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“This Body”

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 10:17

Even when one speaks plainly, those without an ear still will not hear. . . .

 

This Body

1000 babies cried out to me to me today saying,

Can you give me a hand?

Cause theirs was being ripped off, according to their parent’ plan

But my fingers were tied up

Trying to type up, and convince the rest of my body that it needed to move

However, my legs fell asleep

And my eyes refused to see

My tongue was trying to find the words to justify the blood I had just tasted

and my lips were unclean

My strong arm was seeking for more strength

My expert mind was seeking more information

I mean, it couldn’t grasp how you can pass tracts out,

at the same time pass by a man passed out,

and actually, rehabilitate him while showing him the path

I mean, plus I needed all of the facts

What if he deserved it? What if he collapsed,

From an overdose of cocaine or crack?

What if he, looked at the world like “woe is me”,

and blamed the world for his problems cause he’s black?

I mean, why dwell on the past?

Plus I’ve been having problems with my back

I’ve been looking for support from it

but it keeps telling me I’m thinking like a socialist

Trying to depend on it to hold me up

Silly me, I thought we were one body

Plus it’s not like I was looking at someone else’s back to hold me up

And, I use to think my feet were beautiful

But lately, they’ve been avoiding certain spaces,

chasing after people to fill up places

Where people are just waiting, and where people just listen,

where people don’t question, and people do business

where people don’t visit, widows and abandoned children

where it’s colder than abandoned buildings

But my ears, drown out the cries from the ground, with hymns

At night, all I see is limbs of babies when I try to sleep

the blood of black bodies scream as I kick up my feet

My body aches, my soul is in despair

However, there was a body that was prepared

A body whipped, a body nailed

A Son who sipped every drop of hell, for this body

Yes, A Sacrificial body meant for the body, which now lays in a bed of roses

which contentedly sleeps in its coma

Categories: Worldview

Biblical authority and the negative concept of law

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 06:43

I fully affirm Biblical eldership and authority. When we make such statements, however, we must define our terms. “Authority” defined by one person may be Biblical, while to another the same definition may be tyrannical. Overly-simplistic statements such as “this angry person rejects authority” or “those ornery neo-Recons hate elders” are not only fallacious and foolish, they do little to further any meaningful conversation. Such haphazard statements are oftentimes slanderous when the words do not accurately represent the ideas of the person in question.

The topic of authority can be rather contentious. Everyone, especially the cantankerous and the overly-sensitive, should take a step back and ensure that they understand exactly what is being said. They should also make sure that anything they say, either initially or in response, is rational and well-defined as well.

To begin with, an examination of the meaning of Biblical authority is not a denial of authority. Neither is a criticism of other views of the topic, or even popular views of it. As Christians, we should be willing to examine ideas and principles and refine what has been passed down to us. It is possible to over-correct, but it is also possible to cling stubbornly to erroneous traditions. As Martin Selbrede said,

The premise of semper reformanda is that the people of God are to be continually reforming and revising their viewpoints ever closer to the teachings of the Scriptures and away from unbiblical formulations and conceptions that have crept into both doctrine and practice. This is a process that could entail swinging the pendulum back, away from one extreme to another: the truth might possibly lie in the middle. Those who swing the pendulum away from an erroneous position do the church a service, even if they should swing it too far. They have at least opened up a crucial dialogue and ignited a reexamination of what may have been a long-closed matter. ((Martin G. Selbrede, “Reforming or Deforming”, available at https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/reforming-or-deforming))

What do I mean by “authority”? This question has deep implications for how Christians view the Bride of Christ, civil government, and our families. This also greatly affects how we view submission. Submission is to an authority, so the nature of authority will greatly determine how Biblical submission operates.

All of Christianity is regulated. We are not free to do whatever we please. We do not have the liberty to sin against one another and we do not have the liberty to sin against God. We are not libertines or ecclesiological anarchists.  A Biblical view of authority within the context of the local and regular Christian fellowship must be one that is theonomic. Theonomic means that the authority of elders is according to and under God’s Law, and the life of the body is regulated according to God’s Law. In other words, ecclesiological governance is not anarchistic or antinomian. However, ecclesiological governance being theonomic also means that it is not based on the authority of man. The Bride of Christ cannot be ultimately ruled by both appointed elders and Christ. There is either theonomy or autonomy. The Bride of Christ and our local fellowships will either be ruled by the objective Law of God, or men will set up a system of ecclesiological autonomy wherein the authority of eldership lies within an earthly office and rule rather than in the Law of God. The flavours of this ecclesiological autonomy can differ, but will either be theonomy or autonomy.

On a very foundational level, the argument over ecclesiological authority has to do with the nature of God’s Law. Rushdoony helps us better understand this point:

A negative concept of law confers a double benefit: first, it is practical, in that a negative concept of law deals realistically with a particular evil. It states, “Thou shalt not steal,” or, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” A negative statement thus deals with a particular evil directly and plainly: it prohibits it, makes it illegal. The law thus has a modest function; the law is limited, and therefore the state is limited. The state, as the enforcing agency, is limited to dealing with evil, not controlling all men.

Second, and directly related to this first point, a negative concept of law insures liberty: except for the prohibited areas, all of man’s life is beyond the law, and the law is of necessity indifferent to it. If the commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal,” it means that the law can only govern theft: it cannot govern or control honestly acquired property. When the law prohibits blasphemy and false witness, it guarantees that all other forms of speech have their liberty. The negativity of the law is the preservation of the positive life and freedom of man.

But, if the law is positive in its function, and if the health of the people is the highest law, then the state has total jurisdiction to compel the total health of the people. The immediate consequence is a double penalty on the people. First, an omnicompetent state is posited, and a totalitarian state results. Everything becomes a part of the state’s jurisdiction, because everything can potentially contribute to the health or the destruction of the people. Because the law is unlimited, the state is unlimited. It becomes the business of the state, not to control evil, but to control all men. Basic to every totalitarian regime is a positive concept of the function of law.

This means, second, that no area of liberty can exist for man; there is then no area of things indifferent, of actions, concerns, and thoughts which the state cannot govern in the name of public health. To credit the state with ability to minister to the general welfare, to govern for the general and total health of the people, is to assume an omnicompetent state, and to assume an all-competent state is to assume an incompetent people. The state then becomes a nursemaid to a citizenry whose basic character is childish and immature. The theory that law must have a positive function assumes thus that the people are essentially childish.” ((RJ Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 1”, chapter 3, (Chalcedon 1972), available audio at https://chalcedon.edu/resources/audio/negativism-and-the-law, available text at https://chalcedon.edu/resources/books/the-institutes-of-biblical-law-volume-1))

Although Rushdoony is addressing the civil realm in this particular quotation, the implications in regards to ecclesiology are eye opening. The ideas are rooted in the nature of God’s Law, not the specific sphere of governance. Scripture does not grant unlimited authority to offices and office holders. The authority of elders is regulated, just like the authority of parents and of civil magistrates. Surely God would not prescribe regulations on familial authority and civil authority, but allow nearly unlimited authority to ecclesiological authority. The limitations on ecclesiological authority are bound up in God’s Law. The question, then, is not “what office does this man hold?,” but rather “is this man proclaiming the truth of Scripture?” This does not mean that the righteous elder has no authority. This knee jerk response to the mere statement of fact that the bounds of authority are proscribed is in itself troubling. Elders certainly do possess real authority.. But the authority is only legitimate insofar as he is properly wielding that delegated authority. Simply put, all authority in all realms comes from and is regulated by God. To reapply Rushdoony’s statement, “The elder session, as the enforcing agency, is limited to dealing with evil, not controlling all men.”

One way of viewing authority within local Christian fellowships today is that commands made by the elder must be obeyed until the command is to sin. This is positivism applied to ecclesiasitcal authority. This leaves nearly all commands from the elder ethically legitimate, including the detailed regulating of the family. If the elder demands that all families attend a Tuesday night study, then all families better make time, or else they are usurping the authority of the elders, and oftentimes according to these elders, usurping the authority of Christ. Of course many elders are not this clearly tyrannical. Tyrannical or not, the principle of near-unbridled ecclesiastical authority should be corrected. The principle is tyrannical even when the particular office holders may be really nice guys, and who do not even use such power, let alone regularly abuse it. Benevolence and/or personal character do not justify a view of authority that is still left often, judicially (and too often not hypothetical), to abuse and ecclesiastical tyranny.

To be clear, there are also many who hold the positive view of ecclesiastical authority who draw a line before commands to sin. They draw the line, however, as a vague point based on the private discretion of the elder session. Such a line is largely arbitrary and indefensible. The standard is thus the autonomy of the elders, even if many elders are not as radical.

Biblical ecclesiastical authority is from God and delegated as judicial authority as opposed to executive authority. The elder may use his authority to censure sin, not to regulate all of life and to restrain non-sins. This is the negativity of the Law at work within the Body of Christ. The power of the elder is “judicial” in that it is limited to arbitrating disputes, correcting heresy, and facilitating church discipline. It is not “executive” in that congregants must first obtain permission or oversight to act well within their Christian liberty. Furthermore, their power is not “executive” in that all information must first flow through their hands and no others may teach, correct, rebuke, exhort, etc. Such a view of executive power flows forth from a positive view of law, which is not found in God’s Law. In such a perspective, the duty and rights of ecclesiastical authority are nearly unlimited in that their end involves broad and undefined powers under terms like “order” and “sanctification” and the “life and health” of the local church. I do not make light of those good ideas, but the right and duty to discipline should be restricted to actual definable sins. Rushdoony answered a relevant question posed after the original lecture quoted above:

First of all, we have to proclaim the whole Word of God, and the implications of the faith. We cannot, of course, force it on anyone, but we have to teach it, and make it known, and then leave it to the work of the Holy Spirit to introduce it into the hearts and minds of peoples. What we cannot do, God can do. But we do have the responsibility for the instruction of people. ((audio and transcript available at http://www.pocketcollege.com/beta/index.php?title=Negativism_and_the_Law_-_RR130H15))

If the Christian is not in sin, the elder can and oftentimes should attempt to persuade the believer. The elder, however, cannot force the Christian to act or think in accordance to even firmly held views. If the private Christian’s actions and/or views are allegedly sinful, the ecclesiastical authority has the obligation to make a sound Biblical case, not simply assert raw judicial power. The Christian is innocent until proven guilty, and the liberty of the Christian is protected until proven sinful.

To help crystalize this idea, David Chilton once used a helpful metaphor. The US Government is constitutionally allowed to print currency and it certainly has done that. That, constitutionally, is a legitimate use of authority. However, the US Government took that constitutional power and set up a number of highly tyrannical regulatory agencies, boards, and laws that, in detail, regulate the entirety of the economy and the money supply. That would not be a legitimate use of that same authority. The Constitution gave an inch, and Federal Government took a mile. ((See David Chilton, “The Work of the Ecclesiastical Megalomania”, lecture at the Third International Conference on Christian Reconstruction, audio available at http://www.wordmp3.com/details.aspx?id=181)) Church governance has worked the same way in many cases. The vested legitimate authority God has given His elders has been used as an excuse to arrogate all powers not specifically prohibited, as opposed to limiting (submitting) themselves to powers specifically prescribed.

There really are only two consistent options. There will be stressing of and teaching of an tyrannical “Regulative Principle of Life,” in which any meaningful liberty is destroyed and leaves Christians as children; or we will have a “Regulative Principle of Authority,” in which all authority is regulated to its prescribed purpose. The power to rule will be unbridled and the liberty of the individual will be tightly bound, or the power to rule will be bound and the individual will have great liberty.

I fully affirm the authority of Biblical elders. However, this authority is not rooted in office and the autonomy of man. It is rooted in objective ethical substance which is not based on who the person is, but based on the objective Law of God. Authority is not subjective, and vesting authority in an undefined, unlimited office is necessarily the baptizing of subjectivity. Authority is not based in office, age, seminary degree, or ordination. All ecclesiastical authority, much like civil authority, is delegated authority given by God for certain purposes.

Some may object to this view of authority by claiming that this leaves too much power in the hands of the individual Christian. Yes, this views does leave much power in many areas of life to discern truth from falsehood in the hands of the individual. Ultimately, we all believe this. It is easy to just say “submit to an elder,” but it is the individual Christian that chooses which elder to submit to and when, finally, not to submit. Private judgement is a duty, and one that we cannot pass off as a church officer’s to assume for us. We all have a personal responsibility before God to honor truth and those that faithfully teach truth.

To be very clear, it is good for ecclesiastical bodies to recognize a God-ordained elder as an elder and set him apart for that task. But it is God who makes an elder an elder. And being that it is God and not man behind any and all authority, that authority is directly and irrevocably tied to those men carrying out their duty according to God’s Law. If they do not do so, all they have is an office placard and a special place in the church bulletin. Maybe even a special parking place in front of their building.

Of course, in Presbyterian circles, and some others, we have multiple levels of courts in which to appeal specific disputes of such nature. In such circles, we have an obligation to work within the system before we knee-jerk to private determinations and accuse authority across the board. One of the beauties of Presbyterian government is just that: in theory, Christian liberty can be protected from a tyrannical elder or even a rogue session. In Baptistic circles, this is more of a challenge. In all cases, however, the underlying point stands: authority is not unlimited, but ought to be limited in scope and nature by the nature of the law of God as described above.

Most Reconstructionists have rightly applied the negativism of the law to combat statism. When critiquing the leviathan state and its messianic character, Christian Reconstructionists should consider if they are selectively applying the nature of God’s Law to only certain spheres of governance. On one front, most Reconstructions fight the positivism of statism, but on another some embrace the positivism of ecclesiastical tyranny. The negative concept of God’s Law does not change depending on which institutional power you’re addressing. Either God’s Law is positive and tyranny is allowed within the home, the state, and the church, or God’s Law is negative and those in positions of authority are limited with liberty being preserved for those not in authority.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

How Christians should celebrate Independence Day

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 15:49

We don’t celebrate July 4th. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. What are we celebrating? Do most Americans know?

The Declaration of Independence was a bold statement against tyranny. We live in a time of greater tyranny. The taxes were minimal in 1776, and yet the people were willing to take a stand against them. A number of states where the GOP is in charge are calling for massive tax increases to fund a growing Leviathan. There were other grievances. Take some time to read them here. Then compare them to what’s taking place today with legislatures and the courts forcing people to violate their consciences by refusing to accommodate same-sex marriage. Do you want to get an idea of what’s coming down the pike, then “Meet the Megadonor Behind the LGBTQ Rights Movement”?

Here’s the question: Are there times when it is legitimate to resist the government?

It is 1942. The Nazis who control your nation militarily have just announced a new policy requiring all Jews to come to the local city hall and register. The most prominent church leader in your denomination has recommended obedience to all ‘lawful’ directives of the German authorities. He has not recommended disobeying this new directive, and you have no reason to believe that he will. Your denomination will not speak directly to this issue, and you think the civil authorities will threaten to shut down churches or in other ways pressure the church’s leadership to remain silent or even recommend compliance with the order. Then a Jew you know comes to you and asks for asylum. He wants you to hide him in your attic or barn. You know that this would be illegal. Will you hide him or turn him over to the Nazis? ((Gary North, “Editor’s Introduction,” Christianity and Civilization: Tactics of Christian Resistance (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), xii.))

Was it wrong to disobey these laws? In terms of Nazi law, yes. But what about in terms of a higher moral law? How would your pastor respond if a similar law was passed today? Of course, there were consequences for defying Nazi law. People who hid Jews from the Nazis risked their own lives. ((Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).)) Those who spoke out publicly about the Nazi regime were sent to concentration camps. ((Basil Miller, Martin Niemöller: Hero of the Concentration Camp (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1942), 112.))

Resistance movements like those practiced by Christians during World War II have been accepted as morally justified by nearly all ethical thinkers. The Diary of Anne Frank and Thomas Kineally’s Schindler’s Ark (later made into the film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg) show the highest praise for those who defied what was a “legal” government policy.

In Give Me the Children: How a Christian Woman Saved a Jewish Family During the Holocaust, Pola Arbiser describes how her nanny defied the law and hid her and her sister from Nazi officers. The Jewish community of survivors has described these resistors as “righteous gentiles” ((As reported in Catherine E. Shoichet, “Christian nanny hid Jewish family from Nazis,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (August 27, 2003), E1 and E6. See Pola Arbiser, Give Me the Children: How A Christian Woman Saved a Jewish Family During the Holocaust (Altona, Manitoba, Canada: Friesens, 2003).)) or simply “Christian rescuers.” ((David P. Gushee, “Christians as Rescuers During the Holocaust,” Must Christianity Be Violent?: Reflections on History, Practice, and Theology, eds. Kenneth R. Chase and Alan Jacobs (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003), 71.)) These actions were considered moral even though they violated Nazi Reich law.

Will our government plant “spies” in churches where ministers preach from those parts of the Bible where the practice of homosexuality is condemned? It’s happened before, and it’s taking place in Canada. ((“Now, the charge against [Martin] Niemoeller was based entirely on his sermons, which the Gestapo agents had taken down stenographically. . . . . [W]ritten laws, no matter how explicitly they were worded, were subjected to the interpretation of judges. The totalitarian principle which governs Nazi Germany, as I have indicated before, includes religion as a function of State. Therefore, by recognizing Christ only as his Leader, Pastor Niemoeller was denying the right to divine leadership to Hitler. His offense was all the more serious because he had exhorted his followers to do likewise” (Leo Stein, I Was in Hell with Niemoeller [New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1942], 175).))

What will be the response of churches in America if the increasingly secular and anti-Christian courts rule that “discriminating” against “legally married” homosexual couples is a criminal act? For what may be in store for American churches, see Chuck and Donna McIlhenny‘s When the Wicked Seize a City: A Grim Look at the Future and a Warning to the Church.

The civil rights movement in the United States had its turning point when Martin Luther King, Jr., defied a court order because laws discriminating against blacks were considered to be immoral and unconstitutional. In his account of the civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, King “speaks of a court injunction obtained by the city administration on April 10, 1963, directing that demonstrations be halted until the right to such activities might be argued in court. Dr. King continues: ‘Two days later, we did an audacious thing, something we had never done in any other crusade. We disobeyed a court order.’” ((Daniel B. Stevick, Civil Disobedience and the Christian (New York: Seabury Press, 1969), 1.))

If we take the position advocated by some that civil government is the final arbiter of what’s legal, moral, and right, with no higher law binding the magistrate, there can be no higher court of appeal. The most oppressive tyranny must stand as the people turn a blind eye to injustice and retreat behind a doctrine of impotent quietude. As soon as this happens, by default, the State has established itself as the new god to be honored, worshiped, and obeyed without debate or objection. R. J. Rushdoony describes the inescapable logic of denying a higher law ethic:

The universe of evolution and humanism is a closed universe. There is no law, no appeal, no higher order, beyond and above the universe. Instead of an open window upwards, there is a closed cosmos. There is no ultimate law and decree beyond man and the universe. In practice, this means that the positive law of the state is absolute law. The state is the most powerful and most highly organized expression of humanistic man, and the state is the form and expression of humanistic law. Because there is no higher law of God as judge over the universe, over every human order, the law of the state is a closed system of law. There is no appeal beyond it. Man has no ‘right,’ no realm of justice, no source of law beyond the state, to which he can appeal against the state. ((Rousas J. Rushdoony, “Humanistic Law, introduction to E. L. Hebden Taylor, The New Legality (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1967), vi-vii. A revised version can be found in Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution: The Doctrine of Creative Destruction (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1968), 118-119.))

Many (most?) churches are not equipped theologically to deal with Christian resistance against tyranny. Too many pastors instruct their parishioners to “submit” no matter what the demand. This doctrine and mindset needs to change.

Our churches and pulpits didn’t used to be this way. There’s plenty of material to available to start changing it here and now.

(Get more of Gary’s extensive teaching on God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Perspective.)

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

God’s favorite Bible verse

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:00

Most students of the Bible realize that the New Testament quotes from the Old quite often. It does so several hundred times, actually (2,300 if you count allusions and paraphrases). From this we can rightly infer that God takes God’s word seriously. But did you know there is one verse God quotes from himself far more than any other? I mean way more.

Just for comparison, the second most frequently-quoted verse is this important doozy: “love you neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). This shows up in seven different places in the NT. The vast majority of other verses quoted appear a couple times, or only once. But there is one that blows even Leviticus 19:18 away in frequency.

It is this:

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

Not only may that seem surprising, but the numbers will, as well. This verse is quoted or alluded to 23 times in the NT. It is quoted in 11 out of 27 NT books, and by 7 of the 9 NT authors.

Indeed, if we may take just a little license and judge by such frequency, we may say that Psalm 110:1 is indeed God’s favorite bible verse.

And since this verse appears over three times as often as something so important as “love your neighbor as yourself,” we may consider that its repeated emphasis has some great importance—perhaps one that we’ve overlooked. What could be so important about Psalm 110:1?

The Importance of Psalm 110

The apostolic emphasis on this verse deserves more attention than it has so far received. In the New Testament references to this passage we find the determinant keys to Eschatology, or the doctrine of the future. The resulting ideas we glean from how Peter, Paul, and others apply Psalm 110 overturn much of the popular understanding of prophecy and “end times” teaching. A more consistent understanding will help modern Christians see through popular doom and gloom, through maniacal apocalyptic hysteria, and instead apprehend an optimism and goal-oriented Christian life many have not even yet considered.

Psalm 110, simply, teaches that the Lord (Adonai) shall sit at the right hand of the Almighty (Yaweh), and while the Lord holds that enthroned position, the Almighty shall vanquish all His enemies (v. 1). This vanquishing occurs through the power of the Lord’s strength applied in the midst his enemies (in other words, the enthronement of the Lord does not mean that He sits aloft and disconnected from worldly affairs, but just the opposite) (v.2) This point receives clarification and re-emphasis in v. 5. During the time of this enthroned rule, God’s people shall willingly rally to join and serve him (v. 3). The Lord does not rule as any ordinary ruler, but as an eternal priest-King like Melchizedek (Melchi-Zedek is Hebrew for “My King is Righteous”)—a point strongly emphasized of Christ in the book of Hebrews (v. 4). The Lord-Priest-King engages in the subduing of his enemies from his enthroned seat, and thus jointly with the Almighty (v. 5). His rule extends over unbelieving nations and over the heads of nations; He is truly a King of kings (v. 6). He shall not stop to rest or turn aside from the way of battle, signifying his dedication to constancy of his mission until the completion and of the task (v. 7). This is the simple reading of the text.

The New Testament writers picked up and applied this simple message as Christ Jesus fulfilled it. Peter announces that this mission—this enthronement—began when Christ ascended to the father (Acts. 2:31–36). Thus, Christ sits on that throne now; the kingdom of God awaits no future “coming” or “appearance” in order to inaugurate its leader: He has taken his throne once and for all. Christ clearly had this passage in mind for Himself: He referred to its divine nature in order to confute the Pharisees (Mt. 22:41–45), and to His immediate session at God’s right hand in order to announce the coming judgment on the Jerusalem leaders (Mt. 26:64). These two passages (among many) suffice to show how Christ fulfilled the enthronement prophecy at His ascension and session. (The writer of Hebrews makes this clear also—Heb. 1:1–3, 13).

We ought, then, to expect the rest of the prophecy to flow out from Christ’s very present rule as logically and consistently as the Almighty says in the Psalm. We in fact do find this as taught by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. In discussing the reality and implication of Christ’s victorious resurrection, Paul says the following:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death (1 Cor. 15:22–25).

From this we learn that Christ, in His present reign, will continue His conquest until He completely abolishes all opposition to His rule. At this point—after He has abolished all rule and all authority, and not one moment before—He will come and resurrect His people from the last enemy, death. The writer of Hebrews seconds this idea that Christ currently reigns, expecting his enemies to be made his footstool during that heavenly reign (Heb. 10:12–13).

