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a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago
The Cliven Bundy ranch incident has given us occasion to review just how systematic, multi-sided, and deeply entrenched are the problems in this country. Unfortunately, the “whole truth” is not clearly as simple as we are led to believe. Like with many of the issues in Restoring America One County at a Time, some of the very forces we are led to support are also complicit in the tyranny. As such, the fix is simple, but not easy, and not even easy to accept.
I purposefully did not jump on the “defend Cliven Bundy” bandwagon because I smelled a stink in the whole thing. After a couple interviews and a bit of historical research, I found out why I was uncomfortable. I would like to give you the “yes” and the “no” of the Clive Bundy Ranch issue.
This story is so multi-faceted that nearly every group has presented it as a completely different issue, including those stories that promise “the truth” about the Bundy Ranch standoff. To Liberty movement types, it is about government involvement where there should be none. To other libertarians, the focus is on BLM thugs with assault rifles provoking tension and tasering little old ladies. To mainstream conservatives, this is about ridiculous endangered species laws, or Harry Reid’s solar-company crony schemes. Civil liberties folk were alarmed at the relegation of protest to a small, orange-fenced “free speech zone.” To liberals like Harry Reid, this is about direct rebellion against lawful government, taxes, and court orders, and the protestors are like “domestic terrorists.” Common law proponents noted all the classic hallmarks of “civil” and “admiralty” law tyrannies behind all of this, and gasped as just how brazen and how advanced it has become in America. Bundy himself had a very complex states’ rights argument about land transfers during the Nevada statehood process; he basically refuses to recognize federal ownership of his property, even though he did up until 1993 (which just so happens to be the year the feds started pinching ranchers with tighter regulations).
All of this, and average people have hardly any idea what’s really going on. It’s just another political melee and standard fodder for Glenn Beck.
Gary North and a couple others cut through all the nonsense and got straight to the point: the problem is government ownership of the property—a problem throughout the west. “The federal government exercises ownership over land that it should not own. If the federal government auctioned off this land to the highest bidders, using the money exclusively for paying off the federal debt, the nation would be a lot better off. But the government refuses to do this.”
Among liberty advocates, activists, and some conservatives, the story is that the government just needs to get its nose out of private individuals’ business, and these ranchers like Clive Bundy would be free, left alone, and a lot better off. But aside from the government refusing to do this, there is one other class of people opposed to privatizing the federal grazing lands.
Now let me hasten to add that I don’t speak for Bundy, and certainly not all ranchers feel this way, but the one detail that has not been emphasized in any of the news stories I’ve seen is that the BLM ranchers like Bundy enjoy a massive subsidy not available to private ranchers. That fact alone makes Bundy’s little predicament a little less tea party and all that.
I spoke with a life-long rancher at length the other morning. He’s primarily a private rancher, but did say he had a little experience with a couple small BLM lands. He is on a large scale. He owns several thousand acres, has owned two sale barns in the past, and has done this his whole life which, I estimate, is around 70 years. He schooled me on ranching in the American west.
There are two types of ranchers in the U.S.: those that own their own land, and then BLM ranchers. Those that own their own land pay property taxes and expenses and support themselves. BLM ranchers pay a relatively small fee in comparison in exchange for grazing on federal lands. Without going into all the numbers, the bottom line is that BLM ranchers can do business at about 1/10th the cost that private ranchers can.
The groups are roughly evenly split, and that makes them politically entrenched. The BLM ranchers, at least a controlling number of them, have no interest in having the land privatized, because they would lose their subsidy—i.e. their welfare.
They don’t want to own the thousands of acres they graze because then they would have to pay property tax on thousands of acres instead of a tiny per-acre lease fee.
Government ownership of the land is indeed the root problem, but government itself is not alone to blame. Bundy, and BLM ranchers in general, are welfare queens.
The downside of the BLM system is that BLM ranchers must comply with all other federal regulations. And like all government agencies, the BLM follows the iron law of bureaucracy: it grows. Years ago, there were few regs; today, with dozens of endangered species acts, EPA regs, etc., etc., there are so many that no one can follow them all. Even the tiniest details are regulated: where you can place a salt lick, what you can or can’t feed, where you can water, etc. Satellites, probably drones too, monitor herds, and transgressors can receive fines in the mail, or even visits from agents.
In such a situation, it comes down to enforcement at the government’s whim. In some places of the country, BLM ranchers haven’t seen an agent in years. In other places, the BLM are like Nazis.
It was not supposed to be like this.
In the earliest days, the federal government opened western lands to settlement with the intention of turning large tracts of land over to private owners. This was the original plan under the Homestead Act of 1862. It was modified to double allotment areas to 640 acres by the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1909.
The problem was, in the arid west, 640 acres proved too small for effective ranching. Private owners began grazing their herds also on the vast remainders of federal properties. They did this for free for a long time, but as with all common properties, conflicts ensued. Range wars ensued. Wars between sheep farmers and cattle farmers ensued.
The federal solution came with the executive power-hungry FDR administration, in the form of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. It would create a system of leases and fees to establish boundaries and order. But the Act kept ownership with government instead of requiring purchases over time to establish private ownership.
The ranchers were hesitant at first, not because they wanted to buy the lands, but because they had already been enjoying a huge subsidy in the form of free grazing on so-called common lands. As irony would have it, they had begun to feel entitled as well: they feared a formal lease system would strip them of grazing “rights” they felt they already had to the land—land they didn’t own and had no contract to use.
But with tongue-in-cheek promises from the government to protect their “right,” the ranchers gave in. A historian from the era, Virgil Hurlburt, wrote at the time that “the livestock industry is very much in favor of the act” as along as its impositions “are decidedly in favor of the individual ranchmen.”(1)
The ranchers of the period enjoyed their free grazing privileges so much they wanted them enshrined as “rights” and perpetuated: “Stockmen have had free use of the public domain for so long they question any suggested change or regulation in its use. A vested interest has been built up.”(2)
So because of a combination of the socialistic New Deal and a welfare mentality among enough ranchers, we have gone from a system in which the government actually was headed in the right direction (transferring lands to private homesteaders) to a culture of welfare in which BLM ranchers enjoy massive subsidies and don’t want to let them go, yet don’t want to have burdensome government regulation either.
The free market solution is for total privatization of the property, and a level playing field in regard to taxation. You all know my enmity for property taxes, so I don’t advocate them here in general; but neither should one group get a subsidy at the expense of others, no matter how that system is set up (currently through federal leases). Private ownership and property tax would at least have the advantage of keeping tax monies in local counties.
Current BLM ranchers need not necessarily worry about being pushed out by larger ranchers, though some would be. In many cases, lands would be purchased by investors willing to maintain continuity with current ranchers, only under new private lease agreements—much like privately-owned croplands are rented all across the U.S.
There would be uncomfortable short-term shifts in the cost of ranching, but with such realignments would also come shifts in the price of land (probably downward), followed by readjustments in assessments and tax revenues. There are other economic balances which would suffer short term turbulence; but the current equilibrium has been artificially created and sustained by government intrusion, inequity, and mistakes from day one anyway.
Like all solutions for recovering freedom discussed in my book, the path is simple, but not easy. Fixing the problem will require sacrifice, but the long run will feature greater liberty.
In this regard, the Cliven Bundy standoff is a yes: I stand with the protestors, the mediators, the Chuck Baldwins, the Oath Keepers, and the common law guys. But when it comes to Bundy’s practice and the BLM ranch system in general, the principle is welfarism and it has become as entrenched a culture as anywhere else in America. And to that we say no just no, but no way!
F. R. Carpenter, “Establishing Management Under the Taylor Grazing Act,” Rangelands 3/3 History of Range Management (June 1981), 105–115.
Virgil Hurlburt, “The Taylor Grazing Act,” The Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics, 11/2 (May, 1935), 203–206.
Virgil Hurlburt, “The Taylor Grazing Act Amendments,” The Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics, 11/4 (May, 1935), 410–411.
Frederick W. Obermiller, “Did Congress Intend to Recognize Grazing Rights? An Alternative Perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act,” Rangelands 18/5 (Oct. 1996), 186–191.
- Hurlburt, “The Taylor Grazing Act,” 206.
- Hurlburt, “The Taylor Grazing Act,” 206.
In 2012, Dr. Karen L. King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, discovered a papyrus that seemed to imply that Jesus was married. Here’s how the discovery was reported:
A small fragment of faded papyrus contains a suggestion that Jesus may have been married.
The fragment, with just eight lines of text on the front and six lines on the back, is from a fourth-century dialogue, written in the Coptic language, between Jesus and his disciples. In it, Jesus speaks of “my wife,” according to Harvard professor Karen L. King, who discovered the fragment.
“The most exciting line in the whole fragment . . . is the sentence ‘Jesus said to them [his disciples], my wife.’”
Now we’re being told that
. . . the controversial “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” ancient papyrus is not a modern-day forgery, according to newly published research in the Harvard Theological Review which insists that the fragment where Jesus supposedly mentions His wife dates between the sixth to ninth centuries CE.
I find all of this very interesting. Liberals debunk the Bible every chance they get even though the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is overwhelming. No other ancient text compares to it. “There are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure. That is an amazing accuracy. In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”
New Testament manuscript and Greek scholar Bruce M. Metzger wrote:
In evaluating the significance of these statistics . . . one should consider, by way of contrast, the number of manuscripts which preserve the text of the ancient classics. Homer’s Iliad . . . is preserved by 457 papyri, 2 uncial manuscripts, and 188 minuscule manuscripts. Among the tragedians the witnesses to Euripides are the most abundant; his extant works are preserved in 54 papyri and 276 parchment manuscripts, almost all of the later dating from the Byzantine period . . . the time between the composition of the books of the New Testament and the earliest extant copies is relatively brief. Instead of the lapse of a millennium or more, as is the case of not a few classical authors, several papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament are extant which were copies within a century or so after the composition of the original documents.”(1)
In none of these manuscript is there any evidence that Jesus had a wife. Here’s the comparison: 24,000 various manuscripts and fragments vs. the single “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” fragment from an unknown author and time. So what gets all the attention? The single fragment.
There is an obvious agenda beyond the obvious ignorance of these media nincompoops.
There is nothing in the gospel accounts, the book of Acts, or any of the epistles about Jesus being married. We know that Jesus had a mother, father, brothers, and cousins (Matt. 12:46; Acts 1:14), but there is no mention of a wife.
The New Testament contains reports of spurious stories about Jesus—that he was a rebel against Rome (Luke 23:2), had a demon (John 8:48-49), cast out demons by Satan (Matt. 12:24). Then there’s this: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! . . .” (Matt. 11:19). These were agenda-driven claims.
Misrepresenting Jesus is standard fare, and it didn’t stop in the first century. Even today Jesus is the poster prophet for communism, socialism, homosexual rights, expanding the welfare state, and every cause imaginable under the sun. So we shouldn’t be surprised if someone wanted to make it seem that Jesus was married so the church would have to recognize women priests.
So what’s the answer to the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” papyrus fragment that claims Jesus was married?
First, a document that is from 600 to 900 years old is not much of an evidentiary find. The gospels and epistles are first-century, eye-witness historical accounts (1 John 1:1–4; Like 1:1-4). All the New Testament books were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. See John A.T. Robinson’s book Redating the New Testament for a defense of this position.
To reject first-century, eye-witness testimony would be like someone in 2014 claiming they had a better understanding of the Pilgrim landing in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the settlement in Plymouth than William Bradford’s eyewitness account written by his own hand in Of Plymouth Plantation.
Second, the papyrus is a fragment. A fragment of what? Who was the author? We don’t know. King’s site on the papyrus states: “This remaining piece is too small to tell us anything definite about who may have composed, read, or circulated it.”
Third, it’s rather suspicious that the only fragment that is available to the public is one that deals with a Gnostic myth that is the heart of so much liberal “scholarship” today. There’s something very fishy about the whole thing as one critic points out:
The Harvard Review included an article by a Brown University Egyptologist, Leo Depuydt, who said the document looked fraudulent and “hilarious.” He said he had never seen ancient Coptic manuscripts with boldface letters before. “The effect is something like: ‘My wife. Get it? MY wife. You heard that right.’ The papyrus fragment seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch,” he wrote.
King said the “papyrus does not prove that Jesus actually had a wife—just that ancient Christians discussed the possibility.” Even if the papyrus is authentic, we don’t know who was discussing the possibility. Friends, this is not scholarship.
There’s one more possibility. In Matthew 12:46-50, when Jesus was asked about His mother and brothers, pointing to His disciples, He said the following:
“Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (vv. 49-50).
The Bible does say Jesus has a bride (wife)–the church—the body of believers (Mark 2:19; John 3:29; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9-10). He is not a bigamist.Endnotes:
- Bruce Metzger, The Text of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 3rd Enlarged Edition (1992), 33-35.
A recent article declares, “We think of psychopaths as killers, alien, outside society. But, says the scientist who has spent his life studying them, you could have one for a colleague, a friend—or a spouse.”
Consider the serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader, known as the BTK murderer. “BTK” stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” He never raised any suspicions among his friends or family that he had a malevolent nature that involved kidnapping and murder. He’s still alive—a prisoner for life at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.
Rader’s wife, who had been married to him for more than 30 years, had no knowledge of his crimes. He was a Cub Scout leader, and his son became an Eagle Scout. He led a normal and productive life, yet he harbored a dark side that did not affect his public persona. The people at the church where Rader attended were “stunned, confused, and bewildered” when they heard what the man they thought they knew did when left alone with the inner demons of his own making.
Given materialist assumptions about the origin of the cosmos and the evolutionary development of humans, “some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”(1)
Rader and other so-called psychopaths are dancing to the music of their DNA. How can they possibly be “blamed” for anything they do? The article asks, “But is psychopathy a disorder—or a different way of being?” That’s the question.
But many psychopathic traits aren’t necessarily disadvantages—and might, in certain circumstances, be an advantage. . . . It’s easy to see how a lack of moral scruples and indifference to other people’s suffering could be beneficial if you want to get ahead in business.
