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The word “Theonomy” comes from two Greek words, theos (God) and nomos (law). Together, these words simply mean “God’s law.” Since every Christian has some view of the role of God’s standards for living, every Christian believes in “Theonomy” in some way.
The label “Theonomy,” however, has come to describe a particular doctrine of the role of God’s law that includes the application of aspects of Old Testament law to all of life including the social realm and civil government. Those who hold to this view are properly called “theonomists.” This book teaches the perspective of this more specific “all of life” view.
Love and law
The Christian should never dismiss Scripture’s comprehensive witness to the greatness, goodness, and justness of God’s law. The Psalmist declares this general truth over and over. Just a few instances say things like:
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psa. 119:97).
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true (Psa. 119:142).
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether (Psa. 19:9 NASB).
Examples like this could be multiplied. Even in the New Testament, where Paul teaches that we are no longer “under the law” and freed from the curse of the law, he nevertheless also adds that the Law is “holy and righteous, and good” (Rom. 7:12). He follows, “I agree with the law, that it is good” (7:16), and “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (7:18). The problem is not with the law itself, but with our sinful selves who cannot keep it: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (7:14). “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). The Christian has a different mindset, however: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9). Considering what he has just said about the law, what should this difference of mindset tell you about the Christian’s orientation to the law?
The standard for Spirit-led, Christian living, Paul teaches, is that of love. It is here where the tie back to the law of God is explicit, although often unacknowledged. Later in the same epistle, Paul says,
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:8–10).
Love is not contrary to the law. Love is the fulfillment of it. Love is not a new commandment. Love is the summary of “any other commandment” God has given. Christians must simply arrive at the mindset that when God calls us to the standard of “love,” He is calling us to obey the law He has already published and taught us in our hearts (Jer. 33; Heb. 8; 10).
The summary of the law
Consider just how explicitly that last sentiment is taught in Scripture—especially in the New Testament. The best place to see it is when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37–40:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor. While sometimes misunderstood as new commandments, these are actually taken directly from the Old Testament Law itself. The first of these commandments is found in Deuteronomy 6:4. The second is found in Leviticus 19:18. Both come from Mosaic law, and the heart of both is love.
But note that Jesus says all the rest of the Law and the Prophets depends (literally “hangs”) upon the love of God and the love of neighbor. In short, Paul was teaching the same thing in Romans 13 as Jesus teaches here: love fulfills the law in every commandment. It should not be difficult to discern that in this case, the opposite relationship must be true: if you wish to pursue love, you must abide by the Law of God.
Love is not an emotion, as our culture routinely portrays it, and we often think as well. Love is a standard of action. If you wish to know the definitions and objective standards of what it means “to love,” you will need to read the law. What is loving and what is not loving will be defined there. There you will find the divinely revealed boundaries of the actions and reactions of love.
This applies in civil law as well. For example, is it loving to allow a murderer to run free in society? No. Then what penalty should they bear that could be called “loving”? The Bible gives an objective standard. What about a thief? Would it be loving to allow a thief to go unpunished? No. But would it be loving to give a petty thief the death penalty? No. The objective standard of love must meet both the victim and the criminal properly, else we fall short of the standard of love. He who loves will be understood to do so only as far as he is in accord with God’s revealed law, for God’s commandments are the substance of love.
This is the exact lesson Jesus taught His disciples during His upper room discourse (John 14–16). He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He repeats it:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (14:21–24).
He repeats the lesson:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you (15:9–14).
The author of this Gospel reiterates the same teaching in his later Epistle:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2–3).
So we can see that love is not a new law or a replacement for the law—it is nothing more than a summary of the law. To love God means to obey His commandments. To love neighbor means to treat them according to God’s revealed law.
Next section: The Law and the New Covenant
This is the web version of my book The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty. You can find hard copies and eBook versions in our store for purchase. We make at least one version free for those who cannot otherwise afford the small sum to purchase.
For others, please consider making a donation to American Vision to help cover the costs for those who cannot, and to continue the work we do.
Look for more links to become active as I post more sections in the future gradually.
- Love and the Law
- Law and the New Covenant
1. A Simple Definition
2. Rightly Dividing the Law
- Biblical Categories for Biblical Law
- The Shadows
3. Where to Draw the Lines
- Biblical Principles of Continuity and Discontinuity
- The Cherem Principle
- Fulfilled and Forever
4. The Abiding Judicial Standard
- The Abiding Moral Principle for Penal Sanctions
- Some Objections Answered
5. What It Would Look Like
- A First Table Vision
- A Second Table Vision
6. How it Will Come to Pass
- The Spirit and the Great Commission
- Action Plans
7. What is Not Theonomy
- Constantinianism through Aquinas
- Constantinianism during the Reformation
- Constantinianism after Calvin
(Why publish the Epilogue first? Because it’s actually a great Preface too! I think you’ll see why. It addresses a few key issues regarding motivation, background, and what all we’ll be covering along the way. Enjoy. . . .)
I wrote this little book for two main reasons. First, I want to instruct young interested readers in the biblical foundations of Theonomy in a clear, simple way. Second, I need to address some long outstanding questions that I believe, quite frankly, have never been clarified.
For the first purpose, I think the book speaks for itself. For the second, I have waded into a sort of “no man’s land” between what, in the past, were unfortunately seen as warring factions. While the vast majority of critics of Theonomy past and present have been of a knee-jerk and even dishonest variety, a few talented, considerate, and largely sympathetic critics provided careful exegetical responses that took Mosaic law seriously, even for modern civil governments, yet saw biblical theological reasons to drop several of the death penalties and make other modifications. I see my own analysis lining up with a good portion of theirs. Some of the foundational authors of modern Theonomy took too much exception to such analysis too readily, and their intransigence, while certainly earnest, led to division rather than scholarly engagement. This hindered the textual exegesis, analysis, and application that remained. The division led some to drop the label “theonomist,” as if another’s rejection of their qualifications demanded it. This is unnecessary.
“Theonomy” means “God’s law,” not “Greg Bahnsen’s law” or “R. J. Rushdoony’s law” or “Gary North’s law” or “Joel McDurmon’s law.” We are in early stages, still, of working through detailed exegetical questions and applications. We have learned a ton already, but there is simply more to hash out. Bahnsen himself made this clear at the outset of his seminal work, Theonomy in Christian Ethics,1 acknowledging first in the original “Preface” that he had not even attempted to address specific details of God’s law, only the formal general obligation to it,2 and second, that his work left “a great deal to be explored” and “extensive room for disagreement in the area of exegeting, understanding, and applying God’s law in specific situations.”3 Even as late as his last publication on Theonomy (1991), he admitted he still had not fully worked out his views on the penalty for apostasy (Deut. 17:2–5), and that he had always been open to the fact that it no longer applied in the New Testament.4 He finished that note saying his conclusions would have to await another book— a book he never got the chance to write.
I am thankful for the places where Bahnsen, Rushdoony, and others did mention such passages, but I agree that what treatments we have of them have been incomplete. There were others, who did not accept, or who no longer accept the label Theonomy, who did give more detailed treatment to such laws, and after laboring over them myself, I found myself agreeing with them in large part. Nevertheless, the label “Theonomy” is crucial because it is a biblical doctrine. I therefore maintain it, and argue that anyone who fits within a simple definition (chapter two) can bear the label. For this reason, I argue that even theologians such as A. W. Pink can be called theonomic. While I was ridiculed for making this statement in public, the mere fact that Pink demands the modern application of lex talionis makes him by definition a theonomist, even if his theology in other places is inconsistent with that. At worst, we would call him an inconsistent theonomist.
What we need now is a renewed conversation of biblical law and its modern applications among those of us who are open to disagreement and discussion, yet see the abiding validity of some Mosaic principles as obligatory for modern governments. From there we can provide a platform for pulpits to teach and for Christians to engage in godly social reform, criminal justice reform, etc. We need to reengage the discussion, and to do so on the basis of what we have learned so far about Theonomy.
So what have we learned about Theonomy in this book? We have learned that love is the summary of the law, and that God’s law is the explication and bounds of what love truly is. If we want to display Christian love, we must obey His commandments, meaning, His law. We have learned that this love-law principle is embedded in the heart of the New Covenant and the Great Commission.
We have learned that there is both continuity and discontinuity in the law. We learned that the Bible itself gives us the principles by which to categorize given laws, parts of laws, or sets of laws as such. The most important of these principles is cherem. By this we understand that all First Table death penalties and sex-related death penalties no longer apply. By this we understand that stoning was a ritualistic method of death and no longer applies. We have also learned that separation laws no longer apply. These include priestly and temple laws, holy land laws, and seed laws in general. God has removed jurisdiction over these sins from earthly civil governments and transferred it to the throne room of Christ.
We learned that the law of proportionate punishment, or lex talionis, is the basic moral principle that lies behind all the penal sanctions. The remaining ones, therefore, are abiding standards and remain obligatory for civil governments today. This includes standards for property rights, contracts, false witness, strictly limited government, and more.
When we ask what a theonomic society would look like, we study these remaining laws and answer for ourselves. It would be a society of liberty, free markets, sound money, tiny government, and with church-based and private devotion to charity, sexual purity, family, and worship. From our biblical law platform, there would be strong pushes for homeschooling, dismantling the welfare-warfare state, dismantling the military-industrial complexes, criminal justice reform, and much more in relation to the spread of peace and free markets.
Such a vision will sound like a utopian dream to many who are encultured by modern times and establishments, and for whom thinking outside of that box is fearful or encumbered by the limitations of their ideas of practicality. Certainly such a society is a long way off, but when we begin to inquire as to how it could ever come to pass, we can only derive great encouragement from Scripture. The Great Commission demands that we hold forth such a dream, and the power of the Holy Spirit demands that we dare not think it could not come to pass. In this light, therefore, we follow our mandate to disciple the nations in all of Christ’s law, and trust that the Holy Spirit will bring to pass what He will in His time. We can easily look around and find any of several places to begin Kingdom work, and then get to it.
Finally, we have learned that top-down social orders, punishments for First Table religious offenses, and top-down agendas for social change do not comport with the teachings of Theonomy. Those who wish, therefore, merely to Christianize the establishment, compromise with it for the sake of advance, establish an alleged Christian state not bound by the abiding strictures of the civil law, or who think that Christians can merely grab existing seats of power and institute change cannot be considered theonomic. While a few such people in history have appealed to Moses here or there, most have merely adapted pagan Roman law, variations of it, institutions created by it, or other pagan bases, and the results have been not only unjust but disastrously so.
Young theonomists should take from this book a helpful foundation upon which to build an agenda for study, advance, engagement in culture, and activism. The old guard has hopefully found clarification and an advance in applicational method by which to refine their endeavors along the same lines, perhaps start new ones, and perhaps rejoin old and forgotten dialogues. We badly need all of this today. Having a fairly common foundation and a common desire will help get the message of comprehensive Reformation back in our pulpits and pews, and then society and state houses, once again.
- 3rd Edition (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Foundation).
- Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 3rd Ed., xxxix.
- Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 3rd Ed., xl.
- No Other Standard (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 247n10.
Theocracy: Greek theokratia; theos “God” + kratos “rule” = “the rule of God.”
In every nation there are different types of government such as republics, democracies, dictatorships, monarchies, etc. The structure of the government is based upon who is ultimately in control of that government. The structure of the government depends upon whom the laws derive from and who enforces them. The types of governments that exist are endless and are created either by those who have the most power in a society or those who have the most influence. Unfortunately, power is delegated to those who have the most wealth in many cases. Laws being influenced by the people is not a bad thing unless that influence is one that is not submitted under the authority of the true God.
In our case, Christians would rarely say that our country is operating in a godly manner, and they will say our nation needs to “repent” or “turn back to God.” The first problem with this statement is that it assumes this nation as a whole was at one point submitted to the authority of God. We may have seen some glimpses of this, but we have not seen Christ truly exalted over this nation. The other issue with such statements is that these same Christians who are claiming our nation is wicked based upon not only the immorality of criminals who break the laws of the land, but also due to the corruption of legislations and judicial rulings, many times have no answer as to what exactly the nation is to turn to in terms of law. You cannot call a nation to repentance and not be able to point them in the right direction. If we say we are pointing them to Christ (which we should), how then shall we live?
How is a nation under the influence of people who are submitted to the Lordship of Christ—in their own personal lives, in their households, and in their Churches—actually supposed to rule? We have avoided thinking through this question critically because we are afraid of offending those who are not Christians in the public square in the name of “freedom of religion,” or we have avoided it due to our own bad theology in regards to our role in this world and the continuity of the Scriptures.
The truth is every nation has a “god.” Even a nation that claims to have “freedom of religion” has adopted some “god” or “gods,” and that nation will rule based upon the supremacy of that “god.”
In some nations, one man or woman will act as that god, such as in some cases Kings, Queens, and Dictators. Some Kings obviously have ruled under the authority of God, but in cases where God’s law is not the standard the laws derive from the King himself. In other nations a certain ethnic group has been their god and in others certain classes.
You cannot separate the laws of a land from their god. In our nation we seem to have many gods. For some secularists of all sorts, the god may be the Constitution, the “law of the land,” “we the people,” “democracy,” nine robed bandits on the Supreme Court, and many other sources. For conservatives and liberals alike, god is ultimately the State: for them whatever the government says goes, and they want to be in control of it. Unfortunately, many Pastors are unwittingly teaching that the State is god as well—by their misinterpretation of Romans 13 and other passages.
Our nation is controlled, or at least highly influenced, by wealthy people and large corporations, yet it portrays that the people by majority rule are in control. In either case, we have elevated man as the object in which we find truth. In the case of the Constitution, we elevate a document as god. As much as many Christians want to find refuge in the Constitution, it falls short of the Lordship of Christ and opens the door for the tyranny we see today. How is it though, that those who support the Constitution as a biblically inspired document deny that they want a theocracy?
Our nation strives to find objective truth and law apart from Christ. This is due to the influence of the Enlightenment. In the quest by unbelieving and skeptical man to free the people from “religious authoritarianism,” however, what changed was not authoritarianism, but the religion. We were taken from a society in which God is God, to one in which man plays god. This is not to say that everything was perfect before this, but to show that escaping religion is impossible. When we look at the laws of a land, the question is not “is this land ruled by religion or not,” but rather “what religion?” The question is not “do they have a god from whom they get their laws,” but “which god?”
No matter which way you look at it, every society bases its laws upon its religion. You cannot have laws without claiming to have a standard of morality, and you cannot have a standard of morality without claiming to have a belief system. The belief system we adopt is our religion. The object of worship of our religion is either the Creator (Yahweh) or the creation (a person, the people collectively, animals, nature, etc). So, no matter the structure (republic, monarchy, democracy, etc) it is still ultimately a theocracy.
We can see this all through Scripture. When God speaks of other nations, the main culprit is the god they follow. Interestingly for Rome, the Emperor Caesar had exalted himself as a god desiring the people to declare “Caesar is Lord.” He was not just wanting them to recognize him as “lord” in the sense of being a ruler or someone simply in authority, but he wanted to be acknowledge as one who was divine. Instead Paul calls Christians to confess that Jesus is Lord in Romans 10:9, which resulted in much persecution. Sadly, before the crucifixion of Christ, Jews cried out to Pilate to take Jesus away to crucify him proclaiming “We have no King but Caesar” (John 19:15). I hear the sentiment of that statement echoing throughout the church today as well.
What is our standard of law?
We must ask ourselves: can man come up with better laws than God? If man has the freedom to create his own laws, how can we measure whether they are righteous or not? If we answer “by God’s word,” then we have to use His laws. We cannot say a law is immoral and then not be able to give an answer as to why it is moral. If we have an answer as to what is moral, it has to be based on objective truth and not how we feel. It all comes down to the question “By what standard?” By what standard are we to make righteous judgments?
Many Christians will quote R. J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, or Cornelius Van Til when using Presuppositonal Apologetics in evangelizing or debating, but do not apply it to the laws of the land. If they do apply it, they may only apply it in an area that is most important to them, such as abortion, but not consistently across the board. It’s time to get consistent.
Even when people attempt to make laws that appeal to everyone’s personal belief system, it falls short once there is any regulation at all. Once there is any regulation made, a belief system has been declared. This only continues to prove that humanistic thinking is always inconsistent and ultimately cannot please everyone. In this type of thinking there is no objective truth, but nations result to ruling subjectively, elevating the belief of some over others making themselves a god. If one person says that an abortion at 20 weeks is just and another says 21 weeks, which one is right? How do they determine righteousness in regards to that, or any law? When God’s law is not the standard, righteousness is based upon whatever logic man pulls out of thin air.
I believe Christ has authority over all of the nations and that the rulers of nations are to implement God’s laws. I believe people are fearful when they hear the term “theocracy” because of misconceptions of how God’s law would be applied.
