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Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 08:37

What if you could pick your very favorite Reformed teacher to teach your family devotions?

I mean, the best, the most famous, and right in your own home.

I mean, what if you could have John Calvin himself, right in your own living room? Impossible, of course!

But now you can.

Over the past few months, in my free time, I have been working on a little project I have wanted to do for a long time. This is, to get the basic teachings of Calvin’s Institutes into the hands and hearts of as many Reformed families as possible. To do this, I am abridging the work down to the simplest, though most profound, core of each chapter, and adding questions for review and family devotion.

I hope to have the whole book done late this summer. But I have also decided to release each chapter for free at American Vision in the meantime. When I get them all done, I will compile them and publish them as a book—probably around 250 pages, with 80 or so lessons, each only a few pages.

Calvin’s classic Institutes has long been neglected even in seminaries, let alone Reformed homes. It’s hard to imagine these days that it was largely for the use of average evangelicals that Calvin designed it in its completed form. After all these centuries, and in the year of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I hope to remedy this neglect with this new edition.

I can remember the first time I read Calvin’s Institutes. Holding this huge, daunting theological treatise as a young Reformed convert, I anticipated a rigorous, tough intellectual challenge. I was shocked at how pastoral and devotional it actually was. It is direct where it needs to be direct, often convicting, but also often inspiring, warm, elevating, victorious, and encouraging. I thought, “Why aren’t more people reading this?”

The only answers I could think of to that question are 1) it looks too long, 2) Calvin has a reputation for theological acuteness that intimidates a lot of people, and 3) Calvin often takes long diversions to argue his points against opponents and alternative arguments. There may be more, but these stand out to me.

With that, however, I realized I could remedy all such problems with a single edition that saved the core teaching of each chapter along with its pastoral and practical applications and best rhetoric, and edited out all the long expositions, repetitions, references to other theologians (except a few of the great quotations from Augustine), detailed debates, etc. A little over 1/4 through the work now, I think I am succeeding in that goal, and will now start presenting the chapters here.

The goal is to get each chapter, no matter how long normally, down to about 2 or 3, maybe 4 pages. In places where this is not possible, I will create more than one lesson. In other places, I have combined chapters or even rearranged a couple (so, you scholars, please no critical comments about stuff out of place, not designating all the original chapter and section, etc.; this is designed to be smoothed out for basic family devotion). Also, I am using (obviously) Beveridge’s translation, since it is public domain (I also prefer it in many places to Battles’s), but also smoothing out the language with my own edits, and even providing my own translation in a very few places. (Again, potential critics, this is for ease-of-use for modern, average families, not a scholarly edition.)

Please feel free to give feedback at joel at americanvision dot org. And please, start using these for family devotion asap. Here is Lesson 1, from Calvin’s Book I, Chapter 1. More to follow. Enjoy!

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Calvin’s Institutes Family Devotional Edition

Lesson 1

Knowing God

Our wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. These two are intimately connected. First of all, no man can survey himself without immediately turning his thoughts towards God, because the gifts we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves. Likewise, the blessings which unceasingly fall to us from heaven are like streams conducting us to the fountain.

God’s infinite goodness becomes more apparent in contrast to our poverty. The miserable ruin into which the rebellion of Adam has plunged us compels us to turn our eyes upwards, not only that while famishing we may ask what we desire, but being aroused by fear we may learn humility. Our feelings of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, remind us that in the Lord alone dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, and exuberant goodness. We cannot aspire to Him in earnest unless we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man does not naturally rest in himself, as long as he is contented with his own gifts and unconscious or unmindful of his misery?

On the other hand, man never truly knows himself until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and then come down to look into himself. In our innate pride, we always seem to ourselves just, upright, wise, and holy until we are convinced otherwise. But we cannot be convinced if we look to ourselves only and not to the Lord. He is the only standard that can produce conviction.

Since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty appearance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. As long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything that is slightly less defiled delights us as if it were most pure. If we were to look down to the ground at noon day, or at everything around us, we may think we have very strong and piercing eyesight, but when we look up to the sun, the sight which did so well before is instantly so dazzled and confounded it obliges us to confess that our acutest vision is mere dimness when applied to the sun. The same thing happens when we are estimating our spiritual qualities. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with ourselves and address ourselves in the most flattering terms. But should we raise our thoughts to God, and reflect upon the absolute perfection of his righteousness, wisdom, and virtue as the standard, then what formerly delighted us as righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; our assumed wisdom will disgust us by its extreme folly; and our apparent virtue will be condemned as miserable impotence.

You can understand, therefore, why holy men in Scripture were overwhelmed with dread and amazement whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm quaking with such terror that the fear of death seizes them, we must understand that men are never honestly impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. What can man do, after all, who is but rottenness and a worm, when even the angels themselves must veil their faces?

Questions for Devotion

  1. Into what two parts is most of our wisdom and knowledge divided?
  2. What conclusion should we arrive at when we consider all of our gifts, talents, and blessings?
  3. What conclusion should we arrive at when we consider our failings?
  4. By what standard do we then judge ourselves?
  5. What lesson should we learn when we understand our fallen position compared to the goodness of God?
(Copyright: Joel McDurmon, all rights reserved; provided by courtesy with permission for the use of The American Vision, Inc.)
Categories: Worldview

The prophecy pundits are scaremongering again: Here’s how to answer them from the Bible. . . .

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 07:32

Once again, prophecy prognosticators are predicting Jesus is going to wrap up everything in our generation because things are so bad the end must be near. A recent article by Britt Gillette on the Prophecy News Watch website says as much:

“The signs of the Second Coming are all around us. When His disciples asked Jesus to describe the signs, He gave them several. The Jewish people back in possession of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24-28) … the Gospel preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14) … the arrival of the exponential curve (Matthew 24:3-8) … and more.

“The Old Testament prophets also pointed to a number of signs. An increase in travel and knowledge (Daniel 12:4) … the rise of a united Europe (Daniel 2:42) … the rise of the Gog of Magog alliance (Ezekiel 38-39) … and more.

“Today, all these signs are either present or in the process of being fulfilled. Yet for 1,800+ years, none of these signs were present. Think about that. None of the signs. But today? Today, they’re all around us.”

These passages and “signs” have been used for centuries to prove that the end was near for their time. End-time speculation is not new. It has a long and failed history going back centuries and has led to a form of prophetic inevitability resulting in Christian passivity.

“If Jesus is coming back in my generation, then why expend time and effort to fix what can’t be fixed. Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? It’s all going down.”

As Christians have waited for the soon return of Jesus, humanists, secularists, and materialists have infiltrated every part of society. Instead of fighting against the invasion, an end-time escapist eschatology was invented with disastrous results. In Hal Lindsey’s book The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, he wrote, “The decade of the 1980’s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.” In addition to his questionable interpretive claims, consider these comments from Lindsey:

  • “What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.”
  • “I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth to that.”

If the end is always just around the corner based on certain prophetic texts linked to current events, then why bother or even hope to rebuild a failing and collapsing world?

We’ve seen such speculation many times before: in the French Revolution, World War I, World War II, and nearly every dramatic event throughout two millennia of history. If you want to read a chronicle of end-time speculation, take a look at Francis X. Gumerlock’s The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World. Send a copy to your end-time speculating friends.

I often hear, “But this time it’s different. We really are living in the last days and Jesus is coming soon.”

Today’s prophecy neophytes are under the false assumption that what they are reading in books and magazines, articles posted on the internet, seeing on television, and hearing on the radio and from pulpits are actually recently-discovered end-time truths of what they believe are current events that match up with particular prophetic passages. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Charles Wesley Ewing, writing in 1983, paints a clear historical picture of how prophetic interpretation based on current events turns to confusion, uncertainty, and in some people unbelief when it comes to predicting an end that disappoints:

“In 1934, Benito Mussolini sent his black-shirted Fascists down into defenseless Ethiopia and preachers all over the country got up in their pulpits and preached spellbinding sermons that had their congregations bulging at the eyes in astonishment about ‘Mussolini, the Anti-Christ,’ and to prove their point they quoted from Daniel 11:43, which says, ‘And the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.’ Later, Benito, whimpering, was hung by his own countrymen, and preachers all over America had to toss their sermons into the scrap basket as unscriptural.”

Ewing goes on to mention how Hitler’s storm troopers took Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, North Africa, and set up concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed in what has become the modern-day definition of “holocaust.” Once again, preachers ascended their pulpits and linked these events to Bible prophecy and assured the church-going public that Hitler was the antichrist. When the allies routed the Nazis and drove them out, sermons were once again tossed out or filed away to be revised at some future date hoping people’s memories would fade.

The next end-time-antichrist candidate was Joseph Stalin, the leader of godless Communism, a movement hell-bent on conquering the world. “But on March 5, 1953, Stalin had a brain hemorrhage and preachers all over America had to make another trip to the waste basket.”

Consider the “Signs”

Let’s take the above prophetic claims one at a time:

First, the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 describes events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and the judgment on Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. Jesus makes this clear when He told His first-century audience, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:320; Luke 21:31). Every time “this generation” is used in the gospels it always refers to the generation to whom Jesus is speaking (Matt. 11:16; 12:39; 41, 42, 45; 17:17; 23:36; Mark 8:12; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51; 17:25; 21:32). There are no exceptions. Grant Osborne summarizes the argument well:

“[T]his generation” (ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη) in the gospels always means the people of Jesus’ own time (11:16; 12:41-42; 23:36) not, as some have proposed, the generation of the last days in history, the Jewish people, the human race in general, or the sinful people.”

William Sanford LaSor writes, “If ‘this generation’ is taken literally, all of the predictions were to take place within the life-span of those living at that time.” These are just two examples of many who hold this position. See my soon-to-be-released book Wars and Rumors of Wars for a long list of Bible commentators who interpret the Olivet Discourse in the same way.

This means that Luke 21:24-28 and Matthew 24:14, since these signs occur before Luke 21:31 and Matthew 24:34 they must have taken place before that first-century generation passed away.

Second, the New Testament does not say anything about Israel becoming a nation again. To the contrary; it only refers to its judgment (Matt. 21:18-22; 24:2-3; Luke 19:43-44). Israel did become a nation again after the Jews returned to their land from the Babylonian exile (Dan. 9:2; 2 Chron. 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; Zech. 7:5; Neh. 1). The temple was rebuilt and the nation was reestablished. The fact that Jews were living in Israel during Jesus’ day proves this is true.

Third, contrary to Britt Gillette, Luke 21:24-28 does not say that Israel will become a nation again. Consider what is said in verses 31-32: “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to youthis generation will not pass away until all things take place.” Jesus is not describing what will happen to a future generation. The use of the second person plural (you) and the near demonstrative “this” make it clear Jesus had that generation, and that generation alone, in view.

Fourth, what about “the Gospel preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14)”? This does not refer to the whole globe and all human populations a we know them. The Greek word translated “world” is not kosmos (world) but oikoumenē and means “inhabited earth” or “empire boundary.” It is often translated “Roman Empire.” The same Greek word is used in Luke 2:1: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth [oikoumenē].” Rome could only tax those within the boundaries of its own empire, not the whole wide world.

Fifth, even if the Greek had said “kosmos,” it is written that the faith of the Roman Christians had been “proclaimed throughout the whole world [kosmos]” (Rom. 1:8). Paul wrote to the Colossians “the gospel,” which had come to them, had also come to those “in all the world [kosmos]” where it was “constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as in” them (Col. 1:6). Even if Jesus had used kosmos in Matthew 24:14, therefore, the above passages would indicate that Jesus’ words were fulfilled. This was so true that Paul could write, “the hope of the gospel . . . was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (1:23). In fact, the gospel had been “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world [kosmos]” (1 Tim. 3:16). Paul concludes his letter to the Romans with the following:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations [remember Matt. 24:14: “as a testimony to all the nations”] leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 16:25-27)

Based on the above biblical evidence, it is untrue to say, “yet for 1,800+ years, none of these signs were present.” These signs were present in the first century as the Bible makes clear and as many Bible expositors have pointed out for centuries.

What about Gillette’s claim that an “an increase in travel and knowledge (Daniel 12:4) … the rise of a united Europe (Daniel 2:42) … the rise of the Gog of Magog alliance (Ezekiel 38-39) … and more” are signs of the end?

Like the above passages, these verses also have been used repeatedly to “prove” the end was near for people in past generations. For example, John Cumming (1807-1881) considered “railway traveling” to be a reference to “many shall run to and fro” (Dan. 12:4). Current prophecy writers like Hal Lindsey are just as ingenious when they see modern transportation systems and computer technology as a fulfillment of Daniel 12:4. This is such a discredited interpretation that it’s embarrassing to read that anyone still believes and teaches it. Even many die-hard dispensationalists reject the idea that the “increase in knowledge” refers to “the recent explosion in knowledge.”

What does “knowledge will increase” really mean? James B. Jordan, in his commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall, offers a helpful explanation:

Those who take verse 4 [in Dan. 12] as referring to events at the end of history believe that Daniel’s prophecy is “sealed up” until that time. Only as the second coming of Christ draws near will we be able to understand prophetic truth. Hal Lindsey, of course, believes that the end is near and that he, unlike previous generations of Christian thinkers, understands the previously hidden prophetic truth. The sealing of the book, however, does not mean that it cannot be understood, but rather that the angel has told Daniel all that he is going to say at this point in history. The book is unsealed in Revelation 5-6, and in Revelation 22:10 the completed book is left unsealed because there is no more to be said.

Prophetic speculators take note of the fact that with the coming of railroads, automobiles, and airplanes, people “go to and fro” much more than ever before in history. Scientific knowledge has also boomed in recent years. We can say, of course, that a thousand years from now people may be going to and fro even more than they do now, and there will be even more knowledge around, so how can anyone know that our own generation is the time verse 4 is pointing to?

The real point, of course, is that this kind of “interpretation” of verse 4 is possible only by wrenching the text completely out of its context and then dreaming up possible meanings… [T]here is plenty of going to and fro in Daniel 11 and that is pretty clearly what verse 4 refers to.…((“run to and fro—not referring to the modern rapidity of locomotion, as some think, nor to Christian missionaries going about to preach the Gospel to the world at large [Albert Barnes], which the context scarcely admits; but, whereas now but few care for this prophecy of God, ‘at the time of the end,’ that is, near its fulfilment, ‘many shall run to and fro,’ that is, scrutinize it, running through every page. Compare Hab 2:2 [John Calvin]: it is thereby that ‘the knowledge (namely, of God’s purposes as revealed in prophecy) shall be increased.’” (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments [Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997], Dan. 12:4).)) [T]he increase of knowledge is pretty obvious: As time goes along and the predictions in Daniel 11 are fulfilled decade by decade, the prophecy will be better and better understood.

The Hebrew word for “knowledge” in Daniel 12:4 is not a reference to a mass collection or a library of data. Knowledge is used as revelational information about God and His works. It’s most likely that the knowledge being described in Daniel 12:4 is related to the new covenant and the coming of the promised Redeemer. Since the focus of the Bible is on Jesus (Luke 24:25–27), we should expect that this is what God had in mind when the angel told Daniel that “the knowledge” (note the “the” here) will increase. What redemptive significance does a modern Google search have to do with God’s redemptive plan for His people? Zacharias and Elizabeth (1:5-25), Joseph and Mary (1:26-56), Simeon (Luke 2:25-32) and Anna (2:36-38) had an increase in “the knowledge” as the realities of the old covenant were unfolding in their day. The Scriptures “testify” about Jesus (John 5:39). Jesus uses Daniel 7:13 as the defining event in His ministry (Matt. 24:30), something His accusers (again, in that generation) should have understood (26:64). This is the “increase in knowledge” that the angel was describing. Even prophecy writer Thomas Ice—who still believes in the future repetition of all these “signs”—recognizes that the interpretation followed by Lindsey, Morris, Gillette, and so many other pop-prophecy analysts found on the Internet have misread and misapplied Daniel 12:4.

It could be argued that the New Testament itself is the increase of knowledge: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Then there is the negative side to the promise of an increase in revelational knowledge: “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52).

What about the Gog and Magog prophecy found in Ezekiel 38-39? There is nothing new under the same. These two prophetic passages have been used over the centuries as proof texts to some end-time bad guy from their era. In reality, the prophecy was fulfilled long ago during the time Haman the Agagite tried to kill all the Jews (Esther 3). See my book The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance for a detailed study of Ezekiel 38–39.

Conclusion

It is simply time that Christian move past the repeatedly-failed nonsense of these sensational prophecy pundits. Their predictions have always failed because their methods and interpretations of Scripture have always been wrong to begin with. Today’s recent versions will fare no better than the many past failures—for they are founded on the same flawed understanding.

But there is a far better way of looking to the Bible’s understanding of the future. Here’s just a well-written glimpse I found and happen to agree with. Brian Walsh writes:

Build houses in a culture of homelessness. Plant gardens in polluted and contested soil. Get married in a culture of sexual consumerism. Make commitments in a world where we want to always keep our options open. Multiply in a world of debt. Have children at the end of history. Seek shalom in a violent world of geopolitical conflict and economic disparity. This is Jeremiah’s word to the exiles. This is Jeremiah’s subversive word to us. And in this vision, we just might see, with Jeremiah, “a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11).

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Repenting of Robert E. Lee and the falsification of history

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:37

There is no shortage of hypocrisy in the setting up and taking down of monuments—certainly not in the U.S. South, but also not in the North or anywhere else. When we get the chance to topple a large block of that dissembling, we ought to embrace doing so; we can remember the limited good embodied by past semi-heroes in better and more appropriate ways. This is particularly true in regard to the dismantling of the last remaining Confederate monument last week in New Orleans—the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Plenty of examples of this monumental historical problem bespot American history. Upon the publishing of our Declaration of Independence, readings throughout the nation sparked celebrations. During one such episode, a crowd of euphoric New Yorkers marked their jubilee by toppling a huge bronze statue recently erected of King George III. For this endeavor, they capped their reading of the words “All men are created equal” by rounding up a group of Africans to perform the hard labor for them. The irony must have been lost on them.

Likewise, today we see the same degree of disconnect in the continued praise of Robert E. Lee, even by men of otherwise critical and scholarly capacity—men who can read, and thus who ought to know better. It appears they have never adequately, or perhaps even at all, challenged the legacy of Lee as a pristine Christian hero.

Yes, he was a Christian; but like most antebellum southern Christians, he was a hugely compromised and inconsistent one.

Some defenders maintain their myopia by emphasizing Lee’s letters in which he expresses his desire to free all the slaves and that he was happy after the war that they would be finally freed. From this edited slice of sources, it is insisted he was not like the snarling slave drivers those lying Yankees portrayed all southerners as in their propaganda. No, Lee was kind, benevolent, and caring. He hated the system foisted upon him and wished he could free his slaves all along.

But the South had its own propaganda, and this image of Lee is not true. He was not only happy to keep slaves, but he fought a court case to keep some of the enslaved. While he did make some grandiose statements in favor of liberty here and there, his private actions belied them.

He did argue, for example, that “slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.” Wow! You didn’t hear that in your history books, did you? And no wonder: it makes a southerner proud.

