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Why facts don’t matter (and why you’re probably to blame, too)

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:35

We’ve all experienced it: that intellectual zombie who persists doggedly in their obvious error no matter how many facts you show to them. No matter how much reason, logic, truth, and evidence you may place right before their eyes, they are impervious. In fact, it seems they only entrench themselves further. Facts don’t seem to matter.

Whether in the area of politics, religion, economics, history, law, sports, music, art, social issues, racism—you name it—we’ve all experienced this, and probably in more than one, in not all, of these areas. What’s up with some people?

The truth is, it’s not just “some” people, it is virtually all.

Yesterday, I began reading series of articles and studies on “confirmation bias” that, quite frankly, I think should be part of every homeschool curriculum (and every other curricula, including seminaries). These studies began in the mid-1970s. A recent article in The New Yorker outlines some of them well:

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. (This, it turned out, was also a deception.) Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and how many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student—even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.

“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

In a second study, students were given very limited profiles of two firefighters and asked to form judgements about them. They did. Upon being told, however, that the information given them was totally false, the students still persisted in holding the same judgments they had formed about firefighters. The article relates the study’s conclusion:

Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.

If it were but a few studies from the 70s, we might think little of it. But even beyond our own experiences, these studies have now been replicated thousands of times in controlled and peer-reviewed settings:

Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now.

Honestly, it doesn’t take any psychology or grad study. It just takes about four minutes on Facebook.

The problem with the studies and the articles (this one in particular) is that they default to evolutionary explanations. We were once brute beasts and tribal-clan hunter-gatherers. Reason and logic did not evolve for reasons of independent thinking and intellectual analysis of principle, but only for surviving in collaborative groups on the African savannah.

Of course, we know this has the cart ahead of horse, along with all the other problems of presupposed secular humanism, naturalism, etc. God created mankind in His image, endowed with reason and logic precisely for purposes of distinction and discernment. The first command assumes this: of any tree in the garden you may eat, but not of that tree.

The refusal to exercise reason and logic with evidence, or more particularly, to pervert them with reference to glorifying the self and becoming like God, was the foundation of the fall of man. The fallen nature with which we all now struggle is a wicked combination of selfishness and self-loathing, predation and self-victimization, abuse and self-pity, self-worship and misanthropy, recklessness and fear, blame and self-righteousness, rebellion and conformity, autonomy and socialism, false witness and hypersensitivity to criticism . . . we could go on. Even Christians struggle with this nature after conversion—we are prone and liable to the problem like anyone else.

In this condition, virtually any and every disagreement devolves into taking sides. Minds get made up in a number of fallacious ways, and without intense self-control and humility, for the vast majority of people, facts don’t matter. What matters is that their mind has been made up already—no matter how, or how wrongly.

At this point, the only way to win arguments—and don’t think for a moment that just because facts don’t matter, we don’t still want desperately to win arguments—is by demonizing the other side. We call names, create straw men, even lie outright.

Thus for some Arminians, Calvinists are one step away from being sadistic, psychopathic murderers, just like Calvin. For Calvinists, Arminians are one-step-removed humanists who put themselves in the place of God. Fundamentalists think Reformed folk are all liberals, or will be soon, who blindly baptize unregenerate babies; Reformed folk think of themselves more as Fundamentalists who got an education and wear shoes. Each maintains an exalted sense of self, and a warped sense of the other.

In fact, some of you may be a little rankled right now because you’re a Baptist, and you think I just took a little harsher shot at Baptists than I did at Presbyterians. Unfair!

Trump probably really could gun someone down in broad daylight and lose no support. Facts don’t matter. No matter how many times he gaffes and even lies and is exposed across the new media, he’s Jesus to some people, and debunking him only makes them love him more. No matter how many times Hillary or Obama—or every other politician (Ron Paul excepted)—was proven a liar, con artist, swindler, and subversive, facts don’t matter. Allegiance does. Exposing them only makes their masses love them more and hate you more greatly.

Likewise on social issues. The mind made up is impervious to facts about racism, immigration, economics, education, and a thousand other issues. Take ten minutes and watch this clip: watch a libertarian totally eviscerate a statist conservative on immigration using reputable stats, facts, reason, and logic while the interviewer stutters and is reduced to ridicule based on no evidence and personal prejudice. His mind is made up: facts don’t matter. No matter how many facts disprove his theory, he will not concede, but instead entrenches himself and demonizes the more informed man as superstitious, untrue, devoted to error, oblivious, unwilling to admit. After all, he’s a L-L-Libertarian. Loser!

Nationalists and others opposed to immigration will view this and say I’m a loon. My analysis of who won the argument is clearly biased and I am living in a libertarian la-la-land where butthurt snowflakes go to escape the harsh reality of the real world where real men with a pair fight like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator.

Some readers will be so intensely beset by the phenomenon that they will only take away from this article my exception of Ron Paul as a glaring example of my own bias. Paulbot! More proof that I’m an incorrigible, closet Libertarian. Such readers will see nothing of themselves in any of this.

When thinking of such things, I am always reminded of a quotation from an essay by a young John Adams:

Let me conclude, by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked [Jer. 17:9]. Let them consider how extremely addicted they are to magnify and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others. They ought, therefore, to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions and prejudices and interests are concerned, to desire to judge for themselves in their own causes, and to take their own satisfactions for wrongs and injuries of any kind.1

That this phenomenon, as it is, exists is problem enough. What’s worse, though, is that when we don’t look into our own hearts, we end up creating whole cliques, movements, groups, and even cultures based upon this aspect of our fallen nature and its polarizing, demonizing tendencies.

Thus, a simple set of personal grievances, or disagreements, can be blown into a whole series of myths and lies about another movement or ministry. Once minds are made up—it does not matter how or on what false witness—no amount of facts can prevail. The warped mind will always find that tiny sliver of yet-unproven real estate, against forty acres of facts, in order to justify its warp. When even that sliver erodes, the warped will resort to name calling, projection, and whatever else it can get away with.

In society and politics, it manifests in polarized sides repeating their mantras to their loyal followings ad infinitum. It won’t matter how much they get exposed as liars or biased bloats, their following is content to rail all critics as liars, frauds, and fruit loops. Facts don’t matter.

What results is collections of news agencies pointing fingers at each other calling each other “Fake News.” It is left to the masses to determine who the real fake news is, and they decide largely based on their predetermined loyalties, or merely default opposite the side they hate.

There is no news reporting any more. It’s all fake news now. The truth is, it always was.

The greatest and most discouraging angle, however, is, what we might call deep fake news. That’s right. This is the world of purposeful propaganda. Elites and movers-and-shakers have known about this phenomenon for ages, and they try purposefully to control and exploit it. Just listen to Machiavelli:

[M]en judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on.

It behooves a would-be ruler (or would-be leader in any capacity) to use the biases of the masses, and especially the power of this phenomenon of “confirmation bias,” in his favor. By means of the “opinion of the many,” he can insulate himself against criticism, and even marginalize and destroy his critics, or at least render them a laughingstock.

The problem is, when he lets such ends justify such means, it is not only critics but truth that gets squashed. Such a man may successfully insulate himself from other men, but not from God.

There is no quick remedy for this save the Holy Spirit himself. As day-to-day Christians, though, it is incumbent upon us to live as resurrected saints, mortifying the fallen nature and the works of the flesh. This means we must become and remain mindful of our propensities in this area, and dare to discover how we, too, have behaved in this way: believing falsehoods and even outright lies on little-no-no evidence, or interpreting evidence only in a biased way that confirms our suspicions, refusing to let facts change our minds, refusing to make difficult decisions due to old loyalties, affections, or allegiances.

We also need to find ways to address conflicts among ourselves that don’t resort to name-calling, degrading memes, slander, projecting, and other polarizing affronts.

We also need to check our motives. Why, after all, are we even engaged? Maybe controlling the narrative becomes a consuming focus, it has become the contest itself, and this is not just allowing the end to justify the means, it is making the means itself an end. I am not sure what good can come of that. At best, it is a waste of valuable time and resources.

But mostly we need to check our hearts, and open our minds to correction. At the very least, open your mind to information. There are a great many things we need to learn. Unfortunately, in a polarized, paranoid world full of confirmation bias, most people read in order to refute, not to learn, not even with the possibility of learning. Most people don’t listen; they are formulating their statement, rebuttal, refutation while you are speaking to them. They didn’t hear a word you said because they’re crafting how to say what you said was wrong.

This is not the way it is intended to be. It is the way fallen men have made it.

Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices (Eccl. 7:29).

Part of our job as Christians is meekness and self-control. To me, these are among the greatest bravery and manliness of our time. They will lead us into great new frontiers if we will exercise them. You just have to be brave enough to challenge yourself and to change your mind along the way.

  1. John Adams, in The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, ed. C. Bradley Thompson (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2000), 17.
Categories: Worldview

Freedom in the marketplace

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:57

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 7: Markets

7.1 True Freedom in the Marketplace

The biblical prescription for markets and business is very simple: non-violence, enforcement of property rights, and enforcement of contracts. These principles are, of course, directly derived from three of the Ten Commandments: you shall not murder, you shall not steal, and you shall not bear false witness. Not only are they among the Ten, they all come from the second table of the law which is man’s “kingly” duty—laws that primarily relate to man’s relationship to man in society.1 In brief, a biblical civil society is one in which people are legally free to engage in business and commerce in any way that does not violate their neighbor’s person or property—life, liberty, or estate. Conversely, this means that individuals have a fundamental right to be free from coercion by others in these same areas. These are basics of God’s law.

The general right to freedom from coercion forbids State coercion as well.2 Civil government should not be in the business of coercing markets: supporting some or all businesses through subsidies, taxation, protections, price controls, or any of the other various loopholes or exceptions that may exist. Civil government “bears the sword” because it is “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). It is thus an agency of the use of force to punish crime— “crime” being defined primarily as certain incarnate infractions of the three commandments mentioned already.3  Civil government should be involved only in this endeavor, and not in the promotion of favored businesses, corporations, the regulation of markets, etc. Individuals and businesses alike have a fundamental right to be free from the coercion of the State in all legitimate business and market matters.

The moment the State engages in manipulating the markets, it infuses a moral evil into society. This almost always produces negative practical results as well; these can be seen as God’s judgment on a society which departs from His law. But such results are not the main reason to keep markets free—this would be a merely pragmatic argument. The main reason is because God has created and commanded men to be free: to own property, to engage in production and exchange, to reap the fruits and rewards of these efforts, or, should it be the case, to bear the consequences of those efforts. Individual responsibility goes both ways: no one else has a legal right to the fruit of your labor, you have no legal right to anyone else’s, and no one else has a legal obligation to subsidize your failures or shortcomings. Legally speaking, “free markets” is the biblical view of markets. Anything short of this is evil—even the slightest regulation.

This means, further, that no level of civil government should be able to tell you whom you can or can’t hire, how you must compensate them, what benefits you must provide them, to whom you must provide goods or services, where you may or may not build or operate, or things of this nature. Nor should civil government be allowed to use public funds to enter into the markets—either directly through ownership and operation, or indirectly through planning and contracts. This includes all construction, engineering, architecture, utilities, inspection services, legal services, financing services, and of course, education, as well as anything else. The moment the government enters the markets with public money, with regulation, the markets become distorted and can certainly no longer be called free. Instead, they must be admitted, at that point, to be to some degree rigged markets.

Taxation and the Market

We should back up a step at this point: in truth, the moment the government appropriates funds via taxation (by whatever name), the fundamental distortion has already been committed. This takes money from the economy in one area, to be used in another area as determined by the government. This has some negative effects: first, it reduces freedom in that money which is taken through government coercion would otherwise have been used freely by the individual or corporation. The individual now has no (or very little) say over how their money will be spent. Further, the individual also loses any interest he or she would otherwise have earned should they have chosen to invest that money. Also, the reduction of liberty has an attendant increase in coercion. Not only is a central agency now forcing you to spend money in ways you don’t determine and with which you may not agree, but the whole process can only begin when the government takes your money to begin with. This taking is a form of violence. Worse yet, this sets a social precedent for how any given agenda or project may in fact succeed: through the initial and sustained violence committed by government agents.

Second, this practice feeds and breeds of a class of opportunists who rely heavily on government grants and contracts for their market livelihood. On one level, it leads to the rise of such a class which otherwise would not have had as many market opportunities had not the government provided them through coercive means. This means a class of businesses will thrive and grow which otherwise might have remained much smaller, while other types of businesses that may have arisen in a free market will never appear or will be squeezed out. On another level, since most “government projects” are large-scale, only larger companies even within the same industry will qualify to compete for the contracts. This subsidizes “big” business and withholds opportunities from the little guy to which he may otherwise have had access. Thus, government contracts tend to prosper not only certain businesses as opposed to others, but often certain big businesses as opposed to smaller.

With the rise of such big parasites comes a great moral hazard—the risk of a system of graft becoming self-perpetuating. When such a company grows largely due to infusions of tax money through government contracts, then the only way it will often be able to sustain its operations is through similar contracts in the future. In short, once created, monsters have big appetites. And more often than not, the monster will not sit and wait, but will go hunt to find its own food. Big government-contracted businesses then have an incentive to promote projects, suggest projects, foster conditions in which new public projects become “necessary” or “in the public interest,” and possibly even instigate crises—all by which their companies may grab new contracts to feed the beast.

Such moral hazard also breeds political problems. Large companies often employ large numbers of people. Thus, not providing more government contracts would mean potentially laying off thousands of people. Now you have a graft problem supported by a political obstacle. Thus do large voting blocks grow dependent upon tax-funded projects, and become special interests which sway elections.

Murray Rothbard relates some of the mane ways government market interventions have affected our society:

Urban planning has controlled and regulated the cities. Zoning laws have ringed housing and land use with innumerable restrictions. Property taxes have crippled urban development and forced abandonment of houses. Building codes have restricted housing construction and made it more costly. Urban renewal has provided massive subsidies to real estate developers, forced the bulldozing of apartments and rental stores, lowered the supply of housing, and intensified racial discrimination. Extensive government loans have generated overbuilding in the suburbs. Rent controls have created apartment shortages and reduced the supply of residential housing.4

All of these represent destructions of liberty and property. And all of this starts with one initial act of violence—coercive taxation—on the part of the civil government. As they say, violence begets violence.

All of this is to say that not only is government manipulation of markets unbiblical in principle, but it also has adverse pragmatic effects as the principle of entitlement through violence becomes the norm for society.

Markets in America

How have free markets thrived historically in America? Much like we discussed with the topics of taxation and money, America has never had truly free markets, at least not across the board. Of course, since both taxation and money and banking lie at the heart of commerce, any lack of integrity in those areas will reflect in direct proportion to the lack of freedom in markets. But just as we saw with those areas, markets have at least been much freer in many ways than they are today.

Perhaps the best single study of business development and entrepreneurship in American history is John Chamberlain’s The Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States.5 Chamberlain takes the story from colonial times up through World War II and a little past. He wrote specifically to fill a void in American historiography at the time: to confront the old, and more often than not false, leftist caricature of American entrepreneurs and businessmen as “robber barons.” Chamberlain rather more properly provides “a history that which would treat business as a prime creative force” in society.6

As we have discussed earlier, most of early America was settled as land grants from the crown. The governors and trustees of these grants then surveyed and allotted smaller grants of local lands to settlers who would cultivate the land, oftentimes using enticements of free land or property tax exemptions for several years to entice settlers to come. There were certainly also more ambitious types with visions of town planning, and leveraging port cities as centers of trade.7 Merchant classes arose, as did other forms of middle class achievement.

In early America, two famous examples will serve as good illustrations—though with a little bit of the “warts and all” we encountered earlier. The classic self-made boot-strapper is Benjamin Franklin. One of seventeen children born to a Puritan immigrant family, Franklin started with next to nothing and built himself into perhaps the most famous man in the western world before the Revolution. He started with an apprenticeship in his brother’s printing business, went through several rocky perambulations, and ended with his own printing business as well as scientific advancements, discoveries, and inventions (not to mention his vast political works). And yet what is commonly not stressed is that Franklin never missed an opportunity to leverage government power to tilt the markets in his favor. His business’s first major achievement was publically to shame the existing “public printer” in Philadelphia and swipe away that company’s lucrative post. He then entered the political arena for his own benefit: he published a tract on the hot issue of a new inflation of paper money in Pennsylvania (1729). The tract was in favor of inflation and was key to getting the measure through the Assembly. Not ironically, the contract to print the new paper money was immediately given to Franklin’s company. Franklin called it “a very profitable job and a great help to me.”8 Franklin and government power are rarely seen apart for the rest of his life.

On the other hand is the early life of our second example—the later arch-nationalist and nemesis from earlier chapters, Alexander Hamilton. As we mentioned before, he was an illegitimate child who was subsequently orphaned by age twelve. Whereas Franklin at least had sound if meager beginnings, the odds were totally stacked against Hamilton. Like Franklin, he was largely self-educated through voracious reading, and gifted with an enormous intellect. He was surely destined for greatness in the merchant classes, but as we saw, grew bored of accounting. Having read the classics, he lusted for military and stately fame. He got the whole classic shebang—including an ending straight out of a Greek tragedy.

In both of these great figures we see the ability to start with nothing and work one’s way to success—the classic American dream. In the case of each, ambition and lust for fame drove them to chase State power for themselves and their agendas. And yet, in regard to the original achievement of success in the marketplace, neither man needed nor profited from the intervention of the State. This is especially true for Hamilton who could have used a State-run welfare system at one time, but instead profited greatly by the private charity of the merchants who took him in without having to do so.

Through American history, you will find essentially three attitudes towards the market. There are actually only two, but one side breaks into two more. You have noninterventionists and two varieties of interventionists—left and right. Chamberlain captures the image of the early self-sufficient, non-interventionist types of American lore:

The mystery—and  miracle—of early America is that people went to places before there was any way to get there—and took care of their transportation and marketing needs afterward. They followed Boone’s old trace to the Cumberland Gap and moved by Indian trails to the open “streets” trampled by the buffalo. They clawed their way over the Alleghenies, following the ridges above the tributaries of the  Susquehanna and the Monongahela—and when they couldn’t find a way of getting their corn or wheat to market because of its bulk, they distilled it into whisky and shipped it back to civilization by pack horse. Pioneers settled in Marietta and Cincinnati (once called Columbia ) on the Ohio River somehow—and once in the West, and presumably “cut off” from their old homes, they made seagoing ships that actually sailed all the way back to the Atlantic by way of the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. In less exalted fashion they used crude flatboats to get their produce to New Orleans, returning overland by the Natchez Trace, a devious wilderness road where they risked losing the profits of their husbandry to a new breed of land pirate that infested the gloomy woods and canebrakes.9

The other two groups we have already essentially discussed—their decedents became the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. In promise, they each offer only relative improvements upon the other, and in practice, both resorted to centralization and leveraging of government power to subsidized favored industries, impose tariffs, taxes, deficit spending, etc. Neither side, despite any lip service to liberty or free trade, stood on principle in the area of free markets.

Nevertheless, two great successes for market freedom occurred in that founding era. The first came with the Constitution, and the other came with the rise of industry. First, the Constitution created the largest free-trade zone in the world. This is perhaps the most important advance in the western world next to the optimistic Christian worldview which made it possible. By unifying interstate commerce and eliminating potential trade wars and turf wars between States, the Constitution achieved this goal.

This was a consequence of the Constitution; however, we should note that it certainly would not have required the imposition of the whole Constitutional settlement to bring it to pass, and in fact we shall see how that whole fabric has actually abetted the gradual centralization of commerce that has occurred since. It would have only necessitated at the most a tweak of the Articles of Confederation, or else a Congressionally approved treaty signed by any State that wished to participate (and few would have declined, all else being equal) to bring about the desired results. In fact, an early attempt at solving some of these issues more locally could have been a successful model: the 1785 Mt. Vernon Compact was an agreement reached between a few representatives of Maryland and Virginia during a meeting at George Washington’s house. It was essentially a free trade agreement between the states and agreed to share the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers. It could not have been a legal treaty, of course, since the Articles forbid interstate treaties not approved by Congress; but the proposal and the agreement were certainly a model for success. But instead of pursuing this route which would remained uncoupled with greater political centralization, the gentlemen involved decided to have a bigger, better version of the Conference with all the States. This occurred the following year at Annapolis but was largely a failure due to low attendance from several States. A bigger, better Conference yet was pushed for by a small group of men, and achieved. This led to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, but by now the nationalist coup was tightly in control. Out of this came the Constitution and the system we have today. We will discuss more about this later.

The second major event was the industrial revolution. Vast increases in technology, manufacturing, transportation, and communications in a short period of time totally transformed production, lowered prices on consumer goods, and increased standards of living. Chamberlain provides a great example in one vignette:

The year is 1803, and Terry, the teacher of a long line of Yankee clockmakers, is already making clocks in his Naugatuck Valley [CT] factory for which he has no storage space. With four clocks ready for sale Terry has to tear himself away from his mill, load the clocks into saddlebags, and take off over the hills toward “York State,” walking beside his horse because the load is too heavy to permit a passenger. The clocks are offered at $25 each on the installment plan; when cash is entirely lacking they are “sold” for corn meal, beeswax, sailcloth, or woven cloth, commodities that can be bartered on the way home or passed on to workmen in lieu of cash wages. Four years later Terry has a bigger mill—and has adopted the full Eli Whitney technique of punching out standardized and interchangeable wheels and clock faces. He is now prepared to sell a clock for $5. . . .10

Thus in a mere four years did production techniques drop his product price by 80 percent. As soon as transportation caught up with the revolution—better roads, canals, the steam boat—sales would increase heavily.

Of course, the process of developing these roads, canals, etc., as well as many other big ventures, was hardly left to free markets alone. In many, many cases, companies took loans and grants from the government, secured monopolies and thus profits based on government intervention. But even in an atmosphere of rigged markets, the free market was always close, ready and often successful with competition and alternatives. Chamberlain relates this throughout American history:

Monopolies—oil was the most notorious of them—waxed fat only to recede into the pack, sometimes pursued by antitrust laws, as later arrivals came on the scene. Meanwhile new products and processes continually rose to compete with the old. Aluminum, even when there was only one company in the field, had to fight it out with wood at one extreme and steel at the other. Du Pont artificial fibers freed the textile business from dependence on cotton, silk, and wool. The railroads were controlled more effectively by competition from automobile and truck and airplane than they were by the ICC. From telephones to television, the electrical revolution leaped from dependence on wires to dependence on wave lengths in God’s free ether. Came, too, the supermarkets and consumer credit, washing machines, home freezers, and the split-level ranchhouse which never looked upon a longhorn steer.11

With successes such as these, both left and right interventionists have always been able to speak in favor of free market, but it’s always been largely an illusion on their part. Free markets persist in many ways not because of either major party, but mainly despite their various interventions. We can, however, say with confidence that the free market has historically prevailed more here in America than anywhere else. This is what has made her great and wealthy, and this is what has created the lasting reputation of America as a land of opportunity. The idea has been trampled many times, but it does shine through the cracks of the government superstructure that has so often overshadowed our greatest resource: the law of God, the belief in protecting private property, liberty, and life.

