American Vision

Syndicate content American Vision
American Vision's Blog Feed
Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Freedom in Welfare: how to get it back

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 10:06

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 2: Welfare

2.3 Freedom: How to Get it Back

Under point one of this project, we covered Education. We discussed how that’s one area in which we still have almost complete control, and how we should take control of what liberty we have. Point 2, the welfare state, is very similar in that regard. Aside from the taxes extracted from us in order to maintain the government-run scheme, we are still at liberty to save for old age, and to buy insurance of different sorts freely. Now the major exception to that is the limitation caused by the Medicare laws—that for health insurance, people over 65 effectually have little to no private insurance options and are thereby forced to be dependent on the system. Other than this, with sacrifice and self-discipline, we can take a large portion of freedom back under our own control, and plan for a day when the benefit does not exist. We’ll talk about some practical steps and sacrifices in the next section.

We have to end our personal dependence on the Welfare State: Social Security is a problem, but it doesn’t have to be a trap. This means we need to learn and plan for our own financial futures, privately, while we also plan to phase out Social Security. The issue here is that welfare of all forms should be a privately funded and insured affair, not supported through taxation. Family, Church, and private charity can replace the Welfare State. And again we’ll have to learn to refuse the benefit. (Don’t take the cheese.) Of course, this also means personal sacrifices. But we can do it with effort.

The Evils of Social Security

 

Before we go much further discussing the practical steps in this area, I want to drive home the immoral nature of the system, and why it has become so much of a problem.

First, Social Security is not a retirement program, or any kind of savings program at all. It is not the case—and the Social Security Administration states this clearly itself—that we are paying into a fund that is designated in our name so that we can draw from that fund in the future. It has a façade appearing to be that, but it is legally and practically not that.

I want to share with you an exchange that took place recently, between a reporter and a man named David Walker. Now, Walker was the Comptroller General of the U.S. for ten years, overseeing all matters relating to all federal public funds, and then he went on to head the Peterson Foundation which specializes in bringing public awareness to the looming collapse of the Social Security and Medicare programs. So if anyone understands the system, it’s this guy. And I want you to hear how candidly he describes the Social Security system. In light of the fact that it will probably collapse (it’s already in the red), the reporter asks a question:

[Q:] Is the Social Security program fair to younger workers?

[A.] [T]he way to look at it, rather than young versus old, is really income level. The Social Security system is designed to provide a better deal for workers who make less money because the replacement ratio that you receive compared to your earnings is much higher for lower-income workers than it is for higher-income workers.

But the reporter was no dummy, and she pounced on this answer: “So it sounds unfair to both younger workers and higher-income workers.”

Then came the outright admission by Walker. He said,

Social Security is not an investment program. You shouldn’t look at it as a rate of return. It’s intended to provide a safety net of retirement income. By definition, it’s structured so lower-wage workers will get a higher relative benefit. So, by definition, there’s an element of transfer payment.

When people look at it as, “Give me the money, I’ll invest and do better,” it depends on what your income level is. Middle and upper incomes would do better because it would eliminate the subsidy to the lower income. But that’s not what the program is. I hear young people saying, “I’m not getting a good deal.” That’s technically right, but it doesn’t reflect the nature of what Social Security is.1

So there, we have a major government official who oversaw the program, who is now an activist in regard to reforming the program, openly admitting that the program is unfair to both younger payers and middle- and upper- income payers. It is, he says, not a retirement or savings program, but rather a wealth-transfer program. And of course, a wealth-transfer program is—for the net-losers in that transfer—just the opposite of a savings program. It is in fact a “losings” program, or an un-recuperated tax.

So, instead of thinking of Social Security as some kind of investment program, and some kind of fund you’re paying into on which you can draw in the future, you need to see it for what it is—a tax now, spend now scheme (tax you now, and spend on others now scheme). Not a penny of what you pay in now will be put into a fund that will collect interest and be there when you get old and need it—not a penny. And this is not only because the system is losing money and will probably be bust when you get to that age, but because the system was never designed that way to begin with. What you pay now goes 100% to pay elderly and other people now; and the promise is then given that when you get to the proper age, the government will then collect from other young people to pay you. It is not savings, but a tax-and-spend wealth-transfer by government coercion. There is no fund, only a gun—pointed at workers forcing them to pay for the retired generation.

Social Security is the government’s promise to tax young people on behalf of older people over 65. It is an inter-generational wealth-transfer scheme. And the cost to the older generation for this agreement is that they were once the taxed generation having a portion of their income transferred to the older. In essence, the younger advocate says to the government, “I agree to pay taxes for older people now, if you agree to extract money at gunpoint on my behalf in the future.” So, it is wealth-transfer system sustained by the self-interest of the retirees and based on threats of violence.

This understanding is important when we begin to talk about phasing out or ending the system. So many people get nervous and upset, “But I’ve paid so much into the system. I want my fair share back out!” But of course this assumes that the system is a savings plan and not a tax-and-spend transfer. What you have paid all of your life is nothing but a recurring tax—no matter what else they officially name it. What you are said to be entitled to is not your money; what you are said to be entitled to is promises of future taxes on the backs of your children and grandchildren, and/or other people’s children and grandchildren. Instead of having an actual entitlement to actual assets, you have an alleged entitlement to the government’s ability to tax the younger generation—and that ability is growing weaker and weaker as time goes on for more than one reason. So we have to get into the mindset that we have not been saving for ourselves, but have been robbed on behalf of others. This is not saved money, it is lost money.

Any attempt to fix this immoral and broken system is inevitably going to involve someone, somewhere taking a financial hit (and more likely it will be everyone, everywhere). A sacrifice is inevitable. And like all of the financial crises which have threatened government with bankruptcy in the past, the longer we wait to make the necessary sacrifice, the worse and more painful that sacrifice will become. We must prepare for it, and we must prepare now. If you want to have a free society, you have to plan to be free of government control in the area of old age and welfare, and this means we have to plan now to replace that system with private options—not just “privatized” options that are still largely controlled by the government—but fully private and voluntary options.

Ending Social Security

A lot of people talk about phasing out or privatizing Social Security, but few actually present any details. As far as I have seen, only one person has published anything like a serious comprehensive plan for phasing out social security. And while that plan has some great ideas, it has one particular deep flaw which is that—in trying to minimize the pain for the dependent generation and those who have already paid in for years—it takes forty years to complete the phase-out. And it’s just not reasonable to expect people to take progressive cuts in benefits over that long of a period without complaining, and thus, it’s even more unreasonable to expect politicians to stay the course on a painful and unpopular program (at least unpopular with most of the beneficiaries) for the course of ten presidential terms, and twenty Congressional elections. It’ll just never happen.

So whatever happens first needs to include quick, substantial, and decisive actions—be it political or private.

There are two ways to aim at this: either completely abolish the system immediately, or do so over some period of time—whether sooner or later, preferably sooner—in steps. If we hope to abolish it immediately, we will cause widespread hardship for those who are entirely dependent on the system. If we do so gradually, we risk never truly breaking free from it. Although, I think the gradual option is probably the better of the two practically speaking, as long as it is done definitively and quick. And the best way to ensure its success will be to make the primary immediate goal to allow people to opt out of the system, and with the choice to exclude themselves, they are never allowed to draw benefits, but most importantly they are exempt from the taxation for the system. This is the main step toward a free society: the option to get out of the system if you want to.

But this freedom will require sacrifices, both material and psychological, in the mean time. These pertain specifically to the things we can do personally, now. Here is my advice.

The first thing you need to do is to plan—personally, financially for yourself—as if you will receive nothing from Social Security. Pretend as if it already does not exist—even though it does. This involves planning financially and mentally for personal sacrifice. Planning financially is a no-brainer: you begin to save money at a rate that will allow you to have substantial resources (in fact, adequate resources) set aside in the day you need it (notice I did not say “when you retire”—retirement and elderly need are two different things). You’ve got to have a large nest egg, and that means saving and investing a substantial percentage of your income now, from as early in your life as possible. You have to create financial independence for yourself for the day that you are no longer able to work, so that we erase the need for dependence on the government’s system. You erase that dependence completely; you replace it with personal independence.

By making ourselves and our families independent of the need for Social Security first, we can begin to delegitimize the program: if we average people can prove we don’t really need it, that means most average people don’t really need it, and that means most people in general don’t need it. In turn, that means that only a small percentage of people truly do need wealth transfers in old age in order just to live a modest lifestyle, or especially just to survive. But once we reach that point, we are talking about an entirely different social circumstance: small cases can easily be met by private charity from families, businesses, and churches (as Paul commanded the churches to do by the way). And this means we don’t need a government-run program at all, and therefore we should dismantle it and end the taxation for it. Through self-discipline, self-sacrifice, self-funding, and private charity, we can delegitimize the system even while it exists; and delegitimizing the system will create the political will to abolish it.

Achieving Personal Financial Independence

But making that first step for ourselves is the hard part. It will mean a major sacrifice for most people, because we have unconsciously trusted in the Social Security system as the means for old age security, and we have not saved money and wealth at a rate anywhere near high enough to sustain us in that time. Most people, based on the government promise, save very little if any beyond a 401k contribution (which means little more than a few percent usually). And yet if people actually sat down and calculated—based on life expectancy, standard inflation, and their annual expenses based on their expected lifestyle—how much money they will actually need in old age, they would see a large disparity between what they will have and what they will need. Add to this savings set aside for an emergency like temporary unemployment, uninsured auto accident, etc. In a proper scenario, people should be saving at least 20% of their income regularly—and putting it back in a safe investment for future needs.  But this would be a major financial cut into most people’s lifestyle, because what people should be saving but are not saving, they are currently spending and even borrowing beyond that the maximum amounts possible. While people have neglected to save, they have simultaneously bought the largest house possible (with 95 or sometimes 100%+ mortgages), best cars possible, plus all the perks like $100/month cable TV plans, and much, much more. And much of the investment in these areas is mortgaged and sometimes second-mortgaged—and people are stuck in the investments. Even if most people do see the evils of maxed-out living, millions of people are now upside-down in their mortgage—could not sell their house for anywhere near what they bought it for—and thus would have great difficulty transitioning into a lifestyle of thrift and saving because of the very burdens by which they have maxed themselves out to begin with. It’s a trap—a self-set, self-sprung trap. Becoming independent and free will mean a major lifestyle sacrifice (perhaps seemingly impossible for some) to start saving a large percentage of their income towards the goal of old-age security.

How could this be done? Well, you have to set your mind on personal sacrifice. This relates to my second piece of practical advice: preparing mentally for sacrifice. Whether we phase out Social Security over time, or the State starts trimming benefits in order to save, or it goes completely bust overnight on its own as some predict, nearly all people are going to take a financial hit in some way anyway. Before that time comes, we who wish to decentralize political power and take personal responsibility and restore freedom, need to accept the fact that we are going to lose at least some money in that system and because of that system. You’re going to get robbed, and the cash is going to be lost forever. Accept it; get over it; move on. But that sacrifice is short-term. The long-term gain we get for that short-term sacrifice is the freedom and independence we say we want. The time to prepare for a better way of living—for both moral and practical reasons—is now. Mentally forfeiting and foregoing alleged future benefits will help us train our minds to accept a lifestyle of thrift and sacrifice in general. That mental preparation will get us over the initial hump of beginning to plan for an independent financial future, and will then help sustain us as we carry that new vision out day-by-day into the future. From that mentality, then, we begin voluntarily to trim and pare down our lifestyles to more conservative and viable proportions.

For the person who has simply refused to save to date, and whose mortgage and lifestyle have maxed out their income or more, there needs to be a tremendous personal accounting, and then cutting back. You need to sit down and take a scalpel to your budget. Do you really need all the appointments, pool and gym memberships, more new clothing and shoes and jewelry, TVs, gadgets, expensive food and shopping, eating out, expensive lattes every morning? The list is infinite for many people. Hundreds if not thousands of dollars are spent every month on unnecessary consumption. And most spending on consumer items is irredeemable—it is wealth gone forever rather than invested. So the capital is lost, and any interest the wealth would have gained had it been invested is also forfeited. Meanwhile, these same people rest assured that they will retire some day (maybe even sooner rather than later) at least partially on Social Security which is taxation on the younger generation. In other words, they live to the max now, giving no thought for the future, and then live off government coercion in the end. For anyone who accepts this arrangement and refuses to change, I have no sympathy, no desire to help, and frankly, consider it immoral that anyone else should be taxed to sustain those gluttonous, careless people in their old age. It’s immoral to tax people for that purpose in general; it’s grossly immoral when done in these cases.

You tell me, why in the world should anyone living a maxed-out, debt-ridden, gluttonous lifestyle be entitled to one cent of taxes taken from someone else for their retirement? I understand that there is a genuine charity case in the poorest of the poor and the truly vulnerable (but we can easily address that problem), but don’t tell me it’s moral and necessary and right to tax anyone for the benefit of someone else who squandered their entire income all their life, never saved a penny, and lived as high a lifestyle as they could along the way. No one owes that person anything, and they deserve to reap the benefits of their own immoral decisions. They should live the latter part of their lives in financial distress as a fitting punishment compensating for their earlier wastefulness. If you want “social justice,” that’s social justice.

In the meantime, for those who have currently entrapped themselves in debt and wasteful living, if they wish to rise out of it, then they need to commit both mentally and in practice to cutting back. And depending on how they choose to perform in that endeavor, their own financial future will manifest accordingly.

And this really applies to all of us. We all need to make plans, make cuts to return to a level of lifestyle that allows us to save money, purchase private insurance, and put ourselves in a position either to demand freedom from the government system, or to live freely when it collapses. In other words, if we’re really about freedom, if we’re really serious about breaking free from government control in old age, savings, and inheritance, then we will make the sacrifices in order to prepare to do so.

Opting Out of the System

The way forward is to delegitimize the government wealth transfer system by replacing it with a genuine private savings and retirement system. The means to do this is through personal sacrifice, responsibility, thrift, saving, and a public demand for individual freedom. And only once we have exercised the discipline, will we have a legitimate political demand to be removed from the system. This has to start with those of us who value freedom. We have to make the sacrifice, expecting nothing in return, until we can form enough of a base to demand exemption from the system—and an option of freedom for all who choose to live free.

There is already precedent for this in certain religious communities—notably the Amish and Mennonites. Due to their resistance to the tax back in 1961, they received a legal exemption from the system—both the program and the taxation. And they received exemption because they already a viable independent system in place, and had a religious conviction against being involved in a coercive government scheme. But, the legislative changes were worded so that the exemption really only applies to their groups. But, this does set a precedent. There is no reason that that legal language should remain so restrictive. There is no reason the exemption should not be extended to anyone with religious convictions against public insurance. This is a very serious thought for a future goal.

A very similar approach should be taken to Medical Insurance—for everyone and the elderly. Now this is more difficult than mere savings. Saving money in the face of taxation is one thing, but the effects of Medicare upon the insurance industry for people over 65 makes opting out a very tough choice. Private plans, if you can find one, could run around $2,000 per month, which makes it tough for most people; and even then, those plans won’t cover anything that Medicare covers. Now, there are already private Christian sharing programs that are very affordable and very effective in covering health care costs—and since they are not insurance programs, they are exempted from government regulation and pressure; and were specifically exempted from Obamacare. This is the type of private system that can provide a viable way forward.

Plus, Medicare is provided only if people receive Social Security benefits, and opting out by law means one must also forfeit Social Security benefits and pay back all previously received Social Security benefits. A judge upheld this federal statute in September 2011, denying a senior’s legal request to opt out without penalty. U. S. Circuit Judge Henderson noted, “[T]he actual question placed before this Court is whether the Social Security Administration can lawfully promulgate a quasi–regulatory provision that penalizes individuals who seek to decline coverage under Medicare, Part A, by requiring them to forfeit their Social Security retirement benefits.”2 The appeal was squashed the following Spring. So there is significant financial cold water in the face for anyone at 65 who wants to try to opt out.

But the main things here are that we must put ourselves in a position of moral and financial high ground. Make the mental preparations to abandon government dependence, despite the losses. Then, start planning, cutting, down-sizing, and saving for your own retirement, and start now with your own life insurance arrangements while you’re young and lock in cheap rates. Only with that in place first will we have a good shot at gaining legal exemptions from the corrupt system of taxation and wealth transfer.

There is yet a more radical position we can take. We could demand immediate exemption from the system, and if successful in attaining it, we would then face the situation of fending for our own financial futures as I just described—only, immediately. In such a case, the very fact that we find ourselves outside of the system, and without the so-called safety-net, might in itself act as the motivation for the tough changes in mindset and lifestyle we’ve talked about. Tough decisions sometimes require tough motivation.

This option, however, would also mean a large-scale social need for millions of people already dependent on the system; they would have to find immediately another source of income (possibly families, or churches where applicable). There would probably be furor from large groups demanding what they see as the money they’ve paid into the system and therefore are entitled to, even thought the system was never designed that way. There would definitely be riots. The better approach, I think, is simply to work toward the freedom to opt-out of the system—both its taxes and benefits. That would begin the end of the system.

Conclusion

So how do we get the freedom back? The best way is two-fold: first, the immediate personal effort that we can do now is to plan and save and change lifestyles in order to meet our own needs for our own old age security. That is, despite the system still existing, pretend that it does not, and that all taxes paid in are stolen and lost (which they are). Refuse all future entitles, and galvanize your minds against the bribery of the promises. This delegitimizes the system, and earns us the moral high ground to demand freedom from the system for all who desire it. Second, we aim politically at making that demand as broad and as public as we can; and we can even seek to erect local and state political protections against federal intrusion into our payrolls.

Now I would like to make one important point in closing. This freedom of opting out of the system which I’m talking working toward, and gaining the moral high ground from which to make that demand—that freedom already exists. We can, legally, morally, rightly, make that political demand to be free right now without having made any other preparation. We have the right to be free from that system. I don’t it to be misconstrued that I am saying that right won’t exist until we prepare ourselves mentally and financially. It exists now, and we can and should announce from every street corner, and in every election. But I outlined here is a more practical approach at getting that right to manifest in society. By putting our efforts with our demand, we create a very powerful witness in society; and whether we succeed politically or not, we will in effect make ourselves financially independent of that federal system of taxation and redistribution. And if enough people do that for themselves, we will see two things emerge: first, we will see a growing awareness of the situation, as people who take responsibility for themselves begin to become a visible block of society, influence others, and create a real community and a real social ethic. And from this, second, we will see very quickly that these communities emerge and manifest in concentrated areas of the country, and they will be widespread in the more conservative areas, which are the vast majority of counties in this nation. And when that happens, we just may begin to see local communities and counties, perhaps even entire states, protect their people from politically and physically from federal intrusions.

But the best way to make this begin is to prepare yourself financially and psychologically to be independent, as if the system already does not exist, and you sacrifice what they take in the meantime. Only by that sacrifice and that preparation will we have a real shot a restoring and sustaining a free society.

Next section: “County Rights”: An Ideal of Freedom in Civil Government

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Notes:

 

  1. David Walker interviewed by Kimberly Palmer, “David Walker explains Social Security’s Future,” June 16, 2009, http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2009/06/16/david-walker-explains-social-securitys-future (accessed April 21, 2011).
  2. Hall v. Sebellius (2011); The appeal was squashed by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who added to Henderson’s notes: “We obviously cannot do anything here about the coverage practices of private insurers. And the statute simply provides no mechanism for a person who is 65 or older and has signed up for Social Security to disclaim his or her entitlement to Medicare Part A benefits (or to “disenroll,” as plaintiffs put it). . . . One of the consequences of the expanded social safety net fashioned by the Federal Government is that private entities or charities sometimes adjust benefits based on whether a recipient is otherwise entitled to government-provided benefits. We recognize that plaintiffs are frustrated with this particular manifestation of that broader phenomenon. But absent a constitutional or statutory violation, it is not our role to police that allocation of government and private resources.” (http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/8A1A2C8F6BD52E3C85257A0E00502466/$file/11-5076-1376121.pdf).
Categories: Worldview

Freedom in Welfare: how it was lost

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 07:18

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 2: Welfare

2.2 How Freedom was Lost in America

We have seen how matters of human welfare in a free society should only stem from the legal institution of the family and private insurance arrangements. And we have seen, now, how that’s the way it used to be in America, and people didn’t starve because of it. So what changed? Why the monumental change from freedom to coercion, free markets to taxation and fines, from families and parents to a paternal State? Why?

We’ve already mentioned, in our discussion of education, the rise of the secular/Unitarian belief system and with that the rise of the belief in remedial social institutions—the asylum, prison, alms house, and public school—aimed at improving the individual through experts controlling his environment. And with this, the constant cry for government power to impose these institutions as necessary; and then as they failed over and over, the constant cries for greater control and larger budgets. We talked about all of that and the anti-Christian worldview upon which it is built.

