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Culture Through the Lens of Scripture
Updated: 1 week 4 days ago
A court case involving a Texas Christian homeschool family has made national news because the parents allegedly have refused to educate their children in view of an imminent “rapture.” Liberal activist news outlets across the country have joined in universal chorus condemning lax homeschooling regulations and suggesting the pending Texas Supreme Court case will lead to a crackdown on homeschooling throughout the nation.
There’s only one problem. It’s all lies.
Every bit of it.
The story popped into my social media existence the other day when someone suggested I should comment on the effects of premillennial eschatology upon the family’s alleged actions. That would certainly be proper if it were true (and it may be, but no one knows for sure), but delving into the case history reveals that the liberal activists’ rabid attack on Christian homeschooling is the important focus here.
For example, the Associated Press (uncritically cut-and-pasted by a local media outlet) spun the story this way:
Laura McIntyre began educating her nine children more than a decade ago inside a vacant office at an El Paso motorcycle dealership she ran with her husband and other relatives.
Now the family is embroiled in a legal battle the Texas Supreme Court hears next week that could have broad implications on the nation’s booming home-school ranks. The McIntyres are accused of failing to teach their children educational basics because they were waiting to be transported to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ.
At issue: Where do religious liberty and parental rights to educate one’s own children stop and obligations to ensure home-schooled students ever actually learn something begin? . . .
Like other Texas home-school families, Laura and her husband Michael McIntyre weren’t required to register with state or local educational officials. They also didn’t have to teach state-approved curriculums or give standardized tests.
But problems began when the dealership’s co-owner and Michael’s twin brother, Tracy, reported never seeing the children reading, working on math, using computers or doing much of anything educational except singing and playing instruments. He said he heard one of them say learning was unnecessary since “they were going to be raptured.”
Did you hear that: “. . . could have broad implications on the nation’s booming home-school ranks”? Wow! And the “issue”: “Where do religious liberty and parental rights to educate one’s own children stop and obligations to ensure home-schooled students ever actually learn something begin?”
Brietbart reports how several media outlets carried similar spin, all universally suggesting the family was in the wrong and, in fact, shaming them:
Texas liberal news outlets blasted religious liberty as on a “collision course” with homeschool. National headlines lamented if homeschoolers learned anything at all. The Washington Post pondered where did the line between religious liberty and parental rights to educate one’s own children stop. CBS News, like many news organizations, regurgitated the Associated Press’ narrative which scrutinized if Texas homeschoolers even have to learn. The Daily Beast attacked Laura McIntyre as the “Kim Davis” of homeschooling. It went on and on claiming that hope was around the corner — because the McIntyre case could change homeschooling laws for the state’s approximately 300,000 home educated students.
But again, it’s all lies. Here are the facts that none of these outlets relates (I’ve only seen one point partially touched in passing by one story so far):
First, all charges against the family were dropped in 2007. There is no case against them. Nothing. For eight years now.
Second, the case in the Texas Supreme Court is of the parents suing the El Paso school district for harassment, not the other way around.
The family originally filed a civil suit, and won. The district appealed, and won the appeal. Now the family has appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. Oral arguments began last week.
Even if the district ends up winning at the Supreme Court level, it will mean absolutely nothing for homeschool law. It will only save their own butts from the consequences of harassment.
Third, there is no proof anywhere that the family ever refused to homeschool based on belief in the rapture, or anything else for that matter. That claim was made by an apparently jealous brother who claims to have overheard one of the daughters saying that to a cousin. His allegation made it into the “facts of the case” section of the later appeals decision, but it is has never been corroborated by anyone else.
Fourth, the mother of the family stated that the children use A Beka curriculum. There has never been evidence to contrary proven anywhere.
Fifth, the only reason the school district ever got involved was because of an anonymous phone call now said to have been placed by disgruntled, jealous, and meddlesome family members, some of whom worked for the public schools. The Texas Homeschool Coalition Association relates these facts:
The McIntyre family is a devout Christian family with nine children. They were the focus of efforts by their extended family to illegally take their interest in a family business. This resulted in a multimillion dollar lawsuit related to the business, in which the extended family members eventually lost and were found guilty of malicious actions against the McIntyre family.
These same family members, some of whom were former public school teachers, contacted the district and made allegations that the parents were not teaching their children and urged the school officials to take action against the McIntyres.
The meddlesome family members also included the family’s parents who apparently had taken the side of the losing brother in the lawsuit. The appeals court decision relates that “the District received an anonymous complaint that the McIntyre children were not being educated. In November, Gene and Shirene [the parents of the family and grandparents to the homeschooled children] met with Mark Mendoza, the District’s designated attendance officer, and expressed concerns that their grandchildren were not attending school or otherwise receiving a proper education.” But they had only learned this from the disgruntled, losing brother.
Sixth, the period in which the children allegedly were not being educated pertained only to a few months at the beginning the family’s establishment of a homeschool in which the family used an empty office at their business to do the school. After this initial period, the homeschooling was moved to the MacIntyre family’s house. (Disgustingly, Huffington Post reports the family failed to teach the kids anything for ten years!).
Seventh, during this brief period, the brother did not state absolutely that the children were not being educated, but that he allegedly never saw them doing so himself.
In short, the statement that the media has taken and run with to establish the family’s negligence is spinning a half-truth into an alleged full truth and suggesting it characterized the family’s efforts when in fact it pertained only to a brief time if it happened at all.
Eighth, the school district official’s main defense in this case is not that he did not harass the poor family, and not anything to do with homeschool law or regulations. All of that is conceded as a matter of fact. The bulk of his defense is that he, as a government official, should enjoy immunity from lawsuits.
Ninth, even if the brother had actually witnessed anything negligent, it is odd that the authorities were never contacted until after the family dispute over the business had taken place.
Tenth, it is just a little bit odder that the call to the authorities came from the extended family members on the losing side of the dispute.
Eleventh, it is just a bit odder yet that the post-dispute family members who contacted school authorities are also former public school teachers.
Twelfth, it is enormously odd that none of this information found its way into any of the mainstream news reports attacking and insulting the homeschool family (with the sole facile, almost insignificant, exception mentioned already), and suggesting, blatantly wrongly, that the case has national import for homeschool regulations.
This is not journalism. It is not even the typical liberal slant expected from the mainstream media. This is a hard-core, full-bore, anti-Christian, activist agenda.
The media reports are almost exclusively spin, propaganda, anti-Christian homeschool agenda, and outright lies. The truth is that the only case pending is a civil case against the school district. The district is trying to save its own rear-end from losing. Even if they do, it will not change a single homeschool law in Texas or anywhere else in the nation.
- Texas Homsechool Coalition Association write-up
- Texas Supreme Court case page
- Breitbart exposé
- Appellate Decision
- Homeschool Legal Defense Assoc. report
Christopher Hitchens is dying of cancer. He says five years, maybe. If he is as bad as he says, I would suspect less. Christian groups are praying for him—a few misguided ones for him to suffer and burn in hell, most however for his recovery and salvation. He is most at pains on this subject of prayer to assure us he will make no death bed conversion while he remains in control of his faculties. If there is a death bed conversion, the emaciated, drugged, or demented figure that does so will long since not have been him anymore.
Someone ought to tell him, that’s what Christian conversion is all about: the death of the old man, the rebirth of a new. It is a question of one’s true identity and glory. Better to die spiritually to that old identity than foolhardily to affirm his stubborn clinging to the cancer of his sin until physical death. Let us examine a bit about that identity and its foolhardiness.
Meet the Real Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens is one of the most widely published people whom many evangelical Christians had never heard of until recently. Despite dozens of books and pamphlets, and hundreds of articles and interviews, his almost exclusive attention to global political issues and his radical leftism kept him off the evangelical radar. This is less true for Roman Catholics due to the fact that he publicly excoriated and ridiculed Mother Teresa in a crass exposé subtitled The Missionary Position. Hitchens later narrated his politically-motivated disgust for Teresa into a public television format indelicately titled Hell’s Angel. While many Catholics have been outraged, Protestants and Evangelicals had largely been spared such abuse from our subject atheist.
That was, until May of 2007. In that month the Rev. Jerry Falwell died, garnering national media attention. The atheist, with his newly released book on atheism, and coveting the attention which he normally demands, was beside himself, outraged especially at liberal media outlets. The following day, Hitchens graced CNN with his judgment on Falwell: “I think it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.”
Why any news organization with an obligation to public decency would call up an incendiary smoke-bomb like Hitchens to comment on, of all things, the death of Jerry Falwell, escapes me, unless it were to exploit his shamelessness for ratings, or to level cheap-shots at rival conservatives. Hitchens served both purposes well. Led by newsman Anderson Cooper, Hitchens referred to Falwell as an “ugly little charlatan” who was “giggling and sniggering all the time with what he was getting away with.” Hitchens snorted at the idea that Falwell actually believed what he preached, charging that the Reverend only used religion as a means of extorting money from “gullible” and “credulous” people: “He woke up every morning pinching his chubby little flanks, thinking, ‘I’ve got away with it again.’ . . . I think he was a conscious charlatan and fraud.”
When confronted for his hatefulness on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes,” Hitchens refused to show the slightest pity even toward the grieving family, saying, “I don’t care whether his family’s feelings are hurt or not.”
If Hitchens, along with other atheists, makes the complaint that atheists are unduly outcast by the majority of the American populace, well, perhaps he can at least understand why they are disliked. He makes it quite easy for us to do so.
A Tale of Two Faces
What drives a man to such violent, implacable one-sidedness? Whence the immovable, unrepentant, stubborn hate?
In God Is Not Great, Hitchens tells his own story of childhood in a Christian school: taking nature walks and learning Biblical passages, until one early-adolescent day when his own skepticism arose from nowhere. You could tell this point in his story generally without needing the information, because Hitchens darkens from sweetly describing his schoolmarm as a “good, sincere, simple woman, of decent and stable faith” at the beginning of the tale, to confronting “this pious old trout.” Despite the modern atheists’ pleading—constantly—that atheism does not accommodate a jaded, cynical personality, Hitchens’ sweetness and daisy-elegance always fade to a transparent pretense.
This window into Hitchens’ soul reveals something very interesting. After studying his wider corpus of writing a bit I have come to see through the whole game. He styles himself a “contrarian,” which is to say, a professional arguer, a hired mouth, a credentialed naysayer. Most people with such talent go into law, carrying on the ancient Greek tradition of sophistry, the proponents of which studied vice bragged that adopting either side of an argument—right or wrong notwithstanding—they could win.
The importance of this fact jumps out after hearing the atheist’s absurd charge that Falwell consciously extorted the people, allegedly using what he knew to be a false message to extract money and power from the credulous. Of course, those who knew the Reverend know otherwise—he was the “real deal,” they will tell you—and it will not take any amateur researcher long to discover that Hitchens has but projected his own admitted hucksterism onto the Christian leader, likely out of envy.
“Admitted,” you ask? Quite. Probing just a bit into Hitchens’ loquacious career one may retrieve this gem:
If you don’t get up every day whimpering with fear, thinking this is the day they’ll find you out, and say, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” you’re not doing your job. You should be in a state of permanent fear about being discovered as a blowhard, or as an irrelevance.1
So what is this game we now see through? It is to be a blowhard, but never let your paying audience know. Recall, however, the proverb: “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” (Prov. 10:19). Garrulity has its consequences, namely, that of actually telling on yourself, if you’re not careful. Hitchens knows he is mischievous as a principle—there being a market in the media for merely rousing passions—and he must train himself like an actor not to let his true self peak through his spoken causes.
“Contrarian” is thus a fig leaf for “Empty Soul.” Since Hitchens is an epicure of great literature, I will offer him one of my favorite passages from Milton, who describes outer darkness—the abode of emptiness:
Up hither like aerial vapors flew / Of all things transitory and vain, when Sin / With vanity had filled the works of men: / Both all things vain and all who in vain things / Built their fond hopes of glory, or lasting fame, / Or happiness in this or the other life. / All who have their reward on earth, the fruits / Of painful superstition and blind zeal, / Naught seeking but the praise of men, here find / Fit retribution, empty as their deeds (Paradise Lost, 3.445–454).
The Atheist as Prophet
At the base of Islam is the well-know confession, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” This defines the fundamentalism of that oppressive and close-minded religion: One authority, and one voice for that authority, anything outside of which is damnable.
Atheist’s say they abhor this type of dogmatism, preferring “freethinking”—a not unwholesome thing in itself—but many unwittingly fall into a very similar type of self-imposed mental blindness in the name of free-thought. One need only recall the history of Marxist-inspired revolution, and the mass graves of “dialectical materialism” (a fancy phrase for “atheistic struggle,” or which could well be put, “atheist jihad”). This history has well been written of elsewhere.
Among the atheists who inspired those slaughters stands the figure of Leon Trotsky, whom Hitchens relates was immortalized in a definitive biography entitled The Prophet. “Prophet” now carries a pejorative to the extent that it implies a voice of authority: especially in the form of God telling us how to live. In the past, when these atheists have taken a stand against God, they have turned and formed their own dictatorship and ruled as gods themselves. The creed of atheism, were its proponents careful and honest enough to formulate it, would inevitably mimic the Islamic pillar thusly: “There is no god, and I am His prophet.”