I also believe people are fearful of a real responsibility. The current punishments we have in many cases are not corrective and do not promote real responsibility. Ultimately man has a hard heart against the law of God because the law of God represents God himself. Therefore, our priority is always the preaching of the Gospel as we believe it is the power of God unto salvation, which changes the hearts of man, which then would lead the submission of God’s rule in households, then communities, then states, then nations. When we look at the government we can tell what god is dominating that culture. If we look at the United States government we clearly see a nation that has rejected God and a church that has retreated. When Christians say they do not want to be under a “theocracy,” they are actually saying they do not want to be under the rule of the God of the Bible in that nation, but under the rule of another god. When they say they want God’s rule, but refuse to specify an objective standard that comes from his laws in Scripture, they are essentially saying the same thing. We want the God who saves eternally, but we don’t want his Kingdom and rule here. Christians say God is judging our nation because of its lawlessness, but we’re the first ones to say we don’t want his laws.
It’s time to return to the worldview of the Bible. If we believe what we say about God, our nation, and judgment, then let’s also act like we believe what He says about the rule of His son in this earth:
Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing? And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
“I will surely tell of the [e]decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psa. 2).
I have obviously heard this argument many times before, but perhaps not in as outrageously absolute terms. John MacArthur, Jr., via partner-in-intellectual-crime Todd Friel, just posted their radical version of the classic dualism between theology and politics and the alleged irrelevance of “earthly” stuff to the kingdom of God.
Let me say up front there is more than one theological issue at stake here: this great error deals not only with the nature of the kingdom of God, but also with the role of biblical law in that kingdom, the prophetic role of the pulpit to society, as well as eschatology (a biggie!). I also acknowledge up front that there are a few points upon which we would agree (political decline does not mean the current rule and will of Christ is failing, for example). The overall tenor and direction of these statements, however, are as dangerous and irresponsible as they are outrageous and simply wrong.
What happens in America politically has absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Whether America is Republican or Democrat, whether it is libertarian or socialist, whether it becomes a communist country or whether it becomes a dictatorship—what happens in America has absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of God [his emphasis].
Note the stark dichotomy marked by the word “absolutely.”
Friel splices himself in to concur with this view: “No earthly kingdom has anything to do with the kingdom work that Jesus is doing.”
What is their rationalization for this view? Here’s is MacArthur’s scriptural support:
Jesus said to Pilate, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my servants would fight.” We don’t fight on that level. I’ve got a lot of battles. None of them are political.
This verse is to Dispensational, premil, fundamentalists what “judge not” (Matt. 7:1) is to the unbeliever—that is, it is the most frequently abused verse related to the issue of the nature and scope of the kingdom of God. Thankfully, there is no need to write a new dissertation on it: Christian Reconstructionists already did this long ago, notably in a 1991 essay in the book Christian Reconstruction: What It Is and What It Isn’t (see p. 27 ff.).
I gave a lecture on this very topic, on this very essay actually, at GGC15. Listen to it, or read Gary North’s original version reproduced below. However you imbibe this, please learn it so that you will not be deceived and ruined by the misapplications of men like MacArthur and Friel.
(For more on what I mean about the danger of these guys’ position, see “Driscoll, MacArthur, Trump: who’s really to blame?”)
The Nature of God’s Kingdom
Few passages in the Bible are misinterpreted in our day as often as this one. The only other one that seems to rival it is the favorite verse of the people who resent all church discipline (or any other kind of discipline imposed in the name of God): “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). (Can you imagine a police department that went by this rule?) We will consider the interpretation of this passage in Chapter 2. But before we do, we need to know exactly what Jesus meant by the word, “kingdom.”
What about the kingdom of God? Does it have any jurisdiction or manifestation on earth, or is it strictly heavenly and limited to the human heart? Whenever a Christian argues that Christians have a God-given responsibility to work today to build God’s kingdom on earth, unless he is referring only to personal evangelism or missions, someone will object. “Jesus wasn’t building a political kingdom. He was only building His church. The church isn’t an earthly kingdom. After all, His kingdom is not of this world.”
Notice the implicit argument. First, Jesus was (and is) building His church (true). Second, Jesus was (and is) also building His kingdom (true). Third, the church is not supposed to be political (true). Fourth, His kingdom therefore is not political (true only if His kingdom is identical to His church).
Question: Is His kingdom identical with His church?
Protestants and Catholics
It always astounds me when I hear Protestants cite John 18:36 in order to defend a narrow definition of God’s kingdom in history. Four centuries ago, this narrow definition was the Roman Catholic view of the kingdom. Roman Catholics equated the kingdom with the church, meaning the church of Rome. The world is outside the church, they said, and it is therefore doomed. The institutional church is all that matters as far as eternity is concerned, they argued. The world was contrasted with the kingdom (“church”), and the church could never encompass the world.
In sharp contrast, the Protestant Reformation was based on the idea that the institutional church must be defined much more narrowly than God’s world-encompassing kingdom. Protestants always argued that God’s kingdom is far wider in scope than the institutional church. So, from the Protestant viewpoint:
- The kingdom is more than the church.
- The church is less than the kingdom.
The Protestant doctrine, “every man a priest”—as Protestant an idea as there is—rests on the assumption that each Chris tian’s service is a holy calling, not just the ordained priest’s calling. Each Christian is supposed to serve as a full-time worker in God’s kingdom (Romans 12:1). What is this kingdom? It is the whole world of Christian service, and not just the institutional church.
What we find today is that fundamentalist Protestants have unknowingly adopted the older Roman Catholic view of church and kingdom. Writes Peter Masters of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle: “Reconstructionist writers all scorn the attitude of traditional evangelicals who see the church as something so completely distinct and separate from the world that they seek no ‘authority’ over the affairs of the world.”1 We do not argue, as this critic argues to defend his own position of cultural isolation, that “The kingdom of God is the church, small as it may sometimes appear, not the world. . . .2
This definition of the kingdom of God as the institutional church is the traditional Roman Catholic definition of the kingdom, and it has led in the past to ecclesiocracy. It places everything under the institutional church. The church in principle absorbs everything.
This same definition of the church can also lead to the ghetto mentality and cultural isolation: it places nothing under Christianity, because the kingdom is narrowly defined as merely the institutional church. Because the institutional church is not authorized to control the State (correct), and because the kingdom is said to be identical to the church (incorrect), the kingdom of God is then redefined as having nothing to do with any thing that is not strictly ecclesiastical. This is our critic’s view of the kingdom.
So, pietists have sharply separated the kingdom of God (narrowly defined) from the world. Separating the institutional church from the world is necessary, but separating God’s kingdom from this world leads to the surrender of the world to Satan’s kingdom. Thus, it is never a question of “earthly kingdom vs. no earthly kingdom”; it is always a question of whose earthly kingdom, God’s or Satan’s? To deny that God’s kingdom extends to the earth in history—the here and now—is necessarily to assert that Satan’s kingdom is legitimate, at least until Jesus comes again. But Satan’s kingdom is not legitimate, and Christians should do whatever they can to roll it back. Rolling back Satan’s earthly kingdom means rolling forward Christ’s earthly kingdom.
What Christian Reconstructionists argue is that this originally Protestant view of the kingdom of God in history has been steadily abandoned by Protestants since at least 1660, to the detriment of the gospel in general and Protestantism specifically. They call for the recovery and implementation of the older Protestant view of God’s kingdom. This is what has made Christian Reconstructionists so controversial. Today’s Protestants do not want to give up their medieval Roman Catholic definition of the kingdom of God, and they deeply resent anyone who asks them to adopt the original Protestant view. Their followers are totally unaware of the origins of what they are being taught by their leaders.
The Kingdom of God
There are a lot of definitions of the kingdom of God. Mine is simultaneously the simplest and the broadest: the civilization of God. It is the creation—the entire area under the King of Heaven’s lawful dominion. It is the area that fell under Satan’s reign in history as a result of Adam’s rebellion. When man fell, he brought the whole world under God’s curse (Genesis 3:17–19). The curse extended as far as the reign of sin did. This meant everything under man’s dominion. This is what it still means. The laws of the kingdom of God extend just as far as sin does. This means every area of life.
God owns the whole world: “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Jesus Christ, as God’s Son and therefore legal heir, owns the whole earth. He has leased it out to His people to develop progressively over time, just as Adam was supposed to have served as a faithful leaseholder before his fall, bringing the world under dominion (Genesis 1:26-28). Because of Jesus’ triumph over Satan at Calvary, God is now bringing under judgment every area of life. How? Through the preaching of the gospel, His two-edged sword of judgment (Revelation 19:15).
Reform and Restoration
The kingdom of God is the arena of God’s redemption. Jesus Christ redeemed the whole world—that is, He bought it back. He did this by paying the ultimate price for man’s sin: His death on the cross. The whole earth has now been judicially redeemed. It has been given “a new lease on life.” The lease that Satan gained from Adam has been revoked. The Second Adam (Jesus Christ) holds lawful title.
The world has not been fully restored in history, nor can it be; sin still has its effects, and will until the day of final judgment. But progressively over time, it is possible for the gospel to have its restorative effects. Through the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit, redeemed people are able to extend the principles of healing to all areas under their jurisdiction in life: church, family, and State.
All Christians admit that God’s principles can be used to reform the individual. They also understand that if this is the case, then the family can be reformed according to God’s Word. Next, the church is capable of restoration. But then they stop. Mention the State, and they say, “No; nothing can be done to restore the State. The State is inherently, permanently satanic. It is a waste of time to work to heal the State.” The Christian Reconstructionist asks: Why not?
They never tell you why not. They never point to a passage in the Bible that tells you why the church and family can be healed by God’s Word and Spirit, but the State can’t be. Today, it is the unique message of Christian Reconstruction that civil government, like family government and church government, is under the Bible-revealed law of God and therefore is capable in principle of being reformed according to God’s law.
This means that God has given to the Christian community as a whole enormous responsibility throughout history. This Godgiven responsibility is far greater than merely preaching a gospel of exclusively personal salvation. The gospel we preach must apply to every area of life that has been fouled by sin and its effects. The church and individual Christian evangelists must preach the biblical gospel of comprehensive redemption, not just personal soul-winning.3 Wherever sin reigns, there the gospel must be at work, transforming and restoring. The only area of life outside of the reach of Spirit-empowered restoration is an area that was not affected by the fall of man. This, of course, means no area at all.
There are millions of Christians today (and in the past) who have denied the obvious implications of such a view of God’s earthly kingdom. Nevertheless, very few of them have been ready to deny its theological premises. If you ask them this question—”What area of life today is not under the effects of sin?”—they give the proper answer: none. They give the same answer to the next question: “What area of sin-filled life will be outside of the comprehensive judgment of God at the final judgment?”
But when you ask them the obvious third question, they start squirming: “What area of life today is outside of the legitimate effects of the gospel in transforming evil into good, or spiritual death into life?” The answer is obviously the same—none—but to admit this, modern pietistic Christians would have to abandon their pietism.
What is pietism? Pietism preaches a limited salvation: “individual soul-only, family-only, church-only.” It rejects the very idea of the comprehensive redeeming power of the gospel, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and the comprehensive responsibility of Christians in history. In this rejection of the gospel’s political and judicial effects in history, the pietists agree entirely with modern humanists. There is a secret alliance be tween them. Christian Reconstruction challenges this alliance.
This is why both Christians and humanists despise it.
- Peter Masters, “World Dominion: The High Ambition of Reconstructionism,” Sword & Trowel (May 24, 1990), p. 18.
- Gary North, “Comprehensive Redemption: A Theology for Social Action” (1981), reprinted in North, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), Appendix C.
There’s a real problem with truth-telling today, and it is widely manifest in our current political season. But the whole truth will make you uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s why it’s so rare. I’m going to tell it to you anyway.
Thanks to a new round of James O’Keefe’s undercover work, key Democrat operatives are caught openly confessing (bragging even) corruption, voter fraud, and dirty work in political campaigns and elections. The confessions and name-naming in these new vids are mind-blowing. Four and a half million people viewed the first installment. It’s powerful.
The reaction from the media is predictable: silence. We all know the leftist media is biased.
But the reaction across partisan lines is not what the boasted “moral” right would want you to believe either. All the talk from the establishment right guys is always about their high standards of character, integrity, gentility, professionalism, ad nauseam. So we would expect these guys to jump all over the “the left’s dirty tricks and corruption in the campaigns” story, right?
But there is silence there, too. In fact, only the alt-right types like Pat Buchanan and other Trump supporters, predictably, are agreeing with Trump that “the system is rigged.” Not only that, but the establishment types like the editors of National Review are falling over themselves to ensure us that the whole election system is so “heavily scrutinized” and “carefully monitored” that it is essentially airtight and full of, yeah, integrity.
Watching the right’s non-reaction to what is an explosive batch of evidence—not a revelation, but absolute, horse’s-mouth proof of what we always suspected—is revealing in itself. It dawned on me almost immediately why: to engage a public denunciation of dirty campaign tricks would, of course, open the establishment right to the same scrutiny at the nation level. They don’t want that.
After all, this is the same establishment right that used every dirty trick in the book, across the country, in scores of local and state conventions, to squash Ron Paul in favor of Mitt Romney in 2012. It’s not even that Ron Paul had a very healthy chance. He didn’t, I don’t believe. But the establishment right engaged in outright lies, corruption, deceit, and subterfuge beyond mere trickery to squash any appearance that Paul had any support. They wanted full control and the appearance of unanimity in favor of their boy. The highlight of the show was the scripted lie from John Boehner: “the ayes have it,” when they clearly did not. Carry on anyway, and let the victims of injustice howl while we get away with it.
Don’t make me laugh. Just don’t try to make me forget, either.
But this brings me back to the more general observation. We have a widespread problem with honest dealing in this country. The whole truth of it is uncomfortable: while the O’Keefe videos may move some conservatives into classic finger-pointing mode against the left, the whole truth is that many conservatives have acted just as dishonestly, on purpose, and with as little conscience. And it’s not just confined to elections and political stuff. It’s in broader social issues as well.
Here’s an example of what I am talking about.
On Monday, Drudge Report not only ran but featured a YouTube video called “Trump Car DESTROYED in Black Neighborhood.” A popular YouTube prankster rolled a junker into what he called “a black neighborhood” and parked it with Trump stickers and paraphernalia all over it, “to see what happens.” In what he called a “social experiment,” a group of black guys, pants sagging and all, show up and start trashing the car, busting windows, etc., then abruptly flee.
The prankster then came on screen to conclude, “As you can see, the black community is very violent toward Trump and his supporters.”
Again, Drudge posted this video on his site in the feature spot. All you had to do was click on it and watch the vid right there on his site. Drudge’s page was viewed by 35 million people that day.
That’s 35 million people exposed to a very graphic reinforcement of the message, “The black community is very violent toward Trump and his supporters.”
The only problem is: the video turns out to be a fraud. An absolute lie. This prankster was caught staging the event with actors playing the part of thugs who trashed the car. He was busted. And he has now confessed to his lie.
Drudge immediately pulled the video and apologized for the mistake, right?
No. The video just simply disappeared from Drudge without any acknowledgment of the fraud, and that Drudge got chumped and in turn passed on a lie to 35 million people. Why the silence?
Don’t Drudge readers deserve the whole truth? Don’t they deserve an apology?
Don’t the “black neighborhood” and “the black community” that were both smeared by Drudge passing along this forgery deserve an apology?
Apparently not, according to Drudge’s silence. Apparently, Drudge’s reputation would be more hurt by the aspersion of apologizing for misleading and smearing than it is for the actual misleading and smearing to begin with.
As it is, it will only be the relative few who actually find out the whole truth from other sources who will have to deal with the truth; the rest won’t know the difference. So Drudge can carry on. The potential damage from such a flub is further minimized as it is quickly buried beneath a hundred new posts in Drudge’s carrying-on.
Even those who are confronted with the truth will probably put it aside, then forget. Those that don’t forget will rationalize that it’s just a small thing, or that the great work Drudge does is far more important, or that the left is far worse so let’s not get distracted from who our real enemy is, etc., etc.
Problem is: it is an objective falsehood, an objective failure of integrity, failure of character, and objective case of lacking the necessary repentance, humility, and expression of regret for which integrity and character call.
This problem is nearly universal: politicians all over, pundits, activists, evangelical leaders, Christians, pastors, Christians, etc., etc., all engage in it. We find it easy to point out the lies and hypocrisy of the other side, but we engage in the same along the way, and we’re silent when we and our friends do it.
Pretty soon, we’ve created such a culture of accepting, tolerating, and ignoring deceit and lies among ourselves that we don’t have the conscience or the moral standing to call it out even in the left sometimes. The whole culture drifts down the downward slope of immorality.
This downward drift begins with the Christians among us: when we tolerate these lies and those who try to bury their lies, we pull up the last (only) moorings of society, the Christian conscience. Whether we do it in the name of not being as bad as the left, or more laughably in the name of character and integrity, we still are culpable for it.
In biblical terms, you have given the enemy occasion to blaspheme.