What this shows is that there was already a mentality at work among a small, self-dubbed elite who believed in using government control to “improve” mankind as a collective society. This is in America as early as the 1830s with Horace Mann and others, and it grew from there.

Two important things (among others) would eventually happen that would open the floodgates to this type of thinking among government officials. The first was the creation of the first modern social welfare state under Otto von Bismarck in Germany in 1883, and the precedent that set. While Bismarck was not necessarily a hero on American soil, the same viewpoint was systematized in America a decade later when a sociologist named Lester Frank Ward revolutionized the field with his work entitled Dynamic Sociology. This massive 1200-page work provided a completely new version of social Darwinism that demanded a paternal State, and the view eventually swept American academia and politics. And when it came time later to implement Ward’s views on a massive scale, the propagandists immediately harkened back to Bismarck as a defense of their views!

Bismarck’s Dubious Legacy

So let us first take a look at what happened in Prussia under his majesty the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. As I said, Bismarck’s welfare program began in 1883. In Europe, obviously, there were already many socialist and communist movements. The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had already been published in the German language in 1848, and there were certainly many cells of socialist and communist thinking at the time. The irony is that Bismarck installed his systems allegedly as a defense against the growing demands of socialists and communists—all the while arguing that his system was in fact not socialism, but simply welfare, or as he put it, “practical Christianity legally demonstrated.”1 Many critics of his system pointed out the obvious—that Bismarck’s measures to impose social insurance and health insurance via State taxation (up to a third of one’s income) was itself socialism which he pretended to combat. He gave a speech in defense of his measures denying it and brandishing the label of “practical Christianity.” He used this label from then on and often. A famous professor of German history at Harvard in the early twentieth century saw the hypocrisy very clearly. He wrote that Bismarck “was the sworn enemy of the Socialist party—he attempted to destroy it, root and branch; yet through the nationalization of railways and the obligatory insurance of workmen he infused more Socialism into German legislation than any other statesman before him.”2 Eventually, Bismarck himself would refer to his “practical Christianity” as “our State Socialism”3—which, of course, everyone already knew.

And since everyone knew this, they also knew it was really no defense against the more revolutionary Socialists and Communists. Instead of stopping the trend, it put it in motion and increased it; and even worse, it turned the very people who opposed it into dependents upon it. There was no way out after that. Interestingly, one guy who saw these effects very clearly was perhaps the most famous biographer of Adolph Hitler. William Shirer in his book Rise and Fall of the Third Reich writes this,

To combat socialism Bismarck put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector. Hitler, as we shall see, took full advantage of this state of mind. In this, as in other matters, he learned much from Bismarck. “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation,” Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf (p. 155), “in its intention, struggle and success.” (William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960, 96.)

Bismarck’s system became the model not only for Hitler later, but for Welfare States all over the world. Politicians and activists studied its laws, its methods, how it was passed, the way rhetoric and euphemisms were used to sell it to the public—for example, in this country, the taxes used to fund it have been called “contributions” from day one, by design. It’s not a “tax,” it’s a “contribution.” It’s not “socialism,” it’s “practical Christianity.” These are word games used to deceive people. But it’s common practice. When Bismarck-style programs finally got a firm foothold in America, in the 1930s under FDR’s so-called “New Deal,” it was openly admitted that Bismarck was the model. One biographer and propagandist of FDR’s administration wrote,

Social security is not a new idea. . . . Other nations of the world are far ahead of the United States in battling this important economic problem. Von Bismarck, the founder of the German Empire, nearly fifty years ago launched a plan for social security. The Iron Chancellor, who could hardly be called the precursor of radicalism, was only putting into effect sentiments that had been uttered by statesmen before him.4

This open acknowledgment remains even today on a page on the Social Security Administration’s own website.

Socialism and Social Darwinism

So that was the influence of Bismarck. Secondly, there was the influence of the new version of social Darwinism promoted by Lester Frank Ward. His magnum opus Dynamic Sociology was published in America in the same year Bismarck passed his first social insurance measures. Now up until Ward, social Darwinists had simply taken Darwin’s biological theory of natural selection and applied it to the market place and the political sphere. In particular, the idea of “survival of the fittest” was used by men like Herbert Spencer in England and William Graham Sumner in America to argue for laissez-faire markets. Competition should rule the day and there should be no artificial leveling of results. The winners win and the losers lose, period. The fittest survive and the unfittest don’t. That’s nature and we shouldn’t try to change it.

And while that philosophy will resonate in general with most lovers of free markets, it had the unfortunate quality of harshness and lack of charity that made for bad PR. Frankly, the field was ripe for some progressive to come along with a system that sounded more like it had everyone’s best interest in mind, and not just that of the fittest. This is exactly what Ward did.

Ward’s theory said that yes, society does evolve just like Darwin taught of biological life, but there was one important qualifier: with the evolution of man and his complex brain, the ability to reflect, reason, and plan has brought about a change in the nature of evolution. No more is it to be a blind natural force, but man has been endowed by evolution with the status of director and planner of evolution. So now, instead of ramming and trampling each other, man was to build institutions for governing and improving the race, and thereby to advance the species.

This theory suited the reforming elites and progressives just fine—they had always since the 1830s seen themselves as the reformers and directors of society. Now Ward provided academic justification for their actions. Ward soon dominated the field of sociology, academic curricula, and was made the first president of the American Sociological Association. His line of thinking began to produce a whole new generation of academic and political leaders who believed in progressive intervention in society via government power.

There was an immediate effect on the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, and even more so for Woodrow Wilson—especially during the War State. From that point on, the academics and activists began to pour out of the universities and into bureaucratic positions and think tanks funded by organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation. These formed a tireless army behind the scenes writing legislation and scheming ways to get it passed as soon as possible.

Harry Hopkins, a close adviser to FDR and chairman of the Works Progress Administration overseeing public works, exemplified the mentality of a ruling elite cramming legislation through in a time of crisis. He was quoted in a New York Times article in 1934:

You aren’t going to get health insurance if you expect people to do it voluntarily. I am convinced that by one bold stroke we could carry the American people along not only for health insurance but also for unemployment insurance. I think it could be done in the next eighteen months.5

FDR got his Social Security Act passed in 1935, but unlike Bismarck, FDR only got through one main piece of the social welfare—Social Security. The bureaucrats and activists, however, who drew up the law had much more in mind. They just had to wait to see it get passed. In the mean time, even the Social Security Act was being challenged as to its constitutionality.

Interestingly, the original bill as introduced actually included a mandate for lawmakers to begin working on similar measures for health insurance, but this was written out of the bill during committee. This meant that Congress expressly removed this authorization for further Congressional studies from the original Social Security Act. But this did not stop the activists. And Congress had made one important oversight: it forgot to remove three little words—“and related matters”—from a pertinent section of the bill, and the liberal activist Isidore Falk would leverage this phrase as statutory authority to conduct continuing researches and publications regarding health insurance and other forms of social control.

In fact, the socialists didn’t even wait for the Supreme Court ruling: they already had papers and laws written ready to go when that time came. Marjorie Shearon, who was an aid and an insider to the bureaucrats during this time (and who, by the way, later repented of what she had been a part of and defected, writing a book about it) relates that “With the validation of the Social Security Act, the bureaucratic world within the agency went wild. Expansionist plans, hidden in desk drawers and files up to that time, came out boldly into the open.”6

Immediately after the Supreme Court validated the Act in 1937, Shearon writes that her boss, who was Isidore Falk himself at the time, turned to her and said this:

I want you to study and make yourself an expert in compulsory health insurance. Old-age and unemployment insurance are now here to stay. They will be modified and expanded, but health insurance will be the great new advance in social insurance. It’s the coming thing and *we* will draft the new laws.7

In 1946, Falk published a booklet in the Congressional Record called Medical Care Insurance.8 Shearon describes that this book “must be regarded as the Mein Kampf of the nationalization of American Medicine.”9 It contained

the most comprehensive description of the plans to capture every aspect of health and medical care in this country that has ever been published. It explained the necessity for Federal control of personal health services, the unification of preventative and curative services, medical education, medical research, hospitals, health centers—everything, all under the control of one agency and, though not stated explicitly, there was the implication that one man would be the Czar of Medicine: Isidore S. Falk. ((Shearon, 150.))

The goal was a total socialized State. A lady named Jane Hoey, who was Director of the Social Security Board’s Bureau of Public Assistance, published a book called Common Human Needs in which she stated it plainly. She wrote, “Social security and public assistance programs are a basic essential for the attainment of the socialized state envisaged by democratic ideology, a way of life which so far has been realized only in slight measure.”10

From this we learn at least two things: first, the people who wrote and pushed the laws saw them plainly as measures of socialism—a “socialized state”; and second, they’re never satisfied until they’ve reached a fully socialized state. Until then, they keep working, and the end justifies the subversive, lying, elitist means.

The “Ratchet Effect”

This brings up an important factor of leftist ideology and practice of which we should all be aware: it is the “ratchet effect.” If leftists can’t get the full plan they want, they will fight for as much of it as they can get, knowing that once it’s in place, people will get addicted to the benefit, and as much as gets put in place will never be rescinded. This forms the starting point for the next piece of legislation. This is how many of them viewed their work in explicit terms. Sydney Webb, who was one of the most active and influential socialists in the Fabian group in England a century or more ago, said it openly: “No nation having once nationalized or municipalized any industry has ever retraced its steps or reversed its action.”11

This is exactly what we find in the socialized takeover of America: socialism by small creeping increments. The major encroachments, of course, came in 1935 with Social Security and then in 1965 with the Medicare expansion. But also we should include Bush’s expansion of Medicare in 2003, and then Obamacare in 2010. But even these major increments don’t tell the whole story. You originally had the welfare as part of Indian pacification (1840s already), but the slippery slope really began with Union Civil War veterans who had been wounded in battle; then widows and orphans of these veterans, then all Union veterans, then all their families, then their extended families. Pretty soon, labor unions began to see the prospect of collective agitation for welfare payments during recession. Then WWI hit and Wilson’s War State centralized everything and set a precedent for what was to come in this country. It was creeping increments, creeping increments—little here, little there—until the trap was closed. We took the cheese, and now we’re in the trap. . . .

Except, it doesn’t have to be a trap. There is still a beginning of a way out. We’ll talk about it in the next section.

Next section: Freedom in Welfare: How to get it back

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Notes:

  1. Quoted in Marjorie Shearon, Wilbur J. Cohen: The Pursuit of Power, A Bureaucratic Biography (Marjorie Shearon, 1967), 5.
  2. Shearon, 4.
  3. Moritz Busch 2:483.
  4. P.J. O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt (1936), 84.
  5. Harry Hopkins, quoted in Shearon, 48.
  6. Shearon, 43.
  7. Isidore Falk, quoted in Shearon, 49.
  8. Senate Committee Print No. 5 of 1946; 79th Cong., 2d Sess.
  9. Shearon, 150.
  10. 1945, p. 34; quoted in Shearon, 34.
  11. Quoted in Shearon, 1.
Categories: Worldview

Hey now, let’s go easy on Kuntzman’s AR-15 trauma

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:17

This story has made its rounds for amusement, but it should also be highlighted as an example of the fine acumen of liberal reporting. Seriously.

Reporter Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News went the extra mile for anti-gun propaganda (some liberal peers still doggedly call it “reporting”) this week by getting hands-on: he actually went to a gun range and, quivering with fear, fired the menacing, terroristic death-stick known as the AR-15. I don’t have to tell you how this turned out.

It felt to me like a bazooka—and sounded like a cannon. . . .

I was just terrified. . . .

The recoil bruised my shoulder. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary case of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.

Even in semi-automatic mode, it is very simple to squeeze off two dozen rounds before you even know what has happened. In fully automatic mode, it doesn’t take any imagination to see dozens of bodies falling in front of your barrel.

Most sane persons have instinctively heaved ridicule at this piece. As Kuntzman’s own follow-up shares, the vast majority questioned his manhood. One quick jester noted, “Hey there Cupcake! . . . I have never subscribed to the idea of ‘gender confusion,’ but after reading your article on the AR-15, I’m a believer because there is no way you and I are the same gender.” Call it liberal evangelism.

Several others did the obvious: sent pics or videos of their elementary-aged children firing the same weapon with smiles. Burn.

The heart-wrenched, dripping fear Kuntzman displayed certainly is an easy target for such ridicule—and I agree, it deserves it. But I want us to be careful here, because we really need to be fair and compassionate. We don’t want to offend anyone.

For example, one may be tempted to muse whether Kuntzman had to change his petticoat after this terrifying shock. But such a remark would be a tremendous insult to women everywhere.

Likewise, one may wonder whether Kuntzman needed a hug and an Otter-Pop to soothe his post-traumatic quivers. Perhaps an extra bedtime story to stave off nightmares. But again, this type of offensiveness is highly unacceptable. Why insult children with such a comparison?

I remember when I was about 12, my grandpa taught me to shoot. Now my grandparents had the cutest toy poodle—the tiniest breed of poodle there is. But when grandpa got out the guns, the dog bee-lined for its little bed, tail between its legs. Grandpa said she was always scared of the loud bangs.

When we came back inside from shooting, the poor dog lay curled up in her bed, cowering, ears lowered, with an uncontrollable case of the shakes. Poor little thing.

Now here, finally, we find a fitting image for Mr. Kuntzman’s reported experience. And yet, still, I just can’t go there, out of respect for dogs and dog lovers.

So, I honestly don’t know how best to categorize this failure, except maybe “epic.” But that’s so cliché, and way more serious than Kuntzman deserves. Cowardly. Comical. Farcical. Almost amusing—albeit that’s only true if he was in earnest to begin with.

Was Kuntzman lying?

There are a number of people who simply think this is so ridiculous it has to be made up. This is the “Kuntzman is a liar” hypothesis—which, I admit, has a certain plausibility.

It also has supporting evidence. For starters, Kuntzman has since quietly edited his original piece in light of the torrents of laughter, clearly trying to ameliorate his case without being too obvious. Yet his article currently contains no information or note disclosing these edits. Note the current version here with edits in bold italics:

The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary form [not “case”] of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.

Even in semi-automatic mode, it is very simple to squeeze off two dozen rounds before you even know what has happened. If illegally modified to fully automatic mode, it doesn’t take any imagination to see dozens of bodies falling in front of your barrel.

The edits seem to me to be a response of HotAir’s two particular criticisms: the ridiculousness of a .223 actually bruising someone’s shoulder, and the nonsense about an AR-15 being “In fully automatic”—something not available on the vast majority (like 99.99%) of civilian models.

But instead of saying “oops, I was wrong, sorry,” Kuntzman edits the story without admitting his faults. Pulitzer material, that.

Secondly, even after showing such sensitivity to cover his tail, Kuntzman doubles down on his spin. In his follow-up, he continues:

Yes, this weapon scared the crap out of me. And it should scare the crap out of all of you, too. An AR-15 is a weapon of mass destruction, . . .

Brilliant! The best way to cover up one lie is to tell an even bigger one. And this one even does double service. It attempts to excuse Kuntzman’s diaper while at the same time magnifying his propaganda: to stigmatize the AR-15. Now it’s not just big-loud-bang, boo-hoo scary. Now it’s a weapon of mass destruction!

Lol.

Except, WMDs actually only refer to chemical, biological, or radioactive devices; or in the case of civilian criminal definitions, certain bombs, grenades, and missiles. But sorry, no AR-15s here.

And someone really should inform Kuntzman that with such careless use of terms like “weapons of mass destruction,” a liberal journalist could end up doing something like, oh I don’t know, justifying GWB’s invasion of Iraq, for example.

But the unintended consequences don’t end there. Do the clueless scaremongers not realize how much they help the gun industry with antics like this? For the sane, there is no better ad-copy than Kuntzman’s article. Ad-writers dream of writing copy this good!

FLASH SALE!
GET THE GUN THAT GIVES LIBERALS INSTANT PTSD
“Feels like a Bazooka, Sounds like a Cannon!”*
THIS WEEKEND ONLY!
WHILE SUPPLIES LAST

*Source: The New York Daily News

Plus, fully automatic? Take my money!

Conclusion

So I said Kuntzman’s article needs distribution for the great example of liberal acumen that it is. Well, that was a bit tongue in cheek, but there is some truth to it. Make no mistake: the lessons to be learned here are not found in the obvious inverted pyramid of authorial intent, but in the more penetrating bullet points read between the lines. (Nota bene: some of these are review lessons from many past experiences.)

What we learn here starts with nothing new: liberals don’t like guns. The part about Kuntzman being “anxious and irritable” is believable, too, but I assume it to be the case of self-righteous progressives in general, loud bangs or not. But as for the old lesson about liberals hating guns, we can thank Kuntzman for bringing out the Bozo routine at its heart.

We also see the lesson—so often repeated—that liberals will spin the biggest lies imaginable in service of their agenda, which is, after all, built on even bigger lies.

We also learn that when their lies are exposed by facts or common sense, they will lie again in an attempt to cover their exposed lies.

We learn, therefore, that liberal humanists are generally impervious to facts. But this is instructive: it means they and their agenda can only be emotionally-driven.

Now it’s all starting to make sense. This conclusion comports perfectly with Kuntzman’s overall case: he was terrified of the loud bang made by the AR-15. He was disoriented and rendered dysfunctional by something that most men, many women, and even some children find invigorating, exciting, an inspiring source of confidence and freedom, and yet quite uncomplicated: a low-caliber, common self-defense weapon.

Questions of manhood and maturity aside (though not dismissed), there is really a simple issue here of one being out of touch with reality.

And, finally, we can deduce a corollary from our lessons: one of the best ways to keep liberals away from you, to keep them in a semi-catatonic state (the silence would be golden), and to make sure you don’t become like a liberal, is to learn about guns yourself, to buy an AR-15, and to shoot it often.

Now, if we can figure out a way to make these lying humanists equally fearful of keyboards and Congress, we will be making real progress.

Categories: Worldview

The End Times and the Islamic AntiChrist

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 07:10

Thomas Jefferson, serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, attempting to negotiate a peace treaty with the Islamic world of their time. Jefferson and Adams argued in vain that the United States was not at war with Islam. The following is from a March 28, 1786 letter addressed to John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Continental Congress, and signed by Adams and Jefferson. It concerned their conversation with the Tripoli ambassador:

We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [archaic word for Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.1

Unless a nation submits to Islam—whether that nation was an aggressor or not—that nation was by definition at war with Islam. Jihad means “to submit.” A non-aggressing nation is still at war with Islam as long as it hasn’t embraced Islam. Islam’s goal is to conquer the world, either by the submission of one’s will or by Allah’s sword.2

When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute demanded by the Islamists, Tripoli declared war on the United States. A United States navy squadron, under Commander Edward Preble, blockaded Tripoli from 1803 to 1805. After rebel soldiers from Tripoli, led by United States Marines, captured the city of Derna, the Pasha of Tripoli signed a treaty promising to exact no more tribute.3

As expected, there are many Christians today who believe that the rise of Islamic persecution of Christians is a sign that we are living in the last days. What’s happening to Christians around the world at the hands of Islamists is horrific, but it’s not new. There’s a history of Islamic persecution of Christians that goes back centuries. Philip Jenkins presents us with a brief look into the war that Islam has had with Christians:

Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Turks dominated most of the southeastern quadrant of Europe, and in 1683, they came very close to capturing Vienna, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. As Hilaire Belloc noted, “Less than 100 years before the American War of Independence a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and destroy Christian civilization, and would have done so if the catholic King of Poland had not destroyed the army outside of Vienna.”4

Many thousands of Christians were enslaved, however. Muslims occupied “the role of aggressors and slave-masters. Balkan Christian populations remained under heavy-handed Turkish oppression until modern times, suffering a brutal occupation that can legitimately be compared to later European experiences under the Nazis and Communists.”5

This very brief history should dispel any notion that our fight with Islamic extremism is something new and a sign of the last days. It’s not. In fact, the fight with Islam goes back nearly 1500 years, and throughout that history prophecy writers have viewed Islam in its many incarnations as a prophetic end-time villain signaling the near return of Jesus in one of the five “rapture” positions6 or in the Second Coming itself.

There is no doubt that Islam has designs on conquering the world. What’s held it at bay for many centuries is a fully robust Christianity that has advanced civilization. When Christianity is embraced as the “light of the world,” secularism and religious cults like Islam fade in the bright light of a full-orbed Christian worldview. When Christians retreat from the world, it allows evil to migrate into areas where it was once dispelled (Matt. 12:22–29).

