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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago
American Vision is pleased to announce several upcoming speaking engagements and events, beginning with a much anticipated debate:
Debate over “Replacement Theology”
Gary DeMar and Dr. Michael L. Brown
June 13, 2015 @ 7:30 P.M.
Imago Dei Christian Fellowship
8928 Beckett Road
West Chester, OH 45069
Gary DeMar will be engaging in a public debate with Dr. Michael Brown over the nature of Israel and so-called “replacement theology.” The format will feature more informal engagement in discussion rather than an academic structure.
June 15–16, 2105
Pokagon State Park
Joel McDurmon will be joining the staff and other guest instructors at Camp American for a rigorous two days of teaching teens about The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution, God’s Law and Government in America, God versus Socialism, and more!
God, Governments, and Culture Conference (Fall 2015)
September 3–5, 2015
After the success of our February conference in Tempe, AZ, American Vision decided to make the same type of event available in the eastern part of the country for this Fall. This event will feature the themes of postmillennialism and covenantal/institutional inheritance (5-point covenant model), with speakers Gary DeMar, Dr. Gary North, Dr. Joel McDurmon, John Crawford, and R. C. Sproul, Jr.
The Bahnsen Conference 2015
October 22–24, 2015
Branch of Hope OPC
2370 W Carson St #100
Torrance, CA 90501
The Bahnsen Conference 2015 will feature the theme “What of Christ and Culture?,” with a broad array of perspectives from across the world of Reformed theology. Dr. Joel McDurmon will be speaking on the subjects of Gary North’s Theonomic and Reconstructionist thought and more, as well as participating on a speakers’ “debate” panel on subjects to be announced.
National Religious Liberties Conference 2015
November 6–7, 2015
Iowa Events Center
233 Center St.
Des Moines, IA 50309
Folks, this event will be huge. American Vision will be teaming up with Kevin Swanson and Generation with Vision to bring you the National Religious Liberty Conference. Strategically scheduled just six weeks out from the Iowa Caucuses, a vast array of speakers will address some of the most pressing concerns for Christians today, including religious liberty, the Christian foundations of liberty, and increasing government oppression. Dr. Joel McDurmon will join other speakers, including scholars, attorneys, and leading Christian media figures, such as:
Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute
Kerby Anderson, Point of View Radio
Steve Deace, USA Radio Network
Bill Jack, Worldview Academy
Adam McManus, Radio Talk Show Host
Chaplain Douglas Lee, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty
Bill Federer, American Minute
John Eidsmoe, Foundation for Moral Law
Marshall Foster, World History Institute
India Mission Trip and Pastor’s Conference
November 20–23, 2015
Jaggampeta and Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India
This potential event is currently in planning phases, but presents a unique opportunity for Joel to spread our message of comprehensive Biblical Worldview to an audience of around one hundred indigenous pastors in India. If you would be interested in helping to fund this unique opportunity, please contact support –at- americanvision.org.
Please check back for further Event details, websites, and information.
Yesterday I was asked if I believe serving in the U.S. military is “sinful.” There is no absolute answer to this, since I fully believe that under certain conditions, war is justified. In such situations, military service is not only not sinful, it is generally expected of most able-bodied males ages 20 and up. This is simple biblical law, which I have explained at greater length in The Bible & War in America.
But that belief obviously leaves several issues to be discussed: standing armies versus militias, military drafts, just war, the military industrial complex, nationalism and idolatry, and much more. Biblical law addresses all of these issues directly, and the result is a sound indictment of our current military system.
In fact, it is a sound indictment of much of the history of war in this nation. This must be taken seriously. As we encounter Memorial Day, it is certainly appropriate to remember those who fought and died protecting our land, people, and liberty. Their sacrifice is genuine and never to be forgotten any more than that of any genuine hero. But what too often happens among conservative Christians is a blanket endorsement of all things military wrapped in the flag. Without necessary distinctions, this can become idolatry as easily as it can be a genuine memorial of the righteous. It can become flag worship, nation worship, power worship, hatred and pride. Without the distinctions provided in biblical law, it is always a short step from patriotism to nationalism.
We are called to be ardent patriots, but not uncritical nationalists. We are called to apply biblical law to every area of life. We can easily fail to do this if we are enraptured by power and “winning.” Worse yet, when we are so enraptured, we make ourselves easy prey for voracious politicians and powerful men who leverage the power of such emotions to herd people into their agendas. And what is so sad about this is that 1) such people would otherwise pride themselves in their tradition of strong, American individualism, and 2) such people think they are being good conservative Christians in their adamant stand. The truth is that too often they have been herded into collectivism by emotions and have departed from the Bible in the process.
A few years ago, an audience of mainly conservatives, including certainly many Christians, openly “booed” a candidate on the GOP primary debate stage for daring to suggest we follow a foreign policy based on the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” The suggestion of applying the Bible outside of their private prayer closet apparently struck them with utter horror. (It’s no wonder their liberal opponents have had such an easy time taking it out of all the other areas of the public square.)
But this attitude is itself an indicator of how far we have regressed. The truth is, it was not too long ago that one of the greatest of conservative Baptist preachers argued the same from the pulpit. Most of you are familiar with a quotation from Charles Spurgeon that circulated in memes recently: “I long for the day when the precepts of the Christian religion shall be the rule among all classes of men, in all transactions. I often hear it said ‘Do not bring religion into politics.’ This is precisely where it ought to be brought. . . .” What most people don’t know is the extended context of that quotation: it was exactly the same as that GOP candidate’s foreign policy of peace. Spurgeon continued on what “religion into politics” would mean:
I would have the Cabinet and the Members of Parliament do the work of the nation as before the Lord, and I would have the nation, either in making war or peace, consider the matter by the light of righteousness. We are to deal with other nations about this or that upon the principles of the New Testament. I thank God that I have lived to see the attempt made in one or two instances, and I pray that the principle may become dominant and permanent. We have had enough of clever men without conscience, let us now see what honest, God-fearing men will do. But we are told that we must study “British interests,” as if it were not always to a nation’s truest interest to do righteousness. “But we must follow out our policy.” I say, No! Let the policies which are founded on wrong be cast like idols to the moles and to the bats. Stand to that most admirable of policies, — “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Whether we are kings, or queens, or prime ministers, or members of parliament, or crossing sweepers, this is our rule if we are Christians.(1)
Simply replace “British interests” with “American interests,” and we have a ball game. Except, at our ball game, military jets will fly over the climax of the national anthem—to inspire national pride at taxpayer expense. Would that prayers were said instead, and people inspired to follow that Golden Rule in all things foreign and domestic.
A general once noted that the army is not an insurance policy: it is the job of the army to kill people and blow up stuff. That is true, and fearful. For once the pride of nationalism moves otherwise moral and individual thinkers into a mode of thinking uncritical of their government, killing people and blowing up stuff will supplant the national pastime.
Consider these warnings and basic principles at the least before you leap into any uncritical celebration of military service and power. There is, of course, much more to consider, but I hope you’ll at least start here.
If you would like to see my views outlined at greater length, including several pages of Scriptural exegesis, please read The Bible & War in America, which is an expansion of Chapter 9, “Defense,” in Restoring America One County at Time. You can read both for free here, and you can buy print and eBook versions as well. They both just happen to be on sale until the end of this month.
- “The Candle,” Sermon No. 1594, April 24, 1881; emphasis added.
I was greatly enthused to introduce to you our new book, God’s Law and Government in America, a collection of three historic sermons in which prominent New England ministers call for Theonomy in the civil realm. You can read that intro here.
That was Monday. On Tuesday I was informed that the Pulpit & Pen blog (Mr. Hall) was attacking American Vision for allegedly engaging in some covert conspiracy to “soften” the sound and meaning of Theonomy and to re-write American history. Indeed, we are labeled, for the second time now, “American ReVision.” Let me say up front: the kind of selective critique you’re about to review (usually championed by liberals) is one reason you definitely need to read these sermons for yourself: so you can hear what these faithful and brave preachers have to say for themselves in full.
First, let me say that this is little comical in that it comes from someone who collaborated in an alleged “last word on theonomy” three weeks ago, which itself was a bit comical because it itself came after a claim to want to avoid “endless back-and-forth in social media or elsewhere on the topic.” The humor in it aside, I am not sure what exactly to think of such a pointed and unprovoked attack on my integrity and personal intentions as this.
The charges leveled against me (and American Vision) are 1) “intentional blurring of terms” using the “conveniently invented term, theonomic,” and 2) an apparent revision of American history.
For the first complaint, the post says,
[I]n particular, McDurmon’s use of the adjective theonomic is telling. As Colin Pearson describes in his start-up podcast named “DatPostMil” (the April 29 episode with Sye Ten Bruggencate), the term “theonomic” is used to soften the terminology and broaden the philosophy’s definition to mean those who “love God’s Law” and increase its acceptance. In fact, this is an intentional approach to take very specific philosophical tenets of theonomy and broadens it to a generalized dishonesty.
Such intentional blurring of terms makes profitable debate impossible.
I already have a keen idea of what kinds of things make profitable debate impossible. I’d say that other things being equal, I am the most up-to-date expert on that topic. To this point, however, although I am a fan of and have been interviewed by DatPostmil, I have never listened to this particular podcast with Sye, nor have I ever heard of any theonomist using the label “theonomic” in such a way before. The charge of some nefarious use of the terminology on my part is absurd.
Instead, I use the term as a simple adjective. After all, how else is one supposed to make an adjective out of the word “Theonomy”? Theonomic it is. It’s that simple.
It should not surprise us, then, that the seminal work Theonomy in Christian Ethics contains the word “theonomic” scores of times—I count 78 in the current PDF edition. In one of these instances, in fact, Bahnsen used the word in a definitional sense. He wrote, “common parlance (if not partisan antipathy) has come to conventionally label the distinctive theses of this book (the ethical perspective of ‘Reconstructionism’) as the ‘theonomic position.’”
That was from the “Preface” to the Second Edition, written in 1983—32 years ago. And please note, Bahnsen was saying that this common parlance included his critics who, from that early date, apparently had no problem accepting and adopting the term “theonomic” for our position.
Thus, the idea that this term was recently invented for the convenient purpose of softening our approach is as thoughtlessly uninformed as it is absurd.
My advice for potential critics would be to do basic homework on the particular point first before inventing wild conspiracy theories.
Secondly, it has been suggested that I am revising American history by referring to these examples of early Theonomy among New England ministers. This criticism is, however, unfounded, as it is based on selective reference and selective counterexample.
One will note, for example, that the criticizing post does not relate a single quotation concerning the distinctive theonomic views expressed in any of the sermons. Not surprising, I know, but it is just as irresponsible as ever.
My favorite sermon in God’s Law and Government in America is Nathaniel Appleton’s “The Great Blessing of Good Rulers Depends upon God’s Giving His Judgment and His Righteousness to Them.” The theonomic content there is obvious to anyone who reads it. But instead of relating and interacting with any of this content or its historical context, Appleton is simply dismissed as a “minority perspective” that was “roundly rejected.”
This dismissal is rather hasty to say the least. One wonders, for example, why such a roundly rejected minority viewpoint would be invited to speak at a state function—an election sermon—to be heard by the Assembly, judges, magistrates, and governor himself, along with many of the other prominent clergy. What kind of leadership would make such a stupid decision, were that the case?
Appleton was quite a prominent figure, as were the other two preachers in GLGA. Appleton was well-known, Harvard-educated, and was a member of the Corporation of Harvard (the equivalent of a modern day board of directors). James Dana was a famous preacher and pamphleteer who was known for his views on government. Samuel Langdon was every bit as famous if not more: before this sermon, he had served as President of Harvard, and was well known for revolutionary-themed sermons and for his service as a statesman.
All of these men, as my article and the book show, held to some version of the view that the judicial laws of Moses were indeed as moral and perpetual as the “moral” law—and indeed were but extensions of it. Langdon, preaching as late as 1788, states that not just some but “by the far the greater part of the judicial laws” belong in this category. And as Alice Baldwin shows irrefutably, this viewpoint was common among the New England preachers for a long time. That’s what inspired me to select these three sermons from 1742, 1779, and 1788.
In regard to the second sermon (by James Dana), the critic rises only to the level of quoting me, and then dismissing my “conclusion” with certain counterevidence. What was my conclusion? That the points Dana was making were “taken directly from Mosaic political doctrine.”
Note here that I was speaking of “Mosaic political doctrine.” My next paragraph made clear exactly what I meant, and each point was backed with Scripture references from the books of Moses. Why this was not related is inexcusable for anyone on the side of truth. How anyone could dismiss this simple fact is beyond me. Even secular historians have acknowledged this point widely for decades. The fact that some other preachers in other venues disagreed is no surprise to anyone—although the extent to which they disagreed is sometimes exaggerated as well—a point I will address later.
It is also helpful to know that my treatment of New England Puritanism in both my Introductions to GLGA and Alice Baldwin’s The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution acknowledge that these preachers often were not theonomic in the sense that I would agree with them on every detail—and indeed they were so to greater or lesser degrees between them. They are, however, in agreement with the general idea that at least some of the judicial laws of Moses are moral and perpetual, and thus binding on us today. Again, those who would like to see just how explicitly this is the case can do what our critics apparently don’t want them to do: go read the quotations for yourself. Better yet, buy the book, and read all the sermons in their glorious entirety along with the background material in my Introduction.
While there is so much more that can be said in regard to this particular criticism, I think the gist of it is clear. Its particular style of half-truth and spin has come to be expected, but the unnecessary attack seems to be a new wrinkle. This is especially troubling considering how the same author has previously condemned theonomy as causing “costic [sic] and vitriolic division” between brethren. Yet, the unprovoked and needless attacks seem to be coming from the self-proclaimed seekers of unity.
As always, I welcome serious criticism. It usually gives opportunity for growth and development. When criticism lacks rigor and integrity, however, it only gives opportunity for correcting the record once again.
Finally, there is an insane amount of irony in a post centered on demanding rigid definitional standards and fine distinctions by others which yet neglects that same standard on virtually every argument it uses to defend its demand.
Yet after such a performance, the critic concludes, “What American Vision and Joel McDurmon need to do a much better job of doing is articulating the views of theonomy founders. . . .” In light of the above, my advice would be that before a critic assays to tell American Vision and Joel McDurmon how to do their job, you attend more closely to your own.
I know I’m going to get into trouble for writing this article. That’s OK. It needs to be said. While there are numerous contributing factors as to why we are at this point in time with the Supreme Court about to redefine the very nature of the family and what it might mean long-term for our nation, there are two specific items that I want to address in this article.
First, millions of Christians have avoided the “culture wars” for any number of reasons, everything from “just preach the gospel” and “there’s a separation between church and state” to “we’re supposed to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and “the Bible says ‘our citizenship is in heaven.'”
While evangelicals make up more than 30 percent of the population and homosexuals make up less than 3 percent, the 3 percent is leading in terms of culture, media, education, journalism, and law.
“Christians who have so far avoided controversial ‘culture war’ issues will likely be pulled into those battles as their religious freedom becomes threatened due to gay marriage, Dr. John Inazu, associate professor of law and political science at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, warns. “Theologically conservative Christian non-profit organizations, including churches, could face losing their tax exempt status or being shut down, and Christian doctors, lawyers, counselors and other professionals could be forced out of their professions, he explained.”
There’s been a long history of Christian non-involvement. In a sermon delivered in 1965, entitled “Ministers and Marchers,” Jerry Falwell argued:
“[A]s far as the relationship of the church to the world, [it] can be expressed as simply as the three words which Paul gave to Timothy – ‘Preach the Word.’ This message is designed to go right to the heart of man and there meet his deep spiritual need. Nowhere are we commissioned to reform externals. We are not told to wage war against bootleggers, liquor stores, gamblers, murderers, prostitutes, racketeers, prejudiced persons or institutions or any other existing evil as such. Our ministry is not reformation, but transformation. The gospel does not clean up the outside but rather regenerates the inside.
“While we are told to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ in the true interpretation we have very few ties on this earth. We pay our taxes, cast our votes as a responsibility of citizenship, obey the laws of the land, and other things demanded of us by the society in which we live. But at the same time, we are cognizant that our only purpose on this earth is to know Christ and to make him known. Believing the Bible as I do, I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin doing anything else ‑‑ including fighting Communism, or participating in civil‑rights reforms.”(1)
Fifteen years later, Dr. Falwell repudiated his 1965 remarks calling them “false prophecy.” In Listen, America!, he outlined a new agenda:
“I am speaking to rally together the people of this country who still believe in decency, the home, the family, morality, the free enterprise system, and all the great ideals that are the cornerstone of this nation. Against the growing tide of permissiveness and moral decay that is crushing our society, we must make a sacred commitment to God Almighty to turn this nation around immediately.”(2)
Not everybody agreed. There are still millions of Christians who are being taught that they should not have anything to do with this world. For them, religion and politics do not mix. “Jesus didn’t get involved in politics,” so the argument goes, “and neither should we.”
In addition to separating the Christian religion from politics, economics, education, and law, while the culture disintegrates around them, Christians are being bombarded with claims that Jesus is going to return and rescue them from a “great tribulation” in a pre-tribulational “rapture.” This end-time doctrine has been the mainstay of much of modern-day evangelicalism for quite some time.
“I believe Jesus is soon to return to take all of His followers to Heaven with Him in what is referred to as The Rapture. While this will be deliverance for His people, can you imagine the impact on our nation, let alone the world, when suddenly every single authentic Christian disappears?
“Institutions will collapse. Banks will close. The Stock Market will plunge. Planes will fall out of the sky. Cars will crash on the road. Government in America at every level will disintegrate. Families will be torn apart. In the unprecedented turmoil, our nation will be vulnerable for our enemies to seize the moment and attack us. There will be mass chaos, confusion, fear, grief, despair, anger, threats, danger… judgment.”
Franklin Graham, Anne Graham Lotz‘s brother, has been teaching a similar message.
Why bother trying to fix what inevitably is unfixable? Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic is an analogy that many prophecy writers use.
I am firmly convinced that end-time speculation about an always-near “rapture” has affected the way churches have NOT dealt with the present crises we are facing.
Millions of Christians have been persuaded by thousands of preachers and teachers that they would “soon” be taken to heaven in a “rapture” while the those “left behind” would suffer under the iron boot of the antichrist in a “great tribulation.”
Prophetic speculation and the promise that the end is near has a long and failed history going back centuries. In fact, there is ample evidence that every generation had someone who argued based on then current events that the end had to be near.
- Quoted in James A. Speer, New Christian Politics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984), 19‑20.
- Jerry Falwell, Listen, America! (New York: Doubleday, 1980), 244.
Let me be frank up-front: every Christian needs to read these sermons. Every Christian should read this book—especially every pastor, preacher, elder, statesman, teacher, every Christian working in the legal professions, and every law student.
