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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 6 hours 42 min ago
It is with great pleasure that American Vision presents to you Johannes Piscator’s Disputations on the Judicial Laws of Moses. You don’t want to miss this SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY PRICE.
The following is from my Introduction:
Johannes Piscator (1546–1625) may not be a household name today in Reformed theology, but that is hardly for want of his multi-generational legacy. His writings, and particularly his clear and firm stance on God’s justice as revealed in the judicial laws of Moses, influenced giants of Reformed theology for nearly two centuries afterward. Even where not explicitly cited by name, Piscator’s particular formulation of this question appears in Puritan preaching as late as the American constitutional ratification era. As the reader will soon learn, Piscator’s views were held by several key figures, and they subsequently helped shape the Puritan movements and governments in both England and America. It is time that this nearly-forgotten theologian, and his doctrine of the law, be resurrected and given a rightful consideration among the hall of fame of Reformers.
Toward this end, we have presented the most influential part of Piscator’s work on the judicial laws of Moses, which is cited often by subsequent thinkers: the Appendix to his commentary on Exodus. This Appendix, originally titled “Observations on Chapters 21, 22, 23, namely, an explanation of controversial questions about the abrogation of the judicial laws of Moses,” is here published as a stand-alone booklet, Disputations on the Judicial Laws of Moses. . . .
Piscator on Mosaic Law
Piscator’s views on the law are nothing less than Theonomy before Theonomy was cool. In this short book, Piscator anticipates virtually every argument outlined by modern Theonomists, except instead of painstaking volumes like Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Piscator condenses it all to a brief few pages.
Despite the brevity, here you will find Bahnsen’s argument from Matthew 5:17: that Christ did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, and this means that it is part of Christian duty. Furthermore, Christ’s reference to every jot and tittle means that He included the judicial law within the scope of that duty. Likewise you will find my argument that the civil punishments of the Old Testament are eternally just and that therefore no other punishment can be unless God’s alters it. This argument draws on the eternal moral standard of lex talionis, and it is represented centrally in Piscator. He also anticipates the argument of preventing arbitrary justice by the magistrate (i.e., God’s provision to tie the hands of the state and protect liberty).
Likewise, as the Table of Contents indicates, you will find that nearly every serious objection to Theonomy raised in modern times was already refuted by Piscator at the turn of the seventeenth century. These include the classic retorts that the law was for Israel only, that the law is not binding unless repeated in the New Testament, that Daniel and Nehemiah never tried to impose Mosaic law on their pagan subjects, that all civil laws today are said to be from God (just in his common revelation, not special—a classic “two kingdoms” argument), and among many more, one I heard recently from a popular Baptist apologist: “Must we become Jews first?”
I will save the reader from any spoilers and allow the book to present itself as it goes, but it is helpful to see how Piscator had developed his views elsewhere. As early as 1589, he set them forth in his aforementioned Aphorisms of Christian Doctrine, taken from Calvin’s Institutes. He writes,
The judicials are laws of the right of contracts and of the punishment of those who have committed an offense, issued so that justice among the people and public tranquility may flourish, and that the laws of God may be vindicated from contempt.
With this he had established that the judicial laws include the punishments attached to them. But do these continue today or not? Piscator says yes, they do, and here’s why:
Abrogation of the judicial laws is a difficult question. It can neither simply be said to endure since the Mosaic polity was abolished, and yet neither can it be said that all have been abrogated since many laws, whose purpose and aim is perpetual, continue. Thus, however, it seems to be established: the Christian magistrate is not bound by the judicial law of Moses as far as it pertains to circumstances particular to the people of Israel: that, however, which pertains to the kinds of punishments sanctioned to protect the authority of the Ten Commandments of God, it seems certain that the magistrate of a Christian people is to be bound by these today no less than the people of Israel were in the past.
He later summarizes the duty of the Christian magistrate:
Judicial law, to the extent that it was properly accommodated to the Jewish people, does not obligate the magistrate of a Christian people. Nevertheless, insofar as it determines punishments for crimes, it obliges the Christian magistrate no less today than it obliged Jewish ones in the past.
The die was already cast for Piscator, then. All that remained was a long career of teaching and defending this view along with his colleagues and students.
This view of the judicial laws of Moses is reflected in the writings of Piscator’s students as well as many subsequent great theologians. As for his students, they can be seen in the aforementioned four-volume collection of essays superintended by Piscator himself, Theological Theses of Disputations in the Illustrious School of Nassau. The first edition in 1596 contained 34 Theses on the Law of God written by one Johannes Textor of Allendorf. Thesis 20 affirms that the judicial laws of Moses are abrogated only insofar as they pertain to the special condition of Israel. As far as they pertain to simple justice, especially the Ten Commandments, however, Textor penned that God’s punishments for crimes remain in effect, for his standards of justice is eternal:
Insofar as the nature of crime is the same in all ages and among all nations, and God (whose nature does not change, but is always the same) abhors crime equally today as in the past, and equally with this nation as with them, therefore, He wills that criminals be punished equally and with equal measure.
In the subsequent edition in 1607, two further sets of theses expressed these views just as explicitly. Elias Acontius provided 41 theses on the Law of God, arguing in theses 39 through 41 that the judicial law is partly abrogated, partly not abrogated. It is abrogated only insofar as it pertained specially to the government of Moses or Israel. It is not abrogated, however, to the extent that it simply prescribes how public offenses against the Ten Commandments should be punished. These punishments are perpetual standards for the magistrate.
Paulus Dubinus’s 60 theses on the Political Magistrate cover the same ground, making sure to include the proper scope of biblical law among the duties of the magistrate, but adds further clarifying details. His theses specify what types of laws are intended as pertaining to Israel only, and which are not. Thesis 35 states,
Judicial law is abrogated insofar as it was properly accommodated to the Jewish people (as the law of the right of primogeniture, the law of marrying a wife of a brother who had died without male issue, the law of marrying a wife of his own tribe, the law of dismissing servants from servitude, and also of assigning perpetual servitude to them, and others of that kind).
The next continues, making clear some of the specific penal sanctions viewed to be perpetual:
Insofar as it determines penalties for crimes (such as the law of the punishment of the seducer (Deut. 13: 5), the punishment of blasphemers (Lev. 24: 15-16), the punishment of incorrigible children (Deut. 21:12), of murderers (Ex. 21:12, Lev. 24:17), of adultery (Lev. 20: 10-11), of thieves (Ex. 22: 1 ff.), of false witnesses (Deut. 19:16 ff.)), we affirm that a Christian magistrate is no less obligated today than a Jewish one was in the past.
And finally in thesis 38, he argues that the standard of civil justice never changes:
The reason is because this pertains to the guardianship of the Ten Commandments. Surely, crimes are to be punished no less today than in the past, because God hates them no less today than in the past; again crimes are to be punished neither more heavily nor more lightly today than God willed His people to punish them in the past. For crimes never lose their nature. Theft is always theft: whether it is done in the Old Testament or in the New.
Would that we had more seminary students like these today! And while these lessons are from the pens of Piscator’s students, his close supervision and scholastic methods ensure that they represent his own views to a very high degree.
Piscator’s legacy on biblical law, however, does not appear only in his immediate disciples. Indeed, as we have already said, it can be seen in prominent men extending for centuries afterward. Several of these have been included in excerpts in the Appendix. The reader will see citations of this work by Piscator by prominent Puritans such as Thomas Edwards in England, as well as Thomas Shepard in early Massachusetts Bay who equaled John Cotton in both his views and prominence.
The reader will also see citations by prominent members of the Westminster Assembly, including George Gillespie, Francis Cheynell, and Samuel Rutherford (although Rutherford does not agree on every point with Piscator). This fact should direct modern interpreters of the famous “general equity” clause of the Westminster Confession of Faith on Mosaic judicial law (19.4) to understand that the section was written either to express Piscator’s view directly, or at least to allow for subscription by those influential members who did (and do) hold Piscator’s view. Thus, we must extend to the same degree Piscator’s legacy beyond the mere persons and to the Westminster Confession itself, as well as to the subsequent confessions based upon it.
This must include the London Baptist Confession of 1689, which although softening the language of the equivalent section due to the kinder, gentler promises of the Glorious Revolution, nevertheless finds prominent representatives who read and repeated Piscator’s views almost verbatim. I have in mind the aforementioned Reformed Baptist John Gill, who was not only the most accomplished Baptist scholar in history, he was among the most learned Christian Hebraists in general as well. Piscator’s name (along with Junius’s, and to a lesser extent Tremellius’) appears throughout the footnotes of Gill’s famous commentaries—297 times in his volumes on the Pentateuch alone. It is not surprising then that Piscator’s formulation for Mosaic judicial law appears clearly in Gill’s Body of Divinity as well. I have therefore added it to the Appendix as well.
Only a few months prior to the publication of this book, American Vision also published a collection of three sermons by New England Puritans ranging from 1742 to 1788. In each of these, the same formulation for Mosaic judicial law appears. Each affirms that those civil laws which pertained only to the special conditions of Israel are indeed abrogated, yet those that pertained to general civil justice, including the punishment of crimes, abide as God’s eternal standards of justice even today. These sermons each come from prominent clergymen, including the 1788 sermon by Samuel Langdon, who was once the president of Harvard and a leading delegate to the New Hampshire constitutional convention.
Johannes Piscator’s legacy therefore can be seen extending from his own time all the way to the American constitutional ratification era, and from thousands of immediate students who vanished into history to some of the most prominent names in the history of Reformed theology, as well as leading political figures. Yet, until now, he has continued to receive only marginal interest even from specialists. For example, Richard Muller’s massive four volumes on post-Reformation Reformed dogmatics gives only a score or so of passing references to Piscator, and not a single mention of his views on law and government. Yet an earlier essay from the same author shows that influential Puritans such as William Perkins sometimes esteemed Piscator’s exegetical work equal to, and sometimes above, that of Beza and even Calvin.
That Piscator’s works have been obscured for so long, then, is right next to a tragedy, and that his views on Old Testament law have been considered novel, unprecedented, or outside of the “Reformed tradition” when expressed in our own time is equally unfortunate. It should now be considered not only inaccurate, but as failure of modern Reformed theology to know itself, rather than as an aberration on the part of men who reformulated those views largely afresh in our own time. May we move forward as Reformed brethren with a renewed respect for the history and place of the theonomic tradition.
 See God’s Law and Government in America: Three Historic Sermons
 Material for this historical section draws heavily from Hermann Steubing, “Lebensnachrichten von den Herborner Theologen. Aus dem literarischen Nachlasse des D. Johann Hermann Steubing. Erste Lieferung. Caspar Olevian und Johannes Piscator,” Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, Issue 4 (Leipzig, 1841), 98–138.
 Aphorismi Doctrinae Christianae, ex Institutione Calvini excerpti, cited in Müller, 73.
 Thomas Hartwell Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, 4th Ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: E. Littell, 1825 ), 2:231.
 Hermann Steubing, “Lebensnachrichten von den Herborner Theologen. Aus dem literarischen Nachlasse des D. Johann Hermann Steubing. Erste Lieferung. Caspar Olevian und Johannes Piscator,” Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, Issue 4 (Leipzig, 1841), 113, which also lists Menso Alting, Daniel Tossanus, David Pareus, Conrad Vorstius, Antonius Hovaeus, John Jonston, Amandus Polanus, Franciscus Junius, Georg Remus, and Balthasar Mentzer.
 Steubing, 111–112.
 Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Reason Begins: A History of European Civilization in the Period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo, and Descartes: 1558–1648 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961), 551–6.
 I say “serious” objections, because the trivial, but unfortunately more common, ones today such as “Judiazing,” “legalism,” “But, shellfish!,” etc., Piscator did not find the need to address.
 Aphorismi Doctrinae Christianae, ex Institutione Calvini excerpti (Herborn, 1589), 13.
 Aphorismi Doctrinae Christianae, ex Institutione Calvini excerpti, 17–18.
 Aphorismi Doctrinae Christianae, ex Institutione Calvini excerpti, 130.
 Full title: Thesium Theologicarum in Illustri Schola Nassovica, partim Hebornae, partim Sigenae diputatarum.
 Thesium Theologicarum, Vol. 1, (Sigenae Nassivorium, 1596), 209.
 These two sets of these almost certainly came from the 1607 edition of the Thesium Theologicarum, but I found them separated and separately catalogued in the rare books collection at Emory’s Pitts Theological Library. They are not paginated, but are dated 1607.
 Richard A. Muller, “William Perkins and the Protestant Exegetical Tradition: Interpretation, Style and Method in the Commentary on Hebrews 11,” in William Perkins, A Cloud of Faithful Witnesses: Commentary on Hebrews 11, ed. by Gerald T. Sheppard, Pilgrim Classic Commentaries, vol. 3 (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1990), 83–87.
Every distinct Christian position can have its blind devotees, but some are worse than others. In a recent pro-Israel case, zealotry has never shown its anti-intellectualism more boldly. You think Christian positions need to be defended from Scripture? Not for this all-in premillennial supporter of modern Israel. No, no. Context be damned. God has told them so privately. This case takes “Last Days Madness” to a whole new level.
We have always known that the pews are filled with premillennialists who believe end-times hype uncritically, whose theology becomes a knee-jerk defense of Israel at all costs. Now we see such types beginning to peek through the cracks of leadership, writing for popular blogs such as Matt Barber’s Barbed Wire.
I was not at all surprised to learn that a recent screed against “preterism” came from such a premillennialist. But since she compared preterists to wolves in sheep’s clothing, I had to see if she was speaking of “full preterism” or the more garden variety found in Eusebius, etc. Silly me. I should not have expected a distinction so sophisticated from the modern prophets of “any day now” “in my lifetime” premil. This was not about biblical understanding: it was about shaming. Shame on these wolfish preterists [*sneer*] who would dare not exalt modern Israel to its rightfully exalted mount of exaltation—“God’s chosen people”! Shame on anyone who would dare think God’s promise was to Abraham’s faith and not his loins!
I was first amused somewhat, and then openly shocked by this article. I was amused somewhat when the authoress deferred to Joel Richardson for whatever substance there may be behind her anger against preterism. The puzzle pieces began to fall together. But even this piece of background did not prepare me for the things she would say next—no matter how representative they have become of the rank-and-file premillennialist.
Without further ado, behold:
Recently I had a lengthy phone call from someone who I thought shared my “Futurist” beliefs. A friend as well as an editor, he wanted me to remove references to “end times scripture” in an article I’d written. Why? Because it had already been fulfilled in 70 A.D. I nearly fell over.
“If you read it in context…” he kept saying. I kept thinking, “There is so much more to my faith than reading something in context.” My faith, my relationship with God and the communication that passes between us is so much bigger than “in context.”
Yeah, you read that right. It’s one of those times you’re thankful when an opponent just comes right out and says it. Why should we care so much about reading things in context? I was caught somewhere between smh, lol, and crying.
I don’t care to debate a Preterist on specific Bible verses. How can you debate a self-professed Christian who is willfully blind to the awesomeness of God’s predictions being fulfilled in news headlines daily?
Exactly! Who needs exegesis and history when you’ve got WND.com and Alex Jones? The modern headlines tell you all you need to know about Bible prophecy. Anyone who can’t see that—like every generation of Christians over two thousand years who also believed their daily news was fulfilling Bible prophecy—is obviously just willfully blind. Fine. Just don’t debate Scripture passages though.
You don’t need, for example, to believe Jesus when He said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34). You don’t need to consider the repeated places to which us willfully blind point in Revelation which say its time was “near” and “soon,” and would take place “quickly.” No need to believe Hebrews which called its own first-century era “these last days” (Heb. 1:1–2) and that the Old Jewish order was “about to vanish away” (8:13).
Once you righteously look away from these things and focus only on your modern newspaper, you can assert things like this: “It’s hard to believe that people can be convinced that all prophecies were fulfilled by 70 A.D., especially when you consider that miraculous day in May, 1948 when Israel became a nation in one day.” Indeed! Context is everything—especially the context in which you insulate your own mind. There is indeed a great parenthesis here.
Just to make sure you know just how she feels about reading Scripture in context, she doubles down:
As a Christian, I believe these things have been revealed to me by the Holy Spirit … just as they have been to millions of Christians – Christians who don’t need to be lectured to read the Bible “in context;” – Christians who have a higher authority than man assisting them in Bible interpretation.
When you believe your interpretation of the newspaper is divinely revealed to the point you no longer need to consider Scripture in context, you have pole-vaulted over anything that could wish to receive a condemnation as mild as eisegesis. You have landed in a realm of delusion beyond charismania, beyond Disney, beyond MK Ultra, beyond Voyager.
When so self-assured yet walled-off from reality, one’s theology suffers greatly. It ends you up concluding things like this:
The easiest thing might be to ask, “Do you think Israel has a right to the land?” The answer to that one crucial question reveals all you need to know about a person’s theology.
Really? That’s all you need to know about someone’s theology. Here you see the triumph of eschatology gone wild. Suddenly the Trinity, justification by faith, and *gulp* sola scriptura have faded into second-hand status.
Let’s be clear. I am perfectly fine if people hold a different eschatology than me. Let’s have a good discussion and debate! But the moment any Christian tries to trump the authority of Scripture with anything, especially some version of “God told me so,” they have left the realm of Christian discussion and entered the realms of humanism or occultism. The moment your private feelings or emotions, or headlines, or circumstances, or desires, or historical coincidences, or whatever, override the place of contextual exegesis of Scripture, you have denied a fundamental doctrine of the faith—sola scriptura, the understanding that Scripture alone is our ultimate authority.
And unfortunately, the place I have seen this particular error manifest most frequently is in the blind and uncritical support for modern day Israel and allegedly future Bible prophecies. For many under the influence of popular Dispensational and Premillennial prophecy teachers, there can rarely be any discussion of these views from a biblical perspective. Any dissent is met with howls of derision, often outright anger and hatefulness, and usually firebrands of the label “anti-Semitic” (which our authoress in question also includes, btw). Several generations of these teachers and their hyper-focus on modern Jerusalem has had its effect. It’s gotten so bad, it’s almost like they believe their eschatology is the Gospel itself—they have almost replaced the Gospel with the primacy of Jewish ethnicity.
Now, I held that consideration only in my momentary dismay. I was willing to drop it. But then I came across this statement in the aforementioned Joel Richardson’s book on the Islamic Antichrist:
The Gospel message is not merely that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. The Cross of Jesus is the foundation of the Gospel message, but the conclusion of the Gospel message is His return. The central crowning element of biblical eschatology is the return of Jesus to literally reign over the earth from Jerusalem! The Gospel message of Jesus dying for our sins, without His return, is not the full Gospel. Biblical eschatology completes the Gospel message. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Or paraphrased; the message about Jesus to the world (the Kingdom Gospel message) and biblical eschatology (the spirit of prophecy) are one and the same thing.
The general evangelical world does indeed often have a limited Gospel—this is a message I myself preach. But to go so far as to say these doctrines—nothing short of the premillennial distinctives including a physical kingdom ruling from modern day Israel—are literally “one and the same thing” as the Gospel is to elevate one’s particular eschatology at the expense of all else. This is theology in the service of eschatology, not eschatology in the service of theology as it should be. And when this mistake is made, it sweeps up hermeneutics, Christology, and much else in its path.
In the end I guess I should say I’m not too surprised. Once you’ve replaced the authority of Scripture with that of your own subjective experience, there’s no limit to the doctrines you can create. When you refuse to submit to the context of Scripture, you could soon find yourself redefining the boundaries and emphases of the Gospel itself. This is the stuff cults are made of. You could find yourself alleging that the most important and telling theological question is whether one thinks modern-day so-called “Israel” has a special divine right to the land. And those who find legitimate warrant in Scripture to dissent you will label as wolves and anti-Semites. It’s all perfectly logical.
And it’s all perfectly representative of why we need the objective authority of Scripture at the heart of these debates, and why that Scripture must be understood objectively in its own context. Scripture interprets Scripture. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords, for example, should be seen for something else. For as Paul wrote to Timothy:
[E]vil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. . . .
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 3:13–4:5).
They’re saying we can expect “something big,” a financial meltdown, social chaos, perhaps even the return of Christ—and the keep saying “September 2015″! They sound very persuasive, and even Christians with sound doctrine are asking me if there’s anything to it. Since there is so much alarm and confusion (and so little time!), I have decided to put together this free report on the subject in collaboration with some well-informed friends of American Vision. Settle the issue for yourself, your family, and your friends with our FREE report today.