I found the following to be interesting. Don’t we hear atheists touting reason as the foundation for all right thinking? By what standard do we determine which claim of rational behavior is morally acceptable? It seems that psychopaths consider themselves to be very rational people:
“Psychopaths do think they’re more rational than other people, that this isn’t a deficit,” says [criminal psychologist Robert Hare, the creator of the PCL-R psychological assessment test]. “I met one offender who was certainly a psychopath who said ‘My problem is that according to psychiatrists I think more with my head than my heart. What am I supposed to do about that? Am I supposed to get all teary-eyed?’ Another, asked if he had any regrets about stabbing a robbery victim, replied: ‘Get real! He spends a few months in the hospital and I rot here. If I wanted to kill him I would have slit his throat. That’s the kind of guy I am; I gave him a break.’”
Pol Pot was the leader of the brutal Khmer Rouge. More than a million people in Cambodia died on his watch. The near genocide has become known as “the killing fields.” Pot’s response? “My conscience is clear.” Who’s to say otherwise if his actions were rational ones in terms of how he defined rationality and the rational purpose for his actions?
It would, says Hare, probably have been an evolutionarily successful strategy for many of our ancestors, and can be successful today; adept at manipulating people, a psychopath can enter a community, “like a church or a cultural organisation, saying, ‘I believe the same things you do’, but of course what we have is really a cat pretending to be a mouse, and suddenly all the money’s gone.’”
You can see that evolution is an explanation for everything. It has to be this way otherwise these scientists would have to admit to a moral law giver and the reality of unchangeable moral absolutes that every person is bound to obey. The evolutionary worldview puts them at a moral disadvantage, however. They can’t have their determination of what constitutes a psychopath roaming free since any one of them could kill off the people defining them as psychopaths.
Such a view means that morality is necessary even though it can’t be substantiated in a matter-only existence. Even so, these moral relativists must claim there are moral absolutes even though they can’t account for them.
Voltaire (1694-1778) is reported to have said to his mistress, Marguerite, “Whatever you do, don’t tell the servants there is no God or they’ll steal the silver.” A rational psychopath could run with the atheist worldview and not only steal the silver but cut out the owner’s heart and feed it to the dogs. Who ultimately is saying that it’s morally wrong?
The article goes on to state:
If someone’s brain lacks the moral niceties the rest of us take for granted, they obviously can’t do anything about that, any more than a colour-blind person can start seeing colour. So where does this leave the concept of moral responsibility?
Yes, what about “moral responsibility” in a world where only matter matters? What’s the ultimate immutable source for morality? The psychopath doesn’t ask such questions. His reason justifies his actions.Endnotes:
- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133.
My article “Lutherans cry out against the state: too late?” elicited a response from a man I hold in respect—an accomplished scholar, lawyer, author and downright Christian stud, John Eidsmoe. This recent post, however, is less impressive than the reputation.
While I am always willing to receive criticism and correction, this particular reaction magnifies tangential aspects to the level of offenses and errors, and when it finally addresses (almost in passing) my main point, it actually agrees with me. So I am not sure what exactly what this post was intended to accomplish.
Dr. McDurmon, Before you accuse Lutheran Church – Missouri synod President Mathew Harrison and your “two-kingdom brethren” of being “a little too late” in speaking out against the employer mandate of Obamacare, you need to check your facts.
First, I did not “accuse” anyone. I asked a question, and used the opportunity to discuss the broader implications of President Harrison’s argument which would apply across the board to all matters where civil governments infringe upon Christian consciences.
Second, my question of “a little too late” was not in regard merely to speaking out against the employer mandate of ObamaCare. I specifically agreed with doing that in my article. As I wrote,
My problem is certainly not with opposing ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate, nor with upholding the rights of Christians in opposition to it.
My problem is that there has been no similar outcry on numerous other issues that, while they may appear different, are no different in principle.
It is in regard to this broader and continual stand against statism in many different areas of life for which I wonder why most Lutherans in most cases and most other modern “two kingdoms brethren” have been silent for too long.
It would seem to me that the proper response would be not to shoot the messenger, but to get busy applying the message.
Third, Eidsmoe says to me, “you need to check your facts,” but he doesn’t really indicate which facts I have misstated. He implies, I suppose, that I was leaving out a few things, like these:
The fact is, President Harrison testified before Congress against the employer mandate over TWO YEARS AGO, on 16 February 2012. He concluded by telling Congress, “We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.” I serve on the Board of Lutherans for Life, and LFL unanimously passed a resolution standing with Rev. Harrison a few days after his testimony.
I think Harrison’s previous testimony is great. If your point is that neglecting to mention this somehow makes my post inadequate or incomplete, then I surely apologize. But I hardly see how that gets to the point of my article, which would only be strengthened by adding Harrison’s previous sweeping statement: “Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences.”
Bravo! Bravo! And Bravo for your organization Lutherans for Life which resolved to stand with him in this.
Now, how about applying that across the board to all issues? That was the point of my article.
Eidsmoe has more facts for me:
May I remind you, also, that Luther stood against both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor by refusing to recant his writings at Worms and later by burning a papal decree excommunicating him. When the Emperor ordered Luther’s arrest and execution, the lesser magistrate Lutheran Elector Frederick of Saxony risked his life by practicing interposition by kidnapping Luther and keeping him safe. And don’t forget the Magdeburg Confession of 1550 by which the Lutheran pastors of Magdeburg resisted the Holy Roman Emperor, before either Vindicae Contra Tyrannos or Lex Rex. John Knox commended the Magdeburg pastors and used some of their phraseology.
I am not sure exactly how dragging Luther into this discussion helps anyone. Sure, select people who believed in “two kingdoms” have stood up in select circumstances here and there for a long time. They have also ignored, and in some cases justified, a vast host of crimes committed by tyrants using the exact same doctrine. Luther himself was never consistent with his own doctrine—and that is the point. He was nowhere near consistent with the principle, and my point is that his modern day followers aren’t either.
In some cases, Luther’s boys manufactured even worse tyranny than existed previously. This includes the purposeful expansion of the legal definition of “blasphemy”—a capital offense—to cover Anabaptist views on baptism, original sin, special revelation, and forgiveness. This move purposefully gave the Lutheran government power to execute Anabaptists not only for alleged sedition, but for rebaptizing adults and other doctrines. This change in civil code was concocted and penned by Luther’s right-hand-man, Philip Melanchthon, and Luther didn’t say a word.(1)
A few years later, the Lutheran brains in Wittenberg produced a document entitled That Secular Government is Obligated to Restrain Anabaptists with Bodily Punishment (1535). It advocated the death penalty. This time, Luther himself signed the documents.(2)
And Dr. McDurmon, you can find all of this in my 3-vol. book, HISTORICAL & THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF LAW, which YOUR employer American Vision published in 2012.
I am quite aware that I can find what you say there. I am also quite aware of some of the rest of the story, which I don’t see in those three volumes. (Though I hasten to add, those three volumes are a great resource for a lot of things besides this particular squabble.)
Citing the example of Luther and others in this regard seems again only to strengthen my point.
I am thrilled, however, with the reference to the Magdeburg Confession which did lay groundwork for the doctrine of the “lesser magistrate.” This of course was exemplified by the actions of Frederick much earlier, which Dr. Eidsmoe mentioned. The principle is that when the state grows tyrannical, lower civil rulers have a duty to resist the tyranny on behalf of God and country, protecting the liberties of the citizens.
Again, I am not sure how this detracts from the point of my article. It seems to take my point one step further. It seems to suggest that the next step is for Harrison and others to call upon the lower magistrates to protect them in resisting the employer mandate.
And again, applying this consistently would mean calling for such lower-magistrate-protected resistance across the board for all issues of Christian conscience.
Is Dr. Eidsmoe suggesting interposition now? What a powerful testimony for the principle of “Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences” it would send if every Lutheran pulpit—indeed every evangelical pulpit—in America resounded with a promise to refuse to submit to such tyrannies. What a testimony if every denominational president wrote like this on every issue.
We would win freedom back in the country in a matter of months.
In short, Dr. Eidsmoe’s reference here does not refute the point of my article, nor even show any facts I don’t have straight. Instead, it would actually put legs on my main point.
And I think he and I are ultimately in agreement that this is more the direction we need to go, even if we disagree on some particulars. Thus, when he gets to his conclusion, he asserts that he actually agrees with the main point of my article:
I don’t deny that Lutherans (and others) have been too selective in speaking out against unholy tyranny.
That was the main point. Why this deserved only a passing sentence while focusing for a whole post on other issues is puzzling to me. I think the real issue begins to peak through at the end:
But two-kingdoms theology, properly understood, is a better basis than theocracy for resisting tyranny.
This is of course too broad to discuss here, but let’s note that the sentiment could easily be reversed:
Theocracy, properly understood, is a better basis than two-kingdoms theology for resisting tyranny.
But I will go one further than this, for it is not quite accurate. Theocracy properly understood is the only proper two kingdoms theology. Even some recent scholarly efforts by Lutherans are returning to Luther’s own statement that both of the two kingdoms are God’s two kingdoms. Thus, technically, they are both theocracies.
Things all lie in proper understandings, don’t they?
The real debate is not over the boogeyman term “theocracy,” but over the source of law in each of the kingdoms: is it revelation, or something else (human autonomy, reason, nature, etc.)?
Perhaps someday when we all take the time to get our “facts straight,” we can have a serious discussion about that. I would look forward to it.
By the way, Dr. McDurmon, I enjoy your writings and agree with you the vast majority of the time.
You can be sure, the sentiment is reciprocal.
- John S. Oyer, Lutheran Reformers Against Anabaptists: Luther, Melanchthon, and Menius and the Anabaptists of Central Germany (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964), 173–174.
- Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532–1546, Trans. James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 36–37.
The first of four Blood Moons has appeared in the sky. Millions of Christians have become fascinated with the phenomenon. Books have been written on the subject. Why all the interest and excitement? Because the lunar event is supposedly all about Bible prophecy and the end of the world or the so-called “rapture” of the church that these prophecy prognosticators claim will usher in the Second Coming of Jesus.
Megachurch pastor John Hagee is warning his San Antonio congregation and international following of a “world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.”
This is the same John Hagee who “gained international attention two years ago for a series of sermons asking, ‘Could 2012 be the end of the world as we know it,’ that was broadcast to millions worldwide via his organization John Hagee Ministries and Global Evangelism Television.”
A real prophetic sign would be if the moon actually turned to blood like God turned the Nile River into blood. Now that would be a sign of things to come!
There have been blood moons before. There have been tetrads before. And it’s these past tetrads that have brought out the prophecy speculators.
Mark [Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries in Puyallup, Washington] found that we have had blood-red moons on the first day of Passover and the first day of Sukkot on back-to-back years seven times since 1 A.D. Three of these occurrences were connected to 1492 (the final year of the Spanish Inquisition), 1948 (statehood for Israel and the War of Independence), and 1967 (the Six-Day War)—some of the most significant days in Jewish history. The others were in 162/163 A.D., 795/796 A.D., 842/843 A.D. and 860/861 A.D. We don’t have any historical connections for these years at this time, but we do know of significant Jewish persecution during the eighth and ninth centuries.
Actually, the tetrads appeared in 1493/1494, 1949/1950. In these two cases the blood moons appeared after the events for which they are said to have had prophetic significance. The ones in 1967/1968 appeared during the conflict that lasted just six days. “This isn’t even the first tetrad of this century (that was in 2003-2004) and including this one there will be seven more before the year 2100.”
This means, given the chronology of the appearance of past blood moons, the significant prophetic event of our most recent blood moon and the three that follow should have happened in 2013.
Notice the years of the other tetrads and this comment: “We don’t have any historical connections for these years at this time.” Why not? If blood moons are so prophetically significant, there should have been a major prophetic event in those years related to Israel. In fact, if these upcoming blood moons are indicators of a so-called “rapture,” then why weren’t they signs for it then? The same question needs to be asked of the ones in 1949/1950 since Israel had become a nation again the year before.
And if these four blood moons are so significant for Israel, then why is it that “Data published by NASA reveals that all but the last of the four eclipses will not be visible from the Middle East, and even the fourth will only be partially visible.” This makes no sense if the blood moons are for Israel.
If blood moons are so significant for Israel, then why wasn’t there a tetrad of blood moons when Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC, when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, an event predicted by Jesus in the Bible’s Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24), or around the time of the Holocaust? These events are at least as significant as Israel becoming a nation again in 1948.
What about these blood moons coinciding with Passover (April 15, 2014 and April 4, 2015) and Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles (October 8, 2014 and September 28, 2015)? James Vincent makes an important point:
This is certainly unusual but hardly surprising given that the Jewish calendar is based partly on lunar cycles: Passover is always marked by a full moon and a lunar eclipse cannot–by definition–happen at any other time apart from a full moon.
Consider what Paul writes:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).
The Jewish feast days and festivals no longer have any relevance since Jesus has come. Christians are dwelling on blood moons when they should be dwelling on the “sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2; cf. 2 Sam 23:4; Isa 30:26; 60:1).
These so-called blood moons have never had any prophetic significance. The blood moon prophecy of Joel doesn’t say that the moon will look blood red; it states that it will turn into blood:
I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes (Joel 2:30-31; Acts 2:19-21).
Why doesn’t anyone mention anything about the sun turning into darkness and stars falling (Rev. 6:12-14) in today’s discussion about blood-red moons? It’s a package deal. If we are to interpret Joel’s prophecy and similar prophetic passages correctly, we must understand how this type of language is used elsewhere in Scripture. See passages like Isaiah 13:13, 34:4, 51:6, Ezek 32:7-8, and many more. It’s important to note that Israel is symbolized as sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 37:9-10; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-14; 12:1-2).
James Jordan gets to the heart of the meaning of the moon turning into blood passage:
The turning of the moon to “blood” points, I believe, to something particularly Jewish: the sacrificial system. If they will not accept the blood of Jesus Christ, the final Sacrifice, then they themselves will be turned into blood. They will become the sacrifices. . . . That is what the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was all about.