Hitchens tells us how he once admired and followed a particular sect of Trotskyites, but later left his affections for the prophet behind, choosing rather to follow the dictates of his own mind. He implies that because he left this particular sect behind, that he therefore has proven his ability as a freethinker—ready to discard a pet theory when the evidence mounts against it. This, he thinks, qualifies him to sympathize with those whose faith he now intends to undermine. See what a great therapist we have in our atheist? He is building us an emotional bridge over which to walk into his outstretched arms.
But let’s not run too fast. Christopher informs us that Marxism itself still has his heart, referring to it as an “idea that I have not yet quite abandoned.” This is an understatement on his part. Amidst the murk of his life’s “multitude of words” surfaces this from an interview: “I don’t think I’d ever change my view that socialism is the best political moment humans have ever come up with.”2 It is clear to me that while Hitchens may have left one particular sect of radical leftists, he has not left radical leftism itself. His mental-shift can hardly be displayed as an example of intellectual bravery or sacrifice, and hardly compares to the moment that tries any Christian who has genuinely experienced repentance. Considering Hitchens’ still extreme faith in his political and economic system, his claim to have a “chainless mind” is laughable, and his aligning of atheism with “freethinking” another transparent front.
Vanity and Reason
Besides, “freethinking” itself is a gyroscope that spins in the hand of whomever holds it. Christopher himself leads us here in his earlier book Letters to a Young Contrarian: “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”3 I am inclined to agree with this concerning the essence of freethinking, but this leaves silent—as most atheists’ treatments of the term do—the assumption that intellectual independence must still adhere to certain basic rules of conduct in order to be taken seriously. Reason is not a moral guide; morality must guide reason in order for reason to produce good results. But this truth is too often left unaddressed by atheists because it raises the question, “If moral rules must precede reason, then where do the moral rules come from?” Since the answer obviously cannot be “reason,” then we must look outside of ourselves for the answer. This is why so few atheists continue very far down this logical path of inquiry. Instead, they stop and extol “reason” as an end in itself, the only way to enlightenment.
These same critics then love to slander Christians as the unreasonable ones. For example, Christopher quotes Martin Luther at the opening of one of his chapters: “Reason is the Devil’s harlot, who can do nought but slander and harm whatever God says and does.” This he intends to show how religious faith is incurably opposed to reason, for here Dr. Luther himself says so in the most obviously backward and ignorant terms. This mentality, Hitchens strives to assure us, “comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species.” Reason can be nothing but the avowed enemy of faith, we are told with no uncertain, but certainly unwitting, dogmatic irony.
One must, however, ask why Luther would say such a thing, after all, when the followers of the medieval Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas had been nearly worshipping reason for two and a half centuries up until his time. Hitchens—who usually appears adept with history and historical facts—does not attempt even to ask such a question, let alone find an answer. As it turns out, the answer is highly relevant to our discussion. Luther was not afraid of reason, and certainly did not advocate irrationality; rather, he simply saw that reason has limitations, usually due to the whims and dictates of the more powerful human will. This is why he wrote such a treatise as The Bondage of the Will: in order to show (against the Christian humanists of his time) that bare human reason cannot achieve the righteousness of God. This is not a disavowal of reason, but a proper understanding of it: knowing that the heart (especially that of a professional contrarian) can provide infinite reasons to defend any position it wants to try to justify. Reason is a tool, not a force or a guide. It can be moved, twisted and laid in whatever position one desires, and thus can deservedly be called, in certain circumstances, “The Devil’s Harlot.”
Hitchens could easily have learned this for himself. Even a simple Google search “luther on reason” yields at least one freely viewable academic book where anyone can read the following:
Of course when Luther described reason in matters related to faith as “blind” or as “the devil’s whore,” he was not simply scolding or asserting his own theological ideas without concern for understanding and insight. Rather, Luther at a very early point already understood that we are not able to engage in a neutral search for truth in matters related to the knowledge of God.4
The point, therefore, is one about intellectual neutrality: something every self-vaunted freethinker should have a grip on but rarely does, and something which Christopher has failed to challenge himself with at all.
I am always willing to forgive an error, but these types of errors—ignoring historical context, perpetuating unnecessary pejoratives, refusing correction—when repeated, speak of a group that does not want to learn, but rather dig into their position due to some deeper, irrational cause, is every wit like the very ignorant and stubborn fundamentalists that group despises. By this intellectual laziness—another inexcusable attribute for thinkers—Hitchens joins this group, and proves that he has little interest in actual thought, free or otherwise. It begins to come clear that all of the effort today devoted to making atheists look intellectual, smart, “bright,” educated, enlightened, etc., is nothing more than a front. One wonders, or perhaps dare we wonder, what real desires modern atheism is covering for. It is Emptiness glorifying, celebrating itself; we might just call it a vanity fair.
Light Before the End
Christopher Hitchens is dying. He will, no doubt courageously endure his time. I pray that he be cured, that any suffering be short, but that whether he is cured or suffers, he first repent and be baptized. I would love to see that old man die immediately, that he may face God and death as a new one. Christopher—“Christ bearer”—has the will to endure to his death, but will he have the courage to die properly before he gets there. He needs to see the light before the end of the tunnel. Until then, the curtain is closing on his act.[First published August 13, 2010, originally titled “Christopher Hitchens, Dying Man.”]
- Mike Wade, “A Prisoner of His Own Conscience,” in The Scottsman (June 17, 2002). Available at http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/books/A-prisoner-of-his-own.2336027.jp ; accessed June 27, 2008.
- Christopher Hitchens, Interview for the documentary “Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism,” New River Media. Available at http://www-tc.pbs.org/heavenonearth/interview_pdfs/Hitchens_Web_SW.pdf ; accessed June 26, 2008.
- Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 3.
- Bernard Lohse, Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 159. The interested reader will find further elucidation in the most readable, definitive and easily accessible biography of Luther: Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Meridian, 1995) 172–173.
I have in the past written about billionaire businessman and philanthropist Charles Koch’s laudable views of business ethics, service, and free market economics. Today, he continues to delight with a critique of American politics based on consistent principle.
In an interview with MSNBC, Koch answered how he felt about the alleged defenders of the free market amongst political candidates today:
Well, I’ve been discouraged for a long time. You know, I’ve been involved in these [free market] ideas for over 50 year and up, for 40 of them I wasn’t involved in politics because I was so disgusted with both parties . . . because they weren’t advancing these varied things we were talking about.
He was really impressed with Bush Jr., however, based on his first election campaign rhetoric (and that’s understandable as it was basically free market, anti-war, and a humble, peaceful foreign policy: review it here). He says, “I thought well maybe George Bush will advance some of these, because . . . in his campaign he touched on some of these. Wow, maybe there’s hope.”
But, Koch notes, Bush never kept those promises:
And then by 2003, three years later, he was going in the opposite way. He was one of the biggest spenders of all time, created more destructive regulations along with the fed, pumping all this money into housing to create this artificial boom, and then Bush pushing it, and Fannie and Freddie creating this whole corrupt system that then, when that fell apart, brought the whole economy down, and then getting us in counterproductive wars that made no sense to me at the time.
He maintains the foreign policy critique as a principle, calling ours “a form of insanity . . . doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” He explained:
We keep kicking out dictators and then we don’t get anything better and we mess up a lot of people’s lives in the process and spend fortunes and have many Americans killed and maimed. And what do we have to show for it?
Exactly. What do we have to show for it except spent lives and spent fortunes? We are less well off by several measures. But then Koch adds a punch line that is not only humorous but drives home a convicting point: these tragic expenditures are “kind of like my support for some of these Republican candidates.”
Indeed. How many times have Christians and liberty-minded folk poured time, hope, and resources into Republican candidates, only to be left without any advance of our causes and missions in the end? In fact, we often find ourselves having moved backwards anyway, and with such public effrontery that conservatives loose everything in the next go around.
As things begin to heat up in this final year before elections next fall, many a relationship and loyalty will be tested by many avenues. The most important loyalty for the Christian will always be to Christ and the Scriptures. As we learned from the Rev. Machen yesterday, Christians must apply biblical principles consistently and across the board, and they must vote their conscience without compromise. Don’t get sucked in because of winsome campaigns or inflated hopes ,and certainly not because of popularity. What matters are the principles and values God has given us. Quite frankly, until someone stands up who is pro-life, truly pro-free market, advancing a non-interventionist foreign policy of peace, pro-freedom in education, pro-honest money, anti-welfare, anti-corporate welfare, and pro-liberty across the board, consistently, then we all ought to be where Koch described himself: disgusted with both parties.
In the meantime, we can be working for these things, as well as many other aspects of biblical freedom, in our local and state environments, as well as our own homes. As always, you can learn more of our ideas on these matters in Restoring America One County at a Time. (See the FREE online version here.)
With Halloween over, the fright and haunt gimmicks are gone, but the scariest of all beasts still lurks among us—and it is not a gimmick. The Washington Post reports on a study conducted by Chapman University: “Survey of American Fears 2015.” The top 10 fears are shown in the chart below, and number 1 (by a comfortable margin) will shock you into reality quite well. The question is, what shall come of this awareness?
Coming in surprisingly far ahead of various forms of terrorism, warfare, and digital thefts and fraud stands the greatest fear imaginable: “corruption by government officials.” A whopping fifty-eight percent of respondents cited our own government as their greatest fear.
The article comments,
[I]t’s no wonder government corruption is a top concern this year. It’s a presidential election year, and the slogan for the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is “Make America Great Again,” implying it is currently not. And the leading Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been embroiled in questions about her trustworthiness.
Then there’s the rise of ISIS and related instability in the Middle East. The pervasive message is that the world is an unsafe place.
This is a pretty shallow analysis, even considering it was only meant to be in passing. The importance of their conclusion, however, should not be lost:
The Chapman researchers found that nearly one-quarter of Americans said they’ve voted for a political candidate solely out of fear.
I suspect the percentage is much higher than that, but the point stands well enough. I can’t count the number of people I know who were cajoled to vote for a certain candidate merely because the great fears of another Obama term were wielded as a stick before them. Fear it was. Whatever footing some voters might have once had in principle disappeared the moment the pressure of fear came.
I was moved yesterday as I reread the testimony the great Reformed scholar and minister J. Gresham Machen once gave before members of both the House and Senate. He testified against a federal department of education. You should read the whole thing for your education, but a few excerpts are especially relevant here. Machen opposed the creation of such a department on many levels, but the most important one was that he opposed government funding of education, and especially federal aid on principle. On this he was not willing to compromise an inch, even if conceding that some good things could be said to come from federal aid.
One of the committee members tried to test Machen’s consistency on the principle of federal aid. The following exchange ensued (emphases mine):
MR. ROBISON: Do you object, then, to the activities of the Federal Government in the way of Federal aid to roads and to agriculture and to commerce and to labor?
DR. MACHEN: I object in general to the principle of Federal aid; yes, sir.
Mr. Robison was in disbelief. He had to repeat himself, as if he hadn’t been clear and Machen hadn’t understood properly:
MR. ROBISON: I mean, to the activities of the Federal Government in agriculture and roads and commerce and labor?
DR. MACHEN: I do in general. Of course, a line has to be drawn. The Federal Government has a right to regulate interstate commerce. There are certain powers that are delegated to it definitely by the Constitution, and I do not desire to speak about other subjects; but in general I am opposed, sir, to the principle of Federal aid in the spheres where the States are really in control.
Mr. Robison still couldn’t believe his ears. He had to go for it for a third time:
MR. ROBISON: In agriculture the activities of the Federal Government may have no relation to interstate commerce, but be directed to other matters.
DR. MACHEN: I am opposed, sir, to the extension of the operation of the principle of Federal aid. I think that it has clearly gone too far even in other spheres; that it has clearly gone too far, and that it should be checked. . . .
After several exchanges with other members, Mr. Robison came back and made yet another attempt:
MR. ROBISON: Now, if I understand you, if you are sorry that there is a Bureau of Education here in Washington, then it follows that your mind tells you that it ought to be abolished; and then, further, if you do not know the activities of the Bureau of Education here and its relation to the public schools and public education of the country, how can you say that an enlargement of this bureau would be harmful or helpful?
DR. MACHEN: I am opposed to it, as I tried to explain, sir, in principle.
MR. ROBISON: I know you said you are opposed to it.
DR. MACHEN: I am opposed to the principle of Federal aid, and I am opposed to the activities of the Federal bureau where they involve the laying down of standards of education — of certain standards for colleges, for example. I think that is an unfortunate thing. I think it is very much better to have men who are engaged in education examine methods of education, examine standards, rather than to have such agencies of research come before the people with the authority of the Federal Government, with the fear at all times that we shall have an agitation to compel schools to maintain those standards. . . .
Not only is this an example of a minister unafraid to confront the civil rulers of the day with truth, but also a man who was unafraid to compromise on his principle even when it would seem to be unpopular (roads, bridges, agriculture, etc.).
Machen spoke to this point even more explicitly. A member of the committee asked why a certain group of educators had voted almost unanimously in favor of the proposed department, yet when asked in person afterward almost to a man repudiated the measure. Machen’s response is priceless:
A great many men feel that there is no use in voting against a thing unless you can defeat it. I do not feel that way. I think it is a very important thing to vote exactly in accordance with your conscience, quite irrespective of the immediate success of your vote in your dealing with that measure.
