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An open letter to Erick Erickson: Reasons to dump the pessimistic eschatology

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 11:37

Thank you, RedState.com mogul Erick Erickson, for showing us clearly the soft underbelly of the mainstream Christian right in America: pessimistic eschatology. I, and others, have of course said this for some time now. You have now exposed it openly, and have admitted that your eschatology dictates general hopelessness in your considerable political activism. After a tough week, you opined, “On the last day there will be a narrow gate. That makes me pessimistic about my future in politics and the future voices on the right when cultural and social issues come to the forefront.”

I hope you will indulge me the few moments required to read what our twittering generation would call longish. I hope you will invest the few moments that these brief points demand. I believe it will help you greatly, and I believe you are ready for it.

It is good to have candid admissions (for example, the one from Kevin DeYoung on “two kingdoms” recently). They tell us up front what we are dealing with. The terms of the contract are clearly on the table. We no longer have to pretend; our actions can now make sense in light of our professed beliefs. But there is an even better aspect to this candor: mistakes can come clearly into view. When there are mistakes or errors, we can make corrections and move forward.

Thankfully, your view of eschatology, popular as it has been for many decades now, is easily correctable. Arrogant as that may sound, I only intend to be to the point. In this regard, I would like to look specifically at three claims you make: two biblical, the other more generally historical.

Historical View

First, the historical view. You write:

Eschatology is the study of end times. It is the one area of biblical study people often view in their own time. In the 1800′s with the rise of the Great Awakening, students of eschatology viewed the end times rather favorably. The whole world would come to Christ, many of them thought.

The point about the 1800s and beyond is not quite accurate. There are a few correctable points. First, the Great Awakening was in the 1730s, not the 1800s. What occurred in the 1800s is called the “Second Great Awakening,” and did not feature optimism much at all in history. This movement gave us the rise in popularity of several menaces: the “altar call,” experientialism, rationalism, the seeds dispensational theology (pessimistic eschatology), and the burned-over districts of New England. Soon behind that came most of the major cults in America. The first Great Awakening (1730s) did feature optimistic eschatology, but this view of eschatology had already existed long before.

The optimistic view, sometimes called postmillennialism, arose much earlier. It has roots in the protestant Reformation, specifically in the Puritan and Scottish traditions leading up to and after the Westminster Confession of Faith—the creedal document of your own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). (See Larger Catechism Question No. 191 for a peek at the optimism of 1647.)

These were the same Puritans who originally settled New England, and their “city on a hill” mentality was derived from this optimistic eschatology.

You should read the valuable book by Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, which shows this in much more vivid detail. Please note: this book is not Reconstructionist literature. The author was a former assistant to Martyn Lloyd-Jones and was one of the founders of Banner of Truth Trust which also published this book. This is mainstream conservative Reformed scholarship.

When the so-called “Great Awakening” to which you refer hit in the 1800s, the Puritan tradition had already begun to be largely secularized. It was this secularized millenarianism which became the progressivism of the late nineteenth century, Woodrow Wilson, the social gospel, etc.. It is a biblical vision of the future gutted of both law and gospel and stuffed with socialism.

But one thing you wrote here is powerfully insightful. Eschatology is indeed “the one area of biblical study people often view in their own time.” When the Reformed optimistic view gained some popularity in America in that first Great Awakening (1730s), it had, like I said, been around already since the 1600s. But it had been suppressed. Why? Because of near-term political declension that occurred in the Anglo-American world, 1660–1730. The Puritans were ruthlessly suppressed and scattered, and in the midst of political decline all around them, many either lost their optimism or just kept it quiet. They had made the mistake you mention: interpreting biblical eschatology according to their own headlines. But what did they miss? Faith. America had hardly begun to get going. God had something far bigger in store for their future horizon could they only keep the vision.

This is something for us to think about as we face our own series of short-term political failures.

Biblical Points

Secondly, you offer this: “I view the ends times more pessimistically.” You make two main biblical references to support this view. Now, I am aware you are not writing a treatise on eschatology here, and there is much more context and nuance that attends claims such as these. But even here there is enough to help get us thinking. You write,

I think there’ll be many more through the pearly gates than I want, but a whole lot less than I expect. And I think as we descend into more cultural and societal chaos on the road to the last day, it will be more and more important for those of us in politics to decide which comes first, faith or politics. . . .

On the last day there will be a narrow gate. That makes me pessimistic about my future in politics and the future voices on the right when cultural and social issues come to the forefront.

The first point here is the specific reference to the “narrow gate.” While most Christians in the past have understood this in reference to “the last day,” as you put it, I ask you simply to read the texts. This image shows up in the gospels only twice (Matthew 7:12–13; Luke 13:22–30). In neither instance is it connected to “the last day” or the doctrine of our future generally. We may be tempted to draw such a conclusion by implication, but sticking to the text will steer you differently.

In Matthew, the “narrow gate” reference is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is simply broad, general language about the difficulties (impossibility actually) of being perfect before God. Whatever we make of it in the big picture, this passage has no specific eschatological import whatsoever—certainly not in regard to our future.

The Luke passage is more complex, but also more helpful once we understand it. In that passage, Jesus is in the midst a preaching tour on His way to Jerusalem. He is responding to a specific question: “Are the ones being saved few?” (Luke 13:23). One key here is the tense: “being saved.” This is not referring to our time (yours and mine) which would have been future for that inquirer, but to the present time of the speaker in the text. This is not about our future, but their time.

Further, “saved” here is not referring to what we generally mean by salvation, but to that which Jesus had been warning his audiences all along that tour: an imminent judgment to come (in their time) upon Israel and Jerusalem.

The debate over “few” versus many was a debate among the rabbis at the time. Our better commentators today note this well. Many Jews believed that all Israelites by virtue of the fact that they were physical descendants of Abraham would be saved when the Messiah appeared. Others believed only a remnant—few—would be saved.

With his teaching on the “strait gate” in this passage, Jesus is simply affirming the “remnant” view. But again, this has nothing to do with our future, but with the then-coming destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70).

Again, don’t take my Reconstructionist word for it. Listen to a more mainstream and respected Reformed scholar who explored the question in his commentary on Luke:

What moment is this? Is it that of the rejection and dispersion of Israel? No; for the Jews did not then begin to cry and knock according to the description of verse 25. Is it the time of the Parousia, when the great Messianic festival shall open? No; for the Jews then living shall be converted and received into the palace. . . . We are thereby led to apply what follows (when ye [them! at that time!] shall see Abraham…,” ver. 23) to the judgment which Jesus pronounces at present [their present] on the unbelieving Jews, excluding them in the life to come. . . .(1)

This makes even more sense when read in the context of Jesus’ teachings during that journey. At the end of the preceding chapter, Luke 12, Jesus chastises a whole mass of followers: “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Luke 12:56). That was their present time—the present time in which He was speaking. Then chapter 13 begins with more warnings of judgment that could come upon them unless they would repent. This is consistent throughout the chapter all the way up to the “narrow gate” passage. Included are also teachings of the mustard seed and leaven—promises that the kingdom would start small—again, a remnant to be saved (No wonder some guy asked that question immediately afterward).

It was this same reason Paul taught the following: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Rom. 11:5). Note: this was at his “present time,” and it was only a remnant of Jews who were being saved. Paul was merely repeating the teachings of his Master. But this particular teaching had nothing to do with our future, and nothing to do with the nature of the spread of Christianity long-term throughout history.

If anything, Jesus’ teachings about the mustard seed and leaven tell us that while the kingdom would begin as a remnant, it would over time become something that filled the whole earth. This is consistent with the old Puritan and Reformed belief in optimism!

By far the most pointed commentary on this point of view is my own. You can read it here or in my book Jesus versus Jerusalem. But it is hardly peculiar to me or Christian Reconstruction. It was once a not-uncommon Reformed understanding. It faded why? Largely due to that same problem you mentioned earlier: culturally and historically-blinded interpretation of the Bible. Sometimes we call this problem “newspaper exegesis.” It is a real problem.

The second aspect of your statement was more general. Your pessimism assumes in general that “we descend into more cultural and societal chaos on the road to the last day.” While there is certainly language in Scripture that is widely used to support this view, I would again counsel you simply to look at the time-bound context of many, if not most, of those passages. Even Paul’s famous passage about “perilous times” in “the last days” (2 Timothy 3) contains enough reference to see he is talking about his own horizon, and even that morass of short-term pessimism was curtailed by Paul’s long-term optimism in regard to all those evil teachers who would arise: “But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men [who withstood Moses]” (2 Tim. 3:9).

In this context, “the last days” refers to the last days of the Old Covenant, right before that Temple was destroyed—not the last days of history in general.

As a general rule, the New Testament’s pessimism is short-term for their own generation, while its long-term view is optimistic in regard to the spread of Christ’s kingdom. This is how we should read it. As I have written elsewhere, there is no other way to understand the facts that 1) Christ is enthroned already now (has been since His ascension—Acts 2:29–36; Heb. 1:3, 13); 2) His rule encompasses both heaven and earth already (Matt. 28:18); 3) We believers rule with Him already (Eph. 2:6–8); 4) He shall rule from that heavenly throne until all His enemies are defeated (ALL OF THEM—1 Cor. 15:24–26); He shall not move from that throne one second before that job is done (1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 10:13).

In short, Scripture nowhere teaches that there shall be a narrow gate at the last day. That narrow gate teaching was directed at Jesus’ generation and the judgment of Jerusalem on their horizon. It had nothing to do with our own future in which the leaven of Christianity is working to spread itself throughout the whole world.

Historically, Reformed doctrine emphasized this expansion and growth. We would not be as Americans here without it. It was the pessimistic view that came in later, conditioned by the outfall of the rationalism and much else perverted by the Enlightenment and the excesses of the Second so-called “Great Awakening,” and perpetuated on the vast widespread fears derived from the decline of our own culture.

We Christians—especially we Reformed Christians—simply need to readjust our outlook back to what both Scripture and the Puritan/Westminster tradition teach. That is, optimism in regard to the future, despite whatever historical setbacks may beset our own limited horizons.

This is why the spirit you exhibit near the end of your post is praiseworthy. You write,

We may fail, but we should keep trying. We should not recede from the public square and a growing number of conservatives are showing more willingness to drive from the public square those who urge greater measures of Christian grace and charity than they prefer.

Right. We may fail by many measures, but historical failure is no reason to quit. But you should add to this that our not-quitting is not an effort standing in the face of annihilation—it is not socially and historically futile. It should rather be a product of a faith that knows God will bring us through it, and that we are laying vital foundation stones for future generations.

When our great-great grandchildren look for precedents to make sense of the Bible passages I’ve introduced here, will they have the writings of optimistic Puritans to uncover like we did? Or will they read our posts and books and compare them to Scripture shaking their heads at our short-sightedness and lack of faith? If we follow Scripture, we don’t have an option. And if we fight like you suggest we should, only with optimism and a pronouncement of it, our descendants will have a better public square than we do. At any rate, they will have less excuse, and less motivation, to avoid it like these modern day conservative quitters and compromisers.

 Endnotes:

  1. F. L. Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 2 vol in 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, reprint of 1887), 2:125.
Categories: Worldview

The testimony of Kesep-Zaqan Ben-HaShulchanim (on true religion, angry men, and national greatness)

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:23

The testimony of KESEP-ZAQAN BEN-HASHULCHANIM:

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I watched the curious man with a small band of followers sit at the edge of the outer court of the Temple, patiently braiding small cords together. He must have done it for the better part of an hour. He spoke to his friends as he just sat there twining away. But he kept looking over at us. I knew something was up, but I had no idea how big this would be. I had front-row seats to the liveliest Passover weekend ever, until now of course.

My dad was a banker—at least that’s what some people might call him today. We are the Hashulchanim, “The Table Men.” That’s a euphemism. We are always found sitting over tables in the Temple, and our trade is done over those tables. Some call us “Exchangers.” Greek-speakers call us kollubistes, “Coin Men” or “Rate Men.” This is because we charge an interest rate to exchange coins in the temple. You know who we are. Some might say bankers, others moneychangers. We get rich off of the church, to put it simple.

I say we’re just good businessmen. We saw an opportunity and we seized it. We saw a market and we met the demand. Every Passover people would flock to the Temple in droves from miles around. Many had only Gentile coins forbidden for Temple use. Others needed smaller change to make the yearly half-shekel. Our friends provided broader services. The masses needed sheep and doves for Passover sacrifices. We simply made it all happen. And we brought it all right to the doorstep. It was one-stop shopping; drive-through pesach. We provided a valuable service for people; and we got a handsome cut doing it. Everyone benefited. Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, there was one who apparently didn’t. That guy braiding that whip. I later learned they called him Joshua. He even let people call him “God with us.” He was from Nazareth—the other side of Samaria. Not much to speak of. He was never married, and everyone said he was a bastard. That makes sense. Here was another young fatherless soul who got radicalized and became some wild-eyes reformer. A purist, if you will. Later they told us he had “suggested” he was the Messiah in the synagogue in Nazareth. They tried to execute him right there for it, but he escaped. Looks like he brought his delusions of grandeur straight to our Temple mount. They say he claimed to perform a miracle in Cana, then came straight here.

Well, he eventually finished that whip. It must have been six feet long. He seemed to disappear for a minute. I looked up from a deal and noticed he was gone. But not for long. A loud crack rang out behind us. I immediately heard bleats and hooves. Cattle of all kinds stampeded through the place. Then I heard cries—shrieks! This crazed lunatic was driving everyone out of our market—one-by-one, en masse, it didn’t matter—from the rear to the front. Whether they moved fast or slow, they got moved. He kept cracking that whip.

Then came the crashes and bangs. He began flipping our tables. Just like the whipping, it was every single one. He was relentless. Tables flew, chairs flew, money flew. Table tops rang like thunder; coins flashed like lightning. It seemed like heaven had come crashing down on earth.

And when he had finished all this, he stood right in the middle of all his chaos, glowering at us, heaving chest, and growled, “Get this stuff out of here now! Don’t make my father’s house into a market!”

Now I’ve seen religious zealots and crazies in my day—this is Jerusalem, after all—but this idiot took the cake. He really believed he ruled this place; he acted like he owned this Temple and could do whatever he wanted. But it was all in pure rage and anger. It was like he thought he was God’s wrath in the flesh, and this was some kind of judgment day.

Well, the authorities thought differently. They were true heroes and men of God—stalwarts of our great institutions of Temple and Law. When they confronted him, they showed utmost patience and self-control, and did not even condemn him immediately. They showed way more patience than I would have (if he didn’t have that whip, of course).  They asked him by what authority he did these things, and they gave him a chance to answer for himself.

Suddenly, he didn’t look so in charge. The best he could come up with was even worse delusion than before. Not only was he going to destroy our tables, he actually said he was going to tear down the whole Temple! Yeah! I heard it with my own ears. And if that weren’t crazy enough, he said he could rebuild it—get this—in three days.

It was then that we all realized we were dealing with a verified nutcase. It was one thing to speak of a small miracle a few days prior—something about turning water into wine. Any good shyster can pull that off when no one’s looking. And that was way up in Cana. Those bumpkins up there in Galilee might fall for something like that (the same way they pay us eight percent just to make change! Ha!), but I had seen enough false messiahs in my day—I’ll just shake my head. But to destroy and rebuild this Temple in three days? That’s sheer lunacy—and of course it never happened. So when he said this, everyone just kind of said “Oooo-kaaay,” rolled their eyes, backed away slowly, and hoped he would go away. The priests looked at each other in dismay and walked away shaking their heads. A few feet out of ear shot, so they thought, they burst out laughing. Can you blame them?

No one set their tables back up that day. A few days later, it was all over. He cost us a lot of money, and he totally freaked us all out.

But after that, he became the stuff of legend throughout Judea and even in Jerusalem. Idiots, all. I kept hearing about “Joshua of Nazareth” healing people, saying great things, and making great promises. He supposedly outwitted the Pharisees and lawyers all the time—typical popular religion. But some of these guys are personal friends of mine. They told me all he really did was twist Scripture to make it confusing, and the make these great pronouncements of judgment as if he was a prophet. The more he argued, the more he confused people—and then he acted like he had refuted everyone with his brilliance.

The masses actually think he is a prophet. But these are the same people who raise swine and watch Roman theater when no one’s watching them—not the best judges of godliness, I’d say. None of them are educated, they’re all illiterate, and they’re all jealous of our money, even though we got it through hard work, discipline, foresight—obviously God’s blessing. All you’ve got to do to rile up these sweaty masses is talk bad about prominent men and the business class. They love it! Bad-mouth the lawyers; eat the rich! It’s worked for thousands of years. It will probably work for thousands more.

So no, I didn’t buy any of it. The guy is a lunatic on steroids—probably smoking something—deranged, deluded, a liar, a revolutionary, a subversive, a narcissist, and fanatic about being all these things. Like I said, I’ve seen a few; and he’s one for the ages.

Now here we were, three years later. Just when we thought it was safe to return to our business, he shows up again—and does the same thing. He drives us all out, shouting, and overthrowing our tables.

But this time, thousands of people praised his entrance like he is really the messiah. They sang psalms and repeated prophecies as we walked into the city. This time, his reputation among the illiterate preceded him. It was a grand entrance. The priests saw him coming this time, but they were powerless to stop him. The masses thronged to watch him make a mockery of us again. It was sedition! It was revolution! Madness!

And when he finished this time, he preached at us again. Anger and fire seemed to fly from his eyes as he quoted Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” and then he leveled the charge at us, out of the blue: “but you make it a den of robbers.”

It was utter nonsense. Here was this mental patient in the midst of his second criminal act against us and our property, having destroyed and scattered our money all over the place (some of it never to be recovered), and he has the gall to call us “robbers”? It’s sheer narcissism. It’s total perversion of law and order. But he got away with it because he deceived the masses into believing in he was something special. There they stood, applauding him and cheering him because he stuck it to those more successful than themselves.