As well, we can say with confidence that average Americans once understood this and sought to practice it—private property, enforcement of contracts—beginning with their own bare hands. And when allowed to remain free, free markets have indeed worked and worked well. It took the efforts of many centralizers to railroad America into economic tyranny. We’ll tell that story in the next section.

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

Notes:

  1. This is distinguished from the first, or “priestly,” table which delineates man’s duty primarily to God. Thus Jesus said all of the law is summed up in the two greatest commandments: love the Lord you God with all your heart, etc. (priestly duty), and love your neighbor as yourself (civil duty) (Matt. 22:37–40).
  2. Excepting of course cases of punishment for crimes.
  3. And as specifically revealed in Scripture as punishable offenses.
  4. Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, 2nd Ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006), 93.
  5. 1961. Reprint, Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991.
  6. Chamberlain, xvii.
  7. See John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969).
  8. See Murray N. Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Volume 2, “Salutary Neglect”: The American Colonies in the First Half of the 18th Century (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers, 1975), 65–66.
  9. Chamberlain, 63.
  10. Chamberlain, 64.
  11. Chamberlain, The Enterprising Americans, xxii–xxiii.
Categories: Worldview

This is how you get a dictator

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:17

Way back in 2010, I predicted the TEA party would fail, and why. I was right (pat, pat). The same year, I posted an article called “Five Truths Republicans Hate.” The basic thread running through each of these wake-up calls is this: Republicans shout “socialism” when the left does its thing, but too many of them shout “more” when their own side does the same type of things. This, friends, is not only why we can’t have nice things—like freedom—it’s also how we get a dictator.

So, for example, when Obama brags about his “pen and phone,” Republicans shout “dictator!” “Tyrant!” But when Trump rules by fiat, too many of them beat their chests and shout, “hoorah!”

The move toward dictatorship creeps slowly. One side has power for a while, and gradually ratchets up power, gradually pushes the envelope of extraconstitutional powers, gradually accrues to the Executive greater breadth of power, gradually sets new precedents of tyranny. During this time, those who are partisan to the side in power work diligently to excuse, justify, and uphold all such actions as necessary, just, and right. They may even take the time to manufacture reasons why the extraconstitutional is actually constitutional—such has been the “wax nose” version of constitutional interpretation since Marshall and Hamilton.

During the same span, those opposed to the party in power will protest and flame the airwaves with shouts of “socialism,” “tyranny,” “dictator,” “out of control,” “Tenth Amendment,” “Constitution,” and maybe even an insincere flirt with “secession!”

But this will only last so long. When the sides flip at the next election, the roles almost immediately reverse. Two years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think that average liberals would have the words “Tenth Amendment,” “nullify,” and “secession” on their lips, but behold, “Calexit” is a real thing. Simultaneously, the Alt-Right emerged from the ashes of the TEA Party—and many more inglorious places—and is now playing the role of cheerleader to the new Demander in Chief. The new one, by the way, always has as his starting point the extraconstitutional precedents set by the old one—and he will springboard from them for his own agenda. If and when it is suggested he may be acting like the last dictator, or even worse, his actions are justified as “within the bounds of the law,” “law and order,” and “necessary to restore order.”

During his campaign, Trump famously bragged that his supporters were so loyal, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and gun someone down in cold blood—and they would still support him.

Many people accepted this as a joke. It was not a joke. And while I don’t think we have to worry about finding out whether they would actually support a Trump who committed murder (although every new president will now still be supported after their extra-judicial drone strikes), we will see this mind-numbingly irrational loyalty as they justify every step he will take trampling the Constitution in the name of “necessity” and “law and order.”

In fact, you don’t have to wait. After I wrote about Trump’s mindless, uninformed encouragement of police to ramp up civil asset forfeiture, I was utterly shocked by the people falling over each other not only to support him, but shrugging at the constitution, and even openly supporting the idea of having a dictator to “restore the republic.”

I am sorry that I do not have the time to sit here and type out the infinite number of exclamation points appropriate to punctuate that last sentence—but it needs them.

Here are a few examples of the sentiments expressed by such people who now feel empowered behind the wheel:

The problem is, sir, that this country has gotten SO bad, that the ONLY way to correct it, would [be] to get a dictator in there to do the job. Never again… I hope. But we are still going in the right direct now.

That sentiment is obvious: the leftists ruined the country so badly that we now need and should want a dictator to fix it! Of course, he’ll be a good dictator and just restore everything to the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. And since he’s so good, we shouldn’t mind letting him suspend the Constitution for the time being in order to get back to the Constitution.

I’d rather be gunned down by Trump in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

I have many times criticized the Right for its implicit practice of “My socialism is OK.” Now it has progressed to, “My dictator is OK.”

Another commenter made the same point, if only by implication:

It seems that the Soros financed thugs are doing everything to necessitate a police state. How on earth do you deal with drugged up incoherent violent protestors who never stop? Combined that with the eight year push for open boarders and refugee invasion from Muslim countries to the western world, BLM calling for violence against police and white people, and a growing population of mind controlled youth, how is a conservative president expected to uphold the law and insure the protection of law abiding CITIZENS and legal residents?

So we can excuse our dictator’s actions by blaming the resulting police state on a necessity created by the other side. “Don’t blame me for ramming Trump down your throat. You made it necessary.”

Similar justifications roll:

[E]verything he’s doing/done has been for the benefit of law-abiding Americans, not butt-hurt snowflakes, perverts, degenerates, illegals and the like.

Got that, a major justification comes in whom the president’s actions help. If it’s my side—only the “law abiding,” of course!—it’s good!

Such polarized mindsets can often sound well-justified, but sometimes the racialism and racial phobias peak through:

[T]he only person of about 22 possible people who could have been the next president in summer 2015 who was willing to even talk about how whites are being civilly genocided via immigration got elected. . . . If the liberals’ “changing demographics” keeps up, you’ll be worried about a hell of a lot more than asset forfeiture.

Get that: this person is convinced whites are being “civilly genocided.” In order to counteract this freak tactic of the left, we must be ready to submit to tyrannies like civil asset forfeiture, for the alternative is so much worse!

Folks, do you want a dictator? Because that’s how you get a dictator.

This is a form of government called “The end justifies the means.” While this phrase is often associated with Machiavelli—rightfully, even though he never said it in those terms—it has been on the lips of every tyrant from ancient times unto today. Were its proponents candid on the front end—as some of our commenters above have been—they would say,

Who cares about the rule of law, as long as I get my way in the end?

This is how dictators think. It is also how criminals think. Both usually think they can get away with it, but dictators usually have more help from the public.

This is the path to tyranny and totalitarianism, because it will willingly sets aside the rule of law in order to achieve the points of a partisan agenda. If you think the path to restoring the Constitutional rule of law is the set aside the Constitutional rule of law, I cannot imagine a more fitting conclusion.

Categories: Worldview

The “two kingdoms” tyranny

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 10:08

The tyranny of the Welfare States under which we currently live (throughout the world, but the West especially) is a direct outfall of “two-kingdoms” style theology. By setting up a false division between heavenly and secular matters, the Church has consistently misallocated its wealth and abdicated its social responsibilities. Then, when the poor—even the poor within the Church—come into need, they are told, or it is assumed, that their needs shall be met by the civil order (presumably not Christian, or quasi-Christian at best). How’s it look for Christian charity when the Christians direct their own to the pagans for charity—and when these pagans got their funds through theft to begin with?

The reason why things like the recent health care debacle always eventually get passed—just as Social Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, and subsidies galore, galore—is because the Churches have consistently failed to meet these needs when they should. And they have failed because they never try. And they never try because they believe these things do not pertain to the function of the church. And they do not believe these things pertain to the function of the church because their theologians have assured them for centuries that the Church’s only job is to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. The Church is the “Heavenly Kingdom,” we are told. Everything thing else—all those “worldly” matters—pertains to the “Earthly Kingdom.” Thus we have “Two Kingdoms,” and never the twain shall meet until Christ returns.

Meanwhile we have a world filled—and churches filled—with people who have needs: financial needs, health needs, debt needs, old age needs, etc., etc. These are all things addressed by both 1) Old Testament law, and 2) New Testament teaching (usually based on Old Testament law). But the “Two Kingdoms” mentality tells us that 1) Old Testament law no longer applies, except maybe the Ten Commandments in a vague moral sense (what you do in your private life), and 2) social and civil matters must be left to fall out according to God’s providence—common grace—in the realm of nature and under the rule of earthly governments. Que sera, sera! So they ignore the vast majority if not all of the Bible’s social teaching. Then they direct their people to the pagan Welfare State for social needs.

So, for example, when Paul gives very clear directions to the Church on how to take care of needy widows, the Church today largely ignores this teaching. If a Christian widow over sixty with no money, no family, and no prospects came to the church, what would the church do? Would it pour over 1 Timothy 5 for matters of principle? Would it be prepared to support her indefinitely if necessary? Or would it assume she should live off of the State instead? For most, sad to say, the question of supporting her would not even arise.

A Reformation Legacy

Social issues like these have pressed the Church all through history. Social grievances lay behind the Peasants’ Revolt in 1525, which Martin Luther himself at first supported as God’s cause, but then vehemently opposed when their violence threatened his own job. It was Luther’s one-time colleague Andreas Carlstadt who appealed to the Bible for the church and the nobles to address the social problems. Luther had the “Two Kingdoms” mentality; in fact, he did more to popularize it among reformers and subsequent protestant theology than anyone: Moses does not apply at all, and the Bible does not apply to social and civil affairs.

Against Carlstadt’s local church, Luther blurted: “We don’t want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament.”1 For Luther, no biblical law applied or could apply to the civil realm. The civil realm by definition lay outside the Kingdom of Christ. There could be no Christian or Biblical civil order. The rulers were left unshackled by any law except, as Luther would argue, whatever was necessary to keep the peace. So the rulers expanded their powers, annexed more land, and raised taxes. The taxes went to help support nobles and then place State-sanctioned clergymen in the churches. These clergymen, dressed in fine clothes, on State’s payroll, then preached that the people should submit to the State’s payroll and not challenged it from the Bible. This was their way of ensuring “peace”—peace of mind for them.

The State clergy, including Luther, loved the arrangement. They enjoyed nice buildings, nice pensions, nice clothes, and the protection of the State. The common people on the other hand, had a rough time of it: they had to pay exorbitant fees, taxes, rents, and continually lost freedom of mobility, land, resources, and even status. For this they received the luxury of preachers they didn’t want, who preached what they didn’t believe, dressed in fine clothes paid for by taxes the people paid. Oh, and “peace.”

Carlstadt gained Luther’s and his patrons’ ire by pointing out that they did in fact refer to Moses selectively when it served to line their own pockets. He chided them: “Yet, however unskilled and foolish you are, you still demand the appropriate interest and tenth [tithe]. You gather in rents and moneys and thus put the poor under great pressure whom you cannot teach but whom you know how to cheat.”2 He himself had taught his flock the finer points of Mosaic justice, including the poor laws, inheritance laws, and laws against theft, etc. These laws, obviously, the nobles and their fat lackeys in the pulpit did not want the crude masses (as they saw them) to hear. Carlstadt knew these State-sanctioned drones would work to undo everything he preached. He blasted them:

What should you preach if you can do no better than to limp behind your master of all error, having no concern about what you are still doing wrong[?] And you preachers in your gilded shirts, look out for me. As soon as I find some leisure, you shall have no peace and you shall have trouble with me until your preaching is more firmly grounded and you have ceased or changed you carnal living.3

Luther believed the law only had use for the unbelievers, which he equated with the masses. These ignorant beasts need the law to frighten them into not sinning. Luther, his followers, and the princes used this doctrine to live sumptuously while they imposed great tax burdens on these assumed unbelievers. Carlstadt was playing spoilsport: “Whom will you frighten off sin when you wallow and delight in your sins and preach delight in sin?”4

Carlstadt would rather see preaching of right living to both the masses and the princes. This would necessitate clergy with a different attitude and doctrine:

I know then that you shortchange your preaching when you preach the law contrary to the law and intention of the Holy Spirit. I would like to tell you something here which might benefit the small flock of God. But I know full well that you have so much to do with your large incomes, rents, and registers, that it would be more beneficial for me to write to pigs and dogs than to you.…

If you preachers would properly carry to market the pieces pertaining to the law (of which Moses writes exceedingly well and which Christ also had in his preaching), the small people of God might be led to the right pasture; but you give them chaff and sugar-coated poison to eat.5

Carlstadt knew that Luther and his listeners did not want the masses to accept Moses for the very reason that it would mean a huge reformation of the very civil code by which they fleeced the masses and fattened themselves. According to Moses, half of their civil code was at least uncharitable if not illegal. The nobles didn’t want Moses valid, and Luther—just as the Catholics had done for centuries before him—worked very hard to keep him invalid (except in the few instances they found him useful, for example, on tithes). Moses simply didn’t apply to Christian princes, they said. Carlstadt saw this as a rejection of the biblical model, and he strongly desired that the people be ethically armed against oppression:

I see well, of course, how the prophets worked in proclaiming sins and what effort and work they had with the supreme princes, kings, and priests of the Jews in making them recognize their sins, and how they failed in this. It would be good if simple Christians could understand such secret and treacherous sins, for there are several which have such good appearance in the eyes of the world that Dr. Luther himself refuses to acknowledge them as sinful and wicked, though God is truthful and Luther a liar.6

(Much more about the historical background to the Reformation and these “two kingdoms”-type abdications can be found in my recent Blaming Moses: Rejections of Mosaic Civil Law during the Early Reformation.)

Still UnReformed

Today’s churches, like Luther, refuse to preach the law to the princes, kings, and themselves. They ignore laws that pertain to social issues, and abdicate their responsibility to the “other kingdom”—the State.

But they still pass the plate. They still want the giving. They still dress finely and build enormous buildings. This is not bad per se, but the Church building and the pastors’ salaries are historically the greatest portion of the Churches’ budgets. And when the church grows, what do we do? We take in more money and build yet a bigger building, sometimes borrowing millions—thereby pledging future tithes to the building. Money is drained and drained for these purposes. And what return do we get on these investments? What stewardship? A building that sits empty up to six days a week. And should someone in the church turn up with long-term health, insurance, or dependency issues, they get directed to the extorting State for their help: “There’s no program here for that.”

Now, this is not absolute. I have personally witnessed charity in many ways and for many causes given out of Church emergency funds. But this is a far cry from the community of charity, financial counsel, and earthly redemption that the Church is called to be. We focus so much on preachers and buildings, that who can tell me of a denomination that has even considered setting up a denomination-wide health insurance plan for the poor, funded by tithes? I want to be proven wrong on this. Let me hear it. Please. What church, denomination, convention, confederation, or group of churches has set up social security, welfare programs, poor relief programs, financial counseling, debt counseling centers, etc., for its people. Few if any have anything like an old-age pension for anyone except their clergy. If they do, they never speak of them and keep them well hidden.

Decades ago, the Catholic Church in America made a conscious decision not to fund their nuns in old age. The church simply doesn’t foresee having enough money. This was a conscious abdication of the Church’s responsibility (despite what one thinks of nuns in general). The nuns where directed to go to the State. Why did it come as a surprise that an organization representing 90 percent of nuns in America backed Obama’s health care reform, despite the fact that their own bishops unified against it? The very Church they should depend on directed them to the State for sustenance.

Making Changes

Do you know how easy it would be for church bodies to create such programs as non-profit organizations? A few already exist as private companies, like Samaritan ministries. Every denomination should, and could, have its own. All it would take is a simple re-budgeting, and thus, a resetting of our priorities as Christians. Ah, but there’s the rub.

It would also mean ignoring the nonsensical Platonic pietism of the Two Kingdoms crowd. Yes, of course, we need the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the sacraments. Personally, I think we need much more of the Lord’s Supper in our churches. But the church is much more. Preaching and communing must drive us to good works. If the church is only to emphasize preaching and sacraments, then how can it escape the censure of St. James as part of the “be ye warmed and filled” crowd? The devil can do as much. Without directing their people to do good works and to fund good works through their tithes, these Two-Kingdoms preachers are no better than thieves—an organized scheme of extortion to line their pockets and build bigger buildings while preaching sermons about why our funds should go to pay preachers and build buildings. This is organized crime—a Pulpit Mafia, Gangsters for Jesus.

We need good works. And what good works should these be? Coffee and donuts and small-talk after church service? I think James had in mind the giving of clothing and food to those among us who had need of it. Enough of prayer and preaching at this point. Act. I think Paul and the apostles had in mind the sort of society envisioned by Moses: where economic freedom reigns, and where the law allows avenues for the poor among us to regain a foothold and become productive. And as a last resort, for the really destitute, the truly poor, they could find support.

Every church member who reads this ought to give a copy to their pastors and elders. They should begin to look into ways in which their churches or denomination could begin to live up to the Biblical standard in these areas. It will probably take some sacrifice. I will take a lot of faith and vision. Most of all, it will take a lot of work and perseverance. Sacrifice, faith, vision, work, perseverance: what else could be more Christian? So why say it belongs in any other Kingdom?

(This article is also available in my collection similar essays, Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology.)

Notes:

  1. Martin Luther, “Against the Heavenly Prophets in the matter of Images and Sacraments,” Selected Writings of Martin Luther: 1523–1526, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 170.
  2. Carlstadt, “Several Main Points of Christian Teaching,” The Essential Carlstadt: Fifteen Tracts, 359.
  3. Carlstadt, “Several Main Points of Christian Teaching,” The Essential Carlstadt: Fifteen Tracts, 360.
  4. Carlstadt, “Several Main Points of Christian Teaching,” The Essential Carlstadt: Fifteen Tracts, 360.
  5. Carlstadt, “Several Main Points of Christian Teaching,” The Essential Carlstadt: Fifteen Tracts, 360.
  6. Carlstadt, “Several Main Points of Christian Teaching,” The Essential Carlstadt: Fifteen Tracts, 361.
Categories: Worldview

Trumparchy and the police state

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 08:52

This week we caught a glimpse of Trump acting as pure monarch. Even worse than Obama’s famous appeal to his “pen and phone” to bypass Congress, Trump just did something even more extreme: rule by mere fiat. Of course, this actually says something more about the extremity of some of our laws as well—and it could matter to you greatly.

Donald Trump, if anything, has proven he will remain Donald Trump while president: brusque, vulgar, boundless, uninhibited. The media has made it a question since the moment he announced he would run: they thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. The media, and many politicians, kept wondering at what point he would turn a corner an act “presidential.” Once he actually started campaigning? No. After the primary? No. Once elected? Nope. They just don’t get it. He’s not changing. Of course, that is very entertaining in many ways.

It’s also very dangerous.

The week after the election, I predicted this:

With Trump, the greatest danger will, I think, result from an attempt to get tough on crime and terrorism: there will be a tremendous ramp-up in the police state, and since it will no longer be Obama behind it, Republicans will be far less likely to resist further erosions of the Fourth and Fifth amendments, and others. This has the potential to be a liberty-destroyer, and Christian conservatives will be cheering it on like they would a declaration of war on Iran to “defend Israel.”

Nowhere has this danger been on more prominent display than last week, when a group of sheriffs met with Trump to discuss the types of things sheriffs think they need from the Federal government. This in itself is frightening, considering sheriffs ought to be a protection from upper levels of tyranny, not dependent upon it for funds, arms, and freedom from pesky constitutional restraints—things King Trump seems almost too eager to grant. Along these lines, one sheriff got straight to the point:

The two things Sheriff John Aubrey, Jefferson County, Kentucky, requested were, first, expansion of the federal program that allows local police departments to use surplus military equipment. Think SWAT raids, armored personnel carriers, etc. The reasoning here was interesting as well: such equipment is made for war, and “were used in the war,” and, the Sheriff added, “they helped us in our war.”

That alone should be enough to alert you to the fact that we have a police state problem in this nation. When local sheriffs refer to police work as “war,” and request war “materials,” you know the line between civilian and military had been eroded, even if only psychologically, in the minds of key law enforcement leadership.

But the more egregious thing comes in the second request: to ramp up, again, the evil that is asset forfeiture.

Now, if you’re not aware of what asset forfeiture is, read my previous report on it. In short, it’s a procedure by which government agencies can legally take your property—cash, cars, homes, etc.—without charging you for any crime (ever), put the legal burden of proof on you to get it back, create multiple legal and bureaucratic stumblingblocks to prevent you from doing so, and make it so difficult and costly to do so, you’ll probably just give up and let them keep the money.

And yes, it is widely abused. This is where the sheriff’s bluff comes in:

People want to say we’re taking money without due process. That’s not true. You know, we take money from dope dealers.

The problem is, it is true. Other groups of law enforcement leaders have actually met and bragged to each other about how they abuse the process, and taught each other how to abuse the process, to gain extra cash and swank vehicles for their departments.

But this unimaginable abuse is perpetrated every day, often against totally innocent people who are never charged with a crime, and it flies under the color of law, justified because the fine men in blue are fighting this war against dope dealers.

But this sheriff assured Trump that the process was curtailed because “they make up stories.”

What followed, however, is probably about the most frightening things you can imagine a President doing. At first, Trump seems circumspect—shocking, I know. He listened. He asked a couple questions. He seemed to want to help, but act cautiously. He bounced ideas off people in the room. Seemed like he was engaging counsel. Downright presidential, that.

Not for long.

Trump went from judicious to train wreck in the space of about one minute. Even when he was informed that the pressure to curtail asset forfeiture—which 70 percent of the public opposes—was coming from Congress—you know, the people who are supposed to make the laws—Trump scoffed that Congress was about to get beat up by the public for making such obviously stupid decisions.

Then, train wreck went to atomic meltdown of constitutional order. Trapped in an echo chamber of legalized thieves, Trump asked if any of them even understood the other side of the argument: why would anyone want to stop this? All heads shook, “No.” Then Trump asks,

Do we need any legislation or any executive orders for that?

He was informed no. The responding advisor said all they need was “encouragement.”

That was all it took to energize the Trumpocracy. Immediately he decreed to the sheriffs, “You’re encouraged.”

