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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 5 hours 8 min ago
The Colson Center has related some of the worst defeatism I have seen recently with a column by Boyce College professor and social commentator Denny Burk: “What Will Be the Terms of Surrender?” I say, speak for yourself, Denny Burk.
Here is his view:
The Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last summer ensures that legal gay marriage in all fifty states is a fait accompli at this point.
The only thing that remains is for traditional marriage supporters to negotiate the terms of our surrender and to try and carve out as many religious liberty protections as possible as we move decisively into a cultural minority. . . .
Gay activists and gay marriage supporters seem to have very little interest in a live-and-let-live diversity of opinion on the issue of marriage. They are making sure that the government imposes coercive sanctions on anyone who fails to affirm the moral goodness of gay unions. . . .
Douthat has captured in one column what I have been trying to say over a week of blog posts about this issue. We are watching a moral revolution unfold before our very eyes, and traditional marriage supporters are at the short end of the stick. There is very little that we can do about it but wait to see what terms of surrender will be imposed upon us by the victors.
On one level, I am glad to see such an admission embracing surrender and defeatism in open, historical, practical, progressive terms. What else should we expect from a premillennialist? I am thankful to see one so consistent.
On the other hand, this is not only wrongheaded and misguided, it is discouraging to think Christians like this make up such a large majority of evangelicals.
With Christian leaders like this, who needs U.S. v. Windsor?
With an army of pulpits sapping millions of Christians with “defeat and retreat,” who needs the ACLU?
In many ways, the cultural decline we’ve endured is the fulfillment of the two self-fulfilling prophecies of the baptistic-evangelical heritage in this country: 1) pessimistic eschatology, and 2) he imposition of “neutrality” in the public square. Denny Burk is one more herald of this legacy—he’s just more explicit than most. Both of these positions play directly into the hands of the leftist enlightenment, secular humanism.
It does not take much mental prowess to realize the product of such beliefs. If, on the one hand, you believe that society is inevitably given to devil to devolve into utter depravity and wreck before Jesus will ever return, and on the other hand you believe that distinctly biblical law and Christian test-oaths for office are not required the public square (that it should remain religiously “neutral”), then you have a recipe for the total capitulation of society to the forces of evil with no effective check against them.
The only thing askew in laments like Burk’s here is the element of praise. As sodomites don bishops’ collars and judges’ robes alike, start marrying and giving in marriage, and begin forcing society to acknowledge them and serve them on their terms, guys like Denny Burk ought to be praising God for bringing His pre-return will to pass in society, as allegedly promised, so clearly. Maranatha! Even so, come Lord Jesus!
I have to say, I too have predicted the inevitable overturn of the remnants of DOMA after the Windsor decision. I agree, that much is all but a fait accompli—but only in regard to a Federal Supreme Court decision. So what? Are you telling me that’s the end of all things? No. There are still legal avenues through which to fight, and indeed, why not fight to the end?
What is missing, most disturbingly, in the prognostications of these white-flaggers is 1) any hope of victory in history, and consequently, 2) any plan of resistance.
What is noticeable is how oblivious these guys are to the real problems. What “persecution” is Burk afraid of? He quotes conservative commentator Russ Douthat:
[E]ventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.
Why are Christian schools accessing tax funding anyway? Why are they pursuing accreditations that allow students to rack up huge debts in federal student loans? What kind of Christian education is this? Seems to me we’ve gotten ourselves into a large part of the mess with our insistence on taking government help.
All of this, and suddenly these Christians seem shocked that a revolution has unfolded right before our eyes? That Christians must now roll over and submit? That we must kiss the rod that scourges us? Or the hand that feeds? Prepare for inevitable persecution?
Nonsense. How about a plan of resistance? There are many other avenues of Christian Resistance. They are more difficult and up-hill in our age, largely due to the thousands of pulpits filled with men trained by the likes of Denny Burk. These guys just don’t want to fight, and don’t want you to be able to fight either: it upsets their eschatological scheme.
Let them say what they will. Then let them crawl in their holes of surrender. Sometimes I wish they would just crawl in the hole without writing about it first, but nevertheless, let them do their worst.
Let the Colsonites and other cultural facades puff Burk if they will. He will not speak for me.
This ministry is for those who will fight with a policy of Unconditional Surrender.
We are all familiar with the stereotype of the “welfare queen.” I would like to introduce you to her father, husband, baby-daddy, and mentor, the Welfare King.
This is a story I have told and rehearsed on several levels in Restoring America. It is true, and until conservatives and Christians accept it and act upon it, we only help advance the liberal progressive cause—albeit at a slightly slower pace than liberal progressives themselves. (Indeed, it would seem that the highest aspiration of some conservatives is at best to be a mild annoyance to liberals.)
The story is outlined in a nutshell by Gary North in today’s column entitled, “Loss of Faith: The State as an Agency of Healing.” It is behind Gary’s “member’s only” wall, so I will only reproduce limited excerpts here.
Gary argues that the great momentum created by the old Left for using the state as an agency of social salvation and improving mankind is largely gone. It has been reduced merely to the symbol of the safety net. On one hand this may seem like good news: the all-encompassing vision of Wilsonian-FDR liberalism is greatly diminished. On the other hand, however, the new reality is more sinister. This is true for one great reason: the “state as safety net” view is overwhelmingly bipartisan.
This means the social-security/medicare/healthcare complex is largely supported by voters and representatives of both major parties. This means Republican voters are every bit as much to blame as anyone else, as long as they continue to lend support for these broader policies.
And indeed, historically, it is the forces of big-business and high-finance that are largely to blame. The welfare concept—the state-as-safety-net concept—was the brainchild of the rich. It was the brainchild—in this country—of the banking class, as personified by men like Alexander Hamilton. The whole history of high-finance safety-nets, public insurances, bailouts, etc., is the precedent created and maintained by the “strong Hamiltonian federalism” tradition. This tradition is the Welfare King. It is the granddaddy of the welfare concept.
This is part of my thesis in Restoring America. This is the thesis outlined quite well by North today:
Today, the great motivating force behind Left-wing politics is the same motivating force that is behind Right-wing politics, namely, the desire to shift economic responsibility to the state. . . . The widespread belief today is that individuals, who do not wish to face the responsibilities of life, have a legitimate claim on the output of other Americans, who have both a moral and legal responsibility to bail out the failures. . . .
The welfare state’s great motivational image is the image of the safety net.
This is true, of course, for social security, medicare, tax-supported hospitals, and other forms of welfare. But notably it began with the banking system as a bailout for rich financiers. North notes how this became a precedent to spread throughout all of society:
Once the central institution of a society is protected by the national government, and is not allowed to function in terms of the free markets profit and loss system, you have at the very center of society [an] ideological cancer. Once the banking system was protected by the state, which began as early as 1791 in the United States, this ideology of protection spread throughout the rest of the society. The banking system was the original beneficiary in American society of the ideology of protection and special support from the state. . . .
The First Bank of the United States was a violation of this principle. So was the Second Bank of the United States.
While there were notable variations of this violation throughout the 19th century, North fast-forwards to the modern belly-fire of leviathan: the Federal Reserve Act: “Not until 1913, with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act into law, did the U.S. government provide this kind of protection for large commercial banks, none of which was allowed to fail, 1931-1933.”
Thus the national bank precedent went viral. The system was a safety net for the super-rich. But once the principle is introduced in society, other groups start to want a piece of it. There is no stopping the logical progression of corruption once greedy and covetous men—rich and poor alike—taste the blood in the water.
This ideology of protection has spread from central banking and therefore fractional reserve banking to the rest of the economy. The ideology that the state has a moral right and legal obligation to protect institutions from failure was, above all, an ideology manufactured by the super-rich with respect to the primary institution by which they maintain their status, namely, fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking needed a government institution to protect it at the highest levels, so that the banks that were too inefficient not to fail would become too big to fail. The ideology of the Progressive era was manifested, above all, in the creation of the Federal Reserve System. This was the primary representative institution of the Progressive movement, and it relied upon a worldview that said, in no uncertain terms, that the state would not allow the central economic institutions of the wealthy to be subject of free market forces.
Once this principle was accepted by the rich, namely, that the banking system had to be protected, everybody else wanted to get in on the deal. . . .
North notes, rightly, that this has been a bipartisan effort. While the modern Right has been officially opposed to “progressivism” and the ideology of welfarism rhetorically, they have nevertheless been committed to the core principle of welfarism: the safety net principle in regard to corporations, banks, public-private partnerships, government contracts, chambers of commerce, corporate welfare. This is a tradition stemming, as I said, from long before Wilson to their patron saint Hamilton. While the rhetoric of a Reagan or a Bush may have opposed liberalism, they nevertheless continued the policies largely unchecked.
And the same violation abides today. Even our most rhetorically conservative activists still assume these policies as the norm, largely without question. North draws the conclusion,
This is why the tea party movement ultimately does not confront the issue of Social Security and Medicare. There is still enormous faith in the government, especially the federal government, as an agency of protection.
Indeed. The Welfare King must be brought to repentance before welfare queens can be brought in line. The only way to address this issue is to straightjacket the banks, and to prepare for sacrifice on the personal level as we transition out of government-welfare models of retirement and healthcare. Nothing will change without repentance and sacrifice.
Of course, sacrifice is why most people refuse to repent. For some people, it’s simply too hard to face up a loss and to forfeit what is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as “rightfully mine.” For others, it’s simply too hard to give up cable TV and Ruby Tuesday.
But there is no other way around this. The system is based on legitimized theft. Scripture posits two paths forward for violations of theft: personal repentance and payment of restitution (Ex. 23), or social judgment (Deut. 28–29). The latter is more devastating, but also much slower in coming. The former hurts too much in the short term. But the short term is all most people can see. With its long time in coming, they don’t believe Deuteronomy 28–29 will ever happen to God’s country.
The ancient Hebrews didn’t either.
We previously reported on the Chalcedon Foundation’s expose regarding the state of Massachusetts’ attacks on Dr. Kishore whose pioneering efforts in drug addiction threaten the medical establishment’s billion-dollar cash cow. We noted in that first introduction how Dr. Kishore’s treatments outperform standard drug-based therapies by several factors, and we noted the depths of the state’s attacks on the doctor. What we had not yet learned from the author, Martin Selbrede, was just how frighteningly deep those depths actually are. The gall is astounding.
Mr. Selbrede continues his series:
In the previous article, we examined the revolution in addiction medicine set in motion by Dr. Punyamurtula Kishore and how the state of Massachusetts wielded its prosecuting power against him and his clinics, which have consequently been shut down.
Naturally, some readers were tempted to do Internet research on Dr. Kishore and found they weren’t prepared to read the countless evils attributed to him by the media campaign to vilify him. Over the course of this second article and those that follow, we will dissect, point by point, all the nonsense currently parading as journalistic fact in the media. The reality distortion field fostered by both state and media defies explanation.
But there are some medical truths about Dr. Kishore’s holistic treatment program, known as the Massachusetts Model, that have been as completely erased as his Wikipedia page was the day he was indicted. The kind of “memory war” being waged against Dr. Kishore has been nearly total in extent. As he regards the GPS ankle bracelet that restricts his movements, speaking of the relentless pressures being applied against him by the Attorney General, he ably captures his personal situation with a single word: Kafkaesque.
As noted in the first article, there are competing treatment models for drug addiction. There are what Dr. Kishore calls “the fragmented approaches,” such as those that substitute methadone or Suboxone® for the abused substance. Under these scenarios, the addict has replaced one dealer (his pusher) for another (the state) with dependency on narcotics as active as before (albeit in a regulated program using prescribed narcotics). With such “replacement therapies” being a billion-dollar business, it isn’t surprising to see media concern over the growth of “methadone mills.” The state does one better than the local pusher: it pays for bus and taxi vouchers to get the addicts to the methadone.
Now pay close attention: when we read about the “consensus” of medical experts concerning how addiction treatments should operate, or how frequently drug tests should be administered, the hidden assumption is that the experts are right. Confidence in the consensus of enforced orthodoxy rules the roost.
But recall the point made in the first article in this series: the proper yardstick to measure success in addiction medicine is sobriety. Modern medicine isn’t interested in objective measurement because it would expose the disaster that current paradigms inflict on people.
Strong words, yes. So it is now time to back them up with clinical evidence: evidence that blows the orthodox approach out of the water, and puts modern medicine on trial.
And the evidence follows, believe me. Evidence follows for both the fact that Dr. Kishore’s treatments are superior and the fact that the state-medical complex has gone to extensive lengths to squash him on charges spurious at best, perhaps even fraudulent. I recommend AV readers take the time to read the entire lengthy part 2 and part 3 of Selbrede’s series.
This story is a clinic in bureaucratic abuse, media smear campaigns, and the dirty tactics by which people in power can destroy rivals. Selbrede goes on to recount the state’s multiple attacks on Dr. Kishore—all without any real evidence, actual trials, or accountability for those perpetrating the tactics. These include:
- A failed sting operation (complete with wires and two-way mirrors, but still failed)
- Multiple invasive audits (all of which Dr. Kishore’s businesses and charities passed)
- Spurious charges imposed after-the-fact upon “arrangements that the state reclassified as bribery and kickback schemes despite the presence of legally valid signed contracts” but which were previously structured specifically to match “models published in October 2010 by the National Association of Community Health Centers.” In short, it appears the state changed the rules and definitions specifically so it could bring charges and justify an arrest.
- Attempts at cajoled plea bargains which demanded various levels of capitulation from Dr. Kishore: demanding guilty pleas and total submission to the establishment. Selbrede relates that one lawyer with ties to the Attorney General told Kishore, “I want you to plead guilty pre-indictment. We’ll monitor you for five years and then you can resume practice. That’s how it works in Massachusetts.” Selbrede comments, “The state wouldn’t accept a settlement that didn’t destroy all 52 of Dr. Kishore’s practices, so the good doctor fired Libby.”
- Kishore was arrested and held overnight in jail. He was faced at arraignment by a barrage of over 40 obviously planted media reporters and cameras. The AG moved to present Kishore as a dangerous criminal, and to have bail denied, but Kishore’s lawyers negotiated bail on condition that he wear a GPS tracking device and forfeit his passport. The rebuffed AG later simply filed new charges and increased the bail, holding Kishore in prison again. Yet he was able to get released a second time.