Denouncing Trump and Hillary as both unfit will not solve the problem of your own pretense. Only acknowledging Trump and Hillary are the ultimate result of your own lies hidden beneath your pretenses will help you find the way out. The Right in general, and the establishment right especially, needs to repent of its own wickedness, lies, deceit, and covetousness of power. Until there is genuine repentance and repair done here, there is nothing but the downward slope of national immorality to look forward to.
All the silence in the world will not be able to suppress what will become obvious then.
A Christian leader recently approached me. He has grown acquainted for some time with Christian Reconstruction and Postmillennialism. He wants to know more. He is a pastor and teacher, and leader of a small Christian college. He asked me to provide him a reading list of Reconstructionist literature. I agreed to provide a sort of guided reading list.
Once I had written him back, finally, I realized this may be helpful to a good number of people—leaders and laymen, moms and homeschoolers alike. So, I am going to share a considerable part of what I wrote him.
(Keep in mind, a guided reading list of Christian Reconstruction is a different animal that the listing of “books that have most influenced me”—although some of the books on each list will be the same.)
A Few Considerations
Before I get to the actual list (below), let me make a few notes which may be helpful to the reader.
First, making such a list is difficult mainly because the body of literature is so vast that where to begin and how to proceed in a linear fashion can be difficult to determine. “Converts” usually come in by random association with one book and then just start reading others they seem interested in. Ironically, it seems no one has ever asked for anything like a guided reading list before, so we have to start almost from scratch in making one, and the volume of writings is actually quite enormous. One reason I wrote Restoring America was to try to tie a lot of the thought together in one place. I succeeded to some extent, but there is so much more to do and say.
Further, a reading list will vary for each individual depending upon their background, maturity, and interest. Also, age is a factor. I would give a different intro and track to someone just beginning our literature as a high school kid than say a 50-year old businessman or Christian school teacher or professor. All things considered, what is “Introductory” for some people may be “Advanced” for others, and vice versa.
Then, there are some differences among the major writers in our movement: most differences are slight but a couple are significant. Among the significant differences, at least one is very important. So let me begin with some generalities regarding authors:
R. J. Rushdoony (“Rush”) is the godfather of the Christian Reconstruction movement. He had a very rare and profound intellectual gift. There may never be another like him. Anything he wrote is worth reading, and some books like Institutes of Biblical Law and Foundations of Social Order will be required reading, along with several others. Nevertheless, he was more of an essayist than a systematizer, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves work to be done. Well, one man can’t do it all anyway. More importantly, I think he made a couple important mistakes (I’ll mention in a moment). These “mistakes,” however, detract nothing from the immense and fundamental importance of his main contribution.
Gary North was influenced strongly by Rush. He also has rare intellectual gift but in a little more nuanced way. Rush’s learning was very broad, collective, and thematic; North has tended to be more focused—filling in important gaps left by Rush, going further, making important corrections, and giving more precise application, especially in the fields of economics and history.
The corrections are where I side with North rather than Rush. Rush’s view of family and patriarchy was was one area where he left Old Testament emphases, or perceived emphases, in place and should not have. That view has allowed lots of problems, not the least of which was the extreme version popularized by a couple of ministries which have now brought shame on theonomy and Christian Reconstruction by their association with it. This is the one very important difference I mentioned. It is crucial to get right at the outset, and for that reason, one needs to read North’s little critique Baptized Patriarchalism. Another bad association of this view has been the so-called “kinist” movement, which is a racist. It also gains the attention and admiration of some Christian Identity adherents who are even more overt racists. So we have these damaging associations to deal with. Rush would not have held any of their views, but his theology of the family lent itself to the problem of guilt by association.
The other larger area of difference between Rush and North would be in their views of the Constitution and the framing era of American History. This is important but less crucial, and can be given secondary priority unless it is of express interest to you (as it is to me). Rush still saw the Constitution as belonging fully to the Christian heritage of America; in some ways he is right, but North sees it compromised as a product of America’s departure from that heritage and of the influence of the Enlightenment. I believe North is more correct here, though it is a very unpopular position among Conservatives. You can read North’s work in this regard to this in Political Polytheism which includes an appendix specifically critiquing Rushdoony on the Constitution. You can see some expanded work in North’s Conspiracy in Philadelphia. Either way, it should not distract us from working toward the same goal of restoring America to biblical foundations.
In general, anything from North is important to read.
Greg Bahnsen was also a rare intellect, and while not as original and profound, was probably more intense and detailed than either Rush or North. He took two major emphases in Rush and ran with them to their limits: God’s Law and Van Til’s apologetics. His two big books on those topics are great reading, but are advanced: Theonomy in Christian Ethics and Van Til’s Apologetic. He has more entry-level work for both as well: By This Standard and Always Ready: Direction for Defending the Faith. He also has considerable essays and articles on various topics, and a huge body of audio material on every topic imaginable available through Covenant Media Foundation, www.cmfnow.com.
Gary North published several other authors back in the days of his Institute for Christian Economics (ICE): George Grant, James Jordan, Kenneth Gentry, Ray Sutton, Peter Leithart, and others. What they wrote that was published by ICE is important to read, but since then most of them have turned to pastoral duties or other interests. Some of their non-ICE and later writings I would simply not recommend as Christian Reconstructionist literature for various reasons. Having Gary North as an editor and publisher seemed to make a world of difference.
One “list” I could give you would simply be Gary’s “FreeBooks” website. Look and start wherever you like. All of his books are posted online for free. Some are still available in hard copy if you look around: http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm. In my list below, I link to the books available on Gary’s site.
Since that time, North has completed his economic commentary on the Bible (some of the older versions are on the freebooks page, but the new versions are superior). Trust me, “economic” does not fully describe it. It covers many other worldview topics and is always worth consulting. The series is posted for free here: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department158.cfm. AV is planning on having a much more user-friendly version of these up in the not-to-distant future, to be linked to our Worldview Study Bible (pray for the day!).
Ray Sutton wrote one of the most important books of all, harmonizing biblical theology and systematic theology to produce a true covenant theology. It is called That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant, and it has become the foundation of much of what North and I, as well as others, do today. Anyone interested in the movement should start with this.
In addition to the main list below, Gary North published two series of books that are important. The first was a ten-volume series of laymen-level books called The Biblical Blueprints Series. Each volume pertained to one topic like government, money, economics, family, education, political action, wealth and poverty, etc. Each one contained biblical analysis and a second section on practical steps that could be taken in family, church, and state. Some parts of these reflect the 1980s when they were written, but mostly their practical tips are still practical. I won’t list these out separately, but you can find them all on Gary’s FreeBooks site as well and they are indicated as “Biblical Blueprints Series” in their subtitles. (My Restoring America is something like a one-volume version of that earlier project.)
The second series is even more important. It was a 4-volume series entitled Christianity and Civilization. The third volume is the most important, but the others are very good as well. They are all available from FreeBooks or from American Vision’s Store in Kindle, Nook, or iBook as well:
The main list which follows is not necessarily in linear order, although within each main topic the books are roughly in a good reading order. Also, you don’t necessarily need to read all the books at any one level within a topic. If you feel you’ve “got it” and are ready to move on, feel free to so do.
One more thing: there is tons of material besides this list—tons of other books, journals, articles, and old newsletters. I hope all this helps and breeds lots of fruit.
(Books with hyperlinks are available online, though those not linked may be also and I simply have not found the link. A couple books are listed in more than one category because they fit both. Books available in the AV Store had an additional “purchase” link for that purpose.)
Gary North (editor), Foundations of Christian Scholarship
R. J. Rushdoony, “The Nature of the American System,” (Chapter 1), and “Appendix 1: Localism and the Police Power,” and “Appendix 2: Localism, the School and the Church,” in his book The Nature of the American System (rest of the book is less important).
Gary DeMar, God and Government (older 3 vols, or newer one-volume edition) (purchase)
Ray Sutton, Second Chance
Joel McDurmon, “Education,” Chapter 1 in Restoring America
R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education
Greg L. Bahsen (Ken Gentry editor), Pushing the Antithesis (from a Sunday School series) (purchase)
Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Direction for Defending the Faith
Joel McDurmon, Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice (purchase)
Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith
Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis
It is not enough to have “conservative” rulers who merely follow after the traditions of men. Christians should be working for Christian leaders whose lives are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and who seek to make the Word of God the law of the land. Moreover, Christians must preach the whole counsel of God to all men—especially to civil rulers, to whom much has been given and of whom much will be required. . . .
(Editor’s Note: This is from the author’s Ruler of the Nations. For much more on a Biblical blueprint for politics and government, Download your FREE copy of Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government.)
Supporting Godly Leadership
The people have the responsibility to support godly leadership. Moses chose leaders who had already come through the ranks of family, business, and community leadership: “Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deuteronomy 1:13). The responsibility for choosing godly leaders rested with the people. Moses then chose from those presented to him as worthy leaders: “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands, and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes” (1:15). Judges were chosen with the same ethical and experiential considerations (1:16, 17).
In time, however, Israel rejected this procedure and chose a different standard for determining leadership. An autonomous (autos = self; nomos = law) choice was made. The people wanted a king “like all the nations,” someone who would meet their needs rather than God’s requirements (1 Samuel 8:5). They rejected Biblical law and voted for the “Law of the Nations,” a distorted law that put man at the center of law-making. God warned them that such an allegiance would bring only tyranny, despotism, and eventual slavery (vv. 10-18). The rejection of Biblical law resulted in the State determining what is right and wrong. Long-term, the State is the law. All those who reject the king’s law are either killed or enslaved (1 Kings 12:6-15).
Today, Christians have the freedom and duty to vote for responsible leadership using the standard of God’s law as the measuring device for their political choice: “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down” (Proverbs 11:11). There is a direct relationship between those who rule and the condition of the nation: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). The people chose a “king like all the nations.” God gave them what they wanted. Christians who refuse to vote, for whatever reason, are getting what their non-vote brings.
Qualified to Lead
The qualifications for leadership are ethical and practical, that is, they are to have some leadership experience in the family, church, school, or business world. Rulers must be “men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain” (Exodus 18:21). The standard by which they are to rule is not to be their own, and no amount of monetary and political gain will move them from their allegiance to God and His Word. They are to “fear God.” This is the ethical dimension.
The apostle Paul builds on these principles when he sets forth the qualifications of leadership in the church. Ethical considerations abound. Self-government must first be manifested in a potential leader. Leaders must be able to control their own appetites (1 Timothy 3:1-7); that is, they must be self-disciplined in all their affairs. Paul draws on the Old Testament system of government that applied to both church and State, and he carries these principles to the New Testament people of God.
In addition to ethical qualifications, there are practical considerations as well. The ethical leads to the practical. (For example, how does a voter know whether a political candidate reflects biblical moral behavior? “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). We should see their ethics worked out in everyday situations. Ethics, then, must be made visible. A voter should not simply trust a politician’s position on an issue. His voting record and his lifestyle should be open for all to see.)1 The individual who is scrupulous in personal, family, and business affairs will gain positions of leadership where experience is cultivated. Those who are faithful in small things (an ethical evaluation) will be entrusted with greater responsibilities (a practical result) (Matthew 25:23). This is why the young are discouraged from holding positions of authority without some supervision or accountability. New converts are susceptible to conceit because they have not gained the needed maturity to work out the implications of their new faith in Christ (1 Timothy 3:6).
Jethro’s advice to Moses suggests that “able men” must rule (Exodus 18:21). Ability is cultivated through time as the Word of God is applied to life’s situations. Of course, there are rare exceptions to this general rule. Timothy is told, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness . . .” (1 Timothy 4:12). Instead, he is to conduct himself in a way that reflects his faith in ethical terms. His life (ethical behavior) is to be an example (practical behavior) for others to imitate.
Civil leadership, like ecclesiastical leadership, is designed to be ministerial. Those in authority must follow the pattern of God as ministers rather than attempt to define the role of governmental leadership in terms of how others rule (Luke 22:24-30; cf. 1 Samuel 8:5).
The seventh basic principle in the Biblical blueprint for civil government is that those who rule in the civil sphere are God’s servants. Those under their jurisdiction must serve the civil government faithfully, to the extent that the government is serving God faithfully by enforcing God’s law. Faithful service upward is sup posed to insure faithful service from subordinates.
Civil government is not a “necessary evil.” God established the civil sphere of government like He established the family and church, for our good. What is missing in each of these governments is godly leadership. We’re often faced with voting for the best of two bad choices. It’s hard to find men of principle, men who “fear God rather than man.”
But where is leadership cultivated? The family and church are the training grounds for developing true civil servants. The example of Christ as the servant par excellence is our model. Most governmental leaders are persuaded by their voting constituency. If the people back home want some law passed that will favor their district or them personally, their congressman will seek out their wishes and vote accordingly. Of course, if it’s the majority view. Service in the Biblical sense means responsibility. Today, leader ship so-called is really slavery. Politicians are slaves to the will of the people. Their impetus for action is not principle but pressure. The Bible commands us to submit “to every human institution.” Governments are established by God, therefore, they rule in God’s name. This is why rulers should not be cursed by the people. The Bible, however, shows resistance to tyranny is legitimate and is often commanded. Christians are commanded to pray for those in authority over them.
Civil rulers must hear from the Christian citizenry. Christians are inheritors of the earth because we are “fellow-heirs with Christ.” We have a stake in the way our world is being run.
Peace can only be realized when we recognize that we are first at war with God and need to be reconciled to Him. The State has the duty to collect taxes for its Biblically defined function.
Christians should support qualified Christian leaders.
- God has established multiple covenantal authorities.
- These authorities are structured as appeals courts, as in Exodus 18.
- Civil authority is only one authority among many.
- The family and the church can lawfully discipline its members.
- The symbols of the church’s authority are the keys to the kingdom.
- The symbol of the State’s authority is the sword.
- The symbol of the parent’s authority is the rod.
- We must disobey laws that prohibit the public preaching of the the gospel.
- The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh.
- Moses’ mother disobeyed Pharaoh, and saved Moses in an ark.
- Rahab disobeyed the laws of Jericho by hiding the spies and lying to the authorities.
- The three young Israelites disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship his statue.
- Peter and John refused to obey the order to cease preaching.
- Civil resistance must not be autonomous.
- Christians are to pray for rulers: to guide them, to turn their hearts from evil, to judge society in terms of Biblical law, and to achieve peace.
- Christians are to instruct civil rulers in the law.
- Civil government is required to enforce God’s law.
- Lasting peace can come only through the enforcement of Biblical law.
- Man cannot save himself.
- The State cannot save man.
- Civil governments are service institutions: service to God.
- We owe taxes to the State.
- Caesar’s claims on us are not unlimited, however.
- High taxes are one way God judges sin.
- Taxes also support the peace-keeping activities of the State.
- Leaders should be elected because of their righteous behavior.
(For this and much more on the Biblical blueprint for politics and government, download your FREE copy of Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government, or purchase a copy of the author’s much-more-detailed views in God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Perspective.)
- Added from same context in Gary DeMar, God and Government: A Biblical, Historical, and Constitutional Perspective, p. 531.
With the return of election season, we are bombarded once again with political rhetoric touting the most important election ever (since the last one, of course). With tough-sells like socialists, liberals, Mormons, philandering serial adulterers, all smiling and advertising away, and Christian leaders arguing away, many evangelical and Reformed Christians are confused as to how to proceed and what to expect, or enduring scorn and bitter accusation when they abstain.
At such a time, we should seek the wise advice and counsel of our greatest preachers and theologians. We have already received election advice from John Calvin. Now it is time to seek the soundings of perhaps the most famous Baptist preacher in modern history, Charles Spurgeon.
Contrary to some modern Baptist and evangelical sentiments, Spurgeon was not afraid to wade waist-deep into the middle of the political sphere and give it all the Gospel straight talk for which his Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit was famous.
Overcoming the Temptation to Compromise
Spurgeon had lots to say about choosing good over allegedly necessary or convenient evils. Is it acceptable for Christians to compromise? What if some good could come out of such a compromise? What if it seemed like there was no other viable choice, but providence had led us to such a position?
Preaching on the verse, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25), Spurgeon denounces all of these temptations.
First, Spurgeon responds that Christ must never be compromised, and that it takes integrity and a backbone for Christians to assert that fact publicly. Sadly, he preaches, too many Christians “must be respectable, they must vote in the majority”:
A great many would say—What a fool he was to give up what others covet! I fear that many of you professors would not lose a situation for Christ. Some of you could not lose a shilling a week of extra pay for the Lord. Ah me, this is a miserable age! Go with a lancet throughout these Isles, and you could not get enough martyr blood to fill a thimble. Backbones are scarce, and grit is a rare article. Men do not care to suffer for Christ; but they must be respectable, they must vote in the majority, they must go with the committee, and be thought well of for their charity.