Well, I got news for Mr. Nazarene. You don’t mock God’s Temple and God’s faithful servants a second time and get away with it. Once I heard they finally arrested him, I knew it was reckoning time. You reap what you sow. You sow violence and derision, you reap the same, and now it’s time for him to learn. I was all too happy to add my testimony as a contribution for a real court of justice. The Law does not sanction vigilantes, and it punishes false prophets, and even more so false messiahs. Thank God we have such a true system of law and order, courts and regular justice. Thank God!

Finally, I want to add what I consider the most egregious characteristic of it all. This guy who is supposed to be a messiah was full of nothing but rage and anger and meanness. It’s one thing to teach controversy; you put yourself to the fringe real quickly when you do that already. But when you do it with such an angry demeanor, with violence and threats—you just turn people off immediately. I rest absolutely assured that there’s no way that man can be a man of God, because no man of God will seem so angry. Remember the stuff Solomon said:

A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated (Prov. 14:17).

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly (Prov. 14:29).

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11).

And that’s just exactly what I heard on this second occasion. As we stood from a distance and watched him vandalize the property, shouting prophecies at us like threats, some guy behind me said, “He’s just an angry person.” Even a few of the same people who praised him through the gates began to have their doubts when they realized it.

Some people acted like this guy is a “walking Bible,” but he apparently forgot a few key parts of it. Like, “Love you neighbor.” Yeah. Some messiah. How about, “Thou shall not move your neighbor’s landmark.” He sure overturned mine—twice.

So, no, I hardly bought it like some people did. I knew better. I know the law, and the prophets, and the writings. And this guy didn’t measure up to any of it. Our great edifices and institutions were not built by the likes of him. The grand wealth of our economy did not come through purists and complainers like him who subvert it all. Great reform movements, like the Pharisees, true republicans!, have built these things over years through great personal effort and sacrifice. Great kingdom advances don’t come through radicalism, but through wise political alliances, like the Herodians. Peace and security—and national greatness!—do not come through angry revolutionaries, especially those like him who are poorly bred and have never really accomplished anything in their lives.

I am sorry for this man personally—the compassion of the Almighty calls me to it; but he is wrong, and he is dangerous—and he has proven himself so. I am happy to see justice done, and to see him gone. We can get back to a more peaceful nation and religion when he is out of the picture—and we can certainly get back to a more profitable business.

Categories: Worldview

The damaging myth of “Relationship not Religion”

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 10:23

We’ve all heard it and probably said it at one point: “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with Christ.” I have heard this repeated countless time in many settings and for many reasons.

I first heard it regularly when in my late teens I started attending an Assemblies of God church. It was here I regularly heard “religion” used as a pejorative, and as a description of what all those “dead” churches out there did as opposed to the allegedly Spirit-filled services we practiced.

But I soon learned that many traditions used the same claim, especially the various Baptist churches all around me in western Arkansas—Southern Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Missionary Baptist. Then I heard it among the “General Baptist” churches near my folks back in southern Indiana.

I soon heard it elsewhere, including among my old childhood churches, Missouri Synod Lutherans. Later, among Methodists, and later, Presbyterians (PCA, OPC, and even PCUSA, and more).

I could go on. I had been meaning to write this post for some time, but had been sitting on it, until yesterday I witnessed a popular homeschool speaker post this on his Facebook wall: “The Ethiopian eunuch found in Jesus what he didn’t find in Jerusalem. #Religion vs. #Relationship.”(1)

I knew it was time to say something. Our Christian culture today is saturated with this idea, or at least with the quip, “relationship not religion.”

Unfortunately, the quip is wrong. In fact, it is so misleading it needs correction before we can start undoing much of the damage it has done. And boy has it done some damage. A large percentage of the failure of modern evangelicalism (and other parts of the church) can be blamed on the fallout of this mentality.

Here’s the bottom line, and then I’ll explain: “Religion vs. Relationship” is a false choice, and is always necessarily a false choice. By erecting this false dichotomy, people display that they understand neither what religion is nor what a relationship is. As a result, they denigrate both.

For starters, “religion” can’t always necessarily be a bad thing, because Scripture speaks of “true religion” as opposed to vain religion (James 1:26–27). This, in itself, should end this discussion. Where Scripture speaks, man’s mouth ought to stop.

Of course, some objection can be made that the word “religion” here is not the best translation from the Greek threskeia. Such an objection would, however, have to face an army of professional translators, for there is not a single one of the major English translations that does not use “religion” in this place (I have twelve open before me). Add to this the Latin Vulgate, Spanish, and French translations.

A huge part of the problem is that for many Christians, the term “religion” has been defined by pulpiteers booming against “works” as opposed to “faith” for people to “get saved.” While there is a critical modicum of truth in that program, it is blinkered.

A simple etymological study of the word “religion” will help. It comes from the Latin word religare which means “to bind” or “to tie.” The root of the word is lig-, from which we get our words “ligament” and “ligature.”

Now that is a theological concept worth considering! “Religion” is that by which everything is held together—in general. More specifically, this is the fundamental language of covenant.

While one can imagine, of course, negative aspects of the concept “to bind” in terms of the Christian life or faith, there are nevertheless fundamental and crucial—indispensable and necessary—aspects that are positive.

Certainly, Christianity is a relationship with Christ. Of course it is! But there is no relationship with Christ outside of His covenant. And a covenant is by definition a relationship establishing certain bonds—that is, a religion.

This is why Christ spoke of a “yoke” for those who would follow Him. Sure, His yoke is light and easy compared to others, but it is a yoke nonetheless (Matt. 11:28–30). He was talking about leaving the Old Covenant and entering the New—but it was a covenant nonetheless.

It is for this reason that Paul could speak of being a servant to Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1). He was not free, but a doulos—a bonded servant. Nor are we free of that same bond service: You are not your own; you are bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19–20).

It is for this same reason that Paul characterizes the church as a parallel of the most well-known covenant-bond-relationship in all of creation: marriage. And what is marriage? They do not call it “tying the knot” for nothing. The do not call it “the bonds of matrimony” for nothing. They do not call it a “binding oath” for nothing. The reason is that marriage is a covenant relationship which establishes a bond by an oath.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

Read the whole of Ephesians 5:22–32 to get the fuller picture. Elsewhere, the church is called the bride of Christ—this is no secret. The lesser-known fact is what this says about the nature of Christianity: it is a covenantal-judicial religion (using the true meaning of the word) just as much as it is a “relationship.” In fact, the two things are inseparable. You can’t have a true relationship without true religion, and you can’t have a true religion without this proper relationship.

Look at the Ten Commandments. Of course we’re not saved by keeping them, but we are certainly saved to keep them. And what are they? They are a covenant between a body of believers and God Himself. The first table outlines the obligations of love toward God, and the second table outlines the obligations of the bonds of love between people. Our relationships are established by religion, and without such at the root, relationships are perverted.

This is why James can speak of true religion. And what do you know? It just happens to be an exact rehash of Old Testament law—what James elsewhere calls “the royal law” (2:8), and “the law of liberty” (1:25; 2:12). What does he say? “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jam. 1:27).

This is why I say that those who so readily use the quip “not religion but relationship” understand neither. They do not understand what religion truly is, and therefore do not understand why Christianity—all of the Bible—is at its core religion. It is covenant, and covenant is religion. God’s covenant with the elect in Christ Jesus is the only true religion—but it is religion inescapably.

And since this concept of covenant/religion is denigrated, the concept of “relationship,” which is dependent upon it, is also diminished. “Relationship” with Christ becomes established on emotional or pseudo-liturgical terms, instead of judicial-covenantal terms as Scripture teaches.

(And just for the record, the word “relationship” nowhere appears in Scripture—at all.)(2)

And here is where the damage has been done. All that has been accomplished by the “relationship not religion” propaganda has been to remove the church further from its true nature as a covenantal-judicial community of believers. This may have been the subconscious goal, in fact, of Christian leaders trying to avoid the hard-sell of God’s Law in all areas of society, and instead to appeal to the masses through emotional means.

When one generation of fads dies out, another arises to condemn the last as “religion” and vaunt itself as dancing in the streets with the Spirit, or “God loves you and wants you to be happy,” or just simply a watered-down version of forgiveness with no strings attached (again, covenantal “binding” language—only in reverse).

What we get as a result is generation after generation of Christians (many in name only) who think they are better than those “dead” Christians over there because “we have a relationship,” not “religion,” and especially not that other religious beast, “tradition.” When in reality, all these emotion-mongers do is erect one tradition in place of another every generation or so.

What is really happening today in most circumstances when people are taught and trained in the mantra “relationship not religion” is that they are being deceived with an emotional-type of faith in place of the full judicial-oriented faith that applies to every area of life. Those that really embrace the mantra and then begin to wear it as a badge of distinction, or even superiority, are practicing a very shallow form of self-righteousness. To the extent that they are bound by this belief and practice, they are not free from religion, but only bound to a false one.

There is no such thing as “no religion.” There is no neutrality in covenants. What you have is either true religion or false religion. Choose ye.

If you have a relationship with Christ, you have it only by virtue of the fact that you are in a judicial covenant with Him. And if you are in covenant with Him, that relationship will of necessity drive you to perform the works of true religion, which James make unequivocally clear are social—taking care of the orphans and widows—along with personal holiness.

What we’ve got instead are generations of Christians who have ignored the social goals, and left them to the pagan state—all the while they are self-assured in their “relationship” with Christ, and often self-righteously criticizing anyone who would dare speak of religious obligations based on our faith. We have soap-opera Christianity—effeminized, vain, emotional drivel void of any substance, but big on the drama of “relationship.” This is probably why church attendance is disproportionately female, or perhaps the phenomenon works the other way around. Perhaps an effeminate message has been produced to meet demand.

But it’s a sad day when even our homeschool leaders are leveraging this old canard. Granted, there is an influx of general evangelical moms into the homeschool movement due to Common Core, and granted, there is a growing repudiation of hyper-patriarchy afoot,  but we need not return to the old emotionalism in order to accommodate these things—and especially not the feminist baggage that comes along sometimes—or react in knee-jerk fashion, or sell-out fashion.

What we need more than ever is a focus upon that which has so seldom been focused upon: a covenant bond-relationship with Jesus Christ of a judicial nature that addresses all areas of life. It begins with the heart, but is not just about the heart. It is based on love, but a love that binds all together and rules all of society. What we need, to summarize it, is a relationship that is a true religion, not bashing a straw-man of religion and running from it. That religion-relationship is found in Scripture, and it is the only one that is. As well, this bond is the only place true freedom is found.

Now, let us all stand and sing, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.”

 Endnotes:

  1. While this seems astute on the surface, consider the rest of the story. The Ethiopian eunuch had with him a scroll of Isaiah—an extremely expensive object at the time, probably purchased on this journey for his queen. And where do you think he got it? Jerusalem. And what was he reading? Isaiah 53—about the sacrifice of Christ. This is a profoundly ceremonial, sacrificial—i.e. covenantal and religious—passage. In short, not religion, no relationship for even this eunuch in this story.
  2. The NASB does insert it in Matthew 19:10, but this is inexplicable on linguistic grounds and is not supported by any other translation.
Categories: Worldview

Why Abortionists, Islam, and Homosexuals Will Ultimately Lose

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 10:20

Some of the greatest civilizations that the world has ever known are now tourist attractions. Babylon is a dust bowl. There’s not even a hint that its Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, ever existed, so much so that “it has been suggested that the Hanging Gardens are purely legendary.”

The grand empires of Greece and Rome are the same. The remnants of the Parthenon of Athens and the Coliseum of Rome are standing testimonies that greatness is not generationally inevitable. Christianity, and the moral and multi-generational worldview that it nurtured, made the difference:

“In The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark observes that Christian prohibition of abortion and infanticide contributed to the success of the new religion. ‘Christian and pagan subcultures must have differed greatly in their fertility rates,’ Stark argues, so that ‘a superior birthrate also contributed to the success of the early church.’ Europe’s great recovery from the post-Roman depopulation began with its final Christianization in the ninth century C.E. Its modern depopulation began with the failure of Christianity a millennium later.”(1)

We’re hearing the death rattle of some new empires. Yes, they’re on top now, but if they remain consistent with their operating principles, they too will become museum exhibits, footnotes to an era where irrationality and insanity were pawned off as the next new big thing.

Consider abortion, the ideological sacrament of the Left.

Liberals glory in abortion. They proudly tell the world that they’ve killed their future. Blogger Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check and the Texas Observer (Both part of George Soros’ Media Consortium), is calling for a Taco or Beer Challenge to support abortion. It’s a takeoff on the ice bucket challenge to raise money to find a cure for ALS.

This is how Katie Yoder at Breitbart describes it:

“‘You eat a taco and/or drink a beer, and you donate to an abortion fund.’ Plus, she wrote, ‘Everybody stays dry—ideally—and somebody gets help paying for a legal abortion.’ Dry, except for the blood on your hands.”

“Her challenge, she explained, ‘is about doing what’s right for your own taco and beverage needs, just like having an abortion—or not—is about doing what’s right for yourself and your family.’”

The thing of it is, if people follow the “taco and beer challenge” to support abortion, in time there won’t be any families in the future for those promoting abortion.

Abortion is a double-edged sword. While mostly those on the Left are supporting abortion, those on the Right are out-producing them.

The following is from the Christian Post:

Americans are becoming more pro-life because pro-lifers have more babies than pro-choicers, a new study finds.

Looking at data from the General Social Survey from 1977 to 2010, Northwestern University sociologists J. Alex Kevern and Jeremy Freese found evidence that the higher fertility rates of those who are pro-life compared to those who are pro-choice contributed to Americans becoming, on average, more pro-life than they would have been if the fertility differential did not exist.

*****

Over the 34 year time span that was studied, pro-lifers had about 2.5 children on average for every two children born to pro-choicers. In other words, pro-lifers had 27 percent more children than pro-choicers.

In addition to having more children, the children of pro-life parents appear to be more likely than the children of pro-choice parents to adopt the views of their parents.

You get the picture, and at least one liberal has noticed:

For the past 30 years or so, conservatives—particularly those of the right-wing red-state Christian strain—have been out-breeding liberals by a margin of at least 20 percent, if not far more. . . . Translation: Libs just aren’t procreating like they could/should be.”(2)

If we extend the civilization-killing paradigm to same-sex sexuality and Islam, we see that it does not look good for the future of these ideologies. It’s true that some homosexuals adopt, but it’s not enough to make a difference. Homosexuals are all about recruitment and intimidation. They can only win by forcing compliance.

Then there’s Islam. If there was ever a dead-end ideology, it’s Islam. A top Saudi Cleric has described ISIS as the No. 1 enemy of Islam. Islam itself is its own worst enemy. It’s an ideology with no future.

It might surprise a lot of people to realize that “the Muslim world is on the brink of the fastest population decline in recorded history.”(3)

You can’t build a civilization on the heads of your enemies. You can’t beat something with nothing.

It’s not enough, however, to wait for the collapse of these ideologies. Conservatives need to build their worldview in the midst of the collapsing worldviews that are so destructive. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary.

 Endnotes:

  1. David P. Goldman, How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too) (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2011), 157.
  2. Mark Morford, “When Liberals Rule the World: Stats say the GOP is dying. But red-staters are breeding like drunken ferrets. Who wins?,” SF Gate (March 28, 2007).
  3. Goldman, How Civilizations Die, 1.
Categories: Worldview

Your ring-side seats to a Royal two kingdoms Rumble

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 10:19

Joel’s latest book is like ring-side seats at a royal theological rumble—except it’s real. This is a dozen or so men rounded up into a single ring in the social-theological clash of the century—and in the end, only one man is left standing.

That’s Jesus Christ, of course. King Jesus, that is—king of all realms of life, and whose Word and Law must reign in all times and places. That’s the heart of this fight!

In this fight, billed as Inglorious Kingdoms, Joel McDurmon takes on the tag-teams of two-kingdom theology at their fiercest as he has over the years locked arms with Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, The White Horse Inn generally, Carl Trueman, Alistair Begg, Todd Friel, R. W. Glenn, Trevin Wax, Phil Johnson, Joe Carter, R. Scott Clark, John Piper, Tim Keller, Peter Kreeft, and others.

Joel’s effort brings forth Scriptural truth regarding the role of God’s Word in society where R2K proponents and practitioners especially lack answers, but also hits back on the historical and confessional fronts where they often seem more comfortable. Joel dips into Reformed and Puritan history to reveal the strong social and political positions, including optimistic theology, that used to characterize men who called themselves Reformed.

Joel also shows the dangerous aspects of R2K theology: the tyrannies to which it leads, ranging everywhere from the hot air of politicians to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Here, some of his most vaunted opponents get tossed out of the ring—and without mercy.

Where else can you go to get such a hard-hitting exposé on one of the most important theological battles of our time, covering two kingdoms, a bunch of theologians, dozens of essays, hundreds of years, and thousands to come—all for JUST FIVE BUCKS?

That’s right. Purchase Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology through 8/31/14 and you can get it for $5.00. Just use the discount code KINGDOM at checkout.

Categories: Worldview

Inglorious Kingdoms – NEW eBook

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:47

I have compiled most of my “two kingdoms”-related essays into one place—now available as an eBook, in all eBook formats. Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology includes theological and historical essays, as well as critiques of the view of radical “two kingdoms” theology being leveraged by some theologians today in an effort to keep Christians quiet—or completely out—of the public square. It is time Christians returned to Scripture in order to apply Scripture to every area of life. It is time we quit allowing the fears and intimidation of a few theologians oppress Christians with the tyrannies of bad theology.

Several people have asked me to write a book about the modern “two kingdoms” theology—or, “radical two kingdoms” (R2K) as it is (deservedly) called. While I have been planning a group of major works addressing the topic in substantial ways for some time now, these are slow in coming. I realized I have also been writing several articles on the topic which can be helpful in the meantime to those who have been asking, yet who do not know most of these exist, or even for those who have forgotten some of these over the years.