- After this second release, the now GPS-bound Kishore has received an unprecedented eight traffic citations. Successful prosecution of enough of these would have gotten his license revoked, further hampering his ability to travel. Dr. Kishore, however, has successfully fought seven out of eight so far. Eight quick traffic tickets all of the sudden, when Kishore previously had a clean record? Coincidence?
- Dr. Kishore’s name has been steadily and needlessly drug through the media seemingly at every opportunity, and associated with unrelated suspects in unrelated fraud cases. Guilt by association? If the media says it enough, will it stick?
And as Martin notes, what is the gorilla in the room? It is the fact that Kishore’s treatments by far surpass the establishment drug-laden model in effectiveness. In the end, whereas the establishment models succeed in at best 5 percent of cases, Dr. Kishore’s more interpersonal, narcotic-free, and intensive treatment succeeds a full 37 percent.
What’s a factor of 7.4 when you’ve got billions of dollars in testing and prescriptions at stake?
It’s a major threat, that’s what.
Again, I recommend you go read Martin’s longer treatment of these issues for fuller enlightenment. Recognize the power of politics and money involved in medicine and healthcare. Recognize the threat it poses to our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Recognize what I wrote before:
[T]his latest case study shows the danger of centralized controls over medicine—whether at the state or national (or even international) levels. This is especially true when pioneering studies reveal that treatments or therapies require a much broader, eclectic, and holistic approach than what the establishment and its vast bureaucracies are willing or able to provide. Pride and profit trump progress, and pioneers are made pariahs through brute force and politics
Recognize that “‘RomneyCare’-laden Massachusetts is a microcosm for now-ObamaCare-laden America. We need more alternatives and less government intervention in medicine. This fight will be representative for what can be achieved in this area.”
Dr. Bill Leonard is the founding dean and professor of Church History at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He holds the B.A. from Texas Wesleyan College (1968), the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1971), and the PhD from Boston University (1975). He served as pastor of First Community Church, Southboro, Massachusetts, 1971-1975.
As a result of these credentials, his opinions carry some weight. I was sent a link to Leonard’s article “Reserving the Right.”
Dr. Bill Leonard begins with a story of how he grew up in Texas and remembered a sign that was posted in “a hole-in-the-wall diner called Shorty’s Stop. . . . Behind the cash register . . . that read, ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.’”
Dr. Bill Leonard is equating racial discrimination with refusing service to someone because of their beliefs or behavior. They are not the same thing, and sometimes I think that confusing the two is done on purpose because a case can’t be made either morally or legally for forcing people to provide service when that service promotes certain objectionable points of view. A black person who owns a print shop would be within his rights to refuse to print “White Power” shirts or “Bring Back the KKK” placards.
Here’s some of what Dr. Leonard wrote:
“First, which biblical mandates regarding marriage are non-negotiable? If Scripture and conscience compel a refusal to serve persons in the LBGT community, wouldn’t that require a similar response to the divorced and remarried, since Jesus (silent on homosexuality) says rather clearly that ‘whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery’ (Matt. 5:32 KJV)? Is such a union adultery or marriage? And what of couples who have already cohabitated before marriage? Can their weddings be facilitated for conscience sake? Sorting out one biblical mandate from another has spiritual and economic implications for Christian enterprises.”
Keep in mind that Dr. Leonard is a seminary professor with a PhD. He asks, “which biblical mandates regarding marriage are non-negotiable?” The place to start is with a biblical definition of marriage which he does not give. This allows him great opportunity to confuse the issue and muddy the moral waters.
We must begin at the beginning: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The Bible couldn’t be any clearer. Adam’s created mate is a woman. He’s not given an option to choose a woman or a man. Men and woman were anatomically designed to go together no matter what color or ethnic background they are.
Dr. Leonard also off handedly throws in that Jesus was “silent on homosexuality.” Given this form of biblical exegesis, I guess we can say tripping the blind and cursing the deaf (Lev. 19:14), removing our neighbor’s boundary markers (Deut. 19:14), and having sex with animals (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; Lev. 20:15, 16; Deut. 27:21) are also permissible because Jesus was silent on these as well.
Jesus didn’t have to repeat these prohibitions or ones regarding same-sex sex (homosexuality) since “all Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). These specific sexual prohibitions come under laws forbidding “fornication” (Matt. 15:19). That’s why Paul could condemn same-sex sexuality (Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11) as well as rebuke the Corinthians for tolerating “immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1).
Again, Jesus did not have to repeat what had been made clear. To cover all the bases regarding marriage, Jesus quoted the biblical definition of marriage, and in doing so eliminated all counterfeits (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph 5:31), of which same-sex marriage would not have been a consideration.
Dr. Leonard then brings up divorce. When all the passages are put together, divorce is permissible under certain conditions. If not, then why would Jesus mention the biblical law regarding permission to divorce in the form of “A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE” (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt 5:31; 19:7-9)?
There are some churches that will not marry a divorced couple even if both of them are innocent in the divorce because of desertion, abuse (a form of desertion), or adultery. In fact, many churches will not marry a couple unless both of them are committed Christians and one of them is a member. In many cases, an engaged couple has to go through a series of classes before a minister will marry them.
There are all types of conditions put on marriages by churches. If a couple doesn’t like these mandates, they don’t sue anybody; they go elsewhere. Since marriage is a creation ordinance (one man/one woman), a minister is not required for a marriage to be valid.
Let’s tackle the bakery and photographer issue since at least two bakeries and one photographer have been sued for not servicing a same-sex wedding. Dr. Leonard should take a look at this article: “Four Businesses Whose Owners Were Penalized for Their Religious Beliefs”: Elane Photography, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Arlene’s Flowers.
I believe it’s morally, constitutionally, and legally right for any business to refuse to offer a service when the people asking for that service are engaged in behaviors that are unacceptable to the business, especially when religious or moral convictions come into play. Such a stance protects everybody and affects everybody (positively or negatively) equally. Everybody has the right.
In most cases, business owners don’t know the circumstances of their clients. But when two men or two women want to marry, there is moral clarity. The Bible makes no provision for such a marriage, and the State should not force compliance.
In a recent interview, billionaire Koch brother Charles condemned what he sees as “one of the biggest problems” in America. Obama aside, the real problem is corporate welfare and cronyism masquerading as capitalism and “free market.” In the end, in Koch’s words, society should instead be about “making money honorably.”
In a society that has failed the “honorable money” standard at all facets—whether through corporate welfarism, military industrial complex, medical-big-pharma complex, fiat money, selling out political principles and personal ethics for profit, whole industries of religious façade fleecing ignorant believers in a million ways, selling Jesus junk, or the political equivalent of it—reminders like this are needed and ought to be heeded.
Responding to a question about negative backlash for his political views, Koch answered, “Somebody has got to work to save the country and preserve a system of opportunity.” His comments and vision in this regard are quite remarkable:
I think one of the biggest problems we have in the country is this rampant cronyism where all these large companies are into smash-and-grab, short-term profits, (saying) how do I get a regulation . . . . well, you say you believe in free markets, but by your actions you obviously don’t. You believe in cronyism.
I have argued in Restoring America that this has been the standard from our earliest days. America has never truly had free markets, despite all the rhetoric about it. We have had tons of cronyism, public-private “partnerships,” and big-business welfare. Most of this was simply outgrowths of the old mercantilist system: government-chartered business. Canal systems, land speculation and development, shipping and trade, and later railroads, highways, and much more, including natural resources, were all dominated by such systems. From the very first presidential state of the union address by George Washington himself, American presidents and politicians have assumed this type of wealth redistribution—taxation and redistribution to the cronies and corporatists—as the norm.
But it hasn’t resided only at the federal level—hardly! As Koch continues, it permeates every level of American life:
[T]hat’s true even at the local level. I mean, how does somebody get started if you have to pay $100,000 or $300,000 to get a medallion to drive a taxi cab? You have to go to school for two years to be a hairdresser. You name it, in every industry we have this. The successful companies try to keep the new entrants down. Now that’s great for a company like ours. We make more money that way because we have less competition and less innovation. But for the country as a whole, it’s horrible.
And for disadvantaged people trying to get started, it’s unconscionable in my view. I think it’s in our long-term interest, in every American’s long-term interest, to fight against this cronyism.
The crony system and corporate welfare practices are actually the opposite of what the free market and business world should be about:
[T]he role of business is to create products that make people’s lives better while using less resources to do it and making more resources available to satisfy other needs. When a company is not being guided by the products they make and what the customers need, but by how they can manipulate the system — get regulations on their competitors, or mandates on using their products, or eliminating foreign competition — it just lowers the overall standard of living and hurts the disadvantaged the most.
This is actually a potent lesson for many young entrepreneurs today, and it applies to wealth generation in general, not just to the influence of government in it. Some people act as if a postmillennial vision is about making money, and not much else. They don’t see much beyond that. Their business and entrepreneurial vision can become dominated by one key motive (perhaps even subconsciously): “how can I make more money.” And in turn, the generation of cash flow is taken in itself as kingdom success.
Too many people with this mentality miss totally the nature of kingdom advancement—they lose any focus of mission, diminish the nature and focus of service and/or ministry, and in some cases even compromise themselves in order to achieve continued success indicators—i.e., more money. The temptation—and indeed real practice—here is that you can look at a genuine cause or mission, and instead of seeing a cause or mission, you see only a market. You think no longer about advancing a cause but about selling it something—anything—to make a profit.
It is in this simple step, even before corporate welfarism enters the picture, that even men with a godly social-business vision end up as moneygrubbers. Once vision and mission are compromised, ethics are too, almost by virtue of the fact. It is no wonder at all that a culture of such people—some of whom may be hypocritically mouthing Christian culture, others who never had a religious ethic to begin with—soon use government coercion of all forms to insulate profits. The path to wealth in such a society becomes largely “who you know.” And to know and to be known require that you submit to the knower’s level of ethics.
Profits are legitimate kingdom goals, for sure, but even Koch has a better standard:
[I]t’s about making money honorably. People should only profit to the extent they make other people’s lives better. You should profit because you created a better restaurant and people enjoyed going to it. You didn’t force them to go, you don’t have a mandate that you have to go to my restaurant on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or you go to prison. I mean, come on. You feel good about that?
All of this does not mean, however, that individual welfare is exonerated in such a culture. Koch criticizes that equally:
The poor, OK, you have welfare, but you’ve condemned them to a lifetime of dependency and hopelessness. Yeah, we want hope and change, but we want people to have the hope that they can advance on their own merits, rather than the hope that somebody gives them something. That’s better than starving to death, but that, I think, is going to wreck the country.
A large part of achieving a better society with free markets and more honorable wealth generation must begin with educational models. Young people are today herded into pointless educational programs where they probably don’t belong, likely can’t succeed, won’t be productive, and for such a privilege will face a life of massive student debts. Koch says there’s a better way:
I don’t know if you ever saw Michael Rowe’s show “Dirty Jobs.” We’re working with him and my foundation. His position is that pushing all these kids into four-year liberal arts (programs), they have all this debt, they don’t have the aptitude for it, so they end up driving cabs if they can get a medallion, or tending bar, or unemployed and living with their parents … Whereas they may have great aptitudes as an electrician or a mechanic, making $100,000 or $200,000 a year — some of them with that aptitude start their own businesses. They become wealthy because they are satisfying a real need, not because somebody subsidized them and pushed them into things they can’t really make a contribution in.
The point is that “making money honorably” requires first and foremost a vision of service. Focus on the money at the expense of the service, and it’s only a matter of time before you wreck society.
What service do you focus on in your business? Every business ought to be able to answer that question before it can take itself seriously.
For many Christians, it will sound like a revolutionary return to the good ol’ days. And it may be. But that don’t make it right.
A near-genius scheme to re-introduce official prayer into public schools has just made it out of committee in the Alabama House. It is sure to spark controversy as it approaches the floor.
Of course, I oppose such a measure, because biblically speaking, the theft-and-redistribute principle, and all the coercive and socialistic measures involved I government control of education, are corrupt. Introducing prayer in such a setting is about as plank-eyed as printing “In God We Trust” on our debased monopoly currency. God bless us as we persist in our rebellion! Praise God while we gore our brother’s ox, and shove and thrust each other with our horns (Ezek. 34:21).
The Bible commands that children be taught prayer and in the law of God (Deut. 6:4–9). It ought to be the bedrock of all education. It is commanded in Scripture—but it is commanded for families to perform, not civil governments. The moment civil government usurps the roles of families, churches, and free associations, that moment freedom is erased, and coercion takes its place. Corruption of all society soon follows from this precedent.
Nevertheless, the bill leverages a genius tactic, and for that reason is at least noteworthy. The genius lies in the fact that it exposes the hypocrisy of the liberals. The report notes that the bill,
would require teachers to spend no more than 15 minutes in the first class of each day to read, verbatim, opening prayers said before a meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.
So teachers are not leading prayer, nor are they even necessarily praying per se. They are simply reading a historical document: whatever prayer was said at the opening of the U.S. House or Senate that morning. The teacher will simply be spending up to 15 minutes reading an official federal government document to the students.
Now surely no liberal can be opposed to that, right?
Of course they are. They’re hypocrites (to be fair, Republicans opposed the bill, too). If these had their way, there would be no prayer in the U.S. Congress either. And that’s why most of them opposed this bill in committee—just “quietly.”
But this silence allowed the bill’s couple supporters to prevail. Albeit, there seems to be a little hypocrisy here, too. According to the report, the committee passed it via voice vote. Three claimed to have voiced opposition, while only two, including the chairwoman, voted yes. Three committee members remained silent. The chairwoman said the ayes have it, and it passed:
“It’s what I heard as chairman,” she said.
We’ll assume it was an innocent mistake. What’s most notable about this mistaken voice vote was that none of the opposition challenged it, as they are allowed to do. Any of the abstainers or opposers could have requested a record vote to clarify. None did. Why not?
I think they didn’t want to be on record, in Alabama, as either opposing or not supporting a school prayer bill. So, they preferred to remain off-record. They let this little loss slide, probably expecting the bill to meet such controversy on the floor that it gets tabled or squashed.
And I hope it does too. Despite its providing a little vignette into the hypocrisy of the left, and the willingness of politicians to weasel the system in any way possible, prayer should not be coerced via government (no matter the guise), and neither should education. Public schools should not exist, and neither should mandatory, subsidized prayer in them. Christians should shun government schools and all the accoutrements, exigencies, lies, propaganda, and excuses that attend their existence.