The advance of Islam in our day has taken place because of a weakened Christianity. Religion, like nature, abhors a vacuum. G.K. Chesterton observed that when people cease to believe in God they do not end up believing in nothing, they end up believing in anything, no matter how absurd.

The danger for Christians today is that they are being told, and many are believing, that the reemergence of aggressive Islam is a sign of the end. Rather, Christians should see Islam and anti-Christianism as indicators that Christianity has adopted a false gospel of dualism and escapism. When the world seems to be on the brink of destruction, prophecy books fly off the presses faster than people can read them assuring the people of God that this time the end really is near.

A few years ago I received a letter from someone who claimed that it is impossible to transform society in any meaningful way since “the world is being run by Satan.” Like many Christians today, the letter writer is a believer in an end-time scenario that demands the return of Jesus in our generation to take us out of this world. Until that happens, don’t look for and do not expect to be successful at any type of long-term societal transformation. While she agrees “that each of us can make a contribution to the quality of life on this planet, we will never ‘transform society.’ If we could, God wouldn’t have said that He would have to do it. He’s sending His Son to vanquish the wicked.”

In the meantime, like so many who are caught up in this type of “prophetic inevitability” thinking, there’s not much Christians can or should do. Too many Christians are caught between “This World Is Not My Home” and “This Is My Father’s World.” Which is it? In reality, it’s the latter. That’s why we are taught to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 5:10). Since all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus (Matt. 28:18–20), how can Satan be running this world? Satan is a single creature with limited power.7

The problem isn’t Satan; it’s us (James 1:13–16). Satan was described to the Corinthians as the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). Older translations translated the Greek word aion as “world.” The more accurate translation is “age.” Satan was and is no more a god than a person’s belly is a god (Phil 3:19). Satan was and is no more a god than Herod was a god (Acts 12:21–24).

Many people don’t realize that Christianity gave rise to the best in art, science, music, literature, education, economic theory, publishing, and much of the western world’s legal system. Christians for the most part were not dualistic. They believed God is sovereign over everything, including this world. This truth helps explain, for example, why “real science arose only once: in Europe. . . . In contrast with the dominant religious and philosophical doctrines in the non-Christian world, Christians developed science because they believed it could be done, and should be done.”8

The following example of “prophetic inevitability” thinking is extreme, but even more moderate examples end up having an impact on Christians and how they view this world and what can be accomplished this side of heaven:

“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology . . . that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need . . . The response of the (student) . . . reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.9

As extreme as this example is, this type of thinking prevails more than one would think. Jan Markell is a believer in an end-time scenario that demands the return of Jesus in our generation to rescue us from inevitable doom. Until that happens, do not look for and do not expect to be successful at any type of long-term societal transformation. In fact, to participate in this type of work Markell tells her audience is “delusional” and will keep “people out of heaven.” We are most fortunate that there were enough people centuries ago who were not hoodwinked by an eschatological claim like hers. What would Christians who follow Markell’s end-time worldview be saying and doing today if they were faced with calls to abolish the slave trade and build long-lasting productive cultures?10 Markell uses 2 Timothy 3:13 to support her end-time claims:

There is no Biblical support for this belief, for the Bible teaches just the opposite. In the end of days, bad things will wax worse and worse until the world calls out for a savior.

Second Timothy 3:13 actually says, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (KJV). For twenty centuries, billions of people have called out to Jesus to be their savior and have gone on to do marvelous things in God’s name. It says nothing about “until the world calls out for a savior.” Earlier in the same chapter, Paul told Timothy that these evil people “will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two [Jannes and Jambres] came to be” (v. 8). While the ungodly self-destruct, Timothy was to “continue in the things” he had “learned and become convinced of” (v. 14). Providentially, the history of the church is the history of men and women following Paul’s instructions and not the speculations of people like Markell.

Jan Markell also described the world as a “sinking Titanic.” The description of this world as a floundering ship about to meet a deep end was made famous, as Joel McDurmon reports,11 by “1950’s radio preacher J. Vernon McGee [1904–1988] who warned his listeners with the rhetorical question, ‘Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?’”12

In a similar way, popular Bible teacher and pastor John MacArthur argues that “‘Reclaiming’ the culture is a pointless, futile exercise.”13

And Markell, McGee, and MacArthur used the fruits of a Christian worldview to proclaim their message of an inevitable demise.

Why bother with the future when it’s about to sink like the Titanic? If McGee used the sinking ship analogy in the 1950s and tens of millions of Christians followed his warning, then there’s the distinct possibility that his message has had an impact on where we are as a nation today.

Am I dismissing how bad things are in our culture? I am not. But no matter how bad things seem, there is always hope when the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken seriously and His Word is applied broadly.

For example, Josef Tson, who suffered under Communism in the 1970s, succinctly captures the importance of eschatology—the biblical doctrine of the future—during a time of what seemed like certain destruction for him and his nation. Tson, a Christian leader in the former Communist country of Romania, was challenged in 1977 by a friend to help set up an organization that would expose Communism. Pastor Tson’s response was startling given the oppressive regime that dominated his country at that time. He assured his Christian friend of the following:

Communism is an experiment that has failed. It wasn’t able to fulfill any of its promises and nobody believes in it any more. Because of this, it will one day collapse on its own. Now, why should I fight something that is finished? I believe that our task is a different one. When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society! I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis.

Who could conceive of such a future scenario given the seemingly indestructible nature and advance of Communism? For many it seemed like the claimed inevitability of apocalyptic doom. Pastor Tson’s friend challenged him by claiming that “Communism will triumph all over the world, because that is the movement of the Antichrist. And when the communists take over in the United States, they will then kill all the Christians. We have only one job to do: to alert the world and make ready to die.”

Eventually, both men were forced to leave Romania. Pastor Tson started a training program for Christian leaders who remained in Romania. His friend, as Pastor Tson tells the story, “has not done anything for Romania. He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.”

Contrary to his friend’s expectations, neither event came to pass.

The Communist regime in Romania fell, and President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were captured, tried, and found guilty of genocide. They were executed on December 25, 1989. The remaining Communists were swept from power in later elections. Pastor Tson trained more than a thousand people all over Romania. Today, as he tells it, these people are the leaders in churches in evangelical denominations and in key Christian ministries. Who could have imagined such a development? Certainly not prophecy writers who had assured Christians that Communism was the then inevitable end-time movement to usher in the antichrist.

Pastor Tson understood that eschatology matters: “You see, the way you look to the future determines your planning and your actions. It is the way you understand the times that determines what you are going to do.”14

The newspaper and news sources in general can be depressing reading these days. No matter who wins the next election, America and the world are in for uncertain times. Instead of ruminating over the negative possibilities, Christians should see all of what will be coming as opportunities. It was in uncertain times that Jesus entered the world. Israel was a captive nation with no political power. The church was birthed when Rome controlled nations from Great Britain to the northern coast of Africa and everything in between. The newly formed Church went about doing its job to bring the gospel to the nations. In time, Rome collapsed under its own fragile moral center, and the Church expanded, setting the moral agenda for the then-known world that is still impacting our world.

**********************

The preceding was the Introduction from Gary DeMar’s newest book, The End Times and the Islamic AntiChrist: Newspaper Exegesis, Prophecy Pundits, and the End-Time Islamic Mahdi

Use the discount code MAHDI to receive 25% OFF The End Times and the Islamic AntiChrist. (This offer is good until through June 30th, 2016.)

Notes:

  1.  The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America from the Signing of the Definite Treaty of Peace 10th September, 1783, to the Adoption of the Constitution, March 4, 1789, 3 vols. [City of Washington: Blair and Rives, 1837] 1:604–605 
  2.  Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006) and Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam — and the Crusades [Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005]
  3.  Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History [New York: Sentinel/Penguin Random House, 2015]
  4.  Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis [New York: Oxford University Press, 2007], 106.
  5.  Jenkins, God’s Continent, 106.
  6. The five “rapture” positions are defined in terms of when Jesus returns to take the church off the earth in relation to a future seven-year “great tribulation” period that supposedly is the final week in Daniel’s “seventy weeks” (Dan. 9:24–27): before (pre), after (post), in the middle of (mid), partially, or just before God pours his wrath out on unbelievers (pre-wrath).
  7.  Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1973), 126–127.
  8.  Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York: Random House, 2005), 14.
  9.  Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69
  10.  Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003) and Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).
  11. Joel McDurmon, “Do You Polish the Brass on a Sinking Ship?” (Jan. 13, 2016)
  12.  Quoted in Gary North, Rapture Fever: Why Dispensationalism is Paralyzed (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1993), 100
  13.  John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Vanishing Conscience: Drawing the Line in a No-Fault, Guilt-Free World (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1994), 12.
  14.  Josef Tson, “The Cornerstone at the Crossroads,” Wheaton Alumni (August/September 1991), 6–7.
Categories: Worldview

Of course it could be a conspiracy, but. . . .

Tue, 06/14/2016 - 12:44

There are already plenty of accusations that the Orlando terror attack was a conspiracy, involving crisis actors, impossible feats with a gun for a single shooter, a clear political agenda, etc. Here is my response to this.

Let me just say that on the off chance something like this were true, it would not surprise me in the least. It would not surprise me in the least if 911 were an inside job, as well as Newtown, Aurora, the Boston Marathon bombing, San Bernardino, and a long list of others. But even if they were all true, it would not matter—meaning, it would not change the nature of the task ahead of us as Christians and Christian Reconstructionists.

For a few years I studied conspiracy theories pretty intensely. I listened to hours upon hours of radio and podcasts (I had a job at the time that was conducive to such listening). I read thousands of pages, in addition to my other studies. I studied conspiracy theories historically from ancient mystery religions, the occult traditions beginning with the alleged Hermes Trismegistus all the way through medieval Kabbalah, alchemy, Templars, up through the revolutionary movements of Weishaupt, the radical enlightenment, Newton, Freemasonry, the history of banking, and all the way up through all the modern conspiracies. I am fully aware that conspiracies happen, that some that were once scoffed at were later proven true, and I believe that many more have probably occurred that will never be known until judgment day.

Through all this learning, I considered the journey as little more than supplemental to a general education in history. I never fell for the trap of thinking that if we could just find that smoking gun and reveal it to the right people, or to enough of the public, then we can stop the nasty conspirators and restore justice. I discerned very early the fatal flaw in this thinking, and I discerned very early why the vast majority of the hundreds or thousands of people consumed by conspiracy theory studies never (that is, never) succeed in stopping the bad guys, stopping the great conspiracy, or restoring freedom and justice.

The reason I discerned early is this: our God-given task is for ethical dominion and faithfulness no matter what, within our own God-given spheres. Pursuing endless conspiracy theories is, instead, a form of Gnosticism. It is pursuing hidden knowledge for knowledge’s sake, with the implicit belief that with enough of this particular knowledge you can improve society.

Yes, I know that my government and many elites want to take away my rights. I know that already, thank you. I don’t need to believe the Orlando shooter was a patsy actor helped by three other secret CIA shooters and covered up by the media that’s in-on-it in order to understand that godless elites want my guns.

The government wants my guns because it’s composed of fallen sinners who want power and who believe they are saviors of mankind. If there were a conspiracy, and this awful deceptive government succeeded in taking our guns because the people fell for a conspiracy that made them fear guns, it would be because the people are fallen sinners, easily herded about by illegitimate and irrational fears.

In the event that any or all of these things is true, then we do not have nearly as big a problem with hidden knowledge and conspiracy as we do with sin, fear, and lack of a positive righteous belief to stand for. We need fewer people highlighting the inconsistencies in news videos and more people preaching Christ and the application of God’s law. That is the only thing that can change the hearts of fearful people and drive the kind of change that stops the bad guys in high places.

Look at it this way: what would you do if you found the ultimate smoking gun, irrefutable proof? What would you do? Who would you go to? Your local news? Your representative in Congress? Your pastor?

Don’t make me laugh.

If the kind of forces and organization exist out there to pull of the grand type of conspiracies you’re talking about, then you can bet that anyone you could go to would be ignored, marginalized, coopted, or murdered with impunity. That’s anyone you could got to, and anyone you could go to.

If the kind of conspiracies exist that so many seem to think, then their continued attempts to expose them are laughably misguided. If the government, CIA, secret occult groups, and all kinds of celebrity and elite leaders are ultimately in on it (in whatever way—even just as useful idiots), then what in the world is the alleged conspiracy-buster doing? He’s watching the conspirators’ media reports, using the conspirators’ internet, posting the conspirators’ videos on the conspirators’ YouTube which is owned by the conspirators’ Google, in hopes that they can get influence with whom? The conspirators in Congress?

If they have had the small bit of grace it takes to give up on Congresspersons already, then they are hoping to use all these tools in order to do what? Influence enough people to reach critical mass and change society? That means they are trying to do the same thing the conspirators have already done far more successfully for a thousand years. That is, they want power like the conspirators want power, only the conspirators have it and are far better at it. Good luck.

In the meantime, what has Christ called us to do? To chase the coattails of conspirators throughout the corridors of history and current events? No. To apply God’s law in our own capacities in all areas of life, and to be faithful in doing so, even unto death.

So, my reaction to nearly any allegations of a conspiracy is the same: of course it could be a conspiracy, but the real problem in society lies with Christians not obeying God’s law in every area of life, and pulpits not preaching and applying it. If that one problem were addressed widely, it would change an awful lot of thing for the better.

But even then there would probably still be conspiracies.

These three things are necessary to understand and to embrace in order to get beyond the paranoia and paralysis induced by conspiracy thinking: 1) God’s sovereignty, 2) the Great Commission, and 3) the fact that conspiracy mongering is Gnosticism.

To this end, I will conclude my comments here with a very helpful and insightful excerpt from Gary North’s Conspiracy: A Biblical View. Read the whole book when you can, but read this much for now to get the core. Then we can talk about a plan going forward.

The Biblical View

The Bible reveals a much longer conspiratorial time frame: a continuing conspiracy against God and His revealed law-order. The faces change, but the issue remains the same: ethics. Money, power, prestige, and influence all flow out of this fundamental issue: Which God should men worship? As the prophet Elijah presented the issue before the people of Israel when they gathered on Mt. Carmel during the reign of Israel’s evil king, Ahab: “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The next sentence is most revealing: “And the people answered him not a word” (I Kings 18:21). They never do, until they see who is going to win the confrontation.

The biblical view of conspiracy neither overestimates the power of conspiracies nor underestimates it. There is one conspiracy, Satan’s, and ultimately it must fail. Satan’s supernatural conspiracy is the conspiracy; all other visible conspiracies are merely outworkings of this supernatural conspiracy. This is the testimony of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible’s account of the Tower of Babel records one unsuccessful effort of the conspiracy, and it ended in the defeat of the conspirators. The cross of Calvary is the ultimate example: satanically successful on the surface, but it led within three days to the definitive defeat in principle of Satan and his host. Christ’s resurrection definitively smashed in principle the satanic conspiracy. History since Calvary is simply the outworking of that definitive victory.

The one overarching conspiracy is therefore in principle disunited. “He that is not with me is against me,” Jesus said, “and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30). This was the conclusion in a line of reasoning which began when the Pharisees criticized Jesus for having exorcised demons. He did it, they argued, by the power of Satan. Jesus knew their thoughts, and He replied: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25-26).

This is the biblical view of the conspiracy of Satan against God: Satan has power even to exorcise his own followers, the demons, but this very power points to his divided kingdom and his coming defeat. He can divide his own earthly followers, engaging them in endless wars, so great is his hatred of mankind, but he cannot defeat God and God’s covenantally faithful people.

There is a surface unity among the conspirators: unity against the enemy, God. This illusion of unity has confused many Christians and almost all conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, the conspirators understand each other. They distrust each other, for they know how ready and willing one subgroup is to subvert and overturn the plans of a rival group. When they forget this lesson, they pay the price. Stalin is a good example. Despite continual warnings from his spies and military advisors, he trusted Hitler right up until the day that the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941. From that time on, Stalin’s paranoia increased exponentially (and it had always been high). He never trusted anyone again. Why should he? All those around him were miniature dictators. Like he had always been, they were conspirators. There was no one worth his trust.

Try building a long-term civilization on paranoia. It cannot be done. The power religion eventually collapses. There is no honor among thieves; there is only suspicion. In the long run, conspiracies against God and His law must fail. . . .

The Gnostic Heresy

The ancient gnostics believed that man is saved by secret knowledge. They believed that man needs to be liberated from this world of matter and elevated, through secret initiation and certain ascetic techniques, into the realm of spirit. Certain groups of contemporary “New Age” humanists hold a very similar viewpoint. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christians and far too many “we must reveal the conspiracy” fanatics who have adopted a variation of this ancient heresy. Their “secret initiation into knowledge about their enemies, whether their enemy is the devil (in the case of Christian investigators) or the conspiracy (in the case of radical conservatives or leftists) serves them as a psychological justification for doing nothing. They think that just knowing more and more about “the Conspiracy” relieves them from doing anything about it. Their endless studying is an excuse for their inactivity. They spend their time with other similarly minded people, enjoying the impotent luxury of exchanging secret phases and knowledge of secret things. They have imitated their enemies; they have created their own inner ring-a secret ring which knows all about their enemy’s secret ring. They become hypnotized with “circles within circles.” Their great spiritual enemy thereby removes them from the real fight.

A continuing theme in this book is that we are not saved by knowledge. We are also not saved by power. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, because He was God’s substitute sacrifice for sinful men. Christ’s victory over Satan and sin is in principle our personal and corporate victory over Satan and sin, in every area of life, including politics. Christianity is the dominion religion. It is not the power religion, nor is it the escape religion.

The first thing to recognize in this cosmic struggle is that those who seek power through manipulation or through execution have in principle lost the battle. They lost it almost 2,000 years ago. They hold power temporarily. Although they are accomplished power manipulators, power is not the issue; ethics is the issue. God and His law are the issue. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels” (Psalm 68: 17a).

Our opponents are not supermen. They are not the masters of history. They are the heads of multinational banks that have more bad loans on their books than they have equity capital. They are the heads of oil companies that face the possibility of an oil glut and a collapse of oil prices. They are the people who gave us Jimmy Carter. They are not so smart. Or better put, they are way too smart for their own good (and ours). In any case, it isn’t a question of brain power; it is a question of ethical standing before God the Judge.

Second, our opponents believe in the power religion. They have become skilled at the capture and retention of power. It is their way of life. Thus, they will not be displaced easily. Reading books about the conspiracy will not displace them. Voting for their hand-picked Presidential candidates every four years will not displace them. We will not be delivered by books or Presidential races. We should not place false hope in programs that are futile, or even self-destructive.

(Gary North, Conspiracy: A Biblical View, 17–19, 95–96.)

Categories: Worldview

Steven Anderson, would you please zip it

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 09:15

Just as soon as the world was greeted with the Islamic terroristic murder of 50 patrons of a homosexual bar, it was also greeted with the verbal terror of “Pastor” Steven Anderson casually celebrating the “good news” of their deaths because they’re “a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles,” who “were all going to die early anyway.”

In a rant that is as ignorant of what the Bible actually says as it is shockingly void of compassion, Anderson states he is “just trying to look on the bright side” when he opines of the “dangerous” homosexual victims, “At least they’re off the street,” and dismisses their murder by saying, “I’m not sad about it. I’m not going to cry about it. . . . They were all going to die early anyway.”

Let’s be clear: even if Anderson’s view of the Bible were true (it’s not), it would still hardly be the time and place for publicly rejoicing in the face of grieving friends and families. The lust to jump immediately in front of a camera to share such cold indifference and vacant empathy should give us as much to think about as the presence of Islamic extremists among us.

But let’s be even clearer: Anderson’s view of the Bible is flat ignorant. Here is the view on which he bases his heartless rhetoric. He says,

“I will say this. The Bible says that homosexuals should be put to death, in Leviticus 20:13. . . . [God] put the death penalty on murder, and he also put the death penalty on homosexuality. That’s what the Bible says.”

That is absolutely not what the Bible says. Leviticus 20:13 does not criminalize homosexuality. It is a sin, to be sure, but not a crime, and was certainly not punished with the death penalty. The verse says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Read it again. Even under that old law, no one was a criminal for merely being a homosexual or having homosexual inclinations. The only thing criminalized was the act of sodomy between two males. Nothing else.

Further, this act would have had to have been proven in a court of law on the testimony of two witnesses to the act—a highly unlikely event. These witnesses, if proven false, would themselves be liable to the very death penalty they had wished to inflict.

Most importantly, this death penalty was tied to the Old Covenant seed laws. It no longer has any purpose after the coming of Christ, and is no longer in effect under the New Covenant.

