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Tim LaHaye raptured at 90, but not like he expected

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 09:22

Tim LaHaye died at the age of 90. He believed in a pre-tribulation rapture, an event that he claimed was “near.” It was the basis of his end-time prophetic system even though there is not a single verse in the Bible that teaches it. LaHaye himself admits that this is true:

“One objection to the pre-Tribulation Rapture is that not one passage of Scripture teaches the two aspects of His Second Coming separated by the Tribulation. This is true. But then, no one passage teaches a post-trib or mid-trib Rapture, either.”1

“No single verse specifically states, ‘Christ will come before the Tribulation.’ On the other hand, no single passage teaches He will not come before the Tribulation, or that He will come in the middle or at the end of the Tribulation. Any such explicit declaration would end the debate immediately.”2

The basis of LaHaye’s end-time prophetic system, a system he promoted in numerous books during his long writing career, is not founded on any direct biblical evidence. The indirect evidence is scant and requires a great deal of exegetical elasticity and a very big imagination. It also requires an audience that does not “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) or check a writer’s claims (Acts 17:11).

LaHaye was not above revising his prophetic views without telling his readers when time and events made them null and void. For example, in his book The Beginning of the End, which was published in 1972, LaHaye wrote that the generation that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:34 consisted of “people who saw the First World War.”3

In LaHaye’s 1991 revised edition, it was no longer “the people who saw the First World War” but “the generation that ‘sees’ the events of 1948,”4 even though there is nothing in the New Testament that would lead anyone to this conclusion since it does not say anything about the need for Israel to become a nation again in order to fulfill Bible prophecy.

Lahaye was using the fig tree illustration in Matthew 24:32 to support his position. “[W]hen a fig tree is used symbolically in Scripture, it usually refers to the nation Israel. If that is a valid assumption (and we believe it is), then when Israel officially became a nation in 1948, that was the ‘sign’ of Matthew 24:1-8, the beginning ‘birth pangs’ — it meant that the ‘end of the age’ is ‘near.’”5

The editors of LaHaye’s own Prophecy Study Bible state that “the fig tree is not symbolic of the nation of Israel.”6 Most dispensationalists have abandoned the fig tree equals Israel claim (e.g., John F. Walvoord and Mark Hitchcock).

As you can see from the above examples, I’ve been critical of much of Tim LaHaye’s prophetic views but have never made it personal. I met Tim LaHaye several times. On one occasion, we had a very enjoyable conversion at a Christian Booksellers Convention. After our brief meeting, he said to me, “Gary, you’re really a nice guy?” My response was, “Why would you think otherwise?” Just because I was critical of his prophetic views did not mean I did not consider Tim LaHaye a brother in Christ.

In 2001, Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson Publishing Co. asked me if I would write a book evaluating the multi-volume Left Behind series. It was titled (unfortunately) End Times Fiction. I was willing to do it, but I told Mike that I did not believe it would be a big seller. Why would bookstores offer a book where they would make a profit of around $4.00 when they were making thousands of dollars on the ever-expanding number of Left Behind books, graphic novels, films, games, etc. that were being published? The series was a multimillion dollar industry.

As it turned out, I wrote the critique, R.C. Sproul graciously supplied an informative Foreword, and it sold reasonably well. It was not the blockbuster I knew it wouldn’t be. It didn’t help that the book had a lame title and was released about the time the Twin Towers were hit. For months, the news was dominated by the tragedy and probably lent credence to some of Left Behind’s prophetic claims.

The book has since been republished as Left Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction, a title that describes what the book is actually about.

Tim LaHaye wrote the following to me in a March 13, 1998 letter.

It is very exciting what God is doing with our Left Behind Series. Just yesterday, while in Canada on an open mike show out of Buffalo, we had a mother call to say that her 14-year old son was so transformed that he led his unsaved father to Christ by warning him, “when the rapture occurs, Mom and I will be taken and you will be left behind.” Very honestly, that is why we write these books and why we are hoping it is made into a movie in 1999.7

In interviews, LaHaye always mentions the evangelistic impact of Left Behind. His sincerity on this point cannot be questioned.

But there’s another side to the story. In his best-selling book Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman, an ardent critic of the full authority and reliability of the Bible who serves as Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describes how he struggled to reconcile views promoted by people like Hal Lindsey and LaHaye with what the Bible states.

Ehrman’s trek down the road toward skepticism and unbelief began with what he describes as “one of the most popular books on campus” that was being read while he was a student at Moody Bible Institute in the 1970s, Hal Lindsey’s apocalyptic blueprint for the future, The Late Great Planet Earth.8 Ehrman writes that he “was particularly struck by the ‘when’” of Lindsey’s prophetic claims about Matthew 24:34.

Lindsey and LaHaye taught that Jesus was not describing what would happen to the generation of His day but one that was not yet born. In addition to Lindsey, Ehrman mentioned LaHaye’s Left Behind series as another example of someone trying to get around what Jesus explicitly says in Matthew 24:34 that He would return before the generation then living passed away.

LaHaye’s prophetic system has no answer for Ehrman. The only position that makes biblical sense is to take God’s Word at its word. Jesus said He would return in judgment before that generation passed away, and He did. See my books Is Jesus Coming Soon? and Last Days Madness.

When anti-theist Christopher Hitchens raised the same argument as Ehrman in his debate with Douglas Wilson, Wilson explained that Jesus was referencing His present audience’s generation and in fact Jesus did return as He said He would in a way that was typical of judgment comings in the Old Testament. The answer silenced Hitchens. You can see the exchange in the film Collision.

It’s no wonder that LaHaye never wanted to engage in a public debate on the subject. In 1993, American Vision asked LaHaye if he would agree to a debate. He passed on the offer and suggested that I contact Thomas Ice who was “willing to debate.” Thomas and I debated nine times.

Tim had this to say about debating:

“You are right when you say that ‘The Christian community deserves to hear the various views so that they can each come to a decision about which view is biblically correct.’ That is why I write books.

“If people want to know which view is best. They can read and study the Bible in light of my books and the books of others who have written on these issues. This way they can go back and study and reread what has been said.”

I agree, and that’s why I’ve written books on the subject. It was never personal. On one occasion, however, Tim told me that he did not want to debate me because it would give legitimacy to my position. You see, I was the unknown young whipper snapper who had no publishing credentials. Going up against Tim LaHaye would have given me a great deal of credibility.

In the end, the prophetic views of Tim LaHaye contributed to the neutralization of Christians when it came to culture. The “rapture” was always near, Jesus could come at any moment, and world conditions would only get worse. LaHaye was not the first person to make these claims, but he was one of the most popular and prolific. I believe his end-time views had a direct result on how millions of Christians saw their world – one of inevitable collapse.

Dr. Gary North offers a succinct summary of the prophetic mindset of today’s end-time Christians:

“How can you motivate people to get out and work for a political cause if you also tell them that they cannot be successful in their efforts? How can you expect to win if you don’t expect to win? How can you get men elected if you tell the voters that their votes cannot possibly reverse society’s downward drift into Satan’s kingdom? What successful political movement was ever based on expectations of inevitable external defeat?”9

Tim LaHaye was double-minded when it came to social activism. He was all for it, His wife’s organization Concerned Women of America promoted it, but his end-times views cancelled out the energy and actions that were necessary to bring about long-term social change. As fellow end-time advocate J. Vernon McGee said, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship” or as other’s described the futility of it all, “Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?”

[Don’t miss Gary DeMar’s latest, The End Times and the Islamic AntiChrist.]

Notes:

  1. Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians Will Escape All the Tribulation (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992), 69. This book was later republished as Rapture Under Attack.
  2. LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm, 188.
  3. Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1972), 165, 168.
  4. Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End, rev. ed. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1991), 1993.
  5. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture . . . And What They Mean (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), 57.
  6. Prophecy Study Bible, 1040, note on Matthew 24:32-3.
  7. The film came out late in 2000.
  8. Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 12.
  9. Gary North, “The Eschatological Crisis of the Moral Majority,” Christian Reconstruction (January/February 1981), 2.
Categories: Worldview

God, Governments, and Culture Conference 2016 #GGC16

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 10:06

Online Registration is now closed for the God, Governments, and Culture 2016 Conference.

You may still REGISTER ON SITE beginning at 1:00 p.m., July 28, 2016.

Inspired by Dr. McDurmon’s Restoring America One County at a Time, “God, Governments, and Culture 2016” will feature practical action training and insider-knowledge from experienced activists and strategists.

Join Dr. Joel McDurmon and expert guest speakers Paul Dorr and Matthew Trewhella this July 28-31, 2016, in Kerrville, TX for a special “local government” edition of American Vision’s “God, Government, and Culture” Conference 2016. For everyone serious in learning and applying in-depth knowledge, from beginners to the experienced, GGC16 will not only not disappoint, it is a must-attend event.

Don’t miss “Dinner with the Speakers”—a special event Thursday night designed for intimate discussion, Q&A with Paul, Matt, and Joel.

Registration includes access to MP3 downloads of the entire conference.

Schedule:

Thursday, July 28

  • 1:00–3:00pm — Conference Check-In and Registration
  • 3:00–4:00pm — Joel McDurmon: Welcome and Introduction: “Why Localism?”
  • 4:00–5:00pm — Paul Dorr: “Freedom Under God’s Law: Building Young Leaders”
  • 5:00–6:00pm — Matt Trewhella: “The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine: A Proper Resistance to Tyrants”
  • 6:00–9:00 — Dinner with the Speakers (special paid event, includes dinner and private Q&A)

Friday, July 29

  • 8:00–8:50am — Breakfast
  • 9:00–10:00am — Paul Dorr: “The Economic Big Picture Made Local – How to Exploit It”
  • 11:00–12:00pm — Matt Trewhella: The Historic Role of the People in Effecting the Interposition of Magistrates”
  • 12:00m–1:00pm — Lunch
  • 1:00–2:30pm — Free time
  • 2:30–3:30pm — Paul Dorr: “Financial Review of Local Government Made Simple: How To Leverage It”
  • 3:30–4:30pm — Joel McDurmon: “The Importance of Understanding What We’ve Lost”
  • 4:30–5:30pm — Paul Dorr: “Reverse Saul Alinsky: Making Progress Using Their Rules”
  • 6:00–7:00pm — Dinner
  • 7:00–8:00pm — Joel McDurmon: “Key Tactics of Biblical Resistance”
  • 8:00–whenever — Speakers Q&A

Saturday, July 30

  • 8:00–8:50am — Breakfast
  • 9:00–10:00am — Paul Dorr: “Building Credibility Over Time: Good Communications & Direct Action. Christ Receives All Glory!”
  • 11:00–12:00pm — Matt Trewhella: “The Fine Art of Meeting with Magistrates”
  • 12:00m–1:00pm — Lunch
  • 1:00–2:00pm —Joel McDurmon: “Tactics versus Strategy: The Long Term Vision”

Sunday, July 31

  • Worship at Sponsor’s church; Time and Place TBA (Joel McDurmon — Sermon)

Venue:

Inn of the Hills Hotel and Conference Center
1001 Junction Hwy, Kerrville, Texas 78028

“The historic Inn of the Hills Hotel & Conference Center, in the heart of the Hill Country, proves to be the perfect destination for business or pleasure.  Opened in the 1960s as a lodge, the Inn over the years has evolved into a full service hotel. The rustic native stone architecture with beautiful courtyard and pool area, create a nostalgic, relaxing getaway for any type of traveler.  With a 21,000 square foot conference center, full-service restaurant, pub with live music on the weekends, and a short walk to the Guadalupe River and park, there is something for everyone.  Amenities include free parking, complimentary wi-fi, cable TV, Ghilchrist Soams bath products and microwaves and refrigerators in each room.  Only a few miles from downtown Kerrville, the Inn of the Hills is the only way to experience the beautiful Texas Hill Country.”

Categories: Worldview

A consideration of blacks and disproportionate crime

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 16:22

I want you to consider this quotation I crossed yesterday:

Blacks are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime. Blacks, who make up only 1 percent of the population, account for 34 percent of drug dealers, 47 percent of robberies, 47 percent of illegal gambling, 82 percent of gangs, and 98 percent of pimps. The most common expressions in the jargon of gangsters comes from black hip hop and rap. These characteristics alone refute the liberal blabber about “equality.”

I think we’ve all heard something like this before. While you may note that a couple of the statistics are a bit askew, you’ll acknowledge the general spirit and, to be honest, a close proximity to the actual statements frequently repeated by conservatives, reactions to some claims of movements like #blacklivesmatter, and even the comments on which some people still base their own diatribes and criticisms of “black culture” or “black youth,” or the like.

To be truly candid, we would have to admit that there is still a very firm streak among so-called “paleo-conservatives” that affirms that such statistics form foundational truths about race relations (read: animosities) in American life. Witness the surprising percentage of southern Presbyterians who voted against their denomination’s recent resolution to apologize for its past racism and role in segregation.

Witness the recent story of a slight, about 90-lb black kindergarten teacher wrongfully manhandled by an Austin police officer when she didn’t lock-step as quickly as he liked during a traffic stop. (To its credit, the Austin PD acknowledges that the actions and comments on the part of two officers were wrong—a small victory.) During her handcuffed trip in the back of the police cruiser, the transporting police officer was filmed calmly informing her that people are, yes, afraid of black people, but for good reason: because of their “violent tendencies.” He explained,

“99 percent of the time, when you hear about stuff like that, it is the black community that is being violent.”

Now there’s a striking stat for you.

In fact, you, dear reader, may be among those who think, or even practice, the type of condemnation-by-statistics in the quotation at the start above, whether as a justification for rejecting black-power or black-equality movements, or rebutting the leftism inherent therein, because you always give conservatives the benefit of the doubt, or for whatever reason. The fact is, statistics create a collective umbrella which provides shelter for certain prejudices or sins committed, often routinely, against individuals of that class to whom such stats may or may not apply.

But if so, you have no idea of what spirit of death and destruction you may be partaking.

Just one more fact for your consideration:

That quotation above—the one about the blacks being disproportionate in crime—yeah, I edited it a bit. I adapted it to fit modern discourse and more contemporary expressions.

Yeah. The original quotation is not recent, and it is not about blacks. Here’s the original:

The parasite nation of Judah is responsible for a large part of international crime. In 1932, the Jew, who make up only 1 percent of the world’s population, accounted for 34 percent of the world’s dope peddlers, and 47 percent of robberies; 47 percent of crooked games of chance, 82 percent of international crime organizations, and 98 percent of dealers in prostitution. The most common expressions in the jargon of international gangsters and criminals stem from Hebrew and Yiddish words. These physiognomies refute the liberal theory of the equality of all who bear a human countenance.

The quotation comes from the Nazi propaganda film, The Eternal Jew, which was produced in 1940 in an effort to demonize Jews in Nazi Germany and justify their opposition to the Jewish race. (Hat tip to Jeffery Tucker of FEE for bringing this film to our attention. You can watch the whole film here, if you can stomach it.)

Even if the stats were accurate, it would not justify either the spirit of fear and derision, or the castigation of any given individual as if those stats pertained to them—despite their appearance or race. Yet the use of crime statistics was a prime piece of evidence used to turn the hearts of an entire nation against a race. It’s a powerful force. And it has had undeniably powerful effects.

If we don’t fight for our basic constitutional rights for everyone, all the time, we undermine them for ourselves. We destroy our own liberty and future.

If we don’t love the Samaritan, we don’t love our neighbor. It’s that simple. The moment we start down the other road, we start to imbibe this demonizing spirit of the Nazi. You need to assess whether you’ve started down that road or not, and if so, how far.

Categories: Worldview

In light of shootings, police chief advises citizens to surrender Fourth Amendment rights

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:26

On July 9, Waterbury, CT, police chief Vernon Riddick, Jr., rightly condemned the targeted shootings of Dallas police officers as a “heinous and hateful act.” Less than a week later, Riddick leveraged the crisis to instruct a roomful of citizens to waive their Constitutional rights whenever police demand it.

The report is rather startling:

If an officer stops your car, if they ask to search your person or vehicle, if they demand entry into your home, comply and then complain later to the department’s internal affairs office and police chief’s office if you feel your rights have been violated, Riddick said.

Radley Balko rightly condemns the attitude that a police chief expects citizens to waive their rights:

The intent behind the [Fourth] amendment was to protect us from the indignity and violation of our privacy when we’re subjected to a search that’s based on little more than a hunch — the intent was not to protect our right to later complain to internal affairs.

I realize things are tense right now. We should certainly respect and be aware of that when interacting with law enforcement officers. But to verbally refuse a request to search is an exercise of one’s rights. It isn’t a provocation. That Riddick and other police officials seem to see it as the latter is telling — and a big problem.

No, it’s a huge problem. Riddick’s comments reveal an increasingly common attitude among law enforcement, as well as conservatives in general. It is a classic tyrannical reaction to crime—one which has had tremendous ramifications throughout American history.

Conservatives appeal to constitutional rights when things like ObamaCare get shoved down our throats. But then they turn and praise its routine violation in the name of “law and order” or being “tough on crime.”

Let a black guy get manhandled as a drug suspect, let his backpack get shuffled, his car tossed, and his body searched, and conservative spectators will shrug saying, “He’s probably a criminal. He probably had it coming.” Let drugs be found on him and, whether the search violated his rights or not, the spectator will feel justified.

Let there be nothing found, and the justification will still come: “Small price to pay for keeping us safe.” “Tough on crime” and “law and order” are a code phrases conservative use to justify their trashing the Constitution like rank leftists.

I was not at all surprised to hear the reaction of the Trump-GOP industrial complex to the police shootings: “we need law and order!” It had hardly a word to say about apparently unnecessary shootings by police beforehand. There were no appeals to people’s constitutional rights; only justifications about what happens when you—you’ve got it—don’t comply. But let a policeman get shot (which is admittedly a terror and a tragedy), and the conservatives’ silence is broken: we must have—you’ve got it—law and order.

Yes, it is always smart and wise to “comply” when a police officer (or anyone, really) can readily shoot you. But why do we have to cultivate an environment in which so many seem so ready to shoot you? Why not rather, as Christians and conservatives, uphold the founding principles we all claim are Christian and conservative? We are told always to “comply” in every instance. But the founding principles say that compliance is not always required and not always necessary. Compliance is not an absolute—far from it. We have a God-given right not to comply in specific circumstances, and Balko is right: exercising that right is not a provocation.

We need to train police intensely to acknowledge that refusing consent is not a provocation. It is the very thing they should exist to protect. Instead, we do just the opposite, and the cultivation of the “comply” ethic, over time, has led to police chiefs now telling us we should waive those very rights.

Since 1973, the Supreme Court precedent has been that your ignorance of your right against unreasonable search and seizure can be used against you on the spot by police. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte cemented the doctrine that not knowing about your right is no defense against having unwittingly given consent. Police are trained to know this, and will use a wide variety of means and even tricks to get you to give consent to search. Once obtained, your right is gone. Your property is 100 percent at their discretion, will, control, ethics, etc.

Police therefore ask at routine traffic stops, “You got anything in your car I need to know about?” Answer that and you may have just waived your rights, or at least compromised them. Refuse to answer and you’re immediately (wrongly) treated as a suspect. They routinely shake people with, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?,” or the accusation, “Why are you being uncooperative?” Give in to these pressures and you may have waived your right.

In light of a shooting or a terrorist act, people all the more willingly line up, waive their rights, and let the searches begin. Worse, in such a situation, they look at you as a criminal if you don’t line up and waive your rights, too!

The fact is, the vast majority of Americans are ignorant of these rights and how they can be exercised. Forget what’s on paper, and practice erodes it. Over time, ignorance gets exploited. In due time, standard practice becomes exploitation. People come to assume that the exploitation is what is right. They are revolted that anyone would dare refuse consent. Why would anyone do that? Don’t they know we could get shot? Don’t they know this is for their safety? Don’t they know we must do this to stamp out crime?

Now we see a police chief directly misinforming a whole roomful of citizens—as if the Fourth and Fifth Amendments no longer exist! The advice that people should just openly “comply” when police demand to search their home, car, effects, etc., is to exploit their ignorance of those rights. It is for the police power to overstep its bounds and ask citizens to waive crucial rights that are given precisely for when the police power would overstep its bounds.

Further, the idea that we can appeal to those very deceiving and invading officers after the fact “if” you feel your rights have been violated is even more deceptive and dangerous. The advice given would entail that you waive your rights. No matter what happens in the search after that, any appeal that your rights have been violated would be laughed at. You waived your right! You don’t have it any more!

Good luck with that complaint in any court in the land, let alone the very offending police department’s own self-review.

Worse, if Riddick’s advice is meant to say that it’s better to comply than to be subject to use of force, even if police are wrong, then his comments amount to an a rather transparent threat: waive your rights or we may kill you. In which case, what good does it do to have a Constitution at all, and what good to have an organization of force alleging to protect those rights for us?

In short, the right does not exist if the very evil it is designed to prevent is allowed to occur in the name of protecting it. The right does not exist if we create an institution allowed to violate it in the name of upholding it.

A better alternative would be for people to learn their rights intimately, and to advice the police chief that he and his department are expected to uphold them. In the spirit of Deuteronomy 17:18–20, police ought to be required to attend a public reading and explanation of the law and our rights every year, that their “heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left.” It should be televised and published on all social media for posterity.

It would be good also to have a roomful of citizens forming a citizen’s police reform council with an eye toward creating an independent body that can provide oversight in cases that rights get trampled by presumptive and overzealous officers. It would be even better yet to have a fund designed to pay legal fees for anyone needing a good defense of those rights.

Categories: Worldview

The Return of the Village Atheist

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 16:28

The “Foreword” to Joel McDurmon, The Return of the Village Atheist:

***

The village atheist has a long tradition in American folklore. Beginning sometime after the publication of Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man in 1871, he—almost never she—begins to appear. The village atheist was marked by the following traits:

  • A readiness to challenge the idea of God on most occasions;
  • Constant calls for theists to debate him in public;
  • A refusal to join any church;
  • Self-conscious non-participation in religious celebrations;
  • A sense of intellectual superiority;
  • Self-identification with a tiny minority group: skeptics;
  • Confidence that all truly rational people accept atheism;
  • Confidence that science proves atheism;
  • Dismissal of scientific evidence that throws doubt on atheism;
  • Faith in the eventual triumph of atheism in modern society;
  • Faith that morality can be defined apart from God;
  • Insistence that atheism produces high moral values;
  • Insistence that consistent atheists are moral in practice;
  • Insistence that religion-based ethics produce great

The village atheist was usually regarded as a well-behaved fellow. He was not a thief, a wife-beater, or a visible menace to society. He accepted the bulk of the prevailing social order’s ethical standards, which were historically the product of a Christian worldview, especially the New Testament’s doctrine of the final judgment and the threat of hell. He was seen as a harmless eccentric. Every village was supposed to have its resident atheist, if only for the tourists.

As American rural life faded after 1900, and higher education was increasingly staffed by men holding the Ph.D., which was a self-consciously non-theistic certificate of educational attainment, the image of the village atheist steadily disappeared. This image was replaced by the atheistic college professor. There were never many atheists on college faculties, but they tended to be highly vocal. They were self-conscious in their desire to separate their students from their parents’ faith in God. As the twentieth century’s decades wore on, atheism became associated in the minds of the general public with liberal arts education.

Yet an odd thing happened—or failed to happen. Most college students paid little or no attention to their few atheist professors’ atheism. Despite the officially religiously neutral philosophy of American higher education, most college graduates retained their faith in God. This has bothered the professorial atheists for over a century. It has bothered the Darwinists most of all. A generation ago, it bothered them.1 It bothers them even more today.

As America’s villages disappeared, the social setting for village atheists also disappeared. They no longer felt the inhibiting effects of the face-to-face Christian culture around them, in which just about every adult had access to the local grapevine, where personal moral indiscretions were well-known. Without a local grapevine to restrain them, urban atheists lost their ethical moorings. They began openly to challenge “middle-class morality,” which was Christian morality. They began to act more consistently with their presuppositions regarding a universe devoid of God, especially a New Testament God, who brings final judgment (Matthew 25; Luke 16).

In 1917, their fellow-believers gained control over Russia. The Bolsheviks’ reign of terror began. Karl Marx had sent a letter to his partner and long-term financial supporter, Frederick Engels, in 1861 extolling Darwin’s discovery of evolution through natural selection. The Communists retained their two founders’ faith in atheism and the process of evolution. So did Mao in China. So did Pol Pot in Cambodia.

At the end of the Darwinian atheists’ first great experiment in civil government, 1917–1991, at least 85 million residents of Communism’s officially atheistic social laboratories had been either executed or starved to death by their rulers. The more likely figure is a hundred million, according to The Black Book of Communism. The total may have been higher. Mao’s strategy of systematic extermination may have resulted in tens of millions of executions not recorded or else not yet made available to researchers. What went on in Castro’s Cuba has been recorded in horrifying detail.2 What has gone on in North Korea has not been equally well recorded. The death toll from starvation is in the millions. This is the survival of the fittest, Darwinist-style.

So, as the twentieth century rolled on, the image of quaint, eccentric, harmless village atheists steadily faded away. In its place were atheists with guns: the guns of Marxist social revolutionaries, followed by the guns of Communist governments—and gun control for everyone else.

Nevertheless, there are still thousands of academic would-be village atheists out there. They have adopted a strategy which relies on the old image of the eccentric defender of village atheism. They are still hoping to cover their activities with the cloak of harmlessness. They do not yet have the votes to impose all of their educational policies on the children of theists—at theistic taxpayers’ expense, as usual. But they want these powers. They demand such powers.

By now, it is clear to everyone else that they are not going to get the votes or the powers. They had their opportunity, 1917 to 1991, and they bungled it. They have not competed successfully in the marketplace of ideas, even with their monopoly over tax-funded and government-screened education. This, above all, is what upsets them. They demand control over the curriculum of every tax-funded and government-regulated educational institution, which in their view ought to include every educational institution. Like children throwing a tantrum, they roll on the floor, screaming, threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue. “I want it! I want it! I want it! Give it to me!”

Theists smile and think, “Silly children.” This makes the tantrum-throwers even angrier. “You’ve got to listen to us. We’re going to make you listen to us!”

Atheists believe in nothing beyond the grave. The universe itself is headed for the grave, they teach: the heat death of the universe. So, in their view, the last man standing beside the grave wins everything that can be won in this world, which ultimately is nothing, but in the meantime is thought worth having. Atheists are therefore determined to compel theists to dig their own graves. Sometimes this grave-digging is literal, as in the case of mass graveside executions by the Communists. Sometimes it is only figurative, as in the case of teachers who are funded by money extracted from their religious enemies in the form of taxes, and also in the form of children extracted from their opponents’ families by compulsory education laws. Since everything in the atheist’s world ends in the grave, they do whatever they can to see to it that their opponents are buried first.

This is a letter from someone who does not believe that everything ends at the grave. It is written to those who believe that it does.

Find The Return of the Village Atheist for purchase here.

  1. H. J. Muller, “A Hundred Years Without Darwin Are Enough,” The Humanist (1959); reprinted in Darwin: A Critical Edition, edited by Philip Appleman (New York: Norton, 1970).
  2. Armando Valladeres, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag (New York: Encounter Books, [1986] 2001).
Categories: Worldview

The Calvinists’ Fear of Flying: Clipping Theonomy’s Wings

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 18:28

There is no doubt that Francis A. Schaeffer broadened the appeal of the reformed faith with his popular writing style and activist worldview. Schaeffer’s popularity was extensive enough that he was recognized by the secular media as the “Guru of Fundamentalism.”1 Schaeffer filled the intellectual gap that resided in much of fundamentalism. In a sense, he carried on the tradition of his early mentor, J. Gresham Machen.

Prior to 1968, little was known of Francis Schaeffer. He had isolated himself from American evangelicalism by ministering to the roaming discards of society who were trekking through Europe hoping to find answers to life’s most perplexing problems. The publication of The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason introduced him to an American evangelicalism in crisis. Schaeffer had an impact where many Christian scholars had made only a few inroads to the hearts and minds of a disenchanted and impotent Christendom. What did Schaeffer do that was different? Certainly Carl F. H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism2 made an impact. It was, however, more of a statement than a system of belief with worked-out implications. Schaeffer worked at integration. His desire was to be more than just a critic of culture. This is why he asked the ethical question, “How should we then live?”

Schaeffer’s View of Christian Philosophy

First, Schaeffer began at the presuppositional level. Although no credit is given to Cornelius Van Til, the Van Tillian method is evident in the first chapter of Schaeffer’s first published book. In The God Who Is There, Schaeffer introduced his readers to the importance of presuppositions in rectifying the shift from antithesis to relativism in modern thought.

