clubs and swords (Luke 22:52). In biblical terms, his actions were impermissible and under biblical law would have required some form of restitution of which Jesus immediately made (Ex. 21:22-25). Under normal circumstances, swords were permissible for self-defense, otherwise why did the “chief priests and officers of the temple and elders” have them? There is, however, something else going on here of biblical theological importance that has little to do with self-defense.

However the sword passage is interpreted, at no time did Jesus condemn anyone for having a sword. The disciples lived in dangerous times (Luke 10:29-37). Furthermore, the Romans didn’t seem to have a problem with their subjects (the Jews) owning swords.

 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

Why Bother if the End is Near?

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 07:45

People have been trying to identify a particular antichrist for centuries. Christopher Hill’s book on the subject just deals with antichrist in seventeenth-century England. (There were many more through the centuries and in other countries.) The candidates included Protestants, the Pope, radical sects, bishops, the Crown, the “‘Establishment’ generally,” the universities, and “the Turk,” an early designation for Muslims:

Richard Montagu proposed the Turk rather than the Pope as Antichrist. This thesis may have been given fresh currency by a Balliol [College] man, Christopher Angelos, a Greek who had suffered at the hands of the Turks and had it revealed to him in a vision that Mahomet was Antichrist.1

As history and the Bible attest, they were all wrong. Bernard McGinn2 and Francis X. Gumerlock3 cover 2000 years of the topic, so the fact that others have made end-time antichrist predictions isn’t anything new. Like in ages past, today’s antichrist candidates are manufactured from current events rather than from Scripture.

As anyone who reads the Bible should know, antichrists (there wasn’t just one) are “those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7) and “denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). The determining factor is Christology not political ideology. We know something about the “when” of the antichrists: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The “last hour” most likely refers to the near end point of what was the passing away of the Old Covenant order (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1–2). The people of John’s day had been told “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:2–3).

The “now” refers to John’s day.4 Antichrists were first-century Jews who denied that Jesus was the promised Messiah and God was uniquely His Father (John 8:48–59). They were Jews who were “anti” (against) Jesus as the “Christ” (Messiah). In Revelation John is told that the gathering places for these antichrists are called “synagogues of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). Given this background, it is impossible that the antichrists that John describes are Islamic or anything equivalent since Islam is a seventh-century A.D. invention and does not fit the time John was told the antichrists would arise.

What impact does antichrist speculation have on the ideological battles we are fighting today? If the antichrist is alive and well on planet earth, and the signs of the last day are all around us, then why bother with education, politics, the media, international affairs, economics, and a whole host of other worldview issues? Consider how the following statements might affect the mindset of millions of Christians who imbibe end-time scenarios:

  • “This world is not going to get any easier to live in. Almost unbelievably hard times lie ahead. Indeed, Jesus said that these coming days will be uniquely terrible. Nothing in all the previous history of the world can compare with what lies in store for mankind.”5
  • “What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.”6
  • “I don’t like cliches but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth in that.”7 If you don’t clean the fish bowl, the fish die.
  • “The premillennial position sees no obligation to make distinctly Christian laws.”8
  • Ted Peters writes that dispensationalism “functions to justify social irresponsibility,” and many “find this doctrine a comfort in their lethargy.”9

William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of Francis A. Schaeffer (1912–1984):10

I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.11

Edgar speculates, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s eschatology that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, called for civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline. “The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society. . . . The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you ‘can’t fight something with nothing,’ but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.”12 Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:

“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology . . . that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need. . . . The response of the (student) . . . reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.13

Eschatological ideas have consequences, and many Christians are beginning to understand how those ideas have shaped the cultural landscape. A world always on the precipice of some great and inevitable apocalyptic event is not in need of redemption but only of escape. As one end-time speculator put it, “the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment.”14 An ideology like Marxism as had a field day with the prophetic speculation of dispensationalism, a movement that has preoccupied the thinking process of Christians since the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. Consider the following from Josef Tson of Romania:

Let me illustrate the importance of understanding the times from my own experience. The communist disaster fell on my country [of Romania] when I was a teenager. For many years after that, my life was a battle for intellectual and spiritual survival under Marxist indoctrination and totalitarian and Christian terror. I struggled to understand the nature of that calamity, and the Lord gave me that understanding. In the forties, I wrote papers on the nature of the failure of communism. One of them, published under the title The Christian Manifesto landed me in six months of house arrest with harsh interrogations by the secret police. But for me the crucial moment came in 1977, when a friend of mine challenged me to set up an organization that would openly expose communism.

Here is what I told him: “Communism is an experiment that has failed. It wasn’t able to fulfill any of its many promises and nobody believes in it any more. Because of this, it will one day collapse on its own. Now, why should I fight something that is finished? I believe that our task is a different one. When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society! I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis.”

To my surprise, here is what my friend said to me: “Josef, you are wrong. Communism will triumph all over the world, because this is the movement of the Antichrist. And when the communists take over in the United States, they will have no restraining force left. They will then kill all the Christians. We have only one job to do: to alert the world and make ready to die.”

A few years later my friend was forced to leave Romania. He came to the U.S. and settled down. Then I was forced into exile, and I moved to the U.S. as well. Since then, my friend has not done anything for Romania. He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.

On the other hand, when I came here in 1981, I started a training program for Christian leaders in Romania. We translated Christian textbooks and smuggled them into Romania. With our partners in the organization, The Biblical Education by Extension (BEE), we trained about 1200 people all over Romania. Today, those people who were trained in that underground operation are the leaders in churches, in evangelical denominations, and in key Christian ministries.

You see, the way you look to the future determines your planning and your actions. It is the way you understand the times that determines what you are going to do.15

I realize that there are many end-time advocates who are engaged in the culture. At the same time, I know that people who have no interest in prophetic speculation are equally disengaged (mostly two-kingdom amillennialists). Still, ideas have consequences. In the case of the prophetic speculators, it breeds worldview schizophrenia. In time, the activists throw up their hands and follow the path of prophetic logic: If all the signs point to the near return of Jesus, and all sorts of bad things are going to happen, including an economic meltdown like the one described by prophecy writers John Hagee (Financial Armageddon) and David Jeremiah (The Coming Economic Armageddon), then why spend my time and resources trying to fight something that is inevitable?

The collapse of humanism is an opportunity for Christians to prepare for what might come and to offer hope and solutions to those who have not prepared. There won’t be a rapture to rescue any of us. Deal with it. The sooner the better.

  1. Christopher Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (London, Oxford University Press, 1971), 181–182.
  2. Bernard McGinn, Anti-Christ: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).
  3. Francis X. Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2000).
  4. For helpful discussions on the topic of antichrist, see Peter J. Leithart, The Epistles of John Through New Eyes: From Behind the Veil (Monroe, LA: Athanasius Press, 2009), chap. 6 and Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 4th ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), chaps. 18–23.
  5. Charles C. Ryrie, The Living End (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1976), 21.
  6. Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 145.
  7. Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown,” Eternity (January 1977), 21.
  8. Norman L. Geisler, “A Premillennial View of Law and Government,” Moody Monthly (October 1985), 129.
  9. Ted Peters, Futures: Human and Divine (Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1978), 28, 29.
  10. See Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 42.
  11. William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.
  12. Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127–128. Emphasis in original.
  13. Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69.
  14. Jan Markell, “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden”. For a response, see Gary DeMar, “Is the World a Sinking Titanic?,” Biblical Worldview (May 2007), 4–6.
  15. Josef Tson, “The Cornerstone at the Crossroads,” Wheaton Alumni (August/September 1991).
 Source: The American Vision
Categories: Worldview

The Antichrist Hoax

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 10:10

You can pretty much rest assured that prophecy teachers (pastor, preacher, “prophet,” pundit, televangelist, and the like) have little idea what they’re talking about when they use the phrase “the Antichrist.” It’s a dead giveaway that any such person has sold out dogmatically, uncritically, and close-mindedly to a particular system of end-times theology rather than a purely biblical assessment of the issue.

Why such a strong conclusion over the mere phrase “the Antichrist”?

Because no such character appears in Scripture. Let me explain.

The Claim

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: countless Christians teaching or just talking about prophecy casually toss around the phrase “the antichrist.” By this title they mean some Satanic ruler who will arise at the end times and rule the whole world, kill Christians and Jews, and enslave everyone in a world economic system by means of a “mark” involving the number 666. This is how perhaps the most famous American prophecy teacher refers to “the Antichrist.” In just one place he says,

Biblical prophecies clearly predict the rise of the Antichrist in the end times and more than 100 passages of Scripture describe the Antichrist’s origin, nationality, character, career, and global conquest. The term Antichrist may be applied both to an individual and to the system he represents.1

Notice how LaHaye and Hindson employ the phrase “the Antichrist” in order to discuss a presumed end-time ruler who is yet to appear.

Likewise, a popular pro-dispensational website posted an article entitled “Who is the Antichrist?” Its author, Britt Gillette, teaches that “the Antichrist is a very real person. During the final seven year period before the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ, the Antichrist will achieve unprecedented global power.”

The Bible student, however, should only accept such claims after asking a very important question: What does the Bible say about “the AntiChrist”? The interested Christian should step back from the grandiose claims of supernaturally-inspired end-times dictators, and push the question back to its fundamental texts in Scripture. Let’s take a look at those texts.

Antichrist in the Bible

As I have already argued, this character “the Antichrist” does not even appear in Scripture, at least not in a way that anywhere resembles the many claims about “him.” In fact, the very phrase “the antichrist” hardly appears in Scripture. This may come as a shock to some Christians, especially if they have been taught for years that the Bible predicts such a leader, and especially with writers like LaHaye claiming that over 100 passages teach about him. But here’s the proof:

The word “antichrist” comes directly from the Greek word antichristos. It appears (in its various grammatical forms) only five times in Scripture. The first appearance comes in 1 John 2:18. This opening usage of the word does not even include the definite article “the.”2

The text literally reads, “Children, it is the last hour; and as you heard that antichrist comes, and now many antichrists have come [or, “have happened”], therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Among modern translations, perhaps the two best on this verse are the NAS and the ESV. The latter reads, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” I prefer my own translation over even these, however.

At least three things are absolutely, irrefutably clear from this primary verse:

1) Antichrist is not a single person. That is, “antichrist” is a descriptive term for a group, or a type of person, not a title for a special single person. John had no intention of describing a single world ruler who would come and fill some prophesied role of “the” Antichrist. Instead, John announced the appearance of “many antichrists.” John further expresses this understanding in the following verse, stating of these “many antichrists”: “They [plural] went out from us, but they [plural] were not of us… that they [plural] might be made manifest that they [plural] were not all of us” (1 John 2:19).

2) These antichrists came and went during the time John wrote. We are not awaiting their appearance in our near future. “And now,” “Even now,” or “So now,” these many antichrists “have come,” said John. Their appearance on the scene was a done deal.

3) John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing in Scripture, interpreted the manifestation of these antichrists as proof he and his audience were living in the “last hour” or “end time.” Unless the “last hour” has lasted for nearly two thousand years (a large percentage of human history for a waning hour), then we can safely say that the “end time” somehow pertained to John’s era, not ours. This should force some hard thinking about the doctrine of the last days, at least for some people.

This is the first, and you could say main, passage that talks about the appearance of antichrist. The word appears a few more time in John’s epistles, which we shall cover in just a second. But make clear notice: the word antichrist—either in Greek or English—does not appear at all in the book of Revelation. Outside of five instances in John’s first and second epistles, the word appears nowhere else in Scripture.

We have already seen the first two instances in 1 John 2:18. In the same discourse, John tells his readers how to determine whether an individual among them is of antichrist. He says, “Who is the liar if not the one denying that Jesus is the Christ? He is the antichrist, the one denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22, McDurmon translation). While this passage does employ the definite article “the” (both in Greek and in modern English translations), it is clear that since John has already established “antichrist” as a general group in verse 18, he is now providing criteria by which his audience can judge specific (definite) cases of heresy among them. Thus he individualizes the language to correspond.

He uses typifying “proverb”-type language to create a test case for determining between “he who tells the truth,” and “he who is ‘the liar’” in that given case: “He who denies that Jesus is the Christ, he is the antichrist.” But it is clear that his categories set up in the previous verses should determine the context of this one. For this reason, the King James translators went so far as to exclude “the” from this second passage—“He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”—even though it existed in their Greek text (that ought to bug the KJV-Only crowd a bit).

The same principle is at work in 1 John 4:3. Here John further explains the criteria for judgment: “And every spirit that does not confess [literally “speak the same”] Jesus is not of God, and this is that of the antichrist, which you heard that comes, and now is in the world already” (McDurmon).

The phrase “and this is that of the antichrist” is a description of the spirit that denies Jesus. In other words, it means “this denying spirit is the spirit of the antichrist.” This is why so many translations can’t stand not adding the word “spirit” a second time even though it is not in the text (see KJV, NAS, NIV, NJB, NRS, ESV). Here again, the article “the” appears, but clearly applies to criteria for determining definite, individual instances of the heresy. This was the practical ecclesiastical issue built on John’s earlier general teaching about “antichrist”: testing teachers for heresy. Thus: “Test the spirits” John said, introducing the fourth chapter, “because many false prophets [like the “many antichrists” in 2:18] have gone out into the world” (4:1).