I find this Old Testament prophecy as interpreted and applied by the New Testament authors to present a simple and yet challenging view of eschatology. It is simple in how clearly the apostles lay it out: Christ fulfilled Psalm 110:1, and we currently live in the time of the historical outworking of the waging of war (Psa. 110:2–7). We should expect—as Christ currently is expecting (Heb. 10:13)—to experience a gradual and progressive subduing of His enemies in history. This process shall continue until He has utterly abolished all opposition. Then, and only then, shall He come again to resurrect those saints who have died in the interim.

An eschatology not yet under His feet

Compare this very simple, obvious, and consistent understanding with the “dispensational” and “premillennial” views popularized by C. I. Scofield in The Scofield Reference Bible. In his notes on Psalm 110, “Dr.” Scofield makes a few fundamental errors, and also skips over the most important aspects. I will quote his relevant exegetical notes together first, and then deal with his comments individually. He writes,

The importance of Psalm 110 is attested by the remarkable prominence given to it in the New Testament. (1) It affirms the deity of Jesus, thus answering those who deny the full divine meaning of his N.T. title “Lord” (v. 1; Matt. 22. 41–45; Mk. 12. 35–37; Lk. 20. 41–44; Acts 2. 34, 35; Heb. 1. 13; 10. 12, 13). (2) This Psalm announces the eternal priesthood of the Messiah—one of the most important statements of Scripture (v. 4; Gen 14. 18, note; 7. 1–28; 1 Tim. 2. 5, 6; John 14. 6). (3) Historically, the Psalm begins with the ascension of Christ (v. 1; John 20. 17; Acts 7. 56; Rev. 3. 21). (4) Prophetically, the Psalm looks on (a) to the time when Christ will appear as the Rod of Jehovah’s strength, the Deliverer out of Zion (Rom. 11. 25–27), and the conversion of Israel (v. 3; Joel 2. 27; Zech 13. 9; See Deut. 30. 1–9, note); and (b) to the judgment upon the Gentile powers which precedes the setting up of the kingdom (vs. 5, 6; Joel 3. 9–17; Zech. 14. 1–4; Rev. 19. 11–21). ((C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1945), 645–5n1.))

On points (1) and (2) I substantially agree. I, in fact, agree with point (3) as well—that this Scripture began to find fulfillment historically with the ascension of Christ—which makes for an interesting acknowledgement on Scofield’s part. He should, however, have included Acts 2:34–35 as a proof text here instead of under his point (2) only. In Acts 2:32–36, Peter definitively teaches that Psalm 110:1 found its fulfillment in the ascension and session of Jesus Christ.

Most problematically under points (3) and (4), his arbitrary and artificial distinction between “historically” and “prophetically” begs the question of interpretation. From the Psalmist’s perspective (from which Scofield should have been commenting at this point), the whole Psalm remained “prophetical,” if we take this term in the sense of “future.” Even the session of Christ at the Father’s right hand remained far distant future for him. The arbitrariness appears in where Scofield determines to draw the line. He accepts Christ’s ascension as fulfilling only verse 1 of the Psalm, and then leaves the rest of the subduing of the kingdoms as an ethnic-Israel-centered “prophecy” pertaining only to the distant future. This, of course, typifies the traditional dispensational system in general. But it hardly does justice to the Psalm itself, let alone the apostolic writers’ interpretation of it. The more modern “progressive” dispensationalists have acknowledged the unity of the prophecy in Psalm 110:

Ephesians 1:20–22 and Colossians 3:1 also see Christ seated at the right hand of God, with the latter passage stressing the fact that all things are presently in subjection to Him. . . . Peter joins Paul in stressing the present subjugation of authorities and powers to Him [1 Pet. 3:22]. . . . Some dispensationalists have argued that the enthronement of Psalm 110:1 took place at the Ascension, but that the rule of Psalm 110:2 will not take place until a future time. . . . This interpretation ignores both the literary context of the remark in the Psalms and the way in which the entire text is applied to Jesus in the New Testament. ((Craig Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (BridgePoint, 1993), 178, 312n7.))

Scofield’s arbitrary line leads (or allows?) him to misapply the rest of the Psalm to some future, physical, Israeli rulership of the world. He thus, in his point (4), separates Christ’s current enthronement from “the rod of thy strength out of Zion… in the midst of thine enemies.” He takes this material from Psalm 110:2 to apply only after Christ’s physical return to earth and not to a present subjugation of His enemies. This flatly contradicts the apostles (Eph. 1:20–22; 1 Pet. 3:22).

Further, Scofield reduces “Thy people” in Psalm 110:3 to mean only the Jewish people. This contradicts the New Testament, which routinely teaches us that God’s people include both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:26–29; Gal. 3:26–29; Eph. 2:13–22), and that these New Testament people are the inheritors of the Priest-King’s chosen, willing people (1 Pet. 2:9–10; Rev. 1:5–6). Scofield awaits a “conversion of the Jews” before Christ can execute his conquest upon earth. Meanwhile, Christ has made “spiritual Jews,” “kings and priests” out of His people worldwide, and expands His dominion through their faith.

Further following his false division, Scofield lastly sees a future judgment of the Gentile powers which must occur before the “setting up of the kingdom.” What I have said so far has already dispelled these notions; Christ has already taken His throne, established His kingdom, and presently, currently, progressively, judges those “Gentile powers.”

This simple Psalm and the clear interpretation given to it by the apostles must serve as a turning point for modern Christians. We do not await a future kingdom. We do not await a completely future conquest by Christ. Rather, Christ has established His kingdom. He has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). We stand in the midst of the conquest. Some of it awaits completion, but it is initiated and ongoing right now.

An often overlooked and somewhat obscure reference appears in the last verse of Psalm 110. Verse 7 says of our conquering Priest-King, He will drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head. The Geneva Bible comments, “Under this similitude of a captain that is so greedy to destroy his enemies, that he will not scarce drink by the way, he showeth how God will destroy his enemies.” In other words, this warring, conquering King will not leave the path of his battle even to refresh himself. He will drink in the very way, and not leave to go by the way. He will not let up one moment in His mission, nor turn aside until He has accomplished it.

Following this example of our Messiah, Christians should not let anything distract them from the progressing kingdom of God. Our conquering King rules now and subdues more according to His will and power daily. We should not let false divisions and interpretations of Scripture distract us from His way; so many have left the way in order to drink from the brooks of Scofield and his followers. We must return to the battle as Christ has enjoined it, as the apostles understood it, and as the people of God have progressively expanded so far.

Endnotes:
Categories: Worldview

Suppressing the Knowledge of God

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 06:35

Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition

Lesson 4

Suppressing the Knowledge of God

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Although a seed of religion is divinely sown in all, hardly one in a hundred cherishes it in his heart, and not one in whom it grows to maturity, much less yield fruit in its season. While some lose themselves in superstitious observances, and others wickedly revolt from God, all are so degenerate that genuine godliness cannot be found anywhere in the world.

For those that fall away into superstition, their excessive absurdity does not free them from guilt; for their blindness is almost invariably accompanied with vain pride and stubbornness. When they seek after God, instead of ascending higher than themselves as they ought to do, they measure him by their own carnal stupidity. Hence, they imagine him to be whatever their own rashness has devised. With such an idea of God, nothing they may attempt to offer as worship or obedience can have any value in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but the dream and figment of their own heart. This corrupt procedure is admirably described by Paul, when he says, that “thinking to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). He afterwards adds that they were deservedly blinded because, arrogating to themselves more than they have any title to do, they of their own accord bewitch themselves with perverse, empty show.

As a just punishment of the wicked, after they have closed their own eyes, God makes their hearts dull and heavy, and hence, seeing, they see not. Thus, David says the wicked has “no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1), and, “He has said in his heart, God has forgotten; he hideth his face; he will never see it.” Thus, although they are forced to acknowledge that there is some God, they rob him of his glory by denying his power. For, as Paul declares, “If we believe not, he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13); so those who feign to themselves a dead and dumb idol, are truly said to deny God.

Many people think it enough to have some kind of zeal for religion, however preposterous it may be. They would never dare trifle with God like they do if they had not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits. It makes little difference at that point whether you hold the existence of one God or a plurality of gods, since you have nothing left but idols.

To this fault they add a second: when they do think of God, it is against their will. They never approach him without being dragged into his presence. Once there, instead of voluntary fear flowing from reverence, they feel only that servile fear which divine judgment extorts. Those who are at variance with the justice of God, and know that his tribunal has been erected for the punishment of transgression, earnestly wish that tribunal were overthrown. Under the influence of this feeling they are actually warring against God. Accordingly, to avoid the appearance of condemning a majesty by which everyone is overawed, they have recourse to some species of religious observance. But they never cease to defile themselves with every kind of vice until they have broken the law of the Lord in every one of its requirements. Thus, they are not so restrained by their semblance of fear that they do not take pleasure in iniquity.

Still, however, the conviction that there is some deity continues to exist, like a plant which can never be completely eradicated, though so corrupt it is only capable of producing the worst of fruit.

Questions for Devotion

  1. If everyone knows God, why do none of them naturally embrace Him?
  2. By what standard does the fallen man measure or understand God?
  3. How does God punish the false worship of man?
  4. What second fault does fallen man’s rejection of God produce? What further sins can result from this rebellion?
  5. Does the total depravity of man totally eradicate the knowledge of God within him?

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Categories: Worldview

How then shall my white brothers live? The danger of ink and internet

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 07:24

Responsibility and Sympathy

A young girl goes to middle school every day. The snacks in her backpack she stole from the corner store that’s on the way to her bus stop. She usually finishes up her last sip of orange juice in first period, right before she takes a nap in class. Not too long ago, she returned to school from being suspended from her second fight this year. This was her fourth suspension. She had also cussed out a teacher and spit in the face of a security guard who pushed her against the lockers to restrain her from another fight. She is pregnant again, but plans to carry this one. Her last one she aborted. She is failing most of her classes, still reads at an elementary level, and is often caught skipping, being picked up by an older lady who is known as a Madam in the community. Her baby’s dad is a drug dealer in high school, and they spend the afternoons smoking a few joints and drinking together.

Clearly this young lady is out of control and drowning in her sin. We know as Christians that from our hearts come forth all kinds of evil. We know we will all be held responsible for our own actions.

What I did not tell you is that this young girl lives in an abandoned home with her cousins and her older brother. She moved in with them after escaping her mother’s house. Growing up, she was fed one meal a day at home and not much of that has changed since she moved with her brother and cousins, but for her it was worth the transition. At her mother’s house, she was exposed to her mom bringing different men into the house who would spend the night and shoot up heroin with her. Some of these guys were allowed to rape this young girl for her mother to receive compensation. Her mother would abuse her physically and verbally for senseless things and neglect her basic needs. Her school was a failing school, with a lack of resources and many teachers who didn’t really care about the children.

Many of you have already assume this young girl is black, or at least dark-skinned, right?

I don’t know what skin color she has, because she is fictional and it is beside my point. This is not a sob story to make you feel bad for her and disregard her sin. This is not even written to make you feel bad for poor children in the inner city. Rather, it is written to make another point. We know that someone could grow up rich, in a clean-cut home, with loving, Christian parents, in a neighborhood with Grade A schools, and still live an unruly lifestyle. We understand that our hearts are prone to evil. However, the principle should be easy to understand, especially for those who believe in covenant theology. Someone who grows up under such oppression and exposed to such wickedness as described above will be prone to more such wickedness themselves. Those who do grow up to be righteous and successful that same degraded environment we could easily call an anomaly. Or, as we Christians would say, “It was the grace of God.” Many would say it is a miracle.

What is my point? It is that, clearly, we understand that the responsibility still stands for the young girl to live righteously, but at the same time, it is not a contradiction to sympathize with her due to her experience. We can sympathize, understanding that there is a snowball effect or a domino effect. Anyone who cannot simultaneously hold her responsible for her sin, and at the same time condemn her oppressors, and understand why she has made the decisions in life she has, is simply not reflecting Christ. Can we preach the Gospel to her and she be saved? For sure. Can she then be sanctified even while continuing to live in the midst of her current environment? For sure. We all know that just because someone gets saved does not mean their environment changes automatically. Just because they cross the bridge to come to church every Sunday in a clean environment does not mean that remains their reality after service.

So, why is hard for Christians to comprehend that the same principle may apply to a community in general—in our context, the black community?

We understand that, clearly, in the black community, there is much violence between blacks, fornication is rampant, abortion is rampant, theft is rampant, drug use rampant, drug dealing is rampant, prostitution is rampant, fatherlessness is rampant etc., etc. We also know that many of these same issues are in white communities as well—some just as much or even more than the black community, although they don’t get much media coverage. Nevertheless, it is clear the black community is broken, and that is not to say that the white community is perfect.  We see who is filling up the prisons. We see who is underemployed. We see what schools are failing. We see the income gap.

Unfortunately, from the narrative we hear from some white people—and sadly, white professing Christians—we are often led to believe it is the nature of black people to live this way. If we had only some of these conservative white (and black) evangelicals in America to tell the story, blacks are just violent, lazy, and always seeking an excuse to be victims.

Context is Key

When I gave the example of the young girl, I did not start off with the full context. I just told you about her and how she lives. On the surface, it is easy just to condemn her and look at her as a savage. But when I gave more context, it helped us understand the picture more clearly. We weren’t so quick to judge her as harshly. Obviously, changing her circumstances is not going to save her from hell, but it would be good for her soul now, and would be helpful for the sanctification for any Christian in the long run.

When we look at the black community today and do not give a clear context of the historical oppression of black people from the 1600s even up until now, it is easy just to write off blacks as savages. It is easy to say that “we just need to preach the Gospel to them,” or “blacks are the biggest problem for blacks,” or “blacks just need to get saved and straighten up like everyone else.” Even though they may get saved, however, that doesn’t automatically release them from the oppressions they face. Yes, salvation is priority. However, we are also called to love our neighbors and meet their physical needs as well. Our soul does not just begin to exist after we die—we are a soul now. Nowhere in the Bible do we see God saying our lives here and now do not matter because this world is sinful anyway. We must, therefore, comprehend historical context and understand what oppressions exist today and why. (Listen to this podcast by Jovan Makenzy to get a little more background on America’s oppression on black people: Social Media is Evangelicals Worst Nightmare.)

While I could obviously write many articles addressing the rampant sin in the black community, my article “Why some black people can’t take the ‘Church’ in America seriously anymore” actually was meant to make a different point. It was also not, however, to blame the “white church” for the sins that are rampant in the black community. The article was addressing the fact that injustice still exists against black people, particularly in America, and many white evangelicals simply ignore the injustices, or fail to comprehend their duty to help their brethren. There are even black Christians who ignore it as well, and fail to see the church’s role. In a future article, I will address why our white brothers and sisters are vital in this conversation.

I must also address my statements on black people leaving the “church.” First, I understand that unregenerate people usually end up leaving the fellowship of believers. I understand that some people “go back to the world” simply because they were not saved to begin with. Let it be known I believe in the doctrines of grace. However, I also believe all of what the Bible says. I also believe that Jesus warned against Pharisees who were blocking the entrance of the Kingdom by their actions and their legalism. I understand that Jesus said, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” So, yes, I clearly understand the responsibility people have to repent for their own sins. I also understand the responsibility we have to go and preach the message which calls them to repent. I also understand our responsibility to love our neighbors and seek justice for them and to do righteousness. When the church is preaching, yet is not loving their neighbor or even declaring that we should love our neighbor in a certain way, it presents a distorted view of the God we claim to serve. It’s easy to call someone an apostate who left your “church,” but how do you paint God? Some congregations need to ask that question literally, “How have you painted God?” That is the context in which I was speaking.

White Privilege and the Gospel

In this country, even if dark skinned people seem disproportionately to engage in the most crime and perhaps even the most sin, dark skinned people are also the most oppressed, for various reasons. In large part, it is because of tyrannical government we have created, which could very well be a curse in result of all the bloodshed and oppression of dark skinned people (and some by dark skinned people). You reap what you sow. The difference is, when white men speak out against tyranny in this country, the ground shakes in the White House. When black men cry out against tyranny, the ground opens up beneath their own feet. When white women cry oppression, mountains move. When black women cry out oppression, mountains grow. Christians have said, “There is something about the name of Jesus. When you speak his name things change.” Well in America, there is something about what is called white privilege.

When society normally listens to one group and usually not to another, that is a privilege. It is the way things should normally be for everyone, but when it is not, experiencing it is, relatively speaking, a privilege. And when a white person uses that privilege to negotiate on behalf of those without it, that is a picture of Christ.

When white people speak, things change. That is not at all to deny the power of God, or the fact that what some people call “white privilege” is imaginary and a real abuse of victimization. But God will use, and has used, white people to carry the burdens of blacks in this country—and we need so much more of it.

If anyone questions whether seeking justice for blacks is just a “social Gospel,” or black liberation theology, or being a “Social Justice Warrior,” or another gospel, they should think again. Seeking justice for blacks in America is a picture of the Gospel. As Sylvia Chan-Malik, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers said, “whiteness is an asset.” No matter how much people would like to deny it, it still true. This is not a good thing, as we know there is only one race and racism is a social construct. However, white people can use their advantage to help get the message across to the world. As long as black men and women stand alone for the most part (except for white liberals who only have answers that handicap us), we will be looked at as people who are just crying victim, when we actually live among wolves—white, brown, and black wolves! When a white person can see it, and actually humbles themselves and suffers with people that society says are not “their own,” and when they do not have to, that is pointing them to Christ.

How then shall we live?

My white brothers and sisters have asked me frequently how they can join the fight. How can they get involved? This question is usually presented by one of two types of people. One type is the Christian who understands and genuinely wants to help. The other type is one who wants either to back into a corner people who have no clear answer, or to provoke a response that helps justify why they believe this is a “social gospel,” “victimization,” or other category they can dismiss. Honestly, people make what we are saying to be more complicated than it is. This is not rocket science. It is not deep theology. It is basic. I am amused that pastors with all these degrees and exegetical skills cannot seem to find in Scripture that the church has a role in seeking the welfare of people—especially oppressed people. For those people, I do not focus on application. I focus on them acknowledging the issue first. I focus on them seeing even the fact that we should even do something about it. For the people who already understand that, we can move on to practical applications.

To my white brothers who are ready to put their hand to the plow, I’ll be the first to admit I do not have all the answers. No black person does. But that is exactly why we speak out and reach out for help. There are some black brothers and sisters who don’t have any answers, but they do see there is a clear problem beyond just the issue of getting saved. That is the beauty of it all: by raising awareness of the issue, image bearers of God can be provoked to love and good works (Heb. 10:25)—to use their brains and be creative. Image bearers of God are able to take their personal talents and passions and use them to love their neighbor, while proclaiming the Gospel.

Examples of how to get involved are endless. Every individual will be able to bring something different to the table to the glory of God. The first way to get involved is awareness. Obviously you see that people in your own circles do not even agree there is an issue. There is nothing new under the sun. During slavery, there were white people going to church every Sunday believing they lived in the greatest country ever to exist, all the while sitting right on top of a system of utter oppression they believed was directly sanctioned and smiled upon by our Lord. The same was true during the civil rights movement. The same was true all during an era where whites, in the name of Christian civilization, defied due process in order to lynch blacks for all kinds of accused crimes the courts couldn’t prove. So, while my ancestors were being brutally beaten, raped, and their children were torn apart from them, many never to be seen again, white evangelicals were “just preaching the gospel.”

What changed all of that, you ask? There was no overnight success. There weren’t people in political positions who were just changing laws for the sake of black people. No, there were abolitionists. Among others, God used radical abolitionists here in America, but even before in Britain. What was their weapon of choice, you ask? Ink. Their pens. Sometimes words, sometimes art, sometimes their voices. Way before the world of social media, abolitionists made known to the world the wickedness of slavery. Through poetry and song, the world was informed of the oppression of blacks to the point it could no longer be ignored. Abolitionists were not soft; they were in-your-face. If you want to fight abortion in this country today, the world needs to see the pictures of mutilated babies. That is the approach abolitionists took during slavery. They painted it as ugly as it was. They did not call for gradual change but immediate change. They went forth with urgency. If it wasn’t for the boldness of people like Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Heyrick, Harriet Tubman! Thank God for William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator newspaper. Many of these abolitionists were not even orthodox Christians; but God used them for speaking out on a subject Christians should already have addressed, but failed. God used them to spread awareness of the harsh realities, like them or not.

These did not expose through emotional appeals alone, but through objective evidence. To have evidence is key. This is why calling for more accountability, body cams on police officers, community control, the exposure of private and public prison systems through documentaries, and the exposure of unfair trials and arrest, are all examples of seeking justice today. It seems to me that Christians who would oppose even such basic measures are opposed to greater evidence being available, and thus opposed to greater justice. It would seem odd, wouldn’t it, for Christian conservatives, who normally say, “If you’ve got nothing to hide. . . .” to be in favor of allowing those with power to hide as much as possible.

Start locally. You don’t have to look too far, even if you live in a rural area, to address local stories and put them in the public eye. With social media, the exposure is endless. Unfortunately, Christians are so disconnected from their own communities, they don’t even know what is going on in their back yard, much less across the bridge or the railroad tracks. Your whole world can’t be trapped in those four walls where you fellowship on Sunday. You need to know what is going on in your community.

Abolitionists used slave narratives to dismantle the system. What were these but documentaries that exposed the evils of their day? Were they hard to read (watch)? Yep. Were the authors and publishers accused of lies, exaggerations, and making stuff up? Were they accused of “fake news” and “having your own facts”? Yep. Were they controversial? So much so that many southern towns and leaders placed standing death threats on any abolitionist speaking out in their area. These abolitionists’ lives were in danger every day for exposing slave masters, some of which were pastors or politicians, or connected to them. Slaves themselves learning to read and write—which was a dangerous thing—were in some cases able to write their own narratives. Imagine gathering stories from people who have been abused by the powers that be, through the Prison Industry, from police, to the court room, to the cell. Again, these are just a few examples. There are many more narratives you could collect and tell today.

The goal is to expose and dismantle “white supremacy,” yes, but all forms of injustice, whether committed by blacks or whites. For some of you, this will present the uncomfortable reality of confronting people in your own circles, including family members. Some of your family members are judges, politicians, police officers, or other community leaders. Some of you have avoided having tough conversations with them, let alone the Gospel and biblical justice. But we can’t expect demonstration or change without awareness. We cannot mobilize people without informing. On Facebook, there is a page called “Police the Police.” I don’t know too much about this page, but I have seen their attempt to hold police and the courts accountable in some cases. Even though we know how blacks are targeted in this country, they don’t just focus on blacks being mistreated. This is one example of how you can explore helping to bring awareness.

If you research the Black Panthers, you will find how they were patrolling their own neighborhoods, protecting them from internal criminals as well as external criminals (including injustices by police). The Black Panthers were hardly pure and blameless in their ideology or practice, but their views on the Second Amendment and self- and local-government are to be admired in many cases. (Also, considering that they had little help from orthodox communities, it is no surprise that their ideology was hardly pure.) In bringing the Gospel to particular communities, you also should teach them how to protect their own communities. You lawyers, especially those who understand Common Law, in discipling people in this context, you should teach people to understand their rights. Hold local classes in churches and communities to teach people—don’t wait until they’re clients!—to be able to defend themselves in court, because you know the reputation of public defenders, and often such individuals cannot afford anything more.

The And (&) Campaign led by rapper Sho Baracka and others have a couple of interesting platforms in which they want to involve themselves. Their mission statement is, “TO ADDRESS THE SOCIO-POLITICAL ISSUES WITH THE COMPASSION AND CONVICTION OF THE GOSPEL.” Their vision statement is this: “The AND Campaign is an urban coalition that promotes the voice of human flourishing in the socio-political arena. We seek to assert biblical wisdom and restore the true narrative of humankind to its rightful prominence which is justice for all.”