It was indeed unfortunate that our Christian “thinkers,” in the time before the shift took place and the chasm was fixed, did not teach and preach with a clear grasp of presuppositions. Had they done this, they would not have been taken by surprise, and they could have helped young people to face their difficulties. The really foolish thing is that even now, years after the shift is complete, many Christians still do not know what is happening. And this is because they are still not being taught the importance of thinking in terms of presuppositions, especially concerning the truth.3

Second, with the fuselage of a cryptic Calvinism on the runway, Schaeffer began to design wings to get the long overdue plane off the ground and to its destination: Comprehensive lordship. In the 1981 preface to A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer explained his methodology. He began with “the Lordship of Christ over all of life – philosophy, theology and the church, art, music, literature, films, and culture in general. The books that followed dealt with and extended areas of Christ’s total Lordship in all of life. . . .”4 In this, Schaeffer worked in the shadow of Kuyper.

Third, late in his career, Schaeffer saw extended implications to the worldview he put in motion in his early works. He expanded the areas over which He believed Jesus is Lord with the publication of How Should We Then Live, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, and A Christian Manifesto. “That led to the demand of the next logical step: What is the Christian’s relationship to government, law, and civil disobedience?”5

It was here that Schaeffer saw where his initial flight plan was about to take him: Christian Reconstruction. A reading of A Christian Manifesto alerts the reader that Schaeffer moved from being a critic of culture, his main contribution to worldview Calvinism, to advocating civil disobedience. The missing link was Reconstruction. To advocate civil disobedience was an admission that no constructive alternative to the humanistic system existed except the one advocated by Christian Reconstructionists. Schaeffer wanted his readers to understand that he in no way wanted what Reconstructionists were offering.6 His earlier works influenced many future Reconstructionists because of his insistence that the whole Bible was applicable to the whole of life, the law of God included.

Schaeffer’s View of God’s Law

While he refused to discuss the particulars of the law of God as the “base” for authority, he knew something had to be done to confront a bold humanistic law system. Schaeffer turned to Samuel Rutherford’s doctrine of Christian resistance while ignoring Rutherford’s biblical approach to the application of the whole law to contemporary society, including, but not limited to, the civil magistrate.7 The appeal to Rutherford came early in Schaeffer’s writing.

Schaeffer rightly decried a de facto sociological law—”law based only on what the majority of society thinks is in its best interests at a given moment”—but offered no worked-out worldview to counter and replace it. He wrote about a “Christian consensus” and how that consensus is found in the Bible, but he did not inform us of its biblical content as it relates to a comprehensive biblical worldview in the particulars.8

There are times, however, when Schaeffer closely resembled a Reconstructionist. This is best demonstrated in his repeated references to Paul Robert’s painting Justice Instructing the Judges.

Down in the foreground of the large mural the artist depicts many sorts of litigation -the wife against the husband, the architect against the builder, and so on. How are the judges going to judge between them? This is the way we judge in a Reformation country, says Paul Robert. He has portrayed Justice pointing with her sword to a book upon which are the words, “The Law of God.” For Reformation man there was a basis for law. Modern man has not only thrown away Christian theology; he has thrown away the possibility of what our forefathers had as a basis for morality and law.9

This emphasis on the law continued to play a part in Schaeffer’s worldview theology. “In Reformation countries,” Schaeffer wrote, “the Old Testament civil law has been the basis of our civil law.” Of course, he quickly reminded his readers that “we are not a theocracy,10 it is true; nevertheless, when Reformation Christianity provided the consensus, men naturally looked back to the civil law that God gave Israel, not to carry it out in every detail, but to see it as a pattern and a base.”11 (It is interesting that Schaeffer sounded like a theonomist when he was dealing with the biblical text.) Schaeffer saw the book of Joshua as “a link between the Pentateuch (the writings of Moses) and the rest of Scripture. It is crucial for understanding the unity the Pentateuch has with all that follows it, including the New Testament.12 The following quotations show that Schaeffer was a child of the Reformation and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  • “The commands of God were carried through Moses to the people in a written, propositional form. We are watching here the Scripture growing before our eyes” (II:165).
  • “There is continuity of written objective authority all the way from the Pentateuch through the New Testament” (II:181).
  • “God had given the people of Israel commandments which were a representation of His character, which is the eternal law of the universe” (II:247).
  • “The moral law is the expression of God’s character, and we are not to set it aside when we become Christians. Our obedience to it will make a difference in what happens to us both in this present life and in the believers’ judgment in the future. So much of Jesus’ teaching emphasizes the importance of keeping the law of God!” (II:252).
  • “So the command to the Church is the same as the command to God’s people in the Old Testament—proportional giving. Giving to God proportionately is not optional. God specifically commands it” (II:293).
  • “On Mount Sinai God gave the moral law. ‘God spoke all these words . . .’ and then came the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). Immediately after this the civil law was given. As the race became a nation they needed a civil law; so God gave them one. The civil law for the Jews was based as much on the command of God as was the moral law” (II:294).
  • “Here was real justice—a universal civil code that pertained equally to the citizen and the stranger. This justice was not rooted in the notion of a superior people, but in the character of God; therefore, it pertained to all men” (11:297).
  • “Moses told how to distinguish between an intentional murder and an unwitting murder” (11:298).
  • “Unlike modern man, the people of the Old Testament and of Christian communities after the Reformation did not view civil law as basically sociological. To them, it was not founded primarily on a social contract. Civil law was related to society, but not only to society. It was ultimately related to the existence and character of God. This is important. Law which comes from God can provide something fixed. Today’s sociological law is relativistic” (II:298-99).
  • “The moral law is rooted in the fact of the existence and character of God. It has validity because God is there. ‘And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bond­ age. Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ (Ex. 20:1-3). The civil law is also based upon the reality of God’s existence; so it, too, has an absolute base. Reformation law was like this – one can think of Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex – and so was in total contrast to the post-Christian, sociological law which is developing in the Western world” (II:299).
  • “Justice [in Paul Robert’s Justice Instructing the Judges] points to a book on. which Robert has carefully lettered the phrase, The Law of God. This is tremendous I There was a foundation for civil law, fixed in the existence and character of God and His revelation of that character to men” (II:299).
  • “On Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim . . . a choice was set before the people: ‘Obey the propositional moral absolutes of God, and you’ll receive blessing within the covenant. If you don’t, the blessing will come an end’ ” (II:314).

Schaeffer continued this theme in How Should Then Live? “Paul Robert understood what the Reformation was all about in the area of law. It is the Bible which gives a base to law.”13 In A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer maintained that justice is based on “God’s written Law, back through the New Testament to Moses’ written Law; and the content and authority of that written Law is rooted back to Him who is the final reality. Thus, neither church nor state were equal to, let alone above, that Law. The base for law is not divided, and no one has the right to place anything, including king, state or church, above the content of God’s Law.”14

Unfortunately, Schaeffer left behind an unfinished legacy. He knew where the answer was, but he was unable, within the confines of his own methodology and his premillennial eschatology, to see it through. It is a shame that Schaeffer will best be remembered for his advocacy of Christian resistance and not Christian Reconstruction.

A Common Theme

From Kuyper to Schaeffer, the same themes were stressed:

(1) God is sovereign over all of life; (2) the Bible applies to every facet of society; (3) God’s law is the standard for righteousness and justice for men and nations; and (4) nowhere do we find a worked out system to learn how the implications of the reformed worldview are worked out in the particulars except in the writings of Christian Reconstructionist authors.

If you have followed this odyssey from Kuyper to Schaeffer, you can see how easily it is to adopt the distinctives of Christian Reconstruction. Schaeffer, like those who proceeded him, understood where worldview Calvinism leads. He chose to skip over Reconstruction and head straight for civil disobedience. But there is no hope for a culture if resistance is its only option for change. What happens if the resisters win? What then? How should we then live? Schaeffer never told us in the details.

The problem remained: Who would put wings on Calvinism’s world-and-life view airplane?

A Plane with Wings

The odyssey did not stop with Schaeffer. Schaeffer asked the question of how should we then live; it was left to others in the Reformed tradition to answer it.

A Pair of Calvinists

Gary North came to the RTS campus in 1978 to address the topic of economics in an informal debate with Richard Mouw of Calvin Seminary. (He is now at Fuller Seminary.) The differences could not have been more striking. Dr. North stayed with the Bible. One thing I do remember about Dr. Mouw’s address is that he said that when he gets to heaven, he will finally have time to read the works of Karl Marx. Sounds like hell to me.

One of Dr. North’s messages had a singular impact on me. North was demonstrating the reformed methodology as it related to economics. His text was Isaiah 1:21–23, and the topic was “A Biblical Critique of Inflation.” Keep in mind that this was the era of dollar inflation and double-digit interest rates. The economy was in “stagflation.” This double economic whammy was affecting the economy with not much hope for a solution. Gold and silver prices were rising because of inflation fears. We were warned by Dr. North of what would happen if God’s laws were rejected. Sure enough, the “predictions” came to pass. By 1980, silver was selling for $50.00 per ounce while gold was selling for more than $800.00 per ounce. Interest rates were nearing 20%. Does the Bible have anything to say about any of this? Dr. North said it does. Little was said by the faculty.

The passage in Isaiah 1 is an application of the case laws regarding just weights and measures (Lev. 19:36; Prov. 11:1; 16:11). The people and rulers alike resembled the debased silver that was being passed off as pure and the diluted wine that was being sold as uncut. Of course, under such economic conditions the poorest members of society, orphans and widows (v. 23), suffer the most. In just a few verses was found a specific application to a contemporary issue. Here was worldview Calvinism with wings! Why wasn’t this being discussed in the classroom?

It is a sign of the social and cultural impotence of contemporary Christianity that commentators interpret this verse in a so-­called “spiritual” fashion. It is supposed to refer only to the souls of individual citizens. Passages such as Psalms 119:119 or Ezekiel 22:18-19 can be cited as “proof” of this thesis. The problem with this interpretation is that the prophets used known social and economic deviations in order to point out to the people their spiritual sins, a device used by Christ in many of the parables. They went from the concrete sin of the defrauder to the ethical deviation of the citizenry. If the legitimacy of the prophetic charge against the economic practice in question is denied, the impact of the critique of men’s souls is thereby undercut. Verse 22 appears between concrete criticisms of specific political and social deviations, yet commentators are afraid to take verse 22 as referring to equally concrete sins. This is not the way to exegete the Bible.15

America and the world were in a crisis mode in the late 1970’s. The church was nearly silent when it came to offering specific remedies to avert the crisis. There was no clear message coming from the church. The only group that really took the Bible seriously enough to make valuable social commentary were Reconstructionists like North, Rushdoony, and Bahnsen.

During his presentation, Dr. Mouw quoted a hymn that his mother had loved, he said: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold.” Dr. North referred this in his subsequent lecture. He said that as far as he was concerned, “I’d rather have Jesus and silver and gold.” This pretty much summarized the split between the two men.

A Pair of Baptists

A Baptist president who taught Sunday school was at that time sitting in the, White House. There was no sure word coming from him. The Bible was a closed book when it came to evaluating (honest weights and measures again) the rightness or wrongness of certain public policies. In the name of impotent Christianity Jimmy Carter had endorsed the pro-abortion and pro-homosexual communities with, “It’s not proper for Christians to impose their morality on others.” What he was actually saying was, “The Bible does not apply, except in the narrow confines of the sanctuary and the Sunday school classroom.” As seminary students we were told that the Bible does apply, but no one was showing how it could be done. For Christians, the Carter presidency was a disaster. Jeffrey St. John, a non-Christian libertarian columnist, wrote these prophetic words prior to the November election in 1976:

A Carter victory in 1976 would usher in an administration led by various liberal-to-left activist groups who have long pleaded for vast government powers over the private sector of industry and over middle-class Americans. In short, Carter appears to be leading a coalition of political and economic radicals who would go far beyond the massive expansion of the powers of the federal government Franklin Roosevelt instituted in 1933.16

The fundamentalist Christian community that had voted for Carter in 1976 felt it had been sucker-punched, again. Then entered Jerry Falwell. He was mad at hell, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. He became a political activist, a new role.17

Near the end of Carter’s presidency, Rev. Falwell cranked up the Moral Majority. In the beginning, his message was guided by what the Bible had to say. In an “I Love America” rally, Falwell counseled the crowd to use “theological considerations” in their choice of candidates: “If a man stands by this book [holding up a Bible], vote for him. If he doesn’t, don’t.”18 Falwell could not defend this position in terms of the generally accepted doctrine of religious pluralism and his own separatist Baptist background. In time, however, the message of the Moral Majority became dross.

  • Moral Majority is a political organization and is not based on theological considerations.19
  • The battle against humanism . . . is not theological; it is moral.20

The switch came for Falwell in 1980 when he “renounced his earlier vows to Christianize America.”21 “Theological considerations” were out, while traditional values were ushered in. Falwell admitted that “we count among us Fundamentalists, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and persons of no particular religious convictions at all who believe in the moral principles we espouse.”22 This is fine for war-time strategy, but it will not work after the war is over and a culture has to be rebuilt.23 Fundamentalism has never developed such an agenda. With a moral rather than a biblical common denominator, the Moral Majority sounded like every other advocate touting the virtues of “morality.” And these non-religious moral advocates were seen as less strident, and there was no need to repent and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, later to be­ come our nation’s “Drug Czar,” called “for a new approach to moral education, one that gives kids a grounding in what Bennett describes as ‘those values all Americans share.’”24 If there is still a consensus morality, one has to ask where this consensus originated. Within America the obvious answer is biblical Christianity as shaped by the Puritans. With theological considerations gone, the Moral Majority was no longer unique. Robert E. Webber makes this observation: “Thus, what the Moral Majority espouses is a morality based on civil religion, not on the unique revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.”25

Hath God Said? If So, Where?

Christian Reconstructionist writers revived the older expression of world-and-life-view Calvinism and added the particulars of the Genevan and Puritan models. The revival of this particular expression of world-and-life-view Calvinism has not set well with the critics. As long as Reformed churches were preaching the general tenets of Calvinism, all was well. The historian R. H. Tawney noted in 1925: “No church has ever experienced any great difficulty in preaching righteousness in general”; it is “righteousness in particular” that disturbs the churches.26

A good number of Reconstructionist critics are uncomfortable with Gary North’s approach to Isaiah 1 because he points out that the passage describes “righteousness in particular” in areas beyond the heart, hearth, and sanctuary. Even when the Bible clearly sets forth a specific command, they seem to be more comfortable with scientific inquiry, forgetting that Van Til wrote that “Christianity claims to furnish the presuppositions without which a true scientific procedure is unintelligible.”27 They are like children who have to touch the pretty blue flame to determine if it will really burn flesh. Their father’s word isn’t good enough. Is God’s Word good enough? Or should the Christian find validation for the truths of Scripture in terms of a “common ground” approach? The common ground approach assumes the neutrality of facts and the interpreter of the facts. Here is an example:

Why, for example, should the United States return to the gold standard?28 Because careful and prudent economic analysis suggests it will produce a healthier economy? No, [the reconstructionists tell us] because Deuteronomy 25:15 says that you shall have just weights and measures.29

Would Muether argue this way for the truth of the divinity of Christ, the reality of the resurrection, or the inspiration of Scripture? Are we to tum to “prudent analysis” to prove that Christianity is true over against all other religions? Whatever happened to the “self-authentication” of Scripture, both in its general and particular pronouncements? Is this all that’s left of Cornelius Van Til’s legacy? With Muether’s approach we are left with only a “rational probability.”30

So, why send your children to a Christian school if all we need is “careful and prudent economic analysis”? Why read the Bible for anything more than “spiritual” guidance? Muether claims that the Bible is not needed for economics. In fact, he takes a swipe at “contemporary evangelicalism” in general for its “biblicist hermeneutic that depreciates the role of general revelation and insists on using the Bible as though it were a textbook for all of life.”31 Does he mean general revelation as a scientific investigation of God’s created order so that man learns to be a better scientist, agronomist, and medical practitioner by study and experimentation?

General Revelation

Henry Van Til wrote that “Man does not need special revelation for acquiring the arts of agriculture or of war, the techniques of science and art; these things are learned from nature through the inspiration of the Spirit.”32 No one is disputing the use of general revelation in this way. But even this type of investigation has numerous ethical implications. For example, knowledge of what works in the field of medicine still leaves doctors and legislators with, for example, decisions relating to abortion and euthanasia. An abortionist can be an expert in the way he performs an abortion. He has honed this “skill” through scientific study of the created order (general revelation). But is it right and just to use this knowledge in the destruction of pre­born babies?

Dr. Jack Kevorkian has designed a “suicide machine” that is efficient, effective, and painless, three criteria to consider in the practice of modern medicine.33 But is it right and just? This is the real issue. Procedures that were designed as part of the healing craft are now being used to destroy life. There is no doubt that abortionists and the new suicide “doctors” are skilled practitioners of their respective crafts.

The study of general revelation might lead some medical practitioners to conclude that since animals often abandon and kill their young, therefore homo sapiens are little different if they do the same. A more highly evolved species like man can do it more efficiently.

The modern-day evolutionary hypothesis rests on a study of creation. Modern scientists have made a thorough study of the created order (certainly not their designation) and have concluded that man has evolved from some type of primordial chaos This conflicts with the Bible’s clear statement that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Such a conclusion has numerous ethical implications.34

It is this independent study of what we call “general revelation” that leads to anti-Christian conclusions. The Christian views general revelation “through the medium of a heart regenerated by the Holy Spirit. . . . The Christian looks at all that he receives through general revelation, in the light of the Scripture. It is only through the Scripture that he can see the true relationship between God and creation, and that he can see in creation its unity and purpose.” On the other hand, “the knowledge which the natural man receives from general revelation comes to him through the subjective medium of an unregenerated, depraved heart.”35 General revelation without the guidance of special revelation can lead to disastrous results.

A classic example of the claim that knowledge of God and His will is gained from general revelation is found in the ideology of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s National Socialist propagandists appealed to the revelation of God in reason, conscience, and the orders of Creation as justification for the Nazi state theology or cultural religion. Biblical revelation in Old and New Testaments was regarded by the Third Reich as a “Jewish swindle” and thus was set aside in favor of the Nazi natural theology. The Gottingen theologians Friedrich Gogarten and Emanuel Hirsch, by postulating the primacy of conscience and the flow of history as the chief modalities of revelation, provided theoretical justification for the Nazi ideology, which later wreaked havoc in Europe and beyond. A majority within the state church (known as the “German Christians”) unwittingly or otherwise embraced the new national religion, founded not on the Word of God but on the divine will allegedly embedded in the natural order. Emerging from this fatal exchange came a semi-Christian natural religion (some would say a new paganism) in which the church became a servile instrument of Nazi policy.36

The debate is not over how much one side depreciates the use of general revelation. Rather, the issue is over what ethical standard will be used to evaluate the conclusions formulated from a study of general revelation. General revelation takes on a life of its own as a nation steadily depreciates God’s inscripturated Word as the revelational norm for all issues relating to faith (redemption) and practice (ethics). This situation results in using contemporary ideologies to build an interpretive framework so that general revelation can become specific. This means that general revelation will be interpreted in different ways depending on what ideology is in vogue. A prevailing atheistic regime will interpret general revelation one way, while a New Age humanist will put another slant on it. In each case, the church’s prophetic ministry is depreciated.

It is amazing to read critics of theonomy who maintain that general revelation is depreciated by theonomists. As an independent ethical system, yes.37 The Westminster Confession of Faith clearly states that the “whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (l, vi).

Of course, there are a number of things that are not “expressly set down in Scripture,” but these too “are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” (l, vi). But “just weights and measures” is “expressly set down in Scripture” as Muether admits (Deut. 25:15). Then how can he square his view with the Confession and the Bible? He can’t, and he doesn’t. This would bother me if I were assessing the legitimacy of the theonomic position in terms of what the critics say about it.

Are we to argue the pro-life/anti-abortion position in the same way? Anti-Reconstructionist Meredith G. Kline38 and dispensationalist H. Wayne House39 turn to precise exegetical arguments found in the “Mosaic”40 legislation to defend the pro-life/anti-abortion position. Nearly everyone does. John Frame, a contributor to Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, remarks that “On Kline’s exegesis, the statute provides a death penalty for the destruction of an unborn child, though with the possibility of redemption. He concludes that this statute serves as a model for modern society.”41 Kline, however, maintains that he can make an appeal to the Mosaic legislation, as a non-Reconstructionist, because it’s a form of murder covered under the Noahic covenant (Gen. 9:6). But this is still an appeal to the Bible! Isn’t this also a “biblicist hermeneutic”? Kline must find specific guidelines to flesh out the general guidelines. Muether seems to be out of step, not only with Reconstructionists and “contemporary evangelicalism,” but with his own non-Reconstructionist colleagues.

Who Is a Theonomist?

In simple terms a theonomist is someone who believes that the Bible applies in some way to issues beyond personal salvation. Do you believe that the Bible has some very direct instructions on how a pre-born baby ought to be treated and that civil government has a role in prohibiting abortion (Ex. 21:22-25)? If you do, then you are a Reconstructionist in some degree. Do you believe that the Bible is a blueprint for prison reform (Ex. 22:1-9; Eph. 4:28)? If you do, then you are a Reconstructionist in some degree. Read, for example, what Chuck Colson, president of Prison Fellowship, writes about prison reform.

Recently I addressed the Texas legislature. . . . I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.

The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, “That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” I had the privilege of saying to them, “Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.”42

This is the essence of Christian Reconstruction. The Bible’s laws, including, but not limited to, the case laws of the Old Testament, are applicable today, and, in Colson’s words, are “the only answer to today’s crime problem.” Notice that there is no appeal to “general revelation” or “natural law.” Of course, a Reconstructionist would say that these laws are an answer for our crime problem and much more, including, but not limited to economics, education, law, politics, business, ecology, journalism, and medicine.

Colson’s assessment of the applicability of Mosaic legislation outside the covenant community compares favorably with how the Old Testament applies the law. The law is a model to the nations outside Israel’s exclusive covenant community (Deut. 4:5-8). This same law has a civil application in that it is to be spoken before kings (Psa. 119:46; Mark 6:14-29). Light comes to nations that embrace God’s law (Isa. 51:4).43 The entire earth is said to be guilty for it has transgressed the law (Isa. 24:5). Before entering the promised land, Israel is warned that it will suffer the same judgment of the Canaanites who were indicted for breaking God’s law (Lev. 18:24-27; Deut. 12:29-31). All the wicked are condemned for their transgression of the law (Psa. 119:118-119; Rom. 3:19).

What standard did God use to judge these nations? The prophets brought an indictment against the slave trade (Amos 1:6; cp. Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7), witchcraft (Nah. 3:4; cp. Ex. 22:18), loan pledge abuse (Hab. 2:6; cp. Ex. 22:25-27; Deut. 24:6), and other biblical-specific prohibitions.

Conclusion

In the 1970’s there was not much to read on the topic of theonomy. Theonomy in Christian Ethics and The Institutes of Biblical Law were the two main sources espousing the distinctives of theonomic ethics. But now, with nearly 100 published books and a thousand newsletters, the critics are in something of a dilemma. If people were not willing to read 1,200 pages fifteen years ago, what do we think will happen when these same people are confronted with “tens of thousands of pages”?44 Some brave soul might attempt the task and work through the material. But the vast majority will believe the assessments of critics passed down second-hand and then third-hand. This is unfortunate.

My guess is that numerous Reformed Christians, who have not studied the issue, will assume that theonomy has been answered by Theonomy: A Reformed Critique without ever reading it or the many published Reconstructionist works. They will think: “It is a large book”—by non-Reconstructionist standards—”with footnotes, so it must have done the job.” When the topic comes up for discussion, critics of Reconstruction will point to Theonomy: A Reformed Critique and declare, “Theonomy’s been answered.” A similar scenario is operating with the dispensational critics of Christian Reconstruction: Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?45 This tome has become the deus ex machina for dispensational non-readers.

If you think I am exaggerating, then consider this. An article appeared in a well-known dispensational magazine purporting to be the first in a series of articles that would evaluate Christian Reconstruction. The article was heavily footnoted, but you had to write to the publisher if you wanted a copy of the notes. Always the inquisitive one, I of course dutifully requested a copy. All the footnotes were from Dominion Theology. The entire article was based on the research of one book. No original research had been done. Then I learned, in correspondence with the author, that he had been assigned the task of writing on Christian Reconstruction with reference only to Dominion Theology.

Until a person works through the published works of the major Reconstructionist authors, he should not speak out on the subject. I fully expect that all of our critics will do this in the future. They will back up their criticisms with citations from the primary sources of Christian Reconstruction. Furthermore, they will not exaggerate their claims. They will address their criticisms to what Reconstructionists have said or written. I am quite confident about this development.

You understand, of course, that I am a postmillennialist.

See Part 1: TULIP is not Enough: Reformed Theology and Culture.

[Originally published as “Fear of Flying: Clipping Theonomy’s Wings” in Theonomy an Informed Response (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991).]

Notes:

  1. Kenneth L. Woodward, “The Guru of Fundamentalism,” Newsweek (Nov. l, 1982), p. 88.
  2. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947, p. 14.
  3. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who ls There (1968) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, 5 vols. (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982), 1:7.
  4. Schaeffer, “Preface”(1981), A Christian Manifesto (1981), Complete Works, V:417.
  5. Ibid.
  6. See Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), pp. 165-220.
  7. Richard Flinn, “Samuel Rutherford and Puritan Political Theory,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on Puritanism and Law, ed. Gary North (Winter 1978-79), pp. 49-74.
  8. Schaeffer was more comfortable with historical and logical argumentation than with biblical exposition. Consider how he argues against abortion:

    Schaeffer claims to base his arguments against abortion on both logical and moral grounds, but it is interesting that he accentuates the logical side. In fact, he never appeals specifically to Scripture to buttress his position. The major logical argument employed involves the impossibility of saying when a developing fetus becomes viable (able to live outside the womb), for smaller and smaller premature infants are being saved. Since the eventual possibilities for viability are staggering, “The logical approach is to go back to the sperm and the egg.” Dennis P. Hollinger, “Schaeffer on Ethics,” Reflections on Francis Schaeffer, edited by Ronald W. Ruegsegger (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Academie, 1986), p. 250. Emphasis added.