Christians need to quit expecting non-biblical institutions to uphold a façade of their faith for them. They need to quit trusting government coercion for expressions of their faith. They need to take responsibility for their own families before God. They need to develop a lifestyle of faithfulness, discipleship, and dominion. They need to put arms and legs on their faith in their own lives, and equip their children to do the same themselves. They need enough chest to call sin sin, theft theft, force force, and to take a stand on biblical principles—a stand to “come out from among them and be separate” as Paul calls us to do (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
To be sure, Paul would pray in a public place, would have prayers be said by all and for all civic leaders, and would likely even do so in certain government-sponsored arenas. But biblical law does not sanction the redistribution of wealth or civil government control of education. Institutionalized prayer in this arena is unbiblical, myopic, and hypocritical.
Okay, my turn to chime in. The Steven Furtick Baptism story continues to grow. Everybody wants to keep moving on, but like rubbernecking past an accident on the freeway, both Christian and secular media have latched-on to what is a peculiar yet not very surprising story. From local news outlets to the Washington Post, Elevation Church has received national attention surrounding the allegations of employing manipulative techniques to generate thousands of “spontaneous” baptisms. Furtick has now gone on the offensive, he says. “I felt God said ‘then don’t play defense, play offense.’ I thought about it for a minute … God said ‘shake it back off into the same fire. Feed the fire.” Following this statement he announced that he would be doing a special baptism service later that evening. The church reportedly baptized 400 people that night.(1)
Although the practice of baptism is at the forefront of the story, it is not the reason that the talk surrounding Elevation Church has received so much visibility. It has drawn widespread attention and scrutiny because it addresses fundamentals such as God’s sovereignty, church authority, as well as ethics and governance within the church. Dr. Joel McDurmon provided key insight into how the story reveals a logical outworking of Arminian soteriology. This may be difficult for some to hear but it needs to be wrestled with in the church today. This is truly the fundamental of all “fundamentals”. Apparently this and other fundamental doctrines of the faith are merely junk food in the mind of Furtick. After speaking of the multitude of recent conversions in his church, he boldly states,
“…if that doesn’t get you excited and you need the doctrines of grace as defined by John Calvin to excite you, you’re in the wrong church. Let me get a phone book. There are 720 churches in Charlotte. I am sure we can find one where you can stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.“(2)
Unfortunately Furtick’s false dichotomy of doctrine vs. action is all too common. Right doctrine enables right action. Far from being a self-gratifying Twinkie-eating exercise, preaching sola scriptura and tota scriptura ensures Christ’s sheep are properly nourished for the work to which they are called.
Doctrines of Grace aside, I would like to deal here with another important fundamental. For anyone with eyes to see, things are truly coming down around us in our present culture. The good part in all of it is that people are now beginning to question their presuppositions more than ever. Right at the foundation of these presuppositions is the issue of sovereignty, ethical standards and how we relate to our creator. I would like to focus a moment on the latter. Our understanding of how we relate to our creator will ultimately affect everything in our lives.
When we read about what is going on at Elevation church it is important to realize that we are dealing with a covenant issue. This should help us to grasp something of the significance of what is going on in the story. Think about marriage for a moment. Many of us would be comfortable voicing caution regarding couples that are steeped in romantic bliss, rushing into marriage chapels in Las Vegas because we know what is at stake. When we read about the events at Elevation Church we have to stop and ask – what is really going on here with these baptisms and why does it really matter? What do they mean? What is at stake? These are the questions we as Christians are beginning to ask ourselves through new lenses.
We are entering a new era of the debate over baptism. Why? As I mention above, we are in a time when more people than ever are re-evaluating their presuppositions. Not only are they questioning more because of easy access to information, but they can also more readily dig for answers with the existence of the Internet. The rate of information exchange just a decade ago would have been unimaginable. It provides a forum to expose faulty arguments and practices like never before. The classic baptism debate has been largely inefficient. This is so because most people who are engaged in the discussion have not been addressing the fundamental issue – covenant. Give me a man’s understanding of covenant and I will trace a line to his understanding of baptism. This is why I wrote the book Baptism is Not Enough and why I believe it to be so important. The book, along with its truly unique and thought provoking companion DVD, has gained a good bit of traction since its recent release. They address the fundamentals.
I could go on about other fundamentals that are in view with the Elevation Church story but now is not the time. Just suffice it to say that staged baptisms fit in with staged worship services. Additionally, entertainment-oriented, man-centered worship is a manifestation of a compromised view of God’s sovereignty and the role of his Word within the church. The mainstream church is truly in need of a more reformed worship – one that is theocentric and thoroughly biblical. One unfortunate consequence of moving the locus of sovereignty from God to man is that some rather awkward and potentially dangerous symptoms arise. An example might be the Elevation Church children’s coloring book – The Code (no, really, that is what it’s called). Don’t miss the fine print at the bottom of the page.(3)
A good re-evaluation of the fundamentals is in order. Why not start with covenant and baptism?
Headlines all over the place are decrying further erosion of the fourth amendment in last Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision Fernandez v. California. But the furor is misguided. As such, the real important point here is being missed. We need to focus on the real nature of the problems rather than ranting aimlessly against the machine.
While I agree that the ruling has dangerous potential, most of these headlines, and others like them, are inaccurate and miss the real implications.
First, HuffPo (actually the AP) is incorrect to say the ruling is about “when two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter.” That explicitly is not the case. The case is about a man who had been arrested for robbery, removed as an occupant, and was thus not an occupant. Police returned later and asked the sole occupant of the home, the girlfriend, and she consented.
Since she consented, and there was no other occupant present, this is police search 101. Give consent and police need no warrant. The rule is based on a long-standing 1974 decision U.S. v. Matlock, as well as a previous 1973 ruling. Thus, the court summarized as a basis for Fernandez:
Consent searches are permissible warrantless searches [Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973)] and are clearly reasonable when the consent comes from the sole occupant of the premises. When multiple occupants are involved, the rule extends to the search of the premises or effects of an absent, nonconsenting occupant so long as “the consent of one who possesses common authority over [the] premises or effects” is obtained [U.S. v. Matlock].
So whatever this decision did, it did not expand police power, it merely applied what has been court precedent for 40 years.
What it denied was a special circumstance to that rule which was interpreted in a 2006 case, Georgia v. Randolph. In that case, the court ruled that when multiple occupants are involved, and one who is physically present refuses consent, the police cannot search without a warrant even if other occupants gives consent. In this case—physical presence—the refusal of even a single occupant holds sway.
But the court in Fernandez simply said this rule does not apply, because Fernandez was not present. Obviously: he had been arrested and hauled off to jail.
So, for example, when LA Weekly argues this case means “police can search your place with roommate’s permission”—it’s a bit misleading. If you’re present to object, Matlock still holds and they cannot. But even under that rule, if you’re not present, your roommate could compromise your privacy.
And this is now where there real issue lies: your physical presence and the knowledge and willingness of those in your absence. This ruling, now clarified and ensconced, has at least two major ramifications for maintaining privacy—one of which you can control, and one of which, unfortunately, we cannot, yet.
The first is simple: you must make sure that every person in your home or abode “who possesses common authority over premises or effects”—whether family, friends, roommates, whomever—is taught and informed always to refuse and forbid consent for warrantless searches. Simple education of those who could possibly be in a position to compromise your privacy should be enough to protect it under the standard rule. Know your rights and teach your rights to others.
If you cannot trust your co-occupants with this responsibility, then you have bigger problems than the police. You need to take care of this priority first.
Secondly, and more ominously, this decision alerts police to the loophole in the standard rule: come back when a sole objector is not present. It’s that simple. Now, if you’ve taken care of the first step, this will in the long run prove to be a time-consuming and hopeless strategy for nosy and busybody police. But I fear something worse may come about. Police may take this as a cue to use arrest as a means of removing the objector from the premises in order to return later and obtain consent from a less-informed or more malleable, able-to-be-intimidated occupant.
This is hardly mere paranoia. Whether it’s due to the proliferation of cameras these days, or an actual increase in police brutality, or (probably) both, hardly a day goes by in which another officer or group of officers demonstrates badged thuggery: beating innocent people to death, shoving and brutalizing people, shooting dogs of innocent people in front of them, hastily beating deaf men who didn’t respond to verbal commands, beating the ill who didn’t respond due to diabetic shock, pepper spraying demonstrators en masse at random, strapping DUI suspects to gurneys to draw blood without warrants, false arrests of innocent people, cover-up attempts, destroying evidence which would incriminate the police, beatings, beatings, and more beatings, harassing people who legally film police, telling innocent people they have no first amendment rights when police are involved, threatening people with “made up” charges and/or evidence after the fact, threatening a woman with false charges if she did not have sex with an officer, and we could expand this list to fill pages. There are literally thousands of these types of abuses every year across America. That’s not a rogue cop here or there—it’s becoming an endemic problem, and as long as tolerated, a culture.
Given such cases, do you think some police will hesitate to arrest someone, even on trumped-up charges, in order to remove that occupant from the premises, in an effort to gain entry? Exactly, and while everything SCOTUS decided in Fernandez is in line with precedent, it does send a clear signal to todays’ “Warrior Cop” as to how he can ply his trade. As long as it is more expedient than obtaining a warrant, and there is no repercussion for doing so, police will begin to do this. We will see a rise in such arrests.
While educating and training everyone in your household would still be an effective check against such a tyrannical tactic, it will not stop attempts. In order to do that, we need what has been needed in law enforcement for many decades: negative reciprocal sanctions for false arrests, false charges, false witness, etc.
The precedent here is biblical law:
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst (Deut. 19:16–21).
This should apply just as much to a witness who is an official agent of the state or court just as much as, if not more than, anyone else. A false arrest, false charge, false witness or harassment should have penalties commensurate with the offense itself, in some cases, or with the very penalties sought to be imposed on the victim in most.
Let bad cops face the repercussions they wish to impose falsely on other people, and you’ll see these incidents drop dramatically.
So instead of inaccurate, fear-based exaggerations, get to the real point. We all want justice. But justice requires truth, and persistence in truth. Let us focus on the truth, and then we can at least have the proper solutions in focus as well.
And again, pulpits need to be involved in preaching on these matters of social import. That command in Deuteronomy is there for a reason, and notice the role of the “priests” in that law, even its enforcement. Where priests were once commanded in this area, modern elders and pastors have largely abdicated. It is time to return to the whole gospel of the kingdom.
That’s the proper word entering such a heavy subject. Not only heavy but potentially offensive to the structure of some people’s organized religion. The topic of salvation is not a small matter. It has been the center of many important controversies in the church. But this post won’t touch the definition of salvation in that way. Justification, sanctification and glorification are wonderful terms that describe theological important and accurate things. There is no reason to tweak those. But there is a reason to put them in their proper place.
That type of language makes me shiver. Maybe I shouldn’t say that again. We wouldn’t want to put salvation in a corner… DONE. I’m focused now.
Salvation has a very prized place. But it resides below the holiness and glory of God. Recapture that thought. It is the most important theological point. The “holy, holy, holy” of God makes mere dust of human salvation. Thankfully the two are not so set against each other as to cause conflict in the Scriptures or in the active work of God in history. In fact there is no conflict whatsoever. The primacy of God delivers salvation to us and salvation turns us back toward God’s primacy. But occasionally things, people and churches get stuck during the cycle. Let’s look at the Biblical reason why this should not happen.
Genesis 15 is one of the most important passages in all the Scripture. For some it is a very familiar passage. It also happens to be an excellent place to witness the primacy of God. It is here that God begins to throttle up His promise to Eve that her seed will crush the head of the demon that tormented her in the garden. The promise of “a seed” is still to come in the life of Abraham but the introduction to this great patriarch has taken front and center of the Biblical narrative at this point. And it is within this important passage of Scripture that one of the most intriguing replies in the the Bible occurs. This reply will be important to our application so store it away.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. – Genesis 15:6
God has just finished defining Himself as the most important thing in Abram’s life. He is both Abram’s defense and reward. He is both his protection and his prize. For the rest of the Scriptures these images stand as hallmarks to God’s faithfulness. Or put another way, God is the ultimate goal and end for Abram. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks,
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Somewhere along the way though this often gets lost or turned into mere words. Somehow the primary focus of the gospel becomes salvation. It starts with a focus on deliverance and slumps to “heaven passes.” I wish I was only pointing fingers at the prosperity gospel. But this is deep in the veins of mainline evangelicalism. Whether it stems from the pulpit or pew doesn’t matter, in either case it has led to a generation of misunderstanding justification and sanctification. And this generation fosters a generation that doesn’t know where or why lines need to be drawn at all.
Some evangelicals have been successful at proclaiming that the gospel is about bringing God glory. Without surprise these have been functioning “Calvinists” (I call them TULIPers because many don’t baptize infants). But even some of these have substituted salvation as the primary purpose of the gospel. This has affected a generation of people who think the gospel stops at conversion. Our theological questions become about the “moment” of regeneration, justification and definitive sanctification. These questions have taken front stage with no one asking if our questions might themselves be wrong. Lost is the idea that the gospel might include the kingdom of God present in history. Forgotten is the idea that the gospel is what causes you to be obedient daily to your Lord (I’m thankful my Lutheran brothers & sisters seem to have this down pat). Saying “those without obedience are without the gospel” can garner one dirty looks. But this statement is true. The gospel can and should be tied more directly to the glorification of God through our faithfulness. Salvation must take its proper place behind the weighty and wondrous glory of God. It must find itself resting in the awesome nature of God and not simply beside it.
Does Paul say anything about this? I think he did (because N.T. Wright convinced me…shh I didn’t say that out loud). And I’m going to bypass a lot of passages that might commonly come to mind to prove my point. Instead I’m going to take us to a passage that points back to Genesis 15. A passage that helps us understand why Abram responds the way that he does. I’m taking us to the heart of Paul’s gospel (you know that one that involves judgment? Romans 2:15-16). I’m taking us to the heart of justification.