And with that, we circle right back to the problem mentioned in this article on Americans’ greatest fear. People know what the problem is, and they know in general what to oppose on principle. When asked in private, they can tell you they oppose it on principle. But when the great machine is running and it looks like standing on principle may be in the minority or unpopular, they fold. They vote for the corrupt government time and again, cajoled by arguments based on unprincipled fears, short-term fears, compromised fears, corrupt fears. They are cajoled by all the things they say they fear the most. They hate socialism with a passion, but they vote for the socialists in both parties and protect socialism in their schools, police forces, health care, retirement, jobs, roads, bridges, agriculture, military, etc.—virtually every place it really matters.
In short, Americans know their worst fear, they know what it is, and yet they run back to it over and over. It’s like a twisted Stockholm syndrome in which the captor is corrupt government. America’s greatest fear is also our greatest failure.
Rearranging the chairs and parties in DC will not change anything. No major advance for conservative or Christian values has occurred in federal politics for decades with the sole exception of corporate tax rates. We need radically to decentralize power, loose the strings of federal and state grants, privatize the school systems, privatize money, banking, markets, health care and old age insurance, as well as everything else except an elected court and jury system.
This study shows us one thing: we know what the problem is. The big step is having the courage to break from denial and admit the addiction when it counts. Then, we can have a discussion about sacrifice and steps to freedom.
In light of the upcoming Freedom 2015 Conference (this weekend!), a group of leftist activists are quite upset because the likes of Ted Cruz and Ben Carson would dare speak at a conference with the likes of yours truly. And why? According to the headline, because I “want to put gays to death.”
In light of such sage reporting, and the fact that I did once use language that could allow my position to be misconstrued, let me say a few words about the biblical view of sodomy and the death penalty. Simply put, I do not want to put gays to death, and despite the generalizations made from things I have written and said in the past, I do not believe that a biblical society would impose the death penalty for “homosexuality.” To report that I do hold either of these positions is both inaccurate.
The following comes from a more recent article I wrote which is a bit more detailed than the very generalized statements taken from older videos and articles. In my discussion of homosexual marriage against the radical “two kingdoms” proponents like Michael Horton, I wrote:
Only Mosaic Law gives us the clear revealed standards for civil law that forbid homosexual “marriage.” Because marriage is a physical bond, it is not properly consummated without physical sexual relations. But this is strictly forbidden for homosexuals:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:13).
And unlike adultery, there is no victim here. This is by definition a matter of State. This is not a mere civil suit, but a criminal suit. Both shall surely be put to death.
Note a couple things here:
First, this is not about stoning homosexuals. It says nothing about people who are dispositionally homosexual—people who through the distinct perversion of their own fallen nature are attracted to the same sex. This is not outlawed as a crime (a sin, to be sure, but not a crime). Anyone can come out openly in a biblical society and admit they are “homosexual” in the sense they are attracted that way, and it is no crime.
(Ravi Zacharias makes a good argument distinguishing between the proclivity and the act of homosexuality here. While he does not go into the crime aspect—which he would not, not being a theonomist—he does make an important distinction, and does so with characteristic power.)
Secondly, there are always privacy and legal protections. Under Mosaic Law, two witnesses are required to bring conviction. In the case of even a private homosexual act, who would be the witnesses? Unless two practicing homosexuals were willing to tell on each other, were filming themselves, or were engaging before hostile witnesses, it would be difficult to bring a conviction even in OT society.
Moreover, private property laws are very strict, and false witnesses would be guilty of the crime for which they sought to prosecute someone else (Deut. 19)—in the case of sodomy, death. Thus, you would largely have people minding their own business. . . .
[I]n a biblical society, we would (re)institute laws against adultery and sodomy. Marriage would be covenanted through private means with witnesses. Churches and/or private organizations would keep notarized records. In the event of adultery, the records and the evidence would be presented in court, should a case be brought. This is the only area a state would get involved.
In such a society, even homosexuals could pretend to get married, but law would not recognize the union based on the definition of marriage. They could even call it “marriage,” but they’d better be quiet about it. Indeed, public ceremonies of this sort would be a risky indicator of sodomy to follow. The state would have no other input; and it would be ridiculous for a homosexual to bring an adultery suit against his partner. The law would not honor it and he would be publicly exposing himself again as a sodomite.
In short, a biblical society suppresses homosexual conduct by pushing it underground.
In my view, the Bible does not criminalize “homosexuality,” but only the homosexual act of sodomy. I believe the Bible on this point.
Ironically, while the death penalty was not in force, sodomy was nevertheless a felony in almost every state as late as 1970, and in 14 states as late as 2003 (!). A Supreme Court decision in 1986 upheld these laws as constitutional. It was not until the activist court in 2003 that this decision was “reversed.” Ironically, it was the same activist court of 2003, essentially, that has now predictably given us Windsor and Obergefell. It took a sexual revolution, decades of activism in schools and media, and an activist court to get around the American people’s agreement with the Bible on the criminalization of sodomy. I just happen to be one of many holdouts who believes the Bible still knows better than the perverts and their robed activists.
Scores of Christian leaders are now acknowledging that the only way these leftist activists will probably be defeated is through nullification of bad laws and interposition by lesser magistrates in order to protect our Christian faith in society. This is what this conference is all about: restoring freedom in this land. I can understand why leftist activists groups are upset: it threatens their stranglehold of control.
Were the leftist chroniclers attentive, they would have noted that even in my old article on Uganda, I noted the distinction between homosexuality as a sin, and the act itself as a crime. Thus, my position even at the time was not that we want to kill gays or that homosexuality in general should receive the death penalty; but rather that the Bible teaches that the “act” of sodomy should receive such.
Nevertheless, I acknowledge that in the videos posted in regard to Uganda, I could be understood as saying the death penalty applies more generally, and I apologize for being unclear. I do not hold that position; and contrary to the headline, it is not and never has been my desire to put gays to death.
This Reformation Day, let’s not give Luther all the credit, though he certainly deserves a lot. Let”s look at the great supporting cast, so to speak, that made the Reformation possible. Without these means, the Reformation would not have happened. This Reformation Day, let’s credit the entrepreneurs, businessmen, and social networks.
Two Means for Reformation
Business and Entrepreneurship
Perhaps the greatest impact for all of the Reformation came in the work of a man who had no training at all in divinity or theology, who wrote nothing as far as we know, and made no contribution to the theological debates. His monumental contribution was purely material. The man was Johannes Gutenburg. His advance was the introduction to Europe of movable type and of the printing press.
By Luther’s time, at least 3 to 4 percent of the population could read. While that doesn’t sound like much, it was enough when one person could read out loud to a room full, and especially when the nobles and people whose estates and money were at stake were the first to be educated to read. Luther wrote his 95 Theses in Latin for debate among his fellow clergy, but he translated the Bible into German, and he wrote several tracts and pamphlets in German, and the people read and heard them all. The tracts got copied, and copied, and copied, etc. “More books were printed in the forty years between 1460 and 1500 than had been produced by scribes and monks throughout the entire Middle Ages.” By Luther’s time there were printing presses in sixty-two cities in Germany alone. In the mere three years between the posting of the Theses in 1517 and 1520, Luther wrote thirty tracts which printers turned out into 300,000 copies. The printing press was the internet of the day, getting vital information and new ideas about Christian freedom and responsibility out to millions of people globally.
This was accomplished, not because someone decided to increase his quiet time by ten minutes in the morning, not because he figured out that a good way to reach people was through building a youth center with a rock climbing wall and Play Stations and built-in Starbucks, but through genuine business entrepreneurship. Gutenberg did not have in mind lofty ideas of spirituality or reforming the church at all. He was a goldsmith and an inventor; he was what today some leftist would call a greedy capitalist: he was trying to find a way to print more stuff faster and make more money, which is perfectly, biblically sound as long as it is done in a legitimate area of business. He used his skills as a goldsmith working with metals to create moveable type; he put these together with a screw-press to do the printing. Along with the advances others had made in production of paper and oil-based ink, he revolutionized human communication. He did this not from within the walls of the church, but from the workrooms and offices of business. And the people who took Luther’s pamphlets, and reprinted them hundreds of thousands of times, may have done so less out of a concern for piety than for profit, but in doing so they “ran the race,” and I suspect a good number of those among them today sit among the cloud of witnesses.
We should have wisdom in how we conduct the material side of the Lord’s kingdom. We should not fear to gain business savvy. William Tyndale, for example, was as much a businessman as a theologian. He encountered great opposition with his English translation of the New Testament, especially in England where it really counted because they spoke English. The account of his first edition runs thusly:
A curious tale is related of how he contrived to turn the devices of his foes to advantage. The Archbishop of Canterbury [Whalem at the time] was buying up his translations for burning and commissioned a certain Packington to scour the continent for more. The man went straight to Tyndale himself and informed him that he had discovered a merchant who would clean out his stock.
“Who is this merchant?” said Tyndale.
“The bishop of London,” said Packington.
“Oh, that is because he will burn them,” said Tyndale.
“Yea, marry,” quoth Packington.
“I am the gladder,” said Tyndale, “for these two benefits will come of it: I shall get money from him for these books and bring myself out of debt, and the whole world shall cry out on the burning of God’s Word, and the overplus of the money shall make me more studious to correct the said New Testament, and so newly to imprint the same once again; and I trust the second will much better like you that ever did the first.”
And the account concludes: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.”
The work of translation itself did not go without an ironic legacy: after Tyndale was betrayed and executed in the Netherlands, the King of England ordered the Bible to be translated into English for the churches. He assigned this task to Myles Coverdale who was not proficient in Greek and Hebrew, nor did he have time to meet the strict deadline the king put on him. As a result, Coverdale essentially copied most of Tyndale’s translation. In the heritage of the English Bible that followed Tyndale’s laid the foundation of Coverdale’s, Rogers’ “Matthews” Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, and the King James. The Chicago Divinity professor E. J. Goodspeed writing in 1925 said, “None of these is more than a revision of Tyndale,” for which Tyndale contributed “more than all others combined. He has shaped the religious vocabulary of the English-speaking world.”
One of the least talked-about aspects of the spread of the Reformation is the role played by the orders of monks originating within the Roman church. The bonds built between brothers within these orders were often in reality stronger than allegiances to pope or prince. This is because they were real human relationships, shared commitments, shared sacrifices and emotions and lives. These things transcend other relationships, and that’s why God has structured society from the bottom-up, placing the family as the nuclear unit of dominion, then the church, the community, and state. Relationships built through the family, local business, and church should serve as the glue of all else.
Luther himself belonged to the order of Augustinians, or Austin Friars as they were called in England. When the controversy around Luther broke out in Germany, the people who gave him the readiest hearing in England—even at the risk of angering the king—were the Austin Friars. And guess what, some of the great names of the Reformation either belonged to the Austin Friars at Cambridge, or had associations with them: Thomas Bilney, Hugh Latimer (the Oxford Matyr), Robert Barnes, William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, and Thomas Cranmer (later Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the English Book of Common Prayer). Many of these men went to school together, ministered together, and met regularly at a tavern called the The White Horse Inn. Over beer they talked, discussed, and debated. They had fellowship, they had community, and they developed deep personal bonds that, for the gospel and the work of God’s Kingdom, flowed naturally and effectively.
Perhaps nowhere in modern history has the theme of community Solidarity (of members uniting as one group and gaining strength thereby) appeared more prominently to the Church than in Poland under Communistic rule in 1980. A strongly Roman Catholic country by tradition, Poland was suffering food and supply shortages in the waning decade of the atheistic, communistic dictatorship. In 1978, during this time of state atheism and suppression of religion, the Roman Catholic Church elected Karol Wojtyla, Bishop of Krakow, as the first ever Polish Pope. Renamed John Paul II, the new Pope quickly traveled to speak in Poland in 1979 and was cheered by millions. In defiance of the official atheism and oppressive conditions, he preached for freedom of religion, human rights, and an end to violence. He inspired the nation—as well as much of Eastern Europe and the rest of the world—to believe that something bigger than communism was on their side. They only needed the bravery to stand together in faith.
Within a year, after the communistic government vaulted meat prices during an already acute shortage, self-organized strikes broke out all over Poland. The price hikes came on July 1. Meanwhile, the government was plundering supplies to send to Moscow for the 1980 Olympics which were scheduled to begin on July 19. In an ironic twist, a rail worker in the city of Lublin was poking around some freight cars that sat waiting for shipment to Moscow. Spying the cars full of paint cans, the worker curiously popped one open. To his surprise he found it packed with choice meats. More cans revealed more scarce goods. The news spread. The workers immediately made the connection. Hoards of food were being diverted to make the failing Soviet Union appear prosperous as nations and media flooded in from around the world for the Olympics.
People were furious. Strikes spread like wildfire. The rail workers welded the train’s wheels to the rails and distributed the meat and food to the people. A month later, support was so strong throughout the people that a non-governmental trade-union named “Solidarity” was created and forced the government to begin to back down.