He added, laughing, “I love that answer. That’s better than signing executive orders!”

Think Mel Brooks. It’s good to be the king.

Folks, that’s all it takes for your rights to be swept away in American today. Two words from Caesar’s mouth and the laughing wave of a hand.

James Otis, Jr., be damned.

Now let me be quick to admit that the advisor was correct. Ramping up this program further does not need any legislation or executive orders. It just needs some tyrant to encourage it. And as you can see from this episode, this room full of tyrants, and the tyrants throughout the links provided above, we have no shortage of tyrants encouraging it.

But the most frightening part is the abject neglect on King Trump’s part to consider that there may be more to the story. Law enforcement has spoken. Trump believes them. So let’s have more of it.

No investigation. No questions. No counterpoint. Not the least bit of suspicion. No due diligence. No wisdom, whatsoever.

The remedy here has to be to let Trump and the rest of these tyrants know the underlying fact: the pressure to stop this legalized theft comes from the people through Congress. We need to and must maintain this outcry of opposition to keep up the pressure. Instead of expanding this practice, we need to eliminate it.

Here’s the video of the conference, with the end of if being a roomful laughing at the joke about destroying a state Senator’s career for opposing asset forfeiture. Haha!

Watch the whole video, for the last minutes are an officer’s dash cam video of the seizure of a guy’s cash. The officer literally brags to the guy that he seizes cash every day, for a living, and gets away with it because the people don’t want the legal headaches and legal fees in trying to get it back.

People, the corruption is thorough. It is in your local departments, too. Departments all over the country are not only practicing this or similar measures, many are now dependent on the cash flow they get from it. Innocent people are suffering for the very type of invasive tyranny over which the nation fought for independence. We are now crawling with it ourselves. And now, it is again being encouraged by monarchical fiat, in ignorant opposition to mass majority public opinion and Congress.

It seems like America is right back where she started in 1761. Trump is now our George III. But, like I predicted above, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are eroded, and Christians and conservatives are cheering it in the name of being “tough on crime” and fighting the war on drugs. Wake up, America. Wake up, church.

Categories: Worldview

Kiarre Harris and the State’s kidnapping tyranny over children and families

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 12:33

Kiarre Harris, following the laws of the State to the letter, has been bereft of her children for over a month. She is not alone, and you need to pay attention why.

About 150 years ago, the states and federal government in this land erected one more god. This god grew and matured, and its altar of worship was finalized less than 40 years go. Kiarre Harris, a single mother from Buffalo, New York, was summoned to this god’s Court recently for alleged “child neglect.” According to one report, the god saith, “Respondent recently posted a comment on social media ridiculing the school system and people who attend school or graduate from school.” Kiarre learned from court orders that she was being summoned to appear before the all-seeing, all-knowing, social-media-spying Messianic State.

Although Kiarre claims her statement was twisted, we see clearly that the Department of Education equates criticism of the work of its hands with blasphemy. Yes, blasphemy laws still do exist, they have only been revised to protect the secular state’s gods. Its words, “Respondent appears to have a problem with whatever school the children are attending,” again reveal that the god of education cannot and will not be questioned.

Kiarre Harris says that on January 13, 2017, she was stopped by the police, snatched out of her vehicle, her vehicle impounded. While police refused to read her rights, she was arrested and handed court summons. She claims they demanded to know where her children were in order that they may “remove them from her custody.” She knew, and we know, that phrase is government-talk for legal kidnapping. Kiarre Harris says she has never been arrested and never been charged with anything before in her thirty years.

The nature of this crime committed by these police officers is not foreign to the subject at hand. It is not surprising that a system which will penalize property owners—whether they have children in public schools or not, or whether they even have children—for not paying for public schools. If you don’t pay your tithes and bring your sacrifice to the Messianic State, and contribute to a system that cultivates people willfully to enslave themselves to the State, you will be punished.

On January 19, Kiarre posted the following:

My children and I are still being stalked and harassed. Last night the agent Amanda Bennion followed us with police officers. The officers claimed they were searching me to make sure I didn’t have anything on me. I told them that by law they have to have a female police officer do that. But they proceeded to sexually assault me by pulling my shirt up and pulling my pants down.

The extent to which the government will go in order to proclaim its sovereignty over you is disturbing. Kiarre took her children out of public schools because she was displeased with their system and indoctrination. The fact that she even had to send a letter of intent to her district and an “Individualized Home Instruction Plan,” shows how the government claims itself to be the parent, if not God himself. She would have to follow up with attendance records and quarterly reports and annual assessments.

One goal of homeschooling is supposed to be freedom from this type of bondage, yet the State still insists on some control. Every state has different laws regarding homeschooling. However, the fact that there are any regulations over education by the civil government is unbiblical and is not God’s design. The government oversteps its authority when it dictates how you should teach your children, where you can teach your children, what you must teach your children, when, and how long you should teach your children, etc. Simply put, it is none of the State’s business. Any critical thinker can see that regulating education means that the state must to some extent own you and your children. Many would deny this or call it an exaggeration, but it’s actually much like the old slave days. Masters and politicians denied that they “owned” the actual persons of the slaves, but only affirmed ownership to their labor. Yet they exercised the right to exact that labor however they could. It was de facto ownership of the person under a different name. So it is today. The State claims it has an interest and a duty in the education of children, and it does whatever it wants in order to exercise that right; it is de facto ownership of our persons.

Ms. Harris is very aware of this type of corruption. She is an activist who uses the spoken word to express her frustration. Nevertheless, she followed all the proper steps of removing her children from public schools. According to buffalonews.com, the district reported “Harris had problems with Child Protective Services prior to when she began homeschooling the children in early December.” They claim that her claims are inaccurate—but they refuse to provide any more details. Other reports, however, say the district is claiming the reason CPS was even contacted by the schools before she began homeschooling was due to the children’s habitual absence from school. Kiarre claims she was not contacted by CPS until after she had filed proper paperwork and the district had confirmed the children were unenrolled. According to Kiarre, CPS was concerned about their absence from school although they were not even enrolled.

Either way, the government again displays its tyranny when it punishes families for children missing too many days of school. No one even questions why this is a crime. If your child is never enrolled in school, and you never notify the government of your intentions of homeschooling, you and your children will be punished. The truth is, the government does not need to know if you are homeschooling, private schooling, or what.

The court summons Ms. Harris received also claimed that she moved and switched the children’s school too frequently. Ms. Harris denies both claims, but she also argues that even if that were true, that is not a crime. It appears true that her district messed up some paperwork, maybe neglected to communicate well between departments, and instead of correcting its own mistakes, is trying to manufacture a way to justify it. (In fact, one report highlights the fact that the State actually increased its charge against her, with no additional evidence or reasoning, after it had already taken the children away.) Either that, or they are simply punishing Kiarre for her stance against one of its divinities—the public education system—and other injustices in this country.

Kiarre Harris is not alone in being victimized by this legal kidnapping by the State. There are many others who face this same battle every day, whether due to homeschooling, disagreeing with a doctor’s recommendation, or worse. It could even be a meddlesome or vengeful family member staging a completely false allegation, but CPS will intervene and possibly even take action. It could be nothing more than a completely anonymous phone call from a complete stranger—motivated by anything, good intentions or not—and the same can happen, and does happen, frequently.

The solution to this problem is not simply empathizing with, or even assisting, Kiarre Harris in fighting her specific case, but must be to abolish the gods that are the Departments of Education and Child Protective Services everywhere, altogether. No one and no civil government institution has any right to regulate our children’s education. If we fix this issue simply by proving Kiarre Harris followed proper protocol, the real issue has not been addressed and will continue. Just as the Prison system cannot merely be reformed, these gods of the modern, secular, Messianic State cannot be either. They must be abolished and replaced with Freedom. When people demand from the government a “right to education,” they are asking it to be a god over them and their children. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can have a real discussion.

Categories: Worldview

The Messianic Bank

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 09:55

As we seek to dismantle the “Messianic Welfare State,” we must not remain complacent and feel excused in our dependency on the “Messianic Bank.” In America, just as “sex sells,” debt sells. Debt has been made sexy and promotes itself as if obtaining it is inevitable to survive. Sadly, professing Christians in America have bought into this ideology.

Credit scores have been placed on an altar and provided to us as the litmus test of good stewardship. On the contrary, you can have an excellent credit score and at the same time be weighed down by monthly payments for the rest of your life. Is that what good stewardship is? We understand redistribution of wealth as theft, but forget that debt enslaves us (Prov. 22:7). We understand that a system that redistributes wealth is sinful, and although debt is not sinful in and of itself, the banks in America still have created the same dependency mentality. Interestingly, when you track down where the money that the bank loans you comes from, you will find that many times it is theft as well, or counterfeit.

We believe that people should work hard to provide for their own families and for those who are in need (1 Tim 5:8, Eph. 4:28). This would be contrary to living off any government assistance. This would mean that if we want to purchase something then we would need to make sure our wages allow for it. If our wages do not allow for it, then we ought to save for it until we can afford it. However, what is promoted in our culture is, “if you can’t afford it, borrow it from the bank.” We are told to get a credit card, get a personal loan, get a pay day loan, get a collateral loan, or get an equity loan. There is a loan for everything now; you can find instant gratification. There are more and more loans that are actually geared towards people with bad credit—they just carry high interest rates. We are told we need to get at least three lines of credit in order to “build our credit” as soon as we can. Credit card companies target young adults fresh out of high school. Even people who file bankruptcy are attacked by offers from banks immediately after their debt is charged off. Just as the government calls for poor people to depend upon it for their needs, the banks calls out to poor people, middle class people, and even wealthy people to depend upon it for their needs and success.

Government assistance brings people into a trap by giving people just enough to survive, yet keeping them in the cycle of dependency. This allows them to exercise greater control over you than they already have. Whether or not it is their intention for people to remain in the cycle, their intentions are to promote socialism and promote themselves as the refuge for welfare. The bank brings people into a similar trap by giving them as much as they can at the highest interest rate possible, depending on credit, to enslave the person to that debt so that they can continue to profit from it. Depending on the type of debt, such as mortgages, it may be sold several times to other lenders in order to profit more highly and more quickly.

Amazingly, the type of loan that would probably be most beneficial to people is one of the hardest to obtain: a business loan. If you walked into a bank today hoping to obtain $50,000 to start a business, you would most likely have to show some type of track record that the business is already producing funds, or that you have some type of collateral to cover the loan. For many people, if they already had these types of assets they would not need a business loan in the first place.  However, if you want $100,000 to go to college, which does not guarantee a return, it will be thrown at you until you submit. If you want to borrow $250,000 to purchase a home, which will take the rest of your life to pay off, then with decent credit and a job that you may lose tomorrow, you can secure it.  Likewise, anyone can get a car loan, which is one of the worse investments to finance due to depreciation.

Sadly, even many seminaries promote to men and women—who have had no personal discipleship or training under a Pastor, and who are not sure what they will do with their degree—that they should get in mountains of debt to learn theology and biblically how to be good stewards. But how can young men be good stewards of the flock of God when they are not even own their own finances? Many churches go in to hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, if not millions, in order to purchase real estate for their congregations. We are influenced by a nation that goes millions and millions of dollars in debt for unjust wars. Many programs funded by States are not just based on current taxation, but on millions borrowed on the collateral of future taxation. Almost anyone you talk to in our country is in some form of debt. Many people will justify their bondage by calling their debt “good debt.” There is no such thing as “good debt” when speaking in financial terms. Financial debt brings you into slavery: you now have to work in order to pay someone else. Your work is now motivated to paying someone back, when it should be to glorify God and to service others.

Obviously the bible gives room for borrowing money and many people borrowed in Israel, however God’s attitude towards debt is that it is not preferred. He obviously makes room for the poor in situations to be able to get on their feet, to be able to borrow from a brother at no interest (Lev 25:35–38). This was to be a temporary situation and not a lifestyle. We have made debt with interest a lifestyle here in America. We have made the things we consume a standard, which requires people to go in debt in order to keep up with the Joneses. If anything, Christians should not have a mentality of borrowing, but of being in a position to lend. God considered Israel blessed when they were in the position of lending and not borrowing:

Deuteronomy 15:6: “For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

Deuteronomy 28:43–44: “The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail”

Deuteronomy 28:12: “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”

Are we to say that someone who has debt is not blessed? No, we understand that whether poor or rich, in debt or out of debt, does not change a person’s status with God. We understand the physical blessings to Israel were a sign of the covenant he had with them. However, when is the last time you have heard someone thanking God for blessing them with debt? It is one thing to be blessed with the sufferings of poverty for the sake of the Gospel. It is quite another to be burdened with debt.

Proverbs 22:7: The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.

We have to retrain our minds to reject our dependency on the bank just as we reject dependency upon the government. This builds character as it causes us to work harder, to learn patience, and develop good stewardship over what God provides for us, rather than the counterfeit provisions that the bank creates out of thin air or borrows from someone else’s, or another bank’s, bank account. We need to trust God’s fiat instead of the bank’s fiat. Coming up with funds by working hard over time is far more rewarding than the short-term gratification of a loan that puts you in long-term bondage. May our trust be in our Lord and not our credit score.

Categories: Worldview

Spurgeon says, Church Repent

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 09:19

 

It is entirely possible for the church to look alive, but be dead. It may have all the appearance, sound, and praise of a living church. It may have outreach and programs. Yet, it may be dead, and that death may show in what it avoids, deemphasizes, or neglects—or especially when it starts chastising others who do not. In such a situation, the church needs to be called to repent of its apathy and misguided offense.

Preaching on Revelation 3:4, concerning a church that has a reputation for being alive, but is dead, Spurgeon began:

I do think [Dr. Gill] was correct when he declared that the church in Sardis was a most fitting emblem of the church in his days, as also in these. The good old doctor says, “When we shall find any period in which the church was more like the state of Sardis as described here, than it is now?” And he points out the different particulars in which the church of his day (and I am sure it is yet more true of the church at the present day) was exactly like the church in Sardis. I shall use the church in Sardis as a figure of what I conceive to be the sad condition of Christendom at the present moment. . . .

So he’s laid the general foundation for the need to call the church to repentance, and is clear he is applying the words of Revelation to the church of his own day. Now, the charges must come. The first defilement decried is a general hypocrisy:

The first charge of general defilement he brings against the church in Sardis was that they had a vast deal of open profession, and but little of sincere religion. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”

That is the crying sin of the present age. I am not inclined to be morbid in my temperament, or to take a melancholy view of the church of God. I would wish at all times to exhibit a liberality of spirit, and to speak as well as I can of the church at large; but God forbid that any minister should shrink from declaring what he believes to be the truth.

While Spurgeon suggests his natural desire to be positive and get along may tempt him to avoid stepping across the line of brotherly decorum, the demand that a preacher tell the whole truth must win out. Thus,

In going up and down this land, I am obliged to come to this conclusion, that throughout the churches there are multitudes who have “a name to live, and are dead.” Religion has become fashionable. The shopkeeper could scarcely succeed in a respectable business if he were not united with a church. It is reckoned to be reputable and honorable to attend a place of worship; and hence men are made religious in shoals. And especially now that parliament itself doth in some measure sanction religion, we may expect that hypocrisy will abound yet more and more, and formality everywhere take the place of true religion. You can scarcely meet with a man who does not call himself a Christian, and yet it is equally hard to meet with one who is in the very marrow of his bones thoroughly sanctified to the good work of the kingdom of heaven. We meet with professors by hundreds; but me must expect still to meet with possessors by units. The whole nation appears to have been Christianized in an hour. But is this real? Is this sincere? Ah! we fear not.

In such a world of socially-acceptable, surface Christianity, you will find many professing Christians more skilled at polishing their Christian veneer and marketing their Christian brand-name, while at the same time practicing overt sins and insulating themselves from accountability. In the meantime, you’ll often see God using infidels to carry out the real work of the Kingdom because professing Christians, with good doctrine on their lips, kick against the goads. Spurgeon:

How is it that professors can live like other men? How is it that there is so little distinction between the church and the world? Or, that if there is any difference, you are frequently safer in dealing with an ungodly man than with one who is professedly righteous?

Yes, it is often a great shame when unbelievers, or the unorthodox, exhibit Christian ethics—and I would add, activism for issues Christians ought to be advancing—more faithfully than so many professing Christians. Why is it that the culture war for certain basic rights and truths was so much more righteously waged by rationalists like William Lloyd Garrison or quasi-marxists like Martin Luther King, Jr.? When, meanwhile, most of the Christians who had their doctrinal ducks in a row, perfect ecclesiology, sola scriptura and the whole Reformed bit, were the ones degrading and defiling blacks in the 1860s, and fighting for segregation in the 1960s?

Answer Spurgeon’s question: why was it frequently safer with the unorthodox, or even ungodly?

The problem was so widespread, keep in mind, Spurgeon was applying this call to repentance the churches generally:

Take our churches at large—there is no lack of names, but there is a lack of life. Else, how is it that our prayer-meetings are so badly attended? Where is the zeal or the energy shown by the apostles? Where is the Spirit of the living God? Is he not departed? Might not “Ichabod” be written on the walls of many a sanctuary? They have a name to live, but are dead. They have their piety? Where is sincere religion? Where is practical godliness? Where is firm, decisive, puritanical piety? Thank God, there are a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; but charity itself will not allow us to say that the church generally possesses the Spirit of God.

But then Spurgeon calls for something more than piety and doctrine alone. This something must have zeal and action for the kingdom:

Then the next charge was, that there was a want of zeal throughout the church of Sardis. He says, “Be watchful.” He looked on the church and saw the bishops slumbering, the elders slumbering, and the people slumbering; they were not, as once they were, watchful for the faith, striving together and earnestly contending for it, not wrestling against the enemy of souls, laboring to spread their Master’s kingdom, but the apostle saw sleepiness, coldness, lethargy; therefore he said, “Be watchful.”

But that’s not my church, right? Not my elders, right? Spurgeon seems to think there was an overabundance of such Christians:

Oh! John, if from thy grave thou couldst start up, and see the church as thou didst at Sardis, having thine eyes anointed by the Spirit, thou wouldst say it is even so now. Ah! we have abundance of cold, calculating Christians, multitudes of professors; but where are the zealous ones? where are the leaders of the children of God? where are your heroes who stand in the day of battle? where are your men who “count not their lives dear unto them,” that they might win Christ, and be found in him? where are those who have an impassioned love for souls? . . . We go into our chapels now, and we see everything in good taste: we hear the organ play; the psalmody is in keeping with the most correct ear; the gown and the noble vestments are there, and everything is grand and goodly, and we think that God is honored.

Yes, we need more than a nice worship service on Sundays! We need more. We need heroes in battles—which means, we need to get involved in “battles.”

He continues in this strain, then turns a corner. He doesn’t just want zeal, but excited zeal—the kind that draws disapproval from the mainstream:

Do I speak fierce things? . . . WE do believe that the church has lost her zeal and her energy. But what do men say of us? “Oh! you are too excited.” Good God! excited! when men are being damned; Excited! When we have the mission of heaven to preach to dying souls. EXCITED! preaching too much! when souls are lost. Why should it come to pass that one man should be perpetually laboring all the week, while others are lolling upon their couches, and preach only upon the Sabbath-day? Can I bear to see the laziness, the slothfulness, the indifference of ministers, and of churches, without speaking?

There are indeed too many lazy—too many indifferent—ministers. There are too many who, when they see another Christian engaged in excited action for the kingdom, will revile, insult, and chide: “settle down!” “You’ve lost it!” “Where’s the balance?” And if those excited kingdom men don’t immediately settle back into their assigned pews, you can rest assured the ruffled ministers will call them “disobedient.” They may even spread rumors that these energetic, faithful ones have “despised the authority of the church.”

What are we to do about this “indifference”? Spurgeon says, “protest” and preach church repent “now”:

No! there must be a protest entered, and we enter it now. Oh! Church of God, thou hast a name to live, and art dead; thou art not watchful. Awake! awake! arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

In this process of discerning the active, zealous church from the merely professing, ducks-in-a-row church, Spurgeon suggests (solidly) something that may make even lovers of Spurgeon uncomfortable: perhaps the most profitable and active work in the kingdom is actually being done by people we would consider (rightly or wrongly) the less orthodox among us—perhaps even those rejected, insulted, and despised by the theologically healthy, and, yes, by the ministers! Yes, he did:

Mark whether, if ye stand out prominently in the truth, you will not be abhorred and scouted. If you go into a village, and hear of poor people who are said to be doing a deal of mischief, are they not the people who understand most of the gospel? Go and ask the minister who are the persons that he most dislikes? and he will say, “We have a nasty lot of Antinomians here.” What does he mean by that? Men who love the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and will have it, and are therefore called a nasty set of Antinomians. Ah! we have lost what once we had.

Note clearly Spurgeon’s view: when local ministers despise the active zeal of effective Christian parachurch work, they not only condemn it in general, but will be moved to find specific theological objections by which to malign it—even if they are not necessarily true! You can rest assured such leaders will call the work of those nasty unorthodox nutters “mischief”—perhaps even “dangerous.”

Imagine Spurgeon’s point here! A local church pastor thinks a group of Christians is being too active or too focused or too “imbalanced”; instead of reasoning with them from Scripture (which may prove that he is the one wrong), he instead accuses them (perhaps falsely) of some doctrinal deficiency. This will be enough to demonize them in the minds of those who implicitly trust that minister. It will be enough for him to self-justify his inaction, opposition, stubbornness, apathy, jealousy, and/or lies. But note well: it is not the activists here who are in error, but the elder.

Believe it or not, merely stating this fact will be enough for some discernment warriors to conclude I am opposed to authority! But I am only following a principle praised by Spurgeon here: the courage of those who refuse to compromise and bow when we should not!

We do not now “strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die;” they are not looked after as they ought to be, not beloved, not fostered. The salt of the earth are now the offscouring of all things; men whom God has loved, and who have attained a high standing in godliness—these are the men who will not bow the knee to Baal, and who therefore are cast into the fiery furnace of persecution and slander.

Note: Spurgeon is not here speaking of literal furnaces, but of the fires of “persecution and slander.” Read that: slander. And remember the context: some of those involved in this persecution and slander are Christians and ministers.

Spurgeon was not done. His critique was not limited to the Church of England, the Presbyterians, or anyone else. It was Church Repent across the board:

But now I have lifted up the whip, I must have another lash. Look on any section of the church you like to mention, not excepting that to which I belong; and let me ask you whether they have not defiled their garments. Look at the church of England. Her articles are pure and right in most respects; yet see how her garments are defiled. She hath made the Queen her Head instead of God; she bows before the state, and worships the golden calf that is set up before her. . . . But good churchmen themselves weep, because what I say is true.