From the Foreword:
There is currently an explosion of interest in the Old Testament religious law of “Shemitah” thanks to books like Jonathan Cahn’s The Harbinger. This wildly popular book makes startling claims about catastrophic judgments and financial chaos allegedly backed by convincing historical evidences. Coupled with the alleged coincidence of the Jewish Shemitah years as well as the alleged “Blood Moon” phenomena which have also recently been hyped, this message has unnecessarily confused and alarmed even many level-headed Christians. In fact, with the inclusion of historical evidences, even non-religious forecasters are joining the prediction circuit, resulting in the shock and alarm of many in the secular world as well, especially the financial industry.
The excellent paper which follows—and which I am proud to bring to you from a friend of mine—addresses the “Shemitah” and “Blood Moon” issue specifically from historical, astronomical, and financial perspectives. While I let the main paper do most of the discussion for itself, in the brief Foreword I make a few important observations on the religious side of the equation, as well as how this phenomenon has also recently been secularized and leveraged primarily, it appears, for personal financial gain. It is my concern to prevent Christians and many in the young libertarian audience as well from being duped into sales pitches with fears built on religious fantasy.
It is my conclusion that The Harbinger, the Blood Moons materials, and the particular use they make of the Shemitah are unfortunately very misleading, although The Harbinger in particular is presented in an engaging “mystery” format very similar to The DaVinci Code. Now that I think of it, the Harbinger is written in the same literary genre—fiction. As to accuracy in regard to Christianity, however, the two deserve the same assessment.
With all kinds of alarming end-times predictions in the air, there has rarely been a greater need for some common sense on Bible prophecy. I would like to introduce you to a resource that meets that need perfectly: A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy: A Five-Part Study.
The topic of Bible prophecy is always in the news. The latest prediction is that something prophetic is going to take place this September. Edgar Whisenant said something similar in 1988 in his booklet 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988 (see image below). Harold Camping first predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994.
It seems that September is a very popular year for end-time events.
Here’s the new September prophetic event calendar:
- End of the shemitah year – September 13th
- Start of the jubilee year – September 13th
- End of Jade Helm US domestic military exercises – September 15th
- Final lunar eclipse of the “blood moon tetrad” – September 28th
Christians have short memories and spend too much time listening to and reading so-called prophecy “experts” who “tickle” their ears about future events where they are assured will lead to the “rapture” of the church and rescue them from the mess of history.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3).
For nearly four decades I have been writing on the subject of Bible prophecy in order to help Christians see the folly in such thinking. A more biblical approach is to pay close attention to time indicators and audience relevance. Time indicators like “near,” “shortly,” “at hand,” and “quickly” are important.
The phrase “this generation” (e.g., Matt. 24:34) is critical in order to understand what Jesus is describing in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally give any number of interpretations of “this generation” except the literal one.
While I have written a number of books on the subject of Bible prophecy and produced some audio and video presentations, I came to the conclusion that there needed to be very basic introduction to the subject. That’s why I wrote A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy: A Five-Part Study.Order the Bible Prophecy Package now for $12.95
The new booklet includes a lot of side-bar material for more advanced study, and it’s loaded with images and illustrations. So while it’s a basic introduction, it will lead the true Berean (Acts 17:11) to a deeper study of the subject of Bible prophecy. Put my interpretation of key texts to the test by testing it with the text of Scripture.
But there is more.
In addition to the Beginner’s Guide, I have also produced three lectures as an introduction to the topic. These lectures were given in a Sunday School setting and are perfect for helping laymen and pastors alike develop a common sense understanding of Bible prophecy.
With your purchase of the Beginner’s Guide, you can also download these three lectures absolutely FREE.
But I’m still not done. Over my many years of studying prophecy and writing about key passages such as Matthew 24, I have developed an information-packed, 100-page outline of Matthew 24 that I continually update.
There is a large section in the outline on what Greek lexicons say about the Greek word parousia (“coming”), and much more. Serious Bible students regularly pay top-dollar for resources such as this, but I will give it you absolutely FREE when you purchase my simple Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy: A Five-Part Study.
So just to recap: you’ll get the Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy: A Five-Part Study, three full lectures, an outline of the lecture material, and a 100-page outline of interpretive material on Matthew 24—all for only $12.95.
As noted yesterday, some Historic Premillennialists have objected to being “labeled” Dispensationalists—and I would have to add, rightfully so. Let’s be clear, neither I nor Gary has knowingly “labeled” anyone in this way. What I showed yesterday, however, was that sometimes both Historical Premils and Dispensationalists just happen to get swept up in the same critique. On the issue of the Church-Israel distinction for modern times and the special future of ethno-national Israel, I think I provided a very simple and clear demonstration why this can be legitimate.
The same holds true for the issue of social action. Historic Premil and Dispensationalism both logically entail cultural impotence and the expectation of defeat in general before Christ’s physical return. While a good Facebook friend and ally has objected to describing Historic Premil in these terms, I stand by my position—in general.
My friend objects to me saying that “the Christian Right enters the political game expecting to lose.” He responds, “I myself hold to a premillennial view of eschatology, while also believing the Kingdom of God will expand in every realm until the return of Christ.” I have to say this is rather unique as a Premillennial view. While I have heard a few Premils (even Dispensationalists) argue that they personally believe in fighting for social and political issues until Christ returns, no matter what the results, I have never heard any premillennialist—certainly not a representative one—explain their millennial expectation in this way. This, to me, does not sound like Premillennialism, but rather like a someone with conflicting presuppositions. Thus he can continue his response by saying,
Imagine you are guarding a castle, fighting a battle against an evil enemy. You know the king that you serve is coming. You also know for certain you will win. . . . Premillenialism [sic] says that in the fiercest part of the battle, the king will join His people, and strike a death blow against His enemies.
No, Premillennialism does not say any of these things. In either of its most prominent forms, it has never taught that we will win in history, that the kingdom will expand in every area until the return of Christ, that we can be confident that we will win the battles in which we are currently engaged (or any given battle for that matter), or that the King will join us at the fiercest part of this battle and win it for us (with the exception of Armageddon, of course). These are Postmillennial expectations strangely mingled into a Premil framework. On the contrary, Premillennialism has always held that the world will continue getting worse and worse, the church will experience primarily martyrdom or marginalization into the foreseeable future, culture will fall to the corrupt and immoral unbelievers, and the kingdom will explicitly not expand in every area until Christ physically returns to make it happen.
Virtually anytime I write about the logical entailments of the Premil outlook, I get objections from one or maybe a few people who say they don’t believe that and so I should not say Premils believe that. But this is trying to define the logic of the system according to its exceptions. The response to those who say “Premils don’t believe that,” is this: “No, premils do believe that. It is you who does not believe that. Therefore, you are out of step with Historic Premil.”
Now, I do not take my friend here to be representative of Historic Premillennialism in the sense that he is a prominent teacher of it or spokesperson for it. I think his article is worthy of a response because he is both friend and friendly, and more importantly, I believe there are several young men who hold the same conflicting set of presuppositions—i.e., that Historic Premil is true and yet that we must should engage in social action because we expect God’s Kingdom to advance in every area before Christ’s return.
This is simply not representative of Historic Premillennialism. Let me introduce you to someone whose views are both representative and consistent.
Joel Richardson, Historical Premillennialism, and Social Action
Joel Richardson is a fairly-well known prophecy teacher. He also has recently been outspoken against being mistakenly labeled a “Dispensationalist.” He is instead a representative of Historic Premillennialism as it was and is. I take him at his word, and I safely regard his views on social action as representative both systematically and historically of that school of eschatological thought. So what does he say about the Historic Premil view?
He lays out his position in a lecture presented at the “Daniel Training Network” conference in 2013. This Conference is strongly premillennial, and holds my friend’s expression above that we are in the thickest part of the battle—Jesus could return at any moment. The Network’s “About” page asks, “How Close Are We?” and answers, “we are actually living in the last generation of this present evil age, and that Jesus’ bodily return and the ‘restoration of all things’ (Ac. 3:21) is actually at hand. . . . [A]t the very least, many of our children will see Jesus’ return.” So, assuming my friend’s position above, if any Premillennialists should expect Jesus to return to solidify our victory in the battle and the expansion of the kingdom in every area, it should be these representative teachers.
So what does Richardson give us? He gives us, “Some Thoughts On Martyrdom.” Far from any expectation of success or Kingdom advance, Richardson predicts defeat until Christ returns. Ironically, this comes after an outright rejection of Dispensationalism and its insistence that the world will only get worse and worse until Christ returns. But Richardson’s position is no better. What it gives in lip service to social action, it takes away with its own defeatism, and with rhetoric.
Part of this rhetoric is strategic on Richardson’s part. He wants to keep young people (like my friend) yoked by a view of martyrdom and not expecting much. Noting that many young people have acknowledged a biblical mandate to social action, Richardson states, “We should seize upon the popular desire to engage with culture, but help redirect this passion toward a properly aligned perspective on eschatology, engagement and justice.” And just what, exactly, is “properly aligned” for Richardson? It means “a Pilgrim and Martyr identity.”
Now, it takes a little bit before the true colors of this mentality show, but a few lines later we start to get the picture. Will Richardson’s view of proper engagement entail kingdom advance? He finally gets to it: “This present system will only be corrected through destruction, judgment and fire at the Day of the Lord.”
He follows up:
When we understand that this age is utterly wicked, then cultural engagement by necessity must ultimately involve martyrdom. Martyrdom is the ultimate expression of cultural engagement! [Emphasis in original.]
But shouldn’t we at least expect some success in this battle? Richardson takes it away:
We must return to the Kingdom of God orientation-emphasis-longing. All expectation, longing, hope and emphasis is placed on the Day of the Lord and the age to come.
Our job in the Historic Premil view is not to work for Kingdom expansion in every area, but rather to focus everything on the coming Day of the Lord: “Our mandate is to bear witness and point to the looming Day of judgment followed by the glories of the age to come as we identify with the groan for that Day that is presently being experienced by all of creation.”
But shouldn’t we at least exert some of our efforts toward winning our present battles? Richardson says, “As such, everything that we do, whether by work or by deed is aimed at, and points to the Day of the Lord, and the Kingdom to follow.”
In terms of “cultural engagement,” we “fight” only “to deliver some who are slaves now.” This is a very limited, spiritual goal, and frankly is no different than the view of most Dispensationalists.
The opposite view expects to fight and see much broader Kingdom advance. Richardson warns us that this is “very dangerous in that it can empower some with a self-deluding, self-glorifying vision of oneself.” (To this we must respond, “What can’t?”)
Then there’s this:
While we must fight now for justice, it must be done with the understanding that our efforts are merely signs, examples, and foretastes, of the victory that Jesus will accomplish fully when he comes. Its [sic] okay to shoot high, so long as we remain Biblical.
Well doesn’t this discount my slant, then? Now he says we “must” fight. But again the rest takes this away—especially when you consider what he means by “Biblical.” By “Biblical” he really means that expectation of success is ignorant and self-deluded. Strong words, I know, but they’re not mine, they’re his:
The idea that we will, as many Christians declare, “end poverty in this generation”, is either ignorant of Scripture, or self-deluded.
Indeed, to fight expecting success is to jump on “the Kingdom Now Hamster-Wheel” on which “Even the strongest will eventually burn out with disappointment.”
Under Richardson’s “Pilgrim and Martyr” view, however, “we will be content with failures and set-backs.” Indeed, we must not only be content with such but “find satisfaction” in “repeated disappointment” [my emphasis].
Think on that hard, reader. This is exactly what I wrote about in the article which spurred the objections. Indeed, this is the very phrase which was objectionable! “the Christian Right enters the political game expecting to lose.” And while Richardson continues to say we should still be culturally engaged and not abandon the public arena, his actual demand is that “we must have a theology of engagement that allows for, and even finds satisfaction with repeated disappointment and let downs.” This may seem to speak positively of cultural engagement, but it is exactly what I warned about:
The discouraging fact is that this eschatology permeates the Christian Right and dominates the outlook of many Christian political activists. What does it say about their political activism? It says one thing: it says they are in this thing for the express purpose of losing it. Their eschatological outlook can mean nothing else.
This eschatology cannot logically, consistently lead to success in history. It cannot in any way support “Kingdom advance in every area” before Christ returns. Thus Richardson applies it consistently, for example, to foreign policy: “it is hopeless to think that we will ever see comprehensive peace in the [Middle East] before He returns. . . .”
Why not? Is the Gospel broken? Is the Holy Spirit broken? No, but the eschatology forbids it. And Richardson’s eschatology—Historical Premillennialism, not Dispensationalism—demands cultural defeat and Martyrdom until the return of Christ. “Suffering martyrdom is the ultimate expression of bearing witness to, of pointing to the Day of the Lord and the physical resurrection of the body.”
This “ultimate expression” Richardson reminds us “involves great shame, chaos and confusion. It is messy and destructive.” And worse: “martyrdom will likely include being raped.”
For married men, saying yes to martyrdom could include having your wife and perhaps even your daughters raped or seeing your own family tortured. In such a perverse world, today even the men may be raped.
So, young men, Historic Premillennialism means that, sure, we can engage the culture, but we should ultimately expect to watch your wife be raped and then be tortured and raped yourself.
As for the formation of the cultivation of the type of Christian mind which should accompany this version of “cultural engagement,” Richardson says we should even meditate upon loss: “each of us must begin meditating on these things on a regular basis.” “Each of us must begin preparing our hearts for loss.”
Again, this is not the fruit of Dispensationalism, but the thinking of a well-known representative of Historic Premillennialism. This is not the fringe Hagees of the world; this is a representative figure who address the subject of social action and cultural engagement at length. Further, he did so in a setting where any view of kingdom advance or historical success before Christ’s return should have come out.
None did. All hope is placed only on the return of Christ, no expectation of advance before then exists, any thought otherwise is self-delusion and ignorance, and everything we do must have only Christ’s future return in mind. Until then, we should learn to find satisfaction in repeated defeats. Along the way we should meditate upon defeat. We should set our hearts upon loss. We should steel ourselves for the day we witness our wives raped before us.
I do not wish to distract from the true colors of this worldview by presenting my own refutation of it here (but you can start with this). Let the horror of this self-fulfilling descent hang with you for all it’s worth. Let it sink deeply it. Don’t meditate upon loss, as Richardson prescribes. Instead, meditate upon the darkness of this eschatological prescription. What we’ve got here is as pessimistic a view of defeat and loss in history as any Dispensationalist has ever produced. As with the Church-Israel distinction, I am happy to give you whatever label you wish to wear, but the substance will fall under the same criticism either way. And my advice to the young people is to get away before such teachers “redirect” your biblical passion for social change.
A couple recent articles of ours have drawn comments from Historic Premillennialists essentially arguing that we are wrongly lumping them together with Dispensationalists. I would like to respond briefly to a couple of these.
Joel Richardson’s recent challenge to Hank Hanegraaff drew a comment in this regard: “Historic Premills (incl. myself) are too often labeled dispensationalists falsely.” Richardson responded by linking to a recent article by Gary DeMar and quipping, “They don’t know what else to do.” As you can see, he tagged American Vision, so he apparently wanted us to see this particular assessment of his.
I am thankful that, as Richardson attempts to clarify these matters and advance the discussion over biblical eschatology, he is thoughtful enough to keep us in mind. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify or correct any misunderstandings I may have (as Gary would be also, I am sure), so I am glad to review his perspective on this.
I am certainly aware of differences between dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism—perhaps mainly the Dispensationalists’ view of a pretribulational rapture of the church. Fair enough—if that’s what he meant. But I am not sure that’s what Richardson meant, and I am not sure why he (or other critics) seem to think that we have mischaracterized them by fairly assigning to them certain distinctives that they do hold, although these are normally associated with Dispensationalism also. These are, after all, tenants that are held openly and squarely by both groups involved.
The Church-Israel Distinction
The first of these fundamental, shared doctrines is the belief in a distinction between Israel and the Church, along with that of a special future for ethnic Israel that is separate from (distinct from and in addition to) that of the Church.
Our position is, and always has been, that there is only one people of God, and that this assembly of people has always included both Jews and Gentiles. This is precisely because the people of God has never been purely ethnically defined, although in the Old Testament it was administered within an ethnic group. Nevertheless, it was not defined by ethnicity or nationality, but by faith and by faith alone.
When we look at our premillennial critics, including certain Historic Premils, we see a strong effort to maintain certain Old Testament promises on Israel’s behalf due to ethnicity or nationality. This creates a track of redemptive history separate from that of faith alone and creates an eternal Israel-Church distinction.
Now, I personally believe that is wrong, but if you wish to believe that, fine. The problem is that this view is historically the very essence of Dispensationalism.
That’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of Dispensational giant, harmonizer, and systematizer, Charles Ryrie. In a section of Dispensationalism Today entitled “The Sine Qua Non of Dispensationalism,” he wrote:
The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church.
Keep in mind, this is not merely announcing one feature of Dispensationalism, but rather its essence. This is that one feature that defines it above all others.
Now I look from that to see what kinds of emphases I find among contemporary proponents of Historic Premillennialism such as Joel Richardson. I find that, sure enough, a major emphasis is on the distinction between Israel and the Church and the outline of a special future for ethno-national Israel. Declarations of such a future for Israel are not difficult to find on Richardson’s website. For example, in a recent article, “The Coming Restoration of the Kingdom of Israel,” Richardson writes,
Within the grand unfolding plan of God are His many promises not only to restore Eden—a glorious garden-paradise, but also to restore the Jewish Kingdom to a glory far greater than during the days of King David or Solomon.
The article is filled with such references, including a view toward a future “throne of David” which is nothing less than “the restored Jewish royal monarchy.” This Jewish monarchy will involve the “restoration of all twelve tribes in the age to come” in addition a “new global leadership structure”—presumably headquartered in Jerusalem—in which faithful rulers are set in the empty seats of wicked, self-serving politicians whom Jesus freshly executed at His coming.
We are also told that if we do not accept this Israel-Church distinction, the special restoration of the Davidic throne, and restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, then “we are simply not proclaiming the complete gospel message.”
Again, if you wish to believe Scripture teaches these things, fine. But please, oh please, do not get touchy when we point out the similarities of this view with Dispensationalism. At the very least, the two fall under a similar critique, and thus to treat this aspect of them under the same umbrella in articles or debates does not seem unwarranted to me at all.
Keep in mind, also, that the recent occasion for Gary’s article and critiques in this order was a debate in which he was called to defend against charges of “Replacement Theology.” While our defense of Reformed Theology does not accept that label and actually disavows it, our critique of the premillennial side(s) of this debate is virtually the same whether it is aimed at Dispensationalism or Historic Premil.
Again, there are certainly some differences between these schools of Premil thought. In fact, Historic Premils have of late been in a historical battle amongst themselves over what real Historic Premil is all about. We have seen earlier examples from men like G. E. Ladd in which the Israel-Church distinction was dismissed as a distinctive of Dispensationalists. More recent attempts by men like Barry Horner and others, Richardson apparently included, have argued against this and retrieved the distinction from an era long before Ladd, notably in men like Spurgeon and Ryle. They have subsequently argued that Ladd is therefore not truly “historic” premil, but rather a departure from it.
This is all very instructive, but as it goes, this new-old Historic Premillennialism has done little on this point except reassert an old agreement with Dispensationalism, as one can see in comparison with Ryrie above. It is simply odd, then, when its outspoken pro-ethnic-Israel proponents find it objectionable that we point that out.
Next: the issue of social action today.
 Quoted in Craig A. Blaising, “Dispensationalism: The Search for Definition,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 23.
These past months have been discouraging for Bible-believing Christians. Whether it’s the Supreme Court’s homosexual “marriage” opinion, fines and penalties for Christian businesses, unbiblical ObamaCare mandates, abortionists selling baby body parts and the media covering for it, or these secularists’ plan for worse to come — we have suffered a barrage of attacks on the foundations of western civilization, biblical values, and religious liberty. Christians across this nation are rightly concerned about imminent persecution. But I am here to tell you that there is still hope.
American Vision stands without compromise for the advance of God’s Law as the standard for all human conduct in every area of life. We share the concerns over this tidal wave of secular humanist perversion, death, and tyranny. But we intend to help you fight it all the way.
The question we hear is, in the face of this seemingly unimpeded march of secularist tyranny and death, what can we do? It seems that we Christians are increasingly powerless. So what can we do?
There are many things you can do, and American Vision has been preparing the foundations and doing the work for nearly 40 years now. We simply ask for your partnership and help in advancing this work at this most crucial moment in American history.