Whether as a stand-alone volume, or as a companion to our recently released The New Pulpit and the American Revolution (by Dr. Alice M. Baldwin), God’s Law and Government in America will powerfully inform and inspire your understanding of God’s Law, American history, and the prophetic role of the pulpit in civic affairs.
While editing Baldwin’s book, I began researching some of the many sermons she cited. I was blown away at how openly theonomic some of them were. (The point is illustrated in a selection from my “Introduction” below.) I was also saddened that many of those sermons are unavailable except in very worn, rare, inaccessible, or unreadable editions. These sermons are too important to let them die such an unceremonious burial-by-obscurity. I decided to resurrect them.
I took three of the best sermons I could find and put them together along with an introduction about their context and importance. It turns out, the context is far more important today than you can imagine. Some of the key issues for which our fathers fled England originally were matters of jurisprudence, law, and court procedure. It is no wonder that they attempted to return to the Word of God as much as possible when they arrived here. In these sermons, ranging from 120 to 180 years after that arrival, the Pulpit is still referring to Old Testament law as the standard, and decrying specific infractions of it by the crown and/or local governments.
While the two later sermons I have included are more well-known and accessible in other places, the first (and most substantial) one is being printed for the first time since 1742. I completely updated and thoroughly edited it for modern readers. (It is true that most preachers need a good editor, and this was surely the case for these classically-educated, long-winded Puritans, especially when preaching at high formal events such as election sermons before the governor, judges, assemblymen, etc., as these were). I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to bring back Nathaniel Appleton’s amazing sermon, “The Great Blessing of Good Rulers Depends upon God’s Giving His Judgment and His Righteousness to Them,” from obscurity into the light it deserves. I have read more than few sermons from American history, and listened to many along the way as well, and I can say with certainty that this is one of absolute best sermons I have ever read—especially when you consider where and to whom it was preached. We need more of this today—ministers who will preach prophetically the Law of God concerning the civil realm.
Writing the “Introduction” for these sermons sent me on an historical journey which I had to fight hard not to turn into a 200-page book of its own. The battles over law and jurisprudence that defined early America are simply profound and shocking, and just as profoundly and shockingly lost to us today. They are unfortunately buried and forgotten, and for this profound loss we have suffered the repeat of unfortunate history. We are literally living in the midst of the very tyrannies for which our fathers left England, and against which our early preachers railed from the pulpit for over 180 years afterward. And for this loss—for which the modern pulpit is largely to blame—we are now facing the same mess as the first pilgrims and puritans before they left. Along with the brief excerpt which follows pertaining to God’s Law, my “Introduction” shows this shocking parallel of the historical context as well as the nature of the tyrannies we are once again facing.
It is for these reasons that every Christian should read these historic (and epic) sermons—but especially every pastor, preacher, elder, Christian statesman, every Christian working in the legal professions, and every law student.
And I should add, finally, that I intend to add to this collection of “election sermons” a couple similar volumes containing the barely-known “artillery sermons” and “assize sermons” from the same era. As you indulge your inspiration and motivation with this volume, consider American Vision in your prayer and support as we prepare more to come.
What follows is the excerpt exemplifying the theonomic views of America’s founding preachers.
God’s Law and the American Founding
The most outstanding feature in each of these sermons—and one almost entirely missing from today’s preaching—is the direct reference to Mosaic Law and the expectation that it should be applicable today. This is, of course, qualified in various ways, but the Ten Commandments and the judicial laws which explicate them in a universal way are clearly held up as the finest example of political ethics in history—the only such system ever directly revealed by God—and binding upon us today as God’s Word for that realm of life.
This finds its most overt and extensive expression in Appleton. He first qualifies his position:
Granted, our government is not a theocracy, and we are not under the divine government so directly and immediately as the Jews were. We are not under the law of Moses—neither the ceremonial nor the judicial laws—as they were. The laws and statutes that were calculated for that people in their particular and peculiar state are not obligatory upon us, nor are they to be looked at as necessary rules of government.
But he is clear that this “particular” state only has reference to those laws tied to the sacrificial and priestly system. Those that dealt purely with universal political ethics and equity among mankind pertain still remain for us today:
Nevertheless, these judicial laws of the Israelite nation that are so founded upon the general principles of truth and justice as to suit every form of civil government—these are to be regarded as the Laws of God, and binding upon us as much as upon them. This is not because they were given to them, but from the justice and goodness of them in themselves. Upon that account, they are to be adopted into every constitution of civil government.
Appleton regarded not only the “moral law”—the Ten Commandments—but also the judicial precepts that flowed from the moral precepts as binding as well, for both public and private life:
But if we consider the moral law as delivered in thunder and lightning from Mount Sinai, and then written upon Tables of Stone to denote the perpetuity of it, and if we consider the particular precepts under these general laws recorded throughout the sacred Scriptures, we shall find such precepts of wisdom—such rules of justice, truth, and goodness laid down—to be a sufficient directory for us in every station of life, whether public or private, whether in natural, civil, or sacred authority. And there are most certainly no such maxims of wisdom, justice, and goodness to be found anywhere as in the Holy Scriptures.
While certainly the ceremonial law and some of the judicial laws expired with the Old Testament state of Israel, the judicial precepts founded upon the moral law were given for everyone, including us today:
These are the judgments of God that are given to us as well as unto the nation of Israel, for they are founded upon the nature and relation of things, and are of universal and perpetual obligation. . . . The nature of these laws is not altered, nor our obligation to keep them weakened, by length of time or changes in circumstances. They are founded upon truth, justice, and goodness, and thus are as immovable as the mountains and immutable as God Himself.
For God to give His judgments to kings and rulers is to give them a clear understanding of the rules of moral government He has laid down in His Word, and that they might learn from the Word of God what is right and just, true and good. It is that they might frame their notions of these things not merely from their own reason, nor from the morals of the heathen, but from the oracles of God. These oracles give us the clearest, fullest, and most refined notions of moral virtues, and fix our obligations to them upon the proper basis—the authority of God.
This all occurs within Appleton’s exposition of his text. But when he turns to application, he does not forget it either. He preaches directly to the governor’s council and the representatives:
You will make up two parts of the legislature, and so will be concerned in making laws thought necessary for regulating the affairs of the province. These you must bring to the divine law as the only standard. I do not mean the ceremonial law, nor do I mean the judicial laws of the Jews any further than the circumstances and the reason of things concur. But I mean the moral law, that great law of love to God and to one another; that law which was given to man at first, has gone through all the various dispensations of grace in the church, and will abide forever. By this law, I say, you must try every order and law of yours.
The grand charter which the Sovereign of the world has given magistrates empowers them to make orders and bylaws (for human laws are no other) for the well-ordering and governing civil societies. But that power is within this limitation and proviso: that these orders and bylaws must not be repugnant to the law of God which is the law of justice, truth, mercy, and goodness. Your laws, then, must be tempered after the same manner.
His point: whatever laws man may pretend to make in civil society, they will always be subject to God’s Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments and the judicial laws framed upon them.
Thirty-seven years later, James Dana still holds as high a view of the Hebrew political system. Although he does not speak as much at length on it in this sermon, and although he may have actually been compromised by certain enlightened influences that had begun to make inroads into New England congregationalism, the points he does make here are nevertheless just as directly in favor of Mosaic forms as Appleton’s. Dana wants his audience of statesmen to know that “The only form of government expressly instituted by heaven was that of the Hebrews.”
Theirs was a confederate republic with Jehovah at the head. It consisted of twelve distinct states; each sovereign in the administration of justice within itself, while their councils and force were united in whatever concerned them all. Their constitution was most friendly to public liberty. For besides the independence of the respective states on each other, and their confederacy as one kingdom for the better security of their common and particular rights, in this divinely instituted polity public trusts were not hereditary, nor had they any revenue to support the officers of government in affluence. Equality of condition was provided for, and the means of corruption prevented, by the agrarian law, prohibition of money on usury, release of servants and debtors, and return of estates in the Jubilee. That they might preserve their liberties inviolate, they were instructed to remember their bondage in Egypt, and wonderful deliverance—the preservation of their liberties in all times of danger by the manifest interposition of the Almighty in humbling tyrants for their sakes.
In order to understand the thrust of Dana’s points properly, we must remember that the year was 1779: Connecticut had just the previous year ratified the Articles of Confederation of the United States of America. Each point he makes is not only taken directly from Mosaic political doctrine, but calculated to confirm to the young American mind that they were on the right track with their infant “confederacy.”
And while (as we will discuss momentarily) it was often true that preachers often distorted certain biblical teachings in order to apply them to virgin America—making the teaching nothing more than a biblical façade for various Americanisms—that is not necessarily the case here. Even if that were Dana’s scheme, the points he derives from Old Testament doctrine are nevertheless accurate.
The twelve tribes were decentralized in government. They did have their own courts and militia (when raised), and yet they were “confederated” by their law to provide for, among other things, common defense (Num. 1:1–3; Deut. 20). Their law was a law of liberty—for God Himself had delivered them from bondage—and the Hebrews were reminded of this perpetually in the preamble of their law (Ex. 20:1–2). Dana acknowledges the protection of human rights and property rights in Old Testament law, as well as the fact that all citizens had equal access and protection according to the law. On top of this, there were particular regulations to help prevent and ameliorate indebtedness and poverty. Finally, Dana relates that Mosaic “public trusts”—meaning public offices in general, particularly judges, since these made up the greatest part of public offices in Israel—were not supposed to be hereditary, and in a regulation which clearly references the Hebrew laws for kings (Deut. 17:15–20), he adds “nor had they any revenue to support the officers of government in affluence.”
While this is clearly intended to be a criticism of the British system of government from which they had just declared independence, it is also one of the more amazing acknowledgments of Hebrew political law I have witnessed—precisely because the precept is so radical: public officials in Old Testament Israel were not paid. Mosaic law provided for no revenue system by which to support public officials at all, let alone in affluence. In fact, since I suspect Dana’s point was made as a jab against the old British system of peerage, etc., they had left, I wonder if he recognized how radically it would have applied even to his own audience as well. I suppose not, but at least he derived the point properly from Scripture.
Since Dana was in general drawing upon biblical law as a model for government, despite whatever compromises may have been involved in his theology at large, we are forced to acknowledge that for these early Americans, even after our Declaration and first Articles had been drawn up and ratified, saw themselves as a Christian nation. This presumption is clear not only in Dana’s applications of biblical law, but also in the fact that he refers to the “confederacy” (the whole of the U.S. at the moment) as “this Christian State,” and that he refers to his audience as “Christian magistrates.” Again, note that this was not just Puritan New England, this was Revolutionary America in 1779, after the “United States” had been created.
But this was only the beginning. Even though we can easily demonstrate through historical sources that Enlightenment references gained ascendancy among public officials into the 1780s–90s, the appeals to biblical law did not totally disappear. This is especially true as public officials continued to be admonished by their ministers. Thus even our latest sermon, 1788, from Samuel Langdon, returns to the same themes: the superiority of Old Testament law above all others, and its applicability to modern times. We find him instructing the Massachusetts assembly that God’s Laws as revealed are better than the products of “unskilled” man, and they have universal application:
God did not leave a people wholly unskilled in legislation to make laws for themselves. He took this important matter wholly into his own hands. Beside the moral laws of the two tables, which directed their conduct as individuals, He gave them by Moses a complete code of judicial laws. They were not numerous indeed, but concise and plain, and easily applicable to almost every controversy which might arise between man and man, and every criminal case which might require the judgment of the court.
Just as Appleton had argued, some of these judicial laws “were peculiarly adapted to their national form” and thus no longer applied. But this was only a few of the judicials:
[B]y far the greater part of the judicial laws were founded on the plain immutable principles of reason, justice, and social virtue, such as are always necessary for civil society. Life and property were well guarded, and punishments were equitably adapted to the nature of every crime. In particular, murder stands foremost among capital crimes, and is defined with such precision, and so clearly distinguished from all cases of accidental and undesigned killing, that the innocent were in no danger of punishment, and the guilty could not escape.
Note therefore that the judicial laws including the penal sanctions are to be considered equitable and fit to the crimes as listed.
It was no wonder, then, than Langdon saw every other legal code in history as inferior in comparison:
It was a long time after the law of Moses was given before the rest of the world knew anything of government by law. Where kings reigned their will was a law. Where popular governments were formed, the capricious humor of the multitude ordered everything just according to present circumstances, or their senators and judges were left to act according to their best discretion. . . .
He makes clear that neither Lycurgus nor Solon could compare. Not even the Roman Empire at the height of its glory could compare. The feudal system surely could not compare. In fact, the greatest of governments to date at that time, from which America itself had recently sprung, could not compare:
And now, though legislation has been carried to such perfection in Great Britain, that land of knowledge and liberty, yet in a political and judicial view, the laws of that kingdom may be charged with many great faults which ought not to be copied. Particularly, the tediousness, voluminous bulk, intricacy, barbarous language, and uncertain operation of many of them as to equity, ought to be avoided by legislators who wish for an easy and speedy course of justice among a free people.
This is a lesson, Langdon remarks, for both the legislators and even our own court system: “perhaps our own courts might be so reformed as to prevent cases of inconsiderable value, and easy decision, from rising through all the stages of the law.”
And what would be the model by which to do so? Langdon answers: “Against these imperfections, good provision was made in the law of Moses, and it might be much for our advantage to pay greater attention to that example.”
There can be no doubt as to the views of these forefathers regarding political theory: look to Moses and biblical law. I can do no better than to repeat Langdon, except to change his gentlemanly “might be” to an emphatic “is”: it is much for our advantage to pay greater attention to the example of Moses.
 See p. 53 below.
 See p. 53–54 below.
 See p. 54 below.
 See p. 54 below.
 See p. 83 below.
 See p. 103 below.
 See p. 103 below.
 See p. 126 below.
 See p. 127 below.
 See p. 129 below.
 See p. 130 below.
Predictably, it has become now fashionable in certain quarters to repeat the “Judaizing” “legalism” charge against Theonomy, mainly through the use of mere contradiction or at best truncated quotations of us. While I write this with absolutely no expectation of stopping the mouths of the incorrigibly obstreperous, and this is old to many of our more seasoned followers, I also know there is a tremendous number of young people and other readers who will benefit from a simple review of what Theonomists actually say about salvation, works, and the law. I post this for them to have a beginning at discerning truth from falsehoods.
Is Theonomy a belief in works-salvation or in bringing us under the law? The argument is so laughably refutable by merely reading our key works that it is no wonder critics are so often accused of not reading them—even when they do. In my talk, “Still No Other Standard” at GGC last February, I addressed this point in the following way:
Rushdoony’s Institutes has been treated the same way [as Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics]. We’re always accused of being Judaizers, and legalists, and people who believe in mingling salvation by faith and works. . . . I did a little study. I did an electronic study of the book, of the Institutes. . . . I can’t remember the exact number; it was like 124 individual instances throughout the book where the word “regeneration” is used, or cognates of that word, variations of that word, or the word “convert.” And Rushdoony’s point is, constantly, none of this happens until conversion takes place. None of this happens until the Holy Spirit goes forth and regenerates men’s hearts. That’s what spurs it all. And he says this over, and over, and over, in several different contexts, several different ways, 124 times throughout the book—which, when you do the math, comes out to about once every six pages. Which means . . . on average, I should be able to pick up that book and read no more than six pages and find that concept in there. What does that tell you about our critics? They haven’t even read six pages, or if they have, they’ve ignored what he said—whether by accident or, God forbid, on purpose. And sure enough, just to test my thesis, I picked up the book and I started going from page one, and I think it was about page nine before I got to the first instance.
The simple truth is, you don’t have to read much to find out where we stand on orthodox, confessional soteriology. The sad truth is that you have to ignore a tremendous amount in order to accuse us of the opposite, and in order to maintain that accusation, you have to call us systematic liars.
Rushdoony was not alone in his view. It is basic to the theonomic position. In fact, in the Preface to the Second Edition of Theonomy in Christian Ethics, and in two other books, Bahnsen repeated, as one of his core theses of the Theonomic position, the following:
Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one’s own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God’s redeeming grace.
This view is shared by all Theonomists in the Rushdoony-North-Bahnsen tradition, as well as 99.9 percent of others who may use the label.
As evidence of this fact, here is a list of quotations taken from a range of Theonomic authors, each of which proves the point. Most of this material is from an article I wrote a couple years ago when Todd Friel joined Phil Johnson and others in a less-than brotherly bashing session against “Rushdoonyites” and “Dominionism,” labeling us “pharisaical moralists” and “without the gospel.” I have adapted the material and added to it for this more general post.
Dominion, the Gospel, and Regeneration
Let’s begin with R. J. Rushdoony himself. In his landmark magnum opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony wrote:
All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion. But the key to remedying the situation in not revolution, nor any kind of resistance that works to subvert law and order. The New Testament abounds in warnings against disobedience and in summons to peace. The key is regeneration, propagation of the gospel, and conversion of men and nations to God’s law-word. ((Institutes of Biblical Law, 113.))
A few pages later, Rushdoony goes on to preempt the very charge so frequently leveled. He teaches that “evil men cannot produce a good society. The key to social renewal is individual regeneration.”(1)
Another: “Clearly, there is no hope for man except in regeneration.”(2)
Again: “In terms of God’s law, true reform begins with regeneration. . . .”(3)
Rushdoony also held dominion and the reconstruction of society as a secondary priority to that of conversion:
The primary purpose of conversion is that man be reconciled to God; reconciliation with his fellow man and with himself is a secondary aspect of this fact, a necessary by-product but a by-product nonetheless.(4)
Here’s Rushdoony in another publication stating the same ideas:
This is the purpose of the law of God, restoration, and the means is faith, or regeneration by the sovereign grace of God.(5)
I suspect nearly any Rushdoony book (and there are over 60) would confirm these same sentiments. Just to test my suspicion, I grabbed a random and lesser-known work that happened to be next to my chair (yes I was writing this from my easy chair), his commentary on Genesis. Sure enough, here’s the confirmation on page 107:
The truth remains that . . . man is a sinner, and can never escape the fact except by regeneration and sanctification in Jesus Christ, a member of Him and His new humanity. . . .
Furthermore, in his commentary on Romans and Galatians, Rushdoony writes the following:
The sociology of justification by God’s sovereign grace will recognize fallen man’s depravity and the need for justification and regeneration in order to establish a good society. The law then provides the way of justice. . . .
You can really take your pick of scores of such quotations in this work alone, such as, “Before there can be works of law which benefit society there must be regenerate men in Christ.”
