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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 36 min 27 sec ago
Wednesday’s article on the premillennialists’ defeatism in regard to Obergefell rankled a few feathers. There were even a couple guys in one Facebook group who agreed they’d like to punch me for writing it. But there is no escaping the truth of it.
The hatefulness may seem out-of-place to some, but it is really not that shocking to those of us who understand what Gary North long ago called the pietist-humanist alliance. This phenomenon results from an unspoken pact between the pessimillennialists and the secular humanists which works like this: premillennialists believe there can be no social transformation before Christ comes back physically, and that any attempted is a waste of time. This means that premillennialists implicitly, if not explicitly, believe that secular humanist bureaucrats ought to dominate culture and government, and that they ought to increase their dominion as time goes on. The Christian’s role in this scenario is not to challenge their humanist taskmasters (although we can enjoy the leeks and fishes while they’re available). In this alliance, the pietists are functionally allied with the secular humanists in history because they refuse to get involved, and even if they do, they do so only expecting failure on their own part. Thus the pietists who comprise the vast majority of evangelical and conservative Christians keep biblical law out of government, and stifle and condemn those who try. The pietists run interference, and the humanists follow the pietists’ blocking scheme for the easy touchdowns. (Admittedly, this sports analogy assumes there are actually some of these pietist Christians on the field. Most are actually on the sidelines or not even in uniform.)
North related how the message of Christian Reconstruction actually provokes resentment on the part of those fiercely wedded to their desire that the ship actually sink:
They resent anyone who would make their humanist taskmasters angry. What frightens some of the dispensational critics is their fear of persecution. David Allen Lewis warns in his book, Prophecy 2000, that “as the secular, humanistic, demonically-dominated world system becomes more and more aware that the Dominionists and Reconstructionists are a real political threat, they will sponsor more and more concerted efforts to destroy the Evangelical church. Unnecessary persecution could be stirred Up.” In short, because politics is supposedly humanistic by nature, any attempt by Christians to speak to political issues as people – or worse, as a people – who possess an explicitly biblical agenda will invite “unnecessary persecution.”
This quotations comes from the chapter, “The Pietist-Humanist Alliance,” in the book by North and DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is and What It Isn’t. This is available for free online and the whole book is well worth the read, especially as an introduction to CR. It serves well also to bust several of the enduring myths about our views.
The “alliance” is, of course, not an actual organization, but an unspoken functional pact which liberals are all too willing to exploit. The pietist-premillennialists can get angry all they want, but they can never escape the fact that they are intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, functionally, dogmatically, financially, culturally, ecclesiastically, and educationally invested in cultural defeat. Anyone who would dare show the folly of such an endeavor risks provoking any or all of the whole wrath of the whole man from all of these perspectives. The fact that some now fondly entertain thoughts of physical violence in defense of their views is proof of this point.
The investment in cultural defeat, however, means it is an inescapable fact that Obergefell belongs not only to the secular humanist legacy, but to the pietist and premillennialist legacy as well. Like the homosexual mirage itself, the pietist-humanist alliance is a marriage made in hell. The Justices have now pronounced them man and wife. Pietists, you may now kiss your bride.
I leave you with North’s conclusion:
The humanists want Christians to stay out of politics as Christians. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that there are valid biblical blueprints that apply to this world. The pietists agree. The humanists argue that Old Testament laws, if applied today, would produce tyranny. The pietists agree. The humanists say that the civil government should be run in terms of religiously neutral laws. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that the God of the Bible brings predictable sanctions in history against societies that do not obey His law. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that the preaching of the gospel will ever fundamentally change the way the world operates. The pietists agree. The humanists say that Christians should sit in the back of cultural bus. The pietists agree. This is why both sides hate the message of Christian Reconstruction.
This morning I read some hard-but-true words from my friend Chris Ortiz. He posted on Facebook:
The average opponent to the removal of monuments featuring the Ten Commandments cannot actually tell you what those commandments are, if you were to ask them. I tested many people in this several years ago when this happened in Alabama with Justice Moore. People said, “Let’s see… um.. thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal… um… love thy neighbor,” and I said, “Love thy neighbor is not listed in the Ten Commandments.”
They say, “Oh, it isn’t?” I say, “No, that’s in the New Testament. Love thy neighbor is a partial summary of the Ten Commandments, but it’s not actually listed there. Please continue.”
They say… “Um… don’t commit adultery, don’t steal…” I say, “You already mentioned stealing.” They finally say, “Oh hell, I don’t know them all but they shouldn’t remove it!
I heartily agree with his conclusion:
The greater sin is not the removal of those commandments from a courthouse. If you profess to believe those commandments, the greater sin is the removal of those commandments from your heart and mind.
It’s hard to beat the liberals when we make it so easy for them to make us look silly. As I’ve written before, I don’t care what monuments and slogans we write on the outside; as long as the inside of the courthouse and the law books are not filled with the Commandments, it is bearing God’s name in vain.
I remember after the debate on Mosaic civil law, one of my dear friends who later spoke to me said, “You’re talking about the judicial case laws? I would be happy if we could just got back to the Ten Commandments!” Putting aside all the theological issues about the relationship between the moral and judicial aspects of Mosaic law for the moment, the sentiment is commendable and wise. Ortiz above shows how deep the problem really is: Christians and conservatives themselves have little idea what is in the Commandments on which they claim their civilization is built.
While we could find all kinds of reasons for this—public schooling, laziness, lack of catechizing, the sons of the Anabaptists, and the failure of pulpits to preach the law—the basic starting-point here needs to be self-recognition of the basic failure to know the basic core of God’s Law ourselves, personally.
As Christian individuals, first, we need to return to the high esteem which the Bible has for God’s Law, and make that central to our lives:
I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. . . .
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way (Psalm 119:44–48; 97–104).
Before someone objects that this is all Old Testament, they may wish to see how Jesus looked at it. Jesus thought just as highly of the law, and saw the Commandments not just as great and wonderful, but as necessary to and inseparable from the Christian life:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (14:21–24).
He repeats the lesson:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you (15:9–14).
The author of this Gospel reiterates Jesus’ direct teaching in his later Epistle:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2–3).
Wow! When was the last time you heard such a sermon from our grace-dripping, two-kingdoms, modern pulpits? This IS the love of God: that we keep His commandments!
While Paul does teach that we are no longer “under the law” and are freed from the curse of the law, he nevertheless also adds that the Law is “holy and righteous, and good” (Rom. 7:12). He follows, “I agree with the law, that it is good” (7:16), and “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (7:18). The problem, therefore, is not with the law, but with our breaking of it: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (7:14). “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). The Christian has a different mindset, however: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9). Considering what he has just said about the law, what should this difference of mindset tell you about the Christian’s orientation to the law?
The very distinctive (in this regard) of the New Covenant is not that the law is done away with—quite the contrary! The distinction is that the law—the same law—is written on our hearts and we should know it (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:7–13; 10:15–18).
This is the stratospheric esteem in which the Bible upholds God’s Law. And most Christians can’t even recite more than a couple of them.
Question: in light of these teachings of the New Testament and of Jesus Himself, how can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t have the Ten Commandments written upon your heart? How can you say you “love Jesus” if His commandments are not first and forefront in your life? How can we claim to be Spirit-filled without also having clear knowledge of, and longing for, His laws?
The church—by which I mean everyone in it from her pastors and leaders all the way down to the lowliest members—needs to repent of our ignorance of God’s standards of living for us, and of our negligence in pursuing them. We need to embrace God’s Law once again.
Then maybe, just maybe, if we begin to right our own ship in regard to loving God’s Standard, we’ll have a leg to stand on when it comes to Restoring America.
Every once in a while you get someone who just comes out and says it. When such a someone is on the opposite side of a theological disagreement, and when what they say perfectly exhibits exactly what you’ve been criticizing them for, it makes for a moment of thankfulness. I accept any and all such admissions. In fact, not only am I thankful, but joyful.
That joy, however, is short-lived when the subject is eschatology and the admission is one of historical defeatism. This is exactly what has happened in the wake of the SCOTUS opinion on homosexual marriage. A website of premillennialists has just come out and said what American Vision has been pointing out for a long time: premillennialism logically entails cultural surrender, and when cultural defeats happen, premillennialists secretly love it—“we’re one step closer!” Except now, it’s no secret (as if it ever was!).
I have made this point repeatedly in the past, notably here and here, and every time I do, someone retorts that it’s unfair to say premillennialism entails cultural defeatism and the happy embrace of it. Well, don’t take my word for it. Let the premillennialist leaders say it for themselves. Cripplegate.com author and Baptist pastor Clint Arthur renders the following assessment after the pitiful SCOTUS opinion:
It isn’t easy for Christians to identify a silver lining to Friday’s ruling that is worth celebration; unless you’re a premillennialist.
Whereas postmillennialism believes that Christ will return to earth when the gospel has triumphed over unbelief and conquered the globe, premillennialists aren’t holding their breath. Premills teach that the world will slide from bad to worse until it is so irrecoverably bad that only Jesus can fix it. That will be his cue to return and establish a rule of peace, righteousness, and sanity in the courts.
So, it is on days like this that I read with relish passages that others may dismiss as pessimistic. I prefer to see regress in society as a welcome sign that the Bible is accurate, and that Jesus is coming soon.
He then quotes a few Bible passages in defense of cultural decline and historical defeat: 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 3, and Matthew 24. While it is not difficult, with just a little study and simple questions, to learn that the passages all pertain to the first century audience to whom they were originally written, and were in view of the last days of the Old Covenant age. Applying them universally and for all ages is, therefore, a mistake.
That aside, witness how gleefully—“with relish” “a welcome sign”!—our premil author accepts his lumps: almost with rhetorical flourish!
I can see why people would accuse me of cynicism. But, just like Michael Burry, the guy who made $100 million by shorting the sub-prime mortgage bubble moments before it burst, I’m just betting on the inevitable. Friday’s ruling is yet another harbinger of what the Bible predicts will happen. The world will slide into a miry cesspool that no human can restore. And then Jesus will return to make all things new. Every SCOTUS faux pas is a step closer to that great day.
For what it’s worth, at least now you can see I am not putting words in anyone’s mouths. And you can see that it’s not just the fringe, the uneducated, the aberrations, or the crazies out there who drive this narrative. The embrace of, and near-celebration of cultural defeat is explicit on the lips and in the hearts of standard, conservative, Bible-believing, Christian premillennial leaders.
This means that my previous criticisms, based on logical entailment, of their views not only stand, but are well-warranted. Thus, instead of searching for silver linings in monuments of cultural decline, generations of premillennialists deserve a large dose of the blame for it.
I can only repeat what I wrote before:
The discouraging fact is that this eschatology permeates the Christian Right and dominates the outlook of many Christian political activists. What does it say about their political activism? It says one thing: it says they are in this thing for the express purpose of losing it. Their eschatological outlook can mean nothing else.
It means the Christian Right enters the political game expecting to lose. They expect to lose the pro-life cause. They expect to lose the marriage fight. They expect to lose all our freedoms and biblical values in society. They expect to lose private property and free enterprise. They expect to lose the second amendment. They expect to lose the tenth amendment. They expect to lose the first amendment.
All of the shocking headlines on FOX that reveal gradual realizations of such things are not meant to be motivational in regard to actually doing something about them. They are only confirmatory of their eschatological expectations.
Even if they do not articulate these expectations, and would probably deny them when confronted, the eschatology dictates them. The logic is inescapable, and as far as these people truly believe in “worse and worse” history and rapture escapism, the psychological effects will be inescapable, too.
Among the many detrimental effects, one of the most important is the lack of any viable and principled plan to win. If winning is not on the table, then there will be no vision of what victory looks like, and certainly no strategy or tactics to achieve it. There will also be no willingness to sacrifice for such a plan. There is only waiting and praising our losses until Jesus comes back. This is bad news.
The good news is that premillennial defeatism is demonstrably wrong. Anyone who studies the simple use of Psalm 110:1 by the New Testament writers will be forced to conclude Jesus is currently enthroned, has all power in heaven and in earth, and that He shall not leave that heavenly throne until all His enemies are under His feet. This means that He will not return until that work is completed, and when He returns, there will be no more enemies.
This means that Christian defeatism is at odds with biblical eschatology. It means bad eschatology is one of those enemies—an intellectual one, but an enemy nonetheless. But this means that a huge part of the work to be done is to make a footstool out of bad eschatology. Dispensational defeatism must itself be defeated in time and in history.
Until this is done on a substantial scale, the Christian Right will not only continue to be the irrelevant and unproductive loser that it has been for a generation, it is actually a detriment and a drag to the progress of the kingdom.
Yes, eschatology matters. If you’re not in it to win it, then why are you there? Be biblically optimistic and have a plan, or get out of the way. You’re blocking up the doorway for people who do.
My article on the Confederate battle flag stimulated much discussion. Among the limited but strident opposition, with few exceptions, was exhibited much of the sentimentalism and illogical non-sequitur already refuted in the article. For the few exceptions, perhaps, if time and chance allow, I will offer my responses at some later date. I wish only to address, in a way, one point here: an analogy drawn to flying the American flag.
The basic argument of the former article is that the founding of the Confederacy is inseparable from racist, chattel slavery and all the abominations attendant thereunto. All other arguments about the war and the degenerate radicalism and corruption of the North notwithstanding, this baggage alone—which no effort yet has been able to shed—is enough to dump the allegiance to that flag.
The obvious retort, then, is, “Then what about the American flag?” True: greater atrocities than Southern slavery (and including Southern slavery), and far more in quantity, have been perpetrated under the auspices of that symbol and its Constitution—abortion being the foremost example of our generation. My argument about the Confederate flag certainly did not, and was not meant to, preclude such an observation.
The clearest refutation of any such suspicion will come if only the accuser take the time to peruse Restoring America One County at a Time. But a few pages here and there will be enough to inform the reader to my highly critical views of America’s sins and how those sins they are derived from mistakes made at the framing of the Constitution.
What I did not include in my reviews of late-nineteenth-century Nationalism (with which too many Christians and conservatives have been successfully trained to replace true patriotism) is the doleful history of the so-called pledge of allegiance. This Socialist artifact is blindly recited and defended by Christians and conservatives today in some kind of collectivist coma complete with mental images of George Washington praying and Madison holding aloft the Constitution amidst the sound of angel choirs, and—glory! The fireworks go off, and, “Play ball!”
