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Culture Through the Lens of Scripture
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How freedom was lost: a tale of two rebellions

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 08:13

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 9: National Defense

9.2.a. How Freedom Was Lost (A Tale of Two Rebellions)

In regard to original intent, a mere Amendment would not be enough to withstand the military powers its larger brother, the Constitution itself, gave to the new central government. This problem is best illustrated with a tale of two rebellions—one taking place prior to, and the other after the constitutional settlement. In the first, the lack of central military powers ultimately left the decision to form a militia up to the people of the State. In the second, the national government used its coercive power to raise an army of 13,000 to squash a revolt.

Tax Revolt Before the Constitution

The first is the oft-maligned Shays’ rebellion. Granted, there were revolutionary undertones with parts of the Shays’ movement, and likely more than undertones among a few of the rebels; but the rebellion has largely been understood only according to the propaganda of its enemies. That is, until fairly recently: Leonard Richards’s work Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle. The story commonly runs that western Massachusetts farmers were heavily indebted to eastern banks. When time came to collect those debts and farmers could not pay, they revolted in a quasi-class-war against private property. George Washington’s friend, former general Henry Knox, warned him at the time of a proto-communistic uprising:

they feel at once their own property compared with the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all. . . .

This is how the story was told to George Washington, and how it was told pretty much ever since. But Knox was primarily motivated in pushing for a stronger union, and he knew he had to get Washington on board for any such venture. Thus, he stretched as far as he could, and what he didn’t say is as important as what he did. Here’s the rest of the story (in a nutshell):

Like other states, Massachusetts had helped fund the American Revolution with that wretched excuse for money, colonial scrip. It was so overinflated after the war that it was sold on the speculators’ market for fractions of a penny on the dollar. This money virtually died—but it was only mostly dead. Many of those western farmers, and especially former soldiers who were paid almost exclusively with the paper, suffered through the inflation and couldn’t get rid of the worthless scraps fast enough. But a cabal of Boston speculators and other investors sat holding the paper just hoping it would recover—in the case of the speculators, for a handsome profit, and in the case of the more conservative establishment bankers, to save themselves from massive losses.

The cabal then made its move. No doubt better connected in the State Assembly than the frontier farmers, the investors got a law passed that the worthless scrip would be redeemable at face value and worse yet, all interest retroactively paid in silver. It was a rigged market if ever one was. But it didn’t stop there. To pay of these now massively, artificially, over-valued investments, the Assembly raised taxes, the vast majority of which would fall on the common people including the western farmers. It was nothing short of a bailout for the failed Boston investors; worse yet, it double-punished the farmers who first were forced to use the money in its devalued state, and now forced to pay it off at face value to the very people who forced them to suffer through its demise.

It was even worse yet. The taxes only got passed because the Senate rammed in a self-interested governor. The former governor John Hancock sympathized with the soldiers especially and had refused to enforce collection of taxes for some time. He was very popular. But an illness forced him from running again in 1785. The new governor—himself a holder of over £3,000 in the debased notes, ready to make a killing on the enforcement of the new taxes—immediately began enforcement not only of the taxes, but of all past taxes as well. This was more than many of the country people were able to pay or willing to tolerate. It is understandable, therefore, why a revolt broke out: a tax revolt, not a proto-communist movement.

But more to the point is the reaction to the organized revolts led by former Revolutionary War captain Daniel Shays’, after whom they are named. When the governor tried to raise a militia from the State’s ranks, it failed miserably. The State petitioned Congress; it’s sympathizers in Congress even lied saying they needed help with an Indian war. Congress pledged 1,320 troops, but Massachusetts had to raise half. Congress could convince only 100 of its soldiers to go. Back in Boston there was decent response, but the western counties largely ignored the governor. Out of over 600 war veterans, 23 showed up. Gary North relates,

Baron von Steuben, who had served under Washington, identified the problem in an article signed “Belisarius.” Massachusetts had 92,000 militiamen on its rolls. Why did the state need military support from Congress? He provided the correct answer: the government was not representative of the opinions of the people.

A group of Boston merchants then paid former Generals Benjamin Lincoln and William Shepherd to get involved and they were able eventually to raise a combined 4,000 men from Boston and Springfield. Shepherd beat Shays to the Springfield armory and illegally—that is, against orders and without the required Congressional approval—raided the armory and awaited the approaching Shays’ forces. When they approached, Shepherd fired “warning shots” that killed four men and wounded 20. This began the decline of the resistance which was over within a month.

Whatever may be said of either side in these skirmishes, the central fact to take away is how difficult it was to raise an army for a corrupt cause before the Constitution. Granted, the corrupt forces still eventually won out, but even this was a function of powerful centralized controls: first the imposition of colonial fiat paper, then the bailout laws for the banks and speculators, and the centralizing of the whole State’s legal system largely under the power of the Bostonians. Even here, out of 92,000 enrolled militiamen, only a tiny fraction was willing to support the cause.

And the corruption did not stop with the Bostonian bailout and its mercenary militia, it continued in Knox’s leveraging of the crisis to convince Washington into the Constitutional Convention. Knox wrote,

What is to give us security against the violence of lawless men? Our government must be braced, changed, or altered to secure our lives and property. . . .