  9. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason (1968) in Complete Works, 1:261-62.
  10. Many people are confused over what theocracy actually means. “To the modern ear the word ‘theocracy’ has distinctly pejorative overtones, suggesting the rule of some oppressive priestly caste, ‘government of a state by immediate Divine guidance or by officials regarded as divinely guided,’ to quote a standard definition. Yet, unlike certain other systems known in antiquity, ‘the “Theocracy” was not a government by priests, as opposed to kings; it was a government by God Himself, as opposed to the government by priests or kings’ (Dean Arthur Stanley, A History of the Jewish Church, 1862). The U.S. jurist and statesman Oscar Straus, a close associate of President Theodore Roosevelt, also stressed this point in his study of American culture’s indebtedness to the Hebraic concept: ‘The very fact that . . .with the single exception of Eli, no priest was ever elected to the magistracy during the entire period of the Commonwealth, decidedly negatives any such interpretation’ (The Origin of the Republican Form of Government in the United States of America, 1887).”Gabriel Sivan, The Bible and Civilization (New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1973), p. 145.
  11. Schaeffer, Joshua in the Flow of Biblical History (1975) in Complete Works, 11:298.
  12. Ibid., 11:153. Emphasis added.
  13. 13. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live in Complete Works, V:136.
  14. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto in Complete Works, V:430.
  15. Gary North, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press, 1973), p. 4.
  16. Jeffrey St. John, Jimmy Carter’s Betrayal of the South (Ottawa, Illinois: Green Hill, 1976), p. 3. Quoted in Gary North, “Intellectual Schizophrenia,” Christianity and Civilization l, edited by James B. Jordan (Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1982), p. 7.
  17. See Falwell’s “Ministers and Marchers” (1965). Quoted in James A. Speer, New Christian Politics (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1984), pp. 19-20.
  18. Time (October l, 1979), p. 62.
  19. Jerry Falwell, “Moral Majority Opposes Christian Republic,” Moral Majority Report 1:13 (October 15, 1980), p. 4.
  20. Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Mind (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1980), p. 187.
  21. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America’s Freedoms in Religion, Politics and Our Private Lives (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1982), p. 168.
  22. Jerry Falwell, “Moral Majority: A Response to Attack on Basic Values of Millions of Americas,” Conservative Digest 7:1 (January. 1981), p. 28. Quoted in Robert E. Webber, The Moral Majority: Right or Wrong? (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1981), p. 39. Emphasis added by Webber.
  23. “Solomon made use even of the Sidonians when building the temple of the Lord, but he did not give them membership on his building committee.” Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Presbyterian and Re­formed, 1955), p. 317.
  24. The Atlanta journal and Constitution (November 28, 1986), p. 49A.
  25. Webber, Moral Majority, p. 39.
  26. R. H. Tawney, “Introduction,” Thomas Wilson, A Discourse Upon Usury (London: Frank Cass, [1925] 1969), p. 114. Quoted in North, An Introduction to Christian Economics, p. 3.
  27. Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics (Syllabus, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1959), p. 24.
  28. For an appraisal of the gold standard, and how Muether misrepresented North’s position, see Gary North, Westminster’s Confession: The Abandonment of Van Til’s Legacy (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), pp. 283-86.
  29. John R. Muether, “The Theonomic Attraction,” Theonomy: A Reformed Perspective, eds. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1990), p. 255.
  30. Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 335.
  31. Muether, “The Reformed Attraction,” p. 254.
  32. Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 162.
  33. Jack Kevorkian, Prescription: Medicine: The Goodness of Planned Death (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991).
  34. Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990).
  35. William Masselink, General Revelation and Common Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 71.
  36. Bruce A. Demarest, General Revelation: Historical Views and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1982), p. 15.
  37. The insights of unbelievers “are accurate because their presuppositions concerning the proper ‘givens’ of economic analysis are in fact the same ‘givens’ set forth by the Scriptures. They are correct, as Van Til says about secular philosophers, only insofar as they operate in terms of borrowed premises. But these men are to be preferred in their explanations of how an economy functions to those economists who borrow even fewer of the Bible’s premises.” North, Introduction to Christian Economics, p. xi.
  38. Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (September 1977), pp. 193-201.
  39. H. Wayne House, “Marriage or Premature Birth: Additional Thoughts on Exodus 21:22-25,” Westminster Theological Journal 41:1 (Fall 1978), 108-23.
  40. Moses had very little to do with what is usually described as “Mosaic Law.” As the New Testament tells us, “The law was given through Moses. . . ” (John 1:17).
  41. John M. Frame, “The One, The Many, and Theonomy,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 96.
  42. Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, edited by James M. Boice (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah, 1988), pp. 154-55.
  43. The law’s three functions operate within a civil context: The first use of the law involves the negative function of convicting the magistrate of his autonomy and the recognition that he is a minister under God’s authority, rendering him inexcusable before God, and driving him to seek grace (Jonah 3:4-10; Romans 13:1). The second use of the law would direct the magistrate to use the law as a way of ordering civil justice (Jonah 3:8; Romans 13:4). The third use involves promoting the law, as Calvin writes, “among believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns,” for without a consensus the magistrate cannot rule effectively.
  44. Tremper Longman Ill, “God’s Law and Mosaic Punishments Today,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 41, note l.
  45. H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1988).
Categories: Worldview

Nietzsche slaps down Dawkins on the illusion of atheist morality

Mon, 07/11/2016 - 06:00

I long since stopped blogging on atheism, deeming it often a waste of time and occasionally counterproductive. Sometimes, however, the issue merits revisiting. After rereading some old classics, I find the following quotation worth sharing:

When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God has truth—it stands or falls with faith in God.

In this quotation, many of my readers will immediately detect the echo of Van Til, or Bahnsen, or some other related apologist infused with “worldview,” or presuppositional thinking. Such a guess comes close in content, but misses widely. The surprise: this quotation flows candidly—and insightfully!—from arch-atheist Friedrich Nietzsche.1 This is not, of course, to say that Van Til derived his ideas from reading Nietzsche—highly unlikely. The point—completely lost on modern atheists—is that when you strike down Christianity, Christian morality necessarily goes with it. Nietzsche candidly professed this, as did his earlier French counterpart Marquis de Sade: no God, no moral imperatives; no “thou shalt,” and no “thou shalt not.” Only, “I will.”

But modern atheists have not only ignored this logical conclusion, they have actually attempted to attack Christianity in the name of Christian morality, calling the Christian God cruel, bloodthirsty, racist, sadomasochistic, etc.2 Richard Dawkins’s famous book begins an early chapter with such accusations and much more. Whence the moral outrage?

Nietzsche’s honesty above grows all the more relevant (and this is what sparked me to write this article) when we read his context: he wrote the above as a commentary on the English writer George Eliot, decrying her clinging to morality despite her rejection of God. In fact, according to some accounts, and just as Dawkins, she attacked Christianity in the name of morality, calling the faith “immoral.” Nietzsche spies the “English” inconsistency and condemns her (and thus Dawkins) as a weak, effeminate, and illogical atheist. He writes:

G. Elliot: They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. This is an English inconsistency: we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England [then and now, apparently] one must rehabilitate oneself after ever little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.

We others hold otherwise. . . . [then follows the earlier quotation]3

Upon reading this again, I could not help but think of today’s little rosy-cheeked moralist, Dawkins, preaching against the cosmic bully of the Old Testament, and denouncing the extremes of religion—all the while unaware that he and his audience must have the morality of Christendom under their feet in order for those denunciations to have much effect or even meaning. Still English, yes, and still inconsistent.

Nietzsche blows up the charade:

When the English actually believe that they know “intuitively” what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem.4

For this reason—for his fearless and relentless consistency—I love reading Nietzsche. The arch-atheist—the honest, consistent atheist—foils all the prominent modern atheists. He knows and admits that Dawkins’ moral indignation arises from the very God he denounces. Nietzsche knows that such moral fire only expresses the prior power and dominion of Christianity. Nietzsche knows that moral indignation itself is borrowed capital from Christendom.

Unlike Dawkins, however, Nietzsche refused to keep pretending. Nietzsche had the intellect to see the connection, and the guts to admit the outcome of his worldview. Modern atheism, apparently, has neither. For them, Christian society provides them enough comfort to enjoy the peace and tolerance of Christian rules while denying the existence of the Rule-giver. For them, morality is not yet a problem—simply because they refuse to admit it. Well, despite the “flatheads,” “this point has to be exhibited again and again,” and I don’t mind letting Nietzsche do so for us.

And just wait until you seem him do the same thing with . . . science!

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 515–6.
  2. See Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 31.
  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, 515.
  4. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, 516.
Categories: Worldview

Is it time to disarm the Police?

Fri, 07/08/2016 - 17:16

I begin with an insight offered by Professor Carroll Quigley (1910—1977), who taught history to Bill Clinton at Georgetown University. He had such a profound impact on Clinton that Clinton referred to him in his 1992 nomination acceptance speech. Quigley is famous among conservatives for his book, Tragedy and Hope (1966), in which he devoted 20 pages to the connections between Wall Street banking firms and American foreign policy, which has been dominated by the liberal left (pp. 950ff). But Quigley was also an expert in the history of weaponry. One of his books, Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History, was printed directly from a typewritten manuscript and is known only to a handful of specialists, was a 1,000-page history of weaponry that ended with the Middle Ages. In Tragedy and Hope, he wrote about the relationship between amateur weapons and liberty. By amateur, he meant low cost. He meant, in the pejorative phrase of political statists, Saturday-night specials.

In a period of specialist weapons the minority who have such weapons can usually force the majority who lack them to obey; thus a period of specialist weapons tends to give rise to a period of minority rule and authoritarian government. But a period of amateur weapons is a period in which all men are roughly equal in military power, a majority can compel a minority to yield, and majority rule or even democratic government tends to rise. . . .

But after 1800, guns became cheaper to obtain and easier to use. By 1840 a Colt revolver sold for $27 and a Springfield musket for not much more, and these were about as good weapons as anyone could get at that time. Thus, mass armies of citizens, equipped with these cheap and easily used weapons, began to replace armies of professional soldiers, beginning about 1800 in Europe and even earlier in America. At the same time, democratic government began to replace authoritarian governments (but chiefly in those areas where the cheap new weapons were available and local standards of living were high enough to allow people to obtain them).

According to Quigley, the eighteenth-century’s commitment to popular government was reinforced — indeed, made possible — by price-competitive guns that made the average colonial farmer a threat to a British regular. Paul Revere’s midnight warning, “The regulars are out!” would have had no purpose or effect had it not been that the “minute men” were armed and dangerous.

With this in mind, let me present my thesis.

THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS FAR TOO WEAK

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution asserts the right — the legal immunity from interference by the State — of American citizens to keep and bear arms. This means a rifle strapped to my back and a pistol or two strapped to my hip, day or night.

It doesn’t go far enough. It leaves guns in the hands of a subculture that has proven itself too irresponsible to carry them: the police.

If I were called upon to write the constitution for a free country, meaning a country no larger than Iowa, I would require every citizen to be armed, except members of the police. A policeman would have to apply for an on-duty gun permit. He would not be allowed to carry a gun on duty, just like England’s bobbies are not allowed to carry them.

Every child, male and female, beginning no later than age six, would be trained by parents regarding the moral responsibility of every armed citizen to come to the aid of any policeman in trouble. Unarmed people deserve protection.

Children would be also taught that the first person to pull a gun to defend an unarmed policeman or any other unarmed person deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Late-comers would be regarded as barely more than onlookers. This is necessary to offset the “Kitty Genovese phenomenon.” In 1964, this young woman was attacked and murdered in full view of 38 onlookers, in their Queens, New York, neighborhood. Despite her screams for help, no one even bothered to call the police. This is the “who goes first?” problem.

Anyone so foolish as to attack a policeman would be looking down the barrels of, say, a dozen handguns. “Go ahead, punk. Make our day!”

A policeman would gain obedience, like James Stewart in Destry Rides Again, through judicial empowerment. He would not threaten anyone with immediate violence. He would simply say, “Folks, I’ve got a problem here. This person is resisting arrest. Would three of you accompany me to the local station with this individual?”

He would blow his whistle, and a dozen sawed-off shotguns accompanied by people would be there within 60 seconds.

Every member of society would be trained from an early age to honor the law as an adult by being willing to carry a handgun. Everyone would see himself as a defender of the law and a peace-keeper. Guns would be universal. Every criminal would know that the man or woman next to him is armed and dangerous. He would be surrounded at all times by people who see their task as defending themselves and others against the likes of him.

The only person he could trust not to shoot him dead in his tracks for becoming an aggressor would be the policeman on the beat. The aggressor’s place of safety would be custody.

There would be another effect on social life. When every adult is armed, civility increases. In a world of armed Davids, Goliaths would learn to be civil. The words of Owen Wister’s Virginian, “Smile when you say that,” would regain their original meaning.

The doctrine of citizen’s arrest would be inculcated in every child from age six. Then, at the coming of age, every new citizen would take a public vow to uphold the constitution. He or she would then be handed a certificate of citizenship, which would automatically entitle the bearer to carry an automatic. Note: I did not say semi-automatic. . . .

SELF-GOVERNMENT UNDER LAWFUL AUTHORITY

Unarmed police, now fully deserving of protection by gun-bearing citizens, would gain immense respect. They would rule by the force of law, meaning respect for the law, meaning widespread voluntary submission by the citizenry. This is properly called self-government under lawful authority. The policeman’s word would be law. He just wouldn’t be armed.

A criminal would not escape from the scene of the crime by shooting the cop on the beat. He would not get 20 yards from the cop’s body.

Citizens would regard a law enforcement officer as they regard their mothers. They would do what they were told with little more than rolling their eyes. If anyone physically challenged a police officer, he would risk facing a dozen Clint Eastwoods who have been waiting for two decades to get an opportunity to make their day.

To make this system work, the courts would have to enforce strict liability. Injure the wrong person, and (assuming you survive the shoot-out) you must pay double restitution. Kill the wrong person, and you must pay the ultimate restitution: eye for eye, life for life. But no faceless bureaucrat hired by the State would do the act. A group of armed citizens will execute you under the authority of the court. Remember, the police are unarmed.

The fact that citizens in no society think this way is evidence of how well the defenders of State monopoly power have done their work. They want their agents armed and the rest of us unarmed. A free society would reverse this arrangement.

CONCLUSION

There are those who will reply that my proposal is utopian, that civilians do not have sufficient courage to come to the aid of an unarmed policeman. Furthermore, they will complain, the common man is not sufficiently self-disciplined to live under the rule of law as I have described it. Both objections have validity. I can only respond by pointing out that a society in which its citizens possess neither courage nor self-discipline is not a free society. I am not here proposing a technical reform that will produce a free society. Rather, I am describing why freedom has departed from this nation ever since, for lack of a better date, 1788.

[Gary North is the author of the 31-volume An Economic Commentary on the Bible and scores of other books. He publishes daily at his subscription site GaryNorth.com. This article originally appeared in expanded form as “Disarm the Police,” LewRockwell.com, August 18, 2003.]
Categories: Worldview

Atheism, despair, and envy: a case study

Fri, 07/08/2016 - 08:00

I try not get into online debates in comment sections, on Facebook, or even via email. I have too to else do. In fact, I give this as general advice for most people online, in forums, on Facebook, etc.: these are great places to be poor stewards of the time with which God has entrusted you while neglecting your business, work, housework, etc.

But once in a while I’ll engage someone if I think there’s some larger benefit to it. This post is an example of that, and I was encouraged by others to make a post of the email exchanges below.

The following exchange took place after a 73-year old atheist emailed me via my public email address in regard to my article, “Social Security: 78 cents on the dollar?” which exposes the scam of the Social Security Trust Fund among other things. The man desired to express to me his despair in regard to the future of the Social Security system—from which he derives his sole source of income—but mostly to poke at me with this atheistic cane. While his expression of the standard old atheistic arguments is hardly the best I’ve seen, it does carry with it an interesting vignette into atheism that I deemed worthy to set forth as an example.

What this man revealed as I led him further into his own irrationalism, was the utter despair to which his worldview leads, as well as the angry expression of pure envy which can develop from one’s own embrace of pessimism. Rarely do these things come out so clearly in an exchange with an atheist.

The exchange occurred as follows in block quotations, and will be punctuated in a few places with my further comments.

Round One

Response to your 78 cents on the dollar article.

Dear Mr. McDurmon:

I’ve danced through the hoops from childhood “brainwashing” in fundy Baptist Scofield dispensationalism to BA and MDiv degrees in religulous schools, and DC in a secular school (now am 73, retired with only SS).

In all this, my and all American citizens’ lives have been hampered and restrained by the corruption in corporate governments and corporations at various levels. Peace and happiness are only illusions in such an environment.

Yet I was taught that there is a “god” in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all. Seeing the falseness in such promises, the religulous schools, churches, and media still push these illusions.

So, “what’s a mother to do?” so to speak. I just read your Social Security: 78 Cents on the Dollar? re. the sham of social security. Another government lie to us. Your solutions for us seniors are very disheartening.

We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating “pie in the sky by and by.” More illusions (falsehoods?).

I was taken in wholly by all this religulous propaganda, only to abandon it around the mid 1960s. It occurred to me that it was a false illusion, disappointing, and not worthy of pursuit, merely a system for creating guilt.

My question to you is: Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and “making a difference” in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it.

One head of an institution near here in answer to my question said we are training the young to go out and take care of the mess which we created/are leaving behind (a paraphrase). Wasn’t he trained to do that with the mess left to him? Evidently he and others before have not made a difference!

Do you believe in a heaven and hell, Mr. McDurmon? If a god created all things and declared them “good,” what happened to his control of them? And hell fire for eternity declares he made a mistake and desires to punish those who, through no fault of their own, who never had a chance at peace and happiness, must now be punished eternally by their very creator who, I believe, should “save” them.

And, to me, “free will” is another illusion constantly pushed. We’re all controlled by our genetic inheritances and environmental restraints, so how could our wills really change things for the better? All evidently must resign to things as they are and try to make the better of a bad situation.

My conclusion to it all? I now enjoy what I can and have no fear of the future, be there a “god” or no. When my journey here is over, I shall return to the earth from which I came, and to the silence from which I sprang. I see no “life hereafter,” just unconscious sleep as before my birth.

My challenge to you is to convince me that your life, beliefs, and teaching is any better than my life just described to you. Further, no religulous book can be proven. Thank you for your response.

Sincerely,

Bob (ret.) in Talbot Co., Ga.

I responded to Bob:

Thank you for taking the time to write me in regard to my article. Yes, the government lied and the future is bleak, whether you refer to my particular “solutions” or anyone else’s. Sorry for that.

I am also sorry you were so poorly misled (like most Christians) when you were young. My organization, American Vision, exists specifically to counter that “pie-in-the sky” false religion. We proclaim with so much of ignored Scripture that we are to focus on good works, hard work, responsibility, thrift, ethics, charity, decentralization of government power, etc. in this world, by God’s command. We expect, as our Lord taught us to pray, that His will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven. James said that faith without works is worthless: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17).”

I was specifically responding to Bob’s claim that he was “taught that there is a ‘god’ in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all.” It should be added that this is a distortion of the standard dispy-Baptist teaching, which would usually come directly from the Bible. The typical verse to which I think he is referring is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But notice, this does not teach that things work out for good “for all,” as Bob said, but only for God’s elect.

Further, Bob later says that “We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating ‘pie in the sky by and by.’” But the typical fundamentalist view is that one’s reward for faith is heavenly, not necessarily earthly by any means. Many of these Christians expect only persecution and suffering in this world, and peace only in the next. Bob seems to have believed that he would “come out alright” in this life simply by believing in God. No Bible-believing Christian group I know of teaches this with perhaps the exception of some word-of-faith charismatics.

What is unclear here is whether Bob was actually misled or whether he has abstracted some ideas which he himself has misunderstood. In either case, American Vision teaches that both the traditional “pie-in-the sky” view of Christianity and Bob’s characterization of it are incorrect.

So, with you, we detest the mentality that says we must endure a corrupt society and through faith in God we will come out alright while contemplating pie in the sky. While this is certainly the majority view of religion, it is also certainly wrong and misguided. It prevails so strongly because most people like to be told they have no responsibility, works are not necessary, and escape is just around the corner (whether through rapture or mysticism, or whatever).

So this takes away his pessimistic stance against the faith, at least in regard to his discussion with me. From this point, he would either have to admit with me that the Christian faith does not of necessity rely on “pie-in-the-sky,” or he would have to retreat further into his own pessimism. As we will see in a moment, he would rather take the latter route than admit to anything positive about Christianity.

As for your reservations to the supernatural in general: my answer to the problem of evil is in this article I wrote a couple years ago. I take that question very seriously, and I hope you find time to read what I have written.

I linked him to my article “Harlequin ichthyosis and the Justice of God,” in which I responded to another atheist’s challenge in regard to the problem of evil. I see no need to rehash arguments I have already written elsewhere.

Suffering can have very powerful redemptive effects in society. So, your question, “Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and ‘making a difference’ in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it,” I think assumes too much on the side of the evil.

First of all, I don’t accept the fallacious “complex question.” See my newly-reprinted Biblical Logic (pp. 162–167) on this. I don’t accept the assumptions that happiness and making a difference are an “illusion,” or that the power of evil is “unstoppable.” So I continued,

Yes these gangsters exist, but just look around you: their power to control information is dwindling more every day; the internet has destroyed the power of gatekeepers. Even in China, for example, where Christianity is virtually outlawed, the greatest revivals of millions of people are taking place. Christian literature is for the most part outlawed, and yet a thousand books can be smuggled in on one tiny thumb drive, and this is done every day. Likewise, the bankers are suffering terribly for their great frauds. Vastly more people today are aware of the frauds of central banking and fiat money. Millions of people want to “end the fed”; this would have been inconceivable just ten years ago. So the “sinister power” of these people is being broken. Thus I hardly see them as “unstoppable,” and hardly believe there is “no successful defeat of it.” I don’t believe that happiness is an illusion; in fact, I cannot believe that, I refuse to believe it—not because of pie in the sky, but because I believe in pie in the earth. And while I may not see it develop fully in my lifetime, I plan for my grandkids. I work hard so that they may have a better future than I; and even if I don’t succeed, I would rather die (or be killed) trying rather than sitting back and saying “it’s impossible.” The only sure way to fail is not to try. I refuse to die with that on my resume.

I would turn the tables on you for two things: first, you say all of these pessimistic things about unstoppable corruption and sinister power which can’t be stopped, and then you say you have “no fear of the future.” Sounds to me like you can’t make up your mind. Sounds to me like you’ve resigned to live your last years facing the overwhelming victory of evil in this world, and you don’t care. You’ve accepted an evil-dominated world as a place in which you can live without fear. Sounds strange to me. I suspect that if that evil comes knocking personally at your door, you may speak differently. You may even choose to fight it.

Secondly, and more importantly, IF there is no God, why in the world should I or anyone else care about your bleak future? Why should we even care about your present? If I were to follow out the premises of an atheistic world logically and consistently—there is nothing but physical matter and motion, and humans are merely “highly evolved” instances of matter and motion, all feelings and ideas are mere by-products of this—then I would have a far more bleak future for you. I may conclude—as many tyrants have in the past (and still do today)—that a particular 73-year old man is more of a liability to society than an asset, depending on the circumstances and whatever mood I’m in at the moment. In an atheistic world, there is no reason we should suffer you live out those last days slowly, consuming scarce resources, until you return to the earth. In that world, you may actually have been chosen to be euthanized even earlier. In others, more polite [for no good reason], they may simply just encourage you to leave early. In that world, there is no transcendent, authoritative moral code. It is not even a question of “appropriate,” for no such category can exist—at least not with any genuine authority. What the most powerful members of society impose on the less powerful is by definition “right”—and the weaker bags of protoplasm either have no complaint, or can complain while they’re being forced to comply. As my unregenerate friend used to say, “Tough [doo-doo].”

In my religion, however, we are taught to value the elderly for the wisdom and example they can provide. Thus, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). (Does that dang ol’ harsh and obscure book of Leviticus really teach that? Yep.)

I agree, btw, that our genes and environments have enormous power over our circumstance; but how this destroys our wills completely is another question. I suspect that if you’re standing in the middle of the road and a truck is hurling at you, you will freely choose to move out of the way—irrespective of your DNA. And just because my DNA did not help me sprout wings to fly, there’s no reason for me to stay motionless on the couch while wife and kids expect me to work and win bread (though some men choose to do so). Perhaps my DNA or my environment will leave me susceptible to some disease or disorder, or not; but in any case, it will be my choice ahead to time to purchase life insurance, health insurance, and if such a time should come, it will be purely my choice whether to receive treatment or not. I think the whole “nature versus nurture” debate is highly oversimplified, and creates in many cases a false dichotomy.

And should I ever have to exercise my insurance options, I thank God I live in a society still Christian enough to honor contracts. In an atheistic society—say like the old Soviet Union, or perhaps a worse one yet to come—they may just find a special place for me to go to.

With these things said, I wish I could say much more, but my time is accountable to the donors of AV, who expect me to finish my “County Rights” project someday. I am very sorry, but I cannot accept your challenge to try to convince you. [I said this somewhat in jest, considering I had just replied so much to his challenge already.] I am exactly half your age, but already have learned enough to know if a man won’t listen to the Scripture, he won’t listen to me either; such a man will not even believe if he personally witnessed the resurrection (please read Luke 16:19-31). All I can do is keep fighting the evil, proclaiming the truth, working to better myself and effect change. I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old “fundy Baptist.”

God bless,

Joel McDurmon

That was it. It was a very brief apologetic treatment in summary form to standard atheistic arguments. Nothing really special, and nothing extraordinary except Bob’s special twist of pessimism. But I think Bob was not happy with what I wrote, especially my last line implying that his atheistic version of “doom and gloom” and triumph of evil in this world sounded too much like the dispensationalist Baptists from whom he claimed to distance himself.

Round Two

What followed actually surprised me a little. Usually atheists retreat into a pretended optimism here, attempting to prove that “atheists can be moral people too!” or “an atheistic society can be just as moral and caring as a religious society,” or things of that nature. What surprised me was Bob’s willingness openly to display his despair:

You must realize that the powers already view old folks like myself as “useless eaters.” Obummer has planned to rid the world of the old. I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have “faith” in a book and being which have no hold on me. And many don’t believe a “jesus” rose from the grave, witness the Jefferson bible, which contains no miracles or resurrection passages.

Then he let his despair expose his envy. Keep in mind, envy is that emotion that sees someone else have something they don’t, but instead of trying to obtain that something somehow, they try to destroy it so that the other person can’t have it either. This is exactly what Bob expresses to me: if he can’t have optimism, he will try to destroy it for me as well. As he says,

Planning for your kids and grandkids will have no good effects, because the wicked have completely hijacked the US and the world for their nefarious purposes. The world has no bright future. Because the US has been influenced by the KJV thumpers, people have a false idea that they just “wait for Jesus” to straighten things out, so they sit on their butts at home and church, allowing the wicked to turn the nation into a hell hole. You say you reject that, but how different is your view of things? Voting makes no difference, as the wicked control every election for their agenda.

Ironically, I agree with him about the false idea of the rapture and waiting for Jesus, and I already explained to him (however brief) how diametrically opposite my view of Christianity is. And yet he totally ignores it, because he cannot accept it. It would imply that we should accept responsibility, act morally, stand for good in the face of evil, and even fight against the odds.

Instead of being mature and courageous, Bob chooses the easy way out. Evil will triumph, there’s nothing we can do, but thank (thank what? earth?) we have no final judgment to fear, Bob says, he will simply die and return to unconscious silence.

So having just disavowed the “waiting for Jesus” view of the world, Bob embraces the “waiting for nothing, but still waiting nonetheless” view of the world.

This is the atheistic version of the “rapture.” Rapture or unconscious silence—both are doctrines of escapism.

Bob denies that my view is any different, but does not explain why. Then, with as much reason, he denies my other claims (expectedly):

You haven’t “turned the tables on me,” Joel. Why fear the future, when one realizes there is no eternal hell fire prepared by your “god” for his mistakes? There’s nothing to fear because we’re only returning to the earth, to experience the silence as was before our birth. You need not care about my, what you called, “your bleak future.” I don’t even know you, so why should you even consider my future or I yours?

I though this last sentence was quite funny, rhetorically asking me why I should “even consider” his future: for starters, he had just challenged me to convince him that my view of life is better than his. So I did. Yet he has no idea why I considered something he asked me to consider.

It’s apparent that Bob has neither any real answers to life, nor any good false answers—in other words, he’s not even very well trained at giving classic atheistic rebuttals. So he quickly lapses into relativism and personal attacks.

All your beliefs and arguments center on the KJV, which is written by one or two men for their purposes (Shakespear, Marlowe, Bacon, etc., who knows?) It makes no difference how you or I view it. Truth is as each views it.

It’s interesting how you, “half my age,” want to sound so full of wisdom, attempting to straighten me out, etc. Our opinions are only worth about 2 cents, as “Jon Christian Ryter” likes to say. You must realize that people like you have been trying all through history to “make a difference,” only to pass into the silent realm without having fulfilled their goals.

Then we see the real reason Bob wrote back: he was stung by my paralleling his pessimism with that of the dispensationalists. I think he immediately realized that while he “left that world,” he never really left that world. He’s still the same dogmatic, doomsday preacher, but with the added dark cloud of disbelief, no hope at all. He suddenly saw that he was never liberated from anything, he only dug his hole deeper. Worse yet, he now had to argue with me from the bottom of that abyss while I stood in daylight, on the rim, looking down. Thus, to some atheists, optimism, happiness, and strength in people of faith are often disclaimed as pride and arrogance. (This is true, by the way, even of debates between Christians, when one perceives themselves to be on the losing end: the tendency is to grow entrenched and display one’s own lack of spirituality by attacking that of your opponent.) So Bob quotes my line and then responds:

“I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old ‘fundy Baptist.’” Your last dig before wishing “God bless”! You sound like the prideful religulous I’ve known in my past religulous experiences, i.e., humility and how I attained it. That’s why I left that world, and don’t have any regrets about it. Please don’t write to me again, as I won’t you.

Ironically, Bob, who not so many moments before had genuinely challenged me to convince him, is now angry, spewing, irrational, and demanding I write him no more. But he had already engaged me, and had issued the challenge to be convinced; I could deprive him of the privilege. So I did write him again:

Just a couple parting thoughts:

Denial of future judgment is the atheist’s “rapture.” The atheist has only traded one fundamentalism for another.

I have no pretence of sounding wise; only matter-of-fact. If that is prideful, I stand condemned. Either way, I would expect an atheist—a la W. E. Henley style—to praise pride rather than condemn it.

Granted, Henley was not an atheist; but his poem “Invictus” to which I linked is legendary among humanists and others who wish to express their own boldness to brave anything the “gods” can throw at them. I can’t imagine an atheist would disapprove.

I am open to correction, be it by your beliefs or anyone else’s. Condemning me as someone unable to be convinced is a supreme insult.