Many Christians like Anderson often refer to Romans 1 as a go-to homosexual passage, and one where it is said at least that they “deserve to die” (Rom. 1:32). This passage is, in fact, often used as a focus upon the sins of homosexuality in general and their role in the degeneracy of civilization. Indeed, the verses do address these things. What is almost always left out, however, is that it says those who “deserve to die” also include the following sins:

all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

There you have it. If we should be heartlessly dismissive of the deaths of these homosexuals, by the same standard we should equally celebrate it as “good news” and decline to be sad when anyone with envy, strife, deceit, gossip, pride, disobedience to parents, of foolishness is randomly slain. And unfortunately for our otherwise so holy and self-righteous “pastor” here, the list also includes “heartless” (without affection) and “ruthless” (without mercy).

As many people know, this man has a long track record of ridiculous teachings and positions. This heartless disdain for tragedy and mourning only cap off what by now deserves universal condemnation. Currently the video is at 79k views and growing, and the disapproval rate is about 9-to-1. The disapprobation seems to be coming as much, if not more, from unbelievers, who appear to be more compassionate in such a time than this guy’s branch of Christianity. Shockingly, there are over 400 people who give this video a thumbs up.

This is the worst possible face anyone professing Christ could put forward. Anderson says he is worried that this shooting is going to be used as propaganda against Christians who preach the Bible. He should be more worried that the video he just made will be used as propaganda against Christians, because it is not just wrong, it is stupidly wrong. It is wrong in just the perfect way liberal critics could want it to be wrong: it is psychopathic and skewed, and that in an overgeneralized way that could inspire hatefulness in a broad way. It is just the type of thing done in the name of Christ that can be used to persecute the name of Christ.

I am a strong believer in biblical law. I have written books on it, as our readers well know. Steven Anderson is not speaking in the name of biblical law. He is not even referencing the Bible accurately. His views are not Bible but bigotry. He has a long track record of such heartless expression. I think even I can speak on behalf of most of the Christians when I say, Steven Anderson, would you please shut up.

There is a time and place for condemnation of social degeneracy. If Christians are called to such a prophetic office, they should start by denouncing the sins of Christians (i.e., themselves) who demand and use socialist programs like public education, social security, medicare, and tax-funded public services, who support wars of intervention and the militarization of police, perpetuate racism, and refuse to apply biblical law to local government, law enforcement, and criminal justice.

There’s plenty to be concerned with in our own house. If we’re worried about the collapse of civilization, we can start with our own pulpits and pews.

Categories: Worldview

Bad reasons “to Not Tattoo You”: a response to Douglas Wilson

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 11:58

I have been asked the tattoo question many times and have always hesitated to give a public answer for reasons not necessarily relevant here, but Doug Wilson’s post “7 Reasons to Not Tattoo You” seems like as good an occasion as any could be to offer my own thoughts.

As regular readers probably know, I am well-tatted, so it may be judged that I cannot be an impartial reviewer here. That may well be the case, but in my defense, I actually counsel young people against their enthusiasm for the ink more often than not, despite my general position of permissiveness. I’ll give you my lone reason why near the end.

Despite that lone reason, however, the reasons I normally hear against tattooing are fundamentally poor. Douglas’s stated seven are no different. They are, however, quite representative of the reasons most pastors and writers give, so let’s briefly review them in that capacity. Then we will give a brief look at my own views.

7 Bad Reasons to Not Tattoo You

The first reason is the Bible verse I have had repetitively needled with for years: Leviticus 19:28.

“You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:28, ESV).

There is so much to say on this it deserves a post of its own. We’ll be brief here. First, as Doug well knows, the translation “tattoo” here is gratuitous to his case. The Hebrew word is obscure, disputed by scholars, and appears nowhere else in Scripture to give us any idea of what it literally means. Why translators persist in translating it “tattoo” is beyond me.

There are, however, other parallel verses which address the same topic: cutting your flesh for the dead—whether in mourning or fear makes no difference. The other verses are Leviticus 21:1–5 and Deuteronomy 14:1. The context of these verses make clear that the infraction is not the cutting itself (and thus by extension any tattooing in itself), but ceremonial uncleanness derived through ritual or holy boundary violations. These are spoken of in the same context as priests touching a dead body, marrying a prostitute, or shaving their hair or beards (Lev. 21), and of God’s people violating the old dietary laws (Deut. 14).

If it were the cutting or incision itself that were wrong, as we desire to be literal like that, we must invalidate the whole of modern surgery and all medical shots. It is not, it was the ceremonial context that supplies the real nature of the infraction.

Here we can address Doug’s commentary directly. He says, “Here’s the verse. You are 21-years-old and are thinking about getting a barbed wire tattoo around your bicep. How settled and mature is your understanding of the relationship of Old Testament law to the question of Christian ethics?”

The first part of this is simply a straw man. Enthusiastic young Christian men are hardly pondering barbed-wire wraps. Most of them I see (scores of them) are interested in religious imagery, biblical images, verses, etc. Lowering the opposing view to a caricature is Doug making the argument too easy for himself.

The second part gets to the point: how well settled is your understanding of OT law and Christian ethics? Having just published a book on it, I’d say mine’s pretty clear. Could your views change? Well, yes they have. My views have grown much stricter regarding OT law since I got my tattoos in my early twenties, and yet throughout it all I have seen the clear ceremonial nature of these laws.

R. C. Sproul, Jr., provides a similar conclusion to Doug’s regarding tattoos, but mostly based on the idea that since we can’t really know what Leviticus 19:28 means technically, shouldn’t we be very careful to avoid what it may mean? Simply put: no. The contexts make clear that these prohibitions pertain to ceremonial boundaries proper to the OT ceremonial system. In the New Covenant, they have vanished away (Heb. 8:13).

Here’s how clear it is: if we are bound by the alleged “tattoo” passages in OT law, then we have no good reason to arbitrarily deny the shaving passages, dead body passages, and dietary laws that make up the bulk of the same sections and warnings there.

That being the case, we would then have to be just as observant in our churches today of the rest of the prohibitions in these verses and contexts. For example, the verse immediately preceding the one Doug lists forbids shaving the corners of the beards (Lev. 19:27).

I await Doug’s next article listing 7 biblical reasons not to sport a goatee.

Second, Doug relates that we should “love not the world,” citing 1 John 2:15–16. He asks,

All the energy in the tattoo industry is coming from the world. This is a thing, it is a fad, it is a fashion, and it is all these things because of what the world is doing.

I am not sure I buy this “all the energy” angle. Even if I did, it would not invalidate something or make it a sin. After all, the same could be said for the fashion industry, the make-up industry, or any of the various technology industries, and much more. I don’t think anyone would dispute that the vast majority of the energy behind Silicon Valley is coming from the world. Yet we post our article after typing them up on computers and using an internet connection. Worldliness!

If no unbeliever in the last hundred years had ever gotten a tattoo, you can be assured that it wouldn’t be such a thing among us.

This is the fallacy of “hypothesis contrary to fact.” The truth is, no one can say what would be the case if any given random fact had or hadn’t existed in the past. We simply don’t know.

Even if it were the case, it would again not prove a bad thing. The modern computer was invented by a homosexual. Does this give you pause when using your laptop?

So claims about alleged “evangelical copy-catism” don’t go so far with me. Doug needs to prove that Christians are doing something sinful in itself and/or for sinful reasons, and simply pointing to alleged “worldly” origins does not get there.

Third, Doug pleads the Fifth (Commandment that is, not Amendment, though the latter would have been more profitable for his case): honor your mother and father. Well, who could disagree with this? I myself have counseled teenagers not to get tattoos if they are under their parents’ authority still and their parents are opposed to it.

But then again, this is not an argument against tattoos, it is an argument about obeying your parents. If tattoos are at issue in the case, fine, but the issue then is not the biblical case for tattoos, but the biblical case for parental authority. The same would be the case about a great many things. If a parent forbids an at-home minor to buy a particular car or take a particular job, the same reasoning would apply. It would not mean that the car or job is sinful in itself; it would mean that in such a situation, the material issue is incidental and subject to a greater issue in God’s law.

And remedy here is merely to wait. Thus, the ethics of tattooing issue will arise again in a few years. Doug, I think, feels the limits of his argument here, so he adds, “I don’t believe that any human authority is absolute, but parental authority and wisdom is certainly significant.” Thus we must take parental honoring into account. But I simply agree with Doug’s whole statement here: parental authority is significant, and parental authority is not absolute. I leave it to the individual to decide when and where either “significant” or “not absolute” come into play. But as soon as the latter does, we have to return to the actual question at hand.

Fourth, Doug provides a subjective and hypothetical argument:

The tattoo removal business is a multi-million dollar industry, and growing. Most of their clients are in their 30’s and 40’s. How confident are you that you will not be in that number a decade from now?

Consider the parallel absurdity: “The divorce industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Most of their clients are in their 30s and 40s. How confident are you, young engaged couple, that you will not be in their number a decade from now?” Ergo, marriage is a bad idea!

But, you say, marriage is something Scripture allows, indeed encourages! Yes, so what are you assuming about tattoos up front when making the same argument? That they’re forbidden? But that’s what we’re supposed to be debating here. Thus you can see why such admonitions from Doug are begging the question. I am quite sure he would not use an argument like the one I just created in order to run young engaged couples out of his counseling office, although he would tell them that marriage is not to be entering into lightly. Well, you do the math.

Fifth, Doug argues that tattoos are a way to demonstrate full committal to something. But, he warns,

You have done something that appears to be an irrevocable step. You are an “all-in” kind of guy. But if you cash this out, what you have is “all of the dedication, none of the accomplishment.” Another name for that is boasting, or showing off.

Castigating tattoos as “all of the dedication, none of the accomplishment” is one of those deep sayings that sounds profound when thrown against the things for which one already dislikes. But it unravels quickly. This type of purism not only disrespects the great strides a person may have already experienced in sanctification (to which a tattoo may actually become a lasting memorial, among other things), it cuts in a thousand directions. By this proverb, anything of any unnecessary outward purpose could come under condemnation a boastful or showing off.

It makes me think immediately about the ridiculous trappings of high (or higher) liturgy spreading through our churches today. Clergymen get a whiff that clerical robes are not forbidden, and then pretty soon a competition of the elitism of professional clericalism is driving them to prove themselves more committed than the next with proper chalices, canticles, processionals, paraments, bowing, crossing, incense, and what next? Each week it seems one is doing something more outrageous than the next, and the feeling among a neutral observer would be fit to quote Douglas here: “Whoa, he really did that.”

But I digress a bit. What is applied to the high liturgy rabbit trail applies also to any area of life. Take Bible reading for example, or charity, or street preaching. There is always a danger in any aspect of the Christian life to do something for the show of being more committed than one really is  (or can be at the moment) in his heart. But then every recital of a creed or profession of faith fails that test, too, doesn’t it? Should we exclude these from our worship?

No. We can never in this life be as faithful and pure as we profess to be. And I see no reason to impugn the freedom to get tattoos with that type of radically-applied purism either.

Sixth, Doug says that we should examine the “distinctively pagan origin” or tattooing for its “hidden cultural drivers.” He suggests we should desire to look more like Edith Schaeffer than a Maori tribesman.

Aside from another straw man in that second part, this argument fails for the same reasons stated in reason two above. Moreover, I am not sure I want to look like Edith Schaeffer, either, but it does bring up a second point. How thoroughly have we examined the origins of western fashion and appearance? It could well be that what we consider proper conservative business attire derives from origins as arguably pagan as anything else. Would we invalidate it then?

One area where we don’t have to guess, and for which we have very clear and direct biblical discussion, is with female make-up and jewelry (1 Tim. 2:9–10; 1 Pet. 3:3). When was the last time you heard a sermon against braided hair, gold jewelry, and expensive dresses? When was the last time you heard mascara and lipstick examined in light of their “distinctively pagan origins”? In the Bible, these things are associated distinctively with Jezebel and with the collapse of godly civilization (cp. 2 Kgs 9:30; Isa. 3).

And the pictures seem to indicate that Edith Schaeffer may have worn lipstick.

As far as looking like Edith Schaeffer goes, I don’t know if anyone could get any closer to that than the current heir to that position: Franky Schaeffer. I am not sure how much an inkless and puritan appearance has helped his reputation, worldview, etc. In fact, one could argue that he looks quite modest and Christian. But if you give biblical substance priority over appearance, you would reemploy Douglas’s line: “all of the dedication, none of the accomplishment.” I’ll take the tatted-up bible-believer any day. (And no, I’m not opposed to make-up and jewelry, either.)

Seventh, Douglas appeals to the nature of Christian baptism as the only mark Christians need to have, and it is invisible. He concludes that when one entertains a tattoo, “He is either trying to erase his baptism or he is trying to supplement it.”

Of course this is false dichotomy. People don’t get tattoos for only reasons pertaining to the mark of Christian initiation, and not all marks are marks related to Christian initiation.

Instead, tattoos are an exercise of the freedom one enjoys under the mark of Christian baptism, that is, in Christ. They are no more trying to supplement the mark of baptism than, again, a woman’s makeup or a man’s latest fashion of suit, artwork, or pictures of your children hung on your wall. Tattoos may be of a more permanent nature than these other things, but they are no different in purpose. They are merely memorials secured within the realm of Christian freedom.

My own views and warnings

My own views, briefly, are that tattoos are perfectly acceptable for Christians, all else being equal. It is certainly true that there can be many external circumstances that would render it unwise in their particular contexts. I leave that consideration to the individual, with the understanding that a permanent mark is something you need to consider for its permanence. If you expect a career in politics, for example, perhaps a dragon neck-tattoo is not the best calculation.

My main reason for dissuading youngsters, or at least warning them seriously, is that good tattoos are expensive. People ask me if I regret getting mine. I always say yes and no. I don’t regret them at all in regard to the thing in itself. But they are not the best economic decision. I have probably around $1,000 on my arms (gotten over a period of a few years). Today, I have a family to feed and care for, and a future to plan. I would much prefer to have that grand in the bank than on my arm never to be retrieved.

So think wisely before spending all that dough. But if you decide to go for it, don’t let the various bad arguments brought against it infringe upon your conscience. Be Christian enough to live free and take responsibility for your decisions.

Categories: Worldview

A kingdom without partiality or racism

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 09:23

Dr. McDurmon’s sermon on Acts 10 from last Sunday, June 5, 2016: “A Kingdom without Partiality.” Listen for some awesome biblical theology as well as powerful lessons about the church’s war against racism.

http://d1s6yijfrvmtp9.cloudfront.net/static/2016/06/08090136/2016-06-05-mcdurmon-acts-10.mp3

 

Categories: Worldview

The Arminian-evidentialist’s failed critique of presuppositionalism and evidences

Tue, 06/07/2016 - 12:30

Comments in this recent discussion of apologetic methodologies by Liberty University professor Gary Habermas led me to find a paper he wrote on the topic, making the same claims back in 2002. Habermas is a well-known evidentialist and he defends his views in a faculty research paper entitled “Greg Bahnsen, John Warwick Montgomery, and Evidential Apologetics.” When it comes to presuppositionalists, however, I find some of his comments not only not compelling, but underwhelming and unfortunate in various ways. By considering some of his claims against us, I believe we can learn a few things about the nature, and thus the strengths and/or weaknesses, of the two positions.

I would thank Dr. Habermas, therefore, for presenting material that gives opening to an important discussion. We can be assured that this discussion would have happened earlier had either 1) Greg L. Bahnsen still been alive in 2002, or 2) I had seen this paper earlier than I did. But here we are.

My critiques will be simple and somewhat repetitive: Harbemas has made way too much of presuppositionalists’ references to evidences, and he has misread, or misunderstood, much of what he has presented on their behalf. I think, further, that there are reasons for this. Despite claims as to a “converging nature” between methodologies, there are reasons why the distance between evidentialism and presuppositionalism (both properly understood) is actually quite great: they come from irreconcilable theological positions. As long as each is consistent with their theological presuppositions (and they are not, always), the difference between the methodologies will always be night and day.

It’s simple: a consistent Arminian cannot develop a presuppositionalist method, and a consistent Reformed theologian can develop nothing else. In fact, the more consistent Arminians will remain with their Arminianism, the more they will develop evidentialistic and probabilistic arguments and methods. More importantly for this article, the more they are consistent, they seem less able even to understand and represent what presuppositionalists teach.

Presuppositionalists and Evidences

Among the more troubling instances of this in Habermas’s paper are in the section “Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Method and Positive Apologetics.” By “positive apologetics” here, Habermas means arguments proving the Christian claims as opposed to mere critiques of the unbelievers’ positions. And it is clear that for Habermas, positive arguments are inseparable from historical and empirical evidences. For this is the troubling aspect of this section, as he opens:

One major concern that clearly emerges from reading published works from the Van Tillian presuppositional school of thought is that they seldom even attempt to develop positive evidences for Christian theism. A simply amazing phenomena here is that, while they clearly acknowledge the need to do so, they very rarely ever attempt it. [Emphasis added.]

The emphasized statement above is an exaggeration based on a fairly shallow misreading of presuppositional authors. The misreadings follow like this:

For example, Van Til acknowledges that he thinks it is important to “engage in historical apologetics.” But he explains that he does not do so because his colleagues in his seminary “are doing it better than I could do it.” Still, he adds a few suggestions on how such an effort should be done.

Habermas then adds Bahnsen also as a witness in his favor:

Bahnsen acknowledges Van Til’s approval of historical evidences, listing some of Van Til’s caveats about doing so. Likewise, Bahnsen himself endorses historical evidences.

The irony here is that in the contexts of the references, both Van Til and Bahnsen are expounding why the evidentialist method is incorrect, why evidentialists have misrepresented or misunderstood what Van Til and Bahnsen are saying, and what the proper, limited role of evidences really is. Their point is that while evidences may have a place, they are not only not sufficient, but they can only be useful within a framework that presupposes the truth claims of the Christian God of the Bible. Nothing else will do, but will in fact concede the argument to the unbeliever. As such, evidence are highly limited and subject to the presuppositional argument, but moreover, evidentialism can never be a valid apologetic.  And the irony is, of course, that now Habermas is doing exactly the same thing as the previous evidentialist critics. Let’s look at it:

Van Til’s response to J. Oliver Buswell

The Van Til reference appears in his book Defense of the Faith, particularly in a section that is responding to a long critique by J. Oliver Buswell.1 On page 194, Van Til objects that Buswell had “not, for all the length of your article, anywhere given a connect picture of my argument.” He then proceeds to lay out a few basic, foundational differences between presuppositionalism and the traditional method. These include four points, the last of which is, “(d) Implied in the previous points is the fact that I do not artificially separate induction from deduction, or reasoning about the facts of nature in a priori analytical fashion about the nature of human-consciousness.”2

It is under this point that Van Til goes on to make the claim Habermas references:

I would therefore engage in historical apologetics. (I do not personally do a great deal of this because my colleagues in the other departments of the Seminary in which I teach are doing it better than I could do it.)

The problem is that Habermas stops here, does not consider what comes either before or after these words, and draws his own conclusion that presuppositionalists “have all commended positive evidences.” But this is hardly the extent of the point Van Til was making—a point which renders this conclusion unwarranted. Just read what Van Til says immediately in the next sentences:

Every bit of historical investigation, whether it be in the directly Biblical field, archaeology, or in general history, is bound to confirm the truth of the claims of the Christian position. But I would not talk endlessly about facts and more facts without ever challenging the non-believer’s philosophy of fact. A really fruitful historical apologetic argues that every fact is and must be such as proves the truth of the Christian theistic position.3

You can see, then, that Van Til’s alleged commendation of historical evidences actually demands the presuppositional method first, and the challenge be given to the unbeliever’s presuppositions.

And again, irony has it that in the immediately-following paragraph, Van Til reminds the reader that he is correcting precisely such misrepresentation as Habermas has engaged in:

A fair presentation of my method of approach should certainly have included these basic elements that underlie everything else.

Further, Van Til makes clear that nothing at all is to be presented to the unbeliever apart from the presupposition that the God of the Bible must exist before any fact can be intelligible to begin with. This, also, is in the immediately-following paragraphs:

Shall we in the interest of a point of contact admit that man can interpret anything correctly if he virtually leaves God out of the picture? Shall we who wish to prove that nothing can be explained without God first admit some things at least can be explained without him? On the contrary we shall show that all explanations without God are futile. Only when we do this do we appeal to that knowledge of God within men which they seek to suppress. This is what I mean by presupposing God for the purpose of intelligent predication.4

It is clear, therefore, that Van Til was hardly giving some naked commendation of the use of evidences, and he was certainly nowhere near giving a nod to evidentialism. The comments, I repeat, could in no way be leveraged as any kind of support for Habermas’s method. Instead, they are classic Van Tillian refutations of that method, which can be found throughout his writings in many places. One of the best and clearest of these is found in his small pamphlet on Paul at Athens:

Are we really anxious to preach Jesus and the resurrection and the living God to men? Do we want to ask all men everywhere to repent and to see in the resurrection the evidence of their own eternal condemnation unless they do repent?