Whether you agree with their whole campaign or not, these are three areas they are seeking to address:

Require independent investigations into police-involved deaths

End for-profit policing

Train officers to be members of the community

Some would say abolish the police department altogether. Whether I agree or not right now is irrelevant. However, both options are better than doing nothing and acting like the system is innocent. It is better than responding with the clichés like “Police just want to make it home safe to their families too.” Of course they do, but these responses are too often used to neglect the responsibility authorities themselves have to God—a duty not just to do justice, but to do it justly. These responses are too often used to ignore the blood on the hands of a corrupt justice system in America.

Imagine if the stories of American abolitionists were included in church history in seminaries. How would that change the worldview of many pastors today? I think they may see some parallels, and it would allow their affections to be stirred somewhat, because of how relevant these issues are to us. Sadly, only Christian slave masters are included in many seminaries’ curriculum, and usually without any recognition of this area at all. What if pastors understood that in equipping their church, they could expect to see writers, singers, rappers, artist, lawyers, and businessmen, etc., going forth with their talents and professions to impact the world with the Gospel and a full Christian worldview, bringing the world into obedience unto God.

Finally, in understanding how systemic injustice has played a role in degrading the black community, we must also seek to meet needs on a one-on-one basis. That may be through rehabilitation, counseling, or using resources to create jobs. It may look like self-defense training for those who live in dangerous neighborhoods so they don’t have to wait on police (usually 10 minutes at least—way too long to prevent crime), and also to teach discipline in defense to prevent unnecessary violence. Obviously, education is a huge problem in black communities; therefore, why can’t we build private schools in low-income neighborhoods just like missionaries do in Africa? The only religious private schools in black communities are usually Catholic or Muslim. Homeschooling is not always the easiest option for inner city mothers, so in order to avoid sending children to the poisonous public schools, having the church subsidize a private Christian alternative would be extremely helpful. You may say this is the responsibility of the churches in those communities. I would agree. But do you really think they are in a position to meet it? Those impoverished, hurting churches are our brothers and sisters, and they lack resources and need help. What should those Christians who have been more privileged economically think to do?

This is not just soup kitchen talk. This is reconstruction. This is ministry and mission. This is true religion. This is application of the Gospel. I pray that these examples are helpful and stir you up to good works!

Categories: Worldview

The need to abolish the whole Molech industry

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 09:14

The problem of abortion is about more than just abortions. The problem of child sacrifice is not just about the child sacrifice in and of itself, but of a vast network of wickedness that has roots in various apathies, envies, illicitly-covered sins, compromises, unconfessed sins, fears, and more. Here’s why it’s crucial we understand this.

Scripture mentions the pagan ritual of “passing your children through the fires of Molech”—a ritual of child sacrifice. Jeremiah described a furnace built in the Valley of Hinnom, where Israelites adopted the pagan practice of burning their children in sacrifice to Molech (Jer. 19:5; 32:35). Some of the more hard core ministries have noted the parallel between this practice and abortion today. Some have noted this for a long time.

It is almost impossible to imagine just how far the culture had to have degraded in Israel to fall to the point of public child sacrifice. This nation was supposed to have been a light unto the world, a marvel to the surrounding pagan nations because it had God’s law. Consider all the painstaking details of ceremonial law given to ensure a visible and stark separation between them and the surrounding nations, all of the righteous laws, all of the Psalms contrasting the greatness of Yaweh and the futility of the false gods around them, all of the promises of positive sanctions, peace, and wealth upon obedience. Even if we were to imagine a nominal, tepid, and somewhat backslidden Israelite culture—one that could even be denounced by a prophet as stiffnecked and rebellious—we could probably not imagine what in the world could have happened in that culture to make it go so far as to engage in child sacrifice to the worst and most disgusting and revolting, horrible and detestable of all idols. How could this have happened?

There is an answer to that question, but I am not sure we are ready to hear it.

The answer can only become understandable to us once we quit focusing on the revolting aspect of the child sacrifice itself, and focus on the vast network of wickednesses that allowed something so polar-opposite of God’s law to come to pass. When we do that, the parallels between then and now grow to even more uncomfortable proportions. It will no longer be a mere analogy between murdering children needlessly then and murdering children needlessly now. It will get much more personal than that for all of us.

The Israelites did not start sacrificing children over night. They were not faithful one day and then suddenly idol worshippers the next. They were not doting on their children one day then murdering them the next. This was a process that required social and legal consent over time (though probably a shorter time than we would want to realize) with a vast number of willing coconspirators.

How we got here

The decision to sacrifice the first child probably took place in secret and against the law, and probably by a small group of demonic, pagan-inspired radicals. The practice may have taken place in secret for some time. Society would have probably rejected it had they known. There were probably rumors spreading that such things were done in the dark groves under the cover of darkness, but no one could prove it, and those implicated denied it. Who would ever do such a thing in Israel, after all?

Then one day, one of the less orthodox rabbis—not unorthodox, but the guy who always asked the weird questions about the off-color and taboo subjects—asked the seemingly innocuous question of why we hated this Baal character so much when the name simply meant “Lord” and we call Yaweh “Lord” anyway. And why is “Molech” such a bad word since “Melech” simply means “King” and we call Yaweh King anyway? It seems there’s really an awful lot that we agree on with our surrounding neighbors. Why be such hostile enemies over theological fine points when we could set those aside and get an awful lot of business done together.

This argument seemed so sensible to so many people that soon it became a new orthodoxy that “Baal” and “Molech” are really no different than Yaweh, even if they just don’t have all the details of the law. We still believe the details, they would say, but in reality, the vast majority of public interaction and worldview was built only on a general belief in “the Lord” and “the King”—some general notion of a divine being. The façade of life before the face of God remained the same: people still said please and thank you, you didn’t have to lock your doors at night, children respected their parents, shopkeepers made honest change with equal weights, laborers gave an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages, and you could generally trust a contractor to finish on time and within budget.

The best thing about this arrangement was that, with the new generalized orthodoxy, business could expand into new markets. Yes, they were technically pagan, but as long as the pleases and thank yous continued, what was the problem? Business boomed so greatly and our young men had such a continual supply of jobs that we did not worry about much. Times are good. It seems, even, that by laying off the intense puritanism of our forefathers, we’ve actually become more relevant to those around us and God is blessing us for it. God has made even our enemies to be at peace with us!

We were pretty great, but then we looked and saw that the followers of Chemosh and Moloch and Baal still had something we didn’t. They had tremendous national greatness and unity. They had large powerful armies to defend their borders, and they had powerful leaders with a command presence to lead them. We looked at ourselves and saw scattered individualism, smallness, division, and relative disunity in comparison. Even if we had a unity of law under it all, we didn’t seem to have the same pride and outward unity that seems to define greatness. Weren’t we supposed to be the light of the world? Why, then, did these other nations look so much more glorious? We’d better catch up.

So, to our expansion into pagan markets, we added pagan forms of unity and symbols of greatness. We accepted the pagan structures of greatness. We built a comparable army. In fact, we built an even greater one—the greatest one on earth, ever. I mean it was huge. We did it to catch up; but some stated this is doing it because it was necessary, to protect ourselves from tyranny and terror.

We learned how to fund these great things, too. We learned to borrow money from future generations, and pay back the debt to society through future taxation. After all, this was for our children, so we were willing to levy several years of taxes that would affect them, too. This was for their benefit, so they would not mind a small, you know, sacrifice.

At first, we even called our taxes “offerings,” because we were happy to give for such great things. Later, when people pretty much resigned themselves to the obligatory nature of it, we called them “taxes.” This word simply means “touchings”—as in handling this for the purposes of assessment. The old guys said property and privacy were sacred, but we realized it was more important to have greatness and security, so we allowed the government to handle, assess, and take other people’s property. Giving up a little privacy in the process is a very small, well, sacrifice, in comparison. After all, what have you got to hide?

These little sacrifices on our part and on our children’s part we began to see as demands from our leaders, but we also saw them as necessary. At first, we merely tolerated them. But when we realized their virtue, we argued on their behalf and demanded them ourselves.

There remained some opposition to this. Some demanded what they called “principle.” They spoke of the literal law of God. We made clear to the people that God had obviously blessed our nation like this. Just look at it. Did they really want to give up all these modern conveniences and national security to return to virtual anarchy? We had shown how true liberty was achieved: through relaxing things a bit and getting along with the other gods out there. When we quit being so self-righteous and radical, we could actually learn from our neighbors, and we are much better for it. We are now like the other nations. Whoever opposed this was soon marginalized. It’s hard to imagine they were one time the vast majority. They are now fringe radicals.

Back in the old days, we had fringe radicals sacrificing in the dark woods. Today, there only a few people who oppose our sacrifices for the Lord and the security he provides through these forms. Today, they are the radicals.

But we don’t literally sacrifice, do we? Well, not that much. At first, it was just in battle. We sent our sons to fight in battle for our security, and greatness, too, I have to admit. But these are necessary sacrifices. With these sacrifices, Moloch was well pleased. They were sacrifices of a willing heart, and brave souls. From these very examples, our pride and assurance in the safety of our nation come. Freedom ain’t free. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice, and that means, sometimes other people have to die. Moloch gives, and Moloch takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the King.

The more we began to understand him, the more the blessings given by our Lord and King seemed so dependent upon our obedience to him. We obey him, he gives to us. So, we realized we needed to formalize our worship. After all, we used to have formal worship in old times, remember? We’d just gotten away from it. So, why should we not have formal worship reinstated in our new greatness? Yes, we might need to tweak a few things, but this was for our nation and our children.

We realized the original radicals had been right all along. They were now the majority. The King had been so great to us. To him we owed everything. To him we had even pledged our futures and our children. While it seemed uncomfortable to many people still, most were at least willing to trust our most elite leaders as they sacrificed—yes, a child. The remaining opposition to this (today’s radicals—the real, obvious radicals) seemed like wild-eyed, irrational bigots when they loudly and wildly protested this act as “murder.” Wow! They could not see that everything depended upon this. It was the true foundation of our wealth and protection. We could not continue without acknowledging this. Yes, it could seem extreme, but life without it was even worse.

So once the few remaining radicals had lost mainstream credibility, the vast majority of our comfortable middle class accepted the practice as part of our society and part of our freedom. Even if they opposed the practice themselves, they accepted that it was the parents’ choice whether to literally offer their child or not.

And the truth is, even several of the most prominent radical opponents got sucked into the system. I should tell you how they became so compromised in the system that their objections were hypocritical.

Back when the nation was borrowing its first sacrifices to fund it greatness, a decision was made to supplement the learning of the least privileged. We opened special academies for the poor. But several neglected this charitable service still. So, we passed another law that required them to attend. It didn’t make sense to allow children to grow up ignorant of what made us so great and powerful. The original free people—today’s wild-eyed radicals—educated their children in Bible and the old ways. But when this system opened, demanded attendance from all, and looked free, virtually everyone began to used it. Yes, it was a demand. Yes, it was technically a “loss” of freedom. But for greatness and security, the sacrifice was worth it. In certain circumstances, as we had learned from our Lord, making other people to sacrifice together, for the greater good, was itself a good thing.

At first there was little objection. The public schools still taught about God, heaven and hell, the Bible, morality, and all the traditional ways. It just also incorporated the ideas of what really had made us a nation on a hill. Over the years, our Lord and King took on the new, proper meanings, and we gradually corrected the social consciousness to match our national greatness. Today, the rightness of this glory is so obvious, and so convenient, that virtually everyone sends their children to be educated by Molech. It’s such a small and willing sacrifice, it’s hardly even a sacrifice at all. In fact, it’s a blessing!

And so it came about that, to this day, the vast majority of people give their children to Molech. Anyone who objected to the more devout sacrifices made by more devoted people had virtually no argument to stand on. They dared not oppose Molech. They liked Molech’s education. They liked Molech’s army. They demanded Molech’s taxes. They justified the debts to Molech. They benefited from—depended upon—the greatness of the society Molech created. How could they then retain any credibility in denying the legitimacy of worshipping Molech?

The obvious hypocrisy of it was resolved in one of three ways. They either sold out and defended the system as at least virtuous to some acceptable degree, or they lost credibility altogether in public, or they just learned to be quiet and not challenge the system.

They especially learned to be quiet when their children got involved. Or even sooner. It was clear their children made love with the rest of society, and with each other. These children had little problem bringing their own children to sacrifice to Molech. The radical parents may have objected, and this may have caused them to act in secret, but the kids did it anyway. The parents learned to show some sensitivity to this particular sin: they kept quiet about it after the fact. Likewise, some older women had engaged in it as well, and now sat in the assemblies of these radicals. How could these preachers rail against something as murder when they would offend all these women and daughters?

So, the radical preachers made their own sacrifice to Molech, too. Their sacrifice was their silence. One priest to Molech once even said that the silences of the Bible preachers on all this stuff was the loudest praise Molech ever received.

And so sacrifices went on.

And that’s how it happened.

To put it succinctly, we compromised a little, and a little compromise led to another, and a few compromises grow into corruption. We corrupted our worship. We corrupted our education. We corrupted our debt. We corrupted our defense. We corrupted our law. We corrupted our justice. We corrupted ourselves. And we killed our children as the ultimate justification of it.

And everyone who had a finger in it, from the very first and smallest compromise, bears some of the guilt.

Confronting the Molech Industry

Today we bear the guilt, and we suffer the inconsistencies, and they are legion. With all of this, however, we can see that abortion is merely the tip of a vast conspiracy of our own lusts, fears, and hypocrisies. The vast majority of Christians would decry the anti-child mentality of the liberal agents of the child sacrificers; but they will then turn right around and hand their own children over to those same agents of Molech for their education. Abortion is Molech worship; but Molech worship is more than just abortion. It is a comprehensive worldview that even most Christians are consumed with. You can’t stay consumed while criticizing abortion. It’s hypocritical.

It’s no wonder why our compromised institutions flee, and even attack, the overt naming of the Molech industry for what it is. They refuse to call it “child sacrifice,” “Molech worship,” or certainly not anything like “Molech industry.” Again, it’s no wonder. The moment you call out an industry, that same moment you draw awareness to the fact that this thing stretches into far more venues than just the local abortion clinic. You have now said the problem is institutional and culture-wide. And once you say something like that, people will naturally expect you to lay out and explain all the tentacles of such a beast. It becomes incumbent upon you to be honest about its furthest reaches.

This creates a real problem, because the church and some of her professing members will be exposed for their connections to it in various ways, not the least of which is the fact that many women and daughters sitting in evangelical churches today have had abortions, and the church leadership does not want to offend anyone, or cause them to feel shame or reproach. They may leave the church along with their supportive husbands. Or, they may stay and collectively demand the pastor or elder to leave. They may demand a change in theology or terminology to accommodate a gentler coddling of their past as not murder or even sin, but as, well, let’s just not talk about that and think about nice things to come. Christians want to be known as loyal and devoted, but not that kind of radical.

Such a pastor also has a family to feed, and getting fired from a church—especially for “sowing discord,” “contumacy,” or “divisive preaching”—would not only end his employment but make him virtually unemployable at any equivalent church from then on. So, he stays quiet, and says in a more benign, general way that he is “pro-life,” and “opposes abortion absolutely,” but there’s no need to explore all those divisive tentacles again. Let’s focus on the real enemy—the liberals—and not “wound our own” or “attack the sheep.”

And we will certainly not explore those alleged agents of Molech known in the public schools, government, law, etc. We have a lot of those on the church rolls, too.

In this new silence, with virtuous, moral, loyal, patriotic, and pro-life clothes on it, the minister now has submitted himself and his own children to the Molech industry’s power. He has placed his own children under the shadow of Molech’s wings for refuge and providence. Sure, he has not sacrificed his children literally to the idol; there is no blood atonement there on his part; but there is a “perfect submission, all is at rest” here. He is not standing directly under the idol and praising it, but he is standing in its long shadow and keeping his witness darkened because of it. Sacrifice to the Molech industry comes in a number of ways. Obedience has been rendered to Molech, and another pulpit so becomes an arm of the Molech industry.

Such preachers and Christians may not even feel conscious guilt and shame at their “silence” about all the tentacles of Molech and their submission to him. They may honestly believe they are doing the right thing. They may feel justified in their participation in Molech’s taxes, debts, army, education, and silence on certain issues, and they may feel righteous indignation at anyone who would accuse them.

They may even engage in apologetics against “syncretism” and even against “Molech” himself. But they are complicit in the vast majority of Molech’s kingdom while they do. In Molech, they live and move and have their being. They sacrifice to him, they praise his righteousness, and they fear his judgments. In most areas of life, they seek first the kingdom of Molech, and expect all these things to be added unto them.

They then become the foremost critics of us wild-eyed radicals who demand a return to God’s law without Molech, Baal, Ashteroth, or Chemosh in all areas of life. They lead crusades against us and kick us out of their churches. They strain at a demand for law and liberty, and find all kinds of “legitimate” ways to call us radicals, rebels, anarchists, despisers of authority, etc. In the end, they must stamp us out; but in stamping us out, they are exalting the religion of Molech, and worshiping him. They sacrifice their time, money, energy, conscience, and whole lives to him in these ways.

This is why the whole industry must be abolished. Abortion is not just an act, as murderous as it is. Abortion is the bloody, gruesome tip of the iceberg of a whole bloody, murderous, thieving, lying, stealing, destroying, adulterous, and idolatrous worldview. All of it is connected. All must be replaced with godliness.

Categories: Worldview

Why some black people can’t take the “Church” in America seriously anymore

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 04:42

Whether the Southern Baptist Convention decided, on paper, to condemn the “alt right” or not, the black community has packed its bags and moved on from an inhospitable, unwelcoming American Christianity. Anyone who really has their feet or at least their ear to the streets clearly understands that the climate has changed dramatically over the last several years when it comes to the credibility of the church in the black community. There have always been many in the black community who have been skeptical about Christianity as well as the existence of cults who plague the community. However, there at least had been a strong influence and presence of congregations in the community whether they were preaching sound doctrine or not. However, this cultural Christianity in the black community is evanescent.

Not only have many churches in the black community faded out due to lack of resources, but many people are leaving due to the persuasion that Christianity is the “white man’s religion.” A lack of strong apologetics has helped perpetuate this mentality, for one, but so has the attitude many Christians, particularly conservative whites, in America hold in regard to systemic injustice. The black community in general thinks of the American church as a religion which generally disregards institutional racism, whether in the American past or present. So while strange fruit continues to hang from our trees, and cages continue to be filled with singing birds, the churches ship their resources to third world countries, more conferences, or building funds for suburban church plants.

Without exaggeration, the black community has run out of trust for preachers in America. Preachers are looked at on the same level of dirty politicians, and not just the preachers with wealth. The black community has become deaf to what preachers have to say, and not just because of the false prosperity preachers, but because of preachers who neglect to seek justice for people of color. People of color rightly have become deaf to these preachers as even our Lord closes his ears to the prayers of those who neglect this task (Isaiah 1:15).

Many preachers justify their neglect by declaring that their duty is only “spiritual”—about where people’s soul will end up in eternity. They are not to be distracted by “worldly issues.” However, even the task of crossing the tracks to proclaim the good news to the black community has been neglected greatly by those who spend millions every year to take the Gospel across the sea.

Unfortunately, those Christians who see the error of the church in America and are speaking out against it, get more and more confirmation from the majority that the Church in America really does not care about the issues of the black community. The church in America finds the issues of the black community unfortunate, but not enough to put their hands to the plow.

I myself cannot identify with apathetic Christians who seek to silence those who cry out against injustice, who claim the Gospel is defiled when Christians are active in liberating the oppressed, who support politicians that advance the kingdom of darkness which oppresses dark people. This mentality is not new, rather it was birthed here during the enslavement of Africans. The idea that social issues only matter when dealing with abortion, health care reform, taxes, marriage, and education is a convenient Christianity. God’s law not only applies there, but also in justice, civil rights, due process, and equal protection of the laws. No longer can American Christians continue to claim ignorance when their inconsistencies expose their intelligence to comprehend that which is plain even to many atheists.

The truth is, the controversy over one statement condemning racism by the SBC is almost a waste of energy. The SBC has already issued a statement in the past as a repentance of their racist history. What really matters is what actions have been taken in light of the racial injustices of our day now. What really matters is the worldview of the pastors in the SBC or in any other church in America as it pertains to the church’s role in social injustice. The SBC can write 100 more resolutions condemning racism and the “New Jim Crow” can still thrive, black men can still be abused tomorrow by police, redlining can still be in effect, and more black people will leave their church seeking answers elsewhere. While black men and women in the Church were grieving and in shock of what happened, the unbelieving world is not shocked, and continues to perish, with blood on our hands, while we continually beat a dead horse that died long time ago.

There is much work to do for the sake of the Gospel, and with endurance many have spent their lives fighting the battle to convince professing Christians that God actually cares about black people. Although we are to be longsuffering with our brothers and sisters, this conversation needs an expiration date due to the fact that many have made it apparent, by their actions, and sometimes preaching, too, that actually seeking justice for blacks in America is another gospel. If they preach this way, blacks will eventually believe them: that is, that they have another Gospel. Christians, whether black or white, who are awakened to the realities of our day, must find peace by dropping the dead weight. We must take our energy and invest more into proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus with all its implications and applications to the world, so that we do not continue to give them occasion to blaspheme.

Categories: Worldview

Creating a free judiciary

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 04:45

Restoring America One County at a Time

8. Courts

8.3 Creating a Free Judiciary

What can be done to return society to a biblical, free judicial system? In this section we will cover two main avenues to recovering a free society: the establishment of voluntary and private courts, and jury nullification. We will also discuss the commitment to Christian virtue necessary to make it work.

Private Christian Courts

In light of what has been said so far in reference to biblical courts, the most important thing we can do today is to attempt at all costs, as far as possible, as often as possible, to settle inter-personal disputes privately. What does this look like in practice?

For Christians, private settlement means first, forgiveness whenever possible. Secondarily, it means private Christian courts. This was Paul’s main argument to the Corinthians, as we reviewed before. Christians need to recover this doctrine and put it into action. In general, Christians should:

1) Appeal only to Christian “courts”

2) Allow only Christian judges or arbitrators to resolve disputes between Christians

3) Allow only biblical law as the standard of judgment in such cases

4) Provide only such remedies or restitution as biblical law allows

5) Provide some measure for finality of the decision

Christ Alone

Let’s consider each of these five aspects. The first point is an application of the idea of sovereignty. Christians have one ultimate King and Judge, the Triune God. It is He who presides, ultimately, over all of life. Only courts that honor Him ultimately have validity. The universe is His courtroom, and no one has removed the Ten Commandments from this courtroom, nor will they. The point is intimately tied with the other four, but especially with point three—that of law. Law in every society is ultimately religious in origin, and the source of law in any given society is that society’s God. Christians, as members of God’s holy society, the temple of God on earth (1 Pet. 2:5–10), must recognize the ultimate validity only of God’s law, and thus God-honoring courts. Courts judging according to some other legal standard are courts of some other god as well—no matter how much any constituent part or party of any case may say “so help me God.” This has major implications. Christians must generally consider modern state courts to be mostly ungodly. However they may have been originally founded, they have long since abandoned, as we have seen, any formal recognition of Christian law and have instead embraced Holmes’ humanistic standard of evolutionary, relativistic law. Granted, some traces of Christian judicial heritage may remain, but traces only indicate past history, they do not legitimize the courts as still acceptably “Christian” today. We will address secular courts more in a moment. For now it is expedient just to acknowledge their apostasy and avoid them as much as possible.

Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians here seems to have had some precedent in Jewish rabbinical law. The Mishnah—an early collection of ancient rabbinical deliberations which forms the basis for the later Talmud—contains a strikingly similar opinion: “A bill of divorce given under compulsion is valid if ordered by an Israelitish court, but if by a gentile court it is invalid.”The Jewish legal scholar George Horowitz refers to the phrase, “tribunals of idolators.” He quotes the Talmud, which is commentary upon the earlier statement of the Mishnah:

If it is impossible to adjust amicably, and the parties must go to law, they should resort to a bet-din [“house of judgment”] of Israel. It is forbidden to litigate before judges or tribunals of idolators even when their law is similar to Jewish law, and even when both parties agreed to submit their case before them and, even if they bound themselves thereto by kinyan [a binding agreement] or by instrument in writing. Such agreements are null and void.

