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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 3 min 9 sec ago
Isaiah introduces this passage with God promising a glorious revision: “behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
The language, of course, parallels the first verse of the Bible: God created the heavens and the earth. Scripture, then, focuses on God as Creator and His creation. But Isaiah speaks, further, of new heavens and a new earth. This focuses again on God as Creator, but the emphasis on the side of creation falls not upon the bare fact of creation, but of re-creation, that is, a New Creation.
God appropriates the language of the original creation so that His people will recall that it’s the same God, the same power, the same Sovereignty, the same Goodness as from In the beginning. And yet, at the same time, God uses the language of Creation to say that this New Creation indeed requires His power and might: that just as the first creation could not have appeared from nothing on its own accord, but needed the miraculous voice of God Almighty, so this New Creation has no chance apart from Him.
Before creation there was nothing; and even after the initial act we are told the earth was “without form and void.” Then God spoke, created light, and thus began the process of the six days of creation; it was all a miraculous act, at the end of which God pronounced His own judgment: it was “very good.”
Consider the original creation again. What was the crowning achievement of that process? It was the creation of man—male and female, which is to say it was the creation of family. And what was the commandment given to that original family (read Gen 1:28)? It was the commandment to create more family, and through that, exercise dominion over all the earth. And just to make those two purposes absolutely clear and obvious, God planted a special garden in which He placed Adam “to dress it and to keep it,” and in that garden, as well, He brought Adam his wife. A twin-mission was inherent and clear in God’s plan from the beginning. It was that man should govern the land and make it productive, and that he should be productive of himself as well: have lots of babies.
That family, Scripture tells us, God created in His Image. It is no small coincidence, then, that the mission He gave them also reflects the Image of God’s own purposes. Both of the missional acts that God commanded them reflect the work of our Creator in creating man and in transforming a formless, void, dark earth, into one ordered, filled with life, and full of light. Consider that for a moment: the earth was formless, and God imparted order to it. The earth was void, and God filled it with plants, and animals, and people. Darkness covered everything, and God filled the earth with light. He then creates man and commands him to work accordingly as God had worked—to “dress and keep” the earth by imparting order. Likewise God creates man, then gives them the institution of marriage and commands them to be fruitful and multiply—which is to say, create more man. These things mean nothing less than imaging the work of God in our own lives.
By the way, the very institution of marriage itself had a built-in mission of family and dominion. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We often focus on the “cleaving,” but just as important is the “leaving.” Becoming one flesh, of course, indicates the union, the establishing of a new family, and even the making of babies; but the “leaving” part indicates a particular independence on the part of the young couple, and this is an element of dominion. They’re no longer subsumed within the households of their parents; their parents can no longer claim them as dependents, so to speak. Rather, they establish their own footprint upon the earth and become responsible.
Further, the “leaving” indicates a branching out of the original families. In effect, it is an expansion of the original dominion of the original families. There’s a whole lot of kingdom teaching bound up in this, the fundamentals of which involves the expansion of both family and dominion. The marriage covenant has built-in features of succession in leaving and cleaving. Just as much as family and dominion, we see that from the outset, God’s plan was dominion by family.
All of this, rest assured, and more, Isaiah had in mind when he pronounced the coming creation of new heavens and a new earth. Isaiah’s whole vision speaks of God’s dominion and the blessings of a world dominated by God’s sustaining power and grace: rejoicing not weeping, joy not tears, longevity beyond our imagination, security in our houses, abundance in food, no fear of invaders or war, enjoyment of the work of our hands, and no more wild beasts, but peace and harmony. In short, God will have created us a new garden which we shall dress and keep. And God promises that in this New Creation, parents will not bear children in vain, nor will their children face calamity. And there near the end of this list of blessings we read the reasons for which these blessings come; and it says this: “for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them” (Is. 65:24). This is a promise of dominion, dominion through family, through God’s family, and dominion through God’s multi-generational family.
Two issues arise when we study this passage of Isaiah. Both bear heavily on our understanding of how this passage applies through us today. The first is the timing of this new creation. The second is the nature of this new creation.
As for the timing, briefly, the New Testament reveals quite a bit. We don’t have to look very hard in the New Testament to find references and allusions to New Creation. In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Christ Himself “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” James makes a similar point, James 1:18: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures [creations].” Paul elsewhere adds that any who believe in Christ take part in New Creation. Believers are subsumed within a New Creation; we, in fact, along with Christ, are a New Creation, according to Paul (2 Cor. 5:17). The idea in all of this is that Christ Himself is the New Creation, and as we join in Him, we ourselves partake of it. Paul, in more than one place, speaks of the New Man (Eph. 2:15), and exhorts his readers to put on the new man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10); this can only come in light of the fact that a New Man has indeed been created (and of course Paul talks of Christ as the second and last Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45–47). Paul makes a related point in Galatians 6:15, saying that “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” He tells the Ephesians in 2:10 that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” To be a Christian, therefore, at its root, is to be created anew, and to be created for good works in God’s kingdom.
From these passages we must understand that the New Creation that Isaiah speaks of, if not fully manifested yet, has at least had an inception; and I believe it’s had a firm beginning by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, of Him being the firstfruits of Creation, and of our privilege to be made New and thus part of that New Creation.
We must also consider the nature of the new heaven and new earth. Isaiah gives us several points to consider, which we’ve already mentioned.
First, the new heaven and new earth are so great, the “former things” will no longer be remembered, nor come to mind. The Hebrew says come to “heart,” which eliminates more than just mere memory, it eliminates nostalgia and longing. There will be no such thing as “the good old days,” or “the way things used to be.” Even the best of times of the old creation will pale in comparison to the goodness to be found in His kingdom.
Second, God says that this new heaven and new earth will be a place of rejoicing and joy.
Third, there will be great longevity of life. Someone dying at 100 years old will be considered a mere child, and such an “early” death will be considered a curse. Life expectancy will greatly increase, perhaps eventually return to the pre-flood standard with people living to eight or nine hundred years old. Yet there is still death, however, so this is not the final state where there is no more death.
Now, we have already seen a general increase in life expectancy in the past 100 years. And this is worldwide: with the exception of most of Africa, most of the world enjoys life expectancies in the 70s. Even places some would consider backwards, primitive, and third-world—like Cambodia, Yemen, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh—still have expectancies in the 60s. Only Africa still has abysmal figures, sub-Saharan Africa the worst: Angola and Zambia have expectancies under 40.
Of course the main factor in the low life expectancies we hear of for places like this, and historically in the past—it was, after all, not so long ago that life expectancy in the Western world was in the 40s and under—is infant mortality. In Colonial America expectancy was barely 25, and that was mostly because 40% of children never made it to adulthood. In London in the 1730s, 75% of children died before 5 years old. God promises us that in the new heavens and new earth, “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days.” Flourishing children was one of God’s original promises to the Israelites under the old covenant; it was one of the blessings for keeping the law: that as they entered and conquered Canaan, “None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days” (Ex. 23:26). Fruitfulness of the womb shows up in the blessings of Deuteronomy 28. But loss of children and heritage shows up as a curse for breaking the covenant. Deuteronomy 28:18, 32, lists the curse: “Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb.… Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.” The focus in these blessings and promises, of course, was on progeny and property, which is to say, family and dominion. To lose these things constituted God’s fundamental curse.
Not surprisingly, Isaiah next mentions property: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (Isa. 65:21). Key to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision is the establishment of a home, engaging in productive work, and reaping the blessing of the work of our hands. It is a family-dominion-oriented Kingdom.
Just listen as I simply read that blessed vision again:
“They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
On a somewhat humorous note, therefore, this is one of the passages often referenced by Christian socialists—people who believe in the primacy of the State among social institutions, and people who believe in redistribution of the fruits of our labors. Tony Campolo, for example, former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton, is well known for using this passage to preach about social welfare schemes.
He starts off well: he does correctly see Isaiah’s vision as promising a “new social order” in which “the effects of poverty and physical suffering would be no more.” In this new order, infant mortality will disappear, people will have longevity not seen since before the flood, prosperity will overtake the world, labor will always produce returns and people will eat the fruit of their own hands, everyone can have secure housing, children will always have a bright future (not facing “calamity”), and people will no longer do evil or harm (hurt or destroy, NRSV) to each other. That he sees this as a goal toward which to move now is certainly a superior view to that of many Christians who relegate this vision to a future age, or a spiritual-only fulfillment.
Campolo’s error therefore is not one of eschatology, necessarily, but of covenant and ethics. The socialist confuses family dominion with State dominion. Our Socialist thinks that verse 21—They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit—means this: “houses will be built for everyone,” and that “everyone who wants to work will have a job.” That’s a bit of a stretch. The verse says they will build their own houses and inhabit them themselves. It does not say that houses will simply be built for them. The Kingdom of God has people active in securing their own dwellings, not sitting idly by while others obtain it for them, and certainly not receiving anything like subsidized housing. The same with work: the verse does not say anything merely about those who “want to work”; it says they will build and they will plant. The miracle here is less about an end to scarcity in work or an end to unemployment; the miracle occurs just as much or more in the fact that everyone will in fact work. And again, this certainly says nothing about civil government using the arm or purse of the State to “create” jobs or housing. It simply promises prosperity brought by God’s creation of a new heavens and new earth (Is. 65:17) in which His people are blessed and willing participants.
Likewise, for the last verse in this passage—where it says, They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain—the socialist says this teaches environmentalism. He asserts, “here is the assurance that a time will come when people will not ‘hurt or destroy’ the earth anymore.” Now, that’s really a stretch. “My holy mountain” refers to Jerusalem, and in this passage certainly means New Jerusalem, the Church, or perhaps the Kingdom of God in general. It does not refer to “the environment.” The verse means that in God’s Kingdom, people will no longer hurt or destroy each other or their property. This may include environmentally-friendly activity, but does not support the Greenie platform the way the socialist suggests.
Likewise, he thinks the verse about longevity involves other people taking care of the elderly. For him, God is saying “I care about old people. I want them to be fed and clothed, and I want them to get the care that they need to live out life as fully as possible.” Care, that is, including “medical care.” But the verse says nothing of the sort. It’s really not even talking about “old people,” it’s talking about 100 years old being youth. As I said, we can surmise that Isaiah envisions full life-spans of hundreds of years. Given the fact that Social Security and Medicare now sag with over $60 billion of unfunded liabilities with life-spans around eighty years, imagine the ridiculous burden of supporting a world full of Methuselahs at 900-plus years. Would the Social Security Administration have to raise the retirement age to 850? The verse simply states that in God’s Kingdom, people will live extremely long lives. It does not mandate that they be cared for by government or anyone else once they reach those long years.
Campolo’s kingdom vision seems to add quite a bit of liberal expectation into God’s word. The liberal interpretation always imputes leftist social causes and leftist political solutions onto the Kingdom that God promises. They steal Isaiah’s vision, and force it to say what they want it to say. This, of course, is what leftism is all about: stealing and forcing. Let’s choose a better path.
Notice that Isaiah’s vision, throughout the entire passage elaborating on this redeemed, glorious, productive dominion of the earth, says absolutely nothing about the role of the State. The only implication throughout is the activity of individuals and the family. Isaiah’s vision actually denies the Socialist and/or Statist viewpoint. It promises the sanctity of private property. We have already seen the mandate for self-reliance and individual labor in verse 21: They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Verse 22 denies that others will have a right or access to what another individual produces: They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat. In other words, in God’s Kingdom, no one will have to worry that State governments, foreign or domestic, or anyone else will take anything they produce and give it to someone else. And they will not succumb to some liberal preacher’s false gospel which is in reality just about liberality with other people’s money. Instead, people will labor, their work will produce, and no one shall take it from them. This situation shall remain, not through one election cycle, but throughout their full multi-generational lives: My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands (65:22).
Campolo, for example, can’t see this aspect of Isaiah’s vision. He reads the same passage, but reads liberal government into it, clouding the vision of prosperity with government coercion. What a contradiction! What confusion! These types of coercion contribute to the very hurting and destroying that God says will not occur in His Kingdom. Liberals cannot see this—or refuse to see it—because they refuse to see God’s plan as He revealed it throughout all of redemptive history, and that is to have dominion through family, not the State.
One place in Genesis, in the story of Abraham, encapsulates God’s method of family and dominion. In Genesis 18:19, God says of Abraham, “I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Notice the progression: 1) God’s choice, 2) Commanding children and household, 3) doing justice and righteousness, 4) God brings about the promise. This is nothing less than Abraham receiving a renewed version of Genesis 1:28; and Isaiah, I think, simply resurrects and glorifies this same vision in this sixty-fifth chapter.
In the very next chapter (in fact, the last chapter) of Isaiah, God again confirms the vital link between the new heavens and new earth and the role of family generations. Calling it a time to gather all nations and all tongues, he says, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain” (Isa. 66:22).
The liberal error is one in regard to the nature and content of the vision—not with the timing so much. But there are errors with the timing of it as well. Some preachers and commentators want to say that Isaiah’s vision pertains only to some future millennial era. They therefore associate this period with their particular view of the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 which they see only as future. Revelation 20 says the devil is bound for a thousand years so that he could not deceive the nations anymore, and during that time the saints shall reign with Christ. I agree with them in regard to the nature of the millennium, in general, I just don’t think it’s future: this reign is going on now, and that’s easily provable from Scripture (Acts 2, 1 Cor. 15, Heb. 1; 10, etc.) as we’ve already seen. What’s interesting, however, is that John openly appropriates this very vision of Isaiah 65 for the next chapter in Revelation, chapter 21. It says,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Notice all the features this vision shares with Isaiah’s: a new heaven and new earth; the former creation will no longer be remembered; the new creation features a new Jerusalem (a new holy mountain, that is—one that comes down out of heaven and unto earth); there are no more tears. One is tempted to conclude that John was actually reading and applying Isaiah directly here. There is an added feature, however: Revelation 21 says there will be no more death, whereas in Isaiah there is merely great longevity (someone dying at 100 years old will be considered a mere child, and accursed).
This all taken together implies that there is a partial and gradual fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of the new heavens and the new earth which has already begun and is in progress, as well as a final consummation of that New Creation at some future point. Between what Paul says and what John reveals, we have to understand that God has begun that new creation in Christ, that he creates us as believers as New in Christ, and that we are working toward a day when the vision will reach a consummation. There is no other way to take Scripture on this point: as Christians, we live and partake of that New Creation, and yet it has not yet come in its fullness.
The whole vision of the Bible from the opening chapters of Genesis to the closing chapters of Revelation continue with one dominant theme: that is, God’s people have dominion over the earth with the raising and commanding of God-fearing, God-obeying family. All of our efforts should focus on that vision. All our institutions should honor that vision. All of the covenantal institutions of the Bible—family, church, and state—must have as their goal the upholding of that vision, and the clearing of the way to allow the fulfillment of that vision. It will come to pass. The question is whether we will be judged to have embraced it or to have stood in the way of it, or even subverted it. You have made a choice to focus on family, large family, to think multi-generationally, to accept the unique challenges that way of life poses, education in the home, in the church. It’s not popular, it’s not easy. But in doing so you have reclaimed the vision of Isaiah, of Abraham, of John in Revelation, of others in scripture; in short, the vision of God’s Kingdom. It is the vision of family and dominion; it is the vision the children of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And in that, be encouraged, God can only surely bless us.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 31, 32.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 33.
 Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), 33.
We have a terrible problem in our land today, and the truth contained in Dr. Baldwin’s newly reprinted book, The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution, is a welcome antidote—should we be willing to take it. The problem is that our pulpits and preachers today have abandoned the fullness of what Christ commanded us: to disciple nations and to teach them all of His commandments. That Great Commission includes the call, which our forefathers ably demonstrated, to speak truth to the public realm: to call out rulers, governments, laws, abuse, and to demand liberty and justice. In all our preaching today about iniquity and sin, we neglect to address inequity and tyranny.
And worse: should one dare to mention that broader social and political scope of the Great Commission today they are likely to be harangued not only by humanists and leftists, but by the vast majority of Christians and clergy. The response will be almost unanimous, almost in perfect chorus: “Christians should not preach politics!” “We should preach the ‘Gospel’ only!” . . .
Dr. Baldwin’s wonderful book illustrates how preachers of a bygone, but crucial and formative, era thought and practiced just the opposite. After mountains of research in colonial sermons, tracts, pamphlets, and other publications, she relates how the substantial pulpits of colonial America rang constantly with teaching on all aspects of the public square: good rulers, good laws, good forms of government, the blessings of liberty. We especially hear of those choice values of biblical order that became the hallmarks and battle cries of American independence. These are best summarized in Baldwin’s own Conclusion:
Out of reading and discussion, preaching and practice there had grown up a body of constitutional doctrine, very closely associated with theology and church polity, and commonly accepted by New Englanders. Most significant was the conviction that fundamental law was the basis of all rights. God ruled over men by a divine constitution. Natural and Christian rights were legal rights because a part of the law of God. . . .
Probably the most fundamental principle of the American constitutional system is the principle that no one is bound to obey an unconstitutional act. The present study reveals that this doctrine was taught in fullness and taught repeatedly before 1763. . . . No single idea was more fully stressed, no principle more often repeated, through the first sixty years of the eighteenth century, than that governments must obey law and that he who resisted one in authority who was violating that law was not himself a rebel but a protector of law.
She in fact goes so far as to note that we cannot properly understand the nature of the American system without understanding the message preached by the American pulpit constantly over the decades leading up to independence. Commenting on the classic paraphrase of “life, liberty, and property,” she proclaims,
No one can fully understand the American Revolution and the American constitutional system without a realization of the long history and religious associations which lie behind these words; without realizing that for a hundred years before the Revolution men were taught that these rights were protected by divine, inviolable law.
And it will surprise many . . . just how these great preachers derived their doctrines.
The Bible and the Law of God
Baldwin’s work is a phenomenal way to learn of the true influence of Christianity and the Bible in the founding of this nation. It serves as a flat refutation of the critics of secularists who wish to eradicate and bury our Christian heritage. Baldwin writes,
It must not be forgotten, in the multiplicity of authors mentioned, that the source of greatest authority and the one most commonly used was the Bible. The New England preacher drew his beliefs largely from the Bible, which was to him a sacred book, infallible, God’s will for man. Of necessity it colored his political thinking. His conception of God, of God’s law, and of God’s relation to man determined to a large extent his conception of human law and of man’s relation to his fellows. If his ideas of government and the rights of man were in part derived from other sources, they were strengthened and sanctioned by Holy Writ. This was of course especially true of the clergy. They stood before the people as interpreters of God’s will. Their political speeches were sermons, their political slogans were often Bible texts. What they taught of government had about it the authority of the divine.