The remaining instance appears in 2 John 7. It further solidifies and reinforces what we have said so far. John repeats his former teaching almost verbatim, warning that “Many deceivers, who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh, have gone out into the world. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Again the definite article appears, but it is clear that the phrase applies as a general description for a group including “many deceivers.” At most it could point to the sole supernatural force behind these many deceivers, many false prophets, and many antichrists; but even then it still could not be a single individual that shall come in the future. It would simply mean that just as the Pharisees, for example, were children of the devil, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so these many antichrists are children of spiritual antichrist, the devil. This is a possible interpretation, but not necessary.

So the simple teaching of the Bible on “antichrist” grows out of a sparse five appearances of the word in four verses. Those verses teach us at least this much: there were many antichrists, they appeared in John’s time, and their appearance confirmed that John’s generation was the “end time” or “last hour.”

Any interpretation of antichrist that strays from these fundamental biblical teachings risks adding to or taking away from the Word of God. Further, any talk of a single and future figure called “the Antichrist” is especially straining; Scripture simply does not allow the term to be used that way.

But that does not stop many people.

The Fallacious “Composite Antichrist”

The scant (yet very clear) Scriptural data on antichrist does not stop countless Christians from imposing the term upon Scriptural characters to which it does not pertain. This remains the source of much confusion and hindrance in the area of Christian doctrine and worldview.

For example, LaHaye and Hindson argue, “The Bible uses several names and titles for the person we commonly call the Antichrist.”3 In his previously mentioned article, Gillette makes a long list of these alleged names:

The Seed of Satan—Genesis 3:15 (NLT); The Little Horn—Daniel 7:8 (NLT); The Fierce King, a Master of Intrigue—Daniel 8:23 (NLT); The Prince Who is to Come—Daniel 9:26 (NLT); The Defiler—Daniel 9:27 (NLT); The King Who Does as He Pleases—Daniel 11:36 (NLT); The King of Assyria—Isaiah 10:12 (NLT); The Worthless Shepherd—Zechariah 11:17 (NLT); The One Who Brings Destruction—2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NLT); The Man of Lawlessness—2 Thessalonians 2:8 (NLT); The Antichrist—1 John 2:18 (NLT); The Beast—Revelation 13:11 (NLT)

Notice Gillette’s reference to 1 John 2:18: “The Antichrist.” As we have already seen, in this particular verse there is no “The.” So the title here is made up to begin with—made up to fit a preconceived theological concept.

Of course, once such a concept is made up, then these teachers read their abstracted, artificial character back into Scripture and find his shadow in every reference to every evil ruler and false prophet around. This is what theologian B. B. Warfield called a “composite photograph” obtained by connecting “antichrist” to Paul’s “Man of Sin,” the Beast found in Revelation, and many others.4

“The Antichrist” resulting from this type of doctrinal construct is a myth—a big, bold, hodge-podge of Scripture, mixed with imagination and superstition. He does not exist in Scripture; he is the imaginary construct of certain theologians dependent upon a certain system of end-times scenarios.

In order to avoid the plain meaning of Scripture, these gentlemen must add to the Word of God. Even after admitting how narrowly Scripture defines the term, LaHaye and Hindson immediately depart from it. First they write, “Interestingly, the term Antichrist (antichristos in the Greek) appears only in 1 John 2:18–22; 4:3; and 2 John 7.” They even see that it does not pertain only to a single individual: “The apostle John uses it both in the singular (“the antichrist”) and in the plural (“many antichrists”).” But they refuse to interpret the “singular” usage apart from their theological construct; consequently, they read their created Archvillain back into John’s words: “John indicates that his readers have already heard that the Antichrist is coming in the future.”5

John says nothing of the sort. As we have already seen, in this verse in particular (1 John 2:18), John specifically excludes the “the.” LaHaye and Hindson, however, italicize the “the” in order to make their view emphatic. But this is a trick: it is a printed emphasis to hide the theological emphasis they have added to John’s words. It is a bad trick: it rather exposes their bias.

Further, John does not say that antichrist “is coming in the future,” he simply reminds his listeners that “antichrist comes.” The verb here is in the present tense, not a participle and not future. John then uses the additional fact that “many antichrists” have already come as proof that this prophecy is fulfilled, and that now they know (certain knowledge) that they are in the last hour. The manifestation of antichrist as many antichrists was a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy for their end time (Matt. 24:4–5, 23–28). It had nothing to do with a single dominant evil person or the distant future.

But to maintain their Composite Photograph Antichrist, LaHaye and Hindson must somehow remove John’s clear application of “many antichrists” from the main spotlight of the biblical teaching. They admit that John says this, but they add to God’s Word when they say, “He describes these lesser antichrists as liars who deny that Jesus is the Christ (2:22).” Do you see the addition? It is the adjective “lesser.” In order to maintain their belief that “the Antichrist” is yet to come in our future, they have to minimize John’s actual teaching: these “many antichrists” were not just “antichrists” as John said, but “lesser antichrists.” But the word “lesser” is an addition to God’s Word.

This addition distorts what Scripture teaches about antichrist. It implies that there is such a thing as a “greater antichrist,” and we are to assume that this figure is yet to come. Sure enough, in his Prophecy Study Bible, Tim Lahaye says that these lesser antichrists “prefigure the ultimate Antichrist yet to come in the future.”6 This again is adding to the text. The Bible never speaks of “the ultimate Antichrist”; only antichrist, and only in a very specific and limited way.

So, unless you compound all of the wicked rulers in Scripture, abstract an imaginary prophecy based on that composite, and then rename this Frankenstein creation “the Antichrist,” then no such “ultimate” antichrist would ever enter the theological discourse. The only thing remotely close to transcending John’s many individual antichrists might be the spirit of antichrist, which we already discussed. But even here it would act as a description of an animating force behind many individuals and not a special separate person in history.

The Biblical data is so simple and clear. So it is interesting to find teachers like Gillette who dismiss the clear view of Scripture in favor of their theological abstraction:

While some people claim the Bible never refers to an individual as the “Antichrist,” but rather the existence of “a spirit of Antichrist,” a complete picture of this infamous man emerges from a thorough reading of the scriptures.

He then lists the catalogue of evil Bible personages quoted above.

Worse yet, I find it absolutely stunning that in his 2,400-word article boldly entitled “Who is the Antichrist?” there is no discussion whatsoever of any of the few passages in which the word actually appears. He makes only a single passing reference to 1 John 2:18, and that only as merely containing the name “The Antichrist,” which, as we have already seen, the Greek does not contain. You would expect that an article on the subject might spend at least some space on the exegesis of the only five instances in Scripture that contain the word. There is not a word on any of them.

In contrast, however, Gillette canvasses the rest of Scripture to find every bad guy he can find in prophecies, and then says that all of these other guys are “The Antichrist.” But this is exactly the problem: instead of letting Scripture define “antichrist,” and then interpreting rest of Scripture according to its context, teachers like Gillette create a theological context first and then force all of Scripture into the definitions they have created.

The Example of the Fierce King

In many cases, the treatments they give of other places in Scripture are just as shabby (and sometimes based on just as poorly translated passages). For example, Gillette quotes Daniel 8:24–25 as proof that “the Antichrist” under the name “The Fierce King” will attack God’s Holy People and even Christ Himself in a “final act of rebellion.” He employs the New Living Translation:

“He will destroy powerful leaders and devastate the holy people. He will be a master of deception, defeating many by catching them off guard. Without warning he will destroy them. He will even take on the Prince of princes in battle, but he will be broken, though not by human power.” Daniel 8:24–25 (NLT)

LaHaye sees the same fearful prospect: “This passage looks ahead to the rise of the Antichrist.”7

But like the rest of Scripture (except for 1 and 2 John), Daniel never even uses the term antichrist, and there is no necessary biblical reason to lump the “the fierce king” of Daniel 8:23 into some imaginary composite antichrist. In fact, there is not necessarily any reason to equate this predicted evil ruler with any other prophecies in Scripture, let alone an imaginary one, or one in our near future.

We do, however, see the fulfillment of Daniel 8:24–25 in the Scriptural (and historical) data concerning Herod. James Jordan has made a compelling case that this prophecy points to the blasphemous house of Herod that appears in different faces throughout the Gospels and Acts.8

Gillette, however, loads his presuppositions into the text. Verse 24 says of the fierce king: “He will become very strong, but not by his own power.” Gillette applies this to “the Antichrist”: “In addition, the Antichrist will be a man of unprecedented power, not of his own accord, but because he is backed by Satan.” Again, LaHaye has the same claim, only stronger: “The fact that the Antichrist rules by a power “not . . . his own” indicates that he will be Satan-incarnate and have satanic supernatural wisdom and powers ascribed to him (Rev. 13).”9

But this verse neither applies to our future nor mentions Satan. The verse does not require of this fierce king that his power come from any supernatural source. It simply says his strength will not come from himself. This prophecy finds a straight-forward fulfillment in Herod the Great: 1) His power was not his own, but came from the power and force of Rome which backed him; 2) he destroyed and devastated the Holy people at the time, and his brutality towards them was well known; and 3) he certainly engaged in battle against the prince of Princes by trying to murder Him as an infant (Matt. 2:16–18). Jesus’ parents took him and fled into Egypt, “and was there until the death of Herod” (Matt. 2:15).

Herod’s death is alluded to three times in Matt. 2 (verses 15, 19, 22). History tells us he died not of human hands, but of disease. Similar stories are true of the whole house of Herod concerned with the New Testament era. We are told in Matthew 2:22 that Herod the Great’s son Herod Archelaus ruled in his place. He died in exile. Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist (continuing the destroying of God’s people), was also banished by Rome and died in exile.

Herod the Great’s grandson, Herod Agrippa I, appears in Acts 12. He continues the persecution of God’s people and has the clearest experience of “hands free” death. In 12:1 he kills Christians, kills James the brother of Jesus, and arrests Peter (presumably preparing to execute him as well):

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also (Acts 12:1–3).

(Notice that by this point, “the Jews” had joined the Fierce King in his destroying of God’s true Holy People, the believers. Truly he had “caused deceit to prosper in his hand” (Dan. 8:25).)

We hear of Herod Agrippa I’s death at the end of the same chapter:

On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last (Acts 12:20–23).

Just a Daniel had said, “In his own mind he shall become great” (8:25). Agrippa I thought he was so great he could accept praise as a god. Likewise, just as Daniel predicted, he was “broken—but by no human hand”; he was smitten directly by an angel of the Lord.

Those already persuaded by thoughts of “the Antichrist” will be tempted to conclude that this Fierce King requires a superhuman power in order to defeat him; and this makes sense for them, because they think he is a satanically empowered figure. But the text requires none of this.

First of all is the issue of translation. Gillette’s NLT ends Daniel 8:25 saying that this king will be broken, “but not by human power.” The words “human” and “power” neither appear in the Hebrew. The difficult passage involves only three Hebrew words that literally mean something like “without” “hand” “he shall be broken.” The King James seems to come close: “he shall be broken without hand.” Many translations add “human,” but this is only an elucidation on the obvious. But some replace “hand” with “power” or “intervention” which is just not faithful enough to the prophet’s words. The plain implication is that the king will meet his demise, but through natural causes (not murder or war, etc.).

Secondly, the text also does not indicate that the King would be of such a nature as to require a supernatural agency to bring about his death. It does not state or imply that he or his power had any satanic or demonic origin. It only proclaims that he will die without hand, not that he can only die that way. This King is a man—a great and powerful man—but a normal mortal man nonetheless.

Taken plainly, the text applies directly to Herod. In fact, it applies to all of the contemporary Herods, especially as a collective House of Herod. Each individual in the line is expressed in the New Testament with emphasis upon a certain aspect of Daniel’s prophecy, yet it all applies to all of them equally as well. The all owed their power to Rome, they all persecuted and killed God’s people, they all attacked Jesus in different ways, they were all broken and died without hand (apart from human hands).

The last of the line, Herod Agrippa II (son of Agrippa I), is seen at a crossroads in Paul’s ministry. In Acts 26, the apostle stands pleading with Agrippa II to submit to Christ:

“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

While he gives Paul a favorable judgment in private, the ultimate decision reveals that Herod, the King of Jerusalem, was still more loyal to Caesar than God. The same Rome that gave them their power is the same Rome he ultimately bows to in the case of Paul. He sent Paul, whom he judged innocent, to his eventual execution in Rome. In a sense, this was a last effort by Paul to convert the Jewish nation (to the Jew first, then to the Gentile) via its civil representative. Herod rejected the Gospel, and sent its last Apostle to his final persecution.

Like his predecessors, Herod Agrippa II died without hand. Only this one, the last of the line, died childless.

So, in considering the case of the Fierce King, the text of Daniel itself does not say what these dispensationalists claim. It does not require the interpretations they impose on it; in fact, a plain reading (and translation) of the text makes much more sense to someone not already obsessed with super-spiritual apocalypse. The text finds clear and precise fulfillment in very purposefully included New Testament passages, and these are further corroborated by history. There is simply no reason to lump this prophecy into an Antichrist Complex and toss it into the fear-factory of the dispensational future. In fact, to do so does considerable violence to the text of Daniel, and injustice to the rest of Scripture.