Yeah, but that’s just a snippet. Read the rest:

I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are stronger for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & Tempest of fiery Controversy.

Upon these grounds, then, he condemned abolitionists. The work and aim of abolition was “unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty.”

Lee not only opposed radical abolitionism, but virtually any pro-emancipation cause that would actually have emancipated any slaves. He opposed any new territories being closed to slaveholders. He supported the Crittenden Compromise in 1861—a last-ditch effort to head-off secession by offering the South a Constitutional Amendment that would enshrined the institution of slavery permanently. While the U.S. House and Senate repeatedly voted the measure down, Lee was writing to his daughter saying that protecting chattel slavery in our Constitution forever “deserves the support of every patriot.”

Likewise, one article continues,

Even at the moment he reportedly told Francis Blair that if “he owned all the negroes in the South, he would be willing to give them up…to save the Union,” he was actually fighting a court case to keep slaves under his control in bondage “indefinitely,” though they had been promised freedom in his father-in-law’s will.

Too all southern apologists and neoconfederates out there who keep pointing to Lee’s (and a score of other great leaders’) whitewashed portraits saying, “Don’t falsify history,” I say unto you, “Don’t falsify history.”

If you can’t paint your heroes warts and all, don’t paint.

When the statue in question was originally unveiled in 1884, Charles Fenner gave a lengthy, tedious dedicatory eulogy. In it, he reviewed Lee’s crossroads at the choice to take command of the northern army or lead the southern. For the southern propagandist, it was no difficulty at all for a man like Lee:

[M]y study of his character forbids me to believe that such considerations ever assumed the dignity of a temptation to him. Amongst the records of his written or spoken thoughts I find no evidence of even a moment’s hesitation in his choice. Duty, the guide and guardian of his life, never spoke to Lee in doubtful accents. Its voice was ever as clear as the trumpet’s note, and by him was never heard but to be instantly obeyed.

The truth is just the opposite. Lee first asked Winfield Scott permission to sit out the war altogether. That is, he tried to hide from “Duty.” After anguishing over whether to maintain his oath of loyalty to the U.S. army or to fight on behalf of his state and slavery, he chose the latter. Then, fittingly for his decision, he sent his letter of resignation to the War Department by the hand of a slave. He then immediately wrote another letter expressing that he did not believe Virginia yet had full justification to secede, and that he knew he was choosing against the wishes of his wife and children (and several other family members).

All of this type of material—reams of it—for Lee, for many others, and for the South in general, modern Southern apologists, partisans, and neo-confederates ignore, dismiss, suppress, or at best are simply ignorant of. In this, they are left with a raw hypocrisy that they oftentimes cannot even see, despite the fact that it is so transparent to anyone who takes more than a few minutes to research the whole history.

The Great Rewriting of History

One of the great ironies of our modern Southern apologists is that while they continually decry the doctrine and practice of “victimology” with which Yankees, then and now, inundated our society—whether the pure victimhood of feminists, blacks, “the poor,” immigrants, etc., etc.—some of which is true and some imagined, they nevertheless remain totally blind to how openly and repeatedly the post-war South slanted history, moved goal posts, and outright lied by doing just that—playing victim.

I’m not the only one to notice this. A column a few years back nailed it: “After the war, the South embraced a mythology of victimhood. An important feature was the assertion that the war had been not about slavery at all but about state’s rights.” Before the war, this had not been so: “The secessionists themselves were not so shy. In their various declarations, they announced they were leaving the Union to preserve slavery.”

The point is that before the war, southern leaders unanimously and consistently argued loud and clear that secession was all about protecting the institution of slavery. (Southerners had argued this from the Continental Congress forward, repeatedly.) If states’ rights was ever mentioned, it was mentioned only in the context of maintaining their right to “that species of property” that was chattel slavery, almost exclusively of blacks. But immediately after Appomattox, their rhetoric changed. Suddenly, slavery had never been at issue at all. Southerners fought for liberty and state sovereignty.

Just read Fenner’s eulogy of Lee linked above: in an intolerable 14,000-word oration (it must have lasted multiple hours) he never once mentioned slavery, white supremacy, the plight of the Africans, or anything related to it. No, he spends a good bit on a tedious defense of the right of secession, however. That’s what Lee was all about! Damn Yankees!

The point is well-made in Richard Beringer, et al, Why the South Lost the Civil War. They write,

Back in 1860–61 the issue seemed clear. Southerners talked then of slavery and, to a lesser extent, of racial adjustment and state rights. . . .[F]rom the start, a large part of the Confederate elite pointed to slavery as the cause of armed conflict. Robert Hardy Smith, a member of the Provisional Congress, wrote in 1861 that “the question of negro slavery has been the apple of discord” and that “we have dissolved the late Union chiefly because of the negro quarrel.” Only a few contemporaries would have disagreed—in 1861.

In his famous “cornerstone” speech given just after his inauguration as vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens not only asserted that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution” but also claimed, using biblical metaphor, “that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his [the Negro’s] natural and moral condition” and that “the stone which was rejected by the first builders is become he chief stone of the corner.” In this he echoed Robert M. T. Hunter, who had stated on the floor of the United States Congress in 1859 that the Union was like an arch, “and the very keystone of this arch consists of the black marble cap of African slavery; knock that out, and the mighty fabric, with all that it upholds, topples and tumbles to its fall.”

Literally scores of such comments could be cited from all over Southern leadership and journalism. And such comments continued all through the war. As late as 1865, the Charleston Mercury “admitted that the South started the war to preserve slavery.”

As soon as the war ended, however, slaves were freed. If such an argument were sustained, Southern leaders and the South in general would never recover. Something had to change in the rhetoric in order to maintain the northern invaders as the bad guys. So, the rhetoric as to the cause of the war changed—almost literally overnight, and almost to a man. Slavery hardly ever would come up as a cause again. States’ Rights and Secession now took center stage.

Nowhere is this radical flip-flop more prominent than in the public proclamations of the South’s own vice president, Alexander Stephens. After the war,

Slavery no longer supplied a cornerstone. Now the war “had its origin in opposing principles, which, in their action upon the conduct of men, produced the ultimate collision of arms.” These conflicting principles “lay in the organic structure of Government of the States. . . . The contest was between those who held it [the central government] to be strictly Federal in its character, and those who maintained that it was thoroughly National.”

Slavery, if anything, was now only incidental.

The Literature of the Lost Cause

Beringer et al go on to note how this quickly reinvented version immediately became the version of the truth perpetuated by the creators of the “lost cause” narrative.

[Jefferson] Davis reduced his own postdecision dissonance by confessing that, although the South had not won, it should have. Davis and others who shared his views, excessively proud of the Confederacy and their roles in it, fell into the class proudly labeled “unreconstructed.” It was such individuals who established and ran the historical societies, veterans’ organizations, and cemetery associations. . . .

Their societies and journals excused Confederate errors and quarreled over minor points. “Exposed to evidence” of their senses, “which unequivocally demonstrates a belief system to be wrong,” people like Davis, J. William Jones, and Jubal A. Early tended “to proselyte more vigorously for the belief system.” The literature of the lost cause is full of examples. To such former Confederates, it was “still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position . . . and Pickett . . . waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance. . . . This time. Maybe this time.”

Found the societies and organizations, they did—and they built all of the monuments like the one just dismantled, beginning in 1884, and lasting throughout the post-Reconstruction era.

But look at what a popular religion it became! Charles Wilson wrote in Baptized in Blood: the Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920:

The Southern civil religion emerged because the experience of defeat in the Civil War had created a spiritual and psychological need for Southerners to reaffirm their identity, an identity which came to have outright religious dimensions. Each Lost Cause ritual and organization was tangible evidence that Southerners had made a religion of their history.

These “rituals” included grand, multi-day meetings of the United Confederate Veterans or United Daughters (or Sons) of the Confederacy, complete with parades, orations, celebrity appearances, hundreds of thousands of attendees, and the dedication of countless monuments and statues.

Despite their bafflement and frustration of defeat, Southerners showed that the time of the “creation” still had meaning for them. The Confederate veteran was a living incarnation of an idea that Southerners tried to defend at the cultural level, even after Confederate defeat had made political success impossible. Every time a confederate died, every time flowers were placed on graves on Southern Memorial Day, Southerners relived and confronted the death of the Confederacy. The religion of the Lost Cause was a cult of the dead, which dealt with essential religious concerns.

“Lost Cause” hysteria abounded for generations afterward, and with it, the myth that the war and its heroes had nothing to do with slavery at all. This lie from the pit of hell has done nothing good for the South—white or black—but has instead created a destructive idol no less pernicious than the Baals, Ashteroths, and Molochs of the Old Testament. It is statism, humanism, and hero-worship the likes of which got ancient Israel carried away captive, leveled, and burned to the ground.

As much as anywhere in history, Roman Catholicism was hated and loathed in the South. Yet as soon as they had lost the war, they created their own nationalistic version of sainthood and icon worship. They dotted the South with statues of Lee, Davis, Jackson, and every conceivable hero, and even wrote epithets of outright pro-segregation and white supremacy upon some of them. And they pray for the millennial return of Robert E. Lee and the great White hope.

Today’s defenders of the South and defenders of whitewashed heroes simply need to learn the whole truth, accept it, repent of their holding to a tenacious lie, kill the idols, and move forward in truth. Right now, they are intellectually swimming in the greatest rewrite in American history, and they can’t touch bottom.

No Christian, and certainly no Christian movement, can survive the dead weight of idolatry. And the Southern “cult of the dead” is just that. Make no mistake: the North had all its faults too, and many are far too celebrated, or whitewashed, or suppressed, to turn their good into much real progress. But we southerners and Christians need to clean up our own nest before we start damning Yankees all over again. Else, we’ll all drown together. There’s no way you can even begin to pretend to have any moral high ground until you can demolish your own lies and the idols erected upon them. I rejoice that one more has fallen. But the hardest idols to fell still stand, and they are not made of stone.

 

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Blocking the doors: Operation Rescue . . . the Churches!

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:35

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in (Matt. 23:13).

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered (Luke 11:52).

I told a friend of mine, an old veteran of the antiabortion movements, that there is a new, young generation of radicals with promise. I told him, “They are no-compromise. Abortion is murder. They want to end abortion now. They want no exceptions. They are total abolitionists.” He listened.

Then I told him, “They go out every day and work outside abortion clinics.”

He responded:

“They need to be outside the churches. That’s where the problem is.”

Discerning the real problems

I went on to inform him of their efforts to get churches to repent. But his comment—when he was totally unaware of anything like #ChurchRepent—speaks volumes. The problem rests mainly within the churches and their leadership. We will not end abortion ever without repentance and change here.

I am moved to cover these lessons after what we observed over the last weekend. This involves the decision by Rusty Thomas and Operation Save America activists to return to the tactics Operation Rescue employed in the 1980s and 90s—sit-in blockades of the doors of abortion clinics. Rusty and nine others were arrested for criminal trespassing on May 13. At least one report brandishes the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances” (FACE) Act, which could mean federal charges as well.

The reaction was a firestorm across social media, as most are already aware—but it was an in-house storm among abortion activists. Some approved the actions. Some demurred or detracted. Others condemned. Fights erupted. It is not my intention to rehearse all the back-and-forth that ensued. I purpose only to offer a few thoughts why the OR approach failed, will fail again if we don’t make the necessary changes, and what hope there is for change.

Several years ago, an aging Rushdoony was asked if he approved of Operation Rescue’s tactics. Here was his response:

The two great eras of abortion have been our Lord’s time to the fall of Rome and this century. Yet we never find either our lord or Saint Paul saying: “Go out and block the entry ways to the abortuaries of Rome.” Never. Why? Because regeneration is our approach, not coercion. . . .

A great many babies are aborted annually. A million and a quarter. But euthanasia is routinely practiced, homosexuality, adultery, every kind of evil prevails around us. We have a population that is reprobate. How in the world are you going to deal with that by coercive of tactics?

Moreover, if you set a precedent of lawlessness of blocking the entry ways to abortuaries, what’s to prevent these people from doing the same to our churches? As a matter of fact, it has been done already. Saint Patrick’s cathedral has had homosexuals and pro-abortion people enter and do everything to disturb the services and to break them up. So, if we practice it, we cannot protest if it is practiced against us. Why didn’t our Lord and Saint Paul mount an operation rescue, when abortion was so common in that age? It was very simple: they knew that the answer had to be regeneration, the atonement. These people are placing human life above faith in Christ. . . .

It’s very sad what is happening. But I know a very fine woman who did her best to talk one woman out of an abortion; it would have been her fourth. She succeeded. Within two or three years that child, horribly abused, was taken from that mother by the police. Do you see the point? You’re dealing with an ungodly generation. Now when you go through the Bible, and I did in one little book I wrote on the Myth of Overpopulation and I got all the references to birth. And God in his word speaks of blessed fertility and unblessed fertility of the ungodly. Now there is nothing we can do with these ungodly women. They love death; they get an abortion some of them for the pleasure of killing life. And they are suicidal. They are on drugs. They do everything that is suicidal. What we need to do is to work to convert them, because the only change can come through Christ. Not through our coercive tactics. We don’t adopt the way of the world.

Let me add one thing more. One of our staff members, Joseph McAuliffe, is pastor of Tampa Covenant Church in Florida, it’s a charismatic church. He’s a leader in Tampa on Christian activities. And he has met with legislators and they have said we can get a bill through banning abortion in Florida, only on one condition: if we will agree to permit it in cases of rape and cases of incest. Write it that way and were sure we can get it through. We have enough votes, but if you don’t we can’t. Do you know who blocked that bill? The operation rescue people. It would have put them out of business. It’s like the cancer researchers in the United States. They get hundreds of millions a year from the federal government to do cancer research and do you think any of them will want to see it cured? They will all be out of jobs. Operation rescue has become a movement that wants to keep on moving. Not to solve a problem. Our basic approach must be evangelization. If people are not regenerated neither they nor their children have any hope.

This was far from Rushdoony’s finest hour, and his comments here are at best a mixed bag. (I’ll show you in a moment how Gary North rightly opposed this thinking.) Nevertheless, there is food for thought even here, particularly in regard to engaging in political action in a political environment overwhelmingly dominated by reprobates and reprobate law. We’ll return to this.

Even in such a venue, however, it is difficult to surmount the piety of the response that says, “If it saves the life of just one child, it’s worth it.” One could respond, “What if the action saves the life of one but the consequences cost the lives of a dozen more you could have saved through other means?”

This dispute becomes a priority to solve only if the saving of individual lives is the sole numerator of success. If the abolition of human abortion—a judicial standard—is the ultimate goal, we need to have other considerations. If you feel called to individual rescues, I’ll leave that calculus to you and your conscience. I am looking at the larger picture (and I don’t mean to discount anyone’s efforts in the narrow one by saying that).

As for even acts like OSA perpetrated this weekend, North defends it, and I think rightly destroys any absolute critic of such tactics. The liberals have been making utter fools of the churches for decades now:

Legalized abortion has now made Christian social irresponsibility appear ridiculous. Thus, we find millions of Christians who give occasional lip service (and very little money) to the fight against abortion. We find a small minority willing to picket an abortion clinic occasionally. We find an even tinier minority ready to devote regular time and regular money to fighting abortion, including fighting it politically. And then, in the summer of 1988, a handful of non-violent activists began to “up the ante” by breaking local property laws in Atlanta, Georgia, and later other cities by interposing their bodies between murderous mothers and their murderous accomplices, state-licensed physicians.

(Strange, isn’t it? Liberals for 70 years insisted that “human rights are more important than property rights!” This phrase supposedly proved that high taxes and government regulation of the economy are morally legitimate. But these days, the liberals have spotted a problem with this slogan. A bunch of crazy Christians have started intruding onto the property of wealthy, state-licensed murderers — excuse me, physicians — to interfere with the daily slaughter of the innocents. Now, all of a sudden, the defense of private property is high on the liberals’ list of priorities. Liberals certainly enjoy taxing the high incomes of physicians, but they want them to earn those juicy taxable incomes, especially if those incomes come from killing judicially innocent babies. Population control, and all that. And … liberals will never actually say this in print, of course … these slaughtered babies are mostly blacks and Hispanics. You know. Those kind of people! They have concluded that an abortion is less expensive to the welfare state than two decades of aid to a dependent child, but they never say this in public. They think that the cheapest way to “break the cycle of poverty” is to kill the next generation of the potentially poor. And never forget: indigent old people are also part of that cycle.)

Trespassing for Dear Life

This tactic of “trespassing for dear life” has now begun to divide the Christian community. It has already divided Christian leaders. This division appears to cut across denominational and even ideological lines. Christian leaders are being forced to take a position, pro or con, with regard to the legitimacy of this physical interposition. Like Congress, they prefer to avoid taking sides, but the pressures can no longer be avoided easily, at least for Reubenites.

There are two signs in front of abortion clinics:

“No Trespassing”
“Thou Shalt Not Kill”

The “No Trespassing” sign is symbolically stuck into the grass. The “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sign is literally being carried (or ought to be literally carried) by an anti-abortion picketer.

The picketers have now begun to realize that they face a major moral decision: either ignore the implicit “No Trespassing” sign or ignore the covenantal implications of the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sign. The fact of the matter is that if Christians continue to obey the abortionists’ “No Trespassing” signs, God may no longer honor this humanistic nation’s “No Trespassing” sign to Him. He will eventually come in national judgment with a vengeance. This is a basic teaching of biblical covenant theology. (It is conveniently ignored in the pseudo-covenant theology of the critics.)

A small, hard core of dedicated Christians has now decided that they cannot obey both signs at the same time. One of these imperatives must be obeyed, and to obey it, the other imperative must be disobeyed. This has precipitated a crisis.

There is a much larger group of Christians that pretends that there is nothing inherently contradictory about these two signs. There is nothing going on behind closed clinic doors that Christians have a moral imperative and judicial authorization from God to get more directly involved in stopping. They prefer not to think about the two signs. They see the first one and assume that it has the highest authority.

There have been other “No Trespassing” signs in history. Outside of German concentration camps in 1943, for instance. But Christians in Germany honored those signs. They forgot the words of Proverbs:

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:10-12)

You need to read North’s whole article (yes, it’s long, and yes you should read it all).

But OR’s days are long behind us. Even back when they had thousands on their side, the tactics failed. The church is even more sheepish and unwilling today. When a group like OSA resurrects the tactic, even some stout-hearted and strong-tongued antiabortionists balk and begin to criticize. They personally think there are more effective ways to do it (I agree), and that walking into a sure-fire jail sentence and possible huge fines is not the most productive tactic. This is especially true because so many people are so far checked out of the game: the churches largely don’t care, the public draws back in shock, and leaders devour each other over disagreements.

But, what this means is that the only problems with this door-blocking tactic are, therefore, pragmatic: we don’t have enough Christians willing to do so, we don’t have the organization, we don’t have the leadership or the PR yet developed, etc., and the consequences will be averse to us as individuals and possibly to the cause as a whole.

But why do we not have willing Christians? Why so few willing churches? Why no organization? Why ineffective leadership? Why brethren quarreling over what should be obvious? Why brethren calling each other liars and wicked when we already agree on 99% of what we believe and are doing? Why no effective PR?