This is something of a stopgap measure, I admit, but the points established in these essays and the responses and critiques levied against opposing views will go a long way toward satisfying some questions related to this topic, especially as they are usually presented by modern proponents. The question is not what this or that person says, or even what this or that cherry-picked confession says, but what Scripture says. This is the standard I uphold throughout these essays, in addition to relating much of the history that R2K proponents would rather keep suppressed. You can find all of these essays also available at on our site for free, listed below.

With your support of products like this, I will be better able to get on with the more major works in this area. In the not-too-distant future (with your help), look for substantial works on Calvin, Reformed theology and history, theonomy, American history, and applications of biblical law to modern life—to come from this author.I thank you for your support and am grateful to be of service to our readers and followers.

Purchase Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology through 8/31/14 and you can get it for $5.00. Use discount code: KINGDOM at checkout.

Table of Contents

1.      The Two Kingdoms Tyranny

2.      The Lost Reformation

3.      Inglorious Pastors

4.      A Politician’s Paradise

5.      Horton’s “Contrived Empire”: Did Calvin deny “Christendom”?

6.      The Great “But” Commission

7.      The Great Omission

8.      Begg-ing the Question

9.      Choosing your Dualism or “Something Special for the Toilet Cleaners”

10.    A Wretched Critique of Restoring America

11.    Double Kingdoms Doubletalk

12.    Riddlebarger’s Hit-and-Run

13.    A Perfect Hatred

14.    Straight Talk on Twisted Marriage

15.    Activism or Awareness: A False Choice

16.    The Christian Duty to Boycott

17.    Get Real: Pietism is No Cure for Entertainment Addiction

18.    “A Bulwark Against Theonomy”

19.    Trueman Seems Sincere (Really, He Does)

20.    Trueman’s Total Surrender

21.    Is the Amillennial Jesus Just Twiddling His Thumbs?

22.    Amillennial Schizophrenia

23.    Logical Deduction from R2K is Decreed “Not Helpful”

24.    My Frustration with Tim Keller’s Frustration

25.    With Friends Like This, Who Needs Screwtape?

Categories: Worldview

Poll confirms pulpit cowardice and moneygrubbing; Let’s address this now

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 10:32

What I have suspected and stated for some time now has been confirmed in hard numbers by George Barna: pastors know and believe that the Bible speaks to social and political issues, but are afraid to preach about it from the pulpit. In times past, writers like me have been condemned for “attributing motives” on this issue. Well, now we have it from the pastors themselves.

Barna has revealed the heartbreaking facts of a two-year long research project on pastors and social policy. As reported by ChristianNews.net, Barna said,

What we’re finding is that when we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, “Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues.”

So these pastors know the truth. But the problem comes in the preaching of it. According to Barna:

Then we ask them: “Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?” and the numbers drop … to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it.

Since we can safely assume that the 10 percent who do preach it are also among those who believe the Bible addresses these issues, this means that a whopping 80 percent of pastors do not preach what they know they should be preaching—what they acknowledge to believe the Bible actually says.

But the poll gets even more revealing. It goes on to discover what these pastors consider “success” in their churches. According to Barna:

There are five factors that the vast majority of pastors turn to: Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff, and square footage.

Success is therefore determined by how much money comes in, how many people come in, and how big the building is. Clear enough.

Standards for success are clear indicators of motivation. Barna connects the dots:

What I’m suggesting is [those pastors] won’t probably get involved in politics because it’s very controversial. Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.

Thus, the motivations for self-censorship are more money, more people, and bigger buildings. Don’t shoot me for saying it. I am now just the messenger.

As Chuck Baldwin mused the other day, the surprising part in all of this is not that pastors don’t preach on social or political issues, or that they are motivated by money and attendance, but rather that they say they know better, and still refuse to preach the truth anyway. They are actively refusing to preach what they believe and what they know they ought to preach.

Honestly, I am not as surprised as Baldwin is. Not only have we—as Baldwin notes—been criticizing the neutered pulpit for years, but people within the Christian Reconstruction movement have been informing Christians, including preachers and scholars, of the biblical basis for civil and social issues since at least 1973 (Rushdoony’s Institutes), or even 1958 (Rushdoony’s By What Standard?). This information has been widely disseminated and discussed. The pastors have known all along. The problem has not been in the education department; the problem has been in the departments of guts and money.

Now this issue has more facets than we’ll take time for today, I admit. It goes deeper than just the pastors themselves: the people (the “demand” side, if you will) are just as much a problem. Baldwin is correct to note both sides of this:

“It is time for Christians to acknowledge that these ministers are not pastors; they are CEOs. They are not Bible teachers; they are performers. They are not shepherds; they are hirelings,” he said. “It is also time for Christians to be honest with themselves: do they want a pastor who desires to be faithful to the Scriptures, or do they want a pastor who is simply trying to be ‘successful?’

I think they heretofore have been honest, and the proof of that is in their pulpits. The time for honesty has become the time for mass repentance.

And I’ll tell you where the deepest part of the problem really lies: it lies in the abdication by Christians and pulpits alike of Christian children to the government school system. This single factor has contributed more to the decline of our culture than just about any other.

But it is not enough merely to complain about this problem, or even spread awareness, though that is a necessary step. We need a plan and a body of leaders willing to stand and even to sacrifice in acting upon that plan. This is why I made the educational plank the very first step in Restoring America One County at a Time.

A silver lining in this is that we now have hard evidence that the vast majority of pastors know what they are doing is wrong. As easy as it is to condemn them, this is a starting point for repentance and a small window of hope that it can come to pass. Knowing the truth means these men are not deluded (like the two-kingdoms theologians seem to be), but are rather self-censored by cowardice and the love of mammon. Well, I don’t know about you, but I have a savior who specializes in changing cowards and moneygrubbers into sacrificial leaders. He started a ministry with a small group of men that included cowards (Peter) and moneygrubbers (Matthew). Post-Pentecost, these flawed individuals braved all social convention, dungeon and sword, and then turned the world upside down.

So, there is a remedy for the cowardice and moneygrubbing of Christian leaders. This is not to say that they will now necessarily seek it or find that remedy, but they can. It will be sacrificial and hard. But there is hope for anyone willing to pluck out the eye or cut off the hand where necessary. It’s time to ask the Holy Spirit for the knife.

Thank you to George Barna for making it not just clear, but undeniable, what the problem is. Only when we get the problem right can we properly diagnose and cure it. Now, let’s see who’s willing to reach for the medicine—condemning their own sins first.

Categories: Worldview

Drones to Defeat Tyranny

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:19

A young man rather naively flew his private drone over the Forbidden City, and several other sensitive places, in Beijing. He captured breathtaking HD footage with the attached GoPro. The Chinese authorities were somewhat breathless as well. They invited him in for some polite discussion in a dimly-lit room, and confiscated his drone for the remainder of his stay. At least he got back home with the footage. (See below and in this link.)

What this guy did for artistic purposes and with good intentions can also be done for the purposes of liberty and subversion of wicked governments. The technology of drone + camera has unlimited potential. Think of an organized activist group equipped with a hundred or so of these drones flying over North Korea, documenting concentration camps and human rights abuses over which the government has until now had absolute censorship. It would then be available for all the world to see.

If this were done with long-range drones from outside the borders or in a secure location, the maximum cost would only be the potential loss of the drone and camera. This can be anticipated up front, and would be a small price to pay.

Think of this being used in a million ways around the world. Yes, it would be civil disobedience to a degree in some places—totally in others—but it would be the kind of civil disobedience we want.

As technology advances, this will become easier and more effective. In extreme cases, you will not be able to retrieve the drone. It will be shot down, stolen, or flown out of range and lost. This possibility would demand live-stream and live-upload video capability so that the footage not be lost with it. I suspect such live-uploading could already be done with a drone, as it already is with a smartphone.

Range is also a factor. For some commercial private drones, the range is very short. Others I’ve seen just searching this morning can reach 3.5 Km. That’s pretty good. But some hacktivists have done better. One site has devised a hack to increase RC range up to 40 miles. This has real potential.

It would great to see an organization devoted to such use of drones. Call it Drones for Humanity, or Drones to Defeat Tyranny (DDT). It would have wicked governments and corporations scrambling, but I think it would also have solid public support.

If this kid can do it for the Forbidden City, think what could be done in countless other forbidden places.

Categories: Worldview

Religious “Expert” Reza Aslan Believes Rich and Poor Should “Switch Places”

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:08

Reza Aslan is a self-described biblical expert and the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Liberal theologians love his exegesis in the same way that liberal economists love Thomas Piketty’s 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century—written in honor of Karl Marx’s Das Capital. These books are rarely read. They are mostly used as rhetorical props or ideological clubs substituting for sound argumentation. All a critic has to do is say, “Well, Thomas Piketty destroyed the very idea of capitalism in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”

The skeptic then asks, “Have you read it and do you understand it?”

To which the smug critic says, “I don’t have to read and understand it. Piketty is an ‘expert.’”

The same is true with Reza Aslan and his book about Jesus.

In his speech at the 2014 Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, Aslan said that Jesus advocated an “absolute reversal of the social order, in which those on the top and those on the bottom will switch places,” using Luke 6:20-26 (see 1:53) for support. It’s most likely that Jesus is describing Israel’s religious and political oppressors.

Dr. Gary North writes in Treasure and Dominion, his economic commentary on the Gospel of Luke:

Where covenant-breakers are in authority, this kind of persecution can and does exist, but rulers are not always equally self-conscious and consistent in their opposition to Christ’s kingdom. This prophecy applied to the period prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Jesus comforted the poor with a promise of better times to come, and He warned the rich of bad times to come. As in the case of the persecutions, the assumption here is that the political hierarchy is run by covenant-breakers.

*****

Jesus spoke to oppressed people. Rome’s political rule was oppressive, and so was the rule of Israel’s religious leaders. Jesus warned, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt. 23:2-4).

The political system rewarded corruption. So, those who were rich would soon face negative sanctions if they had achieved their success by milking the political system. Jesus assumed that, in general, this is how they had achieved their success. In His day, the political system that established the terms of trade was oppressive. But the end of the Old Covenant order was at hand. Those who had prospered from it would find themselves in dire straits.

People like Aslan misread the Bible in ways similar to the people they criticize. Their interpretive conclusions are equally unsound and can lead to disastrous results. “The setting,” North points out, “was political tyranny. This is not a universal standard of private ownership. If it were, this economic principle would subsidize thieves. It is a command for dealing with people who possess political power.”

In a video of his speech, Reza Aslan looks rich compared to the poor he says we should be switching places with. How much does he think the microphone he’s wearing cost and the sound system it goes with and the electrical power grid that makes it possible, and the building where he’s speaking, and the air conditioning, etc? Did he walk to Vancouver? Did he spend the night in a hut? Did he have to hunt for his food? How much did he get paid for his talk? How much did he make on his Zealot book? Did he give all the profit to the poor?

If Jesus hated the rich so much, why didn’t he condemn Joseph of Arimathea who Matthew describes as a “rich Man” (Matt. 27:57; Isa. 53:9)? Why did God enrich Abraham (Gen. 13:2) and Job (Job 42:12)?

A cure for Ebola and other diseases does not come from poor countries. It comes from countries with means.

Aslan’s superficial reading of the New Testament is a way for him to critique the prosperity gospel message. This can be done without rewriting the entire Bible and descending into theological stupidity.

Jesus said that He did not come to “abolish the law and the prophets” (Matt. 5:17). One of those laws is “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), even if a majority of people vote for stealing. Socialism is the transfer of wealth from some people to other people by force. Neither Jesus in particular nor the Bible generally advocates for such a system.

Gleaning in the Old Testament was a way to help the poor. Even the poorest members of society had to work (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:20-22). Jesus and his disciples practiced a form of gleaning as they walked through grain fields breaking off heads of wheat to eat (Mark 2:23). Gleaning was hard work, and it was not a government program. If people of means didn’t own fields for gleaning, there wouldn’t be any gleaning

It’s true that Jesus did say that we should care for “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40). Who are the “these”? The context makes it clear that Jesus’ scope is limited to “these brothers of Mine.” As we’ll see, Jesus expands on those we are to help.

Note that there is no mention of government programs, legislation, or mandates. The directive is aimed at individuals, not faceless and nameless bureaucrats. Certainly Rome had the power to tax (Luke 2:1; Matt. 22:15–22), and yet Jesus never petitions the Empire to force people to pay their “fair share” in the development of a welfare State. Jesus believed in limited government.

The Good Samaritan is an example of how aid should be handled. The Samaritan took care of the “half dead” man out of his own pocket. He “bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn. . . .” And “the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’” (Luke 10:30–37).

Even the story of the Rich Young Ruler is not about socialism and the poor and rich switching places (Mark 10:17–27). Jesus didn’t use the example of the rich man strangled by his wealth to appeal to Rome to tax the rich so the poor could benefit. If this “switch” were ever to take place, what then?

Appeal cannot be made to Acts 2:44–45 and 4:32–37. These early Christians voluntarily sold their property and used the proceeds to help those in need. Neither the Empire nor the Church had any coercive role in the sale of the property.

John R. Richardson writes:

No one was forced into giving up his goods and possessions. It was not socialism legislated either by church or state. It does not resemble modern communism in any respect. . . . Ananais was free to keep or sell his property. When he sold it, he had the right to determine whether he would give all of it, or part of it, or none of it, into the treasury of the church for the alleviation of the needs of poor Christians. J. W. Lipscomb is certainly correct when he says, ‘The program was a voluntary expression of Christian concern for the needs of fellow Christians, and was not a program for compulsory collectivism such as we hear advocated all too often today.’”(1)

Paul takes up a collection for the Jerusalem church “from the saints” (1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). They gave “according to their ability, and beyond their ability, of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:3).

Attempts at a socialistic economic system have been repeatedly tried with no results but abject failure.

The Pilgrims were initially organized as a Collectivist society as mandated by contract by their sponsoring investors. No matter how much a person worked, everybody would get the same amount. It didn’t take long for the less industrious to realize that their diminished labor would net them the same result of the most industrious.

William Bradford, the acting governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote the following in his first-hand history of events:

The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years . . . that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing—as if they were wiser than God.

For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without [being paid] that was thought injustice.

This [free enterprise] had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.

Not only is Socialism immoral; it doesn’t work.

 Endnotes:

  1. Christian Economics: The Christian Message to the Market Place (Houston: St. Thomas Press, 1966), 60.
Categories: Worldview

Carl Trueman’s total surrender (and the “exile” theologians)

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 19:44

Recently I wrote about an “admission” from Kevin DeYoung of how some theologians run to two-kingdoms theology because it provides a “bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.”[1] But that was nothing compared to the level of candor we have now gotten from Carl Trueman. I never expected this. But I have to say, as much as I disagree and even dislike what I read here, I am grateful when our opponents get this consistent and this candid with their consistency. This, my friends, is a unambigious, unapologetic theology of total retreat and surrender. Defeatism never earned the label so fully before.

The title is all you need to read, really: “A Church for Exiles.”[2] And Dr. Trueman wastes no time getting to the point in his first sentence: “We live in a time of exile.” A brief moment later, he makes sure you know what he means: “We are indeed set for exile, though not an exile which pushes us to the geographical margins. It’s an exile to cultural irrelevance.”

The interested reader need read no further to get his point or understand it. The rest of the longish piece is either variations on a theme, or gentle argument to his First Things audience as to why, in his words, “Reformed Christianity is best equipped to help us in our exile.” While I share the Reformed tradition with Dr. Trueman, I hardly think it necessarily shares his view on cultural and social exile, although if you listen to many of its leading doctors today you would easily get that impression.

I would like to share with you a few critiques of Trueman’s article, as well as a better way provided by Reformed traditionalists who have gone before us.

Social Cues, You Lose

One of the most disappointing aspects of Dr. Trueman’s effort is that it neglects Scripture, even while using a biblical term as its basis. The language of “exiles” is, of course, taken directly from Scripture, but one would expect—especially from a Reformed theologian in the tradition of sola scriptura—to provide some exegesis or exposition to give substance, context, and clarity to the concept. Dr. Trueman provides none. In fact, in a long essay of nearly 4,000 words (roughly 16 manuscript pages), Dr. Trueman not only provides no exegesis, he does not even cite a single passage from Scripture.

That’s disappointing, because any concerned Christian reader should expect doctrine to come from Scripture in general, but especially in the case of large-swath doctrines such as eschatology, the kingdom of God, social engagement, the interpretation of history, etc., and even more so when the doctrine being advanced demands major alterations in life-stances.

Yet Trueman provides no Scripture, and his analysis that the church is “set for exile” today is not based on Scripture, either. If not Scripture, then what? Dr. Trueman gets his analysis of our imminent exile from the circumstances around him: “The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.” He goes on to detail this discomfort with reference to things like the rise of homosexual marriage, abortion, and pornography in society, and the diminishing influence of Christian values in the face of these.

There are a couple points to be made here. The first is, as I said, the fact that Trueman is taking his cues from society in order to interpret the Bible, instead of vice versa. This is as much “newspaper eschatology” as it is when dispensationalists cite headlines as proof the end times are upon us (once again). We should trust Scripture over and against our senses and above and beyond, certainly, our interpretation of immediate history.

If God made certain promises to the church, then we should look forward to those promises no matter what our perception of the surroundings may be. This is important theologically, for from my experience, when the opponents of optimism (or “postmillennialism”) run out of exegetical arguments (and they always do eventually), then they always retreat to this final refuge: “The world is falling apart around us! So, how is that ‘dominion’ thing working out for you?” In short, they admit that their position is ultimately based on their own eyes and not the eye of faith in God’s promises in Scripture.

What’s especially confusing about this particular fault is that Scripture gives us examples in several places of people who made this mistake ahead of us. To quote Paul: “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6). While Paul did not list the same examples I will here, the principle still stands: why do we keep repeating the errors against which God has warned us both didactically and through the example of others in Scripture.