But Joel is issuing a warning. Those who listen can escape. “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of Yahweh will be delivered; for ‘on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape,’ as Yahweh has said, even among the survivors whom Yahweh calls” (Joel 2:32). Just as Isaac escaped death on Mount Zion because of the substitute ram that God provided (Genesis 22:14), so those who trust in the Lamb of God will escape the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Such is Joel’s warning, reiterated by Peter on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:19-21].”
All of this attention on a shadow is taking significance away from the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Too many people are fixed on the end of history rather than on the One who made history nearly 2,000 years ago on the cross of redemption and the empty tomb. When the dust settles, and nothing predicted happens, how many people will drift away from the faith after another prophetic false alarm? How many people will discard the Bible as a fraud because of the hype and hysteria of something that the Bible says nothing about? Is it any wonder that “there are just as many Americans skeptical of the Bible as there are engaged with the Bible”?
Decades of false predictions supposedly based on the Bible have done irreparable harm—many people end up questioning the integrity of the Bible.
I am a layman. I am not a theologian, a doctor, a professor, a scientist or a physicist. I am what you would call, uneducated. At least uneducated in the sense that I do not, nor will I ever have, an M.Div., a PhD., or any other abbreviation that I can attach to my name. I have however been educated—quite extensively I might add—at Hard Knock University. Oh sure, I scraped by in school, did a stint at a local community college in General Studies (whatever that means) but classroom education has always been my nemesis. I’m what my father called, “street-smart”. I still rely heavily on dictionaries—especially with the gentlemen I work with—and thesauruses. I am a layman.
You won’t see my name on a thesis, a book or in a footnote. I’m just a regular Joe, a number, an unknown soul to more than 99.99999999999999999% of the six plus billion people on this earth. Again, I . . . am a layman.
Now before you chastise me, know that I’m good with where I stand. [Insert Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmation phrase here]
Perhaps we’re probably a lot alike though, you and I. We’re (orthodox) Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Charismatics. We’re laymen. We’re fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. We’re laymen. We’re mechanics, ditch diggers, farmers, teachers, electricians, truck drivers, construction workers, servers, cooks, and computer nerds. We’re laymen. We pick up your trash, we install your satellite television, we fix your car, we build your houses, we take your orders, we cook your food and we cut your grass. Most importantly, we’re the guys and gals you rely on to fix your problems. We’re laymen.
We laymen are content to work within a small circle of local influence. We’re usually not extensively traveled or learned, though we typically have specialized skills. We laymen are the backbones of our local churches, rotary clubs, cities and counties. Push us too far, and you’ll be met with a sweaty brow, restrained anger, and a Winchester rifle. Don’t believe me? Just ask Cliven Bundy.
Eschatology, political ideologies, and socioeconomic issues aside, what happened in Nevada outside the Bundy ranch was the direct result of a group of laymen who came together to confront what they believe to be an oppressive tyranny. A group of “laymen” stood down an armed government and won the battle.
Only time will tell if they win that war.
Please do not make the mistake of standing in awe over this situation, for it is certainly nothing new. Laymen have always done this and will always be the first ones on the front lines. After all, we laymen are the ones that fix the problems.
Laymen stood down tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Laymen sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter in 1960.
Laymen forced a most heinous dictator to take his own life out of fear in 1945.
Laymen destroyed an entire shipment of tea chests out of protest in 1773.
Laymen escalated an ecclesiastical reformation with a printing press after a monk nailed a paper to a door in 1517.
Laymen finished writing down the Word of God in 68.
Laymen watched as the Son of God was crucified to a tree in 30.
Laymen flocked to witness the birth of the Messiah in 3BC.
Laymen rallied behind a shepherd who would be king ca. 1010BC.
Laymen received the Law from the one true God ca. 1446BC.
Laymen began an entire nation from scratch ca. 2091BC.
You see, we laymen—we men and women who belong to Christ—are called to work, albeit in different roles and vocations. That’s what we do, we work. We will always work and we aren’t scared of hard physical or ideological work. We don’t mind getting dirty and we certainly don’t mind a little blood, sweat, and pain. God created us laymen for work (Gen 1:28), the Spirit of God equips us for work (Acts 2:1-37), and Christ commands us to work (Matt. 28:18-20).
But why is it that we laymen work when it seems that all Hell has come against us, you ask? Why is it that we stare down tanks, dictators, and establishment authoritarians? Why is it that we homeschool our children, bring a grieving neighbor a hot meal, or encourage the broken-hearted? Because, we laymen know what’s coming. We laymen work for this end:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:2-4).
So don’t weary, my fellow laymen, for there is still much work to be done. The harvest is plentiful and we laymen seem few. Get involved within your local sphere of influence. Start in (your) Jerusalem first. Educate your children in the ways of the Lord as we’ve been commanded (Deut. 6:6-7; Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Run for a seat on your county commission or board of alderman. Run for a position on your local school board. Teach that Sunday School class in your local church. Vocally oppose laws and ordinances contrary to the Word of God. Rally around your laymen neighbors as they do the same.
Last but not least, pray. Pray for your family. Pray for your local leaders. Pray for your local church.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it may take a long time for change. Yes, it may get bloody at some point but we’ve been built for it, equipped for it, and directed for it. We will see a day where our weapons are beaten into plowshares, and pruning hooks. But before then, we have hard work to do you and I. The good news is, we laymen have gotten exceedingly efficient at working hard. Just ask rancher Cliven Bundy.
As we near Easter Sunday, it is always a good time to think back on the famous event that helped spark the Swiss Reformation. While the German Reformation was making progress under Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli was causing a stir in Switzerland. As is a current need in the mainstream evangelical church, the preaching from the pulpits during that time was in dire need of being completely tethered to scripture alone. Zwingli carried such a torch and began preaching against many of the practices of the Catholic Church. It was his sermon on March 23, 1522, Concerning Choice and Liberty Respecting Food, that hit a chord with a few of the locals and precipitated the well-known “affair of sausages”.(1)
Zwingli’s sermon inspired a couple of his supporters to eat sausage at the home of Christoph Froschauer, a nearby printer at Zurich. It may seem silly to us, but this occurred during the season of Lent and breaking the Lenten fast directly challenged the authority of the Church. Froschauer was arrested. While Zwingli did not join the others in breaking the Lenten fast, he did condone their actions in light of scripture and the concept of Christian liberty. This eventually led to a public disputation or debate in January of 1523.
There were two important characteristics of the debate. First, it was to be carried out in German. This ensured that the locals could follow the arguments. The ideas were not to be held hostage and out of reach of the layman. The ideas were to be discussed openly in the hearing of those who would most bear their consequences. Second, the dialogue was carried out with the Bible in Hebrew, Greek and Latin as the only accessible references. This illustrated his poignant words, “I am ready to be instructed and corrected, but only from…Scripture”.(2) He was victorious and as one author declared, “Zwingli’s triumph sent the Reformation fervor through Switzerland and into southern Germany. Preaching was to be based on Scripture alone.”
Certainly the battle above was directly related to the church but the events had almost immediate and drastic ramifications for all of life in Switzerland. Within a couple of years, the Mass was abolished in Zurich but the commitment to God’s sovereignty and primacy of his Word throughout the region unleashed a transformation in the West and in time, the whole world.
I often wonder what it would be like if we took the same approach to current day challenges and events. What if all Christians marched boldly into the battle of ideas armed with a commitment to scripture as our standard for all of life? I actually think more of us would were it not for the one, central prerequisite. We have to actually study God’s Word. Perhaps many who grew up in the mainstream evangelical church can identify with the familiar routine called a “quite time”. This ten-minute a day ritual, the occasional Bible study among our peers, along with a Sunday morning in the pew once a week comprised the extent of our Bible study. Somehow we thought this was sufficient. Unfortunately it was not. We were products of our time and we were undoubtedly (along with generations before us) living in our own self-inflicted Dark Ages. We could read. We had Bibles. Beyond this, we had a Bible for every stage and station in life. Yet, we were not engrossed in them.
The good news is, today we have more tools at our disposal to study scripture then we ever could imagine. With an understanding of the power of God’s Word and the commitment and discipline to study it, we can make up for lost time. It is perhaps the only time in history when a whole generation (or generations) can do this. As we do it, we will be better prepared to breakdown the strongholds of humanism that still exist all around us. We will look at current events and challenges in every area of society through the lenses of Scripture. We will say confidently,
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation. (Psalm 119:97-99 ESV)
Any progress of the church in history has been a result of her conforming to scripture. Progress in all of life is in proportion to conformity to the word of God. As we Christians do less “hat-tipping” to sola scriptura and become more rigorously committed to the Word of God as the only rule for living, the church at large will witness the blessings promised.
So, as we approach this Easter, get some Jimmy Dean or find some fresh, local sausage. Cook up a nice pan of links or patties and dig in. While you are enjoying the fare, think back to the Affair and contemplate the current expansion of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.
- James T. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 1, 1523-1552 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 1.
- Ibid, 2.
Last week, we discussed a podcast from Brannon Howse regarding homosexuality and criminal law. That post was well received, and has elicited a response from Mr. Howse, which we will review here.
In my last article, I concluded with some advice for Mr. Howse and his guest, Jesse Johnson:
My suggestion for Howse and Johnson would be actually to read some theonomic books and commentaries, and to sit down and write an outline of the Pentateuch with criminal sanctions highlighted.
Instead of reading some theonomic books to ascertain biblical law, it appears that Mr. Howse has instead gone to something the equivalent of A Year of Biblical Womanhood. His latest interview with Dr. Jimmy DeYoung criticizes us Reconstructionists. It is so replete with the worn misrepresentations we have always suffered that I wonder if he has done any study on the issue at all.
Considering that Gary DeMar used to speak at Mr. Howse’s conferences years ago, I wonder if he secretly does know the truth (surely he’s heard it), but doesn’t want his audience to hear it in full from the horse’s mouth.
(Please, no jokes about the other end of the horse, either.)
Now, I have always complained against the critics of theonomy and Christian Reconstruction that (and you’ve heard this before):
1. They don’t name us.
2. They don’t quote us directly.
3. If they do quote us, it’s out of context.
4. They misrepresent us and attack straw men.
5. Yet they won’t stop addressing us in this way.
Howse’s latest segment/interview is no different, and in fact may go beyond others for the pure strawness of its strawmen. With boogeyman-style tactics and frightening thoughts of “613 commandments” and the like as we shall see, he has entered Rachel Held Evans territory in regard to understanding God’s Law.
First, let me establish that Howse is with virtual certainty responding to my article, although, again, without naming me. In the podcast he said, “We have those who are Reconstructionists who think we are going to reconstruct a Christian nation. They follow people like Rushdoony and others.” He soon added, “We have some of these Reconstructionists criticizing me in an article recently because I’m not in favor of us being under the Mosaic Law.”
He then tosses a strawman softball to his friend Dr. DeYoung:
BH: If you’re under the entire Mosiac Law then you’re under 631 [sic] rules?
BH: 613, OK. What would our everyday life be like if we were under the Mosaic Law as Christians today?
The thrust of Howse/DeYoung’s criticism is that there are no distinctions in Old Testament Law: you are either “under” (governed by) all of it, or none of it.
(As an aside, be aware that the count of 613 commandments is derived from one Talmudic tradition. It is widely repeated today, but has no authority. It is not in the Bible, even many Jewish scholars dispute it, and even those who accept it quarrel about what all 613 actually are. When Christians begin to wave this number around, especially for polemical reasons, there is usually some ignorance or some grandstanding going on.)
These gentlemen apparently think no theonomist has ever confirmed any distinction in the law, that we unwittingly do not recognize that the sacrificial system is fulfilled in Christ, or a host of other foibles. This is, of course, why I asked them to review our writings before addressing our position again: they would have spared themselves any embarrassment.
But they didn’t even need to read any books: all they needed to read was the very article they purported to be answering. In it, I wrote very clearly in response to where Johnson highlighted the New Testament rejections of Mosaic ceremonial laws:
Most of these arguments are in regard to ceremonial laws, which all theonomists agree have been fulfilled in Christ and apply no longer to society. But to think this applies in blanket fashion to all the Law, civil and moral alike (or however we desire to classify them) misses too much of Scripture. . . .
Why is the New Covenant itself not described as the removal and inapplicability of the Law, but rather as, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Heb. 8:10). What Laws? Obviously not priestly/ceremonial (Heb. 7:12), but it is nevertheless God’s Law.
Reading that would have prevented about 80 percent of the Howse/DeYoung critique. Nevertheless, Dr. DeYoung responded as if none of this had ever been noted already:
First of all, you’d have to be involved in the sacrificial system, and for the church, for the body of Christ, there are no sacrifices; but in order to stay in fellowship with God under that Mosaic Law you would have to abide on a daily basis in going to the temple or going to the tabernacle after it was established during the wanderings in the wilderness, offering a sacrifice to stay in fellowship. Once a year, Yom Kippur would be a responsibility where you would fast for 24 hours—25 hours to make sure it was 24 [a Pharisaical practice, btw, not biblical—JM]. So you’d have to live by what God had put in place. A number of other things would have to happen that would be very restrictive as far as you’re concerned. . . .
It would have been so helpful if these men mentioned the distinctions we made, and then represented our position accordingly. None of this would apply today, and these men probably already know this is our position—in regard to the sacrifices, it is close to the same position they have.
But perhaps they really believe, contra our position, that you really must only accept or reject Mosaic Law as a whole. Perhaps? Well, it doesn’t seem that way.
We certainly can look to the Ten Commandments as the standard for our civil code in America . . . . but the Mosaic code contains more than the Ten Commandments. . . .
Again I have no problem with, obviously, our civil code being based on the Ten Commandments. . . .
They want to be reconstructionists. . . . They want to reconstruct a Christian nation. Now I’m not saying I’m opposed to Christian . . . uhhh . . . ideas and philosophies and principles and precepts within a nation. You know: righteousness exalts a nation; sin is a reproach thereof.
I had to chuckle when I heard this. At the long pause “uhhh” I really think he almost said “law,” but caught himself. He then said instead, “ideas and philosophies and principles and precepts.” Anything but “law”!
But the real point is his belief that we can indeed draw from the Ten Commandments in determining our civil code in America. And in fact, Howse thinks that in the past this was indeed the case and supports it.