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. – Romans 4:1-4
What’s going on here? Paul is here establishing that justification cannot be from the law. If it was, God could not be the God of all people (Rom 3:29-30). But He is the God of all people. Take note of this. Its really important. Paul is set on showing this truth through the patriarch of the Jewish faith: Abraham. If Abraham was justified, if he acquired God as “his God”, by his works and not by faith then Paul’s whole argument would go out the door. But he wasn’t (Gen 15:6) and Paul stomps out any other option. But there is more. In the LXX passage of Genesis, God promises to be Abram’s μισθός (G3408) or literally his “wage.” And remember, this was a declaration of who God was not what He does. And as one would expect given the shared context of Abraham’s justification, this word appears in Paul’s argument on justification. And still the Scriptures faithfully teach, it must be earned by faith not works. Whatever “wages” one thinks he has earned by works is nothing but a debt to God. But there is a “wage” that is earned by faith. There is a God who becomes our God through faith.
How does this fit within our established context? What Abraham received by faith was not just simple salvation (aka justification, sanctification, etc.). It was God Himself. And when we turn in faith, our reward is God first and salvation second. God as God to all people is the source of salvation. Christ in history is the fulfillment of this (Heb 5:9). We receive salvation because God has given Himself to us. It can be seen then how dangerous it is when the gospel begins to skip God as the reward. This “gospel” begins the slippery slope to stagnant doom of false justification and poor sanctification. Now with this principal point we can address why Abram speaks the way he does to God and what impact it should have on the church today.
Stop. Go back. Re-read that passage from Genesis. God had just finished being awesome.
Why is Abram all worked up about descendants? Isn’t God enough? He is. Of course He is. Abram’s about to have faith that counts to him as righteousness. Abram’s mind and heart are in the right place for this encounter. But Abram laments that He will have no heir to leave an inheritance to (Prov 13:22). Abram is not saying the heir is more important than God. But how valuable can a reward be if it cannot be an inheritance? For Abram, God as reward is most glorified when He is an inheritance for children. Yes I did say that. Abram is satisfied with God. But to say God “is a reward” stipulates that Abram have the ability to offer God as an inheritance to his children. This concept shouldn’t be too frightening since God is quite directly the inheritance of the Levites instead of a portion of the promised land (Num 18:20; Josh 13:33).
But what is God’s response to Abram? Not one of anger but “so shall your offspring be.” Let me interpret, “I am and will be for all your descendants an exceedingly great reward.” Lest this be seen as a jump, Genesis 17 picks back up on this covenant theme with emphatic purpose. God’s covenant will be with Abraham (Gen 17:2) but it will also be to each offspring (Gen 17:7). And so God makes that covenant. It is His will to make this covenant with each descendant. And it is God who moves in history to make that precious covenant with each of Abraham’s offspring and to be “their God” (Gen 17:7-8). That is the gospel. God gives Himself to be our God. That is Pauline justification. The giving of God is the kernel of salvation. It is gained by faith and not of works lest any man should boast. It is the primacy of God above the salvation of “sins forgiven” (remember the two are not set against each other). It is the focus of God’s covenant to Abraham.
Well it should be obvious where this is headed in application. Abram was concerned about his children being the recipients of God being “their God.” He was confident in God as an inheritance to his children. Does the modern church affirm this in their gospel presentation? Or does the exclusion of children testify against our gospel? It is my opinion that the denial of covenant membership to children is the byproduct of faulty exaltation of salvation over God. God is the gospel. He is our reward. And as our reward, He is a reward promised to our children.
To deny our children covenant status is to actually revoke the fulfillment of the gospel. Yet somehow one is to make it up only later by teaching them “Jesus died for your sins”? This is not Biblical and it is not God honoring. Jesus did die for their sins. But before that God has promised Himself to them. That’s why He sent Jesus. God has promised Himself to our children. He promised Himself to our children when He promised Himself to us.
Can we be Biblical and ask of God offspring that He may bless? Can we ask Him to seek out our generations and be God to them? And do we realize that we can only ask these things because He has already promised them to us? May God find us like Abraham desperate to pass God’s covenantal faithfulness to us as an inheritance to our children and their children.
I have not studied the recent Arizona bill enough to give its veto a full lament this today, but I do have a typical McDurmon caution for gung-ho supporters. I totally agree with the spirit of the bill: give people and businesses the freedom to act, or not act, according to their principles. But there are deeper unbiblical foundations beneath this issue which must be dealt with first. After all, if we try to build good law on top of unbiblical foundations, the whole will crumble in time. Something about houses built on sand?
The first foundational impediment is the larger umbrella of discrimination law in this country. I agree with Matt Walsh: the proper equitable solution to this problem is, “Let private businesses refuse service to anyone anytime for any reason.” But let’s face it: this solution will never be allowed to fly as long as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains in place as is. And let’s face it further: no matter how opposed to racism and sexism you may be, if you oppose one iota of that Act in any way, you will effectively be marginalized as a racist and a sexist.
Just ask Rand Paul. His debut into the public realm involved a fairly clear opposition to just one aspect of this law. All he did was say that the First Amendment and property rights ought in some cases be protected despite boorish and uncivilized behaviors, even including discrimination.
It did not take much pressure before Paul quickly switched his position and said that had he been there, he would have voted yes in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because “there was an overriding problem in the south so big that it did require federal intervention.” So much for that one aspect of the law that forces private individuals and businesses in many cases to defy their religious principles and conscience. Apparently, Paul thinks that in some cases, that one aspect of coercive service is justified.
Well, it is exactly this aspect of this law which the homofascist lobby is leveraging to propagandize, “Gay is the new black.” And folks, I don’t care what you personally think about that slogan, the Supreme Court has already shown they will uphold it. The ringer in this case, Anthony Kennedy, has made this clear in his majority opinion Windsor v. U.S., striking down DOMA.
So let me be clear: as much I support the liberties and protections afforded by something like AZ’s 1062, I doubt it survive the current supreme court.
And I am not the only one. The recent cases you’ve heard of, in which bakers and photographers are sued by homosexual couples over refused service, are hardly random. In some cases, according to the Christian Science Monitor, they are “stings” by the ACLU. They seem to be hand-picked to fit criteria best suited for a Civil Rights Act, Fourteenth Amendment, “equal protections” –type case.
In my view (perhaps I can be corrected here), there’s nothing random in the fact that in the recent Colorado baker case, the plaintiffs were a gay couple from out of state. This would seem to make the case clearly one of “interstate commerce,” which falls explicitly under Title II of the Civil Rights Act.
In other cases, State law gives the needed protections, and where such law equals or exceeds the “protections” afforded by the federal law, the Supreme Court will uphold state law.
Of course, the whole charade is a joke in general, because the “protections” involved should also include First Amendment issues and private property issue, but these are obviously shoved to the back of the bus in favor of expanding “equal rights” for the so-called new blacks.
Now again, I agree with Matt Walsh’s excellent column on this matter. Whether he intended it or not, his is the view of the Constitutional framers, but is also the prototypical libertarian view: no one should be forced to provide services or enter a contract with anyone they don’t want to. Walsh is incredibly perceptive here:
Now, instead of making this an argument about “gay rights” or “religious freedom,” I think it’s time to shift the discussion towards the broader concept of property rights, freedom of association, and free speech. That conversation got bogged down by people attempting to determine whether or not the photographer, the baker, the t-shirt maker, and the florist were “homophobic” or “bigoted.” But that isn’t the question. I don’t think they are bigots, but it doesn’t matter. Bigotry is not illegal. Hatred is not illegal. Racism is not illegal. These are spiritual crimes — problems of the heart. The government is not omniscient. It cannot possibly legislate our thoughts and emotions.
We will never be free as long as it keeps trying.
So, rather than concentrate on one particular reason why certain particular businesses might wish to refuse certain particular services, let’s simplify things.
Let’s put it this way:
Business owners should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.
Now there’s a man with understanding. And what his point really means is that as long as the principle of coercive service is enshrined in law in the name of “equal rights,” we will never be free from some group leveraging that coercive arm of government to force another group to serve them on the state’s most expedient terms, even if it means oppressing a free individual’s religious principles.
And again let’s face it: if the by-far most libertarian member of either branch of Congress, Rand Paul, can be forced into a corner and flip-flop faster than Mitt Romney can say “47 percent,” you know we’ve got a losing case on our hands.
Yet there’s another, broader, even more sinister reason why this coercive power applies. The reason is this: virtually every business in the land is a corporation or some version of a corporation, company, or limited liability company or partnership. Virtually every single one of these entities is a creature of the state. As creatures of the state, they are subject to special, stricter sets of laws to which individuals are not.
This applies not only to those “big corporations” which we all like to criticize, but to every small one as well, including every incorporated church and 501(c)3. They are all creatures of the state, subject totally to its sovereignty according to its corporate law. These entities (virtually every business in America) have no rights outside of this code of law. And, this law is as interpreted by the state, not the individuals involved.
There is so much to say in this regard. I have no intention of even trying to unpack it here, nor am I yet equipped to do so. But the ramifications of this issue are tremendous, pervasive, and must be dealt with if we are ever to regain freedom in this land.
From a theological perspective, if business and commerce is essentially subjected to the actions of a creature of state, then we have to acknowledge that as a society, we have subjected the dominion mandate to the state prior to God. The dictates of men will judicially trump the dictates of God in the realm of business—that’s part of the “cost of doing business.”
And this is exactly why a perverse society will eventually assert the power to coerce businesses to violate their religious consciences: because the people have tolerated and profited from a system in which business is first a foremost a state agency rather than a religious one.
Here are two macro areas in which we must get right before God. And until we do, motions like AZ’s 1062 do not amount even to band-aids on the problem. They are more like flea bites to Leviathan.
There is always a lot of talk here and there among Christians, Christian leaders, and Christ pundits concerning the so-called “culture war.” Most of it is disappointing at some level. Much of it is filled with pessimism and is deeply discouraging. Just a few comments for now:
Recently, Todd Starnes published a column asking, “Have Christians Lost the Culture War?” Based upon a Lifeway Research survey, Starnes’s answer, while not definite, seems to be “Yes.” The Southern Baptist survey reveals that 70 percent of pastors say religious liberty is on the decline, and 59 percent of Christians in general agree.
I can’t imagine this defeatism has anything to do with the far-prevalent eschatological view which expects Christian to lose, secularism to prevail, and Christians to be marginalized persecuted. More on that at another time, save to say sometimes ideology ought to be accounted for in opinion polls.
There is plenty of obliviousness in the report. Ed Stetzer, president of the survey’s research center, confessed he never saw this coming, and in fact thought just the opposite ten years ago. If so, it was only because such guys won’t listen to those who know better. It was the hard core Christian right that warned them all long ago. In 1999, after years already of religious right activism with his Free Congress Foundation, Paul Weyrich cried uncle:
I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. . . .
I don’t have all the answers or even all the questions. But I know that what we have been doing for thirty years hasn’t worked, that while we have been fighting and winning in politics, our culture has decayed into something approaching barbarism. We need to take another tack, find a different strategy.
Weyrich believed fifteen years ago that the titans of political correctness and “Cultural Marxism” had won, and that Christians could only at this time drop out of culture and being rebuilding alternative institutions. He saw great promise in the homeschool movement. I suggest you read his whole letter for historical reference.
At least Weyrich still had a forward-looking view. My views in Restoring America are an essentially modified, though independent, version of some of his, with a bit more optimism for the long-run.
But men like Starnes seem to have no answer at all. It’s decline, marginalized and persecuted Christians, and nothing besides. No alternative, no vision. Starnes provides a long list of recent abuses of religious liberty—some exaggerated, but most obvious—in which Christians are indeed marginalized by public policy and court rulings. In the end, he echoes Reagan’s famous dictum: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” He concludes, “I’m afraid we may be ‘gone under.’” This is Titanic eschatology.
He’s not alone. One of the bigger disappointments I witnessed recently in this regard was a talk given by Roman Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft, entitled, “How to Win the Culture War.” In an attempt to mimic C. S. Lewis, Kreeft pretended to speak as Screwtape to his audience. Not thirty seconds into the talk, Kreeft informed his audience that his topic was in fact not how to win the culture war, but rather how to lose the culture war.
Now that’s a significantly easier task, and is akin to pretty much everything else conservative Christians are selling and buying these days: just complain about every little advance of the enemy, and then raise moans of helplessness to each other. Do this very long and pretty soon, these Christians have compiled a pretty impressive resume for the enemy. They then cower in fear of his prowess, oblivious to the fact they have done his service and propaganda for him. Make a product out of it, and some Christians will pay richly to read or listen to it! Negative headlines are even a path to wealth for some Christian leaders.
I have to admit, however, Kreeft did come up with one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: Judas Iscariot was the first bishop to accept a government grant. It was 30 pieces of silver. If Kreeft would develop this theme, we might be getting somewhere.
Kreeft’s Screwtape informs Kreeft’s Wormwood that Christians (in his parlance, “Catholics”) will continue to lose the culture war as they have been spectacularly for the past five decades because of seven principles. Without rehearsing them all, many of which I appreciate, the first is, “Politicizing their faith.”
There is a good bit of his presentation with which I would agree, but I have issues with this number 1. Even here there is agreement, though. For example, it is wrong to relativize religious teachings while consequently absolutizing politics—especially a political party. To do so is to commit a form of idolatry. But given this proper insight, I am astounded that Kreeft can only a few sentences later denounce those who “use their religion to justify their political goals.” And this includes those who fight for right in regard to abortion, marriage, etc.
Now, again, I agree with much of what Kreeft critiques under this heading, but the point just made seems to me to introduce a particular contradiction from which many Christians suffer. That is, how can we on the one hand be guilty of diminishing religion because we “absolutize” politics, and yet on the other be guilty of subjecting politics to religion? Those are mutually exclusive efforts, and yet one of them must always be true. I would submit that political goals ought always to derive from religion—that is, from biblical law.
Perhaps Kreeft would say that by “using religion to justify their political goals,” he had in mind those who simply try to leverage the authority of religion in order to advance their pet political agenda which does not glorify God or line up with true religion. If so, then he has still admitted, implicitly, that there is indeed a political agenda that does line up with Scripture—there are political goals that are in fact justified by religion. It just so happens that those he’s criticizing are askew from those proper goals. But truly godly politics does exist. This ought to be the subject of elaboration.
Granted, Kreeft did shuck Screwtape two-thirds-way through his talk and instead proposed seven “Catholic” principles of how not to lose the culture war. But these were literally just the opposite as before. In fact, Kreeft even argues in such a way that makes the “How to win” a reactionary, defensive agenda compared to the enemy’s offensive. The “how to” points are mere attempts to negate the force of the enemy’s already establish points. In short, the enemy gets to set the agenda and terms of debate. Winning the culture war in this sense actually becomes merely surviving until we leave this realm and go to heaven.