As to standing up and standing out for Christ, it is looked upon as an eccentricity, or worse. Today if a young man proposed to sacrifice his position for Christ’s sake, father, and mother, and friends would all say: “Do not think of such a thing. Be prudent. Do not throw away your chance.” Once men could die for conscience sake: but conscience is nowadays viewed as an ugly thing, expensive and hampering. No doubt many advised Moses to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but he steadily refused. He deliberately divested himself of his rank that he might be numbered with the down-trodden people of God.1
He was just getting started. What about those tough questions? Spurgeon goes on, “For a moment, I will show you some of the arguments which Moses must have had to meet.” It was also an issue of conscience: “In his own mind, when having come to years, he began to think the matter over, many arguments would arise and demand reply.”
What about, for example, accepting the hand of providence in all of this? Spurgeon tells us not to deceive ourselves so easily:
Next, there would come before the mind of Moses the plausible argument, “Providence has led you where you are, and you ought to keep your position.” When Moses looked back he saw a remarkable providence watching over him in the ark of bulrushes, and bringing the Egyptian princess down to that particular part of the Nile to bathe. How singular that she should see the ark, and save the life of the weeping babe! Could he fly in the teeth of providence by relinquishing the high position so specially bestowed?
Thus would flesh and blood reason. How often have I heard people excuse themselves for doing wrong by quoting what they call providence! Arguments from providence against positive commands are ingenious deceptions. Providence is of God, but the lesson which we draw from it may be of the devil. When Jonah wanted to flee to Tarshish he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish. How providential! Nothing of the sort. When Cain killed his brother Abel was it providence which found the club?
Whenever a man wants to do wrong he will find opportunities at hand; but let him not excuse his wickedness by the apparent opportunity for it. Be afraid of that kind of providence which makes sin easy. When a providence comes across you in doing right, do not give over your gracious purpose, but know that it is sent to try you, whether you can serve the Lord under difficulty. A providence which chimes in with your natural inclination may be a stone of stumbling by which your hypocrisy will be made clear.
Moses felt that providence did bring him into Pharaoh’s court, but he also felt that it brought him there that he might be put to the test to see whether he would come out of it for the Lord’s sake. Do not believe in the reasoning which suggests that providence would have us slide along an easy, though evil, way. Providence, if it be read aright, never tempts to sin, though it may put before us trials for our faith. Our rule of life is the commandment of the Lord, not the doubtful conclusions which may be drawn from providences.2
But the critics would press, “I am confident one guy is less evil than the other, and thus some good may come in making this compromise, even if it is simply stopping the other guy!” Spurgeon will not have it:
Yet another argument may have met Moses, for it is one which I have heard repeated till I am sick of answering it. Moses could do a deal of good by retaining his position. What opportunities for usefulness would be in his way! See how he could help his poor brethren! How often he could interpose at the court to prevent injustice [just think of the Supreme Court justices he could appoint]!
Moreover, what a bright light he would be in his high position: his example would commend the faith of the true God to the courtiers and great ones; nobody could tell what an influence would thus be exercised upon Egypt. Pharaoh himself might be converted, and then all Egypt would bow before Jehovah [Let’s make Egypt great again!].
Thus have we met with brethren who say, “Yes, I am in a church with which I do not agree; but then, I can be so useful.” Another cries, “I know that a certain religious Union is fostering evil; but then, I can serve the cause by staying in it.” Another is carrying on an evil trade, but he says, “It is my livelihood; and besides, it affords me opportunities of doing good!”3
Spurgeon makes clear he thinks the argument stinks:
This is one of the most specious of those arguments by which good men are held in the bonds of evil. As an argument, it is rotten to the core. We have no right to do wrong, from any motive whatever. To do evil that good may come is no doctrine of Christ, but of the devil. Fallen nature may maunder in that way, but the grace of God delivers us from such wicked sophistry. Whatever good Moses might have thought that he could do in a false position, he had faith enough to see that he was not to look to usefulness, but to righteousness. Whatever the results may be, we must leave them with God, and do the right at all cost.4
Oh I see. You’re just being “holier than thou,” right? You’re one of those puritanical types holding out for perfect candidates, right? You don’t realize the near-term gains that could be made by a well-conceived compromise. Spurgeon:
But, dear friends, do you not think that Moses might have made a compromise? That idea is very popular. “Now then, Moses, do not be too strict. Some people are a deal too particular. Those old-fashioned puritanical people are narrow and strait-laced: be liberal and take broader views. Cannot you make a compromise? Tell Pharaoh’s daughter you are an Israelite, but that, in consequence of her great kindness, you will also be an Egyptian. Thus you can become an Egypto-Israelite-what a fine blend! Or say an Israelito-Egyptian- with the better part in the front. You see, dear friends, it seems a simple way out of a difficulty, to hold with the hare and run with the hounds. It saves you from unpleasant decisions and separations. Besides, Jack-of-both-sides has great praise from both parties for his large-heartedness.
I admire this in Moses, that he knew nothing of compromise; but first he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and secondly, he made a deliberate choice rather “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” My hearers, come out, I pray you, one way or the other. If God be God, serve him; if Baal be God, serve him. If it is right to be an Israelite, be an Israelite; if it is right to be an Egyptian, be an Egyptian. None of your trimming. It will go hard with trimmers at the last great day. When Christ comes to divide the sheep from the goats, there will be no middle sort. There is no place for trimmers. Modern thought is trying to make a purgatory, but as yet the place is not constructed, and meanwhile you border people will be driven down to hell. May God grant us grace to be decided!5
Long ago, it seems, were days when this issue merited threats of eternal punishment. To those who would pressure others out of political fears, Spurgeon responded with a higher fear—the fear of God:
Notice the lot which Moses chose. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but he chose to take his portion with the oppressed, reproached, and ridiculed Israelites. I want you to see the terms in which his judgment is expressed; for no doubt the Holy Spirit tells us exactly how Moses put it in his own mind. He chose rather to suffer “affliction with the people of God.” Does not that alter it wonderfully? “Affliction” nobody would choose; but “affliction with the people of God,” ah! that is another business altogether. “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” I choose the “great tribulation,” not because I like it, but because these came out of it, and have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” “Affliction with the people of God” is affliction in glorious company.6
To those who demand compromise as a matter of civic duty, Spurgeon responds with a higher duty:
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, it becomes your duty decidedly to come out and stand on his side; and if you do not do so, the pleasures derived from your sin of omission will be the pleasures of sin. You are living a life of disloyalty to Christ, and that is a life of sin. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”; that is to say, if you have not faith that you are doing right, you are doing wrong; and as Moses could not feel that he was doing right by being an Egyptian, whatever pleasure he might have gained from his remaining at court would have been “the pleasure of sin.”7
To those who would stoke us with fears and demands for near-term gains, Spurgeon returns to the higher fear once again, with a warning that what is to be done must not be measured in the short term, for these apparent gains are fleeting, while God’s standards are not:
Then note the word, “For a season.” Did you hear the tolling of a bell? It was a knell. It spoke of a new-made grave. This is the knell of earthly joy—“For a season!” Honoured for doing wrong—“For a season!” Merry in evil company—“For a season!” Prosperous through a compromise—“For a season!” What after that season? Death and judgment.8
Spurgeon adds that compromises made in the name of short-term gains are nothing more than “new-made graves.”
In short, with such near-sighted and fear-driven goals, we are deceiving ourselves into waxing merry with evil company, and by this digging our own political (and perhaps spiritual as well) grave.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:461-2.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:462-3.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:463.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:463-4.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:464-5.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:464-5.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:465-6.
- “Moses: His Faith and Decision,” No. 2030, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (AGES Electronic Edition), 34:466.
Political speech can be filled with Continuum Fallacies, often leading to abuses of words like “rich,” “poor,” “middle class,” and many others. By way of example, the U. S. Census Bureau defines the poverty level (2007) of a couple with one child as having an income of $14,291 per year or less. But politicians rarely refer to official definitions when they base their stump speeches on casually thrown out terms such as “rich” versus “poor.” Especially in times of economic downturn, most people can identify with the “poor” when trying to maintain their lifestyle. Pundits and activists easily persuade millions by demonizing things like “tax cuts for the rich.” After all, who would consider it fair to decrease the taxes of “rich” people while not doing so for “poor” people who can barely get by? Further, politicians and bureaucrats can easily manipulate tax brackets in order to extract more taxes from those deemed “rich” or “able to pay.” They do so by simply pushing the dividing lines a little further: either by increasing taxes a few percentage points here or there on certain groups, or by sliding the line a little further between “rich” and “middle class,” etc. “Just a little more won’t hurt,” reveals the politician’s (and many voters’) addiction to tax revenues.
What often happens in political discourse is that “rich” is quietly defined as something like “making more than $250,000 per year” and “poor” is left undefined, and not much is said of the vast group of people who fall in between. Since so few people fall into this “rich” category, not many object to taxing the “rich” more and more. The problem, however, is that the top 5% of earners in the U. S. (averaging $153,542 per year) already pay a whopping 61% of the tax burden. The top 1% ($388,806/year) pay almost 40% of the taxes. In contrast, the bottom 50% (a full half of U. S. income earners!) pay an insignificant 2.99% of the tax burden. This group includes those making $31,987 per year and less. In other words, even those making more than twice the official poverty level pay hardly any taxes in this country. In fact, almost 33% of all tax returns end up paying no tax at all.
The facts, therefore, create a vastly different picture of U. S. tax policy. The “poor” already pay little to no taxes, so talking about “tax relief for the poor” misapplies the word “poor” for political gain. The truly “rich” already pay an overwhelmingly unfair proportion of the taxes—far more than most other groups combined. Tax cuts for the “rich” in this case are hardly “unjust” as many politicians would have us believe. “Just” and “fair” would be for all groups to pay an equal percent- age, and thus tax cuts for the “rich” would likely be the fairest thing to do at this point.[Find much more practical application of critical thinking in Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice.]
 The figure changes based on the number of children and people living together in a household.
 National Tax Payers Union, “Who Pays Taxes? See Who Pays What,”; available at http://www.ntu.org/main/page.php?PageID=6, accessed December 5, 2008.
 National Tax Payers Union, “Who Doesn’t Pay Taxes?”; available at http://www.ntu.org/main/page.php?PageID=155, accessed December 5, 2008.
Chapter 5: Taxation
5.2 Taxation: How freedom was lost
There is that old and reliable indicator of when a politician is lying: his mouth is open. There is, however, an exception to this rule: when he’s talking about raising taxes. Then you can trust his announcements.
For this reason, it is no surprise that the word “tariff” derives from an old Arabic root meaning “announcement.” It was assumed that any government “announcement” was going to cost you something. Eventually, the word referred to officially-published lists of customs duties throughout the shipping world. A tariff traditionally, then, is a tax on imports or exports. In the U.S., tariffs can only be levied constitutionally on imports.
Tax” is more general. It comes from the Latin word taxare which means “to handle,” in the sense of “examine personally for the purpose of assessment”—a euphemism for “invade one’s privacy.” Taxare is likely a form of the Latin tangere which means “to touch,” as in “touch what ain’t yours.” Thus, the taxman first invades one’s privacy, then takes their property. The taxman’s “touch” should be considered equivalent to a TSA “enhanced patdown.” The latter has his hand squarely in your crotch, the other in your pocket. One takes your dignity, the other your substance. It’s government as usual.
The “hand in your pocket” image should be the official logo of the IRS and the SSA, although, granted, the eagle they both use now is even better: the eagle first spies its prey, then grasps it, then flies off with it, and then consumes it.
As I said in the last installment, taxation in this land used to be extremely low—low by standards of the time, microscopic compared to today. Yet, while taxes were very minimal, there never was a time when we actually were “free” in regard to taxation. So, this section is not quite exactly “How freedom was lost.” Nevertheless, it is close enough—as they say—for government work (what’s good for the goose . . .).
Before we begin in earnest, let me say that the history of taxation in this country (in virtually any country) is almost inseparable from that country’s history of war. The taxes and tariffs that helped spark the American Revolution, for example, were George III’s attempt to pay off his war debts from the prior debacle of the French and Indian War. And since we’re talking about sovereign debt, the story is also inseparable from central banking. We will have separate topics for both finance and war later in this project. For now, know that the whole picture of taxation—though gruesome in itself—is without context unless we factor in both wars and central banking.
It is obviously no revelation that our historically-low levels of taxation—“not quite freedom”—were lost, but it will surprise many readers just how quickly and systematically they were lost. For example, as I said before, the revolutionary sentiments were raised in response to the Townshend Acts of 1767. These were a second attempt, after the failed Stamp Act, to raise revenues in the American colonies. The duties imposed were resisted and ultimately repealed on everything except tea, leading to the Tea Act of 1773 and then the Boston Tea Party. So, for the principle of self-government, no doubt, but for the specific case of an 8.33% import tax on tea, American colonists were willing to fight and die if necessary. The irony here is that the Tea Act lifted Tariffs paid by the British East India Company. These were far higher than what the colonists paid, and thus the Tea Act actually dropped the price of tea significantly for the colonies overall. But they still hated the tax. “No taxation without representation!” “Liberty or death!”
So how was this level of freedom lost?
Taxation and the Constitution
The Continental Congress struggled trying to get the States to raise revenues to pay off the debts of their War for Independence—again, war debts. After several failed attempts, the delegates were convened in Philadelphia, and the deed we have referred to so much already was done—the Constitution was written. I have already discussed under Localism how the opponents of that move created a public outcry over the centralization of powers—and one of the most crucial of those decried powers was taxation. Recalling those previously rehearsed comments and warnings, my short answer to the question of how freedom in taxation was lost is simple: the Constitution.
Let’s just do a quick comparison. Americans, I have just said, were willing to shed their blood to fight off Britain over a very moderate tax on one item. Even the Townshend Acts had only placed duties on imported paper, paint, lead, glass—just a few items. In other words, George III tried to impose very limited taxes to pay off war debts—and Americans revolted.
After the Constitution, however, Congress (led by Hamilton’s designs) immediately raised tariffs on their countrymen—again in order to pay off war debts—but this would be beyond anything the people could have imagined under Britain. Here’s the list of items taxed from five to ten percent (more in some cases) under the first Hamilton Tariff of 1789 (Hint: you don’t really need to read the whole list; just scroll down, skim it, and keep reading the meat of this article). There were duties:
- On all distilled spirits of Jamaica proof, imported from any kingdom or country whatsoever, per gallon, ten cents.
- On all other distilled spirits, per gallon, eight cents.
- On molasses, per gallon, two and a half cents.
- On Madeira wine, per gallon, eighteen cents.
- On all other wines, per gallon, ten cents.
- On every gallon of beer, ale or porter in casks, five cents.
- On all cider, beer, ale or porter in bottles, per dozen, twenty cents.
- On malt, per bushel, ten cents.
- On brown sugars, per pound, one cent.
- On loaf sugars, per pound, three cents.
- On all other sugars, per pound, one and a half cents.
- On coffee, per pound, two and a half cents.
- On cocoa, per pound, one cent.
- On all candles of tallow, per pound, two cents.
- On all candles of wax or spermaceti, per pound, six cents.
- On cheese, per pound, four cents.
- On soap, per pound, two cents.
- On boots, per pair, fifty cents.
- On all shoes, slippers or goloshoes made of leather, per pair, seven cents.
- On all shoes or slippers made of silk or stuff; per pair, ten cents.
- On cables, for every one hundred and twelve pounds, seventy-five cents.
- On tarred cordage, for every one hundred and twelve pounds, seventy-five cents.
- On untarred ditto, and yarn, for every one hundred and twelve pounds, ninety cents.
- On twine or packthread, for every one hundred and twelve pounds, two hundred cents.
- On all steel unwrought, for every one hundred and twelve pounds, fifty-six cents.
- On all nails and spikes, per pound, one cent.
- On salt, per bushel, six cents.
- On manufactured tobacco, per pound, six cents.
- On snuff, per pound, ten cents.
- On indigo, per pound, sixteen cents.
- On wool and cotton cards, per dozen, fifty cents.
- On coal, per bushel, two cents.
- On pickled fish, per barrel, seventy-five cents.
- On dried fish, per quintal, fifty cents.
- On teas imported from India or China. On all teas imported from China or India, in ships built in the United States, and belonging to a citizen or citizens thereof, or in ships or vessels built in foreign countries, and on the sixteenth day of May last wholly the property of a citizen or citizens of the United States, and so continuing until the time of importation, as follows:
- On bohea tea, per pound, six cents.
- On all souchong, or other black teas, per pound, ten cents.
- On all hyson teas, per pound, twenty cents.
- On all other green teas, per pound, twelve cents.
- On teas imported from Europe. On all teas imported from Europe in ships or vessels built in the United States, and belonging wholly to a citizen or citizens thereof, or in ships or vessels built in foreign countries, and on the sixteenth day of May last wholly the property of a citizen or citizens of the United States, and so continuing until the time of importation, as follows:
- On bohea tea, per pound, eight cents.
- On all souchong, and other black teas, per pound, thirteen cents.