There is only one answer to this, and it centers upon the role, message, and willingness of the preaching in the Body of Christ.

Which is to say, the problem with ending abortion now is a problem with the churches, because that’s where all these things should come from—if the church was consistent with its professed ethics.

Problem: the church is not consistent with its professed ethics (the Ten Commandments), but it is consistent with its theology of soul-only salvation, personal-only piety, and fear of engaging—nay, even addressing!—let alone resisting, the civil government. It is their theology and practice of not rocking the cultural boat. This has become both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

A pragmatic objection, however, is nothing but a fancy way of saying “that won’t work!” This is nothing more than a fear-based argument—at the very least, fear of failure. We need some help here.

Lessons from a critical review

In 1991, Christian and libertarian, Constitutional rights attorney John Whitehead (https://www.rutherford.org/) published an academic review: “Civil Disobedience and Operation Rescue: A Historical and Theoretical Analysis.”  Anyone interested in activism needs to read this paper. He brings up several interesting issues concerning why OR failed and what we need to learn from it.

All tactics are pragmatic to some degree. The question in all applications of all tactics is not whether we are being pragmatic or principled (you cannot escape either), but whether we are being as pragmatic and as principled as we can be. In his theoretical section, Whitehead notes,

Justice-based civil disobedience is used to oppose and reverse the majority’s unjust oppression of a minority. Those practicing justice-based civil disobedience must not break the law until the normal political processes have been fully exhausted and are found to offer no hope of success. Moreover, justice-based civil disobedience may not be used if it will make matters worse.

That last sentence is key: even pragmatic analyses (perhaps especially pragmatic analyses) must judge themselves by what principled goal they are serving, and whether it is pragmatic in the long term. (In other words, is your pragmatism really pragmatic after all?)

He continues,

There are two approaches to activities within the category of justice-based civil disobedience: (1) persuasive strategies, which “force the majority to listen to arguments against its program, in the expectation that the majority will then change its mind and disapprove that program;” and (2) nonpersuasive strategies, which aim “not to change the majority’s mind, but to increase the cost of pursuing the program the majority still favors, in the hope that the majority will find the new cost unacceptably high.”

It should be clear that door-blocking is in the latter category. It should be equally clear that without broad enough participation in the tactic, and without broad enough empathy in the population (or even the churches), this tactic is doomed to failure. If the public doesn’t care, and Christians don’t participate in numbers great enough to burden the police departments, then the cost being imposed will not be anywhere near high enough for the public to care.

The leftists are aware of this: the sole purpose of the FACE Act was to shift the burden of cost so far back in the direction of Christian activists that they would not dare even attempt such practices again.

This again indicates all that the churches lack: no will, no conviction, no organization, and no leadership on the issue. This leads to submission, resignation, and apathy. But this apathy is perhaps the greatest cause of the violence of abortion. It’s a passive cause, but it’s a cause nonetheless, and one for which we are accountable.

Whitehead quotes a civil disobedience theorist, who imo nails it:

apathetic obedience may in the long run be a greater source of violence than either active obedience or civil disobedience. Passive acquiescence assumes rather indifferent citizens, who are unconcerned with the social evils which tend to inevitably develop in large, complicated, and bureaucratic societies. The longer these evils fester, the more likely they are to provoke eventual violence in reaction.

Whitehead’s section on practical lessons has several nuggets worth consideration, at least. Here are a few:

On organization: “The success of reform or protest movements appears to be directly related to the organization of parties to carry out acts of defiance. According to one authority on reform, “[c]hange comes from power, and power comes from organization.” Unlike the colonial revolutionaries, Operation Rescue has not followed a deliberate, unified, and informed pattern of civil disobedience. Operation Rescue appears to lack a coordinated and knowledgeable group of leaders who act behind the scenes to weigh the pros and cons of the group’s activities.”

However true this may ultimately be for success of other movements in the future, or not, it is clearly true that it spelled failure for hundreds of such rescues by OR in the 80s and 90s. There is no chance, then, of success from only a single such rescue today, without significant changes first.

Second, on consistency. OR seemed to change its approach in its later permutation:

One might argue that the intimidation tactics presently advocated by Operation Rescue appear to be directed primarily toward mitigation or elimination of punishment for the acts of civil disobedience by Operation Rescue members. Such tactics fail to affect directly the use of abortions or generate Christian “repentance.” In fact, one might argue that such intimidation tactics might well generate the same type of negative response from the American public as was exhibited against the antiwar protestors, i.e., that the protesters are seeking not to create a more just society, but rather that the protesters are seeking to destroy or denigrate some very fundamental premises of the American system—namely, the importance of an independent judiciary.

Third, on PR: “When a reform movement fails to educate the general public on its alms and objectives, its effectiveness often is dramatically reduced. . . . Operation Rescue has not been successful in persuading and informing the majority of the American public as to the necessity and/or correctness of its activities. This failure appears to have occurred for two reasons. First, Operation Rescue previously limited its efforts only to conducting rescues at abortion centers. Second, the organization has not received favorable media attention. . . . Public reaction is largely uninformed and uninspired with respect to Operation Rescue.”

Despite all the critical analysis and criticism, Whitehead argues that the door-blocking tactic, historically and theoretically speaking, is a justified tactic. Nevertheless, he concludes, “certain basic historical and theoretical-conceptual guidelines must be adopted and followed if any movement based upon civil disobedience is to succeed. To do otherwise, is to invite defeat and to fail to take into account the costs of one’s acts.”

There is yet another person who seems to agree with the basic problems at the root of OR’s failure, and that is OR’s founder, Randall Terry. He is quoted as to the problem:

Historically, silence and accommodation has done nothing to help the oppressed. It only strengthens the hands of the oppressors. That is the lesson of Nazi Germany and of the Eastern Bloc countries. Hitler went after the insane, the feeble, the elderly. The Christian community, by not taking action, contributed to Hitler’s strengthening and its own weakening, and ultimately to the death of 30 to 40 million people. When the Christian community tolerates the oppression of a few, it paves the way for the oppression of the many. It doesn’t stop with rescuers. Today, people are being arrested for praying or picketing on sidewalks, something they have a constitutional right to do.

He also saw the apathy he was up against:

Even a brief overview of American history proves that political change usually comes after social upheaval. The birth of America, the end of slavery, women’s voting rights, repeal of prohibition, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the feminist movement all testify to one truth: whether for good or bad, political change comes after a group of Americans bring enough tension in the nation and pressure on politicians that the laws are changed. Politicians see the light after they feel the heat!

The truth is, we don’t stand a chance of ending this holocaust without righteous social upheaval occurring across the country that “inspires” politicians to amend the Constitution. Right now they have no reason to. The status quo is peaceful. But if even one percent of the evangelical and Catholic community (about 800,000 people) would take their own rhetoric seriously (“Abortion is murder!”) and start acting like children are being killed, things would change. By doing massive rescues, we could create the tension needed to turn the tide. When government officials have to choose between jailing tens of thousands of good, decent citizens, or making child killing illegal again, they will choose the latter, partly because there are no jails big enough to hold us if we move together in large numbers!

That righteous upheaval was missing in when Terry wrote it 1987. It was missing when North published in 1988–1989. It was missing when Whitehead published in 1991. It is lacking today. The simmerings of righteous indignation, however, are moving AHA, #EndAbotionNow, the remnants of the old guard, and others, to get radical once again, and much great work is being done.

What to do

Any movement which intends to succeed in this area has got to begin, first, with seeding the truth in its most uncompromising and radical form, across the country, in every church and every heart of every Christian. We must spread the ideology as widely as possible, and create an absolute abhorrence of murder and the culture of death.

Second, the seeds must sprout and grow strong. If the necessary convictions do not spread, there is no hope. If they do not take root and withstand competition with the various weeds (excuses, arguments, apathy, hostility) in the garden of God, then they cannot flower and bear fruit.

Third, if the seed of radical truth finally takes root, the fruits of truth will appear: repentance. Widespread repentance will indicate true revival among the churches.

Fourth, a repentant church armed with the full truth of God, revived and reinvigorated, will lead to a Reformation; that will lead to developed political views, preaching, and activism. That will be the path to cultural renewal.

Fifth, a church that is truly active and truly relevant to the culture will spark a true culture war. The world, and the churches dominated in various ways by the world, with rise up and attempt to persecute the revived Body of Christ in the land. (This is when going to jail may really have some public significance.) It is here we will see the most radical and meaningful public clash between God’s people and the forces of death. This process, this battle, will expose the ferocious evil of the culture of death and the central importance of the institution of child sacrifice to it, and the true murderous nature of the whole.

Sixth, this exposure of truth and resistance to it will provide the window of opportunity for God ‘s people to abolish human abortion, ending this public wickedness in our time.

Please note, no one gets anywhere in this process unless we first successfully seed radical truth. This means my friend is right: we need to be engaging the churches—the body of Christ. That is where this must start.

I personally think it is premature to be blocking clinic doors. I think the far, far greater problem is the Pharisees blocking up the doors of the kingdom and of truth (Matt. 23:13; Luke 11:52): they won’t enter themselves, and they won’t let anyone else enter. This prevents the spread of radical Christianity and true practical Christianity. Before engaging in a largely symbolic resurrection of Operation Rescue, we need a concentrated effort on Operation Rescue the Churches—rescue them from the apathetic acquiescence to the social norm, sin, murder, and culture of death.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

If you preach it, they will fall

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 06:50

On December 15, 1989, a small crowd of parishioners of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Timisoara gathered in front of the church flat where their pastor lived. The occasion was the eviction orders to their pastor set for that day by a Romanian civil court. The group formed a human chain around the flat. When the police arrived to remove the pastor from the flat, the crowd had grown to several hundred strong; they were singing hymns in the brutally cold weather and from their words the police guards understood that the people were determined to stay and prevent the eviction of their pastor. The police guards returned with agents of the dreaded Communist secret police Securitate, but to no avail, the crowd refused to let them pass. For the first time in the history of Communist Romania someone was refusing to obey Securitate.

On the next day the mayor of Timisoara—the second largest city in Romania—arrived and tried to persuade the crowd to disperse. He arrived with the pastor’s family doctor to persuade the pregnant wife of the pastor to come with them to the hospital. She refused. By that time the crowd had grown beyond the numbers of the congregation, with young ethnic Romanians joining the Hungarian Reformed believers in the vigil and the human chain in the cold December day. The mayor then left, threatening to return with police water cannons.

On December 17, instead of police water cannons, Army troops took positions against the now significant demonstrations that had grown from the humble crowd of Reformed parishioners. They fired into the crowd. This did not stop the demonstrators. On December 18 tens of thousands of industrial workers in Timisoara left their jobs to join the demonstrations. By December 20 the city was out of the control of the Communist government. The insurrection spread to other cities in Romania, and on December 22 the most brutal and maniacal Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe—that of Nicolae Ceausescu—fell.

The fall of the bloodiest and most inhumane Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe started there, in the small humble church of the 37-year old Pastor László Tökés. Dr. Joseph Pungur of the University of Alberta in Canada writes about him:

And in the midst of all this arose that one person, Reverend László Tökés, a minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania in charge of the church of Timişoara (Temesvár) who, with his heroic resistance to the dictatorial Church and State authorities, single-handedly triggered a popular revolution in Romania. Within days it toppled the Ceausescu regime.

The kind of preacher we need again today

Who was László Tökés? What made him so terrifying to the regime to deserve such attention? Why did the Communist government have to send agents of the Secret Police, and later the army, to make sure he is evicted? What made those thousands of people keep vigil in the cold December nights around his house to protect a humble, unimportant religious minister? Why was it that even unbelievers were willing to lay down their lives but not let the government troops pass to his house?

Was he a military organizer of the resistance? Did he lead an opposition party? May be he was a skillful politician, experienced in the art of bureaucratic machinations? Did he make explosives, blow up bridges, start insurrections in the army?

No. He was only a preacher. No, he wasn’t only a preacher. He was a preacher with a heart for God, a preacher who believed that the pulpit was entrusted to him to preach against principalities and powers, no matter what the consequences were. He preached against the Communist regime, he preached against the oppressive policies, against the nationalist crackdowns of the regime on the Hungarian minority, and against the lack of freedom, religious and political, in his country. László Tökés wasn’t there just to preach “believe and get saved.” He was on the pulpit to speak for King Jesus in every area of life, and especially in those areas where the government was oppressive against those politically weak and poor. László Tökés was there to tell Caesar that “there is another King, one Jesus.”

And that was enough to make him so dangerous to the regime. Government institutions on all levels—police, courts, the secret police—were employed to make him stop preaching. Members of his congregation—fully supportive of their pastor—were “suicided” by the Securitate agents. His pay was stopped and his ration-card was taken away, making it impossible for him to buy even food (and his wife was pregnant at the time). One night a group of thugs hired by Securitate broke into his apartment and Tökés and members of the congregation had to fight them off with kitchen knives.

The Bishop of Transylvania, László Papp, a puppet of the Communists and a collaborationist with the government, ordered Tökés to stop preaching and officially closed his church. Interestingly enough, he appealed to the “separation of church and state,” and claimed that Tökés violated the laws of both the church and the state. The congregation stood firm, and the young pastor kept preaching. A few weeks before the events described above he wrote an open letter explaining the situation he was in:

I speak out for I cannot do otherwise, or else the stones themselves will speak, the stones of our demolished towns and monuments…. I am not a courageous man but I have overcome my fear. I am waiting for a trial at a Romanian civil court, indicted by my own bishop in order to evict me from the manse of the church at Temesvar, and to banish me in medieval style not only from this “closed” town but also from the priesthood. . . The fight is no less bitter than it was in the past, though this time the weapons are different. And the price of the siege is the same; when the castle falls, a piece of our country goes with it . . . The self-defence of the Reformed Church in Temesvár symbolizes a “pars pro toto,” it displays the “particular” as a representative of the “universal.” We are called in question, one by one, as Calvinists and as Hungarians living here. To the challenge the congregation tries to answer like David . . . it takes its stand only on a tiny foothold of the Spirit, from of the Word of God: “Fight for your brethren, your sons, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). “A mighty fortress is our God” sings the church congregation on Sundays, identifying themselves with its strength; they rely on that strength throughout the week.

László Papp, the Bishop of Nagyvárad, has been besieging the Church in Temesvár since April. He has banned services in the church and the works of renovation. . .He has limited the activity of the minister and the session; he has frozen a great deal of the congregational finances . . . This was the introductory phase of the siege . . . the phase of “starve them into surrender” . . . the mocking of Goliath.

But God’s plans trumped the mocking of Goliath, and the giant fell within a week after the start of the final showdown. And it all started with the humble sermons of a humble pastor in a small parish church.

If you are a Christian, and if you care about teaching your children in the way of our Lord, you should have a gallery of Christian heroes for them to imitate and be inspired by. Add a name there: László Tökés. He is part of your Christian history.

About a year ago I visited a worldview conference organized in our town by Brannon Howse. Mr. Howse was outstanding. He didn’t pull any punches. Nothing in this country was outside of God’s Sovereignty, everything was a legitimate sphere for action for us Christians. Government? Yes, government too. [For Howses’ rapid departure from these views almost immediately after this event, see our archives.]

On the way back a local pastor was with me in my car. I was excited about the conference, and I naturally was optimistic about what we as Christians could do to restore America to its Biblical roots.

In the middle of the conversation the pastor just said, “You know, this is all good, but I don’t think we can accomplish too much in these last days. We may be able to save a few souls, but we can’t stop the drift to darkness in this country. We should expect the times to be worse and worse for us Christians.”

I thought of László Tökés. He was against the worst political and government machine we can imagine. He couldn’t buy food, he was about to be evicted from his house. There was no institution to come to his defense, and there was no hope, humanly speaking. He was in a situation that no American pastor in the 20th century has been or had to be. And yet he compared himself to David against Goliath, firmly convinced of his victory, against all human odds.

He just preached against the government, against the principalities and powers, against the forces of darkness in the high places of the land. And they fell. Our pastors should learn from his example.

[This article was originally published on December 15, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the attempted eviction of László Tökés. Now almost eight years later, it is more relevant than ever.]

Categories: Worldview

Churches worse than infidels

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:57

If you have not studied the foundational biblical truth about Socialism, you should. There is no secret the church in general long since quit providing social safety nets for even its own people, let alone much of any kind of such outreach to greater society, the poor, the orphan, and the widow. The relationship between the failed churches and a socialistic state are symbiotic, and it grows more entrenched over time. It’s time we at least wake up to it.

Someone shared this blog post in my feed the other day: it is a devastating criticism of the American churches. It is from a mother who recently lost her husband to cancer at a young age. Listen to some of her powerful lines:

When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. . . .

The lighting, coffee bars, relevant messages, graphics and other things are secondary and serve no assistance to me during the darkest hour of my life. This is in no way a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. However, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the center. It is a also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation. There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavor. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need and are desperate for Jesus. And they may actually be turned off by all that they consider gimmicks to get people to go to church.

I scroll down my social media feed and I see churches with pictures of their coffee bars, their concert like settings, their graphics, their trendy sermon series and those don’t appeal to me. I want to see how Jesus has changed a person’s life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to one’s life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how the broken heart was restored. I want to see how the mourners were comforted. I want to see how lives were restored. Rather than posting pictures of coffee bars I would rather see testimonies of the power of God. I am thankful I attend a church that focuses on prayer and the word of God. I am thankful that in one of the darkest moments of my life I knew I could count on others to pray for me and with me.

She’s right, you know. And if we’re honest with ourselves, the problem is far deeper than even this.

It is not merely that churches have gotten distracted with awe-inspiring trivialities. It is not merely that in its distractions it has forgotten the hurting, etc. It is far more systematic than that, and that critical view (as important as it is to get even that far) is backward. The church first dropped social issues, first neglected its calling to the widow and orphan, the prisoner and the poor, and then found itself anemic in society and grasping for the IVs of pop culture.

Among some evangelicals and Reformed folk (most of them), a flatlined orthodoxy has become the norm. They have even adapted the classic two kingdoms theology to serve as an excuse for their rebellion against God’s order. I have written on this in the past, for example, about the “two kingdoms” tyranny and its contribution to social welfare and statism.

The prophetic denunciation of this failure is clear in Scripture. Paul is quite clear that everyone has a duty to provide for themselves and their own household. He is equally clear that the church should administer a fund for those widows and orphans who cannot (1 Tim. 5:3–16). This is not the state’s job; it is the churches’ job.

Paul likewise says that someone who will not provide for their own house “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

What do you think this says about whole churches that refuse to provide for their own?

It says that the vast majority of churches in America are worse than unbelievers.

Getting closer to the right discussion

Recently, T. D. Jakes hosted a huge pastoral conference that included a panel discussion on church and state. Megastar Paula White had apparently made comments about churches taking up their biblical role in these matters. Jakes then stole the show with a very entertaining, and in part correct, sermonette that had the seats rocking: churches cannot fulfill a mandate to feed the hungry when the state takes 35 to 40 percent of our income from the beginning, and then does not even use that money to reach the poor as it could. The church needs to challenge them [the state] to do its part (of course I disagree in principle here, but. . . .).