This reality leads Baldwin into a study of the political and governmental concepts these men actually derived from Scripture, as summarized above, and chief among them is the application of God’s Law to life. . . . [T]he preachers turned to the written revelation of God’s Law, including Old Testament law, to make it clear:
The revelation in the Old and New Testaments helped to make clear the law of nature and to disclose its full extent. In the Old Testament God gave to man a “positive law.” It was true that some of its statutes applied to the Jews only, but there were also great moral principles which applied to all phases of man’s activity, now as formerly, and were equally binding. Thus even in that part of Old Testament law which no longer applied to Christians and in the history of God’s dealings with His chosen people there were many examples for men of today.
To be sure, the relationships between terms, and the uses to which they were put, were not always uniform or even purely biblical, but in large measure, the most important doctrines of American liberty arose from a biblical understanding and application of God’s Law. Thus Baldwin could conclude that “There was no conflict in their minds between the divine and natural law. They were the same”; and thus, “from the law of God they derived their political theories.”
Application of Biblical Law
These men held the Bible in high esteem, and as a result, they expected to see it applied in all areas of life, including politics and government. As such, they required their governing officials to be Christians, and not only Christians, but ardent students of that divine book, the Bible, and its laws. Baldwin relates this understanding and how the preachers of the era were at the forefront of making it a real-world demand:
Rulers must study carefully the law of God, both natural and revealed. In the Bible are found all the maxims and rules of government: there the natural laws are made clearer, there the ruler learns his due authority and its limitations, there the people learn how far they must submit.
[R]elationships between God and government, between God and people, and between government and people, were established through the biblical concept of covenant—a theme which surfaces frequently in this study. This, too, was derived directly from Old Testament revelation, and formed the basis of both theology and government for the New England minister:
His theology depended upon it, it was the foundation of his church government, he believed it to be at the root of all God’s dealings with men. When he searched the Bible he found, so he believed, that even the Jewish government, which was peculiarly God’s own, rested on compact. . . . The charters were considered compacts, and when men set up new towns they drew up a town covenant.
She further relates how this concept had deep historical roots going all the way back to the covenant theology of the earliest colonists. Yet even as late as 1780, one of the more prominent preachers, Samuel Cooper, was preaching this doctrine—with explicit reference to the ancient Hebrew republic—before the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor John Hancock.
But the application of biblical law did not stop at theoretical constructs or generalities. Preachers routinely went on to preach on specific principles with real-world consequences—including armed resistance and civil disobedience where necessary. In fact, echoing the teachings of Reformers from centuries before them, many of these preachers decreed laws, or even whole governments, invalid should they defy biblical order or biblical laws. For example, as Baldwin summarizes, Elisha Williams preached in 1744 that
[G]overnments which did not originate from the people and in which they did not make their own laws were not, properly speaking, governments at all, but tyrannies and “absolutely against the Law of God and Nature.”
Examples abound. Stephen Johnson’s Fast Day Sermon of 1765 was one of the more potent. As Baldwin relates it, “No obedience was due to any edicts which were unconstitutional. . . . Where executive and legislative authority exceed the bounds of the law of God and the constitution, then their acts are ipso facto void.” This was hard-core nullification doctrine long before it was cool.
A Call to America’s Pulpits
As we compare, once again, their day and ours, we can hear an eerie note of correspondence, and it is not flattering. The harmony with our own day comes not in the fierce cries from the pulpit against tyranny, courts, taxes, and legislation, but rather from the loyalists who supported the tyranny! And what was their demand of the clergy at the time?
It was none other than the cry of our own clergy today: “Don’t preach politics!” Stick to “the Gospel” only! Indeed, [one loyalist writer] complained that “The Clergy had quite unlearned the Gospel, & had substituted Politicks in its Stead.” Likewise, a sermon by Boston preacher William Gordon elicited loyalist pamphlets in response, one of which scolded the “reverend politician” and sighed, “I most heartily wish . . . that he and many others of his profession would confine themselves to gospel truth.”
It is understandable that a tyrant would wish to censor the whole counsel of God, especially as it moves populations to resist tyrants. But the sadness of our time is that we do not even need tyrants to intimidate us into silence. Our pulpits do it readily to themselves.
We need instead more men like Jonas Clarke. A couple months before the fateful July 4, 1776, Clarke declared from the pulpit: “From this day will be dated the Liberty of the world.” From “this day”—referring to the day of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in which British soldiers attempted to raid the artillery and disarm the American people. Preachers had been preparing those soldiers for years prior, preaching on rights, arms, politics, law, and government, tyranny and war. And it was at that Battle that, reportedly, the preacher himself—the same Jonas Clarke—had led riflemen to repel the British.
Where are such preachers today? What do we hold dear? For what are we willing to fight and die? Are we willing even to preach the doctrines of government, liberty, and God’s Law? Where are the sermons, tracts, and pamphlets circulating today from America’s preachers condemning taxes and tyranny? Preachers in the 1760s spoke out, and some spilled their blood, to fight the erosion of jurisprudence and the onset of admiralty courts! Today we have a vast array of this type of court tyrannizing nearly every area of life, and hardly a pulpit even knows, let alone cares, let alone preaches. We had ministers leading men in the sacrifice of their lives and money over intrusive search warrants and seizures of property. Today where are even the sermons on these things?
Pulpits across this land should be ringing with denunciation of warrantless wiretaps, extrajudicial drone strikes, no-knock warrants, militarization of police, civil forfeiture, the surveillance state, the welfare-warfare state, fiat money, tyrannized markets, executive orders, national emergencies, and a thousand other infractions so extreme and overt they would have driven King George III to join the rebellion himself. And the pulpits are silent.In Stock Now.
The pulpits are silent, the flocks left untrained and unmotivated, and liberty all but dead. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
If liberty is ever to be restored in this, or any, nation, it will only come through a return to the message enshrined in Christ and His commandments. God may see fit to circumvent the rebellious and stubborn clergy who stand idle and cower today. It may please Him to replace them with a more faithful movement in some way. Yet it is most natural for us to call the preachers to repentance, and back to faithfulness, in hope that the pulpit will once again fulfill its role as the voice of liberty in the land.
A substantial first step toward that end would be to recover the lost, and nearly buried, history of our pulpits—of a time when America’s pastors preached politics, resisted tyranny, and founded a nation on the Bible. Dr. Baldwin’s nearly-forgotten book is a very helpful source from which to start relearning. I recommend it to every pastor and every Christian—and I recommend they follow the example of its subject matter even more.
 Pp. 212–213.
 P. 51.
 Pp. 16–17 below.
 P. 21 below.
 P. 29 below.
 Pp. 46–47 below.
 Pp. 32–33 below.
 See Eran Shalev, “‘A Perfect Republic’: The Mosaic Constitution in Revolutionary New England, 1775–1788,” The New England Quarterly 82/2 (June 2009), 2435–263, for this and many more examples of the application of Old Testament Law to the American formative era.
 P. 41 below.
 Pp. 128–129 below.
 P. 154, footnote 1 below.
 P. 164, footnote 30 below.
God Almighty owns everything. This is the biblical view: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1); God says, “[E]very beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains (Psa. 50:9-12).
God created mankind in His own image. Man reflects God’s character and order. Just as God owns everything, God delegated the stewardship and dominion of property to His image, mankind (Gen. 1:26-28), and thus humans have the capacity and calling to act as private owners. God planted a special garden—the Garden of Eden—and placed man in it to till it, and to guard its boundaries (Gen. 2:8, 15). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s law-order, God kicked them outside of those boundaries, and placed a “no-trespassing” sign in the form of an angelic guardian at their gates (Gen. 3:23-24). Adam and Eve very quickly learned the ins and outs of private property.
This doctrine continued as God’s way of ordering and prospering society, and we see this in the fact that God’s fundamental laws for living—the Ten Commandments—include the prohibition of theft (Ex. 20:15). No man or group of men can take another man’s property—by individual act, legislation, petition, conspiracy, or appeal to the “common good”—in disregard for God’s law. The Old Testament frequently refers to the moving of a neighbor’s landmark (a property corner) in order to increase one’s own property (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10; Hos. 5:10). The references forbid or condemn the act as an attack on inheritance and possession (Deut. 19:14).
The same doctrine holds in the New Testament. In the early Church in Acts 5, as many Christians voluntarily sold their goods and gave to the poor among them, one couple sold some land and laid only a portion at the apostles’ feet pretending they had given all. Nevertheless, even for these corrupt-hearted individuals, Peter up-held the doctrine of private property: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4). God punished them, not for not giving all, but for lying about what they gave.
Other apostles upheld the doctrine as well: Paul preached against theft (Eph. 4:28), as did Peter (1 Pet. 4:15) and James (Jam. 5:4). Not to mention that Jesus saw the command as quite relevant as well (Matt. 19:18).
The biblical witness is clear: God believes in private property, and He not only desires us but commands us to live by that rule as well. Under this system, our rights and freedoms come from God. No man can take them away. He who tries must answer to the law, and ultimately to God.
Socialism is the belief that individual private property is a bad idea. It is thus an anti-Christian and anti-biblical belief. Socialists believe that governments should own most or all property and distribute it out as government experts, scientists, politicians, or occasionally voters see fit. Under socialism, the State puts itself in the place of God and says, “The earth is the State’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Under this view, the individual has no protection from his neighbor if his neighbor is in the majority, or if the State somehow deems his neighbor as needful in some way; the State simply uses force to take that individual’s property and give it to someone else. In this sense, the State moves landmarks every day. In this view, the State determines our rights, and gives us our freedoms; here there is no appeal beyond the State.
Socialism is the belief, therefore, that stealing is acceptable as long as another man or group of men says so. Socialism believes in theft by majority vote, or theft by a majority of representatives’ votes in Congress. Socialism is the belief that armed robbery is OK as long as you do it through proxy of the government’s gun. Socialism places man, and ultimately the State, in the place of God. Man becomes owned by other men, instead of by his Maker. Socialism is an entirely humanistic, God-denying, God-usurping belief.
Between these two beliefs—private property and socialism— there exists fundamental conflict. They represent contradictory views of sovereignty, man, law, society, and inheritance. They are fundamentally rival religious systems. Choosing one, you reject the other; service and honor to God, or servitude to fellow men. Either God commands and judges man, or man commands and judges man.
(Get the whole book, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel)
This weekend delivered us one of those rare gems that you just can’t make up: one lawless individual’s act of nationalistic idolatry sent conservative news outlets and bloggers into paeans of uncritical praise. It was an embarrassing display. Conservatives apparently checked no background and paid attention to few facts. The result was that Christians and conservatives ended up tossing out the foundations for society and morality, as well as their own stated values, merely because an American flag and a military veteran were involved. But the rest of the facts are quite disturbing.
It turns out that these conservatives are praising the unlawful actions of a socialist pornographer who defies the law, even though she herself once desecrated a flag for her own pet cause.
Headlines such as the one by Todd Starnes—Christian social commentator for Fox News—were typical: “University Detains Veteran Who Stopped Flag Desecration.” He reports some of the basic facts of the incident like this:
An Air Force veteran was hauled away in handcuffs and detained by campus security at Valdosta State University in Georgia after she stopped protesters from desecrating an American flag.
Michelle Manhart admits that she snatched Old Glory from a group of demonstrators who put the flag on the ground and were walking on it.
One member of the unnamed group told the Valdosta Daily Times they were desecrating the flag as “a symbol of our protest.”
Several stories came across just the same. But what they haven’t told you is what will really shock you.
“Snatched” it was. For starters this was a case of theft, pure and simple. A female protester can be heard in the video telling Mrs. Manhart, “It’s not yours.” And it wasn’t. That’s why Manhart was eventually arrested by police. Yet Manhart attempts to justify her theft with a socialistic argument. She retorted to the protester, “This belongs to, actually, the entire United States.”
Well, no, actually, it doesn’t. It is private property. Even though the flag is a symbol for the United States, individual American flags are not community property. The argument is ludicrous. In fact, in one of the landmark flag-burning cases, when the Supreme Court decided that flag-burning was protected as free speech, one of the defendants nevertheless was sent to jail because he had stolen the flag from a government building. It was private property.
So, folks, whatever your individual views on flag-burning may be, private property laws trump those views.
The Blaze even posted this socialistic sentence from Manhart “above the fold” on their version of the story. Since they seemed to approve of Mrs. Manhart as a hero, they apparently did not recognize the irony of defending socialism when Beck built his career decrying it.
There are so many other sparkling facets to this gem I hardly know where to begin.
What about “pornography”? It turns out that Mrs. Manhart is only a “former” veteran because she resigned after being demoted from her rank as a staff sergeant. Demoted, why? For disgracing the military uniform by posing both nude and in uniform in a 2007 Playboy spread.
But surely that was just some youthful mistake, right? Well, Mrs. Manhart was already married and had two children when she made that decision. She remained unapologetic afterward. A reporter in 2007 noted that Manhart went through the spread with her 11-year-old daughter: “Manhart, daughter at her side, has gone through her Playboy spread page by page. The human body is beautiful, she explained, and nothing to be afraid of.”
Aside from making trips back to base a bit awkward for Manhart, the authorities weren’t too happy with her. When they took official action against her, she couldn’t accept her punishment, so she quit.
She then tried to advance her “modeling” career with another skin stunt, this time running into pure hypocrisy. In 2008, she posed all-but-nude for PETA, including a shot in which—pay close attention now—she covered her privates with an American flag and the American flag was dragging on the ground.
At the time, she justified her actions this way:
“When we originally did that shoot, we did it for a specific cause,” said Manhart. “We wanted to portray what we have as Americans when we get rid of all our material things. We wanted to strip the human of all material items and stand behind the flag because if we don’t have anything, we still have this. We still have our freedom.”
Manhart said she knew the flag would touch the ground during her photo shoot and took preliminary measures to ensure that it was disposed of properly.
“We made sure before the shoot that the flag would be donated to the Boy Scouts, so they could dispose of the American flag since it touched the ground,” said Manhart. “We made sure of that. If any part of the flag was touching the ground we wanted to make sure it was done right.”
Ironically, in the video of the recent incident, you can hear Michelle lecture a protester that the flag needs to be “properly disposed of.” The interlocutor responds, “We’re going to take care of that.” But Manhart refused to give it back anyway.
Apparently, she can desecrate a flag for her pet cause, but people with whom she disagrees cannot.
It was at this point that the “lawless” facet shines. When police arrive and instruct Manhart to hand over the property, she refuses. She continues to the point that they move to arrest her, and then she causes a scene by resisting arrest.
Now, I have my own views on arrest and police powers, etc., but what have we heard from all these great conservative outlets for months now? What have we heard when the issues were Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others? We have been instructed over and over that whether you think you’re in the right or not, obey the police and don’t resist. Whether you’re innocent or not doesn’t matter. That can be sorted out later. The important thing is to cooperate and let the police do their job. If you resist, you can get in trouble and even injured or killed!
Yet, when a military vet and an American flag are involved, some of these same conservatives can’t praise their hero enough. I have even seen cop-bashing in the comments to these articles. I have not seen one single conservative commentator apply the same logic regarding police to this circumstance as they did to all those others.
And finally there is the issue of the law. We live in what may be to some a confusing time because the federal law against flag desecration still appears on the books, but subsequent Supreme Court decisions have ruled that flag burning or desecration is protected by the First Amendment.
The first law protecting the flag was actually signed by the great society statist, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. The first SCOTUS test case was Texas v. Johnson (1989). It overturned the law and protected flag-burning as free-speech. Congress immediately passed another Act. This, too, was overturned the following year in U.S. v. Eichman (1990).
These decisions were both 5–4, but notably included conservative Scalia and quasi-conservative Kennedy in the majority.
Since then, Congress has attempted several times to pass a Constitutional Amendment. The last attempt (2006) failed by a single vote in the Senate. For those who like to keep tabs on things: one of only two Republican “Nays” among 32 Democrats was the man who is now our current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. (He defended his vote, well in my opinion, in a press release.)
There is not a single facet of Mrs. Manhart’s story of which Christians and conservatives ought to be proud. The woman is socialist, lawless, hardly a role model for morals, and a hypocrite.
The only thing driving conservatives to puff this story is the fact that she was a military veteran who “stood up for the flag.” But when these things, which are hardly virtues in and of themselves, are allowed to triumph over private property rights, basic morality, and personal integrity, then conservatives have basically thrown out everything—indeed, the most important things—for which they claim to stand. The foundations have been destroyed in the name of preserving the façade.
In this, we can see the power that the military and nationalistic patriotism hold over many. The reaction to this incident suggests that a government dedicated to war and lawlessness could sway the conservative masses to trample their own rights and morality by merely waving the flag and pronouncing “support
At that point, conservatives stand holding only the symbols and power and glory—but they have dropped the substance of it. If we overlook degeneracy and lawlessness in order to uphold a symbol, we’ve turned society on its head. Friends, don’t save the fabric of the flag if it means trampling the fabric of society to do so.
Just a few years after an historic presidency and things aren’t looking so good nationally:
- Decade-old war efforts loom over national policy, costly in both money and blood.
- New threats lie on the horizon, with the establishment appearing eager for pretexts.
- The incumbent leftist president pushes massive healthcare legislation.
- The incumbent leftist president promotes expansions of “civil rights”.
- National debt and deficits are an obvious national threat which will have to be dealt with.
Things on the Right start to shape up before the next election. At first you had a choice between a diverse group of players, including:
- A New England establishment Republican connected to all the big bankers and high finance (two actually).
- A devout Christian woman of conscience who was once quoted as saying, “we need more religion and less politics in our country.”(1)
- A dark-skinned minority businessman.
- A white-haired “tell it like it is” ultra-conservative proponent of fiscal conservatism, opponent of foreign aid, and quasi-libertarian with a reputation for drawing huge crowds.
But the real contest in the primary finally ended up between the New England establishment Republican, and the freedom-fighting, fiscal conservative. This is the choice for conservatives.
So this is where we’re at, right?
Yes and No. First: this was 1964.
The establishment man was Nelson Rockefeller (although Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had also been in the race, and would have been a near clone to Romney as well), and the freedom-fighter was, of course, Barry Goldwater.
In that setting, Goldwater won the nomination, despite the fact that Rockefeller was presented as the front-runner. Rockefeller and the eastern establishment held a grudge. They sold out Goldwater, refused to endorse him, and abandoned him during the general election. Among establishment guys, only Richard Nixon came to Goldwater’s side.
Abetting the establishment’s stubborn refusal was Michigan governor and powerhouse establishment Republican George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father.
When there was a choice between a liberty movement and the socialist Great Society, the Romney family snubbed their nose at Goldwater.
Since Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, LBJ and the left was trashed him publicly, and wrongly, as a racist. The establishment GOP sat there and let it happen. It was, therefore, complicit in leftist Johnson’s landslide victory.
We got the nation’s first Health Care overhaul (Medicare) because the GOP refused to stand for individual liberty.
So much for “party first.” “Party first” guys say “party first” and “anyone but” only when they want principled conservatives to compromise for the establishment’s favorite. They refuse to do it when the people’s choice of candidate is too truly conservative for their taste.
The Dawn of “Morning in America”
Another backer arose, however, amidst the campaign: a young former democrat and former proponent of FDR New Dealism who had recently converted to conservative views, particularly in opposition to federal intrusions into people’s lives (including opposition to the Civil Rights Act).