We could further expand on this case by further expounding on the full context of Daniel 8, both biblical and historical.

We could also multiply such examples by considering each of the names and titles mentioned and listed by LaHaye and by Gillette (and others). But this one serves as an example of how to understand prophecy in the light of Scripture and history, and how to avoid distorting it by means of a preconceived theological abstraction. This and further applications like it will confirm how “the Antichrist” is not a biblical category or character.

A Logical Conclusion

Once the student of Scripture has pursued what the Bible itself actually says about antichrist, he will be in position to realize the many farces forced upon him by modern Christianity. He or she will know that there is no such figure mentioned or predicted in the Bible as “the Antichrist.” They will see through the myth.

Consequently, they will know that the question, “Who is the Antichrist?” is a logical fallacy. It is a fallacy called “complex question” of which we have written before. It is akin to asking, “Does your spouse know you’re having an affair?” Answering either yes or no retains the assumption that one is indeed having an affair, whether the spouse knows it or not. The proper response is to criticize the question: “I reject the assumption that I am cheating!”

Likewise, “I reject the assumption that such a person as “the Antichrist” exists or will ever exist.” Scripture simply does not speak of antichrist in that way, and the treatment of evil men in Scripture as each themselves prophecies of such a figure is to beg the question in the same way a hundred times. LaHaye’s “100 passages of Scripture” describing “the Antichrist” are nothing but 100 fallacies until he can prove that such a phantom exists.

Until they come clean, “the Antichrist” is a phrase that tells me they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Notes:

  1. Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 23.
  2. Now, some English translations add “the” anyway, but it is not apparent necessarily why. It could be due to a belief that some complex rules of Greek grammar require it (the so-called “Colwell’s Rule”), but this by no means necessarily applies here.
  3. Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, 24.
  4. See Warfield quoted in Kim Riddlebarger, The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 80. Notice even the Reformed amillennialist Riddlebarger adds “the” in his subtitle.
  5. Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, 23; emphasis in original.
  6. Timothy LaHaye, ed., Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible (AMG Publishers, 2000), 1346.
  7. Timothy LaHaye, ed., Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, 910.
  8. James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 430–439.
  9. Timothy LaHaye, ed., Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, 910.
Categories: Worldview

A New Year’s Resolution: All of Scripture for all of life

Fri, 01/01/2016 - 09:28

Many Christians approach life as if it is made of bits and pieces of unrelated reality. They struggle to see the relationship between seemingly contrasting categories. In fact, Christians often have been taught that the Bible addresses exclusively spiritual issues while some other standard should be used to govern how we should think about secular matters such as law, economics, politics, education, and business. This type of thinking might lead a businessman or scientist into believing that he is involved in “secular work” while a minister or missionary is engaged in “full-time Christian service.” Under such a system, religion would be kept out of anything that is not directly related to church work and the Sunday morning worship hour. This is not the biblical view.

Both [John] Calvin and [Martin] Luther insisted that “secular” vocations were as important as “religious callings” and that it is possible to serve God in any honest and useful job. Calvinism encouraged diligent work and thrifty habits in worldly duties as a way of promoting the general welfare and glorifying God. This “Protestant ethic” was especially endorsed by Puritanism and applied to scientific work. This was reinforced by attitudes of self-restraint, simplicity and diligence. The study of nature was divinely sanctioned since it would reveal God’s handiwork and exemplify orderly activity. The Puritans believed science could work for the glory of God and the benefit of society.1

For the Christian, the construction of a worldview was comprehensive enough to embrace all of life with the Bible being the governing instrument that gives meaning and direction to areas of discovery like science, politics, economics, and law. No area was excluded. This included the intellectual life (what a person believed was true about himself and his place in history); the physical (how a person treated or mistreated his body by eating, sleeping, and exercising); the social (how he interacted with friends and enemies, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak); the economic (why he worked and how he spent his wages); and the moral (what ethical guidelines and obligations directed his thinking about justice and issues such as abortion and euthanasia).2

The Puritans were famous for attempting to develop a comprehensive biblical worldview. They applied Scripture to work, marriage and sex, money, family, church and worship, education, politics, social ethics, and social action. “Puritanism was a movement in which the Bible was central to everything.”3

The early Puritans demonstrated their belief in a comprehensive biblical worldview in the educational institutions they developed. Harvard College, founded in 1636, six years after the arrival of the British Puritans, had as its purpose the following: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore lay Christ at the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” There was no true knowledge unless a student compared it with the testimony of Christ in the Bible.

An example of a Christian who worked to apply the Bible beyond the narrow confines of Christian piety was Cotton Mather (1663-1728). In fact, Mather saw the development of scientific discovery as an outgrowth of piety. He received his M.A. from Harvard at age 18 and joined his father in his Boston pastorate. He was widely regarded as the most brilliant man in New England. He wrote nearly 500 books and was a Fellow of the Royal Society. Scientist as well as pastor, he successfully introduced smallpox inoculation during the 1721 epidemic, and had his house bombed for his trouble. Mather “did not share the medieval belief that this world does not matter.”4 For Mather and others like him, a worldview that had God and the Bible at its center was the only worldview that could make sense of the world.

As we are about to embark once again on a new year, our thoughts should turn to how God’s Word can and should impact all of life. This means thinking multi-generational. The Bible commands us to “disciple the nations” (Matt. 28:18-20). This means more than getting people saved for the next life; it includes getting them saved–“made whole” in every way–for this life as well.

  1. Joseph Spradley, “A Christian View of the Physical World,” in Arthur Holmes, ed., The Making of a Christian Mind: A Christian World View and the Academic Enterprise [Downers Grove: IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985], 68.
  2. W. Andrew Hoffecker, “Preface: Perspective and Method in Building a World View,” Building a Christian World View: God, Man, and Knowledge, 2 vols (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986), 1:ix-x.
  3. Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Academie, 1986), 13.
  4. Gordon W. Jones, Introduction, in Cotton Mather, The Angel of Bethesda, An Essay Upon the Common Maladies of Mankind [Barre, MA, Barre Publishers, [1724] 1972], xi.
Categories: Worldview

Who is Babylon the Great, The Mother of Prostitutes?

Wed, 12/30/2015 - 06:34

Jesus told the chief priest and elders of the people, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matt. 21:43). For many people, this verse provides the heart of “replacement theology”—the idea that the Christian Church has replaced the old physical nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and priestly nation (1 Pet. 2:9-10, et al).

Without requiring the use of the label “replacement,” this is essentially what the verse teaches. It does not mean that Jewish people can never again taste of God’s grace, it simply means that the Old Covenant way of God’s witness and work on earth—the Old Testament Temple ritual system—was being abolished, along with everyone in that generation who rejected and killed God’s prophets and Messiah. The Temple was being abolished because it was never meant to be permanent, but only a symbol that pointed to the reality of Jesus Christ, the true Temple, the true Emanuel—the true presence of “God with us.” Those Jews who rejected the true Temple and insisted on clinging to the Old Testament traditions were thereby committing idolatry just as grossly as any pagan ritual. The Kingdom had moved on to its greater fulfillment. Those who refused to embrace the fulfillment found themselves bereft of the true Kingdom—it would be taken from them, and given to the disciples of the true and faithful people of God.

Jesus denounced the teachers of the old tradition which led the way in opposing Him. These were mainly the Pharisees, and Christ’s denunciation of them appears in Matthew 23 among other places. It extends to the whole of the physical city of Jerusalem of which they were representatives in disbelief. Jesus concluded with the prediction that Jerusalem would fall because she was responsible for “all the righteous blood shed upon earth” and that she was “the city that kills the prophets” (Matt. 23:35, 37).

Mystery Babylon

From this sweeping condemnation we can learn that the city called “Babylon” in Revelation 17 and 18 is not the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, but Jerusalem called Babylon because she had corrupted herself and become like that ancient pagan Empire:

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet [colors of the chief priest and the Temple; Ex. 25-28; 38-39], and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:4-5).

And how do we know this blasphemous Babylonian “mystery” whore is indeed Jerusalem? Because she is pronounced guilty of the exclusive crime which Jesus earlier pinned on Jerusalem:

And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus….. Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more….. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth (Rev. 17:6, 18:21, 24).

It is not possible that two cities can both be guilty of a crime of which only one party could be guilty—killing all the prophets and all who have been slain in the earth. Jesus clearly attributed this crime to Jerusalem in Matthew 23; so we must conclude that here in Revelation, “Babylon” is a “name of mystery” because it symbolizes what Jerusalem had become.

Thus, it is highly likely that when Peter wrote his first epistle from “Babylon” (1 Pet. 5:13), he was literally writing from Jerusalem, which he had by then already condemned “in these last times” (1 Pet. 1:20) as Babylon. Peter was, after all, an apostle to the Circumcision as Paul said (Gal. 2:7).

It was not uncommon practice in that window between Christ’s ascension and Jerusalem’s destruction that the New Testament writers symbolized Jerusalem with the names of the great enemies of God’s people down through the ages. Thus, Revelation speaks of “the great city” where the “Lord was crucified”—obviously Jerusalem—“that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8).

Some would complain that interpreting the Great Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 as Jerusalem is anti-Semitic. But this is ad hominem nonsense. How anti-Semitic was it of John (a Jew!)—calling Jerusalem “Sodom” and “Egypt” instead of praying for her peace as dispensationalists demand we do. The nerve of him.

Thus it is understandable when Paul compares the false teachers creeping in the Church to Pharaoh’s magicians (2 Tim. 3:8-9). Likewise, Matthew 2 presents Jesus as the New Israel fleeing from the new Pharaoh who kills all the male babies. Except the roles are reversed: Jesus’ family has to flee into Egypt in order to avoid this new Pharaoh, who is Herod. Lesson: Old Israel has become like Egypt, the persecutor of God’s people, and he shall suffer the plague of Egypt, while Jesus is the true Israel.

Keep in mind, it was Herod who then ruled Jerusalem and who had rebuilt the Temple at which the Jews then sacrificed. Once Jesus appeared on the scene as the Final Sacrifice, the sacrifices at the Temple became idolatrous. It was then rejecting God to continue that system. It was, in fact, to commit the abomination of desolation, because it was an idolatrous sacrifice in the Temple which caused God’s presence to leave that House desolate. Indeed, God’s presence would forever leave that Temple to dwell in the New Temple, Jesus Christ and His People. This occurred on the day of Jesus’ baptism, as we shall see, and was furthered on the day of Pentecost. Within a generation, the idolatrous, adulterous nation—the great whore temple in Jerusalem—suffered a final blow from God. It was destroyed into oblivion.

Thus it is further understandable that the inspired writers would refer to their persecutors and false brethren in their Church as “them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9).

Conclusion

Modern-day Christians simply do not understand that when they demand the land of Israel for the Old Jewish people so that they may rebuild a Temple and resume sacrifices, they are praying for the rankest and vilest of idolatries to occur. God destroyed that Temple for that very reason in ad 70. Why would He now change and desire it to be rebuilt?

You may think that since God did this once before in the time of Jeremiah, for example—sending His people into exile with their Temple destroyed behind them, and then restoring them to the land once again to rebuild another Temple—then He will do the same again. But with Jesus’ pronouncement of the destruction of the Temple, it was different. This time the True Temple Himself came as the rebuilt (resurrected) Temple. This time there would be no bricks and mortar, but rather a stone cut out with hands (Dan. 2:34, 44-45). The Old Jewish people were not merely exiled from their kingdom someday to return. No. This time, the Kingdom was taken from them and given to the true nation bearing the fruits thereof.

Christ created a new bride. Why would Christ desire to return to the whore He has cast aside and divorced when He has a pristine bride descending from heaven, clothed in righteouness, and uncorrupted by idolatry? He doesn’t. He left that whore riding her patron, the beast of Rome. And the great mother of harlots suffered the judgment of her whoredom. She was divorced and disinherited. The inheritance now belongs to the bride.

Jesus knew all of this ahead of time. He knew from His many clashes with the Jewish leaders as well as from Bible prophecy that the Temple would be left desolate and the city in ruin. His final journey to Jerusalem is the record of Jesus publically exhibiting all the evidence against what had become an idolatrous, Messiah-rejecting nation. Jesus was presenting a covenant lawsuit for the divorce of that idolatrous prostitute.

[This article is excerpted from the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51-20:26, available in the American Vision store.]

Categories: Worldview

Crisis and Leadership (2 Samuel 1:17–27)

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:56

Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow.

When David learned of the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul, he first reacted in sorrow. He tore his clothes in mourning and fasted until the evening (2 Sam. 1:11–12). The second half of 2 Samuel 1 records the song he composed in lament. It could be titled, “How the mighty have fallen.” It is very relevant in times when leadership that once appeared valiant, and in which so many people trusted, falls. It also carries great lessons and warnings about national unity, leadership, and the work of the Kingdom of God.