I’ve made a similar point in the past: conservatives say they are opposed to socialism, but in practice they are not. They fight savagely for public schooling, social security, and medicare, not to mention the most expensive standing military in the world several times over. But this makes socialism the status quo, and as along as socialism is the status quo, those who want to help the widow and orphan will have the moral high ground. By default position (opposed to social welfare except for themselves, and in favor of socialistic-funded militarism), conservatives more quickly defend bombing children and Arabs before feeding children at home.

By default, their political choices of some people say they prefer making widows and orphans to feeding them.

Jakes kept saying, “It doesn’t add up.” “I don’t need a Scripture. I don’t need a newspaper. All I need is a calculator.”

White was largely correct when she responded: “Everything’s got to be overhauled. . . . It starts at a local level of holding accountable, and the church working with government partnership [oops!] on a local level, changing our communities, changing our churches, changing our families, because it doesn’t add up on the calculator of the U.S. national debt either.”

Many of the people who criticized White afterward were quite clearly coming from a more leftist political angle: Jakes’s argument essentially supports status-quo welfarism, only he’s calling for Christians to challenge the state to do its part in providing for the poor given the fact that it has already taken the forty percent.

But, he added, “I’ll feed them if you give me my forty percent back. Give me my forty percent back and maybe I can do it!” That is getting closer on track.

White is absolutely correct that we need a systematic overhaul. It must eliminate the national deficit, meaning, the solution cannot be centralized. It must be local. It must eliminate the role of the central government.

To go further, it must eliminate the role of the civil governments in welfare altogether. This is a private matter, and for the church; it is a church matter. Jakes is absolutely wrong about one point: he does need a Scripture. He needs the Scriptures that say welfare is the job of the family and church, and that the state’s job is to punish crime (not feed the poor).

The change of which White speaks also necessarily involves changing the churches. Remember, “change” is simply the mundane word for “repent.” In other words, where this must begin is with widespread repentance in the churches.

To be honest, we are still far from such an ideal. We are still far from making the application of our theology a priority over professing it neatly, pretending to be nice, and building facades of buildings we call “churches” yet marked out by espresso machines and fog machines, or maybe just the classic looks we cultivate, like wooden pews and the finest leather-bound edition of our favorite Confession of FaithTM.

The gilded edges of our Bible pages, still shiny, is more representative of the faith of many than any symbol you could put on the cover of it, or certainly then content of it, let alone any outward act for which we may be known.

Proof positive of some of this critique is the fact that many readers will be more upset because I just made a positive example of two TV preachers they consider heretics than by the central failure of the churches I am pointing out. What such readers (you?) really want from a guy like me is another discernment blog exposing why Jakes and White have bad theology and how our own Reformed theology is so much more orthodox and right than these “false teachers” and “wolves.”

That would sure give us yet another affirmation of our doctrinal superiority, wouldn’t it? Boy, do we love fresh coats on our veneers.

Smoke machines come in many forms.

I can say that while I strongly object to their theological deviancies, I even more strongly support the line of thought they are at least entertaining. At least they are discussing a subject about which the Bible directly commands us, and the churches at large for centuries have neglected, and in some cases outright deny. At least they are being faithful in this area where so few are and leftists lead the discussion.

They may be unfaithful in some key doctrinal points, but at least they are not worse than unbelievers like our churches too often are.

We have the same choice, church. We—who have our key confessional points correctly professed, and even our jots and tittles—have a choice whether or not we wish to continue to deny the faith and act worse than unbelievers in the area of the social application of God’s Word.

Until we engage this issue seriously and widely, and in a biblical way, God will continue to use unbelievers, heretics, and the heterodox—just as He has done in the past on issues like race, justice, civil rights, education, and many other areas that Conservative Christian churches seem to have studied hard to ignore. And when leftist remain in charge, the end result will be worse than the first, and the churches will have no one to blame but themselves.

And when that day comes, crying about religious liberty will be the biggest joke you’ve told to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Worldview

Prophecy mongers hail “Great Sign” and “End of Days” for sure . . . Again?!?

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 08:26

For more than 40 years I have been following the views of prophecy speculation and the claims made by people about end-of-the-world scenarios. People have short memories, or have no memory, about prophecy speculators who have assured an anxious public that Jesus would return by this or that date. His coming is always said to be “near.” Despite scores of failures, there is yet a new confident prediction of “an ancient biblical warning” called “the Great Sign” that is “foretold to precede a series of disastrous global events.”

But here is why Christians should not be anxious at all about this alleged prophecy.

A Track Record of Lies

The 1980s was described as the “terminal generation.” In 1970, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth which included a prophetic teaser that something called the “rapture” would take place before 1988. It was based on the claim that when Israel became a nation again in 1948 that the “rapture” would occur within a 40-year prophetic window. Lindsey’s book sold around 30 million copies.

In 1988, NASA engineer Edgar Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988. When the “rapture” didn’t occur, he revised his book with 89 reasons why the rapture would be in 1989.

Christians still fell for it.

Following a similar prophetic script, Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in California wrote in his 1976 book The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist that “we are living in the last generation which began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 (see Matt. 24:32–34).” He repeated the claim in his 1978 book End Times:

If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).

If this prophetic math sounds familiar, it’s because the same end-time logic had been used by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970.

On December 31, 1979, Smith told those who had gathered on the last day of the year that the “rapture” would take place before the end of 1981. He went on to say that because of ozone depletion Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.”

In addition, Halley’s Comet would pass near Earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the planet. Here’s how Smith explained the prophetic scenario in his book Future Survival which is nearly identical to what appears on the taped message:

The Lord said that towards the end of the Tribulation period the sun would scorch men who dwell upon the face of the earth (Rev. 16). The year 1986 would fit just about right! We’re getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Christ in glory. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Nothing significant happened in 1986 related to Halley’s Comet, and there is no reason why it should have since it’s been a predictable phenomenon for more than two millennia as it makes its way around the sun every 75 to 76 years.

Do you remember all the hype and hysteria generated over the planetary phenomenon called the Jupiter Effect? No? Let me refresh your memory. In 1982, there was to be an unusual alignment of the planets. The planets would be in a straight-line formation perpendicular to the sun. This alignment — an event that occurs every 179 years according to Gribbin and Plagemann in The Jupiter Effect — supposedly exerts an uncommon gravitational pull on the planets. Hal Lindsey saw eschatological significance in the Jupiter Effect.

He wrote in 1980, “This alignment causes great storms on the sun’s surface, which in turn affect each of the planets. The sun storms will not only affect our atmosphere, as was previously mentioned, but they will slow down the Earth’s axis slightly.” This slowdown, according to Lindsey and his “author-experts,” would mean putting “a tremendous strain on the Earth’s faults, touching off earthquakes.” This new wave of earthquakes was to bring about great floods because dams have been built over fault lines. In addition, we were to see “nuclear power plant meltdowns at facilities built on or near the Earth’s faults.” But what happened?

Nothing.

I could offer example after example of these types of prophetic speculation. I have shelves full of books on the subject.

The Latest End Times Hoax

Here’s the latest. September 23, 2017, is said to be prophetically significant for “the End of Days.” Similar to the Jupiter Non-Effect and the faded Blood Moon phenomena, this prophecy is said to be written in the stars. The “prophecy” is from Prophecy News Watch:

On September 23, 2017 a sign will form in the heavens that fits the description of Revelation 12. According to computer models, this is the only time this sign will occur in history. Will this sign in the heavens literally fulfill the ‘Great Sign’ of Revelation? And if so, what does this mean?

What does Revelation 12:1-2 say?: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The prophecy seems to be more about astrological signs than biblical signs.

Anyone looking at the illustration of what’s supposedly going to happen can see at least one problem. Can you spot it?

Three of the “stars” are planets. Planets are not stars. In addition, constellations are manufactured. The stars are linked together in order to follow an already developed pattern. With enough imagination, you could build any image out of the thousands of stars that appear on a clear evening.

The bigger problem, however, is the biblical symbolism. Where does the image of the sun, moon, and 12 stars come from? Not from astrology. It comes from the Bible:

“Now [Joseph] had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me’” (Gen. 37:9). Joseph makes the 12th star with his father (Jacob) being the sun and his mother (Rachel) the moon (37:10). The image, therefore, is symbolic (Rachel was dead: 35:19), representing Israel.

What does Israel, represented by a woman who stands on the moon, is draped with the sun, and has a crown of 12 stars, do? She gives birth to a child: “and she was with child; and she ‘cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth'” (Rev. 12:2).

And what is there to devour the child upon his birth?

Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child (12:3-4).

Revelation 12 is describing the first coming of Jesus. The woman is Israel. The child is Jesus. The dragon is Rome/Herod. The Herods are descendants of Esau and are the Bible’s Edomites and Amalekites: “Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau” (Gen. 25:25).

Jesus is born, the great deliverer, but an Edomite/Amalekite, Herod, tries to take him out at the beginning; Jesus is rescued to safety in Egypt.

James Jordan puts the symbolic scenario together:

“The seven trumpets layout themes or characteristics of the period between Pentecost and the final judgment of the Old Creation. The postlude to the trumpets, chapters 12-15, lays out the history of that period symbolically, displaying the spiritual realities and conflicts that operate behind the scenes in Acts and the Epistles, and in what follows the end of Acts.

“We begin with the incarnation and ascension of Jesus, the seed of the woman. Satan tried to prevent Jesus from coming into the world: seducing Cain to murder Abel, trying to corrupt Israel in Egypt, seeking to destroy the Davidic line through Athaliah, and moving Herod to try and kill the baby Jesus. He failed, and Jesus went to heaven, where, as Michael the Arch-archangel, he cast out Satan. (The last four names of Satan are given here: Dragon, Serpent, Devil, Satan.) Satan was cast down to the land, where he took up residence in the Temple as Wormwood — but only for a short time.

“Right away he sought to persecute the woman, the bride of Christ. These are the events of Acts 3-7, ending with the stoning of Stephen. The woman fled into the wilderness, which we see in Acts 8 as the saints flee Jerusalem. After a number of years of peace for the Church (Acts 9:31), Wormwood poured out his poisonous waters, false Judaizing doctrines, to try and corrupt the woman. God raised up Paul to defeat Satan and the Judaizers, and meanwhile the land (the Circumcision) drank up his false doctrine.

“Satan has engaged in two tactics: persecution and corruption. These have failed. So now he decides to return to persecution, but this time against the non-Jewish believers, the ‘rest of her offspring.’ He stands on the sands of the sea, addressing the Roman Gentile sea, and raises up the Sea Beast.”

By following biblical theology rather than astrology, the Bible interpreter finds an actual biblical interpretive methodology without having to engage in prophetic speculation.

There is, therefore, no reason at all to be anxious about this alleged “prophecy” or this astronomical “Great Sign.” What Revelation speaks of in chapter 12 was fulfilled in the first century. We need not fear anything like it today. You may safely ignore the latest fearmongering in the long track record of failed End of Days predictions.

For the simple, biblical explanation of the Last Days according to Jesus, see my short booklet, Is Jesus Coming Soon? For a more comprehensive study, consider my book Last Days Madness.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Trumped-Care: if at first you don’t fail, try, try again

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 11:41

We previously discussed the fraud that has been “repeal and replace” ObamaCare. That fraud was rightly killed by the more conservative members of the House. Now Republican leadership has tweaked the fraud enough to convince enough of the holdouts to go “yea.” Now the House has passed a slightly modified version of the last slightly modified version of ObamaCare. A few comments:

First, it’s easy to see why some Republican vote-gatherers changed their tune: this will make it easier for them to do not much about ObamaCare and say they did, and still gather votes. More on that in a minute.

Second, there is little difference from the first attempt. The difference is that House leadership pulled and an idea or two that was a roadblock to some of the more hardcore conservatives. Now they could vote yes. But this made some moderates uncomfortable. So, they stuck the same principle back in under a new name. Same bill as before, but now both moderates and hard conservatives who were on the fence can pretend they got what they want and then either play dumb or righteously angry when the results come in later (some of which are not slated even to begin until 2019 by the way).

But even the most momentous changes in the bill are little more than a smokescreen. For example, the end of tax penalties is here! Yay! Well, not really. Instead of having the government take our money and then give it back to us once we prove we have enrolled in a health insurance program administered in conjunction with the IRS, we now have the government take our money and then give it back to us in conjunction with the IRS once we prove we have enrolled in a health insurance program.

Not a huge change at all, really; but it can be pitched like a huge change. Under ObamaCare, the money came back through a subsidy. “Subsidy?! That’s socialism!” My own family, for example, qualified for a subsidy that would have saved us about $320 per month in premiums. I declined, because I did not want to be dependent upon the socialism that is the ObamaCare exchange.

Under the new plan, however, the stigma of a socialistic subsidy is gone; you can now get your money back as a tax credit when you file your returns. A guy my age, in my county, and in my situation will receive a nice $3,000 tax credit for having health insurance (see the pic below, based on this website). That’s a sweet deal, and it looks no different to the average person than receiving child tax credits or any other tax credits. No “socialism” here! Right?

Er, um, right?

Of course, we know that anytime government is in any way involved in taxation and interference in the marketplace, requiring the purchase of goods or services, you have socialism to some degree—call it whatever you may. Here, the government gives you back tax money as long as you spend it how the government wants. The money comes from and goes to the same places, without freedom; there are just a few tweaks to the middle processes.

This bill, if it passes, is going to fool a lot of people, and will win the affection of many conservatives, who have in typical American voter fashion already long forgotten about all the vehement protests against socialized health care and T.E.A. etc., etc. If this bill passes, you will soon see countless conservatives defending this system like they now do Social Security, MediCare, MediCaid, and public schools.

On top of this measure, the bill does something even more socialistic. It creates an additional $8 billion (to start) fund to help states fund high-risk people. The new bill essentially took away the feature of making insurance companies accept preexisting conditions. So, upon objection by some moderates, this fund was created; but it has major problems, practical and theoretical.

The practical problem is that $8 billion is a pittance of what will be needed. If this provision lasts, look for it to skyrocket, or at least listen for the yelps from the states that need and demand more money.

The theoretical problem: this fund hanging out there on the side of the system is nothing less than what some leftists have already identified as a single-payer system. The Nation writes,

This is single-payer for dummies. In a single-payer system, the government picks up the health-care costs for the population, paid for through progressive taxation. The market power of having one insurance payer can work to lower overall health care costs, making the system sustainable. In Trumpcare’s single-payer for dummies, the fragmented private-insurance middleman remains intact. But taxpayer dollars still pick up the health-care costs for those who cannot afford it. Instead of acquiring market power, they just give those taxpayer dollars to the private middlemen, which tells the private middlemen they can charge whatever they want and always get paid.

After all, if the paltry $8 billion doesn’t work to prevent massively increased costs for those with pre-existing conditions, the public will cry out for more protection. And since Obamacare created an expectation that the sick would be protected in America, that would lead to more taxpayer dollars put to this use, leading to higher prices, and more money, and so on, in a death spiral. That’s why it’s single-payer for dummies: It has all of the logic of the government stepping in to make sure everyone has health-care coverage, with none of the efficiencies that should create.

They are substantially correct in spotting the socialistic nature of this program, just not on the idea that a true single-payer system creates “efficiencies.”

The real problem

The problem with all of this is that the real problems with health care in America go so much deeper than any current discussion of them. We can blast ObamaCare as “socialized health care” all we want. We can pretend that even a full repeal of it with no replacement would be better in principle, even if we could get over the practical, emotional hurdle of eliminating coverage for 24 million poor people. We could pretend that by doing this we have eliminated socialized health care in America—and yet we would not even be close.

The government is, and for a long time has been, so entrenched and entangled in health care that you can hardly take an aspirin without participating to some small degree in socialized health care. Researching just a little for this article, I came across an old dead stem of a blog post of mine from 2009. Read this:

Since Obama, Orszag, and the rest of the left have targeted the skyrocketing costs of healthcare as a reason for more government control, I think we should be open about the reason for these continually increasing costs. In addition to some obvious factors (a rapidly aging population), we should note the effects that ever-increasing government control has ALREADY had so far. And we want more of this? This from economist and author Tom DiLorenzo:

Some years ago, the Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman studied the history of healthcare supply in America. In a 1992 study published by the Hoover Institution, entitled “Input and Output in Health Care,” Friedman noted that 56 percent of all hospitals in America were privately owned and for-profit in 1910. After 60 years of subsidies for government-run hospitals, the number had fallen to about 10 percent. It took decades, but by the early 1990s government had taken over almost the entire hospital industry. That small portion of the industry that remains for-profit is regulated in an extraordinarily heavy way by federal, state and local governments so that many (perhaps most) of the decisions made by hospital administrators have to do with regulatory compliance as opposed to patient/customer service in pursuit of profit. It is profit, of course, that is necessary for private-sector hospitals to have the wherewithal to pay for healthcare.

Friedman’s key conclusion was that, as with all governmental bureaucratic systems, government-owned or -controlled healthcare created a situation whereby increased “inputs,” such as expenditures on equipment, infrastructure, and the salaries of medical professionals, actually led to decreased “outputs” in terms of the quantity of medical care. For example, while medical expenditures rose by 224 percent from 1965–1989, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 population fell by 44 percent and the number of beds occupied declined by 15 percent. Also during this time of almost complete governmental domination of the hospital industry (1944–1989), costs per patient-day rose almost 24-fold after inflation is taken into account.

The more money that has been spent on government-run healthcare, the less healthcare we have gotten. This kind of result is generally true of all government bureaucracies because of the absence of any market feedback mechanism. Since there are no profits in an accounting sense, by definition, in government, there is no mechanism for rewarding good performance and penalizing bad performance. In fact, in all government enterprises, exactly the opposite is true: bad performance (failure to achieve ostensible goals, or satisfy “customers”) is typically rewarded with larger budgets. Failure to educate children leads to more money for government schools. Failure to reduce poverty leads to larger budgets for welfare state bureaucracies. This is guaranteed to happen with healthcare socialism as well.

And the truth is, the problem is far worse that even this describes. There is tons of crony capitalism on top of this bureaucracy and regulation. This includes not just health insurance, but hospitals, pharmaceuticals, medicine, and vaccines, therapies, physician and nursing education, medical supplies across the board, medical devices and technology, lab work across the board, and research and development for all of these fields across the board, and more. All of it is big corporate, has powerful lobbies on capitol hill, and this drives all facets of the problems: crony “capitalism,” hidden subsidies, unfair tax advantages, and the regs and bureaucracy.

If you’d like to talk about real health care reform, you need to set a goal for walking all of this back to a truly free market.

But what about all those sick and poor who would be left out? Let’s start solving that problem with a couple simple definitions:

1) Paying money for the promise of funding future bills in the unlikely event of a major sickness: That’s called “insurance.”

2) Paying money to cover the bills of someone who is already sick and cannot afford their bills and could never afford insurance either: That’s called “charity.”

Long before the government takeover of health care DiLorenzo described above, there used to be such a thing as charitable hospitals, mostly run by churches. There may still be a few. However many there are, there could and should be a lot more. But this would require churches to stand up against government encroachment, speak out against government, resist government, and in general start health care programs and hospitals once again.

As usual, a good bit of blame can righteously be laid here at the feet of the American evangelical pulpits, church leadership, and seminaries.