The participant is rarely taught that not a single founding father, nor a single one of their immediate descendants, ever heard of anything like a pledge of allegiance. With few exceptions (Adams), they probably would not have condoned it either.
This pledge was written by an openly Socialist leader of the Socialist movement for the means and ends of Socialism, in hopes of producing more Socialists through America’s Socialist school system. It was nothing short of a means of unifying the national mind for the purposes of collectivization—the destruction of individualism and of individual rights and liberties.
The pledge was the product of a public-private partnership (i.e. Socialism) with the school system. The owner of Youth’s Companion magazine made his fortunes using American flags in public schools as incentives to sell magazine subscriptions. In a brief four year marketing campaign, the magazine had reached 26,000 schools. When sales began to plateau, owner Daniel Ford eyed the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus “discovering” America as a new marketing angle. To this end he hired a well-known Socialist activist and liberal Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy.
Francis was younger brother to the more famous (at the time) Edward Bellamy, whose 1887 novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887 had led to the formation of “Nationalist Clubs” (read: Socialist Clubs) across the country. The novel openly promoted a Socialist utopia in which America is transformed into a “national-cöoperative”: wages and contracts are abolished and “all alike were in the service of the nation working for the common fund, which all equally shared.”(1) The historian of the Social Gospel who relates this information notes that this socialized economy was envisioned to include socialized health care, and the abolition of capitalism and of private profits.
Edward was among the leaders who advanced these ideas as Christian virtues and duties. He was among the founding editors of the first and most prominent publication of the Society of Christian Socialists, The Dawn, in 1889. A few years later, he would join the more overtly-titled The American Fabian. The same aforementioned historian referred to Edward’s famous novel as “a powerful tract presenting the concept of a socialized totalitarian state . . . with a religious halo.”(2)
Francis was just as committed to the cause, and was, in fact, later booted from his pulpit for preaching Socialism. He had been not only a member but a founding member of the Society, and had helped draft its mission statement:
To awaken members of Christian churches to the fact that the teachings of Jesus Christ lead directly to some specific form or forms of Socialism. . . .
It was this radical Freemason who was hired in 1891 to sell magazines in public schools leveraging the landing of Columbus. This he did eagerly, seeing the opportunity as a means of advancing his collectivist agenda as well—which the schools were already designed to entrench anyway. The resulting plan was to use a national Columbus Day in which public schools would herd children around flag poles in a nationalistic salute to the flag. This unprecedented ceremony was to be the central focus of the day, and for the occasion Francis penned the original pledge of allegiance.
Students were required to salute the flag with arms extended and palms flat in imitation of the ancient Roman fascists. This gesture was adopted nationwide until it was recognized that the same salute was utilized by Hitler. At that point the salute was exchanged for the hand-over-heart gesture of Nationalism.
Reviewing his 1892 creation, Bellamy stated that he carefully selected the words, including that which in my view is the most unacceptable of all, “indivisible.” Bellamy stated that this word was specifically chosen because the Civil War was fought to prove that this nation can never be divided and must always stand as one Nation.
Despite his views on the Civil War and his progressive economic views, Bellamy was a racist who opposed immigration and universal suffrage for that reason. He opined that “every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth.” His sentiments on race, which were actually representative of a large portion of pseudo-religious Nationalist Yankees, can hardly be distinguished from those of the most hardened Southern slaver:
Where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another every alien immigrant of inferior race may bring corruption to the stock. There are races more or less akin to our own whom we may admit freely and get nothing but advantage by the infusion of their wholesome blood. But there are other races, which we cannot assimilate without lowering our racial standard, which we should be as sacred to us as the sanctity of our homes.
Hardly “liberty and justice for all,” that.
And we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the original pledge did NOT contain the phrase “under God” or any other reference to religion. That phrase was added in 1954 during the Eisenhower administration as a nationalistic reaction to the threat of godless Communism. Ironic, isn’t it, that the minister did not think to add God to his pledge of allegiance, and that such a phrase made its way in only as an expedient urged by a politician?
And honestly, I think it is a joke to argue over the phrase “under God” in this pledge when the founding document of the nation from day one purposefully excluded such a phrase for the oath of public office. Give me back religious test oaths for office holders and I’ll take seriously any conversation about civic religious recitations once again.
Should we pledge allegiance to the flag?
As I prepared to write about pledging allegiance to the flag, I came across a brief piece by R. C. Sproul, Jr., which basically says everything I would say, only in a more concise form. I consent and agree with the following arguments Sproul makes, especially beginning with the first “But”:
Because I wish to answer some likely objections before answering this question, you will likely guess my answer. When the Bible calls us to “pray for the peace of Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:7) I believe that means we are called to pray for the peace of our nation. When the Bible calls us to pray for our leaders (I Timothy 2: 1-4) I believe we are called to pray for our leaders. When the Bible calls us to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7) I believe we are called to give honor to whom honor is due in our nation. I would add in turn that I believe the providence of God has blessed this nation like no other nation in history. I love what our founding fathers stood for. I love my country, and aspire to be faithful to it. But I do not believe Christians should pledge allegiance to the flag of these United States.
My first concern, as it ought to be with any oath or vow, is with the truth in the oath or vow. I am quite concerned that what the pledge affirms is just not true. First, while I am grateful that our founders designed this country to be ruled by the Constitution, to be ruled by law, this country is not now a Republic. That rule which is supposed to be the law of the land, the Constitution, is routinely and perpetually ignored by both major parties. In like manner the pledge claims we are a nation under God when I fear we are a nation in deepest rebellion against God. We are under Him in reality, but we think ourselves above Him.
Indivisible may be the most troubling word in the whole of the pledge. I have no desire to see the nation divided. We are not expressing here, however, a wish that it will not be divided but a conviction that it cannot be divided. This is, in essence, a claim that the union is immortal, a claim to deity. This nation is most assuredly not indivisible.
The last phrase, I would argue, is also not true. There we claim that ours is a nation where there is liberty and justice for all. Is that true? Are we free to work in the field of our choice, without a license from the state? Are we at liberty to build a shed in our back yard, without getting a permit from the state? Are we free to not purchase health insurance for our employees? Are we free to keep the fruits of our labor?
My second concern, however, ties together the last and the first phrases. Does the flag stand for, represent those founding virtues, or does it now represent a nation where every year over a million of our tiniest citizens are not just denied liberty and justice, but life itself? Does not that flag represent both a state which is pledged to protect the “right” to murder the unborn, and does it not represent the citizens of that nation who avail themselves of that right over 3000 times each day?
I love my country. But I cannot pretend that my country is something that it no longer is. I love my country, but I fear the judgment of God. I love my country, but I weep for it. I love my country, and what it once was. But I am ashamed of what it has become. The truth of the matter, however, is that were we what we once were, were we what I hope and labor that we will be again, I still could not in good conscience pledge my allegiance. Because I look for that city whose builder and maker is God. I love my country, but because I, by His grace, have been made a part of that royal priesthood, my commitment is to that holy nation (I Peter 2:9). I love my country, but my allegiance, my loyalty is to Jesus Christ.
In agreement with all of this, as well as in view of its sordid history, let me just say bluntly that I don’t believe in pledging allegiance to the flag, and I don’t practice it. And while I do not make it a point of contention when among groups that do so, I do always stand silently with arms at my sides. No one has ever noticed or said anything to me, but if they did, I would calmly explain to them my biblical stand against Socialism, collectivism, resistance to tyrants, and the need for a more thoroughly biblical allegiance in society and the King of kings.
So while I am opposed to a state flying the Confederate flag, I am also opposed to pledging allegiance to the current one as well. And I should be so candid as to say that I think the state should be out of the flag business altogether. Focusing on symbols is a good way to collectivize the minds of people and overlook a variety of national sins—when those sins are the very things upon which we should be focused to begin with.
When God through Moses constituted the Israelite nation, he said that the very thing that would commend the nation to international glory was her laws (Deut. 4:5–8). That is, the glory of a nation will be found in its ethics, not its symbols. When that nation forgot God’s Law, and yet gloried in their temple, God permanently destroyed the temple (AD 70) in judgment according to that Law. Ethics over symbol any day. It is high time that Christians in this country focus on the ethics and laws rather than the symbols.
That is my allegiance, and the allegiance of The American Vision: to restore America to her biblical foundations.
- Quoted in Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865–1915 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), 174.
- Hopkins, 173.
American Vision is proud to introduce a new book by Gary DeMar titled, A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy: a Five-Part Study. This title is now available as a paperback or in eBook formats for Kindle, iBook, Nook and PDF. You can find a sample of A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy here.
Written in an easy to understand format and perfect for one-on-one, group, or family study, A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy is an attempt to remedy the confusion over what the Bible says about prophetic material. It begins with the operating premise that the Bible is the best interpreter of itself.
For nearly 2000 years Christians have attempted to read and interpret Scripture through the lens of current events without paying close attention to audience relevance, specific time indicators, the literal translation and comparison of specific words found in prophetic texts, and the transition between the Old and New Testaments.
For many Christians, interpreting Bible prophecy is a complicated task. As a result, they often turn to so-called “Bible Experts” and complicated charts that include gaps in time, outrageous literal interpretations, and numerous claims that current events are prime indicators that the end is near. Many Christians are unaware that the same Bible passages have been used in nearly every generation as “proof” that the end or some aspect of the end (the “rapture”) would take place in their generation.
They’ve all had one thing in common: They’ve all been wrong.
With so much prophetic material in the Bible — somewhere around 25% of the total makeup of Scripture — it seems difﬁcult to argue that an expert is needed to understand such a large portion of God’s Word and so many “experts” could be wrong generation after generation. If God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105), how do we explain that not a lot of light has been shed on God’s prophetic Word with so little accuracy?
A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy has been designed to help Christians of all ages and levels of experience to study Bible prophecy with confidence.
The Bible can be an intimidating book. It does not have to be. It’s our prayer that this short guide to Bible prophecy will help you to be like the Bereans who examined “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Specifications: Paperback, 40 pages with color illustrations. Other Titles by Gary DeMar.
As a radically conservative defender of liberty and states’ rights, I say that there is no good biblical, historical, or strategic reason to defend a state’s flying of the Confederate battle flag today. It is rather a sign of utter hypocrisy, sentimentalism, and misguided zeal. Every Christian of every stripe ought to be calling for the removal of that profound distraction in SC—and every other state-sponsored location—in the name of Christian integrity and the advance of true Christian values and culture.
I am quite cognizant of the appeal of “heritage not hate,” and I feel the power of it. It is too easy for liberals to exploit the crises and emotions related to them, and it is too easy to forget what was good about Southern values and to focus only on the bad.
In view of those much-lost and trampled values, I almost sympathize with the rhetoric of those who recognize that that flag is the Confederate battle flag (and not the national flag), and who therefore recognize that as long as the state flies that flag, it is essentially saying the war is not over, but we’re only experiencing the longest cease-fire in history. Almost.
But as long as the voters keep electing politicians to keep up that flag under such pretenses and for such reasons of “heritage” as states’ rights, honor, and freedom, they are engaging in what amounts to the biggest act of hypocrisy in history as well.
For starters, South Carolina takes in more Federal subsidies in comparison to taxes paid than any other state. Many studies confirm this status or something very close. According to one study, SC receives 5.38 times as much money as it pays in. That is, for every dollar paid out of the state, the heirs of those who fired on Ft. Sumter receive more than five dollars from the Federal owner/operators of Ft. Sumter. In this shining example of self-sufficiency, rugged individualism, and independence from those d**n Yankees, Federal subsidies make up almost a full third of state revenue.
When the same law makers who demand that flag remain up also start demanding that the state of South Carolina cut out the Yankee third of their budget—every single Federal handout—I will take their appeals to that battle flag seriously. Until then, take down that flag. You’re an embarrassment to everyone who has truly honorable aspirations for states’ rights, localism, fiscal integrity, true patriotism, and freedom.
Yes, Slavery was a cause
This states’ rights and cession, “on stand-by for war” issue is totally aside from the fact that the Confederacy’s heritage—yes, its heritage—can never be separated from institutionalized racism and oppression. Yes, I know that only a small percentage of Southerners owned slaves. Yes, I know that most of the men fighting were fighting for God and country, land and freedom, and had no direct concern for the institution of slavery. Yes, I have a copy of Dwyer’s textbook on America’s “uncivil war” and I know the chapters on “Southern Slavery As It Was.” I have read several of the defenders of the South. Yes, I know Lincoln was a tyrant and a racist himself, and I love DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln among others. Yes, I know that the vast majority of people in both North and South—even the abolitionists—were racists who believed blacks were systematically, genetically, and in most cases irreparably inferior to whites. And yes, I know that the liberals’ agenda is filled with fifty shades of hatred of their own. I get all that. I understand even the facts that the liberal media won’t broach and doesn’t want you to know.
Yet no matter how many facts we leverage to counter the systematic attacks—right or wrong—on the Confederacy, we will never get past the fact that as a civil government, the Confederacy instituted a wicked and godless form of racist, chattel slavery, and that the leaders and founders of said government enshrined this unforgivable sin into their founding laws and argued for it in their most foundational speeches and debates. This outstanding sin is perfectly separable from what was good about Southern culture and value, but it is permanently inseparable from that government and its flags. This is especially true of its battle flag under which it fought and shed human blood in order to continue that institution.
The Confederate Constitution enshrined the unbiblical and unspeakably wicked practice of owning slaves—and not just slaves in general, but specifically “Negro slaves”—as property, and it forbade any law to the contrary going forward: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”
Worse yet, the Confederacy was imperialistic in this particular evil, decreeing that “The Confederate States may acquire new territory,” and that “In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government. . . .” This overturns any narrative that the South just wanted to be left alone. Nonsense. It looked west with pretensions as imperialistic as anyone else, and it constitutionally reserved itself the right to expand its wicked institution as it went.