There was nothing here about actually winning a “culture war” except following traditional Catholic ideas which involves an emphasis on separating between Christ and Caesar. As you may imagine, this involved the same dichotomies, and, in fact, added more. It devolves into Christ letting Caesar crucify Him not so Christ could win “this world” but “the next world.” We must not focus on the natural but the supernatural, not the temporal but the eternal.
With this type of focus heavenward, never-to-be-turned-earthward with any heavenly authority or expectation of accomplishment, there is no way anyone could even win a culture war. The theology, sovereignty, jurisdiction, mission, and eschatology are all neutered from the outset.
This type of dualism is little different than the most radical of “two kingdoms” theology; and as we may expect, the R2K proponents are just as unhelpful on the topic. Michael Horton, for example, argues that there really is no such thing as a culture war because “Christianity is not a culture.” Why not? Because there are these two kingdoms, and “culture” belongs only in the non-Christian “city of man” kingdom. Yes, it’s that bad: Horton literally argues, “Two kingdoms, two kings.” But this means Christ is not king in the earth! Horton writes,
There are two kings and two kingdoms, each ruling a distinct sphere. . . . In the kingdom of culture, what Augustine called “the city of man,” there are rulers, there are laws, there are customs which are regulated by human wisdom. In the kingdom of Christ, or “the city of God,” there is one ruler, our Lord Jesus Christ, and he advances his kingdom, not through marketing, not through legislation or police force, but by the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of his holy sacraments.
This dichotomous construct defies Matthew 28:18 where Christ says all authority over heaven and earth is given to Him. For Horton, Christ only has authority over His kingdom of Christian hearts and sacraments. Everything else—all other rulers and authorities—are separate from Christ’s jurisdiction. Of course this is total nonsense, and despite Horton’s appeal to Luther and Calvin, it is in defiance of the practice of both Luther and Calvin, not to mention the apostles.
Yet, Horton’s view is somewhat popular, as it presents many Christians with a reason to remain disengaged, inactive, detached from social concerns, indifferent to all political ills from poverty to tyranny, and blissfully ignorant—all the while assured of their heavenly reward. There’s really not a much better deal in Christendom.
Now I guess my overall point is this: With friends like these, who needs Screwtape?
Weyrich noted in his 1999 letter that Christians had done well in electing their guys to office, but the expected policy never seemed to follow. I would disagree with the first part to a large degree: it mistakes mere conservative politicians for devout men of God. But the overall sentiment is correct: even when we have good opportunities, “our” politicians have never truly served the interests of the Christian Right, and have never produced meaningful policy reflecting our values.
Again, that was 1999. But as long as we’re looking back, let us recall the real reason for this failure. Rushdoony provided the proper foundations for Christian Culture in 1973, in his sermons on the Ten Commandments which became The Institutes of Biblical Law. Since that time, few theologians, activists, politicians, policy wonks, pastors, pulpits, or Christian media have made biblical law the focus of their agenda. The few who have either did so only in a very shallow, nominal, or limited sense, or have turned out (some recently) to be frauds in various ways. Yet there is no other basis for Christian society than biblical law. Aim anywhere else than here and you’ll miss the mark.
Christian activists and Religious Right proponents have instead maintained a program of “anything but” biblical law. They have reached for every program and compromise imaginable before they will embrace the Moses Christ ratified. They will even prefer alliances with non-Christian cults like Mormonism and Talmudism, and a million secularistic facades of “Evangelicalism” before they will face up to biblical law.
I could list the problems in detail, and indeed have done quite a bit of it in RA. In the end, the major reason most Christians won’t make positive changes per biblical law is that they are bought off. The greatest impediment of our time is economic: government control of money and funding. States refuse to stand up to Supreme Court rulings because the first line of major sanctions would be refusal of major federal funding upon which people and businesses in that State are dependent. Counties cower to State governments just the same. Christians are every bit as devious social thieves as the rest, and they cannot bring themselves to part with their public schools, medicares, medicaids, snap and chip reliefs, social securities—and their pulpits refuse to tell them otherwise. What a mountain we are up against!
Given this, I believe Kreeft may really have been onto something. That whole government grant of 30 pieces of silver? He. Maybe we need a series of sermons on Judas, and who he really is.
Now that would truly be a cultural warfare endeavor, for Christians at least, wouldn’t it?
The latest fashionable (and for good reason) outrage among conservatives is the state of Massachusetts’s kidnapping of 14- (now 15-) year-old Justina Pelletier from her parents in highly, if not obviously, dubious circumstances. After a year of wrangling with courts after an initial diagnostic coup by a young hot-shot med-school grad and the subsequent initial kidnapping, a court has now ruled that the girl will remain a ward of the state.
Justina had previously been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts Medical Center, but doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital dismissed that diagnosis. They told the Pelletier family that she suffers from a psychological condition called somatoform disorder and that her symptoms are all psychologically induced [by the parents, by implication—JM]. Then, the hospital accused Justina’s parents of medical child abuse, and the state assumed custody of the teen.
For those who initially may think, “There’s got to be more to the story here. Surely these parents are truly unfit!,” a Liberty Counsel charitable defender has braved a gag order to assure Fox News this is not the case. Instead, the medical-child protective-state industrial complex is trying to cover its obviously inappropriate actions.
All of this is upsetting, sickening, infuriating, and more, but to anyone who understands 1) the medical establishment, 2) the psychology establishment, 3) child protective services, and 4) Massachusetts, will at least not be surprised.
More importantly, anyone who understands the history of the custodial (“nanny”) state, as I have discussed in regard to public schooling in Restoring America, will recognize the spread of the custodial principle beyond the original four institutions into the broader sweep of medical and familial life.
I have previously harped (and will continue to harp) on the disastrous foundation public schooling lays for society. The socialistic institution destroys hope of future freedom as long as Christians continue to accept it and to send their children into them. I have explained the foundational role of apostate puritan Unitarianism, and its beliefs which parallel later behaviorism, since the 1830s and the “father” of public schools, Horace Mann.
Mann believed that society as a collective is the basic unit of all social order. Individual rights are completely subsumed into the “rights” of the collective. Family authority is totally overruled by the state. All property rightfully belongs to society and is only held in trust by individuals and families. Consequently, children belong to the state, not their families, and are to be trained, educated, and raised by the state to be good citizens according to the state and for the state.
With such a system in mind, Mann could generalize thusly: “Massachusetts is parental in her government.”
The same Unitarian reforming spirit that gave us the institution of public schools also produced, in the same era, the penitentiary, the insane asylum, and the poorhouse. All of these were built on the same theory that society was the bed of corruption, and the proper way to train people was to put them into a controlled atmosphere in which the allegedly corrupt external influences could not affect them; and this very popular theory was applied to the reform of criminals, the insane, the mentally ill, the poor, and to the education of children. So in the same decades of the 1820s–30s, this nation witnessed the explosion of official institutions for all of these issues, and the growing prevalence of using taxation and government control for these institutions.
And yet, as decades went on, and it became clear that the theory was bogus, that no genuine reform was made in criminals or the insane, and that corporate interests came to dominate the schools—in short, that the whole system was a failure—the officials merely continued to blame failure on the lack of funds and/or greater control. This was true so much so that one of the few historians of the Asylum phenomenon concluded of its legacy, “Failure and persistence went hand in hand.”
What has happened instead, as we have allowed corrupt, tyrannical autocrats and bureaucrats to transform our whole nation into such a nanny state at nearly every level and area of life, is that instead of living a life of liberty, we have succumbed to the wards of nanny institutions and custodial masters in other areas as well: government, family services, child services, health care, jobs, stock exchange, finance, retirement, old age insurance, health insurance, transportation, environment, natural resources, etc., etc., etc. There is no end.
In short, once we allow that the state may act as a ward for one class of people in one area, the principle is established for all others. It is then only a matter of time. Ambitious and nosy would-be rulers and tyrants—whether politicians or school supers, principals, whether armies of lawyers, social workers, or doctors and psychologists—will fight and scrape to expand the role of the state to satisfy their libido dominatur. And as they do, the custodial state expands, built upon taxation, debt, and an administrative-mercantile court system.
For every ward there is a warden. The whole history of mankind since the fall is a strife between wards and wardens. The classic leftist Jean Jacques Rousseau—a patron saint among modern liberals—famously began chapter 1 of his The Social Contract with the sentence: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” It sounded like a lament. The way this sentence is quoted and quoted, you would think The Social Contract is a manifesto of freedom. Hardly, because hardly anyone reads the rest of that opening:
One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.
He went on to explain, “[T]he social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, this right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on conventions.”
I have not traced the intellectual history between Rousseau and men like Mann, but the thought is essentially the same, and modern liberals are enamored with Rousseau. “Social order”—that is, society—is taken to be the highest sacred right and mother of any other rights. Gone is any reference to God or individual rights. The collective becomes the sacred, and she (“her”) becomes our mother. Our rights are not natural—not God-given—but are founded upon convention (which means they are man-made and changeable). In order to enforce this parental government, we need these “conventions.” But conventions which are not natural can have only one means of enforcement: the state. And since they do not arise from or exist in nature organically, they can only come from an elite imposing them upon the rest of society through their institutions of the state.
The whole thing is perfectly coherent, even if tyrannical. And it explains why hot-shot young med school grads, child services kidnappers, and administrative judges feel perfectly justified in stealing children, and feel little remorse when they are obviously wrong but just need to cover for the system. All is perfectly consistent:
First, the decision to take the child was based upon the self-assured expertise of a doctor with the latest-greatest training. How could he be wrong? This is what he was trained to do. On top of his expertise, doctors in general are “mandatory reporters”—a series of laws that turn many officials into agent-snitches of the state who can get in trouble for not reporting potential cases of abuse. As a result, there is an incentive to over-report and to report non-cases just to be safe (for the doctor, that is). There is a sanction for not reporting, but no sanction for reporting non-cases. So doctors who have even the slightest suspicion, no matter how it is triggered, even based on malice or revenge, hurt pride, whatever, and no matter how wrong the suspicion may be, need only to cite psychological reasons, or call in a psychologist or social worker to foist even the most dubious diagnosis to confirm their suspicion. They will be upheld by the state, exonerated in the end, and perhaps even praised.
Secondly, the state itself— “society” codified—has every incentive in the world to cover and hide its mistakes (and corruptions, when applicable) from the primary agent of sanction which can challenge it, public opinion. Why not, when the sanctions for lying and cover-ups are almost non-existent anyway? At the most, a singular bureaucrat or two will lose their jobs, only to be replaced by others of the same mind and character. But “society,” as a collective—that’s what’s important. That’s what matters. She is the mother of all rights. And that “society,” the state, must at all costs be upheld, perpetuated, exonerated. Else, we shall be bastards and live in chaos and anarchy.
So when someone challenges the system in such a way that its errors, or even just its pride, may be exposed, just have them declared mentally ill, then let the agents of enforcement swoop in, kidnap, imprison, steal, invade, search—whatever action is desired by the wardens. Because they can, and in light of the modern social theory we continue to allow them to foist, they should.
Now, I am happy to point out to you the connection between public schooling (at the root) and the nanny state which empowers tyrannical actions like the Pelletier case. They are all of a piece, and as long as we accept the one as legitimate, the other will always find ways to assert itself in such kidnappings (yes, I am so biased) in society. But the message here is much larger than one more McDurmon “told ya so.” We have to confront these evils and find a way to stop them, and the path by which we do so is the assertion of God-given, individual rights and responsibilities, God’s Law, and the delegitimizing of the warden/custodial/nanny state. But the only way to shuck thsee wardens is to shuck the theology that empowers them—to refuse the belief, at all levels, that we are wards of the state. Wards of family, yes. Wards of church, yes, in some ways. But of the state? The state has no paternal function, biblically speaking. It exists to punish crime, not raise families, not rehabilitate people’s habits.
If you’d like to see a good example of how the nanny-industrial, psychology-police corruption proceeds, and a way to help stop it, you need to watch the movie Changeling (2008). One synopsis says, “A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child.” Based upon a true story, when the mother gets too close to the truth and too ambitious, a corrupt LAPD chief has her wrongly committed, kidnapped, and held in a psychiatric ward. It takes tremendous effort before she is rescued from an all-but certain death.
And the hero in the story who fought vigorously for her rescue? That’s the part about how we stop this nonsense. The hero was a Presbyterian minister named Gustav Briegleb. Through his popular radio program, he decried the corruption in the LAPD and championed the mother’s case. The minds of the people alert to the corruption, the public pressure became incredibly motivational. Now that’s the social function of the body of Christ in action.
And that, friends, is a necessary part of Restoring America: pulpits must be involved. Every pulpit must preach the whole counsel of God, and that includes against corruption in law and government, education and every other establishment as well. Pulling your children from public schools and privatizing the system is necessary as well, but if the pulpits remain silent and refuse their job of informing and motivating the beliefs and behavior of people in the public square, they will be judged and marginalized—as we see them so much already—as society will continue to slide.
Rousseau was right: everywhere mankind is in chains. But he was wrong to legitimize it through a system of collectivism and paternal government. But there is only one way out. Until families resume their full biblical responsibility, and churches and elders resume their full biblical duty, then, I am afraid, we will all continue to be wards of the state. Here is where reformation must start. Here is where freedom begins. This is no more than I said in the first chapter of Restoring America. It is still true now.
My article on Elevation Church addressed the practice of planting people in a congregation for the purpose of being the first to respond, visibly, to an altar call, or in this case calls for baptisms. These plants move for the sole purpose of being catalysts for others who may desire to come forward, but are perhaps inhibited by fears of a crowd, etc. The “first to move” pretenders are there to help remove inhibition and create a herd mentality in which people will stream forward.
Some called it fraud, others were shocked and dismayed. I argued that it is merely the logical consequence of Arminianism. That claim garnered a few detractors, mostly Arminians, as I assumed it would. I would actually love to have a robust dialogue in this regard. The responses were, however, and unfortunately, mostly models of how not to argue. Let me cover a few representative examples.
One class of arguments said something like this: “You’re describing extreme forms of Arminianism, not Arminianism in general.” The short answer to this is, “No, I am describing Arminianism in general.” But this needs some explanation. First, my argument is not, “Look, this is what Arminianism does in practice.” No, I argued that the practice (extreme or not) is a logical outgrowth of Arminian theology. I don’t care if only a few people actually do this in practice, it is still perfectly logical to do so—and that conclusion is inescapable for reason of the arguments I employed in the last article (none of which any of these critics actually addressed, by the way).