In light of all this, the new repeal and replace is just as big a failure as the last—and to be honest, just as big a failure as ObamaCare in principle—and amounts in the big picture to the proverbial rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

But many conservatives are going to see this as a victory. It may help prevent, therefore, the rearrangement of any Republican chairs in Congress come the next election. Or so they hope.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go plan which insurance company to spend my tax breaks with.

Categories: Worldview

Centralized power and the celebrity preacher problem

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 16:32

I have previously written about the difference between power and authority in differing spheres of government—self, family, church, and state. I have also written tons about the need for decentralized power—the whole of Restoring America is based upon that idea. As odd as some may find it, these very ideas come to the fore in the modern manifestations of what one editor once called The Failure of the American Baptist Culture. That failure, to be specific, is the cult of the celebrity preacher.

To be fair, this is hardly exclusive to Baptists. There have always been popular preachers with large followings, or at least with large productions that wowed many people. You can go all the way back to Tetzel to get a Roman Catholic example. There were Anglican, Reformed, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Baptist celebrity preachers in the old days, and of course, tons of charismatic and nondenominational ones today. So, this is hardly exclusive to Baptists. It includes all who act like Baptists as well. (Just kidding!) But the problem is far wider today than it was when there was a Knox or a Whitefield.

I was reminded of this problem as I studied a series of lectures from way back in 1988 on Church and Community this weekend. Particularly, it was a lecture on “The Biblical Basis for Decentralization.” I was almost floored to hear the connection made between a culture of top-down control (power) and the rise of celebrity preachers. When I heard this, I knew I was in the presence of a prophet.

Well, maybe not a prophet, but a man who was always far ahead of his time: R. J. Rushdoony.

He began by briefly explaining how the state is limited because of the greatly limited means of taxation in biblical law (I have a slight disagreement with him here, but it is immaterial for the moment), and the church was limited in both scope and the tithe. Thus, he can conclude, “While church and state are both important in the sight of God, neither is permitted to be the top power center. The people are the ones who are to apply the faith.”

He then gets to our point:

What we see in the church today is not godly. The televangelists, in some instances, not in all, epitomize this: the star system.

About 1820, what developed was that great preachers or famous preachers began to dominate the church, and the people became spectators going to listen to a star who was a preacher. And this is what we have today; and the hardworking pastor in those circumstances who is trying to educate the people to become responsible working Christians is not a successful one when the star mentality prevails among the people. Their idea of Christianity is to sit in the pew and let the minister and maybe the church officers do all the application of Christianity.

One of the greatest of Christians, General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, wrote the best program of Christian Reconstruction that I’ve ever read in Darkest England and the Way Out. It’s a book that’s had a powerful influence on me, and what he wrote about in that book was the failure of the churches (and in other works as well). He said the problem with many of our churches today is that when they convert someone they promptly mummify him. So, he has one function, to sit in the pew and listen, and he has only enough life in him to reach for his wallet and he doesn’t do that very well. Well, read General Booth and you’ll see that Reconstruction is not anything that R. J. Rushdoony thought up. It has a long history and it goes back before Booth, although Booth was one of its great formulators.

So, we have this “star system”—not in the galactic sense, but in the celebrity sense. But what’s so bad about it? Rushdoony explains:

Now, when you have the star system, whether it is politics or in the church, you have a power structure, a power system [as opposed to a decentralized system], because you concentrate action and power on a focal point. And you create a spectator people, whether in politics or in the church.

The means of making a mass of people focus on a central personality is also the means of centralizing their command and controlling that people:

In the dictionary of Sociology ‘power’ is defined in these words and I quote: “The ability or authority to dominate men. To coerce and control them, attain their obedience, interfere with their freedom and compel their actions in particular ways.” Notice the words: to dominate, coerce, control, interfere, compel. That’s what power is about, the power such as the Gentiles seek.

Fallen men do seek such power, and they do exercise it to the detriment of the people. Society today is a system of power relationships, and because of the fall, men both seek to gain power, and also to exercise that power, to exalt themselves at the expense of others.

The modern state is seeking a monopoly of power. They seek to gain power in the name of one class or another. And they say, the various groups, if only the lower class could gain power, or the middle classes, or the upper classes, the intellectuals, the scientific elites, or any other group, than the problems of society would be solved, when in fact they are aggravated.

Christians routinely fall for the idea that a great ministry personality and a megachurch ministry is a good thing, destined to be a force for good in society. They are almost always wrong. When a church builds a bigger building due to its large growth instead of planting new churches and ministries as satellites destined to become independent, it is almost universally a bad thing. It means the concentration of power and focus, and the attendant submission and passivity of the people (who may nevertheless be tempted or even trained to think they are active, productive, and robust in faith due to the size of the church of which they are associated).

There is even a hint of hypocrisy latent throughout much of this. Many Christians will see the follies of the latest hipster megapastor, but think their own mega Reformed Baptist church, or megaPCA is actually quite a good thing. No, it rarely is. It means too much power and focus is on one guy, one ministry, or one small group of guys.

Rushdoony brings us back to Scripture:

That’s why the scripture warns us against trust in any class or group instead of the Lord. Psalm 62 tells us: “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.”

Now this is what Scripture says, power belongs only to God. But the quest for power is in the church, in the state, in economics, in education, everywhere. This, our Lord says, is what the Gentiles seek. But ye are to be ministers, servants one of another, members one of another. . . .

Later in his lecture (you should read or listen to all of the series) he gives us wise counsel on how to understand and to proceed in such a social (including ecclesiastical) environment:

The urge for centralization and a monopoly of power is always the same over the centuries. It’s the will to be God. We see this desire in one area after another; we see it in the family and tyrannical husbands who want total control and power over their children. We see it in churches and churchmen who want to replace, with their rules and regulations, the Holy Spirit. We see it in little Caesars in every sphere of life today. And the only check to this drive by fallen man to centralize power, to build a modern tower of Babel, for total power and control, the only checks are first: a truly Biblical faith, one which applies the law word of God to every area of life and thought. And second, the recognition that God’s word speaks primarily to the person, not to the institution. God’s Spirit works in and through man primarily. And God does not identify himself with an office or an institution; he does not say “anyone who holds this office is my voice.”

There have been theologians who held that.

The king in Israel [however] was required to know God’s law word; he was anointed to remind him of his prophetic duty to speak for God by God’s word and Spirit. And even the most blessed of kings, the man used by the Spirit, was still rebuked for a sin by a prophet of God—David rebuked by Nathan.

Where the Holy Spirit works, we have two factors at work. First, we have a radical decentralization of authority. The Holy Spirit will work through the humblest believer, because the believer who acts, as Gods Spirit and opens his life to the Lord, does not need to wait on institutions to serve God. He begins in his own life to govern himself and then to meet needs and responsibilities in terms of the Word of God.

Second, at the same time, where the Spirit works, there we have true community and unity. And the purpose of organized action is not a tower of Babel-like power structure, but to do the will of God: Lo, I come and a volume is written of me to do thy will, oh God. David tells us that believing God means hearing him and doing his will.

Rushdoony goes on to outline examples of doing God’s will and not just hearing it. This was spoken in 1988. The Institutes of Biblical Law was published fifteen years earlier. The call to Christian Reconstruction has been in your lap for over a generation now. It time to get out of the pews.

It’s not just time for many Christians—especially young ones and young couples—to make a change, it is long past time. There are many who have been sitting and listening to their favorite celebrity preacher for years—maybe decades—and have not moved much beyond where they were when they first heard him. This is proof of utter failure to grow. You should be moving far beyond the introductory-level Gospel messages and spirituality messages most of these guys preach. It’s time you got involved in some ministry and started making a difference.

Categories: Worldview

Theonomy: an extension of Calvinism’s judicial theology

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:00

Dean C. Curry, in a review of Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, writes that John Muether’s “The Theonomic Attraction” is a “first-rate analysis of why theonomy is thriving.”[1] I beg to differ. Curry’s praise for Muether’s evaluation of the “theonomic mind-set”[2] tells me that Curry has done little if any reading of Reconstructionist works. The same can be said regarding Mr. Muether, as his footnotes clearly reveal.

This is typical. I have encountered very few critics of theonomy who have addressed the arguments actually put forth by theonomy’s advocates. The critics refuse to read the published works. How do I know? Because their charges—which are legion—are so off the mark.[3] Some of the charges border on the bizarre. Just the other day, I read a letter written to the editor of a Columbus, Georgia, newspaper that accused theonomists of advocating the death penalty for anyone “who commits an act, or even thinks a thought, that opposes the organization’s tenets.”[4] It won’t be too long before we read that Reconstructionists claim they can read minds. (After reading John Muether’s article, I’ve concluded that he seems to think he can.)

Any attempt to understand the “mind-set” of those committed to a theological position like theonomy and Christian Reconstruction is futile without first doing extensive research. Discovering the reasons why living people believe something requires at least a few interviews. Muether conducted no interviews. How much first-hand research did he complete? Muether quotes from only one book written by a theonomist, George Grant’s The Changing of the Guard, and that in a footnote. (If we are to believe Timothy J. Keller, George Grant is not a theonomist.[5] This means that not one Keller-sanctioned theonomic book is cited by Muether.) He does quote from six newsletters, hardly a representative sample when one considers that about a thousand newsletters have been published since R. J. Rushdoony wrote his first Chalcedon Report in October of 1965.

On the basis of Muether’s meager research and “sociological” analysis, we are to believe that he has uncovered what attracts people to theonomy and Christian Reconstruction. He doesn’t even come close. The theonomic attraction for Calvinists is simple to figure out if you read the works of theonomists. Talking to a few theonomists might also help. Serious scholars should put forth the extra effort it takes to get the story right. If they refuse to do this, then theonomists really have no moral obligation to regard them as serious.

Calvinism and the Reformed Tradition

There is a very direct thinking process that leads someone who views Calvinism to be the most consistent expression of Christianity to adopt the distinctives of theonomy. Theonomy is Calvinism’s judicial theology applied. The reader should keep in mind that theonomy is a methodology, a way of understanding God’s law. Theonomy is not simply a body of texts woodenly applied to a modem context. Theonomy is the application of Reformed theology to the sphere of ethics. Greg Bahnsen made this crystal clear in the preface to the first edition of Theonomy in Christian Ethics. He repeats it for us in the second edition:

[T]he present study leaves a great deal to be explored and discussed in Christian ethics as well as extensive room for disagreement in the area of exegeting, understanding, and applying God’s law in specific situations. Two people can submit to the exhaustive theonomic principle in Christian ethics while disagreeing on a particular moral question (e.g., whether a certain biblical command is ceremonial or moral, whether lying is ever condoned by God, etc.) Thus agreement with the thesis of this book is not contingent upon agreement in every particular moral issue or specific interpretation of a scriptural text.[6]

In principle, theonomy states that all of God’s Word is “profitable” and applicable, equipping the man of God “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Disagreements over how a passage applies is not an indictment against theonomy. Theonomists want to know, contra its critics, what exegetical reasons are used for rejecting contemporary application of God’s law. A person who dips into the Mosaic legislation and makes a contemporary application is in some sense a theonomist, even though his application might differ from what other theonomists have written. It’s the fact of application and not so much the how of application that is the essence of theonomy. By way of analogy, two U.S. constitutional theorists who agree on the doctrine of original intent,[7] but who disagree on application, are still constitutionalist theorists who believe in original intent.

As those who study the arguments for theonomic ethics soon learn, far from being “a new kid on the block,” as Muether intimates it is, theonomic ethics has always been a part of Reformed theology.[8] It’s a Reformed theology attraction that has led many Calvinists like myself to embrace the distinctives of theonomy. The belief that the Bible in its particulars can and should be applied to every area of life is a major theological distinctive that sets Reformed theology apart from all other orthodox Trinitarian traditions. Furthermore, a growing number of non-Reformed Christians have adopted much of th.e ethical system outlined by theonomists because of its “biblicist hermeneutic.”[9] Contrary to Muether’s views, John Monsma, an early advocate of world-and-life view Calvinism, stated that

Calvinism is nothing but Biblicism. If a government acts in accordance with the Bible, it will always be doing the right thing. If it transgresses the bounds that the Bible has placed around it, it becomes tyrannical. The New England governments, taken on the whole, were so exemplary because they were—not theocracies,[10] but Biblical governments. The men of which these governments were composed recognized the Author of governments and of governmental authority, and they at least tried, tried hard, to govern in accordance with the faith of their souls, and to serve only those ends which the Bible placed before them.[11]

According to Monsma, the New England Puritans did not believe in popular sovereignty, “as it has been anti-theistically proclaimed at Paris in 1789,” nor in state-sovereignty, “as it has of late been developed by the historico-pantheistic school of Germany.” Rather, they believed in divine sovereignty. At the end of the New England Puritan document, ‘‘An Abstract of the Lawes of New England,” published in London, in 1641, a summary of their dependency on God and His written revelation as the standard for all of life, these words, taken from Isaiah 33:22, are affixed:

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us.

Monsma states that this was “the favorite text of the regular New England ‘politician’! Such ‘politicians’ the people honored and respected!”[12] If theonomists are guilty of “biblicism,’’ then we are in good company.

A Reformed Methodology

My attraction to Christian Reconstruction in general and theonomic ethics in particular came by way of a Reformed/Calvinistic methodology, a procedure for doing theology that I first learned while a member of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and later as a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. The sovereignty of God over all of life became the operating principle for “doing” theology.

This principle of divine sovereignty, when applied to the Bible, demands an absolute subservience to all of its prescripts, not only in the sphere of the church, but in all walks of life. God is the absolute Sovereign of all of life; therefore His Word should be the controlling factor in every sphere of life’s activity.[13]

The Calvinism I was introduced to was more than the “five points.” Calvinism is not simply a synonym for predestination. Calvinism, as I was taught, was a world-and-life view. In its broader aspect, said Monsma, Calvinism “has a strictly scientific meaning. It is a well-defined system of ideas,—of ideas concerning God and man, concerning the moral, social, and political life of the world. It is an organic structure, complete in itself.”[14] In becoming a Calvinist, I was assured that I would find this “well-defined system of ideas” in the Bible.

As seminary students, we were heirs of Calvin’s Geneva, the Puritans, and the Hodges of Old Princeton. The Bible is the standard. All things are to be evaluated in terms of Scripture. There is to be no compromising. This was the legacy I had been given. Students a century before had embraced a similar view of life. At the Induction Service in 1877 of A. A. Hodge as Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary, Dr. W. M. Paxton concluded his charge with these words:

The name of this Seminary is known in all the world. Its chief distinction is its Biblical teaching. The ground of its faith is the Bible. Its only question is: “What has God said?” Its only proof is God’s word. Its professors have never reached the point of thinking that they knew more than the Bible. This Seminary has always taught that there are but two questions to be considered: (1) Is this the Word of God? and (2) What does it mean? This ascertained there is nothing left but to believe and adore.[15]

Here is the real “theonomic attraction” within Calvinist circles. Theonomy is the judicial extension of Reformed theology. A stalwart of the Reformed faith, A. A. Hodge, made the case that “the kingdom of God on earth is not confined to the mere ecclesiastical sphere, but aims at absolute universality, and extends its supreme reign over every department of human life.”[16] The implication of such a methodology was obvious to Hodge: “It follows that it is the duty of every loyal subject to endeavour to bring all human society, social and political, as well as ecclesiastical, into obedience to its law of righteousness.”[17] This is no longer obvious to his successors.

Could A. A. Hodge get a teaching job today in any of the Reformed seminaries? Not if the same criteria were applied to his views as are applied to contemporary theonomists. What was Hodge saying that was different from what theonomists say today? If you are a seminary student or a member of a church where theonomy is scorned, read to the critics the following quotation from Hodge. Of course, don’t tell them the source of the quotation until you get their response:

It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteous­ ness. The Bible, the great statute-book of the kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.[18]

Hodge called the Bible the “great statute-book of the kingdom.” In effect, he was a “biblicist” who believed the Bible should be used as a textbook on social theory. But Muether tells us that using the Bible as a textbook is the essence of fundamentalism, not of Reformed theology.[19] Muether’s battle is now with A. A. Hodge. It is a mismatched fight.

The Lure of Pluralism

What replacements for the firm foundation of a biblical worldview are being offered by today’s Calvinist theologians as the essence of Reformed theology? Appeals are being made to natural law, general revelation, and common grace as seemingly full, independent, and reliable standards of ethical inquiry. The Bible appears to have become only one ethical standard among many, part of a “smorgasbord ethic.” Pluralism is the new catch phrase of those within and without the Christian community. Of course, the term means different things to different people. This is its danger. Groothuis writes:

Pluralism refers to a diversity of religions, worldviews, and ideologies existing at one time in the same society. We are socially heterogeneous. One religion or philosophy doesn’t command and control our culture. Instead, many viewpoints exist. We have Buddhists and Baptists, Christian Reformed and Christian Scientist—all on the same block, or at least in the same city. This can have a levelling effect on religious faith.[20]

With the levelling of religion, we are seeing the levelling of morality. All lifestyles are permitted in the name of diversity and pluralism. In nearly every case, Christians are the losers. Pluralism is the bait for Christians to throw caution to the wind as we are called on to “trust” secular and religious advocates of pluralism. Christians are encouraged to set aside only a few of the distinct doctrines of the faith, those that are inherently “religious.” Once these are discarded, the friendly pluralists tell us, Christians are then free to speak.

The call for Christians to adopt pluralism is just another way of diluting the truth. Pluralism becomes a club to pound flat the theological bumps that make Christianity unique among all the religions of the world. And what is the fruit of the “new and improved” pluralist worldview? Harold O. J. Brown writes:

As soon as the words “Our pluralistic society will not permit . . .” are uttered, Nativity scenes are dismantled, Christmas vacation becomes Winter Holiday, and a moment of silence in public schools is no longer merely a vain illusion but a prohibited sin against pluralism. But say “Our pluralistic society requires . . .” and homosexual activists receive affirmative action support for job demands, parents need not be notified of a minor daughter’s intention to abort their grandchild, and Rotary Clubs and saunas are gleichgeschaltet into unisex. Whether or not one endorses pluralism seems to be a litmus test for whether one is persona grata in the modern world.[21]

Christian pluralists have abandoned the very doctrines that can make a fundamental difference in this world: the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the uniqueness of God’s written revelation.

Is pluralism biblically defensible? Should the Christian in principle back off, giving equal opportunity to other competing minority or majority positions in the name of pluralism, when those positions advocate unbiblical and anti-Christian lifestyles? Do we allow abortion for competing systems when its advocates claim the “pluralist” model in defense of their position? Should the State allow “homosexual” marriages? Should the Mormons be permitted to practice polygamy, which the Mormon hierarchy has never publicly renounced as a religious ideal?[22] Should Satanists be permitted to worship according to the “dictates of their own conscience”? The Bible teaches pluralism, but a pluralism of institutions under God’s single comprehensive law system.[23] Scripture does not teach a pluralism of law structures, or a pluralism of competing moralities that have equal standing. Ethical or moral pluralism (as distinguished from institutional pluralism) is always either polytheistic or humanistic.[24] All of life is under God’s law because God judges all of life in terms of His law.[25]

Does this mean that Christians are granted special favors? Not at all. A distinction must be made between a prejudice in favor of Christians and a prejudice in favor of the Christian religion.[26] Christians and non-Christians are equal before the civil law, but all legal orders are not equal before God. “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you” (Ex. 12:49; also Lev. 24:22; Num. 15:16). A Christian who commits a crime should be treated in the same way as a non-Christian who commits a crime—defined by God. There is no ethical neutrality in life. All laws must rest on some moral (religious) foundation. That moral foundation is either Christianity or some other religion, whether humanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or an amalgamation of the “best” of all these systems. But the “best” of these systems can never include what is truly best about Christianity because what is best about Christianity is unique to Christianity.