First, what does Mr. Howse think Mosaic civil law is? It was little more than case laws applying the Ten Commandments to concrete civil and criminal scenarios, and then assigning penalties to in proportion thereof. There is an intimate relationship between the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic civil code. So why is one valid for Howse and the other not?
Second, why does he recognize these distinctions in Mosaic Law when speaking of his own theories, and then pretend Mosaic Law must be accepted as a whole—sacrificial rites and the whole shebang—when discussing mine? Double standard, anyone?
Keep in mind, guys, we are talking about civil law, not justification and regeneration. This is about what are the standards for social order in regard to coercion by the civil government—not individual salvation, family, or church. Yet by immediately running to the “sacrificial system” argument and appeals to Judaizing in Galatians, this is exactly how the debate which they began about civil law gets turned on its head when they can’t answer me straightly in regard to the topic they brought up. Dr. DeYoung argues,
Paul got all over Peter in the book of Galatians about trying to Judaize gentiles, to let them become Jews before they became Christians. So it’s totally non-biblical. It’s dangerous.
Paul jumped all over Peter and others for adding requirements of sacrificial and ceremonial system works to the gospel of salvation—not the civil order, which is by definition about justice between individuals. In other places, Paul had no problem citing Mosaic case law for such purposes. For example, as noted in my last article, 1 Corinthians 9:8–9 and 1 Timothy 1:8–11 (both also ignored by Howse).
Perhaps worst of all is that Dr. DeYoung is supposed to be Howse’s expert prosecutor here, but the magnitude of his misrepresentations comes in second place only to that of his cluelessness. At one point, as he turned his critique from law to eschatology (I will deal with this tomorrow), he argued (I believe honestly) that we are closet Postmillennialists trying to masquerade under a different name. He said, “They may not call it ‘Postmillennial eschatology,’ but they’re living out practically what that was.”
I mean, where do you start in responding to that? Perhaps we could note that one of our chief eschatological exponents has been Kenneth L. Gentry, who maintains a website called Postmillennialism.com? Or that Ken’s book He Shall Have Dominion is subtitled A Postmillennial Eschatology? Or that Ken contributed to the book Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond the chapters defending “Postmillennialism”? Or his book Postmillennialism Made Easy?
Or what about Gary North openly identifying as such in Millennialism and Social Theory?
Or what about Greg L. Bahnsen’s book, The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism?
Or what about the festschrift written for R. J. Rushdoony himself entitled Thine is the Kingdom: A Study of the Postmillennial Hope, in which several authors identified openly with that label?
How clueless is this guy? And how wrong is it to pretend we’re part of some crypto-postmillennial conspiracy? No, sorry. We’ve been in the open for several decades now, and we’ve made no secret of the fact we are indeed postmillennial. And you should have known better.
But the cluelessness doesn’t stop there. Dr. DeYoung says, “These guys that want to live under the Mosaic Law, want to being the earth and the world, the people, the earth-dwellers to Christianity—and you know, it’s not only Rasmussen and some of the guys you talked about, a guy like Rick Warren is into that as well.”
As if bringing the world and the people in it “to Christianity” is a bad thing. But nevertheless, I had to scratch my head for moment: why was he referring to the public polling agency “Rasmussen.” Then it dawned. He meant to say the name Howse had mentioned to him earlier: Rushdoony.
He didn’t even know.
Yes. That is clueless.
Now be sure, I don’t think the guy is incompetent. I am certainly not calling him stupid. I just think he is clueless as to the basic nature of the subject matter.
If you are going to take a position as a public critic of theonomy, and you don’t know who Rushdoony is, you might want to remain silent until you know something about the movement.
If you intend to criticize a theological opponent in public, whatever that position is, you owe it to yourself and your audience to do your homework first.
If you intend to bring in an expert witness to expose the guy who exposed you, you might want to vet his grasp of the subject matter first.
Now in all of this, I fear Mr. Howse not only wasted all of our time with these straw men, but also missed the central point of my last article. I wrote,
And that is the central issue at the heart of this anti-Mosaic Law discussion: what is the source of civil Law and civil sanctions? Is it God? If not, then it can only be man’s imaginations, emotions, reasonings, revenge, etc. It is man’s law versus God’s law.
We hear from Howse that Mosaic Laws are not required, but he gives no defense of relinquishing the civil law realm to humanistic laws and theories. He feels this, so he says we should look to the Ten Commandments for civil code. Then why not the extensions of the Ten Commandments known as Mosaic case law? Your laws either reflect God as their God, or man as their god. Choose ye this day.
No answer from Howse.
Finally, in regard to the misrepresentation issue, I have always advocated the maxim: If you have a problem with the man, go to the man.
If Mr. Howse intends to respond to me, all he has to do is quote from my article and address point for point, in my own words. He can always give me a call, drop me an email, whatever. But instead, he brings on some alleged prophecy expert who has no idea even who we are or what we believe, who can’t even remember one of our names for more than ten minutes, who is hostile to whatever he perceives our position to be, and Howse lets this guy represent our position for us.
How’s that for a concern for truth and veracity?
For contrast, I want you to note the response of Mr. Howse’s previous guest, Jesse Johnson, to my last critical article, in which I named, quoted, contextualized, and responded directly to Mr. Johnson. In the comments section of my article, he began his questions to me with this compliment:
Thanks for accurately representing what I said. I appreciate critiques from those that do it well, so thank you for that.
You’re welcome. Perhaps you can show that article to Mr. Howse and Dr. DeYoung as an example of how to do it. They apparently need to read it again anyway.
John Hagee’s Harold Camping moment has arrived, and whether or not his followers will abandon him as most did that previous false prophet, Hagee is certainly just as wrong about Bible prophecy.
I have previously written a lengthier piece on Hagee’s “four blood moons” predictions, detailing the alarming level of date-setting in which he has engaged. In short, he openly ties to this lunar “tetrad” event to biblical prophecies in which he says Russia and Iran will be wiped off the map, the battle of Ezekiel 38 will occur, and “your redemption draweth nigh.” For these reasons I concluded that Hagee has gone far beyond anything Harold Camping ever did, and ought to be treated with the same utter rejection when his predictions fail.
In mainstream news outlets, however, Hagee has kept his predictions much more general. In an older interview with Fox, and now when contacted by New York Daily News, Hagee only predicts “something big is about to happen.” This is, of course, the kind of prediction that cannot fail to be proven true. If anything big happens between now and the feast of tabernacles 2015, Hagee can point to it as proof he was right.
There may indeed be “something big” on the near horizon of foreign affairs—especially with Russian foment in Ukraine and another even bigger financial crisis looming across the West. I would be shocked if nothing “big” happened in the next 18 months, and I would be shocked if whatever happens does not involve one of the volatile nations like Russia or Iran, Syria or Egypt, and perhaps Israel as well.
But whatever happens, it will have nothing to do with biblical prophecy—not as Hagee would have the unsuspecting general public believe. As I outlined last time, the “blood moon” Bible passage on which Hagee focuses makes it impossible that any modern events could be the fulfillment.
The refutation is as simple as Hagee’s predictions are grandiose: he ignores the context. According to multiple sources, including this latest New York Daily News piece, Hagee’s foundational passage is Acts 2:19–20:
He points to Acts 2:19-20, which reads, “And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
The refutation lies in the very same passage. This is from Peter’s discourse on the famous day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, tongues of fire appeared above their heads, and they spoke in multiple languages, miraculously. A large group of international visitors heard them speak in their native languages. Some of the local religious elites accused these tongue-speaking disciples of being drunk—a 9am in the morning! Peter replied to them:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:14–20).
Peter is quoting from Joel 2:28–31, but his application of it makes it not only clear but inescapable that the “blood moon” prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled right there in the first century. The earth-and heavens-shaking event which indicated this was the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit and its manifestations right before their eyes.
This means the blood moon and darkened sun, and the “day of the Lord” of which Joel spoke, pertained to the first century. Indeed, it was the total devastation of the old covenant temple and the leveling of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70 which proved this once and for all.
Peter was not speaking of celestial events that would occur two thousand years from his own audience. He applied Joel 2 to his time and his audience in the first century. “This is” means “what you see here and now is what was predicted.” It does not mean “Don’t worry guys, this won’t happen for another two millennia.”
For us this means, “this already happened—two thousand years ago.” It has nothing to do, prophetically or biblically, with 2014 or 2015.
In short, Peter’s interpretation of Joel makes John Hagee’s interpretation impossible. John Hagee is certainly wrong about Acts 2:19–20.
He may not be wrong about great geopolitical events occurring in the near future, and they may even involve Israel. But they will have nothing to do with the alleged prophecy he is quoting.
A couple of military guys acting on their own authority break their oath of enlistment, intimidate civilians, seize property, curse those who question them, desecrate the flag, trample the Constitution, violate half of the Ten Commandments . . . and Fox Nation upholds them as heroes.
Folks, this is a huge part of what’s wrong with our country.
Fox Nation billed the story like this: “Hippie Disrespects American flag in front of Marine . . . Big Mistake!”
The first line of the description reads, “A Marine and Soldier take back the American flag from protesters for disrespecting it for holding it upside down.”
You don’t have to be supporters of the alleged “hippie” to acknowledge there are three major areas of problem with this story. 1) The act itself, 2) Fox’s spin, and 3) the reactions of some commenters.
Let’s consider the act itself. Folks, whatever emotional reaction you may have, this act is not just or right. It is violence and theft. It is wrong in every way possible.
First, it is hypocritical and ignorant on the part of these military men. It defies everything for which they swore an oath: to support and defend the Constitution. The Constitution says nothing about a flag. It says something very prominently about free speech. It also says quite a bit about the Supreme Court and legal system which have upheld the right to display the flag, even burn it, especially in acts of protest. Like it or not, the Constitution upholds the upside-down display of the flag, and anyone—especially anyone who swears an oath to uphold that Constitution—must respect that.
In fact, anyone who swears that oath and then acts contrary to it ought to be held accountable for breaking their oath.
Instead, we have a hot-head Marine seizing property and spouting, “I don’t give a s**t what the symbol is!” This is the attitude of someone who has no respect for law, right, or authority.
Secondly, even if displaying the flag upside-down were against the law, these military men are not law enforcement. It is not their job to take matters into their own hands. They are at best mere witnesses to the crime—if indeed it were a crime. Unless it were a forcible felony, they have no right to intervene, and could indeed be held liable for any crimes of their own if they do.
Further, the military force is separated from local law enforcement for a reason. Military men must act in official violence only in time of war and when under order to do so. This Marine had no orders to do so, was not in a time of war or other official military action, and is probably either “off duty” or no longer even enlisted.
This is supposed to be a nation of laws and not of men. These men violated this principle. They had nothing on their side but their own misguided passions about the flag. This is not the rule of law in action. This is the opposite: this is Vigilantism.
The Marine shouted, “We serve our country.” Not in this act you didn’t. You violated your oath. You violated principles of both military and civil jurisdictions. You’re not a hero. You’re an example of everything that’s wrong in this nation: people who think they are entitled to act outside the law based on their own feelings. These things are not serving the country. They are disgracing it.
Next, consider just how ridiculous Fox News is when it spins the story as a “Hippie” being set right by a Marine. Everything in this story is either made up or backwards from the truth.
Fox says the protester was “disrespecting” the flag. Technically he was not, according to the Supreme Court and even many other conservatives (more on that in a second). Instead, as we just said, it was the Marine and soldier who were disrespecting the flag: because they violated every rule of law for which it supposedly stands (not to mention that in their aggression, they knocked it to the ground—oops!—and then wadded it up like a dirty shirt instead of folding it properly).
Second, Fox called the protester a “Hippie.” This is not clear in the video. As such, this is dishonest reporting. The protests in question occurred on March 30, 2014, when hundreds if not thousands of citizens marched on the Albuquerque Police Department in protest of yet another APD shooting of an apparently defenseless and helpless citizen. KRQE Local News reported,
Protesters angry over the recent shooting, and other APD shootings in recent years, gathered at Central and First Street around noon Sunday and marched toward APD headquarters shouting, “We want justice,” and other chants.
Considering the issue and the numbers that turned out, I suspect there was some mixture of ideologies in the crowd. Perhaps a majority were civil-rights type liberals, perhaps some “Occupy” types, perhaps some Libertarians, perhaps some conservatives and tea party types. It looks like the driver of the scooter has long hair, but whether that necessitates one is a “Hippie” or not I don’t know.
But “Hippie” sure does fit a classic “bad guy” for a Fox News narrative, doesn’t it? But they really don’t know, and didn’t bother trying to find out. I didn’t see any attempt at interviewing the protesters. Not knowing, to report one way or the other is to publish bias and dishonesty, not facts.
Worse, this type of reporting exemplifies a trend in the rapidly declining quality of conservative reporting—a trend which a friend of mine (who is engaged in the very practice) recently labeled “rage porn.” These types of stories are not meant to relate truth or facts. They are designed to get their targeted audiences—who often neglect or lack critical thinking skills—to click-click-click, share-share-share, and drive ad revenue.
The truth is, this protestor could very well have been an upstanding tea party member. As some of the commenters on Fox’s page and the YouTube post have noted, it is well documented that many conservative tea party protestors in different locations have displayed upside-down flags in “dire distress” of the current administration’s and Congress’s policies. One good story on this phenomenon is here, where a military vet himself displayed the flag upside-down in protest after Obama’s reelection.
Whether you support it or not, many conservatives did.
Where were the hot-head Marines storming this farm house, or the many tea party rallies where this has occurred? Do only conservatives have such free speech rights?
And where was Fox News when these conservatives did this? And where was their “balance” in reminding us of this when posting this latest story?
Finally, consider the reactions from readers. They seem to be roughly evenly divided between some of the thoughtless “hooah!” “‘murca!” types and those who understand the real issues at hand. On the one hand, it is good that a rough half of readers respond with sensible Constitutional awareness.
On the other hand, it is frightening than roughly the other half react like mindless drones, driven by misguided nationalistic emotions that trample the true principles of liberty and their own laws—i.e., like potential brownshirts.