Then look at John Wesley’s body; have not they defiled their garments? See how they have lately been contending with a despotism as accursed as any that ever brooded over the slaves in America? See how they have been rent in sunder, and how imperfect in doctrine they are too after all, professedly at least, not holding the truth of God.

Look into what denomination you please, Independent, or Baptist, or any other—have they not all defiled their garments in some way or other? Look at the churches around, and see how they have defiled their garments by giving baptism to those who whom it was never intended, and degrading a holy church ordinance to become a mere sop with which they feed their babes. And see how they have taken away Christ’s honor, how they have taken the bread that was meant for the children, and cast it to ungodly persons.

Look at our own denomination: see how it has deserted the leading truths of the gospel. For a proof hereof, I refer you to hundreds of our pulpits. Oh church of God! I am but a voice crying in the wilderness, but I must cry still, “How art thou fallen from heaven, thou son of the morning! how art thou fallen!” “Remember how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.”

“And repent.” “Repent.” “Repent!”

Spurgeon says, Church Repent. So do I. Spurgeon says, when you’re doing good, energetic, excited ministry, you should expected established leaders and moderates to disapprove, call you names, nitpick your theology, and spread rumors. So do I. Spurgeon says, repent, and be encouraged and provoked to what is good and right. So do I.

Now, let’s take odds on how long it takes the village discerners to tell us all that Spurgeon didn’t really mean what he said, or that it only applies to saving souls. Or, we could ignore them and get some more excited work done.

Categories: Worldview

An Abolitionist responds to false allegations (some things never change)

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:11

Of the numberless public misrepresentations that are made of my sentiments and purposes, either through ignorance or malignity, it is very seldom that I am induced to take the slightest notice. The pages of the Liberator, for the last nineteen years, bear witness, that I have voluntarily published hundreds of columns of the most defamatory material against myself personally, without uttering a single word in self-defense; so conscious have I been of the rectitude of my course, and the purity of my intentions. But I am moved to depart from my usual habit, in such cases, by a communication which appeared in the Transcript of Tuesday, under the signature of ‘SIGMA’; first, because the author of it claims to be a gentleman and a Christian—on what grounds I know not; and secondly, because his attack is made in connection with a speech recently delivered by me in New York, which has been wickedly perverted or stupidly misapprehended in various quarters.

. . . He says, ‘it is well known (!) that Mr. Garrison has, upon various public occasions, discharged upon the community impudent and disgusting blasphemy’; . . .

‘SIGMA’ is an adept at the use of opprobrious epithets; but, one thing the readers of his libelous article will do me the justice to remember, and that is, he does not quote a single sentence or word from my lips to sustain his ‘blasphemous’ allegation. For more than twenty years, I have been before the public as an editor and a lecturer; and during all that time, I challenge ‘SIGMA’ to produce anything from my pen or lips irreverent toward God, derogatory to the character of Jesus, or hostile to pure and undefiled religion. What crime have I winked at, what popular iniquity shrunk from rebuking, what cross refused to bear, what peril avoided, what sacrifice in the cause of down-trodden humanity been unwilling to make? Has not my life been devoted to the promotion of all that is pure, lovely, beneficent, and Christ-like? And is it to my shame, or to my praise, that I have fiercely arrayed against me all that is profligate, brutal, profane, lawless, and tyrannical, on the one hand—and all that is cowardly, time-serving, bigoted and hypocritical, on the other? I am feared, anathematized, threatened by those who ‘trade in slaves and the souls of men,’—who insult, degrade and trample upon the image of God—who systematically violate every command in the Decalogue, and every precept in the Gospel:—is this an evidence of my impiety? . . .

What shall be said of the fairness of honor of the man, who takes a garbled report of a speech from a paper intensely hostile to the speaker, and, assuming it to be authentic, makes it the occasion of scattering in this community the most unjust and inflammatory comments upon it? Is this doing as he would be done by? Can anything be more despicable? What I said at New York was comprehensively this—that the popular tests of piety, in this nation, were of no significance, and proved nothing of the love of God or man, because ‘the offence of the cross’ has ceased, and it is everywhere safe and reputable to embrace them. Is this ‘blasphemy,’ or the utterance of an undeniable fact? I said that a profession of faith in Jesus, now costs nothing; for his praises are everywhere sung and his deeds are everywhere lauded,—by none more loudly than by those who enslave and imbrute their fellow-men; and, therefore, this is no longer a true test of piety. Can this be truthfully denied? Finally, I declared my faith in a Jesus who redeems, not enslaves; who binds up the broken-hearted, not crushes the weak; who goes for proclaiming liberty throughout all the land, not for perpetuating human thraldom—the Jesus who lived and suffered eighteen hundred years ago. Was that an impious sentiment? Had I not been riotously interrupted, my design was to have shown how striking has been the analogy between the Anti-Slavery movement in the United States, and promulgation of Christianity in Judea—both experiencing essentially the same treatment, despised and rejected of men, hooted by the rabble, denounced by the Scribes and Pharisees, persecuted by the rulers; their advocates accused of being ‘pestilent and seditious fellows, seeking to turn the world upside-down’ ‘the filth of the earth and the offscouring of all things,’—scourged, imprisoned, and in some cases put to an ignominious death,—accused of blasphemy,—‘in perils of robbers, in perils by their own countrymen, in perils in the city, in perils among false brethren. . . .

From time to time, old things pass away—all things become new. While, in this age and country, the recognition of Jesus, as the Messiah, subjects no one to shame, reproach or peril, eighteen centuries ago, in Judea, it cost everything; and Jesus himself was crucified as an imposter and blasphemer. And still, in the person of THE SLAVE, is he despised, and rejected.

[“TO THE EDITOR OF THE BOSTON TRANSCRIPT [May 17, 1850.],” William Lloyd Garrison. The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume IV: From Disunionism to the Brink of War, 1850-1860, ed. by Louis Ruchames (Cambridge , MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975), 16-22.]

***

It turns out, ‘sigma’ was Lucius Manlius Sargent, something of a classics scholar, poet, and author. He was a fierce denunciator of all that he disliked, among which was immediate Abolitionism. He was also, however, a prominent voice in the temperance movement, and favored prohibitionism for that.

It appears to me that the analogy Garrison wished to draw is just as prominent today in regard to the immediate abolition of abortion. There is not a word drawn from Scripture here which did not apply just as fully to the persecution—built on lies, repeated by religious leaders—of the Abolitionists in the 19th century, and which does not still apply to the Abolitionists of our era. The only difference may be the degree to which murder can be said to exceed the wickedness even of American slavery, and therefore today’s slandering leaders that much more culpable. —JM

Categories: Worldview

What is NOT Theonomy

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:30

The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty

Master Table of Contents

[Note: This is a long essay. I decided to post this whole chapter as a single post instead of breaking it up because I believe it needs to be read as a comprehensive whole. Download a PDF of the entire chapter for FREE if you prefer to print it out or just to read it in that format. Click here for the PDF version.]

***

Students of Theonomy need to be aware that there is more than one distinct group of believers who use the label “Theonomy,” and that although they share some aspects in common, there are critical distinctives which make broad and important differences—for example, between liberty and death. I would like to draw the most important of these distinctives for you in this chapter.

These differences exist for more than one reason. They have arisen partly because theonomic writers have often not thoroughly engaged important Old Testament passages to exhaust some of their most pressing questions. In some cases, writers have not addressed them at all, and in others have addressed them in a clumsy or inadequate way. In the light of calls for a return to Old Testament law in general, this predictably (though unfortunately) led to some writers and readers assuming that death penalties for things like blasphemy and apostasy carry into New Testament times without much thoughtful analysis or exegesis. Furthering this assumption has been the fact that all the Reformers and their followers, along with many prominent ancient and medieval theologians, assumed the civil government had the duty to punish First Table offenses, and thus “Theonomy” was seen by some merely as a return to the Older standards that were once prevalent throughout Christendom. As we will see, however, calling this view “Theonomy” is inaccurate and causes confusion. Finally, there are contemporary movements that in my opinion romanticize the Westminster Divines (selectively anyway), Scottish Covenanters, certain Puritans, Southern Presbyterians, or others. I consider these groups as often consumed with little more than a kind of historical reenactment and role-playing—acting out the dreams of alleged good old days, most of which never really existed anyway. As a result of their zeal for certain historical figures or eras, these guys are rich in historical knowledge and we can learn much from their work (I have). But they seem blinded to the great flaws that beset even the greatest men and documents of those times.

We could probably make several classifications of theonomic writers, but for the purposes of this chapter, I see only two necessary ones. The first is the view outlined in this book. I would call it simply Theonomy. It is based on exegesis of Scripture and reflects God’s law in its entirety as it abides in the New Testament administration. The second view encompasses all the other views mentioned above, for they mostly partake of one key—and in my opinion dangerous—error. I will call this error “Constantinianism,” although we could just as accurately call it Romanism or humanism. It often resorts to man-made laws based upon man’s interpretations of so-called “natural law,” often openly denies the obligatory nature of Old Testament judicial laws, and yet still often desires to have the label “Theonomy” for itself.

We have already made the case for Theonomy according to the Bible, and the enduring nature of the penal sanctions, etc. Here we need to delineate the position in contrast to these later attempts at modern Covenanting, etc., which are not really Theonomy in the biblical sense, and cannot in my opinion claim to represent it. Toward this end, we need to rehearse the historical pedigree of the error of which I speak.

The Great Persecution and the Great Shift

Constantine himself was not as strident in defense of Christianity as some have supposed, but he did begin the establishment of Christianity as a state church, he did outlaw some forms of heresy, and he did assign the punishment of death to some religious offenses. He still allowed forms of pagan worship to continue, but gradually moved against them toward the end of his life. By establishing Christianity, however, he fused Christian ethics with the practices and ethics of Roman law. This would have a lasting effect upon Christians until the times of the English and American Revolutions.

It was Constantine’s contribution to take the  classical pagan Roman law behind emperor worship and reapply it as State-enforced Christianity. The Caesars had practiced emperor worship. They allowed most other sects and cults to flourish under the aegis of the Roman Empire as long as they (in most cases) would simply admit Caesar is Lord. This was a religious confession. Caesar was considered a son of the gods and while on earth was the Pontifex Maximus—the high priest of his people. When a Roman Emperor died, the Senate would proclaim him deified—ascended to the abode of the other gods. When Christians refused the imperial cult and also refused to pay homage to any of the various pagan gods the Romans acknowledged, they were accused of “atheism” and given the standard Roman penalty for sacrilege: death.

Christians found reprieve under some later Roman rulers, but in the late third century, Diocletian embarked on a campaign to restore the Empire to its former glory. This included a renewed emphasis upon the classic Roman religion and a propaganda campaign against Christians—the “atheists” whom Romans traditionally blamed for all of Rome’s major ills. This campaign was used to justify a great persecution of Christians. His edict in A.D. 303 demanded the destruction and burning of churches, confiscation and burning of Bibles, confiscation of all church wealth by the state, and a prohibition on Christian assemblies. Executions followed. The Persecution was even more vigorously taken up the following year by the successor Galerius. Further edicts demanded that Christians could be arrested and forced to sacrifice to the Roman gods upon pain of death.

The persecution, however, did little to eradicate the Christians as he had hoped, and in fact only strengthened their resolve. They actually grew in number. After seven years of senseless bloodshed, Galerius was forced to admit failure and rescind the edicts. It would be the last great persecution of Christians by Romans, and the Christians had not only outlasted it, they grew stronger from it. Even the agnostic author Will Durant recognized the import of what had occurred. Of the end of the Galerian persecution, he wrote,

There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar had met Christ in the arena, and Christ had won.[1]

Caesar may have been broken, but his spirit was still around. Constantine had been acknowledged co-Emperor in 306 and soon solidified his rule. Having recently been influenced by Christianity, he announced the Edict of Milan in 313, generalizing Roman religion and allowing Christianity (along with many other religions) religious liberty. But it was a compromised liberty.

Constantine maintained the title Pontifex Maximus and apparently still entertained the son-of-god status as well, for the Senate apotheosized him later at his death. As a self-conscious high priest, however, the Emperor thought he had to maintain the purity of religion in the Empire. So, he superintended the controversies of the church—the Donatist controversy and the later Arian heresy—with increasing vigor. He ruled in favor of the establishment Bishops and others who had bowed to emperor worship under Diocletian and Galerius in order to save their necks. The Donatists who opposed this were declared in error by the state. When they persisted, Constantine published edicts demanding Donatist churches to be confiscated. Those who continued to create disturbance of the peace would be liable to exile or death.

In the later case of Arius, Constantine declared that their churches and possessions could be seized and that their books must be burned. Any official caught hiding or protecting Arian literature would be given the death penalty.

Constantine’s contributions did not result in mass persecution and extermination of heretics, apostates, or pagans. But what he did was set a precedent that future rulers would expand and abuse. For our purposes, the most important aspect is that in all of this he never had recourse to biblical law—it was the furthest thing from his mind. What he actually did, as we said, is take the imperial cult and the regulations of Roman law and baptize them in favor of an official Christianity. In fact, the enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon claims that some of Constantine’s legislation simply copied the edicts of Diocletian and just replaced the names of who would get the fire. Whether Constantine did this self-consciously or not is not clear, but the effect is.

After Constantine (yes, it gets worse)

Those who followed Constantine intensified his laws. During his reign, many of the Bishops developed a taste for power and wanted more. Some, for example, Lactantius, flipped-flopped immediately on the death penalty. An outspoken critic before, the spiritual counselor to the Emperor himself suddenly hailed his master’s duty to exact vengeance on the wicked.

Within a generation of Constantine, some of the establishment bishops were calling for the power of the state to purge all heresies. Constantine’s limited abuse was on its way to becoming a universal rule. As early as A.D. 346, Julius Firmicus Maternus rose to preeminence as an apologist urging Constantius II to destroy utterly all idolatry and pagan temples, and he would be answered. You can set the demands of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians side-by-side with some of those from Constantine, but especially Constantius II, Theodosius, and Justinian after him, and see that the only difference is that the roles were reversed. Instead of Christians, heretics and some pagans got the ire of the Roman state.

Justinian

Emperor Justinian collected, systematized, and recodified all the laws of these Christian emperors before him. His collection is known as the Corpus iuris civilis (Body of Civil Law), and the heart of it was the twelve tables of the Codex iustinianus, or Justinian Code.

Under Justinian’s Code all heretics were to be suppressed, their buildings taken from them, and their books banned, confiscated, and burned. If they met in private houses, their houses would be confiscated and given to the Catholic Church. Teachers of false doctrines were given the death penalty. One important law (as we shall see later) specifically aimed at the enduring Donatists decreed that anyone merely rebaptizing a person (and the one inducing him to do so) would receive the death penalty.

There were many other religious-oriented death penalties under Justinian’s restoration of the Christian Roman Empire. Attempting to marry a nun was punishable by death. So was interfering with a church service—a direct carry-over from pagan Rome. Jews or pagans were forbidden to proselytize upon pain of death by burning. Jews or pagans could not own Christians as slaves, and if they did they were liable to capital punishment. If a slave owned by a pagan or Jew converted to Christianity, he was set free. If the pagan or Jewish master attempted to dissuade the slave from his new conversion, the master could receive capital punishment.

Existing synagogues were allowed to remain, but building a new one was an offense punishable by death. All pagan temples were ordered closed. Anyone conducting pagan worship services would receive “the extreme penalty”—death by the sword. His property would be confiscated, his heirs disinherited, and the property given to the church.

This Constantinian precedent endured right into the Middle Ages. In the early 800s, Emperor Leo V’s administration led a purge of the heretical sect of Paulicians, allegedly killing up to 100,000.

Again, these laws were nothing more than an exact parallel of what Romans had always done to those who committed sacrilege against Rome. Not a bit of this was done based on Mosaic law, but on carry-overs from pagan Roman law. Mosaic law is not referenced, not required, not in mind, and often repudiated and violated in practice.

Thomas Aquinas

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the direct use of Roman law waned. Throughout Europe, civil laws were a mix of local, tribal laws and Roman law. In 1070, however, a copy of Justinian’s Code was discovered in Bologna. This coincided with the rise of the Papacy to its medieval height, and a legal revolution was born. Over the next several centuries, the Roman law was further developed, universities appeared, and clerics were trained in both ecclesiastical (canon) law and civil law based once again upon Justinian. Throughout this period, the death penalty for certain religious offenses was derived from that same old Roman law.

While there were debates, Thomas Aquinas stands as representative of the establishment view. Thomas called for the death penalty for First Table offenses. He directly discussed heretics and called for their execution.[2] In some cases, he argued, unbelievers who have never been Christians should be tolerated—for example, when they are large in number and compulsion would cause social problems. In other cases, where possible, they should be compelled “so that they do not hinder the faith, by their blasphemies, or by their evil persuasions.” This could include warfare. Unbelievers, however, who had formerly been believers—heretics and apostates—should be subject to bodily compulsion, which as we just read includes death.[3]

Thomas even believed that if a man was considered “dangerous and infectious to the community on account of some sin”—not necessarily even a criminal per se—that man should be executed for the good of the community.[4] This was a Roman idea of government mixed with Aristotelean notions as well.

Again, Aquinas was following establish Roman precedent, not biblical law. While he upheld these First Table penalties, he made clear that he believed the Mosaic judicial law was no longer binding.[5] His answer to the question of the duration of the judicial laws seems to me to formalize what most theologians, including the Reformers, following him would repeat. He says that the ceremonial law is both “dead” and “deadly.” It is dead in that it is no longer binding, but deadly because those who return to it in place of Christ are damning their souls. The judicial law is also dead, just not deadly. In other words, the judicial laws are no longer binding or necessary, but civil rulers would not be sinning if they choose to implement them freely at their own discretion and for their own purposes. They would be fine and not sinning as long as they did not say these laws were necessary because they were God’s laws.

For Aquinas, the Mosaic judicials have absolutely no binding character in the New Testament, and the New Testament prescribed (continued) absolutely nothing in regard to civil punishments. Thus, all judicial penalties “are left to the decision of man.”[6] These decisions need not derive from the Bible, but from human expediency. He adds that such laws are “not essential to virtue in respect of any particular determination, but only in regard to the common notion of justice.” We will see Calvin appropriate this argument later.

So, as with Justinian, we have an odd combination of State-enforced religion upon pains of death, while at the same time a repudiation of the need for Mosaic judicial law. The difference is that Aquinas systematizes the Constantinian/Justinian program in concise form for future theologians.

Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon

The theologians of the Reformation generation were all trained in the same legal traditions that developed from the rediscovery of Justinian. Calvin and Luther, and Luther’s colleague Philip Melanchthon (among many others), were all trained as lawyers in what had become known as the ius commune, or “common law.”[7]

Melanchton wrote the seminal systematic theology of the Reformation, Loci Communes, or “Common Places” (of theology). In it, he clearly denounced the need for Mosaic law, and in fact argued that even the Ten Commandments had been abrogated. Yet he also assumed Aquinas’s argument that a magistrate could, if he wished, use Mosaic laws, but not as if they were of divine obligation. He went on to argue that civil law lies entirely outside the realm of Christian life, and anyone appealing to vengeance or litigation was not a Christian. Similar statements and views can be found in Luther as well. His vulgar denunciation of lawyers fills his early works: “Jurists are bad Christians.” “Every jurist is an enemy of Christ.”[8]

Such an attitutde leaves the realm of law outside the constraints of revelation. Sure enough, this is where Melanchton and Luther would reach, and the results were nearly blasphemous. Melanchthon loved Justinian’s Code so much he praised it as inspired of God. He admitted it was of “heathen origin,” yet went on to say that it contained laws that were “the very voice of God, offered to the human race through wise rulers whose minds God ruled by a special inspiration so that they saw the sources of justice and showed them to others.” No kidding. And he topped even that by stating that parts of that Code could be considered “a visible appearance of the Holy Spirit.”[9]

Based on this Roman legal heritage, both Luther and Melanchthon (and others in their circles in Wittenberg), openly called for the death penalty for certain heretics, particularly Anabaptists. In fact, after their Augsburg Confession was solidified, they began to urge their princes more and more to extirpate the dreaded rebaptizers.

Anabaptists were derided equally by Roman Catholics and Protestants. Even when imperial talks between the two groups fell through, one thing they agreed upon was that Anabaptists should be stamped out. Thus the Catholics reaffirmed Justinian’s old death penalty for rebaptizers, originally created for Donatists, at the Second Diet of Speyer in 1529. Protestants picked up the idea immediately. Melanchthon and Luther began promoting it as early as 1530. When a particularly violent strain of Anabaptists overthrew the city of Münster, they grew even more vehement. Lutheran princes began regularly killing Anabaptists in 1536, with Melanchthon himself often involved in interrogations.

In these cases, Melanchthon did mention the death penalties for blasphemy in Mosaic law, but it is clear he had to stretch the definition of “blasphemy” to include Anabaptism’s practices of private churches and rebaptism. But he was able to find clear license in his beloved Roman precedent founded in Justinian.

Again, these measures came from theologians who had repudiated any need for Moses, yet assumed a Roman law standard for punishing religious offenses. Not only did they not really heed biblical law, this same Melanchthon is the guy who in his Defense of the Augsburg Confession (1531) penned that it was in fact “insane” to impose the judicial laws of Moses.

John Calvin

John Calvin’s views on this issue were little different than those of his medieval predecessors or his Lutheran contemporaries. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he both repudiates the necessity of Mosaic judicial laws and appeals to pagans as justification for punishing religious offenses.