The Temptations of Vengeance and Ambition

It would appear that David had just received a great blessing. It would appear that the opportunity he needed to take the throne had just opened widely before him. His chief persecutor was dead. Saul, the man who tried to kill David, who enlisted his men to kill David, who led entire armies to kill David, who took David’s wife from him, who turned the vast majority of the nation against David as if he were a terrorist, who tried to kill his own son because of David, who killed the entire priesthood over false charges because of David—this wicked ruler was dead. Saul, who committed so much other wickedness, who took credit for all the successes of David in battle, who defied God in sparing Agag (1 Sam. 15), who usurped the priestly role of Samuel, who installed the tyrannies of which Samuel had warned from the beginning (1 Sam. 8), who had ignominiously ended his life in séance and a “last supper” with a witch, and then suicide—this wicked ruler was finally dead. On the surface, it seems like the story should seamlessly transition to David on the throne. Should not the populace welcome a truly righteous ruler in place of Saul?

But we must remember that Saul’s tyranny had perverted the hearts and minds of most of the nation. They wanted a military-industrial nation. They embraced the strong central government. Great leaders always build a loyal following, even sometimes if their lives are built on lies and filled with great sin. When such great leaders fall, there will always be a loyal remnant that defends them and exalts them in their sin. The path forward will have to look past this, reform it where possible, but move on despite it in some places. David knew the throne was his, but also knew he had a long uphill battle to wage in terms of public relations, among other things.

David had to face the temptations of personal vengeance and of personal ambition. First, despite all of what Saul had done against him, David ignored any feeling of personal vengeance. Where he did dwell on the past, it was only in positives—and that only for the sake of moving God’s people forward. He knew he had to move quickly and decisively for the sake of national unity. He had to assert leadership, lest the Philistines completely overrun the nation. In the end, the most important lesson to learn here is that when great leaders fall, the reaction of God’s people must not be to cry forever, nor to devour the fallen—to dissect and exhibit the depths of his sins, etc.—but to do what is necessary to move forward in terms of the kingdom. God’s kingdom is bigger than any mere human. It is Him and His commands to which we must dedicate our lives, not mere human personalities. If we find ourselves either vehemently defending or opportunistically condemning the fallen, we can be sure that we have made an idol in our hearts—either of him or ourselves, or both.

David also could have sit back and laughed at the nation that had sold him out and abandoned him under the influence of Saul, but he did not. He could have seen the Philistine victory over Saul as just desserts for the nation he previously had to flee (1 Sam. 27). Instead of allowing himself to be motivated by even these understandable personal emotions, David was moved by his calling as king (long acknowledge by the people as it was) and by the duties that calling demanded. He was moved by the need of the people rather than the vengeance they justly deserved.

Secondly, David refused to act according to personal ambition. He could have attempted to use Saul’s demise for his personal aggrandizement. He could have paraded himself before the nation as a new king and tried to organize for the pomp and splendor of a coronation ceremony for himself. As we will see in a couple chapters, the nation was not ready for that. David wisely did not move to seize the outward trappings of the office for himself. Yet the nation still had defense and security needs, as well as a need for unity toward those goals. So instead of grasping for the outward trappings of a title, David engaged the duties that office demanded. Instead of following pride, David humbled himself in service. Instead of ambition, David chose action.

In choosing to embrace his calling in this setting, however, David braved a significant risk. Again, this was the nation that had turned against him so many times. The majority of the nation still loved Saul and would embrace his son as their new king instead of David. By exercising even a moderate amount of leadership, David would make himself public and risked making himself a target of that majority. They could, and some would, oppose David as a seditious and dangerous usurper. Yet David did not flinch, and his bravery gives us a marked contrast to Saul. When Saul was chosen as king, the entire nation cheered and supported him, yet he hid like a coward from his calling. When the time came for his coronation, he was missing in action. They had to inquire and search for him. He was found hiding in a storage building (1 Sam. 10:17–22). David, however, was the opposite: even though a majority of the nation thought ill of him, David embraced the calling and anointing he had be given. Even though there was no coronation awaiting him, he engaged in the work of his calling nonetheless. David’s faithfulness in the face of adversity drove him to brave the risks and take action.

What action was demanded? Let us not forget that Saul’s fall came at the hands of the attacking Philistines. These perennial enemies of God’s people still had Israel surrounded in battle. Israel was morally defeated by the death of the king they had chosen specifically to be a military triumph, and the Philistines could pounce at any time to impose a more substantial defeat. David realized there were issues with both morale and militia. So, he did not waste time with extended personal lament; he composes a lament suited for national use. He did not seek personal vengeance or ambition; he moved to train up a new wave of soldiers.

The Bow

For the time being, let us summarize how David handled this challenge. In short, he issued a public lament in the form of song, and he started a training program for young men. Both of these are necessary: the first galvanizes and unifies the public mind; the second implements practical action. The first is a mere abstraction without the second. The second lacks focus and principle, and risks chaos, without the first.

Public relations

The first aspect is obvious: it takes up the whole half of the chapter. Perhaps David’s main point here is to publicize the fact that he was never Saul’s enemy. “How the mighty have fallen” is not a rejoicing over God’s judgment upon wicked Saul—though Saul’s fall was indeed God’s judgment upon that man’s wickedness (1 Sam. 28:16–19; 1 Chron. 10:13–14). Rather, the song is a rejoicing over what greatness could be said to have come through Saul and Jonathan to Israel.

David is positive perhaps to a fault. He overly praises Saul to the point of publishing exaggerations and even falsehoods. Was Saul really the glory of Israel (v. 19)? Was it really true that Saul and Jonathan were not divided in life and death (v. 23), considering Saul had come close to murdering Jonathan on two occasions, and had cursed Jonathan and his mother (1 Sam. 20:30–33)? Was Saul’s clothing of the daughters of Israel luxuriously in scarlet (v. 24) really praiseworthy, considering his wealth had come through confiscatory policy (1 Sam. 8:10–18))? David was surely exaggerating. That this was for national unity, we can safely say David is propagandizing to a degree out of perceived political necessity.

There are, however, important things here to ponder. However inexcusable David’s exaggerations may have been in terms of truth, and whatever other purposes we can discern for him doing so, we must acknowledge that he was merely accommodating the propaganda to the mental and spiritual situation of the people. Remember, this was a people who demanded a great, manly, military leader (1 Sam 8–12) despite being warned of such a great fall ahead of time. This was a people completely awed by Saul’s physical stature—a head taller than everyone and of great physique and pedigree (1 Sam. 9:2; 10:23–24). He had the outward appearance of great manliness, though he was selfish, immoral, and cowardly inside. But the people embraced the façade, and Saul undoubtedly played it up. David’s song here is, in my opinion, already partaking of too much of the same spirit of false reality. Perhaps—perhaps—it was necessary for the state of the people, but I believe he was already beginning to compromise with the type of spirit that would later culminate in Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah.

Nevertheless, David’s song took the important step of not dwelling upon the great leader’s sins, or publicly trashing the leader’s reputation for personal advancement. David knew there were enough Philistines around to accomplish such purposes. Thus he directed, Don’t publish this in Gath or Ashkelon (v. 20)—the Philistine cities. The main thing needed to be done was move forward. Saul had fallen. Saul was dead. Pieces now needed picking up, and new leadership asserted.

This does not mean, however, that just any leadership would do. For example, we see in the Amalekite who claimed to have finished off Saul (from the first half of this chapter) a corrupt social climber who intended to advance his own career by ingratiating himself with David. He thought he bore news David would love to hear and for which David would reward him. This Amalekite learned otherwise, and in God’s providence, he ended up going were Saul should have sent him already (back in 1 Samuel 15).

When great leaders fall, therefore, beware of two things: the jaunts and ridicules of the enemies without, and the grasping of opportunistic would-be leaders from within. Leadership must be true, and it must be trained. It must be faithful, and it must be focused. This applies to crises in general, not just when Saul’s meet their end.

A training program

Toward this end, the second aspect of David’s program was to implement public training. This aspect is not obvious, as it is often lost or obscured in modern translations. The text of the Hebrew literally says of David, “And he said to teach the sons of Judah bow.” Two schools of thought have opened up to interpret this: the older takes this as saying that along with the widespread publication of his song, David ordered that men be instructed in the use of the bow and arrow. The King James reads this way, and Calvin understood it this way. Modern readers, however, think this sounds unfitting between verse 17, which introduces the song of lament, and the song itself. So they interpret “bow” to be the title of the song. Thus they want this to read that David published this song which he entitled “The Bow” and ordered all the sons of Judah to sing “The Bow.” I do not know why this interpretation is the most popular. I think it is a stretch. It seems to me that the common sense interpretation is that along with the song, David implemented a practical national policy to reinvigorate the spirit of the nation. The Philistines, after all, were sitting just over the horizon. This was no time to sit around pouting. The song itself is a lament, but is meant to inspire a sense of national greatness and unity in the face of an impending enemy. The training program would build directly upon that, and in a practical way that met a desperate need.

Application

1. Understand what true leadership is.

The Israelites had departed from faith in God’s promises and His law, and instead had placed their trust in outward appearances of power and might. Thus they rejected God’s warnings through Samuel and demanded a King like other nations. And thus, also, they fell fatuously for Saul because of his powerful appearance, even though he was an immoral narcissist. They had forgotten that true manliness and true leadership come only with the fear of God, not man.

The same is true today: leaders publish themselves as the essence of manhood and manliness, and respective audiences eat it up. You have leaders like Vladimir Putin constantly pictured this way: hunting shirtless in Siberia, flying airplanes, taking control; or George W. Bush climbing out of cockpits in a flight suit, strutting, thumbs-up aboard an aircraft carrier. While there are no doubt manly men who may do these things, the photo ops are drooled over by those who wish—and need—to present themselves as manly for public consumption. Such an idea of manliness is rampant today. Even some Christian leaders attempt to present themselves as such: exploring dangerous rainforests, hunting the African Savannah, swashbuckling, historical war reenactments, cigars and gun ranges, etc. But these things are too often only a façade of true manliness. When the substance is lacking beneath the façade, or darkness lurks there, too, great disappointments lie ahead.

When such leadership fails (or hopefully before!), we must take account of ourselves and be reminded of what true leadership and manliness really is. It rarely seeks the spotlight. It rarely operates according to adventure and heroic exploit. Instead, it seeks quiet and constant obedience to God’s Law despite the many temptations that lay around. The discipline and courage to reject accolade, self-promotion, and when it presents itself, corruption, are of the essence of biblical manliness. As Calvin comments when he preaches on this passage, “After a man has become rich, he is well advised to regulate himself carefully and keep himself under the Law.” Why? “[F]or it is certain that God is testing him.”[1] Testing him, that is, not by persecution and trial, but with the possession of power. Power is the great Madame that fells many great men, and she has many temptresses to seduce those who accede within her realm. When such great men fall, we must be careful to note how much we have become influenced by them, or become like them, specifically in the areas of those façades.

When such great men fall, there will be great lament and turmoil among those who trusted them. They will be tempted by anger and fear, but most importantly by despair and distraction from kingdom work. These people need direction and leadership. They first need to know that the kingdom is greater than the leader in whom they invested so much. Christians too often put near-idolatrous trust in leaders and pastors anyway. The kingdom is the focus, not the personalities employed within it—no matter how great and influential they become. When the opposite grows true, a Mt. Gilboa will often be on the horizon. God crushes the leader and the public trust along with him. But this is not the end of the world; it is an opportunity for correction to appropriate, and perhaps even greater, focus.

True leadership is not measured by the size of a leader’s following. Too often huge followings are drawn by gimmicks, entertainment, good looks, comfortable or pandering messages, etc. These measures may result in the appearance of leadership, but it will be heavily invested in the façade and, in the end, quite shallow. When such leadership fails for whatever purpose—whether through scandal or merely a change in trend—the crowds will disperse and run to join the next great thing. Indeed, many may leave the faith altogether, for they were never truly planted and rooted to begin with, but merely invested in a personality. This type of “leadership” is not leadership, it is celebrity. It has no place among God’s people.

Instead, true leadership sacrifices and invests itself in the work of discipleship. There is an entire sermon in that statement: 1) sacrifice, 2) invest, 3) work, 4) discipleship. We do not have space here to develop this sermon-within-a-sermon, so I hope the points are somewhat self-explanatory. A true leader does not care for celebrity, but sacrifices himself for the cause. A true leader does not use the resources of others to promote himself (often under the guise of “the ministry”), but rather invests himself in the ministry. Investment means using one’s own resources with an eye to the future. A true leader works toward the goals of a godly mission, focuses on the actions needed to reach those goals, and sees that those actions are implemented. He does this even if he himself has to do the work himself, and he does the needed work himself sometimes even if it is lowly and meager. He leads in this way by example. Finally, a true leader has the ultimate goal of discipleship: developing the aptitudes of others to the full potential of their callings in Christ and in the world. He is not content merely to have a following—this is self-centered. He wants to help whatever following God gives him to grow and improve as much as possible. Ultimately, his disciples should develop a maturity, work ethic, and competence equal to that of their leader. As Jesus would later teach us, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). This should be the primary goal of Christian leaders: to train people to follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1)—and thus to create a mission-oriented army of Christ-like individuals.

2. Focus on the mission.

Focusing on the mission means looking past obstacles and temptations, and making faithfulness to God’s Word central to our work. It is, as Paul said, to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:2 KJV). It is to find our inspiration in the fearless sacrifice of our example Jesus, for “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4 KJV), and to press forward.