[T]he men of property and the men of station and principle there are determined to endeavor to establish and protect them in their lawful pursuits; and, what will be efficient in all cases of internal commotions or foreign invasions, they mean that liberty shall form the basis,—liberty resulting from an equal and firm administration of law.

They wish for a general government of unity, as they see that the local legislatures must naturally and necessarily tend to the general government.

Urged by others was well—and not to mention his own predilections for stronger central government—Washington bit. You know the rest of the story: we got that “government of general unity,” along with its new military powers, including a standing army and central control over state militias.

Tax Revolt After the Constitution

In light of this new government we now move to the second rebellion in this tale of two: the Whiskey Rebellion of 1792. The situation was very much similar to Shays’: the government (national now as opposed to state) had now centralized all the war debts from the Revolution, and Hamilton was seeking new sources of revenue to pay them off. He studied how he could best raise taxes while angering the fewest people. His answer was what we today would call a “sin tax”—a tax on all distilled spirits. Madison agreed surprisingly quickly, and the two rammed the bill through Congress. But it was not accepted as wise by everyone. Senator William McClay of Pennsylvania, wrote a startlingly accurate prophecy in his journal: “War and bloodshed are the most likely consequence of this.”

Within a few months of the bill taking effect, reports of revolt were reaching Washington. Tax collectors were shunned and threatened. By the following summer, some collectors and other agents had been tarred and feathered, some beaten and whipped. Opposition spread, especially west of Appalachia, and in nearly every State. Some States refused to enforce the tax at all, and in conjunction with other concerns, groups of Georgians and Kentuckians were forming secession movements.

Instead of rescinding or even reconsidering the tyrannical tax, the administration planned stiff coercion. Hamilton—eager as always to impose his will by force—immediately called for a swift and harsh military solution. Washington welcomed whatever was necessary to suppress the revolts, as long, he said, as the solution was constitutional. Before all-out military suppression could take place, however, the administration needed at least two things: it needed to appear to the public as having attempting a peaceful solution, and it needed to expand its militia-raising powers so that it could draft soldiers by compulsion.

The draft powers came with the two Militia Acts of 1792. Whereas the Constitution had already centralized military powers, it generally left the power to call up the militia within the powers of Congress, and then it was only a call, not compulsion. The first Militia Act of 1792 remedied the first problem, delegating power to the President to call up the militia to repel invasions, etc.. This was ostensibly in response to Indian Wars in the Northwest Territory, but the statute included language directly applicable to the tax revolts of late: the President could call up the militia “whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” The second Militia Act ensured that such a call would be answered, because it by decree conscripted every able-bodied male between 18 and 45 years of age (Congressmen and Senators, however, were conveniently excepted) into their respective state militias, ready to be called up, and provided some unifying structure throughout. (And with great irony, this conscription—which as we have seen before is a form of slavery—applied to “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen.”)

Within months Hamilton began drafting a proclamation to be made by Washington condemning the revolts in western Pennsylvania. Made a national broadside on September 15, 1792, the proclamation condemned the tax revolts as “contrary to the duty that every citizen owes to his country.” Ignoring the obvious imposition of the tax itself, the letter praised “the moderation which has been heretofore shewn on the part of the government,” and promised every “necessary step” would be taken and “all lawful ways and means will be strictly put in execution” to enforce collection of the taxes. Hamilton was already ready for the military option, but the time was not quite ripe for it.

Hamilton eventually ramped up a campaign of propaganda and outright deception to move the nation toward his goal. Recalling the earlier discussion of the different periods in his life, this 1792–1794 window saw Hamilton engaging in a general attack on his political opposition as agents of the French Revolution, atheism, and anarchy—all of it false. His response to the whisky rebellion fits perfectly into this mold. And with the multiple efforts at secession and refusal to pay the tax, and now the Militia Acts in place, Hamilton sensed a perfect “opportunity for successful assertion of federal dominance.” His campaign deceptively portrayed the rebellion as uniquely located in a few western Pennsylvania counties—though he knew otherwise that opposition was widespread. He pulled out the conspiracy theory card, claiming these revolts were the work of a few local elites and “malcontent persons” aiming “to confirm, inflame, and systematize the spirit of opposition.”

Washington concurred with Hamilton’s sentiments. He feared the rebellion was fomented by French revolutionary-style activism in political clubs that arose in the wake of a visit to the U.S. by French Ambassador Charles Genêt. The conspiratorial paranoia is evident in Washington’s letters: the clubs were designed “primarily to sow the seeds of jealousy and distrust among the people of the government” and spread “nefarious doctrines with a view to poison and discontent the minds of the people.”

Both pretended that the whole political fabric of America hung on suppressing this allegedly small, local rebellion. Washington feared “anarchy and confusion.” Hamilton went over the top, writing, “It appears to me that the very existence of government demands this course.” In this same letter to Washington, on August 2, 1794, Hamilton provided a very specific plan of action for raising the militia of several States: that is, the raising of at least 12,000 troops to shock and awe the rebels. Newspapers picked up the French conspiracy motif and the exaggeration, decrying “total subversion of government” due to “sans culottes of Pittsburgh.” And yet despite the alleged threat to the whole foundation and existence of government itself, Hamilton revealed the real issue at the root of the administration’s firmness: “The immediate question is whether the government of the United States shall ever raise revenue by any internal tax.” Determined to solidify and uphold this central power, Hamilton was willing to exercise another—the military—and shed American blood.