Critics of Theonomy have often pointed out Calvin’s views on the Mosaic judicials, and they are largely correct. Calvin wrote,

[T]here are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which, neglecting the political system of Moses, is ruled by the common laws of nations. Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish.[10]

Note briefly Calvin’s default alternative: “the common law of nations.” This is a reference to the Justinian tradition of ius commune which had been passed down, and in which he had been trained. Calvin then goes on to argue that the judicial laws of Moses were “taken away” and thus, “surely every nation is left free to make such laws as it foresees to be profitable for itself.”[11] Diversity of punishments makes no difference. As long as they punish crimes in general, “all laws tend toward the same end.” For example, “Against adultery some nations levy severer, others, lighter punishments.” But this “diversity” is perfect in Calvin’s view, because some nations need harsher penalties for some crimes than others. God’s law (the moral element) is still maintained as long as crime is punished, no matter how it is punished.[12]

Thus, the Mosaic demand for punishments that strictly fit the crime is thrown out, along with Moses’ definitions of what those strictly just penalties must be. Thus, again, for example, if theft or false witness are punished harshly with capital punishment, instead of as prescribed in the Bible, Calvin can be perfectly fine with it.[13] The editor of Calvin’s modern editions notes, however, the true source of Calvin’s thinking here. His discussion of diverse penalties here is not based upon biblical exegesis, but based on studies in Justinian and commentaries on other pagan statesmen, especially Seneca.[14]

Based upon these Roman sources also, Calvin upheld the practice of civil punishments for religious offenses. Civil government, he taught, “prevents idolatry, sacrilege against God’s name, blasphemies against his truth, and other public offenses against religion.”[15] In the last edition he expanded and defended his view, again revealing its pagan background. He argues that “If Scripture did not teach that [the magistrate’s duty] extends to both Tables of the Law, we could learn it from secular writers.”[16] But he gives no space at all to demonstrate his views from Scripture, he only gives us a natural law view. Among these “secular writers,”

[N]o one has discussed the office of magistrates, the making of laws, and public welfare, without beginning at religion and divine worship. And thus all have confessed that no government can be happily established unless piety is the first concern. . . . Since, therefore, among all philosophers religion takes first place, and since this fact has always been observed by universal consent of all nations, let Christian princes and magistrates be ashamed of their negligence if they do not apply themselves to this concern.[17]

It is folly, Calvin argues, that rulers should focus only on justice among men, for the purity of worship is of far greater importance. It was a theme common since at least Aquinas that it is better to punish men in the body in order to save their souls from themselves, or to protect society from their heresies. Calvin added a description of anarchist terrorism: if we do not stamp out these vile false worshippers, they will overturn society and run out the only people who could stop them: “[The] passion to alter everything with impunity drives turbulent men to the point of wanting all vindicators of violated piety removed from their midst.”[18]

Thus you can see that Calvin offers a little-altered version of Justinian all over again, and shows no difference at all from both his Catholic and Lutheran contemporaries. Indeed, the famed execution of Servetus was merely finishing a job Roman Catholics had started. Calvin supplied documents to the Catholic Inquisition which had arrested Servetus in Lyon. Soon after Servetus escaped that fate by escaping prison, he was arrested in Geneva. There he was executed with approbation from Geneva, Rome, and Wittenberg alike.

After Calvin

The precedent, however, began to change in a few instances. Some second-generation Reformers began taking the restrictions of Mosaic law more seriously. One impetus for this may well have been the conversion of a Jewish convert and Hebraist named Immanuel Tremellius. Along with his colleague Franciscus Junius at Heidelberg, Tremellius argued that the Mosaic judicial laws were binding in large part, and thus rulers were beholden to limit penalties for theft, etc., to what was revealed in Moses. This view would have been perceived as lenient and perhaps even liberal at the time when Roman law prevailed and rulers could, and did, punish crimes as ruthlessly as they liked.

These two scholars influenced another, the aforementioned Johannes Piscator, whose version of the argument became the most famous, lasting clear into the American Puritan era.[19] Piscator was referenced on this issue directly by some of the Westminster Divines, notably George Gillespie. A couple comments are in order, however. The view of each of these three post-Calvin “Theonomists” maintained the First Table penalties. In this they were congruent with the Roman-based practice of the day, and thus found no controversy. I believe they were wrong in this regard. Nevertheless, they spearheaded the argument that the civil rulers were also bound and limited to the punishments outlined for the Second Table. This improvement upon the tyrannies of the era was biblically correct and therefore laudable.

The Covenanters

We are now in a position to consider the “Covenanters” who eventually made up much of the Westminster Assembly and produced its famous documents. The first thing we have to note is that they were mixed on this issue.[20] There is no monolithic “Covenanter” view. The majority were of the establishment view descended from Justinian: Mosaic judicial law is no longer binding and princes can punish crime however they see fit, but they nevertheless have a natural law duty to punish religious offenses.

George Gillespie and a few others tempered their views with Piscator, and thus bound the civil government in Second Table offenses, but not in First. Even theologians who acknowledged the contributions of Piscator, who divided between those judicial laws which pertained only to Israel, and are thus abrogated, and those judicials which were universal, nevertheless disagreed over where the lines were drawn. For example, William Perkins followed Piscator’s distinction, but argued in part that the way to tell whether a particular punishment was still binding or not was if pagan nations had also arrived at the same punishment for that crime in the past. In this arrangement Perkins particularly praised . . . wait for it . . . the Roman Emperors![21]

The celebrated Samuel Rutherford leaned more toward Calvin’s view. He argued that First Table offenses must be punished but that the Mosaic judicial punishments were not binding. In a work specifically intended to prove that a Christian government should not allow “liberty of conscience,” Rutherford unbridled the power of the state in regard to penalties. He argued that stoning blasphemers was “necessary civil use.” He even argued that the Canaanite wars specially commanded to Joshua were based on natural law and could be copied somehow today, just not in the full extermination of women and children. Nevertheless, he repudiated the need for the judicial standards of Moses elsewhere—meaning the binding of the State—and suggests that pagan penalties could be used. He then reveals his theological foundations for such a low view of the judicials: Aquinas, along with the Jesuit theologian from Salamanca, Francisco Suárez.[22]

In the end, only a handful of the Covenanters actually took Mosaic law any more seriously than a biblical cover for why they should continue the old Roman heritage—though they would never have admitted it in those terms. In general, they used Moses when they liked, but their practice was based upon Roman precedents of so-called natural law, punishments defined freely by the state as the rulers saw fit, and a desire to be those rulers making the decisions. They wished for nothing more than speedily to depose the Anglo-Catholic tyrants in the seats of power, except perhaps to ascend to those seats themselves. They aimed to leave the civil powers just as they were except to change the targets of religious punishments.

It was for this reason that when the English Civil War briefly resulted in Covenanter ascendancy, but with no apparent reduction in tyranny, John Milton penned a sonnet calling out Rutherford, Anthony Steuart, and Thomas Edwards by name. He observed that they had merely seized power “From them whose sin ye envied, not abhorred,” and continued to use the sword in an attempt to coerce men’s consciences. Milton, certainly representing the Westminster dissenting party as a whole, condemned these Covenanters of plots “worse than those of Trent” and ridiculing them as Pharisees. He ended by immortalizing Covenanter polity in stark irony:

“New presbyter is but old priest writ large.”

And he was right. There was no difference in the powers of the State these Covenanters desired to run than what Constantine had transposed from Diocletian’s edicts and the classical imperial cult death penalties. All throughout history, these religious punishments had been the legacy of Roman civil law, and had been argued and cited directly as such over and over. They had been passed down throughout Roman legal history as powers arising from natural law.

Even many of the Reformed Baptists of the era believed in the Roman establishment principle, yet marginalized Mosaic judicial law in their later confession. In a 1659 Declaration they defended themselves against the charge that they believed in religious tolerance:

Nor do we desire, in matters of Religion, that Popery should be tolerated . . . or any persons tolerated, that worship a false god; nor any that speak contemptuously and reproachfully of our Lord Jesus Christ; nor any that deny the holy Scriptures, contained in the Books of the Old and New Testament, to be the Word of God.[23]

And this non-toleration they said explicitly should be “in matters civil.”

Conclusion

The modern Covenanter reenactors, as well as certain other Presbyterians romanticizing the original Westminster Confession, who wish to appropriate that term “Theonomy” for themselves simply have things upside-down. Biblical law has transferred First Table punishments from earthly civil governments to the throne of heaven, but it upholds as highly as ever the laws of justice that bind the power of the state, require just contracts and sound money, forbid false arrests and prosecutions, proscribe wars of intervention, fiat financing, and national debt, Socialism, and welfarism. In short, Biblical law is about liberty and prosperity in Christ.

Would-be Covenanters, however, affirm a model in which, if maintained consistently, the state is unrestrained in nearly all respects: it is given the power to punish non-Christian worship even up to the death penalty, and yet does not require the state to be bound by strict standards of justice on Second Table offenses. The state can be creative, and a creative state is a dangerous and deadly state. In fact, I do not see how such a standard could not be used to justify even the oppressive prison system we have today, police and prosecutorial abuses, or much worse. This is not biblical law. It is the opposite of liberty on all fronts. It would be nothing less than the Constantinian tradition unleashed all over again.

We perhaps ought to reflect back upon Durant’s acknowledgement of the Christian triumph over Diocletian and Galerius, yet before Constantine:

There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar had met Christ in the arena, and Christ had won.[24]

All that was needed to defeat Caesar was the Word of God preached and lived consistently, and a demand for justice and liberty. In truth, it was the Spirit of God. The stone cut out without hands smashed the statue of Nebuchadnezzar on its Roman feet, and brought the whole crashing down. And it did so without First Table penalties and powers—only the power of the Holy Spirit inspiring courage, patience, and faithfulness.

What is needed more than anything today is for the pulpits to return to preaching the full scope of God’s justice, and for the body of Christ to uphold that standard to all of culture. With such faithfulness and courage today, we could once again watch the would-be Caesars of the world fail and the edifice of statism and tyranny crumble with them. We do not need another Constantine. We need Spirit-filled Theonomy in the pulpits, and in the hearts and minds of every Christian.

Purchase The Bounds of Love.

Notes:

[1].  Will Durant, Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325, The Story of Civilization: Part 3 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 652.

[2]Summa Theologica, 2:2, Q. 11, Art. 3.

[3]Summa Theologica, 2:2, Q. 10, Arts. 8, 11.

[4]Summa Theologica, 2:2, Q. 64, Art. 2.

[5]Summa Theologica, 1:2, Q. 104.

[6]Summa Theologica, 1:2, Q. 108, Art. 2.

[7].  This is not to be confused with English Common Law which is a different, non-Roman, and superior animal upon which the American system came to be built. See my Introduction to God’s Law and Government in America: Three Historic Sermons (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2015).

[8]. Quoted in John Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 119.

[9].  Quoted in Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism, 77.

[10].  John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 Edition, trans. By Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans and the H. H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, 1986), 215. The statements here and below taken from the original 1536 remained virtually unchanged through Calvin’s last editions in 1559 and 1560.

[11].  Calvin, Institutes, 1536 Edition, 216.

[12].  Calvin, Institutes, 1536 Edition, 216–217.

[13].  Calvin, Institutes, 1536 Edition, 216.

[14].  Battles, in Calvin, Institutes, 1536 Edition, 334.

[15].  Calvin, Institutes, 1536 Edition, 208.

[16]Institutes (1559–60), 4.20.9.

[17]Institutes (1559–60), 4.20.9.

[18]Institutes (1559–60), 4.20.9.

[19].  See Disputations on the Judicial Laws of Moses (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2015).

[20].  See the helpful and detailed discussion by Chris Coldwell, “The Westminster Assembly and the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation and Analysis, Part 1,” The Confessional Presbyterian 5 (2009): 3–55. The analysis by his colleague in Part 2 is not nearly as productive.

[21]A Discourse of Conscience (Cambridge, 1596), 18.

[22].  Rutherford, A Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience (London, 1640), 266 (chapter 25). Rutherford was widely read in all the jurists and theologians up until his time. His famous Lex, Rex begins not with biblical law, but with appeals to Aristotle, and to various members of the Catholic School of Salamanca: Suárez, De Soto and others.

[23].  Anon., Declaration of several of the people called Anabaptists in and about the city of London (London: printed for Livewel Chapman, 1659).

[24].  Will Durant, Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325, The Story of Civilization: Part 3 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 652.

 

Categories: Worldview

On dealing with controversy between brethren, and more. . . .

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 09:39

Sermon on Acts 15:36-16:40, preached January 29, 2017, concerning five trials active Christians will face, focusing on how to handle controversy between brethren, and how not to handle it, how establishment religion attempts to coopt successful upstart movements, and much more. . . .

http://d1s6yijfrvmtp9.cloudfront.net/static/2017/02/02080701/2017-01-29-Sermon-on-Acts-15-36-16-40.mp3

Download the Sermon Transcript

Categories: Worldview

How godly society will come to pass: Action plans

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 09:41

The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty

Master Table of Contents

Action plans

While we have established that the Great Commission is greater than most Christians have been taught, and we have emphasized the absolute necessity for the Holy Spirit’s power in any theonomic advance, we have also stressed that people will be involved, and that they will be involved in specific works. From reading our vision in the last chapter, you can probably gather what some of those works may be, but since we are in the beginning stages of transition, it is good to review what kinds of practical works we can do as priorities.

The following discussion of practical reforms is taken from the introduction to my book, Restoring America One County at a Time.

Perhaps the first and foremost area of action needs to be, and can be, in the area of education. We are not just talking about educating yourself, we are talking about your children too. Education in a free society can only be private, never government-run at any level. Government schools are at the heart of the problem of government-dominated society. Tax-funded schools cannot be an option if we are to have a free society. This is one area in which you can exercise almost complete control already, now. Regaining liberty here requires no change in existing laws—only one’s lifestyle. Most Christians could implement these changes tomorrow, if not over a few months. It is only a test of desire: do we really want a free society, or do we depend on tax-funded benefits like the liberals and socialists we criticize? This change should be priority number one. And since it requires so little change on the political and social level, we only need to change ourselves. If we can’t accomplish change in this one area, then forget the rest. Nothing about truly restoring America will be easier or more readily obtainable than taking free control over your family’s education.

Second, we need wholesale reform of all welfare services. This means we need to learn about options for securing our own financial futures, privately, while we opt out of Social Security over time. Welfare of all forms should be a privately-funded and privately-insured affair, not supported through taxation, redistribution, and subsidy. Family and charity can replace the Welfare State, but we must learn to refuse the benefits promised by government agencies. Paul directly commands local churches to install private welfare programs to support needy members (1 Tim. 5). It is time to take up this call. Private Christian alternatives to ObamaCare already exist (for example, Samaritan Ministries). Private Christian alternatives to Social Security and MediCare (see examples among the Amish) already exist. There is no reason we cannot take advantage of programs that already exist, and organize to create others in other areas. There is no reason we cannot gain immediate headway here as well.

Third, the real practical solution to big-government intrusion in our lives is a return to localism. This involves returning government and community to a more grass-roots level where it ought to be. Christians must develop a truly local vision—confronting local waste and corruption, focusing on smaller, practical things we can impact now, and learning to break local institutions free from the unnecessary bonds of state and federal government tyranny. This means exposing the areas where the sovereignty of local communities is compromised by receiving Federal and state funds for perceived benefits. We should learn about, monitor, and interact with local authorities, and network with other local Christians to spread a biblical understanding.

Fourth, Christians should understand the nature of state-level activism as well. This means, in part, discussing the roles of nullification and interposition of the lesser magistrates. There is a tremendous opportunity for Christians to have impact on several issues at the state level. We can organize to call state officials to resist federal intrusions of many sorts, and we can influence state officials to be more faithful to biblical laws on certain issues within the state: abortion, arms, spending, free markets, and more.

Fifth, we can begin to work in a variety of ways for tax reform. On the way towards total elimination, taxation of individuals and businesses must be returned exclusively to the local level. State taxation, if any, should only be upon counties, and Federal taxation, if any, should only come from states. Christians should never see a tax they approve of, and should always lead opposition to any and all taxation. Of course, this means they should always also lead the discussion for the replacement of tax-funded programs with private and charitable services. Pick one, join forces, get counsel, get busy, and lead the way.

We spoke earlier about the sanctity of private property and the enforcement of contracts. We certainly need less government coercion and money manipulation. We need to end monetary inflation, legal tender laws, the business cycle, government corporatism, and more. But Christians could have a serious impact if they would simply get more involved in business—local, regional, and even big business. For some Christians, theonomic reconstruction will not mean radical activism or outspoken advocacy. It will simply mean taking your interests, knowledge, and skills, and starting a business to serve your community and be a light of God’s law in action. Godly action is at the heart of Christian reconstruction, and service is at the heart of godly action.

One of the greatest areas of need is in judicial and police reform—the justice system itself. Without rehearsing the litany of ills and abuses in these areas, the remedy to recover freedom is the decentralization of courts, localized and separate jurisdictions, and private courts (perhaps especially), all with only local law enforcement by mainly deputized volunteers and strict accountability. Paul directly instructs Christians to settle their disputes among each other in private courts (not ecclesiastical courts necessarily, but private Christian mediation and arbitration) (1 Cor. 6:1–8). Such measures and organizations for them already exist, but they are little known and less adhered to. We also have a dire need for transparency and accountability among police officers, prosecutors, and judges (of both the establishment and liberal activist varieties). Just a law imitating the biblical laws against malicious witnesses would go a long way in this need for accountability. We need tremendous work to be done in spreading awareness about jury nullification and the unfortunate right of judges and prosecutors to lie about it—a right they readily and frequently exercise. There is a gargantuan amount of work to do in this area, and there is also a large amount of it that can be initiated through awareness and education already.

Another of the most important areas—and perhaps that in which Christians are most deceived—is in regard to our military. We must support and demand a decentralized defense system instead of the national standing army and empire we have allowed, and even promoted, for over a century.1 We need to take seriously the biblical rules for military and warfare. Patriotism does not mean militarism. Patriotism does not mean empire. Being patriotic and conservative does not mean always supporting everything the military does. Anti-war is not anti-American. We should be aware how our military was originally decentralized and strictly defense-oriented, and how it was transformed incrementally to become a powerful centralized force designed to serve the interests of a central government in prolonged international conflicts. There is a great deal of education and awareness that can be spread here already. We should educate and motivate ourselves about biblical views of militia, defense, and the right to bear arms.  We should also train ourselves in these areas as well.

In reality, you can take any single aspect of the theonomic society outlined in the last chapter (or the law itself) and concentrate on it as a project for reform. This may or may not involve change in the civil realm, but it will almost certainly involve social change in a more general scope—family, church, corporation, or state. Whatever it may be, pick something, and become the person who thinks it through in a detailed fashion. Master it. Then become the person who networks with others interested in that issue and begin to plan and fashion agendas for change. You may be surprised how many people you inspire and recruit.

Conclusion

They key lessons we have learned in this chapter are that Christian social change will only be wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that this power is exercised through people in concrete, but decentralized, ways. Christians should not seek the reins of power, but nevertheless work in every area of life (wherever they may be called and gifted) to bring about awareness, education, change, and reform. We must get busy, however, and work to influence such changes where we can.

How will a theonomic society come to pass? It will come to pass by the Spirit working through people who stand boldly for truth and justice. It will come to pass as the message influences a hard core of the faithful to lay the foundations of godly freedom in every area of life. It will come to pass as the Holy Spirit brings revival and people seek biblical solutions to the ills of every area of life. It will come to pass when Christians take the Great Commission seriously, and the Holy Spirit blesses that effort. In the meantime, we fight to bring faithfulness among Christians wherever they are at already, and in what limited spheres are available.

Purchase The Bounds of Love.

Next section: What is not Theonomy

Notes:

  1. The full facts are that since the Jamestown settlement in 1609, Americans have been involved in some form of war around 139 times. In the intervening 400-plus-year span, we have been “at peace” for only 90 years, with a majority of that coming in the colonial era.
Categories: Worldview

Charles Spurgeon on national judgment

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 14:49

On this day, January 31, 1892, Charles Spurgeon was taken to be with our Lord. In memoriam, American vision presents this important excerpt from his sermon, “The Scales of Judgment,” delivered June 12, 1859.

In this excerpt, Spurgeon exhibits a crucial tenet of Christian Reconstruction: historical sanctions. This is the belief that God judges nations now, today, in history, according to his standard. In large part due to this measure alone, Gary North argued that John Calvin was a theonomist. While I would quibble with that some, the doctrine of historical sanctions—blessings and curses applied according to God’s law—is a significant element of the larger scope of Christian Reconstruction. It leads to the call for national repentance, the demand for righteous laws and justice according to God’s standards, and thus that Christians ought to be engaged in social action for social change.

While Spurgeon would probably not have accepted any of our labels, and perhaps would have rejected aspects of our theology, his intense desire to follow the Bible where it leads drove him to express this element of Reconstructionism which is largely denied by the theology and practice of most evangelical and Reformed Baptist churches today: God judges nations in history, and we must therefore confront specific national sins, and preach national repentance and national righteousness, in hope for the whole world and all aspects of life to be redeemed. Spurgeon believed this. So do I.

***

There is a weighing time for kings and emperors, and all the monarchs of earth, albeit some of them have exalted themselves to a position in which they appear to be irresponsible to man. Though they escape the scales on earth, they must surely be tried at the bar of God. For nations there is a weighing time. National sins demand national punishments. The whole history of God’s dealings with mankind proves that though a nation may go on in wickedness it may multiply its oppressions; it may abound in bloodshed, tyranny, and war, but an hour of retribution draweth nigh. When it shall have filled up its measure of iniquity, then shall the angel of vengeance execute its doom. There cannot be an eternal damnation for nations as nations; the destruction of men at last will be that of individuals, and at the bar of God each man must be tried for himself. The punishment, therefore, of nations, is national. The guilt they incur must receive its awful recompense in this present time state.

It was so with the great nation of the Chaldeans. They had been guilty of blood. The monuments which still remain, and which we have lately explored, prove them to have been a cruel and ferocious race. A people of a strange language they were, and stranger than their language were their deeds. God allowed that nation for a certain period to grow and thrive, till it became God’s hammer, breaking in pieces many nations. It was the axe of the Almighty—his battle axe, and his weapon of war. By it he smote the loins of kings, yea, and slew mighty kings. But its time came at last. She sat alone as a queen, and said, “I shall see no sorrow,” nevertheless, the Lord brought her low, and made her grind in the dust of captivity, and gave her riches to the spoiler, and her pomp to the destroyer.

Even so must it be with every nation of the earth that is guilty of oppression. Humbling itself before God, when his wrath is kindled but a little, it may for a while arrest its fate; but if it still continue in its bold unrighteousness, it shall certainly reap the harvest of its own sowing.

Spurgeon did not stop at generalities. He dove directly into the most controversial social issues of his day and made specific applications:

So likewise shall it be with the nations that now abide on the face of the earth. There is no God in heaven if the iniquity of slavery go unpunished. There is no God existing in heaven above if the cry of the negro do not bring down a red hail of blood upon the nation that still holds the black man in slavery. Nor is there a God anywhere if the nations of Europe that still oppress each other and are oppressed by tyrants do not find out to their dismay that he executes vengeance. The Lord God is the avenger of every one that is oppressed, and the executor of every one that oppresseth.