Unique views are not tolerated under pluralism. It seems to me that pluralism is fundamentally prejudiced against Christianity. This is a radical departure from our nation’s historical roots.

Can a nation that maintains no established church and regards religious pluralism as both socially inescapable and ethically desirable confidently look to religion to generate and nurture its fundamental moral values? When the founders spoke of the nurturing function of religion, they thought primarily of Christianity—Protestant Christianity—indeed, for some of them Protestant Christianity with a distinctly Calvinist flavor. In the second half of the twentieth century most of the public, as well as most commentators, have regarded the religious basis of American social values as including virtually all forms of not only Christianity but also the entire Judeo-Christian tradition.[27]

With increased immigration of religious traditions from Eastern and Asian countries and the acceptance of these traditions on equal par with Christianity, Christianity no longer shapes the moral content of American democratic ideals. What standard will be used by the pluralists to determine what of each of these traditions should be incorporated in the American ethical mosaic? Pluralism by definition rules out the unique revelation of the Bible.

Even non-Christians recognize the pitfalls of pluralism. Sociologist Robert Bellah has “sought escape from the problems created by religious pluralism by turning to Rousseau’s idea of a civil religion. Advocates of civil religion claim that broad and vaguely stated religious concepts can, without acknowledging any particular religious faith, give a kind of transcendent reinforcement to values that are deemed useful to society.”[28] But who ultimately speaks for these values? Adolf Hitler used civil religion as a way of maintaining civic loyalty. Hitler’s message in the early years of his Reich government was based on what has been described as “moral culture.” The focus of civil religion is not the individual but the social whole. “Civil religion really places the welfare of the state at the heart of human values, and is therefore easily manipulatable by those holding political power.”[29] Christian advocates of pluralism are living off the older Christian consensus which, as Francis Schaeffer has pointed out, cannot last long “when one removes the Bible in which God has spoken propositionally. . . .”[30] Reichley writes:

The truth is that democratic values, at least historically, have rested largely on a Judeo-Christian foundation. Once a system of social values has been created, it may acquire a life of its own, to some degree enriched through contact with other sources. But if the Judeo-Christian roots were destroyed, the superstructure of democratic values would probably not persist for long. If this is true, the political system is to some extent dependent on a religious tradition, or traditions, to which not all Americans can be expected to belong.[31]

There is no doubt that pluralists of all types, secular as well as religious, espouse some of the general ideals of a Christian worldview. There is a great deal of talk about “individual rights” and “justice.” But what do these terms mean in their particular applications? Individual rights for some will mean the “right” of a mother to kill her pre-born baby. Homosexual “rights” groups want full and unrestricted freedom to practice their “alternative lifestyle.” How does the doctrine of pluralism answer these requests for legal and civil legitimacy?

Pluralism was not set forth as an option while I was a student at RTS until theonomy came along and attempted to put wings on the Reformed-Calvinist “plane.” It was a commitment to Reformed theology that led me to embrace the principles of Christian Reconstruction and theonomic ethics.

Students at RTS were always told that the Calvinist biblical world-and-life-view plane would fly. Rarely, however, did we ever see a modern Calvinist plane with wings or engines. We never saw the plane actually fly. This was a frustrating experience. When the distinctives of theonomy actually put the plane in the air, the control tower would call us back for modifications to the fuselage. Yes, the plane was in the air, but we were told that it was unstable with the theonomic wings. We were told that the wings had been tried before but met with little success. And so the Calvinist plane sits on the tarmac with no place to go.

No Credible Alternative

What happened at RTS that led me to become a theonomist? Why was there such a negative reaction by numerous professors, the administration, board members, and pastors to the “theonomic attraction” that many of us saw as simply the working out of Reformed distinctives that we were taught in the classroom?

I really couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. The plane was flying. Isn’t this what we were being told should happen when the Bible was applied to every area of life? We were even able to shoot down the dispensational air force with a consistent barrage of biblical fire power. The humanist air force did not have a chance, once we forced the secularists to be consistent with their man-centered, naturalistic presuppositions. When we shut off their fuel supply (which they were stealing from the Christian fuel depot) and retrieved our stolen wings, they knew that they could no longer get their planes in the air.[32]

Maybe the critics didn’t like the theonomic plane’s ultimate destination. Fair enough. But those of us who were interested in the debate were waiting for an alternative plane to take off with a better (biblical) flight plan. None was ever forthcoming. Debate was silenced, and the pilot was dismissed.[33]

What really sold me on studying the issue of theonomy was how weak the critics’ arguments were in their attempts to ground the theonomic plane. In our classes related to covenant theology, classic Reformed (continuity) arguments were used against dispensationalism. When theonomy became an issue, students found that dispensational (discontinuity) arguments, the same arguments that were refuted in the classes related to covenant theology, were being used in an attempt to answer and discredit theonomy. Schizophrenia reigned in the mind of any thinking student.

Notes:

[1] First Things (June/July 1991), p. 54. The editor is Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

[2] John Muether, “The Theonomic Attraction,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, eds. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1990), p. 246.

[3] Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), ch. 5, and Gary North and Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), pp. 81-179.

[4] Sanjay Lal, “Fanaticism Still a Threat,” The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia (August 18, 1991), p. 3-4.

[5] Timothy J. Keller, “Theonomy and the Poor: Some Reflections,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 294. See Ray R. Sutton’s essay, Chapter 9, below.

[6] Second edition, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, (1977) 1984, p. xxx. Reprinted in 1991.

[7] Meaning the original intent of the Framers in 1787.

[8] Meredith G. Kline, a Calvinistic critic of Christian Reconstruction, is honest enough to state that theonomic ethics “is in fact a revival of certain teachings contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith—at least in the Confession’s original formulations.” Kline, “Comments on an Old-New Error,” The Westminster Theological Journal 41:1 (Fall 1978), p. 174.

As Greg Bahnsen points out, there was no amendation to “the declaration about the law of God or its use in catechisms (i.e., the strictly theonomic elements of the Confessional Standards).” Revision was made to “a subsection of the chapter on the civil magistrate, aiming to reinforce disestablishment and the rejection of Erastianism (see Theonomy, pp. 527–37, 541–43).” Bahnsen, “M.G. Kline on Theonomic Politics: An Evaluation of His Reply,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, VII (Winter 1979–80), p. 201.

[9] In a faculty discussion at RTS on July 17, 1978, Greg Bahnsen had to answer the charge of being a “biblicist hermeneutic” several times. Biblicist? Too biblical?

[10] Numerous definitions are given for “theocracy.” Monsma seems to equate theocracy with some form of ecclesiocracy where the church as an institution rules over the State. Reconstructionists use theocracy to mean the rule of God over all of life and the use of His written revelation as the standard for the governance of all of life. A Reconstructionist would use theocracy as a synonym for biblical government.

[11] John Clover Monsma, What Calvinism Has Done for America (Chicago, Illinois: Rand McNally & Co., 1919), p. 141–42.

[12] Ibid., pp. 141-42.

[13] Ibid., p. 4.

[14] Ibid., pp. 2, 3. Beattie wrote: “Hence, the Calvinistic system is seen to com­ mend itself to thoughtful minds as the sound philosophy of nature and providence, and as the true interpretation of the Scriptures and of religious experience. This system has a philosophic completeness, a scriptural soundness, and an experimental accuracy which afford it strong logical confirmation, and give it secure rational stability. It may be safely said that no other system can justify so fully this high claim, for even those who profess no sympathy with the Calvinistic system have never yet been able to present a better one for our acceptance.” Francis R. Beattie, The Presbyterian Standards: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (Richmond, Virginia: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1896), p. 5.

[15] Quoted in A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith: A Handbook of Christian Doctrine Expounding the Westminster Confession (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1869] 1978), p. x.

[16] A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1890] 1990), p. 283.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., pp. 283-84.

[19] Muether, “The Theonomic Attraction,” p. 283.

[20] Douglas Groothuis, “The Smorgasbord Mentality,” Eternity (May 1985), p. 32.

[21] Harold O. J. Brown, “Pluralism in Miniature,” Chronicles (May 1988), p. 13. R. C. Sproul’s discussion of pluralism is helpful. See his Lifeviews: Understanding the Ideas that Shape Society Today (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1986), pp. 119–27.

[22] The Supreme Court declared that polygamy was out of accord with the basic tenets of Christianity: “It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.” Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890). A year earlier the Court declared that “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. . . . To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind.” Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 341-42 (1890). Cited in John Eidsmoe, The Christian Legal Advisor (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1984), p. 150. Pluralism’s operating doctrine has now opened the door for the ACLU to abolish restrictions on the marriage vow. Under ACLU pluralism, polygamy ought to be allowed. And why not?

[23] Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), chapter 2 and God and Government, 3 vols. (Brent­ wood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth 8c Hyatt, 1990).

[24] DeMar, Ruler of the Nations, ch. 3.

[25] Ibid., ch. 4.

[26] The New York spectator of August 23, 1831 relates the following: “The Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (New York) a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice; and that he knew of no cause in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, [1834, 1840) 1960), 2:306.

Until 1876 North Carolina’s constitution required the following:

That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

[27] A. James Reichley, “Religion _and American Democracy,” The World & I (January 1991), pp. 556-57.

[28] Ibid., p. 557.

[29] Ibid., p. 558.

[30] Francis A. Schaeffer, Back to Freedom and Dignity (1972) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, 5 vols. (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982), 1:379.

[31] Reichley, “Religion and American Democracy,” p. 558.

[32] The humanist, in order to keep his plane aloft, must borrow from the worldview presupposed in the Bible. The humanist plane loses altitude and eventually crashes when he assumes he can dump the fuel he stole from the pump marked “Biblical Presuppositions.”

[33] Others have observed the lack of a systematic working out of social theory by those who are best described as “critics of contemporary culture.” James Skillen points out that while Chuck Colson “offers keen insights into contemporary public life,” he stops “short of proposing anything systematic.” While “he lauds the statesmanship of William Wilberforce, the early nineteenth-century English evangelical who led the movement to abolish the slave trade,” Colson “draws too few conclusions from the study to suggest what a just political order and noble statesmanship should look like.” James W. Skillen, The Scattered Voice: Christians at Odds in the Public Square (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 65.

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Categories: Worldview

Christian censorship won’t sanctify

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 07:46

In the age of information, we are far beyond the point where the church could simply place a chastity belt around the minds of the sheep to maintain a people with virgin ears and virgin eyes. But it seems that Christians pretend this is so. The safe preaching that comes from pulpits in America today resembles the very plain Corn Flakes which were created by John Harvey Kellogg to prevent masturbation (yes, you read that right). There is a mentality still present today in American churches which is parallel to the mentality which regarded spouses sleeping in separate beds as holiness. This is the same mentality that has most Christians in America believing grape juice to be the holier option for communion over wine, and helps prevent drunkenness.

Unlike Socrates, the Greek philosopher who had to drink poison and die in order that his influence in Greece was muffled, elite evangelicals in America only need to place their opponent’s name under a ban and their followers will follow suit. Indoctrination without examination is the safest route to remain accepted in our culture. Once you begin to question the traditions and presuppositions you are taught to believe, then like a Cretan you must be silenced. But this actually makes it is easier for atheists and secularists to prey upon professing Christians, since God has designed us to be critical thinkers rather than remaining in dependency on our mother’s breast for the rest of our lives.

It’s not that the conclusion that atheist arrives at is correct, but it is their attempt to put off infancy and put on adulthood which attracts men and women who feel weighed down by doubts that they are not allowed to have in the church setting. Many carry the burden of always having to cover our eyes and plug our ears when an opposing worldview is presented, out of fear of inevitably falling away. Many churches are presented as a safe zone in which you need to stay, and only go out for a brief moment to pull maybe a few others inside. Although apologetics is paraded among many Christian circles, there still seems to remain a patronizing attitude and safeguarding that does not line up with what Paul means when he says, “guard the flock.”

I am unsure how it is reasonable even to have a conversation about apologetics without the sheep being exposed to oppositions that actually challenge a Christian’s faith. I respect those who engage in public debates with opposing worldviews as it allows believers to hear the opposing worldview from the horse’s mouth rather than simply explained by another Christian who agrees with them. While it is important that Christians be taught by their teachers what other worldviews believe, hearing it from the other side itself leaves no room to think the presentation is biased or an unfair representation.

Even homeschooled children who are not allowed to play with unbelieving kids in the neighborhood, restricted from television, and are confined in corners at church and family functions away from the mischievous children, will one day grow up and being exposed to the world outside. The same is true for all those whose whole lives are confined within the four walls of their local Christianity: they too will one day be exposed to a darkness that their discipleship did not prepare them to handle.

Too many Christians carry an attitude of naivete, or even arrogance, in which they act as if that as long as they indoctrinate their children or disciples, catechize them, and keep them on their hips all day that there will be nothing to shake their faith. Parents who withhold information concerning sex from their children will find out later on that someone irresponsible has taught them a perverted view of it. Churches which mock evolution and mock atheism without exposing their flock to the detailed claims that are made by them fail to prepare them for the real battlefield. Churches that teach church history in a sanitized way open the door for their flock to find out the whole truth from someone who will use that as leverage to draw them away. Churches who tell their flock that the bible is infallible and inerrant yet make it seem as though the bible came together in a nice package from God fail to help their flock understand the providence of God through a peculiar history and leave the door open for opponents who proclaim our faith is rooted in perversion and uncertainty. Churches who speak of the victories of the Church in America, yet fail to tell them about the “Jesus of Lubeck,” a.k.a “The Good Ship Jesus,” and the ministries and denominations which were funded by the slavery of Africans, present the perfect opportunity for black cults to make disciples. Churches who neglect to deal with Old Testament scriptures such as in Exodus 21:7­–11 which allow for a man to sell his daughter into “slavery,” leave believers as an open target for unbelievers.

Many are told to abandon their families and friends to avoid outside voices that could influence us. They present this as a command while misinterpreting our Lord’s statement; “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This makes Christianity seem like a secret society or just another cult that needs to confine you in order to brainwash you. Many churches use this type of mentality as a form of control. Although there may be a sincere desire from leaders who want to see their flock grow in holiness and to be protected from being deceived, this actually is counterproductive. The Pharisees added such extraneous boundaries to God’s law with the same motive, and it resulted in a religion which was burdensome and hypocritical.

The church in America is preparing people to be sheep that simply live amongst other sheep, but Jesus tells the disciples he is sending them as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). We must remember that one form of persecution is mocking. This mocking is not always from the mouth of an uncivilized, unruly, unintelligent person which actually helps the Christian psychologically feel more confident in their faith. Some of it is sophisticated, thoughtful, intellectual, and challenging. This is why it is important that church does not breed any more generations that only know how to repeat cliché answers to opponents. Rather people must be forced to think and decide for themselves if what has been presented is accurate. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit to do His work in opening the eyes of the blind, and we must trust that there is power in the truth that has been revealed to us. But we must also be able to present that truth afresh, custom-fit, and adapted to answer any and all unique circumstances.

Censorship is a snowball rolling down an unending hill. Once you attempt to censor the flock from outside influences, it eventually becomes a problem that happens within as well. Subtly we see in many churches the echoes of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books)—the list of books banned by the Roman Catholic Church, which resulted in no book being printed or sold unless permitted by the church. The Catholic Church ended up controlling universities and publications. Because of a score of its hang-ups, taboos, fears, and self-righteous objections, even the church in America today cannot consistently praise people like Martin Luther and William Tyndale and promote its censorship at the same time.

I think it is interesting to see the attitudes of many ministers in America towards the Abolish Human Abortion movement. Even if they were right in some of their assessment, their approach to cover the eyes of their flock when AHA passes by is suspect. I also find it interesting from my observation that controversial topics in the church are only allowed to be discussed if the traditional view is upheld. Once someone opposes a traditional view, the debate usually does not end in a civilized manner; rather it seems those who hold the traditional view seem to get hostile. I don’t mean that when defending the faith or biblical standards we aren’t allowed to be passionate. The passion I see amongst many, however, is a result of not having a response that they confidently say is Sola Scriptura.

I also have heard many pastors forbidding their congregations or other Christians from reading or listening to certain material. There is a difference in warning someone about something rather than forbidding them. I think this is a result of the mentality that many pastors have that “sheep are dumb.” Since they believe sheep are dumb, they apply it to their congregation as if they are not responsible enough on their own to do their own research. This attitude makes ministers come off as if they are the only ones competent enough and strong enough to examine things before it is filtered to the flock.

We don’t need flocks who accept everything their pastor tells them; we need flocks who question everything first. I don’t mean that they ought to question everything in a manner that results in extreme skepticism, but in a responsible way that allows them to think critically through why they believe what they believe. God actually used my skepticism to save me and has used it to bring me to experience some of the most intimate times with the Lord. Censorship does not sanctify. Holding one another accountable does not mean we ought to control what others do, see, or hear. Rather we ought to encourage one another and exhort one another to guard our hearts and not be deceived. This moves us all toward greater sanctification. This exposes the fallacy of censoring the flock to protect it: censorship actually does not allow the church as a whole to be sanctified. If we believe we are “reformed and still reforming,” we must recognize that reformation will continue to come by the Spirit of God outside man’s attempts at organized control.

I am truly thankful for those ministers of God who are being faithful to the call to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. I am thankful for all of their labor in studying, defending the faith, and providing resources to challenge the body. I am also thankful for those who will not be muffled by the majority and continue stand up against legalism and unrighteousness.

Categories: Worldview

A city full of idols (Acts 17:16-34)

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 17:49
Categories: Worldview

United we stand, united we fall

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 10:08

United Airlines stands in the middle of a PR debacle over the forcible “re-accommodation” of a passenger this week. The poor man who refused to give up his seat was manhandled by airport police, bloodied, and dragged off the plane with all the care that the ground crew gives your suitcases down below. Social media and Wall Street crucified United Airlines, but as with so many such incidents, the anger is not only misplaced, it is highly myopic and ironic.

As more than one article has pointed out, what United did was perfectly legal and happens thousands of times every year. And while it’s understandable that when something like this happens, unknowing people will jump to blame the airline, they shouldn’t. Only one article I’ve seen so far got close to the real problems: bad laws and police willing to enforce them.

As a Fox opinion column noted, the real culprit here was the Airport cop who used excessive force. But it was much more than that. What kind of society do we live in, first, when there are so many thousands of regulations on the books that average people can be blindsided and even bloodied because of the most ridiculous of them?

Second, what kind of society do we live in when we are willing to enforce such multitudinous regulations in such an obnoxiously stupid way that government agents bludgeon and detain a doctor who has patients to see the next morning.