But the military means to the end couldn’t be on the surface of the program lest the administration risk alienating the public. This is not to say they respected the will of the people, for Hamilton would write Washington later saying he had “long since learned to hold popular opinion of no value” while pursuing his own unpopular agendas. Instead, they saw public opinion as an obstacle to be maneuvered and manipulated. Thus, they began preparing for war as much as possible, and yet going through the motions required by a peaceful solution with the mind that these motions would fail. Hamilton went so far as purposefully to undermine peace negotiations with a series of letters under the pseudonym “Tully”—again propagandizing the public with the conspiracy plot.  Around the same time he was having General Henry Lee begin the draft and prepare the troops with the command to keep it secret and to postdate all written orders to September 1, to make it look as if the administration had not been planning attack all along. The whole effort was a public façade:

For “particular reasons” of a political nature, no one was to know that the decision to raise an army had been made before August 25. The peace negotiations were a sham, but a necessary political maneuver to forestall criticism of the administration’s policy. It must appear that the President had made every effort to settle the dispute without resort to arms, even though he privately longed to teach the western Pennsylvanians a stern lesson.

That lesson would come upon these western Pennsylvanians, but whereas Hamilton had earlier pretended the revolt was localized there, he now prepared a show of force calculated to include opposition joined by several other surrounding States and counties. From this he concluded the need for at least 12,000 troops. And he was out for more than the suppression of the rebellion. He wanted to make public examples of some of the rebels, as he would later write to Washington, November 11, 1794: “To-morrow the measures for apprehending persons and seizing stills will be carried into effect. I hope there will be found characters fit for examples, and who can be made so.” With the power of the Militia Acts behind them, an inter-state militia of 13,000 was raised, and personally led by Washington and Hamilton on horseback to quash the “rebellion.”

These two rebellions, however, illustrate the power of the centralized militia and thus the ability for the central government to impose its will on its subjects. Before the Constitution, the people of Massachusetts could choose whether or not to support the Governor’s call to raise a militia, and most did not. People were left free to decide if the cause was just—a much more biblical design. All of this changed with the advent of the Constitution. Now, the standing army power was enshrined and the Hamiltonian machine in place to make it even more powerful. And every “free” able-bodied man was forced into the slavery of conscription—whether they agreed with the justness of the cause or not. And many people did disagree, and Washington knew it: he was fearful that even the Militia Acts may not be powerful enough to force the raising of the militia. These fears were, of course, allayed, and thankfully, there was very little bloodshed as the overwhelming forces melted any organized opposition. But this was never the point anyway: the point was to have the military power to enforce the will of the central government despite any unpopularity in its decrees—the very thing the antifederalists foresaw and warned against.

Thus, while some 20 men were arrested in the raid, and several indicted in Philadelphia, only two were ever convicted in court, and George Washington eventually pardoned these. After all that public façade and exercise of overwhelming force, why finally pardon the only convicts out of a movement which he and Hamilton both had described publicly, repeatedly, as “treason”? Because the point never really was to bring justice: it was rather to impose the will of the central government. It was to crush all possibility of political control beyond the taxing and warring dictates of Washington, D.C. In this, the response to the Whisky Rebellion was successful, and it was built on the back of the Constitution. In these regards, the United States departed further from the biblical standard of a free society—specifically in the creation, expansion, and use of the military power.

This change was a small but effective beginning. It was also a precedent for much more to come. Yes the Constitution created this power, and it was used overwhelmingly to crush political dissent to Hamilton’s tax scheme. But at least the national forces remained somewhat small. Prior to the Civil War the entire active peacetime militias stood at a total of only 16,000 troops. And at least during this time, those forces were not used beyond constitutionally-achieved powers.

But the next step in the growing loss of freedom in this area would do just that. . . .

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

Next section: Lincoln versus Taney: A Case of Military Tyranny

Categories: Worldview

War and the military: how freedom was lost (the beginnings)

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 06:47

Restoring America One County at a Time

Chapter 9: National Defense

9.2. How Freedom Was Lost

The destruction of the early Puritan-American views of the military, of voluntary militias, etc., as described previously, began with the first skirmish of the first world war—not World War I, mind you, but what was perhaps the first true world war. Here’s the story:

The Real First World War

In the 1750s, the French began to solidify and fortify their claims along the rivers of what is today western Pennsylvania. Some Virginians viewed this, rightly, as a competitive threat to their markets for trade with Indians, but especially for real estate. Chief among the motivated was a massive land speculation group, subsidized by government land-grant in the area, called the Ohio Company of Virginia. The acting governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, himself was given shares in order to keep him interested. With orders from the crown to prevent French encroachments upon British territory by force if necessary, Dinwiddie nevertheless could not fund a large enough force to be a menace. So, he bought time with an emissary to advise the French to “desist.”

The emissary he chose was a lanky, 21-year-old army officer, early heir of a decent estate, connected to the Ohio company, who out of a lust for military fame (just as we saw earlier with Hamilton and others) jumped at the chance to go. With the seasoned Iroquois leader Tanaghrisson as a tracker and guide, the young man led a tiny troop westward into the woods. Unskilled in French or diplomacy, and untested in battle, he was unaware of what he would soon set in motion.