I said this in response to Bob’s claim that “I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have ‘faith’ in a book and being which have no hold on me.” This is the atheist’s way of discounting why his own arguments fail. It’s a self-justifying, self-created immunity from criticism. No matter how well I eviscerate his arguments, he can retreat to this position, essentially saying, “Anything you say is only the result of your irrational faith. Whereas my arguments should convince you, you are irrational and cannot be convinced because of your ‘faith.’” The irony is that (even if this were true of my “faith”) Bob is the one really using this tactic. Anything I say to him is dismissed.

In reality, this tactic does nothing but display one’s own childishness. It’s Bob’s way of covering his ears and yelling, “Ah lah lah lah lah lah lah!”

I then addressed his reference to the Jefferson bible, not because I think Jefferson believed in resurrection or miracles, but to show him how even the least faithful of the fathers was far from being the type of atheist or “free-thinker” people like Bob often portray them as today.

Jefferson scissored-out the words and narrative of the life of Jesus in order to simplify. He said nothing about cutting out the miracles or supernatural per se, and specifically stated that he avoided the question of Jesus’ divinity. He was only interested in Jesus’ personal teachings. These he used in his own version of sectarianism, to “dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense.” Granted, Jefferson was no believer in the same sense as myself, but it is funny that when he wanted to establish his “pure and unsophisticated doctrines” that he did not go to the Koran, or the Greeks, or the British Free-Thinkers, French Philosophes, or even Thomas Paine, but… to the Bible. You would do well to follow his example.

Granted, Jefferson’s bible does end with the stone being rolled over the grave, and omits the resurrection passage. But keep in mind Jefferson was a lawyer and thought in terms of legal training. He would have been the first to say that the omission of something is night-and-day different than the denial of it.

Further, unlike my dogmatic atheist, Jefferson believed in an afterlife: after Abigail Adams died, Jefferson wrote to her widower John reminding him of a time approaching when they would “ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.” Further, while he wrote with no love for John Calvin’s reformed faith, Jefferson nevertheless affirmed the commandments and faith of Jesus, and the belief in not only an afterlife, but of eternal rewards and punishments in that afterlife. He wrote:

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.

2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.

3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.

And even in his Unitarianism, Jefferson specifically avoided the type of pessimism this atheist has fallen into. Perceiving such to be a threat against his view of final judgment, Jefferson warned himself against “the afflictions . . . which corrode the spirit also, and might weaken it’s resignation to continuance in a joyless state of being which providence may yet destine.”

Jefferson aside, I continued in regard to the Bible:

And it doesn’t have to be the KJV. I personally read several translations, and check against the Greek and Hebrew often. www.biblegateway.com has several translations and is free.

If Shakespeare’s alleged involvement bothers you, get a Geneva Bible, which was translated into English before he was born; or one of dozens of others which had no input from him.

I have to admit, I am a bit confused: first you challenge me to convince you, then after one minor volley, you assert “please don’t write me anymore.”

Finally, I am openly ashamed in your behalf at the pessimism and resignation you spew. This is disgusting. You sound like a bitter old man. You have a longing to find genuine Christian fellowship, and I understand (believe me) that it is hard to find among all of the religious posturing and vying for power in churches, and outright hypocrisy; but I think that longing is still there; you’ve just convinced yourself of a world in which it is impossible to obtain—for you or anyone else. It’s classic envy. If you can’t have it, you’ll deny it for anyone else, too. This is transparent, and pitiful. The sad fact is that a man your age should be encouraging the next generation and exemplifying goodness even in the face of evil, yet you spout nothing but bitterness and defeat.

You say you don’t fear the future because of no after life; but you live NOW in defeat and fear. No wonder a silent death is a solace to you.

I have no intention of adding anything to this. The man had already eaten up more of our time than he deserved, and I ended my comments with an open rebuke. Imagine this: a man of that age who can have nothing good to say about life, lives in constant defeat, and is so embittered against life and God that he will openly deny that all attempts to be happy or make a better life for your children are futile and will end in defeat. In other words, he’s defeated, and he wants everyone else to be defeated as well.

My refusal to accept such a defeated worldview he criticized as prideful and arrogant. It really ate at him. He couldn’t hold it in. So, despite his promise never to write me again, he fired back, “I told you not to write me. . . . again, arrogance!!”

It’s a shame; but it’s perfectly consistent with the Bible’s view of fallen human nature: Cain saw that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while his own was rejected. So rather than getting himself a better sacrifice, Cain despaired and envied.

Then he murdered his brother.

Don’t tell me atheists will create a moral society. I know better.

[Originally posted July 21, 2011.]

I normally don’t get into online debates in comment sections, on Facebook, or even via email. I have too much work to get done, especially in regard to my “County Rights” project. In fact, I give this as general advice for most people online, in forums, on Facebook, etc.; these are a great place to be poor stewards of the time with which God has entrusted you while neglecting your business, work, housework, etc.

But once in a while I’ll engage someone if I think there’s some larger benefit to it. This post is an example of that, and I was encouraged by others to make a post of the email exchanges below. I have done this at least once before, here.

The following exchange took place after a 73-year old atheist emailed me—via American Vision’s website—in regard to my article, “Social Security: 78 cents on the dollar?” which exposed the scam of the Social Security Trust Fund among other things. The man desired to express to me his despair in regard to the future of the Social Security system—from which he derives his sole source of income—but mostly to poke at me with this atheistic cane. While his expression of the standard old atheistic arguments is hardly the best I’ve seen—it reaches about a ninth-grade level—it does carry with it an interesting vignette into atheism that I deemed worthy to set forth as an example.

What this man revealed as I led him further into his own irrationalism, was the utter despair to which his worldview leads, as well as the angry expression of pure envy which develops from one’s own embrace of pessimism. Rarely do these things come out so clearly in an exchange with an atheist.

The exchange occurred as follows in block quotations, and will be punctuated in a few places with my further comments.

Response to your 78 cents on the dollar article.

Dear Mr. McDurmon:

I’ve danced through the hoops from childhood “brainwashing” in fundy Baptist Scofield dispensationalism to BA and MDiv degrees in religulous schools, and DC in a secular school (now am 73, retired with only SS).

In all this, my and all American citizens’ lives have been hampered and restrained by the corruption in corporate governments and corporations at various levels. Peace and happiness are only illusions in such an environment.

Yet I was taught that there is a “god” in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all. Seeing the falseness in such promises, the religulous schools, churches, and media still push these illusions.

So, “what’s a mother to do?” so to speak. I just read your Social Security: 78 Cents on the Dollar? re. the sham of social security. Another government lie to us. Your solutions for us seniors are very disheartening.

We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating “pie in the sky by and by.” More illusions (falsehoods?).

I was taken in wholly by all this religulous propaganda, only to abandon it around the mid 1960s. It occurred to me that it was a false illusion, disappointing, and not worthy of pursuit, merely a system for creating guilt.

My question to you is: Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and “making a difference” in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it.

One head of an institution near here in answer to my question said we are training the young to go out and take care of the mess which we created/are leaving behind (a paraphrase). Wasn’t he trained to do that with the mess left to him? Evidently he and others before have not made a difference!

Do you believe in a heaven and hell, Mr. McDurmon? If a god created all things and declared them “good,” what happened to his control of them? And hell fire for eternity declares he made a mistake and desires to punish those who, through no fault of their own, who never had a chance at peace and happiness, must now be punished eternally by their very creator who, I believe, should “save” them.

And, to me, “free will” is another illusion constantly pushed. We’re all controlled by our genetic inheritances and environmental restraints, so how could our wills really change things for the better? All evidently must resign to things as they are and try to make the better of a bad situation.

My conclusion to it all? I now enjoy what I can and have no fear of the future, be there a “god” or no. When my journey here is over, I shall return to the earth from which I came, and to the silence from which I sprang. I see no “life hereafter,” just unconscious sleep as before my birth.

My challenge to you is to convince me that your life, beliefs, and teaching is any better than my life just described to you. Further, no religulous book can be proven. Thank you for your response.

Sincerely,

Bob (ret.) in Talbot Co., Ga.

I responded to Bob:

Thank you for taking the time to write me in regard to my article. Yes, the government lied and the future is bleak, whether you refer to my particular “solutions” or anyone else’s. Sorry for that.

I am also sorry you were so poorly misled (like most Christians) when you were young. My organization, American Vision, exists specifically to counter that “pie-in-the sky” false religion. We proclaim with so much of ignored Scripture that we are to focus on good works, hard work, responsibility, thrift, ethics, charity, decentralization of government power, etc. in this world, by God’s command. We expect, as our Lord taught us to pray, that His will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven. James said that faith without works is worthless: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17).”

I was specifically responding to Bob’s claim that he was “taught that there is a ‘god’ in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all.” It should be added that this is a distortion of the standard dispy-Baptist teaching, which would usually come directly from the Bible. The typical verse to which I think he is referring is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But notice, this does not teach that things work out for good “for all,” as Bob said, but only for God’s elect.

Further, Bob later says that “We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating ‘pie in the sky by and by.’” But the typical fundamentalist view is that one’s reward for faith is heavenly, not necessarily earthly by any means. Indeed many of these Christians expect only persecution and suffering in this world, and peace only in the next. Bob seems to have believed that he would “come out alright” in this life simply by believing in God. No Bible-believing Christian group I know of teaches this.

What is unclear here is whether Bob was actually misled or mistaught, or whether he has abstracted some ideas which he himself has misunderstood and misrepresented. In either case, American Vision teaches that both the traditional “pie-in-the sky” view of Christianity and Bob’s characterization of it are incorrect.

So, with you, we detest the mentality that says we must endure a corrupt society and through faith in God we will come out alright while contemplating pie in the sky. While this is certainly the majority view of religion, it is also certainly wrong and misguided. It prevails so strongly because most people like to be told they have no responsibility, works are not necessary, and escape is just around the corner (whether through rapture or mysticism, or whatever).

So this took away his pessimistic stance against the faith, at least in regard to his discussion with me. From this point, he would either have to admit with me that the Christian faith does not of necessity rely on “pie-in-the-sky,” or he would have to retreat further into his own pessimism. As we will see in a moment, he would rather take the latter route than admit to anything positive about Christianity.

As for your reservations to the supernatural in general: my answer to the problem of evil is in this article I wrote a couple years ago. I take that question very seriously, and I hope you find time to read what I have written.

I linked him to my article “Harlequin ichthyosis and the Justice of God,” in which I responded to another’s atheist’s challenge in regard to the problem of evil. I see no need to rehash arguments I have already written elsewhere.

Suffering can have very powerful redemptive effects in society. So, your question, “Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and ‘making a difference’ in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it,” I think assumes too much on the side of the evil.

First of all, I don’t accept the fallacious “complex question.” See my newly-reprinted Biblical Logic (pp. 162–167) on this. I don’t accept the assumptions that happiness and making a difference are an “illusion,” or that the power of evil is “unstoppable.” So I continued,

Yes these gangsters exist, but just look around you: their power to control information is dwindling more every day; the internet has destroyed the power of gatekeepers. Even in China, for example, where Christianity is virtually outlawed, the greatest revivals of millions of people are taking place. Christian literature is for the most part outlawed, and yet a thousand books can be smuggled in on one tiny thumb drive, and this is done every day. Likewise, the bankers are suffering terribly for their great frauds. Vastly more people today are aware of the frauds of central banking and fiat money. Millions of people want to “end the fed”; this would have been inconceivable just ten years ago. So the “sinister power” of these people is being broken. Thus I hardly see them as “unstoppable,” and hardly believe there is “no successful defeat of it.” I don’t believe that happiness is an illusion; in fact, I cannot believe that, I refuse to believe it—not because of pie in the sky, but because I believe in pie in the earth. And while I may not see it develop fully in my lifetime, I plan for my grandkids. I work hard so that they may have a better future than I; and even if I don’t succeed, I would rather die (or be killed) trying rather than sitting back and saying “it’s impossible.” The only sure way to fail is not to try. I refuse to die with that on my resume.

I would turn the tables on you for two things: first, you say all of these pessimistic things about unstoppable corruption and sinister power which can’t be stopped, and then you say you have “no fear of the future.” Sounds to me like you can’t make up your mind. Sounds to me like you’ve resigned to live your last years facing the overwhelming victory of evil in this world, and you don’t care. You’ve accepted an evil-dominated world as a place in which you can live without fear. Sounds strange to me. I suspect that if that evil comes knocking personally at your door, you may speak differently. You may even choose to fight it.

Secondly, and more importantly, IF there is no God, why in the world should I or anyone else care about your bleak future? Why should we even care about your present? If I were to follow out the premises of an atheistic world logically and consistently—there is nothing but physical matter and motion, and humans are merely “highly evolved” instances of matter and motion, all feelings and ideas are mere by-products of this—then I would have a far more bleak future for you. I may conclude—as many tyrants have in the past (and still do today)—that a particular 73-year old man is more of a liability to society than an asset, depending on the circumstances and whatever mood I’m in at the moment. In an atheistic world, there is no reason we should suffer you live out those last days slowly, consuming scarce resources, until you return to the earth. In that world, you may actually have been chosen to be euthanized even earlier. In others, more polite [for no good reason], they may simply just encourage you to leave early. In that world, there is no transcendent, authoritative moral code. It is not even a question of “appropriate,” for no such category can exist—at least not with any genuine authority. What the most powerful members of society impose on the less powerful is by definition “right”—and the weaker bags of protoplasm either have no complaint, or can complain while they’re being forced to comply. As my unregenerate friend used to say, “Tough [doo-doo].”

In my religion, however, we are taught to value the elderly for the wisdom and example they can provide. Thus, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). (Does that dang ol’ harsh and obscure book of Leviticus really teach that? Yep.)

I agree, btw, that our genes and environments have enormous power over our circumstance; but how this destroys our wills completely is another question. I suspect that if you’re standing in the middle of the road and a truck is hurling at you, you will freely choose to move out of the way—irrespective of your DNA. And just because my DNA did not help me sprout wings to fly, there’s no reason for me to stay motionless on the couch while wife and kids expect me to work and win bread (though some men choose to do so). Perhaps my DNA or my environment will leave me susceptible to some disease or disorder, or not; but in any case, it will be my choice ahead to time to purchase life insurance, health insurance, and if such a time should come, it will be purely my choice whether to receive treatment or not. I think the whole “nature versus nurture” debate is highly oversimplified, and creates in many cases a false dichotomy.

And should I ever have to exercise my insurance options, I thank God I live in a society still Christian enough to honor contracts. In an atheistic society—say like the old Soviet Union, or perhaps a worse one yet to come—they may just find a special place for me to go to.

With these things said, I wish I could say much more, but my time is accountable to the donors of AV, who expect me to finish my “County Rights” project someday. I am very sorry, but I cannot accept your challenge to try to convince you. [I said this someone in jest, considering I had just replied so much to his challenge already.] I am exactly half your age, but already have learned enough to know if a man won’t listen to the Scripture, he won’t listen to me either; such a man will not even believe if he personally witnessed the resurrection (please read Luke 16:19-31). All I can do is keep fighting the evil, proclaiming the truth, working to better myself and effect change. I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old “fundy Baptist.”

God bless,

Joel McDurmon

That was it. It was a very brief apologetic treatment in summary form to standard atheistic arguments. Nothing really special, and nothing extraordinary except Bob’s special twist of pessimism. But I think Bob was not happy with what I wrote, especially my last line implying that his atheistic version of “doom and gloom” and triumph of evil in this world sounded too much like the dispensationalist Baptists from whom he claimed to distance himself.

What followed actually surprised me a little. Usually atheists retreat into a pretended optimism here, attempting to prove that “atheists can be moral people too!” or “an atheistic society can be just as moral and caring as a religious society,” or things of that nature. What surprised me was Bob’s willingness openly to display his despair:

You must realize that the powers already view old folks like myself as “useless eaters.” Obummer has planned to rid the world of the old. I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have “faith” in a book and being which have no hold on me. And many don’t believe a “jesus” rose from the grave, witness the Jefferson bible, which contains no miracles or resurrection passages.

Then he let his despair expose his envy. Keep in mind, envy is that emotion that sees someone else have something they don’t, but instead of trying to obtain that something somehow, they try to destroy it so that the other person can’t have it either. This is exactly what Bob expresses to me: if he can’t have optimism, he will try to destroy it for me as well. As he says,

Planning for your kids and grandkids will have no good effects, because the wicked have completely hijacked the US and the world for their nefarious purposes. The world has no bright future. Because the US has been influenced by the KJV thumpers, people have a false idea that they just “wait for Jesus” to straighten things out, so they sit on their butts at home and church, allowing the wicked to turn the nation into a hell hole. You say you reject that, but how different is your view of things? Voting makes no difference, as the wicked control every election for their agenda.

Ironically, I agree with him about the false idea of the rapture and waiting for Jesus, and I already explained to him (however brief) how diametrically opposite my view of Christianity is. And yet he totally ignores it, because he cannot accept it. It would imply that we should accept responsibility, act morally, stand for good in the face of evil, and even fight against the odds.

Instead of being mature and courageous, Bob chooses the easy way out. Evil will triumph, there’s nothing we can do, but thank (thank what? earth?) we have no final judgment to fear, Bob says, he will simply die and return to unconscious silence.

So having just disavowed the “waiting for Jesus” view of the world, Bob embraces the “waiting for nothing, but still waiting nonetheless” view of the world.

This is the atheistic version of the “rapture.” Rapture or unconscious silence—both are doctrines of escapism.

Bob denies that my view is any different, but does explain why. Then, with as much reason, he denies my other claims (expectedly):

You haven’t “turned the tables on me,” Joel. Why fear the future, when one realizes there is no eternal hell fire prepared by your “god” for his mistakes? There’s nothing to fear because we’re only returning to the earth, to experience the silence as was before our birth. You need not care about my, what you called, “your bleak future.” I don’t even know you, so why should you even consider my future or I yours?

I though this last sentence was quite funny, rhetorically asking me why I should “even consider” his future: for starters, he had just challenged me to convince him that my view of life is better than his. So I did. Yet he has no idea why I considered something he asked me to consider.

It’s apparent that Bob has neither any real answers to life, nor any good false answers—in other words, he’s not even very well trained at giving classic atheistic rebuttals. So he quickly lapses into relativism and personal attacks.

All your beliefs and arguments center on the KJV, which is written by one or two men for their purposes (Shakespear, Marlowe, Bacon, etc., who knows?) It makes no difference how you or I view it. Truth is as each views it.

It’s interesting how you, “half my age,” want to sound so full of wisdom, attempting to straighten me out, etc. Our opinions are only worth about 2 cents, as “Jon Christian Ryter” likes to say. You must realize that people like you have been trying all through history to “make a difference,” only to pass into the silent realm without having fulfilled their goals.

Then we see the real reason Bob wrote back: he was stung by my paralleling his pessimism with that of the dispensationalists. I think he immediately realized that while he “left that world,” he never really left that world. He’s still the same dogmatic, doomsday preacher, but with the added dark cloud of disbelief, no hope at all. He suddenly saw that he was never liberated from anything, he only dug his hole deeper. Worse yet, he now had to argue with me from the bottom of that abyss while I stood in daylight, on the rim, looking down. Thus, to some atheists, optimism, happiness, and strength in people of faith are often disclaimed as pride and arrogance. (This is true, by the way, even of debates between Christians, when one perceives themselves to be on the losing end: the tendency is to grow entrenched and display one’s own lack of spirituality by attacking that of your opponent.) So Bob quotes my line and then responds:

“I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old ‘fundy Baptist.’” Your last dig before wishing “God bless”! You sound like the prideful religulous I’ve known in my past religulous experiences, i.e., humility and how I attained it. That’s why I left that world, and don’t have any regrets about it. Please don’t write to me again, as I won’t you.

Ironically, Bob, who not so many moments before had genuinely challenged me to convince him, is now angry, spewing, irrational, and demanding I write him no more. But he had already engaged me, and had issued the challenge to be convinced; I could deprive him of the privilege. So I did write him again:

Just a couple parting thoughts:

Denial of future judgment is the atheist’s “rapture.” The atheist has only traded one fundamentalism for another.

I have no pretence of sounding wise; only matter-of-fact. If that is prideful, I stand condemned. Either way, I would expect an atheist—a la W. E. Henley style—to praise pride rather than condemn it.

Granted, Henley was not an atheist; but his poem “Invictus” to which I linked is legendary among humanists and others who wish to express their own boldness to brave anything the “gods” can throw at them. I can’t imagine an atheist would disapprove.

I am open to correction, be it by your beliefs or anyone else’s. Condemning me as someone unable to be convinced is a supreme insult.

I said this in response to Bob’s claim that “I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have ‘faith’ in a book and being which have no hold on me.” This is the atheist’s way of discounting why his own arguments fail. It’s a self-justifying, self-created immunity from criticism. No matter how well I eviscerate his arguments, he can retreat to this position, essentially saying, “Anything you say is only the result of your irrational faith. Whereas my arguments should convince you, you are irrational and cannot be convinced because of your ‘faith.’” The irony is that (even if this were true of my “faith”) Bob is the one really using this tactic. Anything I say to him is dismissed.

In reality, this tactic does nothing but display one’s own childishness. It’s Bob’s way of covering his ears and yelling, “Ah lah lah lah lah lah lah!”

I then addressed his reference to the Jefferson bible, not because I think Jefferson believed in resurrection or miracles, but to show him how even the least faithful of the fathers was far from being the type of atheist or “free-thinker” people like Bob often portray them as today.

Jefferson scissored-out the words and narrative of the life of Jesus in order to simplify. He said nothing about cutting out the miracles or supernatural per se, and specifically stated that he avoided the question of Jesus’ divinity. He was only interested in Jesus’ personal teachings. These he used in his own version of sectarianism, to “dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense.” Granted, Jefferson was no believer in the same sense as myself, but it is funny that when he wanted to establish his “pure and unsophisticated doctrines” that he did not go to the Koran, or the Greeks, or the British Free-Thinkers, French Philosophes, or even Thomas Paine, but… to the Bible. You would do well to follow his example.

Granted, Jefferson’s bible does end with the stone being rolled over the grave, and omits the resurrection passage. But keep in mind Jefferson was a lawyer and thought in terms of legal training. He would have been the first to say that the omission of something is night-and-day different than the denial of it.

Further, unlike my dogmatic atheist, Jefferson believed in an afterlife: after Abigail Adams died, Jefferson wrote to her widower John reminding him of a time approaching when they would “ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.” Further, while he wrote with no love for John Calvin’s reformed faith, Jefferson nevertheless affirmed the commandments and faith of Jesus, and the belief in not only an afterlife, but of eternal rewards and punishments in that afterlife. He wrote:

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.

2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.

3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.

And even in his Unitarianism, Jefferson specifically avoided the type of pessimism this atheist has fallen into. Perceiving such to be a threat against his view of final judgment, Jefferson warned himself against “the afflictions . . . which corrode the spirit also, and might weaken it’s resignation to continuance in a joyless state of being which providence may yet destine.”

Jefferson aside, I continued in regard to the Bible:

And it doesn’t have to be the KJV. I personally read several translations, and check against the Greek and Hebrew often. www.biblegateway.com has several translations and is free.

If Shakespeare’s alleged involvement bothers you, get a Geneva Bible, which was translated into English before he was born; or one of dozens of others which had no input from him.

I have to admit, I am a bit confused: first you challenge me to convince you, then after one minor volley, you assert “please don’t write me anymore.”

Finally, I am openly ashamed in your behalf at the pessimism and resignation you spew. This is disgusting. You sound like a bitter old man. You have a longing to find genuine Christian fellowship, and I understand (believe me) that it is hard to find among all of the religious posturing and vying for power in churches, and outright hypocrisy; but I think that longing is still there; you’ve just convinced yourself of a world in which it is impossible to obtain—for you or anyone else. It’s classic envy. If you can’t have it, you’ll deny it for anyone else, too. This is transparent, and pitiful. The sad fact is that a man your age should be encouraging the next generation and exemplifying goodness even in the face of evil, yet you spout nothing but bitterness and defeat.

You say you don’t fear the future because of no after life; but you live NOW in defeat and fear. No wonder a silent death is a solace to you.

I have no intention of adding anything to this. The man had already eaten up more of our time than he deserved, and I ended my comments with an open rebuke. Image this: a man of that age who can have nothing good to say about life, lives in constant defeat, and is so embittered against life and God that he will openly deny that all attempts to be happy or make a better life for your children are futile and will end in defeat. In other words, he’s defeated, and he wants everyone else to be defeated as well.

My refusal to accept such his worldview he saw as prideful and arrogant. It really ate at him. So, despite his promise to certainly never write me again, he fired back, “I told you not to write me. . . . again, arrogance!!”

It’s a shame; but it’s perfectly consistent with the Bible’s view of fallen human nature: Cain saw that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while his own was rejected. So rather than getting himself a better sacrifice, Cain despaired and envied. Then he murdered his brother.

Don’t tell me atheists will create a moral society. I know better.

Categories: Worldview

Atheism, freemasonry, and the “God Equation”

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 08:00

Brave atheist PZ Myers (the American Richard Dawkins wannabe) did humanity the favor of debunking the so-called “God Equation”—a simple physics trick that purports to give “scientific evidence that the creation of the Earth and Moon was a deliberate act.” But what has begun to come out of the debunking is a misunderstanding by some that this attempt at proving “intelligent design” has somehow come from “Christian” creation scientists. So, the story now needs debunking on two counts—the particular spin on “intelligent design” given by the discoverers of the equation, and the particular misapplication that some atheists on the web have added to it. In the end, we will see the God Equation proponents and the atheists are the ones in league.

A Pagan Intelligent Design Theory

Readers should first realize that the “discoverers” of this equation (which I will discuss in particular in a moment) are decidedly not Christians, at least not by any traditional measurement. The “discovery” was made by artificial intelligence (AI) engineer David Cumming of Edinburgh, UK. Cumming runs an organization called Intelligent Earth that develops AI products such as facial recognition systems and robotics. He describes himself as a “skeptic,” telling Myers in correspondence, “I didn’t [at first] believe the equation either. I am a skeptic and a great fan of people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc. so please don’t tar this with the pseudoscience brush because it’s not appropriate in this case.” A self-proclaimed skeptic and fan of the famous atheists Harris and Dawkins can hardly be accused of being a creation scientist, or a Christian.

When I first read the article something sounded really fishy, and then I spotted it: “Working completely independently, well-known researchers Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, have shown that there is a unique unit of measurement based on the fundamental characteristics of the Sun, Earth, Moon system.” The name “Christopher Knight” rang a bell and I immediately began to dig up a few books from past studies. Sure enough, Knight turns out to be the author of The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus—one of the books that gained best-selling popularity in the wake of The Da Vinci Code years ago.

In that book, Knight condemns the traditional history of the Church and sides with occultists and radical liberal scholars such as Elaine Pagels in favor of the Gnostics. He then complete these same heist of logic that the atheists do and claims that Christianity was really nothing more than a rehash of the ancient pagan sun-worshiping mystery religions. I addressed this nonsense long ago in my video series Defeating the Mythstorians, and in my books Manifested in the Flesh, and Zeitgeist—the Movie: Exposed. Knight goes beyond even the most radical of the atheists and claims that with Christianity versus the mystery religions, “This is not a case of similarities; we’re talking about total interchangeability.” His book is filled with this type of grandiose fallacy, upon which he builds each of his next arguments, conjecture upon conjecture, arriving at even more grandiose conclusions. The main point being, however, that he rejects the faith, the divinity of Jesus, and opts for the alleged glories of freemasonry.

In that freemasonic world—in which I suspect all the parties involved with this equation have a foot—“God” can mean whatever the individual wants it to mean. It could mean everything from an enlightened Buddha to an extraterrestrial. So when these cosmic number-tinkerers claim to find proof of engineering, they could mean that higher beings from another part of the universe “engineered” part our solar system (the equation, by the way, says nothing about the origin of life on earth or intelligence itself, only about the relationship between the size and motion of the earth and moon). From what I gather from the parties involved, anything like the Creator God spoken of in the Bible is the farthest thing from their minds. They are occultists—neo-Pythagoreans trying to reduce all reality to numbers—not Christians.

My thanks to PZ Myers (despite my great disagreements with him over the issue of God in general) for actually not calling these perpetrators “Christian” in this case, nor even suggesting an association with “creation science” or “intelligent design.”

About the “God Equation”

The equation at its simplest allegedly “shows a direct link between the speed of light, the radio frequency of hydrogen in space, pi, and earth’s orbit, rotation and weight.” And this “direct link” supposedly provides evidence of engineering in the universe. But this fine-threaded theory has a few knots.