So, for example, one seminary student attempted to counter me by saying, “There are forms of Arminianism where this is true. But, it is not actually true for most.” However many forms of Arminianism there may be, there is one belief they all share: belief that man must exercise his own free will to some degree in addition to the drawing of God’s grace in order to accept the call to salvation. Call it “accepting,” call it “receiving,” call it “submitting”—whatever, it doesn’t matter. If the last step is left to man’s choice, then man holds the final trump card over the call and work of the Spirit. All forms of Arminianism hold this belief in some form or other, and it is precisely this singular belief that I was attacking. If my argument is true for one form, it is true, again logically, for them all.
Besides, this is not an “extreme” form of Arminianism in practice at all. As I hinted at in the last article, Billy Graham crusades have been using such “plants” for decades. I now learn that this is not just my suspicion but a relatively well-known fact. And as I noted in the last article, it’s not just such plants that fall in the category of so-called “emotional manipulation,” but also a vast array of techniques used in churches all across the country. This includes emotional music, refrains, appeals, peer pressures, and much more. These being the facts, catalytic helps seem rather more mainstream than extreme. It would seem to me, then, that those who try to holds standards for conversion closer to those of “reserved” Calvinists would be the more extreme form of Arminians.
Nevertheless, even if it were the extreme, it would still be logical. My critics have not yet dealt with the fact that it is a logical outcome of the view of the role of the will, whether popular or not.
Another category of criticism is that “McDurmon doesn’t understand Arminianism.” There are variants of this group: some are oblivious to my background and learning, others are oblivious to how much they are trying to sound like Calvinists while maintaining a thread of free will, and a third are simply oblivious in general.
For examples, one young lady (who seems now to have deleted her comment) commented something like, “Dr. McDurmon seems to have a problem understanding Arminianism.”
A man decried “what seems to be a purposeful misrepresentation of Arminian Theology.” He says, “You obviously have not had the opportunity to interact with an informed Arminian.” This gentleman very helpfully offered, “I would love to have coffee with you so we can discover where the confusion lies.” He may be surprised, actually, to discover exactly where it lies.
Yet another: “I can only say that McDurmon, as seems usual with Calvinists, does not know Arminian theology because he either has not read or misread, not ‘strains’ of Arminian theology, but classical Arminian theology.”
Let me say that all of this is as far off as anything can be. Not only have I interacted with informed Arminians, I have done so many times, for prolonged periods of time, and have debated both for and against them at different times in my life. I was once an Arminian theologian, studied under them, studied with them, read Arminius himself, read many of his modern would-be proponents, have taught and defended Arminianism, and made a strong effort to refute Calvinism at the time. I just failed in that effort.
During my conversion to the doctrines of grace, I spent at least one whole year of my studies in virtually nothing but intensive study of this issue. If I do say so myself, I understand it just fine, and I think it is flawed. For this reason, I have neither mistakenly nor purposefully misrepresented Arminianism; I have represented it just fine, and for the purpose of showing it for what it is: a remnant of humanism intermingled with Christianity.
Nevertheless, even if I were personally totally ignorant of Arminianism, these are all ad hominem arguments. None have yet shown that my argument itself is not representative of Arminian theology. Here it is again:
If there is even the slightest element of human will needed to come to faith in Christ—even the slightest, microscopic atom of human will—then anything, short of overt sin, that we can do to help anyone overcome any obstacle to that decision should be employed and applauded when it succeeds.
Now, I can see where this could actually be more clear in spots, but only for the purpose of delineating my own views in such a way as to avoid similar criticism applied to my Calvinism (which it does not apply). It is not necessary for the purpose of refuting these criticisms.
Note, therefore, I did not argue that Arminianism (or even Elevation Church in particular) calls for a “purely emotional” commitment, as one critic said. That’s a straw man. I am speaking of the human will, and whatever obstacle there could possibly be between that will and “faith in Christ.” That’s pretty comprehensive.
Note also that this has no reference to how depraved any given Arminian sees the will before God draws it to the point of decision. Whether a Pelagian, who sees no depravity at all, or semi-pelagian, or Arminius’ yet stronger view, if there is one iota of decision left to the will of man himself, then that system of belief is trapped by my argument.
And my own reasoning (also not addressed) follows:
I don’t believe there’s even an element of human “free will” involved in accepting an “offer” or responding to “altar call.” Before regeneration, the will is in bondage. It cannot respond. It is God’s grace that unleashes the bound will so that it can be free to embrace Christ in faith; and when the Spirit frees the bound will, that will will inevitably embrace Christ in faith.
The will is not struggling in the sea in need of a lifesaver to grab on to. It is a dead corpse, floating face down in the water, in need of divine resuscitation back from death to life.
Men don’t have a free will by which they can choose to come to Christ. They have a God who frees them to come to Christ, and once freed, they will. There is no “free will,” only a “freed will.”
This again could be clarified for other purposes, but need not be here (I will do so in the future).
A couple of people quoted from this section, especially the last sentence, to say, “This is exactly what Arminians teach!” No, it is not. Arminians may in some ways teach only that last particular fact, but only in their own distinct way that keeps the will on the throne at the crucial moment. The “freed will” for an Arminian is still not yet regenerate, but only in what Wesley referred to as the (temporary) window of “prevenient grace”—the moment in which the drawing of the Spirit makes it possible, but not inevitable, for a sinner to make the decision. It still up to the as-yet unregenerate individual to choose faith or not, and then be regenerated. There’s that human-generated iota, as well as a human trump card—that is, human sovereignty over God’s power to save. And that’s one big iota.
But my “freed will” was written in a context in which the once-freed will inevitably embraces Christ. It will do so because it has already been regenerated by the Spirit. Only a regenerate will can be called a “freed will.” It is purely the work of the Spirit from beginning to end—none of man. Man responds, yes, but only because God changed him; and once changed, he responds.
Yes, I understand that not all Arminians act like Elevation. I am arguing that they have no good reason not to, given the logical dictates of their view of free will. And besides, more Arminians act similarly enough to Elevation than some people are willing to admit.
Yes, I know all theological systems can be abused. Abuse was not the point of my argument. Logical deduction is.
Yes, I know Calvinism has been abused as well. Abuse is not the point of my article. Logical deduction is.
Yes, I know Arminius said some things here and there that sound like he affirmed total depravity. As long as he left a single iota of decision to the will of man, whether before or after some prevenient intervention by God, then he really did not. In that one iota, man is sovereign and God is not.
Further, some few people who reacted (both positively and negative, actually made the point of my argument. This category actually argued that whatever Elevation Church was doing, some people were getting saved, and nothing else matters! Some in this group said I should not criticize them at all, because there was at least some saving efficacy involved. Others said, “Great article! Did it result with people getting saved? If so, keep doing it!” Thank you both for helping to make my point.
One way of seeing the difference is this: the Calvinist believes that God’s grace is both necessary and sufficient to bring men to saving faith. The Arminian wants to honor God’s grace as well, but no matter what form he states his beliefs in, he can only rise to the level of saying that God’s grace is necessary, but never sufficient. It takes man’s will to cross the threshold of sufficiency to achieve saving faith. This distinction, and this alone, was the target of my main argument. It therefore addresses all forms of Arminianism, and indeed pelagianism and semi-pelagianism as well. I have not yet seen any response that even addresses the argument. Only a series of fallacies.
The most egregious fallacy was not the typical guy who accused me of believing “we’re all just puppets on a string.” Chuckle. The more serious one is the guy who argues that Calvinism makes God the author of sin because He would then have been creating people for the purpose of the fall, subsequently not choosing them, purposefully, so that they would be damned. While I agree that this seems like a logical consequence, there are a couple things to consider: first, it is a red herring here. Even if it were correct, it would not invalidate my arguments above. Second, most Arminians do not think this through well enough to realize that Arminianism cannot escape the exact same problem.
There is only one way to escape this problem—which is little more than one version of the classic problem of evil—and it is yet another logical outworking of free will theology: it is some form of Open Theism. That is, even one iota of human sovereignty outside of God’s sovereignty is really not much different in principle than the diminution of God’s sovereignty via open theism and process theology. I will explain this and more in the coming days.
Now, I realize I have not addressed everyone’s criticism in particular. There will surely be some who say, “I noticed Dr. McDurmon (conspicuously/purposefully) avoided my argument.” Sorry. I answer those I see as relevant, representative of many, and particularly helpful. I may have missed a couple, and certainly did not neglect anything I see as important on purpose. If I did neglect you on purpose, you’ll have to try to persuade me on the relevance of you particular slant.
Many of you may have already seen this brief video that went viral. If you have not, watch it.
The title is unpromising. That won’t catch on, you think. But the short film What’s Going On in Venezuela in a Nutshell, posted to YouTube last Friday, has had more than 1.3m views – and brought the plight of student protesters in Venezuela to international notice.(1)
The number of views is now over 2.5 million. The creator of the video, Andreina Nash, is a student at the University of Florida here in my hometown. She learned how to use Adobe Premier Pro in one day and the next day she skipped all of her classes and made the video. It went viral.(2)
A video like this one presents a great opportunity to discuss and better understand the dynamics surrounding any number of similar political and social crises commonly found in news media these days. There could be extended commentary on Venezuela’s history, the late President Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or a myriad of facets of the country’s past and present crisis. My comments will be limited and focused on a more fundamental issue. Nash states near the beginning of her video:
Millions of young students took matters into their own hands by passively protesting the social and economic crisis caused by the illegitimate government Venezuela has today.
Surely the oppressive government is a central issue. But we must ask ourselves – from where did the oppressive, “illegitimate” government originate?
Anyone who witnesses a video like this, or any number of news stories across our own country, must at some point in his mind think slavery. There may be a difference in degree in any given nation, but slavery and oppression are a reality across the globe. So then, we need to view “what’s going on in Venezuela” with an understanding of the root of such oppression. Augustine states clearly in The City of God,
The prime cause, then, of slavery is sin, which brings man under the dominion of his fellow(3)
The presence of slavery and oppression is a manifestation of the presence of sin. There are only two possible masters in this life.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, ESV)
We have only two only two choices. We can be slaves to Satan or adopted sons of Christ.
Ultimately, freedom is impossible over time when a society does not operate according to the Word of God. Put another way, slavery is inescapable in a society that does not acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over every area. Lordship is unavoidable. The question is to whom will we submit?
My sole focus here is not Venezuela. In our own country we have moved from a greater degree of freedom to a greater degree of slavery. Whereas a few generations ago our national shackles were barely noticeable, they are beginning now to get heavy and rub blisters. The discomfort is growing. “Land of the free” has become the land of the rising police state, surveillance and warrantless searches. How does this happen in a nation that many believe was once characterized as “Christian”? How does such a shift occur?
It is simple. God calls his people to govern themselves according to his Word. He also outlines roles and jurisdictions for his divinely ordained covenant institutions of the family, church and state. As Christian people abdicate their individual responsibility of self-government, and the three institutions abdicate their responsibilities over time, a transfer is induced. The transfer is one of responsibility and power. This is because the responsibilities are not relinquished without at the same time calling for them to be picked up by other individuals and institutions. Prime candidates for the other individuals are power-hungry men and women. The primary candidate for the institution is the state.
We all know the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Power flows to people and institutions that are willing to take responsibility. If a nation’s individuals, families and churches abdicate their responsibilities, then those hungry for power and influence accept it from within the institution of the state. Power flows out from one group of individuals and institutions and power flows into another – the state. The former begin to ask for care and security from the latter. This increases the power of the state. Over time, the once-empowered individuals, families and churches find themselves powerless. And, being out of touch with God’s covenantal framework, they don’t understand that they operate not only as individuals but also from within a corporate reality. Because of their lack of understanding they begin to blame the empowered institution of the state for their plight. At the same time, having abdicated responsibility and turned over their power, they are limited to peaceful demonstrations in protest in hopes of communicating a message but not evoking the wrath of their self-appointed god.
But whereas this increases awareness, it does not solve the primary issue. Nations of individuals that do not govern themselves according to the Word of God cannot expect to live in the freedom that only submission to him provides.
“it is our right as human beings to have freedom of speech, to have freedom in general”
“…peace will prevail”
Peace will never prevail outside of the Lordship of Christ. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, ESV) To the extent we live according to the will of our Creator, is to the extent we will experience the blessing of peace that only he gives. That is not to say that others around us do not benefit from this. Again, this is corporate or covenant reality. But, that is a subject for another day.
The point here is that we should expect neither peace nor freedom where men are not representing Christ’s rule on earth.
In the video Nash comments on the control of TV stations and radio by the oppressive government. She also comments on the “government shutdown” of Twitter, which was the social media of choice for getting the word out. This does not surprise anyone. That said, there is good news in all of this. The word is out. One student, armed with amateur filmmaking, skills in the space of one day created a compelling film that reached millions of people within days.
The Internet is undermining bureaucratic and elitist institutions worldwide. When you think Internet vs. these institutions, think the printing press vs. the Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation. The nation-state in general is being undermined.
The question is, when the word does get out, who has the answer as to the cause of statist oppression? Who has a foundation on which to build a successful society? It is those who have the gospel – the whole gospel.
Since sin is the primary cause, the remedy is evangelism and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is taking the whole gospel in those evangelistic efforts such that converts know how their eternal salvation relates to their temporal living. This includes the life in the civil realm.
Christians that learn to “observe all that He has commanded” will make decisions differently. With the power of the Holy Spirit, they will govern themselves according to God’s Word. As they do this, such submission is manifested among the institutions in their society. The only alternative to Christ’s rule through Godly representatives is Satan’s rule through ungodly representatives. “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
- Augustine, City of God, Book 19, Chap. 15 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2010) ,626.
The best way to answer a faulty argument is to attack it at its foundation. Anything else is just breaking windowns. For example, the operating assumption of Lawrence M. Krauss’s book, A Universe from Nothing, is:
Don’t have a way
“the startling conclusion that most of the energy in the universe resides in some mysterious, now inexplicable form permeating all of empty space. It’s not an understatement to say that the discovery has changed the playing field of modern cosmology.