Meanwhile, the French, upon hearing of the coming British emissary, decided the most prudent course would be to send their own to meet him. Out went Joseph de Jumonville along with 35 men. Word soon made it to the British troop that it was being scouted. Tanaghrisson quickly located the French and led his friends to their encampment. But they got too close.

Upon being discovered, the officer commanded his company to fire on the French. Once they realized they were surround with no avenue for retreat, the French asked quarter. Jumonville, wounded, presented his diplomatic letter; the British officer accepted, walked a few paces, and began reading. Then to everyone’s shock, Tanaghrisson approached the wounded Jumonville and said, “You are not yet dead, my father”; he hacked the Frenchman’s skull several times with his hatchet, and literally washed his hands in the brain matter. It was an Iroquois blood-atonement ritual: Tanaghrisson had been holding a personal vendetta against the French, and he used Dinwiddie’s troop to put him in position to make the sacrifice.

The kill would have much larger consequences. Upon hearing of their defeat, the French prepared a larger detachment headed by Jumonville’s half-brother who was eager for revenge. A month later they cornered the British troops in a makeshift fort at Great Meadow. Everything went wrong for the British: their Indian allies left them and, in fact, switched sides; their provisions were meager, many of their animals died; they were outnumbered, and their enemy had an advantageous position in the woods nearby; it began pouring rain, rendering the exposed British muskets useless, whereas the woods provided the French dry enough shelter to fire volleys for some time; worse yet, the demoralized British fighters at last broke into a large stock of the only supply they still had left—rum. Within no time, they were outgunned, soaked, beaten physically and morally, and half of them were drunk.

At eight-o-clock that night, a call rang out for the negotiation that no one knew would change the course of history. The French offered generous terms of surrender if the British would leave Ohio territory for the space of a year. The British emissary’s friend and translator returned that night with a copy of the terms, and the two struggled to read the rain-soaked document, written in French, by candlelight. For some reason, apparently, they did not realize that the document described the death of Jumonville a month earlier as not merely a kill, but an “assassination.” By signing that document, as he did a few minutes before midnight on July 3, 1754, that 21-year-old George Washington officially declared the British crown responsible for an act of war against France. The next morning—a not-so-happy Fourth of July—the beaten British began their journey back to Virginia with the news.

It was the beginning of the Seven Years’ War—the “French and Indian War”—which would spread throughout the world, sucking in Prussia, Austria, parts of the left-over Holy Roman Empire, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, Spain, India, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and more. It was truly the first world war, and it was truly sparked by Washington’s ambling into the frontier seeking glory as a military agent of a British public-private partnership, the Ohio company. That war would lead to the compilation of such massive debt on the part of the British that the crown began looking throughout its Empire for new sources of revenue. When it was realized in the 1760s that the American colonies were the least taxed by far, a wave of tariffs and other measured were instituted. These led to revolts like the Boston Tea Party, and eventually the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and thus, of course, America’s own war debts, and then the problems with Hamilton and the central banks, etc. In short: no Jumonville, no War, no debt, no centralized government in America.

Now that may sound like a stretch to many readers. And indeed, we must not be so reductionistic as to cite Jumonville’s death as the cause of the American Revolution, and certainly not all of our tyrannical woes today; but were it not for the lust for war-fame—a kid itching for a fight in order to make a name for himself—things would have been much different, and very likely much more peaceful. Even the definitive historian on the subject thinks so: “Without the Seven Years’ War, American independence would surely have been long delayed, and achieved (if at all) without a war of national liberation.” Indeed, it was not only America:

it would be difficult to imagine the French Revolution occurring as it did, when it did—or, for that matter, the Wars of Napoléon, Latin America’s first independence movements, the transcontinental juggernaut that Americans call “westward expansion,” and the hegemony of English-derived institutions and the English language north of the Rio Grande.

All of this can be laid at least in part on the use of military force to gain advantage in speculative markets—to enrich a big corporation and its interested shareholders in high government positions. And young Washington strode right into the midst of this practice, with his brothers Lawrence and Augustine on the corporate side, and he on the military.

Carryover to the Constitution

It was this same Washington who would later team with Hamilton in the call for a strong national military-industrial complex, as we have seen, built on the back of brand-new Constitutional powers for a standing army. But there was still a significant faction, a majority in fact, that expected traditional freedoms. As we have seen, the battle over the Constitution produced numerous responses on this issue. The epitome of that opposition was inscribed by Benjamin Workman, a math professor in Philadelphia, writing under the name “Philadelphiensis”:

My fellow citizens, the present time will probably form a new epoch in the annals of America: This important, this awful crisis, bids fair to be the theme of our posterity for many generations. We are now publicly summoned to determine whether we and our children are to be freemen or slaves; whether liberty, which we have so recently purchased with the blood of thousands of our fellow countrymen, is to terminate in blessing or curse.