In other words, these Jews considered non-Jewish courts to be courts of idolatry: since they did not submit to biblical law, they must have submitted to a false god. It is important to see that Paul was applying a very similar mindset when instructing Christians in 1 Corinthians 6. As Christians, we dare not run to pagan courts—that would be idolatry—but rather should despise them as inferior to Christian law and Christian courts.

God’s law, God’s court must be made preeminent by Christians, who then must expand godliness outwardly into the state courts where it is lacking. Rushdoony explains,

When a state or its laws are godly, its courts are legitimate and can be used. The state then, despite its sins and shortcomings, is an aspect of the Kingdom of God. Present civil law is in process of becoming radically humanistic, but its framework is still to a large degree Biblical. It is the duty of Christians, not to withdraw from civil law (i.e., the law of the state), but to make it Biblical.

Representing Christ

Closely related to the issue of sovereignty is the second aspect, representation of authority. Every court has representatives of its sovereignty—earthly incarnations of its authority—its judges. God’s court is no different—in fact, it is the original. Ideally, all civil judges’ oaths of office would include swearing allegiance to Jesus Christ and His Word—they would be His representatives—but this simply is not the case today. In a decentralized world, of course, we would have a much better chance of having at least local judges willing and ready to take such an oath, but we are not there yet. In the mean time, every judge represents the law of his court, and thus the source of that law. An idolatrous court is an idolatrous jurisdiction and should not be accepted as ultimate for the Christian. Rushdoony again explains,

A judge or court whose premise is other than the law of God is an untrustworthy administrator of justice. Justice is not impossible with such a man, but it is not to be expected.

The moment a judge begins representing a law other than the law of God, that judge is representing a false law, and his court has assumed the position of a false god.

[I]f church or state, or any other agency, function as the creator of law, i.e., issuing laws without a transcendental basis, then they have made themselves into gods. Their right to command is then gone.

In light of this, Christians should seek only Christians as arbiters of their disputes. Indeed, they should preferably seek Christians who have an understanding of Whom they represent as judges and the Word according to which they are to judge. We want to submit only to judges who in turn submit to God and His Word. This is not to say, of course, that all Christian elders, arbitrators, and “judges” of all kinds, as opposed to all pagan judges, will always be perfectly just in their sentences. But justice, honestly, and impartiality are to be expected from godly leaders, whereas such are unexpected of a judge who refuses to submit to the rule and law of God Almighty—who has compromised the deity to begin with. Christians should therefore seek out willing and able Christians to arbitrate and settle disputes among them.

The Standard of Christ

We have already said enough about the third aspect—law. It takes center stage throughout the process and infuses each of the other aspects. The standard throughout is God and His sovereignty, God and His Word. Every court must submit to God’s Law, else the Christian cannot accept it as ultimately authoritative. This raises questions which I will address in a minute. More importantly, every Christian and every church must accept God’s law as the standard of every area of life, of structuring family life and business life, and of “judging the world” (1 Cor. 6:2–3). Unless the individuals and their respective leaders within the church accept the godly standard, we can hardly expect it to ever to be adopted as a source of conflict resolution by civil courts; and more importantly, we can hardly expect the blessing of the Final Judge who gave us that Law to begin with. Without embracing God’s Law, Christians today are—despite whatever growing numbers and massive churches we may display—absolutely lawless in the eyes of our God.

Biblical Remedies

The fourth aspect, sanctions, is tied to the Law as well. Christian courts must seek remedies and resolutions to problems that are applications of God’s sanctions revealed in His law, and no further. For example, the Bible provides clear guidelines for restitution of property in several types of cases: different degrees of theft, embezzlement, negligence, workers’ responsibilities, and more (Ex. 22:1–17). Christian “judges” should study these cases carefully to determine the biblical guidelines that apply, and then declare accordingly. Decisions that go beyond these boundaries—even if determined by secular “authoritative” courts, should not be accepted by the Christian.

Biblical sanctions will provide godly justice, and at the same time prevent frivolous cases, malicious cases, and cases of greed, envy, or human whim. Consider, for example, the famous “hot coffee lawsuit” from a biblical-law view. In this case, a woman sued McDonald’s after she spilled her coffee and suffered third-degree burns on 6% of her body. Since the restaurant served its coffee far beyond the temperature of any other (near boiling-point in fact!), the liability issue was strongly against the restaurant. Meanwhile, the woman originally asked only for her medical expenses to be covered—about $20,000. But the case escalated, and the jury eventually awarded her $200,000 in compensation, plus a whopping $2.7 million in punitive damages. Now, biblical law does call for both restitution and at least 100% punitive damages, awarded to a victim of theft (Ex. 22:4), of which this was a sort. It even calls for four- or five-fold restitution in cases involving valuable property which produces returns or has required costly investment. But not even the most extreme cases of allows a ten-fold restitution plus a 135-fold punitive award. And ironically, this determination was not driven by greed, but by the jury’s whim, based on the defense attorney’s statement that McDonald’s should be punished one or two days’ coffee revenues. Indeed, this was not a frivolous case—as many have supposed—but a frivolous application of sanctions to the remedy. The judge did succeed in lowering the penalties, and further appeals by the defense actually ended the woman up with less than she could have settled for in the original case. That much was due to greed, not doubt. But the jury’s decision was unbiblical, and thus unjust in itself. Christian courts and tribunals which are allowed only to adjudicate according to biblical law would avoid such ridiculous decisions.

Finality and Endurance of Decisions

Finally, we have perhaps the most difficult aspect of private Christian courts—indeed, of all systems of private arbitration, etc.—finality. Every court decision is likely going to be uncomfortable to one party. This means that there will always be an incentive to appeal to a higher court or greater power. Indeed, unless there is a final “buck stops here” voice of judicial authority, appeals in a free market of private courts would be endless. Even the completely anti-State anarchist Murray Rothbard, in his very helpful system of libertarian thought, conceded that there must be some accepted final arbiter: “Obviously, in any society legal proceedings cannot continue indefinitely; there must be some cutoff point.” While he criticizes the idea of a state Supreme Court as an “arbitrary” cutoff point, he nevertheless recognizes the necessity of a legally-mandated limit to appeals among private courts:

In the Libertarian society, there would also have to be an agreed-upon cutoff point, and since there are only two parties to any crime or dispute—the plaintiff and the defendant—it seems more sensible for the legal code to declare that a decision arrived at by any two courts shall be binding.

Obviously, even this standard cannot be upheld without some ultimate point of coercion. What if, despite the legal code, the defendant still refuses to submit to the judgment, or yet another court agrees to hear the case even if the other party remains in abstentia? In such cases, it would be up to society at large to enforce the prior decisions, and this may or may not be very easy. There still remains the possibility that a decision has no practical finality. And who will determine whether the prior two courts’ concurring decisions were arrived at justly? Wouldn’t that require yet another third-party examination of law, facts, and procedure? Thus we introduce yet another type of appeal—but will this appeal also not be subject to dispute. It seems that there must be some “arbitrary” aspect to arrive at finality and continuity of decision in any humanly-enforced judicial system.

In either Christian courts, or Rothbard’s “Libertarian society”—we could simply say a “free society”—the key factor that will give continuity to legitimate court decisions is public virtue based in personal devotion to God’s law. Rothbard is correct to say that “there will have to be a legal code,” it must be “generally accepted,” and the standard of limited appeals must arise from that legal code. But if a legal code does not derive from a truly authoritative source, then even a “generally accepted” legal code can only arrive at something like finality pragmatically, not in principle. True binding authority over man can only derive from a Source higher than man, meaning a Law higher than man’s. This law must be God’s law, and this standard must be upheld by courts, especially private Christian courts.

Rothbard is absolutely correct on the practical side: people and the courts must generally agree on the authority of that particular legal code and the courts’ adherence to it. Without people who agree ahead of time to place limits on their appeals for more litigation—which in a free society are really attempts at self-justification against the prior decisions of multiple of your closest and often self-chosen peers—then the very principles of justice are undermined in our hearts to begin with, and such a society cannot expect to be free. The absence of such virtue is the main ingredient which keeps tyrannical states in operation. As long as people are unable to agree voluntarily to limit appeals to self-justification, and as long as enough of the rest of society refuses to impute continuity to the legitimacy of those limits, then some form of coercive state solution will arise and persist to enforce the arbitrary limits determined by the interested and ruling parties. Of course, this is true in many areas of civil life, not just the legitimacy of court decisions.

The Necessity of Civic Virtue

The issue of civic virtue touches the heart of the spiritual and psychological nature of society, and this is clearly true in reference to the judiciary in any society. Criminal and civil cases multiply only where people cannot or will not govern themselves—a point made many times already—but also where people desire to exact as much revenge or remuneration as possible for acts against them. Paul makes this point in reference to the Corinthians. Some of them were bringing frivolous or even fraudulent cases against their brethren, just to profit at their expense. Thus Paul condemned them: “you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” (1 Cor. 6:8). Rushdoony comments that “just as they give more worth to pagan courts than they deserve so they give more worth to their own contentions than they deserve.” This is basic to fallen human nature—the source of all fraud in human society. The point, however, discovers the vital link between human vice and the persistence of pagan courts: deviant hearts wish to avoid godly courts: instead they seek out ungodly avenues of authority by which to profit from their vices.

Further, such fraud can exist in degrees: a case need not be completely illegitimate to be considered fraudulent. It may rather be a legitimate injury magnified beyond its true warrant. In fact, this is probably a more likely scenario, for it allows vice and plunder to proceed under at least some cover of law. This, again is a product of the fallen human heart. It is sometimes by conscious design—aimed at enriching oneself, or destroying another purposefully. It is sometimes unconscious. Either way, one should take the advice offered in the essay “On Private Revenge, III,” written by a young John Adams:

Let me conclude, by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked [Jer. 17:9]. Let them consider how extremely addicted they are to magnify and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others. They ought, therefore, to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions and prejudices and interests are concerned, to desire to judge for themselves in their own causes, and to take their own satisfactions for wrongs and injuries of any kind.

Paul’s remedy for these situations is spiritual: it is self-sacrifice. He writes, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). This will eliminate purposely fraudulent cases between brethren, it would eliminate frivolous cases, and it would go a long way toward eliminating most cases. Those only that would survive—and should survive—are those in which the issue under dispute would significantly weaken the well-being of the victim. But the path to this state of affairs is one of self-government—controlling the passions, jealousies, and other emotional vices which drive us to magnify our “injuries” beyond warrant. Indeed, the true Christian spirit will go further than self-government. I will progress to self-sacrifice—reining in even the desire to justify one’s injuries in many or most cases.

There was a time when our legal scholars acknowledged this fundamental basic of common law. Again, Adams writes,

The divine Author of our religion has taught us that trivial provocations are to be overlooked. . . . [L]ittle injuries and insults ought to be borne patiently for the present, rather than run the risk of violent consequences by retaliation.

Now, the common law seems to me to be founded on the same great principle of philosophy and religion.

A necessary step, then, in recovering a free judiciary system is for people to adopt this Christian mindset. We must increase individual, personal government—beginning at the spiritual level—before we can expect society in general to reflect a less litigious, coercive spirit which leverages government courts and force as a means of self-justification. The basic summary is this: “If men will not obey God, they will not obey men.” And when disobedience is the common standard, “they will then require the gallows and the gun as the necessary instruments of order.” Unless we learn more often to crucify that flesh, we will not progress beyond such institutionalized force, and despair of seeing a free society.

But in crucifying that flesh, there must be practical manifestations and applications of it. The spiritual must manifest in the material—as we pray His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Christian arbitration or Christian private courts—or a free society in general—would further address the problem of continuity by encouraging relevant clauses in contractual agreements. If parties engaging in business had clear arbitration clauses in their contracts up front, then any arbitration decision which followed itself can become a legally enforceable instrument under contract law. If the contract specifies that should any conflicts arise, these parties agree to settle by means of arbitration, and that the decision of the arbitration panel will be accepted by both parties as final, then that aspect of the contract becomes a legally-enforceable decision under contract law in civil courts. This would make any recourse to state courts at least predictable if not pointless. Of course, such a situation would be extreme; Christians should be content to accept the contractual means to which they had agreed without asking a state court to enforce it or override it with some further coercive legal decision. The point being made here, however, is about finality. Christians solve the endless appeals problem simply by contractually agreeing to stop at the decision of a pre-determined panel of arbitrators or elders.

So here are five principles of Christian courts which individuals and churches need to learn and implement. Considering that Christians (of some confession or other) make up about seventy-five percent of the U. S. population, if every dispute between Christian and Christian were settled this way, privately, it would have several great effects in society. It would make a huge impact on the clogged court system. It would set a powerful precedent of Christian law, virtue, peace, and brotherly love for the rest of society to see. It could also have an educational effect upon a greater number of Christians in at least two ways: 1) it would require us to seek answers to more of life’s practical considerations from God’s word, and thus would force us back to the texts of Scripture more frequently than currently normal for most Christians, and 2) it would teach them in general to learn and rely on the Christian doctrine of self-government. Just apprehending these two lessons would go a long way toward improving society and increasing freedom.

Christians Under Pagan Judicial Tyranny

Earlier we mentioned the problem of secular courts which judge according to a law other than God’s law, and thus set themselves up as rival gods. We noted with Rushdoony how justice is not impossible with such a court, but it should not be expected. In the American system which still has vestiges of its Christian legal heritage, we might expect proper justice more often than in some other societies, but the possibility still arises—and in fact arises more increasingly as society departs from biblical truth—that the rival gods will uphold and enforce satanic laws and sanctions. It may be that courts call for Christians to engage in acts that are sinful. It may even be that courts threaten punishments upon such Christian in these cases, or that courts provide remedies to others who wish to coerce Christians in these regards. What should the Christian do in these cases?

There is a progression of resistance for Christians to follow. First, we must resist peacefully using the instruments of the law such as protest and legal appeals. Second, where the issues are merely local or state issues, we can leave the jurisdiction and move to another which better reflects our values. This option is, of course, greatly magnified under this project’s proposal of “county rights,” where the highest civil authority enforcement for such matters exists only at the local level. In the absence of such a decentralized ideal, it may be best in some cases to leave a State, or even leave the country. When protest and activism are ineffective, and emigration is not practical or preferable, then the Christian must make a judgment as to the severity of the offense to determine whether civil order or Christian conscience should have priority. It may be case that “while the powers have no right to command apart from God’s word, sometimes the duty to obey remains as the moral course, and the pragmatic course,” and thus we must obey unto God for the sake of order, not for the sake of the particular human decision. Where a particular law is egregious enough, however—for example, in reference to abortion or sexual deviancy—Christians absolutely must engage in civil disobedience. But this must be done in “conscious obedience to God rather than man,” and preferably in concert with public proclamation by some recognized Christian authority.

Civil disobedience in egregious cases—necessary cases—is a long accepted and ancient Christian right and practice which modern Christians need to recover. This is especially true in the United States where retain many vestiges of a formerly Christian society: the delusion created by these vestiges means that we tolerate the rotten guts of socialism and humanism in virtually every corner of government and society merely because there remains a paper veneer of Christian heritage over top of it. The greatest advances, however, of Christianity in society throughout history have come when Christians have confronted the rottenness. Toward this motivation, the words of Francis Schaeffer are worth quoting at length:

Throughout the whole history of the Christian Church (and again I wish people knew their history; in A Christian Manifesto I stress what happened in the Reformation in reference to all this), at a certain point, it is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government. Now that’s what the founding fathers did when they founded this country. That’s what the early Church did. That’s what Peter said. You heard it from the Scripture: “Should we obey man?… rather than God?” That’s what the early Christians did.

Occasionally—no, often—people say to me, “But the early Church didn’t practice civil disobedience.” Didn’t they? You don’t know your history again. When those Christians that we all talk about so much allowed themselves to be thrown into the arena, when they did that, from their view it was a religious thing. They would not worship anything except the living God. But you must recognize from the side of the Roman state, there was nothing religious about it at all—it was purely civil. The Roman Empire had disintegrated until the only unity it had was its worship of Caesar. You could be an atheist; you could worship the Zoroastrian religion…. You could do anything. They didn’t care. It was a civil matter, and when those Christians stood up there and refused to worship Caesar, from the side of the state, they were rebels. They were in civil disobedience and they were thrown to the beasts. They were involved in civil disobedience, as much as your brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union are [in 1982]. When the Soviet Union says that, by law, they cannot tell their children, even in their home, about Jesus Christ, they must disobey and they get sent off to the mental ward or to Siberia. . . .

The early Christians, every one of the reformers (and again, I’ll say in A Christian Manifesto I go through country after country and show that there was not a single place with the possible exception of England, where the Reformation was successful, where there wasn’t civil disobedience and disobedience to the state), the people of the Reformation, the founding fathers of this country, faced and acted in the realization that if there is no place for disobeying the government, that government has been put in the place of the living God. In such a case, the government has been made a false god. If there is no place for disobeying a human government, that government has been made God.

It is simply time that Christians informed themselves on these matters, exalted the proper God to His throne in both their hearts and their society, and get prepared to make decision and actions accordingly. The early Christians did it, the Reformers did it, and American Christians did it. There is no reason God’s people today should not be equally prepared.

Jury Nullification

Another avenue in which we can already restore the principles of liberty is through jury nullification. This practice, once widely accepted among Christian and early American jurists and lawyers, has been largely forgotten until very recently. Thanks to the increasing interest in liberty, civic involvement, and the advance of individual rights, we are seeing a resurgence of this principle.

He principle itself is quite simple: juries have the perfectly legal right to determine both the facts and the law in cases over which they sit in judgment. This concept sounds radical to most modern ears, but it’s absolutely true. In cases where the application of a currently law would actually cause an unjust outcome, or where the applicable law itself is unpopular or simply a bad law, the jury can remedy the situation—even if the defendant is technically guilty of breaking the law—by refusing to find that defendant guilty, by declaring the person innocent. Juries have this right even if the judge instructs them otherwise in any way.

Several of the founding fathers understood the fundamental importance of jury nullification. Even a Fox News report on the subject quoted John Adams to this effect: “It is not only [the juror’s] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” Likewise, the first Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, John Jay, “you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. . . . [B]oth objects are lawfully, within your power of decision.” Unsurprisingly, Jefferson joined these federalists in this view. He explained why we should support jury nullification: “To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

This power was preserved as basic to preventing government abuse of power. During the ratification debates, this power was upheld as the fundamental check against potential abuse under the Constitution. During the debates in Massachusetts, Theophilus Parsons—a supporter of the Constitution and later State Supreme Court Chief Justice—proclaimed that

the people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his own fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainty will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.

The framers recognized the importance of this issue from the hard lessons of previous generations. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was a defendant in a 1670 case in England in which he was tried for unlawful assembly. He had violated the so-called “Conventicle Act” of 1664 which forbade religious assemblies of more than five persons for non-establishment protestants. This act was part of the Elizabethan acts of Unity which aimed to centralize the English Church and suppress all puritans and other Protestants. Penn was one of these. When drawn into court, he pleaded not guilty. The jury upheld his innocence—not because he had not broken the law, but because they esteemed the particular law unjust. The bench was furious, and threatened the jurors with imprisonment and deprivation. It finally settled upon fining each member and imprisoning them until it was paid. A higher court, however, later released them. The episode was very famous; it was fundamental to our framer’s understanding of how courts would become tyrannical and uncontrollable unless we preserve the right of jury nullification.

Unfortunately, today it is a practice of most judges to remain silent about this aspect of the law and instead specifically mislead juries only to consider the facts in the case and not the law. An 1895 Supreme Court decision even ruled that this practice is constitutional—judges are not required to explain to juries their right of jury nullification. But this by no means makes the right itself any less important. (It just means that judges are elitist, not wanting average people to have a say in the righteousness of any given law, that they are pressured by large beneficiaries, or that they for some other reason lean toward the side of the prosecution in all cases. Whatever the cause, it’s unethical and counterproductive to liberty in most cases.) Despite the judges’ shifty silence, the Supreme Court itself has upheld the right more than once in American history:

In 1952, for example, the Court found that “juries are not bound by what seems inescapable logic to judges.” And in 1972, that “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge.”

The application of the right has a deep and meaningful American heritage as well. Juries exercised it against the Alien and Sedition Acts of Adams and against the Fugitive Slave laws in the 1850s. It was used against growing corporate power during the height of the progressive era, used frequently against alcohol control laws during Prohibition, and even in a few cases for Vietnam War protestors.

Keeping right with the theme with our project, the Fox News report says,

A common question I get from people disturbed by these kinds of cases is, “What can we do?” Well, here’s one thing the average citizen can do: Serve when you’re called to jury duty, and while there, refuse to enforce unjust laws. If a defendant is guilty of harming someone else, certainly, throw the book at him. But if he’s guilty of violating a bad law, or if you feel the law has been unjustly applied to him, by all means, come back with “not guilty,” no matter what the judge, the prosecutor, or the evidence says.

For those wishing to have as immediate an impact as possible in this regard, they should embrace jury duty when called, and actively work to spread knowledge of the right among their families, communities, churches, and in public wherever possible. Likewise, interested parties should read and learn as much as possible about the subject. There is at least one organization devoted to this issue—the Fully Informed Jury Association (fija.org). They provide resources for education, including a DVD lecture series for Churches.

There is yet another avenue by which the people have some control over the judiciary, albeit indirectly. This is Congress’ constitutional power to regulate the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over any of its legislation. Believe it or not, the Constitution gives Congress this power. Article 3, Section 2 states,

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

In many cases, then, Congress can declare “Exceptions” and “Regulations” upon the jurisdiction of the Court, and indeed it has done so in the past. This power has certain limitations and drawbacks, of course, but is very real, should be taken seriously, and our Senators and Congressman should be well-informed of it. We will discuss all of these aspects in a supplementary lesson.

Conclusion

So there you go. The average person concerned about judicial tyranny has practical things to do even in this seemingly incontestable area. We can promote private courts or private arbitration, when applicable settle our own disputes there, and pledge to remain content with the results. This is especially true for Christians who should have had such courts established for themselves long since. Further, Christians should do as much as they can individually to limit litigation in society—this often means self-sacrifice for minor infractions, debts, etc. Finally, jury nullification is powerful tool to halt tyranny in individual cases—and if enough cases strike down the same law, it will set a precedent for changing that law. Interested Christians should research, learn, and then inform their elders of all of these principles and practices. Granted, these steps will not transform the entire judiciary system overnight. But then again, as we have stressed from the beginning, we are planning and working for our children and grandchildren.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: The military and war in a free society

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Judicial tyranny in America

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 06:53

Restoring America One County at a Time

8. Courts

8.2 Judicial Tyranny in America

The understanding of how American freedom was lost in and through the judiciary should already be visible from our discussions of previous topics. We have seen how the John Marshall courts energized and applied the centralizing effects of the Constitution and the power of the “Federalist” coup in the areas of localism, State’s rights, commerce, money and banking, taxation, and more. The precedent set by Marshall’s activism was embraced by later justices who picked it up and ran in the areas of education, welfare, and again, much more. Legislation by the bench has been an American tradition—tyrannical as it may be—since the beginning.

Partisan Politics and the Supreme Court

If you remember correctly, the establishment of a single national Supreme Court was one of the major issues objected to by the anti-federalists. Candidus warned that the court would “occasion innumerable controversies.” “A Friend to the Rights of the People” said the Supreme Court may prove “a source of mischief and ruin to thousands” by which “the course of public justice may be much obstructed, the poor oppressed, and many undone.” “An Old Whig” called the Court’s constitutional appellate power “destructive to the principles of liberty,” and yet this power could not be extinguished even by legislation. Brutus, as we noted earlier, warned clearly, “If . . . the legislature pass any laws, inconsistent in the senses the judges put upon the constitution, they will declare it void; and therefore in this respect their power is superior to that of the legislature.” He saw the great danger of unelected and unaccountable judges to the future peace of the country:

when this power is lodged in the hands of men independent of the people, and of their representatives, and who are not, constitutionally, accountable for their opinions, no way is left to controul them but with a high hand and an outstretched arm.