In any crisis, there are multiple sins and distractions that could derail kingdom-focus. As we saw, David could certainly have been tempted by personal revenge, and we would probably not condemn him too harshly had he chosen to do so. Saul certainly had it coming, and those who abetted his government-sanctioned harassment of David all certainly deserved it. But this course of action would not only have been sinful self-vengeance on David’s part, it would have been a self-defeating distraction. It would have been self-defeating in that it would have confirmed to this Saul-loving nation that David was the very type of scoundrel Saul made him out to be. It would have made David look like a self-interested seditionary. Instead of rallying behind David, the nation would have unified to oppose him as a threat to national security. Further, it would have been a distraction. David was not called to repay the wrongs Saul had done, but to lead the nation as God’s people. David rightly looked past the temptation of vengeance and involved himself in the work of his calling.

Likewise, David could easily have succumbed to the temptation of ambition because of his calling. So often, when the Devil is not successful tempting us to react to the sins and injustices done against us, he will attempt to pervert us from within—even within the apparent scope of our own callings. David, for example, was clearly called to be king of Israel. There was, therefore, nothing more natural than for him to eye the throne the moment Saul died. He could have suffered from tunnel vision. He could have ignored every necessity and duty in an effort to ascend immediately to the honors and splendors of the throne. He could have done so with the rationalization that he was, after all, already anointed for such an occasion.

David, however, refused the façade of his calling and instead engaged the work of the calling. Instead of being driven by ambition, he was driven by duty. Faithfulness prefers the work of a king to the appearance of a king. We should have the same mentality. As we each have a calling from Christ, we should pursue the work of that calling instead of the outward rewards that may come with it.

Focusing on mission also means not being distracted by emotional aspects that may attend our duties. This is certainly true in in times of crisis, for it is here that emotions may most easily run into excess. Too many Christians do just the opposite: they use the excuse of stress or pressure to justify all manner of sins from anger and hostility to sexual affairs, fraud, and even violence. We must not behave as some who, as Calvin puts it, “under the shadow of human weakness, give themselves permission to do everything, and then expect everyone to tolerate them!”[2] He adds, “All that is needed is this word ‘weakness’ to make us believe that we deserve absolution!” Yes, as Christians we still struggle with the fallen nature of our “old man,” but this is never to be used as an excuse—not even in times of crisis. Indeed, it is just the opposite. We are called to mortify the old man and his deeds (Col. 3), and crises are potent opportunities to mature in this exercise. It is certainly never wrong to grieve when appropriate, but we cannot grow in grace if we are overwhelmed with grief.

When leadership fails or crisis hits, we do not need to orient ourselves to morbid introspections, infighting, or despair, but to real practical steps to move beyond the Gilboas of our day. The enemy is before us. Great battles and yet also great opportunities lie ahead. It is time for succession, preparation, work, and advance. Do not despair. Do not give up. Do not mourn for long. Take up the tools of dominion and the weapons of spiritual warfare. Embrace the true essence of manliness in quiet but uncompromising faith in God and His Word. David unified the nation’s interest, contained its mourning, and then implemented a program of training for action. We need the same today. Train your sons and daughters to focus their minds and also to use “the bow”—that is, train them to do the actual work of whatever mission God has put in front of them. Do not look back. Look forward. Our David is Christ. Our Christ is The Man, and He will not fail you. Focus on Him and on what He has called you to do.

3. Leverage the power of media.

Finally, David was absolutely brilliant in creating a psalm for the occasion and for publishing it throughout the kingdom. David understood that if the nation was to survive its great crisis, the people would have to be of the same mind. This means he understood the power and place of media, and had skill in using it.

God’s people have always seen great advance when they embrace the power of media. The early church embraced a new-fangled invention called a codex—what we today call . . . wait for it . . . a book. The page-bound codex, or book, replaced the scroll in the first century because it was easier to produce and easier to transport. This became a powerful vehicle for the spread of the Gospel, and Christians embraced it readily. Likewise, Luther embraced Gutenberg’s advances with the printing press and spread the reformation all over Germany and Europe by means of countless tracts and pamphlets. Later, the Puritan revolution succeeded largely because it broke the stranglehold of censorship that the Anglican establishment had in licensing of printing. The Puritans and Dissenters embraced the technology, defied the evil controls, and spread their views all over England and the American colonies. Likewise today we are blessed with tremendous increase in the technology of media and communication. Christians need to learn it, master it, and leverage it for the advance of the Kingdom of God.

This also means submitting the power of media to the Law of God. We must master it and use it, but specifically do so for the glory of God. We must assume the responsibilities of Christian ethics and biblical causes in media. Too often Christians are tempted by the tremendous potential for personal profit, but we must not let personal profit detract from calling. If anything, profit should fund calling and strengthen it. Likewise, the desire to leverage media will always come with the temptation to measure success by numbers. In a fallen and declining culture, the desire to maximize numbers will certainly tempt us to dilute or truncate the full message of the mission in order to attract a more “mainstream” audience. But while succumbing to such temptation may lead to greater numbers or greater profits, it will mostly likely lead to a compromised message and an ineffective mission. From a strong challenge for Christians to grow and reach new heights in the face of evil, the message will change to selective “red meat” designed to leverage rage-response at an even more compromised cultural or political opponent. The mission gets mired between compromise and extreme compromise, and compromise will then be preached as victory. Without submitting our efforts in media to the full counsel of God, the Law of God, and a mission based on that Law, we will end up allowing the media to define the message instead of the other way around.

In the end, we are called to exercise our callings in the Kingdom. We should use every means at our disposal, including the powerful gift of media. But just as we must look past the temptations of leadership and focus on our callings, so we must do here. In all areas of life, we must avoid the temptations of power and focus instead upon faithfulness in the midst of power.

[1] Sermons on 2 Samuel, Chapters 1–13, 42.

[2] Sermons on 2 Samuel, Chapters 1–13, 28.

Categories: Worldview

John Piper: the latest chaplain of humanism

Sat, 12/26/2015 - 11:38

In my biblical response to John Piper’s unfortunate piece on gun rights, I said that Piper’s view was an expression of the “pietist-humanist alliance.” (I have highlighted this unspoken alliance elsewhere in a bit more detail.) The very next day, the universe confirmed my assessment: the most liberal news outlet in the nation scooped up Piper’s article and ran it as an op-ed column. This, despite the fact that Piper’s article as nearly five times longer than their standard word-limit for op-eds. In other words, the liberals loved Piper’s view so much they made a radical exception to their own policy in order to share his contribution.

I shared this news with some friends and was preparing to write a follow up regarding the “pietist-humanist alliance” so clearly exhibited between Piper’s theological surrender of this issue to humanists and statists, and their eager acceptance of the gift. It was at that point I learned Gary North had recently posted one of his old newsletters from 1980 entitled “Humanism’s Chaplains.” The timing could not have been better.

That 1980 piece, as Gary relates (see below), used Martin Lloyd-Jones as a representative figure. I would have assumed Lloyd-Jones was a typical two-kingdoms-type on social action, but I had no idea just how extreme he was.

Well, here we are in 2015, and if you were to take Martin Lloyd-Jones’s name out of that piece and replaced it with John Piper, and if you replace the subject of the welfare state with gun rights, the 1980 article is just as descriptive and prophetic.

As I prepared to write my piece with this material, I saw that North had already done one. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I reproduce his in its entirety below, with his permission.

I hasten to add that Piper has written some great stuff which I admire and appreciate. I especially appreciate his Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. But on this issue, I hope he can come to see what tremendous damage he is doing, and in what tremendous danger he is asking Christians to place themselves and their vulnerable loved ones.

I hope that all Christian leaders who argue the Bible demands such an approach for Christians in the public square, or any area of life, will begin to see that they are merely capitulating to humanism and thereby implicitly sanctioning whatever the liberal humanists do. These Christian leaders are, as North notes, Chaplains for Humanism. On this issue, Piper has become their latest ordinee.

—JM

P.S.—As alliances go, opponents and enemies are not welcome to participate. As such, the Washington Post has not responded to my request for equal space.

***

Rev. John Piper: Unarmed Christians for Jesus!

By Gary North

The humanistic state needs chaplains. Its most effective chaplains in the United States are recruited from the ranks of the evangelical Protestants.

I wrote about this in 1980, although I used Great Britain’s leading evangelical as the model. I republished that essay earlier this month: “Humanism’s Chaplains.” The timing could not have been better.

John Piper, a widely respected Baptist theologian/pastor, recently wrote an article favoring unarmed Christians (and only Christians): “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?” His answer was “no.” The Washington Post immediately picked it up, for good reason. The new headline: “John Piper: Why I disagree with Jerry Falwell Jr. on Christians and guns.” The Washington Post is, along with The New York Times, one of America’s two premier news outlets for liberal humanism. Inside the Washington Beltway, it is #1.

He begins the article as follows:

The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends.

On the contrary, this is exactly what the debate is about. Rev. Falwell understands this. The parents who send their children to Liberty University — the largest evangelical university in the world — also understand this.

“NEW TESTAMENT ONLY” CHRISTIANITY

Piper, a “New Testament only” theologian, does not bother to explain this passage: “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him” (Exodus 22:3, ESV). The language is too clear.

Then what of Jesus’ words?

And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough (Luke 22:35-38, KJV).

Well, Rev. Piper just doesn’t think they are to be taken literally. Rev. Falwell does.

I do not think that Jesus meant in Verse 36 that his disciples were to henceforth be an armed band of preachers ready to use violence to defend themselves from persecution. Jerry Falwell Jr. said in his clarifying remarks on Dec. 9: “It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36. He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because he knew danger was coming, and he wanted them to defend themselves.”

What are Rev. Piper’s reasons? The usual refrain for theologians facing an inconvenient text: “It is all symbolic! It is all figurative! It cannot possibly mean what it obviously says!”

If that is the correct interpretation of this text, my question is, “Why did none of his disciples in the New Testament ever do that — or commend that?” The probable answer is that Jesus did not mean for them to think in terms of armed defense for the rest of their ministry. Jesus’s abrupt words, at the end of the paragraph, when the disciples produced two swords, were not, “Well, you need to get nine more.” He said, “It is enough!” or “That’s plenty!” This may well signify that the disciples have given a mistaken literal meaning to a figurative intention.

How does he know that none of his disciples ever did this? He implicitly adopts this argument: we are never told in any text that they did it. This is the argument from silence — generally speaking, the least convincing of all theological arguments . . . or non-theological arguments, for that matter.

The best Scriptural argument from silence regarding weapons is the fact that the man who had been robbed by thieves and left at the side of the road is not said to have carried a sword. The good Samaritan then picked him up and delivered him to an inn-keeper until he convalesced. I think it is reasonable to conclude that he was unarmed, possibly because his theology of self-defense was close to Rev. Piper’s. But I admit that this is a weak argument, however plausible, although not nearly so weak as Rev. Piper’s.

He then offers nine arguments for why Christians should remain complacent sheep in a world of wolves. It is significant that in all but one, he refuses to address the issue of self-defense against criminals. All of the biblical references have to do with persecution based on state coercion.

DEFENDING WIVES

There is one exception. He knows it is the largest caliber weapon in the arsenal of gun rights advocates: Can you morally intervene to kill an assailant when he threatens your wife? He says no, you may not.

A natural instinct is to boil this issue down to the question: “Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?”

Notice, he calls this a natural instinct. In other words, this question and its cocked-and-locked answer are not the product of practical Christian theology, millennia of social theory regarding men as defenders of women, and training in the use of handguns.

He offers seven arguments against this “natural instinct.” They all boil down to this: “Sorry, honey, but I am limited to calling 9-11 on my cellphone. But since it’s an iPhone 6, I’ll let Siri do it.”

I am exaggerating. But I am exaggerating the wrong way. He is more muddle-headed than my exaggeration indicates. Maybe you should not call the police. After all, you may have the wrong attitude. He writes:

I realize that even to call the police when threatened — which, in general, it seems right to do in view of Romans 13:1–4 — may come from a heart that is out of step with the mind of Christ. If one’s heart is controlled mainly by fear, or anger, or revenge, that sinful disposition may be expressed by using the police as well as taking up arms yourself.

In short, better a raped wife — or a dead one — than a bad attitude.

This is what passes for rigorous and practical theology in “New Testament only” circles.

I assume that you are of a different opinion. You want to inflict pain on the assailant before he inflicts pain on innocent people — namely, your wife and you. You are spiritually short-sighted, he thinks. He writes:

This instinct is understandable. But it seems to me that the New Testament resists this kind of ethical reduction, and does not satisfy our demand for a yes or no on that question. We don’t like this kind of ambiguity, but I can’t escape it.”

He can’t escape it because he is soft-headed. He justifies his soft-headedness by invoking his role as a soft-hearted lover of Jesus.

There is, as I have tried to show, a pervasive thrust in the New Testament pushing us toward blessing and doing good to those who hate, curse and abuse us (Luke 6:27–28). And there is no direct dealing with the situation of using lethal force to save family and friend, except in regards to police and military.

So, the state — and only the state — is allowed to threaten violence. There is no legitimate concept of an armed citizenry. That is a lot of Second Amendment nonsense. It has no biblical standing.

Christians must take the lead on this, he thinks. They must disarm themselves first. They must become role models. Meanwhile, they must become willing victims of evil-doers.