For those who need further proof, Gary North’s “Appendix D” in his Commentary on 1 Timothy relates the official secession declarations from several states showing that the official stated cause was in fact the protection of their institution of slavery. SC went even further, with one of its key voices, Lawrence Keitt, arguing explicitly that the cause was not tariffs, and separately that “African slavery is the corner-stone of the industrial, social, and political fabric of the South.” Let that sink in: “corner-stone.”
These official and institutional foundations of the Southern Confederacy, for whatever other good may have existed in it, render any appeal to its heritage absolutely indefensible. And for this reason, I unhesitatingly say, “Tear down that flag.” Christians have much to do in society and much ground to make up, and we don’t need the baggage of the greatest of the sins of our fathers hindering us as we endeavor to do it.
I say these things, loud and clear, as one of the most radically outspoken voices in our time in favor of states’ rights, radical decentralization, non-interventionism, radically free markets, private property, anti-taxes, anti-war, anti-tariffs, pro-life, pro-family, pro-militia, pro-gun, pro-nullification, pro-jury nullification, anti-administrative law, anti-Marxism—all backed up from a biblical perspective. As the Apostle Paul could boast against his Pharisee critics because he was a Pharisee and a Hebrew of Hebrews, and could outdo them all, so will I compare myself to anyone on those good things for which the South stood and for which many Southern partisans today continue to stand. And where I don’t measure up, biblically speaking, I’ll strongly reevaluate my position in order to get there. And yet I say “Tear down that flag, immediately.” This should not even be a question.
Abandon the Distraction, Fight for Reformation Where it Matters
There is not a single thing among all of the biblical principles and laws for which the best of the South once stood that can be brought back, regained, or advanced by protecting a monument to the Confederate battle flag. Not one thing. In fact, as long as your fight focuses upon that flag and upon the (partial) heritage which you invest in that symbol, it is actually a powerful distraction from the real work you need to do.
Since it’s indisputable that that battle flag is officially, governmentally, and foundationally tied to the unbiblical practice of Southern slavery, why would you fight for that rather than focus your energies, monies, and attention on the actual areas of life you hold dear. Maybe these great values have some tie to that battle flag, but to the extent they do, they are equally tied to the evil at its foundation. Why not shuck the evil and hold on only to the good? This would lead you to a renewed, refocused fight for biblical values, while simultaneously disarming your liberal critics of that for which they rightly condemn your heritage.
The truth be told, whatever “tie” there may be between that battle flag and the biblical values we wish to recall is purely an emotional tie. There is no good reason for defending it when there are sounder, more profitable ways to advance those values in society without the baggage. To continue to do so out of mere “Southern pride” is to think with your emotions and sentiments rather than biblical reason. That is, you are thinking like the very liberals you claim to despise; and let me suggest that not only is this unbecoming and dishonorable, but the liberals are far more experienced and more successful at it than you, and on these terms, they will beat you in due time.
The only reason anyone who continue to uphold that symbol once they acknowledge these facts can only be that they endorse the racism. There are indeed some who do, unfortunately. And for that, again, the liberals will beat you—only this time, they will be right to do so. Just do us a favor: if racial inequality is the real reason you defend the state flying that battle flag, just have the courtesy to say that up front. It will save us all a lot of time.
So it really is a no-brainer. If your fight to regain civilization from liberalism and godlessness continues to focus on that battle flag, the liberals will beat you. If you wish even to have a hope of seeing the values you hold dear exalted in our nation and states once again, we must separate our biblical ideals from all idols which hinder us from attaining them. That battle flag is one of those idols. We must separate ourselves from it. Only then will you be able to start afresh formulating programs based on biblical reasoning that will lead to true reform in the areas that matter—education, welfare, local government, free markets, the legal systems, executive power, and defense. Tear down the flag. Let it go. It will be the most freeing thing you could do for yourself. Then, start tearing down those subsidies and taxations as well. Wow! Imagine if South Carolina politics as so strong in this area as it is in support of that battle flag.
Don’t anchor yourself to a symbol that is inseparable from the greatest wickedness of its era. Anchor yourself to King Jesus who alone can rid our era of its own great evils.
Imagine the following scenario: At church this Sunday, while reviewing the list of announcements and upcoming events for your church, your pastor adds, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your guns. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”
Absurd, right? Not so. It used to be the American way. For example, a 1631 law in Virginia required citizens to own firearms, to engage in practice with them, and to do so publicly on holy days. It demanded that the people “bring their pieces to the church.” Somewhere along the line we have lost this mindset. Today the ideas of church and arms are assumed to be at odds, as if loving your neighbor has nothing to do with the preservation and defense of life and property.
But the idea of Christian society and an armed, skilled populace actually have deep historical roots. Alfred the Great codified the laws of England in the 9th Century, often resorting to biblical law in order to do so (where he departed from biblical law, the integrity of his famous law code is quite poor). Alfred applied the Deuteronomic laws of kings that forbad a standing army (Deut. 17), and as a result developed a national defense based on militia:
By the Saxon laws, every freeman of an age capable of bearing arms, and not incapacitated by any bodily infirmity, was in case of a foreign invasion, internal insurrection, or other emergency, obliged to join the army.…(1)
This required and encouraged an armed citizenry:
Every landholder was obliged to keep armor and weapons according to his rank and possessions; these he might neither sell, lend, nor pledge, nor even alienate from his heirs. In order to instruct them in the use of arms, they had their stated times for performing their military exercise; and once in a year, usually in the spring, there was a general review of arms, throughout each county.(2)
Imagine! Imagine the government poking its nose in every year not to register and license weapons for possible future confiscation, but to ensure that each house indeed possessed weapons. Imagine that instead of imposing fees for licensing schemes, the government levied fines for not owning a firearm. This was the case in Massachusetts in 1644. The state required that “every freeman or other inhabitant of this colony provide for himself and each under him able bear arms a sufficient musket and other serviceable piece” as well as “two pounds of powder and ten pounds of bullets.”(3) Those who neglected this duty could receive fines up to ten shillings (for laborers, roughly a day’s wages).
In 1623, Virginia statute forbade anyone to travel unless they were “well armed,” and required that all men working in fields likewise be armed.(4) 1631 laws repeated the same requirements and added to them: all able men should bear arms and engage in practice with their arms. The law specifically required “All men that are fitting to bear arms,” and to “bring their pieces to the church upon pain of every offence.”(5) (Equally shocking to most modern evangelicals is the fine for not obeying these laws: landowners who did not so arm their laborers and workers were required “to pay 2 lbs. of tobacco,” and this fine in tobacco was “to be disposed by the church-wardens, who shall levy it by distress.…”(6)
Imagine that: the government desiring, commanding that every able citizen own weapons and be skilled in using them! And to do so on “holy days” and at Church.(7) (It’s even more unbelievable that the government assumed all men were going to church every Sunday. Perhaps we could increase their numbers if we could reinstate target practice fellowship.)
The legacy of arms and freedom as Christian virtues continued into American Revolution. The Lutheran pastor John Peter Muhlenberg is perhaps the most famous of the “fighting parsons.” He answered George Washington’s personal call to raise troops using his own pulpit and Ecclesiastes 3 to do so. Other ministers of the gospel were well known to preach with loaded guns in the pulpit with them. Pennsylvania preacher John Elder provides a great example: “Commissioned a captain by the Pennsylvania government, he led a company of rangers and was accustomed to preach with his loaded musket across the pulpit.”(8) Likewise, Rev. Thomas Allen, a later collaborator in writing the Massachusetts State Constitution, himself fired the first shot at the Battle of Bennington. In the context of the War for Independence, ministers saw guns as tools of liberty and defense against tyranny.
In a later context, some ministers saw the continued usefulness of firearms. A former cowboy and confederate soldier turned Methodist circuit rider, Rev. Andrew Jackson Potter, preached among tough neighborhoods in the old West. He would regularly walk up, lay his two colt revolvers across the pulpit, and begin to preach. He retained order and security, and encouraged an atmosphere of respect. In this scenario, arms served less as tools of national liberty and more as tools of preservation of life and individual liberty and property.
This same scenario goes on today, by the way. As recently as 2009, pastors in the Detroit area have begun to arms themselves in the pulpit and while on church property. Rises in Detroit crime in general as well as attacks in church buildings in particular have awakened the attention of many Christians. While it is illegal in most states to carry guns on church property, Michigan allows it for the pastor and those he approves. [Author’s note: even since the original publication of this article, many states have revised their concealed carry laws to allow for church carry. Consult your state’s laws for details.]
Christians should be aware that the use of force in preservation of life is a biblical doctrine (Ex. 22:2–3; Prov. 24:10–12; Est. 8–9; Neh. 4; cp. John 15:13–14). Likewise, those who possessed weapons in Scripture are often said to be well skilled in the use of them (Judg. 20:15–16; 1 Chron. 12:1–2, 21–22). We can only surmise that 1) God gave them talent in this regard, and that 2) they engaged in target practice regularly. Further, under biblical law, to be disarmed was to be enslaved and led to a disruption of the economic order due to government regulations and monopolies (1 Sam 13:19–22). But the mere presence of a couple weapons had psychological effects that put criminals to flight (1 Sam 13). (See my sermons on these chapters in my Commentary on 1 Samuel, or here online for free.) There is a reason why Scripture tells these stories: they illustrate the defense of life, liberty, and property in the midst of a fallen world (and fallen governments).
The American Second Amendment did not spring into existence from nowhere. It had a long pedigree. The Christian society emerging from the old laws of Alfred continued to include the ideal of an armed populace as a means of securing human liberties. The Founders, many of them lawyers, had studied that legal tradition and would have read William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). The first part of the first volume elaborates on the subject of our “principal absolute rights… of personal security, personal liberty, and private property [i.e. life, liberty, and property].” It then covers five means of securing and protecting these rights “inviolate”:
The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.(9)
Within that same legal tradition, and more than a generation earlier, the English philosopher John Locke voiced the sanctity of life, liberty, and property as well as our duty even to use force to preserve it:
Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself… so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
Locke elaborated these views within the context of belief in God’s ultimate sovereignty, ownership, and law-order over all of creation:
being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure…(10)
Thomas Jefferson clearly took his phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from Locke, likely via Blackstone. It is no irony that Jefferson kept a portrait of Locke on his parlor wall. Both hated tyranny, and saw freedom as requiring the defense of person and property via use of force if necessary. Both derived this from the Christian legal tradition they inherited.
Today, so many Christians are brainwashed or affected by progressive propaganda that we have an uneasy feeling even broaching the subject of guns. Constant liberalism in the media and years of government-school indoctrination have eroded the foundations of liberty in this nation. Ironically, Christians think themselves conservative when they back everything the military does. Conservatives think that to oppose the military is to be a leftist. They have no idea that 1) the tradition of imperialistic war grows out of leftist, not conservative, ideology, and 2) the Bible forbids nations to have standing armies or stockpile offensive weapons. The Bible calls for national defense through an armed populace and militia upon necessity. A standing army is an affront to God. But for some reason, alleged conservative politicians easily persuade Christian voters that the next military maneuver is of necessity an expression of conservative values, and the Christians cheer. In reality, it is an anti-Christian position to have all arms in possession of the state and the populace dependent (let alone cheering) on the state for protection and defense.
We are further brainwashed into thinking (and feeling) that guns are somehow dirty and evil, and that Christians should have nothing to do with them. In this view, we have departed from the Scriptures, Christian legal history, as well as America’s Christian history.
As a remedy for the situation, we should both learn and exercise our gun rights. This article provides merely a beginning of the necessary education. We need much more. Every Christian should read and understand the laws of their particular state. Good places to start are www.handgunlaw.us and opencarry.org (the former site includes coverage of concealed carry laws and much more; the latter deals mainly with open carry). Not only should you know about laws pertaining directly to carrying, but also to those pertaining to the use of deadly force. These vary per state, and Christians should be aware.
In addition to knowledge, we should also begin to exercise our inviolable rights. Every able Christian should own a firearm, and each should seek instruction and training in how to use them. This includes handguns, shotguns, and rifles, each of which has a particular strength in self- and home-defense. Elders and pastors should teach on the topic and its history, and should help aid church members in obtaining fitting pieces and proper training in legal settings.
One great expression of both education and practice appears in the Appleseed Project. These training camps are steeped in American history and wish to advance the forgotten legacy of the American rifleman. Using focused and professional training events across the country, this project teaches and hones shooting skills toward the goal of making you accurate at 500 yards.
In addition to that great project, I recommend taking classes in handgun defense and general home defense. These are offered by gun shops and firing ranges around the country. Make use of them.
In states that oppress the inviolable right to bear arms, the best we can do is to organize politically and locally to change the laws. [Even here, things are changing.] This is not easy, of course, but Christian society demands it as a measure to stop the tyranny of governments and the advance of individual crime. To allow unjust gun laws and prohibitions to continue unchallenged is to fail in loving your neighbor and to vote in favor of servitude. This, of course, demands its own article, but deserves at least mentioning here.
Christians need to understand and act upon these biblical ideals. While this article hardly provides the last word on the subject, we ignore the lessons of the Bible and history to the peril of our freedoms and lives. Evil ever advances upon our families, churches, and states. Evil seeks positions of power, such as government, and from there seeks to eliminate the avenues of power that threaten it (an armed populace). Thus tyrannical government seeks gun control laws. Wise Christians see past the propaganda and stand for freedom. Those who remain silent are by their silence complicit in the tyranny and the crimes in which it results.
With relentless expression of our rights through education, publication, exercising the right, and challenging unjust laws, Christians can at least create a society hungrier for freedom. At best we may roll back the various infringements upon those freedoms. If we change the laws well enough, we may indeed once again hear pastor say, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”
- Francis Grose, Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the British Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time, 2 vol. (London: Egerton and Kearsley, 1801), 1:1.
- Francis Grose, Military Antiquities, 1:2.
- William Brigham, ed., The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1836), 31.
- William Hening, The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in 1619, (New York, 1823), 173–174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010); I have modernized the English taken from this work.
- William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).
- William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).
- William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174–175, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).
- Louis B. Wright, “The Westward Advance of the Atlantic Frontier,” The Huntingdon Library Quarterly 11/3 (May 1948): 271
- William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vol., 1:139.
- Two Treatises on Civil Government, Book II, Chapter II, Sec. 6. , http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/loc-202.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).