Third, what kind of society do when live in when we have (even just some) police officers so unthinking and so eager to escalate force to the extent of injuring a person over such ridiculous regulations? I’m absolutely sorry, “just doing his job” will not cut it here.

That is, after all, what they said at Nuremburg. When in the service of bad laws, the principle is just as wrong whether you’re killing six million Jews or just following subsection 2.3, paragraph (c) of the infinitieth regulation in FAA code.

Finally, the worst part of all of this is not only that people have misplaced outrage at the airline over this, but that they ignore it and even wink at it in a thousand areas of life in which various government agencies—federal, state, and local— threaten, steal, grope, drag, beat, rape, and kill us all every day.

Think about the regulation that is property taxation, and how the agency will file liens and confiscate your property if you don’t pay. Try to squat on the house stubbornly after that and you’ll be the next guy bloodied and dragged away.

And for what? So you neighbor can send their kids to public schools and pay a standing order of guys who will bloody you and drag you away if you resist your participation in those privileges.

What is principally different between the two cases? Nothing.

We could belabor the point with various examples, but for brevity sake (I’m on vacation right now after all!), do a thought experiment and come up with as many of your own as you can. The point is that we 1) live in a highly-overregulated society, 2) with a multitude of armed, deputized strong men willing to enforce any and all regulations blindly without question, in which 3) most people don’t even recognize the real tyranny, and 4) most people willingly participate in it and cheer it on. United we stand, and as things are right now, united we fall.

We desperately need a revival of biblical law and liberty, and pulpits willing and able to stand up boldly to preach both, and to train up a generation of Christians ready to change the laws and the mindset of the people who enforce them.

Categories: Worldview

Learning Bacon’s Rebellion for Christian history students

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:24

I have written in the past on why we need more revisionist history, and why “revisionism” is not a bad word, but a good thing. I spoke about the need for Christian involvement in this effort—being “men of Issachar”—at last year’s Providential History Conference. I’d like to give you a sample I came across in writing my upcoming book on American slavery and racism.

The following is about the episode known as Bacon’s Rebellion. I spent a good time reading several accounts of this near coup d’etat in colonial Virginia in 1676. One of the outstanding things about this is the broad spectrum of the historiography: some have treated Nathaniel Bacon as a hero; others portray him as a rogue. One American history book written by and for young Christians gives him exceedingly gentle and favorable treatment.

The truth is, he was indeed up against a veritable tyrant in Governor Berkeley, but he was also a cruel, tyrannical, hateful, and bloodthirsty man himself. This ought not be glossed over.

Another outstanding aspect of the story gives a parallel to our own time: the popular front was whipped into a racist war frenzy against all Indians indiscriminately. While the indiscriminate part is mostly absent today, it is surprising how easy it is to demonize an entire class of people who are seen as aliens, especially when a few of their class have indeed committed crimes. When we read that virtually the entire colony supported Bacon with all his cruelty to even peaceful Indians—supported him and gave his murders a pass—it should not only act as a lesson on how to correct history, but also as a powerful check upon how we view similar phenomena among us today.

Here, then, is an the lesson, and a tiny sneak preview from the future book:

Bacon’s Rebellion

Slave insurrections, of course, did occur, and while not necessarily frequent, they occurred frequently enough to sustain and often elevate the fears already stoked by growing slave populations. We will highlight of few of the more impactful examples. The first of these occurred in 1676, led by wealthy planter and statesman Nathaniel Bacon. Bacon’s Rebellion did not originate as a slave rebellion, and was not primarily a slave rebellion, but it involved slaves rebelling on the promise of freedom. If it did not originate the fears of slave rebellions in the American colonies, it was certainly among the earliest of influences.

This Rebellion involved more than one underlying social tension, but the proximate cause was the governor’s refusal to avenge, or even very much to protect, frontier plantations from Indian raids. Governor Berkeley and a small tightknit clique of the wealthiest Virginians, including George Washington’s great-grandfather, John, controlled the lucrative beaver fur trade with the Indians and would move very little towards angering them, leading to the expression, “no bullet would pierce beaver skins.” When public angst peaked, Berkeley finally decided to send a militia to put down the marauders, but at the last minute rescinded his order and laid the issue before the Burgesses. This act, and the Burgesses’ subsequent decision to respond only with a series of defensive, and expensive, forts, angered the public and left the colony a powder keg. Nathaniel Bacon would be the match.

An earlier piece of legislation also found renewed interest in 1676 as well. The 1670 law that declared non-Christians arriving by sea to be permanent slaves, but not those by land, had been written that way specifically to prevent the permanent enslavement of Indians. Even those captured as prisoners of war could only receive a sentence of indentured servitude. In the people’s haze of anti-Indian war fever, leaving such an exception in place only further proved the governor’s softness on Indians.

Bacon found himself at the center of a circle of impromptu volunteers who had plans of organizing to handle the Indians themselves. When warned by Berkeley, Bacon steamed ahead with an armed militia and began a long career of plundering, torturing, and murdering Indians. In one case, he befriended a peaceful tribe, instigated them to attack a second tribe, then demanded the booty for himself. The ensuing disagreement led to Bacon launching a surprise attack on the befriended tribe as well, killing over a hundred men, women, and children indiscriminately, and kidnapping many others as slaves.

This merciless bloodthirst would set the mold for Bacon. On one occasion, he solidified his control by forcing a convention of leaders to sign an oath of loyalty to him which included an overt declaration of treason against the crown. On another, he kidnapped the wives of several leaders who opposed him, threatening to put them on the front lines of the battle if Berkeley fired upon his positions. His continued successes—praised by the populace—would only further empower and embolden him to greater acts of tyranny and a virtual dictatorship. At one point, he is said to have had the whole colony on his side with the exception of maybe 500 men loyal to Berkley’s clique, and Berkeley in hiding. Bacon seized the opportunity to attack Berkeley’s stronghold: he marched on Jamestown and burned it to the ground. Abound a month later, the abrupt end to his campaign would come, seemingly by divine appointment. He was stricken with dysentery, described as “Bloody Flux,” and died. With the crown’s backing, Berkeley regained control and imposed a reign of terror against those who had substantial parts in the rebellion. Charles II is later said to have remarked that Berkeley hanged more people over Bacon than he himself had over the beheading of his father.

One of the outstanding features of Bacon’s Rebellion was that alongside the flood of poor white farmers and indentured servants that joined Bacon, a number of black slaves also joined and fought. Moreover, during the period of conflagration between Bacon and Berkeley, both had formed militias, and each attempted to weaken the other by promising freedom to any slaves who would switch sides. It is unlikely any that any such promise was ever kept, certainly not en masse. Among the last rebel holdout groups after Bacon’s death was one that included some 400 black slaves and white indentured servants. They were promised freedom if they would disarm, but it was a lie and they were delivered back to their masters. Historian Edmund S. Morgan founded the thesis that Bacon’s Rebellion opened the eyes of planter elites to see the potential for social catastrophe when poor whites join blacks in a revolt, and thus the need to drive a social wedge between the two. From here on out, it was suggested, the elite would try to diminish their share in white indentured servants and turn increasingly to permanent black slaves.  [1]

Morgan’s thesis contains enough truth to remain a classic, but has seen enough successful challenge to suffer severe qualification. Scholars like Winthrop Jordan have brought forth evidence to show that racism existed powerfully long before Bacon’s Rebellion, and others have shown that Virginian elites were seeking black slaves much earlier than 1676. The elites “were not men on the verge of turning to slavery; they already had. And neither Bacon’s Rebellion nor the growing scarcity of white ser­vants had anything to do with it.”[2] Furthermore, Bacon’s efforts did not focus upon racial reconciliation or freedom for slaves, considering his indiscriminate hostility to Indians: he influenced the enactment of laws allowing enslavement of all Indians captured in war, then subsequently led raids to plunder and enslave neighboring tribes, friendly or not.[3] Likewise, the offers of freedom for slaves were insincere attempts merely to weaken the opponent’s forces. The important remnant of Morgan’s thesis stands, however: the elites certainly saw the danger of black slaves joining forces with poor whites (indentured or not). If the poorer classes united, as Bacon showed was possible, an alarming upheaval, if not coup, was on the horizon—a lesson that would not soon be forgotten, and gave the elite all the incentive in the world to appease poor whites, and stigmatize blacks so that poor whites would at least have a caste to look down upon, even if they were little better off.

Notes:

[1] Murray Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Volume I: A New Land, a New People: The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1975), 101–113; Billings, et al, Colonial Virginia: A History, 77–98.

[2] Coombs, 351.

[3] David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1966), 177.

Categories: Worldview

The legal futility of relying on SCOTUS to abolish abortion

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:03

A lot of people, including many lawyers, are misinformed regarding the legal status of abortion in America. Without correct information regarding the Supreme Court’s decisions, pro-life activists are inevitably bound (1) to appear foolish and (2) to fail in their fight for abolition because they have not taken all the facts into consideration. Based on these shortcomings, this short article is intended to demonstrate the futility of mainline, pro-life activism.

A brief history of abortion jurisprudence in America

Most people are shocked to learn that today, Roe v. Wade holds little to no precedential value. In the vernacular, most people talk about abolishing abortion as an effort to “overturn Roe v. Wade.” Perhaps as an analogy, some Southerners refer to all carbonated beverages as “Coke”—sometimes the vernacular can be misleading. During the twenty years that it was the law of the land, Roe v. Wade stood for the proposition that abortion is a constitutional right found in the penumbra of the Constitution (specifically the penumbras of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments).[1] Have you ever looked at the moon on a clear night? When the moon is either waxing or waning, you can still see the darkened, shadowy portion of the moon. This shadowy portion is the moon’s “penumbra.” The Court from Roe v. Wade held that abortion was a right found in the “shadowy” portion of the Constitution.

Of course, this interpretation was contrived, and was utter nonsense.

In 1992, pro-life activists were getting excited because the composition of justices on the Supreme Court had almost completely changed since Roe. The constitutionality of abortion was set for a rehearing. With many scholars agreeing that the age of abortion was about to come to an end, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter shocked the country by voting to preserve the legality of abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Court from Casey held that states may not place an “undue burden” on women seeking to procure an abortion. In Casey, there were no more penumbras. Thus, today it may be said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a legal nullity (pointless), given the Court’s alternative approach to legalizing abortion under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Because Casey explicitly preserved the “essential holding” of Roe, abortion would be abolished by the Court’s decision to overturn Casey, a point which family law professors stress today.

The actual controversy that led to Planned Parenthood v. Casey involved the challenging of a series of Pennsylvania statutes (1) mandating a 24-hour waiting period between informed consent and the performance of an actual abortion; (2) requiring a minor to obtain a guardian’s consent before obtaining  an abortion; (3) requiring a married woman to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion; (4) enumerating which situations constitute a “medical emergency” (an emergency would override the requirements from the other sections); and (5) requiring certain reports to be filed after an abortion. Only the portion of the statute requiring a wife to inform[2] her husband was found to be an “undue burden,” and therefore unconstitutional.[3] The result of the Court’s ruling in Casey was that a state could not create an undue burden on a woman’s ability to procure an abortion.[4]

Standards of review

One must always be aware of the various standards of review that the Supreme Court assigns to specific types of rights. When the Supreme Court examines a state statute, the Court employs varying presumptions with respect to the states’ legislative intent. In other words, the Supreme Court asks, “How much discretion did the legislature have to perform this action?” The most permissible standard of review from the state’s perspective is called “rational basis scrutiny.” If rational basis scrutiny is warranted, the Court will typically presume that the legislature had a “rational basis” for creating and enacting the legislation in question. Under “intermediate scrutiny,” however, the state must prove that the challenged statute advances an important government interest through means that are substantially related to that interest. The most stringent level of scrutiny from the states’ perspective is “strict scrutiny,” wherein the state must prove that the challenged statute advances a compelling government interest through the least restrictive means.

In the context of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court applied the most lenient, rational basis scrutiny, to Pennsylvania law, thereby affording the legislature the presumption that they had a rational basis for enacting the five challenged statutes.[5] As previously mentioned, only the Pennsylvania statute requiring a wife to certify that she had informed her husband prior to obtaining an abortion was found to be unconstitutional.[6] (Between Casey and the present era, there were two notable cases that will not be discussed here, one of which had the effect of maintaining the legality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and another which upheld the constitutionality of a state statute requiring all abortions to be performed by a physician.)

In the intervening years from Casey until very recently, the Court’s standard of review seemed very lax—until the 2016 case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. As some will remember, the state of Texas attempted to make it illegal for abortions to be performed in areas not equipped to be an “ambulatory surgical center.” This action had the effect of consolidating and confining the number of operational abortion clinics to six urban areas in Texas. Whereas one could have reasonably anticipated that the Supreme Court would have typically deferred to the state legislatures to make these kinds of “safety” assessments under rational basis scrutiny (the same standard used for the previous cases),[7] the Supreme Court drastically switched standards. It went so far as to weigh the medical evidence available to the legislature.[8] Clarence Thomas noted in dissent that the Court’s action in hearing the available medical evidence illustrated the Court’s shift to applying “something more akin to strict scrutiny” to abortion statutes.[9]

This means that when protecting the alleged “right” to an abortion is in its interest, the Court would arbitrarily switch to whatever standard of review best fit its agenda. Moving forward from Hellerstedt, states in defense of any limitation on abortion would have to show a that the statute advances a compelling government interest through the least restrictive means.

What can we learn from these cases?

What options are left to those hoping to end abortion in America? If anything, a reader will hopefully have a heightened sense of what it means both to answer and not to answer the fool according to his folly on this topic. When pro-life activists appeal to the ambiguities of language from the Supreme Court, it should be expected that the Supreme Court will work (even outside the parameters of their own tests and rules, as Justice Thomas noted in his Hellerstedt dissent) to maintain the legality of abortion in America. Pro-life activists who answer the Supreme Court in the Supreme Court’s preferred way are acting in futility.

In order for abortion to become illegal once again in America, it seems as though there are only a few “viable” solutions. One option involves altering the composition of the Supreme Court. Given the existence of lifetime appointment, however, it does not seem as though this is a probable outcome. Also remember that Republican appointments to the Supreme Court have historically been some of the most vocal and damaging proponents for the legality of abortion.[10]

Perhaps another option could be for Congress to outlaw abortion by statute and limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear abortion cases (this is theoretically possible under Article 3, section 2). The Supreme Court, however, would still have original jurisdiction over any matter in which a state is a party, so this would likely also be a nullity.

Lastly, a jurisdiction could extricate itself from the stronghold of the federal system altogether. This seems to be the most certain way that abortion could actually become illegal, although the vicious addiction of state governments to federal funding would reasonably lead one to be pessimistic as to the ability of a state to free itself from irresistible money.

In short, the only promising avenue to abolishing human abortion is for states to outlaw it by statute or state constitutional amendment, and then ignore the Supreme Court when it strikes the state law down. Ignore Roe. Ignore Casey. Ignore Hellerstedt. Ignore SCOTUS. States have a duty to interpose between all wicked tyrannical branches of government and the people, especially the innocent, unborn, the little ones.

Donald Soles, III, is in his final semester at Regent University School of Law, and a Senior Editor for the Journal of Global Justice & Public Policy.

 

Notes:

[1] Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152­­­–53 (1971).

[2] Note that the statute did not require a wife to receive consent from her husband to obtain an abortion.

[3] See Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 888 (1992).

[4] See id. at 878.

[5] See id. at 888.

[6] See id.

[7] Consider that Planned Parenthood v. Casey proscribed “unnecessary” health restrictions, but consider then how under rational basis scrutiny, the Supreme Court would likely defer to a state legislature’s assessment as to which restrictions were “unnecessary.”

[8] See also Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 158 (2007) (upholding the Partial-Birth abortion Ban Act, a case to which I previously alluded). The court said, “[w]here it has a rational basis to act, and it does not impose an undue burden, the State may use its regulatory power to regulate abortion procedures, ‘all in furtherance of its legitimate interests in regulating the medical profession in order to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn’.” Id.

[9] Whole Women’s Health, 579 U.S. ____ (Clarence Thomas, dissenting).

[10] Harry Blackmun is a prime example. Appointed by Nixon, Blackmun authored the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, and authored a special concurrence in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In this special concurrence (which my professor mockingly called the “abortion is the light of the world” concurrence), Blackmun actually compares the abolition of abortion to the extinguishing of a small, flickering flame of hope for women. Also consider the Republican appointment, Anthony Kennedy, a “swing vote” in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Categories: Worldview

Courts of law in a free society

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:30

Restoring America One County at a Time

8. Courts

8.1 Courts in a Free Society

As with the case of taxation, there is no specially-revealed biblical form of government or courts. The standard biblical passages dealing with these issues (Ex. 18; Rom. 13; for example) describe aspects of providence and common grace. Unlike civil taxation, however, God certainly does establish and ordain civil rulers in general—and does so for the specific function of punishing crime (Gen 9:5–6; Rom. 13:1–4). But He does not give us a prescription for the form of that rule. These details are left to His providence.

The lack of a detailed prescription for courts does not mean, however, that just any form of government or jurisprudence can be considered godly in the sense of the ideal of liberty. In many cases—in most cases—the providentially-ordained system is a tyranny and is thus an indicator of God’s judgment on that land. God’s providence is not willy-nilly: He acts according to His law and sanctions in society. Thus a society’s government will be a manifestation of that society’s faithfulness to God. This means, ultimately, that freedom and faithfulness to God are inextricably linked. We will return to this idea in a moment.

The Bible tells us, for example, that bigger government is an indication of more pervasive wickedness in society: “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue” (Prove. 28:2). The corollary is, of course, that in a land where knowledge and understanding of God’s will lead to self-government on the part of the people (righteousness), there will be little need for civil government. Thus in a free society we should expect “few rulers.”

Biblical Principles of Government Structure

While not specially revealing the ideal system of government, God does give us theological principles which guide the decision over form and method of selection. Without writing a treatise on Christian government here, we’ll highlight the more important and relevant of these principles: representation, election, qualification, and decentralization. First, representation is primarily a theological principle which has ramifications in all covenantal settings, including civil government. Adam represented all of humanity in the fall; Christ represents all believers in His work of redemption (Rom 5:12–21). They are each covenant heads. Believers are in turn Christ’s representatives in earth. Following the covenant headship of Christ, “we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20; cp. Eph. 6:20). The idea that we are in some sense God’s redeemed representatives in this world reaffirms and renews the fact that we are created in God’s image. In a Christian civilization, we expect to see this principle at work in our civil covenant. Civil rulers are to be representative servant-leaders of the people, and thus biblical government is representative government.

Biblical government is also elective government. Unless there is some specially revealed leader legitimized by public divine activity (Moses, Samuel, Jesus), the leaders—including civil leaders—are ideally to be elected, not inherited or appointed from above. We see this principle illustrated in the New Testament in regard to church government—specifically the office of deacon:

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:2–3).

These “servers” (deacons), the Apostles instructed, were to be chosen from among the people and by the people. Then, once so elected, the apostles confirmed them in their offices.