- On all hyson teas, per pound, twenty-six cents.
- On all other green teas, per pound, sixteen cents.
- On all teas imported, in any other manner than as above mentioned, as follows:—
- On bohea tea, per pound, fifteen cents.
- On all souchong, or other black teas, per pound, twenty-two cents.
- On all hyson teas, per pound, forty-five cents.
- On all other green teas, per pound, twenty-seven cents.
- On all other goods imported from India or China, 12 1/2 per centum ad valorem. On all goods, wares and merchandises, other than teas, imported from China or India, in ships not built in the United States, and not wholly the property of a citizen or citizens thereof, nor in vessels built in foreign countries, and on the sixteenth day of May last wholly the property of a citizen or citizens of the United States, and so continuing until the time of importation, twelve and a half per centum ad valorem.
- On other enumerated articles, 10 per centum ad valorem.
- On all looking-glasses, window and other glass (except black quart bottles),
- On all China, stone and earthen ware,
- On gunpowder,
- On all paints ground in oil,
- On shoe and knee buckles,
- On gold and silver lace, and
- On gold and silver leaf,
- On other enumerated articles, 7 1/2 per ct. ad valorem.
- On all blank books,
- On all writing, printing or wrapping paper, paper-hangings and pasteboard,
- On all cabinet wares,
- On all buttons,
- On all saddles,
- On all gloves of leather,
- On all hats of beaver, fur, wool, or mixture of either,
- On all millinery ready made,
- On all castings of iron, and upon slit and rolled iron,
- On all leather tanned or tawed, and all manufacture of leather, except such as shall be otherwise rated,
- On canes, walking sticks and whips,
- On clothing ready made,
- On all brushes,
- On gold, silver, and plated ware, and on jewelry and paste work,
- On anchors, and on all wrought, tin, and pewter ware,
- On playing cards, per pack, ten cents.
- On every coach, chariot or other four wheel carriage, and on every chaise, solo, or other two wheel carriage, or parts thereof
- On all other goods, except certain articles, 5 per cent. on the value at the time and place of importation.
- On all other goods, wares and merchandise, five per centum on the value thereof at the time and place of importation. . . . [there is more!]
Now that’s quite an oppressive list. George III’s tyranny was mild in comparison to Congress’ and Hamilton’s. But this was just a beginning. Within a year, they increased the rates in some cases by a factor of two or even three. Then they did it again in 1792.
Tariffs ultimately became a sectional war between northern manufacturing and southern agriculture—and the political battle led to the Civil War.
At the same time they began levying excise taxes—taxes on specific domestic items. The first of these came with the “Whisky Act” of 1791—a tax on all domestically distilled spirits. This led to rural producers revolting in the so-called Whisky Rebellion—a tax revolt not much different than the Tea Party and other tax revolts against Britain before the revolution. But this time, instead of having their Continental government behind them, and the option of calling militias from other States to choose whether or not to fight and on what side, the rebels watched their government conscript an army of 13,000 men to be used against them. Washington and Hamilton—reliving old glory-days on the battle field—personally led the charge on horseback.
So the American government almost immediately became a tyranny measurably many times worse than Britain herself would have ever considered. Taxation with representation did not look as great up close as it had at a distance.
Then, things got really bad. How was the freedom lost, you ask?
It was lost with those Hamilton Tariffs of 1789, 1790, and 1792.
It was lost with the Whisky Tax of 1791.
It was lost with the excise taxes raised to offset the loss in tariff revenue during the War of 1812.
It was lost with the Tariffs of 1816 (raised to pay off the debts of the War of 1812).
It was lost with the protectionist Tariff of 1824, and its sister Act—the “Abomination”—in 1828 which raised the rates.
It was lost with the Morrill Tariff in 1861. This established the highest rates in U.S. history, and set a precedent that reigned until Woodrow Wilson.
It was lost with the first income tax in 1861, and again in 1862. The Confederacy did the same thing in 1863. Income tax was a bipartisan (North and South) abuse. This lasted for ten years. After a landmark Supreme Court case in 1895, blanket income taxes were considered unconstitutional. Congress sulked. Wait! No problem! Just pass an Amendment to the Constitution!
It was lost then again in 1913 with the Sixteenth amendment and the Revenue Act of 1913. This measure was championed by progressives of both the Democrat and Republican stripe. Since that time, the income tax brackets have been monkeyed with a few dozen times: the lowest tax bracket has not dipped below 10% since 1933. The highest has reached as high as 92%, though is currently at 35% due to the “Bush tax cuts.”
It was lost during and immediately after the Civil War in a series of excise taxes on, again, liquor. This led to the whole legacy of ridge-runners, moonshiners, and their enemies, the revenuers. This led also to the creation of two agencies involved, respectively, with alcohol and the taxation of it—the ATF and the IRS.
It was lost as federal excise taxes today persist on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, tanning, fuel sources, gas mileage, coal, phone line usage, trucking, vaccines, water transportation, fishing gear, harbor maintenance, airline tickets, jet fuel, and tires.
It was lost when FDR invented “Social Security.”
It was lost as Social Security taxes have been raised 20 times since 1933 to keep propping up the failed socialistic system (beginning at 1%, and reaching to 6.2% today—for both employer and employee).
It was lost when LBJ piggy-backed Medicare onto Social Security, in 1965. The result meant another payroll tax on top of Social Security.
It was lost as Medicare taxes have been raised eight times since 1965—beginning at the promised 0.35%, and ending at 1.45% today (for both employer and employee), an increase of 414%.
And this is considering only federal taxes. Local and especially State governments impose their own versions of these same taxes on top of the Feds. I have seen “total tax burden” per nation considered as a “percentage of GDP”; the U.S. comes in high among western nations with just under a 30% total tax burden. But this is misleading in only regarding income taxes. This does not consider Social Security and Medicare, as well as State, Federal, and Local taxes of every stripe. Including these would send the American percentage much, much higher (to say nothing of the total in other countries).
How was the freedom lost? It was lost for many reasons throughout many phases. We trusted the Federal government. We trust all levels of government to treat us well. They have instead financially raped us. From 1789 until today, we have watched as Washington has gradually taken our money and spent it on frivolities and money pits. Meanwhile, great ideas have come and gone, garnering barely an acknowledgement from the masters above.
Need we say more? We had something close to freedom in taxation. It was lost. And, it was lost decisively in the areas of income, and public choice in schooling, hospitals, etc. There is no doubt taxes are not only too high, but out of control.
We have seen how freedom in regard to taxation was lost. The question is, of course, how to get it back. We will talk about that in the next discussion.
Next section: How to slash taxes by biblical proportions
This is without question the most important election in our lifetimes. At least that’s what the pundits—not to mention the campaigns themselves—say.
It seems to be true, though, except for the last election, when they said the same thing.
Yeah, it’s true. When Romney was taking on Obama in 2012, conservative icon Dennis Prager was quite clear. Even acknowledging that the “most important election” cliché is “the usual description of presidential elections,” he nevertheless pressed it as “true this time.” In fact, 2012 was not just the most important in our lifetime, but “possibly since America’s founding.”
Of course, there was at least one person who disagreed.
Just two years before he had called the 2010 midterm elections “not simply the most important of my lifetime. It is the most important since the Civil War.”
According to a chronicle by the Atlantic, Rush Limbaugh acted out the same drama: 2012 was the most important, but so was 2010.
Except, in Limbaugh’s case, he also said the same thing about Bush vs. Gore in 2000: “No question about it. This is the most important election in our history.”
If you haven’t figured out from just this much that the media—beloved or bewitching—is playing you over and over, then read, oh, just a couple more (see bottom of article for sources):
2008 Senators Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, and Barack Obama each called it “the most important election in my lifetime.”
According to The American Scholar, “McCain and Senator Hillary Clinton, upped the ante to ‘a century or more’ and ‘in our nation’s history’ respectively.”
2008 Rudy Giuliani: “2008 is the most important election in our lifetime.”
2008 Caroline Kennedy: “this is the most important election since I was a child.”
2004 Sen. John Kerry (vs. G. W. Bush): “My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime.”
2000 DNC Chair Joseph Andrew (on G. W. Bush vs. Al Gore): “It’s certainly the most important election of my lifetime.”
1996 Ralph Reed (describing Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole): “the most important election of our lifetime.”
1996 Newt Gingrich (on Clinton v. Dole): “the most important election in 100 years.”
Gingrich would repeat the same mantra about his own bid for the White House in 2012.
1996 John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO: “the most critical election in the long history of the American labor movement.”
1992 Bill Clinton (vs. G. H. W. Bush): “the most important election in a generation.”
1988 Sen. Robert C. Byrd (describing G. H. W. Bush vs. Dukakis): “It may be the most important election of this century.”
1984 Ronald Reagan (vs. Walter Mondale): “This is the most important election in this nation in 50 years.”
1984 Walter Mondale (vs. Raegan): “This is the most important election of our lives. This is a race we can’t afford to lose.”
1980 Nancy Reagan (on Reagan vs. Carter): “This is the most important election of my life.”
1976 Gerald Ford (vs. Jimmy Carter): “I think this election is one of the most vital in the history of America.”
1960 Nixon and Kennedy each said it was the “most important election”
1952 Harry Truman (on Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson): “I believe also that this is one of the most important, if not the most important, election since the Civil War.”
1924 Joseph Levenson (describing Calvin Coolidge vs. John Davis): “I look upon the coming election as the most important in the history of this country since the Civil War.”
(In that same year, 1924, Phyllis Schlafly was born. She died this year, but not before she said 2016 “could be the most important presidential election of our lifetime.”)
1864 Abraham Lincoln (vs. George B. McClellan): “We have had many important elections, but never one so important as that now approaching…. The republic is approaching what is to be one of the most important elections in its history.”
1856 Sen. Stephen Douglas (on Buchanan vs. Frémont vs. Filmore): declared the nation was facing the most important election since 1800.
I am sure there are more, I’ve just reached the point of diminishing returns for finding them. I hope you get the point. There has probably not been a single election in our history which some politico has not windjammed about “the most important election” and probably convinced many.
It’s so bad that in some cases I have seen, the pundit is so aware they’re repeating what the LA Times called “the most overused superlative ever” that they preface their statements something like this: “I know they say this every election, but this time it’s true, and here’s why. . . .” Prager, for one, used this tactic, noting that this time he’s not crying wolf!
I write this little exposé because after yesterday’s article, some people reacted with abject panic: “then what do we do! One of these two is going to end up in the White House! SCOTUS justices are at stake! Hillary hates America! But Trump’s so bad! What do we do! This could be the most important election ever!”
This panic suggests these readers have little sense of history and/or have not read or understood much that American Vision has been doing since 1978. They have not gotten the central messages of God and Government and Restoring America One County at a Time.
The first book taught us that all government starts with self-government and family government. Yet Christians continue to act as if they can fix this nation via the centralized powers of Washington, D.C., before they get their own houses and churches in order. It. Won’t. Happen. And trying to do so is bad stewardship.
The second book teaches how our most fixable problems and their solutions are local and personal. So, for example, if you won’t get your kids out of socialistic government schools, quit complaining about the social agenda of the left. If you can’t confront the out-of-control debt spending in your own county, quit complaining about Washington and Hillary. She’s not the problem. You are. You could fix your own socialism, at least some of it, and you don’t. That’s why people like her keep winning.
Likewise, our greatest evils have come from us constantly calling for national level solutions (both left and right), to the point we are now so deeply dependent upon federal money and programs. This has been true since the ink was wet on the Constitution.
Without question, there have been important elections in U.S. history, but with few exceptions, the most important things in U.S. history have not occurred because of elections, and will not be solved by them. Until conservatives in general, and Christians especially, understand this, they will continue to lose ground no matter who is president, and the last state of the house will be worse than the first.
When that time comes, you will hear all the pundits and politicians of the world trying to convince us that the election of 2020, or 2056, is the most important election ever. They will only be pandering to their markets, and there will only be one dupe to blame.
It is certainly not news that American Vision encourages Christian to be involved in politics, law, and government. Brother DeMar long ago wrote God and Government as well as Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths for these very purposes. I, for one, have been especially critical of the American pulpit and its failure to preach biblical law, thus abandoning the legacy of the early Americans that made this nation great to begin with. But there is a big caveat to this need, and many evangelicals who heed the call to preach politics create even greater problems by missing it.
It is not enough to “preach politics.” Instead, you must preach politics correctly. That is, you must preach biblical law, and you must preach it radically, fully, faithfully, consistently, without compromise, and without fear.
What we get more often than not, however, when evangelical leaders “preach politics,” is a watered-down version of “Christian principles” that does little more than baptize the establishment parties and serves as a biblical veneer for unbiblical options. Instead of a radical, prophetic declaration to God’s people and the powers that be, such “preaching politics” becomes a means of rendering Christians subservient supporters of the major parties, cowering in absolute fear of the other. No matter how objectionable the characters or policies are from a biblical law point of view, such leaders end up with their fingers to the current political winds to determine what they demand we support.
Take for example, the now-infamous, adamant whitewashing of Trump by Wayne Grudem. Brother Grudem has found himself in the now-unpopular position of having called this character a “good moral choice” when the whole world already knew differently. The wind now tells the finger to push “delete” on his previous post and to post a retraction so stark that Grudem now demands Trump resign from the race.
Grudem’s apology includes the following:
Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.
The problem here is that he didn’t have to do any investigation. Everybody in the world responded to him with “some of these materials” immediately after he posted, making it clear what “moral character” he had just endorsed. Worse yet, Grudem’s own original article (now deleted) in it’s opening paragraph acknowledged Trump “has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages” as a particular flaw (read: sin).
So what, repeated marital infidelity and bragging about it can be overlooked, but bragging about grabbing a woman’s pussy cannot? Some sexual sins are tolerable in a presidential candidate, but others are not? Note: the difference here is not one of a biblical law principle, but only of degree of coarseness and social acceptability. By what principle does Grudem draw such an arbitrary line for qualifications of a godly civil ruler? Worse, the acknowledgement betrays the fact that he did know some of Trump’s views of women, he just chose to overlook them while there seemed to be a small window of acceptability to do so.
Further, because the only difference here is in the degree of the sin, in reality all of the arguments Grudem made in his previous post, overlooking sexual sin, still stand. Thus, even though he pulls his endorsement, his new apologetic article still leaves it as a likely possibility that he will be voting for Trump anyway!
The multiple ironies and inconsistencies are mind-numbing, but Grudem’s underlying theology of government makes them understandable. When you reject the clarity given by biblical laws and how they are applied in the New Covenant, you end up having to make up your own definitions and standards for how things like “love your neighbor” and “thou shalt not covet” and “homosexuals shall not inherit the kingdom,” etc. What almost always ensues is some form of conservative “Christian” tyranny in an attempt to stop some form of leftist tyranny, in areas biblical law would strip the civil governments of power to be begin with. Or, when the power is not actually in one’s hands to impose such conservative “Christian” tyrannies, preachers and theologians stoop of all kinds of pragmatism in order to obtain it.
Such a venture inevitably leaves such leaders, once in a while, in the embarrassing situation of having prostituted their few assets—discernment, critical thinking, reputation, and voice—in service of scoundrels.
So, we find Grudem opening his new piece, “I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character.” Not only did he know better to begin with, but this returns us to our main point: Christian leaders getting involved in politics is not enough. You have to do it right: according to biblical law and without compromise.
Yes, Wayne, you should have condemned his moral character more strongly, but something about your perception, your theology, and perhaps your fears and hopes at the time prevented you from taking that step—a step that would certainly have undermined your whole purpose in endorsing Trump to begin with. And you, and all preachers like you, should also have done so in a thousand other instances that they didn’t.
Just as you should have condemned his moral character more strongly, but remained silent about it while you endorsed him, so you should consistently be condemning the idolatry of Mormon candidates, the warmongering of others, the theft and socialism of public education, welfare, Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, property taxation, federal income taxes, standing armies, administrative courts, the counterfeiting of fiat money and fractional reserve banking, police abuses, immunity for police and prosecutors, judicial double standards, the erosion of not only free speech and religious liberty, but of Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights for the accused, the weak, the marginalized, minorities, and all others who are more vulnerable. You should more strongly condemn the judicial-prison-industrial complex, the War on Drugs, the TSA, the police state, the medical-industrial complex, apathy and complacency on abortion and the pro-life industrial complex, etc., etc., etc.
The same process plays out everywhere preachers and theologians depart from strict applications of biblical law, yet justify it in the name of the Bible, “biblical principles,” “wisdom,” or even worse, some vague “common good” to which Christians are allegedly obligated.