A few years ago, I published a work outlining things every Christian can do. That project is Restoring America One County at a Time. It starts with re-education of the Christian population, continues with encouragement and bravery, and “ends” with persistence into the coming generations. In short, it does not end.
If we are to regain ground, it will only come with a radical vision, local-oriented thinking, practical action, willingness to sacrifice, and a multi-generational vision and commitment. Restoring America is all of these things. It challenges Christians to rethink their worldview and especially the life-applications of that worldview entirely.
In addition to practical knowledge and action, Christians need to regain a commitment to fight and to sacrifice. Too many are concerned with merely how to endure a seemingly inevitable persecution. To fight and resist such persecution does not even seem to be an option. It seems we have given up the fight before it begins. But this need not be the case.
There are people all across this country with the courage to stand on principle if local Christian populations joined together with a mandate. You should be encouraged to know, as I was when I learned, that Restoring America is in the personal libraries of civil officials, city councilmen, county commissioners, thousands of sheriffs, Congressmen at the state and even federal level, and even state Supreme Court justices. Some are already beginning to put some of its ideas and principles into practice.
We need more of this, and this is where you can help: by supporting American Vision in our work. We need a mighty mandate from Christian citizens to put more of it into practice. It is time we ignore the secularists’ tirades of tyranny, and focus on what God has called us to do in this world. This is indeed one thing you can do: support us as we steadily break through the impasse of Christian complacency, pessimism, self-imposed exile, and discouragement.
At American Vision, we see that as our primary task: educating, encouraging, and equipping Christians in family, church, and state — yes, even our civil officials at all levels — to know the truth, and most importantly, to stand uncompromisingly and fight for it.
Further, we need to start viewing this as a long-term, multi-generation plan of action. Just the other day, I heard a homosexual activist interviewed on public radio. He openly admitted they have been steadily working to achieve the “gay marriage” decision at the Supreme Court since the 80s and 90s. He then said they are not done: we will now push for “workplace equality”; which means Christian businesses could be forced to hire homosexuals to work for them.
This has been a long-term agenda on their part, and they have a long-term agenda for the future. The question is, why don’t we Christians? It is simply time that we changed our thinking and our actions. In fact, we MUST change our thinking and our actions, or else we will lose what we have left.
American Vision is one of the very few ministries that understands this, and works in light of it. But we need your help to continue spreading this vision. With a unified mandate and a commitment to work for generations to come, we can indeed take this country back. We can stop the advance of death and tyranny, and return our society to greatness, freedom, and prosperity once again.
In this trying time, I implore you not to give up hope. Do not look at the discouraging events as signs of defeat, but rather as an opportunity to band together, teach one another, and fight even harder.
Please seriously consider a generous donation to American Vision as we lead this effort. Help us continue to lead in teaching, networking, and spreading the vision of Christ’s victory in all walks of life.
Joel McDurmon, Ph.D.
American Vision is a 501(c)3 organization who is supported through the generous giving of individuals, churches, foundations and businesses. Your gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Thank you for your financial support.
You may designate a one-time or monthly recurring donation below. When you do, you join others who have—since 1978—helped us in our mission of Restoring America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation.
A reader sent us an email regarding socialism and the Bible. His friend, he says, contends that socialism is biblical. I hear this all the time. Having just completed the manuscript [in 2009] for my refutation of some modern Christian Socialists—Ronald Sider, Tony Campolo, and Jim Wallis—I felt the unction to reply to this claim. The email reads:
I had an acquaintance who tells me Socialism is biblical. As he put it, “Think about it, the Israelites were required to give up their income for the benefit of 1. the priests 2. Levites 3. poor 4. those in debt 5. those countrymen who were slaves and 6. the farmers were not allowed to pick their produce up from the ground in order to give to the poor. That is called socialism. Oh and on top of that, they had a free will offering.”
I have a difficult time equating God’s direction with Socialism. What do you think?
The email is signed by a Chaplain, though he doesn’t say where or in what capacity. Chaplains often cross social lines that pastors and other church officials do not (unfortunately). Chaplains often deal with military men, public officials, officers, wardens, and prisoners among others. These men need a clear understanding of where the Bible draws lines between private versus State functions.
Our reader’s acquaintance introduces his arguments for Socialism by saying, “think about it.” Unfortunately for him, he has not thought about it enough. The refutation of his points is simple: in none of these biblical instances was the alleged Socialism involved enforceable by the civil State. Thus, to talk of “Socialism” is misleading. The measures are socialistic if by socialism you mean private application of charity by individuals, families, and churches in order to benefit the poor and needy of society. It is emphatically not socialism if by that label you mean taxation and redistribution enforced by the State’s gun. Big difference.
Christian Socialists have employed this sort of equivocation for 120 years as an intellectual bait-and-switch. I present a good example in my book, God versus Socialism. A group of Boston social gospelers formed the Society of Christian Socialists in 1889 and immediately began publication of a monthly journal called The Dawn. Its mission statement read:
The Dawn stands for Christian Socialism. By this we mean the spirit of the Socialism of the New Testament and of the New Testament church. In man’s relations to God, Jesus Christ preached an individual gospel; accordingly in their relations to God, Christ’s disciples must be individualists. In man’s relations to man, Jesus Christ preached a social gospel; accordingly, in these relations, his disciples must be socialists.
Notice the squirrely switch between the use of the capital “S” “Socialism,” and the call for Christians to be lower-case “s” socialists. By the same logic, all humans are Humanists, all people who exist are Existentialists, all people who take communion are Communists, all rational people Rationalists, all people who eat cereal are Serial Killers, ad nauseam (OK, maybe the serial killers part was a stretch, but you get the picture). These guys knew Jesus didn’t call for state-Socialism, meaning government-power to redistribute wealth. Yet they could play off of the fact that Jesus called us to be hospitable and charitable in our social life among our fellow man—thus, we should all be good “socialists.” Once the Christians get on board with “socialism” and helping the poor in general, then the latent appeals for government Socialism start coming to the fore, as Christians are taught that all property should be socialized, “managed,” and receive “equitable distribution.”
Of course Christians are obligated by the Word of God to take care of the “priests” and “the poor,” but never does God’s Word authorize the civil government to tax people and redistribute wealth for these goals. Each of these measures was part of God’s law, but not part of the subset of God’s law that established and limited civil law. To make this point clearer, let us look briefly at each of the instances our Chaplain’s acquaintance argues:
1. the priests and 2. Levites: The Old Testament law required that a portion of yearly tithes go to support the priests and Levites. The priests and Levites were the temple workers and servers for the twelve tribes. No one else was allowed to perform these offices. The offices themselves came at a price: priests and Levites were not allowed to own land. In exchange for not having their own productive capital, God mandated they live off of the charity of those who did.
Yet God nowhere said that the civil rulers could use the force of the sword of the State in order to collect this tithe. The civil government had no authority to collect it by force, nor to punish those who did not pay up. It was for this reason that the prophet Malachi could complain about the people “robbing God,” for they were not paying their tithes (Mal. 3:8–12). The punishment was not to send tax agents knocking on doors or garnishing wages. The punishment was left up to God, who Himself could bring punishment in the form of historical sanctions: captivity, plague, etc. God would also pour out financial blessing upon obedience (Mal. 3:10–12). God was very serious about the tithe, but He did not empower the State to carry it out. No Socialism here.
An exception to this may appear in Nehemiah’s reinstitution of the law in Nehemiah 12:44 and 13:10–13. But this was Nehemiah’s solution to the problem, and not explicitly commanded by God. Even here, it does not say that the “rulers” and collectors mentioned were empowered with the sword to do the collecting or to punish those who may refuse. Further, they did not even have the knowledge of how much each household had in order to verify that what was given was a tithe. No IRS here. No Socialism here.
3. the poor: There were several “poor laws” in the Old Testament; none of them involved State Socialism. The yearly tithe went to the Levites at a national level, at a central national location. Every third year, however, the tithe remained locally, and was distributed locally to the resident Levites, aliens, orphans and widows (Deut. 14:28–29) (it says nothing of “the poor” in general). Again, nothing is said of government power to collect these tithes or punish those who did not give or give enough. The Israelites were expected to give voluntarily and they knew God would punish them if they refused, and bless them immensely as they obeyed (Deut. 12:19–21).
4. those in debt: Again this can only refer to certain poor laws, where God’s law allowed for poor brethren to receive no-interest loans for up to six years. In the seventh year any unpaid balance of the loan was cancelled. This was a measure designed to allow the poor brethren to borrow money to get back on their feet. Nevertheless, God gave the civil State no authority to regulate, monitor, or enforce these loans, nor to punish those who refused to lend. This law did not apply to foreign nationals living among the Israelites. Of them a lender could charge interest and continue to receive it indefinitely until payoff. See Deuteronomy 15:1–11.
5. those countrymen who were slaves: Jews who through debt, theft, or need were sold into slavery would face a six-year term. At the end of this term, they could decide whether to remain with their master, or return free into the marketplace. If they decided to return free, the master was obligated by law to give his former slave clothing and enough money to get going (Deut. 15:12–15). This income was indeed forfeited by the master, although the slave would have more than earned it through seven years of unwaged labor. Had he been a productive worker, the master would have profited greatly. The master would still be well ahead after giving him his freedom bonus. Had the slave been an “unprofitable servant” (Matt. 25:30), however, causing his master loss, then the master would surely be glad to see him go, and would surely pay to send him along and avoid any future losses. The aim of Old Testament slavery, of course, was to avoid such a situation. It aimed at reform and restoration of the unsuccessful individual. By spending six years working under a wise, successful, and productive master, a slave should learn the skills, mentality, and wisdom to succeed on his own once free. In this case, the six years of servitude and the payment upon release profited everyone involved.
All of this said, God’s Word adds nothing to this about the role of the civil State, nor of civil punishments for those who refused to obey the ideal. A slave who decided to walk free after his term could simply do so, and any master who refused to let him could then be guilty of kidnapping (Ex. 21:16). At that point, the civil government would get involved, but clearly for kidnapping and not for any alleged Socialism.
6. the farmers were not allowed to pick their produce up from the ground in order to give to the poor: By law, owners of property were to not harvest the corners of their field, nor pick up sheaves that fell to the ground during harvest. These were left for the poor of the land to come along and “glean.” The gleaning laws gave the poor an outlet, for a very limited time of the year, for a very limited amount, to get food for themselves. They would have to do the hard work of finding and harvesting the slim pickings for themselves, and they would have to do so in competition with all other gleaners. As part of the charity involved here, this was good practice for becoming productive in a competitive market place.
Note again: the State did not enforce gleaning. The State had no mandate from God to punish those who refused to leave their corners unharvested. The State did not collect the gleanings and the hand them out to the poor: the poor had to go pick them up themselves.
So, in none of these alleged measures of socialism, do we find anything that genuinely earns the name “Socialism.” In no instance did the State have the power to redistribute wealth. In each instance, the “socialism” depended entirely upon individuals obeying God’s mandate for charity towards the Levite, the poor, and the disadvantaged.
God kept the State out of the charity business. There’s a good reason for this. If the power of the sword ever mixed with the power to distribute bread, there would be no end to political corruption. The State would use its powers of distribution to control the people; worse, people who grew dependent upon the State’s bread would also then be dependent upon the State’s sword. Acquiring provisions would no longer be an issue of personal responsibility, but of institutionalized force. It would teach the dependent of all shapes and sizes that deriving food at gunpoint is legitimate. Thus, State socialism would be nothing short of legalized armed robbery.
When Jesus fed the 5,000, the people were amazed. But Jesus realized they were not following Him because of the miracle, but because of the free bread:
Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal” (John 6:26–27).
When Jesus knew that the people would try to make Him king because of His generous welfare, He fled:
When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone (John 6:14–15).
Jesus was wiser than to mix civil power with welfare. This reflects the wisdom of Old Testament law. Our Chaplains need to understand this. So do their acquaintances, and every other Christian out there, especially those in civil offices and those benefiting from the State’s redistribution of wealth.
For those who wish to pursue this further, read David Chilton’s Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, and my refutation of the New Social Gospel in God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.
Endnotes: Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865–1915 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), 171.
Every once in a while you meet that guy who just totally disarms all the arguments of the welfarists, welfare statists, socialists, poverty-linists, wage-gappists, etc. In this case, this guy also explodes every excuse used by many Christians as to why things like public schooling are necessary. As an example of how Christians should practice dominion, even below the federal poverty line, this man sets the mold. Then, he breaks it and sets it again—by spreading that example to others.
Meet Earl Crawley. “Mr. Earl,” as he is known, is a career parking lot attendant for a Mercantile Bank in Baltimore. He has never earned more than $12.00/hour in his life, nor more than $20,000/year. Now 77 years old, however, Earl has a stock portfolio that alone is worth a cool half-million dollars. Another story puts his full net worth at over a million.
As I watched this video segment (see below), I kept anticipating the catch, but was disproved every time. “Maybe not so hard for a single guy,” I thought. Nope, he was married. “Must not have had any kids.” Nope, he had three. This means Earl lived his home life on paper under the federal poverty level (which for a family of five even in 2015 is $28,410 annual income).
So he soaked up welfare and used the public schools? Well, we are not told of any welfare payments, but that is unlikely considering he assumed the added personal sacrifice of paying to send his children to private schools.
So debt, then, right? No. His house is paid off and he has no credit card debt. He must be some rare, standout example of street smarts, or the genius that got overlooked, right? No. In fact, he’s dyslexic. He struggled in school and never had any college education.
It just doesn’t seem possible, does it? But Earl proves that it is. And this is a lesson all Christians need to get straight sooner than later—as in, right away. Earl had no advantages but made no excuses. His mother had taught him to work and save; he just used good old fashioned thrift and self-discipline to set priorities, sacrifice according to those priorities, account for small things consistently, and eliminate waste consistently.
Through the difficult child-rearing stage, he started a strict discipline of saving a small amount of money each month. The report notes, “Earl kept saving what seemed like meaningless amounts.” But over a period of years, he eventually built up a small nest egg.
By the time the children were grown and out of the house, Earl started investing more broadly. Here he listened to others who could help him. Working in a bank parking lot, he picked the brains of numerous investors. He says, “God gave me the gift to listen, and act upon it.” And act upon it he did, but again slowly, patiently, and consistently. Over many years, he grew $25,000 into the much larger portfolio he has now.
But it was not time to retire and spend it up in tropical resorts. No way. Mr. Earl instead passes on his knowledge and example. He started an investment club at his church, donating small amounts to get some parishioners started, and donating to the church as well. The club set a goal to train every member of the church in successful management of their money.
Mr. Earl not only proves that the welfare state and public schools are unnecessary—even for those technically in “poverty”—but he has done what many much more wealthy men in churches across the country ought to be doing. Men with sound financial sense and success ought to maintain such clubs in their churches to help people (especially young people) learn such self-discipline and foresight. Instruction ought to include training to set priorities, get children out of public schools, make sacrifices at home in order to achieve such goals, eliminate waste, save consistently and without compromise, and invest with a long-term view to the future.
I said above that Mr. Earl is a poster-child for what Christian dominion should look like. Too often we think of “dominion” as “domination” and “domineering” when in reality it means stewardship, faithfulness, calling, and often thankless work. Mr. Earl shows us what true dominion is: steady, patient faithfulness in the small things—never quitting and never compromising. It means faithfulness for every gift given—whether the gift of listening, the gift of work, or a mere 15 cents earned—and faithfulness in teaching others to be good stewards as well.
Frankly, the church can learn more about Christian living by watching this $12.00/hour parking lot attendant than it can from the vast majority of sermons preached one any given Sunday.
In a previous article (Joel Richardson Issues Challenge to Hank Hanegraaff Over “Replacement Theology”) I dealt with some of the exegetical issues related to the charge that if a Christian does not follow the end-time prophetic scenario of dispensational premillennialism and some of its sister views, then that person is labeled a “supercessionist” who believes that the Church replaces Israel in God’s redemptive plan.
Those who push the “Replacement Theology” narrative claim that there is an Israel-Church distinction which postpones God’s prophetic timetable. According to this view, we are presently living in a parenthesis of nearly 2000 years where God is now dealing with a new entity called the Church. The prophetic clock won’t start ticking again for Israel, so the theory goes, until the so-called “rapture” of the Church takes place and God once again deals with national blood-line Israel.
The latest person to advocate for a version of this view is Joel Richardson. You can read about the controversy in the article “Answer this, ‘Bible Answer Man,’” a direct attack on Hank Hanegraaff who hosts “The Bible Answer Man” radio show. As I pointed out in my previous article, those who accuse fellow Christians of holding to Replacement Theology are issuing a not so veiled accusation of anti-Semitism or, more actually, anti-Judaism. In reality, it’s Richardson’s end-time view that predicts an inevitable future holocaust for Israel in the name of Bible prophecy.
He’s not the only person to hold this view. It’s part of the end-time system known as premillennialism. The WND article includes the following, most probably missed by most readers who are not familiar with the prophetic views of dispensationalism and those who hold to a majority of its tenets:
“‘The promises that God made to Abraham have been fulfilled,’ believes Hanegraaff. And for that reason, he finds it ‘ironic’ [that] those who condemn ‘replacement theology’ are themselves ‘herding Jews into the Holy Land, firmly believing that these Jews will soon be slaughtered in a bloodbath that exceeds that of Hitler’s Holocaust.’”
Following this statement by Hanegraaff, “Richardson says he is disappointed in Hanegraaff’s rhetoric and strongly disagrees with his interpretation of Scripture and how he characterized Richardson’s own views.” So what is Richardson’s own view on the above charge made by Hanegraaff “that these Jews will soon be slaughtered in a bloodbath that exceeds that of Hitler’s Holocaust”?
According to Richardson in his book When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really says About Israel in the Plan of God, Jesus Himself “spoke of a time of unparalleled tribulation just before the return of Jesus”(1) that “would indicate that what was to come in Israel could even be worse than the Holocaust. While this certainly seems to be the case, I would suggest that we should not try to quantify the suffering to come or calculate the lives that will be lost.”A comprehensive study of the Olivet Discourse and other prophetic topics.
He describes this time to be “of such magnitude and horror” that it’s “a pit too deep and terrifying. I cannot bring myself to peer over the edge,” Richardson writes. “The point is that something terrible is coming and we need to get ready.”(2)
At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Mark Alan Siegel, who served as the chairman of Florida’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party, told an interviewer the following about what he thought of Christian and Jewish relationships:
“The Christians just want us to be there so we can be slaughtered and converted and bring on the second coming of Jesus Christ. The worst possible allies for the Jewish state are the fundamentalist Christians who want Jews to die and convert so they can bring on the second coming of their Lord. It is a false friendship. They are seeking their own ends and not ours. I don’t believe the fundamentalists urging a greater Israel are friends of the Jewish state.”
It wasn’t too long before the video of the interview went viral and Mr. Siegel was forced out of his position. Where did Mr. Siegel get such crazy ideas? It’s a prevalent view among dispensational prophecy writers. “[T]he period of great tribulation between the two phases of Jesus’ Second Coming is portrayed by dispensationalists as a time of horrific suffering and destruction of the Jewish people.”(3)
On the September 18, 1991 edition of the “700 Club,” Sid Roth, host of “Messianic Vision,” stated that “two-thirds of the Jewish people [living in Israel] will be exterminated” during a future Great Tribulation. He bases this view on Zechariah 13:8–9. He argued that incidents of Blacks turning against Jews in New York City were a prelude to a coming great persecution.