The law has no power to justify; it tells men what God requires of them. Man’s fall does not absolve man of the duty to serve and obey God with all his heart, mind, and being; that mandate remains, despite man’s impotence. Christ comes to remedy that incapacity. By His incarnation, He becomes one of us. He breaks the bonds of impotence, keeps God’s law perfectly, makes vicarious atonement for our sins, as our substitute, to satisfy the death penalty against us, and then regenerates us. We are made a new human race in Him and are now freed to serve God and to exercise dominion for Him.
No man can become a member of the new humanity except through Jesus Christ, His atonement, resurrection, and regenerating power. We have no status before God in terms of our race, status, sex, or works.
Regeneration is an inward act in our lives by the triune God: it manifests itself in works, i.e., regeneration evidences itself in sanctification, in our faithfulness to God’s every law-word. . . .
We could do this literally all day.
But what about other “dominionist” and “Rushdoonyite” authors? We have plenty more examples:
Dominionist and Rushdoonyite Gary North wrote of our views in 1987, in a popular book called Liberating Planet Earth:
We are talking about the transformation of this world. Only when the present world has been transformed by the gospel of salvation and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, as He works through God’s redeemed people, will the world at last be delivered completely from sin, at the final judgment (Revelation 20).(6)
(Note: you only have to read eight pages into this one to get the gospel point.)
Here the transformation happens not only “when” but “only when” the gospel is preached.
In preaching against humanism and communism, North contrasts “the preaching of the gospel of personal, individual salvation,” with “the imposition by force of an elitist, top down revolutionary cadre.” He obviously sides with the former.(7) Indeed, North condemns the socialist message as “the gospel of ‘salvation through political plunder’”(8)
In another place, North affirms the centrality of the Gospel once again, this time quoting Rushdoony in Political Polytheism:
“The key to social regeneration is individual renewal,” wrote Rushdoony in 1973. But we must begin this process of reconstruction with confident faith in the gospel; we must be confident that God’s salvation is as comprehensive as sin is.(9)
North gets more explicit:
The long term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. . . . The way to achieve this political goal is through successful mass evangelism followed by constitutional revision.(10)
I had to straighten out a raging liberal on this quotation some time ago. I still see people—not just liberals but conservative Christians—quoting this passage without adding that second sentence (context!) about requiring successful evangelism. Don’t tell me the problem is with clarity on our part.
One Reformed critic of theonomy and dominionism, William Edgar, represented our position correctly in First Things, in a memorial of Rushdoony after his death: “they tend to believe that God’s Kingdom will eventually be established on earth through the faithful preaching of the gospel and the faithful application of God’s law to society.”
Would that more people had such basic integrity.
How do dominionists say the kingdom of God shall gain dominion in all the earth? Dominionist David Chilton (deceased) in Paradise Restored, wrote: “The Garden of Eden, the Mountain of the Lord, will be restored in history, before the Second Coming, by the power of the Gospel; and the desert will rejoice, and blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1).”(11)
How was that again? “By the power of the Gospel.”
Disagree with the eschatology, if you will (another discussion to be had), but don’t accuse the man of calling for political activism “without the gospel.” This is something of which everyone at the table should take note.
Chilton reiterates: “By means of the gospel, His people are extending His rule over the face of the earth, until all nations are discipled and Paradise comes to its most complete earthly fulfillment.”(12)
Chilton commented on Revelation 21:24–27:
This is written of a time when the nations still exist as nations; yet the nations are all converted, flowing into the City and bringing their treasures into it. As the light of the gospel shines through the Church to the world, the world is converted, the nations are discipled, and the wealth of the sinners becomes inherited by the just. This is a basic promise of Scripture from beginning to end. This is the pattern of history, the direction in which the world is moving. This is our future, the heritage of generations to come.(13)
Chilton was quite clear here about the gospel flowing through the church.
Interestingly, Chilton directly addressed the very criticism leveled here, only consider: this was published in 1985 (it is still available for free online). Chilton responded to the exact same criticism as it had come from Hal Lindsey, that “postmillennialists . . . believed that Christians would … [bring] about the Kingdom of God on earth through their own efforts.” Chilton said,
This is one of the most commonly heard objections to the Hope. The dominion outlook is equated with the liberal “Social Gospel” movement of the early 1900s. Such an identification is utterly absurd, devoid of any foundation whatsoever. The leaders of the Social Gospel movement were evolutionary humanists and socialists, and were openly hostile toward Biblical Christianity. It is true that they borrowed certain terms and concepts from Christianity, in order to pervert them for their own uses. Thus they talked about the “Kingdom of God,” but what they meant was far removed from the traditional Christian faith. Orthodox postmillennial teachers such as Benjamin Warfield and J. Gresham Machen vigorously opposed the Social Gospel. True postmillennialism has always been truly evangelical: It teaches that the Kingdom was established by Jesus Christ alone, and that the Kingdom is advanced through the spread of the gospel and the application of the Bible to every area of life.
There is another dimension to this issue, however. Since we believe that Christians will overcome all opposition and will bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, postmillennialists are accused of having faith in man. This is a radical distortion. The truth is that postmillennialists believe in God, who works in history through redeemed man. We believe that the omnipotent Lord of heaven and earth is indwelling His Church, and will not allow us to be defeated in the mission He gave us. St. Augustine prayed: “Give what You command, and command what You will.” That is our attitude as well. Because God works in history to bless the godly and curse the ungodly, history is on our side. In the battle between redeemed men and wicked men, we have faith in redeemed men. We believe that God’s people will overcome, in time and on earth, as well as in eternity. In Christ we are the heirs of all things.(14)
Chilton addressed this 30 years ago. The critics either don’t read this, or if they do, must maintain that we are lying when we say it.
Kenneth Gentry, Jr.
Ken Gentry, another postmillennialist and dominionist, writes in He Shall Have Dominion:
In response to the Pharisees, Christ specifically declared that the kingdom does not come visibly with temporal fanfare. “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Obviously a spiritual conception of the kingdom is here demanded, in contradiction to an Armageddon-introduced, earthly, political kingdom.
This is why Christ went about preaching what is termed the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). He proclaimed a redemptive, spiritual kingdom. Hence, being exalted to His throne leads to a spiritual effusion of grace, not the political establishment of an earthly government.(15).
On page 232 of the same work, Gentry writes,
The New Testament clearly expects an era of Christian dominion to occur prior to the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ in power at the final judgment. This era of dominion will produce the worldwide transformation of society through the preaching of the gospel and individuals’ widespread positive response to the message of redemption – a continuity of dominion.
Note once more: “through the preaching of the gospel.”
Dominionist Ray Sutton, in That You May Prosper, explains a little of how this works: not through government or political activism, but through individual evangelism:
The spread of the Gospel is not a top-down operation. Salvation comes from above, in that it is applied through the work of the Holy Spirit. But normally, the spread of the Gospel should be from household to household, “leavening.” This is certainly what we see in the Book of Acts. The Gospel begins in the menial households of the Roman Empire, and it spreads to the greatest family, Caesar’s household, when Paul is taken captive and converts Caesar’s own bodyguards.(16)
Well, there you go. Here are plenty of quotations with references from the most popular and widespread works on dominionism and Rushdoonyism, and more, all of which directly mandate the preaching of the gospel before Reconstruction and as the only successful foundation of it. These references make this explicit, are stated in no uncertain words, and have been easily accessible for decades—some for over 40 years.
We have not even touched the writings of Gary DeMar, nor my own, nor have we examined the dozens of other writers in the movement or more loosely associated with it, now or at one time. We could find similar examples in all of these.
Our critics neglect all of these, or worse, ignore them, or, as has become fashionable, quote them only selectively in truncated or distorted bits. Again, either they don’t read, or they refuse to be corrected, or they lie, and in the end they must call us liars. Some people will remain incorrigible in their habits, for whatever reason, as indeed some have already for decades. But here, at least, is a beginning of the piles upon piles of evidence of what Theonomy really believes. Anyone who cares can tell the truth in contrast to the truncated versions attributed to us.
 Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 3rd Ed., xxvi.
- Institutes, 122.
- Rushdoony, Institutes, 449.
- Rushdoony, Institutes, 627.
- Institutes, 777.
- Rushdoony, Politics of Guilt and Pity, 340.
- Liberating Planet Earth, 8.
- Ibid., 71.
- Ibid., 154.
- Political Polytheism, 20.
- Political Polytheism, 87.
- Paradise Restored, 46.
- Ibid., 148.
- Ibid., 208.
- Ibid., 227–228.
- He Shall Have Dominion, p. 226
- That You May Prosper, 134.
Let the following stand as a warning against pseudo-discernment, and thus again trusting too much the self-appointed “discernment” ministries out there.
This weekend a meme circulated an apparently disparaging quotation from popular (and controversial) mega-church pastor Andy Stanley:
The meme is drawing from this interview, where Stanley was asked “What do you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?” He answered:
Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible—that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that.
While this is certainly clumsy, unhelpful, and inadequate, even if I were left with only this I would not necessarily draw the conclusion that some have—that Stanley is denying the need for exegetical and expository preaching. But what makes this so undiscerning is that it is ripped from its context. Stanley immediately went on to say,
All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life. My challenge is to read culture and to read an audience and ask: What is the felt need? Or perhaps what is more important, what is an unfelt need they need to feel that I can address? Because if they don’t feel it, then they won’t address it.
In context, Stanley is simply saying that someone with pastoral care should apply that concern to his congregation when preparing a sermon. Magnifying the concern more than some—and perhaps even more than necessary—Stanley notes that if all a pastor does is prepare a sermon based on whatever passage automatically appears via the next verse, he is in danger of neglecting such pastoral concerns. That is why “verse-by-verse” preaching can be “cheating” and “easy”—when it does not consider the audience’s needs, and does not force the pastor to wrestle with how to address them. And I think it is safe to say that pastors can do this by sticking with a particular preaching tradition—lectio continua or lectio selecta, or a traditional church calendar—as well as hiding behind technical studies to prove how hard they work. Sure that stuff is necessary and can be hard—but it’s often not the most important point.
Stanley completed his thoughts by arguing that the preacher must distill the essence of the Scriptural passage into understandable and compact thoughts for the congregation. He concluded:
It is hard to take things down to that level…to help people see things from God’s perspective. That was huge for me. I think it defined what effective preaching or effective communication is for me. It isn’t three points or four points. It’s really one point that is somehow connected to a passage and it is connected to a life. And then you should stop talking because you are done.
I basically agree with this point. Too many preachers preach like automatons verse-by-verse under the good intention of being faithful to all of Scripture. I cannot count how many such sermons I have heard in my lifetime, but I can count the few that I remember or that impacted my life.
I do not mean that as a knock against my pastors—they have all mostly been faithful men who made very positive and important impacts on my life. But it was rare that verse-by-verse preaching coincided with those impacts.
That aside, the real issue here is taking Andy Stanley out of context for the purpose of presenting him as trashing exegetical and expository preaching in general. Let me say that I have no interest whatsoever in defending Andy Stanley. But when the self-appointed popes of discernment and reformation today resort to interpreting statements out of context, be assured that the greater danger lay among the conservatives than the squishy progressive evangelicals.
Discerning the Discerners
Having been on the receiving end of just this type of “discernment” myself, I am keen to call it out—even on behalf of the compromised. The professional finger-pointers must be held to a higher standard. We should be as concerned—if not more concerned—with them as we are about the mega-trend-setters like Stanley. After all, the compromised and diluted evanjellyfish are most easily herded into the North Pointes of the world because of the impulsive, reactionary self-righteousness among their critics.
In the world of rampant error, the issue will always be accountability. We have officers and gifts appointed in the body, but as with any system of government or governance, we will always face the problem penned by the Latin poet Juvenal: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? That is, “Who guards the guardians?”
So we should ask the question: Who discerns the discerners? In a world dominated by independent ecclesiastical structures and rabid lack of accountability, this is difficult to do except by bullhorn. This is actually one way the discernment guys (and gals) themselves thrive: it’s the megaphone versus the megachurch. The problem with this is that there is no discernable difference in methodology between the two: truth aside, wherever it may be, both sides are only trying to build as large an audience as possible.
So let me venture a couple words about “discernment” ministry:
One danger of discernment ministry is manufacturing error where there is none—creating boogeymen where none exist, inventing enemies in need of destroying. Its job is to discern and call out dangerous error and “heresy” (usually left undefined) in the church. This is easy to do in general as there is not shortage of error. But the discerner is always looking for that knock-out quote, that ultimate gotcha—the one that will go viral when put in a meme. Trying hard to get that one-liner, discernment sometimes thinks it hears something it doesn’t hear, or hears something only in part, or hears only what it wants to hear despite the context. In order to report its findings, it must distort or truncate what was actually said. If done unwittingly, this is simple error. If done wittingly, against conscience, it is a deliberate lie. In either case, the discerner has become a false witness. It partakes of the very thing discernment is supposed to help overcome in the church. It has fabricated an error that did not exist and attributed it wrongly to another individual, often a brother in Christ.
Another danger of such discernment ministry is that it requires such controversy in order to flourish. While there will always be erroneous doctrine in the church, and plenty of real-life examples of it, most of it is covered already by dozens of books, confessions, as well as bylaws, and could be addressed through church government or discipline. In order to keep up interest in your particular expression of discernment, you must keep showing your audience how relevant you are to the problems at hand. Ironically, this is the same temptation purportedly driving many of the Andy Stanleys of the world. In the discernment sector, it seems, relevance in accomplished by keeping your audience gasping over how bad that guy or this guy has become, or over the latest awful thing he has said. This is part of the motivation behind things like out-of-context quotations. But even when the thing said is fully true, circulating it for the benefit of your ministry is nothing more than selling rage porn. In principle, it is no different than how Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson stay in business.
A third danger of such discernment is the constant negativity. I admit that I myself have fallen to this temptation at times (but let us also not be too quick to lump legitimate criticism together with pseudo-discernment). The problem arises when your ministry consists primarily of growing itself by putting down others—goes from bullhorn to pure bully. No matter how much error is truly out there to be discerned, there is always a danger of becoming a professional faultfinder. I see some people tracking “celebrity preachers” like bloodhounds, standing ready to pounce like snarling pit bulls—and for what? I see media attention to one’s ministry being treated like badges and trophies. This is allegedly for purifying the church, but looks suspiciously more like self-aggrandizement. When done in the attempt to criticize the Numbers-DrivenTM MegaChurch, it looks suspiciously like Mega-envy.
It also looks very much like the parable of the Pharisee and the publican—we thank God we’re not like that guy.
When a ministry consists primarily of tearing down others (even those that deserve it), and has very little of its own that is actually substantive and constructive, perhaps the reader or listener should consider how they’re investing their time. While I certainly see Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc., correcting error (even sarcastically), I see the vast bulk of their time replacing it with truth and God’s Law—the constructive and positive way forward.
So, who shall discern the discerners? Unless they are under some ecclesiastical structure which will hold them accountable (both in principle and in actual practice), the only answer to that question is you. The reader and listener of any self-appointed police much themselves become their own police. My advice to you is this: if you discern ministries engaging in the unfortunate behaviors outlined above, back off and pursue something more constructive for a while.
I’m sure there is some fine discernment out there. But from what I am seeing, there is as much error on the side of the discerners as there is the discerned—and with a whole lot of self-righteous, manufactured outrage on top of the pseudo-discernment.
I do not wish to deter legitimate criticism where it is needed. But let’s have a bit more integrity in what we offer as discernment and reformation, shall we? Else, you’re no better than the targets of your criticism, and you discernment is really none at all.
The following statement and reasons come verbatim from a “friend of the court” brief filed by the U.S. Justice Institute, along with a legal firm which includes my friend Herbert W. Titus (who brought this to my attention), and others, on behalf of several legal and religious institutes, reagarding the pending homosexual marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. While dozens of amicus curiae briefs have been filed for this case, I have found this one outstanding in its boldness as a biblical witness.
The entire brief can be read here. What follows is the section which serves as a powerful prophetic warning to the nation.—JM
Forcing Homosexual Marriage on the States and on the People Would Do Grave Harm to the Nation.
Just a dozen years ago, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, concurring specially in Lawrence, assured the States that this Court’s decision striking down the Texas sodomy law would not mean that Texas did not have a “legitimate state interest [in] preserving the traditional institution of marriage.” In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy likewise observed that Lawrence “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” In spite of that, courts across the nation, relying primarily upon Lawrence, have stumbled over each other to be the first to overturn state laws and constitutions affirming the law of the Creator that marriage is limited to the lawful covenant union of one man and one woman as it was from the beginning of time immemorial. See Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6.
Today, the American people are being told that the institution of marriage cannot constitutionally be based upon a divinely revealed moral foundation, but only according to the secular reasons of men. The nation was not so founded. The Declaration of Independence, the nation’s charter, grounded our nation on the Biblical “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” embracing the principle that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” putting its case for liberty before “the Supreme Judge of the world,” and acting in “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence….” Today’s secular message would startle America’s founders who drafted and ratified the Constitution. Ben Franklin — perhaps the least religious leader of the founding generation — called the constitutional convention to prayer, because: “God Governs in the affairs of men.” Drawing on the “sacred writings,” Franklin continued, “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it,” and he then counseled “I firmly believe … that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel….”
This case before this Court is this nation’s tower of Babel. At issue is whether we as a people are going to continue to conform the institution of marriage to the one created and established by God, or instead will reform the most sacred of human institutions into something else chosen by an elite set of jurists. Unlike Lawrence — the impact of which was limited to the rarely enforced crime of sodomy — any decision to require State recognition of “same-sex marriage” will have repercussions of titanic proportions. To the end that this Court be forewarned, these amici submit the following:
1. Wholesale Revision of Every State’s Family Law, and Related Matters.
The Alabama Supreme Court decision upholding traditional marriage makes clear the far-ranging implications of changing the meaning of the word:
“marriage” so as to make it mean [or apply to] something antithetical to that which was intended by the legislature and to the organic purpose of [Alabama law] would appear to require nothing short of striking down that entire statutory scheme.
Indeed, the “entire edifice of family law [would be] wipe[d] away … with a wave of the judicial wand.” The laws that would be affected include:
inheritance … distribution of estates, … postmarital support, custodial and other parental rights as to children, adoption of children, dissolution of marriages, testimonial privileges … certain defenses in the criminal law, interests in land, the conveyance and recording of such interests … loss of consortium.
2. Closure of Christian and Other Religious Adoption Agencies.
Already, Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley and leaders of Catholic Charities of Boston announced that the agency will end its adoption work, rather than comply with state law requiring homosexual adoption of children. The same has already happened in Chicago. If homosexual marriage were sanctioned, parents would be precluded from using religious agencies to place their children in families who share their religion and values.
3. Preaching Against Homosexuality and Counseling of Homosexuals Likely Would Be Prohibited.
Pastors would be monitored by atheist and liberal groups to ensure that there be no teaching that homosexual behavior is sin. Even websites which offer information about withdrawing from homosexual behavior would be banned as “hate speech.” All persons would be prohibited from the free exercise of religion, including “proselytizing” others that their behavior constitutes sin, but that the penalty for their sins has already been paid through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Cor. 15:1-4.