Then we must surely do what Paul did, tear our garments when men would weave our message into the systems of thought which men have themselves devised. We must set the message of the cross into the framework into which Paul set it. If we do not do so, then we are not really and fully preaching Jesus and the resurrection. The facts of Jesus and the resurrection are what they are only in the framework of the doctrines of creation, providence and the consummation of history in the final judgment. No man has found this framework unless he has been converted from the other framework through the very fact of the death and resurrection of Jesus as applied to him by the Holy Spirit and His regenerating power. It takes the fact of the resurrection to see its proper framework and it takes the framework to the see the fact of the resurrection; the two are accepted on the authority of the Scripture alone and by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Half-way measures therefore will not suffice; the only method that will suffice is that of challenge of wisdom of the world by the wisdom of God.5

Van Til’s references to evidences, therefore, are for the purpose of putting evidences in their place, and for invalidating any method of evidentialism. To read him any other way is to misread him.

Bahnsen’s critique of John Warrick Montgomery

The same problem exists with Habermas’s claim that Bahnsen “endorses historical evidences.” Here two citations from the paper in question make the context clear. Bahnsen did in fact list Van Til’s references to evidences, but note that he did so in order to show that the evidentialist John W. Montgomery had not acknowledged Van Til’s point that such evidences were pointless without the presuppositional argument in place first:

[W]hat Montgomery (via his parable) wants to make of the quotations from Van Til on pages 380–381 is that, by avoiding an inductive or factual apologetic, Van Til’s position loses the objectivity of evidence and the fruitfulness of argumentation. That this does not do justice to Van Til will be clear to anyone who will bother to read the context from which Montgomery takes his quotations. . . .

Van Til makes a point that “Every bit of historical investigation…is bound to confirm the truth of the claims of the Christian position”, and he affirms that the falsifying interpretations of the facts by the unbeliever is not something unavoidable which the sinner cannot help doing: “…it is evident that by the sinner’s epistemological reaction I mean his reaction as an ethically responsible creature of God.” As before Van Til asserts of the non-Christian that “they oppose God’s revelation everywhere. They do not want to see the facts of nature for what they are”; and yet he also says further, “It is asked what person is consistent with his own principles. Well I have consistently argued that no one is and that least of all the non-Christian is…Neither do I forget that no man is actually fully consistent in working according to these assumptions.” Montgomery has simply not taken all the factors into account when he selects certain quotations from Van Til; those quotations must be understood in their context. When they are, it is manifest that they cannot be used as raw material for the type of parable Montgomery contrives. Van Til’s assertions, properly read in context, certainly do not lead to the outlook of Montgomery’s parable – which is precisely why it is deficient as a critique of Van Til’s position. It has nothing to do with Van Til’s position, despite the misleading appearance created by tendentious proof texting of Van Til’s publications. Indeed, the problems which are evident in the parable (to whomever they may apply) are themselves vanquished by Van Til’s teachings in the very places from which Montgomery quotes him!

Bahnsen more fully rounds out the refutation in the place Habermas alleges he “endorses historical evidences.” Bahnsen wrote,

The effectiveness of the evidence is felt by the believer because he is thinking within the context of revelational presuppositions, but the historical evidences are insufficient in themselves (even theoretically) to change the unbeliever’s mind because his thinking is guided by apostate presuppositions. If the non-Christian’s presuppositions are granted, then he has adequate reason to reject a simple historical apologetic built up from inductive evidences; this is why our apologetic to the unregenerate must be made up of stronger material. However, we do not neglect the historical evidences; they do have their use for the Christian. He uses them to edify other believers and to give honest answers to detail questions from critics. In neither case though should he talk endlessly about facts and more facts without discussing the philosophy of fact or presuppositions which render the facts meaningful. Therefore, understanding the relation between evidence and presuppositions, the presuppositional apologist does endorse the proper use of evidence. We insist that Christian faith, anchored in God, deals with the area of fact which is open to scientific treatment.

Therefore, you can see that Bahnsen’s endorsement is only of the “proper” use of evidence which can only take place within the presuppositional argument. This means that unless the method is fully presuppositional, evidential arguments are not valid. Worse, not only are they not valid, they actually do the reverse of apologetics: they give the unbeliever an adequate excuse to reject them, and an excuse is the one thing Scripture says that unbelieving mankind does not have (Rom. 1). Why would any Christian endorse a method that leaves an adequate excuse on the table?

Now Habermas has read these responses of Van Til and Bahnsen that clarified these points in the context of presuppositionalism refuting evidentialism. Yet, Habermas picks around the arguments Van Til and Bahnsen make in order to glean what he thinks are a couple admissions and endorsements of evidences on their part. But they are not really what he wants. They are instead just as strong an indictment of evidentialism as any other aspect of presuppositionalist writings, and one aimed directly at the fallacy of evidentialism as a method. In the case of Bahnsen’s critique of Montgomery, it was this very paper which Habermas was aiming to refute. Yet he does not even take into account the point Bahnsen was making in discussing evidences in that context.

The Arminian Vacuum

Space is growing precious in this already too long article, so perhaps I can flesh these points out more fully later. Suffice it merely to state here that there are an awful lot of assumption being made upon the foundations of fallacy. One appears to me to be an unspoken equivocation between any reference to “evidence” and an endorsement for “evidentialism.”

Beyond that, however, is the problem evidentialism tends to breed, and that is the belief that evidences take such preeminence that without them you have little to no apologetic at all. By placing them within a framework that delimits their usefulness, it is received as if you have entirely rejected any apologetic appeal to the unbeliever. This is not, of course, openly stated anywhere, but a kind of presumption is apparent in places.

This type of thinking is not difficult to demonstrate in Habermas’s paper. For example, he criticizes Bahnsen for arguing that in offering up Isaac, Abraham’s faith was presuppositional, not founded upon “empirical probability or inductive reasoning.” Habermas’s response to this is revealing: “Abraham was the recipient of many inductively-derived data. Even in this case, then, his faith was not produced in a vacuum!” [Emphasis added.]

While we could take time to go through the examples of what Habermas considers the “inductively derived data” which helped “produce” Abraham’s faith, that is not the point here. I want you to see how central, almost messianic, of a role evidence actually plays for the evidentialist. Without evidences being central, Habermas implies, faith would otherwise be “produced in a vacuum.”

The implications of this characterization are enormous, and frightful. This statement means that either we have evidences, or we have nothing—a “vacuum.” It means that the source of faith is either evidences or it is nothing. In other words, from this evidentialist’s view, there is no possibility of faith except from evidence.

Apart from the obvious false dichotomy, this statement exposes the compromise with humanism that lies at the heart of all non-presuppositional methods. It completely ignores the argument that the source of all facts (evidence) in the universe as well as all faith in the universe is the Creator himself. Thus, a faith that is produced without the direct contact of relevant historical evidences is in essence exactly the same as faith produced while observing those evidences: it is produced by God, and nothing else. And faith that is produced in correlation with evidences should never be said to be “produced” by evidences, for it is produced by the only source of both fact and faith, that is, God.

Even to suggest the possibility of a “vacuum” is also to miss the point of presuppositional arguments altogether. The question is never one of evidence or no evidence. Evidence is always all around us, and Romans makes clear that that evidence points to God, the unbeliever knows it, and it is unmistakably clear. The question is about interpretation of the evidence, for the unbeliever actively suppresses that which is abundant, inescapable, clear, and known. The problem is not in the want of evidence; it is in the suppression of it. The gift of faith is the only thing that can end this suppression and thus amend the individual’s interpretation of the evidence. Thus, faith has the leverage over fact. This means that the apologetic endeavor must focus upon challenging the unbeliever’s philosophy of fact rather than loading him up with additional facts.

Ironically, this is the exact point Bahnsen is making in his section on Abraham’s faith. It appears to be a point Habermas did not catch. Bahnsen writes:

Genuine resurrection faith according to the word of God is not staked on inductive validation, for even when the resurrected Lord appeared to His eleven disciples, “some doubted”. Indeed the spiritual condition of man is such that “if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one should rise from the dead.” Resurrection faith is a matter of presuppositional submission to the authoritative word of God. When Christ met two travelers on the road to Emmaus and found them doubtful of the resurrection, rather than offering them compelling empirical evidence (by causing them to recognize Him) He rebuked them for being slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken; He made their hearts burn within them by expounding to them the scripture. If men will not begin by acknowledging the truth of God’s authoritative revelation, an empirical resurrection will not bring them belief. This is the plain teaching of Scripture. The example of resurrection faith is found, not in doubting Thomas, but in Abraham, the father of the faithful. Against all empirical probability or inductive reasoning Abraham offered up his only begotten son, “accounting that God is able to raise men up even from the dead” [see Heb. 11:19]; the nature of Abraham’s faith was an ability to believe against hope but according to what God had spoken, being fully assured that God was able to perform what he had promised. Such faith cannot be produced in a sinner’s hardened heart by inductive argumentation; it must be a gift from God—not self-glorifying, intellectual works of man. “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”; “faith is … a conviction of things not seen.” Therefore, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” said Christ to Thomas. Resurrection faith begins with a presupposition about God’s ability to raise men even from the dead—as it did with Abraham—not with inductive proofs. Hence our apologetic should begin, as did Paul’s, with a question of presuppositions: “Why is it judged incredible by you that God should raise the dead?” It must be rooted in the authoritative revelation of God, “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should come” because if men will not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they believe the most compelling, factual demonstration!

Amen. And Amen.

The humanism inherent in the system

Indeed, Habermas actually acknowledges the point Bahnsen argues, but he does so in passing as a rhetorical question intended to be a criticism of presuppositionalism. He asks, “Could it be that certain Reformed theological commitments are responsible for this lack of positive apologetics? Might not treasured theological and/or biblical stances be placed above evidential ones?” The fallacy of this lies in what it seems to be blind to, yet forms the basis of evidentialism. Just ask the question in the reverse: Are you suggesting that evidential stances ought to be placed above those of the Bible? If so (and the implication seems to be “yes”), then you have adopted the worldview of the humanist and at the very least given the unbeliever a valid justification for why he rejects miracles, resurrections, God, and the supernatural in general.

As I ponder the implications of this, I can’t help thinking of Habermas’s life-long (it seems) interaction with atheist Antony Flew. They once even debated the historical evidence for the resurrection. The evidential method was on full display. Flew, being a man intensely interested in science and evidence, you would think this method would be perfect. By all accounts, he was an honest thinker who did not fear to go wherever the evidence leads.

Low and behold, near the end of his life, Flew announced a major shift in his thinking. After much thought, and after much following of the arguments to their logical ends no matter what, Flew had come to believe in God. Boom!

Except there was a catch. Amidst many articles and even books written about the conversion of this famous atheist to theism, there stood out one major problem. Flew had only accepted the fact the information in the universe appeared to necessitate a designer. He had converted therefore only to deism.

And what is “deism.” Deism is the belief that some intelligent source created the world, but only like a watchmaker creates a watch: wound it up, and then left it to run on its own. There is no providence. There is no relationship with this God. There are no miracles. There is no salvation or redemption, etc. Only an impersonal, and now fully absent, abstract watchmaker. This is hardly even theism. It is what I call practical atheism, for it gives the atheist a solution to the origins questions, yet leaves him free to live however he likes, free of any Divine Authority. On paper, it’s theism. In practice, it’s atheism.

Indeed, in all the fanfare among Christian and other publications that followed with a kind of oblivious triumph, Flew continued repeated to state that he had not accepted Christianity, did not believe in miracles, etc.

Congratulations, evidentialism. Your crowning achievement of the modern era has been to convert an atheist into a practical atheist who still openly denounced Christ.

Now, I don’t mean to lay this failure itself personally at the feet of Habermas, as if his methods and actions alone are at fault for the non-conversion of Flew and the unwarranted fanfare among Christians that followed. The point here is that the only crucially important aspect of the apologetic encounter is not the evidence, but the fact that the fallen man already knows the full truth of the evidence clearly and yet is suppressing it. Unless this aspect is addressed and challenged from the outset, the appeal to evidences it little more than futile, and indeed may be completely counterproductive.

Conclusion

The evidentialist here displays an all-consuming obsession with evidence with a nearly messianic role in apologetics. This obsession, I believe, leads not only to the type of misreading and misrepresentations of presuppositionalism we have seen above, but also to a cavalier neglect of the weight of the great critiques it has leveled against evidentialism.

As I read Habermas’s paper, I see him projecting this obsession onto the alleged support Van Til and Bahnsen gave to evidences. Not only are the writings misread, they grow more exaggerated as the paper itself goes along. Thus we see alleged presuppositional capitulation to evidences go from alleged “acknowledgement” to “endorses” then to “critical need,” then to an admission that evidences are “biblical” and “ought to be pursued.” By the end of the paper, Habermas is actually claiming that for presuppositionalists, evidences “are deemed to be crucially important” [emphasis added]. This escalating rhetoric is not only not borne out by presuppositionalist writings, it is, as seen above, positively refuted.

Evidences are only meaningful within the framework of a presuppositional argument, and this must be established before endless chatting with unbelievers about evidences. Far from suggesting any endorsement of the evidentialist method, this single proposition alone is enough to contradict it fully. Disagree with presuppositionalists if you like, but don’t suggest their view of evidences gives any support to the evidentialist method. Acknowledging this would prepare the way for the real discussion that needs to happen, and then, maybe, some proper “converging” can start to take place.

Notes:

 

  1. See Third Edition, p. 181.
  2. p. 199.
  3. p. 199.
  4. p. 200.
  5. Pamphlet is unpaginated and without publisher or date info.
Categories: Worldview

Welfare in a free society: The way it used to be

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 09:31

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 2: Welfare

2.1 Welfare in a Free America

Having grown up in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, most of us have a narrow mental window through which to view the subject of human welfare and insurance. It is almost impossible for us to imagine a world in which Social Security, Medicare, and multiple other State-funded benefits do not exist. This world seems like the norm because it’s the way it’s always been: States by definition provide social security and social insurances for old age and the needy. But that’s not the way it’s always been. . . .

Welfare in a Free America

There are still a quite a few people out there who can remember the time prior to the passage of America’s first Social Security Act in 1935. Aside, perhaps, from some memories associated with the Great Depression (which was both an uncommon and temporary event), they can vouch for what I am about to express in this brief discussion: In a free society, cradle-to-grave welfare issues are a matter only of private individuals, families, and private enterprise and contracts.

Further, contrary to popular assumption today, these people can also vouch that in such a society, people did not commonly go hungry or starve in old age, nor go bankrupt and become homeless due to medical expenses, or any of the many nightmare scenarios that are brought up any time privatization is discussed. Those things simply did not happen except in extraordinary circumstances, as they still do today in extraordinary circumstances despite vast socialistic measures. In other words, in a free society, private welfare and insurance are both the principle and a viable practice.

The Principle of Welfare in a Free Society

First, let’s talk about the principle of freedom in welfare. A truly free society will exercise individual liberty and responsibility in all the areas of human welfare—health insurance, old-age or retirement insurance or planning, survivors benefits, disability, unemployment, and all things of that nature. Free people learn and work to make provisions, plan, manage, and take care of themselves and their own families. And in turn, in time of need, they are taken care of by their own private arrangements, their own private funds, insurance benefits, and their own family to the extent that need be—and preferably, they will have a combination of each of these things.

As long as the State, however, is involved in funding and/or regulating any of these matters, we do not have a free society. The State is by definition an agency of the use of legal coercion. The civil government is by definition, an agency of force. To argue for anything to be placed under the proper responsibility of civil government is to say that it is right in the eyes of God to use force—even threats of lethal force, if necessary—in order to compel people to do that thing. In areas of remuneration or restitution for crime, legal force makes sense; but this by definition is the negation of freedom. A criminal who is under civil penal sanctions is to that degree a slave (and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution allows for this explicitly), because the very nature of being compelled is by definition a loss of liberty. Coercion is servitude. But since this is so, the more we expand the State’s power to coerce people, the more we deny freedom and liberty in society. And so, the very moment we begin to expand the State’s functions and institutions beyond the proper punishment of crime, that same moment we begin to make slaves out of free men. And thus, the moment we begin to subject basic human cradle-to-grave issues beneath the coercive arm of civil government—that is, to legitimize the Welfare State to the slightest degree—is to subvert a free society.

In fact, there are many people who argue for the existence and expansion of the Welfare State because they consciously believe it is legitimate to use violence or threats of force in order to make society as they see it virtuous, or equitable, or whatever virtue they wish to use to make their intentions appear as good intentions. Many liberals and progressive have long since been very open about this very belief; and many conservatives, by the way, hold the same belief, although they are less often open about it, or are sometimes unconscious of it. The belief in State coercion, however, must be seen for what it is: anti-Christian, unbiblical, and against every reasonable idea of liberty on which this country was settled and founded. It is certainly opposed to any idea of individual liberty and responsibility.

There was certainly no Welfare State when Thomas Jefferson penned those immortal words “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There was none when Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack and started his own printing and news business; none designed by the framers of the Constitution, and subsequently there was no Welfare State in American through virtually all of the nineteenth century (although it did begin to creep in as we shall see). There was no Welfare State in the original American Way, and there certainly are people still living today who can remember living before the imposition of that system. And they can tell you, it was a family-based society, and human welfare was a family-based and business-based affair. And it worked.

The Practice of Welfare in a Free Society

So let’s discuss the practice of Welfare in a free society. It practice, in must be family-based. The family is the basic Welfare unit of society, the church secondarily. There is the reality of social debt: you come into this world helpless and with no property. You are entirely dependent upon the love and provision of your parents. This dependence runs longer for humans than any other living being in the natural world—anywhere, normally, from 18 to 20 or more years. During nearly this entire period, you are indebted to the welfare provided by your parents. Parents have a moral obligation to provide this welfare in the form of food, clothing, shelter, and education (as well as many intangibles like discipline, love, etc.). In turn, as children remain indebted for these many years of provision, they can repay their familial debt if their parents need provision and care in their elderly years. In the typical family scenario, there is always at least one bread winner distributing food to several dependents.

The cementing of this family commitment has been, for some two thousand or so years, the marriage vow. This is a binding oath—legally binding—that binds the two into a covenant of, among other things, perpetual welfare of each other and their progeny. We tend to lose sight of the very weighty, material side of the promise being made in the marital oath; it gets obscured by the romantic feelings, and flowers and kisses, and the cake and the champagne. But take a listen again to what is actually being said in those vows. Here’s the traditional vow from the Anglican prayer book which is the basis for nearly all of American Protestants:

The groom says, “I ,____, take thee ,_____, to my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

The bride promises essentially the same thing with minor though important differences. Then, as the groom places the ring on the bride’s finger, he says the following:

With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Now look at that: a large portion of these vows pertains to a commitment of material wealth and for material health (in sickness and in health) until death. And towards these ends the vow includes a pledge of the devotion of the person’s body (in other words, all of their physical capacity and labor), and their worldly goods. This is a welfare program, period. And, by the way, it is the original pre-nuptual agreement—because, until after this vow is taken and the marriage consummated, the covenant is not in force. The vow is taken, technically, before the marriage is final (though as part of the process). The idea of a pre-nuptual agreement today we think of as something a rich partner does to limit the risk of his or her wealth in the event of a divorce (in other words, to limit the scope of the traditional vow on his material wealth). In effect, it is divorce protection. But this was not the original and normal idea of marriage. The original and fundamental pre-nuptual agreement is the traditional marital vow, and it is a binding, legal oath to provide for the partner’s welfare and health until death (with exceptions, of course, for adultery or sometimes abandonment). And it was legally enforceable.

It is not surprising, then, by the way, that with the rise of the Welfare State has come the corresponding decline of the family in society, and the outright cheapening of marriage through easy, no-fault divorce. In other words, the State-dominated system has helped destroy the nature of the marriage commitment for most people (and for some, for example the Marxist and other secular traditions, it was consciously designed to do so).

So in the original American way, and in fact throughout the West for most of Western, especially Christian, history, the marriage vow was the foundation of social insurance—both for the provision and education of children, and for old-age and elderly care.

But the same was true of health care: it was primarily carried out by the family. The church did have a large role in the creation of hospitals in the middle ages, but these were not widely used by the populations, especially not in the way we view hospitals and doctors today. Yet when they did use them, it was a private affair, and often accompanied by charity from the sponsoring church—not the State. But since health care was largely decentralized with families funding their own as need be, there has always been—in America at least, until more recent times—a broad base of health care providers in the free market.