When you allow biblical law to define your bounds of love, then you’ll have no problem refusing the evils entirely, and leaving the inevitable judgment of the wicked establishments in the hands of God. Modern Christians are just like the ancient Israelites who had God’s explicit promise to be with them and protect them from their enemies, yet they chose to reject God’s law and erect a wicked military establishment patterned after their pagan neighbors, assuming this would protect them better than God (1 Sam. 8). Christians today have God’s explicit promise that the church cannot fail in her great commission, it will destroy the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18–19), and that He will be with us always (Matt. 28:18–20), and that He shall reign from his heavenly throne until all His enemies are under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24–26; Heb. 10:12–13); yet we act and vote like we don’t believe any of these promises from God, or indeed like we reject God completely in exchange for methods and standards of government patterned after the pagans around us.
In short, preaching politics is not enough. When you reject the restraints of biblical law, preaching politics is not much more than aiding and abetting the enemy in his quest to destroy the dominion of God’s law in society. You may do so with good intentions and in the name of the Bible, but without the very substance the Bible gives for this purpose, you undermine and blaspheme the cause and its Author.
Be clear: this is not just about the embarrassment of having to retract your endorsement. It’s about the danger you pose to society when you try to promote Christian influence without biblical standards to do it. It’s one thing to embarrass yourself before men. It’s quite another to mislead a whole nation before God.
I recommend you read this long article, “A Libertarian Icon’s Descent into Racist Pseudoscience,” for at least a couple reasons:
First, it exposes a soft underbelly of certain segments of the secular (although many hold the same beliefs while professing to be Christians, Romans Catholics, etc.) libertarian world. This is a latent, or sometimes purposeful but covert, racism. I have suspected this and caught glimpses of it for some time, and I believe it has deep roots in the “libertarian” world going back at least to the segregation era.
To think that anti-black and white supremacy sentiments could be so prevalent in society as to lead to lynchings and burnings of blacks as late as the 1960s—barely over a generation ago—is difficult for many to comprehend today. But not only do you need to comprehend it, you need to realize that the mobs of people who harbored such widespread racism and hatred did not just disappear once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. They may have been dissuaded from certain actions and expressions under threat of criminal punishment and decreasing social acceptability, but they learned to hide their true meanings under various guises: opposition to things like “communism,” “multiculturalism,” “cultural Marxism,” or “the New World Order.” The latest euphemism seems to be “Human Biodiversity.”
Where legitimate biblical values and organizations overlap with the professed beliefs of such people, they often find a home: property rights, “liberty,” “freedom of religion,” “western civilization,” “Christian society,” etc. Thus, groups that may have perfectly laudable purposes in general—libertarian economics, Christian worldview, etc.—may often be followed, supported, infiltrated, or even led, by covert racists or sympathizers with racialist nonsense. Some proponents may be open champions on property rights and Christian values, but what they fully mean beneath those terms is a mostly white society, or a white-dominated society. Again, there are various degrees of such belief, as well as various levels of ability to articulate it.
The Trump campaign has emboldened many of these people, intentionally or not. Some such people may even say they would never vote for a Trump, but they secretly and strongly hope he wins because of his perceived stance against Mexican and Muslims immigrants.
It was a bit of a head scratcher for me the other day when Lew Rockwell posted an openly pro-Trump interview and commentary, but the article mentioned above helps make sense of it. Rothbard—despite himself being a Jew—bought into some of the racialist work on IQ, likely of The Bell Curve infamy. Stefan Molyneux, the main subject of the article, has grown quite open in applying this tradition, as the article relates:
Memorable is Molyneux’s reaction to German president Joachim Gauck, who stated, “To understand the opportunity of immigration, more Germans need to say farewell to their image of a nation that is very homogeneous, predominantly German-speaking, Christian, and fair-skinned…. I think we need to redefine ‘nation’ as a community of diverse people who accept common values.”
To this, Molyneux shoots back:
Well, they all have to accept “common values.” I would ask this guy: is it easier for white, Christian Germans to have white, Christian babies and to teach them German values and have them grow up speaking German, and have them have the same IQ, ethnicity, and so on—is it easier to do that, or is it easier to import low-IQ, rapey people from north Africa, who don’t speak your language, pay them on welfare, have them sit on ghettos, not integrate into the community? Is that how you get them to accept common values? Because you have a choice. Every migrant who comes in is a European who won’t be born. [Emphasis Molyneux’s.]
Elsewhere Molyneux laments,
London is now majority nonwhite in England…. People are like, “It’s uncomfortable to talk about this stuff.” Well, you know, it’s also uncomfortable for high levels of criminality and rape in your society. That’s kind of uncomfortable. [Emphasis Molyneux’s.]
The author’s commentary is the same as mine would be:
Note the presumption that if there are high levels of “criminality and rape” in London, the cause of this must necessarily be London being “majority nonwhite” per se.
There is no good reason Rockwell would post anything associated with such nonsense on his site unless it were 1) a high personal allegiance and friendship with Molyneux, 2) a secret allegiance to Trump, or 3) acceptance of the racialist/IQ theory coming through Rothbard’s influence.
I think the latter makes most sense here, and it is likely also why Lew completely abandons every principle he stands for when it comes to the issue of immigration. Prejudice is the mother of inconsistency.
To be quite frank, this problem does not exist only in the secular libertarian world. Hardly. It bleeds into so-called “paleo-conservatism” as well as broader areas of the conservative world. The same impulses characterize the work in many ways of such men as Pat Buchanan and Charles Murray (again, Bell Curve infamy). Murray, for example, in his latest book still holds out hope that his genetic explanations of culture will be vindicated:
“I am predicting that over the next few decades advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding, leading to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons, rooted in the mechanisms of human evolution, why little boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence not socialized to the norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and to hold jobs. . . . These same reasons explain why society’s attempts to compensate for the lack of married biological fathers don’t work and never will work.”1
Likewise, the fringe right (not just the openly racist segments of the “alt-right”) partakes of the same problems. Not too long ago Gary North eviscerated the documentary Agenda for fearmongering about a dead ideology. The documentary was made by well-meaning Christians and actually was awarded the grand prize at the now-defunct Vision Forum’s San Antonio Film Festival. But it was wrong headed, and the professing Christian Reconstructionists and intellectual leaders of that organization could not see the obvious problem.
I see it all over the conservative and Christian world: fear of this boogeyman “Cultural Marxism.” Just this last week I saw it decried by a prominent leader of a Christian legal defense group, as well as by a celebrity conservative leader. Likewise, I see it decried by Molyneux’s interviewee, Paul Joseph Watson, of Inofwars.com fame. I see it everywhere on the lips of libertarians and conservatives. But when I go looking for the actual origins of it, it appears to be American and quite recent—nowhere near Marx. William S. Lind (another Lew Rockwell columnist) gives us a little history that stems from yet another hard-core right/libertarian, Paul Weyrich.
What Lind doesn’t tell you, however, is that there is no such thing as “Cultural Marxism,” because it is an oxymoron. Gary North, again, has written a detailed article on this, so I won’t retread that ground. The term is absolute nonsense to anyone who understands what Marxism is. The bottom line is that by continually harping about “cultural Marxism,” such conservatives only accomplish two things: 1) they announce themselves to the world as ignorant (which serves as confirmation to most of the world, which already thinks they’re ignorant), and 2) they tip their hand that they may be motivated by racial prejudices (which serves as confirmation to most of the world, which already thinks they’re racists).
Second, this article is important not only for exposing such connections (personally and ideologically), but for laying to rest some of the pseudoscience that supports the beliefs. I, for one, was grateful and impressed to read the following section:
Consider this example from Canadian journalist Doug Saunders. The leaders of an impoverished country invited an Australian management consultant to observe their places of business and to advise them on how they could improve productivity. The consultant reported back to them that the situation was hopeless: “My impression as to your cheap labor was soon disillusioned when I saw your people at work. No doubt they are lowly paid, but the return is equally so; to see your men to work made me feel that you are a very satisfied and easy-going race who reckon time is no object.”
This was in the year 1915, and the slothful employees the consultant was reporting on were Japanese. From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, East Asians held a reputation among English speakers for being lazy. For his part, Fabian socialist writer Sidney Webb—a pioneer in the eugenics movement—wrote to fellow socialist eugenicist George Bernard Shaw in 1911, “The Koreans are 12 millions of dirty, degraded, sullen, lazy and religionless savages who slouch about in dirty white garments of the most inept kind and who live in filthy mudhuts.”
During the late 1860s and early 1870s, scores of white Californians saw Chinese immigrant laborers in terms similar to those that Trump and Molyneux have used to describe Mexicans. The Chinese were reviled for forming ghettos and not being able to assimilate into American culture. They were blamed for bringing in drugs, particularly opium. They were hated for engaging in crimes such as prostitution. And Chinese men were presumed to be rapists. Jacob Sullum writes of the popularity of the era’s “image of the sinister Chinaman who lured white women into his opium den, turning them into concubines, prostitutes, or sex slaves.” To use Molyneux’s term, the same East Asians whom Molyneux now ostensibly admires as industrious and family-oriented were the ones prior generations of “race realists” presumed to be “rapey people.”
My how times change! But the arguments don’t seem to. Just the targeted non-white group.
I think you should read the whole article. I cannot vouch for the worldview of the author, but the information presented is very helpful.
My point also is not to say that any and everyone associated with the secular libertarian world is supportive of such racism, or that we should abandon the writings of Rothbard and the Austrian schools, etc. By no means. I am not sure what percentage of leadership and following would be implicated. It may be small, but it is obviously large enough to come to the surface repeatedly when something so marginal as a Trump campaign stirs it.
And the retort that will come—“But Lew Rockwell also runs articles from Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, and they’re black!”—will need a little more meat on its bones to be impressive to me. I love much of the writings of these gentlemen, but if “guilt by association” is wrong, so is “vindication by association.” I want to hear about the biblical perspective on the issue compared to how individuals express themselves on it, not merely who’s friends with who, or who holds up who else’s books for sale.
- Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2000 (New York: Crown Forum, 2012, 299.
Recently we discussed a sermon that gave prominent lip-service to “God’s law” in society while assiduously avoiding any specifics. (There’s a real silver lining to this, btw, which we’ll discuss in a later article.) The sermon we reviewed was part 2 in a 2-part series, and part 1 is actually more remarkable in a number of ways, especially in regard to how premillennial eschatology can destroy whatever else good your theology has to offer society.
In the first part of his series, “Who is God’s Candidate,” John MacArthur, Jr. not only gives just as much token talk to God’s law as in the part we previously reviewed, he actually spends a good bit of time preaching from the historical sanctions sections in Deuteronomy 28 and 29. He goes so far as to argue that these type of sanctions do not only apply to ancient Israel, but to all nations in all times and places. In short, he actually argues that God still judges nations today, in history, according to His law.
This is a fairly radical contradistinction to most premillennialists, although, again, without any specific discussion of the details God’s law requires for society and social institutions, such talk is empty. What good does it do to know about judgment in history according to God’s law if we don’t have specific knowledge of how to apply that law? Nevertheless, such an appeal to Deuteronomy 28 and 29 is something Reconstructionists have been teaching for decades, and our premillennial opponents have been denying and using as a point of criticism against us. So this seems huge.
But then the great blade in the premillennial guillotine finally drops.
Remember the America that was, some of you? This is not a Christian nation; there’s no such thing. It never has been a Christian nation. Even the founding fathers were not true Christians. But they did understand that Christianity was a fix necessity, because it established divine law; and when people knew that this was law from God, it controlled their behavior. Biblical ethics, biblical patterns of morality were honored, respected, and expected. Marriage, family, virtue, work, relationships, success were all connected to noble ideals that are found in Scripture. That’s long gone, long gone, unlikely to ever appear in the lifetime of anybody sitting here, because evil men just get worse and worse.
Even if we could set aside the problems we formerly discussed, as well as a few other foibles found here—even if MacArthur’s overall appeal for God’s law in society were robust, detailed, correct, and sincere—in the end, his eschatology slices down and leaves the whole theology headless and in a pool of blood.
Social theory giveth, and eschatology taketh away.
We have discussed this problem so many, many, many, many, many, many times. It very often comes in the form of this misapplication of 2 Timothy 3. Gary DeMar has busted the “worse and worse” myth more times than can be counted. For example, he recently wrote,
[T]his type of thinking prevails more than one would think. Jan Markell is a believer in an end-time scenario that demands the return of Jesus in our generation to rescue us from inevitable doom. Until that happens, do not look for and do not expect to be successful at any type of long-term societal transformation. In fact, to participate in this type of work Markell tells her audience is “delusional” and will keep “people out of heaven.” We are most fortunate that there were enough people centuries ago who were not hoodwinked by an eschatological claim like hers. What would Christians who follow Markell’s end-time worldview be saying and doing today if they were faced with calls to abolish the slave trade and build long-lasting productive cultures? Markell uses 2 Timothy 3:13 to support her end-time claims:
There is no Biblical support for this belief, for the Bible teaches just the opposite. In the end of days, bad things will wax worse and worse until the world calls out for a savior.
Second Timothy 3:13 actually says, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (KJV). For twenty centuries, billions of people have called out to Jesus to be their savior and have gone on to do marvelous things in God’s name. It says nothing about “until the world calls out for a savior.” Earlier in the same chapter, Paul told Timothy that these evil people “will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two [Jannes and Jambres] came to be” (v. 8). While the ungodly self-destruct, Timothy was to “continue in the things” he had “learned and become convinced of” (v. 14). Providentially, the history of the church is the history of men and women following Paul’s instructions and not the speculations of people like Markell.
I would love to think JMac is making some changes for the better, but as I discussed previously, this is not the case. Even if it were true in regard to God’s law, it would not matter because this eschatology robs any good social theory of its power. Any appeal for greater influence of Christianity in society is dead in the face of a belief that it can’t and won’t happen, and premillennialism’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.
You are correct if you think you hear some echoes of Reconstruction in sermons like these, but you need to take the next step. Start reading specific applications, start making specific applications yourself, and dump the unbiblical, pessimistic eschatology. The longer you remain in it, the worse and worse your worldview will get.
It is always encouraging to see missionaries taking the Gospel to South America, Asia, Haiti, the Middle East, different jungles all around the world, and of course, Africa. However, it is always interesting to me that we so often fly over the obvious mission fields of our neighbors in order to get to these foreign ones.
For example, although there are many buildings on every corner in the inner cities of America that claim to be churches, you will rarely find sound theology. This is not to say that every church in the inner city is preaching heresy. Neither is this to say that every church in the suburbs has sound theology. Obviously that would be taking my point to the extreme either way. We know God always has a remnant and that he does use people who do not necessarily have a big name in a mighty way. Because we know God is faithful, we know his word is indeed going forth in inner cities all throughout America in different ways. We also know that there is still much work to be done in the suburbs as well, especially as new communities are always being built.
A strange observation
It seems to be the norm, however, that when you search for a solid church that has a high view of the scriptures, a sound view of soteriology, and a sound view of the Godhead, you will end up in predominantly Caucasian, suburban areas and in predominantly Caucasian churches. You may find a solid church that is in the heart of downtown or in the “urban” areas of town. These churches typically can be diverse. As of recent years you hear a lot about “urban missions” or church planting in “urban” areas. The term is a little loose and can be taken in different ways. Some people use it when they mean they are going to plant a church downtown or where the city life is. A few use it to refer to neighborhoods in the inner city that are predominantly black. However, we see more churches being planted in those safe “downtown”—areas of “urban renewal” programs where the government has spent millions of dollars to make vibrant commercial centers, and thus where the “city life” is.
I think it is great that the Gospel is going forth in the suburbs of America and has been for years. I am also thankful for the Gospel going forth in urban areas. I am thankful for the missionaries that are launched from these suburban and urban churches to go overseas to risk their lives for the Gospel. It is strange to me, however, that we pour millions of dollars into overseas missionaries every year, yet offer barely any money for church planting in the inner city. Again, I am not saying no one is doing it, yet especially among what we call Reformed Churches, it is rare. I have had countless conversations about this subject with brothers who are in churches in the suburban context as well as pastors who lead those churches, and no one has given an explanation as to how this is justified. Maybe someone has a good answer. I have not found it.
Why the neglect?
From my estimation, people simply don’t perceive that the need is as great as it is in places like Africa. In other cases, people are fearful, people don’t care, or people don’t believe they will be received. But those who hold to Reformed theology should be the first ones who can easily see there is a great need in the inner cities of America, specifically in black communities. It amazes me that many conservative Christians can quickly quote to you how many abortions happen every day among the black community, the statistics of black-on-black crime, the statistics of fatherless homes in the black community, and the incarceration rate of black men, yet based on their level of outreach to these same urban communities, they seem to believe the Gospel is spreading and bearing fruit here. This is not to say the alleged external morality of the suburban neighborhoods means there is no need, but we can clearly see these epidemics in the inner cities and recognize something is clearly missing. Even non-believers can see there is something wrong, which is why you have nonprofit organizations being created every day to try to meet the needs of the community.