In California, it is already a crime to counsel minors with respect to “sexual orientation change efforts,” that is, any practices by mental health providers “that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation.” New Jersey passed a similar statute, which was recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
4. Churches and Others Would Lose Exemption from Federal Income Tax.
The newly established constitutional right to homosexual marriage would be adjudged more important than the “free exercise” right of para-church ministries, Christian schools and colleges, and even churches. These entities would be placed in jeopardy of losing their federal tax-exempt status. Loss of federal income tax-exempt status could lead to loss of contribution income, and forfeiting of church properties to pro-homosexual charities. In addition, criminal penalties might be imposed on church leaders. In Idaho, two pastors recently were threatened with fines and jail time unless they performed homosexual marriages at their wedding chapel.
5. Legalization of Multiple-Partner and Incestuous Marriages.
Based on “privacy rights,” federal District Judge Clark Waddoups has already invalidated a Utah “cohabitation” law used against religious polygamists, while leaving in place the ban on bigamy, thereby permitting sister wives, with only one wife being the state-recognized lawful wife. Currently, in Arizona and Utah, there are a number of colonies of polygamous families, where the first wife is legally recognized, and the other wives are registered as single mothers with the government as welfare recipients, to the tune of millions of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense. Additionally, the door would be wide open for three women or three men to marry and, if they can marry, then why not an uncle and a niece as in New York, or a step-brother and sister, as illustrated by Direct TV’s new show, “Billy & Billie”?
6. People of Biblical Faith Would be Driven from Public Office.
Requiring homosexual marriage would force state officials to participate in wedding ceremonies which would be sinful for Orthodox Jews, conservative Catholics, and Evangelical Christians. In North Carolina, numerous judges already have resigned to avoid criminal prosecution for refusing to perform gay marriages.
7. A Coarsening of Civil Society.
Most persons have sufficient respect for others that they regulate their sexual behavior to avoid compelling others, especially those who are sensitive or young, to observe their activities. Sadly, there is a significant element among homosexuals who have proven to be wholly insensitive to the sensibilities of others. They refuse to allow Roman Catholics to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, without demanding the opportunity to celebrate their sexual difference from Catholic doctrine. Gay Pride parades have included nudity, sado-masochism, nuns in drag led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and other displays of homosexual behavior designed to shock “straight” people. Indeed, San Francisco’s 2012 ban on public nudity is waived for the San Francisco Pride Parade. Television no doubt will become even more pro-homosexual, making it more difficult for persons adhering to traditional values to live their lives and raise their children in an increasingly debased culture.
8. Mandates on Businesses to Cater to Homosexual Couples.
Using statutes originally and primarily designed to protect blacks from discrimination, activist homosexuals have targeted bakers, photographers, and florists, seeking to force all of them to promote a marriage that they believe to be immoral. In Washington state, a judge ruled that a florist violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws when she referred a longtime customer to another florist for the wedding flowers for his homosexual marriage. In New York, a husband and wife shut the doors to their business hosting weddings on their family farm, after a court fined them $13,000 for refusing to host gay marriages in their home. In Colorado, a baker faced jail time and stopped baking wedding cakes entirely, after a court ruled that he discriminated against a gay couple when he refused to bake them a cake for their wedding. In Oregon, a court found similarly against another baker, and he may be forced to pay a homosexual couple up to $150,000 as penalty. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that a photographer violated the state’s anti-discrimination statutes by refusing to photograph a gay wedding. Newspapers likely will be forced to publish homosexual wedding announcements, in violation of their existing editorial control over what they publish.
9. Professional Licensing Requirements to Serve Homosexual Couples.
In this brave, new, homosexual-friendly world, every licensed professional would be required to embrace the new orthodoxy, to bow down to the idol of “non-discrimination,” or be cast out of his profession. People who first claimed only to only want tolerance of their behavior will allow no toleration for other views. Will a physician be forced to perform an artificial insemination for a lesbian couple? Will a lawyer be forced to take a case defending gay marriage? Lawyers are already losing their “traditional prerogative to exercise absolute discretion in the selection of clients….” Provisions designed to advance the homosexual agenda have been incorporated into many state ethics codes. In California, for example, it is unethical to “discriminat[e] on the basis of … sexual orientation [in] employment … or [client] representation….” State Bar of California, Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 2-400B.
10. Undermining the Created Male-Female Order.
The Holy Scriptures reveal that God created mankind, male and female, in the image of God. Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4-6. Homosexual sex and homosexual marriage are a repudiation of God’s created order. Nature itself reveals that God fashioned the male penis and the female vulva/vagina as complementary sex organs. One homosexual testified to this obvious truth when he reported that homosexual sex is “a poor substitute for intercourse with a woman….”
In stark contrast to the created order, today one’s “sex” is defined as “a person’s biological status,” while “gender” is “a person’s private sense and subjective experience,” and “sexual orientation” a person’s “emotional and sexual attraction to a particular sex or gender.” In short, “sex” is who you are, “gender” is how you feel, and “sexual orientation” is who you like.
Not too long ago, sexual orientation was delineated into heterosexual (straight) and homosexual (gay/lesbian or “queer”). To that was added “bisexual” (attracted to both men and women), “pansexual” or “omnisexual” (attraction to all genders), and “asexual” (not attracted to anyone). In 2014, Facebook added more than 50 gender options to its users’ profiles and now allows custom options. In order to be considered “tolerant” and “understanding,” one presumably must have a Ph.D. in gender studies. In the mid-1980s, and for a time, “LGB” was settled upon. Then, by the mid-1990s, “LGBT” was used. But even that did not prove inclusive enough, prompting group after group to be “outraged” and to demand “full inclusion” of all. The current accepted vernacular is said to be “LGBPTTQQIIAA+,” standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, intergender, asexual, ally and beyond.” Indeed, some consider pedophilia to be a legitimate sexual orientation, returning us to the pagan pederasty of ancient Greece. Requiring homosexual marriage will contribute mightily to the sexual confusion of the nation, sexualizing children and young adults, encouraging them to experiment with sin.
11. Loss of Liberty.
John Adams warned “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Today, “the distinctive features of modern European political thought, including … its particular notion of individual rights … and its embrace of religious toleration,” are attributed to the “process of secularization” — but that view “puts things almost exactly backward.” In fact, rejection of Judeo-Christian thought inevitably leads to a neopagan world view. In support of striking down laws against abortion, Justice Blackmun pointed out:
abortion was practiced in Greek times as well as in the Roman era, and … “it was resorted to without scruple”…. Greek and Roman law afforded little protection to the unborn…. Ancient religion did not bar abortion.
Like abortion, homosexuality constitutes:
a reversion to pagan ways of thinking. Most obviously, homosexuality was accepted among the ancient Greeks and supplies the premise of Platonic discussions about the nature of love. Similar views prevailed in Babylon, Egypt, and imperial Rome. All of this was unequivocally condemned by the religion of the Bible. As cogently argued by Dennis Prager, the current effort to relegitimize homosexuality is thus an attempt to turn Western culture back to pagan attitudes and behaviors.
Such pagan ways of thinking did not respect individual rights, diversity, or tolerance, or envision government to be limited in power, but rather were reflected in acceptance of abortion, infanticide, “exposure” (abandonment) of children, widespread slavery, and governments with totalitarian powers, and even the divinity of political leaders. The choice for the country is clear:
[t]he classical way of thinking led inexorably to untrammeled power in the state, and to subjugation of the individual. The biblical model leads to limitations on that power, and hence to freedom.
12. God’s Judgment on the Nation.
Should the Court require the States and the People to “ritualize” sodomite behavior by government issuance of a state marriage license, it could bring God’s judgment on the Nation. Holy Scripture attests that homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions violate the law of the land, and when the land is “defiled,” the people have been cast out of their homes. See Leviticus 18:22, 24–30. Although some would assert that these rules apply only to the theocracy of ancient Israel, the Apostle Peter rejects that view: “For if God … turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2 Peter 2:4-6. The continuing application of this Levitical prohibition is confirmed by the Book of Jude: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7 (emphasis added).
 Petitioners’ brief invokes Lawrence 26 times.
 See, e.g., M. Novak, On Two Wings (Encounter: 2002), pp. 5-47.
 Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union (Gov’t Printing Office, 1927), p. 295.
 Id. at 296.
 Ezekiel 33:1-7.
 Ex parte State of Alabama ex rel. Alabama Policy Institute, at 89.
 Id. at 89-90.
 Id. at 24.
 See Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 877 (1990).
 The Ninth Circuit upheld the statute which prohibits the “saying [of] certain words … [b]y labeling such speech as ‘conduct’….” See Pickup v. Brown, 740 F.3d 1208 (9th Cir. 2014) (O’Scannlain, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 2881 (2014).
 See King v. Governor of New Jersey, 767 F.3d 216 (3rd Cir. 2014).
 See Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 573 (1983).
 Brown v. Buhman, 947 F.Supp.2d 1170 (D.Ut. 2013).
 See J. Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven (Doubleday: 2003), pp. 12-13.
 J. Gottry & G. Gottry, “Just Shoot Me: Public Accommodation Anti-Discrimination Laws Take Aim at First Amendment Freedom of Speech,” 64 VAND. L. REV. 961, 965 (2011).
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/jack-phillipsmasterpiece-cakeshop-_n_5438726.html. See opinion at https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/initial_decision_case_no._cr_2013-0008.pdf.
 Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, 309 P.3d 53 (N.M. 2013).
 See North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc. v. Superior Court, 44 Cal. 4th 1145 (Cal. 2008).
 R. Beg, “The Lawyer’s License to Discriminate Revoked: How a Dentist Put Teeth In New York’s Anti-Discrimination Disciplinary Rule,” 64 ALBANY L. REV. 154 (2000).
 In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons” Sir Thomas More asked “if [the world] is round, will the King’s command flatten it?” Likewise here, if God created us male and female and marriage as a covenant union between a husband and a wife, will an order by this Court undo it?
 K. Jay and A. Young, The Gay Report: Lesbians and Gay Men Speak Out About Sexual Experiences & Lifestyles (Summit Books: 1979), p. 477.
 “Gender Identity Development,” Boundless Psychology, Jul. 3, 2014, https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundlesspsychology-textbook/gender-and-sexuality-15/introduction-to-gender-and-sexuality-75/gender-identity-development-297-12832/.
 J. Adams, “Message to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the militia of Massachusetts” (Oct. 11, 1798). http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/115/Message_from_John_Adams_to_the_Officers_of_the_First_Brigade_1.html.
 E. Nelson, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (HARVARD UNIV. PRESS, 2010), pp. 1–2.
 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 114, 130 (1973).
 D. Prager, Homosexuality, the Bible, and Us — a Jewish Perspective, THE PUBLIC INTEREST, Summer 1993.
 M.S. Evans, The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition (Regnery Publishing, 1994), p. 128.
 Id. at 138.
 Id. at 135.
 1 Kings 14:24.
You know your society is in bad shape when even its conservatism is based on Darwinism. Unfortunately, this is exactly the state of jurisprudence that has manifested in the oral argumentation for the Obergefell “gay marriage” case.
This revelation appeared in an exchange between Justice Breyer and the lawyer for the conservative side. Breyer moved to preempt some standard conservative arguments in the homosexual marriage debate:
JUSTICE BREYER: I don’t know that that’s — I mean, leaving that to the side, I thought that I heard the answer to the question being given in respect to tradition of 2000 years, and to the democratic ballot box and so forth was quite simple. What I heard was, one, marriage is fundamental. I mean, certainly that’s true for 10,000 years. And marriage, as the States administer it, is open to vast numbers of people who both have children, adopt children, don’t have children, all over the place.
But there is one group of people whom they won’t open marriage to. So they have no possibility to participate in that fundamental liberty. That is people of the same sex who wish to marry. And so we ask, why? And the answer we get is, well, people have always done it. You know, you could have answered that one the same way we talk about racial segregation.
Or two, because certain religious groups do think it’s a sin, and I believe they sincerely think it. There’s no question about their sincerity, but is a purely religious reason on the part of some people sufficient?
And then when I look for reasons three, four and five, I don’t find them. What are they? So — so therefore, I’m asking — there I put a long question, but it gives you an opening to say what all of those reasons are.
So here were undercut two important arguments at the outset of the conservative lawyer’s period of argumentation. First was the argument from historic precedent (not to mention legal precedent). This was dismissed—as the liberals habitually do—with the analogy to racial segregation.
Second was the rejection of the religious argument. Just because some people think homosexuality is a sin is no reason to outlaw it, Breyer argued. After all, it’s just some people, and this is merely a “religious” reason.
This line of questioning is nothing more than intimidation. It effects two important bulwarks for the humanists: first, it places a stigma on anyone who would dare suggest “religion” has any place in jurisprudence. Second, and more importantly, it establishes that the presuppositional foundation of the arguments will be humanistic and only humanistic. This is human autonomy hijacking jurisprudence.
It was at this point that the conservative voice caved to the intimidation which pervades our land—including many and most of our “religious” reasonings. Here would have been a perfect opportunity to remind the Justices that the “merely religious reason” was a precedent of the vast majority of Western Civilization precisely because it had been based upon the Word of God, and that it was only by that God that these Justices had any authority to begin with. By dismissing that Word, the Justices dismissed the very authority of the bench upon which they sit. At that point, they become the outlaws and the founders of social chaos.
That, I admit, would have taken a miracle in this already far-backslidden society. But even a glimmer of defense of religion would have been—especially in the face of a liberal Justice’s outright dismissal of it. Instead, we got outright capitulation. Here’s was the lawyer answered:
MR. BURSCH: Justice Breyer, those answers one and two are not our answers.
JUSTICE BREYER: Good.
MR. BURSCH: Our answer number one is that the marriage institution did not develop to deny dignity or to give second class status to anyone. It developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, arise from biology.
Now, imagine a world today where we had no marriage at all. Men and women would still be getting together and creating children, but they wouldn’t be attached to each other in any social institution.
Now, the — the marriage view on the other side here is that marriage is all about love and commitment. And as a society, we can agree that that’s important, but the State doesn’t have any interest in that.
If we’re trying to solve that social problem I just described, where there’s no marriage, we wouldn’t solve it by saying, well, let’s have people identify who they are emotionally committed to and recognize those relationships. [Emphases added.]
In other words, the pro-homosexual marriage side should lose this case because the state has no interest in the love and commitment aspects of marriage, but it does (so the lawyer argues) have an interest in children being raised in an institution where their biological parents are “attached” to each other.
Whatever the merits of that argument may be, the sentiment is about 50 years behind the times and the jurisprudence regarding easy divorce, no-fault divorce, abortion, etc.
But the real tragedy here is the type of argument used. First, note, it is based on a view that marriage “developed” to suit certain needs in society. This view in and of itself is evolutionary. But the Darwinism is confirmed more strongly in the very same sentence: “developed to serve purposes that . . . arise from biology.”
However intimately related marriage may be to biology and reproduction, it did not “develop,” and it certainly does not exist “to serve purposes that arise from biology.” It was instituted by God, by divine fiat and divine design for the purpose of dominion in the earth. This dominion includes being fruitful and multiplying (Gen. 1:26, 28), but is not reduced to it or based upon it.
And remember, this Darwinist “developed from biology” view is being advanced by the guy who is supposed to be arguing the conservative position. This is the expression of conservativism being advanced in the highest court of the land. It is humanistic.
By adopting the naturalistic (humanistic) presuppositions, the conservative loses the case from the outset. He agrees to ban any discussion of “sin” and “religion” from jurisprudence, and in doing so must accept as natural—and therefore legitimate to a large degree if not fully—behaviors which Divine fiat and design call “sin” and “abomination.”
All that can follow after this point is a wrangling about what nature wants. The will of God is replaced by the will of nature. But nature is a comprehensive thing. As Pope eloquently said, in a world where “nature” is the rule, “Whatever is, is right.” If marriage “developed to serve purposes that . . . arise from biology,” big deal. The same can be said for anything—including homosexuality. Homosexuality, in a naturalistic world, must have developed to serve purposes that arise from biology. Why then should it be denied the same nature-derived privileges that dignify heterosexual marriages? Sure enough, that is the exact argument upon which the Justices seem to be hung up.
In such a world of humanistic presuppositions, the best any such “conservative” can do is to maintain a holding action. In this world, the best conservativism can do is be a drag, a delay, on the ever-turning world of nature.
But this means that conservatism in such a world is nothing more than slow progressivism instead of immediate progressivism. It’s only a matter of time under either expression before humanism wins. After all, both are really just expressions of the humanism at their roots.
And that, friends, is why conservatism loses. It abandons the Word of God at the outset and adopts the humanists presuppositions. And those who deny God, God will deny. Don’t expect God’s blessings until you’re willing to be radical for God.
I fear that Scalia had far more foresight than we could have imagined.
I have previously written on the Supreme Court’s treatment of homosexual “marriage” in regard to a couple of important issues. The first was the stealth lip-service that Justice Kennedy gave to “States’ Rights” in the recent Windsor decision striking down DOMA. The second was merely an emphasis on the fact that Kennedy’s opinions have displayed a clear path of judicial activism. After hearing oral arguments in the pending case for homosexual “marriage,” my opinions have changed little.
In my first article, I noted how the Windsor opinion argued that States which allow homosexuals to marry thereby confer to those marriages “equal dignity” with which the federal Congress is not allowed to “interfere.” The stealthy part was that, while speaking of the states’ “sovereign power” to make this decision, this so-called “equal dignity” is itself a federal constitutional “right” derived from the Fourteenth Amendment. So the opinion was actually affirming federal power in one area—equality—and supporting states as long as it upheld that power. The decision left unanswered the question of whether this same federal power can be used to trump states where they disagreed with “equality.” But I showed plenty of precedent—stemming from Kennedy’s pen in the past—that showed the future to be in serious jeopardy for conservatives.
The second article confirmed this with special focus on Scalia’s scathing dissent: “I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”
What is established so far is that the Court will constitutionally validate homosexual marriages where already established, under the protection of equality. The current case—Obergefell v. Hodges—is asking the court to go ahead, under the same constitutional justification, to force states that don’t currently recognize such “marriages” to do so. What I hear in the questioning during oral arguments is a clear confirmation of Scalia’s prediction: key Justices are inquiring whether or not enough time has passed and cultural values have shifted enough that they can get away with opining in favor of coercing states to allow homosexual “marriages.” Here are some excerpts.