Pat Robertson asked Roth: “You don’t foresee some kind of persecution against Jews in America, do you?” Roth responded: “Unfortunately, I believe God foresees this.” Roth believes that the end (pre-tribulational rapture) is near. Roth believes that Jews are destined to suffer based on a futurized interpretation of Zechariah 13:8–9. He claims that today’s anti-Semitism is a prelude to an inevitable future Jewish tribulation. The reality of violent acts against Jews is all part of Israel’s prophetic history based on the parenthesis view that is fundamental to dispensational premillennialism.A short study of the Olivet Discourse
Hal Lindsey describes the judgment against Israel in AD 70 as a “picnic” compared to a super-holocaust that will lead to the slaughter of two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel today.(4)
Kay Arthur, another dispensational author, has stated publicly that what lies ahead for Israel will make Hitler’s Holocaust look like “a Sunday school picnic.” In her novel, Israel My Beloved, the heroine is standing before a future scene where the Valley of Jehoshaphat is littered with the dead based on her understanding of Zechariah 13:8-9 that only a third of Israel will survive “the fire just as Zechariah promised”(5) during the future Great Tribulation where Israel is the target of God’s wrath:
“Auschwitz was nothing compared to this.(6) . . . I’ve watched as men, women, and children writhe in agony — an agony beyond the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the pogroms. Beyond the horrors of Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz — all the death camps combined. . . . We have experienced an agony beyond any horror the human mind can envision . . . beyond even Hitler.”(7)
Let’s not forget Jack Van Impe’s Israel’s Final Holocaust in which he writes that when the prophecy clock starts ticking again after the “rapture,” it “will be traumatic days for Israel. Just when peace seems to have come, it will be taken from her and she will be plunged into another bloody persecution, . . . a devastating explosion of persecution and misery for Israel. . . .”(8)
Consider what Thomas Ice writes in his article “What do you do with a future National Israel in the Bible?” Dispensational prophecy writer Ice believes, like Richardson, “that Old Testament promises made to national Israel will literally be fulfilled in the future. This means the Bible teaches that God will return the Jews to their land before the tribulation begins (Isa. 11:11-12:6; Ezek. 20:33-44; 22:17-22; Zeph. 2:1-3). This has been accomplished and the stage is set as a result of the current existence of the modern state of Israel.” Then he goes on to write the following:
“The Bible also indicates that before Israel enters into her time of national blessing she must first pass through the fire of the tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Jer. 30:5–9; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:14–18). Even though the horrors of the Holocaust under Hitler were of an unimaginable magnitude, the Bible teaches that a time of even greater trial awaits Israel during the tribulation. Anti-Semitism will reach new heights, this time global in scope, in which two-thirds of world Jewry will be killed (Zech. 13:7–9; Rev. 12). Through this time God will protect His remnant so that before His second advent “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:36).
In reality, it’s “all that’s left of Israel [that] will be saved.” So after a nearly 2000 year postponement God is going to renew His covenant with Israel but not after two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel – 4 million out of 6 million today and 11 million worldwide – are slaughtered.
In his book Blow the Trumpet in Zion, Richard Booker writes:
“What is this terrible tribulation that awaits the Jews? Moses said it would take place in the ‘latter days.’ It is the last seven years of this age just prior to the coming of Messiah Jesus to earth. The Bible says this will be a time of suffering such as the world has never known.
“The Antichrist will march his troops into Israel and for a short period of time will occupy Jerusalem. Every nation will support his retaliation against Israel for their disturbing world peace. The Antichrist will kill two-thirds of all the Jews. This could mean that up to ten million Jews could be killed. The Antichrist will plunder the beloved city of Jerusalem, and one-half of the citizens will be forced into exile.”(9)
In a December 2, 1984 sermon, the late Jerry Falwell said the following: “Millions of Jews will be slaughtered at this time but a remnant will escape and God will supernaturally hide them for Himself for the last three and a half years of the Tribulation, some feel in the rose-red city of Petra.”
Charles Ryrie writes in his book The Best is Yet to Come that during this post-rapture period Israel will undergo “the worst bloodbath in Jewish history.”(10) The book’s title doesn’t seem appropriate considering that during this period of time millions of Jews will die!
John Walvoord follows a similar line of argument: “Israel is destined to have a particular time of suffering which will eclipse anything that it has known in the past. . . . [T]he people of Israel . . . are placing themselves within the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the land of Palestine.”(11)
Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that during the Great Tribulation “Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 12:1–17). As a result of this persecution of the Jewish people, two-thirds are going to be killed.”(12)
Barry Horner claims that “quite a few [non-premillennialists], by their derogatory manner have inferred that they would be delighted if the Arabs would push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea, repossess Palestine, and thus vindicate their Eschatology!”(13) He doesn’t identify these people or offer supporting documentation. I can produce the following from Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a dispensational premillennialist:
“The present state of Israel is not the final form. The present state of Israel will be lost, eventually, and Israel will be run out of the land again, only to return when they accept the Messiah as Savior.”(14)
Given Dr. Patterson’s end-time scenario, if Israel finds herself in a war with her neighbors, should Christians support Israel or take a “hands off” approach given what we supposedly know about Israel’s inevitable holocaust?
This is not a hypothetical question when we look at what happened during World War II.
Dwight Wilson, author of Armageddon Now!, describes himself as “a third-generation premillenarian who has spent his whole life in premillennialist churches, has attended a premillennialist Bible college, and has taught in such a college for fourteen years.”(15) He argues that some noted premillennialists advocated a “hands off” policy regarding Nazi persecutions of the Jews during World War II. Since, according to dispensational views regarding Bible prophecy, “the Gentile nations are permitted to afflict Israel in chastisement for her national sins,” there is little that should be done to oppose it. Wilson writes, “It is regrettable that this view allowed premillennialists to expect the phenomenon of ‘anti-Semitism’ and tolerate it matter-of-factly.”(16)
Wilson describes “premillenarian views” opposing “anti-Semitism” in the mid-thirties and thereafter as “ambivalent.”(17) There was little moral outcry “among the premillenarians . . . against the persecution, since they had been expecting it.”(18) He continues:
“Another comment regarding the general European anti-Semitism depicted these developments as part of the on-going plan of God for the nation; they were ‘Foregleams of Israel’s Tribulation.’ Premillennialists were anticipating the Great Tribulation, ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble.’ Therefore, they predicted, ‘The next scene in Israel’s history may be summed up in three words: purification through tribulation.’ It was clear that although this purification was part of the curse, God did not intend that Christians should participate in it. Clear, also, was the implication that He did intend for the Germans to participate in it (in spite of the fact that it would bring them punishment) . . . and that any moral outcry against Germany would have been in opposition to God’s will. In such a fatalistic system, to oppose Hitler was to oppose God.”(19)
Wilson maintains that it was the view of a predicted Jewish persecution prior to the Second Coming that led to a “hands off” policy when it came to speaking out against virulent “anti-Semitism.” “For the premillenarian, the massacre of Jewry expedited his blessed hope. Certainly he did not rejoice over the Nazi holocaust, he just fatalistically observed it as a ‘sign of the times.’”(20)
Premillennialist James M. Gray of the Moody Bible Institute believed in the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He defended Henry Ford when Ford published installments of the Protocols in his self-funded Dearborn Independent newspaper. In a 1927 editorial in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly, Gray claimed that Ford “had good grounds for publishing some of the things about the Jews. . . . Mr. Ford might have found corroborative evidence [of the Jewish conspiracy] had he looked for it.”(21)
As time went on, Gray was coming under increasing pressure to repudiate the Protocols as a forgery. Not only Gray, but Moody Bible Institute Monthly was being criticized by the evangelical Hebrew Christian Alliance for not condemning the manufactured Protocols. Gray grew indignant and once again voiced his belief that the Protocols were authentic. He did this in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly. Gray, of course, pointed out that “Moody Bible Institute had always worked for the highest interests of Jews by training people to evangelize them.”(22)
Even so, Gray went on to assert that “Jews were at least partly to blame for their ill treatment.” He supported this contention by referring his readers to an article written by Max Reich, a faculty member at the Moody Bible Institute. Reich wrote: “Without religion, the Jew goes down and becomes worse than others, as a corruption of the best is always the worst corruption.”(23)
Charges of “anti-Semitism” were not abated by Gray’s attempts at clarification. His views concerning the Jews remained. “By the beginning of 1935, Gray was fending off charges from the American Hebrew and Jewish Tribune, the Bulletin of the Baltimore Branch of the American Jewish Congress, and even Time magazine that persons connected with Moody had been actively distributing the Protocols.”(24)
Of course, Gray was not the only dispensational premillennialist who vouched for the genuineness of the Protocols and had rather negative (anti-Semitic) things to say about the Jews. Arno C. Gaebelein, an editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, believed that the Protocols were authentic, that they accurately revealed a “Jewish conspiracy.” His Conflict of the Ages(25) would be viewed today as an anti-Semitic work because it fostered the belief that communism had Jewish roots and that the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 had been masterminded by a group of well-trained Jewish agitators.
At the same time that Gaebelein was using anti-Semitic rhetoric, he had a thriving evangelistic ministry to Jews in New York City. Why the double mindedness? Dispensationalism expects both the persecution and salvation of the Jews.(26) This is why George Marsden could write that “fundamentalists between [World War I and II] could be both pro-Zionist and somewhat anti-Semitic, favoring the return of the Jews to Israel, which would lead eventually to their conversion; yet in the meantime especially distrusting apostate Jews.”(27)
Hank Hanegraaff and I, along with many other prophecy writers, believe in the salvation of the Jews without them having to go through another holocaust. Playing the Replacement Theology card is away to cover up some of the bad exegetical work of many popular prophecy “experts,” especially their inevitable future Jewish holocaust problem.
- The prophecy Richardson is referring to is the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The Olivet Discourse is a prophecy of what was to happen to the nation of Israel in the lead up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70.
The Destruction of Jerusalem (1849), lithograph from a painting by David Roberts
Unlike today’s prophecy writers who apply this passage to another future Jewish tribulation, there was a 40-year warning. Jesus gave that first-century generation a list of signs to look for so they could avoid the destruction (Matt. 24:15-20). No such warning is being given to modern-day Israel. For study of this subject see Last Days Madness and is Jesus Coming Soon?
- Joel Richardson, When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really says About Israel in the Plan of God (Washington, DC: WND Books, 2015), 234.
- Stephen R. Haynes, Reluctant Witnesses: Jews and the Christian Imagination (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 162.
- Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), 220.
- Kay Arthur, Israel, My Beloved: A Novel (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1996), 433.
- Arthur, Israel, My Beloved, 431.
- Arthur, Israel, My Beloved, 434.
- Jack Van Impe with Roger F. Campbell, Israel’s Final Holocaust (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 37.
- Richard Booker, Blow the Trumpet in Zion (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1985), 112, 118.
- Charles C. Ryrie, The Best is Yet to Come (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 86.
- John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 107, 113. Emphasis added.
- Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262.
- Barry Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2007), xviii.
- Stated on Dallas, Texas, radio program (KCBI) in a debate with me on May 15, 1991.
- Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now!: The Premillenarian Response to Russia and Israel Since 1917 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), 13.
- Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 16.
- Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 94.
- Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 94.
- Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 94. Emphasis added.
- Wilson, Armageddon Now!, 95.
- Timothy P. Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming: American Premillennialism, 1875-1982 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Academie, 1983), 189.
- Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming, 189.
- Quoted in Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming, 190.
- Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming, 189.
- Arno Clemens Gaebelein, The Conflict of the Ages: The Mystery of Lawlessness: Its Origin, Historic Development and Coming Defeat (New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1933).
- Timothy P. Weber, “A Reply to David Rausch’s ‘Fundamentalism and the Jew,’” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (March 1981), 70.
- George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism: 1870–1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 187–188, note 15.
Around 1980, at the dawn of the Reagan revolution, Gary North spoke at large assembly of Christian Right conservative gathered to discuss goals, strategy, tactics, etc. He told an audience of 5,000: if every Christian would pull their kids out of public schools, the system would collapse overnight.
He was right. The system could, and can, only remain viable as long as Christians continue to support it and depend on it. And yet, the system continues, gradually over the years and decades, to secularize, corrupt, liberalize, and sexualize Christian children into socialism, paganism, feminism, LGBTism, and acceptance of all these as the norm.
Why do Christians keep feeding this child-eating idol, Molech? It is no wonder that we are suffering the political blows we are today. They are the downstream of culture which itself is downstream of education. We’ve done it to ourselves.
While I have answered the “why” question elsewhere, I wish to show you how some people not only made these connections long ago, but literally predicted the fate of same-sex marriage as a forgone conclusion due to the fact that Christians were already too deeply entrenched in the government indoctrination centers called public schools. Despite repeated warnings since at least 1980, and really 1963, they stayed in. When we’re unequally yoked educationally, what else should we expect but for this to manifest in culture? The impure yokings we see enshrined in law now are a logical result.
I bring this up not merely to play the blame game, though blame is due, but to show you how insightful Christians who had the bravery to stand for these convictions against ridicule and anger predicted this at least a full five years before the decision was handed down. They saw it coming. Few people listened. But history has vindicated them.
By Olivia St. John
Christians get ready: If you think the battle to uphold traditional marriage can be won, think again. It’s over. The homosexuals and their supporters know it.
Anna Quindlen in Newsweek opined that the day is soon coming when societal acceptance of pansexual marriage will be deemed “ordinary.” Why? Quindlen answers the question spot on: “The younger you are, the more likely you are to know someone who is gay. The more likely you are to know someone who is gay, the more likely you are to support gay marriage. The opposition is aging out.”
In light of California’s recent unconstitutional judiciary legalization of homosexual marriage, the Associated Press reports, “A majority of California voters now support same-sex marriage and oppose amending the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage.”
The Field (California) Poll found that 28 percent of voters approved of homosexual marriage in 1977. In 2006, the percentage of participants approving the action climbed to 44 percent. The latest Field Poll conducted in May shows that today’s same-sex marriage supporters have risen to 51 percent. The line has now been crossed.
And the numbers continue to grow as children study propaganda under the secular tutelage of government (public) schools actively promoting GLBTQ lifestyles. In case you don’t know, GLBTQ is the acronym for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning. American public school children may lag behind other nations in English and math, but they are light years ahead in Deviancy 101.
A Citizenlink Issue Analysis indicated that pro-homosexual activities sponsored in public schools influence students’ views on GLBTQ issues. For example, a Zogby poll indicates that the vast majority of high school seniors support legal recognition of homosexual relationships. Polls also show that most young people support the right of homosexuals to adopt children.
USA Today reports that American high schools included a “few dozen Gay-Straight Alliance clubs” in the mid-’90s. A major pro-homosexual organization says there are now over 3,500. Teenagers quoted in the article include one lesbian high school senior who recalled “attending her first meeting at the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club when she was in the ninth grade.” In suburban Seattle, a 16-year-old said he had “brought boyfriends to several dances at his high school.” According to the article, Anthony D’Augelli with Pennsylvania State University says that “schools are more likely than in the past to have openly gay staff members who can help young people.”
Today’s public school youths are more knowledgeable in deviant sexual variants than their parents are, yet most Christian parents and churches shy away from the topic and pretend homosexual influence is not in their community public schools.
Even more alarming, Christian public school teachers are placing their own job security ahead of the spiritual well-being of children. Many say Christians wield great influence in the public school system, while the statistical fact is that 85 percent of public school children reared in Christian families fall away from the faith by the time they reach college. The argument is that if Christians exit the schools, the children of unbelievers will be abandoned. This is a fallacy since studies show that Christians currently in the schools are making little difference, while falling victim to secularists proselytizing Christian children.
A lack of backbone was noticeably demonstrated when the Southern Baptist Convention or SBC, recently rejected a resolution confronting the impact of California legislation giving GLBTQ public school teachers freedom to discuss their own sexual preferences with students, while charging any child who objects with discrimination.
Children of all ages in California’s public schools are being taught that homosexual marriage is good. By state mandate, they are learning to accept as normal different family constructs consisting of lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites, polygamists and others.
Still, the convention leadership spurned the SBC pro-family resolution by claiming the issue of children being taught deviancy in public schools is irrelevant because it has no bearing on the current homosexual marriage issue.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Southern Baptist Convention rejected a resolution encouraging California churches to voluntarily educate their parishioners regarding deviancy in the public schools and consider an exodus from the system, while at the same time offering viable educational alternatives.
Janet Folger, WorldNetDaily columnist and president of Faith2Action, recently pinpointed the core issue: “It’s really not about ‘marriage’ for same-sex couples as much as it’s about furthering a homosexual agenda.”
The homosexual agenda is thriving in the nation’s public schools. This is what is driving the proliferating acceptance of homosexual marriage. Ron Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., describes public schools as the “main training grounds for the teaching of same-sex marriage.”
Bruce Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth about Public Schools, says that even if the legalization of California’s same-sex marriages is overturned, K-12 students are still being taught that such marriages are good. As a result, the acceptance of the homosexual agenda is incubating within the hearts of thousands of children in California. And ultimately, millions are infected with mind poison as public schools across the country allow perverse dogma to proliferate.
Unless or until Christians remove their children from public school warehouses, pansexual marriage will one day be legal in all 50 states. Americans can fight laws passed by legislatures. Lawyers can battle rulings unconstitutionally legislated from the bench. Parents can continue feeble attempts to reform public school policies set by the pro-homosexual National Education Association. But they will one day wake up to find that America’s children, dumbed-down and educated in deviancy in the nation’s public schools, have grown to adulthood and created a different nation.
They will vote against the traditional values their parents once voiced, but never sacrificed for. Currently, most pastors will not sacrifice monetary gain derived from two-parent incomes, public school teachers and the IRS so that children can be protected. Many Christian parents will not sacrifice bigger homes, newer cars and more expensive vacations to provide education alternatives for their children.
Perhaps 20 years from now when the majority of churches have lost enough members to necessitate ministerial layoffs, Christians will turn away from their government-school idolatry.
When that happens, let’s pray there are still educational alternatives left.
Olivia St. John is a freelance writer with almost 20 years of experience as a home educator. Her work has been featured in several online publications, and she is currently working on a book promoting home education.
In a previous article, we discussed 12 reasons homosexual marriage will wreck the nation. The truth is even worse than imagined. That brief, as good as it was, was nevertheless incomplete. It did not include a list of frightful new self-privileges, backed by government coercion, which the Gaystapo is now actively working to shove down our throats.
Christians are depressed because they just lost a battle. Gird up your loins, man. You have a full-on war on your horizon. Fight it, or you will be subjugated.
The Obergefell decision seemed to come with a suddenness which is highly deceptive. You need to know that the sodomy lobby was working for this tirelessly for decades, and it still has much on its agenda. It does not intend to stop. This is a long-term vision, stretching way back and looking way forward.
Immediately after the decision, I heard an interview (which I unfortunately cannot find now) on NPR which made these things clear. The spokesman for some civil rights group said they’d been working on homosexual marriage since at least the early 90s. When asked what’s next, he wasted no time: workplace equality.
You know what that means? It means that you will not be able to fire sodomites from your business, and worse, you may be required to hire them. Consider such realities as affirmative action, and there may soon be de facto quotas for hiring them. They will then definitely target Christian businesses.
This agenda, and much more, is easy to find among many other groups and advocates. In another NPR interview, advocate Brian Lowder noted the common fear of homosexuals that by actually marrying, they make their homosexuality publicly known, and thus risk potentially getting fired. He relates: “In certain states where there are no discrimination protections for LGBT people, you know, there’s the line that says, ‘If you get married on Sunday, you could get fired on Monday.’”
The portents of this statement are clear: now that these alleged marriages are legal, the alleged community also will now need legal protection from getting fired. Enter workplace equality.
And much more. All you need to do is visit the local pages of the Human Rights Campaign and see the long list of “equalities” they plan for the government to enforce upon dissenters. Here goes:
Housing: They plan to make it illegal to refuse to rent to, or to evict, homosexuals.
Homosexual Adoption: They plan to make it legal for homosexuals to adopt a partner’s child, or for homosexual couples to adopt others’ children as a couple.
Employment: They plan to make it illegal to fire, or refuse to hire, homosexuals.
Hate Crimes: They plan to add homosexuals to so-called “hate crimes” laws.
Public Accommodations: They plan to make it illegal to refuse accommodation or service to homosexuals.
Anti-bullying Laws: Under the guise of preventing “bullying,” such laws would eventually make it illegal for students or co-workers to disagree with homosexual’s lifestyle publicly. Any such expression could be deemed “bullying,” and thus grounds for discipline.
School Laws: They plan to make it illegal to disallow discussion of LGBT issues in classrooms. The next step will be to require such discussions in schools. Then required in curricula. The next step will include requiring such discussions and curricula in private schools also.
Health Insurance: They wish to force health insurance companies to cover transgender concerns with no exceptions.
“Gender Markers”: They wish to force states to recognize alleged gender changes on licenses and birth certificates. Males can be listed as females, and vice versa.
Other activist groups echo these sentiments; for example, the Center for American Progress: “[I]n 16 states [now 29] and counting, same-sex couples can legally marry and can then be legally fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartments, denied credit, refused hotel rooms, and discriminated against in education all because of their sexual orientation.” These are now the widespread concerns in the homosexual agenda. Expect to see case examples like this, or at least a representative, high-profile case, hit the media.
In a very decent article, “You Will Be Assimilated: The same-sex marriage bait-and-switch,” author Jonathan Last relates overt admissions by homosexual activists that their arguments were lies all along and were only used as tools to deceive and gain leverage until the goal was achieved. Now the arguments will change to serve future goals. And the goal, despite repeated denials, was admitted by one activist to be for “history’s traditional understanding of marriage . . . . to be relinquished.”