The equation itself contains arbitrary components which render it dubious if not laughably contrived. For example, in contains a mysterious constant Ω which equates to “(0.0123456789 representing all the characters of the base 10 number system)”—a curious oddity at best, though one employed by more than one scientist who purports to have discovered “God” through arcane mathematics. Atheist Myers easily debunks the equation by pointing out the curious negligence with the units of measurement: “For instance, the term Hl has units of MHz; the other parameters seem to be dimensionless; and C [the speed of light] has units of km/sec. This does not compute.” I agree with his quip, “That seems like a rather fundamental error in a very simple equation that must have been formulated by a couple of the geniuses of the age, don’t you think?”

The God Equation argument runs thusly: “As the possibility of the Earth having the exact required characteristics to fit the equation by chance is remote, and the equation has, in theory, been in existence since the beginning of the Universe, this means that the Earth’s orbit, rotation and weight must have been engineered to fit this equation.” As science this is dubious; as logic it is very poor. To say that finding a certain regularity means that the objects involved “must have been” engineered to fit the mathematics derived from it is to reason upside-down. Anyone can triangulate a given set of data from regularly behaving objects in the universe, then derive an equation to fit the data (and some equation will fit because the motion is uniform), find some conversion factor to make some of the numbers look smooth (this is the nature of math), and then claim the objects were specifically engineered to fit that equation. The conclusion should come as no surprise, for it was custom-molded to fit the data.

Logic simply does not compel one from “order” to “divine creation.” Other factors besides divine input could possibly account for order. (This is why evidentialist apologetics will always be doomed to failure—a hamster wheel.) Atheists readily accept the orderliness of the universe, and yet reject every notion of creation. They rightly point out that all things being equal, a purely material universe will simply behave according to whatever properties matter may have. We observe regularity and precision, and therefore we accept regularity, as long as it works, and describe it mathematically. The bigger question, therefore, will be that of where the orderliness comes from to begin with. Answering that question ultimately involves a faith commitment upon which each worldview is based—orderliness is dependent upon a creator, or upon an eternal universe of matter and motion, etc. We will only get nearer to a proof of God by challenging these presuppositions and seeing which one actually holds up.

That math works in the universe is not the debate. Why math works in the universe gets closer to the necessary point of argument.

What Cumming has “discovered,” therefore, is hardly novel or helpful. Newton just as easily saw that his derivation of the laws of gravity from the coursing planets in the heavens proved their special creation. But what happens if and when we observe chaos? What happens when there is no human reasoning, and when there may not even be reason and ratio enough to explain some aspects of the universe? Are we then to abandon God? If mathematical regularity proves divine creation, then does irregularity prove atheism? Are we to adhere to God in the portions of the universe we can subdue beneath the bar of mathematics, and assume that the chaotic parts have no Creator? Did God, therefore, create only part of the universe? And where did the other parts come from? Relying on particular instances of regularity in the universe to prove the existence of a designer is hot very helpful at all in the long run. It may prove God, or it may not. It may in part disprove Him. Or it may prove the type of God you’d rather not know.

The equation essentially proves nothing (assuming it is legitimate, which is highly questionable) except one particular instance of regularity in the universe—something which scientists of all sorts have long-since conceded. Science is based on regularity in the universe because it operates on repeatable, testable, predictable experiments that in turn require regularity. Even if the God Equation were legitimate, it would only provide evidence of intelligent design insofar as regularity in general provides evidence. Why this instance of regularity does not present an intelligent design argument, I will discuss further in a minute.

Atheism, Mysticism, and Tyranny

That said, I think our debunking atheist PZ Myer would be surprised to realize that these “crackpots,” as he rightly calls them, have more in common with his own worldview than with that of the Christian. It is the atheistic scientist that most heartily believes the universe may someday be deciphered and unraveled by human reason. This is the same drive behind the occultists’ quest to unravel the ratios of the universe. In fact, Christopher Knight’s coauthor for The Hiram Key, Robert Lomas, boasts that freemasonry (with all of its implicit Pythagoreanism and Euclidian-soaked sacred geometry) actually founded and birthed modern science (see his book, Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science). I would contend that science requires more than just some anti-church stance (common between atheism and freemasonry), it further requires things like an objective reality and adherence to moral absolutes—things which the worldviews of neither the atheist nor the mystic can guarantee. Christianity, however, makes perfect sense in comparison to these needs.

In the worldviews of both atheist and mystic, unless the earth is invaded by super-evolved aliens, all authority over man resides in other men. The issue of aliens is never far from the surface, however, as many mystics and new-agers continually watch the skies. The atheists are not immune, as even Richard Dawkins has argued for the evolution of aliens. He has even argued that the existence of super-evolved aliens is more likely than the existence of God. Barring any space invaders, however, man is in control. The weak and slow will be made to serve the powerful and bright, and this is the way it should be in their worldview. In a Christian worldview, however, even the scholars, rulers, and generals are held to the same ethical and moral standards, ultimately. (Police and bureaucrats would have to submit, too, but in truth there wouldn’t be any in a fully Christian world.)

The atheistic and occult worldviews further have in common that their reducing-to-numbers “science” has one ultimate goal: material control of the universe. This is not necessarily bad if it is only aimed at nature and not humanity, for the Christian faith speaks of dominion and subduing the earth as well. The difference is that the other worldviews here see man as a part of nature while the Christian faith sees him as specially created in God’s Image. When the atheist or mystic engages in applications of their science, they must necessarily engage in the physical control of their fellow man. This is why officially atheistic regimes almost always turn out to be tyrannies (Soviet Union, North Korea, ad infinitum). It is also why they refuse to tolerate Christianity unless they denude it first and make it to serve the state—because Christianity places the rulers under authority and accountability as well, and frees the consciences and markets of men.

We see the exact same impulse toward tyranny, however, in the very scientists who developed the God Equation. Cumming’s organizations Intelligent Earth and Safe Cities are involved in developing classic “Big Brother”-type technologies: in particular they have generated a facial recognition technology used by UK police forces in conjunction with a massive national database of facial images. With cameras stationed in thousands of places throughout the nation, and linked to such a database, the technology screams the potential for tyrannical abuse. It is the freemasonic “eye” atop the pyramid of human society—classic top-down government control.

Note also that the two groups most focused on “artificial intelligence” are atheistic philosophers (particularly the so-called neuroscientists) and these mystic types, and they are even engaged in creating or evolving to the next level of consciousness. Both believe in creating the equivalent of man someday—man creating man, or man creating evolved, improved man. If they ever achieve it, they will no doubt think the more of themselves and the less of any Creator God whom they will believe they have approximated, or replaced, or finally have become.

Are they Baiting the Intelligent Designers?

I have a sneaking suspicion that this “intelligent engineering” claim was floated as a false-flag to bait Christians into parading a goofy argument, or else it was to steal the power of the intelligent design argument on behalf of the occultists. I would like to show a crucial difference between the two:

The basic argument employed by the occultists is the old version of the teleological “design” argument. It is based on the appearance of design coupled with the improbability of non-design for any given phenomenon. It says, “the chances of this not being a deliberate design are vanishingly small,” and “the possibility of the Earth having the exact required characteristics to fit the equation by chance is remote,” therefore, “the Earth’s orbit, rotation and weight must have been engineered to fit this equation.” The chances of this situation arising apart from design are “vanishingly small” and “remote” (assuming that their calculations of the chances are accurate). This means, however, that there yet remains a chance that it was not designed (even if it’s a small chance). We are only talking about a probability on a certain continuum of chance.

Some Christians and Christian apologists find this persuasive. I do not. I do not rest my faith upon the controvertible; faith does not derive from human persuasion or interpretations of evidence or mathematics. Faith is a gift from God that illuminates one to see the God who gave it, and who designed both the mathematical and the apparently chaotic—light and darkness. Divine Creation is an article of faith that makes rational sense of all that follows. We gather this by divine revelation, not human reckoning; as Cornelius Van Til wrote, “As the Word of God, Scripture is like the sun in the light of which all things are seen and without the light of which nothing is seen for what it is.”1

By contrast to the improbability argument, a good intelligent design argument rests upon the impossibility of non-design. Michael Behe has famously illustrated the principle with his mousetrap analogy. A mousetrap is an irreducibly complex system that requires at least five working parts to operate; if any single one of the parts is missing, the whole will not perform its function. This means that as a mousetrap, the machine could not have arisen step-by-step due to chance at all, because all five parts have to be placed together according to a preexisting blueprint, or else it would not exist at all. Behe then goes on to illustrate irreducibly complex systems in the human body—bacterial flagellar motors, the human eye, blood clotting biochemistry, etc. Creation scientist Jonathan Sarfati has filled a book, By Design, with examples of design, many or most of which would pass the impossibility of non-design criterion. In my opinion, this is the best of the best of evidential-type argumentation (but even here it does not rise to the level and power of presuppositionalism).

Christian proponents of intelligent design and readers of creation science materials should not accept or reference anything like a “God Equation” as a legitimate argument for the existence of the God of the Bible. It does not appear even to be legitimate science, and even if it were it would tell us little-to-nothing more about the universe than we already have known for some time. It does not even get close to a powerful argument for Christian theism, and it rests on basically the same worldview assumptions and methods as the atheistic worldview—human autonomy. In short, the God Equation does not make good science, good religion, or good apologetics. Christians can do much better, and should never be fooled by pseudo-religious claims like these.

Notes:

  1. Cornelius Van Til, The Protestant Doctrine Of Scripture (The den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1967), 40.
Categories: Worldview

Study shows cops tase blacks more often than whites

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 08:00

It is a working thesis of mine that we still have a major problem with racism in this nation, and that since conservatives (and especially Christians) perpetually refuse to address the problems of race and power with both empathetic and biblical solutions, leftists continue to gain power through Marxist, class-warfare-type tactics in regard to race.

Regarding the enduring racism: I believe a good amount of this is subconscious. In other words, one can exhibit racist behavior and do racist thinks without being a conscious or even secret racist—although some of these certainly exist, too. But the subconscious element works on several levels, and even pervades institutions, in my opinion.

Nowhere is this clearer than in criminal justice. This week, a report was released that showed yet another small window into this problem. In the first study of its kind, the facts show that police in Connecticut employ tasers more often against blacks and Hispanics than against whites.

According to one review, the report “found that black men were about three times more likely to be Tased than simply warned. . . . For white men, the chance of being Tased or warned were about the same.”

Indeed, when wielding Taser against whites, only warnings were given in 40 percent of cases. When involving blacks, however, the number drops to only 19 percent.

In other words, whites get off with only warnings more than twice as often as blacks. With blacks, the vast majority of incidents—81 percent—go straight to tasing.

So whites get verbal warnings first, and blacks get something more like a hair-trigger. Shoot first, and let the Fraternal Order of Police lawyers answer questions later.

The nature of the study is also disarming of the common retort that, well, blacks just commit more crimes than whites, so obviously they have police interactions more often. Nope. This argument is wrong on so many levels, but is busted in this report because the data are presented as percentages of interactions within each race to begin with. In other words, all else being equal, the cops were more than twice as likely to give a warning to a white man as opposed to a black, and much more quick to use tasers when engaging blacks than whites. These are percentage rates, not bare numbers.

That statistic is damning no matter how you slice it.

Thus it reveals that there is some fundamental difference in how the same group of trained professionals (even our “finest,” after all) think, decide, and act in regard to blacks versus whites. Thus, whether these decisions are conscious or not, there is a pure racist element in our criminal justice system.

And this is only considering one narrow window of information: the use of tasers.

The greatest irony of all in this study is perhaps the fact that we might look down upon those who got tased, whatever their race, as criminals who deserved it, when the only sure fact about lawbreaking that jumps out is in the reports themselves: there were some police departments who either underreported, or did not keep records at all, as the CT law demands! In at least one case, a department neglected (conveniently?) to report one taser incident in which a young man who was tased and happened to die from it.

In other words, the only clear admissions of lawbreaking here were on the part of the police departments—who also face absolutely zero consequences for their failure to follow the law.

If lawlessness exists in police department behavior, what makes you think anyone is safe, let alone a less-empowered minority?

Why this is important for Christians

Reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow was eye-opening in many ways, but also terrifying in regard to its proposed solutions. The data she presents, some of which is already well-known, is startling in regard to the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, on probation, and without basic rights as a result of these things. The historical metanarrative she presents, from slavery to Jim Crow to now, is stellar and should be digested by every Christian.

But as a secularist, however, her solutions are absolutely startling. She says the piecemeal social legislation of “affirmative action” was only a token fix and has completely failed. What we need instead, she says, is a wholesale revolution into a fully socialist society—to level the playing field for all. This is the only way to achieve true equality and make sure every member of society has access to all human rights all the time.

It’s the standard socialist utopia thinking. It’s startling enough to hear a call for a full-scale revolution, but the source of her inspiration is even more alarming: Martin Luther King, Jr. It was King who first tried to move from one to the other. As soon as “civil rights” legislation was achieved for blacks, King announced that the time had come for more general “human rights,” meaning socialized everything for all. King did not prevail at the time. Now Alexander wishes us to see the failure of not listening to King, and to return to that vision.

Put these two things together, along with a general failure of conservative Christians to present a united, biblical answer to racism and informal segregations, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. When an oppressed group finds no good answer from God’s people, and perceives that the secular answers employed so far have failed, and realize that the icon King wanted such a socialist revolution to begin with, guess what the new cry for black equality will be?

All I have to say at this point is that if such a process continues, the church had better get ready for further socialism. Full subjection to a further socialist state will be the judgment for complacency and unrepentance on the issue of race. You won’t have a choice. It will be foisted upon you. And it will be your fault.

There is a lot more to say on this topic. More is to come, believe me. Race-baiting won’t stop until Christians stop racism. Unless Christians stop racism through biblical means, the only other people addressing it will continue to win. There are no other alternatives to this dichotomy.

Categories: Worldview

Theonomy, Bahnsen, and “Federal Vision”: a reply to Rev. Dewey Roberts

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 20:16

The Aquila Report just ran a post by PCA pastor Dewey Roberts entitled “Theonomy, Bahnsen, and the Federal Vision” with the thesis, “Federal Vision is the natural progression of the principles of theonomy.” I am thankful for The Aquila Report for allowing the occasion for correcting the record on a few crucial points.

I was interested by the subtitle mainly because such simplistic language often indicates that reasoning of similar nature is to follow, and I feared the worst. I read the piece, and ended up about as bewildered as I could have imagined. I can’t remember the last time I read something where the author refuted himself in such a short space and didn’t appear to realize it. So, in the end, I feel somewhat good in my bewilderment.

Rev. Roberts’s article has four main sections: 1) an introductory section about the early days of Theonomy and young Greg Bahnsen, 2) a brief statement that there are two alleged strands of Theonomy, 3) a presentation showing how orthodox Greg Bahnsen really was, and 4) a condemnation of Federal Vision as not orthodox like Greg was. As we’ll see, the third section is most intriguing, for it undermines the claims made in the second, and when this works with the conclusion stated in the fourth, renders the thesis a non sequitur.

The article is beset with all kinds of difficulties, for example, the fact that Rev. Roberts seems to condemn Theonomy and Federal Vision up front without providing any definitions of what these things are, or citing any sources for proof. Since I have watched scores of critics, literally, misquote and misrepresent both of these movements for decades, I would like to see something more than just the next critic’s bare ipse dixit, especially when charging terms like “legalism,” “works salvation,” etc. An article purporting to show connections based on the logical extension of “the principles of theonomy” is somewhat obligated to give a credible representation of what those principles actually are. But Rev. Roberts’s article provides nothing but innuendo and condemnation.

More importantly however, is that the third section of the article strongly undermines Rev. Roberts’s thesis. Let’s examine this by starting with the claims first made in section two. Rev. Roberts writes,

There are two intertwined strands to theonomy. One strand is civil and involves the reconstruction of society according to the civil or judicial laws of the Old Testament. This strand is known as Christian Reconstructionism. When most people think of theonomy, they imagine this strand as representative of the whole. But there is another strand to theonomy which emphasizes the application of the law to the covenant community. This strand is not as prominent as the civil aspect of theonomy, but it is definitely outlined in Bahnsen’s book. The difference between these two strands is the difference between society and the church.

One problem with this “two strands” critique is that the application of God’s law within the covenant community is not distinctive of Theonomy. This is something the Reformed churches have always without exception embraced. Read the sections on the Law of God in the Westminster Confession. You’ll see clear demands for the moral law (at the least) to be obeyed by all within the covenant community as a “perfect rule of righteousness” (19.2) which “directs and binds them to walk accordingly” (19.6). If this idea indicts Theonomy, it indicts the whole Reformed tradition.

I think what Rev. Roberts may be thinking of here instead is the fact that some former theonomists had more of a top-down view to the reconstruction of society, and believed that instead of grassroots evangelism and obedience leading to reformation, we needed instead a “reformation of the elites,” which would start with clergy, liturgy, and a high institutional church staking out a powerful, central role in society.

This phenomenon is true, but it encounters two real problems for Rev. Roberts’s thesis. First, the majority of leaders who took that route either quit calling themselves theonomists or even repudiated the movement (to differing degrees). Names here would probably include Jordan, Leithart, and Sutton, among others. These have all gone the route of what has been, or could be, called “Federal Vision,” and have all developed a sort of elitist, clergy-driven, high churchism that has all but completely consumed their ministries; they don’t speak much anymore of applying God’s law in a judicial-ethical manner to all areas of life, but of the importance of high liturgy, priestly collars, and church membership and attendance.

Some of these men have also developed their view of a “revolution of the elites” into what I would consider a Roman view of society and power. Leithart even published a full-blown Defense of Constantine not too long ago. The problem here is great: Constantine, and the entire Constantinian tradition after him, was nothing more than baptized Roman Law, not Theonomy. This openly-Roman view was held—often in explicit opposition to biblical law—all the way up through the Reformation and beyond. (If you’d like documented proof of this, just see chapter seven of my recently published The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty.)

In fact, throughout the majority of church history, the people who have made errors in these regards have been the least close to biblical Theonomy. These errors abound in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox circles, among others (Anglo-Catholic). It is not surprising then, also, that some of the early leaders who left Theonomy went to the Roman or Eastern churches. But note: they repudiated Theonomy as they went. And for what they turned out actually to believe, we are glad they went and took it with them.

The irony here is, of course, that when it comes to political theory, men like Rev. Roberts and the so-called “two kingdoms, natural law” tradition have much more in common with these high church Federal Vision proponents than any biblical theonomist ever has.

The second problem with seeing these proponents as “intertwined” with Theonomy is that theonomic leaders like Gary North openly rejected their views very early on. Here’s what he wrote in Healer of the Nations (1987, p. 301):

Just as internationalism prior to international revival is extremely dangerous, so is attempting any Constitutional amendment nationally before national revival. This would be a top-down political transformation, something quite foreign to Christian social theory.26 It puts the cart before the horse. The religious transformation must precede the political transformation; the political transformation must precede the Constitutional transformation.

In the footnote, he blasted Jordan’s elitism:

On this point, I am in complete disagreement with James Jordan’s recommended program of self-conscious elitism in social and political transformation, which he calls a top-down system, despite its tendency toward “impersonal bureaucracies” and the obvious anti-evangelism attitude fostered by such an elitist outlook, which he admits has been the result historically. “Elites seldom feel any need to evangelize.” Precisely!

In short, these ecclesiocrats left the movement, dropped the label, and their particular emphasis on top-down, church-centered social action was repudiated by leading theonomists as non-Theonomic on this point. When Rev. Roberts says “many the first-generation federal visionists are theonomists,” his assessment is really not accurate. These men are not theonomists: they said so, and we say so.

In fact, one of these men once tried to steer a much-younger Joel McDurmon towards high church clericalism and away from Theonomy by saying, “Don’t carry the banner of a dead movement.” Didn’t sound like much of a theonomist to me! (And that was near fourteen years ago.)

So what Rev. Roberts is really reacting against here has nothing to do with the principles of Theonomy, but is actually a departure from them. It would be quite impossible, then, for the ails of that departure to be blamed on Theonomy, wouldn’t it?

I suspect the readers will easily note how the section on Bahnsen’s orthodoxy undermines the thesis even further. It’s a very nice section, I admit. After years of lies and misrepresentations, there is nothing like having an opponent actually cite Bahnsen over and over again in order to show that none of the caricatures of the position are actually true. He was orthodox, and quite consistently so! Thank you Rev. Roberts.

After defending Bahnsen’s orthodoxy on several foundational points of theology, Rev. Roberts begins his fourth section saying, “On every single point listed above, the proponents of the Federal Vision take the opposite position.”

Well, if that is true (and I’ll leave that argument for another time), it speaks loudly of a strong divergence between Federal Vision and Theonomy doesn’t it? If Bahnsen’s views were developed on the foundation of orthodoxy, and Federal Vision is built on the exact opposite foundation at every single point, then that suggests Federal Vision is not Theonomy. If two buildings are built on two separate, diametrically opposed foundations, they are logically two entirely different buildings, aren’t they?

In short, Rev. Roberts has done little but show that Federal Vision and Theonomy are associated with different principles, not the same. But this is exactly the opposite of what he set out to prove.

Perhaps it is Rev. Roberts’s point instead to suggest that Bahnsen was orthodox despite his Theonomy. Somehow Bahnsen held it all together, but when Theonomy at last got consistent with itself, it led to something like Federal Vision. If that were the point he was trying to make, it was not clear in the article, let alone proven.

Further, if he were going to try to prove that thesis, I would expect to see plenty of credible definitions up front, complete with documentation for each point:

  1. What is his working definition of “Theonomy”?
  2. What is his working definition of “Federal Vision”?
  3. How is this Theonomic position distinct in the subjects under discussion (as opposed to Reformed theological history)?
  4. How are these definitions representative of at least most people associated with those labels?
  5. How do these principles logically entail (necessitate) denials of orthodox positions on justification, etc.?
  6. If this entailment allegedly exists, why have Bahnsen and others (myself included) remained orthodox while holding to “the principles of Theonomy”? (I.e., where is the disconnect in our theological foundations and applications?)
  7. Why have those allegedly holding the allegedly unorthodox positions mostly repudiated the principles Bahnsen, North, and others have called “Theonomy”?
  8. Why have so-called “Federal Vision” doctrines appears in denomiations all through church history with aboslutely zero connection to Theonomy, either doctrinally or historically? And. . . .
  9. Where your exegesis?

Each of these questions needs to be demonstrated, not just stated. We need quotations, in context, with analysis. Merely saying something is so does not make it so and will not cut it, especially when the allegations are of such a nature as to get one, you know, excommunicated.

There is, of course, much more to be said on these issues—even within Rev. Roberts’s one little post—but I hoped only by this to set the record straight on a couple of the more outstanding points. If you wish to know more about biblical Theonomy as opposed to different variations of the old Constantinian tradition, you can see my aforementioned book. Or, just do what Rev. Roberts did: read Bahnsen’s orthodox position in Bahnsen’s own book, Theonomy in Christian Ethics. For those interested in the early history of Greg L. Bahnsen that Rev. Roberts mentions, please download our FREE document package about what happened with Theonomy at RTS back then, written by Bahnsen himself.

Categories: Worldview

“Happy Fireworks Day”

Mon, 07/04/2016 - 08:00

The best way to destroy the public’s memory of an important event is to make it into an American national holiday.

Every Christmas, Americans celebrate the arrival of a bearded, red-suited Communist who looks suspiciously like Karl Marx, and who gives presents to everyone, irrespective of race, color, creed, or national origin. Parents tell their children that only good little boys and girls are so rewarded, but the kids catch on fast: they’re going to get some of the loot, no matter what. Also, they never think that their share of the booty is fair. This prepares them to be voters.

Then there is Easter, the celebration of a rabbit who, for some unexplained reason, hides colored hard-boiled chicken eggs in everyone’s back yard and on the White House’s lawn.

On New Year’s Day, people recover from hangovers by watching the Rose Parade, a TV show so excruciatingly boring that it looks as though it was produced by PBS with a major government grant. (Note: it was to comment on the Rose Parade that national TV networks first brought in women to serve as “colorful” co-anchors, something for which the original producers will answer for on judgment day.) Later in the day, tens of millions of men watch college football bowl games, most of which settle nothing, but one of which unofficially determines which major team was the best during the season—an exclusively past-oriented celebration for the new year.

On Thanksgiving Day, only those people give thanks whose favorite football team wins the annual Big Game with the school’s major rival.

On Presidents Day, we celebrate the birth of two men with two things in common: they were born in February, and they were twice elected President. Because we combine their birthdays, we learn nothing about either of them.

On Labor Day, nobody works.

On Memorial Day, nobody remembers World War I.

Because there has been insufficient time to transform the holiday into something else, Martin Luther King Day still officially honors the birth of Michael King (aka Martin Luther King, Jr.). About 80% of Americans do their best to forget, and 10%—immigrants—never knew.

This brings me to the Fourth of July. There are no Fourth of July parades on TV, or anywhere else, as far as I know. I cannot remember any in my youth.

We have all heard the phrase, “a Fourth of July oration.” Maybe in my parents’ day, or my grandparents’ day, but not in mine. I do not recall ever hearing a single patriotic speech on the Fourth of July.

On July Fourth, we set off fireworks. But fireworks have nothing to do with the great event of the Fourth of July. Fireworks are associated with the national anthem, which was composed for British War II (1812), not British War I.

Public fireworks are almost always funded by tax money, since there is no way to keep non-paying viewers from watching. But as government expenditures go, fireworks should be the model for all government expenditures: only once a year, no full-time employees, funded locally, benefits are not means-tested, access is first come-first served, no politician gets any credit, no mailing lists are involved, and Congress always shuts down during the show.

Movies

Americans get most of their knowledge of history from movies.

Think of the movies about the American Revolution that were made in Hollywood’s golden era. There was. . . .

I can’t think of any.

I don’t count Johnny Tremain, a 1957 Disney film based on Catherine Drinker Bowen’s novel. It was Hal Stalmaster’s first and last movie. He later decided—wisely, I think—that he could make more money as an actors’ agent than as an actor, especially since his brother owns one of Hollywood’s major casting agencies. The movie isn’t bad, but ultimately it was a “Luana Patten, almost grown up” movie, which did not bode well for it. (Miss Patten was Disney’s late 1940’s version of Shirley Temple, except that she couldn’t dance or sing.)

Of course, there is The Patriot. It doesn’t deal with ideology. It’s initially the story of a politically uninvolved man who is trying to save his son from a murderous Redcoat. A similar theme governs Revolution, with Al Pacino. It is about a man who wanted no part of the war, but whose son gets persuaded to sign up, so he signs up to protect his son. His patriotism grows out of the war experience. It does not precede it.

The Last of the Mohicans is about Mohicans. Its soundtrack is more memorable than its script.There were a few swashbucklers that were set in the late eighteenth century, but none of them is about defending the traditional rights of Englishmen.

There are more movies about Wyatt Earp than about Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.

Let’s face it: movies about people who write with quills don’t make a lot of money. This is why there are not many French Revolution movies, either.

The World We Have Lost

For most Americans, the story of the American Revolution is more like a series of museum displays with toy soldiers than a series of events that grab our collective imagination. Other than George Washington, the most famous general of the American Revolution is Benedict Arnold. In third place is Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne. He was a Brit, and he is famous only because of “Gentleman.”

In my library are boxes of microcards. Each card contains tiny images of up to 200 pages. On these cards is every document published in the United States from 1639 to 1811. Yet I rarely consult those cards. I have shelves of books on the American Revolution. I rarely pull one of them down and read it. I read McCullough’s “John Adams,” but so did a million other people — or at least they bought the book. Thirty years ago, I earned a Ph.D. with a specialty in colonial American history, although my sub-specialty was New England, 1630-1720, not the American Revolution. But even for me, the events and the issues of 1776 have faded. Think of the average American high school graduate, whose history class spent two weeks on the American Revolution two decades ago.

There was a slogan: “No taxation without representation.” How did that slogan turn out? In 1776, there was no income tax. So, we got our representation, but taxes today are at 40% of our income. Washington extracts 25% of the nation’s output. In 1776, taxes imposed by the British were in the range of 1% in the North, and possibly 3% in the South. I’m ready to make a deal: I’ll give up being represented in Washington, but I’ll get to keep the 74% of my income that they take.  I’ll work out something else with state and local politicians. Just get Washington out of my pocket.

Jefferson put these words into the Declaration of Independence:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He had no idea. Not counting troops, who were here to defend the Western territory from the French after 1763, the number of British officials was probably well under a thousand. They resided mainly in port cities, where they collected customs (import taxes): Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. The average American had never met a British official in 1776.