This weekend, Al Mohler entered the argument over “redeeming culture” by . . . drumroll . . . blaming both World Wars on postmillennialism. I would like to offer a brief response to the more muddled points in order to clarify the historical record, and note the real problems behind such horrors.
On his June 20, 2015 edition of “Ask Anything,” Mohler answered the question of “redeeming culture” with this:
Here’s the bottom line from the biblical perspective, and a part of this is linguistic. I don’t think there’s any New Testament justification for our attempt to redeem the culture. That’s a bit messianistic; and what I mean by that is, the Scripture doesn’t tell us that the culture is going to be redeemed. It tells us that there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth, and it also tells us that Christians are to be actively engaged in the culture, and there’s no doubt about that. Not only do you have Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you’ve got Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew telling us the greatest commandment and the one that is second to it: the greatest commandment being thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. And then Jesus said the second one is like to it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And that certainly has to mean that we have to be engaged in the culture of our neighbor, and that means we are to be salt and light, and that means the culture ought to be different because Christians are in the culture. But we don’t really have a biblical warrant for believing we’re going to be able to redeem any culture.
Then Mohler turned a corner into historical analysis, and that’s when things got out of hand:
One of the most dangerous moments in church history in terms of the church in Europe was the period in late nineteenth century when European Christians believed that’s exactly what they were being successful in doing: they were redeeming the culture. And that’s when you had the emergence of a very strong strain of what was called “postmillennialism,” in which, eschatologically, they actually believed they were realizing the kingdom—most especially in a kingdom like Germany (Wilhemine Germany) at the end of the nineteenth century. And yet that gave birth to the militaristic horror of what became Germany in not only the first World War but the second World War.
There is only a morsel of truth in this. The Wilhelmine regimes (just like many of the equally misguided progressive, “Christian America” proponents of late nineteenth century America as well) did have a view somewhat similar to what Mohler describes, but this is only half the story, and not the half that really matters.
First, strong postmillennialism did not “emerge” in the late nineteenth century. It emerged much earlier and it drove the Puritans who founded America in the 1600s as well as many of the missionary efforts that reached the whole world over subsequent decades. This postmillennial view actually manifests quite clearly in the Westminster Larger Catechism Question (and Answer) 191. That was 1647 in Puritan London—not 1880s Prussia. I would recommend that Mohler, and everyone, read Ian Murray, The Puritan Hope, to get the rest of the story.
True, Wilhelm et al may have remained “postmillennial” in outlook, but they had long since denuded the rest of the biblical message. The same thing happened in the U.S. post-1830s, when New England Puritans had gone largely Unitarian or otherwise secularist, and yet retained the postmillennial vision. It was a thoroughly secularized postmillennialism, and thus, it was not postmillennialism at all because it doesn’t envision any return of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Mohler also commits the Hal Lindsey fallacy against postmillennialism documented in Biblical Logic (pp. 209–210): that of assuming postmillennialism means that we bring in the kingdom by our own ability. Of this seemingly perennial fallacy, I wrote:
While some—perhaps many—liberal “Social Gospel” Christians believed this way, it hardly characterizes the position historically, and certainly does not form a necessary tenet of postmillennialism. As orthodox holders of the doctrine would argue, God triumphs in history by the power of His Holy Spirit—not human efforts. Orthodox postmillennialists no more believe in bringing about the Kingdom by their own works than they believe in salvation by their own works.
Not only did secularized millennialism overtake the nineteenth century, the rhetoric of dominion and the kingdom of God was still being employed by the Left as late as LBJ and the so-called “Great Society” as I have documented elsewhere. To his credit, Mohler notes that leftists misuse the concept of redeeming culture. But his total dismissal of the concept and his blaming of the World Wars on postmillennialism is not only historically inaccurate, it is profoundly abridged as a historical and theological record.
Thus, second, we should place the blame for that era and its resulting catastrophes where it really belongs: a failure in Christian social ethics. I have documented the real issues (actually instituted by Wilhelm’s predecessor, Otto von Bismarck) in Restoring America One County at a Time (see pp. 49–51, or here). Suffice it to say that the real issue was not postmillennialism, but the deceitful attempt by many civil leaders to install Socialism while posing as the avowed enemies of Socialism. And how did they accomplish such a social coup? Bismarck passed it under the nose of oblivious Christians by calling his program “practical Christianity.”
And how was Socialism passed off as “practical Christianity”? Ironically, it was by following the same undefined program of the great commandments Mohler outlines above as the reason to be engaged in politics: love your neighbor. As I note in God versus Socialism, even one of the historians among the “social Gospel” types openly admitted there was an ethical contradiction in their program based on this very concept: “This was nowhere more obvious than in the question of the use of force. Could the law of love become operative through socialism without imposing its will upon a minority [really a majority] that clung to private ownership?” (God versus Socialism, 221). Based on such considerations, the same historian concluded of that social-gospel generation: “From this discussion it is only too apparent that these leaders were very much the children of their age, drawing their ideology from the intellectual environment and rarely pausing to examine it or to follow basic assumptions to their logical conclusions.”
So what, really, was the problem? The civil leaders employed the language and vision of postmillennial Christianity, yet filled the chest with pagan ethics—Socialism. The said “love” when they meant “welfare at gunpoint.”
This ought to be an easy recognition for learned men like Mohler. Yet they continue to make the same argument: calling for “love your neighbor” without definition and without any clear expectations of what that should look like in society from a biblical perspective. This is the other piece of the ethics puzzle: while the bellicose leaders trampled society under the foot of Marx in the name of Christ, the pulpits either called for withdrawal into private piety, or endorsed the anti-biblical system of social ethics in the name of loving your neighbor. At best, they preached only “love your neighbor” undefined and left the details up to the leaders. Mohler is continuing this strain today.
Whatever you call it, don’t call it “postmillennialism,” for it was rather an abandonment of it. Marx himself reported on the Hague conference in 1872: “One day the worker will have to seize political supremacy to establish the new organization of labor; he will have to overthrow the old policy which supports the old institutions if he wants to escape the fate of the early Christians who, neglecting and despising politics, never saw their kingdom on earth” (see God versus Socialism, 52). Sounds to me like a total replacement of Christian postmillennialism by the late nineteenth century socialists. That some leaders actually did this in the name of Christianity is not the issue—except to the extent that Christian pulpits let them do it largely unopposed. The failure here is not with postmillennialism. The failure here is with Christians abandoning biblical postmillennialism and the pulpit’s failure to preach biblical social ethics.
The reality is that it was the failure of the church to uphold postmillennialism and theonomic ethics that resulted in the horrors Mohler blames on them. Nazi Germany prospered in an environment where amillennialism ruled and radical two kingdoms theology led preachers to hide and cower in the face of intimidation by the State. And as I argued when documenting these inglorious pastors, Hitler was quite aware of this weakness in which their theology placed them, and he openly exploited it—silencing the pulpit. (See also Inglorious Kingdoms.)
Third, the real driving force behind Mohler’s view is his eschatology. Throughout his answer, Mohler frequently acknowledges that Christians must be engaged in culture, and that such engagement should result in “a difference.” Yet as quickly as he acknowledges this, he adds the caveat that we should not expect much to come from doing so. We should engage, therefore, with minimal-to-no-expectation of God’s victory. We should engage, therefore, for at best a fleeting success, only to lose it. We should engage culture, therefore, with a vision of cultural defeat. After all, in the end, all human cultures will “pass away.”
But this misses the real issue argued by postmillennialism. That is, the “culture” advanced by the Kingdom of God (by His power, of course), is not merely a “human culture,” but a godly, Spirit-produced culture. It is a kingdom that will “fill the whole earth,” and that by definition “shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:35, 44).
And this gets to one more (final) real issue here. This debate is always initiated and advanced by our critics without definitions and largely divorced from scriptural views of the spread of God’s kingdom in earth. Show me where such a critic has defined “culture.” I have not seen it. Henry Van Til got it right: culture is nothing more than religion externalized. It is not a “thing”; it is the social expression of the dominant values, beliefs, confession, economy, etc., of a given society. Thus, to the extent that we speak of the people of any given society being redeemed by God, we should automatically expect a parallel “redemption” of that culture—for as Mohler argues, a society should show a difference to the extent that there are Christians in it (assuming, again, the pulpit is doing its full duty). I agree.
Thus, the only problem here is the expectation of the Christians as to whether such a change will actually take place in history to any substantial extent. And that is nothing more than the question of eschatology. It is precisely here where Mohler’s doctrine of cultural engagement is mugged by Mohler’s doctrine of cultural decline. But this same relationship of cultural manifestation also means that to the extent Scripture speaks of the spread of the kingdom, to that same extent it simultaneously speaks of the redemption of culture (to use that clumsy phrase).
Thus, Isaiah 2:2–4:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
It sure sounds to me like the advance of the Gospel ought to have profound social redemptive effect. And of course, verses like this could be multiplied (see Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14 for just a couple). In the end, Mohler can say there is “no biblical warrant” for speaking of redeeming culture, but the truth is that his own view of cultural engagement presupposes it. It’s just that his view of Christian social ethics and more especially his eschatological pessimism are not consistent with that presupposition.
In the end, however, it can easily be seen that Mohler’s claims about postmillennialism are historically inaccurate and that they are not representative of the position held by those in the long history of orthodox postmillennialism. Granted, there were some pseudo-Christians who used the language (just as there are secular doomsdayers who use the apolcalyptic language of premillennialism as well), but they had long since denuded their religion of biblical ethics and replaced it with various degrees of Marxist nonsense—and Marx himself openly proposed this. Once postmillennialism was out of the picture, leaders could easily run roughshod over the silent, irrelevant, and cowering pulpits—and that is the sad Christian legacy that sidelined itself and truly allowed the rise of Socialism, the Social Gospel, the welfare state, the warfare state, and yes, Hitler.
Pointing to a caricature of “postmillennialism,” therefore, does not help at all. It only serves to cover up the real, and tragic, failures of the church while certain leaders continue to perpetuate them today.
Yesterday we covered A. W. Pink’s views of God’s law, particularly that part of the Mosaic judicial code that we view as remaining binding for today. As we saw, Pink’s views agree with those of theonomists who declare that God’s standards of civil justice and punishment are eternal and should be on our books today. Today, I would like to draw your attention to Pink’s comments on the failure of the church to preach this part of the law as it should, and the consequences of that failure. Mainly, I want you to understand how forcefully Pink placed the blame exactly where it should be: the pulpit.
A couple comments from Pink in yesterday’s post reveal his views of the social consequences of preaching God’s judicial standards. We saw him write in one place:
If the principle of this statute—the infliction of corporal punishment on those convicted of crimes of violence—was universally and strictly enforced today, it would make this world a much safer place to live in.
And in another place, more dramatically:
Ere passing on let it be pointed out that this law of judicial retaliation ought to be upon our statute books today and impartially and firmly enforced by our magistrates. Nothing would so effectually check the rapidly rising tide of crimes of violence. But alas, so foolish and effeminate is the present generation that an increasing number are agitating for the abolition of capital punishment and the doing away with corporal punishment, and this in the face of the fact that in those countries where capital punishment is most loosely administered there is the highest percentage of murders, and that as corporal punishment is relaxed crimes of brutal violence are greatly increasing.
There is no question that we have departed from God’s standards for all of life and indeed for civil righteousness and justice. The more time passes, it seems, the further we depart from it—not only as a nation, but as the people of God who ought to be preaching these standards to the whole nation.
Placing the Blame Where it Belongs
Pink felt this same burden. He recognized that his view of civil government and Mosaic civil punishments—i.e., what we call Theonomy—may not be popular, even with his 1950 audience. In his first chapter on the law of retaliation, he wrote,
Of course we do not expect to carry all our readers with us, and we shall be rather surprised if we receive no letters condemning us for such “harshness.” But let us point out what we are firmly convinced are the causes of the moral laxity and the immoral sentimentality which now so widely prevails.
Pink did not hesitate to call out these “causes.” Then, as now, it was the pulpit:
We unhesitatingly blame the pulpit for the present sad state of affairs. The unfaithfulness of preachers is very largely responsible for the lawlessness which is now so rife throughout the whole of Christendom. During the last two or three generations thousands of pulpits have jettisoned the Divine Law, stating that it has no place in this dispensation of grace. And thus the most powerful of all restraints has been removed and license given to the lusts of the flesh.
A large part of this was due to liberalism, but a huge portion was among dispensationalists as well. And the ethic of dispensationalism had affected many others—premil and amil. As a result, a catastrophic chain reaction exploded throughout society. They quit preaching the law, and as a result, the humanist ethic took over. The results are plain to see:
Conscience has been comatose: the requirements of justice are stifled: maudlin concepts now prevail. As eternal punishment was repudiated-either tacitly or in many cases openly-ecclesiastical punishments were shelved. Churches refused to enforce sanctions, and winked at flagrant offences. The inevitable outcome has been the breakdown of discipline in the home and the creation of a “public opinion” which is mawkish and spineless. School-teachers are intimidated by foolish parents, so that the rising generation are more and more allowed to have their own way without fear of consequences. If some judge has the courage of his convictions and sentences a brute to the “cat” for maiming an old woman, there is an outcry raised against him. But enough. Most of our readers are painfully aware of all this without our enlarging any further: but few of them realize the causes which have led up to it—an unfaithful pulpit, the denial of eternal punishment, the misrepresentation of God’s character, the rejection of His Law, the failure of the churches to enforce a scriptural discipline, the breakdown of parental authority.
This chain reaction was, as surprisingly as it may strike its grace-lipped proponents, little more than a rehash of the error of the Pharisees. As such, it was the work of the devil leading purported men of God to overthrow God’s order in both church and state:
[A]s the Jewish leaders sought to ingratiate themselves with the people rather than to please God, they pandered to this evil lust. In this we may see the workings of the Devil; for in all ages his policy has been directed to the overthrowing of the Divine order. The great enemy of God and man has ever sought to move corrupt leaders, both civil and religious, so to temper things to the depraved inclinations and popular opinions of the people that true piety may be overthrown.