For reasons such as this, The Federal Farmer believed “we are in more danger of sowing the seeds of arbitrary government in this department than in any other.” He saw the established State courts as largely adequate and warned against expansion:

judicial power is of such a nature, that when we have ascertained and fixed its limits, with all the caution and precision we can, it will yet be formidable, somewhat arbitrary and despotic—that is, after all our cares, we must leave a vast deal to the discretion and interpretation—to the wisdom, integrity, and politics of the judges.

The “politics of the judges” indeed became a major factor. The American judiciary was politically compromised from very early on as most Court appointees held Nationalist sympathies. We have mentioned how Marshall spent his career legislating Hamilton’s state papers from the bench. It was much more widespread than just Marshall—his brand of judicial activism trickled down to all inferior courts as well.

The District Court was crawling with partisanship. In 1793 a Federalist civil servant “commented that the federal judiciary had ‘assumed a party complexion.’” That same year, William Ellery wrote to Alexander Hamilton saying of the federal judges, “They have become a band of political preachers.” Another critic in 1797 said, “It has . . . become a regular practice of the federal judges to make political discourses to the grand jurors throughout the United States.” These men were politically committed before they ever got to the bench. Indeed, out of 28 district court judges during the Nationalist-dominated 1790s, 21 had been politically active in support of the Federalist cause; of these, 14 were either delegates to the Constitutional Convention or to state ratifying conventions. Only three ever even questioned nationalization, and these came to favor it afterward. Throughout their careers these judges remained active in party politics and often were described or even boasted themselves in such terms. Nathaniel Chipman of Vermont, for example, was one of the State’s “major political strategists,” and an “effective and unscrupulous practitioner of magnate politics.”

Federal judges during this era openly participated in party meetings and election campaigns. Some did not shy from private intimidation. Judge James Duane—a former delegate to the Constitutional Convention and member of the Hamiltonian cabal of New York—owned large tracts of rental property in upstate New York. He is described as a “powerful landlord” who would “exert undue pressures on tenants at election time.” Duane’s partisan eagerness took him too far eventually when he seized French ships in violation of existing treaties. When confronted by fellow Federalist and Secretary of State Edmund Randolph for his offense, the New York cabal cited a Jeffersonian conspiracy of “partizans of the French Sans Culottes” (revolutionaries). The propaganda effort failed and Duane was eventually forced to resign.

And of course, being the main part of their job, their judicial decisions reflected their biases. In one case, District Judge David Sewell of Maine used his bench to bully a jury into a guilty verdict against his political rivals. Certain defendants had been charged with violating the wildly unpopular Jay Treaty. “Sewell instructed the jury to find him guilty. In his charge to the jurors, he pointed out that both the defendant and his defense attorney were political opponents of the government and Constitution.”

After John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Federalist political activism grew even more overt and pervasive. Despite the despotic nature of the Acts which allowed Adams to deport people who merely criticized him or the government in print—a blatant infraction of the First Amendment—a full half of the sitting district court judges eagerly enforced the new laws. In various politically-motivated cases during this time, political rivals in court were specifically targeted as examples, ridiculed and mocked, denied copies of court documents pertaining to their hearings, had juries stacked against them (a practice encouraged and promoted by judges), refused time to prepare adequate defense, and even rushed to trial without their lawyers present.

The historian concludes,

[W]hat happened in the district and circuit courts in the 1790s cannot simply be written off as the bias of a few partisan judges involved in a handful of isolated cases. . . . Political activism helped loosen political emotions and corrupt the objectivity of otherwise distinguished, highly qualified jurists in every part of the nation. Thus, it may be said, if an independent federal judiciary did emerge as a basic building block of American liberties, it was a lodgment that took place only after the generation of the Founding Fathers.

It is clear . . . that both the first United States district and circuit courts were among the most thoroughly politicized federal judicial institutions in American history.

The Establishment of Broad Construction

Among those most annoyed by judicial partisanship in this era was the most outstanding spokesman of the rival party, Thomas Jefferson. He was involved directly in the landmark case Marshall alley-ooped to himself, Marbury v. Madison (1803). As Secretary of State under Adams, and in the waning days of that administration, Marshall signed and sealed several appointments of “midnight judges” to further pack the judicial system with Federalist activists. But upon change of administration, Jefferson took office and forbade the Secretary, Madison, from delivering the letters. But Marshall had orchestrated the whole thing. One of the appointees, William Marbury, filed suit to obtain his office anyway. The case went to the Supreme Court and Marshall decided it. Thus, while Secretary of State, he tossed the case in the air, then moved over to the Justice position and slam-dunked it.

And in deciding it, he made a very clever move: he used the judicial function of the Court itself to declare that the Court itself had no jurisdiction to decide the case! In the process of this decision, he declared the Judicial Act of 1789—which had given the Supreme Court power to hear such cases as this—was actually unconstitutional. Thus Marshall used the trivial case of Mr. Murbury as a Trojan horse to trump legislation with judicial dictum. The activity has since been called the doctrine of “judicial review.”

Jefferson was quite perturbed by Marshall’s activism. Late in his life, in a letter to Justice William Johnson (whom he had appointed in 1804), Jefferson opined:

This practice of Judge Marshall, of travelling out of his case to prescribe what the law would be in a moot case not before the court, is very irregular and very censurable. I recollect another instance, and the more particularly, perhaps, because it in some measure bore on myself. Among the midnight appointments of Mr. Adams, were commissions to some federal justices of the peace for Alexandria. These were signed and sealed by him, but not delivered. I found them on the table of the department of State, on my entrance into office, and I forbade their delivery. Marbury, named in one of them, applied to the Supreme Court for a mandamus to the Secretary of State, (Mr. Madison) to deliver the commission intended for him. The Court determined at once, that being an original process, they had no cognizance of it; and therefore the question before them was ended. But the Chief Justice went on to lay down what the law would be, had they jurisdiction of the case, to-wit: that they should command the delivery. The object was clearly to instruct any other court having the jurisdiction, what they should do if Marbury should apply to them. Besides the impropriety of this gratuitous interference, could anything exceed the perversion of law? . . . Yet this case of Marbury and Madison is continually cited by bench and bar, as if it were settled law, without any animadversion on its being merely an obiter dissertation of the Chief Justice.

That letter, written in 1823, is a long lament of how the nationalist/Federalist party had already corrupted so much of what America had promised to be. This included the tyrannical power of her court system, for which even the Bill of Rights was no match:

The States supposed that by their tenth amendment, they had secured themselves against constructive powers. They were not lessoned yet by Cohen’s case, nor aware of the slipperiness of the eels of the law. I ask for no straining of words against the General Government, nor yet against the States. I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly he bought and sold as at market.

These “constructive powers”—and the “slipperiness of the eels of the law”—Jefferson by this late age knew all too well. In his 1791 argument with Hamilton over the establishment of a national bank, Jefferson fought these powers with his “strict construction” view of the Constitution. He was joined by Madison against Hamilton, who argued that Congress had the power to do anything necessary as a means to its ends—and this included incorporating a national bank even though such an animal was nowhere mentioned as a Congressional power in the Constitution. Instead, Hamilton (and Marshall) would argue, such a means to an end was an implied power.

In this debate, though Madison sided with Jefferson on the constitutionality of the bank bill, his own writings came back to bite him. For he himself had written of the very “necessary and proper” clause in the Federalist Papers No. 44: “No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.” It was nothing less than this “original intent” of the Constitution which Hamilton and his party wished to leverage: for the necessary end of solidifying public credit, the necessary means of a national bank should be authorized. When Madison’s own words were recalled on the floor on Congress, the debate was essentially over.

The two sides in this debate reached their final battleground upon Washington’s desk in the personal written admonitions of Jefferson and Hamilton. The President sided with his Treasury Secretary and the Bank was born.

Thus prevailed the doctrine of “broad construction” and “implied powers” of the Constitution—a doctrine by which the rule of law becomes a wax nose wrung in the hands of activist judges. It was this same doctrine Marshall upheld, applied, and elucidated in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) (another bank case!):

The subject is the execution of those great powers on which the welfare of a nation essentially depends. It must have been the intention of those who gave these powers, to insure, so far as human prudence could insure, their beneficial execution. This could not be done, by confiding the choice of means to such narrow limits as not to leave it in the power of congress to adopt any which might be appropriate, and which were conducive to the end. This provision is made in a constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.

This, of course, places a tremendous premium on the opinions and decisions of the leadership—particularly the judges and those in positions to influence legislation, as was Hamilton. In short, a broad construction view of the Constitution immediately breeds elitism and cronyism.

The historian Prince notes the elitism of the judicial activists of the era: “The Federalist judges believed that talented, superior men like themselves, by virtue of their inherent stature, could stretch and dilute their judicial mandate with impunity in the best interests of the nation and its people as they saw those interests.”

This is the exact same elite impulse by which every other politician, government official, senator, president, and judge has decided they too have the ability to reinterpret and bend the law as they see fit—from Hamilton and Marshall to the leftists judicial activists more recent decades. Indeed, it could be said that the “living constitution” view of partisans like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Louis Brandeis, Woodrow Wilson, Earle Warren, and the radicals of today is the direct logical outworking of the so-called “broad construction” view of Marshall and Hamilton (and Washington). Indeed, Marshall’s landmark decision in McCulloch provides one of the key evidences that modern liberal proponents of a living constitution use in their favor.

There is a fundamental problem with such elitism, however. What happens when elected—and especially unelected—leaders depart from traditional values and foundations of law? In such a case, you have not only judicial tyranny, but judicial destruction of society. And when such degeneration of legislative and especially judicial values is simultaneously entrusted with the power of broad construction and implied powers of the Constitution, you have a recipe for the decay of the whole civilization.

For this reason, the anti-federalists warned of undue trust placed in great leaders. As we have seen, Candidus foresaw a time when illustrious elites would not be available: “though this country is now blessed with a Washington, Franklin, Hancock and Adams. . . posterity may have reason to rue the day when their political welfare depends on the decision of men who may fill the places of these worthies.” Another, “An Old Whig” announced the same warning: “We ought not to repose all our liberty and all our happiness in the virtue of our future leaders. . . . Idolatry is the parent of errors in politics as well as religion;—and an implicit confidence in our rulers now, will be abused as much as implicit confidence in priests ever was in the days of superstition.” For this reason, he concluded, “If we perish in America, we shall have no better comfort than the same mortifying reflection, that we have been the cause of our own destruction.”

True to the warnings, strange leaders did arise, new values did present themselves. Constitutional lawyer Herb Titus explains how in 1887, Oliver Wendell Holmes “overthrew a 600-year old tradition with a single paragraph.” The paragraph was from Holmes’ attack on The Common Law:

The life of law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy … even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men,… [primarily] determine the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries.… In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become.

Holmes’ disciple, Louis Brandeis, replaced all former Supreme Court precedent with Holmes’ view in a 1938 decision, Eerie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins. In that case Brandeis proclaimed it a “fallacy” to assume there is any “transcendental body of law” by which federal or State courts could judge common cases. Instead, only the laws of State legislatures or opinions of State Supreme Courts should stand as binding. In other words, only the laws of men and State institutions are valid—there is no such thing as a transcendent (godly) law. Out of these same humanist-driven Court precedents has come Supreme Court protected abortion, easy-divorce, and homosexual marriage, just to name a few

And thus, the very means used for making an allegedly strong, dependable nation under Marshall and Hamilton became the means for making an unstoppably progressive, liberal nation—a massive Welfare State built on a Warfare State—under Wilson, FDR, LBJ, etc.

Perhaps one of the most egregious offenses came with the so-called Reconstruction Amendments, particularly the 14th. While certainly aiming at some admirable goals, this Amendment essentially became the means for extending central government powers into every crevice of American life—under the guise of the “due process” clause. This includes Roe v. Wade, as we discussed earlier. The Amendment basically reversed the original intent of the Bill of Rights—which was to protect freedoms of State from encroachments or legislation by the National government. Now, the Supreme Court uses the 14th Amendment as a means of interpreting and enforcing upon the States, lower governments, and citizens a whole array of laws allegedly implied in the Bill of Right or Constitution. Thus what was intended as a control upon the central government has become the central government’s control of the people.

This judicial tyranny is so much the case that Raoul Berger could write of Government by Judiciary in 1977:

The Fourteenth Amendment is the case study par excellence of what Justice Harlan described as the Supreme Court’s “exercise of the amending power,” its continuing revising of the Constitution under the guise of interpretation.

There is so much more we could say in this regard that we could write an entire book just on the subject of judicial tyranny in America. Indeed, whole books have been written. What we have written so far should be enough to see how the biblical ideal of courts described above has been absolutely treaded upon and obliterated by political partisanship from the earliest minutes of this Constitutional Republic. And the precedents of elitism and broad construction established by Hamilton and the Marshall Court became the tools of judicial activism which demolished the moral and spiritual foundations of our legal heritage. And these are just the political considerations; we have not even really touched upon corporate influences—except for the banks—which joined the political powers in perverting our Court systems.

The decline and degradation are thus clear. The question of course is, What can we do to reestablish freedom in our Courts? There are indeed some things we can do. We’ll discuss them in the next section.

Read the rest of Restoring America here, or purchase a copy here.

Next section: Restoring Freedom in the Judiciary

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Everyone knows God — Calvin, Lesson 3

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:22

Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition

Lesson 3

Everyone knows God

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It is beyond dispute that there exists some sense of deity in the human mind by natural instinct. God himself has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, and he constantly renews the memory of it to prevent any man from pretending ignorance; so that every man, being aware that there is a God and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor dedicate their lives to his service. There is no nation so barbarous and no race so brutish as not to be imbued with the conviction that there is a God. Idolatry itself is ample evidence of this fact. We know how reluctant man is to lower himself beneath other creatures. Therefore, when he chooses to worship wood and stone rather than be thought to have no God, it is evident how very strong this impression of a deity must be.

It is most absurd, therefore, to maintain, as some do, that religion was devised by the cunning and craft of a few individuals as a means of keeping the body of the people in due subjection. I readily acknowledge that designing men have introduced a vast number of fictions into religion to inspire the populace with reverence or strike them with terror, thereby rendering them more servile. They never could have succeeded in this, however, had the minds of men not been previously imbued with that uniform belief in God, from which, as from its seed, the religious propensity springs.

Although in old times there were some, and today not a few, who deny the being of a God, yet they occasionally feel the truth whether they want to or not. We do not read of any man who broke out into more unbridled and audacious contempt of the deity than Caligula, and yet none showed greater dread when any indication of divine wrath was manifested. Thus, however unwilling, he shook with terror before the God whom he professedly studied to condemn. You may every day see the same thing happening to his modern imitators. They all look out for hiding places to conceal themselves from the presence of the Lord and efface it from their mind; but after all their efforts they remain caught within the net. Any interval of relief from the gnawing of conscience is not unlike the slumber of the intoxicated, who have no quiet rest in sleep, but are continually haunted with horrific dreams. Even the wicked themselves, therefore, are an example of the fact that some idea of God always exists in every human mind.

Moreover, if all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, it is clear that all those who do not direct their whole thoughts and actions to this end fail to fulfill the law of their being. This did not escape the observation even of philosophers. For it is the very thing which Plato meant when he taught that the chief good of the soul consists in resemblance to God—that is, when by means of knowing him, she is wholly transformed into him. Thus Gryllus in Plutarch reasons most skillfully that if once religion is banished from the lives of men, they not only in no respect excel, but are in many respects much more wretched than beasts, since, being exposed to so many forms of evil, they continually drag along in a troubled and restless existence. The only thing, therefore, which makes them superior is the worship of God, through which alone they aspire to immortality.

Questions for Devotion

  1. Atheists often argue that God has not provided any evidence of Himself? What is Calvin’s view of every man’s knowledge of God?
  2. What is one evidence of this universal knowledge of God among fallen mankind?
  3. What false image of God does the atheist, in his denial, worship then?
  4. To what kind of person does Calvin compare the atheist with his gnawing of conscience?
  5. For what express purpose does Calvin say we are all born and we all live?

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Categories: Worldview

Flaming ecclesiological straw men

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 18:51

There is an intense debate on ecclesiology going on in Reconstructionist circles, but the rhetoric seems more intense than the substance in many cases.

In some ways this debate is similar to previous intramural debates within the community. In other ways it is not. One difference is that this time around we have platforms such as Facebook. Although social media is a great tool, it is also used too often as a means to throw loaded, attention-seeking, rhetorical bombs at your intellectual opponents.

It was on one of those bomb-dropping social media posts that something became very clear to me. Some “fire breathing” Christians were all out of fuel and left with only hot air. These sharks have lost their teeth. While these Reconstructionists are quite helpful in regards to many issues, on ecclesiology they lack any burn.

Thousands of words have been written and spoken on this topic: from Hodge, to Bavinck, to Rushdoony, to Chilton, to McDurmon, to Marinov. Much has been written on this topic. It is not a new discussion and the views held on the Church are not new. These links provide just a taste of what has been discussed.

Intellectual Schizophrenia Chapter Four by RJ Rushdoony deals directly with Two Kingdom ecclesiology. Also discussed here and here by myself.  

The Catholicity of Christianity and The Church by Herman Bavinck deals with the Two Kingdom implications of conflating the universal Church with institutionality.

Systematic Theology Chapter Seven by RJ Rushdoony is an in-depth exploration of ecclesiology and authority. This volume is avoided at all costs by those who oppose Reconstructing ecclesiology according to God’s Word. A dangerous book for the best reasons.

Modern Presbyterianism and the Destruction of the Principle of Plurality of Elders by Bojidar Marinov tackles certain problems with modern Presbyterian polity while (ignored) defending Biblical eldership.

The Work of the Ecclesiastical Megalomania by David Chilton is a lecture given that discusses ecclesiological abuses AND the theological root of ecclesiological abuses within the Reconstructionist community. Within Chilton affirms Biblical eldership. This lecture was viciously assaulted and condemned. Some things haven’t changed.

Equivocation on “the church” and the church it’s destroyed by Joel McDurmon exposes the equivocating of Two-Kingdom Ecclesiology purveyor Kevin DeYoung, likewise exposing the same ecclesiology held by some Reconstructionists.  

The Nature, Government and Function of the Church: A Reassessment by Stephen Perks offers a great reassessment of the nature of the Church.

This is but a small sample. Needless to say, much has been said.

So what do the latest critics of Reconstructing ecclesiology have to say? It would seem that many would have you believe that our views on ecclesiology are based on emotional responses to our own personal anecdotes and bad experiences in the institutional churches. It would seem we are obsessed with the exceptions and we miss the rule. The claim is that our feelings are hurt by bad experiences we have had in institutional churches and we therefore adopt positions that fit our experience.

Perhaps these articles, podcasts, and social media posts are written in response to some other Christian Reconstructionists that have earned the scorn of these institutional church defenders? Maybe there really are a handful of Church-hating rebels that scorn any thought of elders or fellowship? But no. They are talking about the Reconstructionists and Abolitionists that have been questioning the standard ecclesiological presuppositions of the modern Reformed Church.  In fact, when asked for resources on ecclesiology that answer what I and others are saying, we are directed to articles that do not address our specific questions. But we are told they at the same time answer our objections. To be sure, these purveyors of ecclesiological stagnation promise more content in months or even years. This reminds me of the responses I’ve been promised in regard to my work on the Church Repent Project. I won’t hold my breath. They may publish something eventually, and I truly do hope they hit the right target next time. So far, however, they are aiming at the wrong people, with the wrong arguments, and seem to feel mightily proud about their friendly fire.

And this IS friendly fire. While many critics assure us they love and respect those they ridicule, they often then publically proclaim us to be cool-aid drinkers, piranhas, cultists, renegades, and lone rangers. While I am no stranger to plain language, let us have some honesty. I personally have no respect for men I think are (metaphorically) cool-aid drinkers, piranhas, and cult members. We probably should just pick one: either we respect them, or they’re dangerous cultists. This faux-politeness, this making all the required Christiany statements about men you have zero genuine respect for, was ably exposed by Stephen C. Perks:

Many of those who complain about insulting language are themselves guilty of being insulting but their insults are disguised in pious language, when this really amounts to nothing more than being two-faced, and Christians seem to be experts at this. I’d rather someone say to my face what he really thinks in language that is straight forward than couch it in pious language that is disingenuous or behind my back, and I actually think this is more Christian than all the pious hypocrisy and two-faced rubbish one gets in church.

These are the simple facts thus far. The vast majority of the Reconstructionist critics who are resisting Reconstructing ecclesiology either do not follow or do not care about the long, detailed, often-repeated, covenantal arguments put forward from men ranging from Rushdoony to Marinov to myself. It is not that they have addressed the arguments and failed, but that they have failed even to address the arguments.

Instead of dealing with the theological arguments that have been made again and again, they pretend as if we are simply whining about the mean pastor we once had. At least that is what they apparently want you to believe with some of their posts.

Instead of honestly engaging with the theology being discussed, these men instead ignore the arguments and paint those they wish to belittle as immature boys who just don’t like authority. Instead of refuting the scripture and sound Van Tillian philosophy that forms the basis of what I (and many others) are saying about the Church, these soundbite spewing critics distract their audiences from the meat of the arguments and cling onto what is easier for them to deal with: anecdotes and personal experiences. They make Facebook post after Facebook post misrepresenting what is being said and continuously fail to meaningfully engage with any correction.

Getting the actual point

When a Reconstructionist writes a good piece about Public Education, it is guaranteed that parents and teachers will comment “well, not my school.”

When modern American policing is critiqued, it is guaranteed that police, police families, and statists will comment “not the cops I know.”

When Libertarians and Reconstructionists critique the State, it is guaranteed that many good Republicans will comment “not my Senator.”

Here’s the problem with these all-too-common commenters and Reconstructionist critics. The anecdotes aren’t the point. They are evidence and they can be useful, but they have never been the proof. They have never been the point. What makes this case somewhat more difficult to endure is that our intramural critics readily see this error in these other cases just listed, but fail to see the very same error in themselves in this case.

The public education critic is not saying that every last public educator and administrator is a femi-nazi trying to turn your child into a tranny communist. He is presenting a concise Theological position on why the system is flawed and should be done away with. The anecdotes are the supporting material. They are the fruit of the failed system, but not the root of the problem.

The modern law enforcement critic is not saying that every last officer is a bloodthirsty maniac trying to execute every brown person. He is presenting a concise Theological position on why the system is flawed and should be done away with. The anecdotes are the supporting material. They are the fruit of the failed system, but not the root of the problem.

The American State critic is not saying that every last politician or government employee is trying to rob you, enslave you, and kill you. He is presenting a concise Theological position on why the system is flawed and should be done away with. The anecdotes are the supporting material. They are the fruit of the failed system, but not the root of the problem.

Likewise, the critic of the Ministerial Industrial Complex is not saying that every last elder is a megalomaniac trying to lord over you and keep you in your pew while you are commanded to tithe for his Lexus. He is presenting a concise Theological position as to why the system is flawed and should be done away with. The anecdotes are the supporting material. They are the fruit of the failed system, but not the root of the problem.

This distinction is not complex or difficult to understand, yet the rhetoric coming from those who defend the status-quo in American church polity seem to have missed it. They point out how anecdotes and exceptions don’t make a good argument, while they ignore the good argument that is being made. They point out that some fruit is good, while we spend the bulk of our time discussing the poison in the root.