The young man was Ronald Reagan. Read the basics about his early political development here.
Reagan spoke in behalf of the Goldwater campaign in 1964. His speech is now-famous. It is also now almost totally ignored by the GOP, except for quaint sound-byes they have no idea of acting upon. More on the content of the speech below.
If someone gave Reagan’s exact same speech today, word-for-word, without revealing that it was from Reagan, they would be dismissed by most Christians and conservatives as a radical libertarian hack.
This is how far we’ve come since 1964. The primary candidates look pretty much the same, and party political pressures are running much the same. We are still told who is the front-runner, and the establishment still uses blackballing and dirty tricks to get its way. But the only major success of the Republican Party during the interim period was the so-called Reagan revolution, and that revolution was a clear expression of Barry Goldwater-style libertarian-conservatism. And this is entirely buried by the establishment today.
The Farce of “Anybody but ______”
In this story is both bad news and good news.
The bad news is that lesser-of-two-evils voting, the failure to back truly principled candidates out of unfounded fears, and “anyone but” voting is still with us, still perpetuating elitism, tyranny, social decline, and causing gradual decline in quality of candidates.
The perpetual “anybody but ____” mantra that keeps turning the American election merry-go-round has done absolutely nothing, politically, but lead to decline in all three branches of government. If you disgree, then tell me what major political advances have conservatives made since 1964?
If you qualify that question to mean major advances that are not offset by subsequent losses in related areas, you probably can’t name a single one.
“Anybody but ____” has given us “anything but freedom.”
As long as there are party hacks in both major parties who profit from one form or other of big government, it will not change. The two party system was created for and protects a corrupt system. As insider (and mentor to Bill Clinton) Carroll Quigley wrote,
The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. . . .
But either party in office becomes corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.(2)
The irony is that I went to find that quotation, and then recovered this in Quigley’s very next paragraph:
The capture of the Republican National Party by the extremist elements of the Republican Congressional Party in 1964, and their effort to elect Barry Goldwater to the Presidency with the petty-bourgeois extremists alone, was only a temporary aberration on the American political scene.(3)
In Quigley’s view, this “petty bourgeois (lower middle class)” was driven to support Goldwater due to its “clinging to its particular version of the middle-class outlook” and “passing it on to its offspring in an even more intensified form” while the rest of the middle class was disintegrating around it.(4)
Ring any bells about “cling to their guns and religion”? And in Quigley’s day, the establishment right was just as exasperated about Goldwater as the left was.
The establishment, left and right, has not changed.
A Way Forward
The 1964 general election was a landslide unmatched until 1980 when Reagan annihilated Carter. But here’s the good news: it was the legacy of grassroots workers after Goldwater’s campaign that grew into the Reagan revolution.
It was Richard Viguerie’s compilation of a few thousand names of Goldwater supporters into a single mailing list that launched, in seed form, that revolution. That list eventually enabled conservatives across the country to realize that others like them existed. It began a movement.
But it was Reagan’s political outlook and platform—individual liberty and self-government—that put him over the top, first as governor of California, then as President.
In short, no Goldwater, no Reagan.
Today we have a “Liberty Movement” far larger than the ripples Goldwater created. But we are told that Goldwater was “a temporary aberration.”
Quigley was right with Goldwater, and even Reagan succumbed to huge deficits while in office and never challenged the banking establishment.
The question for today’s Christians and conservatives who love liberty is, are we going to be another temporary aberration? Or shall we consolidate, stand firm, and send that message to the establishment at every level of every party and government?
Below is the speech Ronald Reagan gave at Goldwater’s 1964 nomination campaign. The issues he emphasized were these:
- fiscal conservatism
- the freedoms intended by the founding fathers
- the American Revolution and self-government
- the rejection of an intellectual elite in Washington
- rejection of “greater government activity in the affairs of the people”
- defense of free markets and individual freedoms
- return to the Constitution
- criticism of government “force and coercion”
- an end to government subsidies and programs that interfere with the private sector
- criticism of the growth of federal bureaucracy
- critique of “urban renewal”
- promotion of strict private property rights
- critique of federal government in housing and mortgage
- critique of federal government involvement in “employment”
- critique of envy
- critique of massive spending on welfare programs
- exposure of the bankruptcy and fraudulent accounting of Social Security
- a plan to make social security voluntary
- “stop the advance of socialism”
- honesty and integrity in elected leaders
These are all biblical issues which Christians should embrace.
We are now still in the primary season in many levels of elections throughout this country, including the presidency. It’s no longer 1964, but there are still candidates who still speak to these issues like Reagan did in 1964. And as Reagan said, “Perhaps there is a simple answer. Not an easy answer, but simple.” We should seek that answer. Christians don’t have to settle for “anybody but.”
Nor should they. Ever.
Consider. Vote wisely. Vote morally.
And then teach your children to do so in an even more intensified form.
- See here, p. 168.
- Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 1247–8.
- Quigley, 1248.
- Quigley, 1248–9.
There is no doubt that taxation in this age and nation has become a great and tyrannous evil. This is a note about how it has been made so easy for them to do it to us, and how simply it could be undone.
On glorious tax day, yesterday, the Libertarian Party (I have no affiliation) posted a great graphic showing the before and after of federal income taxes in this country after 100 years—1913 and 2013. The contrast is staggering.
While this graphic is great and helpful, it doesn’t relate one of the most important parts of the story that occurred along the way, and one which may present a key to undoing the scheme: withholding. This is where the government began to require your employer to withhold income taxes directly from every paycheck. Gary North writes it up well:
The withholding tax program makes it easier for governments to collect taxes. The system was invented by Rockefeller agent Beardsley Ruml. When, in 1942, he came up with a plan to sell Congress on the idea of income tax withholding, he understood exactly what this would do for revenues actually collected: multiply them.
Here was the government’s problem in 1942: only about five million out of the 34 million Americans subject to the income tax were saving to pay it on March 15, 1943. This presented a big problem for tax collectors, now that wartime taxes had been hiked dramatically. Ruml, formerly the director of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation, in 1942 was chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He was also the treasurer of R. H. Macy & Co., the department store. As Macy’s treasurer, he well understood that most people resist saving for known expenditures. He asked: Why not get employers to deduct their employees’ income tax liabilities? He recommended this to Congress in 1942, and Congress in 1943 passed a tax collection bill that included Ruml’s withholding provision: the Current Tax Payment Act.
The Treasury Department went to work defending this program. It used staff economist Milton Friedman to do much of the research.
Did the scheme work? Beyond the politicians’ wildest expectations. In 1942, the U.S. government collected $3.2 billion from income taxes. It 1943, before the law was fully operational, it collected $6.5 billion from income taxes. In 1944, it collected $20 billion. (“Historical Statistics of the United States,” Pt. 2 , p. 1105.)
The withholding tax was passed as a wartime measure. Naturally, it was not repealed in 1945.
The withholding tax system is popular with the Federal government for four reasons. First, the government deliberately over-withholds. This forces taxpayers to file their forms to get their refunds. They must identify where they live. Second, it creates a “free money from the government” emotional response when the refund check arrives. Third, the government gets to use this money, interest-free, during the taxable year. Fourth, it makes income taxes and Social Security taxes less painful and therefore more acceptable.
If we were able to get that one war-time measure returned to the pre-war status quo, it would be one huge step toward recovering freedom in taxation and many other areas that depend upon that revenue. It would be amazing to see a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, or anyone, introduce such a measure and stand seriously for it. Sadly, concern over the income tax as a whole only appears to be seen with the Libertarian Party—and by that I am not endorsing it, only observing. Can you imagine such a chart being circulated by the Republican Party (don’t even ask about the Democrats)? Can you imagine an actual plan of action to undo the scheme?
North suggests it would take only two things to bring down the system: abolish withholding and move the filing deadline to the Monday right before each Election Day in November. I don’t even think you would have to move the deadline—though the thought of annoyed voters going to polls immediately after writing a fat check to the government is entertaining.
Here’s North’s take:
If withholding were abolished, the decline in revenues would be both immediate, permanent, and spectacular. Then, on the second Monday of November, there would be desperation across the land. Hardly anyone would have saved all of the money owed during the year. Where would they get the money to pay? They wouldn’t. So, many would not file. There would be no way that the Internal Revenue Service could follow up on all the non-filing residents.
As soon as the taxpayers realized that there are too many people to convict, they would understand the enormous power they possess. Congress could do nothing. It would have to cut taxes to such a degree that people will set aside money to pay. It would have to issue high-interest tax prepayment bonds.
This would be the closest things to a real tea party we’ve had since the original. It would be even bigger and better since our own “taxation with representation” taxes are so much higher than they ever were back then.
Yesterday, I said that if anyone had any specific questions from Hall’s post-debate data-dump, I would consider and address them. Someone has asked about Jordan’s claim that I told him on stage that the debate did not go well for me. Here is what Jordan states in the eBook:
[B]efore we even left the stage, McDurmon noted to me that the debate did not go well for him, and expressed the same sentiment on the phone several days afterward. In that second admission, McDurmon asked me to engage in ongoing back-and-forths on our websites, giving points and counterpoints and “continuing the dialogue.”
This is a particularly egregious example of the problem of Jordan Hall versus the facts: Not a single bit of this is true. I said no such thing. These claims dot the “i” in the word “delusion.”
Hot Mic (!)
In someone’s wise providence, that on-stage discussion immediately after the debate was recorded on a hot mic. Not only did I say no such thing as Jordan alleges, I did not say anything remotely close to it. Here is the audio of that discussion. You can listen for yourself:
There are some interesting admissions in this audio, however, just not from me. You will hear Jordan say we should have another debate on Christian Reconstructionism—just not the role of the law itself or eschatology. You will hear him say that he spoke with Westminster California professors (Dr. Barker and [inaudible—Horton???]) prior to the debate and that they said they refused to debate theonomists only because they do not want to give us a platform to speak. You will hear him throw out a random boogeyman quote from Rushdoony—“there is a place for coercion”—that suspiciously happens to feature in that terrible anti-Theonomy book by McGlasson, which Jordan then proceeds to call “garbage” and say he “threw out.”
Consequently, that very quotation—“there is a place for coercion”—has already been addressed in the 27-page context package I put together specifically for that book. It’s number 4 on page 2. (I also caught Jordan using material from that book again in a Facebook argument after the debate.)
All that good stuff is in there, but there is nary a hint of any admission on my part that I thought the debate didn’t go well for me.
Again, this claim is utterly false.
The Phone Call
Jordan further claims I said the same thing in a phone call a few days later as well as asking him “to engage in ongoing back-and-forths on our websites.”
Well, I have that phone call recorded, too, and I can tell you exactly what was said. After a 12-minute discussion negotiating our then-to-come “Joint Statement,” Hall mentioned his friend Brannon Howse’s name. Howse, as you know, has treated Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction about as poorly as Hall has done (see here, here, here, here). I recalled this little (and fairly recent) history at that moment and lamented to myself the fact that it is so difficult to get these guys to be accurate in representing our position. I told Jordan again I would like to sit down with them, open the actual books, and go through the issues more slowly. At that point, I said,
I honestly in retrospect think that a debate was the wrong way to do this. Not that I am, you know, upset about it or anything; I just think that you guys are so way off of what we teach and I think a lot of that could be remedied. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m wrong.
Did you get out of that anything like, “Gee, this debate sure did not go well for me”? No. In fact, I said I was not upset about the debate. I just would just prefer a type of interaction in which these guys could be held more directly accountable in person for such random quotations and representations of our position. That is difficult to do in formal debate in regard to the books and random quotations, but could certainly be done in an open-book discussion setting.
I also said nothing in that call about any “ongoing back-and-forths on our websites.” Nothing. I do have a couple emails from around that time that could possibly have been misconstrued that way, but it would take some work to do so. There was one in which I suggested continuing private emails with him to discuss errors. There was another in which I told him my intention to post the many remaining Debate Q&A questions that never got answered, and that if I did so I would give him the first opportunity to answer the ones addressed to him. He was not interested in doing so.
So, these claims about our phone call are unwarranted as well. Nowhere did I say I thought the debate did not go well for me, nor did I ask Hall for ongoing discussions on our websites.
And keep in mind, all of this on my part was an attempt to reach out to discuss these things in private first so they would not misrepresent us and we could have avoided exposing their errors over and over in public. All of these offers on my part were meant to give courtesies to them. Hall is not interested, and Howse has never contacted me at all.
You can judge for yourself by reading and listening for yourself. My view is that, at best, someone has a problem with self-centered listening, but perhaps also with delusion, and perhaps even with just telling the truth. And the same person probably has a sore arm, too.
But as far as my post-debate admissions of defeat? Yeah, that never happened.
Mama always said don’t tell lies, because if you tell a lie, you’ll end up having to tell another one to cover it up. What follows is an example of how this works in the world of anti-Theonomy debate and publication.
Last night I was informed that Jordan Hall finally posted his post-debate thoughts—in the form of an eBook. In a spacious 114 pages, he addresses the broad scope of the debate as well as some of my articles afterward.
Even after having interacted with Hall as much as I have already, and having witnessed the quality of interaction already compiled and documented, even I was shocked at the bewildering combination of self-congratulatory praise built on half-truths manufactured in this book. I mean the self-adulation is astounding. Not only are there frequent references to his resounding triumphs and my failures, and overt appeals to his friends who said he won the debate, he actually thinks he single-handedly laid Theonomy to rest once and for all. He recalls one part of his own debate performance like this: “there was one nail after another pounded into the coffin of theonomy.”
But I read the book, and I was at the debate, and I have to say, not only do I not see that, I don’t see anything like it. All I see from Hall are bent nails and smashed thumbs.
This book deserves little response, but the subject herein will cover a few words necessary to make a point. I will certainly not attempt to untie all its labyrinthine strains. I will give my general impression of the book as well as a couple reasons for that impression. If anyone who actually reads through it finds any particular point compelling and thinks I should address it, feel free to contact me via email or social media and we’ll discuss it.
As for my general impression of the eBook, let me put it this way. In an early part of the book, Hall describes his debate prep. At one point he notes that he “read books opposed to Theonomy” that he “did not feel were compelling.” He listed two: No! A Theological Response to Christian Reconstructionism by Paul McGlasson, and Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust. He has referred to these two books as “crap” and “garbage” that he “threw out.”
Well, my general impression is that there’s now a third anti-Theonomy book to go in that same file.
A Unsanctified Dedication
I promised listeners after the debate that I would review every one of Jordan’s quotations from the debate for veracity—as misrepresentation is a common and well-documented problem among critics of Theonomy. The result is recorded for perpetuity in twelve articles in the Hall of Shame 2.0. One would have thought the after being exposed for unacceptable treatment of texts over and over, Hall may have at least tried to steer clear of that error. He has instead become entrenched in it to the point of predictability. Indeed, one cannot get past the dedication page of his book (page 3) before seeing him do it yet again.
In a display of utter hubris, he dedicated the book (about the alleged “dying embers” of Theonomy) to R. J. Rushdoony, and in particular, “to a specific quotation by R. J. Rushdoony: . . .” He then quotes,
“The purpose for Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law.”
(Rousas J. Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, Pg. 3)
If I had not seen this atrocious “boogeyman quote” (as some people call it) early on in my study of this topic, the insidious and dangerous nature of hyponomy [his pet term for Theonomy] might have been lost on me.
I am not sure what in the world Jordan finds “atrocious” about Rushdoony’s quotation above. There is actually nothing at all distinctive about it from a theonomic viewpoint, as we will see in a moment. Instead, it is nothing more than standard Reformed theology.
Before we examine that angle, we have to note once again that Jordan has done some creative editing here. He has literally truncated Rushdoony’s sentence by adding an arbitrary period smack in the middle of it, not letting the thought finish (which includes the Scripture references which develop it), and he has not even performed the courtesy of alerting his reader to this fact by adding an ellipsis as responsible authors do. Here’s the whole quotation from Rushdoony:
The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man “from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2), “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4).
Jordan could not even get beyond the third page in his book before he found it necessary to present a quotation from Rushdoony with his own editorial cut-and-paste treatment. Such behavior probably will not help the cause of a guy who has in the past couple weeks been attempting to win notoriety by blasting established Christian journalists for their journalistic integrity.
In the above quotation, Rushdoony goes on to note that the law is relevant to man’s indictment under sin, to his redemption (since Christ kept the law for us), and finally to our sanctification (as the rule and pattern of it). It might have been helpful for Jordan to include the rest of Rushdoony’s sentence as an exposition of certain Scripture passages, as well as the immediate context in which Rushdoony does nothing more than lay out the traditional “normative” use of the law accepted by virtually all Reformed theologians throughout history—except, apparently, Jordan Hall.
What this unsanctified dedication does is illustrate the dangers of overreacting in an attempt to skewer Theonomy. In an example of what is actually quite common, people overreact to the law so much they end up speaking and arguing like liberals in politics, and worse, antinomians in theology. This is not to say, of course that Hall is actually an antinomian in confession. Rather, it is when one carries their anti-theonomic critiques—especially in straw man form—to their logical extremes that they actually start speaking like an antinomian.
Thus, Jordan finds Rushdoony’s teaching on the law’s relation to sanctification “atrocious” and revealing as to how “insidious and dangerous” Theonomy really is. He concludes his condemnation:
As I train people in evangelism and teach them that we use the Law to bring awareness of our need for and eventually acceptance of the Gospel, there are some who do the opposite…they use the Gospel to bring our awareness and acceptance of the Law. It is the backwards approach and diminishes the preeminence of Gospel, stirring me to contend for the truth in this matter.
What’s difficult about this statement is not only its imprecision, but that a rejection of a positive role of law in the life of a believer after salvation would be an example of genuine antinomianism. Jordan should know better than to set law and Gospel against each other in this way. After all, we are not talking about justification, as he himself said in the debate—admitting Rushdoony is correct on justification. This statement in the Institutes is, however, about sanctification.
Like I said, this is nothing more than traditional Reformed theology. For example, the London Baptist Confession (LBC)—which is supposed to be Jordan’s own confession of faith—teaches exactly the same thing as Rushdoony does above. LBC Chapter 13 on “Sanctification” makes clear that as the saints grow in grace, they also grow “in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.” Obedience? Obedience to commands? What could this mean? Let a respectable Reformed Baptist theologian, Sam Waldron, answer this for us: “In general good works are those which conform to the law of God as revealed in the Scriptures (see chapter 19).”
See Chapter 19 indeed. This is child’s play compared to what the LBC teaches in regard to the Law of God itself in that chapter. Consider sections 5, 6, and 7 of Chapter 19:
- The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.
Contrary to Hall, who above presents this view of the law’s binding obligation for the life of the believer after the Gospel as “hyponomy”—“under the law”—the LBC teaches the exact opposite:
- Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; . . . [M]an’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.
In other words, while Jordan wishes to maintain that Rushdoony’s view of law and Gospel is “hyponomy”—under the law—the confession explicitly says this view is not evidence of being under the law.