These two aspects of election and appointment work together, however, and the basis for appointment is qualification. The apostles did not choose the representatives, the people did. But the apostles would not confirm just anyone—they have to meet certain standards. Thus we see Paul later putting these qualifications in written form to Timothy and Titus—leaders of local congregations responsible for electing and appointing their own elders and deacons (see 1 Tim. 3:1–13; Tit. 1:5–9). Thus, there is a biblical principle that potential leaders must be godly and sound individuals, having already proven their leadership abilities in their homes and among their peers, before even being considered for office.

The final principle here is decentralization. I will highlight this momentarily.

These principles all pertain to official leadership in general—obviously ecclesiastical leadership, for which they are directly prescribed, but there is no reason they should not also apply to civil leadership as well. And thus, there is no reason they should not be the ideal for biblical courts also.

Two primary passages in Scripture address the nature of a biblical judiciary system. One describes a practical, decentralized system of civil courts throughout society; the other prescribes private courts as the ideal for Christians. The classic model for a biblical system of civil courts comes in Jethro’s advice to Moses (Ex. 18:13–26). While Moses was the sole civil judge for the three million or so people, the court system was clogged and everyone suffered, including Moses. Jethro advised delegation of judiciary powers on a greatly decentralized model:

Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you (Ex. 18:21–22).

All of the elements from above are either apparent here, or can safely be assumed to have been involved here. Each new judge took over the duties of a smaller constituency, were taken from the people, each had to meet certain qualifications of godliness, honesty, and refused bribes, and the system greatly decentralized the work which was bottlenecked at Moses. Now, most small matters were settled at the very local level, and only great issues made their way to Moses.

It is also likely that these new judges were elected. Although they are said to have been chosen by Moses, this is most likely speaking by proxy—as Moses was the leader of the whole people and thus gets “credit” so to speak. But think of the task before him. There were 600,000 men in Israel (Ex. 12:47). Just using this number of men alone, a program of chiefs for “thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens” would require 78,600 appointments. There is no way Moses could have appointed this many judges by himself, especially since he would have had to analyze each one’s character, reputation, and integrity individually. Even if he only chose the top rung and then had each of them choose the lesser authorities, he still would have had to examine 600 men individually. At a rate of even ten examinations a day, this would take two months. It seems more likely to me that there had to have been some kind of election process involved, at least at the lower levels. Chiefs of tens would require 60,000 appointees. It seems more likely that, just as the apostles had the people choose their own servants, so there was probably a mass announcement for small groups to choose a representative judge from among them.

Whatever the mode of selection in this episode was, the point was drastically to decentralize the court system, while leaving in place a system of appeals for more momentous or difficult cases. Again, this is a system based on the advice of Jethro and not specially revealed by God Himself; nevertheless, the principles involved are affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. Thus we can safely affirm that a biblical court system can indeed be a state court system, but should definitely feature elected and representative judges, biblically qualified judges, and a greatly decentralized system of local courts with appeals.

The Christian Ideal: Private Courts

But state courts are neither the only nor even most desirable system given in Scripture. The second significant passage in regard to courts shows us a better way—private courts. And whereas the state court system exemplified by Moses is based on the pragmatic advice of a man along with piecemeal biblical principles, the private court system we shall see is directly revealed as the Christian ideal by the apostle Paul. Thus, this should be accepted and embraced by Christians as the most biblical method of resolving judicial disputes. Paul applies the Christian principle of private courts in 1 Corinthians 6:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! (1 Cor. 6:1–8).

What this shows is first, all believers are judges. We are called to be judges first and foremost of ourselves. All of Christian life is about making and obeying decisions that are faithful to our Lord—and this requires faithful judgment. Since civil government is instituted only to punish crime, then courts will only need to exist to the extent that people fail in the effort of faithful self-judgment first.

But, it is assumed that since we are still sinners even as Christians, and we live in the midst of a fallen world, that conflicts of judgment will abound both personally and interpersonally. Thus, courts will be necessary to decide such conflicts. Paul’s admonition here is to exalt Christian virtues of forgiveness, love, and self-sacrifice to the fore and thus limit the number of conflicts that 1) go to suit at all, 2) go to suit between believers, and 3) get heard before state courts. All should be held to an absolute minimum.

For cases that do arise, private courts are usually the best alternative. This means church courts, arbitration panels, mediation boards, and industry and professional courts. A society neglecting these outlets and the attitude of self-government will easily be paralyzed by endless litigation, massive bureaucracies, and countless administrative laws. Toward this aim, all contracts between Christians should include some form of private dispute settlement clause—Christian arbitration being a common one. These should seek to resolve all possible contract disputes privately, between Christian brethren, and eliminate state courts in all but the most extreme cases.

Private courts may sound like a utopian dream to many people today, simply because—as has been the case with so many of our topics—we have rarely been exposed even to the idea, let alone the practice, in our generations. But the truth is, private courts not only sound good in theory, they have existed widely in western Christian history, and they worked quite well.

Arbitration grew popular after the Civil War in the U. S. Judicial panels handled corporate and labor disputes and were widely accepted, despite the fact that they were completely voluntary and not legally binding up until 1925. It was only when some corporations determined to streamline the process that New York in 1920 enacted a State takeover of arbitration, backing all arbitration suits with the force of the State. Thus did the abuse of a few get answered by the loss of even the option of purely private courts. The U. S. government followed five years later by nationalizing the same principle. This has been revised several times since to give us the modern Federal Arbitration Act which overrides all arbitration cases and state laws pertaining to arbitration. But keep in mind, this was not the case before 1925, and it only came about largely due to the political clout of large corporations in whose favor a government takeover of the process fell.

The idea of private industry or private merchant courts has deep historical roots in the Middle Ages, and their system illustrates why state enforcement is often unnecessary. From the middle ages until the 1920s, merchants relied on private courts, and if necessary boycott and ostracism. Author William Wooldridge explains,

Merchants made their courts work simply by agreeing to abide by the results. The merchant who broke the understanding would not be sent to jail, to be sure, but neither would he long continue to be a merchant, for the compliance exacted by his fellows, and their power over his goods, proved if anything more effective than physical coercion. Take John of Homing, who made his living marketing wholesale quantities of fish. When John sold a lot of herring on the representation that it conformed to a three-barrel sample, but which, his fellow merchants found, was actually mixed with “sticklebacks and putrid herring,” he made good the deficiency on pain of economic ostracism.

In other words, this was an honor system on steroids: break the code of honor, and you lost your livelihood. Once it was made known that a business ignored the decision of an arbitration panel, no one would wish to do further business with it.

And while it may be natural to think things were just so different in the Middle Ages than today, it was not so long ago that an industrialist like Owen D. Young, president and chairman of GE, spent a good portion of his time advocating for private arbitration. He advised the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and wrote several essays on the subject. He advised the Chamber “to support and develop the moral sanction upon which arbitration outside the law must depend.” Indeed, where the law is not in force, moral sanction is the necessary and very effective key. Young “concluded that the moral censure of other businessmen was a far more effective sanction than legal enforcement.” This was 1915. Today, with internet, various databases, and other powerful communications, nationwide ostracism would be even more powerful. It could be public, worldwide, within seconds of an arbitration panel’s decision.

So we have seen then that a biblical view of the judiciary involves several principles, the most challenging ones being that judicial decisions be radically decentralized and privatized as far as possible. We have also discussed a couple of examples of how the United State was once a bit closer to these principles. These are just a small taste of vast literature on both the theory and practice of private courts, arbitration, etc. We do know that our society at least does have decent options in many cases, especially in private contracts and church courts. We also know that we once had options in this regard to an even greater degree than today. In the next section, we will discuss how our judicial systems have been hijacked and abused from very early on, and how this has manifested in the vast judicial tyranny we have today.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: Judicial Tyranny in America

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Thou shalt not murder in Kentucky, except with proper licensing

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 11:38

The move by Matt Bevin’s administration effectively to close the last abortion clinic in Kentucky has pro-life organizations and supporters cheering and rallying. While the prevention of a single abortion certainly is something to praise, the bigger picture certainly is not.

The reasoning is simple. Abortion is murder. To regulate abortion is to sanction abortion, which is to sanction murder. Murder should not be sanctioned and regulated, it should be outlawed entirely—abolished. The commandment is, “Thou shalt not murder.” All “pro-life” efforts that propose regulation of abortion say instead, “Thou shalt not murder, except with the proper permits.”

Bevin’s move attempts to use the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to reject the license of the abortion clinic because of a glitch in its paperwork. Despite the same agency renewing the clinic’s license last year, until May 31, 2017, it now finds a deficiency in its “transfer agreements.” This is a regulatory requirement for the license by which the clinic proves it has an agreement with hospital and ambulance services in the case an aborting mother should need it.

In effect this “pro-life” move is saying, “Thou shalt not murder, unless you provide emergency services for the conspiring murderer.”

Aside from the simple violation of biblical ethics, this move faces two major problems. First, it carries the seeds of its own destruction. The legal maneuver here is the following: “You may not provide abortions unless you meet the criteria. You do not meet the criteria. Therefore, you may not provide abortions.” Since this is the case, however, what do you do when the clinic is able to secure such agreements, and then reapplies for its license? The state will have no legal choice but to give the license. There will have been nothing but a brief, temporary impediment to abortion in Kentucky.

The last state will be worse than the first. All the move will have done is nudge Kentucky’s baby-murderers get up to snuff. But now it will be even more firmly entrenched, and the state’s pro-life leaders, including Bevin, will be standing, red-faced, with no argument why they should now shut down the clinic. You yourselves said abortion would be OK as long as the murderers met the proper criteria. You may protest how “unapologetically pro-life” you are, but your actions spoke otherwise.

Second, strict enforcement of state regulations very similar to this move were struck down by the Supreme Court just last summer in Texas. The syllabus for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt quoted the following precedents that reveal the court’s reasoning:

A “State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion . . . is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient.” Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113, 150.

But “a statute which, while furthering [a] valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends,” Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 877 (plurality opinion), and “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right,” id., at 878.

Got it? In simple words, even Rove v. Wade argued that a state may regulate abortion. But the moment your state’s regulations go so far as to present any “substantial obstacle” to the woman’s alleged “right” to an abortion, it is considered an “undue burden” and is not “permissible.”

These quotations further reveal that the “legitimate ends” of a state’s abortion regulations is to “insure maximum safety” to the mother, and thus make sure abortions continue. This is exactly what will result from Bevin’s move, as I just described.

Granted, if the court does strike this down as it already did with Texas (and is probably about to do also in Mississippi), Bevin’s administration may decide just to ignore the Supreme Court and interpose on behalf of the unborn.

This would be a monumental and highly desirable stand. But if they are ready and willing to do this, why not do it the right way: based upon a bill defining abortion as the murder that it is, and outlawing the practice of abortion altogether? At least then you would have something really worthwhile and lasting for which to take such a risky and unprecedented stand against the federal judiciary.

On the other hand, if you were to take such a stand over your right to regulate child-sacrifice “transfer agreements,” and actually prevailed, you would only be right back to the first major problem described above: what are you going to do when the pro-aborts get up to speed and meet your criteria? They will no longer be the problem: you will, for you will have provided a lasting legal foundation for their murder going forward.

Your hands will share in the blood.

Instead of tinkering with these abominable pro-death measures, think through the issue. Abortion will not be stopped until we call it what it really is, legislate to that effect, and use every means to defend that legislation from federal tyranny. Abortion is murder. Ignore Roe. Embrace the consequences as the welcome price of protecting human life.

Categories: Worldview

Trump’s attack on the Freedom Caucus speaks volumes

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 09:40

Following his humiliating failure with TrumpCare, his would-be replacement for ObamaCare, Trump has tried to save face by blaming the one group of Republicans in Washington that retains a semblance of principle: the Freedom Caucus. What this implies should put us all on alert.

Whom you are willing to attack, and whom you do, are always meaningful. As if foisting a joke of a bill like the AHCA—nothing less than ObamaCare-Lite, leaving most of the key elements in place—were not embarrassing enough for conservatives, blaming the only remaining representatives of anything like a Free Market simply highlights once again that Trump is the socialized pragmatist we always knew he was.

(For the record, Alan Keyes was right to say this was hardly a “betrayal” as some conservatives have cried. “Throughout his presidential campaign, it was clear that Donald Trump never abandoned his commitment to socialist goals and principles for health care in the United States. He insisted on universal coverage, subsidized as needed by federal government largesse. He told conservatives they would just have to get used to it. . . . President Trump isn’t reverting to socialism, because candidate Trump never professed to support anything else.”)

Reason.com provides the most withering criticism of this fiasco, noting especially that the Braggart-in-Chief has spent a lifetime vaunting himself as the Great Deal-Maker, yet abjectly failed to close the deal here. This came after the highest self-aggrandizement on this very issue:

We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016

Again, the fall from such a great, self-appointed precipice came for very simple reasons, which makes it all the more embarrassing:

The bill Trump backed made no attempt to balance either the policy or political interests of the legislators, influence groups, or stakeholders involved. Trump spent the week negotiating changes to the bill, but because he neither cared nor understood what was in it, and what lawmakers wanted from the bill, he couldn’t act as an effective negotiator. . . .

Trump, of course, shares some blame with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan led the drafting of the bill, and the legislative process. The bill he put together didn’t really make sense, in large part because it was never really a health policy bill. The AHCA was a setup for tax reform designed to make it easier to permanently cut taxes in a future piece of legislation.

But it was Trump who managed the negotiations. It was Trump who was expected to seal the deal. And it was Trump who ultimately couldn’t make it work.

Health policy is hard because all of the policy pieces are interconnected. The various policy pieces, meanwhile, are just as interconnected with the politics, which is just as complex. You can’t separate any of it, and adjusting any one part of the system inevitably means a cascade of additional adjustments will be necessary further down the line. It’s a system of trade-offs, and Trump didn’t know or care what those trade-offs were.

This is the danger of a president who is so disinterested in policy particulars, especially when, like Trump, he expects to maintain a central role in the process. Trump’s character—his personal style and his habits of mind—prevent him from effectively negotiating complex legislation. . . . It’s a problem that is likely to continue to haunt conservative policy goals for as long as Trump is president.

Trying to get up from his fall, while peeling the mud from his face, Trump tries hard to deflect and shift the blame. First, he blames Democrats, which is utterly stupid. Who expected a single Democrat to get behind this? Why should they? Their job from day one was simple: decry the millions of poor that this bill would kick out on the streets with no health insurance, then sit back and watch the Republican fire drill.

The ridiculousness of this attempt at blame was obvious enough even for Trump to see, so he pivoted: now it’s the fault of the Freedom Caucus, the Club for Growth, and the Heritage Foundation.

But herein lies another rub. When your position ends with decrying conservatives more consistently free-market and more principled than you, the joke might be on you. You just might be seen for attacking liberty more than anything. With such finger-pointing, Trump effectively climbs the same height from which he just fell, grabs himself by the collar, and flings himself off again.

More mud. More splat.

As Reason noted, this will be a danger going forward for a long time—every time Trump gets involved in policy negotiation. And the additional danger is even greater: if the Trump-Priebus-Ryan show repeats itself every time this happens, we will see a sustained attack on Liberty.

Of course, all the “Freedom Caucus” guys were doing was . . . their job. Granted, it’s difficult to imagine that any politician elected on a campaign of principle, free markets, and things like repealing ObamaCare would, this day and age, actually stand for those things once in Washington. That’s not how the game is played, we all know. So, it’s a real shocker when a whole group of them does it. It takes us average Americans—conditioned by so much previous experience—a moment to step back and realize that the Freedom Caucus guys are doing exactly what conservative Representatives should be doing. It’s the Trump-Ryan show that needs to change; not these guys.

The moment we do wake up to the fact, we should also realize that such guys strongly need our support and encouragement. And then, we should give it to them.

Categories: Worldview

The waning authority of Christ in the churches

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 09:43

After Pastor Garwood located this fabulous quotation from A. W. Tozer, it was but a small step for me to arrive at the following phenomenal essay as well. This was Tozer’s final essay, published only a few days after he died in 1963. It could have been written this week and rings as true today as ever.

To start with, Tozer confesses:

What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches.

I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.” Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.

So, now to the point:

Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals. . . .

The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” or “Let not your heart be troubled,” but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.

What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ. . . .

But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.

What church board consults our Lord’s words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or “a season of prayer”; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.

What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, “operations” and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.

Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.

What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn’t even have a vote.

In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.

What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?

What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools” to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.

The causes back of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two.

One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.

The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I’ll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.

Amen.

Read the full essay here.

Categories: Worldview

How you can help End Abortion in Alabama

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:52

A group working to end abortion now in Alabama argues that Alabama law already contains everything it needs to accomplish that goal: all that is needed is for the Governor to push the button. The nullification/interposition option is there, waiting for Christians to pressure the government into taking it. Here’s more on it, and how you can make a difference:

Proposal 16” says, “Now is the time. . . .”

Did you know that every governor since Roe v. Wade has had the power and obligation to defend innocent human life in Alabama and prevent the murder of Alabama babies?  Governors haven’t stepped in, either because they aren’t pro-life or they fear physical or economic reprisal from the Federal government.  No more.

Just like former President Obama refused to enforce federal marijuana law, we believe President Trump will hold back his hand from enforcing the unjust federal abortion rulings in the States.

Now is the time to send the faulty premises of Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, end the barbarous practice of abortion, allow women to be the mamas their babies need, and give every human being their God-given and constitutional right to life.

The Liberator reports,

Proposal 16, the proposed draft of the requested executive order, states that “the Executive Branch of the State of Alabama shall use all powers at its disposal to prevent the voluntary taking of life of persons in the womb, from the moment of conception”. It goes on to declare that “all past and future opinions or orders from any branch of the Federal Government that fail to protect the inalienable right to life of all human beings are null, void, and unenforceable in Alabama”.

Alabama law already defines the unborn as persons and outlaws their killing as murder, but includes an exception for mothers and their authorized representatives. Proposal 16 advocates are asking for that exception to be removed.

So far, Bentley has refused to meet with Proposal 16 representatives. “We received a two-sentence email saying the governor will not meet with us,” McClure said.

However, he added that Bentley receives between 20 and 50 calls per day asking him to implement Proposal 16, and that the governor’s office has indicated it is paying attention to how many people care about the issue.

“We are like the persistent widow that Jesus talked about,” McClure said. He asked that anyone who supports this effort reach out to Bentley by calling (334) 242-7100 and asking him to act.

The Proposal 16 Movement, as representatives refer to it, plans to hold a press rally on the steps of the capitol at noon on April 1 at which they will read a letter from pro-life leaders to send a message to the governor: “The message is, ‘Governor Bentley, you can act, you should act, we want you to act, and if you don’t act, the blood of 16 babies [per day] is on your hands,’” McClure said.

The report goes on to note that while 80 percent of Alabamans claim to be pro-life, less than 1 percent take action. If only ten percent of Christians in Alabama hounded the Governor’s office, the meeting could take place and the ball could be rolling. Imagine what a majority of the churches could do!

I recommend you read the full report and other Liberator reports on similar efforts around the country. For Alabamans, get involved by visiting the Proposal 16 website. Call the Governor, (334) 242-7100, and join the rally on April 1.

Categories: Worldview

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