How is it that people are fearful to cross the railroad tracks in their own city, yet they are unashamed of the Gospel when they move their whole families overseas, expose themselves to all kinds of diseases, learn new languages, new cultures, new foods and new living conditions? It is an honor to be able to support people who are going overseas and I believe we should. I also believe we have a job in our own back yards. Our church supports foreign missionaries, yet I get a weird feeling when I get a phone call or an email from a brother who is being supported by his suburban church to go to Africa, asking our church that meets in a ghetto in America to support them financially. I take no offense and neither does it make me bitter, yet it just amazes me how many I know of that are being sent off like this. So many believe God has “called” them to the mission field overseas. If that is true, is it not fair to ask whether has God forgotten to send some of them across town? Why has God not showed them the great need 30 miles away? Why is it easier to learn the ways of a whole new continent than it is to cross the bridge?
During this time in our nation, many churches are yelling for “racial reconciliation” or “ethnic conciliation.” Although I know true reconciliation is occurring in many places, I think much of what I see is merely a show. I don’t even believe many people in the church know what they want from one another to be honest. That is not the main point of this article, but I bring it up to make another. One attempted solution has been this big diversity movement. Many people are screaming we need more diversity in the church. We hear that Sunday is the most segregated day in America. This is laughable, because people make it seem like it is a mutual offense. Although we know some African Americans are bitter towards the Caucasian community, for the most part this is by design. Segregation of the church did not start with segregation of the church; it started with the legal segregation in our country. This article also does not intend to go in detail about systemic injustice, though it definitely plays a part in why I believe our communities are neglected. Even if segregation never existed, we cannot scream diversity in the church when white-flight exists in the communities.
There was a point in time when whites did not want African Americans at their seminaries, now they are begging them to come. There was a time where African Americans were not welcome in leadership in white churches, now we are screaming diversity. If we look at the origin of the A.M.E church, that will spell it out for us. This is not to sound bitter, but now that white people are ready for reconciliation, blacks are welcome in their churches, seminaries and coalitions yet to be supported outside of these groups is another thing. I believe that is rooted in our individualistic culture. In the book of Acts you see one church. In America you see a body divided.
Most African Americans who are introduced to Reformed theology usually find a good church home in the suburbs. This is usually away from their own community, and they have to assimilate to a new one. Of course, some African Americans have lived their whole lives around white people. Those, however, who come from a predominantly black community in America, and end up in these churches to learn of Jesus, also learn to despise their own community. Of course, we want all believers to hate the sinfulness of their culture, yet I am speaking of the influence to conform not only to the image of Christ, but the European Christ. As one of my brothers put it, “Christianity is not the white man’s religion, however the Christianity in America is the white man’s religion.”
There is far too much to write to describe the experiences of most black people I know when going to a predominantly white church. This is not to say the overall experience in white churches is horrific, there is a bright side. Most black brothers and sisters I know, however, are taught there of all of the great puritans, theologians, and fathers of the faith, none of whom were of their skin color, and they are shown a white Jesus that was on their walls and the large family bibles in the living room growing up. The only word they hear about Martin Luther King, Jr. is that he was a heretic. They hear that all the music and preaching they grew up on was just hyper-emotional. Some even go so far as to say that if it weren’t for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, we would still be practicing witchcraft in a jungle somewhere. The constant criticism of every bad thing whites associate with blacks historically, and the constant praise of every good thing from white European history, tends to cause the African American subconsciously to despise being black, and to despite their own communities. African Americans are rarely taught of the widespread presence of Christianity in Africa in the first century, of George Lisle the first American Missionary, of all of the African and African American contributors to our faith, and how some of the theologians we look up to first looked up to Africans for their understanding of Scripture and theology.
For hundreds of years African Americans were told by whites that their color meant they were not even human. Today they are told they need to be colorblind and just find their identity in Christ. By God’s grace, however, African Americans all over America are humbling themselves to endure these uncomfortable settings for the sake of the Gospel and the love of the brethren.
In the midst of the cry for diversity in churches, I do not see white evangelicals as a majority coming to serve the needs of predominantly black churches or black pastors. Neither do I see many white evangelical churches, which have the resources, reaching out to help plant many churches in black communities. It is happening, but it is definitely not the norm. Most people know that planting a church in the inner city is a struggle financially, yet we are more often told “we will be praying.”
Some churches are willing to support African Americans to plant churches in the inner cities as long as they join their denomination, network, or go in debt to get a degree from a seminary to meet their qualifications of an elder. Two things that are wrong with this picture. First, most people don’t believe they have to send an African American missionary to Africa, or a Mexican American to Mexico, or an Asian American to Asia, yet the only way to reach the black community in America is to send an African American? This is not consistent. Second, most black men who get their degrees through those seminaries do not go back to the inner city context. They are most likely going to serve as the associate pastor somewhere in a predominantly white church or a somewhat diverse context if at all. If they attempt to go back to the inner city, they had better not hold their breath for support. Dallas Theological Seminary, in recent years, is just now acknowledging how they had never sent any black men to pastor predominantly white churches. So basically it has historically been a lose-lose.
I believe the neglect of the church to reach the black community specifically in the inner cities explains the huge disconnect in understanding the outcry of oppressions in society in general. This is why white and black evangelicals feel justified in ignoring the cries of the black community during injustices by calling them hypocrites. They can feel justified sitting in their own churches, because they know those blacks just need to make it make it to the white side of town to go to a church with sound doctrine, and then they will be ok. It is easier to sympathize with Africans in Africa because we spend millions of dollars to portray their suffering on TV and brochures. It is harder to understand the suffering and needs of Africans just down the road from us when we have little connection with the inner cities, they don’t make commercials about it, and we are too preoccupied to find out for ourselves. But without sound missions and sound churches, it should be no surprise when there is a rising of cults in the black communities. While the church neglects this community, the black consciousness movements, black liberation movements, black power movements, and more prey upon it, giving African Americans a false sense of dignity.
There is good news, however. In Chicago, for example, in the midst of all of the murders, brothers and sisters are gathering in homes all across the city bringing the gospel to the darkest areas. Likewise, in my former church in San Antonio, Texas, a white Pastor has intentionally moved to the inner city and is leading a church where some whites, blacks, Hispanics, and others have by faith sold their homes to move to the inner city to reach it with the Gospel and meet the needs of the community.
There are many other such testimonies, although these, again, are not the norm. Ministry in the inner city is risky in many ways, especially when you do not have any one holding the rope for you. It will take sacrifice, it will take money, it will take patience, and it will take faith, but so does being a missionary to other nations.
I don’t believe everyone is called to the inner city just like I don’t believe everyone is called to the suburbs, or the country, or Africa. I also do not believe the inner city is the only place that is being neglected, nor do I believe only black people live in the inner city. I don’t mean to guilt anyone into planting a church in the inner city or giving monetarily to church plants there. This also is not a cry for anyone to feel they need to be a savior to the black community. I do wish, however, this would provoke people to think and to ask questions that may stir them up to whatever good works that will exalt our Lord to the ends of the earth—especially those neglected ends that are so near us and filled often with millions. It is also good that there are many white Christians all over America who are striving to embrace their black brothers and sisters the best way they know and are displaying much fruit of the Gospel that is working in their hearts.
There is always a lot of talk here and there among Christians, Christian leaders, and Christ pundits concerning the so-called “culture war.” Most of it is disappointing at some level. Much of it is filled with pessimism and is deeply discouraging. Just a few comments for today:
Not too long ago, Todd Starnes published a column asking, “Have Christians Lost the Culture War?” Based upon a Lifeway Research survey, Starnes’s answer, while not definite, seemed to be “Yes.” The Southern Baptist survey reveals that 70 percent of pastors say religious liberty is on the decline, and 59 percent of Christians in general agree.
I can’t imagine this defeatism has anything to do with the far-prevalent eschatological view which expects Christian to lose, secularism to prevail, and Christians to be marginalized persecuted. More on that at another time, save to say sometimes ideology ought to be accounted for in opinion polls.
There is plenty of obliviousness in the report. Ed Stetzer, president of the survey’s research center, confessed he never saw this coming, and in fact thought just the opposite ten years ago. If so, it was only because such guys won’t listen to those who knew better all along. It was the hard-core Christian right that warned them all long ago. In 1999, after years already of religious right activism with his Free Congress Foundation, Paul Weyrich cried uncle:
I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. . . .
I don’t have all the answers or even all the questions. But I know that what we have been doing for thirty years hasn’t worked, that while we have been fighting and winning in politics, our culture has decayed into something approaching barbarism. We need to take another tack, find a different strategy.
Weyrich believed fifteen years ago that the titans of political correctness and “Cultural Marxism” had won, and that Christians could only at this time drop out of culture and begin rebuilding alternative institutions. He saw great promise in the homeschool movement. I suggest you read his whole letter for historical reference.
At least Weyrich still had a forward-looking view. My views in Restoring America are an essentially modified, though independent, version of some of his, with a bit more optimism for the long-run.
But men like Starnes seem to have no answer at all. It’s decline, marginalized and persecuted Christians, and nothing besides. No alternative, no vision. Starnes provides a long list of abuses of religious liberty—some exaggerated, but most obvious—in which Christians are indeed marginalized by public policy and court rulings. In the end, he echoes Reagan’s famous dictum: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” He concludes, “I’m afraid we may be ‘gone under.’” This is Titanic eschatology.
He’s not alone. One of the bigger disappointments I have witnessed in this regard was a talk given by Roman Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft, entitled, “How to Win the Culture War.” In an attempt to mimic C. S. Lewis, Kreeft pretended to speak as Screwtape to his audience. Not thirty seconds into the talk, Kreeft informed his audience that his topic was in fact not how to win the culture war, but rather how to lose the culture war.
Now that’s a significantly easier task, and is akin to pretty much everything else conservative Christians are selling and buying these days: just complain about every little advance of the enemy, and then raise moans of helplessness to each other. Do this very long and pretty soon, these Christians have compiled a pretty impressive resume for the enemy. They then cower in fear of his prowess, oblivious to the fact they have done his service and propaganda for him. Make a product out of it, and some Christians will pay richly to read or listen to it! Negative headlines are even a path to wealth for some Christian leaders.
I have to admit, however, Kreeft did come up with one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: Judas Iscariot was the first bishop to accept a government grant. It was 30 pieces of silver. If Kreeft would develop this theme, we might be getting somewhere.
Kreeft’s Screwtape informs Kreeft’s Wormwood that Christians (in his parlance, “Catholics”) will continue to lose the culture war as they have been spectacularly for the past five decades because of seven principles. Without rehearsing them all, many of which I appreciate, the first is, “Politicizing their faith.”
There is a good bit of his presentation with which I would agree, but I have issues with this number 1. Even here there is agreement, though. For example, it is wrong to relativize religious teachings while consequently absolutizing politics—especially a political party. To do so is to commit a form of idolatry. But given this proper insight, I am astounded that Kreeft can only a few sentences later denounce those who “use their religion to justify their political goals.” And this includes those who fight for right in regard to abortion, marriage, etc.
Now, again, I agree with much of what Kreeft critiques under this heading, but the point just made seems to me to introduce a particular contradiction from which many Christians suffer. That is, how can we on the one hand be guilty of diminishing religion because we “absolutize” politics, and yet on the other be guilty of subjecting politics to religion? Those are mutually exclusive efforts, and yet one of them must always be true. I would submit that political goals ought always to derive from religion—that is, from biblical law.
Perhaps Kreeft would say that by “using religion to justify their political goals,” he had in mind those who simply try to leverage the authority of religion in order to advance their pet political agenda which does not glorify God or line up with true religion. If so, then he has still admitted, implicitly, that there is indeed a political agenda that does line up with Scripture—there are political goals that are in fact justified by religion. It just so happens that those he’s criticizing are askew from those proper goals. But truly godly politics does exist. This ought to be the subject of elaboration.
Granted, Kreeft did shuck Screwtape two-thirds-way through his talk and instead proposed seven “Catholic” principles of how not to lose the culture war. But these were literally just the opposite as before. In fact, Kreeft even argues in such a way that makes the “How to win” a reactionary, defensive agenda compared to the enemy’s offensive. The “how to” points are mere attempts to negate the force of the enemy’s already establish points. In short, the enemy gets to set the agenda and terms of debate. Winning the culture war in this sense actually becomes merely surviving until we leave this realm and go to heaven.
There was nothing here about actually winning a “culture war” except following traditional Catholic ideas which involves an emphasis on separating between Christ and Caesar. As you may imagine, this involved the same dichotomies, and, in fact, added more. It devolves into Christ letting Caesar crucify Him not so Christ could win “this world” but “the next world.” We must not focus on the natural but the supernatural, not the temporal but the eternal.
With this type of focus heavenward, never-to-be-turned-earthward with any heavenly authority or expectation of accomplishment, there is no way anyone could even win a culture war. The theology, sovereignty, jurisdiction, mission, and eschatology are all neutered from the outset.
This type of dualism is little different than the most radical of “two kingdoms” theology; and as we may expect, the R2K proponents are just as unhelpful on the topic. Michael Horton, for example, argues that there really is no such thing as a culture war because “Christianity is not a culture.” Why not? Because there are these two kingdoms, and “culture” belongs only in the non-Christian “city of man” kingdom. Yes, it’s that bad: Horton literally argues, “Two kingdoms, two kings.” But this means Christ is not king in the earth! Horton writes,
There are two kings and two kingdoms, each ruling a distinct sphere. . . . In the kingdom of culture, what Augustine called “the city of man,” there are rulers, there are laws, there are customs which are regulated by human wisdom. In the kingdom of Christ, or “the city of God,” there is one ruler, our Lord Jesus Christ, and he advances his kingdom, not through marketing, not through legislation or police force, but by the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of his holy sacraments.
This dichotomous construct defies Matthew 28:18 where Christ says all authority over heaven and earth is given to Him. For Horton, Christ only has authority over His kingdom of Christian hearts and sacraments. Everything else—all other rulers and authorities—are separate from Christ’s jurisdiction. Of course this is total nonsense, and despite Horton’s appeal to Luther and Calvin, it is in defiance of the practice of both Luther and Calvin, not to mention the apostles.
Yet, Horton’s view is somewhat popular, as it presents many Christians with a reason to remain disengaged, inactive, detached from social concerns, indifferent to all political ills from poverty to tyranny, and blissfully ignorant—all the while assured of their heavenly reward. There’s really not a much better deal in Christendom.
Now I guess my overall point is this: With friends like these, who needs Screwtape?
Weyrich noted in his 1999 letter that Christians had done well in electing their guys to office, but the expected policy never seemed to follow. I would disagree with the first part to a large degree: it mistakes mere conservative politicians for devout men of God. But the overall sentiment is correct: even when we have good opportunities, “our” politicians have never truly served the interests of the Christian Right, and have never produced meaningful policy reflecting our values.
Again, that was 1999. But as long as we’re looking back, let us recall the real reason for this failure. Rushdoony provided the proper foundations for Christian Culture in 1973, in his sermons on the Ten Commandments which became The Institutes of Biblical Law. Since that time, few theologians, activists, politicians, policy wonks, pastors, pulpits, or Christian media have made biblical law the focus of their agenda. The few who have either did so only in a very shallow, nominal, or limited sense, or turned out to be frauds. Yet there can be no basis for Christian society other than biblical law. Aim anywhere else than here and you’ll miss the mark.
Christian activists and Religious Right proponents have instead maintained a program of “anything but” biblical law. They have reached for every program and compromise imaginable before they will embrace the Moses Christ ratified. They will even prefer alliances with non-Christian cults like Mormonism and Talmudism, and a million secularistic facades of “Evangelicalism” before they will face up to biblical law.
I could list the problems in detail, and indeed have done quite a bit of it in Restoring America. In the end, the major reason most Christians won’t make positive changes per biblical law is that they are bought off. The greatest impediment of our time is economic: government control of money and funding. States refuse to stand up to Supreme Court rulings because the first line of major sanctions would be refusal of major federal funding upon which people and businesses in that State are dependent. Counties cower to State governments just the same. Christians are every bit as devious social thieves as the rest, and they cannot bring themselves to part with their public schools, medicares, medicaids, snap and chip reliefs, social securities—and their pulpits refuse to tell them otherwise. What a mountain we are up against!
Given this, I believe Kreeft may really have been onto something. That whole government grant of 30 pieces of silver? Ha. Maybe we need a whole series of sermons on Judas, and who he really is.
Now that would truly be a cultural warfare endeavor, for Christians at least, wouldn’t it?
Someone shared with me a sermon from John MacArthur, Jr., called “Who is God’s Candidate?.” In it, he makes very “theonomic” sounding appeals regarding modern politics. “Is he coming around?” is the question. Just listen to some of these radical statements:
Government, as such, serves the purpose of revealing God and His law to society. . . .
God has put into the world conscience to strike an individual if he violates the law of God, and government to strike a society if they violate the law of God. Government, then, has the responsibility to enforce God’s law, God’s law. Obviously it cannot force worship, but it can enforce God’s moral law. . . .
You cannot have a society that is going to enjoy the benefits of common grace, God’s extended common grace, unless that society is under the control of a government that is defined by the law of God as revealed in His Word [my emphasis]. . . .