Pink spares no measure in criticizing such leaders harshly:
It is at this very point that the true ministers of God stand out in sharp contrast with the Devil’s hirelings. The latter are unregenerate men, with no fear of God in their hearts. “They are of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4:5). They trim their sails to the winds of public opinion. They accommodate their preaching to the depraved taste of their hearers. Their utterances are regulated by a single motive: to please those who pay their salaries. But the servants of Christ shun not to declare all the counsel of God, no matter how distasteful and displeasing it may be to the natural man. They dare not corrupt the Truth and refuse to withhold any part of their God-given message. To glorify their Master and be faithful to the trust He has committed to them is their only concern. Consequently, they share, in their measure, the treatment which was meted Out to Him.
Indeed, preaching the whole counsel of God is unpopular. For this reason, preaching Theonomy is unpopular. But the longer the pulpit refuses this aspect of its prophetic office, the more it is capitulating unwittingly to the work of the devil, and the further the blessings of Reformation slip into the depths of a depraved culture. The true preacher of righteousness—the Divine Law and Divine order—will preach it all anyway, no matter how unpopular it may seem.
While there are plenty of preachers in Pink’s tradition today who claim to desire great reformation in the churches, their desire seems to end as soon as the society and law is mentioned. The law is relegated to only personal and ecclesial uses, if any at all. When challenged, lip service is given to the importance of the law. But when detailed applications are called for, every denial of “the judicial code” and condemnation of “political activism” that can be given is.
Yet Pink blames these truncated pulpits. He condemns them openly. He proclaims the “true ministers of God” as ones who preach the whole counsel of God. In the context we’ve seen, that whole counsel includes the judicial law and its civil punishments, and for want of it, we have the degeneration that we see.
So where are these preachers today? I refer you to our recent publication on the American pulpit 1760s, and the entire century leading up to the American Revolution. I refer you to the call to today’s pulpits to reclaim the same substance and boldness. It is time we renewed this call, and raised up our preachers again.
And now, also, I can refer you to Arthur Pink in the 1950s. Even if you don’t like the tone and unbending radicality of a Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North, or McDurmon—at least see the same fundamental message in Pink, and go from there. The conclusions at which you arrive will have you fighting should-to-shoulder with theonomists, and you’ll be looking back at several generations of our pulpits and statehouses alike with the sense of mission we have.
After reading selections from A. W. Pink’s The Sermon on the Mount, I have no problem identifying Pink as a theonomist. There will be some, no doubt who wish to demure from that assessment, as well as others who accuse me of stretching the truth on account of it. But let the record show that Pink’s work affirms the basic central tenets of Theonomy: that God’s law is the standard for human action in all areas of life, including those abiding standards for the civil magistrate revealed in the judicial law of Moses.
Christ “reestablishes” the law
The following passage from Chapter 7, “Christ and the Law—Continued,” makes clear that in fulfilling the Law, Christ was not only fulfilling it on our behalf, but confirming and reestablishing it as the standard for us to follow. Pink writes,
Our passage begins at 5:17, in which our Lord made known in no uncertain terms His attitude toward the Divine Law. False conceptions had been formed as to the real design of His mission, and those who were unfriendly toward Him sought to make the people believe that the Lord Jesus was a revolutionary, whose object was to overthrow the very foundations of Judaism. Therefore in His first formal public address Christ promptly gave the lie to these wicked aspersions and declared His complete accord with the Divine revelation at Sinai. Not only was there no antagonism between Himself and Moses, but He had come to earth with the express purpose of accomplishing all that had been demanded in the name of God. So far was it from being His design to repudiate the holy Law, He had become incarnate in order to work out that very righteousness it required, to make good what the Levitical institutions had foreshadowed, and to bring to pass the Messianic predictions of Israel’s seers.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). Well did Beza say upon this verse, “Christ came not to bring any new way of righteousness and salvation into the world, but to fulfil that in deed which was shadowed by the figures of the Law: by delivering men through grace from the curse of the Law; and moreover to teach the true use of obedience which the Law appointed, and to grave in our hearts the force of obedience.” On the dominant word “fulfil,’ Matthew Henry pertinently pointed out, “The Gospel is ‘The time of reformation’ (Heb. 9:10)—not the repeal of the Law, but the amendment of it [i.e. from its pharisaical corruptions, A.W.P.] and, consequently, its re-establishment.“
Just as we’ve seen with Charles Spurgeon (here and here), we now see Pink favorably quoting Theodore Beza and Matthew Henry in support of the idea that “fulfill” in Matthew 5:17 includes within its definition the concept of “reestablishing” the Law as a standard of living, and that Spirit-led sanctification means being given both the learning and the power to obey that standard.
Understanding the Categories
But what parts of the law are “reestablished”? This is just speaking of the “moral” law, right? In Chapter 6, “Christ and the Law,” Pink argues that it is the whole of the Law, the categories simply being understood in different ways:
It is also to be observed that no further reference is made to the prophets throughout this Sermon (let those who have such a penchant for prophecy take due note!), and that from verse 18 onwards it is the Law which Christ treats of. Before proceeding farther we must next inquire, Exactly what did Christ here signify by “the law”? We answer, unhesitatingly, The whole Jewish Law, which was threefold: ceremonial, judicial, and moral. The ceremonial described rules and ordinances to be observed in the worship of God; the judicial described ordinances for the government of the Jewish commonwealth and the punishment of offenders: the former was for the Jews only; the latter primarily for them, yet concerned all people in all times so far as it tended to establish the moral Law. The moral Law is contained in the Ten Commandments. . . .
The ceremonial law has not been destroyed by Christ, but the substance now fills the place of its shadows. Nor has the judicial law been destroyed: though it has been abrogated unto us so far as it was peculiar to the Jews, yet, as it agrees with the requirements of civic justice and mercy, and as it serves to establish the precepts of the moral law, it is perpetual—herein we may see the blasphemous impiety of the popes of Rome, who in the canons have dared to dispense with some of the laws of consanguinity in Leviticus 18. While the moral law remains forever as a rule of obedience to every child of God, as we have shown so often in these pages. . . .
The argument here is two-fold: first, the “Law” includes the whole of the Law, even as it is divided into three categories. Secondly, even as we consider certain parts of those categories as pertaining to Israel only, nevertheless we do not dismiss them wholesale. Even the ceremonial law abides in the sense that Christ is the substance of them. In regard to the judicial law, only those that pertained specifically to Israel are to be regarded as abrogated. Those that pertain to justice in general are to be considered as God’s standards of civil righteousness and justice forever.
Readers will probably recognize this argument which has precedent with the Puritans going all the way back to William Perkins as well. We are to consider the Mosaic judicial law itself as being divided in two parts: that which serves Jewish ceremonial purposes, and that which serves moral purposes. Those many parts of the judicial code which pertain to certain land laws and Sabbaths, Jubilees, seed and family laws, priestly and temple rites, etc., pertained to Israel in particular, not the whole world. These are what Perkins and others referred to as those laws having only “particular” equity. These expired with Old Testament Israel—particularly, in my view, with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Those judicial laws, however, which explain, apply, and serve moral purposes—and this includes the punishment of crime—must be understood as applying to the world in general, as they explicate civil justice in general. Thus, these are said to have general equity, and they oblige modern states and governments today as much as they did Israel. These are God’s standards of civil justice and punishment for all times and all places.
Civil Law and Punishment
Pink’s exposition later gives a clear confirmation of this principle, namely in the Chapters dealing with retaliation. He writes,
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: . . .” (Matthew 5:28-42). Christ is not here pitting Himself against the Mosaic law, nor is He inculcating a superior spirituality. Instead He continues the same course as He had followed in the context, namely to define that righteousness demanded of His followers, which was more excellent than the one taught and practiced by the scribes and Pharisees; and this He does by exposing their error and expounding the spirituality of the moral law.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (v. 38). These words are found three times in the Pentateuch. They occur first in Exodus 21, a chapter which opens thus, “Now these are the judgments.” The word “judgments” signifies judicial laws. The statutes recorded therein were so many rules by which the magistrates were to proceed in the courts of Israel when trying a criminal. The execution of these statutes was not left to private individuals, so that each man was free to avenge his own wrongs, but they were placed in the hands of the public administrators of the law. This is further borne out by the third occurrence of our text in Deuteronomy 19, for there we read, “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition . . . and thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (vv. 18, 21).
Pink goes on to argue that this “eye for an eye” passage is an abiding standard for penal sanctions.
First, this Divinely prescribed rule was a just one: “And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour: as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (Lev. 24:19, 20). What is more equitable than an exact quid pro quo? Surely it is a most elementary and unchanging principle of sound jurisprudence that the punishment should be made to fit the crime—neither more nor less. . . . If it be objected that in this Christian era justice is far more tempered with mercy than was the case in Old Testament times, then we would remind the objector that “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7) is found in the New Testament. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2) are the words of Christ Himself.
Since it is a just standard, it stands to reason that any other standard of punishment would be more or less than just, and thus, not just. Thus, some people’s concept of “mercy” is in actuality injustice. On the flip side of this, this law is true mercy in that it protects society from criminals, but does not allow more vengeance than is due. Pink continues:
Second, this Mosaic statute was a most merciful one. It is to be observed that in Exodus 21, both before and after the rule recorded in verses 23-25, legislation is given concerning the rights of “servants” or, as the word really means, “slaves.” If their masters, out of brutality or in a fit of rage, maimed them, then the magistrates were required to see to it that they in turn should be compelled to take a dose of their own medicine. Who can fail to see, then, that such a law placed a merciful restraint upon the passions of the owners and made for the safeguarding of the persons of their slaves. Moreover, this statute also curbed any judge who in righteous indignation at the cruel injury of a slave was inclined to punish his master too severely: he was not allowed to demand a life for an eye, or a limb for a tooth!
So the principle of just punishment establishes boundaries for magistrates, not just would-be criminals. It ties the state’s hands when it comes to potential tyrannies. So let’s be clear here: without Theonomy, you open the door wide open to tyranny. In fact, many Christians end up promoting tyranny because they abandon this Mosaic judicial standard.
In case we may be left wondering whether Pink was explicating how things where only under the Old Testament system, he adds this:
Ere passing on let it be pointed out that this law of judicial retaliation ought to be upon our statute books today and impartially and firmly enforced by our magistrates. Nothing would so effectually check the rapidly rising tide of crimes of violence. But alas, so foolish and effeminate is the present generation that an increasing number are agitating for the abolition of capital punishment and the doing away with corporal punishment, and this in the face of the fact that in those countries where capital punishment is most loosely administered there is the highest percentage of murders, and that as corporal punishment is relaxed crimes of brutal violence are greatly increasing. Those who have no regard for the persons of others are very tender of their own skins, and therefore the best deterrent is to let them know that the law will exact from them an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
He returns to the theme of mercy, this time blasting false mercy:
“No man needs to be more merciful than God. The benefit that will accrue to the public from this severity will abundantly recompense it. Such exemplary punishment will be warning to others not to attempt such mischiefs” (from Matthew Henry’s comments on Deut. 19:19-21). Magistrates were never ordained of God for the purpose of reforming reprobates or pampering degenerates, but to be His instruments for preserving law and order, and that by being “a terror to the evil” (Rom. 13:3). The magistrate is “the minister of God,” not to encourage wickedness, but to be an “avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4). Let it not be forgotten that Christ Himself affirmed of the judge who refused to “avenge” the poor widow of her adversary that he was one “who feared not God neither regarded man” (Luke 18:2).
In the subsequent Chapter, Pink reviews and restates his position again. Here he approvingly quotes even a dispensationalist who in large part agrees:
Even Mr. F. W. Grant (a leader among the “Plymouth Brethren”) agreed that, “The righteousness of the law of course remains righteousness, but it does not require of any that they exact for personal wrongs. There is no supposition of the abrogation of law or of its penalties. The government of the world is not in question, but the path of disciples in it. Where they are bound by the law, they are bound, and have no privileges. They are bound, too, to sustain it in its general working, as ordained of God for good. Within these limits there is still abundant room for such practice as is here enjoined. We may still turn the left cheek to him that smites the right, or let the man that sues us have the cloak as well as the coat which he has fraudulently gained: for that is clearly within our rights. If the cause were that of another, we should have no right of this kind, nor to aid men generally in escape from justice or in slighting it. The Lord could never lay down a general rule that His people should allow lawlessness, or identify themselves with indifference to the rights of others” (The Numerical Bible).
Pinks repeats his view again in the third chapter on this passage:
The words, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (v. 38), occur three times in the Pentateuch. They enunciated one of the judicial laws which the Lord gave to Israel. That law was prescribed solely for the guidance and use of magistrates. Its design was threefold: to protect the weak against the strong, to serve as a salutary warning unto evil-doers, to prevent the judge from inflicting too severe a punishment upon those guilty of maiming others. As such it was a just, merciful and beneficent law. If the principle of this statute—the infliction of corporal punishment on those convicted of crimes of violence—was universally and strictly enforced today, it would make this world a much safer place to live in.
So it’s clear once again that Pink saw this law as a judicial law and not just as a moral law. It pertains to the civil magistrate, and should be inforce to prevent tyranny. It would also have beneficial effects in society if it were.
What have we seen from Pink thus far? He believed that Matthew 5:17 referred to the whole law of God in all its categories. Dare we compare Pink’s unhesitating answer “the whole of the law” here with someone else’s phrase, “in exhaustive detail”? I don’t see why not. Further, Pink believed that the word “fulfill” in that passage pertained not only to the work of Christ for our justification, but to a reestablishment of the law as a standard of living. He was able to quote Beza and Henry in support of these views as well.
Pink continued to note that while the law could be divided into three categories, these categories are not to be understood as means of dismissal. Rather, the judicial law itself was divided between some that expired with Israel, and some that continue to bind us today. Those that continue to bind us today include standards for the civil magistrate. These standards include the punishment of crime. This was most clearly the case in Pink’s exposition of the penal standard of “an eye for an eye.” He did not merely argue pragmatically that “it would be nice” to have such a law because it would be better than what we have now, but he said “it ought to be on our statute books”—which is a statement of moral obligation rooted in the abiding nature of this law. It is clear from this that Pink believed (as Gill and others before him) that part of the Mosaic judicial law, including its penal sanctions, remains binding today, and ought to be enforced by the civil magistrate.