By any modern standard, in any nation, what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration to prove the tyranny of King George III would be regarded by voters today as a libertarian revolution beyond the dreams of any elected politician, including Ron Paul. Voters would unquestionably destroy the political career of anyone who would call for the restoration of King George’s tyranny, which voters would see as the destruction of their economic security, which they believe is provided only by politicians and each other’s tax money.1

This is why the documents of the American Revolution make no sense to us. We read the words and marvel at the courage of those who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor by signing the Declaration. But we cannot really understand why they did it. We live under a self-imposed tyranny so vast, so all-encompassing by the standards of 18th-century British politics, that we cannot imagine risking everything we own in order to throw off the level of government interference suffered by the average American businessman in 1776, let alone the average farmer.

If we could start politically where the Continental Congress started in 1775, we would call home the members of that Congress. We would regard as crazy anyone who was willing to risk a war of secession for the sake of throwing off an import tax system that imposed a 1% burden on our income.

The Declaration of Independence points a finger at us, and shouts from the grave on behalf of the 56 signers: “What have you done? What have you surrendered in our name? What, in the name of Nature and Nature’s God, do you people think liberty is all about?”

We have no clue. American voters surrender more liberty in one session of Congress than the colonists surrendered to the British crown and Parliament from 1700 to 1776.

We do not read the documents of the American Revolution. They make us uneasy and even guilty when we understand them, and most of the time, we do not understand them. They use language that is above us. The common discourse of American politics in 1776 was beyond what most university faculty members are capable of understanding.

You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. My friend Bertel Sparks used to teach in the Duke University Law School. Every year, he conducted an experiment. He wanted to put his first year law students—among the cream of the crop of American college graduates—in their place.

He assigned an extract from Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This was the most important legal document of the American Revolution era. It was written in the 1760’s. Every American lawyer read all four volumes. It was read by American lawyers for a generation after the Revolution. Sparks would assign a section on the rights of property. He made them take it home, and then return to class, ready to discuss it.

When they returned, they could not discuss it. The language was too foreign. The concepts were too foreign. The students were utterly confused.

Then Sparks would hold up the source of the extract from Blackstone. The source was the Sixth McGuffey reader, the most popular American public school textbook series of the second half of the 19th century.

That put the kiddies in their place.

If you want to be put in your place, pick up a copy of the Sixth McGuffey reader and try to read it.

Try to read the “Federalist Papers.” These were newspaper columns written to persuade the voters of New York to elect representatives to ratify the Constitution. These essays were political tracts. They were aimed at the average voter. Few college graduates could get through them today, so students are not asked to read them in their American history course, which isn’t required for graduation anyway.

We Have Done It to Ourselves

Our march into what Jefferson would have described as tyranny has been a self-imposed march. Voters today would be unwilling to go to war to restore the Declaration’s ideal of liberty. In fact, Americans would go to war to keep from having the Declaration’s ideal of liberty from being imposed on us. By today’s standards, King George III was indeed a madman: a libertarian madman, a character out of an Ayn Rand novel that never got published. On politics and economics, Jefferson was madder than King George.

Forty years ago, Stan Freberg produced an LP record, “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America.” It was a musical. Freberg is one of America’s great comic geniuses, but he spent most of his career after 1962 creating advertisements.

In the musical, Thomas Jefferson comes to Ben Franklin to persuade him to sign the Declaration. Franklin reads it over briefly. Then he refuses to sign. “Why not?” asks Jefferson. “It sounds a little pinko to me,” Franklin replies. Also, there was the question of spelling. Franklin asks: “Life, liberty, and the perfuit of happineff?”

It was a funny skit, and the music was really good. (The song for the first Thanksgiving, “Take an Indian to Lunch,” remains my favorite.) But “pinko,” Jefferson wasn’t. Calling for secession was not the same as calling for a social revolution. The revolutionaries were calling for secession in the name of traditional rights of Englishmen. They were calling for a reversal of a slow-motion political revolution by the Parliament, an erosion of political rights. They saw themselves as conservatives involved in a counter-revolution.

They won the battle. We have lost the war.

Generation after generation, Americans have imposed taxation with representation. We could use less taxation and less representation. But voters believe in lots of representation and lots of taxation to match. Voters elect more politicians, who then hire far more officials, than King George ever thought about sending to the colonies.

Voters send these politicians off to the various capital cities with a mandate: “Bring more swag back home than those other crooks extract from us.” Voters hand a credit card to their representatives and tell them: “Make sure the bill that you send to us at the end of the year is less than the value of the loot that you send to us.” So, the bills keep getting bigger. We think Garrison Keeler is funny with his description of Lake Wobegon: “Where all the children are above average.” But we all want our elected representatives to keep our tax bills below average.

Cartoonist Walt Kelly drew “Pogo” for decades. “Pogo” was probably the most politically sophisticated of all American comic strips, including “Doonesbury,” although not the funniest. Kelly immortalized a phrase, which he put into the mouth of Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The statement rings true because it is true. We did it to ourselves.

This is why the American Revolution seems like a museum display. Our hearts may be with those men of old, but our minds are not. We live in a fundamentally different world. Europe is on the far side of Marx and Engels, while we are on the far side of Wilson and Roosevelt.

My professor, Robert Nisbet, remarked in an autobiographical passage in one of his books that when he was born, in 1913, the only contact that most Americans had with the Federal Government was the Post Office. It was in that year that the first income tax forms were mailed out. Take a look at the original Form 1040. Consider that the average American family in 1913 earned less than $1,000 a year. Then look at the tax rates.

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/1913.pdf

We say that we want our high school graduates to be familiar with American history. But do we? Really? The history of America is the story of our surrender to a philosophy of government that was alien to the West in 1776. What Jefferson regarded as a tyranny worth dying to oppose, American voters today regard as a world so unjust economically that no moral person would want to live in it, let alone risk his life and wealth to obtain it for himself and his posterity.

Voters get what they think they really want. When things turn out badly, they re-think what it is that they really want.

What the signers of the Declaration of Independence really wanted was the right of self-government, beginning with individual self-government. To achieve this, they demanded the right of home rule politically. They fought a war to attain this.

We have used home rule to place above us men whose views of the rights of citizens Jefferson would have regarded as beyond anything King George III dreamed of in his madness.

Millions of voters who regard the present social and political order as morally valid are not interested in telling the story of the Revolution from the words of those who began the fight. They elect Superintendants of Public Instruction to hire teachers who also do not like that story. The senior bureaucrats then ask these teachers to abandon the teaching of the story of America prior to 1900, and substitute social studies.

I am not exaggerating about this either. The battle at the state level to retain the teaching of American history prior to 1900 has been going on in Texas high schools for over a decade. Texas public schools buy so many textbooks that what Texas does—along with New York, California, and Illinois—determines what the rest of the nation’s students will be taught. The state of Texas allows a committee that includes laymen to sit in judgment on the textbooks. This is why Mel and Norma Gabler have been able to inflict so much economic pain on liberal textbook publishers for the last 30 years. But theirs is at best a holding action.

Conclusion

The story of America is the story of this nation’s self-imposed abandonment of the Declaration of Independence. This is why the story of the Declaration is rarely taught in school, and is taught badly when it is taught.

If you want to re-gain your liberty, a good place to begin is with the primary source documents of the world that existed a century before the Declaration was written, before the kings of England meddled very much in colonial affairs. It is hard to believe, but Jefferson would have been regarded as a little bit pinko in 1676.

That is the world we have lost. Fireworks won’t get it back.

Home schooling just might.

[Originally published in Gary North’s Reality Check, July 4, 2002.]

Notes:

  1. I have therefore revised the Declaration of Independence, in order to make it conform to the prevailing American view of liberty and justice for all. You may read my revision here.
Categories: Worldview

Local sovereignty: how to get it back

Fri, 07/01/2016 - 07:00

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 3: “County Rights”

3.3 Local Sovereignty: How to Get it Back

We have seen now how America was originally settled with nearly all governmental sovereignty vested at the local level. This was the legacy of Christian culture, and the better part of it. Early Americans did not have to worry about their wealth and freedom being voted away by alleged representatives far removed by hundreds of miles and two or three levels of government. We have also seen that this ideal of freedom has been lost gradually over time at many junctures, and always in the name of something like “the common good”; but more importantly, we have seen that these several creeping tyrannies were enabled and empowered by that one main instance of centralizing power, force, and money at the federal level—the Constitution of 1787. Nevertheless, whatever the causes are ultimately, it is easy to see that we today have nowhere near the freedom of our ancestors. The question, now, is how to get back to that level of freedom.

In this section, I intent to discuss the new mindset we need, some hurdles to overcome, and some practical actions to take toward restoring local freedom and local sovereignty. By “local sovereignty” I mean freedom of local governments from the dictates of higher levels of government. We must return to local control, and free local institutions from the bands and shackles of the federal and state machineries that entrap locals with grant money, encroachments on power and local decisions, licensing, and regulations. By the similar phrase “local freedom” I mean freedom of individuals from the same encroachments and impositions by their own local governments.

Obstacles to Local Sovereignty

First, there are many hurdles in the way of gaining this freedom. The enemies of freedom have always been those who stand to profit from the public coercive systems. These people—either for the sake of some form of prestige or money (or both)—will consistently scheme and legislate to benefit themselves. These lusts exist at every level of government, but also in the hearts of individuals. So, the remedy for restoring freedom to the local level will mean confronting the many, many ways in which both individuals and government leaders have entrenched themselves in public funding based on taxation. Whether this manifests in publicly-funded construction contracts, public education, exorbitant pensions for public employees, union privileges, grants from higher governmental agencies, or a myriad of other versions of the same evil, the path to freedom means stopping these appropriations and redistributions of money, and derailing the long train of abuses of individual freedoms resulting from the alliance of the plunderers who want the money and the elites who think they can plan our lives better than we can and that they have a right to do so.

The problem ultimately is as much personal and individual as it is political. In this regard, the local and state levels are microcosms of the larger plundering going on in Washington, D.C. right now (with the exception that state and local governments have the formal inconvenience of having to balance their budgets); but local government themselves are a reflection of the lusts and corruption that local individuals choose to allow. Local governments often suffer under corrupt officials, constantly seeking to borrow more money, and constantly seeking grants from State and federal governments. But often the people themselves either agree with taking, taxing, or borrowing more money, or they are oblivious to it and don’t care.

So here’s the hard truth: if you agree with the appropriations (but perhaps you say “only at the local level”), then you’re complicit in a corrupt system that stretches all the way to Washington. Don’t talk about freedom and fiscal responsibility when you make multi-million dollar exceptions for yourself, your business, your industry, your union, your police and fire, or your local schools. Obama’s not the problem; you’re the problem. Until you address this problem, you have no moral authority in regard to people doing way over your head. On the other hand, if you are merely oblivious to the problem or don’t care, then you’re still culpable and complicit by your complacency—and you can bet that the liberals and statists just love you for it, for it helps them get their scheme across with less opposition. It’s been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. I agree, although I would add that anyone who sits there and does nothing can’t be considered a good person to begin with. We need to confront both corruption and complacency, which is to say we need to wake up and take responsibility, take action.

Knowing that the problem begins with the individual heart and stretches all the way up to Washington, we’ll need to confront all levels at the same time. But we must concentrate our energy and focus on the areas in which we’ll have the greatest effect—ourselves and our local governments. We have already addressed vitally-needed personal lifestyle adjustments in education and the welfare State. We have emphasized the “don’t take the cheese” principle in those areas for individuals. Now it is time to focus on that concept at the level of local government. We must work to avert all public expenditure, debt, and taxation in local government, as well as all accepting of grants from higher governmental bodies. This is the first step in returning to anything like true local sovereignty to America—her counties must be free of strings attached to all higher agencies.

Since that level of freedom does not yet exist, nor will it exist completely for the duration of the process of arriving at it, we must still attend as need be to State and national politics until we reach the desired position locally. We can’t take the chance of complacency at the back door where the Feds can creep in while we’re distracted with only local matters. Even when we achieve the goal locally, however, we cannot rest until surrounding counties, and then the vast majority of counties in the State have reached a similar level of understanding and practice of local sovereignty—for until a majority of counties exist that are willing to assert their freedom simultaneously against higher governments, the few that arrive at near local autonomy will always be exposed to the weaknesses attending their tiny-minority status. In other words, we’ll need a lot of free counties voicing their “nullifications” and independences at the same time, or else the federal government could simply ignore it and squash it with little repercussion. We need mass decentralized (yet legitimate) resistance so that no central authority can easily or effectively answer it. So, until we reach a time in which a growing number of America’s 3000+ counties care more about freedom than State and Federal aid, we must be vigilant in guarding our work and prayers toward that goal—for they are never safe from the threats of violence, force, defamation, and theft from above.

Solidifying the Vision of Local Sovereignty

Anyone wishing to start a truly grass-roots, bottom-up movement for restoring local sovereignty is going to face multiple levels of opposition—from the higher levels of government, from the vast mainstream media leftist-propaganda machines, from entrenched statism even in local media such as newspapers, corporate forces that use government to stop competition, and also from corrupt local officials. We must be prepared to meet all of this with truth, unwavering commitment to freedom, courage, and yet calmness, confidence, and kindness.

We also need to affirm this new vision of decentralized power. This vision must be deep and we must commit to it thoroughly. The vision of mass decentralization was actually voiced in this country at a crucial time by the famous economist F. A. Hayek. Nearing the end of World War II, he noted that western civilization was going to need to be rebuilt, and that this task would have to be done amidst an atmosphere in which Communism thrived as a powerful force, the forces and ideas behind National Socialism and fascism were still very strong, and academia was (as it still is) strongly socialist or even communist throughout the West. Hayek argued in his famous book, The Road to Serfdom, that any attempts at rebuilding along the lines of any large socialized, nationalized State would be doomed to failure sooner or later. His important conclusion was this:

We shall not rebuild civilization on the large scale. It is no accident that on the whole there was more beauty and decency to be found in the life of the small peoples, and that among the large ones there was more happiness and content in proportion as they had avoided the deadly blight of centralization. . . Nowhere has democracy ever worked well without a great measure of local self-government. . .Where the scope of the political measures becomes so large that the necessary knowledge is almost exclusively possessed by the bureaucracy, the creative impulses of the private person must flag. I believe that here the experience of the small countries like Holland and Switzerland contains much from which even the most fortunate larger countries like Great Britain can learn.  We shall all be the gainers if we can create a world fit for small states to live in.1

Of course we know that his advice was largely ignored. But the vision still remains. And at this point in American history—when leftists and even many conservatives continue to praise and protect the instruments of socialism even as they are already beginning to bankrupt the Treasury and society together—this vision of decentralized power still remains the only viable expression of freedom and liberty. And that vision today remains ignored, even ridiculed, although its been untried for the past 225 years.

The vision is simple. Local governments have to take back sovereignty in every area they can, and local people need to pressure local governments to do so, and to refuse monetary handouts from higher governments, and people have to hold their local officials accountable to these goals. Local government must begin to resist the enticements, entrapments, and encroachments of the higher levels. This will eventually mean 1) local individuals will have only local government with which to interact (state governments will only deal with counties, and the feds only with states, this is true federalism); 2) representation will be much more genuine, as local officials are elected from a much smaller sample of the population; 3) government can be much more transparent; 4) local officials are much more easily held accountable; and 5) if any of these ideals fails miserably and the locality grows intolerable, it won’t be hard to move to another county that upholds your values. These are just a few of the benefits of decentralization.

There are disadvantages as well: 1) individuals can no longer enrich themselves from swollen promises paid for by taxing the national population at large or borrowing trillions of dollars indebting your grandchildren; 2) ideologues, leftists, elites, and other pests can no longer easily impose their values on 300 million people by means of only a few-vote majority in Congress and the President’s celebrity ink pens; or worse, by means of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. This is the kind of disadvantages I can live with.

Imagine that: a society in which a population of 300 million is not subjugated legally by the mere opinion of a 5 people. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

There is much more we could say in regard to this vision of freedom and liberty, but these are the basics. We will add many more aspects as supplemental articles and posts once the rest of the fundamental features of this project are complete.

Practical Measures in the Meantime

Finally, there are some practical measures to consider in the meantime: First, learn everything you can about your local government. This will take a little time, and will mean shifting the focus of your political engagements from the national to the local scene. Sadly, most people know everything there is to know about Obama and Pelosi, et al, and yet couldn’t even tell you the name of one of their local County Commissioners. This needs to be balanced, and essentially reversed. Read the headlines of the national stuff; react if necessary; but focus, focus, focus on learning the local stuff. Learn your commissioners’ names, backgrounds, beliefs, values, career history, voting records.

Learn the organization of your local government; learn the schedules of all relevant board and commission meetings. Know when they meet. And show up for important issues.

Learn how to find and obtain all publicly available information: meetings, agendas, budgets, revenues, expenditures, bondholders and financiers, contracts, projects, land use plans, rezoning efforts, constitution and bylaws—everything. You will find that information-gathering in itself will begin to breed questions. Numbers and budgets and legal memos have their own way of whispering. You may discover corruption or questionable practices your officials wish to remain quiet or hidden. You may find that a board member is working to give himself or herself special privileges for their career advancement or profit. Maybe not. But the more information you have, the more transparent and accountable the government can be forced to be.

Don’t trust “minutes” of meetings alone. As “Sir Humphrey” of the old BBC comedy Yes, Prime Minister! once wryly said, “The purpose of meetings is not to record events, it is to protect people”—”people,” meaning the government agents involved! Go for everything you can find or have a desire to get.

Second, then start a blog or website dedicated to making your local government as public and transparent as possible. You can be as detailed or selective as necessary, as long as it’s honest and open. Post everything you can. Show any clear connections, show every cent that is taxed, how it is assessed and collected, how it is spent; show every cent borrowed and who profits from borrowing against future taxation, and who holds the bond. Show how much elected officials and public employees of all sorts are paid, and what their public pension benefits look like. This is all perfectly legal. WordPress is absolutely free and easy to use. It would be great to have at least one such website dedicated to ultimate transparency in each of America’s 3000+ counties. It would better to have several in each county. Variety, choice, and competition will make them better and more effective. These would make fabulous projects for students; but really, anyone could do this, and everyone should.

Then, add video. This can be done merely on a YouTube or other video site’s channel, or better yet, embedded in a website. Record meetings, obtain interviews with officials whenever possible. Some local governments already record their meetings and post them themselves. The point is to have a clear and open public record, and get the word out to as many people, and make everything about local government as accessible and understandable to as many people as possible. This will lead, eventually, to the election of board members, judges, sheriffs, assessors, collectors, etc., who better represent a greater percentage of the population, and better represent local values; it will increase accountability; and it will help end corruption, self-serving, and waste. Taxes will decrease in many localities, choices will open up, people will be freer.

You should know that these ideas and these tactics are being upheld and implemented already with success. Some counties are beginning to assert local sovereignty against State and federal encroachments. For example, the local town of Sedgwick, Maine, recently declared absolute sovereignty over its local food supply. They were tired of state and federal regulations of local meat, raw milk, etc. So they declared their right and determination to be free of the tyranny: their new ordinance says, “[O]ur right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government. We recognize the authority to protect that right as belonging to the town of Sedgwick.” They considered State and federal regulations as “usurpation of our citizens’ right,” and went on to declare, “It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.” This was applied also for “any corporation” that would try to interfere. The town argued that these claims to local sovereignty are supported by the Declaration of Independence, the Maine State Constitution, and other Maine statutes. They reserved the right even to secede completely if necessary in the face of a contest.

That Sedgwick, Maine ordinance is currently being used as a model to resist federal regulation in many other municipalities. These will certainly lead to court battles and possibly intimidation from higher governments, but the fact that they exist and people are advancing them shows that the vision for local sovereignty is growing and can be implemented. The fight is only begun, but it has begun.

This is true in other areas as well, as some local counties and even States have declared that they will not honor Obama’s Health Care Act, but have declared it null within their jurisdictions. Some States have declared all federal firearm laws null and void within their boundaries, for guns or ammo manufactured there. There are at least a dozen or more areas in which States currently are nullifying Federal laws. And as this precedent becomes more prevalent in States, it will only make moral sense to extend it to counties. Local sovereignty, county sovereignty, will grow more viable as well.

This is, after all, the foundation of American freedom: the first American declaration of independence was not that of 1776, but was written by a single county. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, formally declared independence from Great-Britain on May 31, 1775, saying that “the Authority of the King or Parliament, are annulled and vacated.” They proceeded to set up an interim government all by their lonesome, until (as they expected) the rest of the Colonies should catch up.

Cases of local freedom—individuals asserting control over corrupt local officials—are occurring as well. In one case, a small town council in South Carolina had very quietly been paying itself an extremely rich pension package. When a few local business owners found out, they were outraged. At least one council member was opposed, and the businessmen approached him with a plan. They then showed up impromptu at a council meeting with video camera running. They got them members to confirm the terms of the rich package, and then asked for a show of hands on the council of all those who disapproved of it. The lone honest member of the council jetted his hand high, and the rest were caught on video exposed. The businessmen then simply thanked the council and left with the video. The council was so scared that it called a recess and chased the inquirers into the parking lot, trembling, asking what there were going to do with the video! They knew good and well.

In a similar case, a seventeen year-old kid exposed the appointment of a school superintendant whom a school board tried to rush through because he would be a big spender on behalf of the district. By simply showing up at both the interview process and the board meetings with a digital recorder, the corrupt thugs were caught, and were trembling in fear.

Another local contact of mine has been fighting these kind of battles for several years. He’s watched his community deteriorate with a combination of Federal Section 8 housing and corrupt local investment trusts, much of which came about only after an influx of “free school lunch” programs and Title 1 status gained for local public schools to receive massive federal aid. There is much to discern and sort out here, but the bottom line is corrupt local fat cat officials using government grants to empower and enrich themselves. And they are protected by liberal politicians above them, for several reasons. My contact said he started attending board meetings to record what was said. Very early on, one of these fat cats approached him with suspicious questioning and threatening demeanor—essentially threatening to wreck his career. The man is now very paranoid, because he has seen how deeply the corruption goes in his area, and how serious some of the insiders are about keeping it that way. There is work to be done here.

Another man wrote me telling how he won a seat on his local commission because the local conservatives were raising taxes and spending like crazy. He simply took a strong “TEA-party” stand against spending and corruption, and he was elected—despite overwhelming opposition from the local papers, labor unions, and even the local Chamber of Commerce. The local Chamber opposed him because it was dominated by big businesses that favor big-government for their corporate welfare. In other words, the local Chamber itself was corrupted by the forces of wealth redistribution. It had taken the cheese, and was now entrapped. My friend won the election nevertheless, but still faces an uphill fight against complacent and complicit officials, and, as he put it, “the grip that federal grants place on local units.”

There are some successes out there. But there are currently many challenges. One of the good things about seeing how deep and real the challenges are is that we realize how much more entrenched, powerful, and worse it must be at the higher levels, certainly in Washington, D.C. The nature of the problem is exactly the same; it’s just magnified at the national level. If we can’t dismantle tyranny locally, you can forget it happening in D.C. But this is what is encouraging about the successes we’re seeing: we in fact can have an effect locally, and many people are. There is a lot of work to do, and a lot of hill to climb. It will take time. But remember, we are planning for our grandchildren. It is time to start, get busy, and get a steady pace of reform.

It begins with people caring about the problem. It advances when people get focused, study, and explain the problem. It succeeds when they take action on the problem. This is county rights in action. It will only work when you get involved. For people can only be free if they will be responsible and courageous.

Next section: States’ Rights: how States were once free

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Notes:

  1. Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (The University of Chicago Press, 1972 [1944]), 235–6.
Categories: Worldview

In defense of The Reformed Pub

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 12:06

I doubt anyone is surprised that a teetotal crusader attacked Apologia Studios and the Reformed Pub (with inaccurate info btw) for their positions on beer and tattoos. Nor were they probably surprised when a particular critic of both (Pub members will know) leveraged the occasion to twist the knife in what is clearly nothing more than resuming some old personal grudges. Haters gonna. What is surprising to some, however, is the extraordinarily low and ugly nature of this attack on what any informed person would readily confess are the most truly undeserving targets. I have a few comments on the first part of that, but will focus in a moment on the latter, particularly here in defense of the Reformed Pub.

There are generally three rhetorical levels on which criticism can be done: 1) standard, 2) hatchet job, 3) smear. The first level can still be very powerful, direct, and stark, even if gentlemanly. The second level is merciless, but can still be warranted. The third level, however, is mere insults and ad hominem designed to destroy reputations.

The second article I read attacking The Reformed Pub is somewhere beneath even the third level. It is not only insults, it is lies. The Reformed Pub is not only not the “cesspool” described in the attack, it is actually more spiritually mature than other Facebook groups I’ve seen in its class. This is especially true of a particular Bunker haunted by the subject author—a place unparalleled in the professing Christian world in its snark, backbiting, blacklisting, name-calling, insulting, unrepentance, and hair-trigger bans.

Anyone who knows me knows that I appreciate genuine criticism, no matter how stark, strong, or thorough. I, in fact, court it. The harder it comes, either the better chance I have to show the supremacy of my position, or the harder I have to work to improve it. In any of these cases, even if I end up changing a position, the harder the criticism—if it’s genuine criticism—the better I will be from it. What Christian would not want that?

But when purported criticism involves disinformation and insults designed to discredit and destroy reputations, you have departed from anything that can be called criticism; you have engaged in textbook defamation. If it could be shown that there were actual damages resulting (loss of revenue, suffering, etc.), there could probably be a legal case. (I’m not suggesting anything or giving legal advice, just stating a fact to drive home the point of how wrong this is.) It can no longer be called criticism. It also cannot be called Christian. (Don’t even make me laugh by calling it discernment.)

But my point here is not only to highlight other people’s sins, but to encourage the Pub to remember what it knows is true, but can get clouded in times like this. The number of people who criticize the Pub is actually quite low, and it is usually only after being blocked from it for their own belligerence, and after being warned multiple times. This loud minority usually lands on one consolidated criticism: the Pub is immature. But contrary to this wrongful perception, the Pub is actually a quite spiritually mature place.

Is there silliness? Yes. Is there trolling and horseplay? Yep. And your point? I would guess the Pub has a good Pareto distribution between light heartedness and 20serious theological discussion. The lightheartedness I’ve witnessed includes banter about beer, clever memes designed for a laugh, “shots” fired, playful jabs, etc. Some people call this immaturity, but it is not really such a big deal. It is rather the people who take themselves too seriously and get perpetually offended by such things who are actually spiritually immature. They are the ones unwilling or unable to give space for something different, or relaxation, or something they’re not used to, or something that someone else thinks is funny but they find annoying. If they asked themselves why they’re annoyed, they probably couldn’t even answer. Scratch the surface of that and you’ll probably find an uptight, legalistic, and/or generally angry or insecure person. Just let it go, bro.

I don’t get wary when people act with lighthearted silliness. I get very wary when people try to shield themselves from criticism, react overly-negatively at any criticism, act annoyed when others enjoy themselves, or worse, when they enjoy success. These people are the spiritual children. The world is the floor for their temper tantrums. Adults are people who carry on in self-control despite things they don’t like.

There are some people who just don’t “get it.” This is the Reformed PUB. It is a PUB people. It is very much like an online, virtual version of a tradition British Public House, aka “Pub”: a place to grab a pint, unwind, talk about the day, politics, religion, the queen, your disagreement with ol’ Jimmy over there, have a laugh, talk about how bad the Braves are this year, etc. The fact that about a fifth of the conversation actually focuses on, and stays focused on, solid Reformed theology is a tremendous gift, and the mix is a tremendous achievement. There are people in this Pub from diverse theological traditions, backgrounds, races, countries, etc. Just like any physical Pub, you would not walk in and start a fight or disrupt the peace without being tossed out on your rear. To stay in, you have to learn to tolerate people from other backgrounds, of other interests, and have an understanding of the basic rules of civility and the purpose of the place—just as you would in a real Pub. Don’t like that conversation over there across the room? Ignore it. Stay out of it. Leave it alone. Mind your own.

Les Lanphere and Tanner Barfield have created a place with the welcoming atmosphere of a classic Pub, in which you can grab your favorite brew or try a new one (or let them try it for you first), converse on general things, or converse on the most serious questions in the world from the best theological tradition in the world. In short, there is no place like this anywhere else, and I am not sure any other place gets it right better than this place.

And I say all of this fully aware that there are many people in here who dislike me and my theological positions, some who have probably bit and insulted my name at times, and that there are few who have publicly acknowledged that they think I’m a heretic and would like to see me kicked out. The fact that such elements never rule the day—like they do in some other Bunkers—is proof positive of the argument I’m making.