Government should never separate itself from God, from the true God and the true law of the true God. . . .
Recognition, reverence, toward the true God and submission to His law, as recorded and revealed in Scripture [my emphasis], is essential to the well-being of a nation. . . .
[A]ll kings fall under the divine mandate to worship the true God and to establish His law and lead their people by that law. . . .
Any ruler, any king, any person in authority who shakes his fist in the face of the true God, who rejects God and rejects God’s law, in any way, will find himself under the terrifying judgment of God. . . .
Wow! That all sounds great. So is he “coming around”?
Honestly, I get sent sermons, clips, posts, etc., like this fairly often. Whether from MacArthur, Mohler, or many others, the hopeful question from the sender is usually some form of the same: “Is he coming around?”
The sad answer to that question, in almost every instance I’ve seen for going on twenty years now, is, no. In fact, the truth may be even worse than a simple “no.” What you are witnessing with sermons like this involves a combination of factors, but boils down to a conflicted conscience.
The conflict arises with the obvious truths of the Bible that God’s law applies to all societies in all times and all places, that God has revealed that law to us for civil and judicial matters, and that God will judge nations according to that revealed law.
All of these general truths are easy to affirm for any Bible-believing preacher. They’re not too difficult to state either, although few preachers even go this far. But the option is there. So any time popular ministers feel the heat, for whatever reason—it may be that their followers are reading Reconstructionism or Theonomy, and beginning to ask questions—they can preach sermons like this, giving huge lip-service to “God’s law,” without ever really addressing any particular issue or applying it to the hundreds of injustices in society.
What this boils down to is a con-game. The preachers know that biblical law must be applied to social issues, but they fear if they preach on the specifics of what that law teaches about money, banking, taxation, education, work, thrift, criminal justice, police, defense, war, and much more, they would have so much controversy their churches would split a dozen ways, parishioners would leave, offerings would plummet, the grand event would come to an end. That’s the great fear anyway. So, they do what sounds great, but in reality is easy and safe: they preach platitudes regarding “God’s law.” This gets them off the hook (with men, anyway).
Whether this is done with the conscious intent of deceiving or not, the end result is a con-game.
This may be a tough lesson for many Christians to receive, especially to the extent they love their own celebrity preachers, and either cannot bring themselves to allow them to be criticized, or simply hold out eternal hope for them to change. But it is a lesson which young Christians and young Christian couples should learn sooner rather than later: as long as you keep giving these types of celebrity ministers so much of your time and resources, they will keep failing you in this area, and they will, unfortunately, keep holding you in immaturity as a believer.
I don’t care how many times they attack the atheists and humanists for you, as long as they avoid applying God’s law in its specifics to injustice, they have by definition nothing to offer you except the what Scripture defines as the doctrines of immaturity.
This happens with nearly all the conservative Christian leaders, and happens often. Folks have shared with me similar clips from Todd Friel, for example, so many times I wonder if they’ll ever figure it out, or get over it. I don’t care how many times these guys “address politics” and give a nod to “God’s law,” they are not “starting to come around.” They are running. They are looking for a way to avoid the issue in the name of the issue. That way is called lip-service. Let’s talk about the importance of God’s law in society and government while arguing that the only revealed particulars of that law pertaining to society and government need not apply today, or simply while never discussing them. This is not “starting to come around.” This is a con-game. Evangelical leaders have played it for decades.
Another, as I have written before, preached right through a large chunk of the law itself—some thirty sermons or so over several months—and hardly even mentioned the state at all, let alone gave any specifics. It was a masterfully drawn-out version of what MacArthur has done here. The only “applications” we ever hear from such guys are general complaints against abortion and homosexuality. Over and over again, they bemoan these two obvious blights, while repeating “God’s law, God’s law, God’s law.”
How do you preach right directly through the middle of dozens of passages which have application almost exclusively to civil, judicial, and social matters, and yet almost totally neglect such applications? Sermon after sermons, dozens of times? Only if you are assiduously avoiding the topic in the name of the topic.
Not a word is ever said about the specifics of God’s law, how it should tie the hands of the State in various areas, how Christians should respond to the challenges of God’s law when it conflicts with State-funded programs and threats from the State, etc., etc. Not a word.
And thus the vast majority of these preachers—including the great ones—give great lip-service to “God’s law,” even for civil government in general, and yet offer absolutely nothing from “His law, as recorded and revealed in Scripture” in the way of providing a blueprint for how those civil leaders and civil laws ought to operate.
Gary North nailed this point over 25 years ago, writing in 1991:
Year after year, theonomists get this sort of criticism. “No, we don’t want Old Testament laws. Yes, these laws are valuable. No, there are no biblical blueprints. Yes, we must honor biblical principles. No, we must not appeal to the Old Testament law code for our civil laws. Yes, we must respect them. No, we should not be biblicists. Yes, we must pay attention to God’s moral principles.” On and on and on: doubletalk. It is dialecticism for conservative Christians. It is judicial agnosticism.
You’ve heard the terms “con artist,” “con,” or “con-game.” You may know what these terms mean simply by absorbing their common usage, but may not know the derivation. “Con” in these terms is short for “confidence.” A “con-game” is a “confidence game.” “Confidence” is Latin word that means “with faith.”
These leaders—and I mean all of them, every single one—have spent entire careers (whether consciously deceitful or not, I don’t know or care) failing the good faith of their followers. They have offered a worldview involving “God’s law” for “society,” including “government” and “nations,” but they consistently and predictably refuse to go into specifics. So the answer is, “No, they are not ‘coming around.’” They are leading you astray and keeping you in immaturity with a con-game, and they have been doing so for a long time.
Stop making excuses for them, and more importantly, stop making excuses for yourself. They’ve helped you with the basics: faith, basic apologetics against atheists and cults, Calvinism, baptism, etc. But they have proven for decades that they intend on going no further. Stop waiting for them to come around. Move on for yourself. The full realty of God’s law for society and nations, civil leaders and law, that’s been promised for so long but not delivered, awaits.
Is the Parable of the Talents simply a morality tale about how we should use the gifts God gives us, or is it about something more? Could it be that Jesus is speaking about His Kingdom and what was about to come in a much more pointed way?
The Parable of the Talents appears in Matthew 25—and by no accident. If you don’t understand the context of Jesus’ discourse which begins in Matthew 21, you’re likely misunderstanding this parable all together.
Listen as Gary DeMar unpacks and applies Jesus’ teaching in a way you may have never considered before.
In one of my recent lectures at the Providential History Festival, I quoted this important insight from R. W. Southern:
[I]t is important to appreciate the forces which confined and directed the development of the church, for ecclesiastical history is often written as if these forces did not exist, or existed only to be overcome. The truth is that these could not be overcome because they were invisible to contemporaries. The historian can recognize them in retrospect only because he can observe their influence over a wide field of human behavior. When historians write of the church as if it could be separated from secular history, they are simply repeating the mistake made by the medieval ecclesiastical reformers, who were never more clearly the captives of their environment than when they spoke of their freedom from it. The only freedom they could conceive was itself a confinement within a contemporary system, and the words in which they dissociated themselves from the world are a striking testimony to the narrow bounds of human freedom and to the enduring limitations of the church as an organized institution.1
Christians, especially pastors and seminary teachers, have little idea how important this observation is. As a result, we suffer from the repeated lumps that humanism puts on our head throughout history. We are too often deceived by the idea that the church’s mission in this world is “spiritual”—meaning, transcending real life issues and social issues. It is my contention, however, that the “spiritual” mission of the church includes these things, and to speak of the church’s “spiritual” mission as a way of separating it from all of life is to run us into dishonestly, hypocrisy, tyranny, and paganism. It’s time to return to a full worldview Christianity in our seminaries and pulpits, and this will start with how we view, understand, and criticize our own history and traditions.
The understanding in Southern’s quotation, when applied, is the reason Marxist historians and, in general, secular historians often write better history than Christians. This is true sometimes even when the historian is of the radical, axe-grinding type, and it’s equally true sometimes in the area of church history. Marxists, for example, believe that historical phenomenon are purely products of material causes, and ideologies that spring up in history as well have underlying material causes. As a result, they end up seeking material causes and subsequently finding important aspects to church history that others would miss or leave out.
Thus, if a Marxist historian were faithful to their theory, they would focus upon find the material causes underlying, for example, the Reformation. Whereas a traditional story emphasizes Luther’s spiritual conversion to “grace” from reading Paul, and his challenge to Papal indulgences, a Marxist would seek to find what underlying economic and material social factors existed in the power structures in society that would lead to this particular theological challenge becoming an international upheaval (there had been doctrinal challenges before, after all). As a result, we end up learning how environmental factors sometimes have as much influence on theology as theology has influence on society, and we learn to watch out for such phenomena in general. More importantly, however, even when the history does not mold and shape our theologies in the process, we still learn far more about the real lives and situations of people, and how those lives are intertwined with theological truth or error. In other words, we learn about the applications of one’s theology to every area of life.
Revolt and Compromise
Take for example the history of the Peasant Rebellion during the early Reformation. Several historians of an earlier generation noted the social applications demanded by the Peasants, but I have not seen many, if any, credit these demands as legitimate applications of theology. The always notable Philip Schaff, for example, impugns the peasants by saying they only “pretended” to advance the principles of the Reformation, but in the end were “pseudo-Protestant, fanatical, and revolutionary.” Whatever the truth of these peasants’ motivations may or may not have been, treating their demands as a disingenuous appeal to theology is not warranted.
Likewise, Kenneth Scott Latourette’s brief discussion of the Peasant Revolt separates their causes from theology at the very outset, saying they were “not primarily religious.” This, of course, assumes that things like poverty, freedom, land rights, annexation, feudalism, taxation, ecclesiastical representation, economic exploitation, etc., etc., are not “religious” issues (they are!).
Early on, it was none other than the arch-marxist himself, Friedrich Engels, who noted the high importance of this episode in history. He wrote a long treatise in 1850 on The Peasant War in Germany, which has been described as “the first history book to assert that the real motivating force behind the Reformation and 16th-century peasant war was socio-economic (class conflict) rather than ‘merely’ religious.” What a shame upon our church historians, seminarians, pastors, and teachers. And of course, we need not follow Engels in all of his further beliefs or analysis to know that he still showed us up here. He was able to provide a vital observation about the history of the church and dogma that we, blinded by our own narrow views of the church and dogma, ignored.
Further, Engels was able to show how Luther, for example, was shaped and molded more by his time than otherwise. It was he, among moderns, who first emphasized that the early Luther was just as “revolutionary” as the Peasants. Indeed, it was Luther’s early intemperate language that fueled the Peasants. Somewhere around 1520, Luther responded to a Roman Catholic attack with the following blast that shocked the whole world:
If the raging madness (of the Roman churchmen) were to continue, it seems to me no better counsel and remedy could be found against it than that kings and princes apply force, arm themselves, attack those evil people who have poisoned the entire world, and put an end to this game once and for all, with arms, not with words. Since we punish thieves with the halter, murderers with the sword, and heretics with the fire, why do we not turn on all those evil teachers of perdition, those popes, cardinals and bishops, and the entire swarm of the Roman Sodom with arms in hand, and wash our hands in their blood.2
In light of such language, and much more from Luther, these German peasants were willing to stand for their rights and resist unto death. It was at this time that Luther began to develop the dualism inherent in his theology. The demands of these peasants were not “Christian” at all, he said. There was nothing “Christian” in them or at stake here, he said. These issues instead were left to the secular ideas of the rulers and nobles (the guys protecting and paying Luther), and were not bound in any way shape or form by the laws of God in this area of life. They could do whatever was necessary to put down rebellion and restore peace (which was also defined according to their dictates, as was the rest of secular law in all these areas in which peasants were oppressed). That’s what the theology really said, according to Luther: i.e., the theology has nothing to say about these issues.
Some more modern Christian historians have picked up on these issues, thankfully. One popular, single-volume work by Bruce Shelley relates most of this correctly in a summary form:
Luther revealed how much he had surrendered in gaining the support of the German princes. Encouraged by the Reformer’s concept of the freedom of the Christian man, which they applied to economic and social spheres, the German peasants revolted against their lords. Long ground down by the nobles, the peasants included in their twelve demands abolition of serfdom—unless it could be justified from the gospel—and relief from the excessive services demanded of them.
At first, Luther recognized the justice of the peasants’ complaints, but when they turned to violence against established authority, he lashed out against them. In a virulent pamphlet, Against the Robbing Murdering Hordes of Peasants, Luther called on the princes to “knock down, strangle, and stab . . . and think nothing so venomous, pernicious, or Satanic as an insurgent.”
In 1525 the princes and nobles crushed the revolt at the cost of an estimated 100,000 peasant lives. . . .
Luther’s conservative political and economic views arose from his belief that the equality of all men before God applied to spiritual not secular matters. While alienating peasants, such views were a boon to alliances with the princes, many of whom became Lutheran in part because Luther’s views allowed them to control the church in their territories, thereby strengthening their power and wealth.3
Shelley represents a far better approach to Christian history. It is one that recognizes that the church is set in the world, and that far more often than not the church ends up allowing the forces of the world around it to dictate its theological nuances—in areas where it matters greatly in terms of oppression, justice, and life. This is much closer to the type of worldview effort Southern calls for in the opening quotation above. Christians need to start looking at their faith in this light, even when a “warts and all” approach blemishes even our greatest heroes and calls us to correct them.
The greatest lesson involved here is that by so often neglecting the “every area of life” picture of Christianity, Christians (especially those in both ecclesiastical and civil government leadership positions) end up creating theological beliefs that are abstract and airy, and when it comes to virtually everything else in life that matters, they default to pagan ideas, which they often baptize to make them sound acceptable to Christians.
It is easy to see this type of problem in Luther and the many abuses of “two kingdoms” thinking that followed him, but the abuses are just as serious and numerous in the so-called early church’s adoption of Roman legal systems, including its doctrines of slavery to a large degree. We are beset by Roman-type inquisitorial courts and police today due to the church’s long refusal to criticize them from the perspective of biblical law. Likewise, the American South was absolutely overrun with Roman traditions from its views on patriarchy, paternalism, as well as slavery. Once this elitism was wed to Roman doctrines of slavery, race, and caste, and then baptized in Christian language (or at least permission), the mold was set for not only the tremendous destructions of human life in the slave trade and slaveholding systems, but the justice system throughout the South, as well as the legacies of prejudice, institutional racism, and judicial inequities we are still dealing with today.
When called upon the provide a criticism of the inhumanities of the systems, southern theologians such as J. H. Thornwell fell back upon a Lutheran-style, two-kingdoms approach: the church’s mission is “spiritual” only, and has nothing to say to correct those secular issues. Some ministers today still cite Thornwell’s view of the church’s “spiritual” mission as justification for avoiding the social ills of our day. I am convinced they have no firm grasp of the history of that doctrine, the long trail of dead bodies behind it, the church itself, or what the Bible teaches about being “spiritual”—i.e., meeting every area of life with application of spiritual truth.
Had the church been in her pulpits with a message of biblical law and love that was both uncompromised and uncompromising in its demand on just her members (let alone society at large), and a trenchant critique of the prevailing institutions as the inhumane, pagan Roman garbage that they were, I dare to say that the entire history of negro slavery in the entire West would have been prevented.
Christians need to realize that this issue is far more important than even we Reconstructionists have emphasized to date. Christians have not only historically neglected to apply the faith to every area of life, we have too often done so because the forces of the world held out more immediate benefit for us when we compromise than when we stand on principle, and we take the money, the honor, the prestige, the illusion of protection, the shelter, the degree, the accolades, the perks, the cigar. Furthermore, we have almost universally neglected to admit our vast and repeated compromises when we review our heroes in history. Let’s be open an honest about this: this is bearing false witness at a very high and very costly order.
Until we repent of these errors, expect to see two things for certain. First, you can expect that the answers to the social ills of our day will continue to be proposed by radical leftists, whose only answer will be for greater humanism, greater material equality imposed by the power of the state’s deadly sword, greater control by the state, greater socialism, and greater marginalization of the church. Second, you can expect to see the church adapting to these new realities by crying “persecuted,” when in fact the church’s marginalization came from her own self-imposed silence; and in consequence of this silence, you can expect the church eventually to adopt the proposals of the humanists, leftists, etc., only in some newly-baptized form in which the church pretends it always had the answers in God’s Word and was leading the parade all along.
Well, one thing is clear: the answers are indeed in God’s Word. If the pulpit can learn from her better historians, it just might return to biblical law and seek the answers to the problems, and then preach them. It could save itself from the embarrassment of carrying Caesar’s coattails in the name of Jesus, and it could save the lives, freedoms, and fortunes of a great many oppressed people in the process.
- R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (London: Penguin, 1970), 15–16.
- This is quoted in Engels and many other places today, including my forthcoming book Blaming Moses.
- Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1995), 243–254.