The same activist laments the widespread “homophobia” of “all three of the Abrahamic religions” not only on ideological grounds, but precisely because they are protected by the First Amendment. But even this must be steamrolled, as he lets slip: “It does mean, at least for a while, courts and legislatures will strike compromises balancing gay rights and religious liberty. . . . And it means gay-marriage supporters will hit a constitutional brick wall if we try to condemn our opponents to immediate and total perdition.”
Last rightly catches these key (and chilling) phrases, “at least for a while,” and “immediately. He exposes them for what they mean: “by his own admission, serious, high-minded advocates of same-sex marriage will tolerate religious liberty only so long.” There is much more good in that article, alarming as it is, and I recommend that you read it.
As with homosexual marriages, many states already have varieties of many of these pro-LGBT laws. The goal is to force all of them on all states and all communities, even communities of faith, most likely through the federal government. Granted, however, they will use whatever means necessary or available. The end goal is for all dissent, religious or otherwise, to be steamrolled and crushed throughout the nation.
In short, the goal is homosexual dominion—a dominion of godlessness. As far as the arm of government can reach, so far will the hand of government silence your mouth, and beat down those who disagree.
Now that Justice Kennedy has proven his pro-LGBT agenda with his marriage decisions, I don’t see how this string of seemingly lesser issues will not ultimately be said to fall in the same line of civil rights interpretation. In short, we can expect the Supreme Court to uphold all of these demands of the homosexuals, and to strike down State laws that don’t.
The strongest political factor left is public opinion. Even that is vulnerable to the courts (as the strike-down of California’s Proposition 8 showed), so ultimately Restoring America-style decentralization of power is the best goal. But we still need an absolutely monstrous outcry proportionate to the real numbers involved here, and the real values of those numbers.
In the article just mentioned, Last reveals what is perhaps the biggest lie of the homosexual movement: the apparent mandate. He writes of the program of deception for acceptance:
It began at the most elementary factual level: How many Americans are gay? For decades, gay-rights activists pushed the line that 1 out of every 10 people is homosexual. This statistic belied all evidence but was necessary in order to imbue the cause with a sense of ubiquity and urgency. The public fell so hard for this propaganda that in 2012 Gallup did a poll asking people what percentage of the country they thought was gay. The responses were amazing. Women and young adults were the most gullible, saying, on average, that they thought 30 percent of the population was gay. The average American thought that 24 percent of the population—one quarter—was gay. Only 4 percent of respondents said they thought homosexuals made up less than 5 percent of the population.
Why did women and young adults think that homosexuals make up a whopping third of the population? The answer is right there: they fell for the propaganda. That is, they were hoodwinked by the sitcoms, movies, news, and public education (and folks, that our fault). The truth is not only sad, it is even sadder than you might think:
But even 5 percent turns out to be an exaggeration. The best research to date on American sexual preference is a 2014 study from the Centers for Disease Control with a monster sample of 34,557 adults. It found that 96.6 percent of Americans identified as heterosexual, 1.6 percent identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent as bisexual. The percentage of gays and lesbians isn’t much higher than the percentage of folks who refused to answer the question (1.1 percent).
It’s simply time to turn off the tube, get out of the public schools, and start getting active and vocal in opposition to what is now admitted to be an agenda to destroy Christian marriage and silence all opposition to it. If we can unify and speak up, we can save liberty. The numbers are there, and in every facet, the truth in on our side. If we don’t, we will continue to be steamrolled, and it will be in every area of life. You will not be able to escape.
Like I said: gird up your loins, man. You have a full-on war on your horizon. Fight it, or you will be subjugated.
More to come. . . .
The following is reported on WND’s website:
“It could shape up to be a battle between theological titans. Religious teacher, human rights activist and New York Times best-selling author of “The Islamic Antichrist” Joel Richardson is calling for a public debate with Hendrik ‘Hank’ Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute. The subject would be ‘replacement theology,’ a concept Hanegraaff recently confronted on his popular broadcast Bible Answer Man. . . . Hanegraaff stated: ‘This moniker is inaccurate because those who are labeled replacement theologians neither believe that the church has replaced Israel nor the other way around. Instead they hold that all who are clothed in Christ constitute one congruent chosen covenant community connected by the cross. And that’s precisely what you read in Galatians 3: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” If you belong to Christ says Paul, then you are Abraham’s seed and you are an heir according to the promise. It’s not a matter of race, it’s a matter of relationship.’”
Accusing a fellow-Christian of teaching Replacement Theology is like someone pulling the race card in a debate about race or the war on women card in a debate about women’s issue. Pulling one of these cards most often happens when an argument can’t be made based on the facts of the case. A person charged with “replacement theology” is really being accused of being anti-Semitic or, more accurately, anti-Jew. I’ve seen it happen many times. Some prophetic critic will begin an argument over eschatology with something like this: “Well, he holds to replacement theology.” End of debate.
Read more: “The Rise of the Islamic Antichrist: Fact or Fiction?“
The people who make the charge of Replacement Theology rarely do any real exegetical work. They’ve heard someone else play the Replacement Theology card. No Bible study is needed since any number of big-name prophecy teachers play the Replacement Theology card to great success. They begin with the unproven claim that the Bible teaches an Israel-Church distinction, and one day God will “rapture” His church and deal with ethnic Israel again during a great tribulation where millions of Jews will be slaughtered (Zech. 13:8-9). In this way, so the argument goes, “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Anyone who teaches a different view is said to be involved in grave theological error.
What does the Bible say? Let’s examine the Scriptures to see whether the charges made by those who play the Replacement Theology card are so (Acts 17:11).
The first New Covenant believers were from the nation of Israel (Luke 1–2) with hints of a later expanded redemptive role for Samaritans (John 4:7–45), Greeks (John 12:20–22), the nations (Luke 2:32; see Isa. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6, 9; 51:4; 60:1-3; Matt. 4:16; Acts 13:47; 26:23), and the broader world (John 3:16; 4:42).
“To the Jew first” predominates in Scripture: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10; John 4:22; Acts 3:26). Jesus told His apostles, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:24). “To the Jew first” is evident at Pentecost where “there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). These Jews would be the first to hear the gospel in great numbers and the first to make up the New Testament church (ekklēsia):
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. . . . And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:37-47).
Like Jesus, Peter’s message was first to “all the house of Israel” (Acts 2:36). When these Israelites asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), Peter told them: “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off,(1) as many as the Lord God shall call to Himself” (2:39). There is no mention of a postponement of the covenant with Israel and making a different “mystery” covenant with a new redemptive group called the “church.” As we’ll see, the use of the word ekklēsia, most often translated “church,” wasn’t a new word or new concept to the Jews.
A Jewish Church
The New Testament ekklēsia (church) was made up exclusively of Jews: “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11; also 8:1-3; 9:31). Nothing said or indicated that the church was a new thing because Israel rejected Jesus. The remnant of Israel embraced Jesus (see Rom. 11:1-5) and comprised and was identified as the “church” (ekklēsia) just like Israel had been the church (ekklēsia) under the Old Covenant (see Acts 7:38: “the ekklēsia [KJV: church] in the wilderness”).
Michael Brown writes the following in his book Our Hands our Stained With Blood: “Let’s go back to the Book of Acts. The early Church was exclusively Jewish. It was almost ten years before a group of Gentiles received the gospel, and this created shock waves in Jerusalem.”
God did not reject His people. Jews were being saved by the thousands throughout the then known world (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; Matt. 24:14; Rom. 1:8; 16:25-27; Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16).
At the same time, there were Jews who rejected Jesus as the promised redeemer (Acts 13:46-52). This should not surprise us since we are told, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved” (Rom. 9:27; see 11:5; Isa. 10:22). The Jews were the first to believe and disbelieve. Here’s the point: The Jews were the first to make up the New Covenant church (ekklēsia). When the gospel went to the Gentiles, the Gentiles did not replace Israel. The Gentiles were grafted into an already growing New Testament assembly of believers made up of those from “the house of Israel.”
Church, Assembly, Congregation
The entire “Replacement Theology” construct is built on a faulty exegetical foundation that was laid with the faulty translation of ekklēsia. The Greek word ekklēsia, most often translated “church,” was not new to the New Testament and neither was its meaning.
The word ekklēsia was used many times in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX) for the Hebrew word qāhāl. Both qāhāl and ekklēsia are best translated as “congregation” or “assembly.” Even modern-day Hebrew translations of the Greek New Testament translate the Greek ekklēsia as the Hebrew qāhāl. Earl D. Radmacher writes, “[T]his Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures was the Bible of the early church. . . . Thus, when the writers of the New Testament, whose Bible was the Septuagint, used ekklēsia, they were not inventing a new term. They found the term in common use and simply employed what was at hand.”(2)
Following the LXX, the sacred assembly of Israel was the “ekklēsia of the LORD” (Deut. 23:1). “The people of God” are “in the ekklēsia” (Judges 20:2). Solomon took “all the ekklēsia” to Gibeon where the ark was (2 Chron. 1:3). There the ekklēsia inquired of the Lord (2 Chron. 1:5). When the temple was completed, Solomon blessed “all the ekklēsia of Israel” (1 Kings 8:14; cp. 8:22, 55; 2 Chron. 6:3). If this verse were in the NT, it would read “all the church of Israel.” When Solomon stands before the altar and prays, he is “before all the ekklēsia of Israel” (2 Chron. 6:12). The “ekklēsia of the LORD” was the covenantal assembly of Israel (Deut. 4:10).
William Tyndale’s translation makes this point, and it got him in big trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. The Tyndale New Testament, the first English translation to use the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, did not use the word “church.” Tyndale (1494–1536) chose the words “assembly” and “congregation”(3) to translate ekklēsia. Here is how Tyndale’s translation handled the first two appearances of ekklēsia in the New Testament (spelling modernized):
- “And upon this rock I will build my congregation: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
- “If he hear not them, tell it unto the congregation: if he hear not the congregation, take him as an heathen man, and as a publican” (Matt. 18:17).
Ekklēsia is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word qahal and means “assembly” or “congregation.” It’s the way William Tyndale wanted to translate ekklēsia but was put under pressure by the Roman Catholic Church to translate it as “church.”
One of the requirements of the translators of the so-called Authorized or King James Version was that ekklēsia had to be translated as “church.” One of the Rules to be Observed in the Translation of the [King James] Bible required the following: “The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c.”(4)
William Stafford writes, it was understood by the laity and church officials that “it was the clergy who were the ecclesia, the church.”(5) But as Tyndale saw it, “the church was not the clergy, nor was it the hierarchical, legal, and ceremonial edifice sustaining the clergy, but rather the congregation of all who responded to the word of God.”(6)
The Hebrew translation of the New Testament translates the Greek ekklēsia as qahal (קָהָל), meaning “assembly” or “congregation.” The TLV Bible translation, published by the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, translates Matthew 16:18 as “community” and 18:17 as “Messiah’s community” and not “church.”
With this background, we can understand why Stephen could describe “the children of Israel” as the “ekklēsia in the wilderness” (Acts 7:37-38). Now try saying that the “assembly replaces Israel” or the “congregation replaces Israel.” It doesn’t work.
In Hebrews 2:12 there is a direct quotation from Psalm 22:22. The Old Testament Psalm used the word qahal and the Septuagint translated it as ekklēsia:
I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly [קָהָל/qahal]I will praise You.
The Septuagint translates qahal in Psalm 22:22 as ekklēsia. Hebrews 2:12 reads this way in the King James Version:
I will declare thy name unto my brethren,
in the midst of the church [ekklēsia] will I sing praise unto thee.
The ekklēsia was identified with Israel long before the inauguration of the New Testament Church (ekklēsia) that was initially made up exclusively of Jews (Israelites).
The Nations are Grafted In
The first Christians were Jews. The gospel was preached to “Israel” (Acts 2:22, 26).
We later learn that the gospel extended “also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; Acts 3:26; Rom 2:9) as Peter’s encounter with Cornelius shows (Acts 10). Notice Peter’s evaluation of these events and the response of his fellow Jews:
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles [lit. nations] also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:15–18).
“The Gentiles also.” The word translated “Gentiles” is the Greek word ethnos — “nations.” Gentile believers — a remnant from the nations — were grafted into the Jewish assembly of believers and were given “the same gift,” the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8; 2:38). Jews and Gentiles (nations) together making “the two into one new man” (Eph. 2:15) made up the congregation (ekklēsia) of God.
The charge of “Replacement theology” obscures the obvious. The charge is a tactical red herring to get people’s attention away from what the New Testament shows about the relationship between the promises of the Old Covenant and their fulfillment in the New Covenant with Israel and how Gentiles are grafted into an Israelite assembly (ekklēsia) of believers.
A quick reading of the New Testament will show that no one makes the case that there is an Israel-Church distinction. There are Jews and Gentiles. There is one people of God. There aren’t two olive trees; there’s one olive tree made up of believing Israelites and believing non-Israelites from the nations (Rom. 11:17-24).
So with this background, the charge of Replacement Theology is bogus. It has no grounding in Scripture.
In my next article, I’ll look at the dark side of premillennialism and what it means for the future of Israel.
- Possibly a reference to the diaspora: John 7:35; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; Ps. 147:2; Isa. 11:12; 56:8; Zeph. 3:10.
- Earl D. Radmacher, What the Church is All About: A Biblical and Historical Study (Chicago: Moody Press,  1978), 121, 132.
- William Tyndale, “Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue” in The Works of William Tyndale, 2 volume work (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1849–1850), 2:13–16.
- Quoted in David Daniell, The Bible in English: It’s History and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 439.
- William S. Stafford, “Tyndale’s Voice to the Laity” in Word, Church, and State: Tyndale Quincentenary Essays, 105.
- Stafford, “Tyndale’s Voice to the Laity,” 106.
John MacArthur recently preached a sermon entitled “We Will Not Bow.” It is in reference to the fear and despair affecting Christians in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decisions on homosexuals and marriage. Really, it is about social decline in general over the past decades. From the title, you might expect a call to stand bravely and perhaps even to fight. Instead, the worldview of premillennial defeat and pessimism in history takes over. More importantly, a type of schizophrenia about the application of Christian ethics in history besets important parts of the analysis. If we are consistent with our ethics, however, we would learn from this situation primarily that we have no one to blame but ourselves, and we will make changes accordingly.
The old Christian America for which our forefathers braved raging seas and tyrants, and resisted unto blood, MacArthur tells us, is now dead and gone. Worse, it was only ever an anomaly to begin with. As he puts it, America has experienced “a very rare reprieve from this normal kind of conflict that most of the world has always known.” By “normal” he means a world in which Christianity is a persecuted minority.
Practical atheism, rejection of the truth, moral relativism has always prevailed in Satan’s kingdom. But here in America we’ve been protected from that in its full fierceness. No more. And by the way, religious liberty isn’t promised to Christians, is it? Freedom isn’t promised to Christians. Persecution is. Persecution is. I think we’re going to feel it.
The reason MacArthur sees such persecution as the norm for all of history is a consequent belief of the premillennial worldview: since the millennial reign of Christ lies totally in the future, Christ is therefore not reigning in any significant way in this world now. Instead, the world is left to Satan right now:
The Bible says Satan holds the whole world in his hands. . . . Satan rules the world.
MacArthur concludes with the familiar “pilgrim” theme that has beset even many Reformed folk as of late: “We’re just passing through, aren’t we? We’re just passing through.”
I don’t highlight these things in order to distract from what good MacArthur does say. I totally agree that the society of the enemy and the society of God’s people are completely antithetical to each other in their doctrines, beliefs, ethics, intents, and purposes. He’s totally right about that. And he’s totally right to exalt God’s original purposes for the family, and totally right that the unbelievers’ push for homosexual marriages is ultimately about the destruction of the family, the destruction of God’s order, and the destruction of God and His anointed (could that be done). He is absolutely right about these things. And because of these things are true, unbelievers will attempt to persecute us whenever given the opportunity.
Is it . . . Satan?
It is here that a couple corrections must be made. First, Satan does not hold this world in his hands, and he does not rule the world. I won’t spend much time here, other than to point out that Christ Himself said that He has all power in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18–20), and that we are to execute the Great Commission in light of that fact. Whatever power Satan ever truly had was lost when Christ triumphed over him at the cross. It was for this reason that Christ said the “ruler of this world” was to be “cast out” “now” (John 12:31)—that is, “now” at His present time in the first century, at His first coming. That judgment and casting out was an accomplished fact back then, and Christ regained total dominion over the world. This is why He said what He said in Matthew 28:18.
With regard to the strife and war which Satan is said to wage with God, it must be understood with this qualification, that Satan cannot possibly do anything against the will and consent of God. . . . Satan is under the power of God, and is so ruled by his authority, that he must yield obedience to it. . . . [A]s God holds him bound and fettered by the curb of his power, he executes those things only for which permission has been given him, and thus, however unwilling, obeys his Creator, being forced, whenever he is required, to do Him service. . . . God thus turning the unclean spirits hither and thither at his pleasure, employs them in exercising believers by warring against them, assailing them with wiles, urging them with solicitations, pressing close upon them, disturbing, alarming, and occasionally wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them. (Institutes 1.14.17–18.)
And I rightly concluded:
Satan and his minions are so fully under God’s thumb that even the slightest pretense to power and dominion on their part is a joke. They will go where God wills and nowhere else. They will do what God wills and nothing more or less. They cannot pull off the kind of “control” that so many Christians fear, and so we ought to stop speaking of them as if they do.
For this reason, and I will say this only in passing, I do not believe that premillennial dispensationalists can truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed. Aside from other issues of baptism or ecclesiology which could be debated, the assumption of Satan’s current sovereignty in this world alone conflicts with the basic presupposition of Christ’s current sovereignty with underlies Calvinism or Reformed theology. Thus, this position is not Reformed.
Secondly, and perhaps even more troubling as I said, is the ethical confusion that often results when Christians do not have a positive view of Christian social ethics and a clear understanding of the mandate for us to construct our society according to God’s Law in light of the great antithesis between God’s people and the waning kingdom of darkness. What so often has occurred is that Christians blur the antithesis and hand over their God-given liberties, sovereignties, and even their children to compromised nonsense.
This problem of intellectual schizophrenia is clear in MacArthur’s sermon. As we said, MacArthur is right to uphold the doctrine of the family. What he says here is commendable:
Families provide a small, sovereign unit that acts as a small barrier against the corruption that seeks to dominate.
And he’s right about the goal of the unbelievers:
Shatter the family, destroy the family and the small sovereign barrier is disintegrated. And by the way, the goal in all of this—you need to be reading to see this—the goal in all of this is not homosexual, same-sex marriage. The goal is the total elimination of all marriage, which then means you don’t possess any privacy.
And he’s totally right about the consequences of this arrangement for the children:
You don’t have that small, sovereign unit, and your children are not yours. They’re public children and they belong to the education system; and they belong to the country; and they belong to the village—but not to you.
It was this passage that bothered me so much, and for this reason: MacArthur is a proponent of public schools. While his brief article on the subject contains good caveats and nuggets of wisdom, and gives preference to Christian schooling, his final position leaves open public schools as an option for the Christian.
But any Christian who understands the origin, nature, purpose, economics, doctrine of “in loco parentis,” and practices of public schooling knows that the answer to the public school question is not only “no,” but “now way, no how.” MacArthur implicitly acknowledges this when he uses the phrase “public children.” He sees the ascendancy of homosexual marriage rightly as the ascendancy of the State intruding into the family. Homosexual marriage is nothing less than the pagan State exercising dominion. This, too, is what public schooling has always been, and is now. There is a direct, even if not well-perceived, logical connection between public education and homosexual marriage. It is only a matter of the degree to which the pagan State has expressed its dominion at the expense of the family. Give it an inch, and in a few decades it owns a thousand miles.
But MacArthur does not see the logic. So, on the one hand you have a man lamenting the fact that the march of unbelieving society leads directly to a society in which your children “belong to the education system” and “not to you”; but on the other hand says it’s acceptable for Christians to hand over their children to an unbelieving education system, run by unbelievers with unbelieving textbooks, thirty hours a week for thirteen years during their formative years.
This is an intellectual and spiritual disconnect we should all see, and upon which we should all act. Yet MacArthur holds both of these views simultaneously. He compromises on education, teaches his congregation that it is acceptable to compromise in this way, and then stands up to say, “We will not bow”?
Too late, bro. You already did.
You did in eschatology, you did in civil government, you did in social ethics.