In addition to this, in the nineteenth century, there was a tremendous development of private insurance companies of all kinds—life, fire, travel, shipping, crop, deposit, and even eventually reinsurance, which is insurance for insurance companies that face losses in payments. People learned quickly that by paying a small premium they could pool their risk and protect themselves against losses. Constant advances in actuarial tables, competition between companies kept premiums affordable, and most importantly, the fact that it remained in the free markets and the companies did not have state regulation or backing, kept premiums affordable.

In the original free American way, the government was not involved in funding or managing these affairs, nor was it involved in any such redistribution of wealth. The only legal aspect to the whole thing would have been first, the enforceable aspects of the marriage vow which itself had only been entered into freely. Once having taken the oath, if a party abdicated on its responsibility to either spouse or children, the government could enforce sanctions in relation to that oath—this protected the innocent and the children. And second would have been the enforceable aspects of insurance contracts which had also had been entered into freely.

Benefits of Freedom in Welfare

Now, this ideal of liberty in human welfare has the following beneficial features

First, individuals retain sovereignty over their own decisions regarding retirement, old age, health, and all forms of insurance. It’s your decision, not some bureaucrat’s. (If, however, you prefer it to be someone else’s decision, you are certainly free to contract with someone for such consultation; but in a free society, you’re not allowed to demand or force anyone else pay for those decision.)

Second, there’s a much greater value placed on the family. When that happens, more families stick together. Marital vows return as the basis of human society. Churches and private-based charities are restored. This also restores the true nature of charity as voluntary care for the helpless, and it decentralizes the determinations of who truly deserves of aid. Both of these things inhibit those who would take advantage of charitable systems, yet at the same time allow for latitude in those decisions from charity to charity.

Third, property is protected. No one confiscates your property for redistribution, and you don’t demand or even accept anyone else’s property to be confiscated and given to others.

Fourth, the civil government cannot penalize anyone who has not committed a crime, and it cannot impose obligations without your consent either in a vow or a contract freely entered into. You can choose to abstain from a marital vow, insurance contract, or any other situation that may obligate you to pay taxes or fines or penalties or premiums (this means, of course, you also choose to accept the consequences of such a choice, should you have to face them in a time of need—you will fall upon the mercy of charity should there be any for you). But, also, the state would uphold vows and contracts in a court of law. Only these would be legally enforceable.

Fifth, the next generation has obligations to the previous primarily in regard to its familial connections. Parents, in turn, must be honored and respected (this is the fifth commandment!). This being so, the government will not be operating an inter-generational ponzi scheme (which is essentially the nature of social security).

So as with education in a free America, we can easily see that the original way preserved individual freedom and responsibility in both principle and practice. Welfare was a matter of individual and family liberty, and it worked.

These principles are not only traditionally American, but they are also biblical in that they uphold the integrity of the family, family legacies and trusts, and the honoring of parents and protection of inheritance. That’s social freedom—that’s freedom in social security and insurance.

So, why don’t we have such a free society, or anything like it, anymore? How was this freedom lost? How did our society come to be dominated by so-called “cradle-to-grave” programs administered by a paternal state? Why do we have a massive Welfare State where a free society once was? As with the discussion of the state takeover of education, the answer is as illuminating as it is dark in what it reveals. We’ll cover that in the next section.

Next section: Freedom in Welfare: How it was lost

Purchase Restoring America One County at a Time

Categories: Worldview

On “feeling the Bern” in their own pockets

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 10:25

The results of a recent poll reveal once again the classic truism: socialism is a great idea until you run out of other people’s money. In this case, the socialistic Bernie Sanders supporters tell you up front: they want universal health care and free college, but they’re not willing to pay for it. Big shock, huh?

The poll, conducted by the liberal website vox.com, asked two questions: “Are you willing to pay more taxes for his proposals, like nationalized health care and free public college tuition?” and, “How much more?” The results were probably shocking to the liberals themselves because they fancy themselves inherently good and charitable people. What is socialism, after all, but “charity” and philanthropy in action? The poll results say otherwise:

About 66 percent of Sanders supporters said they wouldn’t be willing to pay more than an additional $1,000 [per year] in taxes for universal health care.

An uptick to a mere $2k/year and that figure jumps nearly to 80 percent.

Why this is so important is compounded by the facts of what Sanders’s proposals will actually cost. The article explains:

What Sanders supporters are willing to pay isn’t enough for his health care plan

In 2015, the average person on an employer-sponsored health plan paid a little more than $1,000 annually in premiums. . . .

In other words, even Sanders supporters are saying they don’t want to pay as much to the federal government for health care as they are paying right now in the private sector.

But Sanders’s plan to pay for universal health care coverage would increase taxes on most voters by more than $1,000. He wants to:

  • Add a 2.2 percentage point surcharge on individual incomes. This means marginal tax rates go up for everyone. (After a standard deduction, about a quarter of households won’t have to pay this surcharge.)
  • Add a new 6.2 percent tax on earnings, which employers pay — but will bepassed on to workers over time in the form of lower wages, according to the Tax Policy Center’s Roberton Williams.

But it gets worse. These estimates are actually quite modest in Sanders’s favor: “Some analysts believe Sanders’s plan will cost twice as much as his campaign estimates.”

The article doesn’t draw enough conclusions about all this, but it is clear on a couple things:

But the majority of Sanders supporters in our poll (much less all voters) aren’t willing to pay enough to actually support those nationalized services.

This isn’t a question of whether Sanders’s ideas are valid. This is a question of how voters are thinking about Sanders’s revolution, which is a radical increase in the scope of what government is responsible for, versus the private sector.

When even liberals are realizing that socialism can’t pay for itself, you know there’s a problem with the system.

What you need to understand, however, is that this obvious problem is far more legion than just paying for proposed universal health care and free college. It’s endemic in every service government takes over and provides. It is in education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc., etc.

It is for such simple economic reasons that we have massive government deficits and national debts, as well as continual monetary inflation. The system is based on covetousness and theft: people wanting “free” services for themselves for which they have no intention or means of paying. So the money is taxed, borrowed, and printed at the expense of other workers and savers, present and future.

Workers who don’t agree with the corrupt system lose because they are taxed for other people’s  benefit. Savers especially lose because their hard work, sacrifice, and thrift are rewarded with savings that are devalued over time by inflation. In the long run, some people’s short-term gains are other people’s losses.

And the truth is, it’s not just Sanders. Clinton supporters polled very similarly, and conservatives would poll with similar numbers if you target their pet socialisms as well.

It’s time to break the socialist delusions in which so many are blindly, and in some cases simply ignorantly, complicit. A good place for Christians to start is God versus Socialism.

Categories: Worldview

Gorillas’ rights and atheist wrongs

Tue, 05/31/2016 - 10:18

You probably have heard the quip, “He who does not believe in God will believe in anything.”1 The unfortunate truth resonating in this wisdom finds a clear exponent in the Oxford-sanctioned senselessness of Richard Dawkins. What is this atheist’s great burden of our generation?

Humanism? No.

Human rights? No.

Actually, it is Gorillas’ Rights. Don’t believe it? Watch it here.

The moral emergency, Dawkins tells, is “speciesism”—the modern equivalent of racism or sexism. Since “Humans beings are not just like great apes, they are great apes,” the atheist figures that our rules forbidding discrimination against other humans should logically extend to other species, in this case gorillas.

Let us embark on a journey following the atheist’s logic. If, after all, we are great apes, then the brotherhood of man in reality is the brotherhood of all primates. But why stop there? If the alleged evolutionary tree extends not just through apes, but other animals as well, then why not have a brotherhood of all animals? Sound too extreme? I actually saw one responder on Dawkins’ site admit that the logic of it all had driven him to vegetarianism—and he was proud of it.

The logical question arises as to where do we draw the line? Since the evolutionary tree supposedly extends all the way back to plants, algae, and protozoa, then should not kill or eat those things either? Never kill a fly? Never chlorinate a pool? Never sanitize drinking water (that would kill trillions of living organisms—our living kin!)? Never stop streptococcus, salmonella, or influenza (these are not infections, but family. Be a nice host, now—put out some cookies!)? Is this the great atheist commandment: never harm another living being, even if you starve or succumb to microbial infestation?

Dawkins is no dummy: He tackles the absurd argument for cabbages’ rights, too. He reasons, “We have kind of a continuum. There’s a sliding scale from gorillas and chimpanzees, being very close to us, and cabbages being a very long way away; and there’s no reason why we should erect a wall—we should erect a fence—at any particular place.”

Forgive me if I missed something obvious, but did he not just refute his own position? If the charge is that there is no rationale for not including all species—beast, broccoli and bacteria alike—in this morality called “speciesism,” and Dawkins answers this by saying there is no reason why we should draw a line at any given place in the evolutionary tree, then hasn’t he conceded the argument, not answered it?

Nothing left but pure emotion

Yes he has, and he realizes this. He just pulled the rug of reason out from under himself, banged his head on the floor of reality, and he leaves all of our heads spinning with the explanation that follows. His now reasonless rationale relies purely on emotions: “There are some animals that there is some reason to think can suffer—can think, can reason, can suffer emotion—which deserve, and must have, a greater moral consideration from us than other animals.” Note this well: Dawkins has admitted that the atheist’s case for morality is based purely on emotions. Moral rules must, therefore, extend to those animals which we deem capable of suffering emotionally.

For one thing, we have very little ability to tell where to draw this new line—for example, it may not be too difficult to accept a gorilla emotionally suffering, but what about a cow, sheep, pig, or cat? What about an alligator or snake? A Chinchilla? A squirrel? Fish? Worm? Do these have emotions? Do they suffer emotionally, or just physically?

As well, the idea of emotional suffering forming the basis of morality itself has fundamental problems. Does this mean that if a majority of people are angry (emotional enough) at a certain species then it is acceptable to exterminate that species? Or if a member of a lower sentient species becomes so “emotional” and attacks a human, can we defend ourselves? Are we obligated to respect a predator’s emotions? It’s not clear. I recall a news story in which an elderly hiker was attacked by a mountain lion: his wife literally beat the big cat off with a log. Was she in the wrong for causing the animal suffering?

Dawkins’s worldview of leveling the moral playing field does not elevate apes or other animals to the level of humans; it debases human rights to the level of apes. It makes the sanctity of life a purely pragmatic issue, and worse, emotionally pragmatic at that. More to the point philosophically, it is entirely arbitrary. Why should anyone, given that they believe in no Supreme Judge or Higher Law, morally respect anything about anyone else, let alone an ape. Who says? Dawkins? The ape? If I am an atheist, I have no ruler but me. I decide, not some emotional celebrity scientist.

On the practical side, the “emotional” test fails just a miserably. In an atheist world, there is no authoritative reason to respect emotions or anything else. In a godless universe, a human is nothing more than a means to your ends, and an ape is food, clothing, merchandise, sport, or whatever you want it to be, regardless of how it my suffer emotionally in the process. It may suit us to protect an ape, or it may not; and that may change tomorrow. Why should we care if a sheep bleats when being sheared, or when being slaughtered? Why care when the gorilla falls lifeless, and its baby is sold for a zoo pet? One less gorilla, true; but thousands more happy consumers. The gorilla suffers only briefly, but many consumers enjoy the entertainment for years to come. So the emotions in this scenario actually come out greatly in the positive. The only reason we may feel pity when a mother gorilla is killed and her baby gorilla is stripped from her dead arms is because we project our own emotions and imagine what it would be like if the same thing happened to us; but this brings up an issue very uncomfortable to the atheist worldview.

Borrowing Christian morality

By “emotions,” I believe Dawkins means something like sympathy or empathy. As a moral rule, this could best be formulated like this: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” The atheist’s discomfort with this language comes from the fact that it is simply straight from the Bible. These are the very words of Christ in Matthew 7:12. Dawkins actually believes in this system of morals, but dares not mention its source, as it would reveal him as a thief of religious ideas. But he has to assume Christian morality in order to have any morality in his version of atheistic Darwinism.

Jesus concludes the passage, however, not by relying on emotions or by speaking of the interconnectedness of all species, but by saying, “for this is the Law and the Prophets.” The love of neighbor is part of the summation of God’s law which was revealed and given to man. Our respect for one another and the empathy that we feel comes from our being created in God’s image. We project that image onto others, even animals, because it is part of our moral conscience. We do not empathize with carrots or cabbages, because we cannot even begin to project the image of God onto those species. Unlike Dawkins, whose atheism and Darwinism force him to draw arbitrary lines between living things, the Christian system of morality stems from being created in God’s image, revealed in Scripture, and our innate ability to project those revelations onto others.

With this, the Christian system gives an objective basis for morality. Dawkins’s worldview can explain none. He admits this moral bankruptcy: “It’s very hard to make a purely scientific case for conserving any particular species. . . . The only case I can make is an emotional case; and what’s wrong with that? We are emotional beings. I feel emotional about it.”

I have shown what is wrong with that. If Dawkins gets his wish to change the course of humanity with his 400-page screed against Christianity, and by making moral appeals for all of humanity on the basis of “I feel emotional about it,” then global turmoil and mass upheaval cannot be far off. When a generation of leaders, governments, armies, fingers on nuclear buttons, criminals, and maybe even gorillas learns that the phrase “I feel emotional about it” can justify their actions, then terrorists will crawl this globe like ants on an anthill.  Fear will be the emotion of the day. Civilization will disappear, and so will gorillas.

A case in point

Dawkins’ “speciesism” argument was meant to help support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Fossey was a Jane Goodall type who left civilization to live among the mountain Gorillas in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She earned the trust of the apes, and they accepted her into their band. When one of her favorite apes was shot by poachers, Fossey began her foundation to raise money for protecting gorillas. Seven years after she began fighting poachers, Fossey was found murdered in her cabin.

A tragedy like this is instructive. To the “speciesist” world, the killing of a gorilla is a tragedy on par with murdering a human. But, as we have seen, when the foundations of Darwinist morality are exposed as non-existent, and the line erased between man and beast, then the tables turn: the killing of a human is just one more instance of natural animal behavior. Someone “felt emotional about” Fossey’s obstruction of their efforts, and they gratified that emotion. Without borrowing moral rules from the Christian worldview, the atheist has no valid moral complaint. Christians can be outraged by such a murder, and they can demand justice based on the law of God. Dawkins can say nothing except about what he feels.

The atheist can only conclude with Dawkins some rationale like this: “On strictly scientific grounds, there’s no reason why the earth shouldn’t simply blow itself up now. . . . You can’t prove scientifically that that’s wrong. Wrong and right are not things that you can prove scientifically.”

I am delighted that Dawkins admits the failure of atheism and science alone to provide any foundation for morals at all, or even prevent immorality on the grandest scale. But since he has automatically refused God and religion as sources of moral and ethical knowledge, he is forced to fall back on his emotions. We have seen the failure, relativism, and utter pointlessness of using emotions as a basis of morality. Dawkins should be ashamed of doing so; and I wonder if he feels very emotional about that.

Conclusion

In all of this, Dawkins’s vicious circle of moral reasoning never ceases to devour itself. It is with the very charge of wishful thinking, he critiques religious believers in his book The God Delusion: “Admittedly, people of a theological bent are often chronically incapable of distinguishing what is true from what they’d like to be true.”2

Yet, while this may be true of some believers, perhaps they just “feel emotional about it.” And thanks to Dawkins, now we can see that not only people of a “theological bent” are prone to such emotional wonderlands—celebrity atheists are, too. Except, for the atheist, he has no place else to go.

[Originally published June 27, 2008.] Footnotes:
[1]
 
[2]
  1. The full quote actually has yet to be found anywhere in Chesterton’s writings. Some researchers at the American Chesterton Society have traced the error to a conglomeration of two quotes poorly typeset in Emile Cammaerts, The Laughing Prophet: The Seven Virtues of G. K. Chesterton (London: Methuen, 1937). Cammaerts’ line, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything,” was probably misquoted as above by Christopher Hollis in The Mind of Chesterton (Coral Gables, FL: Univ. of Miami Press, 1970).
  2. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 108.
Categories: Worldview

The wrong way to do social activism (Target edition)

Fri, 05/27/2016 - 17:42

Some Christian activists are drawing attention to themselves in a purported effort to get Target Stores and its customers to repent over its transgender bathroom policy. The tactic is to have someone record them while they parade through the store “street preaching” at the top of their lungs again the LGBT-pride policy. (See videos below.)

Folks, this behavior is not honoring to Christ. While the Target bathroom policy may be among the rankest of sins, and should be opposed, Target stores are private property and protected from such disturbances and disruptions by very appropriate laws. Trespassing for the purposes of disturbing the peace, or purposes not in good faith with basic free commerce, is to break both God’s law and man’s.

Let’s be clear: you cannot stop sin by engaging in more sin. Christians lose the little bit of moral authority they have left when they break God’s laws while purporting to champion them. Stop it.

If you want to confront Target, preach in a public place where it’s allowed, write a blog, write an article, go on TV, rent a billboard, post your sermon on YouTube, pray, and/or boycott. It’s that simple.

One of the great reasons evil has progressed so far in this nation to begin with is that Christians have perennially tolerated trespasses of their own while pointing to change those of others. Since the earliest days of our nation’s settling and founding, this has been true: mercantilism, war, welfarism, statism, racism, slavery, public education, government regulation of everything, and more—hypocrisy after hypocrisy. You think God will bless any of that? No.

He judges it.

We have a perfect and eternal foundation in God’s Word, His law, and some of the foundations of this all-but-once Christian civilization. If we were to get ourselves true to those foundations first, we might find that the rest of these social problems aren’t nearly as big as they are now. God has a way of blessing Christians like that when they repent of their own sins first and return to Him. Until then, guys like this can expect to make headlines with HuffPost for the end of being ridiculed indefinitely, and rightly so.

If Christians intend to preach repentance in social affairs, we have a whole lot to repent of for ourselves first.

 

Categories: Worldview

Defeat statist dominion in your own back yard

Fri, 05/27/2016 - 08:09

By Paul Dorr

The Bible does not grant the civil magistrate an ownership interest in our private property. Yet, if we fail to pay property taxes, the Sheriff can auction it off to pay those taxes.

This is called “ownership,” but it’s not ownership. It’s a means of social control. I’ve spent the last 35 years of my life fighting it and learning how to beat it, and I would like to teach you how to start breaking it in your local government, too.

R. J. Rushdoony chronicled how the 19th and early 20th century humanist view of progress has been greatly funded with property taxes. As the humanists executed their “progressive” vision, they ripped the heart out of our personal and ecclesiastical obligations to attend to the welfare and education of our families, church members, and neighbors. Worse, such “compassion” (Proverbs 12:10b) lost its guiding moral principles which had served to be restorative and Christ-honoring.

These social functions have long been neutered of their Christian character and now reward sinful conduct—a critical element to their statist dominion. When the public schools were launched, some Christian leaders warned that with their foundation in property tax funding, it would only be a matter of time before financially-plundered Christians, otherwise opposed to the government’s claim of Christ-less “neutrality” in education, would one day concede. Most did, letting the progressive Christ-haters then train the hearts and minds of their children. I want to rip those children and taxes back out of their hands and restore a vision of real progress centered on the Biblical doctrine of sanctification.

Years ago, a Christian farmer taught me that accepting illegitimate tax revenues in exchange for services the government is not Biblically authorized to be engaged in is receiving stolen property (Prov. 29:24; Psalm 50:18). His life’s testimony of service unto Christ, raising eleven children, and righteousness and freedom gained from not taking government funds changed my life.

We can’t effectively resist tyrants, even at the local level, until we repent of any personal legitimization of such theft. When we set about a course to do this in our lives, a power from God opens to us that few in a society of slaves have experienced. For example, we can be reconciled with even our enemies (Prov. 16:7) who come to respect our sacrificial obedience.

Such a testimony strips the public of their normal diversionary excuse to ignore us: “Who are you to question this tax when you’re taking the benefit of public schools, welfare, business subsidies, subsidized student loans, social security, etc.?” When they learn you are instead looking after the poor in your neighborhood, educating your own children, ministering to the elderly, providing your own healthcare (for example, Samaritan Ministries International), and more, they often are beguiled. How? How are you doing this?

So, I don’t start by stating, “God says property taxes are immoral. Stop levying county, city, school district and township taxes.” Even with an instinct that this is true, most will still scoff. Our first task is instead to delegitimize the use of these funds. Christians need to learn their financial structure, their “bureaucratese,” their alliances, and their legal rules. Then we can play these back against them. We have to overcome decades of local propaganda as to how over-worked and underfunded the bureaucrats are. I teach my clients how to set up low cost social media systems to delegitimize them. I’d like to teach you as well.