My father was an FBI agent. Early in his life as a Christian, he asked his pastor if it was right for him to shoot someone who was armed and threatening immediate violence. His pastor gave him the best spiritual counsel I have ever heard on this matter. “Shoot him. He’s going to hell anyway.” (The pastor was Milo Jamison, the first Presbyterian pastor in the fundamentalist controversy to be thrown out of the northern Presbyterian Church for orthodoxy. There was no trial. They simply erased his name from the local presbytery’s records. That was in 1933.)

This kind of clear-cut spiritual counsel is much too black and white for Rev. Piper.

Our primary aim in life is to show that Christ is more precious than life. So when presented with this threat to my wife or daughter or friend, my heart should incline toward doing good in a way that would accomplish this great aim. There are hundreds of variables in every crisis that might affect how that happens.

You may have heard the phrase, “He is too spiritually minded to be of any earthly good.” That would seem to apply to Rev. Piper. But, ultimately, any definition of spirituality that is of no earthly good is a bad definition. It is bad theology. It is the theology that humanistic power-seekers want Christians to adopt. “The state will protect you. You must not protect yourselves.” The primary function of humanism’s recommended spirituality is to disarm the faithful in the face of the corrupt. It hands over history to the enemies of God and to indecent men. The Washington Post is on board 100%.

I live in the inner city of Minneapolis, and I would personally counsel a Christian not to have a firearm available for such circumstances.

This is Rev. Piper’s version of Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy. “The Crips thank you. The Bloods thank you. And Jesus thanks you.”

I do not know what I would do before this situation presents itself with all its innumerable variations of factors. And I would be very slow to condemn a person who chose differently from me.

I have spent over 50 years hearing arguments like his on the supposed illegitimacy of using of lethal force in self-defense, although never so silly as his arguments are. If this is too quick to condemn bad theological arguments, I stand condemned.

Back to the first point, it seems to me that the New Testament does not aim to make this clear for us.

On the contrary, it is quite clear to those of us who are not advocates of “New Testament only” Christianity.

CONCLUSION

In a world of wolves, unarmed sheep are desirable morsels. Armed sheep raise the risk of being a predator.

Or, in one phrase: “Shoot the bastard. He is going to hell anyway.”

Categories: Worldview

What you can get me for Christmas

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 09:00
The “wish list” used to be a holiday phenomenon. It is now an everyday feature of places like Amazon, Best Buy, etc. There is even wishlist.com for building your personal list for every purpose from wedding gift and baby shower registries to everyday “I want” lists. I understand the practicality of this in some places, but at what point did the expectation of presents, and the virtual obligation of buying presents, become so central to daily life, let alone just Christmas? Whether we admit it or not, this is what has happened, even for most Christians.

I understand the practicality of a registry-list for showers and weddings: people need certain specific items when starting a family or adding to one, and the registry helps keep multiple people from buying the same gift (requiring returns, etc.). This is practical. But isn’t it getting a bit much when people take it upon themselves to compile a list of wished-for items just for everyday perusal by their friends?

I guess what bothers me most during this particular season, however, is the sense of obligation generated. If you don’t buy presents, you’re considered a scrooge, or worse, considered a cheat by others as they may give presents to you and receive none in return. But if you do buy, then you face a long list of questions and problems about what to buy, for whom, how much to spend on any one individual and in total for the season, not to mention the hassle of traffic, lines, shortages, etc. And all of this comes mostly because, in our culture, you are simply expected to buy and give presents.

I know a young couple that lives in a high-cost-of-living area (because they grew up there and their families live there), has a special-needs child (added cost for physical therapy, etc.), has lots of associated medical bills, and yet has a moderate middle-class income. Because of their associations, the young lady once told us she felt “obligated” to give Christmas presents to at least twenty people. The lady is very gifted, resourceful, and creative with home-made gifts, but (as their smiling Christmas spirit would have it) none of her twenty people appreciates home-made gifts. She gets the fake, “Oh, wooow. Look at that. It’s soooo niiice.” That’s terrible. Will she give in to the pressure and actually spend, what, $20 each on these people—$400 total—out of her sense of obligation? They couldn’t, and shouldn’t have to, afford it. The idea that she’s obligated is terrible.

One of the greatest problems of gifting is that so few people actually have the gift for picking the perfect gift. The number of people who have it is tiny in comparison to the number who think they have it, and this causes many problems, not the least of which is re-gifting. I hate the idea of regifting. If I got something I hated to begin with, what kind of person would I be to foist it upon someone else? eBay, at best. The vicious chain-reaction of regifting is often started because someone was obliged in some circumstance to buy a gift. Likely, they had no skill or at least no idea in picking out the gift. Better left not done, I say—it saves time, money, embarrassment, awkwardness, and faux smiles. Even to put someone in such a position is borderline unChristian.

Further, people rarely buy gifts for anyone outside of a special occasion or holiday. Then when Christmas nears, they rush out and make barely-rational, at best, decisions about what to buy and how much to spend—and this several times over for many separate individuals. Many of these gifts will be exchanged within weeks either because they don’t fit, aren’t wanted (sometimes, even if they were on the list), are defective, etc., costing several more hours of time (away from work and family). Many more gifts will end up in closets, garages, basements, and attics unused for years before they are regifted, sold in a yard sale, find their way onto eBay or Craigslist, are just left to collect dust, or are simply thrown away with perhaps a few seconds of feelings of guilt. What a shame. All that time and money wasted because of the unspoken rule that we have to buy each other gifts at Christmas.

I’ve had this sentiment for a very long time: why shouldn’t we, instead of spending so much time and money on gifts that involve a large element of risk—risks they won’t like it, it won’t fit, wrong brand, will be regifted, etc., etc.—why shouldn’t we, each of us, take all the money we would spend on other people and instead (if we must indeed spend it) spend it on ourselves? While this sounds extremely selfish, it’s basically what we accomplish with wish lists anyway. And I will tell you in a minute why I think it is more biblical than the traditional model we have today. This would at least increase the chances that our obligatory gift-buying led to something that each person really wanted. Of course, this assumes that what we say we want, is really what we want—a huge assumption given fallen human nature—but this problem still exists when we buy for other people’s wants and is only compounded in that scenario.

Not long after I began to think this way an acquaintance told to read the then-new novel by John Grisham, Skipping Christmas. I did, and I enjoyed it until near the end. An empty-nest couple decides to retain the expenses and obligations of suburban-American Christmas and rather use the money they would have spent instead to buy a Caribbean Cruise for themselves. They carry out the plan up to the last minute, when (spoiler alert!) their daughter, who had been in Central America on a Peace-Corps mission, unexpectedly calls to say she’s coming home . . . with her new fiancée in tow. The couple scrambles to right the house with Christmas décor, buy presents, cancel travel plans, and act like nothing out of the ordinary every happened. I felt betrayed. My long-held true feelings about Christmas had been vicariously squashed by that unassailable generation-y do-gooder. (Dear John: I would have told her, “You have to get a plane ticket anyway, so meet us in Aruba.”)

What we have not realized is that the only thing that truly is out of the ordinary is the unspoken obligation to buy people presents at Christmas. Why do we Christians, especially, find it necessary to do so? We justify “gifting” in general by a vague analogy to the magi who, brought gifts to worship Christ: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold fit for a rich king, frankincense fit for worshiping God, and myrrh fit for a burial spice-perfume (as this King was born for a sacrificial death). Of course, we as Christians understand that the ultimate gift was given to us: Christ Himself was a gift, as both the perfect life and death in our place, and as a friend, and all that He ultimately is. Christ Himself, as He reigns on high, also gives us gifts in addition to Himself (Eph. 4:8), and these gifts are innumerable.

Perhaps we merely give to each other as a way of trying to follow Christ’s example of giving. If so, I wonder why our wish lists and gifts are so often filled with such consumables: electronics, music, movies, liquor, fashionable clothing, money, makeup, jewelry, gadgets, video games, etc. If the point is to follow Christ’s example, why do we load credit cards with debt in order to load the lives of only our friends and loved ones (usually close to us in social status) with new sparkles and wows? Why not take the money we would spend on Christmas and send most of it to some worthwhile charity? The Salvation Army plays on this little piece of guilt each year as they stand outside shopping centers. Personally, I think I can find better ways to give to charity, though the SA is not bad per se—I just personally dislike their Arminian theology and the fact that they ordain women. I like those organizations that drill water wells for African villages—a truly life-saving ministry. I also like Compassion International, of which my wife and I are members. There are a million better ways to spend a few hundred or a thousand dollars than to blow it on mostly imported consumer goods at Christmas.

Christians, I’m afraid, just don’t think outside the box, even though Christianity itself is outside the box. Perhaps too often we receive the gift of Christ in a similar selfish manner—as a personal consumable—and miss the sanctification that should follow. Such Christians, if they are Christians at all, have not progressed beyond the most infantile stages of faith. “So, what?” They may retort. “We’re still saved! That’s all that counts.” And therein lies the problem: Christ is, to them, Savior but not Lord.

Another problem with the gift-crunch-time is that people generally know it’s rude to ask for “too much” of a present, so they ask for little giftettes under $25 or $50 or so. This is pitiful because it means Christmas today motivates people to ask for things they don’t really want (certainly don’t really need), but at best have only enough taste to help satisfy the other’s sense of gift-obligation towards them. If our tradition allowed people to ask for what they really want (and really need), they we would see a lot of $1,000-plus presents on wish lists. Perhaps $10,000 or more even. (Perhaps much of this would be the relief of credit-card debt compiled partly from Christmases past).

For example, I like to speak plainly, so here are a few examples of real wish list items for Christmas, and I’ll go out on a limb to use a few examples from my own past:

  • The house needs new siding and a paint job. I’d say a few thousand would cover it.
  • A maid service to help my wife would be nice. My lovely and devoted better-half’s daily struggle involves homeschooling four boys ages 4–12 and corralling a 2-year-old. She has to struggle to accomplish her other house-wifely duties. At $10/hour, twice a week for three hours or so comes to about $3,120 per year.
  • “Money” always makes a nice gift, but of course you want to give the right kind: gold. Gold currently trades at $1,068/ounce. You could get off cheap here as they have “fractional” coins at 1/2, 1/4, or even 1/10-ounce.
  • I like being prepared for self-defense, and that means guns. Two good gifts come to mind here. I would prefer a newer, better shotgun for home defense. A Mossberg 500 with a pistol grip would do fine, and would be a bargain gift at around $300. My rifles are behind the curve as well. A new AR-15 could be had for around $1k, but for quality and kick I would prefer an HK416 or a Kriss Vector. After all we are talking about really wants here, right?
  • My back yard has some erosion issues. One large slope could use regrading, a retaining wall, and some landscaping. I’d say $8k would be a good start.
  • I also have a couple remodeling needs for my house. Although fairly new, it could use a couple improvements for function and practicality. Ball-park estimates will start around $2,000 minimum, each.

I’m not going to exaggerate: any of these things would serve me and mine much better than a bigger, better flat-screen (we don’t even subscribe to cable or dish), a PS4 (though I’ve been known to hold my own in a game of Madden), movies, or any of the number of things people could lay upon me that I may or may not need or even like (and please, please don’t send me any “beard balm”). I’m sure, if you were honest, your real-wish-list would look very similar—in fact, I’ll bet many would exhibit much more expensive needs than I have (cars, motorcycles, etc.). So we keep them to ourselves. Meanwhile, our sense of Christmas obligation compels people to ask and buy some of the most marginal and petty things available in the market.

In the end, however, I need a life that glorifies God and works to that end. I don’t need my life (and house) stuffed and cluttered with “things” bought off shelves at MegaBuy just because the season called for it. Humbug to that, and Amen to the humbug.

One of the greatest gifts is that of pure celebration: getting together, eating, drinking, relaxing, conversing. With families strung across the country these days, those being visited should view the expense and risks of travel as a tremendous gift from a travelling party. I don’t expect someone to shell out a few hundred in airfare, or a couple hundred in gas, and yet come bearing gifts beyond that. Thanks for coming to see me, and let me build you a fire and get you a drink. That’s a great gift to me.

This is more than your average holier-than-thou sentiment that says, “I don’t need presents, I just need Jesus.” Give me a break. That’s true in the abstract, a rank lie when spoken by any individual. The Bible says so by what it prescribes. I said earlier I would reveal the biblical basis of buying gifts for ourselves: it’s built into the law of the tithe. God commanded His people to tithe yearly of the produce of their land. It was to be transported to a central national location to engage in a yearly feast (See Deut. 12:10–28; 14:22–29). If the produce was too much to transport very far, it could be sold and the money taken to the central location. There God commanded them to spend it like this:

Spend the money for whatever you desireoxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household (Deut. 14:26).

It was a personal expenditure, on yourself (and family), to satisfy your lusts and wants in food and drink, and whatever. (And I especially appreciate the commandment to buy “strong drink” if you so desire. God is gracious.) You don’t hear this biblical advice today, certainly not as a model for conducting a yearly feast-occasion. I know some people who actually do such church-wide feasts at Christmas. Most Christians have never even read this verse. Tithing is not just about paying the pastor and the building (though it included some of that, Deut. 14:27). It also included feeding the widows and orphans (14:29), as I mentioned charities earlier. But it also meant feasting yearly. This was God’s command to feast and to enjoy His gifts to us by spending and celebrating together.