“For one thing, this discovery has produced remarkable new support for the idea that our universe arose from precisely nothing.”(1)
There was no “discovery” in the usual sense. Nothing was actually found, or should I say, not found. No experiments were done to demonstrate that anything “arose from precisely nothing” let alone the entire universe.
It’s one thing to observe the orbit of the planets and whether Mercury’s orbit is “a perfect ellipse that returned to itself,” as Newton predicted based on certain calculations, or that “the ellipse shifts slightly each orbit.”(2) It’s another thing to propose a theory that the universe arose out of nothing when by the author’s own admission “science is changing the playing field in ways that make people uncomfortable.”(3) We’ve seen it from Newton to Einstein to whatever the new theory is today and what it will be tomorrow. Each time there’s less science and more scientism.
Even if Krauss’s “nothing” is not really nothing, he and other materialists must still account for the nothing that’s not really nothing as most people understand the meaning of nothing and a whole lot more.
Richard Feynman (1918-1988) said the following:
“People say to me, ‘Are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?’ No, I’m not, I’m just looking to find out more about the world and if it turns out there is a simple ultimate law which explains everything, so be it. That would be very nice to discover.
“If it turns out it’s like an onion with millions of layers and we’re just sick and tired of looking at the layers, then that’s the way it is, but whatever way it comes out, it’s nature is there and she is going to come out the way she is, and therefore when we go to investigate it we shouldn’t predecide what it is we’re trying to do except to try to find out more about it.”(4)
Would Feynman have ever entertained the belief that God was behind the onion’s millions of layers? Any true scientist would have to say yes. In too many cases, however, atheists give an unequivocal no.
Feynman had a hand in the development of the atomic bomb. He regretted the part he played. I don’t see why anybody who believes in evolution would be morally quixotic about wiping out molecule men, women, and children. The weapons only extinguished animated gooey masses that came to be off the rape and death of previous life-form molecule globs. At death, Feynman and Hitler had the same end result as those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the Nazi death camps. There wasn’t any moral accounting for any of them. No one will be there to say “well done good and faithful servant” or “go straight to hell.”
So how do atheists account for a moral worldview that can ultimately be judged? They can’t. Atheists are moral kleptomaniacs. “They can’t stop themselves from stealing biblical presuppositions in order to function and make sense of the universe. Unbelievers do believe in God, but they have convinced themselves that they don’t. They are self-deceived (James 1:22-24).”(5)
We should be thankful that atheists aren’t fully consistent with their matter-only worldview and that they steal from the moral universe they deny. If they didn’t, and enough people followed the materialistic/naturalistic worldview consistently and relentlessly, there is no telling what might happen.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov with its Grand Inquisitor, wrote about the implications of a consistent materialistic worldview that becomes consistent with its operating presuppositions: “The preachers of materialism and atheism who proclaim man’s self-sufficiency are preparing indescribable darkness and horror for mankind under the guise of renovation and resurrection.”(6)
Nicolas Zernov comments on Dostoevsky’s conversion and the impact it had on his worldview thinking:
“He foresaw that those who rejected Christianity and the Church did so to prove to themselves and to others that men were masters of their own destiny and that no moral power higher than man’s existed in the Universe. These ‘benefactors’ were building a gigantic prison of compulsory uniformity and would show no mercy to those who refused to be slaves in the future totalitarian realm. Men were afraid of freedom, according to Dostoevsky, and eager to exchange it for security and material prosperity.”(7)
How does any of this play out in the real world? Do people imbibe the spirit of the age without thinking about its full consequences? Justin Vollmar used to be a pastor who had run the Virtual Deaf Church online for the last four years. A few weeks ago he told his online followers that he is now an atheist because there is “NO GOD” and Christianity is “all nonsense.”
There’s more background to the story. The church that employed Justin Vollmar describes him as a “vengeful, pathological liar.” You can read the church’s response here. Of course, if there is no God, there could can’t be a determiner of what’s ultimately morally right or wrong and thus no pathology, vengeance, or lying. In the grand scheme of an evolved cosmos, there is no “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [his] intentions,” as the framers of the Declaration of Independence put it. There is no one outside the material cosmos to whom the atheist can make his moral point stick.
I wonder how anyone can say that he KNOWS there is no God. The key word here is “know” in an absolute sense, as in “know for sure with no doubt.” The Bible takes a different position. It states unequivocally that everybody knows that God exists:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Rom. 1:18-24).
On the one had we have a conglomeration of atoms called “Justin,” who entered this evolved world through two other conglomerations of atoms called “parents,” who says there is no God. On the other hand we have God saying that everybody knows the true God and those who deny His existence are actually suppressing the truth. There was a time when almost nobody questioned the existence of God. This could be why the Bible says, “The fool has said in his HEART there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). No one would ever say it out loud since it’s such a ridiculous proposition.
Who is Justin Vollmar? He looks to be around 40 years old. This makes him a “person” of limited knowledge and experience, and maybe of no knowledge at all given what we know of evolutionary beginnings (as evolutionists tell their mythology).
Here’s some of what he signed on the video. Notice the progression of thought:
“Atheism mean[s] I believe that there is no God. Yes, God is just an illusion or theological concept. Jesus is not the Son of God, He did not rise from the dead. Nor is He born of virgin mother. I completely deny those.”
He begins with a definition of atheism which he admits is a faith: “I BELIEVE there is no God.” From this he moves to “God is just an illusion or a theological concept.” What he should have said is, “I BELIEVE God is just an illusion or a theological concept, but who am I to maintain this since I am less than a speck when compared to the vastness of the cosmos?” But even that’s too much certainty and credibility for a bag of meat and bones animated by electricity.
The following is from the television show X-Files:
DANA SCULLY: “Electrons chasing each other through a circuit — that isn’t life, Mulder.”
FOX MULDER: “Yeah, but what are we but impulses? Electrical and chemical through a bag of meat and bones. You’re the scientist. You tell me.”(8)
Why should anybody put their faith in anything an evolved entity named “Justin Vollmar” or any “thing” (we are all just “things” if there is no God) says? Given atheist mythology, as Richard Dawkins, the high priest of atheism tells it, we only “appear” to be designed. So what gives anybody confidence in the non-purposed result of “natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process”?(9)
For the record, “natural selection” is not an operational entity like the work engineers, doctors, or mechanics perform. Natural selection can’t DO anything because it’s not an “it.” Evolutionists ascribe personality and intelligence to “natural selection” and “evolution.” “Evolution did this” or “Natural selection did that.” Impossible.
While belief in the invisible (to us) nature of God is a philosophical no-no among evolutionists; it’s OK to believe in the invisibility of this “evolution” entity that has supposedly created life out of non-life and has developed a moral code for us to live by.
As J.B.S. Haldane famously stated, “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” ((Possible Worlds and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1927), 209.))
C. S. Lewis expanded on Haldane’s materialist logic:
“A strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio-chemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. . . . The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself.”(10)
In response to the Haldane quotation, one person responded, “The whole point about science is that it’s not about what is true, it’s about what works.” How does the moral pragmatist determine if “what works” is moral? Haven’t we often heard, “Don’t impose your morality on me”? “Different strokes for different folks?” Hitler believed killing Jews was the right thing to do. Exterminating the Jews would “work.” Are we to believe that mass murdering tyrants like Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin and others ever thought that what they were doing was evil? Haldane was an admirer of Joseph Stalin, describing him in 1962 as “a very great man who did a very good job.” Stalin was a mass murderer who most certainly believed in doing what worked from his point of view.
So the person who listens to an animated batch of chemicals (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, or any other noted atheist) pass air over his evolved vocal cords and to make a claim of certainty has to ask himself how much trust he wants to put in that person. Justin Vollmar needs to ask himself the same question. His problem is that given his operating assumptions, how can he trust a brain composed only of atoms that evolved from nothingness? Of course, he can’t even be certain that he’s asking the right question in his newly adopted worldview.
The smartest guy in the room is still only a speck of a molecule in the vast reaches of the cosmos. Pull back from light years of travel to the most distant star and ask yourself, “Do I want to trust my eternal destiny to what comes out of his evolved brain?”
So here’s my rendition of “If I Had a hammer”:
If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning,
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land,
I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out that atheists,
Don’t have a way
To account for morality or anything else,
All over this land.
- Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing (New York: Free Press, 2012), xiii.
- Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, 3.
- Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, xv.
- Richard Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 1999), 23.
- Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 70.
- Dostoevsky, Journal of an Author No. 50 (1873). Quoted in Nicolas Zernov, Eastern Christendom: A Study of the Origin and Development of the Eastern Orthodox Church (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1961), 198.
- Zernov, Eastern Christendom, 199.
- “Kill Switch, X-Files (Season 5, Episode 11).
- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: Norton, 1987), 5.
- C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry,” delivered at the Oxford Socratic Club, 1944, published in They Asked for a Paper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962), 164–165.
Several sources have expressed alarm over a self-indicting “How To Guide” from Elevation Church called “spontaneous baptism resource kit.” This church has claimed a “sun stand still” “miracle” after baptizing 2,158 people, and now it claims it can export the same type of results to other churches. But its techniques have critics crying foul.
Christian and mainstream sources alike are taking exception to the Elevation Church’s “kit” because in it the church admits it plants people in the audience who will be the first to move in order to get the stream of baptisms started. As the “How To Guide” itself says, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when pastor gives the call.
“Sit in the auditorium and begin moving forward when pastor Steven says go.”
“Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.”
It further instructs to have people to “act as human door props” to facilitate movement. They are reminded to “Smile and clap showing people you are excited they came forward.” Then, it says to have 30 to 60 people in transition hallways to create a “critical mass” of people moving about. It says to manufacture the emotion: “Create an atmosphere of Celebration for those being baptized as they walk toward the changing rooms…this needs to be HUGE and over the top celebration!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
This may sound fraudulent and even scandalous. One blogger has called it “emotional manipulation.” Another termed it “McDonaldized Christianity.” But let’s face it: it’s only a logical outworking of Arminian “free will” theology. How so?
Simple. If there is even the slightest element of human will needed to come to faith in Christ—even the slightest, microscopic atom of human will—then anything, short of overt sin, that we can do to help anyone overcome any obstacle to that decision should be employed and applauded when it succeeds. I don’t see how anyone could argue otherwise. I don’t care if that means clown suits and cookies, it should be done.
If, in this case, in our culture, an important inhibition to an particular action in front of a crowd is some kind of fear to buck the herd instinct, or fear of attention, or whatever, then technique that remove that inhibition or fear should be welcomed. Again, I am speaking for the Arminian here. In fact, no Christian of any stripe that believes in “free will”—Roman Catholic, Arminian, Finneyite, etc.—should have any criticism of this practice at all. They should all be joining the over-the-top celebration!
But part of the embarrassment to many Christians here is that Elevation Church, perhaps in giddy oblivion, actually admitted they use such tactics. Truth be known, professional evangelists have been using such plants for decades. Ever seen the immediate and robust streams of responders at Billy Graham crusades? They come down every isle, in the most visible places, and they were always at the bottom of the stairs even before George Beverly Shea could sing the first line of “Just As I Am.” Think there weren’t plants there? They would probably never admit it.
Admission or not, the practice goes on, and it cannot but go on because it is the logical result of Arminian theology. Elevation Church’s open admission, and indeed serial manufacturing, exposes a long history of free will evangelism for the assembly line into which it has very often been turned. Very often, I say. The altar call itself evolved out of such manipulation techniques as Charles Finney’s “anxious bench”—a spot where fence-sitters could come get a front-row dose of the evangelist’s bellowing persuasions. From Finney to Moody to Sunday to Graham, it’s been variations on a theme, if not just repeating the same refrain. It’s play the right song, tug on the heart strings, raise that hand, walk that aisle, every head bowed every eye closed, sign this card, check that box, sing that verse again brother—do whatever you need to do to get that person over the emotional hurdle of making that decision. It’s always gone on. Elevation Church just embarrassed them all by being so uninhibited as just to say exactly what they do.
That it’s packaged as a “kit” to be exported and reproduced elsewhere is just icing for critics.
It has long been a criticism of “free will” theology that it reduces evangelism to the level of mere human persuasion. But with persuasion comes persuasive technique. Enter marketers. Sure it’s McDonaldization, but what’s wrong with that? If “saving souls” is the main end-game of your Christian faith, and if the free will is the last hurdle of salvation, then why would you not what the help of an army of marketers, managers, assembly lines, pre-packaged directions, techniques, tools, processes, and networks of support farms and professionals who can claim “billions served”?
I would go above and beyond McDonald’s even. “Billions” heck. I would go for a Google.
But then again, I am not an Arminian. I don’t believe there’s even an element of human “free will” involved in accepting an “offer” or responding to “altar call.” Before regeneration, the will is in bondage. It cannot respond. It is God’s grace that unleashes the bound will so that it can be free to embrace Christ in faith; and when the Spirit frees the bound will, that will will inevitably embrace Christ in faith.
The will is not struggling in the sea in need of a lifesaver to grab on to. It is a dead corpse, floating face down in the water, in need of divine resuscitation back from death to life.
Men don’t have a free will by which they can choose to come to Christ. They have a God who frees them to come to Christ, and once freed, they will. There is no “free will,” only a “freed will.”
It’s only from the standpoint of Calvinism, or the doctrines of grace, that it makes sense to criticize manipulative tactics such as these audience plants used as catalysts for mass baptisms or altar calls. It is encouraging that some Christians seem naturally uneasy when a church like Elevation tells it plainly. But Elevation is just a mote. Free will theology is the plank. Let he who has ears hear, and he who has eyes see clearly.
Baptism is Not Enough would be a great place to start.
“The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel” by Joel McDurmon
The Bahnsen Conference
October 25, 2013
The Bahnsen Conference
October 25, 2013
Philip Giraldi has provided an important but somewhat confused post for The American Conservative on religiosity and the U.S. military. While agreeing strongly with his central concern, I would like to offer a corrective to what I see as some of his more confused statements.
First, Giraldi’s introductory point is on target. He states the well-known correlation between American Evangelicalism and enthusiasm for our modern overseas wars:
The connection between America’s wars in the Middle East—and its wars more generally—with the more fundamentalist forms of Christianity in the United States is striking. Opinion polls suggest that the more religiously conservative one is, the more one will support overseas wars or even what many might describe as war crimes. Fully 60 percent of self-described evangelicals supported torturing suspected terrorists in 2009, for example.