That such a large representative number of conservatives openly support and act of vigilantism, oath-breaking, trampling of fundamental Constitutional rights, violence and theft, cursing in public, defying rule of law and institutional boundaries, all to support their personal passions for the red-white-and-blue, does not speak well for the future of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness in any country, and ours will be no exception.
Violence? Theft? Cursing? Defiance of authority? False witness? According to traditional interpretations, the actions of these military men violate more than half of the Ten Commandments.
Ask yourself, conservative Christian: how many more of God’s Commandments are you willing to trample to express your misguided, uninformed, and emotional nationalism?
(For those of you who will assume differently: I don’t think flag-burnings or upside-down flags are necessarily helpful in many circumstances, and would not in the vast majority of normal circumstances ever engage in it myself, or support those who do. I have nuanced thoughts on the matter, however, and may publish them some day when fully developed.)
In an interview on Newsmax.tv’s Steve Malzberg show, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert appealed to dispensational theologian Joel Rosenberg, citing Bible prophecy as reason to support modern-day Israel.
On the one hand, it is heartening to see a Congressman openly and honestly cite his convictions based upon Scripture.
On the other hand, if the interpretation and application are wrong, all manner of evil can result—i.e., interventionism, wars, and neoconservativism.
This administration has been twisting arms in ways that we don’t hear about publicly. The pressure on Israel. . . . Since I do believe the Bible, and my friend Joel Rosenberg points out in Joel that those nations that divide Israel are going to be judged and it isn’t going to be pretty—I hate to be the country that betrays Israel, that demands that they give up land that had been given to them. I think we’re in real trouble with the pressure this administration is doing.
Several things are at issue here. Let’s address one of main ones: the timing and application of the prophecy of Joel.
Gohmert is making reference here to Joel 3:2–3:
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.
Mr. Gohmert (following Rosenberg) thinks this pertains to nations today (including the U.S.), to modern-day ethno-geographic Israel, and to some great judgment event in our own future.
(See Rosenberg’s exposition of Joel 3 here. The following criticism is equally of his views as it is of Gohmert’s.)
But there are problems with this view. There are some time-indicators for which interpreters must account. Joel chapter 3 is seamlessly connected with chapter 2, going back to at least verse 28 (remember, chapter divisions are modern inventions—not inspired). Joel 2:28 begins, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. . . .” There is no break in the prophecy from there on to the end of the whole book of Joel. In fact, Joel 3:1 begins by tying directly to the same time: “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations. . . .” (Joel 3:1–2).
The point is this: for whatever is prophesied to happen in Joel 3, we have strong indication that it will take place in the same days and at the same time as what was prophesied to happen in Joel 2:28–32.
And here is the fact that makes Gohmert/Rosernberg’s application strained (nearly impossible I should say): the Apostle Peter says that Joel 2:28–31 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, way back in the first century:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. . . .’” (Acts 2:14–17).
The interpreters of the judgment of the nations for the “dividing” of Israel prophesied in Joel 3 must acknowledge that it is tied to the same “those days and at that time” as the Joel 2 which Peter says was fulfilled in the first century.
Rosenberg specifically notes the phrase “in those days and at that time” and specifically asks, “What time?” He makes no mention at all of Peter in Acts 2, and instead claims this time will be “The time of the physical, literal, actual Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . The end of human history as we have known it and the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem.”
That’s not what Peter said.
Nor is it what Paul said. He ties the prophecy to his days as well. In Romans 10:13, he directly quotes Joel 2:32:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls (Joel 2:32).
Again, the interpreters of Joel 3 must deal with the fact that it is tied to Joel 2 in regard to time, and that Paul here applies it in his time, the first century.
So the prophecy of judgment pertained to that generation, as Peter’s and Paul’s words show. The prophecy to which Gohmert refers was fulfilled in the generation of the first century. The great judgment of which it speaks pertained to first-century unbelieving Israel, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Those who “escaped,” who “called upon the Lord” (Joel 2:32), were the remnant that became the foundations of true Israel—the body of Christ, the New Testament ekklesia, or what we call, perhaps unfortunately, “the church.”
When we let Scripture interpret Scripture, it sometimes forces us to adjust our understanding of terms, timings, and passages. In this case, we are forced to see the fulfillment of the Joel 3 judgment in the first century. A more thorough review of these passages would also make clear a better understanding of Israel as well.
In the end, whether Obama’s foreign policy is good or not (it is not, but Gohmert’s is not much better), there is no reason to attach special significance to modern ethno-geographic Israel. It is a product of pagan Zionism and is no less pagan than the Arab nations surrounding it. Until it is converted to Christ by grace through faith, it will have no part in the kingdom of God. Any modern “divisions” of the land are no more significant than any other boundary dispute or real estate transaction.
He who hath an ear—including Presidents and Congressmen—let him hear.
There’s a new study out that is giving the impression to some people that the loss of religion is the result of the Internet. The UK Daily Mail article does not make a causal relationship, but some Christian sites give the impression that it does. Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, “is careful to note that his research has revealed a correlation and not a causation. A relationship between the rise of the Internet and the drop in religion exists, but one is not directly responsible for the other.”
There are many causes for a loss of religious belief. I’ve listed and commented on three of them.
First, prosperity without acknowledging who made it possible for us to be prosperous is a key factor. Christianity made the West possible and prosperous. Three books that defend this claim are Rodney Stark’s How the West Won, Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, and Alvin J. Schmidt’s Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization.
Failure to acknowledge who made us prosperous is an old sin, as this warning to Israel shows:
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deut. 8).
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon learned this lesson the hard way even after he had declared the following: “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. ‘How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation’” (Dan. 4:1-2).
It wasn’t long before he forgot the source of his blessings and fell into the sin that God had warned about in the book of Deuteronomy:
The king reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (vv. 30-32).
We become prosperous by God’s blessing, then we think that we can do it all on our own. It’s a common problem. Presently, we are living off of borrowed moral capital.
Second, Christians have been taught a form of cultural irrelevancy, that the world (that God created) isn’t important. Their experience tells them otherwise.
Many young Christians hear from the pulpit that Christianity only requires a personal, private faith. Os Guinness described this as “The Private-Zoo Factor,”(1) a religion that is caged so that it loses its wildness. When true Christianity is applied to any part of the world, it blossoms far more fully and colorfully than we ever could imagine.
Over time, Christianity ceased to be a comprehensive, world-changing religion. “Where religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or ‘committed’ the individual may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit.”(2)
Theodore Roszak used an apt phrase to describe much of modern-day Christendom: “Socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.”(3)
It wasn’t always this way. James Davidson Hunter has written, “Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world.”(4) And they did.
Young people aren’t being challenged with such a call. They have to leave the church to find a world-changing religion that worships the world.
Third, many in today’s church teach a form of eschatological pessimism that cannot be overcome. If there’s peace and prosperity, the antichrist must be alive somewhere in the world today and we’re living in the last days. This was the theme of Dave Hunt’s 1983 book Peace Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust and his 1990 Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist.
On the other hand, if there are “wars and rumors of wars,” these, too, are signs that we are living in the last days. If Christians take the gospel to the world and promote peace and oppose war, are they promoting the antichrist’s agenda? So no matter what Christian do, they are contributing to an end-time delusion. Despair is the operating word.
William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of prominent Christian philosopher and apologist Francis A. Schaeffer (1912–1984):
I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.(5)
Edgar speculates, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s end-time view that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, did not call for cultural transformation but civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline.
The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society. . . . The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you “can’t fight something with nothing,” but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.(6)
Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:
“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology . . . that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need. . . . The response of the (student) . . . reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.(7)
Eschatological ideas have consequences. A world always on the precipice of some great and inevitable apocalyptic event is not in need of redemption but only of escape. As one end-time speculator put it, “the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment.”
Who wants to sail on a ship piloted by people who believe it’s going to sink? I’d jump ship, too.Endnotes:
- Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 79.
- Guinness, The Gravedigger File, 72.
- Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 449.
- C. Peter Wagner, Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2008), 40, 41.
- William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.
- Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127–128. Emphasis in original.
- Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), in his official capacity, publish an overt outcry against statism on his church’s blog. The article, “Tired of Hobby Lobby?,” warned Lutherans not to be weary of this important battle: our country was founded on inalienable rights, including freedom of worship, “And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.”
But I have to wonder, considering the nature of the political problem, and the long time that such an outcry has been in coming, is it not a little too late on the part of our “two kingdom” brethren? And is it not a little selective to speak up on just this issue?
Let me outline the problem. The blog is upset with the Obama administration’s stubborn imposition of ObamaCare’s “contraceptive mandate” which “requires employers to provide a full range of 20 FDA-approved contraceptive devices, drugs and services . . . . with the ability to prevent implantation of an embryo – in other words, the ability to end a human life. Catholics, Lutherans, and many other Americans find these drugs morally reprehensible.”
It remarks, “Today, our federal government threatens that right, consistently refusing to protect religious liberty as our Constitution and the laws of nature demand,” and “the government has started dictating the boundaries of religious beliefs.” It concludes, “To prevent individuals from following the dictates of their consciences is an abuse of power and a gross infringement on human dignity.”
Now with all of this I agree (although I would probably demur a bit with the use of “laws of nature”). My problem is certainly not with opposing ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate, nor with upholding the rights of Christians in opposition to it.
My problem is that there has been no similar outcry on numerous other issues that, while they may appear different, are no different in principle.
Where is the church’s outcry against those forced to pay property (or other) taxes for government schools they deem immoral, subversive, and against their conscience?
Where is the outcry against coercive taxation in general? What about the redistribution of wealth (i.e. facilitated robbery) inherent in every government welfare program? What about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and other government-mandated social insurances?
Where is the outcry against tax-funded and debt-funded standing armies?
Where is the outcry against fiat money, fractional reserve banking, deficits and national debts?
Where are the church’s position papers on all these issues and more, in the name of protecting religious liberty and conscience?
One response may be that the issue of life is fundamentally different. This is not merely about rendering unto Caesar; this is Caesar crossing a line.
While there is a slight difference in the topic, or in the nature of the ethical infraction, there really is no difference in principle. The government is violating our religious liberty and conscience. Whether the issue of conscience is life and murder, or whether it is theft, violence, adultery, sexual immorality and robbery should not matter in general.
And a Christian should easily be able to see that these ethical issues and more are represented in the other areas I listed. Sure, the contraceptive mandate would force Christians to fund immoral behaviors of other people. But how is that any difference in principle from all of those other areas in regard to a whole host of other immoral behaviors?
All of these Christian businesses and many religious organizations, universities, etc., already fund all manner of other immoral behaviors through various government programs, and there is hardly a peep.
Technically any government contribution through any welfare program can be said to fund immorality in this way. Even if said funds are designated for specific things only, such as food, the contribution frees up other resources to be used in ways they might not have been before. Whether direct or indirect, this is the funding of immoral behavior against conscience.
This is how Planned Parenthood has continued to receive federal funds for years: technically they receive funds for services other than abortions (it would be against the law for the government to fund abortions directly), but the influx of cash frees up PP to designate their other resources for that purpose.
All funds are fungible. The moment the government is in the business of redistributing wealth from people of conscience to people who will use fungible assets for immoral purposes—any immoral purpose—at the point, the whole body of Christ should be in an outcry.
But it is not. And it has rarely been. It takes something so overt and unpopular among Christians before we finally, finally get one branch of the church to speak out on a political issue.
Where it not for the fact that the life issue can never be regarded as so small, I would say we’re straining at a gnat after having swallowed a camel. But we’re not. Instead, we’re straining at one camel and swallowing a whole caravan of others.
It’s time for churches and Christians to get consistent. Either oppose government mandated evil across the board, or don’t pretend to be relevant to the latest issue.
What’s the big deal with recent events in the Ukraine? Most Americans don’t care. They know something is brewing in Eastern Europe and their ears perk up a bit when they hear the name Russia, but in general they are relatively uninformed and generally apathetic. If they do know something about the situation, they don’t want the US to pick sides or get too involved. One journalist states,
Russia’s acquisition of Crimea from Ukraine has riveted world attention on Eastern Europe. The United States and Western Europe have denounced the Crimean plebiscite for union with Russia as tainted with intimidation. In the meantime, Russian forces are poised to invade the rest of Ukraine. The United States has promised to economically punish Russia for its aggression. But it would be better for America to remain neutral.
Between the Ukraine’s “weaker” status, the Budapest Memorandum, and the United Nations Charter, many believe that the US has some responsibility in the situation. That said, even with tens of thousands of Russian troops poised on the border of their small neighbor, only 8% of the American public believes that military options should be considered.
So what should Christians make of all of this? Well, first let’s briefly fill in a few blanks for those that are not as familiar with the past history and current tension between the two countries.
A struggle for Ukrainian independence is no new story in the region. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the first time in at least three centuries that the Ukraine had been ruled an independent and sovereign state. The latest antics by their adjacent neighbor are not surprising and many would argue that Russia has never viewed the Ukraine’s border as legitimate. Between the long history, the country’s rich natural resources and current array of natural gas pipelines, political and economic tensions would be expected in the region.
Not long after the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, the Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons stockpile and in doing so was granted security assurances from the United States, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, China and France. These assurances were against any threat regarding their independence or territorial integrity.
The latest actions on the part of Russia are seen as a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty as well as a breach of international law. An independent Ukraine had a president with Russian sympathies and things came to a head when he was deposed and had to seek refuge in Russia. Tensions skyrocketed as Russian troops hit the ground in Crimea.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been in crisis since the Ukrainian parliament deposed Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and Russia seized control of the Crimea region from Ukraine before annexing it on March 21.
Such an annexation or incorporation of a Ukrainian territory into Russia was a move that caught the world’s attention. There is no doubt that economics lies behind the scenes as it always does. The Ukraine’s alleged theft of Russian natural gas as well as Russia’s coveting control of the pipelines themselves would be enough, but there is even more to the story. The ambitions of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin play a role as well.
This is the man who described the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest geo-political disaster of the last century. This is also the man who was willing to spend upwards of $50 billion on the Sochi Olympics. The thought is linked to the act. Putin saw the Games as a signal to the world that Russia, as Mao Zedong said of his country, has again “stood up.”