Two obvious examples that come to mind are Elijah and King David. Elijah participated in one of the most spectacular miracles in the Old Testament—the fire from heaven—and then presided over the execution of several hundred blaspheming prophets (1 Kings 18:19–40). And yet one single word from the civil government—Jezebel—calling for Elijah’s head was all it took to send the prophet fleeing into the wilderness—“exile”—in fear of his life.

Elijah fled, sat down under a tree, and prayed to God that he might die (1 Kings 19:4). If self-exile were not enough, Elijah sought the ultimate liturgy of cultural irrelevance: a funeral. God confronted Elijah for his defeatism. Elijah promptly responded with an article about his church for exiles—complete with appeal to the declining culture around him:

He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10).

One could hear the pessimillennialists and exile theologians of the day joining Elijah’s refrain. One could hear them rebutting any optimist of the era: “How are those great promises working out for ya?”

But what did God say? God said to look through the decadence, through the great powerful emphases of the world, and focus on the promises of God—even if they seem to be only a still small voice in comparison. God revealed to Elijah that He had reserved 7,000 faithful elect throughout the realm whom Elijah could not even discern at the moment. And what was Elijah to do? He was to go perform his calling: making disciples and preaching the whole counsel of God—and expecting God’s promises to prevail despite the appearances and circumstances.

There is another outstanding account which I have covered before in my Sermons of 1 Samuel.[3] This is the example of David. This young man had been anointed by Samuel himself to be King of Israel. Yet he was for a space of years hounded and chased by Saul who employed all the machinery of the State to have David killed. In the process, Saul had taxed the kingdom to death, engaged in all kinds of intrigue, lies, corruption, rebellion, and murder, and even annihilated the priesthood in a gruesome mass murder. Only one priest escaped. After so much of this, David finally fled into the wilderness and literally hid inside a cave—Adullam.

One can just hear the Truemans of the day: David, you just need to give up on dominion; you need a church suited for exiles. You should not expect to “win” in history.

One can hear those critics again: Hey David, how’s that kingship thing working out for ya?

And yet what did God do in this darkest of moments? If you discern what is happening in 1 Samuel 22, you will see that in that cave, God orchestrated a renewal of the nation of Israel around that anointed king. God sent him a prophet, a priest, and he was a king. God sent him a remnant of believers and his family. What had God done? God led David in the beginning steps of Christian Reconstruction—of reconstructing the nation around those faithful to His promises despite the outward appearances of history.

And why? Because David believed God and not his circumstances. And these things were written for our example so that we will not repeat the failures of previous saints who did not even have the advent of Christ to focus their efforts.

This particular focus has been lost multiple times in Church History. You would think at some point we would wise up about having our view of Scripture turned on its head. Why do we not demand something better? Dr. Trueman’s specialty in theology is church history. He is a professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary. Anyone who studies Church History ought to know that theologians have made this mistake scores of times throughout history. Eschatological predictions have failed time and again due to this error. Predictions about the total demise of the church and the world have failed countless times. Of all people, a professor Church History should know better.

But there’s a rub here: knowing better would mean embracing an alternative to defeatism. That would mean some view of optimism, be it traditional postmillennialism or even Christian Reconstruction. And that, above all things, is what seems to be off the table without further discussion. Give me closet Christianity and ethereal, ritualistic Sundays punctuated by droning six-day periods of mundane “life” in between. In other words, give me “exile to cultural irrelevance” while I sing songs and assure myself God is pleased with me and I’ll go to heaven.

A second point to be made is that when we do make this vital mistake of Scriptural interpretation, we can end up perverting the Scriptural language we do adopt. In Trueman’s case, as well as in the case of many who share his retreat, the biblical doctrine of “exile” is given a prominence and power, as well as a twist, it does not deserve. I have covered this issue in regard to modern two kingdoms advocates in a previous essay,[4] so I will not repeat it at length here. I will only repeat that the exile motif is misrepresented and misapplied by these opponents of biblical optimism. They turn the biblical idea on its head, making pagans to inherit the earth and assuming the people of God are under punishment. As well, they neglect the New Testament teachings that we have arrived at Zion and are no longer strangers or pilgrims. Again, read my previous essays in this regard.

Finally in this section, I cannot bear not to point out the alarming irony of theologians who spend years and careers denying the need for Christian involvement in society, training waves of pastors for Reformed pulpits expressly to avoid social issues, and criticizing and condemning those of us who do go there, now suddenly lamenting the fact that Christianity has lost influence in society. The contrast here is so stark there must be either blindness or deceit behind it. What? Did they not catch that passage about sowing and reaping? I understand it is doubly-convicting when the reaping is bitter and you are the one who did the sowing, but this is no excuse to act surprised, or to act as if the results of your own negligence were God’s promises all along.

History Neglected and Revised

Along with the neglect of historical lessons already mentioned, our Church Historian has some rather curious historical claims and insights based upon them. First, as part of his argument that the Reformed church is best equipped for the exile he envisions, Trueman makes this arguments as to why the Roman Catholic Church is not:

Catholicism’s institutional footprint is so large—and Catholic theological (and emotional) investment in it so significant—that the temptation to preserve the Church’s place in society will be very great. This preservation will require compromise, even complicity, and it will very likely blur the clarity and undermine the integrity of Christian witness.

I can understand that writing for First Things may tempt some to greater levels of niceties than normal. FT is, after all, a highly pluralistic forum which, though broadly “conservative,” nevertheless demands its own brand of political correctness. And one may not notice it at first here because this quotation purports to be a mild criticism. But the PC is in what is being assumed and not said—and they are things on which, again, a church historian ought to be most keen. I read this and automatically ask, When has Catholicism not been compromised by humanism in countless ways? When has Catholicism not blurred the clarity and integrity of Christian witness?

I bring this up because historically, the Reformed churches have made largely the same compromises in regard to social theory, law, and government, as has Catholicism; and to ignore the many past compromises of Catholicism is to do the same for the Reformed faith and its traditions. Calvin was great when exegeting Scripture—for example in his sermons on Samuel or Deuteronomy. And he shined quite often in addition to that. But when he arrived at the issue of penal sanctions in his Institutes, suddenly he fell back on his classical legal training—which was traditionally Catholic and Aristotelian, i.e. pagan. There are reasons for this which can be explained and adequately critiqued, but the point here is that when it came to rubber-meeting-road, Calvin at that point in time and on that issue did nothing but recapitulate the errors of Catholicism. And worse yet, to a large degree, this is what became repeated throughout much of the Reformed tradition to which Trueman is appealing.

At such a juncture, we need not focus on modern trends. We need further to critique Catholicism and the Reformed doctrines assumed upon it, and then reconstruct those doctrines based solely on Scripture. Neglecting the past social sins in the face of such a need is to sweep the main problem under the carpet.

When we engage in such neglect, however, we tend to start revising later historical phenomenon in light of it. There are some in the Reformed tradition here and there who engaged in the biblical inquiry in the right way, and others who at least made valiant attempts at the question. But the “exile theologians” must paint a different picture of the history. We are left to believe that it is a contemporary development that Catholicism is just too big and too invested in society—it is now facing massive temptation to compromise. The Reformed church, on the other hand (we are told) is small and will not face this problem as it hunkers down for the duration. And those Reformed theologians who did teach otherwise: well, they are either reinterpreted, cherry-picked, or left unmentioned.

Trueman dips into his historical treasury far enough to remember one of these great men: John Winthrop. In the hands of an exile theologian, Winthrop’s tale gets told thusly:

Winthrop’s famous comment about being a city on a hill was not a statement of messianic destiny but a reminder to the colonists of the fact that their lives as exiles were to be lived out in the glare of hostile scrutiny. Exile demanded they have a clear and godly identity.

Aside from the false dichotomy of “messianic destiny” or “exile,” this explanation leaves something to be desired. As with most so-enlightened history, it has a seed of truth. In his famous sermon about the “city on a hill,” Winthrop did give such a warning about the outside world’s scrutiny:

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.[5]

True enough, but there is enough in just that quotation to show there is much more to the story. The context was not merely living among hostile scrutiny, and not about exile at all. The chief scrutiny at issue as God’s, and the hostility they feared most was His were they not to build a society faithful to His word. “Exile” demanded nothing of them. God demanded everything.

Had Trueman considered just the title of Winthrop’s famous address, he may have recognized the greater context: “A Model of Christian Charity.” By “Charity,” Winthrop was not talking merely about offerings and taking care of the poor. In that 1630 sermon, given aboard the ship before he landed in Massachusetts, Winthrop was talking about how to found the entire new civilization squarely and entirely upon the word of God, so that the civilization would be, as the title suggest, a model of Christian civilization built on loving on another. And in his explanation of Scripture, he was quite explicit that this would involve the reconstruction of society from what they had experienced before. Read this passage and judge for yourself how well this comports with the retreat and defeat of the exile theologians:

It rests now to make some application of this discourse, by the present design, which gave the occasion of writing of it. . . .

First, for the persons. We are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ, in which respect only, though we were absent from each other many miles, and had our employments as far distant, yet we ought to account ourselves knit together by this bond of love and live in the exercise of it, if we would have comfort of our being in Christ. . . .

Secondly for the work we have in hand. It is by a mutual consent, through a special overvaluing providence and a more than an ordinary approbation of the churches of Christ, to seek out a place of cohabitation and consortship under a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical. In such cases as this, the care of the public must oversway all private respects, by which, not only conscience, but mere civil policy, doth bind us. For it is a true rule that particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.

Thirdly, the end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord; the comfort and increase of the body of Christ, whereof we are members, that ourselves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world, to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and purity of his holy ordinances.

Fourthly, for the means whereby this must be effected. They are twofold, a conformity with the work and end we aim at. These we see are extraordinary, therefore we must not content ourselves with usual ordinary means. Whatsoever we did, or ought to have done, when we lived in England, the same must we do, and more also, where we go. That which the most in their churches maintain as truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice; as in this duty of love, we must love brotherly without dissimulation, we must love one another with a pure heart fervently. We must bear one another’s burdens. We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren.

Neither must we think that the Lord will bear with such failings at our hands as he doth from those among whom we have lived; . . .

[W]hen God gives a special commission He looks to have it strictly observed in every article; When He gave Saul a commission to destroy Amaleck, He indented with him upon certain articles, and because he failed in one of the least, and that upon a fair pretense, it lost him the kingdom, which should have been his reward, if he had observed his commission.

Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into covenant with Him for this work. We have taken out a commission. The Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles. We have professed to enterprise these and those accounts, upon these and those ends. We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing. Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have propounded, and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, and be revenged of such a people, and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.[6]

It is clear that this was to be the establishment and enlargement of Christian civilization upon Christian principles. It is clear that it includes both church and also civil law. It was to be above and beyond the private-confession type of Christianity they had left in England, and instead be manifested in the practices of all of life. It is clear that they expected God’s blessings or curses in history as they either obeyed or rebelled against His covenant.

This is the way Reformed theologians used to think. Used to. Today, we get expressions of faith like this from Trueman:

A marginal, minority interest in America for well over a century, she does not face the loss of social influence and political aspirations that now confront Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. We do not expect to be at the center of worldly affairs. We do not imagine ourselves to be running indispensable institutions. Lack of a major role in the public square will cause no crisis in self-understanding.

There is no crisis in self-understanding in the slave who believes he ought to be a slave, and who in thankfulness bows to kiss the rod of his pagan master. No goals, no disappointments. No expectations, no doubts when they do not manifest as quickly as one feels they should have.

I say this is not merely the avoidance of crisis, it is a faith designed to appease the faithless and lazy. This is lowering the bar of obedience. It is Winthrop’s warning realized: we have been negligent and lazy, and we have received our just reward. The remedy is not to rewrite our theologies and histories to fit or rebellion, it is to repent and return to God and the promises He made.

We’ll return to what Reformed theologians used to believe in just a minute. For now, let us note further the effect that theology culturally defined and misapplied can have on viewing Scripture.

Turning Psalms into Lamentations

You’ve heard of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Exile theologians have the tendency to turn psalms of victory into notes of lament. This is literally what Trueman does. Once the exile mentality is established and Christians are led to embrace cultural irrelevance, they’ll need a weekly liturgy to match. Trueman finds defeatism in the Psalter:

This is why the Psalter has been so central to Reformed worship. The Psalms’ many notes of lament, of longing for future rest, and of present discomfort and disillusion with the status quo reinforce in the minds of the Reformed that our citizenship is not ultimately in this world. It provides realistic horizons of expectation for this world—and for the next. It gives us a vocabulary with which to praise God in the midst of the contradictions of life lived out under the burdens of the Fall. It reminds us that, whatever good things this world has to offer, they can only be of passing value. And when suffering comes, we acknowledge and sorrow over its reality but regard it as nothing compared to the weight of eternal glory that is to follow. Every time we gather for worship in church or around the family Bible, the very songs of David we sing speak of exile—and of hope for the better country we seek.

No doubt, the Psalms do highlight suffering and longing in places—but these are mainly prophecies of the suffering Messiah as viewed through David’s life lived typologically foreshadowing him. This is important, but to make this aspect too central is to ignore so much of the optimism and vision the Psalms offer in addition. Did Trueman not consider these parts of the Psalter?

Now therefore, kings, be wise; be taught,
ye judges of the earth:
Serve God in fear, and see that ye
join trembling with your mirth.
Kiss ye the Son, lest in his ire
ye perish from the way,
If once his wrath begin to burn:
blessed all that on him stay. (Psalm 2)

And,

For those that evil doers are
shall be cut off and fall:
But those that wait upon the Lord
the earth inherit shall.

For yet a little while, and then
the wicked shall not be;
His place thou shalt consider well,
but it thou shalt not see.

But by inheritance the earth
the meek ones shall possess:
They also shall delight themselves
in an abundant peace. (Psalm 37)

This Psalm was quoted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:5).

What of Psalm 119 and its multiple delights and admonitions for the Law of God? And what of the notes of outright triumphalism of that Psalm which has the most quoted verse in the New Testament, Psalm 110?

The Lord did say unto my Lord,
Sit thou at my right hand,
Until I make thy foes a stool,
whereon thy feet may stand.

The Lord shall out of Zion send
the rod of thy great pow’r:
In midst of all thine enemies
be thou the governor.

A willing people in thy day
of pow’r shall come to thee,
In holy beauties from morn’s womb;
thy youth like dew shall be.

The Lord himself hath made an oath,
and will repent him never,
Of th’ order of Melchisedec
thou art a priest for ever.

The glorious and mighty Lord,
that sits at thy right hand,
Shall, in his day of wrath, strike through
kings that do him withstand.

He shall among the heathen judge,
he shall with bodies dead
The places fill: o’er many lands
he wound shall ev’ry head.

Are these the “notes of lament” which “speak of exile” and conform us to endure mediocrity and failure in history? Are these the notes of lament that inspired Reformed theologians to brave all conditions, evangelize worldwide, build cities on hills?

Let me be clear: it is a mockery of a significant portion of the Reformed heritage to represent it in this way. This is to stand on the shoulders of giants only to wet upon their heads.

And it is a mockery of Scripture to build a church only on the sour notes of Psalms and neglect the victory, triumph, vision, mission, and thanksgiving.

But what else does the faith of defeat and retreat have to offer its followers except for a Christian ghetto? And in such a ghetto, what shall be the service of this marginalized faith? You shall have a denuded liturgy to match. Ghetto faith, ghetto liturgy. Culturally irrelevant faith, culturally irrelevant liturgy.[7]

In this regard, Trueman returns to the buzzword “realistic”—as defined by the doctrine of cultural irrelevance with no expectation or hope otherwise. He writes,

Christianity needs to be realistic both in its theo­logy and in its liturgy. With the central place it gives to the singing of the Psalter, the Reformed tradition ministers to the hearts and minds of Christians set for cultural exile. The transitions through which we are living are confusing and at times painful. The Psalms offer us a means of expressing that confusion and pain in our praise to God, and no tradition has so placed their corporate use at the heart of its worship as much as the Reformed.

Now the Reformed tradition is not just pitiful, it is the most pitiful ever devised!

Or is it? I think Trueman senses some of the disconnect to which I have been pointing—in both Scripture and the Reformed tradition. Thus, in what follows, he briefly mentions the historical discord with his particular rendition.

Real reality sets in

What follows here is an interlude of denial and lack of self-awareness. About to change his tune a bit, Trueman writes, “The argument so far has been that Reformed worship can sustain the believer in a time of trial.”

No, it hasn’t. The argument so far is that Reformed worship can do so, but that we are entering a period of “exile” involving the “cultural irrelevance” of the Christian faith, and that the Reformed faith is the best tradition so far suited to that condition. Let’s not short change ourselves here. And let’s not back off so quickly from what has already been argued.

It is bad enough when we do not represent Scripture or tradition correctly, but it is the mark of confusion when we cannot even represent our own arguments from the same article correctly.

Trueman continues the paragraph, here acknowledging that, well, perhaps the Reformed faith has not been the standard-bearer of cultural irrelevance after all:

Yet in the past the Reformed faith has been a dynamic force in the public square. Reformed theology contributed to the rise of the theory of just rebellion, played a role in the English Civil War, inspired the Scottish Covenanters, and gave John Winthrop a vision for building a city on a hill in the New World. The Reformed faith resists being reduced to a type of private pietism. On the contrary, it has often proved a potent social force, even in situations of marginality and exile. . . .

Today’s world is becoming a colder, harder place. Even so, we have ongoing civic responsibilities. Shaped by our faith, we too can speak to those in power. We must remind them of their responsibilities to protect the innocent and to punish the wicked. We must remind them of the fact that they, the magistrates, will ultimately answer to a higher authority. It is this consciousness of civic responsibility—and of a firm place to stand in Christ—that frames Calvin’s Institutes and has served to make Reformed Christianity such a powerful force for change in history, from the Puritans to Abraham Kuyper.