Finally, to kill any doubt whatsoever, section 7 speaks in the exact same terms as Rushdoony does in the quotation above:
- Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
Remember what Rushdoony said in that “atrocious” quotation? “The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man ‘from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’ (Rom. 8:4).” It is without any surprise, then, that we find among the LBC’s scripture proofs for this section none other than . . . Romans 8:4. Atrocious!
Here again, a reputable Reformed Baptist theologian is helpful. Sam Waldron concludes his comments on this section with a statement so close to what Rushdoony said above that I fear he could be in danger of a dedication in Jordan’s next book. Waldron concludes: “The very purpose of the gospel is to deliver men from lawlessness and cause them to obey the law of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:4; Titus 2:14).” Note also not only the same exact sentiment and language, but the same reference to Romans 8:4 which Jordan edited out of his quotation of Rushdoony.
I have found Waldron’s extended comments on this section very helpful, particularly in providing a more traditional Reformed alternative to Jordan’s idea that it is “insidious and dangerous” to suggest that believers are somehow bound to the law after having received the Gospel. For example, Waldron comments:
Some apparently were saying that while we ought to do what the law says as to its content or matter, we should not do it because the law says it, but simply because of gratitude to Christ. Several serious problems may be pointed out in such a sentiment. It is unscriptural (James 2:10-11; Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21). This is a subtler form of the error that justified persons are not bound to obey the law, since ultimately it is not the authority of the law they regard, but only their gratitude to Christ. Its practical effect is to convey to the popular mind a lessened sense of the majesty of the law of God and of the seriousness and absolute necessity of law-keeping. It makes faithful exhortation to duty difficult, because those who hold this teaching always object that you are bringing them back into slavery. If anyone speaks to such people of duty and obligation, their response is that such exhortations are legalistic. Christ strengthens the original authority of the law. He does not put the content or the matter of the law on a new foundation. He does not eliminate the obligation to obey our Creator, but adds the obligation of gratefully obeying our Redeemer.
Waldron’s point is that a diminished view of law-keeping for the believer leads not only to complacency, but to the type of complaints against Theonomy we have heard from Jordan and his friends: it is legalism, slavery, “under the law,” etc. Waldron’s fuller comments are very helpful and are included in the footnote.
The only question now is whether Jordan will amend his error regarding Rushdoony’s “atrocious” view, or whether he will remain consistent with his newly-stated antinomian view and abandon the London Confession of Faith. In doing so, of course, he will have to assign the Confession and adherents like Sam Waldron to the same dungeons of “insidious and dangerous” theology as R. J. Rushdoony.
It’s bad enough to commit such an elementary error. It’s worse to commit such an error in public for all to see. But to do so in the form of an attempted kill shot on your book’s dedication page only to have it backfire on you has got to be abominably embarrassing. Kids, let this serve as an example of the classic proverb, hubris goes before the fall. When you line up your opponent execution-style and start to gloat, make sure you don’t have blanks in your gun, and make sure he’s not hiding a .40 S&W under his vest.
If I were to attempt to document every like fallacy and failure in this offering from Hall, it would certainly take more time and pages than it’s worth, or than anyone would need to read (especially considering I have already one so much of it elsewhere). I will, as I said, leave it to interested readers to ask particular questions if they care. My operators will be standing by to take your calls.
I would add briefly that Jordan’s attempt in this book to justify his utter fabrication of a quotation during the debate is particularly revealing. He actually insists 1) that the term “civilly atone” is a “quotation” and “quote” that exists, 2) that it is actually “the words from a chapter” of Rushdoony’s text, and yet 3) Jordan still cannot provide the actual quotation. He then implies I failed because I allegedly neglected to do certain research even though I not only I actually did it, but published it, and it appears clearly in the very article of mine he cites in the book. This section is so convoluted and filled with pretense that it may warrant its own separate treatment. We’ll see. His attempt to escape the force of John Gill’s theonomic views are every bit as gymnastic, partial, and selective, so who knows, maybe we’ll have a Hall of Shame 3.0.
In short, this book confirms for me, again, that the same Jordan Hall who did the original anti-Theonomy podcasts has not progressed at all from the level of the original fallacies. Instead, he has gotten much worse. Mama was right, after all, about those fibs and tall tales—you have to keep telling them to cover the old ones. It seems Jordan is quite versed at it. The more I endure this, the more I feel like I’m arguing with a former car salesman. The only difference between then and now is that the tales are now thoroughly documented for anyone who cares to read. And now, for the level-headed reader, more substantial positive teachings may follow.
Jordan says he plans to avoid endless blog wars and “back and forth” now that he has released his parting shots. After reading them, I can understand why. Accountability is tough.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3526-3527). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3958-3975). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3981-3983). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4127-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
 From Sam Waldron:
This position raised the question which Paul had to answer many centuries before: ‘Why then the law?’ (Rom. 3:31; 5:20-21; Gal. 3:19). The question of the obligation and usefulness of the law in the believer’s life dominates paragraphs 5-7 of this chapter of the Confession. Some Protestants concluded that since believers were not justified by the works of the law, the law had little use in the believer’s life. Others were saying that justified persons were under no binding obligation to obey the law. Antinomian teachers deduced this from the doctrine of free justification. They argued that free justification completely freed one from the slavery of the law and that feeling bound to obey the law was slavery. Thus feeling bound to obey the law was inconsistent with free justification. Unsaved and unjustified people were bound by the law, but not Christians. Such positions the Confession rejects, and teaches instead both the inherent obligation of the law over all men and the positive usefulness of the law in the believer’s life.
In so doing the Confession asserts the fundamental truth that the obligation to obey the law is an inherent and unavoidable part of all human existence. In other words the law binds men for ever, whether justified or unjustified, simply because as creatures they owe such obedience to the Creator. The New Testament teaches very clearly that the law binds unsaved persons (Matt. 19:16-22; Rom. 2:14-15; 3:19-20; 6:14; 7:6; 8:3; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). But it also teaches that the moral law, the Ten Commandments, binds believers (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Eph. 4:25-6:4; James 2:11-12). In Ephesians 4:25-6:4 each of the last six of the Ten Commandments is applied to the church corporately and individual Christians. Note particularly the assumption that the Fifth Commandment is authoritative by its explicit citation in 6:4.
The Confession expands and qualifies this truth in several ways in paragraphs 5-7. In the first place it states the obvious implication: ‘Christ in the gospel’ does not in ‘any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation’. Some apparently were saying that while we ought to do what the law says as to its content or matter, we should not do it because the law says it, but simply because of gratitude to Christ. Several serious problems may be pointed out in such a sentiment. It is unscriptural (James 2:10-11; Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21). This is a subtler form of the error that justified persons are not bound to obey the law, since ultimately it is not the authority of the law they regard, but only their gratitude to Christ. Its practical effect is to convey to the popular mind a lessened sense of the majesty of the law of God and of the seriousness and absolute necessity of law-keeping. It makes faithful exhortation to duty difficult, because those who hold this teaching always object that you are bringing them back into slavery. If anyone speaks to such people of duty and obligation, their response is that such exhortations are legalistic. Christ strengthens the original authority of the law. He does not put the content or the matter of the law on a new foundation. He does not eliminate the obligation to obey our Creator, but adds the obligation of gratefully obeying our Redeemer.
In the beginning of paragraph 6 the Confession carefully qualifies the binding obligation of the law by carefully stating that true believers are not under the law’ as a covenant of works’, but’ as a rule of life’. Those who think of all law-keeping as legal must understand that there is an enormous practical and experiential difference between being under the law as a rule of life and under it as a covenant of works, i.e. as a method of earning salvation. The Believer is not under the law as a method of justification (Rom. 6:14; 10:4). ‘As a covenant of works’, the law is a strict slave-master who pays only the wages of death (Rom. 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:7). As a rule of life, it is a law of liberty in which the Christian delights (James 2:12; Rom. 7:25). The sentiment, ‘Don’t let the law of God in your conscience!’ is the error here refuted. Of course, we must not let the law of God in our conscience ‘as a covenant of works’! But unless the law of God is in our conscience as a rule of life (Jer. 31:33-34; Rom. 8:4, 7-9), we have no part in the salvation found in Christ and the New Covenant.
The mass of paragraph 6 is taken up in enumerating the uses of the law in the believer’s life. Space cannot be taken to expand on each of these uses. The last sentence of paragraph 6 must, however, be emphasized in our modem context. The thrust of this sentence is that it is not wrong to obey the law out of fear of the consequences of disobedience on the one hand, or out of desire for the reward of obedience on the other. It is often said, ‘If you do something because the law promises blessing and reward, then that is legal obedience.’ Such sentiments are confusing distortions of the Word of God. The Bible everywhere uses both threat and reward to encourage the proper response to God’s Word (e.g. the book of Proverbs; Matt. 3:7; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:40; Heb. 11:26; 1 Peter 3:8-13).
The final comment of the Confession on the inherent obligation Of the law of God is that the law and the gospel do not conflict (Gal. 3:21). Rather, the grace of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ enable us to do freely and cheerfully what God has revealed in the law. How could the law and gospel conflict? The very purpose of the gospel is to deliver men from lawlessness and cause them to obey the law of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:4; Titus 2:14).
[Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4088-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.]
The attached article deals with the argument that preterism was concocted by the Jesuit Luis De Alcazar to divert attention away from the Reformational claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the end-time antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the harlot.
While the article is mainly geared to answering the charge of dispensationalists, it also applies to Historicist critics of preterism.
The article “Was the Preterist Interpretation of Revelation Invented by the Jesuits to Divert Attention away from the Reformational Interpretation that the Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is the Roman Catholic Church?” can be found here.
The enemies of the truth are always awfully nice.
Truth is the strong compost in which beauty may sometimes germinate.
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
President Obama said the following during an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House:
“On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”
There’s no doubt that some Christians can be unloving. This is true of everybody. Al Sharpton attended the event, and he certainly has been “less-than-loving” in his actions and words.
But that’s a topic for another day.
During the Prayer Breakfast, President Obama did not say a single word about Christians who have been murdered by Muslims for refusing to deny their faith and convert to a false religion. This seems to be a whole lot more “unloving” than not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Like what’s happening among radical Muslims, the secular religion of our day is a false religion that is being forced on Christians because of their faith. If Christians give into what is thought to be a just a little “pinch of incense”(1) to a false god or religion, the demand will be for bigger pinches.This is a lot more unloving than not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding
President Obama most likely had the events of Indiana on his mind when he chastised Christians who stand up for their religious beliefs by opposing same-sex sexuality to be “unloving.”
Is standing up for righteousness “unloving”? In fact, people should be praised for willing to lose everything for the simple act of refusing to bake a cake or cater an event for something they cannot support. How easy it would have been to compromise; it’s only flour, sugar, butter, and water.
If Christians are labeled as “unloving” for standing up for righteousness, then what does this say about Jesus? Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
To criticize Christians on this issue is to criticize Jesus.
Read more: “The Gay Rights Movement: ISIS Without the Bullets?”
And what is that “word” that is to be kept? On the marriage issue, it’s quite simple:
“And [Jesus] answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE [Gen. 1:27; 5:2], and said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH” [Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate’” (Matt. 19:4-6).
God has “joined together” “male and female,” not “male and male” or “female and female.” So if the President is going to chastise Christians for being “unloving” in this regard, then he must chastise Jesus who is the source for setting the parameters of these “unloving” actions.
Jesus dealt with a number of sexual cases. There was the Samaritan woman who had “five husbands,” and the man she was living with when she met Jesus was not her husband (John 4:16-18).
Instead of trying to defend her lifestyle, she embraces Jesus’ message and admits her sin. The same is true of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus admonished her to “sin no more” (John 8:11).
Same-sex advocates are pushing for the condemnation of Christians who describe homosexuality as a “sin.” They must condemn Jesus as well.
I doubt that Jesus would have turned water into wine (John 2:1-12) for either woman if they had attempted to justify their sinful sexual acts and called for a rewriting or a reinterpretation of the law.
To attack Christians on the issue of same-sex marriage is to condemn Jesus. Given today’s definition of “loving,” Jesus would have been condemned as “unloving” for cleansing the temple and describing some of those who opposed Him as sons of the devil: John 8:44. George Grant writes, “On almost every page of the New Testament, we find Jesus offending someone. When He wasn’t confronting the scribes and the Pharisees, He was rebuking the promiscuous and the perverse.”(2) Consider these comments from philosopher Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Christian Studies at Hillsdale College:
“At various times, and when the situation demanded, Jesus publicly denounced sinners as snakes, dogs, foxes, hypocrites, fouled tombs, and dirty dishes. He actually referred to one of His chief disciples as Satan. So that His hearers would not miss the point, He sometimes referred to the objects of His most intense ridicule both by name and by position, and often face to face. . . . Christ did not affirm sinners; He affirmed the repentant. Others He often addressed with the most withering invective. God incarnate did not avoid using words and tactics that His listeners found deeply offensive. He well understood that sometimes it is wrong to be nice.”(3)
Additionally, the argument that Jesus never said anything about same-sex relationships fails to take into account how marriage and sexual relationships are defined in the Bible and how the New Testament is written against the definitional backdrop of the Old Testament, which He endorsed and referenced numerous times. In addition to saying that Jesus did not say anything specifically about same-sex relationships, He didn’t say anything about rape, tripping blind people and cursing the deaf (Lev. 19:14), incest, bestiality, and a whole lot more. He didn’t have to since he came to “fulfill the law . . . not abolish it” (Matt. 5:17), and “fulfill” can’t mean “abolish.”
Part of that law included (1) the definition of marriage of being between a male and a female (see above), (2) the explicit condemnation of same-sex relationships (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), without negating (3) loving one’s neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).
In the final analysis, opposing same-sex relationships is the loving thing to do since the way we show our love toward God and our neighbors is to keep God’s commandments: “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21; also v. 23; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; 1 John 2:3; 5:2; 2 John 6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12).
Here’s what we have today: “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
- Polycarp, who lived between AD 70 and 155, “was arrested on the charge of being a Christian — a member of a politically dangerous cult whose rapid growth needed to be stopped. Amidst an angry mob, the Roman proconsul took pity on such a gentle old man and urged Polycarp to proclaim, ‘Caesar is Lord.’ If only Polycarp would make this declaration and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar’s statue he would escape torture and death. To this Polycarp responded, ‘Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’ Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs, and thus, was burned alive at the stake.”
- George Grant, The Micah Mandate: Balancing the Christian Life (Nashville: Cumberland House, 1999), 85.
- Quoted in Grant, The Micah Mandate, 85.
JOHN PLOUGHMAN’S LETTER ON THE WAR.
TO NAPOLEON, EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH, AND WILLIAM, KING OF PRUSSIA.
THIS comes hoping that you are getting better, at least better tempered with one another, though I am much afraid, as the saying is, that you will be worse before you will be better. I beg to send my most disrespectful compliments. Scripture says, “Honor to whom honor is due,” but kings who go to war about nothing at all have no honor due to them. So I don’t send you so much as would lay on your thumb nails. Perhaps you are not both alike and only one of you is to blame for beginning this dreadful fight; but I do not know your secret tricks, for kings are as deep as foxes, and it is safest to lay it on to you both, for then the right one will be sure to get it. I should like to give you both a month at our workhouse and a taste of the crank to bring your proud spirits down a bit, for I expect it is your high living that has made you so hot blooded.
Whatever do you see in fighting that you should be so fierce for it? One would think you were a couple of game cocks and did not know any better. When two dogs fight, one of them is pretty sure to come home lame and neither of them will look the better for it. One or other of you will get a thrashing. I only wish it would come on your bare backs and not on your poor soldiers. What are you at? Have you got so much money that you want to blow it away in powder? If so, come and let off some fireworks down by Dorking and please our boys. Or have you too many people and therefore want to clear them off by cutting their throats? Why don’t you do this in a quiet way, and not make them murderers as well as murdered? I don’t think you know yourselves what it is you want, but like boys with new knives, you must be cutting something. One of you has the gout, and that does not sugar the temper much, and the other is proud about having beaten his neighbor, and so you must needs let off your steam by beginning a murderous war. You are as daft as you are days old if you think any good can come of it. If you think you will get ribbons and flags by fighting, you had better buy them at first hand of the drapers; they will come a deal cheaper and there will be no ugly blood stains on them. If you are such great babies, you should come to our fair and buy yourselves lots of stars and garters, and blue ribbons, and the stall-keepers would be glad to serve you.
If you must have a fight, why don’t you strip and go at it yourselves as our Tom Rowdy and Big Ben did on the green? It’s cowardly of you to send a lot of other fellows to be shot on your account. I don’t like fighting at all—it’s too low-lived for me—but really, if it would save the lives of the millions, I would not mind taking care of your jackets while you had a set-to with fisticuffs, and I would encourage you both to hit his hardest at the gentleman opposite. I dare say if you came over to Surrey the police would manage to keep out of your way and let you have a fair chance of having it out. They have done so for other gentlemen, and I feel sure they would do it to oblige you. It might spoil your best shirts to have your noses bleed, and I dare say you would not like to strip at it, but there are plenty of ploughmen who would lend you their smock frocks for an hour or two, especially if you would be on your honor not to go off with them. Just let me know, and I’ll have some sticking plaster ready, a basin of water, and a sponge; and perhaps our governors will let Madame Rachel out of jail to enamel your eves if they get a little blackened. I’ve just thought of a capital idea, and that is, if you will both drop a line to the keepers of the Agricultural Hall, where they have those Cumberland wrestling matches, they would let you have the place for a day, and give you half the takings, and I’ll be bound there would be a crowd, and no mistake. So you see you could get glory and ready-money too, and nobody would be killed. I like this idea, for then I can get out of my first offer, and can wash my hands of you, and I can truly say, the less I see of two such kicking horses as you are the better I shall be pleased. My good old grandfather set me against the Bonyparts when I was a boy, but I did think that you, Lewis, were a quieter sort than your uncle; however, what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, and as the old cock crows the young cock learns. Why you, the king of the Germans, want to go into the butchering line I don’t know; but if you are at the bottom of this it shows that you are a very bad disposed man, or you would be ashamed of killing your fellow creatures. When war begins, hell opens, and it is a bad office for either of you to be gate-opener to the devil; yet that’s what one of you is, if not both.