In regard to religious liberty, the cruelty of the new government will probably be felt sooner in Pennsylvania than in any other state in the union. The number of religious denominations in this state, who are principled against fighting or bearing arms, will be greatly distressed indeed. In the new constitution there is no declaration in their favor; but on the contrary, the Congress and President are to have an absolute power over the standing army, navy, and militia; and the President, or rather Emperor, is to be the commander in chief. Now, I think, that it will appear plain that no exemption whatever from militia duty shall be allowed to any set of men, however conscientiously scrupulous they may be against bearing arms. Indeed from the nature of the qualifications of the president, we may justly infer, that such an idea is altogether preposterous: He is by profession a military man, and possibly an old soldier: Now such a man, from his natural temper, necessarily despises those who have a conscientious aversion to a military profession, which is probably the very thing in which he principally piques himself.

So many State delegates so greatly feared the military powers surrendered in the Constitution that the appeasement measures for the anti-federalists—the Bill of Rights!—specifically addressed the issue. Not many people realize that the Second Amendment—so revered by conservatives—had roots in the repeated warnings against the dangers of a standing army. The Congressional discussions of this amendment reveal that the original intent of the right to bear arms was as a potential defense against our own federal government. It was meant specifically to alleviate the historical threat which the Constitution had just enshrined as a federal power.

While the final form of that Amendment may not be explicit enough for us to see it, the Congressional debate makes it clear. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts introduced it:

This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. . . .

What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . . . Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights of people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army on their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia to the eastward.

Later in the discussion, Mr. Gerry moved to change the language so that a standing army could not even be considered as “a secondary” security to the militias. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina preferred to be more explicit. He proposed an Amendment which added,

A standing army of regular troops in time of peace is dangerous to public liberty, and such shall not be raised or kept up in time of peace but from necessity, and for the security of the people, nor then without the consent of two-thirds of the members present of both Houses; and in all cases the military shall be subordinate to civil authority.

Thus it is clear that the Second Amendment was intimately related to the standing army powers delegated to the central government by the Constitution itself.

This view was maintained for several years afterward. St. George Tucker, a prominent professor of law at College of William and Mary, and later a federal District Court Judge, assumed the same connection between individual’s right to bear arms and the threat of a standing army. In his 1803 edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, he called our Second Amendment the “true palladium of liberty,” for,

Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.

In regard to original intent, a mere Amendment would not be enough to withstand the military powers its larger brother, the Constitution itself, gave to the new central government. This problem is best illustrated with a tale of two rebellions—one taking place prior to, and the other after the constitutional settlement. In the first, the lack of central military powers ultimately left the decision to form a militia up to the people of the State. In the second, the national government used its coercive power to raise an army of 13,000 to squash a revolt.

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

Next section: A Tale of Two Rebellions

Categories: Worldview

Are these hurricanes and earthquakes God’s end times judgment?

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 17:03

When we experience devastating natural disasters, people often ask, “Why”? Some blame or give credit to God. Others make political statements, like Jennifer Lawrence who said, “You’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard … not to feel Mother Nature’s rage or wrath.” There is no such thing as Mother Nature. Nature is a thing, not a person. Nature does not have a mind or will to do anything. The created order does its thing based on numerous variables.

While Harvey and Irma are mega-storms, there have been others. It’s also true of earthquakes and tsunamis.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane killed 8,000 people and left the city in ruins. There was another one in 1915 that left 400 dead. The Miami Hurricane of 1926 produced the highest sustained wind speed ever recorded in the United States at the time; it led to a storm surge of nearly 15 feet. More than 370 people died and 6,381 were injured. Let’s not forget the Florida Key’s Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that caused 408 deaths. There have been many others.

There’s a record of storms going back more than 400 years, to 1605, before the National Hurricane Centers HURricane DATabases (HURDAT) was developed.

The people affected by these storms live in hurricane areas. They know the risks. Are they more evil than other people? There are parts of the world that never experience such harsh weather conditions. Are they more righteous than those in hurricane alley?

Lawrence has gotten political, claiming that the rise of Donald Trump is the reason for these latest storms. Are we to believe that “Mother Nature” ripped through the Caribbean islands causing untold damage because Donald Trump is the President of the United States? What kind of twisted logic is that? I’m sure they would like someone to explain this sort of Hollywood-entitled logic to them.

What about those who are arguing that hurricanes and earthquakes are end-time prophetic signs based on this passage from Luke 21:24?

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

In context, this prophecy refers to what was going to take place before the generation to whom Jesus was speaking passed away: “So YOU also, when YOU see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (Luke 21:31-32). Every time “this generation” is used in the gospels, it always refers to the generation of Jesus’ day (Matt. 11:16; 12:41, 45; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12 [twice], 8:38; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51, 17:25; 21:32).

As history attests, Jesus was right. There were huge storms prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70. We read of a massive storm in Acts 27. The storm is described as a “Euraquilo,” that is, “a northeaster” (27:14). Luke writes that they did not see the sun or stars “for many days” (27:20). The ship finally ran aground where it was “broken up by the force of the waves” (27:41).

The Roman historian Tacitus describes a series of similar events in AD 65:

Campania was devastated by a hurricane . . . the fury of which extended to the vicinity of the City, in which a violent pestilence was carrying away every class of human beings . . . [H]ouses were filled with dead bodies, the streets with funerals.