I not only think the Pub is a great achievement in its own right, I think it is probably one of the most influential outlets for Reformed Theology right now. Is that over the top? No. In there there is a mixture of mostly young Reformed people tempered with still many older persons seasoned with experience and grace, some ordained elders and pastors. The community is young, with some just beginning, and all always reforming, but there is enough sound theology here that virtually any thread will eventually arrive at a sound Reformed answer or equilibrium between positions. It’s 12,000+ people teaching 12,000+ people Reformed theology under the general influence of many well-trained and well-read thinkers.

So, essentially Les and Tanner have created the largest Reformed Bible School in history.

Period.

Let that sink in.

There is not a single school, college, seminary, or university anywhere dedicated to Reformed theology that has anywhere near 12,000+ students and faculty. The Pub does, and in answering Reformed theology questions and encouraging healthy dialogue and debate, regularly, the Pub is doing the work of such institutions for such a large audience and with no tuition or fees. In doing this also in an atmosphere of hospitality and joy, it is doing that work better than the others as well. And with beer.

(Ironically, the White Horse Inn today does not feature beer, unlike the original—the real one.)

Are the members mostly credos? Probably. Are they mostly two kingdoms, natural law types (even if they haven’t heard those phrases)? More pietist than transformationalist? I assume. Do they esteem Michael Horton and R. Scott Clark more than Joel McDurmon? To my chagrin. Don’t I wish they were all followers of American Vision? You bet! Do I wish all 12k would become theonomists? You better believe I’d buy all the rounds on that day. No I don’t agree with everything said and taught in the Pub. But big deal. There is a foundation of basic Reformed theology, apologetics, and presuppositions being laid here. That’s about the best starting point anyone could ask for. I love watching it happen. And as long as it retains its character and integrity, I will defend it until then end.

Categories: Worldview

Local sovereignty: how freedom was lost

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 07:43

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 3: “County Rights”

3.2 How freedom was lost

We have now covered the “county rights” principle which is close to an ideal free society (much closer than what we have today, certainly), and we have also seen how America enjoyed this high level of freedom in some aspects of her early colonies. The question then becomes, if society was so free and things were so great, how was the freedom lost? How did we get from basically free to a behemoth welfare and warfare state (really empire) filled with all kinds of taxation and corruption as well as central government domination?

The conservative sociologist Robert A. Nisbet once said that up until the year he was born, 1913, the only contact the average individual ever had with the Federal government was the Post Office. In that same year appeared the Income Tax Amendment and the Federal Reserve Act—both of which have financially enslaved the average person to the federal government, overriding and consuming the roles of state and local governments in many places along the way. Both of these new developments were of course far beyond the society envisioned by most of the Framers of 1787, and even further beyond that of colonial America. Was this the turning point?

It was certain a turning point. The erosion of local sovereignty and freedoms has mostly been a long, slow, gradual process, although punctuated at key times—usually wars—by rapid increases in centralized state power. Many people will rightly point to one or more of those rapid government power-grabs—the Civil War, the Wilson war state and the leftist progressives, FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, Vietnam, the Patriot Act, Obamacare, and so on. Some have even pointed out that large abuses against the Constitution took place as early as Jefferson’s unprecedented and many would argue unconstitutional Louisiana Purchase in 1803. But it is just as important, I think, to look at what has allowed all these great power grabs to begin with, and thus what has enabled the long, slow, and gradual erosion from the start.

The Instrument of Centralization

I would argue that the first major round—and the most hotly contested round—of the debate between proponents of centralized power and proponents of freedom, came in this country with the Constitution of 1788. It was this document that enable proponents of centralized power to carry out their various agendas at various points in subsequent U.S. history—whether their encroachments advanced rapidly or slowly and gradually. Without power over State and local sovereignties collected and vested in one centralized institution, the types of abuses we have endured would have been much more difficult, at least, for the tyrants among us to perpetrate, if not almost impossible.

Ironically, nearly all of the various forms of tyranny we suffer and decry today were predicted and denounced by the critics of the Constitution at that time. Many of the principal fathers of the American Revolution saw today’s problems coming in their own time. Despite common sentiment and the textbook version of American history, these most prescient men are the least known, least read, and often completely forgotten figures of that time. They are not Washington, Madison, and Hamilton. They are not the authors of the Federalist Papers. These latter were new, domestic tyrants in the eyes of those to whom I refer.

I am talking about the authors of the so-called Anti-Federalist writings. Few people today even read the much more publicized Federalist Papers. We’re not taught about them in school. The Papers’ language and concepts are often found too lofty and difficult, despite the fact that they were mere newspaper editorials of their time. Few people even know of them. Fewer read them. And even fewer read the majority opposition of the day—the tea party types of the day—the Anti-Federalist papers.

Yet these liberty-minded leaders saw the centralizing forces at work during their day as the sinews of tyranny. They knew absolutely where centralized government power would lead. On this principle they opposed the Constitution itself, for it ceded too much power to the central government.

One of them, writing under the pseudonym “The Federal Farmer” (possibly Richard Henry Lee), foresaw the direction of centralizing power as a departure from a free society, but also as the long-term agenda of a few ambitious leaders:

The plan of government now proposed [the Constitution] is evidently calculated totally to change, in time, our condition as a people. Instead of being thirteen republics, under a federal head, it is clearly designed to make us one consolidated government. . . . This consolidation of the states has been the object of several men in this country for sometime past. Whether such a change . . . can be effected without convulsions and civil wars; whether such a change will not totally destroy the liberties of this country—time only can determine.1

The number of writings of these more freedom-minded individuals well outnumbered those in favor of the new Constitution. And by most accounts, the number of those actual people who opposed to the Constitutional centralization of power greatly outnumbered those who desired it. The problem was—as with most decentralized forces that are forced quickly to debate their case on a central, national stage—they lacked the political machine of tribes of lawyers and financiers who wanted the Constitution to pass for various reasons. In short, the scenario was in which the forces of freedom had numbers on their side, but the forces of centralization were a step ahead due to their organized agenda, planning, political machine, and the energy behind these things.

Without rehearsing the various points of the Anti-federalists, it is most convenient here to use the summary provided by one of their writers. “A Plebeian” provided a summary of the chief objections to the Constitution “among writers, and in public bodies throughout the United States.”2 Among other things in the Constitution, he warned that:

[1.] it is calculated to, and will effect such a consolidation of the States, as to supplant and overturn the state governments. . . .

[2.] the representation in the general legislature is too small to secure liberty, or to answer the intention of representation. . . .

[3.] it gives to the legislature an unlimited power of taxation . . . direct and indirect. . . .

[4.] it is dangerous, because the judicial power may extend to many cases which ought to be reserved to the decisions of State courts, and because the right of trial by jury is not secured in the judicial courts of the general government, in civil cases. . . .

[5.] The power of the general legislature to alter and regulate the time, place, and manner of holding elections . . . . will place in the hands of the general government, the authority, whenever they shall be disposed, and a favorable opportunity offers, to deprive the body of the people, in effect, of all share of government. . . .

[6.] The Mixture of legislative, judicial, and executive powers in the senate;

[7.] the little degree of responsibility under which great officers of government will be held;

[8.] and the liberty granted by the system to establish and maintain a standing army, without any limitation or restriction. . . .3

In short, Plebeian foresaw a surrendering of political power, representation, taxation, judicial power, and military power to a centralized state.

Centralized Taxation

Since this list was but a summary of what many anti-federalist writers had said in many places, in is easy to find these critiques most eloquently defended by the others. One of the major writers among them wrote under the name “Brutus,” and could likely have been the delegate from New York, Robert Yates, who left the Convention early in disgust. He decried the seemingly unlimited powers of taxation,

for they extend to every possible way of raising money, whether by direct or indirect taxation. Under this clause may be imposed a poll-tax, a land-tax, a tax on houses and buildings, on windows and fire places, on cattle and all kinds of personal property:—It extends to duties on all kinds of goods to any amount, to tonnage and poundage on vessels, to duties on written instruments, newspapers, almanacs, and books:—It comprehends an excise on all kinds of liquors, spirits, wines, cider, beer, etc. and indeed takes in duty or excise on every duty or conveniency of life; . . . In short, we can have no conception of any way in which a government can raise money from the people, but what is included in one or other of three general terms. We may say that this clause commits to the legislature every conceivable source of revenue within the United States.

He later described such power to tax in terms of absolute invasion of private lives:

This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country will wait upon ladies at their toilett [vanity], . . . their domestic concerns, . . . to the ball, the play, and to the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlor, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labor, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the Unites States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE! . . .

I say, such a power must necessarily, from its very nature, swallow up all the power of the state governments.

He foresaw massive administrative law and bureaucracy needed to carry this out:

Not only are these terms very comprehensive, and extend to a vast number of objects, but the power to lay and collect has great latitude; it will lead to the passing a vast number of laws, which may affect the personal rights of the citizens of the states, expose their property to fines and confiscation, and put their lives in jeopardy: it opens a door to the appointment of a swarm of revenue and excise officers to prey upon the honest and industrious part of the community, eat up their substance, and riot on the spoils of the country. . . .

The language here came directly from Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence. Brutus was reiterating the exact same charge the colonists had levied against King George: he had “sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” So the advocates of the Constitution were committing the same tyranny for which the people had just fought to free themselves.

And even above and beyond this, Brutus criticized the proposed federal power to make all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out their desires:

It is truly incomprehensible. A case cannot be conceived of, which is not included in this power. . . . The command of the revenues of a state gives the command of everything in it.—He that has the purse has the sword, and they that have both, have everything; so that the legislature having every source from which money can be drawn under their direction, with a right to make all laws necessary a proper for drawing forth all the resource of the country, would have, in fact, all power. . . .

These things alone amounted to enough destroy state power, let alone local:

[T]his power in its operation, would totally destroy all the powers of the individual states. . . . [T]his power, given to the federal legislature, directly annihilates all the powers of the state legislatures.4

These fears in regard to the vast powers to tax materialized almost immediately after the Constitution, when Hamilton proposed and helped pass a national tax on that group of people with the least representation, the least organization, and possibly the least ability to organize a fight back—whisky makers. And when they did pull together and resist the tax collecting agents by local force, the fear of the newly centralized standing army also materialized as Washington and Hamilton themselves mounted horseback and led 13,000 troops to suppress the so-called Whisky Rebellion.

Centralized Judiciary

Plebeian’s list, representing many other anti-federalist writings, includes a warning against the power of the Supreme Court: “it is dangerous, because the judicial power may extend to many cases which ought to be reserved to the decisions of State courts, and because the right of trial by jury is not secured in the judicial courts of the general government, in civil cases. . . .”5

Brutus, likewise, had warned clearly, “If . . . the legislature pass any laws, inconsistent in the senses the judges put upon the constitution, they will declare it void; and therefore in this respect their power is superior to that of the legislature.”6 Another, “The Federal Farmer,” added: “we are in more danger of sowing the seeds of arbitrary government in this department than in any other.”7 “Candidus,” attributed to Samuel Adams, warned that it would “occasion innumerable controversies; as almost every cause (even those originally between citizens of the same State) may be so contrived as to be carried to this federal court.”8 This means, effectively, the end of State and local sovereignty, for a partisan Court could construe any decision, and that decision would stand for every State.

This fear materialized quickly after the Federalist proponents pressured the States to adopt Constitution. Within a mere fifteen years the nationalist John Marshall framed the system and then decided the very case he framed—Marbury v. Madison (1803)—in favor of the nationalists against the Jeffersonians. The decision established the doctrine euphemized as “judicial review” where the Supreme Court can essentially legislate through their decisions.

In 1819, he decided perhaps the most damaging case against State power until after the Civil War. In McCulloch v. Maryland, he decided that the federal government could operate branches of the Federal central bank within state jurisdictions, run by unelected board members for their own profit, and the states could neither regulate the bank nor tax its income. He reminded the States that the federal Congress could pass whatever laws were—in those objected words—“necessary and proper” in order to carry out their other Constitutional powers; and once passed, states could do nothing to violate these federal laws. Even the Tenth Amendment, which was included as a means of preserving for the States all powers not enumerated in the Constitution, was not enough to stop Marshall from overriding States’ powers. He found just enough of a hair to split:

Even the 10th amendment, which was framed for the purpose of quieting the excessive jealousies which had been excited, omits the word ‘expressly,’ and declares only, that the powers ‘not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people;’ thus leaving the question, whether the particular power which may become the subject of contest, has been delegated to the one government, or prohibited to the other, to depend on a fair construction of the whole instrument.9

Thus, as Plebeian and those he represented had predicted, did the federal government “supplant and overturn the state governments.”

The power of the Court would again be furthered in Cohens v. Virginia (1821), as Marshall interpreted the Constitution as extending federal jurisdiction to criminal in addition to civil cases.

More limitation on State powers came in 1824 when Marshall ruled against the State of New York in Gibbons v. Ogden. He struck down a shipping monopoly granted to a New York company operating between New York and New Jersey; this he did on grounds that federal licensing statutes took precedence over state laws, and thus a state could not license monopolies when engaging in interstate commerce—an area expressly enumerated for the federal government in the Constitution. Of course this had been a design of the nationalists all along, despite their denials to the contrary during ratification. In 1821, a Washington D.C. printer and politician named Joseph Gales printed extracts from Robert Yates’ notes upon the Constitutional Convention. Upon receiving a copy, Madison wrote a letter to Gales in which he dismissed Yates as partisan and prejudiced. In the letter, however, Madison notably confided one of his true purposes at the Convention, “which was among other things to take from that State the important power over its commerce.”10 Perhaps Madison felt safe in admitting his true designs some thirty-two years after the fact.

States rights were furthered destroyed and judicial review more firmly entrenched after the Civil War, during reconstruction, particularly by the Fourteenth Amendment. Things have only gotten worse over time. So The Federal Farmer’s warning came true, indeed, time has told: States rights were hijacked by the nationalists, and it took a civil war eventually to enforce their tyranny.

Many people today rightfully see the great encroachments of the Federal government in different points in American history, but too often we stop too short of the root cause. It is not enough to complain about the Patriot Act, or FDR, or the Progressive Era, or even Lincoln and the Civil War. These were all tragic for the principles of liberty, true, but they were merely later variations upon a theme, played upon the original instrument of centralization. Without legislative, judicial, and executive powers centralized in Washington, D.C., to begin with, these later abuses could never have been imposed on the states successfully.

While problems can arise also under a decentralized system of freedom, these will not compare to the tyrannies that grow from the opposite. The anti-federalist Candidus warned that we must “distinguish between the evils that arise from extraneous causes and our private imprudencies, and those that arise from our government.”11 Power over vital areas of human action such as commerce, legislation, defense, etc., Candidus realized as too precious and precarious to leave to the decisions of a few men to enact by governmental force; it should rather be left as decentralized as possible.

This fear of centralization rested not only the principles against that structure of government, but also on the fact that wise and benevolent representatives would not always be found to fill the few seats of power. Instead, power-seeking, greedy, and avaricious men would seek and win those seats, and the people would suffer for it. Paying lip-service to the beloved leaders of the day, he foresaw that “though this country is now blessed with a Washington, Frnaklin [sic], Hancock and Adams,” elected leaders shall not always possess such integrity, and “posterity may have reason to rue the day when their political welfare depends on the decision of men who may fill the places of these worthies.”12

What the opponents of the Constitution predicted is exactly what has happened: the State and local governments were overridden by the powers of a national government. The people are not adequately represented, and self-interested powers—usually big banks and big business—purchase the few seats of power with money or political promises. Then these powers begin to work further to ensure the advantages of the elite via more powerful government. The government grows consistently over time at the expense of the people and their freedoms and wealth. This was predicted before the Constitution, because of the Constitution, and it has occurred almost exactly as was predicted at that time.

The Method of Centralization

Even more important, however, than rehearsing the historical “I told you so,” is to understand the methods used to implement and impose greater centralized power on states and counties—even beyond what the Constitution had done. In other words, in a country where freedom and individual responsibility were so widespread, highly valued, perceived to be something worth fighting and dying for (“liberty or death!”), how in the world did the centralizers succeed? And how have they continued to succeed further for over two centuries?

There are many answers to that question because there are countless tactics of tyranny. But some important ones for us to realize immediately are first, a fairly early change in the electoral system which has changed the nature of representation and given undue political power to urban areas, a minority of swing voters, and special interest groups. But most importantly, second, has been the rise of federal agencies with federal funds buying off state and local governments by means of all kinds of grants and handouts in exchange for compliance. Like many welfare and socialism beneficiaries dependent upon the system as individuals, counties and local governments have just as much *taken the cheese*, and thereby become dependent upon federal money, and thus become trapped in the system.

Centralizing the Electoral System

The first was an assault mainly on the power of local government by the State governments. The issue was the Electoral College—the system which elects the president. In the Constitutional design, the Electoral College exactly mirrors the State’s representation in Congress: the number of electors shall be “equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives.” While the precise manner in which they are chosen and charged to vote is left to the State Legislatures themselves, the Constitutional design indicates that it was designed to parallel the representation of the Congressional districts. This was largely followed up until 1832, when politicians began to see the power of using a popular state-wide vote, and began using this as the basis for awarding all electoral votes to the majority’s candidate.

This was party politics gone wild, and helped solidify the modern “winner-take-all” two-party system at the expense of genuine local representation. Now, all of the rural districts in any given State may vote for one candidate, but have their vast majority of votes overridden because of one highly-populated urban center that distorts the popular vote in its favor—even by a few percent. For example, in the 1824 election in New York, the electoral votes were cast as follows: Adams 26, Crawford 5, Clay 4, and Jackson 1. In the following election of 1828, Adams won only 16 electors and Jackson 20. But after the popular vote method was installed in 1832, Jackson was able to receive all the electoral votes, whereas the loser, Henry Clay, received zero, even though he had gained 48% of the popular votes throughout the districts. This has continued the same since then. And the significant fact is not about who might have won or lost, it is that a tiny minority of voters even in just one district can swing a vast percentage of the electoral votes in all other districts combined. Thus we have had the rise of the “swing vote,” the power of minority-issues and special-interest groups, and the concentration of campaigning and strategizing in closely-divided but influential districts—all playing determinative roles in national elections. In this arrangement, Chicago can overpower all of Illinois, New York City speaks for the whole State of New York, Charlotte for all of North Carolina, and so on. Even in State where the rural population outnumbers any big city, a single special-interest issue like farm subsidies can swing the different in favor of liberals, progressives, statists, or other miscreants. It didn’t use to be this way.

The same issue of the power of special interests lies behind the change in the method of election of Senators, proposed by progressives in 1912–1913. Up until this time, Senators were selected by the State Congress, and expected to represent the interests of the State itself at the federal level. This was meant to ensure States’ legal rights against federal encroachments. But due to the influence of several factors, the 17th Amendment was passed mandating that Senators be elected by a popular vote. Thus, what was intended to be a protection of State’s rights has become subject to special interests in urban areas, and State’s rights are compromised by popular will in regard to national issues.

Federal Cheese to Local Mice

In addition to tampering with the electoral process, the federal government has also discovered the means to entice State and local governments into accepting federal tyranny. This is where the “don’t take the cheese” warning really comes into play. Federal agencies and bureaus by the multiple dozens, having multi-billion dollar budgets, use grants and handouts as ways to circumvent State and local governments and thus impose national control and national agendas on local communities—even without the approval or authorization of local populations or State governments. The basic lure is that of grants of federal money. But, with the grants of money come restrictions, regulations, or even massive legal codes imposed on entire regions of a State. Thus, most States and local governments willingly subject their people to federal regulations so they can increase their revenue at the expense of taxpayers and more likely the national debt.

And you can bet the federal government has figured out how effective this method is to corral and bridle local governments: just give the sugar cubes and simultaneously slip the bit into the mouth. Let me just illustrate the nature and the extent of the problem by using just once local agency—the police department—as an example. Local police currently have the option of applying for grants with the following federal Departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Transportation. That’s nine agencies offering bribes for local government compliance to federal regulations and strings attached.

Within each one of the major departments, there exists numerous smaller agencies each with their own programs, budgets, and regulations to follow. For example, the Dept. of Justice alone breaks down into dozens of major constituent offices and service bureaus. One of them, the Associate Attorney General, governs several, one of which is the Office of Justice Programs. This Office itself includes about fifteen smaller offices, one of which is the National Institute of Justice. This Institute runs several programs, one of which is the DNA Initiative—a federally funded body that makes grants to local agencies for the purpose of DNA analysis in criminal investigations (up to $1 billion total). The Dept. of Justice itself has a budget of $27.7 billion. Part of the quid-pro-quo here is that the results of any DNA tests performed must be shared with a central national database governed by the FBI. It’s a national DNA registry.

This is just one agency. Local public school districts receive on average about 10% percent of their funding from the federal government and about 45% from the State. Nearly all public schools and many private schools accept at least some degree of federal funding due to low-income families attending. Now, I don’t even believe in public schooling to begin with; I think it’s socialistic. But the very fact that local districts are compromised by accepting handouts should be alarming to those who disagree with me, and if they’re not, it really does prove my point about how socialistic the system is. And the fact that local schools receive over half of their funding from higher governmental agencies shows that they are stuck in those regulations and programs because they are dependent on them for the majority of their budget.

In these cases and many more, local leaders—sometimes unelected—subject local individuals to the regulations and standards of higher government bureaucracies in exchange for money. In essence, they literally sell out local sovereignty. Local control is a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, or multiple bidders. In these grant-related cases, the ultimate problem is not with the higher bodies, but with the local decision-makers to accept the money.

And the irony of this is, the federal bodies don’t really have any money to give out anyway. The money they grant is money that was created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve and loaned to the U.S. Treasury, and the legislature doles out portions of this funny money to federal agencies, and the agencies make the grants to local governments. So the federal government exchanges funny-money for local control. In essence, the federal government is buying local control for nothing; it costs them nothing. And local governments are giving up their powers for immoral, debased money. This goes on in every county in the United States today. It could end tomorrow with a city council or school board vote.

So how was freedom in local government lost? It was lost as early as the Constitution, which set a precedent for a continual series of federal government power grabs throughout American history. It was lost through manipulation of representation at that level, and most importantly, it is lost every day of every year as State and local government continue taking federal money, and local governments continue taking federal and State money, and subjecting their people to regulations and administrative laws of distant governments.

We have dug ourselves a huge hole, although in many ways we could say the hole was dug for us. Either way, we’re in a huge hole. Is there any possible way we could even begin to get out? Is there anything we can do to begin to restore sovereignty and control to the local level? Believe it or not, there are ways we can fight to restore freedom again, county by county. There are things to be done, and I will discuss them in the next section.

Next Section: Local sovereignty: how to get it back

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Notes:

  1. In The Complete Anti-Federalist, 7 vol., ed. by Herbert J. Storing (University of Chicago Press, 1981), 2.8.4.
  2. “Address by A Plebeian,” in Herbert J. Storing (ed.), The Complete Anti-Federalist, 6:137.
  3. “Address by A Plebeian,” in Herbert J. Storing (ed.), The Complete Anti-Federalist, 6:137.
  4. Storing, 2:389–391.
  5. “Address by A Plebeian,” in Herbert J. Storing (ed.), The Complete Anti-Federalist, 6:137.
  6. Quoted in Herbert J. Storing (ed.), The Complete Anti-Federalist, 1:50.
  7. Quoted in Herbert J. Storing (ed.), The Complete Anti-Federalist, 1:50.
  8. “Essays by Candidus,” in The Complete Anti-Federalist, 4.9.13.
  9. 17 U.S. 316 (1819).
  10. James Madison to Joseph Gales, August 26, 1821, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, 3 vol., ed. by Max Farrand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), 3:447.
  11. “Essays by Candidus,” in The Complete Anti-Federalist, 7 vol., ed. by Herbert J. Storing (University of Chicago Press, 1981), 4.9.13.
  12. “Essays by Candidus,” in The Complete Anti-Federalist, 4.9.15.
Categories: Worldview

Texas abortion failure exposes need for a more radical #EndAbortionNow strategy

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 14:11

Misguided pro-life activism has once again resulted in a chorus of liberals cheering victory across the headlines. When will these overfunded failures going to acknowledge that piecemeal, incremental compromises with the enemy are futile, godless, and detrimental to the profession of “pro-life”?

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is yet another case in point. Instead of charging at the true moral root of the pro-life issue—abortion is murder—a misguided attempt to reduce the number of clinics through certain regulations in the name of “women’s health” has resulted in a complete failure in the state of Texas.

And with that failure, several other copycat states will fail themselves. It’s no wonder liberal pundits are calling this “the most significant ruling on abortion in 25 years.”

And here’s how these great conservative leaders and their national pro-life forces tried to push this compromised measure in the courts: “The state said it was necessary to protect women’s health. . . .”

Another report notes likewise: “The state said the provisions protect women’s safety. . . .”

This argument is a farce. Indeed, it is one of the great farces of all the incremental pro-life balks. Without making the truth that abortion is murder their non-negotiable starting-point, these organizations and the lawmakers listening to them end up creating trivial piece-meal laws that still legitimize abortion at their core. It doesn’t matter how many restrictions you put here or there, if the root still legalizes abortion, you have compromised with death. The enemy wins, and with his foundations still in place, he will advance back against you.

Indeed, he will go find seven other demons more wicked than him to join him, and the final condition will be worse than the first.

When pro-life leaders proceed like this, they have not only compromised with death, they have implicitly adopted the enemy’s foundations as their own. They may have other intentions for down-the-line, but on paper and in practice they simply agree with the abortionists: abortion should be safe and legal. And we all know about a certain road paved with good intentions. Good intentions don’t mean anything. The law and the practice do.

Once you’ve propped up your so-good intentions on the legal presuppositions of the infanticidal maniacs, you have handed them victory. One of the most embarrassing casualties of this moral and intellectual surrender is the grand ease the enemy enjoys in defeating your argument in court.

Thus, for example, the liberals at NPR can note immediately after reporting the farcical “women’s safety” argument of the pro-lifers: “medical groups such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a brief that the law would not enhance safety and would in fact impede women’s care.”

Well, that was easy. So easy. Piece of cake, really.

You see what the enemy did there? They said, you wanna talk about women’s health and safety? OK. We can do that. Let us bring in the experts on women’s health and safety. They will give us expert medical counsel on women’s safety. And whom do you think the Court will regard on this issue? The political activists or the medical experts? Checkmate, pro-lifers. Oh, and btw, thanks.

The lawyers for the right made the same mistake in arguing against homosexual marriage. They based their defense of traditional marriage on Darwinistic and humanistic foundations and explicitly not on God’s Word—the argument that must not be named!

The same is true here. This “pro-life” law and every law like it was flawed like this from the start. It neglected the whole truth, suppressed the Word, compromised the Word, dishonored God. Instead, it left the majority of the laws legalizing abortion in place, and worst of all, left the entirety of the legal foundations of pro-abortion in place.

What does any professing Christian expect to gain in such a case?

Simply put: when you adopt the enemy’s presuppositions, you ensure the enemy’s victory. The pro-life industry has been doing so, and failing so, for over forty years.

Further, there is a great irony in today’s ruling. When our ministry joined others in pronouncing the need to #EndAbortionNow, national-group activists attacked us, saying that any radical, no-compromise approach would simply be struck down by the Supreme Court. As proof of their assertion, they sent a link to some piece of legislation that the Court had already struck. Oh the irony! It was just one more piecemeal approach built on compromises with godless laws! It is not our approach that has failed (it has not even been tried!). It is their own that has failed, failed repeatedly, and predictably failed again today.

Now, we are in a position to watch the full compromise of these futile groups. Watch the response. I predict that you will see national pro-life agencies not adjusting their tactics or message from this failure, but rather trying to raise money from it. You are about to hear from them how this ruling was opportunist on the part of the Obama administration since, you know, Scalia. You’ll hear about judicial activism on the part of rogue leftist justices. You’ll hear that this setback means we must double-down and pledge ourselves to even greater and more difficult work ahead. We are doing everything we can. But we need your help! Give, give, give!

Here’s what you should give them: a link to our #EndAbortionNow messages.

It’s simply time for every Christian who cares about the defense of the unborn to reject completely the organizations that have abjectly failed for over forty years while wasting tens of millions of dollars on failed tactics of compromise and fear, and tens of millions more convincing Christians to elect politicians who cave the first chance they get while smiling all pro-life like.

It’s time to adopt a radically faithful approach that begins with the definition, “Abortion is Murder.” Anything short of this is not worth defending, engaging, or supporting with your time and money.

A no-compromise approach will go much deeper: it steels the hearts and minds of Christians and legislators to expect the Court to strike, but also to tell that Court to go jump in lake. A no-compromise approach will train local and state leaders in interposition, nullification, and the biology of backbones. It’s time to forsake federal funds for the sake of upholding life.

Until the pro-life cause adopts such measures, it will, and can, only continue to fail.

Until then, let the conscientious adopt the mottoes:

Abortion is murder.

and

Increments kills babies.