Some of what I’ve said here can come off as playing Judas, I know. I don’t intend to be that way. I think today’s Christian would do well to take several steps back from Christmas and think about what they’re doing, really. Christians should think about Christmas (and the rest of the year) economically from the perspective of God’s law. This would save them from potential debt, clutter, ill-feelings, and a host of other negative things. And yet it would lead them to feast and enjoy life like they rarely have before. And that’s worth getting together for. Are our normal traditions of obligatory gift-buying worth that? I have my doubts more and more every year.

I don’t expect many people to see it my way at first, but if you think through the issue from a practical, biblical perspective, you may at least think my idea’s not so crazy. You may even think it to be good critical biblical thinking. And that’s about the best Christmas present you could get for both of us.

 

Categories: Worldview

A biblical response to John Piper’s denial of the Right to bear Arms

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 18:12

John Piper has posted a response to Jerry Falwell, Jr’s. call for Christians to arm themselves and his provision for students to carry arms on the Liberty University campus. Piper’s position as outlined is about as close as one can come to individual pacifism without saying so. His response unfortunately ignores much of the context of the New Testament passages it cites, and ignores the Old Testament entirely. As such, I not only view it as unbiblical and disagree with it strongly, I think it would be dangerous and unloving for Christians to accept in society.

At the outset, Piper gives a qualification to illustrate he does not intend to give a comprehensive argument against self-defense in general, but he quickly undermines that qualification, and with each successive point, his position grows progressively absolute. He writes, “My main concern in this article is with the appeal to students that stirs them up to have the mindset: Let’s all get guns and teach them a lesson if they come here.” He wants to narrow the argument: “The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question.”

While he never addresses these “significant situational ambiguities,” he keeps mentioning them while at the same time making broad, general statements like this: “The concern is the forging of a disposition in Christians to use lethal force, not as policemen or soldiers, but as ordinary Christians in relation to harmful adversaries.” That’s a very broad position which entails that unless they are agents of the civil government, Christians ought not to use lethal force at all. Thus, while he says he wants to leave that issue to the side because of its ambiguities, he immediately posits a policy which answers it in the negatively definitively.

Dr. Piper continues in this vein through the entire piece. And I think he feels his own inconsistency here, for he immediately sets up the contrary position as a straw man: “Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, ‘I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me’? My answer is, No.”

Simply put, nobody argues for this. This is not the position of Christian leaders who are trained and informed on the biblical view of defense. Not even Falwell, Jr.’s borderline-intemperate remarks are well represented by such an extreme position. To represent the pro-self-defense position this way is irresponsible on Dr. Piper’s part.

Piper then follows with nine considerations which he believes backs up his position, and one of these is broken into seven parts. I will not take the time to address them all at length, but only those couple that I believe are most central to his position. (Some of my more comprehensive biblical arguments can be found here and elsewhere.)

Piper’s primary argument is that Romans 12:17–13:4 prohibits private Christian individuals from engaging in vengeance. The power of the sword, the text says, it clearly left only to the civil government. And even though in a Republic like ours the people are the government, Paul did not envision “that Christians citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas.”

While it is true that Paul (and Jesus, Matthew 5:38­–39) instruct against personal vengeance, and that the power of the sword belongs to civil government, this does not mean that God’s people are absolutely forbidden in any and all circumstances from self-defense of their lives or property, or especially the defense of the lives of loved ones and neighbors?

It is here that Piper’s problem resides most clearly in his understanding and use of Scripture. By abstracting passages like these not only from their historical context, but virtually any context, he absolutizes them to teach that citizens must always be passive before thieves, robbers, rapists, and murderers, and by extension terrorists, invaders, and tyrannical governments.

But is this how we handle Scripture?

No. First, Piper does not deal anywhere with clear Old Testament passages that instruct in both principle and practice that God’s people have the right even of lethal self-defense. Readers ought to be familiar with Exodus 22:2: “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.”

The principle is that when an attacker attacks in a lethal situation, that attacker may legitimately be met with up to lethal force. The “no vengeance” principle is here overridden by exigency. It was for this reason that Jesus told Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane to put away his drawn sword. It was not, as Piper alleges, because we are pilgrims who have no right to use swords. It was because Jesus was intimately familiar with the Old Testament principle: the moment you reveal yourself in public as a lethal threat, you make yourself a target for a lethal force defense. This is exactly why Jesus said what He did: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).

Likewise, when King Ahasuerus granted the captive Jews the right to defend themselves against attackers it included the right “to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil” (Esther 8:11).

The Jews knew that the Scriptures allowed them the right of self-defense already, but they knew spoiling the attacker was across the line. So when the time came, they openly defended themselves: “the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying” (Esther 9:5); but note: “they did not lay their hands on the plunder” (Esther 9:10).

This law and example are clear, and they are not rescinded by New Testament teachings. Indeed, while Christian pietists like Piper may be tempted to say the “No vengeance” principle is a New Testament principle which does away with the Old, the truth is just the opposite. To establish that principle in Romans 12:19–20, Paul quotes two Old Testament passages: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” is quoted directly from Deuteronomy 32:35 (the Old Testament law!). The following statement about loving your enemy is taken directly from Proverbs 25:21–22, which is itself based again upon Old Testament law (Exodus 23:4–5).

So it will not suffice to argue that the “No vengeance” principle is a New Testament improvement upon the Old. That principle is itself an Old Testament principle.

But this means we must realize it is perfectly reconcilable with the rest of the Old Testament law which, despite including the principle against personal vengeance, also make allowances for self-defense and lethal force when appropriate. The two principles are not at odds; they are perfectly in accord as they apply in different situations and contexts.

Thus, it is here where Piper’s view of Scripture seems to be molded and shaped by pietism and an unacceptable neglect of the Old Testament which together would leave Christian families defenseless before violent attackers. This reflects the kind of New Testament-only heresy which creates the pietist-humanist alliance—a capitulation and neglect on the part of Christian leaders which leaves social issues to the whims of Bible-hating liberals who are all too eager to accept the gift. I won’t stand for it. Read the Old Testament basis for your New Testament principles, and then accept that that basis demands the balance of the Old Testament as well except where explicitly replaced.

But Piper is shockingly consistent with his New Testament-only position of defenselessness, and it is here that his argument get most troubling. He argues that one retort to his position will boil down to, “Can I shoot my wife’s assailant.” What should be a no-brainer biblically speaking, Piper calls an “instinct” and offers seven points on his way to answering “No.”

I was shocked and appalled that Piper is so anti-gun and anti-defense that he expects Christians to stand by watching their wife or children being assaulted, raped, or murdered before their very eyes without reacting in defense. He doesn’t like to accept that his answer is “No,” and even says there is no direct answer, but then again immediately makes it clear: “there is no direct dealing with the situation of using lethal force to save family and friend, except in regards to police and military.”

This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Why would the God of the Old Testament give clear guidelines for self-defense in such cases, but suddenly in the New Testament retract them and give that right only to a handful of government agents who can’t get to the scene any more quickly than an average of 10 minutes? What love is this?

People let’s be clear. Police, for what good they do, do not protect you from criminals, rapists, and murderers. Police more often than not show up late and write reports about what happened before they got there. Your wife’s best hope at this moment is a gun in her husband’s hand. That would be the most Christ-honoring item that could be on the scene.

I am shocked and saddened as I read Piper’s defense of this position. When viewing his wife being raped, he would contemplate within himself: “Our primary aim in life is to show that Christ is more precious than life. So when presented with this threat to my wife or daughter or friend, my heart should incline toward doing good in a way that would accomplish this great aim. There are hundreds of variables in every crisis that might affect how that happens.”

NO. There is only one variable in this situation: the angle at which you shoot the rapist in the head.

There is one principle at play here, and it is another Old Testament principle repeated nine times in the New Testament: love your neighbor as yourself. How is it showing Christ’s love if we allow someone’s to be raped or murdered before us and do nothing? There are no variables here. The love of neighbor compels every person to protect innocent life and to level criminals who have made themselves a lethal threat.

If Paul said that a person who merely doesn’t provide for their family is worse than an infidel and has denied the faith (1 Tim. 5:8), what in the world do you think He would say of a guy who sat contemplating pious platitudes while his family was beaten and slaughtered before him?

Piper continues applying his principle: “I live in the inner city of Minneapolis, and I would personally counsel a Christian not to have a firearm available for such circumstances.”

I would counsel Christians to listen to someone who has not made the love of Christ a meaningless abstraction. Arm yourself Christian. Love your neighbor as yourself.

In closing, Piper hits upon a theme he mentions several times. He argues that we are pilgrims in this world, and that Jesus told us to expect “violent hostility.” We should just remember that we are lambs among wolves, and that our lot is not to shoot the wolves but resign ourselves to be devoured.

Let’s just say that this was part of the truth when the disciples were facing a persecuting government where armed resistance would have been not only futile but would have been met with government force as sedition. But as I have made clear here and here and elsewhere, the “pilgrim” motif of the New Testament was a temporary phenomenon for that generation until the persecuting authorities of the unbelieving Jewish culture were destroyed. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the disciples had arrived at the Zion that Abraham sought, and it was not something they should wait to expect until after they died.

Even if it were the case that we are still in a “pilgrim” situation, it would still not invalidate the abiding aspects of the love commanded the Old Testament consistent with self-defense. Christians have the right to self-defense, home-defense, and the defense of relatives and neighbors.

To say otherwise is to neglect too much of the Bible, and indeed that’s what Piper’s article actually does: it neglects the context of what it quotes and neglects the Old Testament entirely. For that reason, and for demanding Christians stand idly by while criminals attack and murder people, even family, and indeed even to check introspectively one’s heart even before calling the police for help (!)—Piper’s position is dangerous to society.

Further, it is indicative of those who categorically reject the Old Testament as informative of the New. It is symptomatic of pietistic (closet) Christianity, and those “two-kingdoms” types who say the Bible has nothing to say to the public square. It’s time to abandon all of those positions and adopt a robust biblical worldview that puts the love of God and love of neighbor into practical action in the ways Scripture commands and illustrates—and that includes the right to bear arms and the right to self-defense.

Like I said, we have not dealt all we could with Piper’s comments, but these hit the core of why his position is unbiblical. It is divorced from the context of Scripture and denies what the Bible teaches regarding something as central and foundational as loving your neighbor. His views are pietistic. Where the Bible speaks to such areas of life, he ignores it, and subverts the principles by transforming them into issues only of abstract love of the individual contemplating him own heart in the prayer closet. I say we let the Bible speak to all of life like it does, and then apply it wherever it speaks. And be well armed and trained in arms while doing so. (And find a seminary or college that will allow you to do so.)

Categories: Worldview

Thanks Ryan Republicans, the pro-abortion forces are literally gloating

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 13:09

We have seen how our Republican heroes melted like salted snails, selling out virtually every conservative or Christian principle imaginable in the recent Paul Ryan-led Omnibus bill. In secret back-room deals with leftists, the leadership caved on issue after issue, including one made central recently by the exposure of an infant body-parts trade: the continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

When contracting with people of such character as baby murderers, one should expect neither a high level of integrity nor to be taken seriously afterward. Predictably, the Republicans must now deal with not only the livid faithful among their ranks, but also the triumphant Republican-empowered Left, who as it turns out are not such good winners. After watching our so-called “Representatives” demonstrate their malleability before the merchants of theft and death, dismayed conservatives and Christians now get to watch the Left parade and gloat about it.

One empowered blasphemer for Huffington Post gleams because whereas Republicans were once ready to stand and shut down the government over this issue, now they withered like grass and “the anti-abortion lobby got wiped out.”

Not only this, but whenever the life lobby would even try to make a dent in the bill, the leadership would rally a bipartisan death squad to squash it:

Nor did the anti-choice zealots have any success on their other proposed riders intended to reduce reproductive rights. There were proposed cuts in federal spending for sex education, family planning and Planned Parenthood.

Same with efforts to further restrict abortion rights in the name of religious freedom, or international family planning, or attempts to block the government from requiring multi-state plans to include the full range of family planning services.

Despite leveraging the “Planned Parenthood videos” to raise millions of dollars in funding, Republicans did not stand firm on a single measure, a single cut, nor even a single new regulation. One wonders what all that money went for.

The left now gloats about the “inspired leadership of Cecile Richards,” and Planned Parenthood emerges stronger than ever. One of the prating idolaters of the death industry sings her praises:

The clout and moral credibility that Planned Parenthood has added under Richards’ leadership were evident in December when Republican plans to use the budget resolution to defund the organization and curtail abortion rights largely came to naught. A unified Democratic Party was also able to derail GOP proposals to reduce spending on women’s health and family planning.

Do you see what compromise and “moderate” conservativism get you? Not just nothing, but a strengthening and energizing of a deadly opponent. When you refuse to stand firm, you not only lose, you lose big and you move backwards, and you give the enemy occasion to blaspheme.

What conservative with even a flicker of courage and a glimmer of principle would not rather stand firm and lose (if necessary) than to shake hands with systematic murderers and agree to force taxpayers to fund them?