We are never on our own. We must serve either God or man, and we must give account to God for our service. From Obama’s perverted “transgender bathrooms” policy, to rampant local corruption, to exploding state/local bond debt (from $1 trillion to $3.7 trillion in the last 16 years!), God is bringing their systems under increasing public judgement. The middle class is more eager than ever to listen. In this environment, my clients have so far had success in defeating $3 billion in new taxes which needed voter approval. Christian communities are more than ever ripe to hear what God’s Word says on establishing an alternative social order.

We must have a multi-generational vision of victory, because it will take time. I have clients doing it already, and I will teach you how to do it for your community in Kerrville, TX, July 28–31, at American Vision’s God, Governments, and Culture Conference. From my years of experience, I have a long list of “war stories” that punctuate the teaching and application of these principles and should encourage attendees. I hope to meet you there, so register now.

Join us in Kerville, TX for the God, Governments, and Culture Conference 2016. Take advantage of our early bird discount registration—15% OFF for a limited time. Register Now.

[Paul Dorr is a Reformed Christian and political consultant. He has been married to his wife Deb for 40 years and is the father of their eleven children (with 17 grandchildren and counting). He is a former community bank owner, former bank acquisition consultant, former jail-bird with Operation Rescue, and is now a specialist in local government. With decades of experience and leadership, Dorr can boast a near-80% success rate in defeating local money and power grabs. Dorr is a graduate of Unity Christian High School, Orange City, Iowa, and Iowa State University. His website is www.RollBackLocalGov.com.]
Categories: Worldview

TULIP is not enough: Reformed theology and culture

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 13:23

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

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

Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism

Those students who were interested in cultural Calvinism were directed to Kuyper’s 1898 Lectures on Calvinism. It was here that we were told we would find a fully developed, com­ prehensive, biblical world-and-life view. Kuyper’s brand of Cal­ vinism has been described as the “only modern exception” to the tendency of Christians either to abandon social action in favor of piety or to abandon piety in favor of social action.1

The “Kuyperian” tradition “was at once pious and socially influential.”2 “As Abraham Kuyper said, there is not one inch of creation of which Christ doesn’t say ‘Mine.'”3 In his Lectures on Calvinism, Kuyper discussed politics, science, and art—a rather odd mix, but it was more than the familiar five points of Calvinism. (Economics and law were strangely absent.)

Reading Kuyper was like reading a repair manual that was all diagnosis and little if any instruction on how to fix the problem. Here’s a sample:

That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which the Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.4

Everything that has been created was, in its creation, furnished by God with an unchangeable law of its existence. And because God has fully ordained such laws and ordinances for all life, therefore the Calvinist demands that all life be consecrated to His service in strict obedience. A religion confined to the closet, the cell, or the church, therefore, Calvin abhors.5

This is marvelous biblical world-and-life view rhetoric, but there is almost no appeal to the Bible in Lectures. Broad principles are set forth, but a specific biblical worldview is lacking. As one soon learns after reading Kuyper, there is little that is distinctly biblical in his cultural position. Kuyper, along with Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), is best known for the concept of sphere sovereignty and what is now being described as principled pluralism. . . .

This position rests upon several major tenets. God built basic structures or institutions into the world, each having separate authority and responsibilities. He established state, school, society, workplace, church, marriage, and family to carry out various roles in the world, and He commands human beings to serve as officeholders in these various spheres of life.6

What standard are these officeholders to use in the governance of these various spheres? This is the essence of the debate. Reconstructionists agree with the principled pluralists’ Kuyperian expression of world-and-life-view Calvinism that Christians should be involved. The disagreement is over how we should be involved and what standard we should use in our establishment of a developed social theory. . . .

Henry Van Til’s The Calvinistic Concept of Culture

The first place I turned after Kuyper was to Henry Van Til’s The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. Van Til, in his discussion of Augustine, wrote:

Augustine believed that peace with God precedes peace in the home, in society, and in the state. The earthly state too must be converted, transformed into a Christian state by the permeation of the kingdom of God within her, since true righteousness can only be under the rule of Christ.

Not only in the realm of ethics and politics must conversion take place . . . [but also] for knowledge and science. Apart from Christ, man’s wisdom is but folly, because it begins with faith in itself and proclaims man’s autonomy. The redeemed man, on the other hand, begins with faith and reason in subjection to the laws placed in this universe by God: he learns to think God’s thoughts after him. All of science, fine art and technology, conventions of dress and rank, coinage, measures and the like, all of these are at the service of the redeemed man to transform them for the service of his God.7

Van Til believed, along with Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper,8 and Klaas Schilder—Christian scholars whose predestinarian views are expounded in The Calvinistic Concept of Culture—that the building of a Christian culture is a Christian imperative. The Reconstructionists agree. Van Til castigated the Barthians for their repudiation of a Christian culture. “For them,” he wrote, “there is no single form of social, political, economic order that is more in the spirit of the Gospel than another.”9 . . .

There seems to be no room for ethical pluralism for Henry Van Til. My seminary training never hinted at pluralism. Nothing I read in Henry Van Til led me to embrace pluralism. In rejecting Barth’s repudiation of a specifically Christian culture, he assured us that the

Calvinist maintains that the Word of God has final and absolute authority, and is clear and sufficient in all matters of faith and conduct. It constitutes the final reference point for man’s thinking, willing, acting, loving, and hating, for his culture as well as his cultus. . . . [F]or all practical purposes, the church through­ out history has accepted the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the Word of the living God. Calvinism, also in its cultural aspects, proposes to continue in this historic perspective, not willing to accept the church or the religious consciousness, or any other substitute in place of the Word.10

This is the historic position of the church, Van Til asserted. This is what I was taught in seminary. This is the view that my professors defended. But there was one problem. Even after finishing Van Til’s book, I noticed a glaring deficiency: There were few specifics and even fewer references to the Bible as to how it actually applies to culture. Van Til, however, was a few steps beyond Kuyper, but the plane still had no wings. It was not going to fly.

Henry Meeter’s The Basic Ideas of Calvinism

I next turned to H. Henry Meeter’s The Basic Ideas of Calvinism. This work looked promising even though its focus was on politics. The first edition (1939) of Meeter’s work was described as “Volume I.” A subsequent volume never appeared. Again, the Bible was emphasized as the standard for both Christian and non-Christian.

The Calvinist insists that the principles of God’s Word are valid not only for himself but all citizens. Since God is to be owned as Sovereign by everyone, whether he so wishes or not, so also the Bible should be the determining rule for all. But especially for himself the Christian, according to the Calvinist, must in politics live by these principles.11

Since God is the Sovereign of all His creatures, He must be recognized as the lawmaker for all mankind. How does one determine what that rule is? Meeter told us that the Bible should be the determining rule for all, not just for Christians and not just for settling ecclesiastical disputes. So far, so good. Meeter then moved on to answer the question as to whether the state is to be Christian.

On the negative side, he made it clear that the state is still a legitimate sphere of government even though its laws are not based on the Bible. Of course, this is not the issue in theonomy. Is the state obligated, when confronted with the truth of Scripture, to implement those laws which are specifically civil in application?

On the affirmative side, Meeter wrote: “Whenever a State is permeated with a Christian spirit and applies Christian principles in the administration of civil affairs, it is called ‘Christian.’ If that be what is meant by a Christian state, then all States should be Christian, according to the conscience of the Calvinist, even though many states are not Christian. If God is the one great Sovereign of the universe, it is a self-evident fact that His Word should be law to the ends of the earth.”12

Meeter had moved from “Christian principles” to His Word should be law.” The goal, then, is God’s Word as the “law.” Meeter continues:

If God is Ruler, no man may ever insist that religion be a merely private matter and be divorced from any sphere of society, political or otherwise. God must rule everywhere! The State must bow to His ordinances just as well as the Church or any private individual. The Calvinist, whose fundamental principle maintains that God shall be Sovereign in all domains of life, is very insistent on having God recognized in the political realm also.13

In what way is the state to “bow to His ordinances”? Where are these ordinances found? “For matters which relate to its own domain as State, it is bound to the Word of God as the Church or the individual.” For Meeter, a “State is Christian” when it uses “God’s Word as its guide.”14

Meeter left the inquiring theonomist with additional questions: “If the Bible, then, is the ultimate criterion by which the State must be guided in determining which laws it must administer, the question arises, with how much of the Bible must the State concern itself?”15 He told us that “Civil law relates to outward conduct.”16 The inquiring theonomist is looking for specifics, a methodology to determine which laws do apply to the civil sphere. What “outward conduct” should the State regulate? Sodomy and adultery are certainly “outward conduct.” (This is the legal issue of “victimless crimes.”)

Like Kuyper and Henry Van Til before him, Meeter, who asserts that the Bible “is the ultimate criterion by which the State must be guided in determining which laws it must administer” never set forth a biblical methodology. In fact, he never quoted one passage of Scripture to defend his position, although there are vague references to biblical ideals! Reading Meeter was like reading an unfinished novel. The plane still had no wings.

The Calvinistic Action Committee’s God-Centered Living

I next moved to a symposium produced by the Calvinistic Action Committee: God-Centered Living. God-Centered Living began with this noble goal: “This book seeks to be of help to those who desire to know what the will of God is for the practical guidance of their lives in the complex relations and situations of our modern day.” The Committee encouraged the reader with its intent not simply to “theorize,” describing its method as “a call to action” based on the “clarification and application of basic Christian principles. There will be no solution for our pressing modern social problems without recourse to the verities of the Word of God.”17

Finally, I thought, a plane with wings! This volume was more comprehensive than those mentioned above, touching on the task of the church for the solution of modern problems, Calvinism and the missionary enterprise, evangelization of America, education, art, recreation and amusements, political action, economics, business, social problems, and international relations.

The Need for a Biblical Worldview

Calvinism was set off from Christianity in general precisely because of its advocation of a comprehensive biblical world view. Quoting Francis R. Beattie, Calvinism was described as “the richest systematic expression of revealed truth yet made, . . . the richest product of Protestantism.”18 What does this greater consistency imply? “It means greater Biblical consistency, being more genuinely and more deeply and more richly true to the teaching of the Word of God.”19 Quoting Warfield:

He who believes in God without reserve, and is determined that God shall be God to him in all intellectual, moral, spiritual, throughout all his individual, social, religious relations—is, by the force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist.20

Similar to the appeals by Kuyper, Henry R. Van Til, and Meeter, the authors of the symposium believed that the comprehensive nature of the applicability of the Bible was unique to Calvinism. This included the applicability of God’s law. “In Reformed church worship the law is an integral part of the sacred program. Many Fundamentalist fellow-Christians seem to know the law in only one relation, viz., that of sin and redemption. . . . The Heidelberg Catechism21 recognizes the significance of the law both as a teacher of sin and as a norm for the Christian’s life of gratitude, and it gives an exposition of that law precisely in the latter context.”22 . . .

The comprehensive biblical worldview of Calvinism includes an “ethical task.” Bouma wrote:

This calls for a Christian witness in every realm of life. A witness in the home, in the church, in the school, in the state, and in every other social sphere. Calvinists have always been deeply aware of an ethical task. To them gospel preaching and social reform are not mutually exclusive, whatever Fundamentalists on the one hand and Modernists on the other, may have made of them. To live for the glory of God in every relationship of life, to be a soldier for the King, to battle for the Lord, to crown Christ King in every legitimate realm of human endeavor—this belongs to the very essence of being a true, full-orbed Christian, and it is the Calvinist—the true Calvinist, not his caricature – who stands committed to this task. It is to the exposition of this ethical task for our day that this book would strive to make a contribution.23

So, then, to be a full-orbed Calvinist is to demonstrate the ethical demands of soteriology. The Calvinist preacher must preach the law of God in clear tones from the pulpit. Where fundamentalism and modernism have failed, Calvinism must not fail. With the devaluing of God’s law among fundamentalists, evangelicals, and some in the Reformed camp we can expect a reevaluation of a supposed worthy substitute. “There has been a tendency among evangelicals to give too much credit to the redeemed conscience, as though the conscience itself contained the standard of righteousness. It has been forgotten that the conscience needs to be guided by the inflexible standard of God’s law. . . . Failure to preach the law of God has left the Christian without a clear sense of direction in his Christian life. For many this has permitted a too easy conscience with respect to the need of Christianizing his life and influence.”24

The Need for a Biblical Ethical Standard

Where is this “inflexible standard” to be found? Is it a “New­Testament-only” ethic? “From Moses and the prophets to Christ and the epistles, the law is expounded in such a way as to re­ quire that the Christian influence society for righteousness and the glory of God. The Christian witness is a life whose thinking and action has been brought into conformity with the will of God, as well as an oral declaration of the way of salvation in Christ.”25

Notice the indictment on those who “give too much credit to the redeemed conscience.” Some “inflexible standard” is necessary to keep even the redeemed conscience in check. This would also include the redeemed conscience’s ability to discern ethical requirements in general revelation. And what about those who give too much credit to the unredeemed conscience? This is the latest trend in ethical pluralism. Supposedly “‘the law written on our hearts’ (Romans 2:15)26 . . . is the law by which all candid people know that murder is wrong, for example. It is the law by which our consciences, if they are not too cauterized by sin, judge us.”27 There are “candid” abortionists who daily support the murder of innocent preborn babies. There are “candid” sodomites who practice “degrading passions, . . . men with men committing indecent acts. . .” (Rom. 1:27).

Of course, theonomy has little quarrel with those who maintain that general revelation convicts the unregenerate of sin. This, however, is not the issue in the debate over theonomy. What should the convicted sinner do once he recognizes that he has transgressed “the ordinance of God” (Rom. 1:32)? This is the theonomic question. The theonomists have asked, ever since Rushdoony’s first book was published: By what standard? Does the Bible have a clear standard of ethical behavior that should be followed by sinners everywhere? Why the need to go to general revelation if the Bible already gives an answer? When you lead someone to Christ, do you point him to general revelation or special revelation? What book did you use for daily devotions this morning? What law have you adopted for the governance of your family? What principles should govern your mind as you enter the voting booth? . . .

For the Calvinist law is not a matter of convenience, or of protection primarily. It is the expression of the will of God; it is based upon eternal principles of right and justice as revealed in the Scriptures, for example, in the Ten Commandments. From them man learns that theft, murder, and immorality are sins. To be sure, not all points of law and justice are directly covered in the Bible. However, the principles which govern them can readily be distilled from these eternal principles of right and justice which are expressed there. Again, government is divinely instituted, and obedience to its ordinances, if they be in accord with these eternal principles, is the duty of the Christian.28

It is one thing to talk about the ethical requirements easily distilled from general revelation, but theonomists are still waiting for someone to demonstrate that this can actually be done. Theonomists often catch general revelation advocates borrowing from the theonomist’s garden, similar to the way humanists borrow from the Christian’s garden. But as our nation moves steadily from an ethic that most Americans recognize as being Bible-based, any ethic based on general revelation will dissipate as quickly as a morning fog vanishes at the appearing of a blazing sun. . . .

God-Centered Living almost produced a plane with wings. But like Kuyper, Henry Van Til, and Meeter, the symposium was little more than versions of Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”: a few seconds of flight and then back to the hangar. There was a great deal of discussion about applying the Bible to every area of life, but only a few glimpses as to how this might be done. The Christian community would soon put their faith in a pilot named Francis A. Schaeffer.

(Part two to follow. . . .)

(Originally published as “Some Wings for Calvinism’s Modern Plane,” Chapter 2 in Theonomy: An Informed Response, ed. Gary North (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 39–56.)

Notes:

 

  1. Irving Hexham and Karla Poewe, Understanding Cults and New Religions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 126.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Douglas Groothuis, “Revolutionizing our Worldview,” Reformed journal (Nov­ ember 1982), p. 23.
  4. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1931) 1970), p. iii.
  5. Ibid., p. 53.
  6. Gary Scott Smith, “Introduction to Principled Pluralism,” God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government, ed. Gary Scott Smith (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1989), p. 75.
  7. Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 87.
  8. Kuyper’s emphasis on common grace as “the foundation of culture” leads one of his critics to write “that Kuyper can never really get special grace into the picture.” Van Til, Calvinistic Concept of Culture, pp. 118, 119.
  9. Ibid., p. 44.
  10. Van Til, Calvinistic Concept of Culture, p. 157.
  11. H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, 5th rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, (1939] 1956), pp. 99–100. A 6th edition appeared in 1990 with three chapters added by Paul A. Marshall.
  12. Ibid., p. 111.
  13. Ibid., pp. 111-12.
  14. Ibid., p. 112.
  15. Ibid., p. 126.
  16. Ibid., p. 127.
  17. Calvinistic Action Committee, God-Centered Living or Calvinism in Action (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1951), p. 5.
  18. Francis R. Beattie, Calvinism and Modern Thought (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1901), pp. 13, 14. Quoted by Clarence Bouma, “The Relevance of Calvinism for Today,” God-Centered Living, p. 14.
  19. Bouma, “The Relevance of Calvinism for Today,” God-Centered Living, p. 14.
  20. Benjamin B. Warfield, Calvin and Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931), pp. 354-55. Quoted in ibid., p. 15.
  21. On the Forty-First Sabbath, question 108 of the Heidelberg is read: “Ques. 108. What doth the seventh command teach us? Ans. That all uncleanness is accursed of God, and that, therefore, we must, with all our hearts, detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life.” Under the “Explanation and Proof” various texts are added, including Leviticus 20:10: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
  22. Bouma, “The Relevance of Calvinism for Today,” God-Centered Living, p. 20.
  23. Bouma, “The Relevance of Calvinism for Today,” God-Centered Living, p. 20.
  24. Peter Van Tuinen, “The Task of the Church for the Solution of Modern Problems,” God-Centered Living, pp. 43-44.
  25. Ibid., p. 44.
  26. While it might not seem to make that much difference to some, Romans 2:15 actually says, “in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts.”
  27. Thomas C. Atwood, “Through a Glass Darkly: Is the Christian Right Over­confident It Knows God’s Will?,” Policy Review (Fall 1990), p. 49.
  28. Heyns, “Calvinism and Social Problems,” God-Centered Living, p. 236.
Categories: Worldview

Gospel, Sanctification, and Theonomy

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 10:28

A thoughtful reader emailed a question regarding Theonomy and “law and Gospel.” Specifically, in light of Theonomy, the call for Christians to acknowledge the law of God as the pattern of our sanctification, both personal and social, and the call to obedience to that law, “What place does the gospel have in the believer’s life moment-by-moment?”

This is an excellent question for more than one reason. One reason is that those who are new and first developing a foundational understanding of such theological issues often come from a background of general evangelical theology. This theology generally neglects the role of God’s law almost entirely, except as a tool to drive us to Christ and the Gospel. The law is rarely spoken of in its role of providing a guide to godly behavior for Christian good works (Eph. 2:10). Even though the Reformed Confessions acknowledge this role of the law, and even though many Reformed and Evangelical theologians mention this role, it is rarely developed even for personal life, and even more rarely developed for social life and institutions.

The reader who sent this question understands Theonomy well enough to know that it is “not just about reconstructing a society where the glory of the Lord is displayed in toto, but at heart it is the flip side of justification, i.e., sanctification,” and “that through sanctification we are being conformed to the image of Christ.” Great! But there is a lingering issue regarding what role the Gospel plays “moment-by-moment” in conjunction with this “in toto” sanctification.

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that this is hardly an issue pertaining to Theonomy or Reconstruction alone. It is an issue that needs to be developed and emphasized by all Reformed theology (indeed, all theology, period). Readers should acknowledge that even if Theonomy were incorrect, this question would still persist for all general Reformed theology, for all general Reformed theology asserts both the constant need for the Gospel and the abiding progress of sanctification—even if that sanctification pertained only to personal piety.

I addressed these issues in reference to Theonomy somewhat elsewhere in a certain polemical discussion. The relevant meat of that discussion is how the relationship between “being saved” and ongoing sanctification is nothing more than basic Confessional Reformed theology. I’ll repeat the points in more general (non-polemic) form in what follows.

The Confessional view of santification

Rushdoony once made the comment: “The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man ‘from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’ (Rom. 8:4).” The thing to note here is a necessary connection between the believer’s personal relationship with Christ and his or her ongoing sanctification. This is a Gospel-filled, Spirit-filled life which, because of these things, goes on also to be an obedient life filled with good works.