For these reasons, I do not hesitate to call A. W. Pink a theonomist, for his position as explicated above is nothing short of Theonomy. Would he have disagreements over some particulars with Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North, and McDurmon? Most likely. Was the greater balance of his message in a different area than social theory? Yes. But on the fundamental distinctives of Theonomy, he was in line with us.
Pink goes on to argue, in this work, that exalting God’s righteous standard to its rightful place—including the realm of civil punishment—would indeed have beneficial practical effects in society. He also notes very clearly the failure of the church to do so. We will cover his comments on this failure tomorrow.
DrudgeReport this morning is covered with shots against Republicans for defying party loyalties and promoting this scary new secretive trade deal Obama has cooked up. The current bill in question has many critics because it gives the president power to negotiate trade deals without Congress, and then force Congress to simple up-or-down votes without amendment or filibuster. But the alleged budget-hawk Paul Ryan, and even the libertarian CATO Institute, are fiercely defending this move, and the whole thing is just confusing.
In reality, the whole thing exemplifies how badly government and both major parties are out of control except by that of powerful interests, and how distantly out of touch the modern generation of freedom-fighters (I include myself in this rebuke) is with the history of what politicians have been doing to them for decades. Indeed, we have no idea how far we truly are from a principled nation of principled liberty.
Recalling the ObamaCare fiascoes which helped birth the Tea Party (you remember that group, right?), the Drudge headline reads, “Republicans rush ObamaTrade before public reads it.” But then CATO goes on to blast “Nine Myths” about this euphemistically-titled power, “Trade Promotion Authority,” clearly arguing what a great thing it is. For me, the wake-up call and central issue is in this sentence: “Congress has granted every U.S. president since FDR some form of trade negotiating authority.”
That should tell you all you need to know right there. The so-called “fast track” trade authority was first installed during the socialistic makeover of America known as the New Deal. (It even got chronological priority over Social Security. Think about that.) And just like all major expansions of power, this one has proven popular with governing officials who get to use it: it has been almost continually renewed.
The shock of this power being something unprecedented could be alleviated by simply reading Wikipedia on the issue:
Congress started the fast track authority in the Trade Act of 1974, . . . This authority was set to expire in 1980, but was extended for eight years in 1979. It was renewed in 1988 for five years to accommodate negotiation of the Uruguay Round, conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It was then extended to 16 April 1994, which is one day after the Uruguay Round concluded in the Marrakech Agreement, transforming the GATT into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Pursuant to that grant of authority, Congress then enacted implementing legislation for the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area, the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.
From just this window of the history we can see the perennial, and bipartisan, nature of this power.
But that does not mean it is a good thing. Sure, a lot of conservative voices will favor TPA for the same reasons they back corporate welfare programs, TARP bailouts, interventionist foreign policy, and protectionism in general. They are statists who speak freedom but practice government intervention to bolster their investments. They have liberty on their lips, but their hearts are far from it.
According to Wikipedia, George W. Bush even made such “fast track” trade policy a part of his 2000 campaign platform. Then, “In May 2001, as president he made a speech about the importance of free trade at the annual Council of the Americas in New York, founded by David Rockefeller and other senior U.S. businessmen in 1965. Subsequently, the Council played a role in the implementation and securing of TPA through Congress.”
At that time, only 27 Republicans opposed the measure, including one whose opposition is recorded here (page H9019). He called instead for truly free markets:
Mr. Speaker, we are asked today to grant the President so-called trade promotion authority, authority that has nothing to do with free trade. Proponents of this legislation claim to support free trade, but really they support government-managed trade that serves certain interests at the expense of others. True free trade occurs only in the absence of interference by government, that’s why it’s called ‘‘free’’—it’s free of government taxes, quotas, or embargoes. The term ‘‘freetrade agreement’’ is an oxymoron. We don’t need government agreements to have free trade; but we do need to get the federal government out of the way and unleash the tremendous energy of the American economy.
Our founders understood the folly of trade agreements between nations; that is why they expressly granted the authority to regulate trade to Congress alone, separating it from the treaty-making power given to the President and Senate. This legislation clearly represents an unconstitutional delegation of congressional authority to the President. Simply put, the Constitution does not permit international trade agreements. Neither Congress nor the President can set trade policies in concert with foreign governments or international bodies.
The loss of national sovereignty inherent in government-managed trade cannot be overstated. If you don’t like GATT, NAFTA, and the WTO, get ready for even more globalist intervention in our domestic affairs. As we enter into new international agreements, be prepared to have our labor, environmental, and tax laws increasingly dictated or at least influenced by international bodies. We’ve already seen this with our foreign sales corporation tax laws, which we changed solely to comply with a WTO ruling. Rest assured that TPA will accelerate the trend toward global government, with our Constitution fading into history.
Congress can promote true free trade without violating the Constitution. We can lift the trade embargo against Cuba, end Jackson-Vanik restrictions on Kazakhstan, and repeal sanctions on Iran. These markets should be opened to American exporters, especially farmers. We can reduce our tariffs unilaterally—taxing American consumers hardly punishes foreign governments. We can unilaterally end the subsidies that international agreements purportedly seek to reduce. We can simply repeal protectionist barriers to trade, so-called NTB’s, that stifle economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, we are not promoting free trade today, but we are undermining our sovereignty and the constitutional separation of powers. We are avoiding the responsibilities with which our constituents have entrusted us. Remember, congressional authority we give up today will not be restored when less popular Presidents take office in the future. I strongly urge all of my colleagues to vote NO on TPA.
You don’t have to agree with everything Ron Paul said here in order to agree with the basic premise that TPA is not about “free trade.” It is about government regulating trade for its purposes and for the benefit of those who have the most sway in its purposes. Say whatever you want for or against those interests themselves—or who or what you think they should be—but you cannot call it a free market.
In short, TPA is not about free markets. And neither is the United States government—not since 1934, and really not since much, much earlier. In reality, not ever, as I argue in Restoring America, chapter 7 (links below).
You want real free markets? You’re going to have to get much more radical than alarm over Paul Ryan and “ObamaTrade.”
7. The Marketplace
***EDIT*** The audio of the debate is available here.
Gary DeMar is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He has authored countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 books over the years with AmericanVision.org, including Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, and his latest, A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy (which will be available for the first time at the debate). He has been featured by several major media outlets. Gary has lived in the Atlanta area since 1979 with his wife Carol. They have two married sons and are enjoying their seven grandchildren. Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).
Michael L. Brown is the founer and president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, Director of the Coalition of Conscience. He hosts the daily, nationally-syndicated talk radio show, Line of Fire, as well as the apologetics TV show, Answering Your Toughest Questions, which airs on the NRB TV. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from NYU and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at multiple seminaries. Dr. Brown has authored around 25 books, including the one most relevant to this debate, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, which has been translated into more than twelve languages. He is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
The stated topic of debate is “Has the Church replaced Israel?” While some have expressed dissatisfaction with the word “replaced” or the concept “replacement theology” in this debate, I can assure you that these labels are used only as generally-accepted terminology. The topic is simply a springboard for discussion of the dispute between two general modern positions: one which sees important Old Testament promises as pertaining specially and only to ethnic Israel, and another in which those promises to all believers—i.e. “the church.”
We could just as easily ask related important questions such as “What is the relationship between the ‘church’ and ‘Israel’?” or “What does the Bible say about the future for ethnic Israelites?” We could probably find a dozen ways to start this discussion. And certainly there are many more nuances, definitions, and points of contrast and discussion that will, we hope and expect, come out in the debate.
The key will be to have the right men and the right format. And I think we’ve got both.
It was important to us to have a substantial part of the debate involve direct engagement and interaction. After “opening statements,” both men will engage in direct questioning and discussion-style debate, essentially making much of the debate an open, informal cross-examination period.
In order for this format to work, of course, not only do both men need to be broadly fluent on the topic, but they must be a high character and demeanor. This is why I said we need the right men, and with Gary, and from what I’ve seen from Dr. Brown, I have very high expectations. I think we will see two men who can deliver on the topic, get to the real heart of the issue, stick to it, and yet show patience and grace in receiving the best arguments and rebuttals the other has to offer.
For those unable to attend, the debate will be recorded in video and audio, but it will not be live-streamed.
Please make your plans to join us today, and pray for both men as they engage in an important topic with deep implications for our lives. I hope to see you there!
Fed up with a British system of civil law in which people were subjected to the arbitrary and tyrannical dictates of many unelected officials, John Cotton began his abstract for a system of laws in New England with a requirement drawn from Mosaic political doctrine: “ALL magistrates are to be chosen. Deut. 1:13, 17, 15.” This was actually part of the glory of Mosaic law, as it was a God-ordained system superior to that of men. Popular election of judges was seen as one mark of that superiority. As Calvin said, preaching on this passage, God “meant to have them to bee in better and more excellent state, than any of their neighbors, who had kings and Princes.”(1)
Unfortunately, this view was forgotten, if not suppressed, by modernity, and “enlightened” scholars could only seem to find the concept of popular election within the sources of their own inbred scholarly communities. Suddenly, “democracy” was a product of humanistic advances, and could only be thought of as a humanistic advance, while memories of Puritanism were papered over with memes of scarlet letters, strictures, and the stocks.
The worst part about it is that Christians, too, began to believe this utter nonsense by default. They have been trained to think of God’s Laws as harsh and unworkable, while anything resembling freedom and popular consent must stem from the advances of humanism. As we shall see, this is not only wrong, but the saddest hurt in all of it is that so many Christians prefer to embrace the humanistic narrative and system rather that the system once laid out by men like John Cotton under the lead of elected leaders derived from Deuteronomy.
“Democratic . . . not theocratic”
In conjunction with a recent and ridiculous conspiracy theory about American Vision and Theonomy, we heard arguments that the theonomic teachings of early American Puritans—such as Nathaniel Appleton, James Dana, and Samuel Langdon—were the view of a “tiny minority” and were “roundly rejected.”
Exhibited in these arguments was the fact that the first stateside system of laws of Connecticut, the Fundamental Orders, was “predicated by a stirring sermon by Thomas Hooker” who “demanded from his Scriptural perspective a highly valued democratic – and not theocratic – rendering of authority vested in the civil magistrate under the will of a common people. . . .”
Again it is argued that “The sermon virtually establishing the first legal system of Connecticut and preached by Hooker was a championing of democratic principles” with which “founder of theonomy, RJ Rushdoony would violently disagree.”
While this presentation of Hooker may sound impressive to some, there is hardly a germ of truth in any of it. As it is, these claims stand as nothing more than examples of 1) how Christians ought not to do history, and 2) the alliance with humanism to which anti-Theonomy so often drives them. In this article, we will examine the first of these problems.
The truth about Hooker’s sermon
Thomas Hooker did indeed preach a sermon in 1638 before—although a whopping six months before—the adoption of the Fundamental Orders, and that sermon did, apparently, make reference to popular election of rulers. That much is true. But pretty much everything else in the argument is interpolation. Worse, it is a highly uncritical interpolation derived from liberal humanist spin.
The writer in question bases his claims on an article by ConnecticutHistory.org which argues,
“The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.” That principle lies at the heart of the representative system by which the United States has governed itself for more than two centuries.
But when the Reverend Thomas Hooker declared those words in a sermon in Hartford on May 31, 1638, they were a radical concept.
This website is run by the Connecticut Humanities Council which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Its particular spin in this article, although not equally awful in every aspect, rests on outdated and myopic Enlightenment scholarship, and this view has encountered serious problems. These problems have not been related by either the website itself or the Christian blogger repeating it.
The actual sermon
First, we have no actual record that Thomas Hooker “declared these words.” We have no written text of this sermon. The sole record we have of it is a few shorthand notes taken by one member of the congregation who heard it. While we can make good guesses about what Hooker preached about based on these notes, any statement being made of what words he actually said are being made without evidence. We have no evidence of any direct quotation of Hooker’s famous sermon anywhere.
The Christian critic who repeated these ideas should have known better. After all, he also linked to a scholarly paper by Michael Besso, “Thomas Hooker and His May 1638 Sermon,” in which the very first page, second sentence, alerts the reader to this problem. The paper then actually relates the sparse remains for the sermon so you can see just what a limited resource we are dealing with. Here they are in their entirety:
2 book 4 sermon by Mr Hooker at Hartford May 31 1638
text Deuteronomy 1 13 choose you wise men and understanding and known among your tribes and I will make them heads over you captains over thousands captains over hundreds 50 10
doctrine that the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by Gods own allowance
2 doctrine the privilege of election which belongs to the people it must not be exercised according to their humors but according to the blessed will and law of God
3 doctrine they who have power to appoint officers and magistrates it is in their power also to set the bounds and limits of the power and places unto which they call them
1st 1 1 reason because the foundation of authority is laid 1stly in the free consent of people
2 reason because by a free choice the hearts of the people will be more inclined to the love of the persons and more ready to yield obedience
3 reason because of that duty and engagement of the people
use 3 fold 1 here is matter of thankful acknowledgement in the apprehension of Gods faithfulness towards us and the promotion of those mercies that God doth command and vouchsafe
2 use of reproof to dash the conceits of all those that shall oppose it
3 use of exhortation to persuade us as God hath given us liberty to take it
doctrine that the wants of all creatures in general and of man in particular are great and numberless
last use what course we should take we should take [sic] to supply our great wants
That’s it. Nothing else exists. And keep in mind, these are third party shorthand. While we should acknowledge that these notes do say “the foundation of authority is laid 1stly in the free consent of people,” these are not Hooker’s words and thus should not be attributed as what he “declared.”
The substance of the sermon
We can readily admit, however, that the substance of the thought of popular consent is in these notes, but it is hardly in any context that is 1) “not theocratic,” 2) objectionable to theonomists, or 3) “virtually establishing the first legal system of Connecticut.”
The rest of Besso’s paper goes on to argue the thesis that the sermon was not some radical promotion of democratic principles, but rather nothing more than the standard religious view Reformed theologians had gleaned from Deuteronomy since at least Calvin.