One of them was my own congressman. He’s supposed to be a stalwart Tea Party-type, a true conservative. When a constituent of our district wrote him demanding why in the world he would vote to fund Planned Parenthood or increase our deficits, the Rep completely sidestepped those issues and responded with a litany of reasons why the Ryan Omnibus bill was good for our state because it would protect Georgia’s water rights, help lock-in low gas prices, create jobs, and lock funding levels for the EPA and IRS.

Mr. Graves referred to these measures as “major conservative policy victories,” but excuse me for noting that, if by achieving these victories we continue the funding of murder and continue mounting massive national debts, our major conservative victories look no different than major liberal victories.

If anyone decries as unfair this obvious demonstration that there is no difference between the two major parties, let them hear the chorus of gloating from the Left as disproof of their delusion. When the Republicans stand in total control, and yet the outcome results in paeans of praise from the radical Left, no poll, trend, or political analyst can spin it hard enough to deny the obvious.

It is for this reason that prominent Christian leaders, with whom I would probably otherwise disagree on certain issues, are now realizing this. Franklin Graham has now announced he is resigning from the Republican Party and identifying as an Independent. His comments are as blistering as they are true:

After all of the appalling facts revealed this year about Planned Parenthood, our representatives in Washington had a chance to put a stop to this, but they didn’t. There’s no question—taxpayers should not be paying for abortions! Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding. Nothing was done to trim this 2,000 page, $1.1 trillion budget.

This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself Independent. I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America. Unless more godly men and women get in this process and change this wicked system, our country is in for trouble. I want to challenge Christians, even pastors, across the country to pray about running for office where they can have an impact. We need mayors, country commissioners, city council members, school board members who will uphold biblical values.

I agree! It’s time to Restore America One County at a Time. It’s time for Christians to get serious, make sacrifices, focus locally, and adopt a long-term, multi-generational vision for impact and change.

In the meantime, if we continue to support Representatives and candidates who compromise like this, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we continue like this, Obama’s not the problem, Planned Parenthood is not the problem—we are the problem. And God will judge us accordingly.

Categories: Worldview

Evangelicals and education: Larceny, just not sodomy!

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 15:28

A refrain in Restoring America is “don’t take the cheese.” The way the mouse can avoid the mousetrap is also how Christians can avoid the traps of progressivism, leftism, statism, and the LGBT agenda. But they just don’t seem to get it.

The past week or so has witnessed a handful of stories of Christians and conservatives clashing with the forces of darkness because they are blind to the larceny in their own hearts: taking money from the state.

State money, especially Federal money, always has strings attached, and the strings often require that Christianity be silenced by the recipient—even if they are Christians or Christian organizations. Take the money and the trap is sprung.

This principle is on exhibit in at least three recent incidents I’ve seen. First, a Roman Catholic school in Boston just lost a case in which they refused to hire a food services director once they learned the man was homosexual and had a husband. It seems like such a case would be fairly protected, right? After all, it’s a private school, right? Well, yes, it’s private, but once you accept Federal Aid or Federal Financial Assistance, you allow federal commerce statutes to impose regulations and requirements on your institution. That is, you effectively waive your First Amendment rights to the degree the requirements mandate.

In this case, it is Federal Education Amendments known as “Title IX.” This amendment, according to the Justice Department’s overview, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. It applies “to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities” and “any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance” (emphases added).

Christians need to be clear on this. This law is not an outright trampling of your Rights. It is a voluntary waiver of First Amendment rights your institutions agree to the moment they receive Federal funds or assistance.

While there are exemptions available to religious schools on religious grounds, there are fine lines as to what these can be used for. The Supreme Court has already created some criteria by which certain cases qualify and others don’t. In part, this Catholic school’s argument against hiring a practicing homosexual did not hold up because he was seeking employment in food services, not teaching or outreach, etc. Thus, it is argued by the court, such a position will not endanger the institution’s religious character or mission.

In a second case, the Presbyterian Church in America’s Covenant College applied and successfully received a Title IX exemption to continue denying enrollment to LGBT students, much to the consternation of LGBT activists. Covenant successfully argued for their waiver based on a clear exception made for religious schools in Title IX itself. But with the advent of Obergefell, we can expect the scope of this waiver to be challenged eventually. Critics are already zeroing-in on the heart of the matter: “You receive federal money, that’s something I’m concerned about. You receive aid, your [sic] getting money from scholarships. You don’t get to say freedom of expression and then alienate groups on your campus. I just can’t agree with thinking like that at all,” one of them said.”

In yet a third case, parents protested when their local public school excised the biblical content from a Peanuts Christmas play. The school was following the advice of lawyers and their district officials. From what I understand of the precedents on public displays of religion, especially in schools, this would be a textbook case. The play would be making reference only to the Christian faith, no other, and it would include the line, “That’s what Christmas is all about,” which would be considered a promotion of Christianity. I don’t see how anyone would think this would pass the current Supreme Court tests for violation of the First Amendment (I am open to hearing otherwise).

But the fundamental issue here is that these same Christians demand tax-funded education. The only reason the establishment clause works against them instead of for them is because they are participating in tax-funded education.

In all three of these cases, the crippling issue is state funds. Christians want their neighbors forced to help fund their education, but they demand their full freedoms for themselves while doing so. This is not equitable. They want handouts from the state, then demand the state preach their religion.[1]

Many years ago, R. J. Rushdoony noted why national inflation and spending continue unabated: the people want it. The people want it because they (we) have larceny in their hearts. Rushdoony wrote,

Now, behind the increase in the money supply, is, as we have seen, planned larceny by the state and the citizenry, the voters. For inflation to succeed, Freedman Tilden held, its larcenous purpose must be understood and shared by the people. But it must be stated even more clearly that inflation begins where people have larceny in their hearts. . . .

The same is true of modern man’s approach to inflation: the evil one is Washington, D.C., the international bankers, or anyone other than themselves. Men whose lives are geared to inflationary living, and who run from one conference to another, unconcerned about the destruction to their country by inflation but eager to learn of a new way to make money out of inflation, will with consummate hypocrisy sit back and blame the politicians or bankers for inflation. True, politicians and bankers have their guilt, but who demands inflation from them by their envy, their debt-living, and their heart full of larceny? Is it not the voters?

Inflation begins where there is larceny in the heart. The only long-term cure for it is honesty in the heart. Impossible? Our Lord said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Political cures only worsen a situation. For a changed society, changed men are necessary. If men discount this answer, we are entitled to suspect that they want the virtues of Phariseeism, the “right” to condemn the Federal Government for its inflationary policies, together with the “right” to operate freely with larceny in the heart. Of such is not the Kingdom of God.

This is certainly the case with Christians and conservatives in regard to education as well. We blast the liberalism in Washington and “the establishment,” but we demand the tax-funding they offer. Then we get upset when the establishment pulls the strings attached to the money.

Christians and Christian institutions routinely demand that their schools and colleges be “accredited” so that they may receive Federal Aid. I was proud to attend a seminary that historically had never been accredited. But the small school’s leadership wanted to grow, and so they were in the process of applying for accreditation. The school was founded in 1887. It operated and churned out educated Christian leaders for over twelve decades. Why now?

Because the number one question from potential enrollees was, “Is this school accredited?” Because only then could they apply for federal loans or get federal aid. And when they learned it was not accredited, they didn’t call back. But the leadership wanted more students. So, today the school is accredited.

It is hardly alone. The vast majority of institutions follow this route, take the federal cheese, and the vast majority of Christians send their children to public schools. They partake of the larceny inherent in tax-funding, yet then protest the sins of others. They practice larceny, then protest censoring of the faith and sodomy. Give us our larceny, just not sodomy! Worse, they wish to use the fruits of larceny to suppress the sins of others through their tax-funded institutions. What we are seeing is akin to what Rushdoony says above: the right to condemn the intrusions of the federal government, yet the right to takes its confiscated funds at the same time.

There is one sure, certain route by which Christian schools of all types could tell the feds to take a hike: don’t take the cheese at all. Refuse to accept federal assistance and aid programs of all sorts, and stay out of the system altogether. It is simply time Christians began to put their faith seriously into practice. Quit selling out to government coercion. Create and modify institutions to be tax-fund-free and purely religious-based institutions. Then you can hire whom you wish, enroll who you wish, and say whatever you wish in your Christmas play—all without bowing to the state for permission or cowering before the state in fear.

And the reason this will be the case is because you will not have subjected one more of Christ’s Institutions willingly to the regulation of the state when you don’t have to. If we wish to honor Christ, we will seek to live free. When we subject the institutions of Christ’s people to state regulation and tax-funding, we dishonor the Lord by implying that even Christ is not free.

Notes:

[1] Just in case you think public school does not include taking handouts from the state because “we pay taxes, too,” just compare the small amount you pay in taxes to the amount of tax money spent per student in you state. In my state, and average middle class taxpayer pays maybe $2,000 per year to public schools; yet the state outlays over $9,000 per student per year. This means that even with two children in public schools, the average family is receiving around a $5,000 handout at the cost of other taxpayers every year.

Categories: Worldview

Understand just how badly you got sold out by the Ryan spending bill, and why

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 17:07

Conservative outlets all over are blasting the Paul Ryan-led omnibus bill for a total sell-out of conservative voters. Breitbart calls it a betrayal of America. Rush Limbaugh concurred, using language even more vulgar.

Reading through their reasonings and rantings, one can gather just how badly we have been sold out. But you would not see the depth of it, actually. The depth of this depravity can be judged merely by analyzing the vote as it was taken in the House.

The record vote reveals that only three (count them—3) Republicans opposed the bill. That means that virtually the entire clan of so-called “Liberty caucus” conservatives supported the sell-out.

But it gets worse. 77 Democrats voted for this bill specifically because Paul Ryan went out of his way to court their vote (with late-night, secret deals reminiscent of the ObamaCare passing). Ryan not only sold out conservatives on Trillions in spending and new deficits, but virtually rubber-stamped Obama’s executive orders, his regionalism program to back-door annex suburbs by major urban centers (the Alinskyite-activists’ dream for years), funds Planned Parenthood, and funds a variety of other miscreant bureaucratic measures (including increased funding for activist bureaucracies in the Department of Education, as well as slipping in an internet spying amendment, among others.

What’s so bad about Democrats supporting this bill? Wouldn’t we expect them to, naturally? Not exactly. Actually, 106 of them opposed the Republican-led bill.

What the numbers reveal is that Paul Ryan (or the Republican establishment in general) actively courted Democrat votes when they didn’t need them. Apparently, Ryan and company wanted so badly to present this bill as “bipartisan” that he caved seriously on a number of leftist issues just to woo a couple handfuls of Democrats.

And that’s the sickest part of this sick bill. 241 Republicans voted “yes.” This means that it would have passed the House on purely Republican lines. That’s troubling enough in itself considering the spending and debts issues, but it’s absolutely sickening when you consider that they could have passed it without funding Planned Parenthood—and yet the chose to do so.

They could have passed it without a huge number of the leftist measures that were added to it. And yet they chose to add them anyway. And for what? A photo-op that looks “bipartisan.”

America, you have no idea just how soundly you just got betrayed. Breitbart and Limbaugh don’t know the half of it.

But we’ve done it to ourselves. The compromise lays with us who continue to be snowed by liars. Recall, if you will, that it was less than one election ago that this same Rush Limbaugh was singing paeans about this same Paul Ryan, saying that the “best Republican” to stand on “principles and ideas” as opposed to pragmatic policy was “Paul Ryan.” This guy, allegedly, had energized the Republican base like no one else could.

Those of us who looked carefully and realistically knew better, of course. And we warned everyone.

Now the chickens of compromise come home to roost. Not only do only three Republicans oppose the massive compromise, they actually sell out purposefully to leftism and progressivism in order to be able to use the catchword “bipartisan.”

Let’s just keep our conservative Christian focus on abortion for a moment. This vote entails that Republicans could have defunded Planned Parenthood, but chose not to. This means that 99 percent of Republicans in Congress have placed a “bipartisan” photo-op ahead of the lives of hundreds of thousands of infants.

Every pro-life organization in the nation ought to revoke the pro-life credentials of every Senator or Representative who voted Yes. And if they don’t, the organizations are just as compromised and are complicit in the crimes.

The truth is, the entirety of the Republican-led conservative compromise machine is at fault for the entirety of the nonsense in this bill and every bill like it. There’s a reason nearly every Republican voted yes, and few dared to oppose. It’s because every omnibus spending bill has been of the same nature, and every Republican consistently relies on the excuse that there are so many necessary line items that demand funding. This bill must be passed to avert a government shut-down.

Conservatives have always used this argument to speak out of both sides of their mouths: to say they oppose abortion, and that they refuse to fund abortion, but to funnel funds to Planned Parenthood anyway. You can see a good example of how this argument plays out by Republicans here and here, with Ron Paul opposing on the grounds that the funds are fungible and will indirectly support abortion anyway. The same is true of all funding. Yet Republicans continue to indebt future children in order to murder current ones.

Except now it is even more explicit. Republicans have now directly funded Planned Parenthood when they did not have to. Period. End of story.

Now, the only question that remains is how much longer Christians will continue to provide excuses, or even support, every one of these covert pro-abortionists.

Categories: Worldview

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