Furthermore, the countless anecdotes of ecclesiological megalomania, apathy, and abuse we bring up and criticize are somehow regarded as evidence against our actual theological views. These real and hurtful experiences are used against the victims. Consider this intellectual pivot in other areas of life. It would be as if having your child taught about the goodness of Islam at the local Elementary School delegitimizes philosophical arguments against public education; as if being wrongfully beaten by law enforcement delegitimizes philosophical arguments against modern law enforcement institutions; and as if having your property stolen by eminent domain delegitimizes philosophical arguments against statism. When you have genuine victims, you don’t blame the victims for speaking out. If what we are saying about all of these issues is true, we should expect many victims, and thus we should expect many anecdotes as well. Although personal experiences can affect how we perceive ideas, those experiences do not in any way delegitimize the rational arguments being made.

The point in the ecclesiology argument

Instead of engaging with the argument being made about mandatory local church membership, these current critics moan and groan about how we allegedly hate local churches and authority. All the while, the vast majority of those who are critiquing the modern American Reformed polity themselves have Biblical and regular fellowship. For example, I am a member of a local fellowship and fully affirm the need for elders. The resistors of any ecclesiological reform perform some fancy sleight-of-hand and argue for the general goodness of regular fellowship while acting as if that is an argument for mandatory local church membership as narrowly defined by them. It is a classic Motte and Bailey fallacy. It is easy to defend the goodness of fellowship and elders, but far more difficult to defend the soteriological necessity of local church membership. It is easy to defend the Biblical necessity for submission and authority, but far more difficult to defend their loaded definitions for “submission” and “authority.” Instead of tearing into the meat, breathing some actual fire, and being plain honest, we are presented with the bait-and-switch.

Unfortunately, critics have responded to the ecclesiological views of Rushdoony with a scornful and mocking attitude. They mockingly call those who hold the traditional Reconstructionist view on the Church “deconstructionists” as if the views are a novelty. Jason Sanchez rightly points out:

Deconstruction almost always comes before Reconstruction.

It takes a remarkable level of naivety and delusion to think that ecclesiology is the untouchable subset of Theology that should remain statically in place while we apply covenantal thinking to all other realms of Theology. Furthermore, they pompously parade their views as the “real” Reconstructionist view while ignoring Rushdoony (of all people) among others.

Further, they construct a caricature of those they wish to vilify and marginalize, calling critics names like “lone rangers” and painting them as haters of authority. This caricature is neither accurate nor charitable. Sanchez is correct. When old wineskins are cracked and leaky, they should be thrown out.

Lastly, it is sad and incredibly difficult to combat, but the refusal to represent your intellectual opponents accurately and to engage their ideas rather than caricatures is a matter of honesty. It is a matter of righteousness.  Although ideas like the ones discussed by Rushdoony and Marinov may be difficult to follow at times, and although a great deal of personal baggage may exist in these discussions, there should be real effort put into attempting rebuttals of what is being argued for.

When the name-calling and dishonesty is added on top of the confusion, things only get far worse. There is such thing as a confused and ignorant man, but when the ignorant is arrogant in his ignorance, relationships get damaged to the point that genuine discussion, and thus resolution, is impossible.

I’m not saying that every last person who disagrees with Rushdoony on ecclesiology is sinning because of the disagreement, but I am saying that those who go to great lengths to ignore what is being said and instead choose to focus on personalities and strawmen have repenting to do. Not just changing of ideas, but personal repenting.

Of course, the same prideful sin can creep up on any side of a debate, but it seems to be the norm for many. In some cases, it is not only the norm, but the only tool they have. When you’re all out of fuel, stop huffing and puffing. Enough hot air.

Categories: Worldview

Rejecting the Paris Agreement is good logic and good policy

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 12:53

Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement seems like a small thing in the big picture of world affairs, but the fact that liberal news outlets are still buzzing about it days later may make you suspect it must have had some significance. And you would be right. As we have always known, “global warming” and now “climate change” have always been about redirected “global money” and “social change” engineered by the would-be grand benevolent overseers of a new world disorder. In short, it was always a scare tactic for a huge wealth redistribution scheme.

Hearing the continued buzz about it all reminded me I had written up the issue years ago in my book on biblical logic and fallacies. The arguments and conclusions I arrived at back then are just as true and all the more relevant today. Here’s the brief excerpt:

***

Fallacies of Cause. . . .

Cum Hoc Ergo Propert Hoc

A second Fallacy of Cause confuses simultaneity for causation. In other words, just because two things occur at or near the same time, someone may fallaciously assume that one caused the other. We call this Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, which is Latin for “With this, therefore because of this.” The same exposure of folly as the After This Fallacy applies here to the With This Fallacy: a myriad of possible causes exist—many we may not even see or know of—for every given occurrence. This creates a high probability for false causes, even for events that seem to concur in time. Correlation in time cannot guarantee a causal link. . . .

Hot Air Pushes Global Warming

A more concerning example comes from Al Gore’s crusade against global warming. In his video An Inconvenient Truth, he uses correlational data to back his points: “If you look at a thousand years worth of temperature, and compare it to a thousand years of CO2, you can see how well they fit together.” He admits that the relationship between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and temperature is very complicated, but states that the most important relationship is this: “when there is more Carbon Dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside.” Gore, famously now, presents pictures of melted glaciers and icecaps, along with warnings of increases in hurricanes and storms, flooded port cities due to rising ocean levels, and other climate catastrophes should we not immediately begin to reduce carbon emissions and our use of hydrocarbons (a scare-tactic, or Appeal to Fear). More importantly, he correlates modern human activity with the increase in carbon dioxide levels, implying that since humans cause global warming we must take drastic measures to reduce it.

Of course, all of this abuses the “With This” correlational fallacy many times over. To begin with, CO2 is not the primary cause of the “greenhouse effect” that results in higher temperatures. At least two other factors greatly outweigh it: solar activity and another more important greenhouse gas, water vapor. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine argues in a detailed paper, “Atmospheric temperature is regulated by the sun, which fluctuates in activity . . . by the green-house effect, largely caused by atmospheric water vapor (H2O); and by other phenomena that are more poorly understood.” Changes in solar radiation correlate more closely and for a longer period of history with temperature changes than do Gore’s graphs of CO2. As well, “While major greenhouse gas H2O substantially warms the Earth, minor greenhouse gases such as CO2 have little effect.”

On top of this, while global temperatures have indeed risen in recent decades, proponents of Gore’s scare-tactics rarely mention that temperatures for centuries prior cooled considerably. The current rise merely corrects the previous “Little Ice Age.” The warming trend has occurred for much longer than Gore emphasizes, and has created effects that belie more of his claims:

Measurements show that the trend of seven inches per century increase in sea level and the shortening trend in average glacier length both began a century before 1940, yet eighty-four percent of total annual human hydrocarbon use occurred only after 1940. Moreover, neither of these trends has accelerated during the period between 1940 and 2007, while hydrocarbon use increased six fold.

This scientific paper, which stands behind a petition signed by over 31,000 American scientists, concludes,

There are no experimental data to support the hypothesis that increases in human hydrocarbon use or in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are causing or can be expected to cause unfavorable changes in global temperature, weather, or landscape. There is no reason to limit human production of CO2, CH4, or other minor greenhouse gases as has been proposed.

So it seems that despite his claims about having a “scientific consensus” (a fallacious Appeal to Authority), other obvious, more relevant, and powerful causes exist to explain global temperature changes than those claimed by Al Gore (as well as the United Nations, and those who follow it). Al’s An Inconvenient Truth contains little more than one big craftily presented With This, Because of This Fallacy (packaged with a few other fallacies).

So why would Gore and others present the story this way? Note how he and other liberals intend to “solve” the problem: they propose a tax on carbon emissions as well as a global system of “cap-and-trade” on hydrocarbon usage. In plain language, these measures amount to a redistribution of wealth where more prosperous people and nations that use more fuel end up paying tons of money to third-world nations that do not. “Global Warming” simply acts as a mask and a fear factor for advancing the leftist political agenda, and increasing global government control of free and prosperous nations like the United States. Global warming is not an “inconvenient truth,” it is a convenient lie.

(For much more on biblical critical thinking, logic, and scores of applications of logical fallacies, see Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice.)

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Truly knowing the true God

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 06:52

Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition

Lesson 2

Truly Knowing the True God

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By the knowledge of God, I mean that we not only conceive that there is some God, but also understand what we should know about him for both our interest and his glory. It is one thing to perceive that God our Maker supports us by his power, rules us by his providence, fosters us by his goodness, and visits us with all kinds of blessings, and another thing to embrace the grace of reconciliation offered to us in Christ.

Since our mind cannot conceive of God without rendering some worship to him, it will not be enough simply to hold that he is the only being whom all ought to worship and adore unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of all goodness and that we must seek everything in him, and in none but him. We must be persuaded that not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth will anywhere be found which does not flow from him. We must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive. Until men feel that they owe everything to God, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience. Unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.

What use is it to acknowledge some God who has cast off the care of the world and only delights himself in ease? What good does it do to know a God with whom we have nothing to do? Our knowledge should instead teach us reverence and fear, induce us to ask every good thing from him and then, when it is received, ascribe it to him. If you are his workmanship, after all, how can you deny that you are bound by the very law of creation to submit to his authority?—that your life is due to him?—that whatever you do ought to have reference to him?

On the other hand, your idea of his nature is not clear unless you acknowledge him to be the origin and fountain of all goodness. This is why both confidence and a desire of cleaving to him would arise naturally if the depravity of the human mind did not lead it away from the proper course of investigation.

A pious mind does not devise for itself just any kind of God, but looks alone to the one true God; nor does it pretend that God has any character it pleases. He who knows God in this way casts himself entirely upon God’s faithfulness, instantly turns to his protection and trusts his aid, does not doubt that a remedy will be provided for his every time of need, considers himself bound to have respect to his authority in all things, and, in regarding God as a just judge, armed with severity to punish crimes, he keeps the Judgment seat always in his view. Standing in awe of it, he curbs himself, and fears to provoke the Lord’s anger.

Nevertheless, he who knows God is not so terrified by an apprehension of judgment as to wish he could withdraw himself, even if the escape lay before him. He embraces God not less as the avenger of wickedness than as the rewarder of the righteous, because it equally appertains to his glory to store up punishment for the one and eternal life for the other. Besides, it is not the mere fear of punishment that restrains him from sin. Loving and revering God as his father, honoring and obeying him as his master, even if there were no hell, he would revolt at the very idea of offending him.

Questions for Devotion

  1. Is the knowledge of God more than the knowledge that there is a God? If so, what more?
  2. Is it possible to separate the knowledge of God from worship? What attribute(s) of God should lead us to proper worship?
  3. What actions should our knowledge of God produce from us?
  4. What kinds of things does a pious mind know about the one true God?
  5. Instead of fear of punishment, what should motivate the Christian’s relation to God?
(Copyright: Joel McDurmon, all rights reserved; provided by courtesy with permission for the use of The American Vision, Inc.)

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Categories: Worldview

Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 08:37

What if you could pick your very favorite Reformed teacher to teach your family devotions?

I mean, the best, the most famous, and right in your own home.

I mean, what if you could have John Calvin himself, right in your own living room? Impossible, of course!

But now you can.

Over the past few months, in my free time, I have been working on a little project I have wanted to do for a long time. This is, to get the basic teachings of Calvin’s Institutes into the hands and hearts of as many Reformed families as possible. To do this, I am abridging the work down to the simplest, though most profound, core of each chapter, and adding questions for review and family devotion.

I hope to have the whole book done late this summer. But I have also decided to release each chapter for free at American Vision in the meantime. When I get them all done, I will compile them and publish them as a book—probably around 250 pages, with 80 or so lessons, each only a few pages.

Calvin’s classic Institutes has long been neglected even in seminaries, let alone Reformed homes. It’s hard to imagine these days that it was largely for the use of average evangelicals that Calvin designed it in its completed form. After all these centuries, and in the year of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I hope to remedy this neglect with this new edition.

I can remember the first time I read Calvin’s Institutes. Holding this huge, daunting theological treatise as a young Reformed convert, I anticipated a rigorous, tough intellectual challenge. I was shocked at how pastoral and devotional it actually was. It is direct where it needs to be direct, often convicting, but also often inspiring, warm, elevating, victorious, and encouraging. I thought, “Why aren’t more people reading this?”

The only answers I could think of to that question are 1) it looks too long, 2) Calvin has a reputation for theological acuteness that intimidates a lot of people, and 3) Calvin often takes long diversions to argue his points against opponents and alternative arguments. There may be more, but these stand out to me.

With that, however, I realized I could remedy all such problems with a single edition that saved the core teaching of each chapter along with its pastoral and practical applications and best rhetoric, and edited out all the long expositions, repetitions, references to other theologians (except a few of the great quotations from Augustine), detailed debates, etc. A little over 1/4 through the work now, I think I am succeeding in that goal, and will now start presenting the chapters here.

The goal is to get each chapter, no matter how long normally, down to about 2 or 3, maybe 4 pages. In places where this is not possible, I will create more than one lesson. In other places, I have combined chapters or even rearranged a couple (so, you scholars, please no critical comments about stuff out of place, not designating all the original chapter and section, etc.; this is designed to be smoothed out for basic family devotion). Also, I am using (obviously) Beveridge’s translation, since it is public domain (I also prefer it in many places to Battles’s), but also smoothing out the language with my own edits, and even providing my own translation in a very few places. (Again, potential critics, this is for ease-of-use for modern, average families, not a scholarly edition.)

Please feel free to give feedback at joel at americanvision dot org. And please, start using these for family devotion asap. Here is Lesson 1, from Calvin’s Book I, Chapter 1. More to follow. Enjoy!

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Calvin’s Institutes Family Devotional Edition

Lesson 1

Knowing God

Our wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. These two are intimately connected. First of all, no man can survey himself without immediately turning his thoughts towards God, because the gifts we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves. Likewise, the blessings which unceasingly fall to us from heaven are like streams conducting us to the fountain.

God’s infinite goodness becomes more apparent in contrast to our poverty. The miserable ruin into which the rebellion of Adam has plunged us compels us to turn our eyes upwards, not only that while famishing we may ask what we desire, but being aroused by fear we may learn humility. Our feelings of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, remind us that in the Lord alone dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, and exuberant goodness. We cannot aspire to Him in earnest unless we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man does not naturally rest in himself, as long as he is contented with his own gifts and unconscious or unmindful of his misery?

On the other hand, man never truly knows himself until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and then come down to look into himself. In our innate pride, we always seem to ourselves just, upright, wise, and holy until we are convinced otherwise. But we cannot be convinced if we look to ourselves only and not to the Lord. He is the only standard that can produce conviction.

Since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty appearance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. As long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything that is slightly less defiled delights us as if it were most pure. If we were to look down to the ground at noon day, or at everything around us, we may think we have very strong and piercing eyesight, but when we look up to the sun, the sight which did so well before is instantly so dazzled and confounded it obliges us to confess that our acutest vision is mere dimness when applied to the sun. The same thing happens when we are estimating our spiritual qualities. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with ourselves and address ourselves in the most flattering terms. But should we raise our thoughts to God, and reflect upon the absolute perfection of his righteousness, wisdom, and virtue as the standard, then what formerly delighted us as righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; our assumed wisdom will disgust us by its extreme folly; and our apparent virtue will be condemned as miserable impotence.

You can understand, therefore, why holy men in Scripture were overwhelmed with dread and amazement whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm quaking with such terror that the fear of death seizes them, we must understand that men are never honestly impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. What can man do, after all, who is but rottenness and a worm, when even the angels themselves must veil their faces?

Questions for Devotion

  1. Into what two parts is most of our wisdom and knowledge divided?
  2. What conclusion should we arrive at when we consider all of our gifts, talents, and blessings?
  3. What conclusion should we arrive at when we consider our failings?
  4. By what standard do we then judge ourselves?
  5. What lesson should we learn when we understand our fallen position compared to the goodness of God?
(Copyright: Joel McDurmon, all rights reserved; provided by courtesy with permission for the use of The American Vision, Inc.)

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Categories: Worldview

The prophecy pundits are scaremongering again: Here’s how to answer them from the Bible. . . .

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 07:32

Once again, prophecy prognosticators are predicting Jesus is going to wrap up everything in our generation because things are so bad the end must be near. A recent article by Britt Gillette on the Prophecy News Watch website says as much:

“The signs of the Second Coming are all around us. When His disciples asked Jesus to describe the signs, He gave them several. The Jewish people back in possession of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24-28) … the Gospel preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14) … the arrival of the exponential curve (Matthew 24:3-8) … and more.

“The Old Testament prophets also pointed to a number of signs. An increase in travel and knowledge (Daniel 12:4) … the rise of a united Europe (Daniel 2:42) … the rise of the Gog of Magog alliance (Ezekiel 38-39) … and more.

“Today, all these signs are either present or in the process of being fulfilled. Yet for 1,800+ years, none of these signs were present. Think about that. None of the signs. But today? Today, they’re all around us.”

These passages and “signs” have been used for centuries to prove that the end was near for their time. End-time speculation is not new. It has a long and failed history going back centuries and has led to a form of prophetic inevitability resulting in Christian passivity.

“If Jesus is coming back in my generation, then why expend time and effort to fix what can’t be fixed. Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? It’s all going down.”

As Christians have waited for the soon return of Jesus, humanists, secularists, and materialists have infiltrated every part of society. Instead of fighting against the invasion, an end-time escapist eschatology was invented with disastrous results. In Hal Lindsey’s book The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, he wrote, “The decade of the 1980’s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.” In addition to his questionable interpretive claims, consider these comments from Lindsey:

  • “What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.”
  • “I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth to that.”

If the end is always just around the corner based on certain prophetic texts linked to current events, then why bother or even hope to rebuild a failing and collapsing world?

We’ve seen such speculation many times before: in the French Revolution, World War I, World War II, and nearly every dramatic event throughout two millennia of history. If you want to read a chronicle of end-time speculation, take a look at Francis X. Gumerlock’s The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World. Send a copy to your end-time speculating friends.

I often hear, “But this time it’s different. We really are living in the last days and Jesus is coming soon.”

Today’s prophecy neophytes are under the false assumption that what they are reading in books and magazines, articles posted on the internet, seeing on television, and hearing on the radio and from pulpits are actually recently-discovered end-time truths of what they believe are current events that match up with particular prophetic passages. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Charles Wesley Ewing, writing in 1983, paints a clear historical picture of how prophetic interpretation based on current events turns to confusion, uncertainty, and in some people unbelief when it comes to predicting an end that disappoints:

“In 1934, Benito Mussolini sent his black-shirted Fascists down into defenseless Ethiopia and preachers all over the country got up in their pulpits and preached spellbinding sermons that had their congregations bulging at the eyes in astonishment about ‘Mussolini, the Anti-Christ,’ and to prove their point they quoted from Daniel 11:43, which says, ‘And the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.’ Later, Benito, whimpering, was hung by his own countrymen, and preachers all over America had to toss their sermons into the scrap basket as unscriptural.”

Ewing goes on to mention how Hitler’s storm troopers took Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, North Africa, and set up concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed in what has become the modern-day definition of “holocaust.” Once again, preachers ascended their pulpits and linked these events to Bible prophecy and assured the church-going public that Hitler was the antichrist. When the allies routed the Nazis and drove them out, sermons were once again tossed out or filed away to be revised at some future date hoping people’s memories would fade.

The next end-time-antichrist candidate was Joseph Stalin, the leader of godless Communism, a movement hell-bent on conquering the world. “But on March 5, 1953, Stalin had a brain hemorrhage and preachers all over America had to make another trip to the waste basket.”

Consider the “Signs”

Let’s take the above prophetic claims one at a time:

First, the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 describes events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and the judgment on Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. Jesus makes this clear when He told His first-century audience, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:320; Luke 21:31). Every time “this generation” is used in the gospels it always refers to the generation to whom Jesus is speaking (Matt. 11:16; 12:39; 41, 42, 45; 17:17; 23:36; Mark 8:12; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51; 17:25; 21:32). There are no exceptions. Grant Osborne summarizes the argument well:

“[T]his generation” (ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη) in the gospels always means the people of Jesus’ own time (11:16; 12:41-42; 23:36) not, as some have proposed, the generation of the last days in history, the Jewish people, the human race in general, or the sinful people.”

William Sanford LaSor writes, “If ‘this generation’ is taken literally, all of the predictions were to take place within the life-span of those living at that time.” These are just two examples of many who hold this position. See my soon-to-be-released book Wars and Rumors of Wars for a long list of Bible commentators who interpret the Olivet Discourse in the same way.

This means that Luke 21:24-28 and Matthew 24:14, since these signs occur before Luke 21:31 and Matthew 24:34 they must have taken place before that first-century generation passed away.

Second, the New Testament does not say anything about Israel becoming a nation again. To the contrary; it only refers to its judgment (Matt. 21:18-22; 24:2-3; Luke 19:43-44). Israel did become a nation again after the Jews returned to their land from the Babylonian exile (Dan. 9:2; 2 Chron. 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; Zech. 7:5; Neh. 1). The temple was rebuilt and the nation was reestablished. The fact that Jews were living in Israel during Jesus’ day proves this is true.

Third, contrary to Britt Gillette, Luke 21:24-28 does not say that Israel will become a nation again. Consider what is said in verses 31-32: “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to youthis generation will not pass away until all things take place.” Jesus is not describing what will happen to a future generation. The use of the second person plural (you) and the near demonstrative “this” make it clear Jesus had that generation, and that generation alone, in view.

Fourth, what about “the Gospel preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14)”? This does not refer to the whole globe and all human populations a we know them. The Greek word translated “world” is not kosmos (world) but oikoumenē and means “inhabited earth” or “empire boundary.” It is often translated “Roman Empire.” The same Greek word is used in Luke 2:1: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth [oikoumenē].” Rome could only tax those within the boundaries of its own empire, not the whole wide world.

Fifth, even if the Greek had said “kosmos,” it is written that the faith of the Roman Christians had been “proclaimed throughout the whole world [kosmos]” (Rom. 1:8). Paul wrote to the Colossians “the gospel,” which had come to them, had also come to those “in all the world [kosmos]” where it was “constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as in” them (Col. 1:6). Even if Jesus had used kosmos in Matthew 24:14, therefore, the above passages would indicate that Jesus’ words were fulfilled. This was so true that Paul could write, “the hope of the gospel . . . was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (1:23). In fact, the gospel had been “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world [kosmos]” (1 Tim. 3:16). Paul concludes his letter to the Romans with the following:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations [remember Matt. 24:14: “as a testimony to all the nations”] leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 16:25-27)

Based on the above biblical evidence, it is untrue to say, “yet for 1,800+ years, none of these signs were present.” These signs were present in the first century as the Bible makes clear and as many Bible expositors have pointed out for centuries.

What about Gillette’s claim that an “an increase in travel and knowledge (Daniel 12:4) … the rise of a united Europe (Daniel 2:42) … the rise of the Gog of Magog alliance (Ezekiel 38-39) … and more” are signs of the end?

Like the above passages, these verses also have been used repeatedly to “prove” the end was near for people in past generations. For example, John Cumming (1807-1881) considered “railway traveling” to be a reference to “many shall run to and fro” (Dan. 12:4). Current prophecy writers like Hal Lindsey are just as ingenious when they see modern transportation systems and computer technology as a fulfillment of Daniel 12:4. This is such a discredited interpretation that it’s embarrassing to read that anyone still believes and teaches it. Even many die-hard dispensationalists reject the idea that the “increase in knowledge” refers to “the recent explosion in knowledge.”

What does “knowledge will increase” really mean? James B. Jordan, in his commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall, offers a helpful explanation:

Those who take verse 4 [in Dan. 12] as referring to events at the end of history believe that Daniel’s prophecy is “sealed up” until that time. Only as the second coming of Christ draws near will we be able to understand prophetic truth. Hal Lindsey, of course, believes that the end is near and that he, unlike previous generations of Christian thinkers, understands the previously hidden prophetic truth. The sealing of the book, however, does not mean that it cannot be understood, but rather that the angel has told Daniel all that he is going to say at this point in history. The book is unsealed in Revelation 5-6, and in Revelation 22:10 the completed book is left unsealed because there is no more to be said.