The communist State immediately reacted, however, enforcing martial law and outlawing the Solidarity union. But the attempt to destroy the union failed, only driving the united movement underground. In 1983, another visit from the Pope provided a stage for massive regathering and rallying of Solidarity with hopes and expressions of eventual victory. His message to the Poles remained constant from 1979 until the communist State ultimately fell: “Fear not.” Pope John Paul II’s efforts at toppling communism reached far beyond his 1979 visit to Poland. He had lived through dictatorship himself, worked with underground churches throughout the Eastern Bloc in direct defiance of Communist rule. His leadership among the Poles is now widely accepted as one key factor leading to the end of Soviet rule.
The lesson of Solidarity is that when individuals unite as one body around a legitimate God-honoring purpose, they gain a strength that can overcome the greatest of enemies. Had the Poles remained as disassociated individuals, they would likely never have had the strength to oppose that enemy. Despite whatever individual skill they had, they need the strengths that community provides in order to advance the cause.
As part of the work Reformation, we must join in real fellowship with each other, support each other, and then look for ways to bring others into that community of Reformation-minded believers; because the truth is, outside of the church, there is no genuine community. We need to strengthen that community among ourselves, and then offer others a way in that is more appealing to freedom and prosperity than any of the inflated promises corrupt governments or central banks can offer. In doing so, we will strengthen our shared commitments to Christ, to the faith, and to overcoming the adversities that lie before us in the way.
In other words, we need both the one and the many: we need pervasive individual effort in business and entrepreneurship, as well as networking efforts to unite the strengths and aims of Christianity as a whole. If we lack focused and faithful individual efforts, the community will be like a herd of thoughtless cattle, weak before the forces of political propaganda, easily herded into the corrals of tyranny. But if we have only individual efforts and no focused community, we will be more like a herd of cats: everyone self-willed, independent, disorganized, and not able to be organized; each distracted chasing their own rat, after their own prize, hissing at the next when they get too close. We must have dedication to both goals, individual output and concentration on community. From that combination the church will thrive, God will direct His arrows against the enemies before us, and Reformation can spread once again.
 Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), 199.
 Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–1550, 199.
 See Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston, MA: The Beacon Press, 1952), 195–6.
 Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Making of the English New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1925), 13.
 Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (London: Penguin Books, 1972), 113–4.
 Imanuel Geiss, Zukunft als Geschichte: Historisch-politische Analysen und Prognosen zum Untergang des Sowjetkommunismus, 1980-1991 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998), 101.
 Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago,” Human Events, September 26, 2005; available at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1492257/posts, accessed December 1, 2008.
 Andrew Nagorski, “After Pope John Paul II: Look to Home,” The New Republic, April 18, 2005; available at http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/JPII/nag.html, accessed December 1, 2008.
 Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago.”
 Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Miracle of Solidarity Ended Communism: Polish Patriots Changed History 25 Years Ago.”
Many have now pointed out the inequity, not to mention stupidity, of awarding $240,000 in damages to two Muslim truck drivers who were fired for refusing to deliver shipments containing alcohol. Contrasts have been made to the case of Christian bakers who refused to serve homosexual weddings, and were not protected but punished. Double standard!
The problem, as often is the case when Christians get excited about religious liberties cases, is that the “double standard” complaint misses the real and much more serious problem. The Muslim-versus-Christian contrast, and the liberals-vs-Christians issues are legally only on the surface. The real root problem which enables this kind of tyranny is that we have from day one given the government power to interfere in the markets in very drastic and unbiblical ways.
The basic law under which these cases are prosecuted is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forces, under threat of government punishment, businesses to accommodate minorities including religious minorities and homosexuals. This Act was built squarely upon the “interstate commerce” clause in our Constitution. Were it not for this power which has thoroughly tyrannized American markets since 1789, the Federal government could never have passed the type of “regulations” which now empower it to protect truck driver’s Islamic values and punish Christian bakers who refuse to cater to homosexual weddings.
The problem is, as I have written elsewhere, this power enshrined in the Constitution was only ever intended to be a revenue generator for the Federal government. It was about money, control, and corporate welfare, period, and John Marshall openly said so. In Gibbons v. Ogden (1821) he wrote:
Few things were better known, than the immediate causes which led to the adoption of the present constitution; and he [the plaintiff, on the nationalist side of the case] thought nothing clearer, than that the prevailing motive was to regulate commerce. . . . The great objects were commerce and revenue; and they were objects indissolubly connected.
Likewise, Madison admitted in a letter that one of the chief ends of the Constitution was “to take from that State [New York] the important power over its commerce.” In other words, the purpose was to create a federal level of government which could take control over state’s revenues and commerce—thereby taxing and controlling people and businesses at will.
Eventually, and predictably, this regulating power expanded into virtually every area of life, because just about anything and everything has some connection to interstate commerce. Again, I have listed how this power has been expanded historically over and over again.
The protections enshrined in the Civil Rights Act are good and decent morals, but they for the most part should not be enforced by civil government. Businesses should not be forced under threats of fines and imprisonment to hire people whose practices and values they find objectionable. But the protections enforced by the Act work such that whenever such a minority can be “reasonably” accommodated, they must be. Thus, the law works to protect the Muslim truck drivers’ Islamic principles against their employers, and yet also can require Christians to serve homosexual causes.
The problem here is not unequal application of the law. The law is being applied just as it was intended when written. The problem is that it is a bad law (Civil Rights Act of 1964) built on top of another bad law (Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution). We need to address the bad laws and not the applications of them so much.
A great part of the problem, however, is that instead of calling for truly free markets, professing Christians often rely on the same bad laws to protect their own jobs. A recent article, despite its flaws, details several such cases.
We will never have true Christian freedom in this land as long as we look only at the symptoms and not the root problems. We need the government out of the marketplace. Until we’re ready to tackle the big, uncomfortable issues at the root, inequities like these will continue to be sanctioned through our legal system.
For more detailed biblical understanding and recommendations, read the chapter on markets in Restoring America One County at a Time.
Not too long ago, world-renowned Harvard historian, Niall Ferguson, lectured and wrote on the collapse of great empires in history. While I disagree with a few of his ideas, his presentation is solid, and his contributions have an important theme: that of monumental changes in societies happening not gradually, but suddenly.
Our savior, of course, taught the lesson more simply, more accurately, without all of the academic baggage:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matt. 7:24–27).
This carries two important features not widely discussed by experts, but vital to our understanding of what goes on around us as we speak. First, the social collapse does not primarily originate with politics, economics, government, etc. Failure in these areas arises merely as a symptom of the real problem. Social collapse begins with a failure of ethics. Jesus says it pertains to “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them.” Ethics first, then politics. Secondly, while social collapse can indeed come suddenly and from unexpected or unforeseen triggers, it does not come randomly, nor do we have to live constantly on the “edge of chaos,” as Ferguson suggests, in constant fear of some minute “trigger” of social catastrophe. Rather, as Christ says, the collapse comes due to a recognizable event—a storm, a flood—and only happens because the seeds of collapse existed from day one of the structure. Collapse loomed inevitable because of a faulty foundation in sand. A society established by ignoring God’s commandments will inevitably and predictably collapse at some point. It will happen; it is a law of the universe, of the Word of God.
We are already seeing the failures of a fiat money and deficit spending welfare system, just as ancient Rome’s currency failed as the government mounted massive debts. This is what Prof. Niall Ferguson has wonderfully documented for us in his presentation. While Ferguson did not discuss these same failures as they occurred in classical civilization, they do apply, and are worth looking at for a moment.
We live in a delusion in the West, and it is not as that popular British atheist Richard Dawkins has suggested, a “God delusion,” but rather a humanist delusion. We have deluded ourselves into accepting that western civilization thrived because of the humanism and rationalism of classical culture. That great father of sociology, Fustel de Coulanges, wrote a very important book, The Ancient City, in which he openly targeted the classical delusion. He introduces the book by saying, “Having imperfectly observed the institutions of the ancient city, men have dreamed of reviving them among us. They have deceived themselves about the liberty of the ancients. . . .”1
Coulanges relates just how tyrannized by superstition that ancient world really was; he describes the daily life of the average person:
He finds [in his house] his worship and his gods. His fire is a god; the walls, the doors, the threshold are gods; the boundary marks which surround his field are also gods. The tomb is an altar, and his ancestors are divine beings.
Each one of his daily actions is a rite; his whole day belongs to his religion. Morning and evening he invokes his fire, his [household gods], and his ancestors; in leaving and entering his house he addresses prayers to them. . . .
He leaves his house, and can hardly take a step without meeting some sacred object—either a chapel, or a place formerly struck by lightning, or a tomb; sometimes he must step back and pronounce a prayer; sometimes he must turn his eyes and cover his face, to avoid the sight of some ill-boding object.
Every day he sacrifices in his house, every month in his [parish], several months a year with his gens or tribe. Above all these gods, he must offer worship to those of the city. There are in Rome more gods than citizens.
He offers sacrifices to thank the gods; he offers them, and by far the greater number, to appease their wrath. One day he figures in a procession, dancing after a certain ancient rhythm. . . . Another day he conducts chariots, in which lie statues of the divinities. Another time . . . a table is set in a street, and loaded with provisions, upon beds lie statues of the gods, and every Roman passes bowing. . . .
There is a festival for seed-time, one for harvest, and one for the pruning. . . . Before corn has reached the ear, the Roman has offered more than ten sacrifices, and has invoked some ten divinities for the success of his harvest. He has, above all, a multitude of festivals for the dead, because he is afraid of them.
He never leaves his own house without looking to see if any bird of bad augury appears. There are words which he dares not pronounce for his life. If he experiences some desire, he inscribes his wish upon a tablet which he paces at the feet of the statue of a divinity.
At every moment he consults the gods, and wishes to know their will. He finds all his resolutions in the entrails of victims, in the flight of birds, in the warning of the lightning. . . .
He steps out of his house always with the right foot first. He has his hair cut only during a full moon. He carries amulets upon his person. He covers the walls of his house with magic inscriptions against fire. He knows of formulas for avoiding sickness, and of others for curing it; but he must repeat them twenty-seven times, and spit in a certain fashion at each repetition. . . .
This Roman whom we present here is not the man of the people, the feeble-minded man whom misery and ignorance have made superstitious. We are speaking of the patrician, the noble, the powerful, and rich man.2
The Latin poet Horace expressed the subjection of the rulers to ancestor worship:
Though innocent, Roman, you will pay for the sins
Of your fathers until you restore the crumbling temples
And shrines of the gods
And their filthy smoke-blackened images.
You rule because you hold yourself inferior to the gods.
Make this the beginning and the end of all things.
Neglect of the gods has brought many ills
To the sorrowing land of Hesperia.3
That was the Romans, but the Greeks lived no more freely. They practiced all of the same superstitions: ancestor worship, augury, divining animal entrails, unlucky days, lucky words, oracles, obligatory rituals, etc. Coulanges exposes the modern view of the rational Greek as a delusion:
The Athenian whom we picture to ourselves as so inconstant, so capricious, such a free-thinker, has, on the contrary, a singular respect for ancient traditions and ancient rites. His principal religion . . . is the worship of ancestors and heroes. He worships the dead and fears them.4
With this fear and subjection and superstition at root in every house and institution from the common man to the highest courts, Classical civilization developed not freedom but tyranny. Like every society, it was rooted in a religion, a source of values and form of the sense of destiny. Every society has this; it’s inescapable. The fact that, as Horace has put it, the rulers ruled because they subjected themselves to these gods, resulted in a society in which rigid superstitions paralyzed the people, and where the rulers saw it as their job strictly to enforce the rituals so that the gods would never pour wrath upon the city. The problem was, obviously, a bad theology at the root of civilization; it was bad theology because it was a theology created in the image of the men who created it. It led to tyranny. Any deviation in the minutest part of the private life of any individual became a public menace, and that man a public enemy. Thus pagan religion leads to tyranny: the State sees itself as a slave of gods, yet right next to the gods. It quickly evolved into the view that the rulers were the gods, or that the state itself was god. The people below them live as secondary citizens: their lives, liberties, and fortunes expendable, and all subjugated to the life of the State. They had no independence: their bodies belonged to the State, they were bound to defend the State, and the State could, and often did, commit human sacrifices for different purposes. His property and money the State could confiscate at any time, including the women’s jewelry, business’ assets, creditors’ claims, and farmers’ produce.5
The State controlled when and whom you could marry, what clothes you wore, what kind of wine you could drink, who could drink, how you could travel; it could force exposure of children and the infanticide of deformed babies. And even those two great Greek philosophers so renowned for their powers of reason and love of wisdom, Plato and Aristotle, both incorporated this law advocating death for deformed babies.6
The State maintained absolute control from cradle to grave, and this of course included education. In fact, it focuses on it. Sparta forced children into education separated from their fathers. In Athens children walked in rank and file to school, military style, no matter the weather. They accept it as public duty. Plato justified State dominance of education: “Parents ought not to send or not to send their children to the masters whom the city has chosen; for the children belong less to their parents than to the city.”7 The State reserved the right, further, to forbid any teaching apart from its own.8
These civilizations, built on humanistic religions—gods built in the image of men, men molded in the image of corrupt and perverse self-made gods—had no freedom, not in life, not in education, not in religion, not in business, not in family. They not only did not enjoy freedom, Coulanges concludes, “They had no idea of it.”9 And while his overall explanation is deficient on the idea of the source of law and church-state relations, Coulanges does expose the fact that it was only the victory of Christianity that allowed for the type of freedom we can enjoy today, because Christianity simultaneously freed men from base, pagan religion, and broke Caesar’s claim to divinity in social life. Christ, he says, “proclaims that religion is no longer the state, and that to obey Caesar is no longer the same thing as to obey God.”10 That, coming from one influenced by Enlightenment thought, says quite a bit.