The Mediterranean Sea floor is littered with ships that broke apart and sank because of “the roaring of the sea and the waves.” These storms had prophetic significance for that generation (“this generation”) because Jesus said they did. The same is true of famines, earthquakes, false, prophets, and false Christs. It’s not that we don’t have storms, earthquakes, famines, false prophets today — all of these have been around for more than two millennia — it’s that they had specific prophetic significance for events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and judgment of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70 (Matt. 24:1-2).

The natural disasters described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the Olivet Discourse pointed specifically to the coming of Jesus in judgment against Jerusalem before that first-century generation passed away. We know this because Jesus told us in exacting detail. The earthquakes, famines, and bad weather conditions were not in themselves judgments. They’ve always occurred and will continue to occur. The judgment was the destruction of the temple.

There is one additional point to consider. Luke 21:25 “may figuratively signify tumult among the nations (compare Is 17:12; Rev 17:15)” and not actually be referring to weather conditions affecting the seas.

Alas, the uproar of many peoples
Who roar like the roaring of the seas,
And the rumbling of nations
Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!
The nations rumble on like the rumbling of many waters,
But He will rebuke them and they will flee far away,
And be chased like chaff in the mountains before the wind,
Or like whirling dust before a gale (Isa. 17:12-13).

What was going to happen to Jerusalem was like a massive storm. Consider the full context:

[T]there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled. There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world [oikoumene]; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Luke 21:24-26).

This great distress is limited to the “the land” and “this people” related to that particular generation (Luke 21:32). Houston and the Caribbean are not in the picture. It’s a local event fought with swords. Notice the subsequent horror. “This people . . . will be led captive into all the nations.” Jerusalem, not the world, will be “trampled underfoot by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled.” “Coming upon the world” is inaccurate. The Greek word kosmos is not used; it’s oikoumenē, a reference to limited geography (Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; Rev. 3:10), often translated as “Roman Empire” or “inhabited earth,” the world of their day. Oikumene refers to limited geography.

Rome was the superpower that used its swords and war machines against Jerusalem. Jews were “led captive into all the nations” after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. I discuss this and other topics in my brand new book Wars and Rumors of Wars.

Take note of the fact that God gave ample warning about the judgment and the signs they should look for in order to escape (Luke 21:20; Matt. 24:15-20).

What about the claim that these weather events are God’s judgment? If they are, then why the Caribbean and not a city like the homosexual capital of the world, Tel Aviv? Why not North Korea? Why not Washington DC? Why not the Islamic nations? If you want to get political, Houston, and Harris County (707,914 for Hillary and 545,955 for Trump), the hardest hit areas by Harvey, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Houston elected a lesbian mayor and the city council passed the notorious transgender bathroom bill that was later rescinded by voters via an election.. I’m not sure how Jennifer Lawrence would respond to these facts.

This isn’t to say that we should not take notice of events like these. Jesus says we should, but not because they are particular judgments for particular people:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

The deaths associated with this tower were not a particular judgment. The same is true of floods and earthquakes. The fall of the tower of Babel was because we are told that it was. The storm that is described in the book of Acts is not described as a judgment. Similar storms had occurred before.

What should we think of those people who were killed by Pontius Pilate while they were offering sacrifices? People might have conjectured that there was some evil in their life. Maybe they were like Nadab and Abihu who offered a sacrifice with “strange fire” before the LORD with the result that “fire came out from the presence of the lord Lord and consumed them” (Lev. 10:1-3).

Jesus gives no indication that any of these people did anything particularly wrong to deserve a particular punishment.

Matthew Henry’s comments are spot on:

Mention was made to Christ of the death of some Galileans. This tragical story is briefly related here, and is not met with in any historians. Towers, that are built for safety, often prove to be men’s destruction. He cautioned his hearers not to blame great sufferers as if they were, therefore, to be accounted, great sinners. As no place or employment can secure from the stroke of death, we should consider the sudden removals of others as warnings to ourselves. On these accounts, Christ founded a call to repentance. The same Jesus that bids us repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bids us repent, for otherwise, we shall perish.

Does this mean that God does not bring judgment? Not at all. I suspect since we do not have any specific revelation about certain disasters-as-judgments like we do in the Bible, that we should be measured in our comments. It’s better to conclude that God’s judgment comes by way of suffering the consequences of violating God’s specific commands. In this case, God says, “If you want to live contrary to My moral order, you will suffer the consequences.” His judgment is to leave them to live out the inevitable consequences of their law breaking. I believe the rise of AIDS is one example. Abortion is another. Women killing off their future.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator  —who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:18-32).

It’s not only homosexuality. It could be “the love of money” that’s the “root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Fill in the blank: “The love of __________ that is contrary to God’s Word is the root of all kinds of evil and its consequences. In another place, Paul writes, “But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all . . . . But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

And what should we do? Paul answers: “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:9, 13-17).

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Charles Hodge on southern secession and slavery

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 08:40

We previously posted an excerpt on the “sacred right” of secession (or “revolution”) written by Princeton theologian Charles Hodge. Surprising as that may have been, it hardly means Hodge supported southern aims. Earlier in the same essay, he argued what everyone knew at the time, but so many deny today: the South seceded over slavery. Not only was it over the perpetuation of the institution, but specifically the extention of it, as we argued the other day. Hodge saw this clearly.