Prophetic speculators take note of the fact that with the coming of railroads, automobiles, and airplanes, people “go to and fro” much more than ever before in history. Scientific knowledge has also boomed in recent years. We can say, of course, that a thousand years from now people may be going to and fro even more than they do now, and there will be even more knowledge around, so how can anyone know that our own generation is the time verse 4 is pointing to?

The real point, of course, is that this kind of “interpretation” of verse 4 is possible only by wrenching the text completely out of its context and then dreaming up possible meanings… [T]here is plenty of going to and fro in Daniel 11 and that is pretty clearly what verse 4 refers to.…((“run to and fro—not referring to the modern rapidity of locomotion, as some think, nor to Christian missionaries going about to preach the Gospel to the world at large [Albert Barnes], which the context scarcely admits; but, whereas now but few care for this prophecy of God, ‘at the time of the end,’ that is, near its fulfilment, ‘many shall run to and fro,’ that is, scrutinize it, running through every page. Compare Hab 2:2 [John Calvin]: it is thereby that ‘the knowledge (namely, of God’s purposes as revealed in prophecy) shall be increased.’” (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments [Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997], Dan. 12:4).)) [T]he increase of knowledge is pretty obvious: As time goes along and the predictions in Daniel 11 are fulfilled decade by decade, the prophecy will be better and better understood.

The Hebrew word for “knowledge” in Daniel 12:4 is not a reference to a mass collection or a library of data. Knowledge is used as revelational information about God and His works. It’s most likely that the knowledge being described in Daniel 12:4 is related to the new covenant and the coming of the promised Redeemer. Since the focus of the Bible is on Jesus (Luke 24:25–27), we should expect that this is what God had in mind when the angel told Daniel that “the knowledge” (note the “the” here) will increase. What redemptive significance does a modern Google search have to do with God’s redemptive plan for His people? Zacharias and Elizabeth (1:5-25), Joseph and Mary (1:26-56), Simeon (Luke 2:25-32) and Anna (2:36-38) had an increase in “the knowledge” as the realities of the old covenant were unfolding in their day. The Scriptures “testify” about Jesus (John 5:39). Jesus uses Daniel 7:13 as the defining event in His ministry (Matt. 24:30), something His accusers (again, in that generation) should have understood (26:64). This is the “increase in knowledge” that the angel was describing. Even prophecy writer Thomas Ice—who still believes in the future repetition of all these “signs”—recognizes that the interpretation followed by Lindsey, Morris, Gillette, and so many other pop-prophecy analysts found on the Internet have misread and misapplied Daniel 12:4.

It could be argued that the New Testament itself is the increase of knowledge: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Then there is the negative side to the promise of an increase in revelational knowledge: “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52).

What about the Gog and Magog prophecy found in Ezekiel 38-39? There is nothing new under the same. These two prophetic passages have been used over the centuries as proof texts to some end-time bad guy from their era. In reality, the prophecy was fulfilled long ago during the time Haman the Agagite tried to kill all the Jews (Esther 3). See my book The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance for a detailed study of Ezekiel 38–39.

Conclusion

It is simply time that Christian move past the repeatedly-failed nonsense of these sensational prophecy pundits. Their predictions have always failed because their methods and interpretations of Scripture have always been wrong to begin with. Today’s recent versions will fare no better than the many past failures—for they are founded on the same flawed understanding.

But there is a far better way of looking to the Bible’s understanding of the future. Here’s just a well-written glimpse I found and happen to agree with. Brian Walsh writes:

Build houses in a culture of homelessness. Plant gardens in polluted and contested soil. Get married in a culture of sexual consumerism. Make commitments in a world where we want to always keep our options open. Multiply in a world of debt. Have children at the end of history. Seek shalom in a violent world of geopolitical conflict and economic disparity. This is Jeremiah’s word to the exiles. This is Jeremiah’s subversive word to us. And in this vision, we just might see, with Jeremiah, “a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11).

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Repenting of Robert E. Lee and the falsification of history

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:37

There is no shortage of hypocrisy in the setting up and taking down of monuments—certainly not in the U.S. South, but also not in the North or anywhere else. When we get the chance to topple a large block of that dissembling, we ought to embrace doing so; we can remember the limited good embodied by past semi-heroes in better and more appropriate ways. This is particularly true in regard to the dismantling of the last remaining Confederate monument last week in New Orleans—the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Plenty of examples of this monumental historical problem bespot American history. Upon the publishing of our Declaration of Independence, readings throughout the nation sparked celebrations. During one such episode, a crowd of euphoric New Yorkers marked their jubilee by toppling a huge bronze statue recently erected of King George III. For this endeavor, they capped their reading of the words “All men are created equal” by rounding up a group of Africans to perform the hard labor for them. The irony must have been lost on them.

Likewise, today we see the same degree of disconnect in the continued praise of Robert E. Lee, even by men of otherwise critical and scholarly capacity—men who can read, and thus who ought to know better. It appears they have never adequately, or perhaps even at all, challenged the legacy of Lee as a pristine Christian hero.

Yes, he was a Christian; but like most antebellum southern Christians, he was a hugely compromised and inconsistent one.

Some defenders maintain their myopia by emphasizing Lee’s letters in which he expresses his desire to free all the slaves and that he was happy after the war that they would be finally freed. From this edited slice of sources, it is insisted he was not like the snarling slave drivers those lying Yankees portrayed all southerners as in their propaganda. No, Lee was kind, benevolent, and caring. He hated the system foisted upon him and wished he could free his slaves all along.

But the South had its own propaganda, and this image of Lee is not true. He was not only happy to keep slaves, but he fought a court case to keep some of the enslaved. While he did make some grandiose statements in favor of liberty here and there, his private actions belied them.

He did argue, for example, that “slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.” Wow! You didn’t hear that in your history books, did you? And no wonder: it makes a southerner proud.

Yeah, but that’s just a snippet. Read the rest:

I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are stronger for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & Tempest of fiery Controversy.

Upon these grounds, then, he condemned abolitionists. The work and aim of abolition was “unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty.”

Lee not only opposed radical abolitionism, but virtually any pro-emancipation cause that would actually have emancipated any slaves. He opposed any new territories being closed to slaveholders. He supported the Crittenden Compromise in 1861—a last-ditch effort to head-off secession by offering the South a Constitutional Amendment that would enshrined the institution of slavery permanently. While the U.S. House and Senate repeatedly voted the measure down, Lee was writing to his daughter saying that protecting chattel slavery in our Constitution forever “deserves the support of every patriot.”

Likewise, one article continues,

Even at the moment he reportedly told Francis Blair that if “he owned all the negroes in the South, he would be willing to give them up…to save the Union,” he was actually fighting a court case to keep slaves under his control in bondage “indefinitely,” though they had been promised freedom in his father-in-law’s will.

Too all southern apologists and neoconfederates out there who keep pointing to Lee’s (and a score of other great leaders’) whitewashed portraits saying, “Don’t falsify history,” I say unto you, “Don’t falsify history.”

If you can’t paint your heroes warts and all, don’t paint.

When the statue in question was originally unveiled in 1884, Charles Fenner gave a lengthy, tedious dedicatory eulogy. In it, he reviewed Lee’s crossroads at the choice to take command of the northern army or lead the southern. For the southern propagandist, it was no difficulty at all for a man like Lee:

[M]y study of his character forbids me to believe that such considerations ever assumed the dignity of a temptation to him. Amongst the records of his written or spoken thoughts I find no evidence of even a moment’s hesitation in his choice. Duty, the guide and guardian of his life, never spoke to Lee in doubtful accents. Its voice was ever as clear as the trumpet’s note, and by him was never heard but to be instantly obeyed.

The truth is just the opposite. Lee first asked Winfield Scott permission to sit out the war altogether. That is, he tried to hide from “Duty.” After anguishing over whether to maintain his oath of loyalty to the U.S. army or to fight on behalf of his state and slavery, he chose the latter. Then, fittingly for his decision, he sent his letter of resignation to the War Department by the hand of a slave. He then immediately wrote another letter expressing that he did not believe Virginia yet had full justification to secede, and that he knew he was choosing against the wishes of his wife and children (and several other family members).

All of this type of material—reams of it—for Lee, for many others, and for the South in general, modern Southern apologists, partisans, and neo-confederates ignore, dismiss, suppress, or at best are simply ignorant of. In this, they are left with a raw hypocrisy that they oftentimes cannot even see, despite the fact that it is so transparent to anyone who takes more than a few minutes to research the whole history.

The Great Rewriting of History

One of the great ironies of our modern Southern apologists is that while they continually decry the doctrine and practice of “victimology” with which Yankees, then and now, inundated our society—whether the pure victimhood of feminists, blacks, “the poor,” immigrants, etc., etc.—some of which is true and some imagined, they nevertheless remain totally blind to how openly and repeatedly the post-war South slanted history, moved goal posts, and outright lied by doing just that—playing victim.

I’m not the only one to notice this. A column a few years back nailed it: “After the war, the South embraced a mythology of victimhood. An important feature was the assertion that the war had been not about slavery at all but about state’s rights.” Before the war, this had not been so: “The secessionists themselves were not so shy. In their various declarations, they announced they were leaving the Union to preserve slavery.”

The point is that before the war, southern leaders unanimously and consistently argued loud and clear that secession was all about protecting the institution of slavery. (Southerners had argued this from the Continental Congress forward, repeatedly.) If states’ rights was ever mentioned, it was mentioned only in the context of maintaining their right to “that species of property” that was chattel slavery, almost exclusively of blacks. But immediately after Appomattox, their rhetoric changed. Suddenly, slavery had never been at issue at all. Southerners fought for liberty and state sovereignty.

Just read Fenner’s eulogy of Lee linked above: in an intolerable 14,000-word oration (it must have lasted multiple hours) he never once mentioned slavery, white supremacy, the plight of the Africans, or anything related to it. No, he spends a good bit on a tedious defense of the right of secession, however. That’s what Lee was all about! Damn Yankees!

The point is well-made in Richard Beringer, et al, Why the South Lost the Civil War. They write,

Back in 1860–61 the issue seemed clear. Southerners talked then of slavery and, to a lesser extent, of racial adjustment and state rights. . . .[F]rom the start, a large part of the Confederate elite pointed to slavery as the cause of armed conflict. Robert Hardy Smith, a member of the Provisional Congress, wrote in 1861 that “the question of negro slavery has been the apple of discord” and that “we have dissolved the late Union chiefly because of the negro quarrel.” Only a few contemporaries would have disagreed—in 1861.

In his famous “cornerstone” speech given just after his inauguration as vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens not only asserted that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution” but also claimed, using biblical metaphor, “that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his [the Negro’s] natural and moral condition” and that “the stone which was rejected by the first builders is become he chief stone of the corner.” In this he echoed Robert M. T. Hunter, who had stated on the floor of the United States Congress in 1859 that the Union was like an arch, “and the very keystone of this arch consists of the black marble cap of African slavery; knock that out, and the mighty fabric, with all that it upholds, topples and tumbles to its fall.”

Literally scores of such comments could be cited from all over Southern leadership and journalism. And such comments continued all through the war. As late as 1865, the Charleston Mercury “admitted that the South started the war to preserve slavery.”

As soon as the war ended, however, slaves were freed. If such an argument were sustained, Southern leaders and the South in general would never recover. Something had to change in the rhetoric in order to maintain the northern invaders as the bad guys. So, the rhetoric as to the cause of the war changed—almost literally overnight, and almost to a man. Slavery hardly ever would come up as a cause again. States’ Rights and Secession now took center stage.

Nowhere is this radical flip-flop more prominent than in the public proclamations of the South’s own vice president, Alexander Stephens. After the war,

Slavery no longer supplied a cornerstone. Now the war “had its origin in opposing principles, which, in their action upon the conduct of men, produced the ultimate collision of arms.” These conflicting principles “lay in the organic structure of Government of the States. . . . The contest was between those who held it [the central government] to be strictly Federal in its character, and those who maintained that it was thoroughly National.”

Slavery, if anything, was now only incidental.

The Literature of the Lost Cause

Beringer et al go on to note how this quickly reinvented version immediately became the version of the truth perpetuated by the creators of the “lost cause” narrative.

[Jefferson] Davis reduced his own postdecision dissonance by confessing that, although the South had not won, it should have. Davis and others who shared his views, excessively proud of the Confederacy and their roles in it, fell into the class proudly labeled “unreconstructed.” It was such individuals who established and ran the historical societies, veterans’ organizations, and cemetery associations. . . .

Their societies and journals excused Confederate errors and quarreled over minor points. “Exposed to evidence” of their senses, “which unequivocally demonstrates a belief system to be wrong,” people like Davis, J. William Jones, and Jubal A. Early tended “to proselyte more vigorously for the belief system.” The literature of the lost cause is full of examples. To such former Confederates, it was “still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position . . . and Pickett . . . waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance. . . . This time. Maybe this time.”

Found the societies and organizations, they did—and they built all of the monuments like the one just dismantled, beginning in 1884, and lasting throughout the post-Reconstruction era.

But look at what a popular religion it became! Charles Wilson wrote in Baptized in Blood: the Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920:

The Southern civil religion emerged because the experience of defeat in the Civil War had created a spiritual and psychological need for Southerners to reaffirm their identity, an identity which came to have outright religious dimensions. Each Lost Cause ritual and organization was tangible evidence that Southerners had made a religion of their history.

These “rituals” included grand, multi-day meetings of the United Confederate Veterans or United Daughters (or Sons) of the Confederacy, complete with parades, orations, celebrity appearances, hundreds of thousands of attendees, and the dedication of countless monuments and statues.

Despite their bafflement and frustration of defeat, Southerners showed that the time of the “creation” still had meaning for them. The Confederate veteran was a living incarnation of an idea that Southerners tried to defend at the cultural level, even after Confederate defeat had made political success impossible. Every time a confederate died, every time flowers were placed on graves on Southern Memorial Day, Southerners relived and confronted the death of the Confederacy. The religion of the Lost Cause was a cult of the dead, which dealt with essential religious concerns.

“Lost Cause” hysteria abounded for generations afterward, and with it, the myth that the war and its heroes had nothing to do with slavery at all. This lie from the pit of hell has done nothing good for the South—white or black—but has instead created a destructive idol no less pernicious than the Baals, Ashteroths, and Molochs of the Old Testament. It is statism, humanism, and hero-worship the likes of which got ancient Israel carried away captive, leveled, and burned to the ground.

As much as anywhere in history, Roman Catholicism was hated and loathed in the South. Yet as soon as they had lost the war, they created their own nationalistic version of sainthood and icon worship. They dotted the South with statues of Lee, Davis, Jackson, and every conceivable hero, and even wrote epithets of outright pro-segregation and white supremacy upon some of them. And they pray for the millennial return of Robert E. Lee and the great White hope.

Today’s defenders of the South and defenders of whitewashed heroes simply need to learn the whole truth, accept it, repent of their holding to a tenacious lie, kill the idols, and move forward in truth. Right now, they are intellectually swimming in the greatest rewrite in American history, and they can’t touch bottom.

No Christian, and certainly no Christian movement, can survive the dead weight of idolatry. And the Southern “cult of the dead” is just that. Make no mistake: the North had all its faults too, and many are far too celebrated, or whitewashed, or suppressed, to turn their good into much real progress. But we southerners and Christians need to clean up our own nest before we start damning Yankees all over again. Else, we’ll all drown together. There’s no way you can even begin to pretend to have any moral high ground until you can demolish your own lies and the idols erected upon them. I rejoice that one more has fallen. But the hardest idols to fell still stand, and they are not made of stone.

 

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Blocking the doors: Operation Rescue . . . the Churches!

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:35

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in (Matt. 23:13).

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered (Luke 11:52).

I told a friend of mine, an old veteran of the antiabortion movements, that there is a new, young generation of radicals with promise. I told him, “They are no-compromise. Abortion is murder. They want to end abortion now. They want no exceptions. They are total abolitionists.” He listened.

Then I told him, “They go out every day and work outside abortion clinics.”

He responded:

“They need to be outside the churches. That’s where the problem is.”

Discerning the real problems

I went on to inform him of their efforts to get churches to repent. But his comment—when he was totally unaware of anything like #ChurchRepent—speaks volumes. The problem rests mainly within the churches and their leadership. We will not end abortion ever without repentance and change here.

I am moved to cover these lessons after what we observed over the last weekend. This involves the decision by Rusty Thomas and Operation Save America activists to return to the tactics Operation Rescue employed in the 1980s and 90s—sit-in blockades of the doors of abortion clinics. Rusty and nine others were arrested for criminal trespassing on May 13. At least one report brandishes the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances” (FACE) Act, which could mean federal charges as well.

The reaction was a firestorm across social media, as most are already aware—but it was an in-house storm among abortion activists. Some approved the actions. Some demurred or detracted. Others condemned. Fights erupted. It is not my intention to rehearse all the back-and-forth that ensued. I purpose only to offer a few thoughts why the OR approach failed, will fail again if we don’t make the necessary changes, and what hope there is for change.

Several years ago, an aging Rushdoony was asked if he approved of Operation Rescue’s tactics. Here was his response:

The two great eras of abortion have been our Lord’s time to the fall of Rome and this century. Yet we never find either our lord or Saint Paul saying: “Go out and block the entry ways to the abortuaries of Rome.” Never. Why? Because regeneration is our approach, not coercion. . . .

A great many babies are aborted annually. A million and a quarter. But euthanasia is routinely practiced, homosexuality, adultery, every kind of evil prevails around us. We have a population that is reprobate. How in the world are you going to deal with that by coercive of tactics?

Moreover, if you set a precedent of lawlessness of blocking the entry ways to abortuaries, what’s to prevent these people from doing the same to our churches? As a matter of fact, it has been done already. Saint Patrick’s cathedral has had homosexuals and pro-abortion people enter and do everything to disturb the services and to break them up. So, if we practice it, we cannot protest if it is practiced against us. Why didn’t our Lord and Saint Paul mount an operation rescue, when abortion was so common in that age? It was very simple: they knew that the answer had to be regeneration, the atonement. These people are placing human life above faith in Christ. . . .

It’s very sad what is happening. But I know a very fine woman who did her best to talk one woman out of an abortion; it would have been her fourth. She succeeded. Within two or three years that child, horribly abused, was taken from that mother by the police. Do you see the point? You’re dealing with an ungodly generation. Now when you go through the Bible, and I did in one little book I wrote on the Myth of Overpopulation and I got all the references to birth. And God in his word speaks of blessed fertility and unblessed fertility of the ungodly. Now there is nothing we can do with these ungodly women. They love death; they get an abortion some of them for the pleasure of killing life. And they are suicidal. They are on drugs. They do everything that is suicidal. What we need to do is to work to convert them, because the only change can come through Christ. Not through our coercive tactics. We don’t adopt the way of the world.

Let me add one thing more. One of our staff members, Joseph McAuliffe, is pastor of Tampa Covenant Church in Florida, it’s a charismatic church. He’s a leader in Tampa on Christian activities. And he has met with legislators and they have said we can get a bill through banning abortion in Florida, only on one condition: if we will agree to permit it in cases of rape and cases of incest. Write it that way and were sure we can get it through. We have enough votes, but if you don’t we can’t. Do you know who blocked that bill? The operation rescue people. It would have put them out of business. It’s like the cancer researchers in the United States. They get hundreds of millions a year from the federal government to do cancer research and do you think any of them will want to see it cured? They will all be out of jobs. Operation rescue has become a movement that wants to keep on moving. Not to solve a problem. Our basic approach must be evangelization. If people are not regenerated neither they nor their children have any hope.

This was far from Rushdoony’s finest hour, and his comments here are at best a mixed bag. (I’ll show you in a moment how Gary North rightly opposed this thinking.) Nevertheless, there is food for thought even here, particularly in regard to engaging in political action in a political environment overwhelmingly dominated by reprobates and reprobate law. We’ll return to this.

Even in such a venue, however, it is difficult to surmount the piety of the response that says, “If it saves the life of just one child, it’s worth it.” One could respond, “What if the action saves the life of one but the consequences cost the lives of a dozen more you could have saved through other means?”

This dispute becomes a priority to solve only if the saving of individual lives is the sole numerator of success. If the abolition of human abortion—a judicial standard—is the ultimate goal, we need to have other considerations. If you feel called to individual rescues, I’ll leave that calculus to you and your conscience. I am looking at the larger picture (and I don’t mean to discount anyone’s efforts in the narrow one by saying that).

As for even acts like OSA perpetrated this weekend, North defends it, and I think rightly destroys any absolute critic of such tactics. The liberals have been making utter fools of the churches for decades now:

Legalized abortion has now made Christian social irresponsibility appear ridiculous. Thus, we find millions of Christians who give occasional lip service (and very little money) to the fight against abortion. We find a small minority willing to picket an abortion clinic occasionally. We find an even tinier minority ready to devote regular time and regular money to fighting abortion, including fighting it politically. And then, in the summer of 1988, a handful of non-violent activists began to “up the ante” by breaking local property laws in Atlanta, Georgia, and later other cities by interposing their bodies between murderous mothers and their murderous accomplices, state-licensed physicians.

(Strange, isn’t it? Liberals for 70 years insisted that “human rights are more important than property rights!” This phrase supposedly proved that high taxes and government regulation of the economy are morally legitimate. But these days, the liberals have spotted a problem with this slogan. A bunch of crazy Christians have started intruding onto the property of wealthy, state-licensed murderers — excuse me, physicians — to interfere with the daily slaughter of the innocents. Now, all of a sudden, the defense of private property is high on the liberals’ list of priorities. Liberals certainly enjoy taxing the high incomes of physicians, but they want them to earn those juicy taxable incomes, especially if those incomes come from killing judicially innocent babies. Population control, and all that. And … liberals will never actually say this in print, of course … these slaughtered babies are mostly blacks and Hispanics. You know. Those kind of people! They have concluded that an abortion is less expensive to the welfare state than two decades of aid to a dependent child, but they never say this in public. They think that the cheapest way to “break the cycle of poverty” is to kill the next generation of the potentially poor. And never forget: indigent old people are also part of that cycle.)

Trespassing for Dear Life

This tactic of “trespassing for dear life” has now begun to divide the Christian community. It has already divided Christian leaders. This division appears to cut across denominational and even ideological lines. Christian leaders are being forced to take a position, pro or con, with regard to the legitimacy of this physical interposition. Like Congress, they prefer to avoid taking sides, but the pressures can no longer be avoided easily, at least for Reubenites.

There are two signs in front of abortion clinics:

“No Trespassing”
“Thou Shalt Not Kill”

The “No Trespassing” sign is symbolically stuck into the grass. The “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sign is literally being carried (or ought to be literally carried) by an anti-abortion picketer.

The picketers have now begun to realize that they face a major moral decision: either ignore the implicit “No Trespassing” sign or ignore the covenantal implications of the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sign. The fact of the matter is that if Christians continue to obey the abortionists’ “No Trespassing” signs, God may no longer honor this humanistic nation’s “No Trespassing” sign to Him. He will eventually come in national judgment with a vengeance. This is a basic teaching of biblical covenant theology. (It is conveniently ignored in the pseudo-covenant theology of the critics.)

A small, hard core of dedicated Christians has now decided that they cannot obey both signs at the same time. One of these imperatives must be obeyed, and to obey it, the other imperative must be disobeyed. This has precipitated a crisis.

There is a much larger group of Christians that pretends that there is nothing inherently contradictory about these two signs. There is nothing going on behind closed clinic doors that Christians have a moral imperative and judicial authorization from God to get more directly involved in stopping. They prefer not to think about the two signs. They see the first one and assume that it has the highest authority.

There have been other “No Trespassing” signs in history. Outside of German concentration camps in 1943, for instance. But Christians in Germany honored those signs. They forgot the words of Proverbs:

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:10-12)

You need to read North’s whole article (yes, it’s long, and yes you should read it all).