Suddenly, Winthrop is a visionary champion. Past Reformed guys have championed not retreat but rebellion in the face of bad law and persecution. Earlier in the article, Calvin was a model exile. Now he is a “powerful force for change in history.” Witness the head-of-state work of so many in the Reformed tradition, like Kuyper.

I got one question: Do you think our exile theologians will follow in their footsteps?

Of course not. So why this about-face in the article? For one reason: to cover the base. Trueman knows for a fact that the Reformed faith historically does not champion retreat and defeat, and cultural irrelevance. Give me a break! Trueman knows all the great Reformers upheld social involvement, social theory, and social change. He knows he has to deal with this reality somehow. What he does is the standard tactic of all those who wish to marginalize the radical elements of the faith they wish not to hold: you affirm the rhetoric, but you dilute the meaning and especially the practice (if you practice it at all).

As proof that I am right about this, all you have to do is go read all the works where these exile theologians expound the practical outworking of biblical law for government, civil law, politics, economics, welfare reform, social theory, etc.—in short, all the works outlining those “civic responsibilities” Trueman mentions. Hint: it will be a short read. They do not write about it much because they do not really believe it, and they are not really serious about practicing it. And they don’t want anyone else practicing it, either—it makes them look like naysaying pietists.

This is always what modern two kingdoms theologians do: they admit what they have to admit in a limited way and only because they know they cannot get away with denying it. But they have no intention of acting upon it.

Above all they must head-off this objection: that exile theology turns the faith into a type of private pietism. And this is why Trueman gives lip service in this couple of paragraphs. It is to deliver to you this sentence: “The Reformed faith resists being reduced to a type of private pietism.”

Sure, the Reformed faith resists this; but the exile wing of the Reformed faith does not resist. This brief disclaimer in the midst of Trueman’s theology of woe is there to distract readers from the conclusion to which the rest of the piece points. Do you think that having a faith custom-designed for cultural irrelevance and a liturgy designed to reinforce this mentality sounds a bit like a type of private piety? If so, that’s because it is.

Not only does this particular quack fit that particular duck, but Trueman returns to his candor fairly quickly. He reminds his First Things readers of their common natural law tradition (remember what I wrote earlier about what was left unreformed during the Reformation?). But he is quick also to add that this commonality bears a slight distinction within it. In this, it is only the Reformed faith that can properly understand the reasons why their natural law theory must always fail: because sin is more powerful than redemption in history.

Where Thomas saw sin as exacerbating the limitations of nature in a fallen world, Calvin saw sin as bringing a decisive ethical darkness into the world.

This difference is important and gives Reformed theology a more realistic understanding of Christian life in the public square and thus of the limits to what we might expect to achieve. People do not call evil good and good evil primarily because they are confused or not thinking clearly. They do so because they are in basic rebellion against God. It sounds a tad paradoxical: The Reformed use natural law for public engagement but expect little or no success. We believe that the world was created with a particular moral structure. Yet we also believe that fallen humanity has a fundamental antipathy toward acknowledging any form of external authority that threatens our own ultimate autonomy. This injects a basic irrationality and emotional passion into moral debates. This distortion of conscience and reason explains the apparent impotence of otherwise compelling arguments. And it surely reflects our actual experience as Christians in exile in twenty-first-century America.

That’s right: this is the Reformed faith in which the doctrine of total depravity trumps the doctrines of atonement, redemption, resurrection, ascension, empowerment with the Holy Spirit, sanctification, and everything else flowing from the doctrine of redemption. We must ignore all of this and focus only on total depravity and its pervasive victory in the public square. We must wallow in the power of total depravity.

And it is in this context of theological exile—the triumph of sin—that the clearest note of defeat sounds. Despite whatever boasts about the need for civic responsibilities or confronting rulers prophetically came only moments before, here we find that retreatism ends in nihilism: “The Reformed use natural law for public engagement but expect little or no success.” There is no better description for this: it is Reformed nihilism.

And one cannot help noticing the repeated refrain at the end: “it surely reflects our actual experience as Christians in exile in twenty-first-century America.” Which is to say, “How’s that dominion thing working out for ya?”

David? Elijah? Speak up. How’s it working?

In the minds of the exile theologians, there is no way God can keep those promises in history. Why not? Because in their minds, sin will dominate this world until some day in the future, and any attempt at actually discipling the nations must fail. Trueman concludes,

Reformed theology understands this dark fact about our fallen humanity. We do not underestimate the ruthlessness of the opposition. We expect cultural exile. It actually confirms our deepest convictions about the way the world is.

This means the Great Commission must fail. This means the Dominion Mandate is a history-long illusion. This means that the whole scope of the Bible and Reformed theology for these guys must be made to bend and serve this one proposition: “We expect cultural exile.”

What Reformed theologians used to sound like

One irony that stands in all of this is expressed in this question: Why did Trueman seek to publish his article about cultural irrelevance in a venue that bills itself as “America’s most influential journal of religion and public life”? Apparently, the path to cultural irrelevance these days must be sought through the channels of cultural relevance.

According to its own “About” page, First Things and its parent institution were created “to confront the ideology of secularism, which insists that the public square must be ‘naked,’ and that faith has no place in shaping the public conversation or in shaping public policy.” Yet we have prophets like Trueman with full white flag announcing full surrender.

Something ain’t congruous here.

But I’ll take him at his word. He expects cultural exile. I just don’t accept that this is by any means what the Reformed tradition ought to expect, and even more, I don’t think this is what a biblical view should accept. Earlier I used John Winthrop to show that Trueman’s exile theology is not how Reformed theologians used to think. I would like to conclude with one more shining example. This example, as you will see, is shining not only for its clear affirmation of biblical optimism, but for doing so precisely at a time in which historical conditions would have made it seem silly to do so.

In discussing the matter of “The Gospel and the Second Coming,” old Princeton theologian Benjamin B. Warfield covered differing views of the “Millennium.” He wasted no time getting to the point. This is not exile, but rule and conquest under Christ, and it is going on now. First, as the Christmas hymn says, there is a “golden age”:

The Scriptures do promise to the church a “golden age,” when the conflict with the forces of evil in which it is engendered has passed into victory.”

Warfield describes two views of this golden age: one in which the age is established at a future coming of Christ (pre-millennialism), and another in which that victory is progressing now and in which a future coming of Christ will occur only to crown the fulfilled achievement of that age. Warfield argues for the latter, often termed “post-millennialism.” He specifically argues that this golden age is taking place now:

[P]recisely what the risen Lord, who has been made head over all things for his church, is doing through these years that stretch between his first and second comings, is conquering the world to himself; and the world is to be nothing less than a converted world. . . .[8]

And he argues for this view not from historical consequences, his own interpretation of history around him, Supreme Court decisions, or newspaper headlines, but from Scripture:

Paul puts the whole matter in a nutshell. What has been given us who are charged with the preaching of the gospel is, he tells us, distinctively the ministry of reconciliation, and it is the ministry of reconciliation for the specific reason that God was reconciling the world with himself in Christ (2 Cor. v. 19). Every word here must be taken in its full meaning.

You have to love how Warfield counsels us to pay careful attention to every word of Scripture! Modern Reformed theologians should listen up.

The ministry which Paul exercised, and which everyone who follows him in proclaiming the gospel exercises with him, is distinctively the ministry of reconciliation, not of testimony merely, but of reconciliation. It has as its object, and is itself the proper means of, the actual reconciliation of the whole world. That its full point may be given to this great declaration, we should go on to observe that Paul proceeds at once to proclaim that therefore—because it is this ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to us—the period of the preaching of the gospel is “the acceptable time” and “the day of salvation” predicted by the prophets. His meaning, when he cries, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation,” is not, as it has sometimes been strangely misunderstood, that the day in which we may find acceptance with God is swiftly passing by, but rather that now at length that promised day of salvation has fully come. Now, this time of the preaching of the gospel of reconciliation is by way of eminence the day of salvation.

With this reconciliation itself being complete a full already in Christ, the ministry of reconciliation can and will be effective: “It is not a time in which only a few, here and there, may be saved, while the harvest is delayed. It is the very harvest time itself in which the field is being reaped. And the field is the world.”

We need not wait any longer to declare any aspect of Christ’s rule in this world, for God has already completed it. Warfield writes:

The implication of a declaration like this is, of course, that God’s saving activities have now reached their culmination; there is nothing beyond this. This implication is present throughout the whole New Testament. It pervades, for example, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the burden of which is that in this dispensation the climax of God’s redemptive work has been attained, and there is nothing to be hoped for after it. In his Son and in the salvation provided in his Son God has done his ultimate. This note is already struck in the initial verses of the epistle and swells thence onward. . . .

And this view of the victory of Christ over all the world, and the need for the proclamation of it now, has tremendous import for understanding the Great Commission:

Let us turn, however, to the Great Commission itself (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20). From it surely we may learn the precise nature of the mission that has been committed to the Church of our age. The task laid upon it, we note, is that of “discipling all the nations,” and the means by which this discipling is to be accomplished is described as baptism and instruction—obviously just the ordinary means by which the Church is extended through the ministry of the gospel. The full point of the matter comes out, however, only in the accompanying promise: “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” The promise, of course, must correspond with the command. The Lord would not encourage his followers to fulfill his command to disciple all nations, by promising to be continuously with them (“all the days”) while time lasts (“even unto the end of the world”), unless the process of discipling the nations here commanded was itself to continue unbrokenly to this end. . . .

By Warfield’s standard here, the exile theologians must think Jesus would in fact give a command for which he intended not to empower His disciples for success. And in fact, they must think Jesus’ promise of His presence throughout the endeavor was only for something akin to spectatorship. Perhaps Jesus is only coming along to laugh at His disciples when they fail for not accomplishing the goal for which He did not empower them. Or, Jesus’ promise and command have some other meaning together. At the very least, Warfield argues, it denotes the scope of the command:

It cannot be said, indeed, that the mere command to the Church to disciple all nations carries with it as a necessary implication that, before time ceases, all the nations shall have been actually discipled. This much, however, is certainly included in the command: That the goal set before the Church in its evangelistic work, the object for which it is to labor, and the end by the accomplishment of which alone its task may be fulfilled, is “the discipling of all nations.” Under this commission the Church cannot set itself a lighter task or content itself with a lesser achievement. . . .

Further Scripture does give us assurance that the Church shall not fail in this task:

And elsewhere we are given firm ground for both the hope and the assurance. Even in the Great Commission, the promise annexed, “And lo, I am with you,” surely implies something more than that the power of the Lord will sustain his followers in the trials and disappointments of the heavy task laid upon them. There certainly throbs through it an intimation that because he is always with them in their work, they shall meet with some measure of success in it. What this measure of success shall be, we are told elsewhere. There is the parable of the mustard seed, intimating that small as it was in its beginning, the Kingdom of Heaven is to grow into a great tree in the branches of which all the birds of heaven shall lodge. And there is the parable of the leaven, which declares that though it was at the first but a speck of leaven, apparently lost in three whole measures of meal, yet by its power at last shall “all be leavened” (Matt. xiii. 31-33).

If this were not enough to lift even the modern Reformed bunch out of the ghetto-mentality of exile, Warfield concludes with an argument I’ve often repeated: Scripture makes clear that Christ shall not return one moment before the last enemy of God is defeated in history—and this must come while He is seated on His heavenly throne, and we on earth as His vicegerents:

Let us look for a moment at another line of representations. What do the Scriptures teach us of the time of our Lord’s return? Those men in white apparel who stood by the disciples as they gazed into the heavens into which their master had disappeared assured them that he would come again, but said nothing of when he would do so (Acts i. 10; cf. 7). But Peter who witnessed this scene informs us in his very first sermon, the great Pentecostal discourse, that Jesus, having, unlike David, ascended into heaven, has there taken his seat on the throne of the universe, at the right hand of God, and that he will remain in heaven upon his throne until all his enemies have been made the footstool of his feet (Acts ii. 35; cf. Heb. x. 12, 13; 1 Cor. xv. 25). All conflict, then, will be over, the conquest of the world will be complete, before Jesus returns to earth. He does not come in order to conquer the world to himself; he comes because the world has already been conquered to himself. . . .

So we might pass from representation to representation until well nigh the whole substance of the New Testament was reviewed. Enough has doubtless been said to show that the assumption that the dispensation in which we live is an indecisive one, and that the Lord waits to conquer the world to himself until after he returns to earth, employing then new and more effective methods than he has set at work in our own time, is scarcely in harmony with the New Testament point of view. According to the New Testament, this time in which we live is precisely the time in which our Lord is conquering the world to himself; and it is the completion of his redemptive work, so sets the time for his return to earth to consummate his Kingdom and establish it in its eternal form.[9]

This is how Reformed theologians used to think. Granted, not all have been postmillennial like Warfield, and in fact I have disagreements with him on certain passages; but the point remains that Warfield’s arguments in the main accurately derive from Scripture, and that as far as representatives of “Reformed tradition” go, there are few finer.

It is of particular note here at its end that Warfield holds this view against premillennial assertions and against the view that “the dispensation in which we live is an indecisive one.” This latter is a classic tenet of amillennial perspectives as well. Either way results in a form of exile theology—shriveling in fear and paralysis at the encroachment of the world upon us, and the gradual marginalization of the faith into cultural irrelevance. What Warfield shows is that the Reformed tradition, and certainly Scripture, is not wed to retreat and defeat, nor even necessarily suited for it. In fact, we ought to be think the opposite on all counts.

Warfield and the Great War

There is yet another dimension to the importance of this particular article. It is one thing to have a theoretical theology of victory and optimism. It is quite another to maintain that view in the face of cultural hostilities. And the greater the hostility, the longer it tends to persist, and especially the further it spreads throughout society—the more difficult it is to maintain the stance of optimism.

I may scoff at the idea that defining Scripture by circumstances is “realistic”—it is not—but I certainly understand how realistic the temptation is to do so. This is why I mentioned the examples of Elijah and David earlier. They show examples of when men of faith were helpless in the face of cultural hostility, and yet their faith was sustained through even the bleakest period, unto their obedient callings, and toward righteous victories in history.

To these examples we can add Warfield as well. Here was a guy who continued to publish his postmillennial view even in the face of social chaos. What happened?

The turning point historically for the popularity of postmillennialism is almost universally accepted as World War I, or The Great War. It was this outbreak across the globe, particularly in Europe, that shattered the optimism of many that the gospel would Christianize the globe. The horror was far too great, and human nature seen far too depraved for there to be anything like a world safe for democracy, let alone gospel freedom.

But what is a postmillennialist to do who keeps their eye focused on the promises of God, who judges history by Scripture and not Scripture by history? Just as all the faithful of God all through history: keep preaching the truth even in the darkest of governments and even caves.

The strikingly optimistic quotations from Warfield above all come from a single article published in 1915. The beginning events of the Great War had already taken place, and news spread the globe, in the previous year. Much of the war was underway, and much of the Allied and Axis powers were already engaged by 1915—including Britain and Germany. In short, Warfield would have seen the world already undone by the Great War, even if not in its fullness. He would have seen what destroyed the postmillennial convictions of so many already.

And yet he published. He did not call for retreat. He did not call Christians into exile. He did not demand a faith and liturgy custom fit for cultural irrelevance. He preached the optimistic, postmillennial hope of Christ’s current reign in history despite the dark circumstances.

That is how Reformed theologians, and indeed all biblical theologians, ought to think. And it is really such a basic aspect of biblical faith, I really have to say that the avoidance of it bespeaks a loss of it to some degree. When Christians begin allowing cultural shifts and historical circumstances to define their faith and their interpretation of the Word, it is a weakness analogous to apostasy, only a step removed.

The challenge to us today is that the theology of exile is as powerful as the illusions of defeat. That is one reason why cultural irrelevance seems so relevant. And yet it is helpful because it motivates exile theologians like Trueman to be candid with their beliefs.

If, however, we dare to follow a Winthrop or a Warfield, or even a Calvin or a Knox, and champion worldwide influence, social change, and victory in it, then let us look past the mere circumstances that bend the knees and wills of lesser men, and stand fast. For we are no longer strangers, pilgrims, or exiles. We have come to mount Zion. We are here. The law shall flow from Zion and all nations shall come to it. It may not look like it right now, but by all accounts that is what they eye of faith is for: believing the promise of the One who calls things that are not as though they were.

Choose ye this day: the eyes of faith, or the blind and their ditch. Choose ye this day: the promises of the God who brought us out of exile, or the theologians who work so hard to keep us in it.

Notes:

[1] See chapter “ .”

[2] http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/08/a-church-for-exiles (accessed Aug. 13, 2014).

[3] In the Midst of Your Enemies: Exposition and Application of 1 Samuel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2013), 293–308.

[4] See the chapter, “The Great Omission,” particularly the section, “Are Christians Pilgrims in Exile?”

[5] John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” (1630); http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html (accessed Aug. 13, 2014).

[6] John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” (1630); http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html (accessed Aug. 13, 2014).

[7] I know that many of my higher-church brethren will object to the idea that liturgy flows from belief. They are taught the concept of lex orandi, lex credendi—the law of praying is the law of believing. Without entering that debate here, it is at least ironic that they need first needed a propositional creed to teach them that, isn’t it?

[8] The quotations that follow are from B.B. Warfield, “The Gospel and the Second Coming,” Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield—I, ed. by John E. Meeter (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), 348–355.

[9] B.B. Warfield, “The Gospel and the Second Coming,” Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield—I, ed. by John E. Meeter (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), 348–355.

Categories: Worldview

Richard Dawkins Endorses a Morality He Doesn’t Believe Exists

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 08:07

Why does anyone listen to atheist evolutionist Richard Dawkins when he talks about morality? As a full materialist—“the only thing that matters is matter”—he doesn’t have a basis to talk about morality. Morality of an ultimate nature does not exist for the atheist.