The Justices know they are up against millennia of cultural, historical, and religious precedent. They know it is also currently undemocratic since a majority of the public—obviously so in states that have laws against homosexuals marrying—opposes overturning this precedent. This issue was raised very early in oral argumentation by Kennedy himself:
JUSTICE KENNEDY: One — one of the problems is when you think about these cases you think about words or cases, and — and the word that keeps coming back to me in this case is — is millennia, plus time. First of all, there has not been really time, so the Respondents say, for the Federal system to engage in this debate, the separate States. But on a larger scale, it’s been — it was about — about the same time between Brown and Loving as between Lawrence and this case. It’s about 10 years.
And so there’s time for the scholars and the commentators and — and the bar and the public to — to engage in it. But still, 10 years is — I don’t even now how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia. This definition has been with us for millennia. And it — it’s very difficult for the Court to say, oh, well, we — we know better.
The questioning got a bit sidetracked, but the liberals’ answer was that there is actually more precedent that 10 years, and more importantly that public opinion on several marriage and sex issues has been far behind constitutional liberties. In these cases, it only took the Court recognizing this to remedy obvious injustices, and most of society soon caught up.
At this point, the argument becomes 1) whether homosexual marriage is just one more extension of this constitutional liberty, and 2) has there indeed been enough time passed to make a decision that bucks public opinion?
In regard to that second question, that even though Kennedy’s questioning emphasized “millennia” of history opposed to homosexual marriage, he did tip his hand a bit. He referred to a similar amount of time that had previously passed between two cases, “Brown and Loving,” as has now passed between Lawrence and today. Well, Brown desegregated schools, and Loving struck down state laws against interracial marriage. Lawrence struck down state laws against sodomy (in effect, in part, desegregating homosexuality from open society), and now Obergefell is seeking to strike down all state laws against sodomites marrying. It is clear that in Kennedy’s questioning there is a parallel between the two. This, in itself, cannot bode well.
But even the liberal Justices start with lines of questioning in regard to the millennia:
JUSTICE BREYER: And to me, it takes the form, the opposite view has been the law everywhere for thousands of years among people who were not discriminating even against gay people, and suddenly you want nine people outside the ballot box to require States that don’t want to do it to change what you’ve heard is change what marriage is to include gay people. Why cannot those States at least wait and see whether in fact doing so in the other States is or is not harmful 16 to marriage?
Now, that same question has been put in many, many ways in the briefs on our subject. You’ve received it in three or four different ways. I would like to know, so I can hear and understand it, just what your response is.
The pro-homosexual marriages lawyer responded, citing the fact that Justices did the same thing in regard to interracial marriage which was by far more greatly opposed among the public.
MS. BONAUTO: Okay. And I apologize if I haven’t.
In our system, you know, with the Fourteenth Amendment, which again is sets forth principles that we all are governed by and govern our lives, and you look at examples like coverture. Okay? Even if it was not universal, it was still something that was wide — widespread in this nation for a very, very long time, and that change in marriage was deeply unsettling to people.
Likewise, even if race was not used as a basis for discriminating in every single State as a matter of law by criminal law and constitutional law, it was incredibly pervasive. And again, changing that, as Virginia resisted in the Loving case, resisted and said please, wait and see, 80 percent of the American public was with Virginia on that. But again, it was the question of the individual liberty of the person to do something that was considered a profound change in its time.
So here the key language is “wait and see”? Even the liberal Breyer was asking this and demanding an answer. Isn’t it wiser to wait and see the effects in states which have already allowed it, and in which it is now protected—to use these microcosms as test-cases?
The liberal answer to this is that the Fourteenth Amendment gives the protection already, and thus the Justices shouldn’t wait, and secondly, that we already have powerful precedent in altering legal definitions of marriage in ways that were far more powerfully opposed by the public, and yet the Courts did not balk at applying equal protections anyway.
A second counsel for the homosexuals affirmed this with emphasis:
GENERAL VERRILLI: And third, I want to expand on what Ms. Bonauto said, that — that — and I think you, Mr. Chief Justice, you did recognize this, that the decision to leave this to the political process is going to impose enormous costs that this Court thought were costs of constitutional stature in Windsor. Thousands and thousands of people are going to live out their lives and go to their deaths without their States ever recognizing the equal dignity of their relationships.
Notice that reference to Windsor, and the phrase “equal dignity.” That is the phrase pulled directly out of Kennedy’s Windsor opinion. This is smartly calculated on the liberals’ part. They are leveraging Kennedy’s own words against the conservative arguments.
Make no mistake here: if this comes down to a 5–4 decision, and it probably will, Kennedy will be the hinge ether way. So it is tremendously important to judge his concerns in this regard. And it was at precisely this point in oral arguments that he joined the discussion on the same topic of “wait and see.” Should states be allowed to “wait and see,” or should they be forced immediately by this case?
JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, part of wait and see, I suppose, is to ascertain whether the social science, the new studies are accurate. But that — it seems to me, then, that we should not consult at all the social science on this, because it’s too new. You think — you say we don’t need to wait for changes. So it seems to me that if we’re not going to wait, then it’s only fair for us to say, well, we’re not going to consult social science.
That sounds like he’s in favor of some more wait and see. But we’ll have to wait and see, I suppose, and weigh this against his other questions. The liberal answers:
GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes. And, Your Honor, I actually think that’s quite a critical point that goes to the questions that Your Honor was asking earlier. I do think Lawrence was an important catalyst that has brought us to where we are today. And I think what Lawrence did was provide an assurance that gay and lesbian couples could live openly in society as free people and start families and raise families and participate fully in their communities without fear.
And there are — two things flow from that, I think. One is that has brought us to the point where we understand now, in a way even that we did not fully understand in Lawrence, that gay and lesbian people and gay and lesbian couples are full and equal members of the community. And what we once thought of as necessary and proper reasons for ostracizing and marginalizing gay people, we now understand do not justify that kind of impression.
Verrilli is smart: he is now citing “Lawrence” to answer Kennedy. Lawrence v. Texas is the case, also written by Kennedy, that struck down all state laws against sodomy. Again the liberal is forcing Kennedy to reckon with Kennedy: you got us to where we are today. Thanks! And the implication is: Now please finish the job.
Roberts notes that a difference still persists despite Lawrence.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The difference, of course, is Lawrence, the whole argument is the State cannot intrude on that personal relationship. This, it seems to me, is — is different in that what the argument is is the State must sanction. It must approve that relationship. They’re two different questions.
GENERAL VERRILLI: It is different, I agree. And I — and it leads to the second thing I think that the — that the Lawrence catalyzed for our society, was it put gay and lesbian couples, gay and lesbian people, in a position for the first time in our history to be able to lay claim to the abiding promise of the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that was just impossible when they were marginalized and ostracized.
And you’re right, Mr. Chief Justice, this is about equal participation, participation on equal terms in a State-conferred — a State-conferred status, a State institution. That is different than Lawrence, but I do think that what Lawrence has allowed us to see is that the justifications for excluding gay and lesbian couples from equal participation in this institution just hold up.
Things took a bit of a turn, however, when the lawyer representing the conservative interest was questioned. When the lawyer argued that changing the definition of something that has not changed for “generations,” and which could have profound consequences—part of the classic “wait and see” plea—Kennedy seemed much more interested in equality and “dignity”:
JUSTICE KENNEDY: But that — that assumes that same-sex couples could not have the more noble purpose, and that’s the whole point. Same-sex couples say, of course, we understand the nobility and the sacredness of the marriage. We know we can’t procreate, but we want the other attributes of it in order to show that we, too, have a dignity that can be fulfilled.
Kennedy stuck with this understanding despite the lawyer’s attempts to refute it. Whether the lawyer was right or not does not matter. Kennedy is the swing vote, and if he sticks with “equal dignity” over historical precedent—rightly or wrongly—that is how the Court will decide.
So which will it be? What will determine whether Kennedy will be persuaded by the immediate application of “equal dignity”—which he clearly believes in—or by the fear of overturning “millennia” of history? The only thing is what Scalia said: the Court’s “sense of what it can get away with.” Except, in this case, it really comes down to only Justice Kennedy’s sense of what he can get away with.
And what is the sanction against him if he applies equality immediately against all historical precedent? He will not be removed from office. He cannot endure any more criticism from conservatives that he received already for Lawrence and Windsor. Perhaps if there was a credible threat of some states seceding over this it may check his decisions—but that’s unlikely. So what’s left? There will be little more than a loud grumble and a reshuffling of certain laws and relationships as conservatives and religious groups adapt to the new reality.
In short, I don’t see anything to prevent Kennedy from opining in favor of same-sex marriages. And the truth is, I have only addressed the first half of the hurdles faced by conservatives in this case. There is a chance the second question involved—which I have not even touched here—could wreck the system even if this one is decided in favor of conservatives.
Just a little Google hangout with the guys from #DatPostmil Podcast. And it was a great show! Check it out as we discuss Restoring America, AV’s latest book The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution, and some other really radical, biblical stuff.
Visit DatPostmil.com for the audio and more related resources.
Isaiah introduces this passage with God promising a glorious revision: “behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
The language, of course, parallels the first verse of the Bible: God created the heavens and the earth. Scripture, then, focuses on God as Creator and His creation. But Isaiah speaks, further, of new heavens and a new earth. This focuses again on God as Creator, but the emphasis on the side of creation falls not upon the bare fact of creation, but of re-creation, that is, a New Creation.
God appropriates the language of the original creation so that His people will recall that it’s the same God, the same power, the same Sovereignty, the same Goodness as from In the beginning. And yet, at the same time, God uses the language of Creation to say that this New Creation indeed requires His power and might: that just as the first creation could not have appeared from nothing on its own accord, but needed the miraculous voice of God Almighty, so this New Creation has no chance apart from Him.
Before creation there was nothing; and even after the initial act we are told the earth was “without form and void.” Then God spoke, created light, and thus began the process of the six days of creation; it was all a miraculous act, at the end of which God pronounced His own judgment: it was “very good.”
Consider the original creation again. What was the crowning achievement of that process? It was the creation of man—male and female, which is to say it was the creation of family. And what was the commandment given to that original family (read Gen 1:28)? It was the commandment to create more family, and through that, exercise dominion over all the earth. And just to make those two purposes absolutely clear and obvious, God planted a special garden in which He placed Adam “to dress it and to keep it,” and in that garden, as well, He brought Adam his wife. A twin-mission was inherent and clear in God’s plan from the beginning. It was that man should govern the land and make it productive, and that he should be productive of himself as well: have lots of babies.
That family, Scripture tells us, God created in His Image. It is no small coincidence, then, that the mission He gave them also reflects the Image of God’s own purposes. Both of the missional acts that God commanded them reflect the work of our Creator in creating man and in transforming a formless, void, dark earth, into one ordered, filled with life, and full of light. Consider that for a moment: the earth was formless, and God imparted order to it. The earth was void, and God filled it with plants, and animals, and people. Darkness covered everything, and God filled the earth with light. He then creates man and commands him to work accordingly as God had worked—to “dress and keep” the earth by imparting order. Likewise God creates man, then gives them the institution of marriage and commands them to be fruitful and multiply—which is to say, create more man. These things mean nothing less than imaging the work of God in our own lives.
By the way, the very institution of marriage itself had a built-in mission of family and dominion. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We often focus on the “cleaving,” but just as important is the “leaving.” Becoming one flesh, of course, indicates the union, the establishing of a new family, and even the making of babies; but the “leaving” part indicates a particular independence on the part of the young couple, and this is an element of dominion. They’re no longer subsumed within the households of their parents; their parents can no longer claim them as dependents, so to speak. Rather, they establish their own footprint upon the earth and become responsible.
Further, the “leaving” indicates a branching out of the original families. In effect, it is an expansion of the original dominion of the original families. There’s a whole lot of kingdom teaching bound up in this, the fundamentals of which involves the expansion of both family and dominion. The marriage covenant has built-in features of succession in leaving and cleaving. Just as much as family and dominion, we see that from the outset, God’s plan was dominion by family.
All of this, rest assured, and more, Isaiah had in mind when he pronounced the coming creation of new heavens and a new earth. Isaiah’s whole vision speaks of God’s dominion and the blessings of a world dominated by God’s sustaining power and grace: rejoicing not weeping, joy not tears, longevity beyond our imagination, security in our houses, abundance in food, no fear of invaders or war, enjoyment of the work of our hands, and no more wild beasts, but peace and harmony. In short, God will have created us a new garden which we shall dress and keep. And God promises that in this New Creation, parents will not bear children in vain, nor will their children face calamity. And there near the end of this list of blessings we read the reasons for which these blessings come; and it says this: “for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them” (Is. 65:24). This is a promise of dominion, dominion through family, through God’s family, and dominion through God’s multi-generational family.
Two issues arise when we study this passage of Isaiah. Both bear heavily on our understanding of how this passage applies through us today. The first is the timing of this new creation. The second is the nature of this new creation.
As for the timing, briefly, the New Testament reveals quite a bit. We don’t have to look very hard in the New Testament to find references and allusions to New Creation. In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Christ Himself “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” James makes a similar point, James 1:18: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures [creations].” Paul elsewhere adds that any who believe in Christ take part in New Creation. Believers are subsumed within a New Creation; we, in fact, along with Christ, are a New Creation, according to Paul (2 Cor. 5:17). The idea in all of this is that Christ Himself is the New Creation, and as we join in Him, we ourselves partake of it. Paul, in more than one place, speaks of the New Man (Eph. 2:15), and exhorts his readers to put on the new man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10); this can only come in light of the fact that a New Man has indeed been created (and of course Paul talks of Christ as the second and last Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45–47). Paul makes a related point in Galatians 6:15, saying that “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” He tells the Ephesians in 2:10 that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” To be a Christian, therefore, at its root, is to be created anew, and to be created for good works in God’s kingdom.
From these passages we must understand that the New Creation that Isaiah speaks of, if not fully manifested yet, has at least had an inception; and I believe it’s had a firm beginning by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, of Him being the firstfruits of Creation, and of our privilege to be made New and thus part of that New Creation.
We must also consider the nature of the new heaven and new earth. Isaiah gives us several points to consider, which we’ve already mentioned.
First, the new heaven and new earth are so great, the “former things” will no longer be remembered, nor come to mind. The Hebrew says come to “heart,” which eliminates more than just mere memory, it eliminates nostalgia and longing. There will be no such thing as “the good old days,” or “the way things used to be.” Even the best of times of the old creation will pale in comparison to the goodness to be found in His kingdom.
Second, God says that this new heaven and new earth will be a place of rejoicing and joy.
Third, there will be great longevity of life. Someone dying at 100 years old will be considered a mere child, and such an “early” death will be considered a curse. Life expectancy will greatly increase, perhaps eventually return to the pre-flood standard with people living to eight or nine hundred years old. Yet there is still death, however, so this is not the final state where there is no more death.
Now, we have already seen a general increase in life expectancy in the past 100 years. And this is worldwide: with the exception of most of Africa, most of the world enjoys life expectancies in the 70s. Even places some would consider backwards, primitive, and third-world—like Cambodia, Yemen, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh—still have expectancies in the 60s. Only Africa still has abysmal figures, sub-Saharan Africa the worst: Angola and Zambia have expectancies under 40.
Of course the main factor in the low life expectancies we hear of for places like this, and historically in the past—it was, after all, not so long ago that life expectancy in the Western world was in the 40s and under—is infant mortality. In Colonial America expectancy was barely 25, and that was mostly because 40% of children never made it to adulthood. In London in the 1730s, 75% of children died before 5 years old. God promises us that in the new heavens and new earth, “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days.” Flourishing children was one of God’s original promises to the Israelites under the old covenant; it was one of the blessings for keeping the law: that as they entered and conquered Canaan, “None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days” (Ex. 23:26). Fruitfulness of the womb shows up in the blessings of Deuteronomy 28. But loss of children and heritage shows up as a curse for breaking the covenant. Deuteronomy 28:18, 32, lists the curse: “Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb.… Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.” The focus in these blessings and promises, of course, was on progeny and property, which is to say, family and dominion. To lose these things constituted God’s fundamental curse.
Not surprisingly, Isaiah next mentions property: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (Isa. 65:21). Key to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision is the establishment of a home, engaging in productive work, and reaping the blessing of the work of our hands. It is a family-dominion-oriented Kingdom.
Just listen as I simply read that blessed vision again:
“They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
On a somewhat humorous note, therefore, this is one of the passages often referenced by Christian socialists—people who believe in the primacy of the State among social institutions, and people who believe in redistribution of the fruits of our labors. Tony Campolo, for example, former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton, is well known for using this passage to preach about social welfare schemes.
He starts off well: he does correctly see Isaiah’s vision as promising a “new social order” in which “the effects of poverty and physical suffering would be no more.” In this new order, infant mortality will disappear, people will have longevity not seen since before the flood, prosperity will overtake the world, labor will always produce returns and people will eat the fruit of their own hands, everyone can have secure housing, children will always have a bright future (not facing “calamity”), and people will no longer do evil or harm (hurt or destroy, NRSV) to each other. That he sees this as a goal toward which to move now is certainly a superior view to that of many Christians who relegate this vision to a future age, or a spiritual-only fulfillment.
Campolo’s error therefore is not one of eschatology, necessarily, but of covenant and ethics. The socialist confuses family dominion with State dominion. Our Socialist thinks that verse 21—They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit—means this: “houses will be built for everyone,” and that “everyone who wants to work will have a job.” That’s a bit of a stretch. The verse says they will build their own houses and inhabit them themselves. It does not say that houses will simply be built for them. The Kingdom of God has people active in securing their own dwellings, not sitting idly by while others obtain it for them, and certainly not receiving anything like subsidized housing. The same with work: the verse does not say anything merely about those who “want to work”; it says they will build and they will plant. The miracle here is less about an end to scarcity in work or an end to unemployment; the miracle occurs just as much or more in the fact that everyone will in fact work. And again, this certainly says nothing about civil government using the arm or purse of the State to “create” jobs or housing. It simply promises prosperity brought by God’s creation of a new heavens and new earth (Is. 65:17) in which His people are blessed and willing participants.
Likewise, for the last verse in this passage—where it says, They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain—the socialist says this teaches environmentalism. He asserts, “here is the assurance that a time will come when people will not ‘hurt or destroy’ the earth anymore.” Now, that’s really a stretch. “My holy mountain” refers to Jerusalem, and in this passage certainly means New Jerusalem, the Church, or perhaps the Kingdom of God in general. It does not refer to “the environment.” The verse means that in God’s Kingdom, people will no longer hurt or destroy each other or their property. This may include environmentally-friendly activity, but does not support the Greenie platform the way the socialist suggests.