Did either of you ever think of what war means? Did you ever see a man’s head smashed, or his bowels ripped open? Why, if you are made of flesh and blood, the sight of one poor wounded man with the blood oozing out of him will make you feel sick. I don’t like to drown a kitten; I can’t bear even to see a rat die or any animal in pain. But a man! Where are your hearts if you can think of broken legs, splintered bones, heads smashed in, brains blown out, bowels torn, hearts gushing with gore, ditches full of blood, and heaps of limbs and carcasses of mangled men? Do you say my language is disgusting? How much more disgusting must the things themselves be? And you make them! How would you like to get a man into your palace-garden, and run a carving-knife into his bowels or cut his throat? If you did that you would deserve to be hanged; but it would not be half so bad as killing tens of thousands, and you know very well that this is just what you are going to do. Do you fancy that your drums and fifes, and feathers and fineries, and pomp, make your wholesale murder one whit the less abominable in the sight of God? Do not deceive yourselves, you are no better than the cut-throats whom your own laws condemn; better, why, you are worse, for your murders are so many. Think, I pray you, for your poor people will have to think whether you do or no. Is there so little want in the world that you must go trampling on the harvest with your horses and your men? Is there so little sorrow that you must make widows by the thousand? Is death so old and feeble that you must hunt his game for him, as jackals do for the lion? Do you imagine that God made men for you to play soldiers with? Are they only meant for toys for you to break? O kings, a ploughman tells you that their souls are as precious in God’s sight as yours; they suffer as much pain when bullets pierce them as ever you can do; they have homes, and mothers and sisters, and their deaths will be as much wept over as yours, perhaps more. How can you sit down to eat when you have caused war? Does not the blood rise in your throats and choke you? Or are you only devils with crowns on? Creatures who were never suckled at a woman’s breast, and therefore have no human feeling? It will be hard for you to think of the blood you have shed when you lie dying, and harder still to bear the heavy hand of God when he shall cast all murderers into hell. Whichever it is of you that has been the wicked cause of this war, I say you smell of blood; you ought to be more hated than the common hangman, and instead of being called “his majesty” you ought to be hooted as a demon.
You have both made mighty fine speeches laying all the blame off of yourselves, but the worst cause generally gets the best pleading, for men who cannot walk take to horseback; but all the world knows that wranglers never will own that they are in the wrong, and your words will only go for what they are worth, which is not much. Emperor and king, who are you? Though the great folk flatter you, you are only men. Have pity upon your fellow men. Do not cut them with swords, tear them with bayonets, blow them to pieces with cannon, and riddle them with shots. What good will it do you? What have the poor men done to deserve it of you? You fight for glory, do you? Don’t be such fools. I am a plain talking Englishman, and I tell you the English for glory is DAMNATION, and it will be your lot, O kings, if you go on cutting and hacking your fellow men. Stop this war if you can, at once, and turn to some better business than killing men. Set up shambles and kill bullocks for your nations; you can then eat what you slay, and there will be some reason in what you do. Before the deep curses of widows and orphans fall on you from the throne of God, put up your butcher knives and patent men-killers, and repent.
From one who is no servant of yours, but
A Fighter for Peace,
 Originally published in The Sword and the Trowel, Aug. 1, 1870.
 Infamous at the time, Sarah Rachel Russell ran a prostitution business behind the front of a beauty salon by which she also conned women with beauty products bearing promises of eternal youth and beauty. She in turn blackmailed her clients, and was eventually jailed for her crimes.
 “Bonyparts” is Ploughman’s version of “Bonapartes,” and “Lewis” here is Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, or Napoleon III.
 “John Ploughman” was a character Spurgeon created in order to put his powerful oratory in the person and voice of the humblest of common men.
[NOTE: This is a slightly revised version of an older article which can also be found as an Appendix in my book God versus Socialism.]
At a moment in which we must fight the advancement of socialism into the field of healthcare, among other places, I think many may find the following excerpts from Charles Spurgeon helpful. Additionally, since so many American Christians—especially of the fundamentalist and Baptistic traditions—seem to believe that the Gospel does not pertain to, or does not address, politics, economics, and social order, I hope our more pietistic brethren will find the direction of a stalwart Baptist such as Spurgeon instructive.
A chance encounter reading a Spurgeon sermon while I studied at seminary a few years back left his quotation [above] against “Christian Socialism” welded in my memory. That encounter spurred this further study.
Spurgeon’s comments against socialism appear as early as 1878, but pick up more frequency after 1886. There is a good explanation for this time period: a group known as the Fabian Society organized in 1884 for the purpose of advancing the ideas of Karl Marx and establishing England as a socialist state. In 1889, the well-funded group circulated The Fabian Essays written by sympathetic celebrities (and members) such as George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, the theosophist Annie Besant, and on-and-off, H. G. Wells; the essays gained wide popularity. Liberal churchmen (called “broad” at the time) baptized the Fabian ideas and called it the “social gospel,” or “Christian Socialism.”
The goals of the Socialist group built upon the atheistic system of Marx with a few bold twists. Aside from the standard Socialist ideals of the abolition of private property, and government monopoly over education, credit, and business, some of their goals were:
1. Government control over all insurance (universal health care).
2. Elimination of the significance of the family.
3. Elimination of the significance of religion.
4. Justified use of force if necessary to attain socialistic goals.
5. A universal system of pensions (universal retirement).
Spurgeon sniffed out the godless, anti-biblical scheme and preached against it from his pulpit. He continued this, apparently, to the end of his life. What follows below are relevant excerpts from his sermons during the period.
Did I hear a whisper that ministers are nowadays very broad, and have given up the old gospel. I know it, and I am not surprised: the builders are the first to reject the chosen stone. Christ owes little to preachers, and some of his worst enemies are found in their ranks. Unconverted men are in too many pulpits, and are seeking out many inventions to set aside the pure gospel which exalts Christ Jesus. Let them alone, the ditch is gaping for these blind guides. Our Lord can do without them. He owes his victories to himself, and to himself alone; and, therefore, let the faith of his people rest in peace, for if they will have patience they shall see greater things than they have yet beheld. Our text saith that it is not only the Lord’s doing and marvellous, but it ismarvellous “in our eyes,” which it could not be if we did not see it. We shall see and we shall marvel. Some of us may have passed away, but you who are younger may live to see modern thought obtain supremacy over human minds: German rationalism which has ripened into Socialism may yet pollute the mass of mankind and lead them to overturn the foundations of society. Then “advanced principles” will hold carnival, and free thought will riot with the vice and blood which were years ago the insignia of “the age of reason.” I say not that it will be so, but I should not wonder if it came to pass, for deadly principles are abroad and certain ministers are spreading them. If it ever should be so, do not, o believers, for a single moment despair, but rest certain that the Lord is about to do a marvellous thing in the earth, and that he will lift up once again the stone which the builders have again refused, and cause it to become more than ever the headstone of the corner. Never dream of defeat. Be calm amid all the din of controversy, for the hand which holds the gospel must win the victory. This is the Lord’s doing and we shall see it.
In the early days of Christianity, multitudes of Christians were tormented to death because of their faith in Jesus. There was no excuse for it, for they had done no harm to the State. Christianity does not come into a nation to break up its arrangements, or to break down its fabric. All that is good in human society it preserves and establishes. It snaps no ties of the family; it dislocates no bonds of the body politic. There are theories of socialism and the like which lead to anarchy and riot; but it is not so with the mild and gentle teaching of Jesus Christ, whose every word is love and patience.
I fear lest in any of you there should be even the least measure of despising the one lost sheep, because of the large and philosophical methods which are now so loudly cried up. I would not have you exchange the gold of individual Christianity for the base metal of Christian Socialism. If the wanderers are to be brought in, in vast numbers, as I pray they may be, yet must it be accomplished by the bringing of them in one by one. To attempt national regeneration without personal regeneration is to dream of erecting a house without separate bricks. In the vain attempt to work in the gross, we may miss the practical result which would have followed working in detail. Let us settle it in our minds that we cannot do better than obey the example of our Lord Jesus, given us in the text, and go after the one sheep which has gone astray.
For ninny a year, by the grand old truths of the gospel, sinners were converted, and saints were edified, and the world was made to know that there is a God in Israel; but these are too antiquated for the present cultured race of superior beings. They are going to regenerate the world by Democratic Socialism, and set up a kingdom for Christ without the new birth or the pardon of sin. Truly, the Lord has not taken away the seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal, but they are, in most cases, hidden away, even as Obadiah hid the prophets in a cave.
The practical point is, brothers and sisters, since we want to do good, let us preach up our Lord Jesus Christ as the sovereign balm for every sinner’s wound. If you want to be philanthropists, be Christians. If you would bless your fellow-men with the best of all blessings, convey to them the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do not believe that there is anything you can do for your children which will be more effectual than teaching them about Jesus. Do not think that anything in the workshop can soften the vulgarities, silence the blasphemies, and end the profanities of your fellowworkmen, like setting Jesus Christ before them.… Oh, let us keep on with the subject of Christ crucified! Whatever there is not in our shop window, let us always have Christ as the chief article of our heavenly commerce. Whatever there may lack of grace and beauty in our speech, and our outward appearance, may there be no lack of Jesus Christ, set forth among the sons of men; for “men shall be blessed in him,” and not without him. Great schemes of socialism have been tried and found wanting; let us look to regeneration by the Son of God, and we shall not look in vain. Nothing has come of newfangled preaching, from the first day till now; but never has the old faith of Jesus failed. Men have been blessed in Jesus, and they shall be blessed in him as long as the race shall exist.
The next thing, dear friends, is that we must prove that the old faith produces much love of our fellow-men. You know that, nowadays, the watchword is, “the enthusiasm of humanity.” It is a curious thing that those churches that have such a wonderful “enthusiasm of humanity” speak of us as if we were always talking of God and forgetting men. Well, well; which of these new-fangled churches has an orphanage? It is very fine to talk about Christian socialism, and what you are going to do for the poor; but what have you done? Much of it is just chatter, chatter, and nothing else. But the godly, who feel that God is all, are, after all, those who care most for men; and those who believe most firmly that the unbelieving sinner will be lost are the men who are most anxious to have him saved.
The god of modern thought exceedingly resembles the deities described in this Psalm [115:8]. Pantheism is wondrously akin to Polytheism, and yet differs very little from Atheism. The god manufactured by our great thinkers is a mere abstraction: he has no eternal purposes, he does not interpose on the behalf of his people, he cares but very little as to how much man sins, for he has given to the initiated “a larger hope” by which the most incorrigible are to be restored. He is what the last set of critics chooses to make him, he has said what they choose to say, and lie will do what they please to prescribe. Let this creed and its devotees alone, and they will work out their own refutation, for as now their god is fashioned like themselves, they will by degrees fashion themselves like their god; and when the principles of justice, law, and order shall have all been effectually sapped we may possibly witness in some form of socialism, similar to that which is so sadly spreading in Germany, a repetition of the evils which have in former ages befallen nations which have refused the living God, and set up gods of their own.
Christians today simply must follow Spurgeon’s example in decrying the false paradise of socialism. This means addressing social and political issues, even when other Christians and certainly most secularists disagree (in fact, especially so!), but from a strictly biblical and not Marxist or socialist way. Socialism itself stands absolutely antithetical and opposed to Christianity as it for one denies the commandment against theft of private property (and that’s just the beginning). The original socialists themselves intended to supplant the faith, and hated it as a rival. Christian scholar and journalist David Aikman mentions an interesting anecdote in his book on atheism, The Delusion of Disbelief. He writes,
The strong linkage between politics and religion in the late nineteenth century was having a profound social impact, one that deeply troubled Marx and Engels. The following story illustrates just how it incensed them. While playing a well-known Victorian parlor game with Karl Marx’s daughter, Engels answered with a single word a “Confessions” question (“What is your favorite motto?” “What is your favorite color?” etc.) that asked whom he most hated in life. “Spurgeon,” was Engels’s curt, one-word answer, referring to the English Baptist… whose sermons in the 1850s to the 1880s drew as many as twenty thousand people, many of them working-class folk. Why did Engels hate him so? Because Spurgeon was diverting England’s urban working class away from atheist revolutionary socialism to Christian parliamentary reformism.
We should take up Spurgeon’s example and start diverting fellow Christians, and others as well, away from the temptation to believe that government socialism will take care of us. It will not; and every nation so far that has installed so-called “universal health care” now sees regular shortages, rationing, waiting lists, denials, delays, and diminished treatments because of it. Millions are oppressed and literally thousands have died waiting for healthcare simply because socialized medicine cannot respond in the way they need. It’s a death trap.
Along these lines we should consider the wisdom of Spurgeon, who in commenting on the proverb, “Knock at no door which thou wouldst not have opened,” explained,
Or it may open on a sudden, and thou wilt stand confounded. When persons speak for a cause which they do not really believe in, they may have to pay dearly for their words. Some who defend Socialism may soon have too much of it.
See the summary in Michael Lloyd Chadwick, ed., “The Age of Democratic Socialism,” The Freemen Digest, July 1, 1979, 5–6.
 “The Headstone of the Corner,” Sermon No. 1420, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (MTP) 24 (1878), 452–453.
 “To Those Who Are Angry with their Godly Friends,” No. 1929, MTP, 32 (1886), 781–782.
 “One Lost Sheep,” No. 2083, MTP 35 (1889), 310.
 “A Dirge for the Down-Grade, and a Song for Faith,” No. 2085, MTP 35 (1889), 341.
 “Jesus: ‘All Blessing and All Blest,’” No. 2187, MTP 37 (1891), 92–93.
 “Dare to be a Daniel,” No. 2291, MTP 39 (1893), 41–42.
 Treasury of David, exposition on Ps. 115:8, 940–941.
 David Aikman, The Delusion of Disbelief (Carol Stream, IL: SaltRiver, 2008), 106–107.
 Salt Cellars: A Collection of Proverbs and Quaint Sayings, 2 Vol., 1:351.
A recent CDC report indicates one danger when homosexual practice thrives in society, though the truth is buried in the political correctness of the press releases.
It was not uncommon many years ago to hear AIDS referred to as a “politically protected disease.” There were certain realities about it that certain people just didn’t mention. Facts regarding certain types of sexual activity were swept under the rug and kept quiet. While things have certainly changed over the past thirty years, the recent CDC report indicates the same type of “protection” goes on today.
Of course, it’s really not the disease that is being protected, but a certain class of individuals who get preferential treatment by the government, propaganda, and media.
Ah, yes, the media. It’s just ironic that the initials MSM—“mainstream media”—are the same initials the CDC uses to refer to homosexual men—“men who have sex with men.”
The recent report was brought to my attention by a reader and confidant. This is not my area of expertise and I make no claim of knowing the extent to which the CDC or other government organizations engage, or have engaged historically, in such whitewashing, blame-shifting, and diversion of attention, but my guess would be that it is great.
WebMD reports it under the headline, “Travelers Bringing Drug-Resistant Bacteria to U.S.” (my emphasis). See that? They blame travelers—particularly international travelers—for spreading this particular disease. But look at this nugget in the text:
The bacteria can spread especially quickly among certain groups, such as youngsters in child care facilities, homeless people, and gay and bisexual men, which is what happened in the recent clusters, according to the CDC report. (My emphasis.)
Yet the article does not pursue what it admits accounts for the “recent clusters.” Instead, it concludes, “Washing your hands with soap and water is important for everyone. Also, international travelers can protect themselves by choosing hot foods and drinking only from sealed containers.”
This is all consistent with the CDC’s own press release (separate from, and before, the actual report). It says, “Shigellosis can spread very quickly in groups like children in childcare facilities, homeless people and gay and bisexual men, as occurred in these outbreaks.” But it focuses mainly on international travelers:
More study is needed to determine what role, if any, the use of antibiotics during travel may have in increasing the risk of antibiotic-resistant diarrhea infections among returned travelers. . . .
And focuses everywhere but the cause of the main “cluster”:
CDC recommends that people wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating; keep children home from childcare and other group activities while they are sick with diarrhea; avoid preparing food for others while ill with diarrhea; and avoid swimming for a few weeks after recovering. . . .
Travelers to developing countries can take additional precautions. . . .
While all of this is of course true, it does not put the focus where focus is due. For that you have to first go to the actual CDC report, which is written in turgid medicalese jargon, and also take the further step of clicking on the link to the figure which makes it clear. Just look at this chart:
Certain things stick out in the report. In one large sample, well over half of cases (95 out of 157) occurred in a cluster in San Francisco in about one month. But after reporting this fact, the report immediately goes on to warn “travelers” of contacting the disease.
But when actually analyzing those cases in which the patient had traveled internationally, there were no other common factors: not common airlines, airports, hotels, resorts, restaurants or events. On top of this, the cases which actually showed the drug-resistant variety were in minority of cases. This means the emphasis is being put upon random cases of the drug-resistant strain popping up in multiple countries in totally isolated cases all at the same time. Likely?
Compare this however to what is said in passing about sodomite (“MSM”) patients (at least the sample who self-admitted): “Eleven (79%) of 14 men without recent international travel were MSM, compared with one of six men with recent international travel.”
So the vast majority of these self-identifying gay patients had not traveled internationally compared to only one who did.
The report goes on to conclude that “international travelers are at elevated risk,” and “this Shigella strain is strongly associated with international travel.” Nevertheless, the real threat is that “it is now circulating domestically.” This means childcare facilities, schools, and restaurants are especially at risk.
Yet the report gives tacit approval of the main activity associated with recent “clusters”: “MSM can reduce their risk for acquiring this and other Shigella strains by washing their hands meticulously and by preventing fecal-oral exposures during sex.”
Considering the high rate of male homosexual practices that involve ingestion of or contact with fecal matter, this is highly negligent advice. It amounts to saying: sodomites keep right on sodomizing, just wash your hands afterwards.
And then: don’t worry sodomites. We’ll cover for you. We’ll blame the epidemics on “travelers.” It all makes the name “Centers for Disease Control” see quite Orwellian.
In the meantime, the vast array of health risks and epidemics associated directly with homosexual practices can be read here as well as other places. You might want to skip lunch if you intend to read it.
Todd Friel of Wretched Radio recently revisited the issue of Theonomy. He posed us a few respectful and genuine questions. I would like to offer him a few answers.
I respectfully asked the question of my theonomic friends: those people who believe that somehow, in some way, shape, or form, Jewish law from the Mosaic Covenant—pretty much the stuff you read about in Exodus, Deuteronomy—all of those laws—and I mean all [of] it—eating, dietary laws, civil issues, ceremonial issues—that they somehow should be brought forth and applied to America.
I would like to thank Todd for asking questions (to be seen in a moment) rather than starting with accusations and assertion that are indefensible as so many do. I appreciate him approaching the subject earnestly and respectfully, rather than with a hidden “gotcha” agenda. And I appreciate his viewing us as friends rather than heretics, like some other people.
The preface to the question here, however, does carry an assumption doesn’t it? By “theonomic friends” he says he means those who want to apply “all of those laws—and I mean all of it,” including “dietary” and “ceremonial issues” in America today. This, of course, is not our position. No theonomist believes in imposing the ceremonial laws. No theonomist believes in “all of those laws” continuing today. No theonomist believes—contrary to popular belief!—that the dietary laws remain binding laws today (more on this later).
There may be some in the Christian Hebrew Roots movement that believe in these things, but they are separate and distinct from theonomists.
That cleared up, then what are the questions exactly? Todd says,
My question was along the lines of, ok, well then what about adultery? Do you get stoned for adultery? What about naughty children? Do we stone those? And if Jesus, Rabbi Jesus, said, “You’ve heard of old, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ I say if you look with lust you commit adultery in your heart.” Then should we stone people who lust?