I see, this very moment, glancing at the page of the world’s present history, a marvellous proof that God will take vengeance. Piedmont, the land which is at this time sodden with blood, is only at this hour suffering the vengeance that has long been hanging over it. The snows of its mountains were once red with the blood of martyrs. It is not yet forgotten how there the children of God were hunted like partridges on the mountains; and so has God directed it, that the nations that performed that frightful act upon his children, shall there meet, rend, and devour each other in the slaughter, and both sides shall be almost equal, and nothing shall be seen but that God will punish those who lift their hands against his anointed.

There has never been a deed of persecution—there has never been a drop of martyr’s blood shed yet, but shall be avenged, and every land guilty of it shall yet drink the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. And especially certain is there gathering an awful storm over the head of the empire of Rome—that spiritual despotism of the firstborn of hell. All the clouds of God’s vengeance are gathering into one—the firmament is big with thunder, God’s right arm is lifted up even now, and ere long the nations of the earth shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. They that have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication, shall soon also have to drink with her of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; and they shall reel to and fro, their loins shall be loose, their knees shall smite together, when God fulfils the old handwriting on the rock of Patmos.

He then brings this home to us, as it is the duty of every individual Christian. This means changes in personal behavior in a effort to separate ourselves as much as possible from the sins of our society, but also to call out and work to change all aspects of injustice among the halls of power and authority as well, knowing that God sits over all and judges, now.

Our duty at this time is to take heed to ourselves as a nation that we purge ourselves of our great sins. Although God has given so much light, and kindly favored us with the dew of his Spirit, yet England is a hoary sinner. Favourably with mercy does God regard her, so much the rather then let each Christian try to shake off the sins of his nation from his own skirt, and let each one to the utmost of his ability labor and strive to purify this land of blood and oppression, and of everything evil that still clingeth to her. So may God preserve this land; and may its monarchy endure till he shall come, before whom both kings and princes shall lose their power right cheerfully even as the stars fade when the king of light—the sun—lifteth up his golden head.

Categories: Worldview

Charles Spurgeon on national sins and national judgment

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 11:03

On this day, January 31, 1892, Charles Spurgeon was taken to be with our Lord. In memoriam, American vision presents this important excerpt from his sermon, “The Scales of Judgment,” delivered June 12, 1859.

In this excerpt, Spurgeon exhibits a crucial tenet of Christian Reconstruction: historical sanctions. This is the belief that God judges nations now, today, in history, according to his standard. In large part due to this measure alone, Gary North argued that John Calvin was a theonomist. While I would quibble with that some, the doctrine of historical sanctions—blessings and curses applied according to God’s law—is a significant element of the larger scope of Christian Reconstruction. It leads to the call for national repentance, the demand for righteous laws and justice according to God’s standards, and thus that Christians ought to be engaged in social action for social change.

While Spurgeon would probably not have accepted any of our labels, and perhaps would have rejected aspects of our theology, his intense desire to follow the Bible where it leads drove him to express this element of Reconstructionism which is largely denied by the theology and practice of most evangelical and Reformed Baptist churches today: God judges nations in history, and we must therefore confront specific national sins, and preach national repentance and national righteousness, in hope for the whole world and all aspects of life to be redeemed. Spurgeon believed this. So do I.

***

There is a weighing time for kings and emperors, and all the monarchs of earth, albeit some of them have exalted themselves to a position in which they appear to be irresponsible to man. Though they escape the scales on earth, they must surely be tried at the bar of God. For nations there is a weighing time. National sins demand national punishments. The whole history of God’s dealings with mankind proves that though a nation may go on in wickedness it may multiply its oppressions; it may abound in bloodshed, tyranny, and war, but an hour of retribution draweth nigh. When it shall have filled up its measure of iniquity, then shall the angel of vengeance execute its doom. There cannot be an eternal damnation for nations as nations; the destruction of men at last will be that of individuals, and at the bar of God each man must be tried for himself. The punishment, therefore, of nations, is national. The guilt they incur must receive its awful recompense in this present time state.

It was so with the great nation of the Chaldeans. They had been guilty of blood. The monuments which still remain, and which we have lately explored, prove them to have been a cruel and ferocious race. A people of a strange language they were, and stranger than their language were their deeds. God allowed that nation for a certain period to grow and thrive, till it became God’s hammer, breaking in pieces many nations. It was the axe of the Almighty—his battle axe, and his weapon of war. By it he smote the loins of kings, yea, and slew mighty kings. But its time came at last. She sat alone as a queen, and said, “I shall see no sorrow,” nevertheless, the Lord brought her low, and made her grind in the dust of captivity, and gave her riches to the spoiler, and her pomp to the destroyer.

Even so must it be with every nation of the earth that is guilty of oppression. Humbling itself before God, when his wrath is kindled but a little, it may for a while arrest its fate; but if it still continue in its bold unrighteousness, it shall certainly reap the harvest of its own sowing.

Spurgeon did not stop at generalities. He dove directly into the most controversial social issues of his day and made specific applications:

So likewise shall it be with the nations that now abide on the face of the earth. There is no God in heaven if the iniquity of slavery go unpunished. There is no God existing in heaven above if the cry of the negro do not bring down a red hail of blood upon the nation that still holds the black man in slavery. Nor is there a God anywhere if the nations of Europe that still oppress each other and are oppressed by tyrants do not find out to their dismay that he executes vengeance. The Lord God is the avenger of every one that is oppressed, and the executor of every one that oppresseth.

I see, this very moment, glancing at the page of the world’s present history, a marvellous proof that God will take vengeance. Piedmont, the land which is at this time sodden with blood, is only at this hour suffering the vengeance that has long been hanging over it. The snows of its mountains were once red with the blood of martyrs. It is not yet forgotten how there the children of God were hunted like partridges on the mountains; and so has God directed it, that the nations that performed that frightful act upon his children, shall there meet, rend, and devour each other in the slaughter, and both sides shall be almost equal, and nothing shall be seen but that God will punish those who lift their hands against his anointed.

There has never been a deed of persecution—there has never been a drop of martyr’s blood shed yet, but shall be avenged, and every land guilty of it shall yet drink the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. And especially certain is there gathering an awful storm over the head of the empire of Rome—that spiritual despotism of the firstborn of hell. All the clouds of God’s vengeance are gathering into one—the firmament is big with thunder, God’s right arm is lifted up even now, and ere long the nations of the earth shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. They that have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication, shall soon also have to drink with her of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; and they shall reel to and fro, their loins shall be loose, their knees shall smite together, when God fulfils the old handwriting on the rock of Patmos.

He then brings this home to us, as it is the duty of every individual Christian. This means changes in personal behavior in a effort to separate ourselves as much as possible from the sins of our society, but also to call out and work to change all aspects of injustice among the halls of power and authority as well, knowing that God sits over all and judges, now.

Our duty at this time is to take heed to ourselves as a nation that we purge ourselves of our great sins. Although God has given so much light, and kindly favored us with the dew of his Spirit, yet England is a hoary sinner. Favourably with mercy does God regard her, so much the rather then let each Christian try to shake off the sins of his nation from his own skirt, and let each one to the utmost of his ability labor and strive to purify this land of blood and oppression, and of everything evil that still clingeth to her. So may God preserve this land; and may its monarchy endure till he shall come, before whom both kings and princes shall lose their power right cheerfully even as the stars fade when the king of light—the sun—lifteth up his golden head.

Categories: Worldview

Paul Washer, AHA, and the hope that truth will prevail

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 10:32

By now most of you are familiar with the presence of abortion abolitionists at the G3 Conference and some of the ugly rumors spread about it afterwards. What you may not know is that while so many interested parties were working to malign these guys, one prominent speaker actually took the time to speak with them, listen to them, and you can hear his change of tone as he has misperceptions corrected and learns the other side of the story. The most important part of this is that, in the process, some myths are busted that turn out to offer a tremendous case example for all of us when it comes to spreading falsehoods specifically, and integrity with print media in general.

The video below shows a discussion between Paul Washer and abortion abolitionists who were active outside G3. They called to him and offered him some of their literature. He obliged and engaged them in discussion. His first question was laced with suspicion based on things he had heard.

He asked, “Are you the group also that is attacking the local church?” The girl answers, “Sir, we’re not attacking the local church.”

He followed, “What about elders and all kinds of things like that?” Again, “If you guys are the guys that I think you are, you’re also . . . it’s like you’re attacking local churches everywhere instead of doing what you should be doing.”

The young man, Wayne Groover, explained that these claims, so often repeated by a few interested parties, are straw men and slander, and that he is a member of a local church and is submitted to elders—“I absolutely submit.”

What occurred next, and almost in passing, in this discussion made me raise an eyebrow. He mentioned going about things the wrong way, such as “if you’re attacking and destroying churches and things. . . .”

Wait a minute. “Destroying”? Where is that coming from?

Then it got even more interesting.

After complimenting how kind these activists were, and promising to read their literature and research it, he returned to the concern:

But I have heard, you know, like, somebody went into a church in San Antonio or something—I don’t know what it was—tore it to pieces, or something, I don’t—Like I said, I just need to get a sure word.

I was really confused by this. Are there actually reports of AHA activists breaking into churches and tearing them to pieces? Or has he confused some random news story of vandalism with some other memories to arrive this impression? Or what?

The answer lies in how the incendiary language and false accusations of critics spread around the web until someone’s hyperbole becomes an ugly reputation for violence pinned on someone else—totally unrighteously.

The impression comes from the careless writings of a pastor of a church that was visited by a couple abortion activists. Let me say clearly this was one of the clumsiest interactions from an abolitionist I have seen (about the only really clumsy one I’ve seen). Fortunately, the guy involved later posted an apology for not listening well enough and coming across as a legalist. He certainly also needs to learn how better to communicate what he’s trying to say before he does any more such interaction. But the insistence that the pastor’s church repent of apathy when it in fact does have abortion outreaches and ministries riled the pastor who then posted about his experience online. He was far from fair in how he represented the work of abolitionists:

They claim to want to work with other churches, and yet their approach is to break down the doors of your church, overturn the tables, and call the entire church to repent of not being involved in abortion ministry to their satisfaction.

This—this!—is the origin of Paul Washer’s misperception that AHA members broke into a church and tore it to pieces.

Now, this may have been hyperbole on the Pastor’s part, but that was certainly not clear from his post, which was filled with a tremendous number of other exaggerations as well. It certainly was not clear to anyone who didn’t know better, or who was hearing about AHA for the first time. Extreme language like this can lead to false impressions, and, sure enough, next thing we have even prominent ministers like Paul Washer walking around with the idea in their head that AHA activists have literally committed violence and destroyed churches!

One young lady responded to this Pastor’s indelicate charge properly:

I’d like to ask Pastor Ramos to be careful with his words. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov. 10:19). These careless words communicate something that is incongruous with how the two men who visited Heritage Grace that day acted. There was no irrational anger, no table flipping, and no self-righteous demands. Just two men seeking to ask for help at “a good man’s house”.

Her whole article addresses the intemperate, inaccurate, and angry response of the pastor, and answers several of the factually false charges he levels. It contains some interesting perspective and I recommend you read it.

Now let this sink in for a minute. One guy has one less-than stellar interaction, but then sits down and pens hyperbolic, incendiary falsehoods that came across so literally that a reader the likes of Paul Washer came away with a slanderous impression.

First, just imagine how many other such attacks may be just as hyperbolic and yet just as false.

Second, witness how easy it is for even the most discerning of believers to believe slanderous false impressions based on such things.

Third, imagine what could be the case, then, when rumors are blown into exaggerations are blown into lies and are repeated heavily by a handful of parties who may have some level of influence—some who have allowed themselves uncharacteristically to blow overgeneralizations into fallacies, and some who act with prejudice and malice in an attempt to destroy other people’s reputations.

Imagine, from what we just saw with how Brother Washer himself was misled by such a phenomenon, how so much more evil and wickedness will be spread and unfortunately believed by posts like this:

I’m not a prophet. Neither do I have any evidence that what I’m about to suggest will happen. However, I truly believe that someone flying the AHA banner will one-day bomb an abortuary or try to kill an abortionist. Again, I don’t know this will happen. But I fear it will.

This was posted by a prominent street preacher, respected and believed by many.

Or consider a very beloved Reformed Baptist apologist who generalized AHA on social media as a “jihad.”

Or consider the numerous times such folk have been called—often by well-known ministers or preachers who have much respect and influence—“church-haters,” “anti-church,” “rebels,” “cult,” “cultists,” “dangerous,” “outside the church,” “fighting the church,” all of which are broad, often undefined, fallacious generalizations and extreme exaggerations applied indiscriminately to over 50,000 people with very little to no proof of the claims made—certainly not in their extreme form.

Let me be the first to say that the moment I see actual proof of any such claims, I’ll be the first to agree to the evidence provided concerning the offending parties. Until then, we need to follow the example Washer exhibited in the limited moments of this brief exchange:

The Good News

Groover responded to Washer, “Yes sir. I can promise you that there are slanderous things that second-hand witnesses are spreading—it’s insanity.”

Washer responds, “I understand that. It’s like one guy told me, he goes, ‘Paul Washer. You are not a worker of the devil; you are the devil himself.’”

In other words, Washer knows what it feels like to be slandered himself.

Then he pointed out another piece of evidence he thought spoke against AHA. It turned out, however, that he had yet another misperception:

PW: “Well, you know, but, like there’s a guy protesting right there that . . . Hitler, Luther, whatever. Is that one of your guys? . . . I think that’s a bad argument, but. . . .”

DW (Deanna Waller): “‘Everything that Hitler did was legal?’”

PW: “No, what I’m saying is, identifying Martin Luther with Hitler. . . . There’s a guy over there talking about Martin Luther.”

WG: “Martin Luther King?”

PW: “No, I thought it was Martin Luther.”

WG: “No, sir, no sir. . . . It says, ‘Never forget, everything Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal. —Martin Luther King.’ You know what I’m saying?”

Once corrected, Washer realized he had made a mistake and saw no problem: “Oh, OK.”

Washer repeated what he said earlier: “Again, I will look into this more thoroughly because you’ve been kind. . . . Proverbs and Paul’s admonition to Timothy is never to judge anyone till you hear the second side of the story—the other side. . . . I will.”

He concluded: “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and I’ll look at this.”

The bad news is that I know who some of Paul Washer’s friends are, and they are some of the very people who posted the most extreme lies I listed above. I fear, therefore, that Paul Washer may yet be further misled and neglect to research the other side by actually contacting many of the leading abolitionists who labor under the mission of AHA, and then conclude for himself. I could be wrong. I don’t know Paul Washer and have never met him, but he comes across as a man of high integrity, compassion for truth and justice, and courage to state what the truth is no matter the cost. I hope he follows through properly and reports the results by an outstretched hand. But it’s hard to withstand the repeated entreaties of people you like and trust and to hold them in suspicion that they may be intensely wrong.

The good news, however, is exhibited in this video: when we listen, we may find that we have been misled by misperceptions and falsehoods that have been repeated as mantras, and we may find out that the vast majority of such people are not church-haters, and none are the violent terrorist and jihadists that has been unbelievably claimed. Just maybe. And that’s good news.

A warning against slander, from people you trust

There is absolutely no place in the Christian world for the type of loose speaking that maligns and demonizes other people’s reputations falsely. There is no place for fallacies of generalization. There is certainly no place in the church for doing such things purposefully with the design of discrediting.

Every one of us knows this, but we all need to submit to one another and hold each other accountable, because this particular sin, particularly in the age of social media, is absolute rampant fire in which we—if we have any passion for sound doctrines and applications at all—can all easily find ourselves consumed on occasion.

So, don’t even trust my word alone for it. Listen to men we all trust:

Verse 18. Let the lying lips be put to silence. A right good and Christian prayer; who but a bad man would give liars more license than need be? May God silence them either by leading them to repentance, by putting them to thorough shame, or by placing them in positions where what they may say will stand for nothing. Which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. The sin of slanderers lies partly in the matter of their speech; “they speak grievous things;” things cutting deep into the feelings of good men, and wounding them sorely in that tender place—their reputations. The sin is further enhanced by the manner of their speech; they speak proudly and contemptuously; they talk as if they themselves were the cream of society, and the righteous the mere scum of vulgarity. Proud thoughts of self are generally attended by debasing estimates of others. —Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psa. 31:18.

The deadliest of all venom is the slander of the unscrupulous. Some men care not what they say so long as they can vex and injure. Our text, however, must not be confined in its reference to some few individuals, for in the inspired epistle to the Romans it is quoted by the apostle as being true of us all. So depraved are we by nature that the most venomous creatures are our fit types. The old serpent has not only inoculated us with his venom, but he has caused us to be ourselves producers of the like poison: it lies under our lips, ready for use, and, alas, it is all too freely used when we grow angry, and desire to take vengeance upon any who have caused us vexation. It is sadly wonderful what hard things even good men will say when provoked; . . . by nature we have as great a store of venomous words as a cobra has of poison. —Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psa. 140:3.

[I]n order to constitute slander, it is not necessary that the word spoken should be false—half truths are often more calumnious than whole falsehoods. It is not even necessary that a word should be distinctly uttered; a dropped lip, an arched eyebrow, a shrugged shoulder, a significant look, an incredulous expression of countenance, nay, even an emphatic silence, may do the work; and when the light and trifling thing which has done the mischief has fluttered off, the venom is left behind, to work and rankle, to inflame hearts, to fever human existence, and to poison human society at the fountain springs of life. Very emphatically was it said by one whose whole being had smarted under such affliction, Adders’ poison is under their lips.Frederick William Robertson. —Quoted in Spurgeon, Treasury of David, notes to Psa. 140:3.

And finally,

The purport of the commandment is, since God, who is truth, abhors falsehood, we must cultivate unfeigned truth towards each other. The sum, therefore, will be, that we must not by calumnies and false accusations injure our neighbour’s name, or by falsehood impair his fortunes; in fine, that we must not injure any one from petulance, or a love of evil-speaking. To this prohibition corresponds the command, that we must faithfully assist every one, as far as in us lies, in asserting the truth, for the maintenance of his good name and his estate. . . .

[T]here can be no doubt, that as in the previous commandment he prohibited cruelty unchastity, and avarice, so here he prohibits falsehood, which consists of the two parts to which we have adverted. By malignant or vicious detraction, we sin against our neighbour’s good name: by lying, sometimes even by casting a slur upon him, we injure him in his estate. It makes no difference whether you suppose that formal and judicial testimony is here intended, or the ordinary testimony which is given in private conversation. . . .

The equity of this is perfectly clear. For if a good name is more precious than riches, a man, in being robbed of his good name, is no less injured than if he were robbed of his goods; while, in the latter case, false testimony is sometimes not less injurious than rapine committed by the hand.

And yet it is strange, with what supine security men everywhere sin in this respect. Indeed, very few are found who do not notoriously labour under this disease: such is the envenomed delight we take both in prying into and exposing our neighbour’s faults. Let us not imagine it is a sufficient excuse to say that on many occasions our statements are not false. He who forbids us to defame our neighbour’s reputation by falsehood, desires us to keep it untarnished in so far as truth will permit. Though the commandment is only directed against falsehood, it intimates that the preservation of our neighbour’s good name is recommended. It ought to be a sufficient inducement to us to guard our neighbour’s good name, that God takes an interest in it. —John Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.47–48.

And it was helpful for Paul Washer to put his response in the context of the Proverb, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prove. 18:17).

We need far fewer first cases and far more examination.

Categories: Worldview

How theonomic society will come to pass: the Spirit and the Great Commission

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 10:26

The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty

Master Table of Contents

Now that we have the beginnings of a vision of what a theonomic society would look like, we need to discuss how such a society will come to pass. This discussion is further necessary since the practical advent of theonomic society has often been mischaracterized through ignorance, careless assumption, and even malice.

This discussion will immediately invoke debates over eschatology. I will not go into those in detail in this book.[1] There are many who may believe that something like my description in the last chapter will come to pass, but only after Christ returns. I do not believe this. I believe Christ is currently ruling both heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) from His heavenly throne, presiding over the Great Commission, and will not return until all of His enemies, including death, are first destroyed (1 Cor. 15:25–26; Heb. 10:12–13). But even many of those who believe that the success of the vision will occur only after Christ returns still feel the burden for obeying Christ’s law here and now as much as possible. Even some premillennialists have contacted me saying they believe in fighting for the faith in every area of life now, and thus engaging in projects or activism to develop theonomic foundations for when Christ does return. This chapter will proceed upon the assumptions of my eschatology, but will also be helpful to those of all eschatological persuasions who nevertheless think we should work for social ethics which glorify God even in the meantime.

When we are discussing the vision of what society would look like, we are speaking of the nature of social order. When we switch to the topic of how such a social order will come to pass, we are discussing the nature of social change. What are the biblical elements of social change? While this question deserves a treatise of its own, I will discuss in summary the basic two elements that make up the New Testament program of social change: the Great Commission and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit and the Great Commission

Godly social change in the New Testament comes from the advance of the Great Commission given by Christ, and this succeeds only according to the work of the Holy Spirit. Both are dependent upon each other, and both are necessary.

The Great Commission

The foundational impetus for Christian evangelism is the command of Christ given after His resurrection and prior to His ascension. We rightfully call this the “Great Commission.”

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20).

First, there is a lot we can learn from this passage, but the most relevant aspect for our purposes is the full nature and scope of the mandate. According to Christ, disciple-making involves more than just “soul winning.” It is about more than preaching about “getting saved.” We are to aim at more than that beginning part of Christ’s message that saves the soul. Rather, we are to train the nations to “observe”—that is, “obey”—all that Jesus has commanded us. This includes all of God’s word: not just the portion that speaks of the souls of men, but also the vast majority which teaches the law and its application for living, rearing families, self-improvement, doing business, running governments, etc.

For the abiding content of that law and its application, you can begin with the previous chapters of this book. But the relevant part here is the dire need to incorporate this content into our missionary activity. It is not anywhere near adequate, in light of Christ’s words here, to make a handful of converts without consequently teaching them the law, its social applications, and training preachers to address the whole of their society with that full message. To do so may prompt one with our contemporary mindset to boast that converting the soul is what matters most, and that devoting the entirety of one’s life even to save a single soul is “worth it.” But this is hardly faithful to Christ’s vision and commandment, in the view of which it seems quite timid, wasteful, and disobedient—much like the sad figure who buried his talent and was reprimanded by his Lord for doing so (Matt. 25:14–30). This is especially applicable when we collect millions of dollars to send out missionaries who live in disproportionately comfortable social conditions compared to the tribes they attempt to reach, and after a coupe decades claim only a handful of souls as converts. Instead, all of our missionary activity ought to address the full scope of Christ’s commandments, all of His law, and it should teach and train others to do so as well (Matt. 5:19).