But OR’s days are long behind us. Even back when they had thousands on their side, the tactics failed. The church is even more sheepish and unwilling today. When a group like OSA resurrects the tactic, even some stout-hearted and strong-tongued antiabortionists balk and begin to criticize. They personally think there are more effective ways to do it (I agree), and that walking into a sure-fire jail sentence and possible huge fines is not the most productive tactic. This is especially true because so many people are so far checked out of the game: the churches largely don’t care, the public draws back in shock, and leaders devour each other over disagreements.

But, what this means is that the only problems with this door-blocking tactic are, therefore, pragmatic: we don’t have enough Christians willing to do so, we don’t have the organization, we don’t have the leadership or the PR yet developed, etc., and the consequences will be averse to us as individuals and possibly to the cause as a whole.

But why do we not have willing Christians? Why so few willing churches? Why no organization? Why ineffective leadership? Why brethren quarreling over what should be obvious? Why brethren calling each other liars and wicked when we already agree on 99% of what we believe and are doing? Why no effective PR?

There is only one answer to this, and it centers upon the role, message, and willingness of the preaching in the Body of Christ.

Which is to say, the problem with ending abortion now is a problem with the churches, because that’s where all these things should come from—if the church was consistent with its professed ethics.

Problem: the church is not consistent with its professed ethics (the Ten Commandments), but it is consistent with its theology of soul-only salvation, personal-only piety, and fear of engaging—nay, even addressing!—let alone resisting, the civil government. It is their theology and practice of not rocking the cultural boat. This has become both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

A pragmatic objection, however, is nothing but a fancy way of saying “that won’t work!” This is nothing more than a fear-based argument—at the very least, fear of failure. We need some help here.

Lessons from a critical review

In 1991, Christian and libertarian, Constitutional rights attorney John Whitehead (https://www.rutherford.org/) published an academic review: “Civil Disobedience and Operation Rescue: A Historical and Theoretical Analysis.”  Anyone interested in activism needs to read this paper. He brings up several interesting issues concerning why OR failed and what we need to learn from it.

All tactics are pragmatic to some degree. The question in all applications of all tactics is not whether we are being pragmatic or principled (you cannot escape either), but whether we are being as pragmatic and as principled as we can be. In his theoretical section, Whitehead notes,

Justice-based civil disobedience is used to oppose and reverse the majority’s unjust oppression of a minority. Those practicing justice-based civil disobedience must not break the law until the normal political processes have been fully exhausted and are found to offer no hope of success. Moreover, justice-based civil disobedience may not be used if it will make matters worse.

That last sentence is key: even pragmatic analyses (perhaps especially pragmatic analyses) must judge themselves by what principled goal they are serving, and whether it is pragmatic in the long term. (In other words, is your pragmatism really pragmatic after all?)

He continues,

There are two approaches to activities within the category of justice-based civil disobedience: (1) persuasive strategies, which “force the majority to listen to arguments against its program, in the expectation that the majority will then change its mind and disapprove that program;” and (2) nonpersuasive strategies, which aim “not to change the majority’s mind, but to increase the cost of pursuing the program the majority still favors, in the hope that the majority will find the new cost unacceptably high.”

It should be clear that door-blocking is in the latter category. It should be equally clear that without broad enough participation in the tactic, and without broad enough empathy in the population (or even the churches), this tactic is doomed to failure. If the public doesn’t care, and Christians don’t participate in numbers great enough to burden the police departments, then the cost being imposed will not be anywhere near high enough for the public to care.

The leftists are aware of this: the sole purpose of the FACE Act was to shift the burden of cost so far back in the direction of Christian activists that they would not dare even attempt such practices again.

This again indicates all that the churches lack: no will, no conviction, no organization, and no leadership on the issue. This leads to submission, resignation, and apathy. But this apathy is perhaps the greatest cause of the violence of abortion. It’s a passive cause, but it’s a cause nonetheless, and one for which we are accountable.

Whitehead quotes a civil disobedience theorist, who imo nails it:

apathetic obedience may in the long run be a greater source of violence than either active obedience or civil disobedience. Passive acquiescence assumes rather indifferent citizens, who are unconcerned with the social evils which tend to inevitably develop in large, complicated, and bureaucratic societies. The longer these evils fester, the more likely they are to provoke eventual violence in reaction.

Whitehead’s section on practical lessons has several nuggets worth consideration, at least. Here are a few:

On organization: “The success of reform or protest movements appears to be directly related to the organization of parties to carry out acts of defiance. According to one authority on reform, “[c]hange comes from power, and power comes from organization.” Unlike the colonial revolutionaries, Operation Rescue has not followed a deliberate, unified, and informed pattern of civil disobedience. Operation Rescue appears to lack a coordinated and knowledgeable group of leaders who act behind the scenes to weigh the pros and cons of the group’s activities.”

However true this may ultimately be for success of other movements in the future, or not, it is clearly true that it spelled failure for hundreds of such rescues by OR in the 80s and 90s. There is no chance, then, of success from only a single such rescue today, without significant changes first.

Second, on consistency. OR seemed to change its approach in its later permutation:

One might argue that the intimidation tactics presently advocated by Operation Rescue appear to be directed primarily toward mitigation or elimination of punishment for the acts of civil disobedience by Operation Rescue members. Such tactics fail to affect directly the use of abortions or generate Christian “repentance.” In fact, one might argue that such intimidation tactics might well generate the same type of negative response from the American public as was exhibited against the antiwar protestors, i.e., that the protesters are seeking not to create a more just society, but rather that the protesters are seeking to destroy or denigrate some very fundamental premises of the American system—namely, the importance of an independent judiciary.

Third, on PR: “When a reform movement fails to educate the general public on its alms and objectives, its effectiveness often is dramatically reduced. . . . Operation Rescue has not been successful in persuading and informing the majority of the American public as to the necessity and/or correctness of its activities. This failure appears to have occurred for two reasons. First, Operation Rescue previously limited its efforts only to conducting rescues at abortion centers. Second, the organization has not received favorable media attention. . . . Public reaction is largely uninformed and uninspired with respect to Operation Rescue.”

Despite all the critical analysis and criticism, Whitehead argues that the door-blocking tactic, historically and theoretically speaking, is a justified tactic. Nevertheless, he concludes, “certain basic historical and theoretical-conceptual guidelines must be adopted and followed if any movement based upon civil disobedience is to succeed. To do otherwise, is to invite defeat and to fail to take into account the costs of one’s acts.”

There is yet another person who seems to agree with the basic problems at the root of OR’s failure, and that is OR’s founder, Randall Terry. He is quoted as to the problem:

Historically, silence and accommodation has done nothing to help the oppressed. It only strengthens the hands of the oppressors. That is the lesson of Nazi Germany and of the Eastern Bloc countries. Hitler went after the insane, the feeble, the elderly. The Christian community, by not taking action, contributed to Hitler’s strengthening and its own weakening, and ultimately to the death of 30 to 40 million people. When the Christian community tolerates the oppression of a few, it paves the way for the oppression of the many. It doesn’t stop with rescuers. Today, people are being arrested for praying or picketing on sidewalks, something they have a constitutional right to do.

He also saw the apathy he was up against:

Even a brief overview of American history proves that political change usually comes after social upheaval. The birth of America, the end of slavery, women’s voting rights, repeal of prohibition, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the feminist movement all testify to one truth: whether for good or bad, political change comes after a group of Americans bring enough tension in the nation and pressure on politicians that the laws are changed. Politicians see the light after they feel the heat!

The truth is, we don’t stand a chance of ending this holocaust without righteous social upheaval occurring across the country that “inspires” politicians to amend the Constitution. Right now they have no reason to. The status quo is peaceful. But if even one percent of the evangelical and Catholic community (about 800,000 people) would take their own rhetoric seriously (“Abortion is murder!”) and start acting like children are being killed, things would change. By doing massive rescues, we could create the tension needed to turn the tide. When government officials have to choose between jailing tens of thousands of good, decent citizens, or making child killing illegal again, they will choose the latter, partly because there are no jails big enough to hold us if we move together in large numbers!

That righteous upheaval was missing in when Terry wrote it 1987. It was missing when North published in 1988–1989. It was missing when Whitehead published in 1991. It is lacking today. The simmerings of righteous indignation, however, are moving AHA, #EndAbotionNow, the remnants of the old guard, and others, to get radical once again, and much great work is being done.

What to do

Any movement which intends to succeed in this area has got to begin, first, with seeding the truth in its most uncompromising and radical form, across the country, in every church and every heart of every Christian. We must spread the ideology as widely as possible, and create an absolute abhorrence of murder and the culture of death.

Second, the seeds must sprout and grow strong. If the necessary convictions do not spread, there is no hope. If they do not take root and withstand competition with the various weeds (excuses, arguments, apathy, hostility) in the garden of God, then they cannot flower and bear fruit.

Third, if the seed of radical truth finally takes root, the fruits of truth will appear: repentance. Widespread repentance will indicate true revival among the churches.

Fourth, a repentant church armed with the full truth of God, revived and reinvigorated, will lead to a Reformation; that will lead to developed political views, preaching, and activism. That will be the path to cultural renewal.

Fifth, a church that is truly active and truly relevant to the culture will spark a true culture war. The world, and the churches dominated in various ways by the world, with rise up and attempt to persecute the revived Body of Christ in the land. (This is when going to jail may really have some public significance.) It is here we will see the most radical and meaningful public clash between God’s people and the forces of death. This process, this battle, will expose the ferocious evil of the culture of death and the central importance of the institution of child sacrifice to it, and the true murderous nature of the whole.

Sixth, this exposure of truth and resistance to it will provide the window of opportunity for God ‘s people to abolish human abortion, ending this public wickedness in our time.

Please note, no one gets anywhere in this process unless we first successfully seed radical truth. This means my friend is right: we need to be engaging the churches—the body of Christ. That is where this must start.

I personally think it is premature to be blocking clinic doors. I think the far, far greater problem is the Pharisees blocking up the doors of the kingdom and of truth (Matt. 23:13; Luke 11:52): they won’t enter themselves, and they won’t let anyone else enter. This prevents the spread of radical Christianity and true practical Christianity. Before engaging in a largely symbolic resurrection of Operation Rescue, we need a concentrated effort on Operation Rescue the Churches—rescue them from the apathetic acquiescence to the social norm, sin, murder, and culture of death.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

If you preach it, they will fall

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 06:50

On December 15, 1989, a small crowd of parishioners of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Timisoara gathered in front of the church flat where their pastor lived. The occasion was the eviction orders to their pastor set for that day by a Romanian civil court. The group formed a human chain around the flat. When the police arrived to remove the pastor from the flat, the crowd had grown to several hundred strong; they were singing hymns in the brutally cold weather and from their words the police guards understood that the people were determined to stay and prevent the eviction of their pastor. The police guards returned with agents of the dreaded Communist secret police Securitate, but to no avail, the crowd refused to let them pass. For the first time in the history of Communist Romania someone was refusing to obey Securitate.

On the next day the mayor of Timisoara—the second largest city in Romania—arrived and tried to persuade the crowd to disperse. He arrived with the pastor’s family doctor to persuade the pregnant wife of the pastor to come with them to the hospital. She refused. By that time the crowd had grown beyond the numbers of the congregation, with young ethnic Romanians joining the Hungarian Reformed believers in the vigil and the human chain in the cold December day. The mayor then left, threatening to return with police water cannons.

On December 17, instead of police water cannons, Army troops took positions against the now significant demonstrations that had grown from the humble crowd of Reformed parishioners. They fired into the crowd. This did not stop the demonstrators. On December 18 tens of thousands of industrial workers in Timisoara left their jobs to join the demonstrations. By December 20 the city was out of the control of the Communist government. The insurrection spread to other cities in Romania, and on December 22 the most brutal and maniacal Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe—that of Nicolae Ceausescu—fell.

The fall of the bloodiest and most inhumane Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe started there, in the small humble church of the 37-year old Pastor László Tökés. Dr. Joseph Pungur of the University of Alberta in Canada writes about him:

And in the midst of all this arose that one person, Reverend László Tökés, a minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania in charge of the church of Timişoara (Temesvár) who, with his heroic resistance to the dictatorial Church and State authorities, single-handedly triggered a popular revolution in Romania. Within days it toppled the Ceausescu regime.

The kind of preacher we need again today

Who was László Tökés? What made him so terrifying to the regime to deserve such attention? Why did the Communist government have to send agents of the Secret Police, and later the army, to make sure he is evicted? What made those thousands of people keep vigil in the cold December nights around his house to protect a humble, unimportant religious minister? Why was it that even unbelievers were willing to lay down their lives but not let the government troops pass to his house?

Was he a military organizer of the resistance? Did he lead an opposition party? May be he was a skillful politician, experienced in the art of bureaucratic machinations? Did he make explosives, blow up bridges, start insurrections in the army?

No. He was only a preacher. No, he wasn’t only a preacher. He was a preacher with a heart for God, a preacher who believed that the pulpit was entrusted to him to preach against principalities and powers, no matter what the consequences were. He preached against the Communist regime, he preached against the oppressive policies, against the nationalist crackdowns of the regime on the Hungarian minority, and against the lack of freedom, religious and political, in his country. László Tökés wasn’t there just to preach “believe and get saved.” He was on the pulpit to speak for King Jesus in every area of life, and especially in those areas where the government was oppressive against those politically weak and poor. László Tökés was there to tell Caesar that “there is another King, one Jesus.”

And that was enough to make him so dangerous to the regime. Government institutions on all levels—police, courts, the secret police—were employed to make him stop preaching. Members of his congregation—fully supportive of their pastor—were “suicided” by the Securitate agents. His pay was stopped and his ration-card was taken away, making it impossible for him to buy even food (and his wife was pregnant at the time). One night a group of thugs hired by Securitate broke into his apartment and Tökés and members of the congregation had to fight them off with kitchen knives.

The Bishop of Transylvania, László Papp, a puppet of the Communists and a collaborationist with the government, ordered Tökés to stop preaching and officially closed his church. Interestingly enough, he appealed to the “separation of church and state,” and claimed that Tökés violated the laws of both the church and the state. The congregation stood firm, and the young pastor kept preaching. A few weeks before the events described above he wrote an open letter explaining the situation he was in:

I speak out for I cannot do otherwise, or else the stones themselves will speak, the stones of our demolished towns and monuments…. I am not a courageous man but I have overcome my fear. I am waiting for a trial at a Romanian civil court, indicted by my own bishop in order to evict me from the manse of the church at Temesvar, and to banish me in medieval style not only from this “closed” town but also from the priesthood. . . The fight is no less bitter than it was in the past, though this time the weapons are different. And the price of the siege is the same; when the castle falls, a piece of our country goes with it . . . The self-defence of the Reformed Church in Temesvár symbolizes a “pars pro toto,” it displays the “particular” as a representative of the “universal.” We are called in question, one by one, as Calvinists and as Hungarians living here. To the challenge the congregation tries to answer like David . . . it takes its stand only on a tiny foothold of the Spirit, from of the Word of God: “Fight for your brethren, your sons, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). “A mighty fortress is our God” sings the church congregation on Sundays, identifying themselves with its strength; they rely on that strength throughout the week.

László Papp, the Bishop of Nagyvárad, has been besieging the Church in Temesvár since April. He has banned services in the church and the works of renovation. . .He has limited the activity of the minister and the session; he has frozen a great deal of the congregational finances . . . This was the introductory phase of the siege . . . the phase of “starve them into surrender” . . . the mocking of Goliath.

But God’s plans trumped the mocking of Goliath, and the giant fell within a week after the start of the final showdown. And it all started with the humble sermons of a humble pastor in a small parish church.

If you are a Christian, and if you care about teaching your children in the way of our Lord, you should have a gallery of Christian heroes for them to imitate and be inspired by. Add a name there: László Tökés. He is part of your Christian history.

About a year ago I visited a worldview conference organized in our town by Brannon Howse. Mr. Howse was outstanding. He didn’t pull any punches. Nothing in this country was outside of God’s Sovereignty, everything was a legitimate sphere for action for us Christians. Government? Yes, government too. [For Howses’ rapid departure from these views almost immediately after this event, see our archives.]

On the way back a local pastor was with me in my car. I was excited about the conference, and I naturally was optimistic about what we as Christians could do to restore America to its Biblical roots.

In the middle of the conversation the pastor just said, “You know, this is all good, but I don’t think we can accomplish too much in these last days. We may be able to save a few souls, but we can’t stop the drift to darkness in this country. We should expect the times to be worse and worse for us Christians.”

I thought of László Tökés. He was against the worst political and government machine we can imagine. He couldn’t buy food, he was about to be evicted from his house. There was no institution to come to his defense, and there was no hope, humanly speaking. He was in a situation that no American pastor in the 20th century has been or had to be. And yet he compared himself to David against Goliath, firmly convinced of his victory, against all human odds.

He just preached against the government, against the principalities and powers, against the forces of darkness in the high places of the land. And they fell. Our pastors should learn from his example.

[This article was originally published on December 15, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the attempted eviction of László Tökés. Now almost eight years later, it is more relevant than ever.]

Categories: Worldview

Churches worse than infidels

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:57

If you have not studied the foundational biblical truth about Socialism, you should. There is no secret the church in general long since quit providing social safety nets for even its own people, let alone much of any kind of such outreach to greater society, the poor, the orphan, and the widow. The relationship between the failed churches and a socialistic state are symbiotic, and it grows more entrenched over time. It’s time we at least wake up to it.

Someone shared this blog post in my feed the other day: it is a devastating criticism of the American churches. It is from a mother who recently lost her husband to cancer at a young age. Listen to some of her powerful lines:

When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. . . .

The lighting, coffee bars, relevant messages, graphics and other things are secondary and serve no assistance to me during the darkest hour of my life. This is in no way a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. However, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the center. It is a also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation. There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavor. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need and are desperate for Jesus. And they may actually be turned off by all that they consider gimmicks to get people to go to church.

I scroll down my social media feed and I see churches with pictures of their coffee bars, their concert like settings, their graphics, their trendy sermon series and those don’t appeal to me. I want to see how Jesus has changed a person’s life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to one’s life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how the broken heart was restored. I want to see how the mourners were comforted. I want to see how lives were restored. Rather than posting pictures of coffee bars I would rather see testimonies of the power of God. I am thankful I attend a church that focuses on prayer and the word of God. I am thankful that in one of the darkest moments of my life I knew I could count on others to pray for me and with me.

She’s right, you know. And if we’re honest with ourselves, the problem is far deeper than even this.

It is not merely that churches have gotten distracted with awe-inspiring trivialities. It is not merely that in its distractions it has forgotten the hurting, etc. It is far more systematic than that, and that critical view (as important as it is to get even that far) is backward. The church first dropped social issues, first neglected its calling to the widow and orphan, the prisoner and the poor, and then found itself anemic in society and grasping for the IVs of pop culture.

Among some evangelicals and Reformed folk (most of them), a flatlined orthodoxy has become the norm. They have even adapted the classic two kingdoms theology to serve as an excuse for their rebellion against God’s order. I have written on this in the past, for example, about the “two kingdoms” tyranny and its contribution to social welfare and statism.

The prophetic denunciation of this failure is clear in Scripture. Paul is quite clear that everyone has a duty to provide for themselves and their own household. He is equally clear that the church should administer a fund for those widows and orphans who cannot (1 Tim. 5:3–16). This is not the state’s job; it is the churches’ job.

Paul likewise says that someone who will not provide for their own house “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

What do you think this says about whole churches that refuse to provide for their own?

It says that the vast majority of churches in America are worse than unbelievers.

Getting closer to the right discussion

Recently, T. D. Jakes hosted a huge pastoral conference that included a panel discussion on church and state. Megastar Paula White had apparently made comments about churches taking up their biblical role in these matters. Jakes then stole the show with a very entertaining, and in part correct, sermonette that had the seats rocking: churches cannot fulfill a mandate to feed the hungry when the state takes 35 to 40 percent of our income from the beginning, and then does not even use that money to reach the poor as it could. The church needs to challenge them [the state] to do its part (of course I disagree in principle here, but. . . .).

I’ve made a similar point in the past: conservatives say they are opposed to socialism, but in practice they are not. They fight savagely for public schooling, social security, and medicare, not to mention the most expensive standing military in the world several times over. But this makes socialism the status quo, and as along as socialism is the status quo, those who want to help the widow and orphan will have the moral high ground. By default position (opposed to social welfare except for themselves, and in favor of socialistic-funded militarism), conservatives more quickly defend bombing children and Arabs before feeding children at home.

By default, their political choices of some people say they prefer making widows and orphans to feeding them.

Jakes kept saying, “It doesn’t add up.” “I don’t need a Scripture. I don’t need a newspaper. All I need is a calculator.”

White was largely correct when she responded: “Everything’s got to be overhauled. . . . It starts at a local level of holding accountable, and the church working with government partnership [oops!] on a local level, changing our communities, changing our churches, changing our families, because it doesn’t add up on the calculator of the U.S. national debt either.”

Many of the people who criticized White afterward were quite clearly coming from a more leftist political angle: Jakes’s argument essentially supports status-quo welfarism, only he’s calling for Christians to challenge the state to do its part in providing for the poor given the fact that it has already taken the forty percent.

But, he added, “I’ll feed them if you give me my forty percent back. Give me my forty percent back and maybe I can do it!” That is getting closer on track.

White is absolutely correct that we need a systematic overhaul. It must eliminate the national deficit, meaning, the solution cannot be centralized. It must be local. It must eliminate the role of the central government.

To go further, it must eliminate the role of the civil governments in welfare altogether. This is a private matter, and for the church; it is a church matter. Jakes is absolutely wrong about one point: he does need a Scripture. He needs the Scriptures that say welfare is the job of the family and church, and that the state’s job is to punish crime (not feed the poor).

The change of which White speaks also necessarily involves changing the churches. Remember, “change” is simply the mundane word for “repent.” In other words, where this must begin is with widespread repentance in the churches.

To be honest, we are still far from such an ideal. We are still far from making the application of our theology a priority over professing it neatly, pretending to be nice, and building facades of buildings we call “churches” yet marked out by espresso machines and fog machines, or maybe just the classic looks we cultivate, like wooden pews and the finest leather-bound edition of our favorite Confession of FaithTM.

The gilded edges of our Bible pages, still shiny, is more representative of the faith of many than any symbol you could put on the cover of it, or certainly then content of it, let alone any outward act for which we may be known.

Proof positive of some of this critique is the fact that many readers will be more upset because I just made a positive example of two TV preachers they consider heretics than by the central failure of the churches I am pointing out. What such readers (you?) really want from a guy like me is another discernment blog exposing why Jakes and White have bad theology and how our own Reformed theology is so much more orthodox and right than these “false teachers” and “wolves.”

That would sure give us yet another affirmation of our doctrinal superiority, wouldn’t it? Boy, do we love fresh coats on our veneers.

Smoke machines come in many forms.

I can say that while I strongly object to their theological deviancies, I even more strongly support the line of thought they are at least entertaining. At least they are discussing a subject about which the Bible directly commands us, and the churches at large for centuries have neglected, and in some cases outright deny. At least they are being faithful in this area where so few are and leftists lead the discussion.

They may be unfaithful in some key doctrinal points, but at least they are not worse than unbelievers like our churches too often are.

We have the same choice, church. We—who have our key confessional points correctly professed, and even our jots and tittles—have a choice whether or not we wish to continue to deny the faith and act worse than unbelievers in the area of the social application of God’s Word.

Until we engage this issue seriously and widely, and in a biblical way, God will continue to use unbelievers, heretics, and the heterodox—just as He has done in the past on issues like race, justice, civil rights, education, and many other areas that Conservative Christian churches seem to have studied hard to ignore. And when leftist remain in charge, the end result will be worse than the first, and the churches will have no one to blame but themselves.

And when that day comes, crying about religious liberty will be the biggest joke you’ve told to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Worldview

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