Southerners began making attempts immediately after the war to pretend it had only been about constitutional issues, and to bury the issue of slavery virtually altogether. The damage control turned into the full-on creation of a mythology during the Lost Cause era (1880 or so and forward). It is strongly embraced today as gospel truth. Hodge’s contemporary witness, among many others, tells a quite different story.

***

(From “President Lincoln,” by Charles Hodge, The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 37, no. 3, July 1865.)

No Christian can look upon the events of the last four years without being deeply impressed with the conviction that they have been ordered by God to produce great and lasting changes in the state of the country, and probably of the world. Few periods of equal extent in the history of our race are likely to prove more influential in controlling the destinies of men. Standing, as we now do, at the close of one stage at least of this great epoch, it becomes us to look back and to look around us, that we may in some measure understand what God has wrought.

Although at the South, and by the partisans of the Southern cause at the North, the cause of the desolating war just brought to a close has been sought elsewhere than in the interests of slavery, the conviction is almost universal, both at home and abroad, that the great design and desire of the authors of the late rebellion were the perpetuation and extension of the system of African slavery. That this conviction is well-founded is plain, because slavery has been from the formation of the government the great source of contention between the two sections of the country; because the immediate antecedents of secession were the attempts to extend slavery into the free Territories of the Union; the abrogation of the Missouri compromise, in order to facilitate that object; the Dred Scott decision, which shocked and roused the whole country, because it was regarded as proof that even the Supreme Court, the sacred palladium of our institutions, had become subservient to the slave power. The reaction produced by these attempts to perpetuate and extend the institution of slavery, led to the election of Mr. Lincoln, on the avowed platform that while slavery was not to be interfered with within the limits of the States which had adopted the institution, its extension to the free Territories belonging to the United States was to be strenuously resisted. The success of the party holding this principle was the immediate occasion of secession, and the formation of the Southern Confederacy.

Besides these obvious facts, it is notorious that the public mind at the South had been exasperated by exaggerated accounts of the anti-slavery feeling at the North, and inflamed by glowing descriptions of an empire founded on slavery, where all property and power should be concentrated in the hands of slaveholders, and all labour performed by slaves. This was advocated as the best organization of society, as the only secure foundation for what was called free institutions, and the only method in which the highest development of man was to be attained. Accordingly slavery was declared to be the cornerstone of the new Confederacy; slaveholders were called upon by the Richmond editors to sustain the burdens of the war, because the war was made for them; and the editor of the leading journal in Charleston, South Carolina, declared that the South sought and desired independence only for the sake of slavery; that if slavery were to be given up, they care not for independence. It cannot therefore be reasonably doubted that the great design of the authors of the rebellion was the extension and preservation of the system of African slavery.

As little can it be doubted that this was a most unrighteous end without going to the unscriptural extreme of maintaining that all slaveholding is sinful, two things are, in the judgment of the Christian world, undeniable; first, that however it may be right in certain states of society and for the time being to hold a class of men in the condition of involuntary bondage, any effort to keep any such class in a state of inferiority or degradation, in order to perpetuate slavery, is a great crime against God and man; and, secondly, that the slave laws of the South, being evidently designed to accomplish that end, were unscriptural, immoral, and in the highest degree cruel and unjust. It is self-evident that only an inferior race can permanently be held in slavery, and it is therefore unavoidable that the effort to perpetuate slavery involves the necessity of the perpetual degradation of a class of our fellow-men. Such was the design and effect of the laws which forbade slaves to be taught to read or write; which prohibited their holding property; which made it a legal axiom that slaves cannot marry; which authorized the separation of parents and children, and of those living as husbands and wives. These laws, which no Christian can justify, had been for more than a century operating at the South. The state of the slaves therefore in 1860 was little, if any, better than it was a hundred years before. Household servants, and, to a certain degree, the slaves in the Border States, had made advances in knowledge and in their social condition; but the great mass of the bondmen in the cotton, rice, and sugar plantations was to the last degree degraded. The journal of Mrs. Fanny Kemble, written a few years ago, photographs these Southern plantations, the slaves, their habitations, their food, dress, and social state, their sufferings and wrongs, in such a way as to compel faith in the fidelity of the picture, while it revolts and horrifies the beholder.

To lament over this system as an evil entailed by former generations, to admit that it ought not to be perpetuated, and to acknowledge the obligation to labour for its removal, is one thing; to maintain that the system which necessitates this degradation of millions of our race, is a good system, which ought to be continued and extended, is a very different thing. It is the great revolution which the high price of Southern productions, and the consequent profitableness of slavery, wrought in the opinions and feelings of Southern men on this subject, which is the true cause of the terrible evils which have rendered the South a desolation. It could not be that an offence so great as the indefinite perpetuity of a system so fraught with evil, and the avowal of the purpose not only to perpetuate but to extend it, could long continue without provoking the Divine displeasure.