Likewise, he thinks the verse about longevity involves other people taking care of the elderly. For him, God is saying “I care about old people. I want them to be fed and clothed, and I want them to get the care that they need to live out life as fully as possible.” Care, that is, including “medical care.” But the verse says nothing of the sort. It’s really not even talking about “old people,” it’s talking about 100 years old being youth. As I said, we can surmise that Isaiah envisions full life-spans of hundreds of years. Given the fact that Social Security and Medicare now sag with over $60 billion of unfunded liabilities with life-spans around eighty years, imagine the ridiculous burden of supporting a world full of Methuselahs at 900-plus years. Would the Social Security Administration have to raise the retirement age to 850? The verse simply states that in God’s Kingdom, people will live extremely long lives. It does not mandate that they be cared for by government or anyone else once they reach those long years.
Campolo’s kingdom vision seems to add quite a bit of liberal expectation into God’s word. The liberal interpretation always imputes leftist social causes and leftist political solutions onto the Kingdom that God promises. They steal Isaiah’s vision, and force it to say what they want it to say. This, of course, is what leftism is all about: stealing and forcing. Let’s choose a better path.
Notice that Isaiah’s vision, throughout the entire passage elaborating on this redeemed, glorious, productive dominion of the earth, says absolutely nothing about the role of the State. The only implication throughout is the activity of individuals and the family. Isaiah’s vision actually denies the Socialist and/or Statist viewpoint. It promises the sanctity of private property. We have already seen the mandate for self-reliance and individual labor in verse 21: They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Verse 22 denies that others will have a right or access to what another individual produces: They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat. In other words, in God’s Kingdom, no one will have to worry that State governments, foreign or domestic, or anyone else will take anything they produce and give it to someone else. And they will not succumb to some liberal preacher’s false gospel which is in reality just about liberality with other people’s money. Instead, people will labor, their work will produce, and no one shall take it from them. This situation shall remain, not through one election cycle, but throughout their full multi-generational lives: My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands (65:22).
Campolo, for example, can’t see this aspect of Isaiah’s vision. He reads the same passage, but reads liberal government into it, clouding the vision of prosperity with government coercion. What a contradiction! What confusion! These types of coercion contribute to the very hurting and destroying that God says will not occur in His Kingdom. Liberals cannot see this—or refuse to see it—because they refuse to see God’s plan as He revealed it throughout all of redemptive history, and that is to have dominion through family, not the State.
One place in Genesis, in the story of Abraham, encapsulates God’s method of family and dominion. In Genesis 18:19, God says of Abraham, “I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Notice the progression: 1) God’s choice, 2) Commanding children and household, 3) doing justice and righteousness, 4) God brings about the promise. This is nothing less than Abraham receiving a renewed version of Genesis 1:28; and Isaiah, I think, simply resurrects and glorifies this same vision in this sixty-fifth chapter.
In the very next chapter (in fact, the last chapter) of Isaiah, God again confirms the vital link between the new heavens and new earth and the role of family generations. Calling it a time to gather all nations and all tongues, he says, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain” (Isa. 66:22).
The liberal error is one in regard to the nature and content of the vision—not with the timing so much. But there are errors with the timing of it as well. Some preachers and commentators want to say that Isaiah’s vision pertains only to some future millennial era. They therefore associate this period with their particular view of the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 which they see only as future. Revelation 20 says the devil is bound for a thousand years so that he could not deceive the nations anymore, and during that time the saints shall reign with Christ. I agree with them in regard to the nature of the millennium, in general, I just don’t think it’s future: this reign is going on now, and that’s easily provable from Scripture (Acts 2, 1 Cor. 15, Heb. 1; 10, etc.) as we’ve already seen. What’s interesting, however, is that John openly appropriates this very vision of Isaiah 65 for the next chapter in Revelation, chapter 21. It says,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Notice all the features this vision shares with Isaiah’s: a new heaven and new earth; the former creation will no longer be remembered; the new creation features a new Jerusalem (a new holy mountain, that is—one that comes down out of heaven and unto earth); there are no more tears. One is tempted to conclude that John was actually reading and applying Isaiah directly here. There is an added feature, however: Revelation 21 says there will be no more death, whereas in Isaiah there is merely great longevity (someone dying at 100 years old will be considered a mere child, and accursed).
This all taken together implies that there is a partial and gradual fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of the new heavens and the new earth which has already begun and is in progress, as well as a final consummation of that New Creation at some future point. Between what Paul says and what John reveals, we have to understand that God has begun that new creation in Christ, that he creates us as believers as New in Christ, and that we are working toward a day when the vision will reach a consummation. There is no other way to take Scripture on this point: as Christians, we live and partake of that New Creation, and yet it has not yet come in its fullness.
The whole vision of the Bible from the opening chapters of Genesis to the closing chapters of Revelation continue with one dominant theme: that is, God’s people have dominion over the earth with the raising and commanding of God-fearing, God-obeying family. All of our efforts should focus on that vision. All our institutions should honor that vision. All of the covenantal institutions of the Bible—family, church, and state—must have as their goal the upholding of that vision, and the clearing of the way to allow the fulfillment of that vision. It will come to pass. The question is whether we will be judged to have embraced it or to have stood in the way of it, or even subverted it. You have made a choice to focus on family, large family, to think multi-generationally, to accept the unique challenges that way of life poses, education in the home, in the church. It’s not popular, it’s not easy. But in doing so you have reclaimed the vision of Isaiah, of Abraham, of John in Revelation, of others in scripture; in short, the vision of God’s Kingdom. It is the vision of family and dominion; it is the vision the children of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And in that, be encouraged, God can only surely bless us.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 31, 32.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 33.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 33.
We have a terrible problem in our land today, and the truth contained in Dr. Baldwin’s newly reprinted book, The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution, is a welcome antidote—should we be willing to take it. The problem is that our pulpits and preachers today have abandoned the fullness of what Christ commanded us: to disciple nations and to teach them all of His commandments. That Great Commission includes the call, which our forefathers ably demonstrated, to speak truth to the public realm: to call out rulers, governments, laws, abuse, and to demand liberty and justice. In all our preaching today about iniquity and sin, we neglect to address inequity and tyranny.
And worse: should one dare to mention that broader social and political scope of the Great Commission today they are likely to be harangued not only by humanists and leftists, but by the vast majority of Christians and clergy. The response will be almost unanimous, almost in perfect chorus: “Christians should not preach politics!” “We should preach the ‘Gospel’ only!” . . .
Dr. Baldwin’s wonderful book illustrates how preachers of a bygone, but crucial and formative, era thought and practiced just the opposite. After mountains of research in colonial sermons, tracts, pamphlets, and other publications, she relates how the substantial pulpits of colonial America rang constantly with teaching on all aspects of the public square: good rulers, good laws, good forms of government, the blessings of liberty. We especially hear of those choice values of biblical order that became the hallmarks and battle cries of American independence. These are best summarized in Baldwin’s own Conclusion:
Out of reading and discussion, preaching and practice there had grown up a body of constitutional doctrine, very closely associated with theology and church polity, and commonly accepted by New Englanders. Most significant was the conviction that fundamental law was the basis of all rights. God ruled over men by a divine constitution. Natural and Christian rights were legal rights because a part of the law of God. . . .
Probably the most fundamental principle of the American constitutional system is the principle that no one is bound to obey an unconstitutional act. The present study reveals that this doctrine was taught in fullness and taught repeatedly before 1763. . . . No single idea was more fully stressed, no principle more often repeated, through the first sixty years of the eighteenth century, than that governments must obey law and that he who resisted one in authority who was violating that law was not himself a rebel but a protector of law.
She in fact goes so far as to note that we cannot properly understand the nature of the American system without understanding the message preached by the American pulpit constantly over the decades leading up to independence. Commenting on the classic paraphrase of “life, liberty, and property,” she proclaims,
No one can fully understand the American Revolution and the American constitutional system without a realization of the long history and religious associations which lie behind these words; without realizing that for a hundred years before the Revolution men were taught that these rights were protected by divine, inviolable law.
And it will surprise many . . . just how these great preachers derived their doctrines.
The Bible and the Law of God
Baldwin’s work is a phenomenal way to learn of the true influence of Christianity and the Bible in the founding of this nation. It serves as a flat refutation of the critics of secularists who wish to eradicate and bury our Christian heritage. Baldwin writes,
It must not be forgotten, in the multiplicity of authors mentioned, that the source of greatest authority and the one most commonly used was the Bible. The New England preacher drew his beliefs largely from the Bible, which was to him a sacred book, infallible, God’s will for man. Of necessity it colored his political thinking. His conception of God, of God’s law, and of God’s relation to man determined to a large extent his conception of human law and of man’s relation to his fellows. If his ideas of government and the rights of man were in part derived from other sources, they were strengthened and sanctioned by Holy Writ. This was of course especially true of the clergy. They stood before the people as interpreters of God’s will. Their political speeches were sermons, their political slogans were often Bible texts. What they taught of government had about it the authority of the divine.
This reality leads Baldwin into a study of the political and governmental concepts these men actually derived from Scripture, as summarized above, and chief among them is the application of God’s Law to life. . . . [T]he preachers turned to the written revelation of God’s Law, including Old Testament law, to make it clear:
The revelation in the Old and New Testaments helped to make clear the law of nature and to disclose its full extent. In the Old Testament God gave to man a “positive law.” It was true that some of its statutes applied to the Jews only, but there were also great moral principles which applied to all phases of man’s activity, now as formerly, and were equally binding. Thus even in that part of Old Testament law which no longer applied to Christians and in the history of God’s dealings with His chosen people there were many examples for men of today.
To be sure, the relationships between terms, and the uses to which they were put, were not always uniform or even purely biblical, but in large measure, the most important doctrines of American liberty arose from a biblical understanding and application of God’s Law. Thus Baldwin could conclude that “There was no conflict in their minds between the divine and natural law. They were the same”; and thus, “from the law of God they derived their political theories.”
Application of Biblical Law
These men held the Bible in high esteem, and as a result, they expected to see it applied in all areas of life, including politics and government. As such, they required their governing officials to be Christians, and not only Christians, but ardent students of that divine book, the Bible, and its laws. Baldwin relates this understanding and how the preachers of the era were at the forefront of making it a real-world demand:
Rulers must study carefully the law of God, both natural and revealed. In the Bible are found all the maxims and rules of government: there the natural laws are made clearer, there the ruler learns his due authority and its limitations, there the people learn how far they must submit.
[R]elationships between God and government, between God and people, and between government and people, were established through the biblical concept of covenant—a theme which surfaces frequently in this study. This, too, was derived directly from Old Testament revelation, and formed the basis of both theology and government for the New England minister:
His theology depended upon it, it was the foundation of his church government, he believed it to be at the root of all God’s dealings with men. When he searched the Bible he found, so he believed, that even the Jewish government, which was peculiarly God’s own, rested on compact. . . . The charters were considered compacts, and when men set up new towns they drew up a town covenant.
She further relates how this concept had deep historical roots going all the way back to the covenant theology of the earliest colonists. Yet even as late as 1780, one of the more prominent preachers, Samuel Cooper, was preaching this doctrine—with explicit reference to the ancient Hebrew republic—before the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor John Hancock.
But the application of biblical law did not stop at theoretical constructs or generalities. Preachers routinely went on to preach on specific principles with real-world consequences—including armed resistance and civil disobedience where necessary. In fact, echoing the teachings of Reformers from centuries before them, many of these preachers decreed laws, or even whole governments, invalid should they defy biblical order or biblical laws. For example, as Baldwin summarizes, Elisha Williams preached in 1744 that
[G]overnments which did not originate from the people and in which they did not make their own laws were not, properly speaking, governments at all, but tyrannies and “absolutely against the Law of God and Nature.”
Examples abound. Stephen Johnson’s Fast Day Sermon of 1765 was one of the more potent. As Baldwin relates it, “No obedience was due to any edicts which were unconstitutional. . . . Where executive and legislative authority exceed the bounds of the law of God and the constitution, then their acts are ipso facto void.” This was hard-core nullification doctrine long before it was cool.
A Call to America’s Pulpits
As we compare, once again, their day and ours, we can hear an eerie note of correspondence, and it is not flattering. The harmony with our own day comes not in the fierce cries from the pulpit against tyranny, courts, taxes, and legislation, but rather from the loyalists who supported the tyranny! And what was their demand of the clergy at the time?
It was none other than the cry of our own clergy today: “Don’t preach politics!” Stick to “the Gospel” only! Indeed, [one loyalist writer] complained that “The Clergy had quite unlearned the Gospel, & had substituted Politicks in its Stead.” Likewise, a sermon by Boston preacher William Gordon elicited loyalist pamphlets in response, one of which scolded the “reverend politician” and sighed, “I most heartily wish . . . that he and many others of his profession would confine themselves to gospel truth.”
It is understandable that a tyrant would wish to censor the whole counsel of God, especially as it moves populations to resist tyrants. But the sadness of our time is that we do not even need tyrants to intimidate us into silence. Our pulpits do it readily to themselves.
We need instead more men like Jonas Clarke. A couple months before the fateful July 4, 1776, Clarke declared from the pulpit: “From this day will be dated the Liberty of the world.” From “this day”—referring to the day of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in which British soldiers attempted to raid the artillery and disarm the American people. Preachers had been preparing those soldiers for years prior, preaching on rights, arms, politics, law, and government, tyranny and war. And it was at that Battle that, reportedly, the preacher himself—the same Jonas Clarke—had led riflemen to repel the British.
Where are such preachers today? What do we hold dear? For what are we willing to fight and die? Are we willing even to preach the doctrines of government, liberty, and God’s Law? Where are the sermons, tracts, and pamphlets circulating today from America’s preachers condemning taxes and tyranny? Preachers in the 1760s spoke out, and some spilled their blood, to fight the erosion of jurisprudence and the onset of admiralty courts! Today we have a vast array of this type of court tyrannizing nearly every area of life, and hardly a pulpit even knows, let alone cares, let alone preaches. We had ministers leading men in the sacrifice of their lives and money over intrusive search warrants and seizures of property. Today where are even the sermons on these things?
Pulpits across this land should be ringing with denunciation of warrantless wiretaps, extrajudicial drone strikes, no-knock warrants, militarization of police, civil forfeiture, the surveillance state, the welfare-warfare state, fiat money, tyrannized markets, executive orders, national emergencies, and a thousand other infractions so extreme and overt they would have driven King George III to join the rebellion himself. And the pulpits are silent.In Stock Now.
The pulpits are silent, the flocks left untrained and unmotivated, and liberty all but dead. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
If liberty is ever to be restored in this, or any, nation, it will only come through a return to the message enshrined in Christ and His commandments. God may see fit to circumvent the rebellious and stubborn clergy who stand idle and cower today. It may please Him to replace them with a more faithful movement in some way. Yet it is most natural for us to call the preachers to repentance, and back to faithfulness, in hope that the pulpit will once again fulfill its role as the voice of liberty in the land.
A substantial first step toward that end would be to recover the lost, and nearly buried, history of our pulpits—of a time when America’s pastors preached politics, resisted tyranny, and founded a nation on the Bible. Dr. Baldwin’s nearly-forgotten book is a very helpful source from which to start relearning. I recommend it to every pastor and every Christian—and I recommend they follow the example of its subject matter even more.
 Pp. 212–213.
 P. 51.
 Pp. 16–17 below.
 P. 21 below.
 P. 29 below.
 Pp. 46–47 below.
 Pp. 32–33 below.
 See Eran Shalev, “‘A Perfect Republic’: The Mosaic Constitution in Revolutionary New England, 1775–1788,” The New England Quarterly 82/2 (June 2009), 2435–263, for this and many more examples of the application of Old Testament Law to the American formative era.
 P. 41 below.
 Pp. 128–129 below.
 P. 154, footnote 1 below.
 P. 164, footnote 30 below.
God Almighty owns everything. This is the biblical view: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1); God says, “[E]very beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains (Psa. 50:9-12).
God created mankind in His own image. Man reflects God’s character and order. Just as God owns everything, God delegated the stewardship and dominion of property to His image, mankind (Gen. 1:26-28), and thus humans have the capacity and calling to act as private owners. God planted a special garden—the Garden of Eden—and placed man in it to till it, and to guard its boundaries (Gen. 2:8, 15). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s law-order, God kicked them outside of those boundaries, and placed a “no-trespassing” sign in the form of an angelic guardian at their gates (Gen. 3:23-24). Adam and Eve very quickly learned the ins and outs of private property.
This doctrine continued as God’s way of ordering and prospering society, and we see this in the fact that God’s fundamental laws for living—the Ten Commandments—include the prohibition of theft (Ex. 20:15). No man or group of men can take another man’s property—by individual act, legislation, petition, conspiracy, or appeal to the “common good”—in disregard for God’s law. The Old Testament frequently refers to the moving of a neighbor’s landmark (a property corner) in order to increase one’s own property (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10; Hos. 5:10). The references forbid or condemn the act as an attack on inheritance and possession (Deut. 19:14).
The same doctrine holds in the New Testament. In the early Church in Acts 5, as many Christians voluntarily sold their goods and gave to the poor among them, one couple sold some land and laid only a portion at the apostles’ feet pretending they had given all. Nevertheless, even for these corrupt-hearted individuals, Peter up-held the doctrine of private property: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4). God punished them, not for not giving all, but for lying about what they gave.
Other apostles upheld the doctrine as well: Paul preached against theft (Eph. 4:28), as did Peter (1 Pet. 4:15) and James (Jam. 5:4). Not to mention that Jesus saw the command as quite relevant as well (Matt. 19:18).
The biblical witness is clear: God believes in private property, and He not only desires us but commands us to live by that rule as well. Under this system, our rights and freedoms come from God. No man can take them away. He who tries must answer to the law, and ultimately to God.
Socialism is the belief that individual private property is a bad idea. It is thus an anti-Christian and anti-biblical belief. Socialists believe that governments should own most or all property and distribute it out as government experts, scientists, politicians, or occasionally voters see fit. Under socialism, the State puts itself in the place of God and says, “The earth is the State’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Under this view, the individual has no protection from his neighbor if his neighbor is in the majority, or if the State somehow deems his neighbor as needful in some way; the State simply uses force to take that individual’s property and give it to someone else. In this sense, the State moves landmarks every day. In this view, the State determines our rights, and gives us our freedoms; here there is no appeal beyond the State.
Socialism is the belief, therefore, that stealing is acceptable as long as another man or group of men says so. Socialism believes in theft by majority vote, or theft by a majority of representatives’ votes in Congress. Socialism is the belief that armed robbery is OK as long as you do it through proxy of the government’s gun. Socialism places man, and ultimately the State, in the place of God. Man becomes owned by other men, instead of by his Maker. Socialism is an entirely humanistic, God-denying, God-usurping belief.
Between these two beliefs—private property and socialism— there exists fundamental conflict. They represent contradictory views of sovereignty, man, law, society, and inheritance. They are fundamentally rival religious systems. Choosing one, you reject the other; service and honor to God, or servitude to fellow men. Either God commands and judges man, or man commands and judges man.