In that civilization (if it can be called that), Caesar continually grew in power, and as the State grew it taxed more heavily. It taxed the people to pay for wars until the taxation finally destroyed the middle class and the farmers. Then the State corporatized agriculture, continued taxation, and began social welfare distributions in order to maintain favor with the people. It bought them off and entertained them with bread and circuses—that is, welfare programs and professional football. The local farmer, out of a job and broke, hired himself out to the State as a soldier.11
As the money for wars, bread, and circuses ran out, the State inevitably turned to debasing the currency. They started by issuing smaller-sized coins with the same face value. Then they began debasing the metal: mixing in copper or tin with the silver. Under Nero, it was moderate: coins were still 94% silver. Buy AD 100 under Trajan in was 85%. By AD 218 it was 43%. By the time of Rome’s collapse an allegedly silver coin contained only 0.2% silver. No one would then accept them. Society collapsed and ushered in the Dark Ages.
Some years ago, neocon warhawk Victor David Hanson wrote a book called Who Killed Homer? in which he and his co-author lamented the decline and fall of classical studies in the universities as well as the takeover of that field by Marxists and feminists. Despite all of their erudition and brilliance, the authors failed to see that the Marxism, feminism, relativism, Freudianism, etc., they decried had its roots in the same humanism, both rational and irrational, that was the heart of Greek civilization. The classics carried the seeds of their own destruction. Saturn wanted to devour his children in order to secure his throne, but what’s really happened in western civilization is that Saturn’s children have devoured him. Who killed Homer? The knives in Homer’s back bear the fingerprints of his own students. Don’t forget: Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche were all originally classicists. They studied the classics and derived their most famous ideas from the humanism of that world. Then Nietzsche—a pure classical philologist—predicted the collapse of civilization in a mere matter of generations.
Now we hear the refrain from mainstream conservative PragerU, paraphrasing Hanson’s title, “Who killed the liberal arts?” All of this focus placed upon classical studies is deluded. Classical civilization was as wicked and perverse as our nation has become today, and an nation following such humanism has always devolved into degeneracy and vice. To return to classical humanism once again would be for the dog to return to its vomit.
It took some time, but that society that collapsed had the seeds of its own collapse within it from day one: false religion, fear, lust, envy, war, fraud. It was a society built on sand. What Christ had talked about in Matthew 7, grew directly out of his exposition of the second table of the law in Matthew 5: don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t covet. Social collapse stems from breaking these simple commandments. Social strength and freedom appear only in keeping them. Those who wish to save our civilization need to start here. All else will fall, and great will be the fall of it.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, trans. by Willard Small (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956 [1864), 11.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 211–212.
- Horace, Odes III, 3.6, trans. by David West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 63.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 216.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 220. On human sacrifice see J. E. E. D. Acton, “Human Sacrifice,” Essays in Religion, Politics, and Morality: Selected Writings of Lord Acton, 3 vols. ed. J. Rufus Fears (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1988), 3:395–442.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 220.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 221.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 222.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 223.
- Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 393.
- See Victor David Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (New York: The Free Press, 1998), 126.
This has to be embarrassing . . . if you’re an atheist. A new study performed at the University of York used targeted magnetism to shut down part of the brain. The result: belief in God disappeared among more than 30 percent of participants.
That in itself may not seem so embarrassing, but consider that the specific part of the brain they frazzled was the posterior medial frontal cortex—the part associated with detecting and solving problems, i.e., reasoning and logic.
In other words, when you shut down the part of the brain most associated with logic and reasoning, greater levels of atheism result.
You’ve heard the phrase, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? Apparently we can now also say, “I have too many brains to be an atheist.”
For a group that makes so much noise vaunting its superior prowess with logic and reasoning, this study has got to be quite a deflator. For a group that claims to be rooted primarily in logic and reason, and to exist for little reason other than that they have used logic and reason to free themselves from belief in God and, as they allege, superstition and fairy tales, this study is the equivalent of a public depanting—i.e., the would-be emperor’s got no clothes.
The Daily Mail reports:
The study was carried out by Dr Keise Izuma from the University of York and Colin Holbrook from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
They recruited 38 participants with an average age of 21, to take part in the study.
Each of these participants said they held significant religious beliefs, and the majority held moderate to extremely conservative political beliefs. . . .
The findings, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reveal that people whose brains were targeted by TMS reported 32.8 per cent less belief in God, angels, or heaven.
Despite the clear correlation between disabled reasoning and atheism, the scientists demurred from drawing that conclusion. Instead, these secularists found a way to spin the results against religion:
Dr Izuma said: “People often turn to ideology when they are confronted by problems.” . . .
“As expected, we found that when we experimentally turned down the posterior medial frontal cortex, people were less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas despite having been reminded of death.”
Dr Holbrook added that the findings are consistent with the idea that regions of the brain that have evolved to deal with threats are “repurposed” to also produce ideological reactions.
In other words, these scientists are arguing what Dawkins, Dennett, and other new atheists have been arguing: religion (“ideology”) has hijacked a part of the brain that originally “evolved” to solve only real-world problems. When confronted with problems that they determined would involve abstract answers—death, afterlife, or even political issues like immigration—this part of the brain draws from its ideological beliefs in order to confront perceived “threats.”
This spin is absurd, if for no other reason than the blindness of the blind guide: importing the ideology (hello!) of Darwinism to formulate a tortured explanation of the otherwise clear implication of the study.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7).
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1:18–20).
Perhaps in feeling the need to confront the “threat” of God, these professors crafted a conclusion that relegates Him to an ideological meme that hijacked (“repurposed”) a part of the brain that more properly should be attuned to hunting and gathering, avoiding potholes, and finding ways to pay your student loans (these studies require huge grants and high tuitions, after all).
The problem is, this laughably transparent attempt to exalt evolution and downplay the existence of God has one major flaw: it proves that the best way to get there is to turn off reasoning and logic—the very part of the brain that does the very tasks they wish to exalt.
You can’t have it both ways, atheists. Reason and logic exist because the God of the Bible exists. What this study proves is not that any hijacking took place, but that a tremendous suppression is taking place: of that which must be presupposed. Without the God of the Bible, reasoning would be impossible. Thank you to Izuma and Holbrook for showing us this strong relationship between the two. Christians can further rest content understanding what we’ve believe all along: the existence of God and the use of logic and reasoning are hard-wired and inseparably intertwined in the brains of every human being.
For more on subjects like this, and the dependence of logic upon the God of the Bible, see Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice.
A sermon by Joel McDurmon, in which we discuss corruption in criminal justice and the police.http://cdn.av.s3.amazonaws.com/static/2015/10/23171041/Sermon-Acts-5-17-42-2015-10-18.mp3
In view of the Bahnsen Conference 2015, I have decided to re-run our introductory offer for Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology. This group of essays addresses some of the key themes I’ll be elucidating when I present on the thought of Gary North. Not only can you get a great deal on this resource, but you can check out the web versions of each of the essays for free (all linked below).
I have compiled most of my “two kingdoms”-related essays into one place—now available as an eBook, in all eBook formats. Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology includes theological and historical essays, as well as critiques of the view of radical “two kingdoms” theology being leveraged by some theologians today in an effort to keep Christians quiet—or completely out—of the public square. It is time Christians returned to Scripture in order to apply Scripture to every area of life. It is time we quit allowing the fears and intimidation of a few theologians oppress Christians with the tyrannies of bad theology.
Several people have asked me to write a book about the modern “two kingdoms” theology—or, “radical two kingdoms” (R2K) as it is (deservedly) called. While I have been planning a group of major works addressing the topic in substantial ways for some time now, these are slow in coming. I realized I have also been writing several articles on the topic which can be helpful in the meantime to those who have been asking, yet who do not know most of these exist, or even for those who have forgotten some of these over the years.
This is something of a stopgap measure, I admit, but the points established in these essays and the responses and critiques levied against opposing views will go a long way toward satisfying some questions related to this topic, especially as they are usually presented by modern proponents. The question is not what this or that person says, or even what this or that cherry-picked confession says, but what Scripture says. This is the standard I uphold throughout these essays, in addition to relating much of the history that R2K proponents would rather keep suppressed. You can find all of these essays also available at on our site for free, listed below.
With your support of products like this, I will be better able to get on with the more major works in this area. In the not-too-distant future (with your help), look for substantial works on Calvin, Reformed theology and history, theonomy, American history, and applications of biblical law to modern life—to come from this author.I thank you for your support and am grateful to be of service to our readers and followers.
Purchase Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology through 10/24/14 and you can get it for only $5.00. Use discount code: KINGDOM at checkout.
Table of Contents
1. The Two Kingdoms Tyranny
2. The Lost Reformation
3. Inglorious Pastors
4. A Politician’s Paradise
5. Horton’s “Contrived Empire”: Did Calvin deny “Christendom”?
6. The Great “But” Commission
7. The Great Omission
8. Begg-ing the Question
9. Choosing your Dualism or “Something Special for the Toilet Cleaners”
10. A Wretched Critique of Restoring America
11. Double Kingdoms Doubletalk
12. Riddlebarger’s Hit-and-Run
13. A Perfect Hatred
14. Straight Talk on Twisted Marriage
15. Activism or Awareness: A False Choice
16. The Christian Duty to Boycott
17. Get Real: Pietism is No Cure for Entertainment Addiction
18. “A Bulwark Against Theonomy”
19. Trueman Seems Sincere (Really, He Does)
20. Trueman’s Total Surrender
21. Is the Amillennial Jesus Just Twiddling His Thumbs?
22. Amillennial Schizophrenia
23. Logical Deduction from R2K is Decreed “Not Helpful”
24. My Frustration with Tim Keller’s Frustration
25. With Friends Like This, Who Needs Screwtape?
If I asked you to give me a list of the great Puritans, your list would almost certainly include famous names such as John Owen, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, maybe Jeremiah Burroughs, William Perkins, William Ames, and one of several Thomases: Boston, Watson, or Brooks. Some who have progressed further would be able to provide some of the more obscure names printed in the twentieth century: Richard Sibbes, Samuel Bolton, Robert Bolton, Obadiah Sedgwick, Ralph Venning. Others will come up—Samuel Rutherford, James Buchanan, and maybe the literary figures, John Milton and John Donne—and then we begin to run out. There are many others, however, and others that are perhaps even more important than these great figures.
Allow me to list some of the most influential Puritan writers of their time along with their impactful writings (see how many you have even heard of):
- Thomas Becon, “The news from heaven” (1541), “A pleasant new nosegay” (1542), “The fortresse of the faithful” (1550), and hundreds of sermons.
- William Conway, An exortation to charitie (1550)
- Thomas Lupset, A treatise on charitie (1533)
- Thomas Starkley, (1533–36)
- Henry Brinkelow, The lamentation of a Christian against the citie of London (1542), The complaint of Roderyck Mors (1550)
- Thomas Lever, A fruitful sermon… in Poules churche (1550), and other sermons
- Thomas Drant, A fruitfull and necessary sermon (1572), and many other sermons
- Thomas White, preacher and founder of Sion College (1570s–90s)
- Richard Turnbull, An exposition upon… St. James (1591)
- Samuel Bird, Lectures (1598)
- William Harrison, Deaths advantage (1602)
- Henry Smith, Sermons (1599)
- Richard Curteys, The care of the conscience (1600)
- Robert Allen, The oderifferous garden of charitie (1603)
- William Fulbecke, A book of Christian ethics (1587)
- Thomas Twyne, The garland of godly flowers (1574)
- George Whetstone, A mirour for magestrates of cities (1584)
- Andreas Gerardus, The regiment of the pouertie (1572)
- Henry Tripp, preacher of Gerardus’ ideas
Never heard of a single one of these men or their works? I had not either, at least not until I read the magnificent work by W. K. Jordan, Philanthropy in England, 1480–1660. Jordan shows how the Protestant Reformation, through preaching and social application of the Gospel, led to an unprecedented outpouring of private charitable giving in society. From fortunes amassed through international trade and businesses fueled by technological advance, Puritans turned to improve society through founding schools, training workers, relieving and training the poor, and through improvements in public works.
The wealthy businessmen in many cases did not merely create these ideas on their own: preachers beginning as early as the reign of Edward VI preached on social improvement from the pulpit. Jordan notes why the money flowed:
These gifts were principally made by men moved by the stirring pleas of the great preachers of the Edwardian Reformation, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, and the rest, who were warm in their confidence, resolute in their demands on the reformed conscience, and fresh and humane in their view of the social obligations of the Christian conscience.