And I agree with Giraldi that this war-lust does not line up with biblical Christianity:
That is somewhat puzzling, as Christianity is, if anything, a religion of peace that only reluctantly embraced a “just war” concept that was deliberately and cautiously evolved to permit Christians—under very limited circumstances of imminent threat—to fight to defend themselves.
Further, as I point out in Restoring America and The Bible and War in America, Giraldi notes that some of this cognitive dissonance with Christian ethics derives from widespread fundamentalist “Left Behind” eschatology and Last Days Madness:
To be sure, some Christian conservatives who might be described as Armageddonists regard America’s Asian wars as part and parcel of the precursor events that will lead to the Second Coming of Christ, which they eagerly look forward to.
But then the train gets off the tracks quickly when Giraldi characterizes these misguided crusaders as fixated on the Old Testament but not the New:
Also, a non-interventionist friend of mine who comes from a religiously conservative background explained to me how the contradiction partly derives from the fact that many evangelical Christians hardly relate to the New Testament at all. While they can recite scripture and verse coming from the Old Testament, they are frequently only marginally conversant with the numerous episodes in the New Testament that attest to Jesus’s extolling the virtues of peacemaking and loving one’s neighbor. If true, that means that many evangelicals are much more imbued with the values of an eye-for-an-eye or smiting Philistines than they are with the Sermon on the Mount.
There is so much wrong with this paragraph it could require a book, but I’ll be brief. First, this reveals a fundamentally misguided understanding of “eye-for-an-eye”—which, admittedly, is not uncommon on both sides. We should not understand it in the offensive sense of revenge. Rather, it was an ancient way of saying “the punishment must fit the crime”—something from which our modern justice systems could profit. Rather than anything inequitable or barbaric, “eye-for-an-eye” was a check on government power and personal vengeance. In a world where arbitrary penalties could mean death, dismemberment, or lifetime enslavement for relatively minor offenses, the Old Testament rule was a measure of mercy and equity.
And that brings me to my real issue: it may be the case that some soldiers go around touting Old Testament verses while totally ignorant of the New Testament, but that sounds very strange to me. Considering that the greatest driving factor in the religious fervor behind these wars in particular has been eschatological, one might expect to hear from Ezekiel or Daniel, but also just as much if not more from Revelation, 2 Peter, Jude, or 1 and 2 Thessalonians—and indeed we do.
More to the point, I wish this was the case! I wish every soldier would “recite scripture and verse coming from the Old Testament”! For it is in the Old Testament, as I (and other reconstructionists, such as Greg Bahnsen) have labored to show, that the biblical ethic forbids wars of interventionism, imperialism, standing armies, etc.
The New Testament may speak of peace, but it actually gives less imperative for checking military power than does the Old. In fact, the sparse treatment of military power in the New Testament comes only in passing and could possibly be construed a tacit approval of some of it (see Luke 3:14 for example).
The Old Testament on the other hand gives those fundamental laws for executive power and for warfare and the military in Deuteronomy 17 and 20 which I have rehearsed in greater detail previously. There is no question what they mean.
On top of those explicit parts of the Pentateuch, we also have explicit prophecies of world peace as our vision and mission in the Old Testament. Isaiah 2:1–4 comes to mind. That whole thing about beating sword into ploughshares was not invented by the UN after all. Nor was it born in the NT.
Further, even some of the meekest parts of Jesus’ vision of peace come from the Old Testament. Giraldi mentions the Sermon on the Mount in contradistinction to the Old Testament ethic, but he does not seem to be aware that parts of the Sermon on the Mount are verbatim quotations from the Old Testament. The meek inheriting the earth? Yeah, that’s Psalm 37:11. The poor in spirit? Yeah, that’s Isaiah 61:1 and 66:2.
Even Mr. Giraldi’s own evidence contradicts his claim. He relates how “the shock of 9/11 let the evangelical genie out of the bottle in anticipation of the conflict of civilizations that some Armageddonists were welcoming, with the Pentagon even livening up its daily Worldwide Intelligence Update by using biblical verses as captions for war images.” But just click through that link and you’ll see that two of the three “biblical verses” referenced there are from the New Testament: Ephesians and Colossians. That hardly helps Giraldi’s characterization.
And common sense of anyone modestly familiar with American evangelicals will render suspect the statement “many evangelical Christians hardly relate to the New Testament at all.” That certainly comes as a surprise to the Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction movement, which has championed Old Testament ethics against evangelicals for forty years only to be met with the refrain, “That’s the Old Testament! We’re under grace not law.”
But like I said, oh how I wish Giraldi were right! I wish more soldiers and officials did in fact study the Old Testament view of warfare and the military. More of them would resign their posts, and more would demand a truly defensive militia system. Isaiah would seem less utopian if we took Deuteronomy more seriously.
And if we reached such a point of advanced spirituality, Giraldi’s main point—with which I agree—would have real biblical teeth:
That the United States military appears to be increasingly a professional force that has few links to the general population is by itself disturbing. That it also might be developing a warrior class ethos that includes a certain kind of evangelical religiosity as a key element only serves to increase the distance between soldiers and most civilians, apart from the constitutional issues that it raises.
As the saying goes, when tyranny comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and waving a cross. Mr. Giraldi’s concern in this regard is very real. But the longer we refuse to take Old Testament law seriously, the more in danger of it we are—indeed, the more even our most cherished religious compatriots are leading us headlong into it while denying it will ever happen.
Good news: my commentary on 1 Samuel (410 pp) is finally available. You can purchase copies here, in hardback or PDF eBook. Kindle will be available soon. You may also see the table of contents below and access each sermon for free online.
Preachers are always looking for preaching materials and helps, as they have to produce a steady stream of acceptable sermons. In more than one way, this was the impetus for me to start this series. First, I wanted to provide a model of exegetical sermon material written from a Christian Reconstructionist perspective and with applications to the civil and social realm. Few of these exist, particularly in regard to civil matters, and I wanted to equip pastors to begin preaching this way, and to embolden them to do likeminded works on other books as well. There was a time when preachers preached this way. While pastors and theologians today often frown upon civil and social applications based on Scripture—especially from the context of Old Covenant history—I have been powerfully encouraged by John Calvin’s sermons on Deuteronomy and 2 Samuel 1–13. It is long past time that pastors began to realize this type of application and begin to deliver it to their congregations.
Second, I personally need sermon material, since I was preaching roughly twice a month at Christ Church in Branch Cove, Alabama. I had always been enamored with the message of 1 Samuel 8 for its direct bearings upon political tyranny in our own age. Then I saw the sanction of arms control in chapter 13. The more I read, the more I saw scenario after scenario which had overt political, judicial, and social applications, and they all seemed to apply directly to our own time. So I decided to make a series of sermons preaching through 1 Samuel.
What followed was far more fruitful than I imagined at the outset. In our age denuded almost completely of social or political-legal applications of Scripture, who would dare to think that 1 Samuel addresses nearly every possible legal phenomenon we have witnessed in modern times, as well as the psychological and spiritual effects behind them. If most people think of 1 Samuel at all, they may remember the faith of barren Hannah (the subject of so many “Mother’s Day” sermons), but perhaps only recall the story of David and Goliath. Little would most people suspect that Hannah was praying for a political and social revolution in her time. Little would they realize 1 Samuel addresses, among other things, the direct link between social freedom and God’s Law, national security and God’s Law, as well as specific politic issues such as biblical principles of warfare, kingship, national defense, the right to bear arms, taxation, military conscription, national greatness, political candidacy, political parties, party rivalries, jurisprudence (including biblical “common” law versus arbitrary civil or “statute” law), how to remain faithful under a regime hostile to biblical law, expatriation, political compromise, voting, the lesser of two evils, and more. And it is simply staggering, once you understand the narratives involved, just how closely Samuel’s and David’s situations parallel our own in many ways.
The original sermons and Bible studies were well received. Several people inquired if I would continue into 2 Samuel. I have begun the studies, and hope to follow this volume with another on 2 Samuel, but that will be in its own time if it happens. In the meantime, I pray that the reader finds these sermons as eye-opening, encouraging, and instructive as I did when preparing them. I believe they will be profitable for personal use, Sunday schools, as well as their primary intention, pulpit material. May the Lord bless this land which preachers bold enough to speak the whole counsel of God, even when it challenges civil leaders and criticizes civil institutions.
(Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2013, 410pp.)
Some believe, including many Christians, that the rise and fall of nations or cultures are completely random. Some that are not willing to go that far would take a view of an arbitrary sovereignty of sorts, i.e. there is a God watching over everything but there is no ethical cause and effect in history. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be immersed (literally) in the remnants of a culture that would tell a different story.
On a Saturday in which the first half of the day was spent on business, the second half of the day included a little bit of adventure. I thought initially this adventure was to consist of a ride into the jungle for a typical tourist excursion. I figured it may result in a look at some Mayan ruins, a few bug bites and a t-shirt I could buy proving that I had been there, done that. Little did I know it included a bit of a surprise adventure. Our journey took us to what we would refer to in the South as a “swimming hole”. As welcoming as a refreshing spring would seem on a hot day, the flavor of this particular dip was to be altogether different.
As our group was gathered around this freshwater spring, our tour guide began in a somewhat predictable manner as he described the temperature and origin of the spring as well as the importance of this particular body of water as the only source of freshwater for the Mayan community. The mundane facts faded into the background as our guide began describing the unexpected significance of this natural spring. In contrast to the sole source of life-giving fresh water, it was also a place of human sacrifice.
Our guide began unfolding the details of how this particular location was frequently used by the Mayans in an attempt to appease the gods during times of drought. He began to articulate that after a specified amount of days without rain a virgin would be selected, sacrificed and thrown into the spring. If the drought persisted for a week, another young virgin would be selected for the same ritual. We then learned that droughts in this area were commonly extensive and that this sinister ritual happened quite frequently and for lengthy periods of time. How ironic that this God-given source of life for this culture had been distorted into a preeminent place of death.
Suffice it to say, when I jumped into the water, the term refreshing was an out of place descriptor. As I looked up there was within twenty feet, hanging bats matted to the top of the cavern in addition to a few flying over our heads. This added twist, along with the thought of tens of thousands of previously sacrificed bodies in the water caused me to contemplate this extinct culture of death.
Who were these Mayans anyway? We have heard a lot in recent years about their calendar. But what were they all about? Their calendar was just one example of the highly advanced technological nature of their culture. Wikipedia provides a concise description of the culture:
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.(1)
What Wiki does not tell is the stark resemblance to all other post-Babel mystery religions. Below are a few characteristics that the Mayan culture holds in common with other post-Babel religions found in the cultures of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Carthaginians, Incas, Aztecs and Toltecs.(2)
- Highly advanced in the areas of mathematics and astronomy
- Priests that were also the educators, mathematicians and astronomers
- Use of ziggurats (babel buildings), pyramids and astronomical observatories that allowed them to chart the stars with precision
- Some retention of the Genesis account of origin, babel and the flood – although perverted
- Emphasis on blood and blood sacrifice
- Worship of animals and animal-human deities
The Mayan culture was a culture of death. They worshipped the serpent Kulkulcan. They loved him, feared him and raised their children to be fed to him. This was central to their entire culture. The following provides a picture about such sacrifice at the Temple of the Snake God in Chichen Itza:
Mayan religious ceremonies required fresh blood. Only the beating heart of a victim was sufficient to satisfy the gods. The priest held the victim down by the four chacs at the top of a pyramid or on a raised platform. Before the hundreds or thousands gathered, the nacon would take a stone knife and make an incision below the rib cage. Next, the still-beating heart of the victim was ripped out by hand. The lifeless body would be thrown to the ground and the heart was then burned or eaten in order to nourish the gods.(3)
This was a satanic culture of death. The question is, what happened to it? Were they taken over by the Spaniards like the Aztecs? They were not. They disappeared. Whereas some descendants remain, an empire comprised of millions of people vanished. How does this happen?
This takes us back to my swimming story. Some believe these pools of fresh water were tainted from dumping tens of thousands of sacrificed corpses into them such that the Mayans were poisoned over time by their only source of drinking water. No matter the exact cause, they have disappeared. More than this, God would have this come to us as no surprise. “…you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16 ESV)
Sin leads to death. It has ever since the fall of man. Perpetual child sacrifice and worship of false gods leads to the death of a culture. Do such cultures die off immediately? Of course not. Think about the Amorites who were also guilty of such atrocities. “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Gen. 15:16 ESV) We reveal our present-orientation when we look at Godless cultures that are flourishing and do not see visible judgment or extinction. God is sovereign and brings about blessing and judgment in his timing. He does this in a special way with those who are in covenant with him.
But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. (Deut. 28:15-20 ESV)
You say to yourself, “these verses apply only to Israel”. Really? So, those people groups who apply the bible to every area will not succeed? But, those who rebel against God will? The Word of God tells us differently. As a nation drifts from the Word of God, it becomes a culture of death.
Think of our own nation presently. Most would agree that this nation has drifted away from the doctrine and commitment of many of the early settlers. This is easily evidenced by our institutionalized child sacrifice. Oh no, we could never be like the Mayans. Rip the heart out of young children and kill them? Listen to Margaret Sanger’s statement made during the last century: “The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”(4) We now experience thousands of abortions every day in this country. In our present culture we are satisfying the same god as the Mayans. The cunning Serpent is the same whether in the Yucatan in the earlier centuries or in the cities of the modern day united states of America. Kulkulcan is just another name for the enemy of Christ, Satan, who would have us sacrifice children at his altar of convenience, self-absorption and complete apathy regarding his word.
God has not changed. Deuteronomy chapter 28 is still in force along with every other part of Scripture. This includes John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)
We would do good to learn the lessons provided by God’s providential history. We would do good to hear the voice of Scripture and understand the all of creation is in covenant with God. More than that, nations can swear allegiance and also make special covenant with Him. It is those nations who are more liable for their rebellion. The extinction of the Mayan culture instructs us on the “fate” of those cultures that would not follow the law of God. Let us learn from this instruction lest we find ourselves poisoned in our own depravity.
The Kingdom of God is also a culture built on blood sacrifice – the sacrifice of the perfect Son of God. It is this sacrifice that ensures the application of the Holy Spirit to those who would trust in His work. The Mayans did not have the power of the Spirit within them. Their culture died in history. The Kingdom of God will not.
- The Message of the Mayans, History of the World conference, Vision Forum Ministries, 2006.
- Margaret Sanger, The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1, Reprinted in Woman and the New Race, New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.