[Photo credit: Lorie Shaull, “The Burden is Undue,” Flickr. Used under permission of Creative Commons License 2.0 (CC BY-SA 2.0).]

Categories: Worldview

County Rights: ideal freedom in civil government

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 07:56

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 3: “County Rights”

3.1 Local government in a free America

The basic premise of localism—and therefore, the basic premise of what I call “County Rights”—is that civil government power should be as decentralized as possible. This is the heart of the program. This section covers that principle of localism: the ideal of freedom and how we once had it in America..

Local Government in a Free America

We need to acknowledge that States’ Rights—though much better than all power being centralized in a large national government—is not a good enough answer to national tyranny. “States’ Rights are for sissies,” as a friend of mine says. Give me “County Rights.” That’s decentralized power. But lest my libertarian friends needle me by pointing out that counties can cajole and extort too, I prefer to argue that civil government power should be as decentralized as possible. If it is possible to have a well-ordered society with little government beyond the family and perhaps voluntary community organization, then we should welcome this.

As we shall see here, localism and decentralized power is the best expression of freedom in government, and it was the way America was originally founded. This is the way it used to be in America, and it worked. So I would like to discuss, briefly, localism or “County Rights” in both principle and practice.

In principle, limited and localized government is an outgrowth of specifically Christian thinking; particularly the demands that 1) rulers are not divine, but themselves subject to a higher law, 2) private property is to be protected and conferred with its own governmental powers under law, and 3) social relationships are based on legally binding contracts, 4) power tends to allow for corruption and should therefore be limited, checked, and safeguarded. In short, we have a society based on religious faith, property rights, honoring of contracts, and individual responsibility—all fundamental things derived directly from the Ten Commandments. And of course, with all of these things is assumed the right to life and the protection of life.

To understand these things properly, we need a little background. What is a “county”? Where did such a name come from? The answer to that question is found in the medieval feudal system of government (“feudalism” is not a bad word, despite many modern liberal scholars). A “county” was the area of land governed by that member of the hierarchy of nobility called a “Count.” A “count” owned and governed a “county,” just as a “duke” did a “duchy.” This was the French name for the rank. In England, the equivalent division of land was a “shire”—a name coming from the Latin word scire, meaning “to cut” or “to divide” (we get our words “scissors,” “shears,” “schism” and others from this same word, including our word “share,” as in “shareholder”). It was a division of land apportioned to a particular property owner (usually as granted by the King or other higher property owner). After the Norman invasion of 1066, the English usage of “shire” gradually fell out and was replaced by “county.” Later, in the American colonies, there were only six divisions ever called “shires” and this was in Virginia in 1634. A couple years later these were renamed as “counties” and that name stuck throughout America ever since. Regardless of the name, however, the point stands that our most basic units of government are derived from the original basic units of property ownership. The basic premise is of government is one of private property, and that each owner of property is the governor of what he owns. And of course, in a Christian society, this owner’s government was not according to his own law, but to God’s.

In such a society, ideally, there would be no need for higher governors. But of course, this is neither possible nor practical yet. We live in a world still marred by sin, and crime exists and needs to be deterred and punished. But, crime exists on all levels of life, including those in higher ranks. This means that sinful men fill positions of power as well (perhaps especially), and thus we should seek to have the powers of punishment and force radically distributed throughout society so that no individual or group ever has too much power or power over too great an area. If there’s going to be a tyrant or corruption in civil government, it’s better to have administrative units as small as possible and as separated and independent as possible, so that 1) the tyranny is limited to that area, 2) the tyrant has limited resources with which to work, and thus can’t easily spread, 3) people in that limited area can easily escape to better places, and 4) that tyrant will be facing a whole host of surrounding jurisdictions and forces ready to intervene for at the very least the sake of peace. When there’s another layer of government above the local (which is usually the case), the local units can appeal to the higher powers; disputes between locals can be settled by private arbitration between them, or by appeal to the higher courts if necessary. If the higher powers try to exert tyranny, the local governments must resist, and if necessary band together to resist as a group.

This is exactly the nature of what happened in Anglo-American history, during the construction of that famed document the Magna Carta. In 1215, in the midst of feudal society, the Kings had for several generations gradually moved closer to absolute power; the land barons had enough. It was really the wane of the old feudal system, and because of the King’s grasping at more and more power, absolutism was gaining early strength. It was the representatives of the local land owners who gathered together to oppose King John’s extensive attempts at solidifying absolute power and raising taxes on them: it was these protectors of private property who drafted the Magna Carta. In doing so, they fell back on the old feudal ideas of fixed contractual obligations on the part of each side—the land owners paying a predictable and tolerable tax, and the King being subject to the powers of law upheld by a representative assembly of the barons (as well as protection and proper courts, etc.). The document is often perceived as some advance in political theory because it looks a little like modern representative government being advanced against monarchy, but in reality it was a conservative document, aiming at securing ancient rights of property owners, the rule of law, and the upholding of contracts—things that had been established in England for centuries.

As I said, this society is based deeply in Christian thinking and biblical law. In the right to life we see the commandment against murder. In the sanctity of private property, we see the commandments against theft. In the upholding contracts, we see the commandment and against false witness. We could also easily explore the centrality of the family and inheritance, expressed in the fifth and seventh commandments. We could also explore the guarding of property and inheritance against the jealousies of others found in the tenth commandment.

One modern political philosopher noted the derivation:

The limited state is a creation of Christian thinking, particularly of Augustine. It arose from the fundamental experience of the Incarnation, the appearance of God in human form at a definite place and time of human history. Christian thinking about politics was based on a new discovery about the destiny of man: man lived in order to attain fellowship with God.”1

In other words, beyond the mere popular idea of Christianity, the idea of limited government is based in Christian theology: it is a political development based upon the previous theological development of the historic Church councils, particularly Nicaea (AD 325) and Chalcedon (AD 451). Because only Jesus Christ is the perfect man, and the only God-man, this means He alone has the final word of human jurisdiction. He is prophet, priest, and king. No human government, therefore, has the right to wield supreme or final power on earth, whether in family, church, or state. All people and all rulers must bow the knee to King Jesus, obey his commandments, and love one another as equals before God.2

All of these biblical and theological ideas are visible in and fundamental to the old feudal system, despite the flaws that also existed in that system.

Why I cover this, and why it is relevant to the United States history we are about to see, is that the idea of federalism is related directly—both in principle and in name—to feudalism. “Federal” and “feudal” have the same etymological root (foedus, Latin for pact or covenant) and refer to governmental relationships based on contractual agreements, or covenants, between various levels of government. The contract established a bond between the parties—for example, a King and a Colony, or a Colonial Government and its counties—which established obligations for each party, and protected each party in regard to those obligations being performed. If those obligations were not met, then sanctions could be enforced, or the bond could be declared null and void.

It was this very type of covenantal relationship which the American colonists in 1776 argued had been violated in regard to them by King George III. The colonies had each been established with charters which themselves established feudal land grants and recognized the ancient feudal rights of free Englishmen. But things had gradually changed—especially in England—over the decades. In 1688, Parliament overreached its bounds by usurping the absolutism to which the King once aspired. It began a series of attempts to extract taxes from the colonies. King George did nothing, and the colonies regarded this as a failure on his part—they in fact considered him complicit in the act of aggression and tyranny. The Declaration of Independence was federal document, announcing that the King had failed in his end of the contract, and thus it had become necessary “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”

The Declaration—aside from the famous language of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” which is all we normally recall—goes on to list two long trains of abuses. The first list includes abuses on the part of the King himself, and the second, those in which he has “combined with others”—a.k.a. Parliament—“to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.” The colonists considered Parliament a foreign party to their colonial charters and governments, and thus King George’s failure to protect the colonies against Parliament’s encroachments and taxes was a breach of the governmental contract on his part. For this failure, and in order to retain the freedoms they expected under the original agreement, the colonists united with the willingness to fight and die if necessary.

Thus it is instructive to look at the nature of colonial government during that time—especially the time before the Constitution—in order to see what a decentralized, truly free and federal society look like, especially as derived from the old system of genuine federalism. Thus, second, we shall examine the practice of limited government:

The Practice of Localism in the Colonies

The fundamental unit of government was the county. The so-called anti-federalists during the Constitutional ratification period argued for local sovereignty on the part of their States, as opposed to the nationalists (improperly named “federalists”) who wanted a strong central national government with direct jurisdiction, taxation, and military power upon the people (bypassing the State and local governments as convenient). Men such as Patrick Henry rightly argued that a truly federal system would only allow a national government to interact with the States, not the counties, townships, towns, or people. In a truly federal system, only counties dealt with people, States only dealt with counties, and the Constitution should only deal with States. They were obviously fighting for States’ rights in a particular context; but the principle for which they stood goes much deeper—all the way to the county and smaller. And long prior to the Constitution, this is mainly the way American was founded: county sovereignty.

The Massachusetts General Court in 1635 made an Act that delegated most governmental authority to the local level. It read:

Whereas particular towns have many things which concern only themselves, it is therefore ordered that the freemen of every town, or the major part of them, shall have only power to dispose of their own lands and woods, with all privileges and appurtenances of the said towns to grant lots and make such orders as may concern the well-ordering of their own townes . . . to levy and distrain, . . . also to choose their own particular officers, as constables, surveyors of highways and the like.3

Wertenbaker explains, “Under this act the town became to the State what the congregation was to the Church. Localism in religion, which had become so vital a feature of Puritanism, was to be matched in New England by localism in government.”4 Note two things: 1) that the government was a direct mirror of their form of church government, and therefore, 2) their civil government was radically decentralized. This system was derived directly from old England feudal arrangements. The New England Congregationalists delegated even greater powers to the local level than did other groups (New Jersey Presbyterians, for example), but the system was generally true throughout the colonies.

And this lasted for two centuries. Remnants of this decentralized system of government lasted into the 19th century. When the French observer Alexis De Tocqueville toured the country in the 1830s, he could still leave with the impression that “every village forms a sort of republic, accustomed to govern itself.”5

And at the local level, a deciding influence for all forms of local government and culture was—as a federal society would have it—a Christian covenant. Some of these were simple; for example, the early Pilgrims used this formula as the basis for their society: “We covenant with the Lord and with one another and do bind ourselves in the presence of God to walk together in all His ways, according as He is pleased to reveal Himself unto us in His blessed word of truth.”6 Others were much more detailed. The Northampton covenant read,

Disclaiming all confidence of, or any worthiness in, ourselves either to be in covenant with God or to partake of the least of His mercies, and also all strength of our own to help covenant with Him . . . by relying upon His tender mercy and gracious assistance of the Lord through Jesus Christ, we do promise and covenant in the presence of the Lord, the searcher of all hearts, and before the holy angels and this company, first and chiefly to cleave forever unto God with our whole hearts as our chief, best, yea and only good, and unto Jesus Christ as our only Savior, husband and Lord and only high priest, prophet and king. . . . We promise and engage to observe and maintain . . . all the holy institutions and ordinances which he has appointed for His Church. . . . And as for this particular company and society of saints, we promise . . . that we will cleave unto one another in brotherly love and seek the best spiritual good each of other, by frequent exhortation, seasonable admonition and constant watchfulness according to the rules of the Gospel.7

The Benefits of Decentralization

The benefits of such a decentralized society were many. For starters, taxation is specifically and only local. No state or federal agencies have any direct access to your property or income. Though I don’t support a property tax in general ((He who faces forfeiture or distrainment of his property should he fail to pay a recurring tax on it does not really own the property in question. Thus, property taxes are violation of the biblical protection of private property.)), the historical institution of the property tax indicates that the fundamental unit of government in America was at the county level, and it is one aspect of county sovereignty that persists today. The county is the only civil agency that has the authority to tax you directly on your property.

But since this system is entirely local, all the aspects of it are tied to a local vote: the level of taxation, the type of taxation, and the agents of taxation. The tax assessor in most counties is an elected official. These can be voted out, impeached, removed, overridden, defunded, or moved away from if necessary.

Secondly, in a decentralized society, law is generally local law. There is no issue of having nationalized healthcare, welfare, taxation, military draft, or anything else forced upon you by distant, disaffected, self-interested legislators. There is no issue if your local county or town votes almost unanimously to display the ten commandments in its court, or even to require a Christian test oath to hold a public office. The neighboring counties may not approve of it, but that’s the beauty of decentralization—you can move two miles and be in a jurisdiction you like better. Or, if you like your chances, you can stay and work for political change at home. It will sure be easier to achieve change locally than as it is today nationally. Life is so much better when you have three dozen choices available than when a one-size-fits-all government “solution” is crammed down your throat.

Localism means both civil law and criminal law are local law. When criminal law is local, the main law enforcement in society is the county sheriff. The old John Birch society had a similar vision with its “support your local police” campaign, but it appears to me to take this to the point of a fault. More on that later. When criminal law is local, the legislation itself, as well as the agents of enforcement and of justice, is elected. This is seen in our county legacy: sheriffs are elected, and judges and magistrates are elected, as well as county commissioners and other local legislators and directors.

Remember the old Robin Hood scenario? Remember Robin Hood’s great enemy? He was the Sheriff of Nottingham. Our word “sheriff” comes from the Old English “shire”—which we’ve already discussed—and “reeve,” who was a representative of the king. The “Shire-reeve” was the King’s agent who came to the local shire to collect taxes. He was an agent of the central government. But not in America! He was a local elected official, accountable to his local shire (county), and susceptible to being removed at the next election. And in times of moral lassitude, when the local population began to accept corruption and not vote it out, again, it would not be far to move, if you saw it necessary, and if it came to that. In short, when the sheriff is the agent of the central government, you have tyranny; but when the sheriff is a local elected representative, you are closer to freedom.

Likewise, civil law was county law mostly. I can assure you, gay marriage would not be acceptable in my county. There would be no deliberation about it, and the first judge who peeped in favor of it would be voted out in a heartbeat if not impeached on the spot. Let that liberal joker move to one of those really blue counties on the west coast, not in my back yard. Instead of having to win a washed-out general election stacked against all forces of politics and media and big money across the whole country, our grass roots would be the ultimate voice in law and leadership. Your society would reflect your values, instead of being weaseled by special interests and spineless politicians and activist judges.

This is a taste of localism: a world in which government is as small as possible, people are generally free, their societies mirror their own values, government is accountable and generally unable to spread tyranny. It is based on the Christian concepts of protecting life, protecting family, property, and contracts, and holding public officials accountable to the law before God. This is the only way to have a free society. And having such an emphatic local focus is the only way we will ever be able to restore freedom in America. The focus on Washington and the Supreme Court will do nothing but rearrange the forces of top-down, centralized tyrannical “solutions.” States’ rights will not even do it, though it is important. We need localism. We need county rights.

We have seen also that this vision of local government was the original American way. It existed, and it worked. The next question, of course, is, if society was so decentralized and free, how was it lost? And how was it so far lost that we’ve never really even heard about it until now? While it would be fun to skip to the “how to get freedom back” part, understanding how the freedom was lost is vital to knowing what exactly to undo and preventing it from happening again. So, in my next discussion, we will talk about how America has grown from the radically decentralized, voluntarily settled, free society of 1776 to the massive government bureaucracy, empire, and centralized near-police state that it is today.

Next Section: Local sovereignty: how freedom was lost

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Notes:

  1. Gerhart Niemeyer, “Two Socialisms,” Modern Age: The First Twenty-Five Years, a Selection, ed. George A. Panichas (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Press, 1988), 587.
  2. See my book Manifested in the Flesh, 2006, chapters 8–9.
  3. Quoted in Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, The Puritan Oligarchy: The Founding of American Civilization (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1947), 44–5. It is important to note that the phrase “the freemen . . . shall have only power” in the language of that era really means to indicate that “only the freemen” shall have the powers described, as the context makes clear.
  4. Wertenbaker, 45.
  5. Democracy in America (London: Everyman’s Library, 1994), 406.
  6. Quoted in Wertenbarker, 58.
  7. Quoted in Wertenbaker, 58.
Categories: Worldview

God, Governments, and Culture 2016 — Early Discounts Ending Soon!

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 03:16

Don’t forget to Register NOW for the special God, Governments, and Culture Conference 2016 for one-of-a-kind, core-leadership-level knowledge and training.

Early-bird registration DISCOUNTS end next Tuesday.

Use Discount Code #GGC16 for 15% OFF until June 28.

We may not be offering another Conference exactly like this one for a while.

Register Now.

Looking for an intensive course in practical action for local government from a biblical worldview? Don’t miss this unique conference. Inspired by Dr. McDurmon’s Restoring America One County at a Time, “God, Governments, and Culture 2016” will feature serious practical action training and insider-knowledge from experienced activists and strategists. This is not your typical Christian theology conference.

Join Dr. Joel McDurmon and expert guest speakers Paul Dorr and Matthew Trewhella this July 28–31, 2016, in Kerrville, Texas for a very special “local government” edition of American Vision’s “God, Government, and Culture” Conference 2016. For everyone serious in learning and applying in-depth knowledge, from beginners to the experienced, GGC16 will not only not disappoint, it is a must-attend event.

All Registrations include access to MP3 downloads of the entire conference.

Schedule:

Thursday, July 28

  • 1:00–3:00pm — Conference Check-In and Registration
  • 3:00–4:00pm — Joel McDurmon: Welcome and Introduction: “Why Localism?”
  • 4:00–5:00pm — Paul Dorr: “Freedom Under God’s Law: Building Young Leaders”
  • 5:00–6:00pm — Matt Trewhella: “The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine: A Proper Resistance to Tyrants”
  • 6:00–9:00 — Dinner with the Speakers (special paid event, includes dinner and private Q&A)

Friday, July 29

  • 8:00–8:50am — Breakfast
  • 9:00–10:00am — Paul Dorr: “The Economic Big Picture Made Local – How to Exploit It”
  • 11:00–12:00pm — Matt Trewhella: The Historic Role of the People in Effecting the Interposition of Magistrates”
  • 12:00m–1:00pm — Lunch
  • 1:00–2:30pm — Free time
  • 2:30–3:30pm — Paul Dorr: “Financial Review of Local Government Made Simple: How To Leverage It”
  • 3:30–4:30pm — Joel McDurmon: “The Importance of Understanding What We’ve Lost”
  • 4:30–5:30pm — Paul Dorr: “Reverse Saul Alinsky: Making Progress Using Their Rules”
  • 6:00–7:00pm — Dinner
  • 7:00–8:00pm — Joel McDurmon: “Key Tactics of Biblical Resistance”
  • 8:00–whenever — Speakers Q&A

Saturday, July 30

  • 8:00–8:50am — Breakfast
  • 9:00–10:00am — Paul Dorr: “Building Credibility Over Time: Good Communications & Direct Action. Christ Receives All Glory!”
  • 11:00–12:00pm — Matt Trewhella: “The Fine Art of Meeting with Magistrates”
  • 12:00m–1:00pm — Lunch
  • 1:00–2:00pm —Joel McDurmon: “Tactics versus Strategy: The Long Term Vision”

Sunday, July 31

  • Worship at Sponsor’s church; Time and Place TBA (Joel McDurmon — Sermon)

Venue:

Inn of the Hills Hotel and Conference Center
1001 Junction Hwy, Kerrville, Texas 78028

“The historic Inn of the Hills Hotel & Conference Center, in the heart of the Hill Country, proves to be the perfect destination for business or pleasure.  Opened in the 1960s as a lodge, the Inn over the years has evolved into a full service hotel. The rustic native stone architecture with beautiful courtyard and pool area, create a nostalgic, relaxing getaway for any type of traveler.  With a 21,000 square foot conference center, full-service restaurant, pub with live music on the weekends, and a short walk to the Guadalupe River and park, there is something for everyone.  Amenities include free parking, complimentary wi-fi, cable TV, Ghilchrist Soams bath products and microwaves and refrigerators in each room.  Only a few miles from downtown Kerrville, the Inn of the Hills is the only way to experience the beautiful Texas Hill Country.”

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Categories: Worldview

Two kingdoms doctrine and American slavery

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 11:33

In continuing studies on Southern slavery and racism, a nugget jumped out last night that one would hope would put a nail in the coffin of these modern, radical two kingdoms proponents. The employment, as so often is the case, of that doctrine to silence the pulpit on social sin is so obvious in this case that not even a Westminster West professor could avoid it.

The instance arises in the excellent work by Ronald Takaki, A Pro-Slavery Crusade: The Agitation to Reopen the Slave Trade (New York: The Free Press, 1971), who focuses upon the work and influence of the Southern “fire eaters.” These were the men who presented the most radical case in the press defending not only their peculiar institution, but more radical measures such as actually resuming the Atlantic trade in slaves.

Many readers may not know the important timeline here. While slavery was still practiced throughout the South within the South, the actual importation of slaves had been outlawed once the twenty-year protection granted in the Constitution lapsed in 1808. (Wilberforce had prevailed in Britain only the year before, lending certain moral impetus to the U.S. Congress to act.)

Of course, where there is demand, there will always be a black market, and there was tremendous demand for slaves still in the deep South. By 1820, Congress saw the need to crack down on the smuggling. It passed an Act which formally defined an offender as “a pirate” and assigned the death penalty.

This development created very public association of the continued practice of slavery with kidnapping and piracy, and the moral burden was soon felt throughout the South. As sectional controversy increased over the decades, this burden was pressed, and southern spokesmen forced to react. It was a hot topic in the heyday of the fire eaters. Governor Adams of South Carolina noted the moral tension in 1856, “if the trade be piracy, the slave must be plunder.” The editor of one Mississippi newspaper complained of the logic: “If it is wrong to buy and sell negroes with an intention to enslave them, IS IT NOT WRONG TO HOLD THEM IN SLAVERY?”1

These calculations were not admissions of guilt; they were warnings that the Federal government had positioned itself to attack the institution pro-slavers held dear. As attacks from abolitionism and northern political forces mounted, the defenders of slavery entrenched themselves. Some of these not only defended the institution, but longed to reopen the Atlantic to a legal trade in African slaves with hopes that a fresh influx of supply would drive down prices, increase slave ownership. This would not only make the institution more profitable, but spread slave ownership more broadly among even the poorer whites, increasing the slave-dependent voting bloc.

The more radical of these proponents even desired to annex Cuba as a permanent American source of black slaves. Others even dreamed of a full-on slave empire encompassing all of Mexico and Central America, parts of South America and all of the Caribbean—a huge circumference of slave-power to be known as “The Golden Circle.”

Aside from the various political ideas, one common aim of the fire eaters was to win back the hearts and minds of Southerners who had wavered in their loyalty to slavery due to attacks from religious leaders as well as the influence of the 1820 anti-piracy legislation.

And this is precisely where the two kingdoms doctrine was brought into play.

The Methodist menace

From its earliest days, the Methodist ethic followed the influence of its founder John Wesley, who had encouraged Wilberforce mightily: “Go in the name of God, and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”2 Even Whitefield was originally against slavery. He changed his mind, however, when he moved to Savannah: after tending his own garden in the Georgia heat, he quickly agreed with the typical Southern argument that blacks were more suited for such work in such climate. He purchased a black slave.

The Southern church adopted the reasoning and practice of Whitfield, and many southern Methodist ministers and laymen owned slaves.3 This practice existed in tension with the denomination’s General Conference position against slavery expressed in 1784, and the tension led eventually to a full North-South split in 1844.

But a remnant of the General sentiment still existed in the General Rules of the southern churches. In 1858, the southern Methodists in Conference found themselves faced with the question of expunging an old rule that forbid “the buying and selling of men, women and children, with the intention to enslave them”4—language that appears to have been influenced directly by the legislation of 1820. The southern church had no problem with this task: the vote was in favor of striking the Rule, 143 to 8.

And by what theological standard did these 143 delegates support their decision? Biblical law? Gospel? Scripture? You can see it in the conclusion itself:

Whereas, The rule in the General Rules of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, forbidding “the buying and selling of men, women, and children with an intention to enslave them” is ambiguous in its phraseology and liable to be construed as antagonistic to the institution of slavery, in regard to which the church has no right to meddle, except in enforcing the duties of masters and servants as set forth in the Holy Scriptures; and whereas, a strong desire for the expunction of said rule has been expressed in nearly all parts of our ecclesiastical connection; therefore,

Resolved, 1. . . . that the rule forbidding “the buying and selling of men . . .” be expunged from the General Rules of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Resolved, 2. That, in adopting the foregoing resolution, this conference expresses no opinion in regard to the African slave-trade, to which the rule in question has been “understood” to refer.5

The reader can detect easily that it was the two kingdoms divide which allowed these ministers and delegates to turn a blind eye to the evils of slavery—evils that their own tradition’s interpretation of Scripture had earlier condemned. By relegating “the institution of slavery” to a purely political matter, the church excused itself of any responsibility to pronounce upon it, and in fact made explicit that the church was not even taking a position on the African slave-trade itself (!) as a moral evil.

In explaining this development, Bishop George Pierce made the two-kingdoms connection even clearer, declaring slavery to be “a purely civil institution.”6 Takaki notes that six southern Methodist bishops took to the pulpit to declare that “slavery was a subject belonging to Caesar, and ecclesiastical legislation upon it was contrary to the teachings of Christ and the examples of the apostles.”7

Yet the fire eaters’ call to reopen the African slave trade had so gripped the public mind, that the bishops could not keep from pronouncing some upon this “purely civil institution.” Their pastoral address included the following pronouncement:

And if, contrary to expectation, the African slave trade should ever be revived in the face of the law which declares it to be piracy, we have rule and authority enough by which to hold our membership to rigid responsibility. Nor would we fail in this, sustained as we would be by our own convictions of duty, the law of the land, and what we know to be the moral sentiment of the people among whom we dwell.

This statement is, of course, morally and politically ambiguous, and thus “safe.” When and if the trade were ever again legalized, the “law of the land” would thus exonerate the bishops should they tend to cave on it; and likewise, the “moral sentiment of the people” was being much more powerfully molded by pro-slave-trade arguments than anything else. So, when the time came, the two kingdoms ethic would easily have allowed these men to adopt whatever transpired, no matter how radical and evil.

Indeed, the decision of the church to expunge the rule was immediately seized upon by the fire eaters as justification for their cause to reopen the slave trade. One Richmond paper immediately pronounced:

When a whole Christian denomination sees nothing wrong, or immoral, or improper in the “buying and selling of men, women and children, with an intent to enslave them,” why should mere politicians presume to pronounce as wicked and atrocious the re-opening of the African slave trade?8

Multiple publications and statements make clear that this sentiment was spreading within the church.9

The danger of two kingdoms ethics

As we explored before with its role in Nazism, the greatest danger of two kingdoms ethics is that it creates a safe space for tyranny by silencing the pulpits and intimidating Christians into passivity on the Bible’s position on “political” topics. It creates a happy agreement between proponents of social evil and church leaders who want a safe, comfortable path forward and a good hand-washing while their society shouts for Barabbas. This was clear under Nazism, and it is now clear, in at least one glaring example, in the Christian defenders of Southern slavery in America.

These particular southern Christians moved to protect their own interests in slaveholding, while forbidding, through official ecclesiastical authority and power, any proclamation otherwise from those who either had doubts about the institution, or certainly opposed it. Worse, their work to undo the ecclesiastical channels that protected dissent went so far as to open up a justification for the most radical position of reopening the actual trade. The opening was seized immediately by the most radical forces with the most radical message, and the imposition of the two-kingdoms ethic forced every southern Methodist, who wished to remain a southern Methodist, into silence on the matter.

In fact, the influence of this two kingdoms-backed censorship was so powerful that a fierce attack upon Methodist dissenters was allowed throughout the South. In Texas, dissenting ministers were given 60 days to leave the state! In Mississippi, the dissenting minority was hounded publicly in the newspapers as “negro worshippers” and “vile reptiles, who ought to be driven from the land.”10 I have not seen where any of the Bishops wielded their “rule and authority . . . to hold our membership to rigid responsibility” in regard to this moral evil, even though it was obviously due.

Now, modern two kingdoms proponents have responded to the slavery issue, albeit not with cognizance of the information here presented, I don’t think. I will address their arguments more directly tomorrow. For now, let it suffice to see how the doctrine was employed in history in direct support of a moral evil, to suppress dissenters within the church, and to open the door to even greater evils while it forced the church to sit silently.

Notes:

  1. Both quoted in Takaki, 69.
  2. Quoted in Takaki, 142.
  3. Takaki, 138.
  4. Quoted in Takaki, 135.
  5. Quoted in Takaki, 136, emphases added.
  6. Quoted in Takaki, 137.
  7. Takaki, 137.
  8. Quoted in Takaki, 138.
  9. Takaki, 138.
  10. Quoted in Takaki, 141.
Categories: Worldview

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