Secondly, while this commission may often proceed by addressing individuals, its goal is to change entire nations. The text does not say “make disciples from among (or within, or out of) the nations.” The Greek literally translates as an imperative command to “disciple all the nations” themselves. The outlook of the Great Commission, therefore, is not individuals but corporate bodies, and all of them. Certainly, as we said, we must proceed toward this goal by saving individuals, but the end-goal is corporate, national, and universal. The greatness of the Great Commission does not lie in what it commands, but in what it promises. Christians should focus on the scope of what it promises, and engage in missions accordingly.

By the Holy Spirit

We must also emphasize that any degree of theonomic society will only come to pass to the degree that the Holy Spirit has worked among a significant portion of that people. This has multiple facets as well.

First, the dynamic power behind any Christian social change is the Holy Spirit, not man. When we speak of obedience to God’s laws in real time history, we are speaking of our sanctification. We are speaking of the degree to which our desires and actions accord with God’s standards, especially as compared with the former times of our ignorance or unbelief in which we not only did not obey God but did not care. The difference in attitude, will, and action is the Holy Spirit. Scripture teaches that “no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Likewise, Paul teaches,

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Cor. 2:14–15).

Thus, Scripture teaches that the Spirit is the power behind our faith, confession, understanding, and acceptance of the things of God. But it goes beyond that.

We mentioned earlier that a key difference between the Old and New Covenants is that the New Covenant is a ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3). In it, God writes his law upon our hearts, not stone (Heb. 8:10). We are filled with His Spirit and empowered to mortify our flesh (Rom. 8:13), and to obey him. Thus our new patterns of behavior and thoughts are not said to be the fruit of our own power, but the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–25). Paul says that our change from our old sinful selves is due to the sanctification by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13). He says that the work of his own ministry was by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:16). Indeed, the full scope of Christ’s work is to bring the nations to obedience in word and deed through sanctification of the Spirit (Rom. 15:14–19). He specifies that walking by the Spirit means not only sanctification, but santification according to the righteousness of the law (Rom. 8:4). The law is thus our pattern of sanctification. Peter adds that God’s election of us is worked out “through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2). Thus you see all aspects clearly: that sanctification is by the Spirit, that it leads to obedience, that this obedience is specifically according to the law, and that it is for the nations.

We must acknowledge, therefore, that it is the Holy Spirit that does the work, and we hold this idea as central to a theonomic society. This seems basic enough so as not to need emphasis. A variety of critics, however, (and some would-be proponents) of Theonomy perpetuate the idea that we want to first seize the seats of power and impose God’s laws upon everyone from the top down. Others repeat an old, slanderous, and well-refuted idea that we desire to “bring in the Kingdom of God by the works of man.” Adding theonomy to postmillennialism just makes that much more scary—even drawing comparisons to the Taliban! Of course, none of this is even remotely close to the truth, and those who perpetuate such myths about their Christian brothers quite simply ought to be ashamed of themselves for spreading lies.

In truth, as we have seen, Theonomy entails a drastic reduction in the size and scope of civil government. It seeks to remove great swaths of government power along with the cords of finance by which larger governments first buy the compliance of, then bind, lesser local governments and tyrannize the whole uniformly. Most importantly, however, Theonomists have always stressed that a biblical society can only come to pass in the wake of revival. In other words, it could only be a work of the Spirit, and anything that is not a work of the Spirit is not only pointless, it could be dangerous. Social change means social sanctification, and sanctification cannot come from the works of man. When man attempts to work apart from the Spirit, the results will never be praiseworthy and will not result in freedom.

Second, however, we must also acknowledge that when the Holy Spirit works, He works through people. This is not at all to take away with the other hand what we have already put down with the first. But the Holy Spirit works by inspiring, enlightening, and empowering people to good works. This means that the evidence of the work of the Spirit will manifest in the improved and obedient works of men.

Consider an analogy that will befit other views of the end times: the spread of the Gospel via the Great Commission. Let us assume the role of someone who believes the chief, yea! and only, purpose of the Commission is to preach salvation and save souls—we should not waste our time doing anything else. This person would scoff at the idea that a theonomic society could occur before the second coming of Christ. This person may repeat the caricature about us trying to bring in the Kingdom by our own works.

Such a person, however, does not see the inconsistency in their objection. Human involvement is not the same as human origin. Works that come through man are not the same as works can come from man. Such Christians themselves, after all, believe in human involvement in preaching the salvation of souls. They believe Christ and the Spirit are doing the work of the Gospel even though the actual presence, preaching, interaction, prayer, etc. are being done by men. Does this mean that even these pious savers of souls are guilty of spreading the Kingdom by the works of men? Of course not. But in order to be consistent with their own view, they must acknowledge that those who believe in more concrete manifestations of the Kingdom of God believe nothing different in regard to the source of the works than they themselves do about spreading the Gospel. It will necessarily involve the efforts of men, but that is a whole different thing than saying it comes from the works of men. No, Christian Reconstruction toward a theonomic society will come only by the work of the Holy Spirit; but it will cause, and thus involve, a wide variety of human works. These works will just happen to be Spirit-driven works, and He will deserve all the glory.

Third, for the change to be truly social, the Spirit’s influence must reach a significant portion of a people. Whether this is a majority or not is up for debate in any given system or society, I suppose, but we surely must expect a substantial amount of shared vision, shared goals, and shared values for there to be any meaningful social change. If outward changes are wrought by the influence of some charismatic leader at an opportunistic moment, it will probably not last. Social cohesion comes about by shared values. Without this, change will not have roots and will wither and die. We do not need charismatic personalities so much as we need a more widespread educational revival among Christians to effect faithfulness in service and action. The idea that we will just elect the right person to the Presidency and then impose a new system of government is not only naïve and ignorant, it has never been accurate in regard to Theonomy. Theonomic ethics calls for widespread self-government and decentralization. It is not only incompatible with dictators, but to embrace central planning or centralized government is to depart from Theonomy by definition.

We need not, however, think of our work as hopeless until such widespread revival comes to pass. It has usually been true in history that powerful social changes are spearheaded by only a small group of the hard core. While it would be a departure from biblical law to consider some top-down, centralized imposition of social change, it is nevertheless only through the courageous activism of small groups and even individuals that the message is brought to bear upon whole societies that need to hear it. It is only through such small but devout minorities that the first foundations of social change are laid.

Think of William Wilberforce. He worked almost single-handedly in Parliament, and with a very small group outside, to bring about the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. He labored fearlessly and tirelessly for over twenty years, starting as the voice of a tiny minority and subject to constant ridicule. He ended with a majority vote in Parliament. The advance of his cause and activism could be called nothing less than Theonomy in action, though he would never have heard the term and may have not accepted it in theory. But it was. There was no way it would have come about top-down. He could not have seized the reins of power if he had wanted to, and if he had, he would have been opposed widely, bringing about civil unrest if not revolution or civil war. But his minority status did not dissuade him from working for the cause—working for reform.

We should consider Wilberforce a prime example of how theonomic minorities ought to view their work today. We should engage in activism for reform because it is right, and because even up against such pervasive opposition we can begin to lay the foundations of necessary change, if not see it come to pass in our lifetimes. We should step up and become modern-day Wilberforces in regard to justice reform, prison reform, police reform, legal reform, monetary and banking reform, transformation of education, welfare, military, free markets and much more. Even if we think any broad revival is way off, we must still work for change in laying the foundations in order to be faithful to God’s calling. And the surprise may just be on us. Who knows what God intends to do through us as we preach and work His law in society.

Fourth, the goal of social change means real, concrete changes in societies and real concrete service and activism on the part of people. We must emphasize, therefore, that the Spirit working through people means the Spirit empowering and motivating people actually to works. As we have seen, those works will be according to the law (Rom. 8:4). Too often, even those who adhere to a biblical-law worldview do little but talk and write books. Such educational efforts are, of course, a part of how such a society will come to pass. We need awareness and instruction. We need information. But we also need action. When we speak of obedience, and obedience according to the law, we are necessarily talking about changes in behavior. Changes in behavior will mean changes in how we live, speak, work, spend money, associate with others, vote (or not vote), and much more. In terms of social change, it means changes in how the state (not to mention families, churches, corporations, institutions, etc.) behaves. Our activism ought to have very specific ideas of what these changes would entail, and then how to work for them in the meantime, if possible.

When we talk about the Spirit’s role in how a theonomic society will come to pass, therefore, we must consider all aspects. First, the theological source of change being the Holy Spirit. Second, the practical involvement of people. Third, the fact that we need a critical mass of converts, yet we work for certain changes in the meantime. Fourth, we have concrete goals toward which we work, and concrete methods of working. In all such work, we trust that God will bring His will to pass, and that what does come to pass will be only by His blessing.

Purchase The Bounds of Love.

Next section: How it will come to pass: Action plans

Notes:

[1].  See my Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2011) for my contribution to the preterist and postmillennial arguments so far.

 

Categories: Worldview

Abolitionism versus the establishment — a convicting mirror

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 13:06

As we watch gospel personalities criticize groups who are both spreading awareness for the immediate abolition of human abortion and calling the evangelical church to repent of its apathy (like R. C. Sproul, Sr. has courageously done), it will be helpful to put things in perspective. Here, history can be of great service, although I will warn you, if you’re not into being convicted, proceed no further.

“Abolitionism” today refers to the immediate end of abortion. In other words, it wants to #EndAbortionNow. But most people are familiar with the word from a previous era—the abolitionism made famous by William Wilberforce as well as many such activists in America.

Most people are probably aware of the general religious convictions of men like Wilberfore, William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, and women like Harriet Beecher Stowe. Most people who know much about the abolitionists know that there were religious motivations behind their actions.

What most people do not know is the unfortunate fact that these religious figures were considered fringe elements by the majority of Americans, certainly by the religiously informed. What most people do not know is that the greatest published opposition by far to the abolition of slavery in America was the mainline, establishment churches.

In the history books, this opposition is often well-highlighted among the Southern theologians, but the opposition to radical—immediate—abolition was just as strong from churches and ministers in the Northern free states as well.

A great illustration of this comes in the case of Andover Seminary in the mid-1830s.

Abolition at Andover

Andover was the Westminster Seminary of its day, having been founded by conservative Calvinist ministers, including Jedidiah Morse of American history fame, who had fled the Unitarian takeover at Harvard around 1805.

Several students at the seminary were persuaded by the radical abolitionists Garrison, Weld, and others. They formed a society and organized lectures by these at the seminary chapel, but almost as soon as the abolitionist fire began to spread, the seminary leaders moved to shut them down, and largely succeeded. They succeeded, anyway, in ensuring that the institution itself would remain officially opposed to immediate abolition and in favor of the lip-service version, gradualism and colonization. In the end, while I think the author of the article I am about to feature was a bit too soft on the leadership, he does conclude that “one of the most important, if not the significant, factor predisposing the educators to reject organized immediatism was their professional self-image. . . .”1

You can find the whole article here.2 I recommend the whole of it for those interested. I’ll relate just a few relevant facts.

The abolitionist movement started on campus in 1833. It was tiny at first, but the work it did was huge. It “criticized the unexamined presuppositions of colonization and voiced the salient arguments of immediatism.”3 The “student abolitionists publicly repudiated colonization” as a movement ultimately built on racism. It was “spurred by hatred and prejudice toward blacks” and thus “proposed to rid America of an unwanted people.”4 These students consistently attacked this prejudice, the slavery built upon it, and the compromise of an emancipation only pending deportation as sinful and contrary to the principles of the gospel. By 1835, 40 out of 164 students sided with the abolitionists, and actually more than that were unofficially on board.5

In other words, up until this point, the establishment’s apathetic, but “professional” and publicly-favorable position had gone unchallenged. When it was exposed by applications of godly ethics and theological principles, students began to see the logic and unrighteousness of it. Awareness and a desire for action grew, and the establishment suddenly realized it had cause for concern—embarrassment of themselves if nothing else.

The convicting mirror here should be becoming evident already, but the full reality appears in the reaction of the leadership. They called a meeting between the faculty and students in 1835, and the faculty, one after the other, preached to the students the dire need “to cease further agitation of the explosive issue.”6 The most disheartening—but enlightening as a historical mirror—point is the reasoning they provided for the need to shut down agitation for immediate abolition.

Reasoning for inaction

Thompson lists four reasons. Of these, only one has any tinge of merit, one is poor, and the remaining two are utterly reprehensible. But here’s the even worse part: they are all four argued still today as reasons to distance oneself and one’s organization from immediate abolitionism of abortion.

The first reason was that debate on the seminary campus would cause division and injure brotherly love among the students. This is the poor reason. What is higher education for if not for hammering out divisive issues? Why was there not some forum for debating issues, especially the most crucial social issue of their day? What we see here is a false piety that values a false unity based in institutionally-imposed censorship. But such silence does not promote brotherly love or unity; it simply creates a coerced neutrality which universally indicates victory for the status quo. In other words, this route creates a safe space for the status quo and ensures nothing imediate will never happen.

The second reason has a façade of merit, but in reality is one more version of the classic dualism inherent in “two kingdoms” theologies. “Professionally” stated, the argument says that “to become embroiled in the slavery question would sidetrack the students from their proper role as Christian scholars and candidates for the ministry.”7 How in the world slavery could not qualify as an issue of at least Christian scholarship, if not ministry, is beyond me. But separating the two like this is what status quo-defending pietists always do, and the Southern theologians were experts at saying, “well slavery is a civil issue, and we only deal with spiritual issues here, sorry.”

Later in his life, Andover Professor Moses Stuart would publish his work against American slavery as a moral wrong and in favor of gradual emancipation. In it, his dualistic theology would shine through: “I have frequented the lecture-room, in the Theological Seminary here, near forty years; yet I believe none of all my pupils will charge me with occupying their time in political lectures.”8 To him this was something to be proud of, as was the fact that he played a central role in suppressing the students’ abolitionism as well—by using such theology.

Reprehensible

Beyond these tactics, however, the leadership got startlingly candid—and this is where the reprehensible arguments come. The third argument made was that “to take sides publicly on such a divisive issue would jeopardize their usefulness as ministers by making it difficult for them to secure a church or other post.”9

This is a classic veiled threat: fall in line, or you won’t have a job. Rock the church-boat, and you won’t have a paycheck.

This threat is the reprehensible bullying of cowardly men. And it is used just a widely today as it was then. It is rarely presented in such overt terms, but it is always the unspoken assumption for all seminary students who wish to graduate through the ranks of the organization, get ordained and accepted, and actually receive a pulpit. If your family wants to eat, don’t preach unapproved subjects, certainly not controversial social issues.

Finally, added onto this intimidation tactic, the seminary also revealed its own fear of losing money. The faculty argued that “to plunge the seminary into a bitter wrangle would cast a shadow over the future prospects of the school . . . by alienating friendly churches and wealthy benefactors. . . .”10

There you have it. Don’t do anything to get this institution associated with immediate abolition because our large donors would not like that. Boom. We want you to have a paycheck, and we want to make sure we have one, too. Meanwhile, four million souls remained in chains and slavery, and the best the establishment could do was say one day they may be freed, gradually, maybe a few at a time, and then we can ship them back to Africa. For now, stop convicting folk with your divisive, immediatist and equality nonsense, because there’s a lot of money at stake for us.

Of course, the slave holders in the South could have said the same thing—and many of them did.

So did their pastors.

So did their representatives in Congress, assembled.

So do the opponents of radical, immediate abolition of abortion today.

The appeals seem to have been effective. The majority of students passed a resolution disapproving of all action on the subject of slavery. But when it was clear that the more conscientious among them would still meet, the faculty petitioned the seminary’s Board of Trustees for power to forbid any student associations to be formed without approval of the faculty. This would mean the outlawing of any abolitionist groups meeting on campus, and the power to kick them out if they did.

The Trustees granted the request. After 1835, there is no evidence of any challenge to the faculty’s view. Any protest was confined to off-campus activity and private letters. But the hostility to abolition remained on campus, despite the now-outward appearance of peace and order. One student wrote to Theodore Weld in 1837, “God’s own book is insulted here and that by those who minister at the altar—aye by those who are appointed to train up the ‘leaders of the sacramental hosts of God’s elect.’” But aside from this, the forces of the establishment ended any discussion of immediate abolition.11

Look in the mirror

So, now, look in the mirror you defenders of the establishment, of the organized leadership. Look in the mirror you who criticize the zealous, uncompromising work of today’s immediate abolitionists of human abortion. See the image of yourselves in these leaders:

See them call any debate over the most serious ethical issue we have ever faced “divisive.”

See them label the challenge to apathy “divisive.”

See them hide the demands of justice and God’s Law beneath the false veneer of “unity” and “brotherly love.”

See them ensure the victory of man’s worse crimes with censorship.

See them call the most serious ethical issue we have ever faced “a sidetrack.” It’s not a priority.

See them absolve themselves of ethical duty by separating spiritual issues from “political.”

See them threaten ministers with the loss of a job if they speak out.

See them suppress the truth in the unrighteous covetousness of large donations.

See them intimidate those who would speak out in their ranks.

See them label radical abolitionists as fringe, divisive, distracting, kooks, church haters, having bad theology, and even dangerous.

When intimidation alone doesn’t work, see them use force and compulsion to kick them out.

See them all the while write books, give lectures, and hold conferences on how much they oppose the very evil they are protecting through all these actions.

Look in the mirror, and see your seminary students. See your seminaries. See your pastor. See your church leaders. See your parachurch leaders. See your Christian representatives. See your favorite theologian.

Most of all, look in his mirror and see yourself. Four million souls suffered and many died while thousands of pious theologians made excuses, bullied people, postured publicly, and spread lies which protected their professional image and their flow of funds, and cashed large checks. Today, they do exactly the same things while tens of millions of souls are murdered routinely in the womb. Nothing has changed, except that the apathy of the church has risen in proportion to the bloodshed, and its war on immediate abolitionists has intensified to match.

The hostility toward activists who preach the need for the immediate, coming from established organizations and ministers is as reprehensible now as it was then, and the arguments and reasoning virtually identical. The church needs to repent, and this means scores of leaders need to repent and show an example to their followings of repentance from apathy. I can only echo wholeheartedly the appeal of Dr. Sproul:

It is time for churches that see the evil of abortion to stand up and be counted—no matter the risk or the cost. When the church is silent in the midst of a holocaust, she ceases to be a real church. Wherever human dignity is under attack, it is the duty of the church and of the Christian to rise up in protest against it. This is not a political matter, and neither is it a temporary matter. It is not a matter over which Christians may disagree. It is a matter of life and death, the results of which will count forever.

Check yourself, Christian.

  1. J. Earl Thompson, “Abolitionism and Theological Education at Andover,” The New England Quarterly 47, no. 2 (June, 1974): 241.
  2. You’ll need a subscription or a library visit to do more than read it online one page at a time.
  3. Thompson, 243.
  4. Thompson, 243.
  5. Thompson, 245.
  6. Thompson, 246.
  7. Thompson, 246.
  8. Thompson, 255.
  9. Thompson, 246; my emphasis.
  10. Thompson, 247; my emphasis.
  11. Quoted in Thompson, 251.
Categories: Worldview

The G3 kerfuffle and a big glass of White milk

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 14:28

I have a confession to make. Here goes: I broke the ministry-industrial complex’s version of Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment.” What is this? After a bitter primary season in 1966, Reagan said he followed this rule: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

In 1964, the Republican establishment had refused to back the libertarianish Barry Goldwater, called him an “extremist,” let the liberal press savage him, and even repeated some of the liberal attacks. Reagan had backed Goldwater, so his challenger in the 1966 primary for CA governor was giving Reagan the same treatment. Reagan vowed not to stoop to the same level.

Well, I broke that type of commandment. Sort of. My comments about AHA and the G3 Conference provoked a firestorm of 1.2k comments and counting, as well as the unsolicited personal attacks of James White.

Let’s be clear, this is not an apology on my part. I am no more sorry for criticizing one more expression of the evangelical-industrial complex than I was when I “broke the rule” in the past criticizing Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung, Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Alistair Begg, Todd Friel, Carl Trueman, R. Scott Clark, Tim Keller, Peter Kreeft, Gary Habermas, John MacArthur/Phil Johnson, T. David Gordon, David Barton, Westminster Seminary West, Westminster Seminary East, and others beyond.

I have consistently offered such criticisms since I first began writing at American Vision in 2008. One of my earliest articles was called “Two Cities, Two Laws?” in August of 2008, and it took to task Michael Horton and T. David Gordon over their misrepresentations of Theonomy and two kingdoms theology, amillennialism, etc.

I remember at the time that one of our board members (who later left for unrelated reasons) was a bit alarmed that I struck a critical tone of other Reformed theologians. We’re all on the same team here! We just need to sit down and win these guys over. DeMar quickly assured him that we long since tried to sit down and win over, and tried many times in between; we were more often instead greeted with mistreatment, lies, dirty tricks, and the back-room good-old-boy side of the complex, just as Greg Bahnsen was. “These guys” do not seem to have ever had any intention of getting along and fair play. The social applications of God’s law rock the boat, and the rocked boat is the mortal enemy of the establishment church coffers. That board member later became one of my strongest supporters and a good friend.

DeMar himself wrote about this problem in his contributions to Theonomy: An Informed Response. I have extracted two of them as articles here and here. In the first article, he talked about how Calvinism always means a total Christian worldview:

As a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, I was taught that certain cultural applications flowed from a consistent application of Calvinism. Calvinism is synonymous with a comprehensive biblical world-and-life view. Simply put, I was told that the Bible applies to every area of life. To be a Calvinist is to make biblical application to issues beyond soul-saving.

All the literature we read on Calvinism had at least some reference for the application of Calvinism’s world-and-life view in history. No one ever questioned this theological framework until some of us actually began to apply worldview Calvinism to particular social themes. This is what we were taught to do, from our first reading of Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism to Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then live? I contend that theonomy logically follows from worldview Calvinism. Take away Calvinism’s worldview, and Calvinism’s plane won’t fly.

In the second, Gary continued discussing the problem creating by getting into particulars from Scripture: as soon as the Reconstructionists did it, the evangelical-industrial complex jumped all over them. Gary wrote:

Christian Reconstructionist writers revived the older expression of world-and-life-view Calvinism and added the particulars of the Genevan and Puritan models. The revival of this particular expression of world-and-life-view Calvinism has not set well with the critics. As long as Reformed churches were preaching the general tenets of Calvinism, all was well. The historian R. H. Tawney noted in 1925: “No church has ever experienced any great difficulty in preaching righteousness in general”; it is “righteousness in particular” that disturbs the churches.