As will be clear below from the answer someone else submitted to Todd, while these are valid questions, it is not clear where Todd’s emphasis is. Is he asking about stoning as a method of execution, or is he asking about whether the death penalty still abides for certain crimes? Or both?
A Kinder, Gentler Penology
One person who responded, according to Todd, assumed the former: is stoning still required as opposed to other forms of execution. Todd related:
I asked the question genuinely. I received an answer from “Tom,” who said regarding stoning: “One theonomist advocates stoning as continuing; that somehow, stoning should be the punishment because if God instituted [it] then it must be the best thing.”
Todd answered the guy:
And I would answer that and say, I would agree with that at that time—under that Covenant. You see, stoning at that time was about the kindest thing that you could do—maybe not for the guilty person, but for the executioner. Because, you see, to have to kill somebody is a tough thing. This is why firing squads—everybody would shoot; some would have blanks, some would have bullets, so that you wouldn’t know who actually killed the person. Because that can weigh heavy on an individual. The same thing was true with stoning: if everybody threw a rock from the town—demonstrating, by the way, it was also a crime committed against your people—you wouldn’t know who threw the death stone, if you will. So, at that time it was kind, but I think there are kinder ways of executing people.
Todd’s answer is interesting, but it confronts us with an unusual hermeneutical principle: in any given historical era, God institutes penal sanctions according to that which is “the kindest thing you could do . . . for the executioner.” There are several problems with this assumption. First, the concept of “kindness” is subjective. Much like how the romantic idea of “love” as a feeling devalues marriage and relationships, so introducing such an emotive basis for penology undermines social ethics and law, too.
Later in his discussion, Todd restates the point by saying today’s methods are more “humane”? Again, this is merely subjective, and it throws the discussion outside of God’s will and into the realm of human valuations. In short, autonomy instead of Theonomy.
Second, there is no Scriptural warrant for Todd’s position. Where in either Old or New Testament does God reveal to us that criminals shall be punished by whatever sanction can be deemed “kindest” for the executioner(s)? Where is this penological or heremenutical principle in the Bible? Where is that standard in Scripture? Indeed, by what standard do we determine what is more loving, kinder, or more humane? Does God’s Word tell us, or do we decide based on creaturely sentiments, reason, and emotions? If not God’s Word, then what? Without a Scriptural standard, the only answer to that question is a humanistic one by default.
This is why we see most Christians today—despite whatever degree they would otherwise assert God’s absolute sovereignty over every area of life and affirm sola Scriptura for every area of life—turning to humanistic answers for government, penology, economics, education, etc. What’s worse than abandoning God’s standards in these areas is the fact that these Christians, and Christian leaders, honestly believe humanistic standards should be preferred because they are “more humane.”
Third, there is Scriptural warrant against such a view. The law specifies, in certain circumstances, that the primary executioners be the witnesses against the criminal (Deut. 13:9; 17:7). In some, perhaps many, there would have been as few as two witnesses, which means it would be absolutely clear who threw the stones—possibly the fatal ones. The principle here is not “do whatever is kindest for the executioner,” but that the executioner must be the witnesses for the prosecution, that they be up front and foremost in the act, and that they bear extra and even primary responsibility for the execution.
Fourth, Todd’s particular analogy to firing squads does not hold up. Maybe firing squads were designed with some gunmen shooting blanks so as to disguise who in fact fired the actual shots, but this can hardly be true with throwing stones, can it? Did some people throw pretend stones? Were some stones replaced with Styrofoam rocks? No, everyone threw a stone-stone—a real rock—and that rock hit skull and flesh. It was a visceral, upsetting, and difficult experience, and it was meant to be. And no executioner escaped it.
Granted, you could still say that even though people are all throwing stones, you cannot tell exactly whose stone did the actual killing. Nevertheless, each stone still did damage. If the intent was, as Todd says, to prevent the psychological burden of having killed someone, that is only a matter of degree less than knocking the sense out of them with a stone, or injuring them corporeally. Those engaged (and some required) to throw stones could not escape the existential moment. The analogy just simply does not hold up here.
Fifth, Todd’s “kindest” principle is not only subjective in general, but specifically subjective per historical era. He repeatedly emphasizes “at that time.” This is the classic liberal progressive argument—one which, unfortunately, Christians buy into all the time. Currently, the thin edge of the wedge is homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Fifty years ago, it was women’s ordination and no-fault divorce. A hundred years ago it was government schooling and welfarism. If judicial and ethical values change per historical era, will we see Todd defending homosexual marriages in ten years? Women’s ordinations? Why not? A lot more could be said pro and con in regard to this point, no doubt, but there is also no doubt that appeals to “that Old Testament principle is outdated” are fraught with dangers which we have realized over and over already in other areas.
These problems aside, there is still a legitimate discussion to be had regarding the mode of capital punishment. Note that Todd’s respondent said “one theonomist” holds the view regarding stoning as “best.” This is hardly a widely accepted view among theonomists, so it is hardly the touchstone (no pun intended) position to address. The legitimacy of the discussion, however, should not revolve around unbiblical and humanistic concepts, but an attempt to ascertain the biblical reason for certain punishments, and it should seek to replicate those biblical principles in modern settings as closely as possible.
The more important issue, however, is whether certain crimes such as adultery should indeed still receive capital punishment. It seems this is what Todd originally wished to address anyway. So let’s hear it.
Capital Punishment for Adultery
Toward this end, Todd continues,
Now what about for the different—what about for the naughty child? What about for the adultery? I just don’t think that those laws should be forced on to our government. Now we say to them what we think is wisest, but for us to say those things should be taking place now—those people, that time, for a particular reason—to be a set-apart people so that the nations would look to them and want to know who their God is, because God promised to bless them for obedience to whatever laws He put in place, whether it was a fence around roof, whether it was how you dealt with an ox that gored somebody. God said I’ll bless—you follow these rules, I’ll bless you. And they were moral, because anything God does is moral because what He says is right. But that does not mean that those need to be laws for—in perpetuity. We don’t have a lot of issues of ox-goring these days. . . .
But that still does not answer the question, “For what laws would the theonomist say somebody should be stoned?” Look, I get that really naughty child can wreak havoc on a culture. I get that. I also believe that putting somebody in jail for the rest of their life is a barbaric thing to do—if they’re not a threat to culture directly. If they are, would there be possibly more humane ways of dealing with people like that, maybe with mental issues, emotional issues? I just don’t see us being underneath that system anymore.
These are essentially the same arguments used against stoning above: the Old Testament penalties were for a special people, special time, and were fitting only for a distant culture and time in the past, and we have more “humane” ways of addressing crime today. There are actually two separate arguments intertwined here. One is about ancient Israel as a special typological and eschatological people. The other is more simply chronological or “progressive,” as already addressed.
Among these arguments, only the “for a special people” argument is new. We have already seen that appealing to emotion, humanistic standards, or historical relativism (what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”) in order to argue that Old Testament laws are outdated and inhumane fails on several grounds. The “special people” argument at least has some biblical warrant. But it has its own problems as well: I assume Todd still accepts the Ten Commandments as abiding. I assume he accepts the “love” commandments (Duet. 6:4; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:37–40) as still abiding. Yet these are just as much part of that special. typological Mosaic Covenant given to that “special people” “at that time” as anything else. It is easy to draw shock from modern culture by referring to the Mosaic death penalty for adultery, but this penal sanction is in the exact same category as widely accepted laws such as the death penalty for murder and rape, or restitution for theft. So why choose some to accept and not others? By what standard do we choose which Mosaic laws are good and which “inhumane”?
Either God’s Word itself tells us the standard, or we impose our own standard on God’s Word in order to decide what we shall pick and choose from it, and what we shall discard. If we are to look for a biblical answer to this question, we shall find that the New Testament clearly and openly sets aside the ceremonial law due to Christ’s coming to replace it (Hebrews), yet it says nothing at all about setting aside the civil standards of that law. It would seem from this that, if we are to avoid imposing humanistic reasons to pick and choose, we must accept those civil standards as applicable today. While these may not cuddle certain modern sentiments all warm and fuzzy, and may put us in a position of defending an unpopular truth, Christians need to ask what their ultimate standard will be: modern sentiments or God’s Word. In this consideration, I am afraid Todd’s personal musings of “I just don’t think. . . .” and “I just don’t see. . . .” just don’t approach a biblical standard.
Todd refers to what is certainly one of the most notoriously-cited passages from Old Testament Law: the execution of a rebellious son. The first problem here is that Todd seems to adopt a common secularist misconstruction of the passage. He asks, “What about naughty children? Do we stone those?” The problem is, Deuteronomy 21:18–21 is not talking about “naughty children.” It is speaking of a habitually incorrigible son, most likely of late adolescent or early adult age.
Jordan Hall made this same exegetical mistake in his early criticisms of Theonomy. In a podcast from September 30, 2014, he claimed that theonomists want to “start killing children” because “little Johnny disobeyed his mother,” and we want to “suddenly start killing people through cruel and unusual punishment and stoning . . . ten-year-olds when they’re disrespectful or insolent to their parents.”
What many non-theonomists and anti-theonomists don’t realize is that this is not a rebuke of Theonomy, but an open insult to God Himself. This is not a refutation of God’s Law in the modern world, but a mocking of God’s Law itself. God’s Law did not call for little children to be executed for back-talk or disobedience. The relevant law involves, for example, the following complaint from the parents against their rebellious “child”: “This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard” (Deut. 21:10). This is obviously not talking about a little child, and obviously not speaking of simple disobedience of a ten-year old. It is speaking of a grown son who is absolutely incorrigible.
Even strongly non-theonomic resources like MacArthur’s Study Bible acknowledge this. Its comment on this passage says, “The long-term pattern of rebellion and sin of a child who was incorrigibly disobedient is in view. No hope remained for such a person who flagrantly violated the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12), so he was to be stoned to death.”
Once we get the actual meaning of the passage correct, we can make a better analysis. Should such a law remain in effect today? I have heard that was not so long ago in our nation’s history that repeat criminals, once determined “incorrigible,” could receive the death penalty. One could simply ask whether humanistic standards of life-imprisonment—which Todd agrees is barbaric—meets God’s view of how a society should deal to deal with true incorrigibility. The many evils of the unbiblical prison system deserve their own treatment. It is enough to draw the obvious comparison here. God could have called for imprisonment or some attempt at remedial detention for incorrigibility even in those ancient days. He did not.
Again, however, once we realize that the passage is not about a “child” or mere disobedience, the liberals’ attack on Scripture—for which so many Christians like Todd have succumbed on this point—totally loses its sting. Folks, let’s just do some exegesis to start, shall we?
Adultery of the Heart
Finally, Todd raises the seemingly hairy issue of “heart sins” in a theonomic society. Are we going to institute a “thought police” to charge people with heart sins, and then execute people based on that? Or as Todd puts it, “If Jesus, Rabbi Jesus, said, ‘You’ve heard of old, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” I say if you look with lust you commit adultery in your heart.’ Then should we stone people who lust?”
One very simple way to answer this question would be to ask if “heart sins” or “lust” were likewise punished in the Old Testament. Even though there was an obvious commandment (the tenth) against lust, was there a criminal sanction enforceable by the civil government against it? Obviously, no. While the act of adultery itself warranted the sanction, breaking the tenth commandment did not. So why would this change in the New Testament? (Remember, Jesus was not adding anything new in Matthew 5. He was merely explaining the true meaning the law had always had, and which the Pharisaical glosses had popularly neglected.)
In a modern theonomic society, the answer is just as simple as that. Lust itself was never penalized by the civil government under Old Testament law, and it would never be so in modern theonomic government. Nevertheless, the act of adultery should still remain a criminal offense. Thus, heart-sins are dealt with in the church, and criminal acts dealt with by the civil government—two separate and distinct jurisdictions and sanctions.
But I wonder if Todd would be open to this biblical distinction. He does not seem to be based on his reaction to his respondent:
Now he goes on to say regarding adultery and lust: “the civil code has to do with sin that was externalized, and that not only demonstrated outward rebellion against God, but rebellion against the people of God. This would be why belief in another god was not punished, but worshipping another god or proselytizing for a false religion was punished.” You know what? That’s. . . I would have to say my friend, that’s clever, but I don’t think that I would go digging into the Bible to say, “See, that’s why we don’t stone people for thoughts.” Because I think a part of believing in your god is worshipping your god. So I think that you’re drawing a pretty fine line there that just doesn’t exist.
It is one thing to argue whether “belief” and “worship” are so equivalent, but note the real problem here. Todd’s criteria shows the following contrast: he calls a distinction based upon biblical law “clever,” while his own methodology would begin by departing from Scripture. He says, “I don’t think that I would go digging into the Bible” for such judicial criteria.
Again, where else shall we go? Any other standard is humanistic. To the degree that we neglect digging into God’s Word, we depart from His standards of justice.
And irony of ironies, it is when we depart from God’s standards of crime and punishments that we begin to see humanistic standards imposed even on things like alleged thoughts and lusts. We see heightened “hate crimes” imposed for racial or sexual speech. We see Christians in business forced by law to bow to the homosexual agenda. We see “the rich” taxed disproportionately because they are allegedly “greedy,” among other things. We see guilt, fear, and pity used as political levers to redistribute billions, start wars, and erode freedom. In short, what we see are endless permutations of the things these anti-theonomists claim to despise in civil government, yet they condemn the only position that has any biblical answer to oppose it: Theonomy. Instead, they fight God’s Law, flee Scripture in this area, and as you can expect, the liberals take over.
Todd closes his position by making the same argument against Theonomy that liberals have made against the Bible in general for a long time:
I think the theonomist finds himself in a challenging spot to try to institute those laws on our culture today in a consistent way that makes sense. I just don’t think that you can do that. And I don’t think there’s a need to do that when we understand for those people, at that time, underneath that Covenant. And I grant you, those laws were best—for those people, at that time, underneath that Covenant, because they had a specific purpose. It was to be a schoolmaster to lead people to Jesus. We already have Him. It was for those people, at that time—stoning versus, say, a firing squad? They didn’t have the option. Furthermore, it was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles—a nation that was different, that would be blessed by God, so that people would want to know who their God was, so it was evangelistic. We don’t have that necessity anymore. We have the Gospel, and we’re supposed to go and make disciples not by asking our government to impose laws from the Old Testament on a twenty-first century people, but by using the law and using the Gospel.
In short, as we noted above: those laws are old. Those laws are outdated. This is the twenty-first century. We have better options. Anyway, those laws pertained only to that people in that time. They were only a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. We are no longer under the law anymore. Christ freed us from it.
Now, there are still major exegetical problems lurking under these arguments. I will deal with them separately later. For now it is enough to see that Todd has provided nothing here that really challenges the Theonomic thesis. He has provided little more than emotional arguments that do nothing but make the case, ultimately, for liberal progressivism. It is no wonder, then, that after a century or two of Christians arguing like Todd we have the liberal progressive society we do.
I am glad Todd asked some serious questions about Theonomy. I am glad he has addressed it genuinely. I think it would have been far more instructive to bring such questions to someone like me instead of first making a show about it, but at least this is a genuine start.
I hope he will as genuinely be able to see that his answers don’t move much beyond the facile, though admittedly powerful, emotional appeals made by liberals. I hope he would be willing to consider looking into something more exegetical in regard to biblical standards for society, crime, and punishment. God spoke clearly. He did not rescind what He spoke regarding civil law like He did ceremonial law. Time and chance, people and technology simply cannot change God’s Word so easily, no matter how much modern sentiment may pressure us to say so. What God hath enjoined, let no man put away.
As I mentioned before, Fuller seminary man Richard Mouw fired shots at Christian Reconstruction based on a new book detailing R. J. Rushdoony. The book is Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism, by Michael McVicar, now assistant professor of religion at Florida State University. I have not read the whole book yet, so I will reserve comment to the section about the brief career of Greg L. Bahnsen at RTS. While McVicar’s book appears thorough and has an impressive bibliography—including access to many private papers—he is missing some key details that render his presentation incomplete, and thus key conclusions in regard to Bahnsen fail as critically uninformed.
Since I have recently arranged and posted nearly 300 pages of Bahnsen’s collected documents in regard to how his RTS career ended, I was particularly keen to see how McVicar might portray it. Mouw’s shot gave plenty of warning as to what to expect:
Bahnsen was not reappointed to his faculty position, largely because he was seen by his colleagues as too confrontational. Those negative assessments of his controversial relations are narrated in McVicar’s book, where Bahnsen does not come off as an attractive figure.
Mouw’s assessment is accurate. According to McVicar, “Bahnsen’s personality created as much ill will as his theology,” and this, on top of “his combative defense of the concept” of Theonomy (p. 157). When RTS called its hostile faculty interrogation of Bahnsen in 1978, Bahnsen is described as having “aggressively defended himself and insulted several of the faculty” (p. 158). Bahnsen is accused of “impropriety” for soliciting support from other professors and churchmen (p. 159). Further, he is accused of having “encouraged his supportive students to attack the positions of other faculty members” (p. 157), as well as needing to be restrained from harassing students whom he allegedly “regularly abused in class” (p. 159).
All of this is laid to rest in the documents American Vision recently published. There will be more to say on specific topics as occasion has it, but for now note well that the best refutation to the charges comes above from the Seminary itself in its letters of recommendation for the departing Bahnsen. I quote briefly from two such letters. The first one comes from the then-acting president of RTS, Sam C. Patterson. In that final parting note, he wrote to Bahnsen:
Your personal commitment to Christ, Godly character, ability as a scholar and as a teacher command my highest respect and confidence. . . .
You have earned and won the respect of students and proven yourself to be a most competent and versatile communicator.
You have practiced integrity, openness and a cooperative spirit in working with me and others in seeking to resolve problems we have addressed. . . .
Likewise, the Executive Committee commended Bahnsen’s high moral character and interpersonal compliance:
Your moral character and manifest desire to serve the Lord were unquestionable, and these attributes of yours are all of the highest quality, and we commend you for them. Moreover, you have evidenced a desire, to the best of your ability, to comply with the requests of your superiors as those requests have been communicated to you, and your desire to work with and your interest in the students has been of the highest order.
So, was Bahnsen fired for character issues? No. Was he let go for combativeness, insulting faculty, abusing students? It should be clear from these letters that this is nonsense.
And please note, there is no reference to these key letters, or to any of the other documents here made available, in McVicars’s presentation. This is a crucial lacuna in the evidence—crippling to the portrayal.
There is one troubling reference, however, that does appear. A late letter—five years after the fact—from a former student of Bahnsen, James B. Jordan. This needs to be reviewed.
James B. Jordan 1984 vs. James B. Jordan 1979
McVicar mistakenly says this letter appears “nearly a decade later,” when in fact it was half that. Minor detail. It is the content that matters. According to McVicar’s account, Jordan wrote to the RTS faculty in 1984 apologizing for having taken Bahnsen’s side at the time. He now tossed Bahnsen under the bus, saying he had been “vocal and belligerent,” and that “Had the faculty addressed Bahnsen primarily on the question of his personal deportment, who could have defended him?” (p. 159).