Europe’s talk of sanctions and mediation is almost certainly wasted. The retaking of Crimea by the Russian bear is another signal that Moscow has stood up…The restoration of Russia as a great power is the goal, however costly it may be in the short term.
With the long history, economic tensions and imperialist ambitions present, it is no wonder that NATO is scrambling to prepare for Russian aggression and Western onlookers are watching. But this brings me back to the beginning of the article. Most American’s don’t really care. Should we care? What should we care about?
Perhaps let’s go back to the original question. What’s the big deal? When we look at these political conflicts (which exist worldwide) we as Christians are not much different than the rest of the general population. Put simply, we lack a reference point or standard against which to view foreign policy. As spectators, we look around the globe and though we may not know all of the history and details surrounding any particular conflict, we at least know we want peace. But we have to ask ourselves, where does peace originate? We know the answer. God is the God of peace (Hebrews 13:20). There is no peace without him. To the extent that any country abides by the Word of the God of peace, they will experience peace themselves.
There can be no lasting peace outside of the rule of Jesus Christ. This applies to individuals, families, and it applies to nations. Public peace is achieved only as Christ’s visible rule is extended. How is his visible rule extended? Through covenant.
Men in covenant with Christ represent him in every area of life and thereby extend Christ’s rule. As other men come into covenant with Christ and – through the power of the Holy Spirit – live according to its terms, Christ’s covenant boundary is extended in history. Not only are individuals consigned to Christ and place under his authority, but families are as well. Nations can also make covenant with the God of the Bible. They cannot escape representing either God or Satan. Neutrality is not an option. In God’s grace they can acknowledge the Trinitarian God as supreme authority and source of all law. Through a hierarchy or representative government, they can then govern according to that law and carry out scriptural sanctions. Civil government is a God-ordained covenant institution. Understanding this begins to lift the fog off the topic of biblical foreign policy.
Nations in covenant with God should live according to the Word of God. Where they fail to do so, they should repent and redirect. These Christian nations should not enter into covenant with non-Christian nations, although there is biblical warrant for temporary alliances (Gen. 14:13). As a nation lives according to the Word of God, blessings and influence follow. A “city on a hill” emerges and becomes a witness to the faithfulness of the one true God. The generation of capital (one aspect of blessing) funds missionary efforts in other nations. A Christian bully-state, evidenced in military bases strewn across the globe, is a misuse of God’s blessings. As long as sin exists in the world there will be war, a need for defense, and Biblical warrant to take up arms and fight. That said, outside-in, top-down, moral transformation by force is not a biblical strategy for success. This, after all is a perversion that results when the state begins to operate outside of its God-given jurisdiction.
This is the reason why an understanding of covenant is so important. Although nations can make covenant with God, the church covenant transcends national boundaries and marks out the people of God in history. This covenant is renewed every time God’s people from all nations assemble around his table at the Lord’s Supper. The covenant keepers, through the power of the Holy Spirit, move throughout each week and conduct their families, businesses and other efforts according to the terms of the covenant – the Word of God. This has national and international implications.
When we look at nations such as the Ukraine or Russia we should be encouraged. The gospel is currently flourishing there like never before. When we think of taking action amidst these circumstances our minds should not immediately begin weighing whether or not we will back military force. Our action should be centered on prayer, evangelism in those countries and extending Christ’s rule within our own sphere of influence. Empires seek to bring about peace or just extend their rule through force. Empires eventually run out of money during the process. This is by the Creator’s design. The Holy Spirit never runs out of power. As people throughout any nation are evangelized, baptized and taught Christ’s commands, peace begins to spread. This is the leavening process described in scripture. This is the extension of God’s family through covenant adoption. I discuss this process in my recent book, Baptism is Not Enough: How Understanding God’s Covenant Explains Everything.
As men are changed individually to be like Christ they make decisions differently. These decisions are not limited but complete in scope. They may not make decisions consistent with their conversion but if consistent, these decisions and the decisions of those around them who conform to God’s standard (wheat or tares) shape all of life around them. We are back to a visible extension of Christ’s rule.
This is a representative view of the kingdom of God. Progressively in history Christ works representatively through his people to establish his rule over every area of his creation. Then, in a final judgment at his second coming at the end of time he ushers in eternity. What was accomplished definitively at the cross is being manifested progressively in history and will one day be finally complete.(1)
There is no shortcut to the extension of peace in any society. As we continue to watch things play out on the borders of Russia and the Ukraine, we need to look through the lenses of God’s Word.
- John Crawford, Baptism is not Enough: How Understanding God’s Covenant Explains Everything (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2013), 129.
A friend just sent me a link to a recent podcast from Brannon Howse on the subject, “Should Christians be for or against the criminalization of homosexuality?” Howse called the issue a “legitimate moral dilemma” for Christians. In doing so, he dismissed any validity of Mosaic Law—and that dismissal is where the real moral dilemmas begin to appear. Reject Mosaic Law in the civil realm and you are left with human autonomy. Howse’s episode, an interview with guest pastor Jesse Johnson, illustrates the problems perfectly.
One of the major problems is that some people immediately quit speaking specifically in terms of what Scripture teaches, and start adopting dialogue and terminology that reflects malinformed secularists. For example, nowhere does Scripture, Mosaic Law or not, advocated criminalizing “homosexuality”? It says no such thing. That is the scare tactic terminology used by leftists, not Scripture. Yet it is also the only terminology employed by Howse and Johnson throughout their discussion.
The Mosaic crime was not homosexuality per se, but the act of sodomy itself. That is a whole world of difference, just like the lust for another woman a man may have in his heart is completely different in the view of civil law that the physical act of adultery. These are all sins, to be sure, but not civil crimes. Scripturally speaking, crime is a subset of sin which carries the additional civil punishment which sin alone does not.(1)
And this is doubly confusing because Howse and Johnson frequently appeal to a distinction between sin as sin, and crime. But their distinction is only maintained institutionally: sin is what the church deals with, and crime is what the state deals with. The state should not be in the business of punishing sins in general.
Johnson argues that we should fear when governments make certain moral behaviors illegal. We should accept certain physical assaults like murder, rape, or robbery as properly illegal; but we should not do so with certain immoral behaviors. There is this distinction between sins and crimes.
This makes no sense of the fact that many of these crimes the state punishes are indeed sins: murder, rape, robbery, thefts of all kinds, fraud, battery, defamation, and much more.
And that is the central issue at the heart of this anti-Mosaic Law discussion: what is the source of civil Law and civil sanctions? Is it God? If not, then it can only be man’s imaginations, emotions, reasonings, revenge, etc. It is man’s law versus God’s law.
And in so many words, this is exactly where Howse and Johnson end up. Johnson says that criminal law and homosexuality is a “tricky question in a democracy.” See the humanistic element creeping in there? Later he says bluntly that criminal law arises “from society’s perspective” and later, based on “national consensus.” He ends up arguing explicitly, “We don’t want a government that advances a Christian agenda.”
Howse makes very similar caveats to whether or not biblical laws can be instituted as criminal laws: “It depends on: why are you doing it, for what purpose are you doing it, how are you doing it, where are you doing it? What nations are doing it? What other things are they allowing while they criminalize homosexuality? Should adultery be a criminal act?”
The installment of a biblical law must therefore rest on many non-biblical factors before it can be warranted as a legitimate law, in their view.
They properly argue that governments are ordained by God to check evil. But they have no biblical categorization of what is and what is not punishable as evil by that government. Evil and its punishments are left to be defined by man. In other words, God’s government, but not God’s Law.
This is how Howse and Johnson treat the homosexuality issue. Criminalizing homosexuality may be OK in some nations, for example in certain nations in Africa, because it is justified in stopping the spread of aids. In such cases, where man can explain some good social reason or purpose, then the government can step in. But not because any given Law is simply a biblical law.
Johnson argues that a pure biblical standard could lead to persecution of Christians: criminalizing something Scripture calls merely morally repugnant is a mindset often turned back and used against Christians. He says that usually it is “baptistic” Christians, those who “believe in separation of church and state,” and “that you’re not born into the church,” who are the first to be persecuted.
He appeals to an article by Russell Moore on the topic, with which he agrees in this part. Moore wrote,
As Baptist Christians, our own history has shown us what injustice can happen when a state applies the Old Testament Mosaic code—a code designed to mark out the nation of Israel in redemptive history until the coming of Israel’s Messiah—to the civil state. Our ancestors were whipped, beaten, and exiled from Old England and from New England for refusing to sprinkle infants or to pay taxes for Anglican preaching. We ought then to be, of all groups, in support of limiting the power of government to see itself as a theological broker.
There is much conflation of nonsense in this paragraph. Yes, “Baptist” Christians did suffer persecution (they inflicted a bit, too), but not at the hands of Mosaic code. Baptism laws, being a New Testament principle, were hardly the result of appeals to Old Testament texts. So the “sprinkling” reference does not seem right. And “Anglican” doctrine explicitly rejects the need for Mosaic civil laws. Article VII of the Articles of Religion rejects both ceremonial and civil aspects of the Law as binding:
the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth.
So, technically, the Anglican Articles of Religion hold the exact same doctrine of civil law as Howse and Johnson. Certain Mosiac Laws could be useful here and there, but they are not necessary and not binding. Certainly, their utility must be justified by some standard other than the mere fact that they are God’s Laws.
So Moore is off base in regard to Mosaic Code, and Howse and Johnson are just as off base for agreeing with him.
And the truth is, this is exactly Luther’s “two kingdom” view of Mosaic Law as well. Melanchthon followed him: “It is in the power of the judge to use or not to use the Mosaic law.”(2) Yet while this freedom existed for magistrates, the idea of Mosaic Law being imposed of necessity Melanchthon called “insane” (Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article XVI).
Then in 1530, when helping rewrite the civil code, Melanchthon moved to define Anabaptism as heresy and begin punishing re-baptizers as heretics with the civil sword. Where did he turn to find legal precedent? The Old Testament? Mosaic Law? Nope. He turned to “society”—the Code of Justinian, Roman civil law, which put to death anyone rebaptizing after the Donatist controversy. Melanchthon’s persecutions of “Baptists” had no element of Moses in it, but a lot to the contrary of it.
Had he stuck strictly to Mosaic Law, he would not have had such a tyrannical tool at his disposal. Baptists would have lived much more in peace.
Again, this is the heart of the problem. Accepting God’s ordination of civil government does little good if you leave the codification of law up to man. Human autonomy leads to tyranny: either mobocracy and chaos, or dictatorship and centralization.
Rejecting Mosaic Law, the best guys like this can do is appeal to vague notions of “peace” and “public good”—all of which are then left once again to be defined by man. Johnson appeals,
The Scriptural principle here is that government was designed by God after the flood to check evil and suppress evil; and, the government that allows the maximum of individual freedom and religious freedom for the spread of the gospel, while simultaneously keeping the peace and checking evil is the best form of government. You see that not just in Genesis 9, you see that in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 2, that we pray for kings and all that are in authority so that we can lead quiet and peaceful lives.
But it then becomes an argument what “peace” is and what “evil” is. The rejecters of Moses need some other standard to look objective and biblical to their listeners while at the same time not taking any firm stand in the civil arena in the name of God.
Johnson thinks “common grace” gives good foundations. Due to the foundational nature of marriage in being a “common grace” measure to protect the defenseless, the government has a strong and compelling interest in preserving traditional marriage. Thus, both adultery and homosexual marriage ought to be illegal. “But that’s a different question altogether from whether homosexuality ought to be illegal,” he says.
“I am not sure that in an American setting that homosexuality rises to the threshold where you would say the government has a strong interest to make it illegal, even though it’s immoral.”
House admits, “We’re jumping between the theological and the civil government arena, which is why this becomes a moral dilemma for Christians.”
Johnson follows the divide: “We don’t want a government that advances a Christian agenda. We want a government that advances a freedom agenda.”
So there is “freedom” outside of the Christian worldview? That’s what the liberals and atheists keep telling us, but should we expect to hear that out of the mouths of Christian leaders? Jesus didn’t think so (John 8:31–36). The moral dilemmas seem to be mounting.
The logic of the Howse-Johnson settlement is that we would be disallowed from implementing a biblical law as a criminal law if our only reason is that it is biblical. Yet we would perfectly free to implement such law as long as we can find some explicitly non-biblical reason in society to justify it as for “the common good,” or the interest of the government, etc. In the Howse-Johnson rule, the non-biblical ends up trumping the biblical. Just as I said: human autonomy reigns.
By the same token, however, that standard justifies the creation of countless non-biblical laws.
This becomes explicit when Howse begins to make up his own rules based on his own standards. He argues, “I lean toward the idea that someone that molests a child, a child pedophile, should certainly be incarcerated for life, but I lean toward the fact that there should be execution.”
He later returns to this even more explicitly: “I think that anyone caught in molesting a child, raping a child, should automatically receive the death penalty.”
Johnson agrees, “You could make the argument that that’s a crime that’s so extreme that that’s what it mandates. I would agree with that as well.”
Then Howse adds, “I would add rape to it—if somebody rapes a woman. I would put that in the same category as well.”
But even Old Testament Law was not this harsh. Rapists could receive the death penalty if the woman was betrothed or married, or if he himself was married and therefore committing adultery also; but there was no death penalty where marriage was not involved. In that instance, a just financial penalty was agreed upon by the father, or the girl could marry the offender with the privilege of him not being granted any possibility of divorcing her.
Now, there is some explaining that needs to be done in regard to the modern attitude towards some of those stipulations, agreed. But that in no way means that we should toss them aside and start executing whomever we desire, as our own cultural and emotional values drive us.
In fact, one of the great checks God puts on government is by prescribing penalties in such instances that our emotions would drive us to impose a penalty above and beyond the crime. In this way, God’s Law extends mercy to mankind.
But Howse has no such checks. He would execute people God would not, and not execute those whom God would. In the end, it’s Howse’s and Johnson’s standards, and not God’s. Where God’s Law stops, they march on ahead with the sword. Like all rebels against God in whatever area of life they are rebelling: they want to replace God. They are more just than God, when they think He is not just enough. They are more merciful than God when they think He is not merciful enough.