This thesis is evidenced by multiple facts. First, these so-called revolutionary “democratic” principles had been around for a long time in Reformed thought, and were in fact already developing in Connecticut since it was originally founded.(2) Second, this refutes the claim that Hooker was anti-theocratic. After all, it is a sermon expounding Deuteronomy 1:13. It is hard to get more “theocratic” in the American Puritan sense than exegeting Moses and urging the people and the government to follow the Mosaic example. And this exegesis was hardly new. As we said, Calvin preached this exact point (see American Vision’s excerpt from Calvin’s sermon on this same passage) as early as 1555—eighty years before Hooker.
Calvin’s point in part had been that in selecting our leaders, we must choose qualified, godly men, and view our right to vote as a gift from God to be exercised as a duty and a responsibility before God. The votes and the men must be held accountable to the law of God. Anyone examining the notes on Hooker’s sermon above will see that same thrust. His sermon was not a plea for democratic elections where none existed—such already existed and were assumed to be a great blessing from God. Instead, the thrust of the message is that these elections are “by Gods allowance” and that “the privilege of election which belongs to the people it must not be exercised according to their humors but according to the blessed will and law of God”—the exact same point Calvin had made. In short, whatever in this can be called “democratic” must nevertheless be subject to the rule and law of God—i.e., theocracy.
So it is clear Hooker was no proto-democrat. And Besso is not alone in this assessment, as his paper and footnotes indicate. The “Hooker the democrat” view had been propounded by one-sided Enlightenment rationalists since the 19th century, but it was derided and smashed by the great American history scholars of later generations. Clinton Rossiter, for example, mocked the grandiose claims made on such scant evidence:
Once upon a time in Hartford, Connecticut, lived a wonderful man named Thomas Hooker. The undisputed facts of this man’s life are so few that many accounts of him seem almost like fairy tales. No one knows what he looked like, yet two splendid statues of him gaze out sternly over the bustling of the insurance peddlers. No one knows where he rests in dust, but a gravestone proclaims his triumphs and talents.(3)
Rossiter goes on to quote history giant Perry Miller, who in his own article serves a stinging rebuke to the “democratic Hooker” view:
For some time historians have hailed the Fundamental Orders as a divine prototype of the Federal Constitution, and have presented Thomas Hooker to us as a sort of John the Baptist to Thomas Jefferson. Certain writers seem to hear the founder of Connecticut chanting the opening bars of the democratic motif in the American historical symphony, while Winthrop and the Massachusetts rulers, in perfect counterpoint, introduce the oligarchical theme.
He warns us, however: “The true historian, however, will not rest content with the pronouncements of his elders, and the suspicious simplicity of this facile contrast between the two centers of early New England life has long cried for more critical analysis.”(4)
Such a concern for critical analysis seems not to have occurred to our anti-Theonomy blogger, for he fell right into the “suspicious simplicity of this facile contrast” between Hooker with the alleged “tiny minority” that included John Cotton. The truth is, as Miller notes, they were all of the same party. Cotton and Hooker came over on the same ship.(5) Indeed, Hooker’s own congregation once called Cotton to be their minister, though Cotton declined and the position fell to mutual-friend Samuel Stone.(6) These men considered each other virtually interchangeable, and there is virtually no evidence that their views on law or mosaic political theory were much dissimilar.
Finally, in this vein, church history giant Sydney Ahlstrom reviewed the fray and rejected the “democratic Hooker” view as “surpassing nonsense.”(7) He went on to relate another anecdote from Miller’s work. This comes only after noting the liberal view of Louis Parrington, who wrote:
The leaders of the emigration to the Connecticut valley [he said] were liberals, who believed that everything should be done decently and in order but who were determined that the outcome of such decent ordering should be a free church in a free state; so while Roger Williams was engaged in erecting the democracy of Rhode Island, Thomas Hooker was as busily engaged in erecting the democracy of Hartford.(8)
Quick to expose the fallacy of such a view, Ahlstrom related that Miller
denied that Hooker was a democratic pioneer, and in a recent introduction to that earlier essay Miller put the matter even more strongly: “. . . my critics . . . blandly assert that the truth lies somewhere in the ‘middle,’ between Parrington and me. On this matter there is no middle. Parrington simply did not know what he was talking about.”(9)
It appears that our critic did not read any of this scholarly background, and did not even read the one paper he posted (Besso). (Unfortunately, you probably will not get to either, as it will probably be removed soon since it was apparently posted in violation of copyright law.) Not only does the paper mitigate against the “democratic Hooker” view, the scholarly reviews thoroughly eviscerate it and leave us with a picture of Hooker as a very mainstream American Puritan, and a close friend and associate of the very John Cotton to whom he is so often contrasted.
Theonomy and popular election
It should not surprise us that the coup de grace for this uncritical view, then, comes from Cotton. Allegedly held in stark contrast to the “democratic” Hooker, and as a representative of a tiny, rejected minority view, Cotton’s openly theonomic, “theocratic,” proposal for Massachusetts law published in Moses His Judicials opens in Chapter 1, Section 1 with . . . remember? This sentence:
1. ALL magistrates are to be chosen. Deut. 1:13, 17, 15. [My emphasis—JM.]
Same view as Calvin. Same as Hooker’s allegedly “democratic . . . not theocratic” sermon. And, it’s the same as every theonomist would say and has always said.
For example, R.J. Rushdoony would allegedly “violently disagree” with the “democratic” style of Hooker’s sermon, but his comments on the same passage, Deuteronomy 1:9–18, show quite otherwise. He writes,
In. vv. 9–16, the required form of government in church and state is set forth. What God requires is the reverse of the normal or usual form, which is from the top down. Rule by an elite at the top is an ancient pattern as well as a modern one. In Plato’s Republic, it is held to be the only valid form, i.e., rule by philosopher-kings. These men are an unelected elite; they are under no law: their will determines all things. This is, of course, the pattern of Marxism and Fascism, and also of the so-called European Community, which is governed by unelected rulers and whose law is their will.
God’s requirement is government from the bottom up in terms of His law. It begins with the self-government of the Christian man, with the family as a government, the church, the school, a person’s vocation, society and its various voluntary groups and agencies, and, finally, civil government, one government among many.(10)
The critic attempts to divert attention from this standard Reformed view among theonomists by quoting Rushdoony in opposition that “democracy” which “…came into existence as revivals of paganism and as anti-Christian movements, whatever their ostensible claims otherwise.” Thus Theonomy is allegedly at odds with “democracy.”
The fact that this quotation is edited ought to alert our seasoned readers to the likelihood of the type of tampering of which we’ve seen so many inexcusable examples recently. Indeed, here is yet another selectively edited quotation created to hide an equivocation. The rest of the quotation makes obvious that Rushdoony was not talking about the principle of bottom-up election of leaders for which Hooker, Calvin, Cotton, et al called, but rather pure democracy as a system of statism:
The question of freedom is first of all a question of sovereignty and of responsibility. Who is sovereign, and to whom is man responsible? This source of sovereignty is also the source of freedom. If sovereignty resides in God and is only held ministerially by men, then the basic responsibility of ruler and ruled is to God, who is also the source of freedom. But if sovereignty resides in the state, whether a monarchy or democracy, man has no appeal beyond the law of the state, and no source of ethics apart from it. He is totally responsible to that order and has only those rights which the state chooses to confer upon him. The word comprehend means both “to contain” and “to understand.” That which contains man is also the source of our understanding of man. If man is a creature of the state, then he is to be understood in terms of the state. Aristotle’s man, a social animal, can never transcend his political order. Christian man, however, created in the image of God, cannot be contained in anything short of God’s eternal decree and order, nor understood except in terms of God Himself. Man therefore is not understandable in terms of man but in terms of God. Absolute monarchy and democracy, statism in other words, came into existence as revivals of paganism and as anti-Christian movements, whatever their ostensible claims to the contrary may be.(11)
The difference is clear. Not only is it clear, but based on what we’ve read from them, we can rest assured Hooker, Cotton, and Calvin himself would have heralded a hardly “Amen!” to Rushdoony’s teaching here.
In fact, we can rest quite assured of that in Hooker’s case. As Besso’s paper points out, a later sermon further qualifies the views so often mistakenly regarded as “radical” and “democratic” in his famous one. And please note, while the famous sermon actually took place over six months before the acceptance of Connecticut’s Fundamental Orders, this one took place just a few weeks prior. Besso writes that, far from being a radical democrat,
Hooker clearly embraced the full authority of the colonial leaders over the populace. This is evident in a sermon he preached on December 26, 1638. The text of that sermon—delivered within a month of the January 1639 adoption of the Fundamental Orders—was Romans 13:5, which concerns the authority of civil leaders. . . . The people owed an oath of fidelity to the magistrates; the magistrates had the duty to punish those who opposed subjection.
The December 1638 sermon establishes that Hooker was in no way a simple advocate for a “people first” political order. Rather, it demonstrates that he appreciated the various aspects of recent political developments. In May and December 1638 Hooker did not rise in the pulpit to provide a guide for the Fundamental Orders. He instead attempted, on both occasions, to bring a Christian perspective to considerations about the political order. By reminding all—magistrates and populace—that issues of politics were subordinate to and guided by God’s word, he could have hoped to preserve and foster a civil society that, in the context of these political developments, made possible the continued commitment to the Puritan religious cause.(12)
This article covers some of the basic facts regarding the real nature of Thomas Hooker’s 1638 sermon, his relationship to John Cotton, and the comparison of both to the teachings of modern Theonomy. Further questions need to be addressed: why did Massachusetts not adopt Cotton’s abstract of laws? There is a simple answer to this which can be addressed later. Here just need to see hard far spun the secular humanists view has been. That answer will highlight a problem that has beset Christians throughout Christian history, and which lies behind the tyrannies we suffer, as well as the opposition to Theonomy, today. The real question that needs addressed in light of that is this: when it comes to God’s law for civil government, why do some Christians flee to the liberals’ historiography, method, and conclusions so readily and uncritically?
Readers following these interactions can learn a powerful lesson from all of this—and that lesson has nothing to do with repeated blows to the solar plexus for certain vulnerable critics. It is rather that anti-Theonomy in general is a powerful, deluding force: it makes liberals act like conscienceless tyrants, and it makes Christians act like liberals.
We will discuss how that works a little more later this week.
- Quoted in Michael Besso, “Thomas Hooker and His May 1638 Sermon,” Early American Studies (Winter 2012): 210.
- Besso, “Thomas Hooker and His May 1638 Sermon,” Early American Studies (Winter 2012): 195.
- Clinton Rossiter, “Thomas Hooker,” The New England Quarterly, 25/4 (Dec. 1952): 459.
- Perry Gilbert Miller, “Thomas Hooker and the Democracy of Early Connecticut,” The New England Quarterly 4/4 (Oct. 1931): 663–664.
- Miller, 667.
- Miller, 675–676.
- Sydney E. Ahlstrom, “Thomas Hooker: Puritanism and Democratic Citizenship: A Preliminary Inquiry into Some Relationships of Religion and American Civic Responsibility,” Church History 32/4 (Dec. 1963): 416.
- Ahlstrom, 416.
- Ahlstrom, 418.
- R. J. Rushdoony, Deuteronomy, Volume V of Commentaries on the Pentateuch, 8–9.
- R. J. Rushdoony, This Independent Republic, 14.
- Besso, 222–223.
NPR ran a very interesting story a couple days ago about Moscow, Russia, celebrating the 80th anniversary of its world-class subway system. The pitch was how this “a crowning achievement of the Soviet Union’s unprecedented forced industrialization in the 1930s” is so great and wonderful, yet “has dark connections to the repressions of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.” After listening, I realized that in reality, it had dark connections to something much broader and more relevant to us than the rogue actions of one 1930s dictator.
What really caught my attention was this connection: the State literally stole from and starved millions of poor people in order to fund this project. The article relates,
The thousands of workers who dug the first subway needed to be fed, along with the tens of thousands who built massive steel plants and tractor factories during the same time. And the Soviets needed hard currency to buy foreign-built machinery for their new industries.
That meant taking the Soviet Union’s grain harvest from the farming regions and leaving the people on the farms to starve. . . .
“Kaganovich, like Stalin, bears direct responsibility for the famine,” [Hoover Institute Fellow Stephen] Kotkin says. “Probably 5 [million] to 7 million people died from the famine, across the Soviet Union.“
Putting all of this together, you have something of a poster child for Statism (this includes all state-funded, state-run endeavors). While the State strikes up the band to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its great achievement, it is trumpeting the truth about Socialism and Statism: it’s a huge, proud, gaudy, valuted, art-lined, bustling monument built on 5 million dead bodies of its own people.
And that can stand as a monument for all Statism and Socialism. For in truth, we are doing the same thing. We may not be directly forcing mass starvation like Stalin did, but we are certain impoverishing ourselves in terms of debts and burdens which will be pushed, inevitably, onto our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We are robbing from their mouths and futures.
Sure, it may not be about a metro for us (though for some, public transportation is certain one part of it). But we do the same thing in terms of countless aspects of our lives: public education, health care, Medicare, Social Security, defense, policing the world, wars on fill-in-the-blank (poverty, drugs, terror, obesity. . . .), farm programs, food stamps, conservation, banking, regulations, corporate welfare, ad infinitum. In all these endeavors and a thousand more, our own Stalins (voters and politicians alike) steal food from one people and give it for another State-run cause.
And that’s the great problem: this evil is not Stalin. This evil is theft by the State, and the redistribution of that loot for the will and glory of the State.
Look, it’s got murals and marble columns! Strike up the band!
And meanwhile, there are millions of victims. And millions more admire the artwork as they whistle past the political graveyard of millions of victims.
With great irony—enraging, but perhaps fitting—some of those murals depict idealized Russian farmers and laborers. Even NPR has to admit they’re “an ironic reminder of the ruthless means that were employed to build it.”
Once you get past the “blame it on Stalin” game, you’ll realize that these “ruthless means” are not only with us today, they dominate virtually every area of our lives through the State. We may not be “communists” as the Soviets then were, but we still have the State deeply intruded into our lives and fortunes. It is so far in that you can hardly name an area of life in which the State cannot claim and legally extract some part of your wealth.
Is there a piece of your life untaxed? Name it. You can’t. And yet we are so far better than those communists were right? At least we have the illusions of liberty and property. At least we have the phrase “life, liberty, and property” buried deeply in our history somewhere. We haven’t forgotten how to say it yet.