What we really ought to take away from the antitheses between Christian ethics and pagan culture which MacArthur rightly lists is the basic understanding that there is no neutrality in any area of life. We also ought to learn (after seeing it played out only about a thousand times before our eyes) that the unbelieving world almost always acts consistently with this principle, and that Christians rarely do. This is to say that leftists are more faithful to their faith than are Christians.
MacArthur rightly concludes his sermon on several resounding notes of coming judgment. But here his eschatology takes over again. Instead of expecting what has happened so often in human history—God’s judgment on nations in history—he sees the many judgment passages of Scripture mainly with a view toward only final judgment. Thus, the Christian’s duty today is only to be warning these apostates that they will spend eternity in hell if they persist, and has nothing to do with planning for our children’s or nation’s future in terms of God’s law and sanctions in history, now. In other words, MacArthur’s view by default gives over the entire realm of history to the creep of unbelieving forces, because it redirects the Christians’ focus to other-worldly matters only.
What we need instead are people—leaders—who preach both. We need leaders who of course preach the Gospel in all its implications, but who also preach the rest of the Great Commission, that all nations are to bow before Christ now, and to obey His commandments. We should not rest in our duty to shape law, government, and social ethics to conform to His word, let alone retreat from that duty. We ought to be warning neighbor and nation alike not only about personal judgment at the end time, but national judgment now for national sins.
Christian, whatever good may be sifted from among the sands of sermons like this one from MacArthur, we simply must not capitulate in our stand to see the dominion of Christ spread to every area of life. We must confidently say with MacArthur, “We will not bow,” but we must also go where he does not, and say also, “We will not stop until the whole world bows before Christ.”
The following story shows a tremendous, and unfortunately not too uncommon, injustice in our legal systems today. It is an injustice that results from a failure to implement a basic principle of biblical law. Furthermore, it is an injustice that is allowed to prevail with the government in general, including police departments in general, police officers individually, courts, judges, and prosecutors. Today we will focus mainly on prosecution (accusers). It is a widespread injustice we must remedy.
The Introduction posted yesterday is, as I said, only a beginning of groundwork needed to understanding how awry law and government, including police and courts, have grown in the country. Perhaps it can even be seen as a springboard into the needed discussion. If so, it is one which includes necessary historical and religious background in order to chart the back to liberty.
It is easy to condemn how badly courts—especially those tyrannical ecclesiastical courts—used to be. We can read with head-shaking the endless marginalia for which courts accused, imprisoned, flogged, and fined individuals incessantly. But the shaking-of-the-head does not usually ascend to outrage when looking back centuries. It’s so out of touch for us today.
Except it really is not. The truth is, we have largely been overwhelmed by the same matters today: by the same types of legal systems and in many cases to the same degrees. The only exception is that today they are purely secular rather than both secular and ecclesiastical. Many people, especially conservative Christians, do not see it for many reasons which we will discuss at a later time. For now, I would like to introduce you to one recent legal story that ought to wake us all up.
The Case of Mark Weiner
You need to read this report on the freeing of Mark Weiner in its entirety. The authoress gives you the nutshell:
This story is bizarre, but it’s not all that unusual: Prosecutors can prosecute even the weakest, most clearly flawed cases relentlessly, and innocent people can end up in jail.
But this doesn’t get to the half of it. Because prosecutors (and apparently the court, too) were bent on prosecution (rather than justice) as their goal, this particular innocent man sat in jail for two and a half years.
And that’s not the half of it. Two and a half unnecessary and totally unjust years in jail entails, as you can imagine, the loss of nearly everything. The piece concludes:
Mark Weiner has lost more than two years with his young son and with his wife, he’s lost his job, he’s lost his family home, and he’s lost every penny he ever had in savings or retirement accounts.
But again, even this is not all of it. The piece draws the following conclusion:
If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means “the system works,” I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him.
Just from these few indications we could draw several conclusions. But you have to hear what lies behind this conclusion of how “the system should have worked.” To do that, I’ll have to rehearse the basics of the case. At the risk of making this article too lengthy, here’s the article’s summary:
The story began on a December night in 2012. Weiner, then a 52-year-old man who managed a local Food Lion and attended night classes at a local community college, stopped and picked up 20-year-old Chelsea Steiniger, who was walking from a convenience store to her mother’s house. Steiniger’s boyfriend, Michael Mills, had just informed her that she could not sleep at his apartment, which did not permit guests after a certain hour, so she was angrily headed to stay with her mother. It was cold, it was dark, it was late. Weiner saw her and offered to drive her to her mother’s house, picking her up directly across from the local police station.
Mark Weiner’s version of events: He drove Steiniger to her mom’s house and went home.
Most of the rest of the trial narrative unfolds through the sequence of texts Steiniger sent her boyfriend as they drove to her mom’s place.
At 12:10 a.m., Steiniger texted her boyfriend that “some dud[e]” was giving her a ride. At 12:18 a.m., she texted, “he tried to get in my pants.” At 12:21 a.m., she texted, “just pulled up he wont let me out of the car.”
At 12:23 a.m., the texts allegedly start coming from Weiner instead of Steiniger, the first one reading: “[S]he doesn’t have her phone.” And at 12:27: “Shes so sexy when shes passed out.” At 12:28: “She was a fighter ill give her that much.” At 12:36: “Ill let her wake before i let you talk to her.”
When a panicking Mills texted back at 12:38 a.m., “w[h]ere are you taking her,” Weiner allegedly responded: “[S]hes in my house she said she was cold so IMMa warm her up.”
Steiniger testified that Weiner, while driving past the mother’s house, managed to knock her out at about 12:22 a.m. with a chemical-soaked cloth that worked in 15 seconds, at which point he began sending the taunting texts to Mills. Including a text using the word IMMa—not the most common expression for white, 52-year-old Food Lion managers.
That’s right: Over the course of four minutes, Weiner allegedly incapacitated Steiniger, took control of her phone, and texted her boyfriend, all while driving to a rural property late at night.
Steiniger claimed she awoke on the floor of an abandoned building she had never seen before, and when Weiner left her unattended, she grabbed her phone and jumped off a second-floor balcony, hid in the woods, then made her way on foot to her mother’s house two miles away. She never called 911.
But her boyfriend, Mills, had already called 911 to report the abduction. When the Emergency Communications Center called Steiniger at 1:07 a.m. and left a message, then called again at 1:08, she checked her voicemail and quickly shut off the phone. She would later testify that her battery was dead at this time, but records would show she retrieved the voicemail and then switched the phone off.
When the police were unable to reach Steiniger by phone, they went to her mother’s home. Steiniger answered the door, clothes intact and unsoiled after she supposedly jumped from a second-floor balcony and walked two miles in the cold.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Mark Weiner was arrested. He had been incarcerated in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail ever since.
It’s clear to me that more than one set of facts here should have rendered Steiniger’s testimony incredible from the outset. The contradictions regarding the cell phone usage and battery are enough to establish that alone. The prosecution should already have had red flags.
But it gets much worse. There was further exonerating evidence:
Records later showed that Steiniger’s phone accessed two cellphone towers near her mother’s house dozens of times that night, but never once pinged a tower near the abandoned house. . . .
As part of her prosecution strategy, Weiner’s trial lawyer later said, Lunsford “sought the advice of two respected detectives in the city and the county” to pinpoint where the alleged victim’s text messages had originated. Each cop concluded independently that the texts had been sent from near where Steiniger’s mother lived. Lunsford interviewed the first officer for the first time at the courthouse, just before he was scheduled to testify. He told the prosecutor he’d guess the calls came from Steiniger’s mother’s house, not the abandoned property.
Some prosecutors would call that sort of thing exculpatory information that must legally be turned over to the defense. Lunsford thanked the officer for stopping by and said she would no longer be needing his testimony after all. (This officer would later call the defense attorney and tell him what had transpired.) The second law enforcement officer offered up the same conclusion. He didn’t get to testify, either.
When defense counsel learned of the cellphone evidence and attempted to use one of the detectives as a defense witness, Lunsford had him disqualified as an expert, objecting to the fact that the defense attorney hadn’t subpoenaed the right witnesses to get the phone record evidence in. When the defense lawyer asked in chambers for a continuance so that he could call the correct witnesses, the motion was denied by trial court Judge Cheryl Higgins. Jurors would never hear what the phone tower records showed. Local lawyers and trial observers were shocked.
A law professor who reviewed the case commented: “Leaving aside the fact that a competent prosecutor is not learning the underlying facts of her case mid-trial, this was the kind of exculpatory evidence that would cause a fair prosecutor, honoring her obligation to seek and serve justice, to dismiss the charge. Instead, she successfully argued against their admissibility in court. In the wrongful conviction world, the nicest description we have for this phenomenon is ‘tunnel vision.’”
“Tunnel vision” is putting it mildly. This is having a freight train roaring through the funnel. This is a case of ramrodded injustice. The article makes clear that no evidence was presented in the case that linked Weiner in any way to the abandoned house or to the cell phone, and no chemical-soaked cloth, or even chemical itself, was shown. Frankly, I am shocked that the jury convicted. But the exclusion of exculpatory evidence must be considered as a major factor in this unjust verdict.
And it doesn’t stop there. The article continues [emphases mine]:
In the spring of 2014, Weiner’s new lawyers filed a motion to set aside the jury verdict. They alleged ineffective assistance by his original trial counsel. (Among other errors, the first lawyer had found a matchbook in which Steiniger had written her phone number in case a job opened up at Food Lion, but didn’t put it into evidence.)
They also noted that Steiniger’s then-husband, Howard Steiniger, who was incarcerated at the time of the alleged attack, had signed an affidavit saying that she had admitted to making this story up in an attempt to get back at a guy named Mike [the boyfriend she was texting, apparently]. Her admission, he said, was made while they talked on the phone, on a recorded prison call.
Records of the call were destroyed when lawyers attempted to obtain them. The new defense team also informed the court that even Mills, the boyfriend, suspected Steiniger was lying when he texted her: “why did u lie to me.”
Weiner’s lawyers also presented an affidavit from anesthesiologist John Janes, testifying that there is no chemical that can be put on a rag and placed on someone’s face that would cause that person to pass out within 15 seconds. [Yes folks, those chloroform hankies in the movies are fallacious. It does not work like that.]
All of this was denied. Then,
In another motion, filed in April of 2015, Weiner’s attorneys told the court that they now had testimony from three former friends of Steiniger who said she drank and smoked pot several times at the abandoned house in 2012, despite her claim at trial that she had never been to the home before the alleged abduction.
Yet, the prosecutor did not budge. Then,
At a June 3 hearing, Judge Cheryl Higgins did not dispute most of the new allegations. But she claimed she didn’t have the authority to throw out the verdict and said the new claims could be raised on appeal. On June 9 she sentenced Weiner to 20 years in prison, with 12 years suspended.
After that final hearing, at which Mark Weiner was sentenced to eight years in prison for giving a young woman a ride home, [prosecutor] Lunsford explained why none of the new evidence mattered: “I interviewed the victim twice, and I believed her.”
And perhaps that’s the problem right there: Facing a mountain of evidence that showed there was no way the alleged victim could be telling the truth, the prosecutor believed her, then believed her, and then believed her some more.
Weiner was only finally released from jail when Steinger was later arrested separately trying to sell cocaine to undercover cops. This, at last, was judged to be something which impeached her credibility.
And for this series of injustices, a man spent two and a half years in jail, and lost his home and all his savings with no apparent intention of it being restored.
The authoress is exactly right: just because Weiner was freed does not mean the system worked. It did not. It failed terribly and inflicted harsh injuries upon an innocent man because of a lying woman and a state agent who desired to produce guilt rather than justice.
But there is more. A huge part of the problem is the lack of biblical protections which could have prevented this whole affair, and many more like it.
The Biblical Remedy
Long story short, biblical law requires multiple witnesses, thorough investigation, and that false witnesses be the ones who get punished.
The Word is clear: “If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing. . . . The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his [or her] brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother” (Deut. 19:16–19).
In short, there is a built-in check of accountability to prevent cases exactly like this from ever happening. And this law should be extended to the prosecutors (and in other cases, the police and the agencies, too). When they fail to “inquire diligently,” but instead harbor, protect, and represent the falsehood, then by the principle of representation, they become the “malicious witness” themselves. They should pay the price also.
The bottom line is this: there ought to be a solid principle of accountability for rogue, or even simply unsupported but persistent, accusers in society. This includes not only liars like Steiniger, but police, judges, and prosecutors who pervert justice on their own or others’ behalf.
In this particular case, a man was accused of kidnapping. Under biblical law, this is a capital crime. Anyone fabricating such a story and pressing charges, therefore, ought only to be allowed to do so under pain of the same punishment if their story is revealed to be a lie. In short, Steiniger would never have alleged this case, or if she did, she would be on her way to being sentenced to execution right now. Under the present system, the same principle would say that she should be tried, convicted, and then sentenced to the 20 years (12 commuted) to which Weiner would have been. The fact that she has subsequently been imprisoned on drug charges may seem like poetic justice, but it is irrelevant to this case. It is separate and should be considered so.
The government and prosecutors also ought to held accountable for such injustices at least to the extent they have imposed hardships and losses on Weiner and his family. Every dime he has lost and every cent of property he has lost, plus consideration for the value of his lost job and reputation, with interest, ought to be restored at the expense of the parties involved—not by the state via the taxpayers, but the prosecutor herself, as well as any others.
If prosecutors faced such checks, they would be much slower to “err on the side of prosecution,” as one lawyer recently told me is a norm. They would be much less likely to prosecute people with the full power and resources of the state, destroying innocent lives, for “just in case” scenarios. They would certainly not engage in prosecutorial crusades against evidence, tossing out and suppressing evidence, and facing no consequences. Under a biblical system, such an accuser could quickly find themselves being hit personally with expenses borne by a hapless defendant, and that could lead to a lifetime of heavily-garnished wages, to put it mildly, paying to restore a victim of the system like Weiner.
It is simply time that lawmakers and judges, especially Christians, begin to consider the biblical law for the punishment of malicious or false witnesses. For want of this simple principle of accountability, injustices permeate every area of our lives today. Peoples’ lives can be at the very least interrupted. Many are beset, and some ruined without remedy. Families are bereft, and in some cases literally torn apart by largely unaccountable agents of the state and its administrative arms. Accountability for the state as a protector of false witness is a key to restoring Christian liberty and civilization going forward. Without it, life, liberty, and property are at the mercy of the whims of such prosecutors, judges, and any falsehoods they can be tempted, for whatever reason, to harbor.
The following is an excerpt from my Intro to God’s Law and Government in America. There is serious, weighty, and detailed history of jurisprudence in here. It may not be easy for you to work through at first, but it is necessary groundwork for what lies ahead of us. Anyone interested in freedom in America, particularly religious freedom, and especially Restoring America, absolutely must read this material and come to grips with the issues and distinctions involved. It is absolutely crucial to the work we have to do in moving forward.
It is also, however, going to push several people into uncharted, and thus perhaps uncomfortable, intellectual territory. The distinctions in legal systems and court procedures, when their implications are understood, will challenge deeply-held views of social and criminal justice as well as policing. It will also, however, be enlightening and motivating in regard to certain aspects of our present tyranny, particularly that which exercises such power over families. Either way, if we are to regain the liberties once established by our Puritan forefathers, it will be inescapably necessary to tip some sacred cows and demolish some intellectual and cultural idols. The alternative is the very type of tyranny for which those forefathers fled England at the time, only in a purely secularized, refined, and highly potent version—a police-state system I am terming “The Modern Inquisition.”
A lawyer friend of mine proofread this intro a while back and said it was as important as Berman’s intro to Law and Revolution. That shocked me at the time, but she is right. I don’t say that to toot my own horn or at all to put myself on Berman’s level, but in regards to the importance of the material itself, it is absolutely correct. I will be publishing more on these topics in the near future, directing you to other important resources on it, and I will be speaking on these topics in both California and Iowa in October and November respectively.
As I said, this is difficult, but crucial material. This article is long, and at that it is only half of the whole Introduction. You need to read it all, just to get the groundwork to understand where we have come from, where we are at, and where we must go. Please take your time, read this carefully and as many times as necessary. The future of your, and your children’s, freedom depends on it.
Tyranny through the Courts
One of the enduring political trends that crossed both civil and ecclesiastical realms was that of jurisdictional and court powers. The New England ministers were the heirs of opponents of the ecclesiastical court system. These “bawdy courts,” as one early opponent called them, derived from the Roman Catholic inquisitorial tradition. They had especially tyrannized Protestants since the dawn of the Reformation, and had grown into a massive revenue machine for the high churchmen and the crony lawyers who had attached themselves to it.
It is difficult to overstate just how intrusive and tyrannical these courts were for the average person. The ecclesiastical courts had jurisdiction over nearly every area of life: marriages, wills, probate, tithes, inheritance of land, alimony, debt, trespasses, defamations, Sabbaths, church attendance, and more. They had the power to sequester property, impose fines, beatings, torture, imprisonment, maiming, and virtually every other punishment short of the death penalty and dismemberment. They also maintained control of licensing and fees in certain areas, for example, printing (censorship) and medical practice. These courts were not common law courts, but administrative “prerogative courts”—meaning they sat to enforce the prerogative of the bishops’ (or on the secular side, the king’s) whims and regulations. Thus they proceeded without a jury, and defendants could be charged upon rumors or gossip, as long as the officials in charge decided to press the case. Procedure, as we will see below, was just as arbitrary, including the fact that cases were conducted in Latin so that the common folk could not have participated in the system even if it favored them to do so.
The church courts in this way were thus constantly harassing individuals for minor issues. They interfered in commerce and credit. They imposed punishments for working on Saints’ Days or for missing church. In one case a parson was fined for acting as a midwife without a license. They mandated segregation of men and women during church services, and a man was fined for sitting in the same pew as his wife. Another was fined for wearing a dirty ruff. Critics pointed out that the Court of High Commission—the supreme ecclesiastical venue—punished laymen for criticizing clergymen “though the thing spoken be true,” incited women against their husbands, sent agents to break into houses, and proceeded arbitrarily with no predictable rules of law.
On top of the miserable annoyance and harassment, the system turned into outright theft and corruption. Bishops had their own police who had little scruple about invading people’s lives and hauling them before the courts for countless offenses. The officers, agents, canon lawyers, and bishops themselves profited highly from the system. Estimates determined that by 1641, there were between 10,000 and 22,000 such parasites connected with the church courts, sucking the public dry to the tune of 200,000 pounds per annum. This, in a day when a single British pound represented roughly a month’s wages for a typical day laborer. Soon it was both fact and public perception that the system was little more than one big revenue-generating machine. Several anecdotes reveal this acknowledgment and discontent. Some of these come from comments made openly in the court, such as one gentleman who condemned it saying, “The judge will find faults enough for money.”
To compound the tyranny, even those acquitted of any wrongdoing faced extortion in the form of court costs—to be paid under threat of excommunication. Examples of such costs ran from three-quarters to a full month’s wages in different cases—again, just to receive a certificate of acquittal! Over time, the fees were gradually raised. When protested, bishops responded that the hikes were necessary because the value of the pound had fallen and they needed the extra revenue to pay the judges and lawyers who worked for them! The hikes lasted decades and withstood attempts of Parliament to reduce them. In fact, when the House of Commons introduced a bill in 1621 merely to publish the table of rates in English—so the people could more widely understand what the courts were doing to them—the bill was squashed.
In 1640, an anonymous pamphlet entitled Englands Complaint to Jesus Christ against the Bishops Canons circulated the following assessment:
The best a surest tenure by which every freeborn subject holds the right and property of his goods is the law of the land. But let the subject be brought into one of their ecclesiastical courts … and be his cause ever so just … they will tear a man out of all his estate. . . . And to the end that the civil state may be subservient to the ecclesiastical church, these ecclesiastics have their oar in every boat, and their finger in every pie, where anything may be plucked from the subject…. None can be sure that his goods are his own, when all, and more than all, are taken from him at one censure, and that at the will and pleasure of the board, without any and against all law.
The following year, the famous John Milton popularized similar remarks:
Two leeches they have that still suck and suck the kingdom—their ceremonies and their courts…. For their courts, what a mass of money is drawn from the veins into the ulcers of the kingdom this way; their extortions, their open corruptions, the multitude of hungry and ravenous harpies that swarm about their offices, declare sufficiently…. Their trade being, by the same alchemy that the Pope uses, to extract heaps of gold and silver out of the drossy bullion of the people’s sins.