And thus, we are right back to human autonomy. Man has unseated God from His throne in the area of civil penal sanctions.
But just when they set this standard, they have to fall back and accept it when liberals and atheists hijack it, and turn society into a downhill slope to Gomorrah. So because abortion remains legal while petty crimes receive undue punishments, Howse argues that the entire legal system is “corrupt” and really “has no moral authority anymore.”
Johnson says, “Totally agree.”
But even if he has some lament in his tone as he admits laws like abortion were legalized by the Supreme Court because of the alleged absence of “national consensus,” he has no judicial answer against it. “We become de-evolutionists,” he says, in the civil realm, because as society declines, legal standards decline with it, and the Christian must accept that.
He says, “National consensus of course is going to grow, and grow, and grow, where things that once were illegal will become legal,” and likewise penalties for crimes like rape and murder are diminished over time.
They do not recognize they are in a vicious cycle caused by their own doctrine of civil law unhinged from biblical law.
And thus when it comes to overt discussion of Mosaic Law, they follow Moore above and dismiss it almost flippantly.
Howse notes, “If some of these folks are not careful with their eschatology, their theology, some of them being that they believe in replacement theology—that the church has now replaced Israel—some of them want to go back to Mosaic Law.”
Why not? They are ready with a series of answers that would make one think theonomists have not spent the last forty years flooding the market with books explaining the nature of Mosaic Law for modern times. It truly is mind-boggling, and returns me to the same old critique: if these guys have not read us, why do they keep addressing our position without reading uso? If they have read us, why do they keep missing the point and misrepresenting us so badly?
Howse makes it clear that he is speaking of groups like “New Apostolic Reformation.” But his argument applies in general: “if they carry this all the way back, you go back to full Mosaic law, that’s not where we want to go as Christians.” And why not? Because, Mosaic Law calls for the death penalty for adulterers and acts of sodomy—a circular critique if ever one was.
(And didn’t he just argue in favor of the death penalty for child molesters and rapists?)
Johnson’s response digs deep in the bag of anti-Mosaic fallacies:
A return to Mosaic Law is just not compatible with the New Testament. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the church exists outside of Mosaic Law. You know, Peter is supposed to rise and kill whatever he wants. They argue through in Act 15 and land on the point that, you know, Moses is read in the synagogues on Saturdays, you know, you don’t need Christians underneath the Mosaic Law. The gospel is going to advance outside of Israel. Putting the church under Mosaic Law might work if the gospel stayed in Jerusalem in the upper room, but it didn’t. It went to Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth. The Mosaic Law doesn’t bind the people in those countries. Even if you get Mosaic Law to bind everybody in your church, you have kids, you have people that are growing up that don’t know the Lord and they need to taught the Lord and they need to be converted and the gospel has to take root in their hearts. The Mosaic Law does not help that.
Most of these arguments are in regard to ceremonial laws, which all theonomists agree have been fulfilled in Christ and apply no longer to society. But to think this applies in blanket fashion to all the Law, civil and moral alike (or however we desire to classify them) misses too much of Scripture.
The Law does not apply outside of Israel? I am sure Ninevah would disagree with that, as would all other nations that God judges for their immorality: Egypt, Edom, the Canaanites, and many more. There were obviously parts of the Law which crossed boundaries, even if the ceremonial, or priestly, aspects did not.
Mosaic Law does not apply in New Testament times? Then why did Paul appeal to Mosaic Case Law as authority that ministers should be paid (1 Cor. 9:8–9)? “Thus saith the law.”
Why is the New Covenant itself not described as the removal and inapplicability of the Law, but rather as, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Heb. 8:10). What Laws? Obviously not priestly/ceremonial (Heb. 7:12), but it is nevertheless God’s Law.
Indeed, the Law abides as good in the New Testament if one uses it lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8-11). And note how Paul describes “the Law” in that passage: for example, “those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” These are all categories taken specifically from Mosaic Law, and primarily civil as opposed to priestly or merely moral aspects.
The gospel is going to advance outside of Israel. Sure. But what shall be the standard of all of life? Isaiah tells us: “For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). Even if you’re a dispensationalist and believe this Isaiah 2 ideal will not be fulfilled until a future millennium or afterward, you at least have to admit that the “mountain of the house of the Lord” will be administering “the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” which shall “judge between the nations” (Isa. 2:1–4). That means the Law shall rule in New Testament times, or as the culmination of New Testament times. Thus, it should be the ideal we have in view already.
So much is made clearer when we simply accept the standards God gives in His Law, including the abiding, cross-boundary standards revealed in Mosaic Code.
Instead, modern Christians reject the Law, ridicule it, and make up their own laws. They think we are more just than God, and yet more merciful than God. They call Moses harsh and outdated when He prescribes death penalties they would not; and yet they puff chests in macho self-approval as they condemn certain criminals, even to death, in way God’s law did not.
They take away the moral authority of the only objective standard of criminal punishment God has ever revealed; and then they complain that our modern criminal justice system is corrupt and lacking in moral authority. Guys, you’ve sawn off the very limb on which you desire to sit, and then complained because somebody sawed it off. What gives?
In answer to Howse’s original question of whether we should support the criminalization of homosexuality, I say, “Of course not, because that’s not what Mosaic Law says to do.” My suggestion for Howse and Johnson would be actually to read some theonomic books and commentaries, and to sit down and write an outline of the Pentateuch with criminal sanctions highlighted. You might start to see exactly how our modern legal system is corrupt, and why it has no moral authority.
You might also start to understand the failures of the pulpits who have let it get that way.Endnotes:
- In our society in which criminal and civil law have grown far beyond biblical standards, there are many things which may be considered “crimes” which are also not necessarily sins.
- Loci Communes, in Pauck, Wilhelm (ed), Pauck, Wilhelm & Satre, Lowell J (trans) Melanchthon and Bucer, in The Library of Christian Classics 19 ( Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), p. 128.
Spring is already upon us, and our Lord revives His creation once again. As life springs afresh everywhere we look, many new and great things are happening at American Vision as well. We thank you for your generous support in all we continue to do, and hope you take this fresh opportunity to consider all that we plan and produce for the advance of the kingdom of God. One major continuing project is our Worldview Study Bible. While there are many “study” Bibles on the market today, none promise to bring a comprehensive biblical worldview to every aspect of life, and to make it available to the fingertips of every Christian like the American Vision Worldview Study Bible. Above and beyond every effort to date, this highly ambitious electronic resource is well under way.
I am well underway and working towards the completion of—at least—one full set of notes for the Pentateuch complete and downloadable by Summer 2014. In addition to the “raw material,” we have partnered with a major electronic Bible resource ministry, which will make our Worldview Study Bible accessible to millions of Christians at the touch of a button.
Your help in supporting this effort could expand American Vision’s unique contribution of a full-orbed, biblical worldview ministry far beyond what even we originally conceived. It could eventually put our efforts in the hands of millions of Christians, and Christian leaders, throughout the world—in pulpits, seminaries, ministries, and even the remotest missions.
But we have not been a one-track ministry—hardly! Supporting our leading role in promoting biblical worldview perspectives in this major project, we remain at the forefront of daily publication engaging classic theological issues and timely news trends alike. For example, my latest publication Noah: The True Story, provides strong biblical witness in the midst of the confusion created by Hollywood filmmakers and Christian doomsday prophets alike. This account brings a powerful realistic perspective, a mirror for our time, and most importantly, the hope for which Noah’s story ultimately stands.
Our daily influence continues steadily to grow in web presence and social media, bringing some of the most hard-hitting, biblical perspectives available.
What has really been inspiring is the response to our recent publication of my worldview sermons on 1 Samuel—In the Midst of Your Enemies. It has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. In a world with few examples of exegetical and practical applications of the historical books, this unique commentary stands as a powerful example to spur preachers and leaders once again to address issues ranging beyond personal piety to gun control and national greatness, and the dangers of tyranny and imperial policy.
As supporters seize this opportunity to bring the power of God’s Word to bear more fully in evangelical circles, we pray to realize the results of a fuller biblical worldview in every pulpit in America.
Toward this goal, we want to provide you with an autographed copy for your gift of $100 or more into a “buy a copy for your pastor” program. So, for your gift of $100 or more, we will send you an autographed copy of 1 Samuel as well as a FREE second copy for you to give to your pastor or church leader and a digital copy for you to share!
And we are so confident in the need for these materials that we are willing to extend our work into a whole new visionary offer as well. Restoring America One County at a Time has met such a niche among American Christian patriots that we feel it is time to take it to the streets:
For your designated gift of $100, we will send a copy of Restoring America to your County Sheriff! That’s right; we want this vision of biblical worldview implemented at the local level in every single one of America’s 3,000+ counties. With your contribution, we can place that vision on the desk of every single Sheriff in the nation.
Yet even this is not all. American Vision continues to produce content to challenge contemporary “last days madness,” to combat atheism and secularism in high places, and to uphold biblical ethics for every area of life. Our president, Gary DeMar currently has several books in the works on these topics.
And don’t forget our latest theological effort, Baptism Is Not Enough, by John Crawford. Unlike most Christian books or videos, Crawford lays out a comprehensive view of covenant and the way we should think covenantally as Christians—in family, church, and state.
We pray you consider helping to support the most comprehensive, biblical worldview ministry there is. Whether pioneering ways to spread the full message of Scripture for every area of life, continuing steadfast in others, or meeting the deepest needs for which our compromise-weary body of Christ hungers, American Vision has the answers.
There is no need for despair—unless we fail in our responsibility to raise godly children on godly principles. But with your support, we not only can rise above despair, but create a blueprint by which others can do the same.
Please consider supporting American Vision as we work tirelessly to achieve the high goals we have set, fight the follies of leftists and establishment alike, and seek to implement a biblical worldview for all of life. We support you and your liberty. Please consider supporting us as we tear down the strongholds of our era together.
The recent controversy at World Vision over its policy towards homosexual so-called marriages caused many ripples in the evangelical world. I will tell you in a minute why the so-called controversy is misunderstood; for now, I want to highlight one of those ripples for which I am most heartily thankful: the quick recapitulation by World Vision rocked Rachel Held Evans’s world, and sent her stumbling across the divide of a genuine crisis of faith.
As a result, she is very close to discovering her true identity.
In her reactionary blog post, “What Now?,” she writes:
Twenty minutes after World Vision announced that in response to financial pressure from evangelicals it would reverse its decision to employ Christians in same-sex relationships, I climbed into the giant SUV of a Baptist minister, where bags of Chick-fil-A were waiting to be consumed by a group of hungry college students, and cried.
We might have expected her to cry for any number of reasons; that’s not news. Her resolution, however, is:
I’m done fighting for a seat at the evangelical table, done trying to force that culture to change.
Now this is close to discovering her true identity. She has realized she doesn’t belong at the evangelical table.
That’s good. It was far too long in coming, but better late than never.
But her reasoning has still not quite reached the level of good therapy. So let me dialogue with her for a minute:
RHE: For many years, I felt that part of my call as a writer and blogger of faith was to be a different sort of evangelical, to advocate for things like gender equality, respect for LGBT people. . . .
JM: Rachel, that’s not “a different sort of evangelical.” That’s “a liberal.”
Doesn’t that just clear up so much?
She recognizes that “The response to World Vision revealed some major fault lines in the Church.” Yeah, they are fault lines that have been there for over a hundred years. Rachel just woke up and realized she’s standing on the wrong side of the line for what she’s been calling herself.
Now she finds herself standing in the “wilderness” and thinking she’s starting afresh. Rachel, you’ve been in the liberal wilderness the whole time.
Now she thinks she’ll start a new ministry, friendly to all people—a great big love tent with no labels and no divisions “where everyone is welcome.”
The problem is, and always has been, RHE wants the church on her liberal terms, suppressing the voices of conservative values, squashing God’s law in many places, and yet advancing the old liberal line of “diversity” and “tolerance.” It is anything but tolerant of those she disagrees with.
You see, when the conservative evangelical world bends RHE’s liberal way, she calls it “community”:
I want this community to be a place where the churched and un-churched, Republicans and Democrats, American citizens and people from around the world, can come together to dream big dreams for the future.
When it doesn’t bend that way, however—for example, like World Vision’s recent decision—she cries, pouts, and stomps out of the room in her own little Exodus.
Problem is, this is no real Exodus. She’s been wandering in that wilderness bearing the name of the chosen, but she rebels against Moses and promises to stay in the desert.
And she’s not alone. There are countless liberals filling the ranks of evangelicaldom. Some are conscious of the fact they’re liberals, others are not yet, some may never be. But Christians ought to be aware of the problem—and it is a big problem.
This is one reason there was such confusion and misunderstanding in the World Vision flap. It was not, as RHE and many others mistakenly claimed, “financial pressure from evangelicals” which forced the change of decision. A confidential inside source has told me that what really happened was that a small liberal faction in one corner of leadership tried to leverage the current political climate to pull a coup within the organization. They gained a lot of support immediately from the liberal media, and liberals like RHE shouting with glee, but the majority of the leadership reacted quickly, regained control, and squashed the coup.
It was internal pressure, not external as much, that righted World Vision.
Christians need to understand, and will probably hear shortly, that World Vision is a massive international organization with offices in over 100 countries and over 50,000 employees. The decision to support homosexual relationships did not come for World Vision as a whole, but only World Vision U.S., the US branch. And only a small fraction of those in leadership in that one branch pulled this stunt. They were out of line, they were wrong, and they got corrected.
And now they have outed themselves to the world as not evangelicals, but the liberals they are. And the great thing about it is that they smoked out Rachel Held Evans along with them. Let them rendezvous and enjoy they’re little party in the wilderness.
Now all that remains is for evangelicals to seize this opportunity. Grasp it, use it, manufacture more like it, and send every crypto-liberal running.
For the truth is, there are tons of them in high places: in publishing, in education, in higher education, and even in many pulpits and other leadership positions. You think you are keeping your evangelical kids in a safe evangelical environment by sending them to Wheaton? It’s filled with liberals—professors and bureaucrats. So is Grove City. So is Covenant. Think twice before taking that federal student aid, or dropping that $50k.