Is this a novel teaching? Hardly. The London Baptist Confession (LBC) teaches exactly the same thing. LBC Chapter 13 on “Sanctification” makes clear that as the saints grow in grace, they also grow “in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.” Obedience? Obedience to commands? What could this mean? Let a more traditional Reformed Baptist commentator, Sam Waldron, answer this for us: “In general good works are those which conform to the law of God as revealed in the Scriptures (see chapter 19).”1

See Chapter 19 indeed. Consider sections 5, 6, and 7 of Chapter 19:

The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Contrary to zealous critics who presents this view of the law’s binding obligation for the life of the believer after the Gospel as being “under the law,” the LBC teaches the exact opposite:

Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; . . . [M]an’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.2

Section 7 goes on to speak in the exact same terms as Rushdoony:

Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.3

Remember what Rushdoony said? “The purpose of Christ’s atoning work was to restore man to a position of covenant-keeping instead of covenant-breaking, to enable man to keep the law by freeing man ‘from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’ (Rom. 8:4).” It is without any surprise, then, that we find among the LBC’s scripture proofs for this section none other than . . . Romans 8:4.

Here again, Sam Waldron’s comments, coming from a more mainstream Reformed view, are helpful. He concludes this section with a statement almost identical to what Rushdoony said above: “The very purpose of the gospel is to deliver men from lawlessness and cause them to obey the law of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:4; Titus 2:14).”4 Note also not only the same exact sentiment and language, but the same reference to Romans 8:4.

I have found Waldron’s extended comments on this section very helpful, particularly in providing a more traditional Reformed alternative to the idea that it is “insidious and dangerous” to suggest that believers are somehow bound to the law after having received the Gospel. For example, Waldron comments:

Some apparently were saying that while we ought to do what the law says as to its content or matter, we should not do it because the law says it, but simply because of gratitude to Christ. Several serious problems may be pointed out in such a sentiment. It is unscriptural (James 2:10-11; Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21). This is a subtler form of the error that justified persons are not bound to obey the law, since ultimately it is not the authority of the law they regard, but only their gratitude to Christ. Its practical effect is to convey to the popular mind a lessened sense of the majesty of the law of God and of the seriousness and absolute necessity of law-keeping. It makes faithful exhortation to duty difficult, because those who hold this teaching always object that you are bringing them back into slavery. If anyone speaks to such people of duty and obligation, their response is that such exhortations are legalistic. Christ strengthens the original authority of the law. He does not put the content or the matter of the law on a new foundation. He does not eliminate the obligation to obey our Creator, but adds the obligation of gratefully obeying our Redeemer.

Waldron’s point is that a diminished view of law-keeping for the believer leads not only to complacency, but to the type of complaints against Theonomy we have heard from critics for some time: it is legalism, slavery, “under the law,” etc.5

What this “under the law” error does is illustrate the dangers of overreacting to the claims of Theonomy. In something that is actually quite common, people overreact to “the law” so much they end up arguing like liberals, or even antinomians. When one carries their anti-theonomic critiques—especially in straw man form—to their logical extremes, they actually start speaking against the basic Reformed theology of sanctification, and thus, become like antinomians.

Or, looked at from the positive side of the argument, there is as direct and organic a relationship between salvation in Christ sola fide and Theonomy as there is between salvation in Christ sola fide and general, personal sanctification according to the Confession. Answer the more fundamental question, and you’ll answer the question in regard to Theonomy as well.

The “moment-by-moment” role of the Gospel

So how does the Gospel of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus relate to all of this? I think answer lies right there in the Reformed Confessions (particularly, the Westminster Confession and the LBC). Chapter 13 of the LBC (to which the WCF is substantially the same), addresses the nature of our Sanctification:

They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them. . . .

Section three concludes that “although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.”

For our purposes here, we need to make three observations. First, the means by which we are sanctified is the exact same means by which we are saved in general. The confession is at pains to note that our sanctification is “through the same virtue” as our union with Christ, effectual calling, regeneration, and renewal. This virtue includes Christ’s “death and resurrection,” as well as “His Word and Spirit dwelling in them.” It is by His finished work and by His Word and Spirit dwelling in us that we are brought to believe the Gospel, and it is by these same means that we are brought to believe, love, and seek to obey the Law.

Whatever differences theologians have posited rightly between “law and Gospel” for all of history, the role of Christ, Word, and Spirit in animating and empowering the believer in both cannot be one of them. By the same token, then, we must acknowledge that Reformed theology affirms obedience to the Law as a Gospel-driven, Spirit-filled reality.

Second, we deduce, therefore, that the very reason for which we need the Gospel “moment-by-moment” is also the very reason we strive to grow more faithful in obedience “moment-by-moment” (and perhaps the same could be said, vice versa). There is no separating the faith by which we apprehend forgiveness for our sins through Christ’s atoning work and that by which we mortify the flesh and conform our lives to his standards of living—even though we distinguish between them for several reasons.

Again, the reason for confusion on this issue is most likely because of a failure to teach on the sanctification and obedience side of the equation. Indeed, it is very likely that all the recoil against application of God’s law has left a vacuum in Christian teaching that begged to be filled with something theological, or theological-sounding. Some quarters have returned to various liturgical niceties to fill this void. Some have created a type of neo-hyper-confessionalism. Some have turned to church growth tactics of all sorts. Others—probably most of conservative Reformed circles—have been left to do nothing more than continually emphasize only justification by faith and our need for the Gospel every moment of our lives.

I believe this latter emphasis, which I hear from many non-Theonomic and anti-Theonomic Reformed Christians, is what has created the difficulty for people like the reader who asked this question. The continual drumming of our continual need for the Gospel combined with the continual neglect of applying God’s law (i.e., sanctification), has created a dissonance in the minds of people who begin to contemplate what sanctification is and how it works. The moment they begin to ask the sanctification question, and thus the Theonomy question, they begin to fear they may be departing from that which they have been taught (rightly) is the all-crucial doctrine: our continual need for the Gospel. The obvious answer does not appear readily as it should: both Gospel and law are processed in us by the same power, virtue, agency, and means, and that is Christ, His Word and His Spirit dwelling in us.

Third, our obedience (sanctification) must be to “all the commandments” Christ has given us, and this means sanctification has a much larger scope than just our personal devotions and prayer closet. This is where Theonomy begins to get real, because this is where sanctification begins to get real. What happens when we contemplate radical obedience in the areas of education or business? Debt?

This is not even to ask about the so-called “civil” use of the law which applies to society and non-believers also. That is also a major Theonomic topic. But here we consider only “all areas of life” concerned with the personal and social aspects of believers. This is a huge category, but it is no less confessional than any other, and we must embrace it just as much as we embrace salvation by grace alone through faith alone, as well as the basic understanding of sanctification through those same means and power as described above.

Conclusion

So, for a Theonomist, “What place does the gospel have in the believer’s life moment-by-moment?” The answer to that is simple. It has the same place, moment-by-moment, as it does for any general Reformed theologian, and as it should for any Christian. It has a central, crucial, and absolutely necessary place in our life of saving faith in Christ. But our sanctification unto obedience has exactly the same requirement. We need affirmation of the forgiveness of sins and full, free, gracious acceptance by the Father because of Christ’s finished work every moment of our lives. We also need the outlook, direction, and corrective influence of God’s law every moment of our lives. And we require Christ’s Word and His Spirit every moment of our lives for either to have even one moment’s effect in us.

Notes:

  1. Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3526-3527). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3958-3975). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 3981-3983). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4127-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
  5. See Waldron’s further comments at Waldron, Samuel E (2013-03-27). A Modern Exposition 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 4088-4128). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
Categories: Worldview

Freedom in education: how to get it back

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 14:00

The concluding section on Education in Restoring America One County at a Time:

Chapter 1: Education

1.3 How to Get It Back

When we talk about restoring freedom, we have to be careful not to be too romantic about the past. It is one thing to survey how things used to be free, and lessons we learn there we can certainly apply to modern times; it is another thing, however, to think that the goal is to return everything to the state it was in back in 1776. We can’t return to that world, socially, technologically, culturally, geographically, demographically, economically. But there are certainly, as I said, many ideals we can take from then and restore for today. After all, ideals such as liberty and neighborliness do not change; the highest morals and ethics of Christianity do not change; the ideals of life, liberty, and property do not to change. The ideals don’t change: rather, it is how committed we are to the ideals that makes changes in society.

So how do we restore the ideal of individual and economic freedom in education? Obviously, you’re not going to change the whole system overnight; so you commit yourself to do what you can do personally, and then begin to model for and persuade others. The first step can be stated simply, and for many can be performed tomorrow if they are willing: don’t accept the apparent benefit that comes with government control. Don’t want the trap? Don’t take the cheese. Put bluntly, pull your children out of public school.

You may think this does not need to be the first priority; you may think that education is one area we can leave alone for the time being while we fix the really big problems over in Washington. But this mentality has been in play for well over a century, and it’s a myth—it’s totally backwards. If you can’t rein-in the socialism in your own county, and your family’s complicity in it, you don’t have a chance at changing anything greater. And even if you did, it wouldn’t matter socially, because you would still be doing it yourself.

Why do I say this is the one area you can take control of now; the first point at which you must start; the one area in which you can have the greatest impact right now? Here’s why: In later talks we’re going to cover things like the role of the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the Constitution—you can’t change these things. You don’t have any control over what currency you use, unless of course you live in a very tightly controlled community that relies purely on barter (nota bene: not even the Amish do this). You have absolutely no power to change those things, and very little in the way of alternatives. For all practical purposes, you’re stuck with tyranny in these areas (although, not to be completely pessimistic, we will discuss things we can do, and the type of future and steps toward which we can work). In things going on at the federal level, the best you can do in many cases is cast your vote—one vote among a hundred million—about like thinking you’re going to stop a tsunami with a sandcastle. Here, however, in the area of education, you can take nearly complete control right here, right now. No election required, no legislation required, no vote required, no amendment to the Constitution required; you don’t have to hire a lawyer, call your Congressman, nothing. There are no legal, social, or economic barriers preventing you from being free in this area. It is purely, 100%, a lifestyle decision.

And that is why I say, if we don’t reassert liberty here first, we won’t really do it anywhere else. Because if we’re not willing to make changes when and where we can, then we certainly won’t do it where it’s unlikely. If we’re not willing to make the sacrifices in lifestyle necessary in order to take personal responsibility here, where it’s perfectly legal and able to be done, then pretending anything beyond that is absolute parade of showmanship. In such a case, here’s what we’re doing: we’re devoting tons of time and effort, and maybe even money, to things that can only have marginal effects at best, and yet neglecting the one thing that can have major effects, only because it will cost us the devotion of a little extra time and effort and money. We’ll spend countless hours and energy going to political campaigns, rallies, speeches, waving flags and signs, passing out buttons and bumper stickers, watching the news every night to see what politician on what side said what; posting video clips of news reports and interviews on YouTube and Facebook, adding commentary; saying things like “We need more guys like this”; “I wish this guy was president”; or on the converse advancing whichever of countless criticisms we could choose from. Why do we react this way to a society that’s not free, instead of concentrating our time and energy on exercising that freedom where we’re already perfectly free to do so to begin with? It speaks volumes as to why we’re in the shape we’re in: we’ve taken the benefit. We take the easy way out—the path of least resistance. And our attempts to regain freedom reflect this very complacency: it’s easy to mount a bumper sticker, to attend a rally, to get in a group and shout at the marble façade of a building that houses corrupt politicians. It’s easy to click on an internet link, and share it on Facebook. It’s easy. We do what’s easy.

But homeschool child? Private school a child? We’ve got a thousand reasons why we wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t do such a thing. And I’m telling you, that in all but a small minority of cases, those thousand reasons are all excuses.

Educational Choices: A Few Scenarios

But we have to work hard for liberty and make the efforts that we can. All government must begin with self-government. And the moment you believe it’s legitimate to use law to govern someone else so as to benefit yourself, you have sown the seed of the destruction of both Christianity and liberty. And it just so happens that the easy way out means just that: destruction of both Christianity and liberty. We have to reassert individual responsibility where we can. And you can. If ever there were an area of life in which people today need to hear the mantra “Yes we can,” it’s in the area of reasserting individual liberty in education.

So what does this mean on a personal level? It will depend on your personal family situation, and it will depend on what alternative to government schools you choose. I personally favor homeschooling for a variety of reasons; but you may decide private schooling is better for you and your children. Fine. The purpose in either decision is to reassert individual control, which means individual liberty, and to begin the end of civil government domination of education, end civil government coercion, and in fact, all educational coercion in which someone forces someone else to do it their way. So let’s consider a few case examples:

In an ideal scenario, there is a traditional family in which the husband works and the wife is able to stay home and school the children. In a traditional family setting like this, if children are currently in government schools, the only changes that need to be made are very minor, especially if the decision is to switch to a private school. Here the only changes are logistical: deciding what school, enrolling, and going; and the greatest burden would be paying tuition, which would mean revising the budget. Even a homeschooling scenario is easy, however, and cheaper: the mother (or in some cases, perhaps the father) who stays home, simply needs to get encouraged and equipped to start homeschooling. The encouragement can be found in many churches, support groups, co-ops, and other organizations devoted to home education. And the same people and institutions can direct you to a million curriculum and teaching resources, and American Vision sells a few as well. All it takes to find plenty of both of these things are a few internet searches. In this case, there is no reason not to do so. For Christians it could be argued persuasively that it’s sinful not to do so.

But this traditional family scenario clearly is not the majority of cases today. Most traditional-like families are today two-income families, and the children, if not at public school, are often in day care. In these cases, the decision whether to private school or home school will mean a greater revising of the budget. Private school will require tuition, and homeschooling will require either hiring a private nanny/tutor, or more commonly, one of the parents staying home. But a parent staying home means at least a reduction to part-time salary for that parent, and more likely forfeiture of that second income completely. I have to tell you that this is the most common resistance I hear in regard to homeschooling. Because they always say that they family needs all of both incomes in order to pay the bills. I have to be honest: while I suspect that is probably sometime the case, I am skeptical that it’s truly as frequent as I hear it. In most of the cases of this I have encountered, the two-income dependent family has a large suburban home and comfortable lifestyle to match. If families require two incomes in order to maintain this, and this makes government taxation for child care and education necessary, then don’t we need to start asking question about lifestyle? In this scenario, the taxation is not so much subsidizing education as subsidizing their comfortable lifestyle, cable TV, etc. And is it really the case that the total of both incomes are necessary to pay the necessary living expenses—house payments, utility bills, insurance, etc. I don’t know; in some cases yes that’s probably true, but in others, is it not the case that some cutbacks here and there, sacrifices in lifestyle, tightening the budget a little across the board may just be the right to do for the cause of freedom? What is the price of freedom, after all? Is the price of freedom that we live at the extremity of our means, while passing off the fundamental aspects of life like education to be funded by other people through taxation? And even in a case where a two-income family honestly requires the fullness of both incomes in order to make “ends meet,” should not there be some soul searching into the way such a lifestyle is funded and the taxation on which it depends? And should there not also be a question about living beyond our means at the expense of other people? Is that moral and right? Is that freedom?

And then there are the actually difficult cases: single parent families. How in the world can we expect a single parent to work and provide for the necessities of life, and at the same time homeschool? And how can we expect a single mom to be able to afford to pay for private schooling? I don’t think the latter issue is as difficult as the home school issue. A single mom is really not much different than any other one-income household paying tuition at a private school. And in these cases, many churches which have private schools will give discounts to church members. At any rate, many private school tuitions are not that much higher than day care rates. But the single mom home school dilemma is definitely difficult. Yet even here, depending on State requirements, nothing says you have to home-school during the day. You can find the required number of hours in the afternoon and evening. And I personally know at least one business-class working mom who has successfully home-schooled a child into their teenage years. So I know it can be done.

The only real question here is the same question at the root of all these cases: What lifestyle changes are you willing to make in order to restore freedom in this area? What sacrifice are you willing to make to restore freedom?

Steps to Restoring Educational Freedom

So here are a few practical steps: First, educate yourself. Educate yourself as to the processes of beginning and managing your decision (whether homeschool or private). Really, the easiest to way for a beginner to learn is to Google something like, “How do I get started homsechooling?” and add to this the name of your state, for example, “Georgia” (because every state has slightly different laws). You will be able to choose from an endless list of helpful sites, the top few probably being the most popular organizations in your state: for this example, one is the Georgia Home Educators Association. Study especially the relevant laws for compulsory attendance, reporting, etc., and find out exactly how to initiate your home school legally (if necessary) and what is required of you beyond that. Then see what resources are available for curriculum in all price ranges, read reviews, talk online and in person with people who know, and make an educated decision.

Second, write the letters, order the necessary books, and start the process. Here’s one tip: don’t jump at first into one of those thousand-dollar all-in-one curriculum packs, because if you get half way through and don’t like it, or find something better for much less, you will have wasted your money. Most people I know prefer to design their own curriculum piece by piece.

Also, get some books for yourself: learn how to become more than just a housewife going through the motions (which could be the case); learn how to become an effective communicator and a good teacher, planner, organizer, scholar yourself. Improve yourself as much as you do your child.

So educate yourself, make the investment, and then start doing it. Jump in and start. That’s more important than trying to get everything perfect and then start, because then you’ll never start. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn, and the child will learn—and you’ll both be better for it. There will always be more to learn down the road, no matter how good you are.

In addition to taking back individual and family control to the extent that we can already, we should educate ourselves in regard to the larger picture. There could certainly be further political goals at which to aim, beginning at the local level: the ultimate goal should be to abolish all public taxation and funding for schools in general—get the civil government completely out of the market of education. But a mediate step in the meantime would be perhaps a law that exempts anyone from property tax who is private schooling or homeschooling their children. No one should be taxed to pay for other people’s educations, but especially people who already pay such high personal costs to take care of their own should not have to bear the added costs of others on top of that: as it currently stands, these people are bearing what is essentially double the tax burden.

Not only would this be economically fair for those who already pay for their own, but this fairness in itself would become an incentive for more people to pull out of public school, and for more people to become private tutors, teachers, and create more private schools. When more and more property owners realize that they could afford a more than adequate home school curriculum for way less than the price of their property taxes, they would certainly want to move in that direction (not to mention the further benefits of home schooling, by the way). And if more people moved into the private school market, not only would options increase in that market, but a range of levels of affordability would arise in order to serve those who wished to afford more or less tuition. And depending on your status and property, when the market reaches an equilibrium not distorted by the State’s virtual monopoly on education, you would soon be able to afford yearly tuition at one of many private schools easily for the amount of your property tax saved—and that’s considering an average middle-class property owner. This is probably true for many people already depending on the person and the school.

If the essential monopoly of government over education is broken, a free market in education—considering today’s technology and vast information resources—would produce options that we probably can’t even imagine currently. Charitable organizations even could start schools that surpassed public schools in capability and efficiency, and serve even the poorest of the poor, and do so in a way superior to the one-size-fits-all model of government education today.

We should also, if we were to consider the political side, look further into revenues. We have just discussed personal exemptions which make perfect sense. But we are doing this project in the context of County Rights, restoring the County as the fundamental unit of government in America. And the sovereignty of county administration is compromised to the extent that it accepts funding from the State level and the Federal level—these, always coming with mandates, regulations, and other strings attached. In order truly to reassert local district control (which is the basis, after all, behind most people claiming, “our schools are different”), the source of funding must remain always and only local (or private organizations with private contracts disclosed to all comers). The truth is that nationwide, most local school districts receive about half of their funding from their states, about another 10% from the Feds, and only the remaining 40% from local taxes. Of course, all of this is a tax bill picked up by taxpayers, but when higher and higher levels of government are in control, the revenues get homogenized and then reapportioned more equally than they were collected. In other words, it’s one more deceptive way to redistribute wealth. Local districts should reassert local control, and could do so by refusing to accept the handouts; of course, this would take pressure from the community on the school board, and again, a willingness on the part of all involved to sacrifice and make due with the limitations of their own means. But this should be done; and it should come in addition to local, state, and federal exemptions for anyone not directly using the system, but homeschooling or private schooling.

The goal is to exercise what freedom we can in the area of education; and in doing so, create a movement that will make it socially viable to free up education completely. This, I realize, is not a walk in the park; but it is the easiest thing we can do right now in the effort to restore America. It is sitting there right in front of us waiting to be done. All it takes is a little commitment and a little sacrifice.

What are you willing to sacrifice? What do you consider important: freedom, integrity, honesty? Can these be compromised for the cause of convenience and comfort? Should they be? That’s the question at the root of Restoring America One County at a Time, and it begins with the issue of education. If we can’t take action here, you can forget the rest.

[You can purchase Restoring America One County at a Time here.]

Up next: a wholesale biblical vision for Welfare.

Categories: Worldview

God, Governments, and Culture Conference 2016 — Registration Open!

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 09:08

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

Register Here.

Looking for an intensive course in practical action for local government from a biblical worldview? Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind 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.

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.

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Categories: Worldview

Your membership & donations make this ministry possible.
If you have been helped please:

Join Us  or  Donate

Contact Us