Examining what we can of the works of such gentlemen we find exactly what Jordan notes. Hugh Latimer, for example, preached his then famous “Sermon of the Plough” (1548), decrying the nobles and lords who busied themselves with luxurious living and excuses while the poor died in the streets:
In times past men were full of pity and compassion but now there is no pity, for in London their brother shall die in the streets for cold, he shall lie sick at their door between stock and stock. I cannot tell what to call it, and perish there for hunger, was there any more unmercifulness in Nebo [Jer. 48:1]? I think not. . . . Repent therefore repent London and remember that the same God lives now that punished Nebo, even the same God and none other, and he will punish sin as well now as he did then, and he will punish the iniquity of London as well as he did then of Nebo.
We find the same Latimer preaching on very specifics social issues like “Inflation of Prices and Decay of Standards” (1549)—a sermon preached to the face of the King. Latimer said,
So now you have double too much which is too too much. But let the preacher preach until his tongue be worn to stumps, nothing is amended. We have good statutes made for the commonwealth as touching commoners, enclosers, many meetings and Sessions, but in the end of the matter there comes nothing forth. Well, well, this is one thing I will say unto you, from where it comes I know, even from the devil. I know his intent in it. For if you bring it to pass, that the yeomanry be not able to put their sons to school (as indeed universities do wondrously decay already) and that they be not able to marry [off] their daughters to the avoiding of whoredom, I say you pluck salvation from the people and utterly destroy the realm.
These guys had a greater and broader understanding of “salvation” than the pietistic Puritanism that has been presented to us up until now. I wish we could begin to recover it.
Several years ago, many in the evangelical and Reformed community made a push to dig up the works of the Puritans. The great heritage of the English Reformation held many treasures, and some Christians determined to find these lost nuggets and present them to the Christian public. As a result, up-and-coming Calvinists like me walked into a plethora of “Puritan Paperbacks” [more on this in particular at a different time] and the great publications of Soli Deo Gloria (now subsumed under Reformation Heritage Books).
As I grew further in the faith and had more questions, however, I ran across a very sad phenomenon: our treasure hunters have only given us a fraction of the works of the Puritans, and worse, the fraction they have given only deals with a fraction of that for which these great Reformers believed and worked. As a result, our understanding of the Puritans (and thus of the breadth of the Reformation as a whole) has suffered from a certain myopia. We have come to see those great Reformers as churchmen concerned mainly with doctrine, personal conscience, and piety. In short, we have been presented with a pietistic Puritanism. A pietistic market has cherry-picked the Puritans, and stripped them of half their contribution, and perhaps the most important half at that.
I don’t know of any seminary, Christian college, or publishing house (aside from American Vision, anyway) that very much acknowledges, let alone emphasizes, the great social work of our Reformation heritage. There are of course the liberals such as Jim Wallis and Ron Sider who would acknowledge it, but only leverage it to lean toward their leftist solutions. Since, to most Christians, social action in general smacks of “Social Gospel”—generally perceived as denuded Gospel and liberal utopianism—conservatives face enormous opposition to returning to this aspect of our own heritage. To bring it up is to risk being tarred-and-feathered with “Social Gospel” or “worldliness” of some sort. So, evangelicals and most modern Reformed believers retreat inwardly to “personal Jesus” pietism and “don’t-rock-the-boat” church life. Our seminaries and colleges train pastors and believers to preach and teach to this market. With the exception of Leland Ryken’s book Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were, I don’t know of many conservative Christian books that remind us of this forgotten part of the Reformation.
I’m not sure if any of the above listed works, or others, appear on the web—I have not had time to check. If you have time, search for a couple. If you find something, email me a link. We can begin unearthing the rest of the Puritan treasure together. Finding something and circulating it may inspire a church or two to begin local social efforts of their own.[This and many similar essays are available in the author’s Inglorious Kingdoms: Saving the Public Square from the Tyrannies of Bad Theology.]
 All of the sources listed above I have taken from Jordan’s book (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1964 ), 155–179. My list stops with Elizabeth I, and doesn’t even cover the Stuart era and beyond which Jordan goes on to cover. The actual list is much longer.
 Jordan, 243–244.
 Hugh Latimer, “Sermon of the Plough,” In God’s Name: Examples of Preaching in England from the Act of Supremacy to the Act of Uniformity, 1534–1662, ed. John Chandos (Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1971), 13. I have modernized the language.
 Latimer, “Inflation of Prices and Decay of Standards,” In God’s Name, 16, modernized language.
 Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986. See in particular the chapter “Social Action” on pp. 173–185.
In light of recent shootings catapulted to national news, the Washington Post highlights what will surely be the left’s newest evangelical hero, hoping to infiltrate conservative Christians and turn them against guns. The tactic is “divide and conquer,” and the wedge is the ultimate political litmus test for Christians: the pro-life issue.
Rev. Rob Schenck is a recognized national conservative evangelical with a prominent ministry among conservative politicians and a background in pro-life activism. After the 2013 D.C. Navy Yard shooting, he says reality set in and he turned against guns.
WaPo sloganizes Schenck’s views: “one cannot be both ‘pro-life’ and also ‘pro-guns.’”
Schenck’s own words in the write-up are less eloquent and more straw-man: “When we say, ‘Nobody will ever take my life, I’ll take theirs,’ it contradicts the Christian life and message.”
The argument came in the wake of the Umpqua shooting. Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey had the right response: Christians should arm themselves and carry. This did not sit well with the anti-gun crowd, and Schenck saw an opportunity to publicize his new ministry angle. He took his shot at Ramsey:
“He is not qualified to issue such a challenge to his fellow Christians. It’s bad advice.”
The shot fails. First, the moment you begin attacking an opponent based on his credentials or qualifications, or alleged lack thereof, you’re on dangerous ground. Resorting to ad hominem suggests you have no good argument on the substance. Turns out, this is the case.
It is actually the Lt. Gov. who has the real Pro-Life position here. For some unfortunate reason, the Pro-Life activist is on the wrong side of the Pro-Life issue when it comes to guns.
Schenck’s argument is not principled or built on thorough review of Scripture. It’s based on a narrow view of Christian love, and an abstracted and misapplied view of the sanctity of life. As a result, he ends up making nonsensical statements:
“I’m not saying self-defense is never an option for a Christian. I think it is,” he said. “But there’s an impulse toward lethal self-defense that’s contrary to Christian thinking and teaching.”
Logically this is saying that a Christian has a right to self-defense, but not a right to lethal self-defense. In other words, if someone attacks you, you can fend them off, but if they want to kill you (I suppose you can stop and ask them just before or during the attack, right?) you must submit to their murder.
I can’t think of a worse wrangling of logic or morality. This is not application of Christian principles to real-world concerns. It is trying to force an anti-gun political agenda into Christian terminology. But the shoe doesn’t fit.
As I wrote recently, Christians need to consider gun ownership, training, and skill as pro-life issues. The use of force and even lethal force to protect life is every bit as pro-life from a Christian perspective as the death penalty. To be consistent, the movement must call to protect all innocent life, not every single life without exception. When a soul turns rogue and criminal, he or she risks their life in committing their acts of violence, such as burgling a house at night, attacking an individual, armed robbery, etc. Perpetrators forfeit their right to life when they commit such acts. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).
The consistent Pro-Life believer will do what Lt. Gov. Ramsey said: they will take the Second Amendment seriously, and put it to practice. They will bear arms. They will train and study to protect life if need be. They will be prepared. Anyone who attacks this principle in this world still filled with lethal evils is not Pro-Life, they are quite the opposite. They may be so mistakenly or with good intentions, but they are objectively anti-life.
In a recent article, I addressed a socialistic statement misattributed to Jimmy Carter. That fallacy, however misattributed, reminded me of a couple fallacies Mr. Carter did say.
Mr. Carter recently entered the news with a claim that Jesus would approve of homosexual marriage, although he admitted, “I don’t have any verse in Scripture.” I’ll let that speak for itself, but it represents a broad swath of liberal Christians (and unfortunately a growing number of mainstream evangelicals) who argue the same way.
Such a claim is factually wrong and demonstrably wrong from Scripture. One real problem with defending such inaccurate presuppositions as “Jesus would approve of gay marriage” is that the inaccuracy snowballs into further exposition and argument. This is where the fallacies occur.
One example of this is recorded in my book Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, which has recently been reprinted. The example involves both Mr. Carter and the topic of same-sex marriage. I reproduce the section here:
A Gay Straw Man
Speaking of liberal Christians, they have a favorite Straw Man tactic of their own. They will often quote Scripture in support of leftist political positions but leave out important aspects, verses, etc., which contradict the interpretation they want you to accept. This type of Straw Man some writers call the Fallacy of Suppressed Information, though I think Straw Man covers it well enough. An example of this appears in an article by former president Jimmy Carter addressing homosexuality. He writes,
The apostle Paul makes it plain that homosexual tendencies, along with other temptations, should have been resisted: “Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6: 9, 10). Then he immediately goes on to say that all these acts had been forgiven.
With this mention of forgiveness, Mr. Carter apparently assumes he deflates the conservative Christian’s case. In actuality, however, he misrepresents Paul’s point. If you know your Bible, you will already have spotted the crucial aspects that Carter suppresses. Paul wrote to a specific audience of Christians. Of course, these Christians had received forgiveness for these sins, even egregious sins like homosexuality. But they had also stopped living according to those sins, and certainly would not have approved when their culture or government endorsed or exalted such behavior (which endorsement was not uncommon). Most importantly, Paul did not preach a blanket forgiveness of these sins, but rather only to those Christians who had repented, submitted to baptism, and committed to follow Christ. In fact, for those who had once repented, yet slipped back into sexual immorality, Paul dealt harshly, even by banning them from the church until they repented (1 Cor. 5:1–5). Paul even scolds the rest of the church for not having condemned the sin themselves already (5:2).
I think Carter knows this about the Bible, but perhaps dislikes the wide support that the issue of homosexuality, when emphasized, helps conservatives draw from religious voters. As a liberal, Carter must combat this issue. In doing so, he has to suppress some information. Along with this, he erects an even more obvious Straw Man: “We must make it clear that a platform of ‘I hate gay men and women’ is not a way to become president of the United States of America.” What politician from any side has made “I hate gays” their platform? None. This is Carter’s caricature of conservatives who oppose homosexuality. But opposing homosexuality is not the same as hating homosexuals, as Paul shows and conservative politicians show as well. It would be nice if liberals like Carter would represent conservatives in at least as good a light as they do homosexuals.
Biblical Logic lays the biblical foundations for logical and critical thinking among Christians, and everyone else for that matter. It then provides scores of real-world examples of fallacies like this one, in every category, to avoid, and explains each one.
Mr. Carter, a professing evangelical Christian, has an even greater obligation to avoid them. Christians ought to be at the forefront of honest thinking, argument, and criticism. For this reason, I include a few fallacies engaged in by some conservative brethren as well. We need to be able always to give an apologetic to those outside, but we need to have our own house in order even more—and that’s an area in which we can and must always seek to improve.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear me, Joel McDurmon, along with dozens of nationally and internationally-known Christian leaders, speaking at the largest religious liberty conference of the year: Freedom Conference 2015, coming November 6–7, in Des Moines, IA.
Early-bird registration ends this Thursday. Don’t miss the great discounts. Register Now.
A couple years or so ago, Kevin Swanson and I discussed creating a conference focused on some of the themes I have written about in Restoring America—beliefs and values we both have shared for a long time. Kevin was also working on a book on liberty which has now been published. It would be a natural fit.
In the mean time, current events in America have highlighted the need for strong faith in the face of hostile forces, and a return to radical the biblical solution to restore the true and only foundations of liberty: biblical Christian faith and doctrine.
For my part, I will be presenting some of the little-known history of that doctrine which we have taken for granted and largely lost, discussing the hard truths of how we lost it, and focusing on things we can do to get it back. (For a taste of some what is to come, listen to my recent lecture to GSU Law students.) As always, what I have to say will be challenging for many, but I don’t intend to hold back. What’s at stake is far too important.
Please make your plans to join us, November 6–7, in Des Moines, IA, for Freedom 2015. Check the speakers, features, and event schedule here, and make sure to register quickly before early-bird discounts expire.
Hope to see you there!
Those of you who have seen the movie Minority Report (or read the original sci-fi short story) know how the concept of pre-crime is not only highly controversial and philosophically paradoxical, but also that it would virtually destroy whatever is left of our nation’s recognition of our Bill of Rights. If you’ve ever wondered how the police state creeps upon us so easily, here’s a front-row seat to observe how the process unfolds.
For those outside the loop, the concept of pre-crime involves police having the alleged ability to determine crimes that will allegedly occur in the future, plus the authority then to swoop in to make arrests before the predicted crime can occur. In the story, crimes are determined by a group of near-comatose mutants who allegedly have psychic powers, and who are connected to a powerful computer system.
Remove the alleged psychic mutants and leave the powerful computer system and, well, we’ve now got the foundations and plans for it pre-crime in our midst.
Hitatchi recently announced its “Predictive Crime Analytics (PCA)” designed to “enhance public safety through the delivery of highly accurate crime predictions.” The system is “specifically designed to advance the public safety initiatives of cities and municipalities” and this includes not only predictive analytics based on reams of information gathered from social media and other databases, but also “improved access to video data.”
Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, director of a project to create “global smart cities” by International Data Corporation, commented on the system: “Digital technologies, like those from Hitachi Data Systems, that provide real-time, aggregate and contextual data, support public safety initiatives that can transform how law enforcement and other first responder agencies locate, mitigate and prevent crimes, and ultimately make our cities safer places.”