Given atheist assumptions about life after death, Richard Dawkins will suffer the same fate as Adolf Hitler. All the “good deeds” of Dawkins and the “evil deeds” of Hitler will amount to no end-of-life difference. They both will be worm food and nothing more. So any talk about what a person should or shouldn’t do is nothing but “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Of course, this is not to say that atheists are immoral; it’s only to say that given the foundational assumptions of a matter-only worldview there is no way ultimately to account for morality. One person’s “morality” is another person’s reason to further the evolutionary gene pool through genocide and eugenics. Who can say otherwise?

One bag of atoms raping and killing another bag of atoms cannot be discussed in moral terms given the operating assumptions of atheistic evolution.

Dawkins himself admitted as much:

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.(1)

This brings me to the recent Dawkins firestorm. On Twitter he wrote:

X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.

People were outraged, but for the wrong reasons. “Twitter predictably went into convulsions,” Tim Teeman writes in the Daily Beast, “the central criticism made of Dawkins being that all rape and all pedophilia are bad, and seeking to draw distinctions in the way he had made Dawkins an ill-informed, insensitive bonehead.”

In the world of no-God and matter fighting for ascendancy over billions of years—“nature, red in tooth and claw”—who or what ultimately says that anything is bad or one thing is better or worse than something else?

Dawkins continued:

Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.

I’ll ask the same question: Who ultimately says? Certainly not those original primordial atoms that make us what we are today.

Not finished, Dawkins went on to write:

Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.

But in our long distant past, rape was a way of life. We are the result of “good rapes,” genetically speaking, if evolution is true and scientifically sacrosanct.

If animal behavior is a template for human behavior, then why can’t a case be made for rape by human animals? As hard as it might be to imagine, the connection has been made.

Randy Thornhill, a biologist who teaches at the University of New Mexico, and Craig T. Palmer, an anthropologist who teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia, attempt to demonstrate in their book A Natural History of Rape(2) that evolutionary principles explain rape as a “genetically developed strategy sustained over generations of human life because it is a kind of sexual selection—a successful reproductive strategy.”

If there is outrage, it should be directed at the atheistic and evolutionary premises from which Dawkins has made a fortune selling to other gullible materialists who don’t understand the full implications of their fashionable worldview.

 Endnotes:

  1. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133.
  2. Randy Thornhill, and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).
Categories: Worldview

Atheists Work with IRS to Dismantle First Amendment and Attack Churches

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 09:41

The following is from Freedom Outpost: “The Internal Revenue Service settled a 2012 lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FRM). The lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship.”

Monitoring churches is something the Nazis did. When German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) used his pulpit to expose Adolf Hitler’s radical politics, “He knew every word spoken was reported by Nazi spies and secret agents.”(1)

The First Amendment does not prohibit churches from speaking out on any issue, including political issues. The amendment is so clear that the people at the Freedom from Religion Foundation almost never cite it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that the prohibition is directed at Congress, our nation’s national law-making body. It can’t establish a religion and it can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. Period.

To prohibit a church from addressing politics for any reason is a violation of the First Amendment. Notice that the First Amendment gives everybody, churches included, the right to speak about religion, write about religion, congregate about religion, and “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The goal of an organization like the Freedom from Religion Foundation is to intimidate pastors and churches to remain silent. FRF knows that if conservative pastors began to address issues from a biblical perspective, it would mean the near end of liberal domination in America.

Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson warned churches not to speak out on political issues. He claimed that churches that violate IRS regulations could lose their tax-exempt status and be forced to pay a ten percent excise tax on all donations. I would like to see the IRS try to defend the position in court based on the First Amendment. Constitutionally, it can’t be done. Of course this doesn’t mean that it won’t be done since the Constitution is a legal wax nose.

Intimidating churches has been going on for a long time.

We got into this mess when in 1954 a law was rammed through Congress by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson to restrict churches from speaking freely on topics they have addressed for nearly two millennia. The following is from the IRS:

The ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches was created by Congress more than a half century ago. The Internal Revenue Service administers the tax laws written by Congress and has enforcement authority over tax-exempt organizations. Here is some background information on the political campaign activity ban and the latest IRS enforcement statistics regarding its administration of this congressional ban.

In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.

This so-called ban is a direct violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment is clear that “Congress shall make no law. . . .” In 1954, Congress made a law prohibiting churches from speaking out on political issues and endorsing candidates. The logic is simple. Since Congress passed such a law, then Congress violated the Constitution. This makes the law null and void.

If you are a pastor who believes in the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment and want to challenge this anti-Christian organization and the IRS, then I have a deal for you. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group, will defend you.

In response to more than 50 years of threats and intimidation by activist groups wielding the Johnson Amendment as a sword against the Church, ADF began the Pulpit Initiative in 2008. The goal of the Pulpit Initiative is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional—and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.

ADF is actively seeking to represent churches or pastors who are under investigation by the IRS for violating the Johnson Amendment by preaching biblical Truth in a way that expresses support for—or opposition to—political candidates. ADF represents all of its clients free of charge.

Don’t be bullied. It’s time to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Your future and the future of your children are at stake. If you want more information, go to the “Speak Up” site. The next Pulpit Freedom Sunday will be October 5, 2014. Talk to your pastor about it.

One last thing. The purpose of Christian involvement in the political field is not to use the power of the State to impose a Taliban-style religious-political system on the nation but to decrease the power of the State at every level.

 Endnotes:

  1. Basil Miller, Martin Niemoeller: Hero of the Concentration Camp, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1942), 112.
Categories: Worldview

‘Ruthlessly’ Stamp Out Those Who Oppose Same-Sex Sexuality

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 11:04

It’s shocking how 1.6 percent of the population—I’m speaking of LGBTers—are controlling our culture. Years ago they told us over and over again that a person’s choice in sex partners shouldn’t matter.

Now it seems that’s all that matters. Michael Sam feels compelled to tell the world that he has sex with other men, and he and his fellow-LGBTers demand that we accept his choice in sex partners or else. While Sam said that “everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” that’s not the way it’s working out.

It’s gotten so bad that a person can’t express an opinion on the subject without being assaulted through numerous media channels.

Voting your conscience on same-sex marriage, as the CEO of Mozilla did when Proposition 8 was up for a vote in California and passed with a majority of votes, got him canned from the company he founded.

Keep in mind that where a man sticks his penis is not the same as being born with black skin. There are all types of sexual behaviors that are considered abnormal and criminal. Some people have positive opinions about them and most have negative opinions. Once immoral and irrational sexual behavior like same-sex sexuality has been “defined down,” other sexual taboos have fallen with it.

It’s already happening with pedophilia, polyandry, incest, and polygamy.

How many times have you heard LBGTers argue that love should not be forbidden? I don’t know anybody who wants to forbid or outlaw love. I love a lot of people. But the LBGT issue isn’t about love; it’s about legitimizing certain types of sexual behaviors, relationships, and transitions (transgenders).

Any contrary opinion can lead to dire legal complications. Laws are being used against people that Michael Sam says should be entitled to their opinions.

We’ve seen it with the baker who is being forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of same-sex marriages in a state where its Constitution does not recognize same-sex weddings. How is that right? Some made-up governing body in the state of Colorado is requiring him and his staff to undergo (im)moral and irrational retraining.

Then there’s Bob Eschliman, a veteran news editor, who was fired for criticizing a pro-homosexual bible titled the “Queen James Bible.”

The following is from George Orwell’s 1984. It describes those who have adopted the position that same-sex sexuality is rational and anybody who refuses to say so will be reprogrammed:

 “You are a slow learner, Winston.”

“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

This brings me to the latest from the world of liberal toleration and freedom of thought. It’s something right out of 1984.

Josh Barro, writing in the New York Times, demonstrates that Orwell’s warning not only wasn’t heeded, but there are people who have adopted the tactics of Big Brother and view them as morally normative if the cause is their own.

Barro tweeted the following as reported by Owen Strachan:

“Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”

Remind you of anything?

 “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

That’s also from 1984.

Erick Erickson of Red State “wrote a brief response to Barro’s tweet, to which Barro replied that he thinks that ‘we should make anti-LGBT views shameful like segregation. Not saying we should off people.’”

Orwell didn’t mean by the stomping boot analogy that people should always be killed if they did not comply, although some might be killed for the good of the cause. The point being made was that every means possible (not just permissible) will be taken to ensure compliance. That’s what the LBGTers are trying to do.

It’s time that people stop apologizing for their opinions.

Categories: Worldview

The reason for this illegal immigration scare

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 10:52

All I’ve heard about the recent illegal immigration hype is that Obama is orchestrating this to bring about amnesty and to flood the U.S. with new Democrats. Well, it is orchestrated, but not for the reasons you may be led to believe. Specific Answers has a great article exposing an inconvenient statistic that you won’t hear in any of the news media—liberal or neocon alike. The facts are these: 1) this is not news, because not much has really changed statistically; 2) Obama is doing nothing but continuing W’s trend of reduced arrests; 3) The toughest level of border enforcement occurred under a recent Democrat, Clinton; and 4) This is really nothing more than a scare tactic to bring about—not amnesty—but national ID cards. Conservatives may be vulnerable enough on this issue enough to fall for it. Conservatives think they are making Obama look bad on this issue. They are doing nothing but setting themselves up for a trap.

Moreover, you won’t believe what I dug up that predicted all of this . . . in 1983! More on that in a moment.

First, some facts. Gary North posted this article last Wednesday. A U.S. Border Patrol chart highlighted by CNSNews.com shows the stats for arrests of illegal aliens since 1992. The fact is that apprehensions rose to a peak under Bill Clinton. They fell drastically in 2000 and trended strongly downward during W’s administration. Since then, Obama only continued W’s trend, though he did increase arrests slighty since 2011.

The points here are as I said. The recent “flood” of illegal immigrants across the border is not news. It has been steady with steadily fewer arrests since 2000.

So why has the media all of the sudden alarmed and panicked the public with this out of nowhere? Why? Because the powers that be want to finish off their agenda with the REAL ID Act—that is, a national ID card. Here’s what North reveals, and what the media says nothing about:

I cite the Wikipedia article on The REAL ID Act. It’s the law. It has been for nine years.

The REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, was an Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver’s licenses and identification (ID) cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

The law sets forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes”, as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has currently defined “official purposes” as presenting state driver’s licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants.

The Social Security card has functioned as an ID card for decades. I am old enough to have a card that says on the front: “NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION.” From the beginning, defenders of civil liberties saw the threat. The card is now widely used for identification purposes.

The SS card is not current. Driver’s licenses are. So, the DHS is attempting to create a federal ID card that is tied to state driver’s licenses. The goal is to get the federal camel’s nose into the privacy tent. The DHS is encountering resistance.

The REAL ID Act implements the following:

Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver licenses and non-driver identification cards.

Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.

Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.

Introducing rules covering “delivery bonds” (similar to bail bonds but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).

Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity.

Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders

Unlike the vast majority of federal laws, this one created widespread resistance. Half of the states have resisted or have refused to participate. This has thwarted the DHS.

But Why now? Because the Act has a looming deadline:

The DHS has a timetable for implementing this law. The Wikipedia article is clear about this timetable.

On December 20, 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that implementation of Phase 1 would begin on January 20, 2014, which followed a yearlong period of “deferred enforcement”. As of January 2014, 21 states are compliant, 20 states and territories have been granted renewable extensions (until October 10, 2014), and 15 states and territories are noncompliant (but are eligible for extensions).

Let me ask the obvious question: When did the publicity begin about this “tidal wave of immigration”? When did the headlines begin?

Hint: not in 2013.

This is an orchestrated event. Watch for “relief” from the “wave of immigration” — formal calls for the acceptance and implementation of the REAL ID law.

For any specific destruction of our liberties, the destroyer knows exactly what weak spot to target in order to get voters to succumb. In this case, the illegal immigrant angle will be played up and hyped beyond measure, and conservatives will squeal and not be able to line up fast enough to demand National ID cards. This is the destroyer’s hope and plan anyway.

I recommend you read the rest of North’s article to learn more about how the REAL ID Act will destroy your privacy and freedom, if there is not continued resistance and repeal.

But just in case you think this is all too conspiratorial, convenient, coincidental, tangential, or whatever—I want you to consider what was predicted over 30 years ago precisely in regard to these two issues: orchestrated illegal immigration “scares” and National ID cards:

Another problem is looming. In early 1982, I spoke with Prof. Lewis Tambs, who is a specialist in Latin American history at Arizona State University in Tempe. (I must add that he is now the American ambassador to Columbia, and he has not repeated his opinion publicly since joining the government.) He pointed out that a traditional tactic of the Communists is to destabilize a society and then encourage refugees to flee to a nearby country. This destabilizes the recipient nation. The next step is obvious. Destabilize nations close to the United States.

Where are the most likely candidates today? In Central America. They are being helped by Mexico, at least to the extent that “free zones” appear to be established for the Marxists to use as bases (as in Cambodia before 1970). . . .

Tambs does not claim to be a prophet, but he thinks that 3 million to 5 million refugees from Latin America could come across the U.S. border over the next five years [1983–1988], if panic hits Mexico. To counter this sort of threat, Sen. Simpson of Wyoming [Republican] has introduced a bill to issue “worker identity cards,” which every person must show to an employer before being hired. . . .

In terms of lost civil liberties and the growth of Federal bureaucratic power, a National Identity Card would be a national disaster. It sounds like something out of Nazi-controlled Europe or the Soviet Union today. But it may well be accepted without serious protests if people get scared by headlines about the “Latin peril,” and they forget about the real peril, “bureaucracy peril.”

Same issues 31 years ago as today. Same agenda: reduce freedom in America. It gets even more specific, and even more relevant to todays “headlines”:

A wave of illegal immigrants will bring diseases with them, possibly mosquito-born [sic] diseases. The threat of malaria and even the ultimate killer, yellow fever, will increase.

Influxes of infectious disease get people’s attention real quick.

But let’s be smart. The main reasons such an influx will be a threat is because of the already-existing welfare state, and worse, the already-existing mentality among American voters who cannot think outside of the welfare state or its custodians—the police state. The call is for greater “security,” which means more bureaucracy and more police-state controls. The analysis continues:

What should be done about illegal aliens? First, require proof of immunization, or require those without proof to be immunized. Second, abolish the minimum wage law. Third, abolish all public welfare programs. Fourth, abolish the requirement that the children of illegal aliens be required to attend schools at taxpayers’ expense. Just let them work, at whatever wage they can get. In short, let them enjoy the freedom that we all want. But our home-grown socialist programs have made a threat out of those who are willing to work. Our great[-great]-grandparents were welcomed, or at least tolerated, because there was no American welfare State in the nineteenth century.

These subtleties will be lost on voters, should such a wave of refugees hit this nation. . . . The inability of the welfare State to deal with these immigrants so far has been obvious. What if we get millions of them? The free market will not be tried; they will not be absorbed by the legal labor markets; and the populists will be in hog heaven.

. . . If there were no State welfare costs, and there were a true free market for labor, what would be the problem? Cheap labor is as valuable to buyers as cheap anything else. As advertisers love to ask, “Why pay more?” Unfortunately, I fear that a lot of conservatives will be yelling for some sort of freedom-denying “national identity card.” Socialist, welfare State legislation has made immigrants a threat to economic stability, not the immigrants themselves. So let’s abolish welfare State restrictions, not adopt a national identity work card. Let’s blame the problem, not potential economic assets.

Voters will demand order. They will not live in anarchy. The Marxists and other late-nineteenth-century revolutionaries understood this. They promoted anarchism, assassination, and terrorism in order to force the State into repression, which in turn was supposed to lead to the great revolution of the masses. What it led to was more police bureaucracy, reduced civil liberties, and (in Russia) a far worse bureaucracy after the promised revolution.

This is all from Gary North’s book The Last Train Out, published in 1983, pages 131–133.

The REAL ID Act was introduced in January 2005 by a Republican congressman, Jim Sensenbrenner, who is also famous as the architect of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. The REAL ID Act was introduced under the guise of fighting terrorism by requiring stringent certification of citizenship for state drivers licenses. Gotta keep terrorists from immigrating and traveling among us. The bill had 140 cosponsors, mostly Republicans, including Todd Akin, Eric Cantor, Phil Gingrey, Paul Ryan, and many more. The bill passed the House 261-161 along mainly partisan lines, but was later attached as an appendix to an $85 billion Emergency “Global War on Terror” Spending bill to make its passage appear even more unified. It was not debated at all on the floor of the Senate. It ended up passing the Senate 99-0, and the final version passed in the House 368-58.

President George W. Bush signed the REAL ID Act into law on May 11, 2005. In that same year, the trend for reducing arrests of illegal immigrants started back downward on essentially the same percentage of decline which Obama has continued.

What is coming? A flood of new Democrats? Maybe. But much more likely is a tidal wave of propaganda aimed at scaring you into the need for further reduced freedom—a nation ID card. Just listen to what is already planned with the REAL ID:

There are four planned phases, three of which apply to areas that affect relatively few U.S. citizens—e.g., DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and restricted and semi-restricted federal facilities. The timeline for Phase 4, which applies to boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, will be determined after DHS conducts an evaluation of how the first three phases were implemented. To “ensure that the public has ample advanced [sic] notice”, DHS says that Phase 4 will not be implemented before January 1, 2016.

Phase 1 has already been resisted in several states. The government has backed off and given these states a “renewable extension” for “deferred enforcement.” These expire on October 2014. This is why the tidal wave of headlines has hit now: to spook the public, especially conservatives.

Notice how the progression is planned: the first phases don’t affect many people. Many people should not have squealed—although they did. This is good. DHS is trying to coax them along over time. But the last phase will affect everyone who gets on a commercial airplane. Without softening up—i.e. frightening—the public, such a step will not go over well. We have already with some success caused them to back off of the earlier phases. DHS itself has said it will only implement the last phase based upon how well they can achieve compliance with the earlier, easier phases. This will come “no sooner than 2016.”