(Get the whole book, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel)
This weekend delivered us one of those rare gems that you just can’t make up: one lawless individual’s act of nationalistic idolatry sent conservative news outlets and bloggers into paeans of uncritical praise. It was an embarrassing display. Conservatives apparently checked no background and paid attention to few facts. The result was that Christians and conservatives ended up tossing out the foundations for society and morality, as well as their own stated values, merely because an American flag and a military veteran were involved. But the rest of the facts are quite disturbing.
It turns out that these conservatives are praising the unlawful actions of a socialist pornographer who defies the law, even though she herself once desecrated a flag for her own pet cause.
Headlines such as the one by Todd Starnes—Christian social commentator for Fox News—were typical: “University Detains Veteran Who Stopped Flag Desecration.” He reports some of the basic facts of the incident like this:
An Air Force veteran was hauled away in handcuffs and detained by campus security at Valdosta State University in Georgia after she stopped protesters from desecrating an American flag.
Michelle Manhart admits that she snatched Old Glory from a group of demonstrators who put the flag on the ground and were walking on it.
One member of the unnamed group told the Valdosta Daily Times they were desecrating the flag as “a symbol of our protest.”
Several stories came across just the same. But what they haven’t told you is what will really shock you.
“Snatched” it was. For starters this was a case of theft, pure and simple. A female protester can be heard in the video telling Mrs. Manhart, “It’s not yours.” And it wasn’t. That’s why Manhart was eventually arrested by police. Yet Manhart attempts to justify her theft with a socialistic argument. She retorted to the protester, “This belongs to, actually, the entire United States.”
Well, no, actually, it doesn’t. It is private property. Even though the flag is a symbol for the United States, individual American flags are not community property. The argument is ludicrous. In fact, in one of the landmark flag-burning cases, when the Supreme Court decided that flag-burning was protected as free speech, one of the defendants nevertheless was sent to jail because he had stolen the flag from a government building. It was private property.
So, folks, whatever your individual views on flag-burning may be, private property laws trump those views.
The Blaze even posted this socialistic sentence from Manhart “above the fold” on their version of the story. Since they seemed to approve of Mrs. Manhart as a hero, they apparently did not recognize the irony of defending socialism when Beck built his career decrying it.
There are so many other sparkling facets to this gem I hardly know where to begin.
What about “pornography”? It turns out that Mrs. Manhart is only a “former” veteran because she resigned after being demoted from her rank as a staff sergeant. Demoted, why? For disgracing the military uniform by posing both nude and in uniform in a 2007 Playboy spread.
But surely that was just some youthful mistake, right? Well, Mrs. Manhart was already married and had two children when she made that decision. She remained unapologetic afterward. A reporter in 2007 noted that Manhart went through the spread with her 11-year-old daughter: “Manhart, daughter at her side, has gone through her Playboy spread page by page. The human body is beautiful, she explained, and nothing to be afraid of.”
Aside from making trips back to base a bit awkward for Manhart, the authorities weren’t too happy with her. When they took official action against her, she couldn’t accept her punishment, so she quit.
She then tried to advance her “modeling” career with another skin stunt, this time running into pure hypocrisy. In 2008, she posed all-but-nude for PETA, including a shot in which—pay close attention now—she covered her privates with an American flag and the American flag was dragging on the ground.
At the time, she justified her actions this way:
“When we originally did that shoot, we did it for a specific cause,” said Manhart. “We wanted to portray what we have as Americans when we get rid of all our material things. We wanted to strip the human of all material items and stand behind the flag because if we don’t have anything, we still have this. We still have our freedom.”
Manhart said she knew the flag would touch the ground during her photo shoot and took preliminary measures to ensure that it was disposed of properly.
“We made sure before the shoot that the flag would be donated to the Boy Scouts, so they could dispose of the American flag since it touched the ground,” said Manhart. “We made sure of that. If any part of the flag was touching the ground we wanted to make sure it was done right.”
Ironically, in the video of the recent incident, you can hear Michelle lecture a protester that the flag needs to be “properly disposed of.” The interlocutor responds, “We’re going to take care of that.” But Manhart refused to give it back anyway.
Apparently, she can desecrate a flag for her pet cause, but people with whom she disagrees cannot.
It was at this point that the “lawless” facet shines. When police arrive and instruct Manhart to hand over the property, she refuses. She continues to the point that they move to arrest her, and then she causes a scene by resisting arrest.
Now, I have my own views on arrest and police powers, etc., but what have we heard from all these great conservative outlets for months now? What have we heard when the issues were Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others? We have been instructed over and over that whether you think you’re in the right or not, obey the police and don’t resist. Whether you’re innocent or not doesn’t matter. That can be sorted out later. The important thing is to cooperate and let the police do their job. If you resist, you can get in trouble and even injured or killed!
Yet, when a military vet and an American flag are involved, some of these same conservatives can’t praise their hero enough. I have even seen cop-bashing in the comments to these articles. I have not seen one single conservative commentator apply the same logic regarding police to this circumstance as they did to all those others.
And finally there is the issue of the law. We live in what may be to some a confusing time because the federal law against flag desecration still appears on the books, but subsequent Supreme Court decisions have ruled that flag burning or desecration is protected by the First Amendment.
The first law protecting the flag was actually signed by the great society statist, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. The first SCOTUS test case was Texas v. Johnson (1989). It overturned the law and protected flag-burning as free-speech. Congress immediately passed another Act. This, too, was overturned the following year in U.S. v. Eichman (1990).
These decisions were both 5–4, but notably included conservative Scalia and quasi-conservative Kennedy in the majority.
Since then, Congress has attempted several times to pass a Constitutional Amendment. The last attempt (2006) failed by a single vote in the Senate. For those who like to keep tabs on things: one of only two Republican “Nays” among 32 Democrats was the man who is now our current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. (He defended his vote, well in my opinion, in a press release.)
There is not a single facet of Mrs. Manhart’s story of which Christians and conservatives ought to be proud. The woman is socialist, lawless, hardly a role model for morals, and a hypocrite.
The only thing driving conservatives to puff this story is the fact that she was a military veteran who “stood up for the flag.” But when these things, which are hardly virtues in and of themselves, are allowed to triumph over private property rights, basic morality, and personal integrity, then conservatives have basically thrown out everything—indeed, the most important things—for which they claim to stand. The foundations have been destroyed in the name of preserving the façade.
In this, we can see the power that the military and nationalistic patriotism hold over many. The reaction to this incident suggests that a government dedicated to war and lawlessness could sway the conservative masses to trample their own rights and morality by merely waving the flag and pronouncing “support
At that point, conservatives stand holding only the symbols and power and glory—but they have dropped the substance of it. If we overlook degeneracy and lawlessness in order to uphold a symbol, we’ve turned society on its head. Friends, don’t save the fabric of the flag if it means trampling the fabric of society to do so.
Just a few years after an historic presidency and things aren’t looking so good nationally:
- Decade-old war efforts loom over national policy, costly in both money and blood.
- New threats lie on the horizon, with the establishment appearing eager for pretexts.
- The incumbent leftist president pushes massive healthcare legislation.
- The incumbent leftist president promotes expansions of “civil rights”.
- National debt and deficits are an obvious national threat which will have to be dealt with.
Things on the Right start to shape up before the next election. At first you had a choice between a diverse group of players, including:
- A New England establishment Republican connected to all the big bankers and high finance (two actually).
- A devout Christian woman of conscience who was once quoted as saying, “we need more religion and less politics in our country.”(1)
- A dark-skinned minority businessman.
- A white-haired “tell it like it is” ultra-conservative proponent of fiscal conservatism, opponent of foreign aid, and quasi-libertarian with a reputation for drawing huge crowds.
But the real contest in the primary finally ended up between the New England establishment Republican, and the freedom-fighting, fiscal conservative. This is the choice for conservatives.
So this is where we’re at, right?
Yes and No. First: this was 1964.
The establishment man was Nelson Rockefeller (although Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had also been in the race, and would have been a near clone to Romney as well), and the freedom-fighter was, of course, Barry Goldwater.
In that setting, Goldwater won the nomination, despite the fact that Rockefeller was presented as the front-runner. Rockefeller and the eastern establishment held a grudge. They sold out Goldwater, refused to endorse him, and abandoned him during the general election. Among establishment guys, only Richard Nixon came to Goldwater’s side.
Abetting the establishment’s stubborn refusal was Michigan governor and powerhouse establishment Republican George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father.
When there was a choice between a liberty movement and the socialist Great Society, the Romney family snubbed their nose at Goldwater.
Since Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, LBJ and the left was trashed him publicly, and wrongly, as a racist. The establishment GOP sat there and let it happen. It was, therefore, complicit in leftist Johnson’s landslide victory.
We got the nation’s first Health Care overhaul (Medicare) because the GOP refused to stand for individual liberty.
So much for “party first.” “Party first” guys say “party first” and “anyone but” only when they want principled conservatives to compromise for the establishment’s favorite. They refuse to do it when the people’s choice of candidate is too truly conservative for their taste.
The Dawn of “Morning in America”
Another backer arose, however, amidst the campaign: a young former democrat and former proponent of FDR New Dealism who had recently converted to conservative views, particularly in opposition to federal intrusions into people’s lives (including opposition to the Civil Rights Act).
The young man was Ronald Reagan. Read the basics about his early political development here.
Reagan spoke in behalf of the Goldwater campaign in 1964. His speech is now-famous. It is also now almost totally ignored by the GOP, except for quaint sound-byes they have no idea of acting upon. More on the content of the speech below.
If someone gave Reagan’s exact same speech today, word-for-word, without revealing that it was from Reagan, they would be dismissed by most Christians and conservatives as a radical libertarian hack.
This is how far we’ve come since 1964. The primary candidates look pretty much the same, and party political pressures are running much the same. We are still told who is the front-runner, and the establishment still uses blackballing and dirty tricks to get its way. But the only major success of the Republican Party during the interim period was the so-called Reagan revolution, and that revolution was a clear expression of Barry Goldwater-style libertarian-conservatism. And this is entirely buried by the establishment today.
The Farce of “Anybody but ______”
In this story is both bad news and good news.
The bad news is that lesser-of-two-evils voting, the failure to back truly principled candidates out of unfounded fears, and “anyone but” voting is still with us, still perpetuating elitism, tyranny, social decline, and causing gradual decline in quality of candidates.
The perpetual “anybody but ____” mantra that keeps turning the American election merry-go-round has done absolutely nothing, politically, but lead to decline in all three branches of government. If you disgree, then tell me what major political advances have conservatives made since 1964?
If you qualify that question to mean major advances that are not offset by subsequent losses in related areas, you probably can’t name a single one.
“Anybody but ____” has given us “anything but freedom.”
As long as there are party hacks in both major parties who profit from one form or other of big government, it will not change. The two party system was created for and protects a corrupt system. As insider (and mentor to Bill Clinton) Carroll Quigley wrote,
The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. . . .
But either party in office becomes corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.(2)
The irony is that I went to find that quotation, and then recovered this in Quigley’s very next paragraph:
The capture of the Republican National Party by the extremist elements of the Republican Congressional Party in 1964, and their effort to elect Barry Goldwater to the Presidency with the petty-bourgeois extremists alone, was only a temporary aberration on the American political scene.(3)
In Quigley’s view, this “petty bourgeois (lower middle class)” was driven to support Goldwater due to its “clinging to its particular version of the middle-class outlook” and “passing it on to its offspring in an even more intensified form” while the rest of the middle class was disintegrating around it.(4)
Ring any bells about “cling to their guns and religion”? And in Quigley’s day, the establishment right was just as exasperated about Goldwater as the left was.
The establishment, left and right, has not changed.
A Way Forward
The 1964 general election was a landslide unmatched until 1980 when Reagan annihilated Carter. But here’s the good news: it was the legacy of grassroots workers after Goldwater’s campaign that grew into the Reagan revolution.
It was Richard Viguerie’s compilation of a few thousand names of Goldwater supporters into a single mailing list that launched, in seed form, that revolution. That list eventually enabled conservatives across the country to realize that others like them existed. It began a movement.
But it was Reagan’s political outlook and platform—individual liberty and self-government—that put him over the top, first as governor of California, then as President.
In short, no Goldwater, no Reagan.
Today we have a “Liberty Movement” far larger than the ripples Goldwater created. But we are told that Goldwater was “a temporary aberration.”
Quigley was right with Goldwater, and even Reagan succumbed to huge deficits while in office and never challenged the banking establishment.
The question for today’s Christians and conservatives who love liberty is, are we going to be another temporary aberration? Or shall we consolidate, stand firm, and send that message to the establishment at every level of every party and government?
Below is the speech Ronald Reagan gave at Goldwater’s 1964 nomination campaign. The issues he emphasized were these:
- fiscal conservatism
- the freedoms intended by the founding fathers
- the American Revolution and self-government
- the rejection of an intellectual elite in Washington
- rejection of “greater government activity in the affairs of the people”
- defense of free markets and individual freedoms
- return to the Constitution
- criticism of government “force and coercion”
- an end to government subsidies and programs that interfere with the private sector
- criticism of the growth of federal bureaucracy
- critique of “urban renewal”
- promotion of strict private property rights
- critique of federal government in housing and mortgage
- critique of federal government involvement in “employment”
- critique of envy
- critique of massive spending on welfare programs
- exposure of the bankruptcy and fraudulent accounting of Social Security
- a plan to make social security voluntary
- “stop the advance of socialism”
- honesty and integrity in elected leaders
These are all biblical issues which Christians should embrace.
We are now still in the primary season in many levels of elections throughout this country, including the presidency. It’s no longer 1964, but there are still candidates who still speak to these issues like Reagan did in 1964. And as Reagan said, “Perhaps there is a simple answer. Not an easy answer, but simple.” We should seek that answer. Christians don’t have to settle for “anybody but.”
Nor should they. Ever.
Consider. Vote wisely. Vote morally.
And then teach your children to do so in an even more intensified form.
- See here, p. 168.
- Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 1247–8.
- Quigley, 1248.
- Quigley, 1248–9.
There is no doubt that taxation in this age and nation has become a great and tyrannous evil. This is a note about how it has been made so easy for them to do it to us, and how simply it could be undone.
On glorious tax day, yesterday, the Libertarian Party (I have no affiliation) posted a great graphic showing the before and after of federal income taxes in this country after 100 years—1913 and 2013. The contrast is staggering.
While this graphic is great and helpful, it doesn’t relate one of the most important parts of the story that occurred along the way, and one which may present a key to undoing the scheme: withholding. This is where the government began to require your employer to withhold income taxes directly from every paycheck. Gary North writes it up well:
The withholding tax program makes it easier for governments to collect taxes. The system was invented by Rockefeller agent Beardsley Ruml. When, in 1942, he came up with a plan to sell Congress on the idea of income tax withholding, he understood exactly what this would do for revenues actually collected: multiply them.
Here was the government’s problem in 1942: only about five million out of the 34 million Americans subject to the income tax were saving to pay it on March 15, 1943. This presented a big problem for tax collectors, now that wartime taxes had been hiked dramatically. Ruml, formerly the director of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation, in 1942 was chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He was also the treasurer of R. H. Macy & Co., the department store. As Macy’s treasurer, he well understood that most people resist saving for known expenditures. He asked: Why not get employers to deduct their employees’ income tax liabilities? He recommended this to Congress in 1942, and Congress in 1943 passed a tax collection bill that included Ruml’s withholding provision: the Current Tax Payment Act.
The Treasury Department went to work defending this program. It used staff economist Milton Friedman to do much of the research.
Did the scheme work? Beyond the politicians’ wildest expectations. In 1942, the U.S. government collected $3.2 billion from income taxes. It 1943, before the law was fully operational, it collected $6.5 billion from income taxes. In 1944, it collected $20 billion. (“Historical Statistics of the United States,” Pt. 2 , p. 1105.)
The withholding tax was passed as a wartime measure. Naturally, it was not repealed in 1945.
The withholding tax system is popular with the Federal government for four reasons. First, the government deliberately over-withholds. This forces taxpayers to file their forms to get their refunds. They must identify where they live. Second, it creates a “free money from the government” emotional response when the refund check arrives. Third, the government gets to use this money, interest-free, during the taxable year. Fourth, it makes income taxes and Social Security taxes less painful and therefore more acceptable.
If we were able to get that one war-time measure returned to the pre-war status quo, it would be one huge step toward recovering freedom in taxation and many other areas that depend upon that revenue. It would be amazing to see a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, or anyone, introduce such a measure and stand seriously for it. Sadly, concern over the income tax as a whole only appears to be seen with the Libertarian Party—and by that I am not endorsing it, only observing. Can you imagine such a chart being circulated by the Republican Party (don’t even ask about the Democrats)? Can you imagine an actual plan of action to undo the scheme?
North suggests it would take only two things to bring down the system: abolish withholding and move the filing deadline to the Monday right before each Election Day in November. I don’t even think you would have to move the deadline—though the thought of annoyed voters going to polls immediately after writing a fat check to the government is entertaining.
Here’s North’s take:
If withholding were abolished, the decline in revenues would be both immediate, permanent, and spectacular. Then, on the second Monday of November, there would be desperation across the land. Hardly anyone would have saved all of the money owed during the year. Where would they get the money to pay? They wouldn’t. So, many would not file. There would be no way that the Internal Revenue Service could follow up on all the non-filing residents.
As soon as the taxpayers realized that there are too many people to convict, they would understand the enormous power they possess. Congress could do nothing. It would have to cut taxes to such a degree that people will set aside money to pay. It would have to issue high-interest tax prepayment bonds.
This would be the closest things to a real tea party we’ve had since the original. It would be even bigger and better since our own “taxation with representation” taxes are so much higher than they ever were back then.
Yesterday, I said that if anyone had any specific questions from Hall’s post-debate data-dump, I would consider and address them. Someone has asked about Jordan’s claim that I told him on stage that the debate did not go well for me. Here is what Jordan states in the eBook:
[B]efore we even left the stage, McDurmon noted to me that the debate did not go well for him, and expressed the same sentiment on the phone several days afterward. In that second admission, McDurmon asked me to engage in ongoing back-and-forths on our websites, giving points and counterpoints and “continuing the dialogue.”
This is a particularly egregious example of the problem of Jordan Hall versus the facts: Not a single bit of this is true. I said no such thing. These claims dot the “i” in the word “delusion.”
Hot Mic (!)
In someone’s wise providence, that on-stage discussion immediately after the debate was recorded on a hot mic. Not only did I say no such thing as Jordan alleges, I did not say anything remotely close to it. Here is the audio of that discussion. You can listen for yourself:
There are some interesting admissions in this audio, however, just not from me. You will hear Jordan say we should have another debate on Christian Reconstructionism—just not the role of the law itself or eschatology. You will hear him say that he spoke with Westminster California professors (Dr. Barker and [inaudible—Horton???]) prior to the debate and that they said they refused to debate theonomists only because they do not want to give us a platform to speak. You will hear him throw out a random boogeyman quote from Rushdoony—“there is a place for coercion”—that suspiciously happens to feature in that terrible anti-Theonomy book by McGlasson, which Jordan then proceeds to call “garbage” and say he “threw out.”