The system is already set to be implemented in pilot programs in various US cities. One apologist for such government intrusion opines in The Wall Street Journal that “There’s no reason why gun owners, range operators and firearms dealers shouldn’t be a source of information for local police seeking information about who might merit special attention.”
He argues we should not be bothered by this because, after all, the government’s already doing it in other ways, and we are complicit with data-sharing in yet others:
Still don’t trust the government? You’re barking up an outdated tree. Consider the absurdly ancillary debate last year on whether the government should be allowed to hold telephone “metadata” when the government already holds vastly more sensitive data on all of us in the form of tax, medical, legal and census records.
All this seems doubly silly given the spacious information about each of us contained in private databases, freely bought and sold by marketers. Bizarre is the idea that Facebook should be able to use our voluntary Facebook postings to decide what we might like to buy, but police shouldn’t use the same information to prevent crime.
He states that it will soon not be optional, but a matter of obligation for civil officials: “A day will come when failing to connect the dots in advance of a mass-shooting won’t be a matter for upturned hands. It will be a matter for serious recrimination.”
How will such unimaginable tyranny be implemented upon us? You just read all the key words in the citations above: “public safety,” “law enforcement,” “prevent crimes.” Each of these ideas is as sacrosanct and immune from criticism in American dialogue as the infamous “for the children.” Pretty much anything done in the name of public safety will be very difficult to oppose, mainly because conservative American Christians are champions of all things done in the name of fighting crime and enhancing police.
You can see the public dialogue already bypassed in the apologist’s insistence that the matter will become an obligation for officials. Since these are already charged with maintaining “public safety,” there will be no debate on whether or not to do this. The only debates will be how and how much, and then how much more.
All the classic arguments to ignore and defy the Constitution will be trotted out: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” This is conservatives’ version of conservation-stopping mantras like “Hand’s up, don’t shoot,” “war on women,” and “woman’s right to choose.” It’s a technique designed to subvert debate, censor necessary explanations and considerations, and lead directly to expansion of State powers to tax, surveille, intrude, invade, arrest, fine, imprison, and kill.
You’ll hear the argument that if just one mass shooting can be prevented, it’s worth the sacrifice of freedom by everyone else. Public safety requires everyone’s cooperation, after all. We’ll never know if the alleged would-be shooting actually would have happened, of course, but do you want to be the one who waits to find out and turns out wrong, even just once? Didn’t think so. So submit.
All this, if successful, will come with further immunities for the officials and officers perpetrating the implementation of “pre-crime,” and whatever it will eventually entail. It will be very difficult to prove inaccurate predictions because, of course, we’re talking about things that have not happened. And thus remedies—that is, punishments—imposed upon people targeted by predictions will be impossible to overturn in court.
It will be emotionally and systematically impossible to hold police accountable for any such failures or abuses. Accountability is a severe thing, and so it pays for the State to slant the playing field in its own favor. This is one reason police departments are already routinely refusing to hand over body-cam footage of police shootings, while allowing their own officers to view them before crafting their statements to investigators. Any complaints or criticisms from this angle will be labeled “anti-police” and tossed into the Guantanamo of public discourse.
If they prove successful in their goal, programs like Hitatchi’s trial will not come with overt criminal convictions. They will rather come with much less objectionable measures of “just in case” detention for security or therapy such as is already being done in places like Germany and France.
In the end, we cannot forget the maxim given by Benjamin Franklin, which I paraphrase: Those would exchange essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
We must understand that there is never safety in Statism. Tyranny always leads to increased violence, poverty, and injustice. To Franklin’s maxim we must add, “. . . and never will have liberty or safety, either.”
Christians must resist the temptation to find crime prevention or national security in the ill-fated “king like other nations” approach illustrated and decried in the Bible (1 Sam. 8). A horse is a vain thing for safety (Ps. 33:17). We must learn to discern the appeal to the horse in our digital age. We can only find liberty and safety in a system that honors God’s Law, despite whatever threats we perceive around us. The moment we depart from a system that honors privacy and due process, that moment we depart from God’s Law, and the natural punishments of tyranny, loss of liberty, and increased crime will begin to snowball upon us.
We must instill within ourselves a will to liberty. There is no security in society as long as individual rights and privacy are not secure. That is the great fallacy inherent in making compromises with the State. Without preparing ourselves mentally to stand for what is culturally counterintuitive and socially entrenched, we have no future but decline. Faithfulness means trusting God and sacrificing your fears, not sacrificing the freedoms of your neighbors.
A while back, I was invited to speak to the Christian Law Society at Georgia State University College of Law. Last Thursday, October 8, 2015, I lectured to a group law students on the topic, “Does the Bible have a place in American Jurisprudence?”
The student to who invited me is a reader of American Vision and wanted to introduce to the student body the concept of biblical law and its role in American history. Knowing I was coming from a theonomic perspective, he invited a prominent professor who is also an orthodox rabbi, but who also is decidedly liberal on certain social issues such as same-sex marriage, just to spice things up a bit. There would be Q&A at the end.
On the eve of the event, I was informed that said professor actually assigned one of his classes to attend the lecture in addition to the willing who responded to the Christian Law Society. In the end, about 40 or so students showed up to hear this theonomist lecture about how biblical law has influenced American jurisprudence, and how it should do so even more.
I first laid a foundation for biblical covenantal thinking and contrasted that to the tyrannies that must result from humanistic attempts to address the questions God intended to addressed only by biblical covenant structure. I then focused on the example of the historical development of the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, and showed how 1) this Right arose nowhere else except in the west, particularly in British common law, and 2) this Right has no other historical antecedents except in Jewish applications the laws for witnesses in Deuteronomy.
I then outlined how this was the case for a list of Rights we hold dear, all of which have their theoretical and historical precedent in Old Testament Law:
- Separation of church and state
- Rule of law
- Equality before the law
- Consent of the government
- Accusatory trial system (as opposed to Inquisitorial)
- Castle doctrine
- Sanctity of Private property (incl. no eminent domain)
- Strict retribution for perjury
Given this list of Rights and Liberties arising from Biblical Law, my answer to the question posed in the lecture title was not only “Yes,” but “You’d better hope Biblical Law has a place in American jurisprudence.” In fact, given that our society is still afflicted with certain aspects of the humanistic system embodied in Roman Civil Law, and that this tyrannical system is increasing in various ways, we need Biblical Law more than ever more.
This is a story about the best kind of mass shooting. . . .
. . . the kind that was prevented by an armed citizen before it could even take place.
That’s right. This is the kind of story that doesn’t make national news, and even when it does, the anti-gun mediaites refuse even to mention the role of the concealed-carrying citizen. Sickeningly dishonest.
A disgruntled man was demanding a church help him because his children had recently been taken away from him. When the church could do nothing, the guy took it personally, informed the pastor to call a TV station, then left.
The church suspected something was up. The man returned during church service. The pastor’s grandson witnessed him pulling a shotgun from his trunk. They immediately locked the church doors. The man persisted. He eventually kicked his way through. It was an almost certain tragedy. Except.
Except, the grandson was also carrying a concealed handgun. When the offender burst through the door, he was immediately met by the business end of a defensive handgun and told to stop.
Startled, he froze. That’s when a half dozen men, including the 71-year old pastor, jumped on him and took the shotgun away. He was held until the sheriff arrived, and then the perpetrator was hauled off.
Every time a shooting occurs like the recent one at Umpqua Community College, liberal politicians and pundits start blaming the guns and calling for laws to restrict gun ownership and carry. It’s about the dumbest correlation that could be made. Guns don’t kill people. Hateful, vengeful, envious, and deranged people kill people. It situations where a deranged individual intends harm, he or she will do it no matter what laws are on the books. In these situations, guns are not the problem, they are the best solution to the problem. They are the best prevention.
The simple fact is this: guns save lives, and they do so frequently. And since guns save lives, Christians should consider gun ownership, skill, and carry as pro-life issues. Anyone who wishes to take away or limit guns is anti-life.
In addition to this, consider a few facts:
First, the gunman at this church brandished a shotgun—not a handgun or the legendary “assault rifle.” No amount of the kind of gun restrictions liberals continually propose would have touched this case or prevented the potential tragedy. On the contrary, it was a handgun that prevented the danger.
Lesson: guns prevent crimes. Guns save lives.
Second, the gunman here was already a convicted felon, and thus was already legally forbidden to own or carry a gun.
Lesson: gun laws don’t stop criminals from getting guns. Gun laws prevent innocent people from arming themselves against criminals, and thus gun laws are pro-crime and anti-life.
Every time a shooting like Umpqua occurs, conservatives rightly point these things out. Liberals retort with dismissive skepticism: when has concealed carry ever stopped a mass shooting, they demand. On this they are willfully ignorant.
The story outlined above is just one of several mass shootings that were (very likely) prevented. Eugene Volokh lists several more here. He also rightly notes that mass shooting incidents make up less than one percent of the homicide rate. Guns can also help prevent much of the other 99 percent as well, not to mention other violent crimes.
Now, liberals and other misanthropes may argue that we don’t know for certain that in such cases a mass shooting was prevented. Since the gunman in the church, for example, did not actually follow through with any actions, we cannot accurately say it would have been a mass killing, and thus it is wrong to say that a mass shooting was in fact prevented. Well, it is admittedly impossible to tell exactly what would have happened, but the setting makes it pretty well likely, doesn’t it? And arguments like this make our point for us anyway: whatever was going to happen, it didn’t happen. It was prevented. When handguns and defensive weapons are in place, mass shootings can be prevented.
And thus this is the best type of mass shooting: the ones that never happen to begin with. And the ones that never happen to begin with will only not happen when there is lethal defensive force in position to stop it when it does.
Christians who are concerned with tragedies like this need to take gun ownership, training, and concealed carry seriously. It is an investment of time and money, but it is one that saves lives. One could argue that for the capable, and certainly for those who have souls in their care, it is a duty.
Concealed carry is a pro-life issue. Christians need to treat it as such.
“The newspaper has no prerogative to challenge God’s word of truth. Nor do those who read the newspapers.”1 With Russia involved in Syria, the prophecy pundits are making predictions again. The four so-called Blood Moons are so yesterday. There’s a new prophecy speculation on the horizon. The folks at The Blaze have been following the Gog and Magog prophecy for a number of years with some caution: With Russia’s recent airstrikes targeting rebels in Syria, this end times subject matter is once again getting some attention, though it remains controversial, as many counter that the Old Testament simply doesn’t offer up any eschatological proclamations about the modern era. Joel Rosenberg is a modern-day advocate that Ezekiel 38 and 39 are prophetic chapters that address today’s geo-political movements: “The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel wrote 2,500 years ago that in the ‘last days’of history, Russia and Iran will form a military alliance to attack Israel from the north,” Rosenberg wrote. “Bible scholars refer to this eschatological conflict, described in Ezekiel 38-39, as the ‘War of Gog & Magog.'”
“Chronologically this all fits very nicely. The events of Esther took place during the reign of Darius, after the initial rebuilding of the Temple under Joshua [the High Priest] and Zerubbabel and shortly before rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah. . . . Thus, the interpretive hypothesis I am suggesting (until someone shoots it down) is this: Ezekiel 34–37 describes the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, and implies the initial rebuilding of the physical Temple. Ezekiel 38–39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews. Finally, Ezekiel 40–48 describes in figurative language the situation as a result of the work of Nehemiah.”2
Not everyone agrees. Keep in mind that there is a long history of prophetic prognosticators who have argued that the events described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 were being fulfilled in their day.
The following is a brief introduction to the topic that interprets Ezekiel 38 and 39 in terms of its historical context.
For a comprehensive treatment of this subject, see my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future. It’s a full exposition of Ezekiel 38 and 39 as well as Zechariah 12.
The battle is an ancient one fought with ancient weapons: bows and arrows, clubs, shields, chariots, swords, and chariots. The combatants are on horseback.
Many interpreters will argue that these ancient weapons are only “symbolic.” One prophecy writer claims that bows and arrows are symbols for missile launchers and missiles. This is no way to interpret the Bible. Why confuse the people in Ezekiel’s day and our day?
In Ezekiel 38:13 we read that the enemies of the Jews wanted to “seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil.” In Ezra 1:4, we learn that these are the same items that the Jews brought back from their captivity:
“Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”
If the battle described in Ezekiel 38–39 does not refer to modern-day nations that will attack Israel, then when and where in biblical history did this conflict take place? Instead of looking to the distant future or finding fulfillment in a historical setting outside the Bible where we are dependent on unreliable secular sources, James B. Jordan believes that “it is in [the book of] Esther that we see a conspiracy to plunder the Jews, which backfires with the result that the Jews plundered their enemies. This event is then ceremonially sealed with the institution of the annual Feast of Purim.” ((James B. Jordan, Esther in the Midst of Covenant History (Niceville, FL: Biblical Horizons, 1995), 5.)) Jordan continues by establishing the context for Ezekiel 38 and 39:
“Ezekiel describes the attack of Gog, Prince of Magog, and his confederates. Ezekiel states that people from all over the world attack God’s people, who are pictured dwelling at peace in the land. God’s people will completely defeat them, however, and the spoils will be immense. The result is that all nations will see the victory, and ‘the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward’ (Ezek. 39:21–23). . . .