But in their minds, it will come. And the massive attempts at propaganda will continue, because they will be necessary. I think they will certainly increase, especially toward that latter phase. I would not be surprised at all to see national headlines hyped with a new terror event with an airline as we approach that 2016 deadline. It could be another “event” like an “underwear bomber,” or it could possibly be something more major. I am not predicting this, but I would not be surprised by it. And such an event will be used to press for final implementation of such policy, and probably more.

For now, the crisis du jour is a flood of illegal immigrants from Central America, carrying disease, and who will eventually vote Democrat. This is designed to scare conservative voters and herd them toward a common goal. The agenda for the REAL ID Act is perfectly consistent with this goal. The process has been predictable since at least 1983. It is even more predictable now.

It’s time to go beyond partial resistance. We need mass awareness and mass resistance not only to withstand this, but to push to get it repealed. In this effort, we must withstand the propaganda and scare tactics carefully designed to hit us where we fear the most. Stand, don’t fold.

Categories: Worldview

Scripture in the hands of the State (or, what happens when the church won’t preach biblical law)

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 09:22

Here is a great example of why the Body of Christ needs a loud, clear, and independent voice of Scripture in society. Here is a great example of how and why you can (and must) separate the institutions of church and state, but you can never separate religion and state. If you try (as our culture and government have), you will only succeed in replacing one prevailing religion (the religion of Scripture) with another (humanism, which finds it expedient to use Scripture for its purposes).

Clarke and Dawe are almost always funny—sometimes extremely funny—and as frequently insightful. Here, they nail it. This is what happens when the faithful church of Jesus Christ removes itself (or is removed) from the public square: the state and her bureaucrats assume the role of interpreter of Scripture for the public. When it does, the result will always be to serve and glorify the state, not God.

Highlights of the “Exciting New Interpretation of the Text”:

“The ten principle negotiating positions” or “great starting points for a discussion” (formerly known as “Ten Commandments”)

“The left-wing lecture in the hills” (formerly known as “the sermon on the mount”)

And such revisions of major themes have consequences for particulars, too. Consider some of the Beatitudes “fiddled with . . . a bit.” Here’s one for foreign policy:

“Blessed are the persecuted, for they shall be blamed for the persecution.”

And another for domestic policy:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall get stuff.”

And the ultimate purpose for all such relativistic revisionism:

Q: “Are you a Christian?”

A: “Oh yeah. We’re all Christians aren’t we?”

If the faithful body of Christ does not exert the voice of biblical Law in the public square, that role will be assumed by the unfaithful, and eventually by the state itself. The result will be the faith upended, law leveled, all distinctions done away, Christ and judgment eradicated, salvation revised, and blessing abridged. Justice in foreign policy will be colored by the immediate agenda of the ruling class—even if it means calling good evil and evil good, even if it means destroying innocents. Justice in domestic policy will devolve into a series of wealth transfers, or apparent wealth transfers, to buy off the sweaty masses, and sweaty corporations, who believe they will “get stuff” from the government if they elect so-and-so.

And of course, both these principles can be, and are often, switched: there can be welfare in foreign policy, and there can be a revaluation of values throughout all aspects of law in American life to redefine evil as good and good as evil—abortion being among the most obvious, and fiat money the most pervasively insidious and unjust.

Without Biblical Law defining the categories and boundaries of justice, we are left with the relativism of men, the agendas of men, the desires of men—which means the agendas of powerful men unhinged. Soon, they will presume to speak for the church, and for the Word of God; and then the churches will begin to bend and sway, and mold and shape themselves to fit the fashions of those speaking for the Word of God that which is not the Word of God.

We have already seen this in our time with the liberal mainline churches, with the entertainment mega-churches, with the flag-wrapped altars of many neo-conservative-bent evangelical “worship centers,” and much more. We have seen it with liberal representatives on the floor of Congress, at national prayer breakfasts, in repeated calls for God to bless unnecessary wars, and much more.

The great tragedy of our age—and of nearly all ages—is when the church refuses her social responsibility for fear of men and man’s institutions. That is, when She either withdraws into the pseudo-peace of personal piety and four-walled Sunday Christianity, or when She takes her social cues from pagans and tries to baptize pagan social theory and law with Christian rhetoric. Either way, man ends up defining the Bible by society instead of defining society by the Bible—and that is the great tragedy of all ages.

(P.S.—please save any and all comments about “religion” as versus “relationship with Christ.” I will deal with this cliché at a future date.)

Categories: Worldview

Tullian Tchividjian Claims Evangelicals are Damaging Christianity

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 13:09

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced chuh-vi-jin), the grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham and senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “believes that evangelical Christianity has been tarnished by its association with the religious right.” Tarnished by whom? Who is making this claim and where are they getting their information to formulate an opinion?

The following is the essence of Tchividjian’s critique of the “religious right.”

“I think the impression that most non-evangelicals have is that [evangelicalism is] a political movement—it’s a culturally warring movement,” he said. “Closely associating the core message of the Christian faith with a political ideology has always been a huge mistake.”

Is anybody surprised that evangelicals who believe they should get involved socially and politically (non-evangelicals have been doing it for decades) would be misidentified as a “political movement” considering that the mainstream liberal media, special interest groups, apostate religious organizations and denominations, secularists, liberal colleges and universities (are there any other kind?), and evangelical pietists are doing most of the defining?

After the 1973 pro-abortion decision, should Christians have stood by as more than a million unborn babies were killed each year? Was it wrong for William Wilberforce and his fellow Christians to bring Christian moral principles to bear to stop the kidnapping and enslavement of human beings?

Weren’t these efforts “good news” (evangelically) centered? Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 7:15-23). Speaking out against injustice is the heart and soul of the gospel. Jesus said, quoting the Old Testament (Psalm 6:8), “DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” (Matt. 7:23; 25:41; Luke 13:27). Who defines lawlessness? Is the civil magistrate exempt? Not according to Romans 13:3-4.

James writes that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-18). Do good works stop at the church door?

Good works are both positive and negative. Helping the poor through volunteerism (Luke 10:25-37; Acts 2:44-45; Rom. 15:25-28) and opposing legislation that hurts the poor and disenfranchised (Isa. 1:21-23) are two sides of the same coin. There are a significant number of special interest groups that do not want pressure put on the government to lessen its role in the life of every American. Money and power are at stake.

Pastor Tchividjian makes the mistake of assuming that the opinions of non-evangelicals are based on accurate information. Where do non-Christians generally get their news? Mostly from woefully misinformed and prejudiced secular sources. I’ve done interviews with liberal journalists, and I can tell you that most of them are neither honest nor knowledgeable when it comes to the topic of religion—when moral absolutes are on the table. (The same can be said of a lot of Christians.) See my article “My Experience with Red-Meat Journalism” for several examples.

How did the enemies of Jesus represent Him before Pontius Pilate? They lied:

“Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’ So Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no guilt in this man.’ But they kept on insisting, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place’ (Luke 23:1-5).

It was propaganda, misinterpretation, and character assassination. And even still, those same false witnesses often shape the opinions of non-Christians concerning evangelicals and their political concerns—which are minimal.

Pilate asked Jesus about the charge that He was a king and a possible political usurper: “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?” (John 18:34). Once Pilate heard directly from Jesus about these accusations, he declared, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). Pilate understood something about “objective” news reporting: There is no such thing.

Christians who are involved politically don’t want to “take over the government.” The vast majority of people who have gotten involved politically over the years want to shrink the size of the State. That’s a huge threat to the establishment of both political parties.

The determination made by Pilate didn’t stop Jesus’ enemies from continuing to make false charges.

And so it is with those who oppose evangelicals and their limited attempts to be engaged politically. The enemies of the gospel and promoters of lawlessness will push their agenda until the threat to their domain is removed. In the case of Jesus, they went so far as to have Him crucified. What did He do to anger the opposition? He healed sick people, raised the dead, forgave sinners, and fed thousands. You can’t get any more evangelical than that, and yet they wanted Him dead (John 8:59; 10:33; Matt. 26:62-66; John 5:18).

Pastor Tchividjian is doing little more than rehearsing the history of the New Testament era of people who did not like Jesus’ message because they understood the long-term consequences of it. It can be said that no matter what Christians do there always will be people who will oppose them if that message includes a change in a person’s moral worldview in any “extra-religious” arena—including business, education, and politics, to name just three areas.

Christianity is opposed because it teaches a comprehensive moral worldview. If the gospel is nothing more than “believe in Jesus” with no change in lifestyle and you’ll go to heaven, there wouldn’t be much if any opposition. But that’s not the gospel. Jesus saves us from our sins, and that includes a change in lifestyle. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “from now on sin no more” (John 8:11; also see 4:7-39). There are a good number of people who don’t want to hear this message.

Jesus did not shy away from discussing moral issues. Jesus often offended His audience: “Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’” (15:12). This question from Jesus’ disciples shows that there’s nothing new under the sun. How many times have we heard from critics of the Christian moral worldview that they are “offended” when they are told they are sinners?

Jesus does not hold back so as not to be “offensive”:

“‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’ Jesus said, ‘Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man’” (15:13-20).

These aren’t just personal sins. There is a civil aspect to them as we see with abortion and the redefinition of marriage. If the State can redefine marriage, it can redefine anything, including religion. Should Christians remain silent about these issues so as not to offend some people? Should Christians who opposed Adolf Hitler have remained silent so as not to offend?

Without the knowledge of sin there is no need for grace and forgiveness.

Evangelical Christians have gotten involved politically because, for example, the courts have become a law unto themselves by legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage. As Jesus said, “murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts.” If these “defile the man,” then they need to be pointed out or there is no need for a gospel. Furthermore, if the courts get away with redefining some things, the day may come when they redefine everything.

Does the gospel offend? You bet it does (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 5:11; Rom. 9:33), but not if it doesn’t mention sin. Remember, “everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), whether it’s practiced by your neighbor or a civil official (Mark 6:14-29; 2 Sam. 12).

Because the gospel is offensive to many does not mean that heralds of the gospel should be offensive. There are jerks and cranks in every movement. Maybe that’s what Pastor Tchividjian is really addressing. If so, I concur. But pointing out personal and national sins does not obscure the gospel, “for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

People will find any excuse not to believe and attack the message and the messengers (Acts 5:17-32; 7:54-60; 12:1-4; 17:1-3, 16-34). Why are Christians in Muslim nations being told to convert or die? Is it because they are politically active? Not at all. The basic tenets of the Christian faith are despised. Anything else is a propagandist’s smoke screen.

Categories: Worldview

A revelation on the real reason behind two-kingdoms theology

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 12:13

Rev. DeYoung for the Gospel Coalition has written a piece on “Two Kingdoms Theology and Neo-Kuyperians” which is unhelpful in its “broad strokes” but helpful in its passing admission. DeYoung glosses that on the “plus side” of two-kingdoms theology is that it is “A bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.”

Finally, someone actually admits it. They don’t engage us exegetically; they just need some way to block it out of the discussion. The two-kingdoms guys would rather have a denuded social theology, however wrong its social implications and omissions may be, than deal with God’s Law for society. What we have here, finally, is an admission (intentional or not) of the designs for which modern two-kingdoms theology has been promoted with such emphasis.

Interestingly, this is the only solid conclusion DeYoung comes to. The rest is cloudy and unsure, bifurcated and bipolar. He writes, “I don’t like the ‘third rail’ folks who are always positioning themselves as the sane alternative between two extremes, but I have to admit that there are elements of both approaches–two kingdom theology and neo-Kuyperianism–that seem biblical and elements that seem dangerous.”

Like those third-rail folk or not, there’s nothing like the responsibilities and strictures that God’s Law places upon nations and societies to turn theologians and pastors into fence-sitters. And so DeYoung concludes in third-rail form: “Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground.”

After listing his pros and cons of each side, DeYoung concludes, “So where does this leave us? I’m not quite sure.” 2K has some goods and some dangers, and Neo-Kuperianism has some appeal and some dangers. Who knows? Maybe God’s word has standards for all of life. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe states can rob, plunder, harass, kidnap, jail, and murder people (and Christians can vote for it all!), or maybe not. Who knows? “I’m not quite sure.”

But there is one thing on which many modern 2K advocates don’t lack certainty: they need “A bulwark against theonomy and reconstructionism.”

In all the clouded confusion, obfuscation, and fence-sitting, when the issue of biblical law arises to the fore, they suddenly have perfect clarity: “Definitely not.” “This must be stopped at all costs.” “We need a bulwark against this.” They have no alternative laid out, no plan, no blueprint, no vision (and, of course, there is a reason for that–Prov. 29:18), but they are perfectly clear and visionary on what they don’t want: God’s Law.

One of the theonomic authors once nailed it with this analogy: Society is diseased and we have the cure, but the evangelical world will for some reason try every bottle of medicine in the cabinet, one by one, and die trying, before they reach for that one bottle that happens to say “theonomy” on the label.

Here’s DeYoung’s prescription:

I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us.

Let’s be clear: there is not a single thing here a theonomist or Christian Reconstructionist would not, and has not, championed from the beginning. We would simply ask the proper follow-up question: “By What Standard?”

By what standard are we to “work against injustices”? By what standard are we to “be realistic”?

Let me add a couple remarks. First, by neglecting this question and shutting out God’s Law as the answer from the beginning, DeYoung is doing more than writing one more muddled 2K post. He is framing the debate in a deceptive way. By juxtaposing “Two Kingdoms” with “Neo-Kuyperian,” instead of with “Theonomy,” he is trying to frame the debate over social standards in such a way that the only acceptable answers to the social question will be humanistic—decidedly non-theonomic. And make no mistake about it, Kuyper was a socialist and welfare statist, his appeals to Christ and Scripture notwithstanding. Neo-Kuyperians can do no better than classic humanistic social gospel unless they revert to God’s Law for social matters. And from what I’ve seen, they usually don’t. This is probably why evangelicals like DeYoung who dismiss theonomy and yet entertain the idea of social involvement will only go so far as “Kuyperian”—it does not jeopardize their humanism.

In the end, if modern 2K and neo-Kuyper are the only options available, the social realm will see no difference. We will have the welfare state and warfare state, socialism, government schools, etc., either way. And why? Because both will be drawing from the same source for the content of their law: man. And both will be rejecting the standards God gave for society in favor of man-made law in the name of “natural law” or some other species of squid.

Whatever their standard, it cannot and will not be God’s. That must have a “bulwark” against it. Whatever the standard, it must be some “middle ground” between the two kingdom version of rejecting God’s law and the neo-Kuyperian version of rejecting God’s Law. The results are the same.

By that whatever standard, DeYoung can conclude his post by rewriting the Great Commission with a great Omission:

Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.

What is omitted? The part where “make disciples” means “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” One would presume “all” here includes God’s Law for society. And secondly, since when is making disciples not building the kingdom? Why are these things set at odds in DeYoung’s mind? Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction is what happens precisely when we make disciples and teach them everything Christ commands us. The growth of the kingdom in all spheres of life is the organic development of faithfulness to the Great Commission—not set against it.

I submit that the man-made dichotomy between these two things, introduced by the likes of 2K advocates, is at the heart of their apprehensions about God’s Law, and of their embrace of humanism in the social realm. It’s no wonder they create such theologies. It’s no wonder they wish to reframe the debate. It’s no wonder they want to exclude those of us who disagree.

I mean, if I held to such a standard, I’d probably leave out the part about observing all the commandments, too. And I’d find a real comfy fence to sit on.

Categories: Worldview

In defense of the Jesse Ventura verdict

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 10:49

When the decision in favor of Jesse Ventura against the estate of deceased sniper Chris Kyle was handed down last week, the firing lanes of conservative social media lit up with blasts of derision, hatred, and rabid froth against “that piece of s*** human being” who would dare press forward with this lawsuit.

Not only did this ascend from the rank and file, but conservative spokespersons such a Dana Loesch snarked on Twitter, “Jesse Ventura’s drum circle fan club can plead its case elsewhere. You’ll find no regard for this man from me.”

It’s this very refusal to take cognizance of any facts while pronouncing judgment which drives me to take defense of Mr. Ventura—or more precisely, the decision in his favor.

Let me say up front that I am no big fan of Jesse Ventura. Nothing personal, I am just not a fan. I am, however, a huge fan of our constitutional system of justice that protects even blowhards and self-promoters from those who would otherwise wish ill, seek vengeance or violence themselves, or pervert justice in a thousand ways to satisfy their own guts. When military-lust is involved, these protections are even more important.

What disturbs me the most, coming from so many so-called conservatives, is the total disregard in all of this for the role of evidence, due process, and especially the role of the jury. The smashing vitriol directed against Ventura after the verdict was a repudiation of everything America and the Constitution is supposed to stand for. Why are conservatives ignoring is so quickly in this case?

Isn’t the total abandonment of Constitutional principles the reason why conservatives are organizing to sue Obama, to blast Obama in every headline, to impeach Obama? Isn’t this type of abandon a large part of the reason Obama is continually referred to by conservative pundits as the worst president in U.S. history? Ad infinitum? Yet, here we stand, watching conservatives bypass constitutional principle just as badly when the case of a military honoree and a personality they may not like comes to the fore.

There is so much wrong with the hoorah reactionary “conservatism” in the Ventura-Kyle case we could write 95 theses on it. For starters, the assertion that Kyle is an undisputed American hero is bothersome enough. This statement hinges totally upon, among other things, whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a just war. If it was not, then all those sniper kills on behalf of the U.S. military were not defense but murder. On this understanding, Kyle was not a hero; he was a state-sanctioned serial murderer.

Perspective changes things. Kyle wrote, for example, about killing a woman who approached ten marines with a grenade hidden under her clothing. He wrote, “She was … blinded by evil. . . . She just wanted Americans dead, no matter what. My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.”