A good number of Reconstructionist critics are uncomfortable with Gary North’s approach to Isaiah 1 because he points out that the passage describes “righteousness in particular” in areas beyond the heart, hearth, and sanctuary. . . .

What we’re seeing today in the reaction to my comments on G3 is one more variation of this phenomenon: 1) the profession that one has a comprehensive biblical worldview, 2) the utter neglect to move beyond the foundations of reformed theological foundations into particulars of social reformation, and 3) the emotive “how dare you” when someone points out this obvious deficiency and/or offers such positions themselves.

All of this is good enough reason to chuckle—in the way one could imagine Charles Spurgeon in good full-throated laughter—when White concludes his comments with these barbs: “Why McDurmon thinks he needs to engage in this kind of scorched-earth policy I do not know. Maybe it is one of his often new-found quests or views or positions or whatever—it is hard to keep track of where the wind is blowing him these days.” It simply does not appear that White has any understanding of who and what he’s talking about. Where’s he been for the past eight years?

To be clear, the only thing I have changed my mind on has been a few death penalties—to which White obviously has no reference here. What in the world could he be talking about? My work on the history of jurisprudence and criminal justice reform? My development of that work into the area of black history and racial healing? Anyone who has much knowledge of the history of Christian Reconstruction at all (keep in mind, White boasts of having known Greg Bahnsen personally) would see this is merely the application of biblical worldview to those areas, only marginally advancing beyond the applications made repeatedly by Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, and others in the past. So none of this can be the case.

Apparently, White thinks my criticizing G3 is some aberration on my part, out of character, blown about by winds and whims of change. But he fails to see we have been doing this from day one, calling the church to repent of its obsession with theological foundations and actually to put wings on the plane. Rushdoony first noted many of these problems in By What Standard?, published in 1958. So, forget just the past eight years; where James been for the past 59? It is this lack of grounding as to where one is in the big picture that leaves a man vulnerable during the types of emotive reaction against another who is simply unimpressed with the ninetieth repetition of the Christian ABCs.

White’s problems with my comments

I’d like to address a couple main aspects of what White said in reaction. There is a pretty good amount of incendiary ad hominem, innuendo, suggestive presumption, and accusation which—although it seems to be characteristic of many of his reactions—does not need to be the focus here. Suffice it to say that the people who, following his lead, call me a myriad of names while they praise such conduct in others should probably go back and the first breakout session at this year’s G3 (just turn the tables on your own “don’t touch this anointed one” you may get the picture). Or maybe just read Matthew 23 and pretend Paul Washer was preaching it to you.

Now, first, White seems most upset that I called the some talks at the conference “milk.” The bulk of his point is dedicated to this:

To identify the presentations as “milk” is simply absurd and documentably false. I suppose McDurmon could pull off a more in-depth presentation than DA Carson did on Ephesians 1 this morning, or that I did on Rome’s doctrine of the Eucharistic sacrifice? He could go more in-depth on preaching than Steve Lawson or Voddie Baucham? I leave it to anyone who has listened to all of these, and McDurmon, to decide.

Aside from the obvious playing of personality loyalties here, the irony has already been pointed out well by others: in attempting to refute my point, James White only firmly establishes it for me. And no, it is not up to the person listening to decide; Scripture tells us what the definition of theological milk is, not our own comparisons of our favorite teachers.

I wrote an article about this almost a year ago: “Moving on to maturity: a challenge to Christians.” I made the argument openly, clearly, forcefully, uncompromisingly, and purely from biblical exegesis. I shared the Bible’s definitions of theological “milk” and of holding people in “immaturity.” Just a snippet:

The real conviction for us today, therefore, lies in exactly what this passage in Hebrews considers to be “milk.” Read it. It is virtually everything we today consider to be the meat of theology: the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of repentance, the doctrine of faith alone, the doctrine of baptism, the doctrine of laying-on-of-hands, the doctrine of resurrection, and the doctrine of final judgment. Kindergarten, all.

These are the doctrines the author says are mere fundamentals and from which we need to “leave” and “go on to maturity.” In other words, we don’t really need another book on Christology, or hell, or “the gospel.” We need Christians to move on from these foundations.

And what then is maturity? The article progressed on to prove, from multiple Scriptures, that maturity is when you move beyond even the most important theological truths to the application of them, in person and in social relationships, in the form of service and good works. That is, Christian Reconstructionism of various degrees in various area of life.

This was posted almost a year ago, and two thousand of you shared it. Again, where has White been? Whatever he’s thinking, he certainly has not done his homework, or at least has seen fit not to share it with you if he did.

But James seems as if he is making a home-run against my “milk” and “immaturity” comments when he mentions “in-depth” discussions about Ephesians 1 (predestination, election, the doctrine of Christ, grace, forgiveness, faith), his own talk about Roman Catholic sacraments, and talks about preaching. Instead, I see a nearly perfect parallel here between what the author of Hebrews was getting at and telling us to “move on” from, not laying the foundations yet again, and from which to get on to applications of good works and service. As the gentleman linked above righteously put it:

What White fails to understand is that going into great depth on 5% of what Scripture has to say does not mean that he should be applauded and esteemed. His highly analytical presentation of a Roman Catholic false teaching is a rearranging of the same Reformed arguments used against the RCC for the last 500 years. The problem isn’t that teachers narrowly focus and dive a thousand feet deep into an important subject, it’s that they dive down the same holes relentlessly while ignoring, out of neglect or out of theological ignorance, vast swaths of God’s Word. I am very far from impressed to see that DA Carson is teaching on, I’m sure, God’s Sovereignty in Election. I’m even less impressed that the made-up doctrine of preaching is being taught on. These subjects are as milky as they come. They’re only putting the milk under a microscope. I can’t say it any better than Rushdoony. We’re studying the ABCs in high detail. We are getting really “in-depth” about making sure “A” comes before “B” and how “C” comes after “B”. I’m certain many will sit through these lectures and learn a little clever nuance or become fascinated by a cute new twist on a old basic idea. Focusing on a topic is fine. Gloating about your tunnel vision is just silly. Eventually grown men sitting around singing the alphabet just becomes nauseating.

So, in an attempt to score points against me, White unwittingly displayed my point for me, and did so in such a way as to show the extent to which he can be part of the problem.

Secondly, James represents my comments as saying that I was “accusing all of us of holding so many in ‘immaturity,’ . . .” There’s a big problem here. I most specifically did not say that “all” of the G3 speakers were doing this. I said that while someone was kicking out AHA, one speaker told the audience to throw AHA literature in the trash. Then I said that, meanwhile, there were “a score” more talks on “milk”—which, again, I thank White for confirming for us. (I had already confirmed this with other attendees.) Then I said that this illustrates the failure of the church, as a generality, and its leaders.

I nowhere said that “all” speakers at G3 were guilty. And my generalization, as all do, admits of exceptions. I would certainly say Voddie Baucham is a cut above the rest considering that he routinely criticizes public education, and American Vision in fact carries his DVD Children of Caesar. Likewise, I am personal acquaintances with David Hall, and while I would certainly not classify him as a Reconstructionist, some of his writings on Calvin, American History, Christian Political Theory, and other topics break the mold of the standard evangelical problem. But his pulpit and some of his views do not reflect the same emphases—with which I think he would agree.

Likewise, James mentions D.A. Carson. Carson I am sure would fall under my criticism to some degree, but even here his works are not to be dispensed with, particularly when his commentaries, for example, answer the standard line repeated by many through the discernmentsphere and MacArthurdom, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and interpreted in such a way as to demand no emphasis on social action for the kingdom of God. Let Carson clear this up for us:

It is important to see ‘that Jesus’ statement should not be misconstrued as meaning that his kingdom is not active in this world, or has nothing to do with this world’ (Beasley-Murray, p. 331). John certainly expects the power of the inbreaking kingdom to affect this world; elsewhere he insists that the world is conquered by those who believe in Jesus (1 Jn. 5:4). But theirs is the sort of struggle, and victory, that cannot effectively be opposed by armed might.1

This is pure Christian Reconstructionist fire, despite the fact that Carson certainly would not identify. I just appreciate the fact that, when you follow Scripture, you arrive at Recon conclusions, and Carson’s faithfulness here helps us on one point.

So, just as one might generalize, “Congress is a bunch of crooks,” I say that the modern church has failed and its leaders have held their followers in immaturity. It’s a generalization that obviously admits exceptions. There’s always a Ron Paul for the first generalization. There are some in my generalization, too.

But James’s acting surprised is as big a disappointment as his fallacies. He knows better. I not only published the article on milk and maturity linked above long ago, I had already made the similar point in “The evangelical pulpit deserves much blame for this,” and reiterated the point last fall in “The classic con-game on ‘God’s Law.’” In both of these I made reference to James White’s lack of social applications while preaching through the Holiness Code and large chunks of Deuteronomy, where such applications are numerous and unavoidable, and while has claimed to be as close to theonomists as anyone. Sorry, I didn’t see it. And to be sure, I know White knows I thought this because I had an email exchange with him about it.

I have been pointing out such problems in the church and those complicit in it my whole career, following this way in just one of the traditions going all the way back to Rushdoony, and of course, much earlier than him in the Reformation. It is a tradition virtually lost among theologians today, and when expressed, strikes some as alarming. I will work to change this as long as I am doing this.

The burst of surprise and the attempt to suggest this is some new development are merely excuses for White to flame me above and beyond any legitimate criticism, which I always court but never seem to get. For example, when I suggested that very night that I could drive down to Atlanta that very moment (30 min for me), sit down with him and AHA and discuss it, he fell silent. Considering he said that someone needed to “talk sense” into me, this silence was fishy. His goal appears to have been to inspire and justify further flame attacks against me from among less scrupulous and more impressionable followers who would imitate his example. Some, of course, obliged.

Well, people should know that the reason White and I have difficulty getting along goes back a long way. It goes back further than, as a few people seem to think, his comments on the Hall debate (comments I have never actually heard, and once read, could have predicted). Much earlier than that. Maybe I can address this in another place in the near future, for those of you who have joined the discussion only recently.

Conclusion (for now)

I write these things, and take the controversial stands that I do, because they are true and badly needed. I do not write them because I want to make enemies. I understand, however, that by making such applications and being one of the ones who has to say it, I will probably not get invited to the golf outing. But I do hope, and quite often succeed, in waking up and connecting with scores of folk who see the problem and desire to move on to what Scripture says maturity is.

And it’s worth noting that when push came to shove, Reagan broke his own rule, too. It was not until he did that was able to break through to the presidency.

  1. From his commentary on John, IVP and Eerdmans, 1991, p. 594.
Categories: Worldview

Make America great again—the Inaugural

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 10:49

If you’re like me, you’re tired of watching America head downhill, especially when it means the erosion of our culture, wealth, faith, and the steamrolling of our rights and liberties. And if you’re like me, you want to do something about it as soon as possible.

But you also probably know better than to believe that the problems thrust upon us will be fixed by a change of administrator in Washington, though many seem to be falling for this illusion. These days, altering the seating arrangement in Congress every so many years is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We’ve seen the great Pennsylvania Avenue parade before, dozens of times, and each time the wars continue, the welfare increases, government balloons in size, and debt goes through the roof (until they raise the ceiling again, of course). Isn’t it time we focused on something besides the same old failed “solution”?

We need solutions that work, and it’s time to get serious, even if it means starting small, planning long, and making sacrifices.

You’re probably talking to all kinds of people—regular folks, as well as pastors, teachers, politicians, and many other leaders in society—often asking the question, “What can we do?” I have heard that question myself many times, especially in response to the worldview taught here at American Vision. Sounds great, but what is to be done? It was my goal, therefore, to sit down and begin a training project, privately funded, to be promoted and given away free online, that provides simple and clear answers to that question. My project, called “Restoring America One County at a Time,” is that attempt.

We cover ten major topics, beginning with education, welfare, and local government. We emphasize the things we can do right now; and these are the things that must be done first if we are to make any further progress in this battle. This is the heart and soul of the project: recovering local sovereignty and local freedom. Everything else that follows in restoring America is either based on the same principles already covered, or they require much more progress to be made before they become viable to accomplish.

So, since what we covered first is so fundamental, vital, and so ready for the taking, I want to provide it as an overview of the big picture for you. Here’s a “2-minute” version below. (If you wish to move on to the detailed look already, visit my Restoring America master page.

Education

First, education is the easiest thing to recover, and the most vital. Anyone who actually cares that their children be taught Christian faith and liberty, who cares about the foundations and principles of liberty, and/or who decries the principles of socialism (taxing some people to pay for services to others), among other things, is under a moral obligation to provide for their children’s education privately. You’ve got to pull your kids out of public schools. This is how American was originally founded, operated, and it is part of what made America great to begin with. It is time to recover this vision and discipline.

This is quick and easy to do in most states; but it is able to be done in all. In fact, there are no laws in any state mandating that you subject your children to public schooling. This is purely a personal decision—a willing subjugation on the part of the parent—with only economic and lifestyle motivations involved. Every Christian, especially, should pull their children out immediately. Christian children need Christian education. Every church should support homeschooling parents, help with materials and supplemental instruction, and open its own school as well, especially for poorer members. Morally and biblically speaking, there’s really no good reason not to do these things. Only if you let convenience and money trump morality would you continue to support public schooling.

There are still goals to be worked for after making this initial momentous step. We must have in view a world in which tax-funded schooling does not exist, and we must plan and work toward that vision. We should hope to get the State (civil government) out of education entirely. We should at the very least work for tax-exemptions for those who educate at home or otherwise privately. This is only just.

If every professed Bible-believing Christian 1) took responsibility for their own children, and 2) then organized to demand an end to school taxes, the public school system could be defunct within a matter of weeks, and certainly would be within a year. But then again, who cares if they exist in general or not, as long as we obtain the right to opt-out of all taxation that funds the system.

How people react to this first topic of the project to make America great again will show how willing they are to work and sacrifice for freedom in general. If we won’t take back that freedom which lies right in front of us, if we refuse to sacrifice where it’s easiest (although still a sacrifice), then we’re saying on a personal and local level at least, “I want my socialism.” Balking at this point is an admission of complicity in the plunder, or complacency in general. Both reasons would indicate that people are not yet ready to be free. At this point, we’ll see whether the TEA-party is really ready for a party.

Welfare and Social Security

Secondly, centralized State welfare is a failure. In fact, it is a scheme designed to redistribute wealth and enslave us as beggars to the central powers. The answer is individually-funded “retirement” and insurance, family-based welfare for old age, and church or voluntary community solutions for the truly poor and for those few instances which exceed individual or family capacity (true charity cases). A free society will also include at least an option to abstain from the State-run system.

Every church, instead of spending 80% of its income on new building programs and pastor’s salaries, should have a large fund designated for the care of members who are truly biblical widows and orphans. Voluntary communities could do the same, but these would essentially operate as small, private insurance groups (although, don’t dare call it “insurance” or the government and a tribe of lawyers and lobbyists will slaughter you to the gods of the insurance industry in a court of admiralty).

There are some private solutions already successfully at work in this regard. Classically, the Amish and some Mennonite communities have maintained exemption from the Social Security system since they had a private system in place and had religious convictions against it. The same is true of more recent health-care sharing programs like Samaritan Ministries, which obtained exemption from teh central government’s healthcare tyranny for the same reasons.

There is nothing, ultimately, that should limit exemptions to just those groups. Anyone with a religious or any other conviction against it should be free to leave the system. You shouldn’t have to live an Amish lifestyle (though, the country life is a good life!), and you shouldn’t have to prove anything to the government, in order to be free from its ridiculous tyrannies.

The main things we can do here are, first, to create and implement a personal plan in which you provide for yourself and your family first. This means saving at least 25% of your income from as early as possible. If this is currently impossible, then you need to make cuts in your budget until it is. Maintaining a high level of consumption while not saving money, and meanwhile depending on future government taxation of others so that you can quit working at 65, is immoral. For those who profess to believe in freedom, dependence on such coercion-based handouts is self-contradictory. By rather positioning yourself to fund yourself in old age and emergency, you do many great things: 1) you recover individual responsibility, 2) exemplify it for others, 3) you further delegitimize the government system, and 4) you expose the government scheme as unnecessary, and in fact, counterproductive.

There are yet further goals at which to aim. Even while you position yourself as responsible and self-sufficient, the government is still taxing you for Social Security benefits. The goal is to stop this coercive redistribution of wealth entirely, or at least provide an opt-out. The first step is to become self-funded despite the taxation. The second step is to organize a demand for exemption for those who desire it. Obtain this, and you will have freedom from the system, and it will soon disappear altogether. Even if it does not, if it is not allowed to tax (or is prevented by state and local governments) for this purpose, then the option of freedom is on the table for all who would choose it (and of course, who would thereby be agreeing to live with the consequences of freedom as well).

“County Rights”

Third, we have got to refocus our political efforts locally. We need much less attention on national elections which tend only to give new rascals the old jobs, and the old rascals huge pensions. We need to plan locally, take back control locally, reject handouts and grants from above, and reject the interference and regulation from higher governments (which often comes attached to the handouts). We need to clean up the socialism and corruption in our own backyards before we pretend to save anything at the national level.

In fact, it can’t happen the other way around. The system itself has grown into a tyrannical bureaucracy. It is theoretically and practically impossible to restore freedom by simply replacing the President and his bureaucrats. The only way to restore freedom is to dismantle the machine, delegitimize it, and/or remove yourself from its path. It is highly unlikely that the vast machine will be dismantled, for the people most in position to do so are also the ones most self-interested in maintaining it. The only way to restore freedom today is to reassert local sovereignty, and this begins with establishing local integrity and freedom, and then moving on to relearn what American local resistance is all about.

For starters, we need to learn about local politics: the people, places, systems, etc. We are way too familiar with national figures, and way too ignorant of locals. Learn about them: names, backgrounds, beliefs, public salaries and pensions, everything. Then, especially, delve into the public finances of your town or county. This knowledge is public, and the financial officer of your locality can provide it for you. Find out how much is taxed, borrowed, paid, on whose authority, and why. You can then better inform and organize for local elections and much more.

Then, start a website documenting everything you’ve learned. Make everything plain and public—very plain, and very public. Find a list of local business owners and make them aware of your work. They are the people who pay the lion’s share of property taxes; they will be happy to see someone tracking it for them, especially if there is corruption or waste. Make everything public. It is not even out of the question to film or otherwise record public meetings, and make that available online also.

Much more. . . .

There is much, much more to cover. We talk about markets, courts, defense, money, and more. We also discuss the need to restore the pulpits of America to positions of prominence, knowledge, and leadership in local political ethics and law—the way the American pulpits used to be! The positions covered are bold, but they represent the way America used to be, and especially the way God’s Word directs us to live. If we want the type of freedom America once had—indeed, even greater freedom—then we have to be honest about things: state it plainly, set goals, and work toward them, even when it seems difficult, uphill, and unpopular. Freedom can be restored in America, one county at a time. If you really want to make America great again, then direct your attention to the hard truths of how it used to be, what the Bible says, how we really lost it, and the hard truth of what it will really take to get it back—sacrifice on our part, and a multi-generation vision of family and church responsibility.

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Categories: Worldview

“The welfare state is the best security against communism?”

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 12:44

“The welfare state is the best security against communism?”

An essay by Leonard E. Read, from How to Argue with a Liberal . . . and Win! (only $5 in paperback, and free in eBook formats)

***

This proposed defense against communism is not new, though we hear it afresh almost daily. It has circulated in various shadings since “the cold war” began. A similar excuse was used to finance socialistic governments abroad with American earned income under the give-away programs that by now aggregate nearly $200 billion: “Socialism is a good cushion against communism.”1

Such terms as communism, socialism, Fabianism, the welfare state, Nazism, fascism, state interventionism, egalitarianism, the planned economy, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier are simply different labels for much the same thing. To think that there is any vital distinction between these so-called ideologies is to miss the really important characteristic which all of these labels have in common.

An ideology is a doctrinal concept, a way of thinking, a set of beliefs. Examine the above-mentioned labels and it will be found that each is identified with a belief common to all the others: Organized police force—government—should control the creative and productive actions of the people. Every one of these labels—no exceptions— stands for a philosophy that is opposed to the free market, private property, limited government way of life. The latter holds that the law and its police force should be limited to restraint of violence from within and without the nation, to restraint and punishment of fraud, misrepresentation, predation—in short, to invoke a common justice. According to this way of life—the libertarian ideal—men are free to act creatively as they please.

Under both the welfare state and communism, the responsibility for the welfare, security, and prosperity of the people is presumed to rest with the central government. Coercion is as much the tool of the welfare state as it is of communism. The programs and edicts of both are backed by the police force. All of us know this to be true under communism, but it is equally true under our own brand of welfare statism. Just try to avoid paying your “share” of a TVA deficit or of the farm subsidy program or of Federal urban renewal or of social security or of the government’s full employment program.

To appreciate the family likeness of the welfare state and communism, observe what happens to individual freedom of choice. Under either label (the ideology is the same) freedom of choice to individuals as to what they do with the fruits of their labor, how they employ themselves, what wages they receive, what and with whom they exchange their goods or services—such freedoms are forcibly stripped from individuals. The central government, it is claimed, will take over. Full responsibility for ourselves is denied in order to make us dependent on whatever political regime happens to be in control of the government apparatus. Do these labels mean fundamentally the same thing? As an exercise, try to find any meaningful distinction.

Our planners said, “The welfare state is the best security against communism.” The Russians could have said, with as much sense, “Communism is the best security against the welfare state.”2

We called the Russian brand of governmental coercion “communism.” They, however, referred to their collective as the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” The Russians called our brand of governmental coercion “capitalism.” In the interest of accuracy and clarity, we, also, should call ours “socialist.”

Socialism in Russia (communism, to our planners) and social- ism in the U.S.A. (the welfare state, to our planners) have identical aims: the state ownership and control of the means of production. Further, one as much as the other rests on the use of police force. In Russia the force was more impetuously applied than here. There, they pull the trigger and think later, if at all. Here, the government relies more on the threat of force and acquiescence of the citizen.

Alexis de Tocqueville predicted over a century ago the characteristics of the despotism [the welfare state] which might arise in America:

The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

  1. The aggregate amount jumped from $78 billion to $200 billion just between the 1962 and 1970 editions of this book. The figure is far worse now: George W. Bush’s 2009 foreign aid budget topped $42 billion, Obama’s 2010 budget contributes $54 billion. The aggregate thus grows by this much per year.
  2. Since the U.S.S.R. no longer exists, the editor had amended the language from here to the end of the chapter to reflect the past tense. The argument, however, remains just as relevant and ever-present.
Categories: Worldview

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