Consequently, that very quotation—“there is a place for coercion”—has already been addressed in the 27-page context package I put together specifically for that book. It’s number 4 on page 2. (I also caught Jordan using material from that book again in a Facebook argument after the debate.)
All that good stuff is in there, but there is nary a hint of any admission on my part that I thought the debate didn’t go well for me.
Again, this claim is utterly false.
The Phone Call
Jordan further claims I said the same thing in a phone call a few days later as well as asking him “to engage in ongoing back-and-forths on our websites.”
Well, I have that phone call recorded, too, and I can tell you exactly what was said. After a 12-minute discussion negotiating our then-to-come “Joint Statement,” Hall mentioned his friend Brannon Howse’s name. Howse, as you know, has treated Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction about as poorly as Hall has done (see here, here, here, here). I recalled this little (and fairly recent) history at that moment and lamented to myself the fact that it is so difficult to get these guys to be accurate in representing our position. I told Jordan again I would like to sit down with them, open the actual books, and go through the issues more slowly. At that point, I said,
I honestly in retrospect think that a debate was the wrong way to do this. Not that I am, you know, upset about it or anything; I just think that you guys are so way off of what we teach and I think a lot of that could be remedied. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m wrong.
Did you get out of that anything like, “Gee, this debate sure did not go well for me”? No. In fact, I said I was not upset about the debate. I just would just prefer a type of interaction in which these guys could be held more directly accountable in person for such random quotations and representations of our position. That is difficult to do in formal debate in regard to the books and random quotations, but could certainly be done in an open-book discussion setting.
I also said nothing in that call about any “ongoing back-and-forths on our websites.” Nothing. I do have a couple emails from around that time that could possibly have been misconstrued that way, but it would take some work to do so. There was one in which I suggested continuing private emails with him to discuss errors. There was another in which I told him my intention to post the many remaining Debate Q&A questions that never got answered, and that if I did so I would give him the first opportunity to answer the ones addressed to him. He was not interested in doing so.
So, these claims about our phone call are unwarranted as well. Nowhere did I say I thought the debate did not go well for me, nor did I ask Hall for ongoing discussions on our websites.
And keep in mind, all of this on my part was an attempt to reach out to discuss these things in private first so they would not misrepresent us and we could have avoided exposing their errors over and over in public. All of these offers on my part were meant to give courtesies to them. Hall is not interested, and Howse has never contacted me at all.
You can judge for yourself by reading and listening for yourself. My view is that, at best, someone has a problem with self-centered listening, but perhaps also with delusion, and perhaps even with just telling the truth. And the same person probably has a sore arm, too.
But as far as my post-debate admissions of defeat? Yeah, that never happened.
Mama always said don’t tell lies, because if you tell a lie, you’ll end up having to tell another one to cover it up. What follows is an example of how this works in the world of anti-Theonomy debate and publication.
Last night I was informed that Jordan Hall finally posted his post-debate thoughts—in the form of an eBook. In a spacious 114 pages, he addresses the broad scope of the debate as well as some of my articles afterward.
Even after having interacted with Hall as much as I have already, and having witnessed the quality of interaction already compiled and documented, even I was shocked at the bewildering combination of self-congratulatory praise built on half-truths manufactured in this book. I mean the self-adulation is astounding. Not only are there frequent references to his resounding triumphs and my failures, and overt appeals to his friends who said he won the debate, he actually thinks he single-handedly laid Theonomy to rest once and for all. He recalls one part of his own debate performance like this: “there was one nail after another pounded into the coffin of theonomy.”
But I read the book, and I was at the debate, and I have to say, not only do I not see that, I don’t see anything like it. All I see from Hall are bent nails and smashed thumbs.
This book deserves little response, but the subject herein will cover a few words necessary to make a point. I will certainly not attempt to untie all its labyrinthine strains. I will give my general impression of the book as well as a couple reasons for that impression. If anyone who actually reads through it finds any particular point compelling and thinks I should address it, feel free to contact me via email or social media and we’ll discuss it.
As for my general impression of the eBook, let me put it this way. In an early part of the book, Hall describes his debate prep. At one point he notes that he “read books opposed to Theonomy” that he “did not feel were compelling.” He listed two: No! A Theological Response to Christian Reconstructionism by Paul McGlasson, and Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust. He has referred to these two books as “crap” and “garbage” that he “threw out.”
Well, my general impression is that there’s now a third anti-Theonomy book to go in that same file.
A Unsanctified Dedication
I promised listeners after the debate that I would review every one of Jordan’s quotations from the debate for veracity—as misrepresentation is a common and well-documented problem among critics of Theonomy. The result is recorded for perpetuity in twelve articles in the Hall of Shame 2.0. One would have thought the after being exposed for unacceptable treatment of texts over and over, Hall may have at least tried to steer clear of that error. He has instead become entrenched in it to the point of predictability. Indeed, one cannot get past the dedication page of his book (page 3) before seeing him do it yet again.
In a display of utter hubris, he dedicated the book (about the alleged “dying embers” of Theonomy) to R. J. Rushdoony, and in particular, “to a specific quotation by R. J. Rushdoony: . . .” He then quotes,
“The purpose for Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law.”
(Rousas J. Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, Pg. 3)
If I had not seen this atrocious “boogeyman quote” (as some people call it) early on in my study of this topic, the insidious and dangerous nature of hyponomy [his pet term for Theonomy] might have been lost on me.
I am not sure what in the world Jordan finds “atrocious” about Rushdoony’s quotation above. There is actually nothing at all distinctive about it from a theonomic viewpoint, as we will see in a moment. Instead, it is nothing more than standard Reformed theology.
Before we examine that angle, we have to note once again that Jordan has done some creative editing here. He has literally truncated Rushdoony’s sentence by adding an arbitrary period smack in the middle of it, not letting the thought finish (which includes the Scripture references which develop it), and he has not even performed the courtesy of alerting his reader to this fact by adding an ellipsis as responsible authors do. Here’s the whole quotation from Rushdoony:
The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man “from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2), “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4).
Jordan could not even get beyond the third page in his book before he found it necessary to present a quotation from Rushdoony with his own editorial cut-and-paste treatment. Such behavior probably will not help the cause of a guy who has in the past couple weeks been attempting to win notoriety by blasting established Christian journalists for their journalistic integrity.
In the above quotation, Rushdoony goes on to note that the law is relevant to man’s indictment under sin, to his redemption (since Christ kept the law for us), and finally to our sanctification (as the rule and pattern of it). It might have been helpful for Jordan to include the rest of Rushdoony’s sentence as an exposition of certain Scripture passages, as well as the immediate context in which Rushdoony does nothing more than lay out the traditional “normative” use of the law accepted by virtually all Reformed theologians throughout history—except, apparently, Jordan Hall.
What this unsanctified dedication does is illustrate the dangers of overreacting in an attempt to skewer Theonomy. In an example of what is actually quite common, people overreact to the law so much they end up speaking and arguing like liberals in politics, and worse, antinomians in theology. This is not to say, of course that Hall is actually an antinomian in confession. Rather, it is when one carries their anti-theonomic critiques—especially in straw man form—to their logical extremes that they actually start speaking like an antinomian.
Thus, Jordan finds Rushdoony’s teaching on the law’s relation to sanctification “atrocious” and revealing as to how “insidious and dangerous” Theonomy really is. He concludes his condemnation:
As I train people in evangelism and teach them that we use the Law to bring awareness of our need for and eventually acceptance of the Gospel, there are some who do the opposite…they use the Gospel to bring our awareness and acceptance of the Law. It is the backwards approach and diminishes the preeminence of Gospel, stirring me to contend for the truth in this matter.
What’s difficult about this statement is not only its imprecision, but that a rejection of a positive role of law in the life of a believer after salvation would be an example of genuine antinomianism. Jordan should know better than to set law and Gospel against each other in this way. After all, we are not talking about justification, as he himself said in the debate—admitting Rushdoony is correct on justification. This statement in the Institutes is, however, about sanctification.
Like I said, this is nothing more than traditional Reformed theology. For example, the London Baptist Confession (LBC)—which is supposed to be Jordan’s own confession of faith—teaches exactly the same thing as Rushdoony does above. LBC Chapter 13 on “Sanctification” makes clear that as the saints grow in grace, they also grow “in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.” Obedience? Obedience to commands? What could this mean? Let a respectable Reformed Baptist theologian, Sam Waldron, answer this for us: “In general good works are those which conform to the law of God as revealed in the Scriptures (see chapter 19).”
See Chapter 19 indeed. This is child’s play compared to what the LBC teaches in regard to the Law of God itself in that chapter. Consider sections 5, 6, and 7 of Chapter 19:
- The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.
Contrary to Hall, who above presents this view of the law’s binding obligation for the life of the believer after the Gospel as “hyponomy”—“under the law”—the LBC teaches the exact opposite:
- Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; . . . [M]an’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.
In other words, while Jordan wishes to maintain that Rushdoony’s view of law and Gospel is “hyponomy”—under the law—the confession explicitly says this view is not evidence of being under the law.
Finally, to kill any doubt whatsoever, section 7 speaks in the exact same terms as Rushdoony does in the quotation above:
- Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
Remember what Rushdoony said in that “atrocious” quotation? “The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man ‘from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’ (Rom. 8:4).” It is without any surprise, then, that we find among the LBC’s scripture proofs for this section none other than . . . Romans 8:4. Atrocious!
Here again, a reputable Reformed Baptist theologian is helpful. Sam Waldron concludes his comments on this section with a statement so close to what Rushdoony said above that I fear he could be in danger of a dedication in Jordan’s next book. Waldron concludes: “The very purpose of the gospel is to deliver men from lawlessness and cause them to obey the law of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:4; Titus 2:14).” Note also not only the same exact sentiment and language, but the same reference to Romans 8:4 which Jordan edited out of his quotation of Rushdoony.
I have found Waldron’s extended comments on this section very helpful, particularly in providing a more traditional Reformed alternative to Jordan’s idea that it is “insidious and dangerous” to suggest that believers are somehow bound to the law after having received the Gospel. For example, Waldron comments:
Some apparently were saying that while we ought to do what the law says as to its content or matter, we should not do it because the law says it, but simply because of gratitude to Christ. Several serious problems may be pointed out in such a sentiment. It is unscriptural (James 2:10-11; Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21). This is a subtler form of the error that justified persons are not bound to obey the law, since ultimately it is not the authority of the law they regard, but only their gratitude to Christ. Its practical effect is to convey to the popular mind a lessened sense of the majesty of the law of God and of the seriousness and absolute necessity of law-keeping. It makes faithful exhortation to duty difficult, because those who hold this teaching always object that you are bringing them back into slavery. If anyone speaks to such people of duty and obligation, their response is that such exhortations are legalistic. Christ strengthens the original authority of the law. He does not put the content or the matter of the law on a new foundation. He does not eliminate the obligation to obey our Creator, but adds the obligation of gratefully obeying our Redeemer.
Waldron’s point is that a diminished view of law-keeping for the believer leads not only to complacency, but to the type of complaints against Theonomy we have heard from Jordan and his friends: it is legalism, slavery, “under the law,” etc. Waldron’s fuller comments are very helpful and are included in the footnote.
The only question now is whether Jordan will amend his error regarding Rushdoony’s “atrocious” view, or whether he will remain consistent with his newly-stated antinomian view and abandon the London Confession of Faith. In doing so, of course, he will have to assign the Confession and adherents like Sam Waldron to the same dungeons of “insidious and dangerous” theology as R. J. Rushdoony.
It’s bad enough to commit such an elementary error. It’s worse to commit such an error in public for all to see. But to do so in the form of an attempted kill shot on your book’s dedication page only to have it backfire on you has got to be abominably embarrassing. Kids, let this serve as an example of the classic proverb, hubris goes before the fall. When you line up your opponent execution-style and start to gloat, make sure you don’t have blanks in your gun, and make sure he’s not hiding a .40 S&W under his vest.
If I were to attempt to document every like fallacy and failure in this offering from Hall, it would certainly take more time and pages than it’s worth, or than anyone would need to read (especially considering I have already one so much of it elsewhere). I will, as I said, leave it to interested readers to ask particular questions if they care. My operators will be standing by to take your calls.
I would add briefly that Jordan’s attempt in this book to justify his utter fabrication of a quotation during the debate is particularly revealing. He actually insists 1) that the term “civilly atone” is a “quotation” and “quote” that exists, 2) that it is actually “the words from a chapter” of Rushdoony’s text, and yet 3) Jordan still cannot provide the actual quotation. He then implies I failed because I allegedly neglected to do certain research even though I not only I actually did it, but published it, and it appears clearly in the very article of mine he cites in the book. This section is so convoluted and filled with pretense that it may warrant its own separate treatment. We’ll see. His attempt to escape the force of John Gill’s theonomic views are every bit as gymnastic, partial, and selective, so who knows, maybe we’ll have a Hall of Shame 3.0.
In short, this book confirms for me, again, that the same Jordan Hall who did the original anti-Theonomy podcasts has not progressed at all from the level of the original fallacies. Instead, he has gotten much worse. Mama was right, after all, about those fibs and tall tales—you have to keep telling them to cover the old ones. It seems Jordan is quite versed at it. The more I endure this, the more I feel like I’m arguing with a former car salesman. The only difference between then and now is that the tales are now thoroughly documented for anyone who cares to read. And now, for the level-headed reader, more substantial positive teachings may follow.
Jordan says he plans to avoid endless blog wars and “back and forth” now that he has released his parting shots. After reading them, I can understand why. Accountability is tough.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3526-3527). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3958-3975). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3981-3983). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4127-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 From Sam Waldron:
This position raised the question which Paul had to answer many centuries before: ‘Why then the law?’ (Rom. 3:31; 5:20-21; Gal. 3:19). The question of the obligation and usefulness of the law in the believer’s life dominates paragraphs 5-7 of this chapter of the Confession. Some Protestants concluded that since believers were not justified by the works of the law, the law had little use in the believer’s life. Others were saying that justified persons were under no binding obligation to obey the law. Antinomian teachers deduced this from the doctrine of free justification. They argued that free justification completely freed one from the slavery of the law and that feeling bound to obey the law was slavery. Thus feeling bound to obey the law was inconsistent with free justification. Unsaved and unjustified people were bound by the law, but not Christians. Such positions the Confession rejects, and teaches instead both the inherent obligation of the law over all men and the positive usefulness of the law in the believer’s life.
In so doing the Confession asserts the fundamental truth that the obligation to obey the law is an inherent and unavoidable part of all human existence. In other words the law binds men for ever, whether justified or unjustified, simply because as creatures they owe such obedience to the Creator. The New Testament teaches very clearly that the law binds unsaved persons (Matt. 19:16-22; Rom. 2:14-15; 3:19-20; 6:14; 7:6; 8:3; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). But it also teaches that the moral law, the Ten Commandments, binds believers (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Eph. 4:25-6:4; James 2:11-12). In Ephesians 4:25-6:4 each of the last six of the Ten Commandments is applied to the church corporately and individual Christians. Note particularly the assumption that the Fifth Commandment is authoritative by its explicit citation in 6:4.
The Confession expands and qualifies this truth in several ways in paragraphs 5-7. In the first place it states the obvious implication: ‘Christ in the gospel’ does not in ‘any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation’. Some apparently were saying that while we ought to do what the law says as to its content or matter, we should not do it because the law says it, but simply because of gratitude to Christ. Several serious problems may be pointed out in such a sentiment. It is unscriptural (James 2:10-11; Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21). This is a subtler form of the error that justified persons are not bound to obey the law, since ultimately it is not the authority of the law they regard, but only their gratitude to Christ. Its practical effect is to convey to the popular mind a lessened sense of the majesty of the law of God and of the seriousness and absolute necessity of law-keeping. It makes faithful exhortation to duty difficult, because those who hold this teaching always object that you are bringing them back into slavery. If anyone speaks to such people of duty and obligation, their response is that such exhortations are legalistic. Christ strengthens the original authority of the law. He does not put the content or the matter of the law on a new foundation. He does not eliminate the obligation to obey our Creator, but adds the obligation of gratefully obeying our Redeemer.
In the beginning of paragraph 6 the Confession carefully qualifies the binding obligation of the law by carefully stating that true believers are not under the law’ as a covenant of works’, but’ as a rule of life’. Those who think of all law-keeping as legal must understand that there is an enormous practical and experiential difference between being under the law as a rule of life and under it as a covenant of works, i.e. as a method of earning salvation. The Believer is not under the law as a method of justification (Rom. 6:14; 10:4). ‘As a covenant of works’, the law is a strict slave-master who pays only the wages of death (Rom. 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:7). As a rule of life, it is a law of liberty in which the Christian delights (James 2:12; Rom. 7:25). The sentiment, ‘Don’t let the law of God in your conscience!’ is the error here refuted. Of course, we must not let the law of God in our conscience ‘as a covenant of works’! But unless the law of God is in our conscience as a rule of life (Jer. 31:33-34; Rom. 8:4, 7-9), we have no part in the salvation found in Christ and the New Covenant.
The mass of paragraph 6 is taken up in enumerating the uses of the law in the believer’s life. Space cannot be taken to expand on each of these uses. The last sentence of paragraph 6 must, however, be emphasized in our modem context. The thrust of this sentence is that it is not wrong to obey the law out of fear of the consequences of disobedience on the one hand, or out of desire for the reward of obedience on the other. It is often said, ‘If you do something because the law promises blessing and reward, then that is legal obedience.’ Such sentiments are confusing distortions of the Word of God. The Bible everywhere uses both threat and reward to encourage the proper response to God’s Word (e.g. the book of Proverbs; Matt. 3:7; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:40; Heb. 11:26; 1 Peter 3:8-13).
The final comment of the Confession on the inherent obligation Of the law of God is that the law and the gospel do not conflict (Gal. 3:21). Rather, the grace of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ enable us to do freely and cheerfully what God has revealed in the law. How could the law and gospel conflict? The very purpose of the gospel is to deliver men from lawlessness and cause them to obey the law of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:4; Titus 2:14).
[Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4088-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.]
The attached article deals with the argument that preterism was concocted by the Jesuit Luis De Alcazar to divert attention away from the Reformational claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the end-time antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the harlot.
While the article is mainly geared to answering the charge of dispensationalists, it also applies to Historicist critics of preterism.
The article “Was the Preterist Interpretation of Revelation Invented by the Jesuits to Divert Attention away from the Reformational Interpretation that the Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is the Roman Catholic Church?” can be found here.