Needless to say, Puritans fiercely opposed the system and fought to be rid of it. A battle raged and endured throughout the Puritan era and was a chief reason Pilgrims and Puritans fled England. William Bradford, signatory of the Mayflower Compact and often governor of Plymouth (1620–1657), wrote the history of the colony in his time. He cited the corruption of the ecclesiastical system and the court system as the force behind the persecution of the pilgrims, and the cause of their emigration:
The one party of reformers endeavoured to establish the right worship of God and the discipline of Christ in the Church according to the simplicity of the gospel and without the mixture of men’s inventions, and to be ruled by the laws of God’s word dispensed by such officers as Pastors, Teachers, Elders, etc., according to the Scriptures.
The other party,—the episcopal,—under many pretences, endeavoured to maintain the episcopal dignity after the popish manner,—with all its courts, canons, and ceremonies; its livings, revenues, subordinate officers, and other means of upholding their anti-Christian greatness, and of enabling them with lordly and tyrannous power to persecute the poor servants of God. The fight was so bitter, that neither the honour of God, the persecution to which both parties were subjected, nor the mediation of Mr. Calvin and other worthies, could prevail with the episcopal party. They proceeded by all means to disturb the peace of this poor persecuted church of dissenters, even so far as to accuse (very unjustly and ungodly, yet prelate-like) some of its chief members with rebellion and high-treason against the Emperor, and other such crimes. . . .
When by the zeal of some godly preachers, and God’s blessing on their labours, many in the North of England and other parts become enlightened by the word of God and had their ignorance and sins discovered to them, and began by His grace to reform their lives and pay heed to their ways, the work of God was no sooner manifest in them than they were scorned by the profane multitude, and their ministers were compelled to subscribe or be silent, and the poor people were persecuted with apparators and pursuants and the commissary courts. Nevertheless, they bore it all for several years in patience, until by the increase of their troubles they began to see further into things by the light of the word of God. They realized not only that these base ceremonies were unlawful, but also that the tyrannous power of the prelates ought not to be submitted to, since it was contrary to the freedom of the gospel and would burden men’s consciences and thus profane the worship of God.
As [Nathaniel] Appleton [see the book] preached, over a century after the first arrivals in America, the colonists still highly suspected the tentacles of Roman Catholicism—in regard to church practice and doctrine, of course, but also in regard to jurisprudence. American liberty was exclusively a product of, and inseparably bound to, Protestantism, particularly Puritanism, in the New England mind. Thus, encroachments of nations founded on Roman Catholic models—France and Spain—were taken very seriously in North America indeed (thus King George’s War was not a difficult sell for the Massachusetts people). However, ideological and religious encroachments from within were just as great a danger, if not greater, than outside rivals. Knowing the history of the Anglican church and crown to impose these wicked and unbiblical court systems just as readily and harshly as Catholics did elsewhere, New England Puritans took this issue very seriously, and would fight to maintain as much control as possible over their provincial leaders—appointed by the crown or not.
This issue arises in Appleton’s sermon when he objects to the Assembly, on the grounds of “the divine law,” regarding “the laws that require men to purge themselves by their oaths.” Here he is referring to a class of legal procedures derived from the Roman tradition and which were central to the tyrannies of those court systems, and the issue here relates directly to the development of our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment—the protection against self-incrimination. The inquisitorial procedures to which Appleton alludes included “compurgation,” also called “wager of law,” and another famously used against Puritans and dissenters in England, “ex officio oaths.”
Purging the Oaths
Neither of these systems regarded an accused party as innocent until proven guilty as decided by a jury. Rather, defendants were considered guilty until they proved their innocence by swearing oaths. Under the system of compurgation, the accused could only “purge” himself of guilt of the charges by having a number of neighbors or kin, usually eleven or twelve, also swear that they believed the truth of the oath which he swore. The practice was officially abolished for criminal cases very early, in 1164, but persisted widely in civil courts for suits regarding debts, etc., and also in ecclesiastical courts, until the mid-seventeenth century. The practice devolved historically into swearing matches between conflicting parties. Eventually, a class of professional “compurgators,” known on the street as “oath helpers,” arose as witnesses for hire. They hung around the courts and by legend advertised themselves by tufts of straw in their shoes—the original “straw man.” Since there were no penalties for (or procedure for determining) false oaths, the system grew as corrupt as it was inefficient. Looking back on the system from 1769, the great commentator on English jurisprudence, William Blackstone, referred to it as the “scandalous prostitution of oaths.”
Appleton is quick to refute how some people defended this practice by appealing to biblical law (Ex. 22:10). Blackstone himself would, twenty-six years later, trace the practice to this biblical source. But Appleton’s point is to show this view mistaken, for the biblical law regarded a different principle, not compurgation. On their conclusion and criticism of the system, however, the minister and the later giant would agree that the procedure would, in Blackstone’s words, “reduce the defendant, in case he is in the wrong, to the dilemma of either confession or perjury.”
“Ex officio oaths” were based upon the same principles: assumed guilt until innocence was “proved” by swearing an oath to the contrary. The inequity was compounded by the fact that the oath was imposed before any charges were read and without knowledge of what questions would be asked—and any could be asked, whether relevant to the case or not. This, of course, lent itself to fine fishing expeditions in efforts to root out religious dissenters. Once under oath, the poor defendant was required to answer all questions, in writing, and without legal counsel.
This practice had a history even nearer to the Puritans’ cause because it had featured as a tool to prosecute religious dissenters in the English ecclesiastical Court of High Commission and the crown’s equivalent, the infamous Star Chamber. Bishop Whitgift had fiercely defended the institution because the Bishops by themselves did not have the power to torture, but the High Commission did. A person could be charged with any of numerable offenses against church or state. Once in court, they were forced to swear the oath and then be interrogated arbitrarily. If they refused this oath—in essence, if they wished to remain silent—it could be taken as evidence of their guilt, or they could be left in prison indefinitely.
Historically there had been many opponents of such oaths, but perhaps the most famous incident came in the case of the radical Puritan John Lilburne. “Freeborn John,” as he was called, was hauled into the Star Chamber for engaging in unlicensed printing. The Court of High Commission had full control and censorship over all publishing. Lilburne had violated its sensibilities by printing anti-Episcopal literature. Once arrested and in the Star Chamber, Lilburne refused the oath. He was sentenced with the enormous fine of 500 pounds, whipped, and dragged to the pillory. When he would not stop preaching from the pillory, he was gagged. Eventually, he was removed to a miserable solitary confinement in prison, shackled continuously hand and foot. He was only finally freed when Puritans gained control of Parliament in 1640 and demanded his release.
Lilburne was not alone. The ex officio oath had been used broadly to attack religious dissenters in general:
[T]he Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission used it to root out religious dissidents. Suspects would be brought to court and required to answer under oath what they really thought about the official Anglican religion. Those who refused to answer under oath were deemed guilty and punished. Since these courts were royal prerogative courts apart from common-law courts, there was no right to a jury trial. Lying to the court in such cases was not a viable option for persons with sincere religious convictions. An oath called upon God to witness the truth of what was said, and not to speak truly meant risking eternal damnation. The oath was a powerful inquisitorial device in the hands of the state and was regarded by its critics as the moral equivalent of torture.
The folly of these inquisitorial courts was widely known and condemned. Historian Christopher Hill notes the common acknowledgment that trials by oath are counterproductive because criminals would hardly mind swearing a false oath on top of their crime: “the oath was only valuable to conscientious offenders. . . . Real criminals would presumably not stick at a little perjury.” Meanwhile, witnesses as highly profiled as Thomas Cartwright, Francis Bacon, and Edward Coke had undergirded the common law right to remain silent. This gave Puritan opponents more than the ammunition they needed to condemn these Court methods. In the words of Cartwright, oaths were required “neither by the laws of God nor man.”
The abolition of such Courts was brief, however, during the Puritan ascendancy. When Charles II returned in 1660, the Courts were revived. Although the resurrected versions were not as powerful as before, they still existed. As long as ecclesiastical courts and episcopal, or Catholic, monarchs remained, the threat remained for the colonies.
Nevertheless, it never truly escalated beyond a threat. Neither compurgation nor ex officio oaths were practiced in the Colonies. What could account for Appleton singling out this issue in 1742? McManus and Helfman note that “English Puritans who had direct experience with the oath brought their hatred of it to New England.” When Governor Winthrop even carelessly used the phrase ex officio for a case of alleged sedition, though he said he meant it in an entirely different and innocuous manner, public outrage forced the clarification. The court’s decision four years later included an express prohibition on the use of ex officio oaths. A couple years later, Bradford’s history of Plymouth recalls, advice received from ministers regarding certain capital crimes shows the establishment held the message dear, too. Examples contain explicit denunciations of ex officio procedure as inapplicable, one warning “it is not safe, nor warranted by God’s word. . . .” It was not any impending measure, therefore, it would seem, any more than traditional suspicion still alive among the heirs of the Puritan fathers that led Appleton to remind the Assembly of his day against inquisitorial procedure—a feared and loathed icon of “popery.”
It is no wonder, then, that we find the exact same themes exercising the more famous of the colonial figures throughout their lives. The old threat had never died—either in the civil realm, or even totally in the ecclesiastical realm. Thus, an aging John Adams recalled in a letter to Jedidiah Morse:
Where is the man to be found at this day, when we see Methodistical bishops, bishops of the church of England, and bishops, archbishops, and Jesuits of the church of Rome, with indifference, who will believe that the apprehension of Episcopacy contributed fifty years ago, as much as any other cause, to arouse the attention, not only of the inquiring mind, but of the common people, and urge them to close thinking on the constitutional authority of parliament over the colonies? This, nevertheless, was a fact as certain as any in the history of North America. The objection was not merely to the office of a bishop, though even that was dreaded, but to the authority of parliament, on which it must be founded. The reasoning was this. . . [I]f parliament can erect dioceses and appoint bishops, they may introduce the whole hierarchy, establish tithes, forbid marriages and funerals, establish religions, forbid dissenters, make schism heresy, impose penalties extending to life and limb as well as to liberty and property.
This was certainly consistent with Adams’s early publications provoked by the Stamp Act. In his Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, he breathed fire against these systems:
Since the promulgation of Christianity, the two greatest systems of tyranny that have sprung from this original, are the canon and the feudal law. . . .
By the former of these, the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandisement of their own order.
By the latter, Adams added, “the common people were held together in herds and clans in a state of servile dependence on their lords, bound, even by the tenure of their lands, to follow them, whenever they commanded, to their wars, and in a state of total ignorance of every thing divine and human, excepting the use of arms and the culture of their lands.” But neither of these was as wicked as when they combined together. Adams continues:
But another event still more calamitous to human liberty, was a wicked confederacy between the two systems of tyranny above described. It seems to have been even stipulated between them, that the temporal grandees should contribute every thing in their power to maintain the ascendency of the priesthood, and that the spiritual grandees in their turn, should employ their ascendency over the consciences of the people, in impressing on their minds a blind, implicit obedience to civil magistracy.
It was only when “God in his benign providence raised up the champions who began and conducted the Reformation” that these powers began to be challenged and overcome. And since America had been established by the heirs of these champions, and had by the Appleton’s time (Adams’s boyhood) come to exemplify the best fruits of that Reformation, the reader can certainly understand why the particular issue of “popery” in regard to courts and jurisdictions was so central to the fears of our ministers and civic leaders.
Vice Admiralty Courts
After the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War), King George had moved to pay off his national war debts by increasing taxation in the colonies. The Stamp Act was part of this, and was mentioned by Adams at the end of his Dissertation as evidence that the crown intended to reduce the colonies to feudal slavery. What is usually less discussed is the prior Sugar Act, or American Revenue Act, which was the first to explicitly state that its purpose was not merely to regulate trade but to raise revenue. Toward this end, the Act established a vice admiralty court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the purpose of cracking down on alleged smugglers evading customs. The vice-admiralty courts were modeled upon the same Roman Civil system: they allowed no right to jury trial and they presumed guilt.
Vice-admiralty courts had been used frequently throughout the British Empire since the beginning of the Puritan era though not without resentment, for example, in Massachusetts as early as the 1690s. In general, merchant classes approved of their efficiency for particular types of cases, but common law courts historically reserved the right to prohibit individual cases in admiralty. This led to a centuries-long struggle between the two courts within the British system, especially as trade increased and the crown gradually attempted to expend the admiralty jurisdictions. But when the crown began to use them as tools of usurpation of the colonists’ rights, the backlash followed.
The American Act [Sugar Act] of 1764 put a wholly new coloration on this phase of the vice admiralty’s business, and marks the beginning of serious colonial opposition to the British system of administration and customs control. The Act not only was the first measure designed primarily to raise revenue rather than to regulate commerce, but it clarified the jurisdictional situation by making clear that violations of it and of all the Acts of Trade could be prosecuted in the vice admiralty courts.
The issue of our legal system arises in the second of our three sermons as well. James Dana speaks as if he has just read Adams’s sentiments regarding the combination of the ecclesiastical and civil systems:
Whether civil or religious usurpation hath been greatest is difficult to say. Tyrannical rulers have generally favored the views of tyrannical ecclesiastics, in return for the services these have rendered them. Together they have deluged the earth in blood. A better reason cannot probably be given for the late establishment of popery by a British parliament, while the protestant religion, founded in principles of liberty, is barely tolerated.
Speaking this in 1779, Dana was probably not referring to the earlier Sugar Act, but more likely to the more recent Quebec Act (1774). After the Boston Tea Party, Parliament had passed four punitive Acts which came to be known as the “Intolerable Acts” in the colonies. These blockaded the port of Boston, overtook the government of Massachusetts (in theory), required the quartering of British soldiers in people’s homes, and removed certain court trials to England (making defense difficult if not impossible for many colonists). The admiralty issue just described compounded the colonists’ anger with these Acts. But the Quebec Act added even further objectionable measures.
With the Quebec Act (or British North American Act), the crown took the additional step of resurrecting the ecclesiastical courts issue as well. The Act was bad enough in that it enlarged the Province of Quebec at the expense of lands already chartered to the U.S. colonies. On top of this, however, was the establishment of state-enforced tithing for the Roman Catholic Church, the reallowance of Jesuit missionaries, and most importantly for our purposes, the reintroduction of French civil law courts—a classic instance of that old Roman civil system which the Puritans had come to North America to avoid.
This reestablishment of both ecclesiastical and civil law courts Dana condemned as the legacy that had already deluged the earth in blood. And we can understand that he certainly expressed the sentiments of most of the colonists. It was feared that this Act foreshadowed what George III would not hesitate to do in the American colonies as well. Indeed, only a couple years later, this grievance was enshrined in Jefferson’s list in the Declaration of Independence:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies. . . .
The “free System of English Laws” was common law in which jury trials and presumption of innocence ruled. “Arbitrary government” refers to what our preachers called “popery”—the old Roman systems. The “neighbouring Province” refers of course to Quebec, and the fear that this was a model and platform from which to impose the same in the American colonies is clear.
The legal system issue arises finally in our third sermon as well. Samuel Langdon finds that popery had invaded the substance of the law itself. Speaking of the Mosaic judicial laws, “by the far the greater part” of which “were founded on the plain immutable principles of reason, justice, and social virtue, such as are always necessary for civil society,” he comes to the law against murder. He comments:
In particular, murder stands foremost among capital crimes, and is defined with such precision, and so clearly distinguished from all cases of accidental and undesigned killing, that the innocent were in no danger of punishment, and the guilty could not escape. And if we still pay regard to this divine law, which is evidently founded on reason and justice, the modern distinction of manslaughter must be rejected as a popish invention, contrived and added in times when superstition reigned and claimed a power above all laws.
While this may sound a bit backwards to us today—why, after all, would distinguishing “manslaughter” from murder be associated with popish “superstition”?—it actually had a fairly long history directly related to the clash between the Puritan desire for biblical law (which Dana presses) and the same old foe of the Roman-style ecclesiastical-civil law complex.
Note that this objection arises for Langdon in the midst of a discussion of biblical law. Mosaic judicial law distinguishes between accidental killings (in which the party remains innocent of murder), and at-fault killings which may occur in various forms. At-fault homicides—whether through malice or negligence—were treated essentially the same.
In the civil law tradition, however, two major differences had been introduced—one tied to the law itself, the other tied to the privilege obtained by the ecclesiastical courts. First, a distinction was introduced between non-accidental homicides that had been premeditated and those that had not. For example, a person who “laid in wait” for his victim, planned his attack, then pounced on him in surprise and killed him will have committed premeditated murder. This would be treated and punished in sharp contrast with a case where two guys got into a fist-fight and one hit the other and killed him.
Under biblical law, these two cases could both be considered murder. Whether you planned the killing or not, it could be regarded as murder without distinction. The only distinction maintained in biblical law was if a killing was purely accidental. This view was held by most of the Puritans that opposed the ecclesiastical-royal court complex in England. This was true from the first flight to America all the way up until, obviously because of Langdon’s objection, the U.S. constitutional ratification era. There was, however, serious interaction, debate, and jurisdictional struggle within that long historical window, 1620—1789.
Second, the Roman tradition carried with it a curiosity purportedly based on Old Testament ceremonial law which had been appropriated originally to protect the Pope’s clergy from prosecution in civil courts. This tradition was called “benefit of clergy.” Over time, in regard to cases of non-premeditated homicide, it came to be applied to greater numbers of people: first, the nobility, then all literate people. As literacy was proved by reading Psalm 51, people began to memorize Scripture for the occasion. Thus the benefit eventually was transferred to all who declared “benefit of clergy.” The central idea of this “benefit” was to have you case removed from a secular court into a church court where the death penalty could not be imposed and penalties could be less harsh. The “benefit” in alleged “manslaughter” cases was the same, and obviously allowed a guilty party to escape the death penalty. “Manslaughter” cases were punished in such instances by a mere branding on the hand.
Puritans, however, saw the obvious injustice in the system—of letting off murderers with a minimal penalty, and creating a class of hypocrites claiming “benefit of clergy.” It was a nothing less than the Roman church being allowed a path to negate God’s law.
The practice was not only opposed in England, but was carried into direct institution in the American colonies. Though the New England colonies had originally founded themselves largely upon the law of Moses, the gradual efforts of the crown to establish control led to new charters and new legal systems by the 1690s. This included the “popish” systems and legal distinctions. Thus, Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchison argued to a grand jury in 1765:
I don’t know a nation in the world that makes that distinction between murder and manslaughter which the English do. It was not made in this country before the charter 1691 for our forefathers founded their laws upon the law of Moses which makes no such distinction.
Hutchinson was an ardent royalist and supporter of the royal prerogative over colonial courts and law. As such, he was advancing this argument as a criticism of the previous Puritan administrations. Maintaining the English legal distinctions for him meant manifesting the “benignity of English law.”
Other cases show, however, how this “benignity” actually opened the door to broader abuses. In Connecticut, for example, one Daniel Gard killed a man in a fist-fight. The court indicted him for murder, but the jury moved to apply the English legal distinctions for manslaughter. The judges were powerless to overturn this, but not to impose penalties to the highest degree still available. As a result, Gard was sentenced to “symbolic hanging” in which he stood roped in the gallows for an hour. He was then removed and whipped with 39 lashes, then incarcerated until he could pay the costs of his prosecution and commitment.
In colonies more dominated by the Episcopal Church, the “popish” court remedies and benefit of clergy were applied in a wider variety of cases and for a longer period of time. Virginia, for example, formally codified the principle in 1732. Branding of the hand was practiced at least until the late 1790s for “clergyable” felonies, including manslaughter, bigamy, maiming, and grand larceny. Other instances existed, too, but were phased out more quickly. The branding, however, was always subject to addition penalty: “Justices frequently added a whipping or time in the pillory to branding.”
Opponents of the system knew from English history that the loophole for leniency inherent in the system meant that criminals would naturally abuse it. One historian notes just that:
The means was now available to laymen who could read to save themselves from the gallows by having their cases moved to ecclesiastical courts. But the door was also open to wholesale abuse of the system, particularly in view of the fact that common law courts developed in practice the doctrine that all felonies (except treason) were clergyable for the first offense. The possibility that heinous criminals in significant numbers could go virtually unpunished and be free to break the law again prodded Parliament to remove from benefit of clergy serious crimes such as murder, rape, arson, burglary, robbery, horse-stealing, and so on.
The fact that the plea had been open for such extreme felonies when under high church influences certainly would have alarmed opponents, even if colonial practice had not gone that far. In Puritan minds—always suspicious of the powers of such courts—that last sentenced would always have ended, “. . . yet.”