It would be helpful, of course, to see the full letter to examine for context, but the excerpts McVicar presents seem clear enough. Five years after the fact, Jordan returned to the issue in order to distance himself from Bahnsen’s legacy at least to some degree.
What’s troubling about this is not the letter we don’t have, but the one we do. Our package includes a substantial letter from Jordan written in the midst of the conflict, dressing down the faculty and relevant committees for perpetuating absolutely false rumors about Theonomy and Bahnsen’s students. Relevant excerpts of Jordan’s 1979 letter include the following matters:
First, Jordan left RTS in order to enroll at Westminster Theological Seminary. He waited to write until after switching schools because he feared faculty reprisal at RTS and “did not wish to jeopardize my degree by making this protest.” After all, he had experienced the same faculty attacks as Bahnsen already, and wrote complaining of “the way I have been treated, both in this Resolution and by certain faculty members (one of whom has compared me to Hitler).” You tell me who was “vocal and belligerent.”
The faculty had, after all, begun its attack on Bahnsen by attacking Bahnsen’s students as unruly and disruptive on campus. The Student Affairs Committee drafted a “Resolution” detailing their grievances against these students and “Theonomy” that had allegedly caused the disruption. Jordan fired back:
I have three objections to the way you have dealt with me and my fellow “Theonomists.” First, that no due process was undergone in making these charges. Second, that these charges are in fact utterly false. Third, that on the basis of these charges the faculty has engaged in vicious and tyrannical manner toward students, both on campus and in discussions with off campus persons.
In supporting the first objection, Jordan notes that no semblance of biblical or administrative process was followed in addressing the alleged offending students. Instead of confronting any particular student, Jordan and others found out only as their alleged offenses were broadcast behind their backs.
In the second objection, Jordan addresses five enumerated charges leveled against these allegedly offending students. On the first charge of “exerting pressure on other students to conform to their thinking,” Jordan interviewed “many, many” students from a large cross-section of theological views and “Not one of them corroborated your charge.” They “uniformly” reported just the opposite. Jordan concluded, “This charge is false.”
On the second charge of “showing disrespect in certain classes,” Jordan’s interviews of professors turned up empty again. “I must conclude that this charge, however widely rumored, is false.”
Likewise, as you can see the pattern, Jordan goes on to refute the other charges as well. The most interesting among them is number 4, the complaint that the theonomic students were “giving R.T.S. the beginning of a poor image among the churches, thus raising the spectres of future recruiting difficulties and possible decline of support from our constituency.” Jordan not only noted the sell-out pragmatism of such an attitude that would place politics and prospective money over principle, but noted the following:
It is surely true that RTS has begun to acquire a bad name among the churches, but this has nothing to do with “Theonomy.” It has to do with reports of classes in which little is taught. . . . It has to do with reports that some professors seem to hedge with respect to the doctrine of inerrancy. It has to do with the fact that some professors deny six-day creationism. It has to do with the fact that a large gymnasium has been built, while the library is understocked.
He cites his own experience (sadly, not one exclusive to seminary classes at then-RTS) for which he left the seminary:
I was not prepared, however, to be read to from assigned texts hour after hour in classes by professors who did not have any lectures to offer, but who demanded attendance anyway. I was not prepared either for dry chapel messages devoid of any application, nor for be-bop entertainment during chapel. I was not prepared for a baptized Marxism parading as “Theology of Liberation,” nor for a number of other theological oddities.
He concluded, “I fully believe that this charge, that ‘Theonomic’ students have conspired to discredit RTS falsely, is a false charge.” He further concluded that all five charges were “wholly untrue,” and that their provenance by the faculty and others was “a great evil.”
Jordan goes on to note that “The faculty continues to insist that there was some great conflagration on the RTS campus in the Spring of 1978 over ‘Theonomy.’ Every student knows that this was not the case” [emphasis added].
Now, while this 1979 letter from Jordan is regarding the students primarily, and not Bahnsen himself, it should be clear that since the seminary’s attack on Bahnsen began and was founded upon this alleged uprising and disruption among the students, the fact that Jordan says it never happened ought to be telling.
And whatever Jordan may have thought to write five years after the fact should be examined in whatever attitude, agenda, purpose, or context he was writing that later time, and not with the same import as the real-time response of what he wrote in the midst of the battle. Jordan ended that earlier letter by calling the seminary to repent of its treatment of proponents of Theonomy. I cannot say this call has ever been answered, or that it should ever be rescinded until met with such respect. I say rather that it ought to be expanded further to a lot more people.
Briefly flipping through McVicar’s book this morning, Gary DeMar noted some inaccuracies just on the surface level. While the book is certainly well footnoted and has an impressive bibliography, do not let that deceive you into thinking it is therefore automatically objective. No book is completely, of course, but some serve more pointed agendas than others. As I said in a companion piece, the arrangement of the publication of this dissertation and the manner in which his been introduced is highly suggestive of a larger agenda.
While it appears that our critics show selective concern for what sources they do or do not cite, the Christian cannot be so cavalier. Our agenda is not set by men. Our agenda is to serve the Truth in all of life in every detail. Let us be examples of reading the whole truth before we form judgments, let alone go on the offensive attack.
A couple months ago, Fuller Seminary personality Richard Mouw placed a shot across the bow of Christian Reconstruction, and also took a couple cheap shots at Gary North and Greg Bahnsen before the smoke cleared. A new “fine” academic book was coming out detailing R. J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstruction, Mouw would be reviewing it in the near future, but in the meantime, he just had to share a couple anecdotes of his own.
I’ll address some of that “fine” book and its treatment of Greg Bahnsen in a separate post. Briefly, let’s consider for a moment the nature of what’s really going on here. It looks merely like another book reviewed by another academic figure. But it is so much more! Look at all the pieces and put them together: a liberal academic imprint (UNC Press), a prominent neoevengelical seminary name (Mouw), a secular religion professor (the new author, Michael McVicar), and the premier neoconservative public-policy publication in the country (First Things) have all joined hands in a great drum circle to create a united front against the dreaded enemy of God’s Law and its modern proponents.
But I thought Theonomy was dead? I thought Christian Reconstruction breathed its last? What’s going on here? Have these great media forces of American religion and politics joined together merely to beat a dead horse? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that’s what they do for mere politics every four years, but fringe religious movements? That can’t be anywhere near as profitable as campaign puff. This seems terribly out of proportion. And bringing prominent liberals, neoevangelicals, and neoconservatives (sorry, did I repeat myself there?) together for such an endeavor seems, well, ecumenical—but for such a allegedly marginal thing. Who knew Christian Reconstruction had such power to unite like-minded folk! Well, you’ve heard that politics makes for strange bedfellows. I’d say the same applies to the socio-theological mélange opposing us, but there are enough homosexuals quietly harbored among all those groups that someone would take “bedfellows” seriously, and Right Wing Watch might do a nasty write-up about American Vision.
Add to all of the above the fact that the new book is a fresh Ph.D. dissertation which the Press picked up and published as a book. While some academic presses public dissertations regularly, getting selected in such a process is either a matter of luck or knowing someone.
No, this is not business as usual. There is an agenda here. It is a concerted agenda between several self-interested anti-theonomy groups.
The message that follows in this concerted effort is bad enough, but in this case, the event is far more telling than the anti-theonomy propaganda they want you to swallow. One great irony here is that we have been told year after year about how Theonomy and Reconstruction are dying, dead, dwindling, demoralized, fractured, factious, and yes, dead and dying again. And yet, for a movement that is supposed to die out any day now, our opponents are legion, and they can never shut up about us. By the quantity of criticism, you would think we’re a bigger threat to American society than terrorism, liberalism, or Hillary Clinton’s email. Whether it’s the White Horse Inn, Westminster Escondido, R. Scott Clark, Michael Horton, First Things, Richard Mouw, UNC Press, or Brannon Howse, Todd Friel, or Chris Rosebrough—the list could go on and on—the attacks keep coming.
But again, I thought we were dead, marginal, fringe—nothing? Why all the attention. Why all the dire warning? Why the innuendo, lies, and outright hate?
Don’t get me wrong, while liberalism, secularism, and paganism creep up on us steadily from all sides, our opponents never have an answer to social ills much beyond “I’ll Fly Away,” but while it burns, they sure do want everyone to stay away from that one great danger of preaching God’s Law in modern society.
The joke with Mouw is that his entire moralizing piece is emotional. It revolves around a personal grudge he’s held against Gary North for 37 years because—get this—Gary allegedly did not shake his hand at the airport. Because Gary allegedly refused to exchange pleasantries, Mouw levels the charge of “irreverence,” and proceeds to remind us how much he himself prays for his enemies despite considering our theology “deeply offensive.”
Well, Mouw does best what seminary presidents are too often hired to do: not so much theology, but public relations. Let’s use images and anecdotes to create the impression that we’re the good guys because we’re nice, and our theological opponents (whom we can’t answer very well) are the bad guys because, we’ll, they’re not nice.
And, in a testimony to the state of the modern evangelical mind, the donors line up. (Or do they still? Hmm.)
North has nicely responded by taking Mouw’s coat for him—as well as the rest of his clothes. Read the debriefing here.
What concerns me even more, however, is Mouw’s underhanded portrayal of Bahnsen, and its reinforcement in the “fine” new book. More on that here.
What follows are chronicles and supporting documents compiled by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen during and immediately after his unfortunate and groundless termination at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), Jackson, MS, in 1978-79. You will find that common rumors, assumptions, and even recent publications (more on this soon) are demolished by the material collected here. You will also find what must, by any objective review, be considered startling unfairness, evasion of Scripture, bylaws, and rules, and resort to cowardly and unjust attacks and tactics used toward the effort of attacking, censoring, and removing Professor Bahnsen.
Without multiplying editorial comment too much, a few notes are necessary. First, the arrangement of material is essentially Bahnsen’s own as expressed in the Introduction. Were I have added to it, I have attempted to comply to his original design.
Second, it is unfortunate that not all of the material Bahnsen intended to include has survived in our possession. On page 4 of the Intro he lists six sets of documents for the section “The Theonomy Debate at RTS.” Sets 4, 5, and 6 are not with us, and for set 3, only Strong’s Critique exists (not Bahnsen’s response to it). If anyone has access or copies of any of these relevant documents, please contact us and we will remedy the deficiency.
Third, making up for the deficiency, however, Bahnsen did include three substantial Responses to additional critics not listed in the Intro: to Aiken Taylor (then-editor of The Presbyterian Journal), Professor O. Palmer Robertson, and Banner of Truth Trust founder and author Iain Murray. I find these three reponses among the most helpful Bahnsen has written. It is my current hope to provide these particular essays along with a few others in a hardback book edition in the near future. They are available here, in this format, for free.
Fourth, some of the material has been processed to make the text searchable. Most have not, yet. As we are able to make more of it available in this format, we will update the list.
Finally, from the Intro it appears that Dr. Bahnsen did not immediately intend for this compilation to be published to the general public, but only made available to those who asked and knew whom to ask. Some may object, then, to making it generally available now. Considering, however, the persistent rumors and the reignition of negative perceptions of Greg Bahnsen’s service at RTS due to certain recent books and articles, the time has come to let what was once for a limited audience ascend to its rightful place as an historical record available to the public. To this end, I have secured the permission of the executors of Greg Bahnsen’s material.
Without further ado, please read and consider carefully the following documents and note well their implications. And please stay tuned for more detailed engagement of this material to come.
—Dr. Joel McDurmon
What Really Happened at Reformed Theological Seminary
Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen
(Download The Bahnsen File as a single PDF here.)
For your consideration: one of scores of great essays by R. J. Rushdoony collected in Roots of Reconstruction, soon to be republished in multi-book format. Posted here with permission from Chalcedon.edu. —JM
THE NEW RACISM
Chalcedon Position Paper No. 14
By R. J. Rushdoony
Racism is a relatively new fact on the world scene. In earlier eras, not race but religion was the basis of discrimination. Although religious history has been marred by ugly violence against other religious groups, and the history of the Christian church is no exception to this, there is a notable fact which is often forgotten. Missionary faiths, and supremely Christianity, normally seek to win other groups, not oppress them, and this missionary impulse has also provided, in many eras, a favorable cause for a friendly approach.
In the modern era, as Christianity’s influence receded, and science began to govern together with humanism, biology came to predominate over theology. The differences between men were seen increasingly as biological and racial rather than religious. The earlier physical anthropologists made very precise and detailed physical studies of all peoples in order to establish the physical differences between races.
The theory of evolution fueled this developing scientific racism and added still another important factor. Many theories began to hold to a multiple origin for the human race. Whereas in Scripture all men are descendants of Adam, in evolutionary thought, all men are possibly descendants of very differing evolutionary sources. Common descent in Adam meant a common creation, nature, and responsibility under God. The idea of multiple origins proved divisive. The human race was no longer the human race! It was a collection of possibly human races, a very different doctrine.
It is important to recognize that racism was in origin a scientific doctrine. Whenever a scientific doctrine is discarded, as witness the idea of the acquired inheritance of environmental influences, the old scientific doctrine, as it lingers on in popular thought, is blamed on religion or popular superstition! The origins of racism are in very highly respectable scientific theorists. The fact that men like Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), a British admiral’s son and son-in-law of Richard Wagner, took this scientific literature to develop what became the foundation of Nazi thought does not eliminate its scientific origins.
The defeat of the Nazis did not end racism. Instead, it has again become respectable and widespread. We must remember that studies of Hitler’s Germany indicate that his support came from liberals, democrats, socialists, and the intellectual community. Scholars like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn have ably exposed the myth of a conservative or rightist origin for Hitler’s support. The fact of Hitler’s antipathy to Christianity helped enlist support for him.
The new racism is widespread and common to many peoples and to every continent. It has now become a part also of the religious vocabulary of many churchmen. Thus, in almost every seminary today, pompous professors rail against a missions program which would export “the white mentality” and European modes of thought. What is the white mentality, and what is the European mode of thought, as against the human, common to all men? If it is specifically white and European, it must be common to the pre-Christian European as a racial factor. The pre-Christian Saxons, for example, practiced human sacrifice, and more. Much more could be said about pre-Christian Europeans, but I have no desire to be flooded with angry letters (which I will discard without answer). No race born of Adam has a good history: this is the biblical fact, and the historical fact.
The Western mind, common to Europe and the Americas, is a product, not of race, but of culture, religious culture. Elements of it, none too good, go back to the barbarian peoples of Europe. Other aspects are from Greek philosophy, again none too good. (The Greeks described all non-Greeks as barbarians on cultural, not racist, grounds. They gave brilliant and inventive slaves a Greek name and status.) The Western mind and culture, in all its advances, is a product of biblical religion. It is a religious, not a racial, product.
A generation ago, a pope with humane intentions said, “Spiritually, we are all Semites.” Despite his humane intentions, he was wrong. Arabs are Semites, and we are not Arabic in our faith and culture. He would have been equally wrong had he said Hebrews or Jews. The culture of the West is not the property of any race or people in its origin. It is biblical. True, much sin is present in Western culture. True, such sin needs to be condemned. But the mind of the West bears the imprint of the Bible. It is not understandable on any other terms.
Today, however, men speak of the white mentality, the Asiatic soul, and the African mind. Some educators are insistent on the need to recognize and give status in the schools to what they call “black English.”
Implicit in all of this is a racist view of man. Races are seen as the sources of varying kinds of logic and reason. To deny the validity of the concept of a white mind, an African mind, or an Asiatic mind is seen as reactionary, imperialistic, and evil.
The mentality of a people, however, is not a product of race but of religion, and the culture of that religion. The key factor is always religion. There is a hidden but insane pride among those who oppose exporting the white mentality. Although such men would never dare say it explicitly, or even think it, what they are saying implicitly is that other races are not up to comprehending the white mentality. (One brilliant black student told me, with wry humor, that he could always count on a high grade for minimum work from a white liberal professor. The man would regard him as inferior, but would never have the courage to admit as much, and would accordingly give him a good grade!) All talk of differing mentalities has a patronizing perspective; it also says that race, not sin, is the problem of other peoples and their cultures.
Because of the new racism, we now have a growing body of religious literature, aimed at the seminary student, pastor, and missionary, which talks about contextualization. Supposedly, the only way to communicate the gospel to other races is by giving priority to the context over biblical faith and confessional statements. The impetus for contextualization has come from the Theological Education Fund, set up in 1957 by the Rockefeller Foundation. Contextualization calls also for an emphasis on the struggle for justice in terms of “liberation theology” (a form of Marxism) and existentialistic responses to the historical moment in the Third World. Contextualization places a heavy emphasis on human need rather than God’s infallible word. Its mission is thus contemporary and social, not theological and supernatural. Contextualists of all theological stripes shift their language from that of Scripture to the jargon spawned by the Theological Education Fund.
Closely related to this in the area of Bible translations is the dynamic equivalence theory, now common to most Bible societies and translation groups. This doctrine, of which Eugene A. Nida is an exponent, “translates” the Bible into a culture and its ideas. This can mean giving an historical account a psychoanalytic or mythological meaning. Instead of reshaping the culture, the Bible is “translated” into the culture. (Such a doctrine makes the culture in effect the unerring word, not the Bible. The culture thus corrects or amends the Bible, not the Bible, culture.) As Jakob van Bruggen, in The Future of the Bible, points out, “the dynamic equivalence translation theory owes its influence and effect to the blending of modern theological prejudices regarding the Bible with data borrowed from communication theory, cultural anthropology, and modern sociology rather than to insights from linguistics” (Thomas Nelson Inc., 1978, p. 151).
The implications of this new racism are far-reaching. Instead of working to change a people, we have a static and racist view of a people and their culture. It is the Bible and the mission which must change, not the people! We must teach a “black English” if any at all, and a black, brown, or yellow Christianity, if any at all. It takes only a brief excursion into “liberation theology,” contextualization, and like doctrines to realize that it is not Christianity at all which is taught, but a counterfeit. Relevance is sought, not to the Lord and His word, but to fallen man and his racial heritage. Such is not the Gospel; it is the new racism.
The new racism passes, however, for vital, relevant Christianity. It is widely promoted by seminaries and missionary organizations. It encourages races, like individuals, to trumpet the existentialist (and hippie) slogan, “I want to be me!” The historical goal is racial realization! Providentially, the early missionaries to Europe, coming from North Africa, Asia Minor, and the Mediterranean world generally, had no such regard for the European mind. They regarded it as unregenerate and in need of being broken and redeemed. All the plagues and evils of “the European mind” are products of the fallen man and the relics of barbarian cultures, not of Christ and His word. All that is good in “the European mind” is a result of Christian culture, not of race.
The words of Paul are a sharp rebuke to all who want men to glory in their blood, race, or history: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
Learn more about the work of R. J. Rushdoony at Chalcedon.edu.