The Truth About the Moscow Metro
This celebration is also a good (and again, ironic) monument to the utter inability of Socialism as an economic system. The truth is, if it weren’t for western capitalism, that metro would never have gotten built. The admission is right there in NPR story itself:
“The construction of the first line of this Moscow subway is very basic, because they really didn’t have much mechanization,” [tour guide] Bagautdinov says. “It was a big experiment. They didn’t know how to construct the Metro; they didn’t know what methods to choose.”
At the beginning the builders of the Moscow subway had help from engineers who had worked on the London subway. . . .
But the truth goes even deeper. Former Hoover Institute scholar Antony C. Sutton compiled three volumes relating in amazing detail the transfer of western entrepreneurship and technology to the Soviet state in scores of areas and projects. His work shows that the Soviet state was literally propped up and built by technology imported from the west.
Even in this case, it was not just a few engineers who had worked on the London subway; there was help from persons and whole companies in New York, London, Paris, and Berlin. Plans were shared and extensive studies of western technology undertaken by Russian commissions in the U.S. and other places.(1) The vast majority of the project’s design and technology was imported from capitalist countries. The Soviet socialized masses contributed little more than the bodies.
What we see here are two systems: private property (Bible) versus Socialism. This is not to say that the Western governments were that much better—for as I said, we have our Socialism, too. What this vignette gives us, however, is a clear image of the mass theft and ultimately death that Statism and Socialism represent. What we can see here is that whatever good came in both of these societies came as a result of free enterprise and private property.
In the West, this was much more easily attained—though still, then as now, it was hampered by interventions. The Soviet project, however, demonstrates a clear contrast with its overt mass thefts and starvation, its overt glorification of the State, and yet the hidden truth that it was utterly incapable of planning and developing the project without western capitalism propping it up.
We need to draw a stark lesson from this. What is so easy to see looking back at these 5 million dead is not so easy to see as we live out the exact same type of government intervention I our lives today, because we are the ones who get to ride the Metro, so to speak. We perceive that we benefit from the government projects—be they education, foreign policy, corporate welfare for “business” and “jobs,” banking and fiat money, old age insurance, government-run health care, etc. Every time you cash in your “benefit”—whatever it may be and in whatever form it may come—you need to remember those 5 million dead souls.
For the truth is, our State socialisms are no different in principle at all: we are robbing from one party, through the force of government, to benefit ourselves in some way. Every time we “benefit” like this, we are admiring the fine art while we whistle past the graves of those who are forced to pay—and who will be paying for generations to come.
We all agree that Stalin’s legacy is one of evil. Unless we stand for biblical principle, our great grandchildren will have every right to pass the same judgment on us.
- See Antony C. Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development, 1930 to 1945 (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1971), 203, 205.
When I first saw the Vanity Fair cover of Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner, my immediate reaction was that this was a man’s face. Without serious plastic surgery, he’ll never get rid of those masculine features. It is amazing to what lengths our depravity will drive us when fleeing from God. It is amazing the level of denial with which we will delude ourselves in search of happiness outside of Christ.
A few years ago I used to frequent a local Starbucks every weekday morning. I eventually moved on to something cheaper and less, well, Starbucks; but while I was frequenting that place, I watched daily as one employee began the process of trying to change himself into a woman. I am not sure if I was more disturbed by the fact itself, or by the fact that everyone else around seemed to treat it with perfect normality.
I am not sure how far he went surgically, but upon a random visit to the same establishment recently, I saw the same person sitting as a patron, reading a novel, much further progressed to almost total outward transformation. He was in full female clothing, jewelry, hair, and breasts—now attempting to lead a normal life as a “woman.”
I am not even going to pretend to be shocked by any of this—not by the people actually doing it, and not by the media which hypes it or tries to force us to accept it as normal. It is deviant and perverted behavior, resulting often from severe emotional and psychological troubles, but always involving a depraved response to whatever perversion, curiosity, or distress may be the cause. Nevertheless, I am never shocked by the depths to which depravity and sexual deviance can lead. This is absolutely no shock to anyone who has read case studies in pastoral or psychological counseling, or has spoken with people who have practiced counseling, although I am aware and sensitive that it may seem shocking to those who have not considered these issues themselves.
To my shame, I never shared the Gospel with that young man. Seeing his gradual transformation did prompt me to go read a bit about the phenomenon, however. There is, of course, plenty of grotesque stuff you could read—especially on the surgery end. But the thing I remember the most is the alarming fact that transgenders have a suicide rate nine times higher than the average. According to one recent study, a whopping 41 percent of transgenders or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide. To my shame again, I did not have the heart to share that statistic with that young man, either.
There seems to be no end to the depths of depravity into which our society continues to descend. But it is simply too easy to mount a pulpit for the purpose of decrying sexual perversion en masse (this is necessary, but not sufficient). As an outspoken theonomist, I may not be known as a man of compassion, but I do acknowledge that a large number of people engaging in this particular rebellion are also people who are suffering. Even if all you see on the outside is perversion and yuck-factor, beneath this is pain and suffering. That ought to be taken into account in how the problem is addressed.
I am not pretending I have any real answers, nor am I pretending that all transgenders are suffering people who deserve compassion. There are no blanket statements to be made. Some are indeed willfully perverted and satanically bent on destroying what is left of the fabric of Christian culture. These should not be treated with compassion, but stopped, and some even punished legally. Above all, the destructive leftist media which ignores the legitimate causes of suffering that may be in order to turn this into a political and social crusade for leftist social value ought to be harshly judged as well—that answer is simple. Their vanity fairs and grandstanding for their cause is doing harm to those who are truly suffering and who may otherwise be reached with a legitimate remedy. It does far more harm in denying, covering, and preventing true remedies than any hateful, bombastic, fundamentalist pulpit has ever done.
Perhaps in an attempt to compensate for my own failure to address that young man, I have thought about this issue on and off for some time. Here is my attempt to state at least one necessary truth:
Those tempted with or engaged in transgenderism need to know that gender/sex is objective, and gender-identity should acknowledge this objectivity. Bruce Jenner can summon every ounce of athletic prowess he has ever had, and he will not be able to outrun his Y chromosomes. No matter how much female clothing is put on, no matter how many surgeries cut off, reshape, or implant whatever—no surgery can change the basic objective fact of XY with which he was not only born, but conceived. By the very fact of your conception, you are what sex and gender that you are. No transgender can escape this objective truth: It is written upon ever cell in your body.
Whatever appearances, prosthetics, or surgeries one employs in an attempt to run from this truth are merely so many parts to a sophisticated costume. Elect all of the possible “gender reassignment” surgeries available and you will have nothing more than a very expensive—$40,000 to $75,000—costume. But it won’t touch the objective fact that you are that with which what you were born.
(It’s funny: leftists make a big deal of arguing gays “were born that way”—which is not true—but they seem awfully silent on that argument when it comes to gender—where nothing could be more true.)
To deny objective facts about yourself is to live a lie. Whatever problems may underlie the beginning of the process into transgenderism, it seems to me that living a lie can only compound them. It seems to me that a very expensive and costly lie is worse yet. And a lie that increases your chances of suicide by a factor of nine can’t be considered acceptable from any angle.
But the very fact that some do accept it is an indicator of how deeply the suffering ones are really suffering, and how ragingly the rebellious ones are rebelling.
I am not going to pretend to have the solutions at the pastoral level. If my rambling thoughts here can help dissuade on person on the fence from making that awful choice, or from promoting the leftist social lie, etc., I am happy. If they can dissuade one of my own—conservative Christians—from jumping on the immediate condemnation pulpit and to take a more thoughtful approach, that is good, too. In the end, God will not be mocked: not by leftists, not by the rebellious, and certainly not by His own.
American Vision is sad to learn that a great fighter for liberty, Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld, passed away on Monday, the day after his 89th birthday.
A few years ago, AV was happy to reprint Dr. Blumenfeld’s book, Is Public Education Necessary?, which is still in print. While he will probably be most remembered for his widely-used resource, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, he wrote several books exposing the socialistic and damaging nature of government education, wrote articles for multiple publications, and lectured all over the country and the world.
WND.com posted an informative memorial that relates one of the greatest aspects of Dr. Blumenfeld’s work: in the words of one of his co-authors, “Sam didn’t just point out the problems – he offered solutions that work.” This is in accord with North’s dictum, “You can’t beat something with nothing.” WND comments:
He hoped his reading instruction guide would allow parents to bypass the government school system by homeschooling their kids. Homeschooling was another topic near to Blumenfeld’s heart. He argued for it in his 1997 book, “Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children,” and his 1973 guide “How to Tutor” walked parents through the best ways to teach their children reading, arithmetic and cursive handwriting.
It was this same hope I envision in Restoring America, where I encourage Christian parents to exit the government schools immediately and without ceremony, and to make whatever sacrifices necessary in order to start homeschooling. Dr. Blumenfeld employed his abilities to take the extra step of preparing basic resources to make such a start easier.
Dr. Blumenfeld was also featured on Colin Gunn’s great documentary-exposé of the socialist schools, IndoctriNation. Here’s a great clip:
Dr. Blumenfeld’s knowledge and voice will be greatly missed, but will certainly not be forgotten as we continue in the same legacy of fighting for freedom, faith, and liberty in education, and in all areas of life.
Breitbart related a story yesterday perfectly spun as liberal government persecution of conservatives and Christians: “Obama to force faith-based grant recipients to hire LGBTs.” It opens,
The Obama Administration is poised to require faith-based recipients of federal grants to accept applications from LGBT individuals, according to a report published today by the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam).
By executive order last summer, President Obama amended the Johnson-era federal order on non-discrimination in hiring by federal contractors to include non-discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity.” That order has roiled faith-based groups.
A bit further down, it contrasts this tyranny with the good ol’ days:
The Johnson-era order was amended in 2002 by President George Bush to include a religious exemption so that faith-based groups would not be forced to hire those in opposition to their teachings.
In a classic version of “my socialism is OK,” here we have, “my Executive Orders are OK”!
Let’s be clear: this move on Obama’s part is indeed an advance of the leftist agenda, and it is indeed antagonistic to conservatives and faith-based groups. No doubt about it: it is tyranny, it is oppression, it is destructive of freedom, . . . but. . . .
Let’s be really clear: it is just as much tyranny, oppression, and destruction of freedom to be using government funding to begin with. For “faith-based” groups to be involved in such activity is even worse: they have the Bible and should know better.
Any Christian concerned with this story needs to understand the basics of government-funding. Where do governments get their money after all? Only one of two ways: taking it through taxation, or borrowing it. These two really boil down to one: taxation. After all, if the government borrows money, it has to pay it back somehow. It will do this usually by a combination of taxation and inflation of the money supply—which is indirect taxation because it dilutes the value of existing money in people’s hands. In short, government funding means government taxing. And what is taxation? It is the government taking money by means of threats of fines and imprisonment, backed by the police—i.e. threats of coercion and violence.
“Faith-based” in such a case, then, really means faith in the ability of the government to extract money from the citizens under threats of fines or imprisonment, ultimately under threat of gunpoint, in order to fund “faith-based” activities. This means, shockingly, that any faith-based group relying on such means of funding has really declared that their faith is not in God so much as in the U.S. government.
Not only is government funding immoral at its root, it always has strings attached. Thus, it leads from compromise to hypocrisy. Accepting it to begin with compromises your ethics—you are relying on an ethic of violence under the guise of faith. Then when the government tries to pull the strings against you, you’re caught in a trap. You must decide whether to continue taking the violence-backed funds, or stand for your principles. If you wish to continue taking the funds, and yet stand for your principles, you must argue that the government’s new regulations “forcing” you to do something against your principles constitute a tyranny. But you are already leveraging government forcing of others in order to fund your work. You’re saying, in effect, “I have the right to use the government to force others to advance my agenda, but the government should not be used to force me into someone else’s agenda with which I disagree. Your principles are already compromised. So, it’s a bit hypocritical isn’t it?
This matter was discussed, essentially, in chapter 24 (of 76) of How to Argue with a Liberal . . . and Win! This chapter addresses the cliché, “Federal aid is all right if it doesn’t bring Federal control,” and was contributed by W. M. Curtiss. About this myth, in part, he had this to say:
In the early days of “farm programs,” farmers were told that Federal subsidies for this and that didn’t mean they would have to submit to Federal controls. Fortunately, this unsound theory was tested in the United States Supreme Court. In 1942, in the case of Wickard vs. Filburn, the Court opined: “It is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes.” . . .
Illustrations abound of grants-in-aid from larger units of government to smaller, and of the controls that accompany the grants. Federal aid for education comes with the usual arguments that control need not go with the aid. But we have had long experience with aid for education at the state level, and the evidence is conclusive. There is no reason to think that Federal aid would be different. What local school board has not been faced with the rules laid down by the state regarding education and certification of teachers, choice of textbooks, questions of transportation of pupils, tenure of teachers, building programs, curriculums, days of attendance, examination of students, and a host of others? Is there no Federal or state regulation of the school lunch program where “surplus” food is involved? . . .
The principle involved is not unlike that which governs the finances of a family. So long as the father supplies the son with spending money, it is proper for the father to have something to say about the spending, even though the son may be saying or at least thinking: “Boy, will I be glad when I get to earning my own money and can spend it as I wish!”
The solution is so simple and obvious that it hardly needs stating. If we don’t want state or Federal control of certain of our activities, we must not have state or Federal financing of them.
(Read many more great essays like this in the book.)
Curtiss was exactly right: the solution is so simple. Quit relying on government funding. If these “faith-based groups” were really serious about their faith, they would find a quick exit from their partnership with government coercion, and seek privately-funded alternatives instead.
Can you imagine Jesus petitioning Pilate or Herod to fund His ministry? Did He send His apostles to the civil government to extract money from the citizenry for the Great Commission? No. And we should follow His example.
Too many Christians and “faith-based groups” instead adopt the statist’s rewritten version of the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal, except through a government agency.” Let’s be clear: As long as this continues, no complaint against the ethics imposed on such groups by the government has any moral authority whatsoever.
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 @ 7:00 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
Location: Atlanta area – Venue TBA
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.