“Chronologically this all fits very nicely. The events of Esther took place during the reign of Darius, after the initial rebuilding of the Temple under Joshua [the High Priest] and Zerubbabel and shortly before rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah. . . . Thus, the interpretive hypothesis I am suggesting (until someone shoots it down) is this: Ezekiel 34–37 describes the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, and implies the initial rebuilding of the physical Temple. Ezekiel 38–39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews. Finally, Ezekiel 40–48 describes in figurative language the situation as a result of the work of Nehemiah.”2
Read more: “The Isaiah 17 Damascus Bible Prophecy has been Fulfilled.”
Ezekiel 38:5–6 tells us that Israel’s enemies come from “Persia, Cush, and . . . from the remote parts of the north,” all within the boundaries of the Persian Empire of Esther’s day. From Esther we learn that the Persian Empire “extended from India to Cush, 127 provinces” in all (Esther 8:9). Ethiopia (Cush) and Persia are listed in Esther 1:1 and 3 and are also found in Ezekiel 38:5. The other nations were in the geographical boundaries “from India to Ethiopia” in the “127 provinces” over which Ahasueras ruled (Esther 1:1). “In other words, the explicit idea that the Jews were attacked by people from all the provinces of Persia is in both passages,”3 and the nations listed by Ezekiel were part of the Persian empire of the prophet’s day.
The parallels are unmistakable. Even Ezekiel’s statement that the fulfillment of the prophecy takes place in a time when there are “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11) is not an indication of a distant future fulfillment as Grant Jeffrey attempts to argue:
“It is interesting to note that during the lifetime of Ezekiel and up until 1900, virtually all of the villages and cities in the Middle East had walls for defense. Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls. Yet, in our day, Israel is a ‘land of unwalled villages’ for the simple reason that modern techniques of warfare (bombs and missiles) make city walls irrelevant for defense. This is one more indication that his prophecy refers to our modern generation.
* * * * *
“Ezekiel’s reference to ‘dwell safely’ and ‘without walls . . . neither bars nor gates’ refers precisely to Israel’s current military situation, where she is dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense and where her cities and villages have no walls or defensive bars. The prophet had never seen a city without walls, so he was astonished when he saw, in a vision, Israel dwelling in the future without walls. Ezekiel lived in a time when every city in the world used huge walls for military defense.”4
In the book of Esther we learn that there were Jews who were living peacefully in “unwalled towns” (KJV) (9:19) when Haman conspired against them. Israel’s antagonists in Ezekiel are said to “go up against the land of unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. It’s unfortunate that the translators of the New American Standard Version translate perazah as “rural towns” in Esther 9:19 instead of “unwalled villages” as they do in Ezekiel 38:11.
The mention of “unwalled villages” the conditions of Esther’s day. Jeffrey is mistaken in his assertion that “Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls.” They seemed to be quite common outside the main cities. Moreover, his contention that Israel is currently “dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense” is patently untrue. Since 2006, the Israeli government has built more than 435 miles of walls, fences, and barriers in Israel.
The chief antagonist of the Jews in Esther is Haman, “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24).5
An Agagite is a descendant of Amalek, one of the persistent enemies of the people of God. In Numbers 24:20 we read, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.” The phrase “first of the nations” takes us back to the early chapters of Genesis where we find “Gomer,” “Magog,” “Tubal,” and “Meshech,” and their father Japheth (Gen. 10:2), the main antagonist nations that figure prominently in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Amalek was probably a descendant of Japheth (Gen. 10:2). Haman and his ten sons are the last Amalekites who appear in the Bible. In Numbers 24:7, the Septuagint (LXX) translates “Agag” as “Gog.” “One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’”6 Agag and Gog are very similar in their Hebrew spelling and meaning. Agagite means “I will overtop,” while Gog means “mountain.” In his technical commentary on Esther, Lewis Bayles Paton writes:
“The only Agag mentioned in the OT is the king of Amalek [Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:9]. . . . [A]ll Jewish, and many Christian comm[entators] think that Haman is meant to be a descendant of this Agag. This view is probably correct, because Mordecai, his rival, is a descendant of Saul ben Kish, who overthrew Agag [1 Sam. 17:8–16], and is specially cursed in the law [Deut. 25:17]. It is, therefore, probably the author’s intention to represent Haman as descended from this race that was characterized by an ancient and unquenchable hatred of Israel (cf. 3:10, ‘the enemy of the Jews’).”7
A cursive Hebrew manuscript identifies Haman as “a Gogite.”8 Paul Haupt sees a relationship between Haman’s descriptions as an Agagite and “the Gogite.” ((Paul Haupt, “Critical Notes on Esther,” OT and Semitic Studies in Memory of W. R. Harper, II (Chicago: 1908), 194–204.))
There is another link between Haman the Agagite in Esther and Gog in Ezekiel 38–39. “According to Ezekiel 39:11 and 15, the place where the army of Gog is buried will be known as the Valley of Hamon-Gog, and according to verse 16, the nearby city will become known as Hamonah.”9 The word hamon in Ezekiel “is spelled in Hebrew almost exactly like the name Haman. . . . In Hebrew, both words have the same ‘triliteral root’ (hmn). Only the vowels are different.”10
Haman is the “prince-in-chief” of a multi-national force that he gathers from the 127 provinces with the initial permission of king Ahasuerus to wipe out his mortal enemy—the Jews (Ex. 17:8–16; Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8; 1 Chron. 4:42–43; Deut. 25:17–19). Consider these words: “King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him” (Esther 3:1). Having “authority over all the princes who were with him” makes him the “chief prince.” In Esther 3:12 we read how Haman is described as the leader of the satraps, governors, and princes. The importance of this title is made clear in my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future.
As I point out in Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future, when historical circumstances change, there are changes in interpretation. Islam was considered the prophetic Gog as far back as the eighth century. Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) believed that “the papacy was the antichrist alluded to in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, and the Turk was the small horn that replaced three horns of the beast in the seventh chapter.”11 Hal Lindsey began his prophetic career identifying Russia as Gog in his 1970 blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth but later changed to the Islamic nations.From Francis X. Gumerlock’s “The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Prediction the End of the World”
Peter Toon offers a helpful historical perspective on the way commentators understood the place of Islam and the Papacy in relation to Bible prophecy:
“References to the Turkish Empire appear in virtually every Commentary on the Apocalypse of John which was produced by English Puritans, Independents, Presbyterians and Baptists. Gog and Magog were identified with the armies of Turkey and the Muslim world, descriptions of Turkish military power were seen in the contents of the trumpet (Rev. 9:13–21), and the year 1300 was believed to have great significance for it was at that time that the Turk became a threat to European civilization.
* * * * *
“For the English Puritans, as for many of their fellow Protestants on the Continent of Europe, the fact that the Ottoman Empire had for its religion Islam, the teaching of Mohammed, the ‘false’ prophet of God, was sufficient to label it as an envoy or agent of Satan, seeking to destroy the true Church of Christ. In view of this we cannot be surprised to learn that they believed God had given to John on Patmos a vision of this great enemy of the elect of God, who would one day be destroyed by the power of Christ.”12
The Gog-Magog prophecy was fulfilled in the vents of the book of Esther. We should praise God for this ancient fulfillment when God rescued the Jews from almost certain annihilation (Esther 3:6, 13). It’s because of Esther and Mordecai’s faithfulness and God’s special intervention that the Jewish people were rescued and Jesus was born.
- Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on the Millennium, ed. Gary North, 3:2 (Winter 1976–77), 53–55.
- Jordan, Esther in the Midst of Covenant History, 5–7.
- Jordan, Esther in the Midst of Covenant History, 7.
- Grant R. Jeffrey, The Next World War: What Prophecy Reveals About Extreme Islam and the West (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2006), 143, 147–148.
- In the First Targum to Esther, an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, the following is found: “The measure of judgment came before the Lord of the whole world and spoke thus: Did not the wicked Haman come down from Susa to Jerusalem in order to hinder the building of the house of thy Sanctuary?” ((Lewis Bayles Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, (1908) 1916], 194.
- Sverre Bøe, Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38–39 As Pre-Text for Revelation 19, 17–21 and 20, 7–10 (Wissunt Zum Neun Testament Ser. II, 135) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 384. Anton Scholz (1892), taking an allegorical approach, comments: “The Book of Esther is a prophetic repetition and further development of Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning Gog.” Quoted in Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, 56. The point in all these Gog-Agagite references is to show that there are a number of scholars who see a literary parallel between Ezekiel 38–39 and Esther.
- Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, 194.
- Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, 194. “When 93a makes him a Gogite (cf. Ez. 38–39), and L makes him a Macedonian, these are only other ways of expressing the same idea. . .” (194).
- Jordan, Esther in the Midst of Covenant History, 7.
- Jordan, Esther in the Midst of Covenant History, 7. This is quite different from identifying the common Hebrew word rosh with modern-day Russia since there is only one common letter between rosh and Russia. See Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future for additional information on the identity of rosh.
- Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531–46 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 97.
- Peter Toon, “Introduction,” Puritans, the Millennium and the Future of Israel: Puritan Eschatology 1600 to 1660 (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1970), 19–20.
I won’t belabor the beating of this dead horse too much, but you should be aware that there is indeed another “Four Blood Moons” to occur within our lifetime (God willing!)—one almost identical to the one we just lived through the past two years.
As previously posted, the so-called “Blood Moon” prophecy was impossible from the beginning, but that did not stop Hagee (and others) from Pontificating. Hagee now owns the label of false prophet, and they are all trying to rationalize their failed predictions.
What they never told you is that this event was really not even that unique. In addition to the good amount of fudging historical events to fit previous “tetrads” into an eerily precise narrative, the 2014–2015 cycle is not the last to come. Yet if you listened to all these prophecy pundits, this is God’s final warning.
Well, not if you look ahead on the calendar. When this September passed without event, just as I predicted, I then look ahead just to see how far out the next cycle of prophecy shyster book sales could be expected. I expected it to be hundreds of years before such a rare event would occur again. But I was surprised.
The next “Four Blood Moons” event is only 18 years from now: 2033–2034. Lord willing, I’ll only be 59 years old when it starts. You, too, will probably live to see it. And yes, this tetrad of lunar eclipses each falls directly on the Jewish Passover and Feast of Tabernacles for those two consecutive years, and is split half way by a solar eclipse.
You can probably bet there’ll be a whole new crop of anxious Christians comprising a ripe market for a handful of unscrupulous rapture mongers. They will have forgotten how the last blood moons hype came and went as a farce way back in 2015.
Well, I hope not. In fact, I hope to prevent it. I hope there’s not a single premillennialist left in 2033, and I hope to be right smack in the middle of their extinction.
I hope that by 2033, enough Christians learn that Joel’s prophecy of the moon turning to blood is not in our future. I hope they learn the simple lesson that Joel’s “blood moon” prophecy was fulfilled exactly when Peter himself said it was fulfilled: in the first century (Acts 2:16).
I hope they learn that the Last Days took place back then, too (Heb. 1:1–2).
I hope they learn that the Day of the Lord judgment spoken of in that prophecy (Joel 2, Acts 2:20) was about the Old Covenant Jews who rejected Jesus, and that it took place in that generation, just as Jesus said it would (Matt. 24:34), in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70—exactly 40 years after Jesus predicted it.
I hope they learn that there is no such thing as “The Antichrist,” but that there are many antichrists, and that they were already present when John wrote in the first century—just as he himself said in 1 John 2:18.
I hope they learn that John saw those antichrists as proof that his generation—in the first century—was then living in “the last hour.” It’s not our future; it was theirs, and it is over.
I hope that these few simple lessons, and others like them, help people realize that we are not living in the last days, and we are not expecting an imminent return of Christ. I hope people realize that what is before us is not rapture, but lots of kingdom work. Our task is not spreading fear and anxiety. Our task is not escape from this world. Our task is ethical and judicial—it involves preaching Christ, teaching law, healing the nations, and spreading justice and righteousness, all by the power of His Spirit.
If you are now experiencing disillusionment with the end-times hype so badly, but typically, manifested in the Blood Moons and Shemitah hype, let me introduce you to a set of resources that elaborate on the simple lessons I outlined above. If you are a beginner, you need to read Gary DeMar’s brand new book, A Beginner’s Guide to Bible Prophecy, or his earlier short book Is Jesus Coming Soon?
For more experienced Christians and teachers, these make great gifts to hand out to others.
If you’re a bit more experienced Bible student, you need to get Gary’s more substantial work on Matthew 24, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church. It’s a classic. You can also avail yourself of any of our several resources on Bible prophecy, print, audio, and video.
Finally, if you want a fairly advanced first-century view of Luke’s Gospel focusing on Jesus’ parables, you need to read my Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.
As you can see, we have more than enough teaching materials and resources to combat the unfortunate hysteria that besets Christians with a fearful preoccupation with Christ’s imminent return and the “Last Days.” We probably don’t have enough to keep you busy for the next 18 years, but I hope we have enough to shrink the majority of Last Days Madness by that time.
If you’re newly delivered to eschatological sanity after the abject failure of Blood Moons and Shemitah hype, let American Vision help you. We’ve been doing this for over 35 years, and we love doing it.