Find further resources on biblical worldview and culture at AmericanVision.com
Last (for now), but certainly not least, in this series of misrepresentations and fallacies from the debate may in fact be the worst of the lot. It appears by all measures to be another utter fabrication. Like previous examples, because this falsehood is used to attribute a direct charge of “heresy,” we need to view it with severity indeed.
This instance is similar to a previous example regarding “restitution,” and it hinges upon the concept Rushdoony calls “civil atonement.” First, let’s see how Jordan presented it in the debate. In a dire warning to the world of what Theonomy “leads to,” Jordan referenced R. J. Rushdoony like this:
It is the church that is, quote, “left to civilly atone for Adam’s sin.”
Then he added, “Friends, that’s heresy.”
The problem is, after electronic searches of all of Rushdoony’s major works, after consulting others more versed in his works than myself, and after opening the search to anyone of 17,000+ followers of American Vision on our Facebook page (and offering a reward), no one has been able to locate this alleged quotation from Rushdoony. In addition, a Google search for the phrase “civilly atone” turned up a grand total of two (2) instances on the entire world wide web—and those are where I posted the alleged quotation and reward offer on American Vision’s Facebook page. (The number of Google hits will increase, of course, once I post this article.)
I contacted Jordan immediately after the debate asking him to document this quotation. I was first told he would be on vacation for two weeks. After waiting the requisite time and then some, I asked again. No answer. There is now no answer forthcoming at all. Perhaps he’s sitting on the reference for a surprise reveal or something. I don’t know. But as far as I can tell, this is another utter fabrication of a quotation by Jordan Hall.
Further confirming this great likelihood is the fact that such a statement about the church civilly atoning for Adam’s sin would directly contradict what Rushdoony actually did write in regard to so-called “civil atonement.” In Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, pp. 264 and 265, he wrote:
The totality of the government of all things is now focused by the triune God in the person of Christ. In Him, the religious atonement is manifested, and in His government and law alone is there any true civil atonement. . . .
Christ as the incarnate Son of God, very God of very God, and very man of very man, is alone able to provide religious atonement. As the sovereign King and Lawgiver, whose law alone is true law, He alone is able to provide civil atonement.
So, not only can no such quotation as Jordan presented be found in Rushdoony, what we do find says exactly the opposite. Conclusion: Jordan is again playing fast and loose with the literature, attributing things to Rushdoony he never said and of which he taught the opposite, and then using such means to charge Rushdoony with “heresy.” This is irresponsible, reckless, and ridiculous to say the least.
Rushdoony on “civil atonement”
What in the world is “civil atonement”? You probably have only considered the word “atonement” within the context of Christ’s work on the cross, and perhaps the Old Testament ceremonial sacrifices that foreshadowed that work. But we should point out that the word for atonement—the Hebrew word kopher, sometimes translated “ransom” or something similar—also had other applications throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes these are mundane instances, sometimes they are more typological or expressive of God’s government among the Hebrews. But they exist nonetheless, and they exist in addition to the traditional spiritual sense of religious atonement.
It’s actually not a difficult concept, really. The word is very similar to “restitution” in that it involves generally paying a debt that is owed. Of course, we can never pay back our debt of sin to God, and we can never earn righteousness by works of the law, etc. This is a truth that Rushdoony and other theonomists have always taught. Nevertheless, there is still a social restitution that is exacted of a criminal, for example, not merely by the spiritual atonement of Christ for sin, but which the offender himself must pay. A thief, for example, is still required to pay back what he stole and then some as a further punitive measure. It is in this sense that Rushdoony spoke of “civil atonement”—in general, he’s merely speaking of certain aspects of civil government being enforced in the social realm.
His concept of this finds expression in his treatment of what he called a poll tax, in Exodus 30:11–16. In the Institutes of Biblical Law, he wrote,
Israel already had a poll tax, that required by God’s law in Exodus 30:11–16. Its purpose was to provide for civil atonement, i.e., the covering or protection of civil government. Every male twenty years old or older was required to pay this tax to be protected by God the King in His theocratic government of Israel. This tax was thus a civil and religious duty (but not an ecclesiastical one).
As an aside, I believe this may be the passage from which Jordan drew his contorted version in the debate. It just so happens to occur in Rushdoony’s section on Caesar’s coin—a topic we had occasion to treat elsewhere in regard to another misrepresentation by Hall. I suspect that while he was poking around Rushdoony’s Institutes in this section on that topic, he gleaned this “civil atonement” nugget he thought he could use to present us as heretics. It just so happens he would have to make it say just the opposite of what Rushdoony actually teaches in order to do that. After all, even here—which is a less detailed version of what he teaches on it elsewhere—Rushdoony still says this is not an ecclesiastical duty, and says nothing about “Adam’s sin.” Thus, it is not the “church” that must do this, and it has nothing to do with our salvation and justification before God. Jordan’s version thus makes no sense compared to the actual context.
Here’s how Rushdoony addressed it in his commentary on Exodus:
Second, the atonement or ransom term, kôpher, is used to describe the tax [again, Ex. 30:11–16]. Again, however, the term has a civil reference. Restitution for sins which we now call criminal offenses is called in Scripture a form of atonement and is a means of civil forgiveness. God sees all offenses as requiring atonement, restitution, and forgiveness, and this atonement is sometimes man-ward where the offense involves men. If a man steals $100, he must make restitution or atonement by paying $200 to the man robbed, this apart from the theological aspect of his status. Thus, a tax for civil atonement means that we recognize that this is a fallen world, and, in Adam, we are all members of a fallen humanity. Our ransom or covering against the evils of that world requires a civil tax to provide for officers of state who will be a terror to evil-doers (Rom. 13:1ff.). Other countries are not lacking in evil, and so a civil tax also helps protect us from enemies without, from the plague which is “slaughter in battle.”
This source actually does make reference to Adam’s sin, but the reference to the civil realm is again obviously not speaking of salvation or the church, but to taxes paid to maintain a civil government and the punishment of crime in society. This is merely a biblical justification for paying taxes to maintain civil government.
While some may object today to the use of the word “atonement” for such a topic, Rushdoony’s point is simply that this is the word the Bible used in Exodus 31, and thus we are warranted to use it in such a frame of reference if we qualify and define it properly. Those who object to the mere use of the word in this context are objecting to Scripture, not Rushdoony.
Rushdoony explains it even more clearly in Volume II of the Institutes, as we mentioned earlier.
Christ as king therefore declares His sovereignty: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). The totality of the government of all things is now focused by the triune God in the person of Christ. In Him, the religious atonement is manifested, and in His government and law alone is there any true civil atonement. Apart from the justice and law of God, civil governments degenerate, as St. Augustine saw, into bands of robbers. . . .
Christ as the incarnate Son of God, very God of very God, and very man of very man, is alone able to provide religious atonement. As the sovereign King and Lawgiver, whose law alone is true law, He alone is able to provide civil atonement.
Now, while we may agree or disagree with Rushdoony here, one thing is clear: Rushdoony did not say the church must “civilly atone for Adam’s sin.” He said clearly the opposite. While he did use the phrase “civil atonement,” it is clear he did so with an entirely different frame of reference and meaning. He said,
1. This is not an ecclesiastical (church) duty
2. This not about Adam’s sin (original sin), but the maintenance of civil government and punishment of crime
3. Only Christ (not man, not the church) is able to provide for true civil atonement
Not only is there nothing close to “heresy” here, there is really not that much controversial for an average evangelical. After all, the vast majority of Christians believe it is necessary to pay taxes, maintain civil government, punish crime, and maintain an army—and most of the church believes this is the case because we live in a fallen world tainted by Adam’s sin. So what’s the big deal?
The only controversy that arises in relation to the topic is actually among theonomists! And this is only because some of us think Rushdoony was not being theonomic enough in this particular instance!
An Alternate View
I won’t take the space to cover the entire disagreement and necessary exegesis here. Those interested can read the more detailed version argued in Gary North’s Authority and Dominion, Volume 4, pp. 1171–1181. There he argues, I believe rightly, that what Rushdoony called a “poll tax” in Exodus 30:11–16 and made the basis of a justification for civil taxation, was actually a tax paid only by the Israeli militia when numbered for war. This was a tax tied directly to a census (“numbering”) (Ex. 30:12, 14; Num. 1:2–3), and the Israelites were only to number the people for purposes of raising a militia. For example, when David did so during peacetime as an act of regular government, God judged the nation severely for this sin (2 Sam. 24). Thus the tax had a very limited purpose and application. It had nothing to do with regular civil taxation.
This is one example of legitimate disagreement among theonomists. I believe North is correct here. Some people stick with Rushdoony’s interpretation. Even under North’s view, however, a category of “civil atonement”—if defined like Rushdoony did as merely the role of the civil government punishing crime—would still not be out of line. In fact, it is a necessary category, whatever we decide to call it.
For our purposes in this article, we can confidently say, therefore, that whether Rushdoony or North is correct, it does not matter. Rushdoony’s view is so well qualified and clear as to prevent any honest reader from drawing the conclusions Jordan attributed to him. It is no wonder we cannot find, anywhere in Rushdoony’s writing, the quotation Jordan presented. What we do find is just the opposite view of what Jordan claimed as a “quote” and condemned as “heresy.”
Until we are given the actual citation, the reader will be well warranted with the suspicion that Jordan made it up. And until we see better responses to Theonomy in general, we’ll be well warranted in continuing to refer to biblical law for standards of civil atonement overall.
[Author’s note: I still am open to the possibility that Jordan could produce this quotation and reference. He can do so whenever he likes. If he ever does, I will analyze it in context and amend this chapter as necessary.]
 Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, 264, 265.
 Institutes of Biblical Law, 719.
 Exodus: Commentaries on the Pentateuch, Volume 2, 444.
 Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, 264–265.
As we have seen so far, Jordan’s second opening statement particularly was filled with strings of boogeyman quotes in an attempt to portray Theonomy as a dangerous and anti-Christian system of works righteousness and social meanness. In one particular string of such quotations, Jordan wrongly portrayed Theonomists as condemning all non-Theonomists as non-Christians, and misunderstood a point Gary North made about the moral law (ten commandments) in general somehow as a point about civil punishment for idolatry. In that same string, Jordan also cited North as allegedly saying Baptists would lose their citizenship in a theonomic society. We will address this point here.
Punctuating that particular string of quotes, Hall raised the question, “What about Baptists? Would I be able to stay?” Hanging his head and with the expert whimper of a Jimmy Swaggart, his voice quivered, “No.”
What about Baptists? Would I be able to stay? No. North writes in Political Polytheism page 87: “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant—baptism and holy communion—must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.” No fear: you won’t be executed Baptists. You’ll just be denied citizenship.
For a moment, I expected to see a tear. It was expertly delivered.
It was also dead wrong.
The quotation comes from North’s book Political Polytheism, pages 86–87. Here is the quotation with it larger immediate context (please give particular attention as to whether or not this says anything at all about differences between Christians on the mode, form, or nature of baptism):
This same principle applies to the civil covenant. Christians are not to be unequally yoked with non-Christians. There is only one way to achieve this goal: withdrawal from politics. The question is: Who should withdraw, covenant-keepers or covenant-breakers? Pietists answer that covenant-keepers should withdraw; biblical theocrats insist that covenant-breakers should withdraw. One side or the other must eventually exclude its rival. (Political pluralists argue that both groups can make a permanent political covenant.) The long term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant—baptism and holy communion—must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel. The way to achieve this political goal is through successful mass evangelism followed by constitutional revision.
As you can see, this statement is distinguishing between Christians (in general) and non-Christians. The whole point is, “Christians are not to be unequally yoked with non-Christians.” It has nothing at all to do with differing beliefs about baptism among Christians.
Indeed, the quotation is in a chapter about how God’s people are held in bondage to pagan masters politically. The chapter argues that political expressions are at root religious, and that ultimately religious values manifest either God’s kingdom or Satan’s. The point made in the quotation above has direct reference to this context: God’s kingdom versus Satan’s manifesting in history—particular in suffrage. The Christian’s goal for political society ought to be successful mass evangelism (Jordan, like so many of our critics, always leaves this point out, too) such that a majority of Christians can gain control of political franchise—i.e., the vote.
The conclusion to that chapter makes this a point of emphasis:
What I want the reader to understand is that he cannot legitimately avoid the religious problems associated with politics. Whose voice should be heard in history, God’s or Satan’s? Who is autonomous, God or man? . . . Whose sovereignty should Christians preach, whose hierarchies—Church, State, and family—should be dominant in history, whose law should they affirm, whose sanctions should they recommend that the State enforce, and who will inherit the earth?
If they refuse to affirm the covenant of God, they will inevitably affirm some other covenant. There is no neutrality. When Christians present the gospel to someone, they may say: “Remember, no decision for Christ is still a decision. It is a decision against Jesus Christ.” This statement is true, but it is also true in every area of life, including politics. “No biblical covenant” means another god’s covenant, in Church, State, and family. There is no neutrality.
Now, you may disagree with this thesis and outlook. That’s fine. But to misconstrue it as a point about radical Presbyterians attacking Baptists is a case exercise in decontextualization and imagination.
Now, Jordan may retort a couple of things here. First, he may answer that when Gary North says “covenant marks,” he’s speaking only of covenant baptism—i.e., infant baptism. The obvious answer has already been supplied by understanding the context. The comment is about Christians as opposed to non-Christians, and the fact that there is no neutrality between these two groups. It has nothing to do with, and no application to, differences among Christians. And since the comment goes on to say that the way to achieve this is through successful mass evangelism, Baptists ought to recognize considerable overlap with their evangelical views. The emphasis is conversion, which would be followed by baptism, teaching, etc. The emphasis is not about different views of baptism itself.
If your point is only that Gary North is a Presbyterian, the answer is hardly controversial: Yes. If your point is that Gary North wants you to be a Presbyterian, too, the answer is still probably Yes, and still noncontroversial. If your point is that Gary North wants to Presbyterian views of Baptism by law, then you’ll need more evidence than this quotation to prove anything close to that (hint: it doesn’t exist).
Secondly, Jordan may offer as an objection that he found a group of people using the label “theonomists” who did in fact say this: Baptists would be stripped of citizenship in a theonomic society. But consideration of the evidence here shows why the objection is inapplicable. The proof usually reduces to a handful of screenshots taken in a Facebook forum. The comments came from a tiny handful of people who are in a tradition distinct and separate from the main writers within that movement. These few commenters stand in the old Covenanter tradition, and understanding the difference between some of them and modern theonomists (Rushdoony, North, et al) will tell you all you need to know.
First, some of these Covenanters believe that theological orthodoxy is defined strictly and solely by the original Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Any profession of faith that falls outside of these documents, for some of these men, would constitute reason for denial of citizenship. But this would include not only Baptists, but those who deny things such as strict sabbatarianism, exclusive psalmody, prebysterian church government, six-day creation, and much more. You can see the problem. What Jordan is failing to relate is that this particular expression of the Covenanter tradition is actually condemnatory of all things that does not line up with their interpretation of the WCF. It has nothing to do with what Gary North or any of the main Reconstructionist Theonomists have written or believe.
Second, those who interpret the Westminster Standards in this way do not even speak for all who embrace the Covenanter tradition. I cannot speak for all of them, but I certainly know some who would not extend the denial of citizenship to other Christians, even if the doctrinal distinctives of such Christians do not agree with the WCF on certain points.
Third, even if all Covenanters held to such a view, they do not speak for the modern theonomic views of North, Rushdoony, et al. If indeed it is the case that a discussion by a couple radical Covenanters in a Facebook group gave Jordan the impetus to attribute these views to Gary North, and by extension all theonomists, then it is yet another case example of radical misattribution on his part. What in the world would make anyone think it is acceptable scholarly (or even journalistic) practice to take quotations from one person in an obscure corner of social media, remove them from their meaning and context, and attribute them to a completely different published work in a different context?
Not only is this wildly inappropriate in general, it is ethically dubious in that it is not just taking expressions from a different tradition, it is taking statements from a particularly radical expression of that tradition, made by proponents who cannot be said to be representative even of that tradition necessarily, and yet attributing them to someone outside that tradition.
Finally, we must note here that North did indeed dedicate this particular book to the members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (i.e. “Covenanters”). But this is clearly only in reference to the fact that both he and they are critical of the United States Constitution on religious grounds. To draw any further conclusions beyond this one hat-tip would be unwarranted and irresponsible—especially without strong evidence.
From the quotation and context alone, it should be clear here that North made no such point against Baptists and their citizenship as Jordan has attributed. I have given the additional attention to potential objections here only because I have heard Jordan, post-debate, returning to this point with some of them.
With this type of illegitimate quote-mining and attribution of views of obscure Facebook commenters into contexts those views do not belong, the question arises, “Who speaks for Theonomy?” What Jordan has attempted to do here is to misrepresent Theonomy by ignoring the meaning of its main proponents and attributing to it the views of the most objectionable expression found among those who are least representative of it. But ask yourself how you would accept being treated in the same way: if you are a Baptist, would you stand quietly by as some critic of yours quoted the most objectionable views of Westboro Baptist Church and attributed them to you? After all, this is what being a Baptist is all about right? If you are Pentecostal, could the views of Tony Alamo represent you? We could, of course, make a long list of such examples. People, however, who argue with integrity do not represent anyone, let alone their brethren, in this way.
Greg Bahnsen actually addressed the question of “Who speaks for the Position [Theonomy]?” in a section of the book No Other Standard. He drew the following conclusions:
- To criticize the specific ethical conclusion reached by a specific theonomist (that is, the particular application of theonomic principles) is not at all the same as criticizing the theonomic view (that is, those underlying principles themselves).
- Theonomists may readily disagree with each other on particular issues in normative ethics, and yet all be genuine adherents of the theonomic perspective and agree on essential points about how we should reach ethical conclusions.
- Not everything taught by someone who calls himself a “theonomist” thereby becomes an essential part of the theonomic school of thought or even (as such) compatible with its essential principles.
More poignant to the immediate discussion are these further considerations:
- The proper target of criticism ought to be views which are representative of what most recognized theonomists teach and which are essential to the position.
- Where someone chooses to criticize a particular application of theonomy (instead of theonomy itself), the critic ought to focus upon the strongest reasoning offered for that opinion or, where theonomists disagree, upon the particular opinion most readily defended.
From what we have seen, Jordan refused to follow pretty much any of these principles—even when criticized for doing so in the past. This stubborn negligence is especially clear in the example of Baptists and citizenship above. I find this persistent problem on Jordan’s behalf to be troublesome, to say the least.
As I rebutted in the debate itself, Baptists are by definition Christians who have indeed submitted to the covenantal mark of baptism. Since I regard Baptist believers who have professed their faith by submitting to baptism indeed to be Christians, then according to Gary North’s teaching above (not even in spite of it!), they would indeed be considered part of the voting commonwealth. In my opinion, even to suggest otherwise is preposterous.
 Political Polytheism, 86–87.
 Political Polytheism, 109–110.
 Greg Bahnsen, No Other Standard, 20–21.
 Greg Bahnsen, No Other Standard, 23–24.