She was evil. Certainly, it could not have been that she viewed Americans as invaders and was willing to sacrifice herself against invaders of her own home soil. Certainly, she could not have been a true patriot. Certainly, she could not have been doing the exact same thing we would do if a foreign army invaded and trolled our shores and streets.

Certainly not. No, Kyle later wrote that all the Iraqis who fought against the Americans were “fanatics” and “savages,” and the world was therefore a better place because he killed some of them. His main lament? “I only wish I had killed more.”

You can pin all the medals you want on the chest of that mentality and it still won’t make it Honor or Right—unless the cause was legitimately just to begin with. And until you consider the story from the perspective of the biblical view of warfare and military, your opinion to the contrary reveals nothing but your own anti-biblical bias. It rises barely to the emotional and intellectual level of a soap opera—just with guns and tanks.

Like I said, there are dozens of issues involved here. I was thankful to see National Review publish a myth-busting piece to the same reactionaries I have experienced. This article, “Justice for Jesse: Ventura Was Right in His Lawsuit,” is by far the best piece on the Ventura-Kyle case that has been written yet, and I am glad it was published by a mainstream conservative source like National Review and not some libertarian wing—so the conservatives may not be so quick to dismiss it.

The article addresses several of the issues I would take up, and thus I don’t have to. Read it. Myths covered include:

  • He sued a widow! What a monster!
  • The jury must have gotten it wrong.
  • It’s just a case of he said vs. he said so we have no way of knowing who lied.
  • Taya Kyle and the kids are now broke because of Ventura! I hope someone is setting up a fund for them!
  • Kyle is dead so he never had a chance to defend himself or present his side at trial!
  • Even if Kyle lied about Ventura, his book sales weren’t significantly increased by that story, so Kyle did not profit from the defamation.
  • Ventura’s witnesses were probably just lying to protect him.
  • Ventura couldn’t have possibly incurred damage to his reputation because his reputation was already ruined.
  • Kyle was a perfect person and an utterly honest one.

In addition to my point above about war and murder, the article suggests Kyle and his wife were both guilty of false witness regarding their alleged charity:

Whatever happened to the repeated claim that the book’s proceeds would go/had gone to charity, benefiting the families of his fallen friends?

Consider what Kyle’s publisher wrote after his tragic passing: “He dedicated his life in recent years to supporting veterans and donated the proceeds of American Sniper to the families of his fallen friends” (italics mine). An article in The Blaze definitively proclaimed: “A perfect reflection of his character, Kyle gave all proceeds from his best-selling book American Sniper to the families of soldiers killed in combat” (italics mine). Or this line from a Human Events article: “For American Sniper, Kyle donated the profits from that book to charity.”   Kyle himself perpetuated this idea, telling the same proceeds-went-to-charity tale to the Texas News Service and even adding that he regularly received tearful calls and letters of thanks.

And now for the kicker: It isn’t true. Out of the staggering $3 million that American Sniper collected in royalties for Kyle, only $52,000 actually went to the families of fallen servicemen. (Rather than 100 percent of the proceeds, as the public was led to believe, try 2 percent!) While Kyle’s widow claimed, in her testimony, that they never intended to profit from the book, and “wanted” to donate the money to other veterans, she said they were weren’t able to because of — get this! — “gift-tax laws that prevented them from donating more than $13,000 each to two families last year.”

Among all of this, however, is the chief point about the lack of respect for due process and the jury. Anyone upset with this outcome ought to be upset with the jury, not Ventura. But, not one of them was privy to all the information the jury was. Not a single one of the critics is in a position to out-judge the jury here, and not a single one of them has a right to complain of the verdict until they are informed enough to be in that position. But worse yet, not a single one of them that I saw even considered the question from that perspective. There was a “hero” involved, and so, ready, shoot, aim. Never mind. Don’t worry about being ready or aiming. Just shoot.

Sure, it’s a free country. Say anything you want about the decision. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously when you do—at least not by anyone who is informed and who respects our system of justice.

Delgado tackles this angle expertly as well:

So what does this all demonstrate, and why should it matter?

For one, Americans are showing a disturbing level of either support or disregard for the legal system — based solely on what they think of the parties involved. That is a dangerous approach. It’s against the fundamentals of justice to decide how you feel about a case based on how much you like the defendant or plaintiff, rather than the facts.

More importantly, however, it demonstrates a worrisome level of blind hero worship. The idea that, because Kyle served his country bravely and honorably, he was therefore always honorable in all aspects of his life, and can do no wrong, ever, is preposterous. As Pocket Full of Liberty’s editor Skyler Mann wondered: “Not about Chris Kyle in particular but the hullaboo makes me wonder: if a veteran does something super sh**** is it OK because s/he’s a vet?”

A jury, with far more information than we the public have (including the chance to listen to witness testimony and watch Kyle’s deposition), essentially found that Kyle lied. The fact that many conservatives are furiously shaking their heads, refusing to accept this, and taking it even further by attacking Ventura for daring to clear his name is extremely disturbing. Ventura is the jerk for suing to restore his reputation — not Chris Kyle for lying and making an easy target sound like a demon, for the sake of financial gain and publicity.

Got it, that makes perfect sense. We supported George Zimmerman’s defamation lawsuit, but not Jesse Ventura’s. Apparently, it’s not the merits or facts of the case, but rather how likeable the parties are, that determines whom American public opinion supports. Listening to the outrage-brigade on social media, big on demagoguery but short on facts, one can conclude that (a) widows can never be sued nor are capable of unjustly profiting and (b) war heroes are perfect in every regard of their lives, forever.

This is blind hero worship, at its most embarrassing.

Except for one small correction: it’s not hero worship unless there’s an actual hero. I guess that’s where the blind part comes in. Blind or not, it’s idolatry, and idolatry destroys nations.

Conservatives rail and rail against Obama’s allegedly impeachable offenses and his disregard for the Constitution. Yes, Obama is that bad, and so is nearly everyone associated with him and his party. But the social fallout from this case reveals once again conservatives are just as prone to the same offenses. Give them a military poster-boy and they pin up that poster over-top the Constitution like it didn’t exist.

Give them their war lust and they’ll call up tanks and bombs faster than Obama can use his pen and phone. Give them the widow of a vet—sobbing legitimately or not—and they’ll call for welfare and special pleading faster than Piers Morgan could book Rachel Jeantel for an interview.

Obama is destroying this nation! Yes, he is. But give me a mirror, and I’ll show you where you can see Obama.

Categories: Worldview

Whose side should Christians take in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 11:53

Readers who have learned their lessons well will, of course, see the title question as a fallacy—the fallacy of complex question. Nevertheless, I keep getting variations of that question—some fallacious and others not—and so I decided to make a few comments.

The answer to the above question is “neither.” Both sides are in the wrong in certain ways, and America should have no entangling alliance with either, and no obligation to either. Those who understand biblical laws for warfare and foreign policy will have no problem with this. But many are still confused, largely because of a few factors: 1) their eschatology mistakenly informs them that modern-day “Israel” is something special; 2) their facts are delimited by one major news outlet or another (often of genus Vulpes), or filtered through end-times websites; and 3) their doctrine of warfare and foreign policy is pagan and not biblical.

Thus I responded to one of my inquirers the same I would respond to anyone on how to answer the question:

If you understand the meaninglessness of modern Israel in regard to prophecy; if you understand the basics of a biblical view of foreign policy and military and war, taxation, government, etc.; then you should be able to decide for yourself.

For a little help in this regard, I offer the following:

First, in regard to the facts of the situation, there is so much propaganda and so much information on both sides that it is almost impossible to sort it out. The news-filter problem is further complicated by various permutations of the conflict over the past century (one could say the past several millennia as well), so that no matter who could be shown to be in the right at any given time, another can back up to another point in time to argue the reverse. This phenomenon eventually would take us back to Genesis 12, and I will address that in a moment.

As far as facts go, this article is the most balanced one-stop-shop I have seen recently. I am shocked HuffPost ran it, because it is hardly the standard pro-Palestine leftist propaganda that leftists run—far from it. The author is a Pakistani-Canadian who criticizes Hamas and exonerates Israel as much as, or more than, he does vice versa.  He argues (I summarize):

1. The leftist media has a double standard that is anti-Israel while ignoring Muslim-on-Muslim atrocities (including even fraudulent photographs of atrocities committed by Muslim terrorists attributed to Israel).

2. The heart of this conflict is religious, including both Israel’s divine-right claim to all the disputed and Palestinian-inhabited land and Islam’s mission to eradicate Jews as directed in both Quran and Hamas’ own charter.

3. Israeli’s do not target civilians on purpose. The claim lacks common sense, and again ivolves a huge double standard: “ISIS killed more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two weeks.”

4. Hamas does in fact use Palestinian civilians as human shields, “Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there is one thing that helps Hamas most — one thing that gives it any legitimacy — it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits the deaths of its children to gain the world’s sympathy.”

5. Israel officially disengaged from Gaza in 2005, and even forcefully removed its own people who did not comply. There are not more Israeli “settlements” or military on the ground there.

6. Gazan death tolls are higher mainly because Hamas wants it high for PR value. Defense is a lower priority.

7. Yet Israel’s “minor” offenses have massive impact, including the continued expansion of settlements and occupation in other Palestinian areas—things every U.S. president since Nixon has “unequivocally opposed.”

There is more to the overall issue than this, and more holes and nuances need to be filled out. And while the issues above seem far lopsided against Palestine and/or Hamas, Israel’s dogged expansions are mind-numbingly stupid politically—except against a backdrop of the belief in divine superiority as a nation, and/or divine entitlement to the land. The policy makes little to no sense otherwise.

And this is where many Christians dangerously go astray. It is here that I reproduce a section from The Bible & War in America:

Bible Prophecy

While for some the mental hurdle will be such political devotions, others cling to military might out of their view of Israel and the end times. I am not going to go into a full discussion of eschatology and foreign policy here except to say that this view is false. It takes a very special, recent, and convoluted view of Bible prophecy to derive the position that Christians today should specially favor the modern nation called “Israel” with foreign aid and military support, and help her against her Islamic neighbors. This view is most often supported by referring to the promise to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (Gen. 12:3). The most definitive work expressing this view is also the clearest: “Politically speaking, this statement is God’s foreign policy to the Gentiles in their relationship with the Jewish people.”(1)

This view is easily debunked (though not thoroughly debunked, which would take too much space here) by simply considering the biblical context: this promise was given to Abraham before he had any children. If we are to take just this verse at this point in Scripture—as so often is done—as the basis of blessing nations in relation to “Abraham,” then we must apply it equally to all of Abraham’s children. This includes Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations. This would mean of course that we should give just as much foreign and military aid to all of modern Israel’s Arab neighbors! But this is absurd from a biblical view point, and the definitive author above would agree. On what basis is it absurd? It is so because later Scripture qualifies and narrows the definition of Abraham’s seed for us. Agreed.

But here’s the rub: the means of qualifying who actually inherits the promise becomes the very means of disqualifying modern-day Israel as well. The argument is that later Scripture qualifies the promise as not to Ishmael, but to Isaac, and then not to Esau, but to Jacob, who is later renamed “Israel.” True enough. But this sets a precedent of qualification that does not—as the proponents of this view would like you to believe—stop with Jacob. Paul himself uses this very method of argument in Romans 9 to prove that Israel also shall be redefined in light of Christ, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (9:6). He concludes,

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 9:30–33).

In other words, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the seed of Abraham, is made up of the faithful, not the physical Jews per se. It is based on faith and not on bloodlines. Indeed, in the apostolic era, most Jews were not going to make it into the kingdom, and yet the resulting entity would still be called “Israel”—that is, the Church. Now it is clear why Jesus could tell the Jewish leadership of the day that they were not the seed of Abraham nor even children of God, but “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). For this very reason He would put them on the cursed end of “God’s foreign policy.” Quoting the same prophecy of the stumbling stone as Paul did (Rom. 9:32–33; cf. Isa. 8:14–15; 1 Pet. 2:8), Jesus said to the Jews of His day,

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him (Matt. 21:43–44).

American Christians have simply got to get past the view that there is something special about the ethno-political entity established in the land of Israel in 1948. This is a huge mental hurdle for many Christians, but it is also an enormous theological delusion that leads so many to continue promoting an unbiblical view of war and the military, especially in regard to having a strong threatening presence in the Middle East.

For completing the three issues with a biblical view of foreign policy and war, I would recommend reading the rest of The Bible & War in America as well as Restoring America One County at a Time. It is far past time that Christians get a fully biblical view of this conflict, and then call our leaders and nation to stay the heck out of it.Endnotes:

  1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 838.
Categories: Worldview

The real path to Pulpit Freedom

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 13:16

Recent focus upon IRS restrictions against “electioneering” and “political activism” in pulpits from both opponents (atheists) and proponents (Christian activists) misses the real path of pulpit freedom. As such, the best solution for freedom preaching remains to the side, silenced, in all the discussion.

Atheist groups are pushing the IRS to crack down on violations of the so-called “Johnson Amendment”—a 1954 revision to 501(c)3 regulations which forbids covered tax-exempt foundations from using a “substantial part” of their activities to influence legislation, or from participating or intervening in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

The push is directed against the “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” initiative of a Christian legal group which advocates testing the boundaries of the Johnson Amendment. The group originally seemed stoked to violate the regulations in an attempt to fuel a constitutional lawsuit. Since then, it seems to have compromised a bit, its first resource now being listed as “Preaching an Election Sermon within IRS Guidelines.”

The atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is now touting the fruits of its push against “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”: a legal settlement with the IRS in which it was agreed that Behemoth would begin enforcement of 501(c)3 restrictions against political activism in church pulpits, where it had previously been slack. According to a report from lifesitenews.com, “The IRS has agreed to pay closer attention to what is said in houses of worship.”

But like I said, both sides are misguided. The atheists are misguided because not all talk about politics is indeed forbidden by the restrictions. The only actual restrictions are against using a “substantial part” of the church’s activity in an attempt specifically to influence legislation. This alone leaves open the possibility of some targeted preaching against even specific legislation, just not a “substantial part.” Secondly, and more famously, the regulations forbid involvement in a political campaign or particular candidate. Well, OK. Pulpits can still preach on explicitly political issues and even campaigns without crossing those boundaries necessarily. These restrictions actually leave a tremendous amount of room for engaging political and social topics from a biblical view and much more.

But more importantly, the Christian side of this debate doesn’t do much better. First, because they focus on the wrong legal angle, and secondly, because they are neglecting the true path to pulpit freedom which is outside of 501(c)3 status altogether.

I won’t walk through all of the argumentation of the Christian legal group by any means, but only focus on the most common one: the allegation that 501(c)3 regulations violate the pulpit’s First Amendment rights. No they don’t. It’s simple. First Amendment rights do not exist where a person or organization voluntarily surrenders them.

For example, if you accept a government job demanding certain security secrets, you have waived your rights to “free speech” in that area. You are not legally free to disclose the secrets. You can, but you will be prosecuted. Likewise, if you sign any “Non-Disclosure Agreement,” you have similarly waived your right to the extent of the terms of agreement.

And likewise, if your church files for 501(c)3 status when it is not required to do so, then it has voluntarily waived its right to the extent that the regulations demand. And to be sure, 501(c)3 status is voluntary for churches.

It was this truth I was attempting to communicate in a previous article. I reproduce some of it at length here:

First, churches don’t need 501c3 status to be tax exempt, they are automatically exempt by virtue of being a church.

Second, churches don’t need 501c3 status in order for their members’ contributions to be tax-deductible.

Why then is it almost universal practice for churches to incorporate and seek 501c3 status? It’s nothing but an unneeded sense of assurance from the government.

Marcus Owens is an attorney who was formerly the head of the IRS tax-exempt division in DC. He has since been defending churches against the IRS. He confirms the sentiments above: churches don’t need 501c3. As to why churches so frequently line up to file for what they don’t need, he said, “Mostly it’s just a matter of extra reassurance.”

So, nothing is actually gained by receiving 501c3 status. On the contrary: much is lost. Peter Kershaw has researched this topic extensively. He notes the following ways in which churches actually hamstring themselves by 501c3 status:

When a church accepts the 501c3 status, that church:

    • Waives its freedom of speech.
    • Waives its freedom of religion.
    • Waives its right to influence legislators and the legislation they craft.
    • Waives its constitutionally guaranteed rights.
    • Is no longer free to speak to the vital issues of the day.
    • Becomes controlled by a spirit of fear that if it doesn’t toe the line with the IRS it will lose its tax-exempt status.
    • Becomes a State-Church.

A corporation is by definition a creature of the state. By leaving free church status and incorporating, a church is making itself not a free creature of Christ, the king of kings, but a creature of the civil government. This is actively mingling church and state, and worse, subjecting the church to the state.

When the church goes further and receives 501c3 status, it is doing the same thing at the federal level: subjecting Christ to Caesar. Worse yet, such a church is effectively signing a contract not to preach the Bible in many ways in the public square in “exchange” for the promise of tax exemption—a right it already has to begin with.

This is a federal flim-flam pure and simple. It was a flim-flam designed and promoted by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 to eliminate the influence of conservative churches in the political arena in America. Churches need not apply for this right, and yet are led to believe otherwise. They apply, and they willingly silence themselves in the process.

This being the case, there are only two ways to avoid the IRS restrictions. (1) Change the 501(c)3 laws. This could be done the same way they were changed to what they are now: by act of Congress. Or (2) don’t file for 501(c)3 status. After all, you don’t have to.

The true path to pulpit freedom, therefore, lies in not filing for the status. Then, and only then, will the First Amendment rights apply. If the IRS comes after you then, then you would have a case.

In the meantime, there is a good side to this new settlement. IRS officials have now agreed to start listening to conservative Christian sermons. That’s great! Some of them may actually get saved, and, who knows? They may actually give up a career in organized crime and come join the liberty movement.

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

For now, churches need to be aware that their path to freedom is not within 501(c)3, but outside of it. You don’t need it, and in fact you can only speak freely without it.

Categories: Worldview

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