RHE became popular with the publication of her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. She would have done better service to the church by taking a year of biblical exegesis first, followed by a year or two of biblical ethics, systematics, church history. And then, not writing anything.
But we got the book, filled with hackneyed and snarky animadversions of biblical law. On this, her reputation was established.
A tag line for her book on her blogsite caught my eye. It speaks from the hip of a large section of the crypto-liberal evangelical world:
“The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Back in the mid-to-late 80s, Gary North launched a ten-book series aimed at distilling the teachings of biblical law down to laymen’s terms, so to speak, in ten major areas of life. It was called the Biblical Blueprints series. The point was to show that the Bible is indeed a Blueprint for all of life, every area of life, and that evangelicals could advance the kingdom rather than leaving the world to liberals and other miscreants.
Crossway at first agreed to publish the series, but never put it in writing. Then they backed out—cold feet over biblical law and “Christian Reconstructionists,” I assume.
Thomas Nelson picked up the series, but abandoned the project after four titles. North ended up publishing the whole series through the old ICE.
Everywhere, the series faced the same hurdle from the lips of skittish and compromised evangelicals: “The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Back in those days, Gary North debated Ron Sider over the biblical view of economics. What was Sider’s rebuttal? “The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Never mind the fact that Crossway then published its own series of biblical views of various topics.
Never mind the fact that Sider published his own books citing Bible over and over to support his liberal economic policies.
In 2011, Thomas Nelson was bought by the even more liberal HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch. A year later, Nelson published Rachel Held Evan’s attack on biblical law.
“The Bible is not a blueprint.”
It’s the same old story everywhere we go, and it’s the reason the conservative Christian world slowly moves liberal—led by publishers, pundits, and popular pulpits. They want to fit in with broader secular society. They want to be more compassionate than God’s law, more welcoming than God, and nicer than Jesus. They are liberals in sheep’s clothing.
I for one am grateful that at least one organization stood its ground, bucked some liberals, and sent one crypto-liberal into the light to reveal her true colors. I say it’s time we did it across the board.
Rachel’s bio on Amazon notes first-and-foremost that she is “from Dayton, Tennessee–home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.” This is obviously hoping to cash in on the liberal and anti-fundamentalist cache for which that trial is a bank. But here’s a note for you: a librarian from Dayton’s own Bryan College told me just the other day that the fundamentalist college’s library holds all the papers of H. L. Mencken.
For those who don’t know: Mencken was the atheist, Nietzschean journalist of the era who attended the Scopes trial and gave it is reputation.
Now who’s rolling in their grave?
Folks, in the end, the meek will inherit the earth—the earth. And no atheist, not liberal can say otherwise. The Christians win, and we will win here. And the Bible is your Blueprint for that victory.
Wherever she ends up, we can now accept Rachel’s new reality: she’s not an evangelical. Truth is, she’s a good old fashioned liberal. She hasn’t quite reached the plateau of self-awareness yet, but that plateau is in the wilderness of liberalism she’s been standing in. Whether she sees it or not, the rest of us can.
After championing a budget compromise with Democrats last December that actually increased spending under the guise of “deficit reduction,” Paul Ryan is now switching back to hard core tea-party type rhetoric as he eyes the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
My recommendation is not to put too much stock in this latest tough-talking budget proposal.
You see, past-compromisers like this have a trick to deceive voters. They push big-ticket, hard core measures to impress conservative voters. But these measures of are such over-the-top nature that they have no chance of passing—and their sponsors know this ahead of time. But meanwhile, the politician is doing absolutely nothing actually to advance passage now or at any time in any way in the future of such a measure. In fact, they are often collaborating with so-called “moderates” and leftists to pass even more deficits, spending, big government, militarism, etc., all of which doe exactly the opposite of what their tough talk purports.
Yet when campaign season rolls around, said politicians will trot out only their conservative big-talk as credentials: “I introduced the toughest pro-life bill in history.” “I wrote the bill with the largest deficit cuts of anyone.” “I led the fight to repeal ObamaCare.”
They did nothing of the sort.
For starters, any great vision Ryan may actually have has already been hamstrung by his own compromise from last December. While taking the traditional tactic of figuring alleged budget cuts over 10 years (eternity for Congress), the first full two years of the plan are already required by the previous agreement to spend more than Obama himself would have. And this was what Ryan worked for over a few months, with Democrats, and against tea party conservatives, to enshrine as law.
As a result, the first two years actually increase spending overall.
The Heritage Foundation takes a look at pros and cons in Ryan’s plan. They give it too much credit, but rightly see the “Ryan compromise” requiring additional spending in unnecessary areas that actually expand government. Military spending would be increased by nearly half a trillion dollars. Likewise, Ryan’s budget increases federal spending on education beyond that of Obama. Heritage notes that it “does not provide a blueprint for truly reducing federal intervention in education.”
And beyond this, any talk of reductions in spending and deficit must deal with future Congresses in which Ryan has no insight, and can give no assurances at all. Even if he did he would likely have dozens of qualifiers by which to evade personal accountability. As such, Ryan knows he can talk as uber-conservative as he wants and never have to be accountable for what he says.
It STILL is not proposing reining in wasteful government overspending TODAY, instead of speculating years out that some future Congress and White House may possibly, hopefully, eh-who-knows, take responsibility for today’s budgetary selfishness and shortsightedness to do so.
Let’s face it: when Sarah Palin calls you a joke, and she’s right, that’s pretty much rock bottom.
And that criticism is more than appropriate; it exposes the trick I talked about. Ryan is on the one hand proposing some big, over-the-top conservative measures, but only of the type he knows stand no chance of any kind of fruition. And worse, in the meantime (the only time that really matters right now), he is making compromises with liberals and increasing spending beyond even what the liberals had proposed. And yet you can be sure he will tout his hard-core tea party credentials during campaign season.
Heritage notes that Ryan’s plan realizes it’s largest “spending savings” by repealing ObamaCare. Considering how Ryan just recently posted a petition to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, I wonder how sincere he is. Considering no repeal of ObamaCare stands a chance of happening without full domination of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, Ryan’s whole budget is precarious, even if sincere.
The same goes for reforms of Medicaid and Medicare. Heritage rightly notes that “policymakers should look to mainstream the Medicaid population into private coverage and out of the failing government program.” Same goes for Medicare. But Ryan’s plan doesn’t even begin cuts here until 2022–23 (Heritage says 2024) which is simply too far out to be realistic. And even then, the level of cuts Ryan proposes for that far-out time is a pittance compared to the problem. Palin’s “joke” still applies.
As I have said in Restoring America One County at a Time, privatizing Social Security or major welfare systems can only be done quickly, over a few years at most, and can only come with a population willing to accept various levels of personal sacrifice in view of increased freedom. That’s a tough sell.
Future Congresses can in no way be trusted to follow through with any plan that requires sacrificial and unpopular budget cuts, unless Congress is dominated by people who refuse to spend like liberals and refuse to compromise with them—for the duration.
In the end, I believe Ryan knows all of this. I think he is playing the classic game conservative politicians have used for many decades to deceive dedicated voters in many areas—fiscal, pro-life, pro-guns, and many more. They talk tough, but do nothing serious to make headway. In fact, they often work to subvert the very causes they pretend to advance.
But then, during campaign season, these ambitious conservatives point to their tough talk as their credentials—and deceive many. They are fronts, and conservative causes suffer for it perennially.
With these guys, the compromise always wins, and the cause never does. Remember this when you see guys like Ryan promoting your most cherished cause.
Should business owners be forced to pay for contraceptives or pay a fine if they don’t in the new ever-changing Affordable Care Act? Wrong question.
The case before the Supreme Court “will determine whether Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet company, can be exempted from providing contraception coverage to female employees through federally mandated health insurance policies.”
Actually, religion shouldn’t have anything to do with this case. All business owners should be free to run their businesses the way they want.
Here’s the right question: Should the government force any business to pay for anything other than what was contracted when it hired an employee?
When I advertise for a job opening, I lay out what I’ll pay for a certain amount of work. The people who apply for the job decide if they want to work for me based on what I’m paying. Take it or leave it.
Jesus addresses this subject, albeit as an illustration:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They say to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.” When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous? So the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:1-16).
The Bible tells us that an employer is to pay what is owed (Deut. 24:14-15). Delaying payment is oppression (James 5:4; Lev. 19:13). But nothing is said about a “fair wage.” There is no such thing.
If I don’t want to pay health insurance, that’s my business. If a job applicant doesn’t like it, he or she can go elsewhere.
So now we have to go begging to nine unelected judges—four of whom are radical leftists who have never owned a business and have been on the government dole all their lives—to tell us what we can and can’t do with our businesses. “You will pay for this or you will pay a hefty fine. And if you don’t pay the fine and comply with our decision, we will shut down your company or put you in jail.”
Here comes United States Senator Patty Murray from the state of Washington who is upset that nine judges are going to decide this case:
Sitting in that court today, it was stunning to me to recognize that nine people are going to make that decision—and will decide for a long time to come—whether women have to question when they go to work every day what the shareholders of that company’s religious views could be.
Instead, she wants to be the person to make the decision for how business owners operate their businesses:
I’ve worked hard to make sure that women have access to the right kinds of health care, and it’s their choice, not their employer’s choice.
The employer is paying a salary. The employees are free to do what they want with the money they receive for the work they contracted to do. It’s their choice. It’s not Patty Murray’s choice to pass laws that mandate what employers are to pay.
At this moment every woman has access to healthcare. No one is stopping them from getting birth control pills. They even have the legal right to murder their unborn babies.
Justice Sotomayor asked the lawyers representing Hobby Lobby that if corporations can object on religious grounds to providing contraception coverage, could they also object to vaccinations or blood transfusions.
Wrong question. No one is stopping anyone from getting contraceptives, vaccinations, or blood transfusions.
No matter what treatment a person wants to get, a business owner should not be forced to pay for it—any of it! Businesses aren’t forced to pay for people’s food, clothing, housing, schooling, transportation or anything else. Food, clothing, and shelter are certainly more necessary on a daily basis than healthcare.
Some people might say that it’s not fair. Almost anything can be mandated under “fairness.” “Fairness” can mean anything to anyone and different things to everybody.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians said . . . that, “For those seeking to increase tyranny and totalitarianism, fairness and equality [are great things] to work people up about, because you essentially get a population—particularly a docile population—to agree to almost anything in the name of equality and fairness. That’s one of the reasons that the word ‘fair’ doesn’t exist in the Hebrew language, the Lord’s language,” Lapin added. “The word simply isn’t there. So much so that when little Israeli youngsters want to whine ‘it’s not fair,’ they can’t use the Hebrew word; they have to resort to the English word.”
A business owner might say that it’s not fair to force him to pay for something he doesn’t want to pay for. Maybe there’s a business down the street that will pay what an employee wants for a job. If that’s the case, then the prospective employee should go there. No one is stopping him.
If people don’t like how a business is doing business, then let them start their own businesses and pay themselves and their employees what they want. No one is stopping anybody from doing this.
To get the best employees, companies pay more and often add health insurance as an incentive to employment. That’s their business.
Companies that don’t treat their employees well get crappy employees, their businesses suffer, and the better employees find employment elsewhere. If a company wants to keep good employees, the owner will have to pay more or his business will suffer.
The company where one of my sons works adds all types of perks to his employment package. They have the freedom to do that or not. It’s their business.
Justice Kagan commented that “women are ‘quite tangibly harmed’ when employers don’t provide contraceptive coverage.” Given this outrageous argument, a case could be made that a person is harmed if they are not provided with a home with central heating and air conditioning, private school education, an automobile, bus fare, organic food, grass fed beef. You name it, and some busy-body bureaucrat will argue that people are harmed if they don’t have it.
On a side note, if people paid for their health insurance directly, the price of insurance and the cost of medical care would drop like everything else does when the government isn’t involved.
The Hobby Lobby case is proving that Americans now have to make a case for economic freedom by appearing before an oligarchy of nine black-robed demi-gods.
Judges are stepping in where they have no jurisdiction, no constitutional backing, no understanding of the limits of the federal government in relation to the states, and almost no knowledge of American history.
A Carroll County [Maryland] commissioner said she was “willing to go to jail” opening up a board meeting with a prayer despite a federal judge in Maryland ruling the board has to stop opening meetings with prayers that reference Jesus Christ or any specific deity.
“If we cease to believe that our rights come from God, we cease to be America,” Robin Bartlett Frazier said Thursday. “We’ve been told to be careful. But we’re going to be careful all the way to Communism if we don’t start standing up and saying ‘no.’ ”
First, note that this is a federal judge who has made this ruling. The federal government does not have jurisdiction over what goes on in county commission meetings.
Second, the First Amendment is directed at Congress: “Congress shall make no law. . .” Congress has not made any law.
Third, if Congress had been involved, it can’t make any law establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So in what way does this federal judge have the right to intervene in a county commission meeting? Absolutely none.
Fourth, Article 3 of the “Declaration of Rights” under the Maryland Constitution states the following (echoing the Tenth Amendment):
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution thereof, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people thereof.
Fifth, the Preamble to the Maryland Constitution states the following.
We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, and taking into our serious consideration the best means of establishing a good Constitution in this State for the sure foundation and more permanent security thereof, declare.
Sixth, Article 36 states that no person shall be “be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore either in this world or in the world to come.”
Historically speaking, the “God” of Maryland’s founding is the God of Christianity. This is clearly stated in numerous documents and given the fact that Maryland was first settled by Roman Catholics and is described as a “Christian Commonwealth.”
Seventh, as to the sectarian nature of county commission prayers, we can find support for them in the United States Constitution and the use of “in the year of our Lord,” a reference to Jesus Christ.
The next time Robin Bartlett Frazier prays, she can begin by reciting a section from the Preamble to Maryland’s Constitution (“We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God”) and close with, “and I make this prayer on this day ‘in the name of our Lord Christ,’” a phrase that was used by Thomas Jefferson.