Opposition would cling to the view that Mosaic Law maintained the distinctions God desired, and that even in the toughest of cases these could prevail to protect the innocent and convict the guilty. An interesting illustration of this lies in the case of Mercy Brown of Wallingford, Connecticut. Mercy killed her adult son, but the question was raised as to her sanity before the act. She was known to have been “craz’d” and “distracted”—meaning insane. This was the first case in American history of an insanity plea. How the case proceeded, however, in the interesting part.
The jury convicted her of murder, but forestalled sentencing due to the uncertainty of her mental condition. They appealed to the General Court and others in the colony for advice in this difficult circumstance. A well-known royalist minister, Gershom Bulkeley, argued that colonial law (close to biblical law) must be overruled by English law allowing for broader distinctions. Even the modern reviewer comments that “scripture provided little instruction.” He nevertheless also relates what may well have been the deciding factor in ultimately withholding the death penalty. “Among the files of the General Court is preserved a petition submitted by the prisoner’s husband advancing an altogether different argument on her behalf.” That petition appealed not to the English distinctions, but to Mosaic Law:
According to the law of God and the kingdom no person is guilty of murder unless malice premeditated be proved or legally implied…. I humbly Pray therefore that as the laws of God, the laws and statutes of this kingdom, have provided an asylum or place of Refuge for the manslayer who slays not through guile, but God delivers into his or her hand, that so by the wisdom and mercy of this Court such methods may be used in the business before you….
The reviewer, who had already largely dismissed scripture, nevertheless comments on this plea: “The argument is distinctly biblical, advancing for the court’s consideration the texts from Exodus and Numbers dealing with sudden, inexplicable (save to God) but accidental killings. . . .” Considering that this unique type of plea came during the General Court’s period of advice-taking, the reviewer would have us acknowledge its likely influence:
It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Assistants might have found this argument altogether more persuasive than Bulkeley’s assertion that they could not sentence her to death owing to their mishandling of trial procedures or lack of jurisdiction over the felony in the first place. The chief virtue in Samuel Brown’s petition was its assumption that the resolution of the case was yet findable in scripture and, hence, in conformity with the colony’s code of laws.
And this consideration brings us to the most important point upheld within each of these three sermons—and many more like them. That is, the adequacy and application of Mosaic Law for modern societies.
 Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, 2nd Ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), 303, 306.
 Cf. Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 306–313.
 The frilly-laced collar characteristic of the eras of Elizabeth and James I. For all these points see Hill, Society and Puritanism, 310.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 350.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 329.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 323.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 308.
 Quoted in Hill, Society and Puritanism, 298.
 Quoted in Hill, Society and Puritanism, 298–299.
 Officers of the ecclesiastical courts.
 Harold Paget, ed. Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement, 1608–1650 (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1909), 3–4, 6–7. Cf. Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, 2nd Ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), 322.
 See p. XXX below.
 The “straw man” connection is made by Boston University Law Professor and blogger Ian Pilarczyk, “What Is A ‘Straw Man’?” November 16, 2011, http://iancpilarczyk.com/what-is-a-straw-man-and-what-is-the-connection-to-the-rise-of-the-jury-trial/ (accessed January 21, 2015).
 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press,  1979), 4:362.
 Blackstone, 3:342.
 See pp. XXX below.
 Blackstone, 3:342.
 Leonard W. Levy, Origins of the Fifth Amendment: The Right Against Self-Incrimination (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee,  1999), 129.
 Durham Dunlop, The Church Under the Tudors (London: W. Kent and Co., 1881), 222, 247. Cf. Edward Peters, Inquisition (New York: The Free Press, 1988), 140–141.
 Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, 2nd Ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), 407.
 Edgar J. McManus and Tara Helfman, Liberty and Union: A Constitutional History of the United States, Volume 1 (New York: Routlege, 2014), 21.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 384–385.
 Hill, Society and Puritanism, 401.
 Wilbur R. Miller, The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia, 5 vols. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012), 5:2002.
 Edgar J. McManus and Tara Helfman, Liberty and Union, 21.
 Edgar J. McManus and Tara Helfman, Liberty and Union, 21–22.
 Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 3, Ser. 4 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1856), 390, 396.
 Adams to J. Morse, December 2, 1815, in The Works of John Adams, 10 vols., ed. by Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856), 10:185. Adams repeats the sentiments in later letters to Hezekiah Niles, Feb. 13, 1818, and William Tudor, July 9, 1818, in Ibid., 286, 288, 327.
 Adams, The Works of John Adams, 3:448.
 Adams, 3:450.
 Adams, 3:450.
 Adams, 3:451.
 L. Kivin Wroth, “The Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court and the Federal Admiralty Jurisdiction,” The American Journal of Legal History, 6/3 (Jul. 1962): 258.
 L. Kivin Wroth, “The Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court and the Federal Admiralty Jurisdiction,” The American Journal of Legal History, 6/4 (Oct. 1962): 356.
 See pp. XXX below.
 See p. XXX below.
 Quoted in David H. Wrinn, “Manslaughter and Mosaicism in Early Connecticut,” Valparaiso University Law Review 21/2 (Winter 1987): 304.
 Quoted in Wrinn, 304.
 Wrinn, 309.
 Linda Rowe, “The Benefit of Clergy Plea,” http://research.history.org/Historical_Research/Research_Themes/ThemeReligion/Clergy.cfm (accessed January 28, 2015).
 Rowe, “The Benefit of Clergy Plea,” http://research.history.org/Historical_Research/Research_Themes/ThemeReligion/Clergy.cfm (accessed January 28, 2015).
 See Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, Vol. 3 (Hartford: Case, Lockwood, and Brainard, Published for the Society, 1895), 229–232.
 Wrinn, 314.
 Wrinn, 314.
 Quoted in Wrinn, 314. I have modernized the spelling and conventions in this quotation.
 Wrinn, 314.
 Wrinn, 314–315.
OneNewsNow.com, a news arm of the American Family Association, published a post-Obergefell article puffing the need to send Christian children into public schools. They got Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress to blurb it for them. Big venue, big topic, big issue, big name, high stakes—and it comes complete with a reader poll: “What educational environment is best for the children of Christians?”
The piece lures readers with the title, “Christians in public schools—time to exit?” But it is quickly clear that this AFA outlet’s answer is “no.” The piece was clearly designed to confirm the twentieth-century status-quo of public schooling: Christians are just fine here, just educate your children in Bible well at home on the side, and send those little apostles into the public schools as missionaries!
That is Jeffress’s pitch: “… I think if we do our job, frankly, in equipping our children in the truth of God’s Word, they can truly go to a public school as a missionary and not become [a] mission field [themselves].”
In fact, to call for pulling Christian children out would be “to abdicate and give over the public schools to Satan completely,” he says.
The good news is that the readers ain’t buyin’ it. Go to the poll for yourself and see the results. It’s not even close: as of 8:45am Thursday morning (7-16-2015), a whopping 86 percent believe Christian children need either homeschooling or private schooling. A paltry 7 percent say public school is best, and the remainder is “unsure.”
This is how badly the mainstream conservative Christian leadership is behind the grass roots activists (who else is actually reading and reacting to such an article and poll without outside prodding?). Among these concerned Christians who read and know and care, only a tiny handful still thinks public schooling is preferable. And the comments bear this out. You can take your own scroll down the lengthy list, but here’s a representative sample. “DcH” notes the fallacy of children being missionaries:
I do not agree… what kindergartener or for that matter first to sixth or higher are competent to recognize the manipulation of adults–think about how many Christian adults have been sucked into the manipulation.
Several people echoed this sentiment, some of them calling out Dr. Jeffress by name. Then, “Alex in Wonderland” went nuclear. The beginning of his long comment reads:
You’ve got to be kidding me. I almost didn’t click on the headline because of an assumption (given all that has gone on lately) that people would now be rallied and convinced behind a “it’s time to exit” strategy. How much proof do people need[?] That’s why I’m convinced there is a delusion going on in Christendom, and that those that realize the delusion will be determined to go against the flow for the sake of their children. And not be like Lot’s wife by looking back. There is no redeeming value. All destruction.
Dozens of comments repeat such points. Yet here the leadership stands preaching the old humanist, socialist, compromised way and now, holding a finger to the wind.
And look where the leaders themselves go when they need confirmation for their humanist, statist compromise: the mainstream conservative pulpit. In this case, it was Dr. Jeffress, but it could be any one of thousands of such pulpits across the land. They have for decades refused to preach God’s law and apply biblical law to social issues, and as a result have grown entrenched with, and dependent upon, the state for areas of life the Bible prescribes to the church or the family. And when things finally go sour, instead of repenting and returning to the Bible alone, the leadership defends the compromise.
At what point do you learn from your mistakes? At what point do you repent?
American Vision has been preaching biblical worldview for every area of life, and the need for total commitment to this worldview for decades. We have been preaching the need for homeschooling and for Christians to exit public schools en masse now for going on forty years. The good news is, there is still time, if you act now.
When I wrote Restoring America One County at a Time, the first topic I addressed was education. It was clear to me then, as it is now, that the first step Christians must take is to accept full responsibility, and control, of education for their children. And since this is one area of life in which we still do have such freedom, it makes no sense not to do so. The only question is whether we’re willing to make some personal sacrifice to do so.
The alternative is not just taking a risk with our children. It is placing our children, their future, their faith, and what is left of the sacred blessings of liberty into the hands of many people who hate all these things. Dr. Jeffress fears we are abdicating the public schools to Satan. The truth is, they were his from their inception. It is not the schools that will be abdicated to Satan, but the children of Christians who send them in.
It is very heartening to see such powerful opposition from grass roots like this. I hope that it grows and grows. It is time for all Christians to make this change, and if the leadership keeps preaching compromise, it’s time to change them, too.
This notice is by no means limited to the two named in the title, but is for all who have misappropriated the biblical theme of “exile” in order to describe the status of the Christian church in this age. The denial of God’s Law for social ethics entails the denial of it in total, including for personal ethics. It’s only a matter of time, then, before it becomes of question of how far we sell out in denying it. And now we have a case in point:
A PCA—not, as you might hope to be the case, a PCUSA, but a PCA—church has posted a blog that is not only favorable to the recent SCOTUS opinion on Obergefell, but lauds the half of its congregation that broke out their rainbow colors, calls the pro-traditional marriage half weaker brethren (per Romans 14), and asserts that the two can worship together because such moral issues become “relativized” in our union with Christ.
But the part that stands out most to me is the theological justification given for these abominations. Here’s what the blog argues:
Secondly, we should remember that it’s possible hold views about what the Bible teaches without necessarily advocating for the government to hold those views. If we lived in a theocracy, when the government strayed outside of what the Bible commends and condemns then there would be a need, if not a moral mandate to remind the government of it’s [sic] foundational commitment to God’s word. But, our government operates as a pluralistic democracy. And like God’s people who were exiled to Assyria, Babylon, and Persia in the 8th–6th centuries [B.C.], to expect our government to reflect our religious principles could be short-sighted. As Christians in Portland, we don’t live in Jerusalem but in Babylon.
There you have it: radical two kingdoms and “exile” theology directly applied. This is the mistaken view that the church’s place in this world is like that of the ancient Israelites when under God’s judgement in Babylon. The problem is that the more you cede to the State, and the more it takes, the more you will be forced to rationalize ethics in general in order to keep butts in the pew.
Such rationalizing and pandering to unbelief has been apparent for decades in the use of the term “theocracy” as a scarecrow. These exile theologians have already been doing this for years. What they never tell anyone is that this unfortunate talk legitimizes the unbelieving world’s use of it. It is, of course, a tradeoff. The conservatives who speak leftist in turn get a seat at the leftist tables for the meantime. They get social respectability. For a while. Then the progressives, as progressives do, progress a bit further. One day, the compromised conservative will be forced to admit what bed they’ve been waking up in for so long, and why. The “we hate theocracy too!” crowd is now becoming the “we love ‘rainbows’ too!” crowd.
I have previously spent quite some time dealing with this “exile” error, particularly when Westminster Seminary professor Carl Trueman asserted it in his article “A Church for Exiles.” Likewise, in regard to Michael Horton’s treatment of the Great Commission, which somehow inverted even that uncompromising and universal charge into a theology of the church’s exile. The relevant section of that critique, “Are Christians Pilgrims in Exile?,” is worth the reader revisiting.
In the essay on Trueman’s view, I noted the true nature of this error, and the challenge it poses for faithfulness:
When Christians begin allowing cultural shifts and historical circumstances to define their faith and their interpretation of the Word, it is a weakness analogous to apostasy, only a step removed.
The challenge to us today is that the theology of exile is as powerful as the illusions of defeat. That is one reason why cultural irrelevance seems so relevant.
What these men have done is to lay the intellectual foundations for apostasy. And what we see here in this Portland PCA post, founded squarely upon the “exile” theology of the exile theologians like Trueman and Horton, building on those foundations. What we see is that very apostasy—only now it is not a step away. Now the ethical-judicial view of Christian life is not only removed from the Great Commission. Now not only is the Law removed from applicability to civil government or the world outside the church in general. Now it is being pushed to the back of the bus inside the Church as well. Now, those who uphold this view are called weaker brethren and the pro-homosexual crowd is being asked to tolerate them.
You know what this is called? This is not called “exile.” This is called having your lampstand removed.
And I predict that if anything serious comes of this, it will be that at most this particular church will not be allowed to remain in the PCA. We won’t see any admission of the theological foundations of this error, but only a sanction for building upon them.
If this church is allowed to remain PCA, it will be an indication of that denomination’s haste to catch up to their progressive counterparts in the PCUSA. But I suspect some pressure will be put on them either to post a “clarification,” or eventually to leave the denomination (or some version of a church split).
Whatever happens, this move still shows the logical fruit of the “exile” theology upon which it is built. Denying God’s Law in social ethics logically entails denying it in personal ethics as well. There goes the neighborhood. And there goes the family, too. And then you will see allegedly conservative churches speaking of “relativizing” Christian ethics in our union with Christ.
I repeat my conclusion to the Trueman piece:
If, however, we dare to follow a Winthrop or a Warfield, or even a Calvin or a Knox, and champion worldwide influence, social change, and victory in it, then let us look past the mere circumstances that bend the knees and wills of lesser men, and stand fast. For we are no longer strangers, pilgrims, or exiles. We have come to mount Zion. We are here. The law shall flow from Zion and all nations shall come to it. It may not look like it right now, but by all accounts that is what the eye of faith is for: believing the promise of the One who calls things that are not as though they were.
Choose ye this day: the eyes of faith, or the blind and their ditch. Choose ye this day: the promises of the God who brought us out of exile, or the theologians who work so hard to keep us in it.
Here is my sermon on Acts 2 preached the Sunday after Obergefell and with partial reference to that national abomination. The passage and message, however, deal with the broader subject of God forming and preserving His church through the midst of national judgment.
In the sermon I reference another sermon I preached a while back on 1 Samuel 22. That sermon is recorded in print in my commentary on 1 Samuel, and is also available online, as are all the sermons in that book.
As we contemplate the various reasons morality has declined in American culture, it is sometimes helpful to review past, and all-but-forgotten, battles over morality in the public square. In such cases, we can see just how poorly the poor arguments did the last time, and feel ashamed at why some of our guys keep using them today.
In the case of public morals, the perennial fallacies of American Christians are lessons drilled in their heads by their leftist public school masters and then repeated by rote: “You can’t legislate morality,” and, “You can’t impose God’s law on unbelievers.”
While we could certainly go back to when they first started tampering with marriage laws, divorce laws, custody laws, sodomy laws, etc., the following comments deal with pornography battles in the 1970s. These are nothing more than excerpts from Gary North’s article, “Pornography, Community, and the Function of the Law,” from The Journal of Christian Reconstruction 2/2 (Winter 1975), pages 55–63.
A couple notes: First, while he rightly targets “libertarians” in this article, the criticism applies just as strongly to liberals, neocons, conservatives, and especially the vast number of evangelical Christians who repeat the argument against legislating morality—each in their own way.
Second, these excerpts are a great antidote to those same misguided Christians who think that honoring God’s law in society, or Theonomy, constitutes “legalism” or “Judaizing.” Nonsense. We are not talking about justification here; we are talking about standards of social life for man, family, and the state itself.
And again, Christians, this was published in 1975.
by Gary North
Given the limits imposed on society by the existence of imperfect human beings, social utopias of total perfection or total permissiveness (sometimes asserted to be one in the same) are an invitation to disaster. . . .
Opponents of the censorship of obscene literature generally rely heavily on the censor’s problem of defining deviant literature in a way consistent with the requirements of legislation. This is certainly a legitimate criticism if the goal is to rewrite the statute books in terms of greater legal precision. But when the critic concludes that because of changing standards no censorship at all can be legitimate, then he has gone far beyond the point of no return. . . .
The libertarian cop-out is simply to avoid the inescapable difficulties involved in the framing of applicable, yet imperfect law to the shifting affairs of life; it is a cop-out because it denies the validity of the idea of legal sanctions altogether, a utopian prospect at best, and a highly dangerous one in a period of social unrest. Yet it is not uncommon to see those opposed to all forms of censorship citing the First Amendment as proof of their position, as if the restrictions on Congress were ever intended to apply, a priori, to state and local governments, and as if the framers of the Constitution were not exclusively concerned with political speech and publication. Congress passed at least twenty separate laws against pornography between 1842 and 1956. A fifty-nation treaty also was signed to outlaw the sale of certain forms of literature. It seems ridiculous to argue that a conservative Protestant electorate and its representatives would have voted for so libertarian a document in 1789, but that is what we are asked to believe. Congress left many religious and censorship issues to local governments, to be decided in terms of local standards and needs; therefore, it is inappropriate to announce the end of local responsibility in censoring salacious, offensive literature.
What is the social function of law? Obviously, it is not to save mankind. The libertarian shibboleth, “laws cannot make men moral; you cannot legislate morality,” is a silly half-truth. . . .
Are we to conclude that laws are to be totally neutral, abstracted from any system of morality? That dream died in the Terror of the French Revolution. All law is legislated morality; each law will infringe on somebody. Law cannot regenerate men; it can, however, restrain them. Furthermore, law can help restrain the state itself. Law is one of the most important instruments in establishing the limits of conformity on a community, and therefore it is necessary in any system of social order. It should be clear that no piece of legislation can long survive in the face of overwhelming public opinion. To one degree or another, law always rests on public opinion. But in those often wide zones of public confusion or indifference, law can be used as a means of upgrading community standards. Is this not what the legal reforms of the last five centuries have been aimed at? Is this not the function of political leadership within a free society? Yet opinion in both right-wing and left-wing camps cannot seem to grasp the implications of this. “You can’t legislate morality” is the battle cry both of Southern Senators when civil rights legislation comes up for a vote and of Northern Senators when a Southern colleague gives his annual speech against smut. The fact remains that it is quite possible to legislate external conformity to laws that are, by definition, based on distinct value systems. If this were not possible, then civil society would be impossible. . . .
Those members of western civilization who have an interest in preserving their freedoms and their external wealth—without which nine out of ten would perish today—also have an interest in protecting the family from erosion. The voluminous studies by J. D. Unwin, now unfortunately forgotten by most scholars, followed through on Freud’s suggestion in Civilization and Its Discontents that social energy might be connected with personal self-restraint sexually. Not wanting to believe his own results, Unwin informs us, he came, step by step, to his forthright conclusion: “The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” Anthropologists no doubt would quibble with the all-encompassing nature of his statement, but the data in comparative anthropology that he produced are impressive enough to act as a warning against allowing the monogamous family to be undercut by anything as dumb as pornography. The risk is simply too great. . . .
The final factor to consider is the judgment of God. Lewdness and sexual rebellion not only contain built-in punishments like cultural stagnation, but they also risk the direct intervention of a holy God. Since God does not appear in the secular versions of natural law, and since He does not visibly restrain the automatic processes of the free market, many (most) analysts of the pornography problem have been lured into a false sense of security. Since God is silent, He must be unconcerned. And when God is no longer silent, men will do their best to clog their ears, or at least blame something else for the noise. Yet the biblical fact remains that God does bring external judgments on rebellious societies (Deut. 8; 28). Therefore, part of the defense function of society’s civil government is to reduce the flourishing of sexual practices that invite the judgment of God. God does not require perfection from men in order that their societies might prosper (since Christ has met His standards of perfect righteousness), but men should see to it that some legislation and law enforcement resources are expended in reducing the level of publicly advertised, profit-oriented immorality. Christians may not have the votes to get national legislation on the books, but local pressures may be feasible. In some regions, other issues may be more pressing, but in a Christian commonwealth, anti-pornographic legislation would unquestionably be on the books and enforced.