There is not one man in a thousand who will not be more or less corrupted by the possession of absolute power, even when that power is legitimate. But when it is illegitimate, and requires for its security the constant exercise of injustice, no community and no human being can escape its demoralizing influence. This is evinced in the cast of character which it produces; the arrogance, insubordination, recklessness of the interests and rights of others, the loss of the power to restrain the passions which have few external restraints, which it unavoidably engenders. The moral sense becomes perverted by the necessity of justifying what is wrong, so that we see even good men, men whom we must regard as children of God, vindicating what every unprejudiced mind instinctively perceives to be wrong. It is enough to humble the whole Christian world to hear our Presbyterian brethren in the South declaring that the great mission of the Southern church was to conserve the system of African slavery. Since the death of Christ no such dogma stains the record of an ecclesiastical body. We are not called upon to dwell on the manifold evils, which, until recently, even Southern statesmen and Christians acknowledged to be the inevitable fruits of slavery.

(The full piece can be accessed here.)

Categories: Worldview

Wars and Rumors of Wars: An Introduction

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 05:28
Wars and Rumors of Wars
Audio Commentary By Gary DeMar

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

The first three audio presentations cover the Introduction to Wars and Rumors of Wars. I do not cover everything that’s in the book. You’ll want the book edition to study the Bible references and footnotes.

The fourth audio in this series is a critique of Mark Hitchcock’s The Truth and Timing of the Rapture, a defense of the pre-tribulational rapture published by Dallas Theological Seminary.

Audio Commentary

Introduction Part A:

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Introduction Part B:

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Introduction Part C:

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Introduction Part D:

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Categories: Worldview

Charles Hodge on the “sacred right” of secession

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 06:30

Among the much reading I did for the forthcoming book on American slavery and racism, about half ended up helpful or interesting. Some of it was drudgery. Some, however, gave a little delight and a spark of hope, as well as a little surprise. Among the more remarkably surprising little bits was Charles Hodge’s article penned on the occasion of Lincoln’s assassination. Would you believe this northerner, opponent of slavery, and supporter of Lincoln, nevertheless upheld the right to secession, which he called “revolution”?

While I find the piece to be far to hagiographical of Lincoln himself, it contains several surprising notes. Hodge gives a remarkably clear and convincing review of why slavery was indeed the cause of the war, and he also notes just as clearly and firmly that Lincoln did not wage war to free the slaves but rather to save the Union whatever else may happen.

But when he turns to the question that many people were urging the execution of Southern rebels for war crimes, he provides the human race with one of the finest little gems of theological and moral writing ever put to paper. Here we see man of principle remaining consistent with his principles even under social pressure. The excerpt on the “sacred” right of revolution is as follows:

***

(From “President Lincoln,” by Charles Hodge, The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 37, no. 3, July 1865.)

The right of revolution is a sacred right of freedom. It is a right which, if Englishmen and Americans had not claimed and exercised, despotism had now been universal and inexorable. It is of special moment in times of popular excitement, that great principles of moral and of civil policy should be kept constantly in view. It is plain that rebellion as homicide, may be an atrocious crime, or justifiable, or commendable, according to circumstance. Whereas moral offences are always, and under all circumstances, evil. A good thief, or good murderer, is as much a solecism as good wickedness. But a good rebel is no such solecism. Hampden was a rebel, so was Washington; they and thousands of other good men have risen in armed resistance to constituted authority, and such resistance has been justified by the verdict of the enlightened conscience of the world.

But even when rebellion is not justifiable; nay, when it is not only a great mistake, but really a great crime in itself considered, it does not necessarily follow that those who commit it must be wicked men. It is often the effect of wrong political theories. In the protracted wars In England, between the house of York and Lancaster, good men were found on either side. So also, in the war between Charles I and the Parliament; between the adherents of the Stuarts and the house of Hanover. It did not follow that a man was wicked because he conscientiously believed that the Pretender was legally entitled to the British throne. A man might be a Christian, and believe that the Salic law bound the Spanish nation, and rendered it incumbent on him to be a Carlist. In like manner it cannot be doubted that thousands of our Southern brethren religiously believed that their allegiance was due first to their several States, then, and only conditionally to the Union. This does not infer moral depravity. No sane man can believe that all the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist clergy and laity, who entered into the rebellion, were unrenewed, wicked men.

There is, therefore, a distinction between political offences and ordinary crime, and to treat both alike would be a violation of the plainest principles of justice. This is not saying that rebellion, except for adequate cause, is not a moral offence; nor is it saying that the late Southern rebellion was not a great crime, for such it assuredly was; nor is it saying that because a man think a thing is right, to him it is right; but it is saying that there may be a great difference between the criminality of an act in itself, and the blameworthiness of the offenders. Men forget what a strange anomalous thing human nature is. There have been pious persecutors, and pious slave-traders. The Scotch Covenanters believed that it was the duty of the civil magistrate to suppress false religions, and therefore they felt justified, in treating their opponents as their opponents treated them. Samuel hewed Agag in pieces, they believed heretics should be put to death. John Newton (author of hymns still sung in all our churches,) was a slave-trader after his conversion. Why, then, must we take it for granted that every man who aided the rebellion was in heart a reprobate[?] . . .

(The full piece can be accessed here.)

Categories: Worldview

Is Satan The ‘God of This World’?

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 06:15

Christians will use all types of excuses to keep themselves out of today’s religious-moral-cultural battles. One of the most diabolical excuses is to claim that Satan is the rightful god of this world. This translates into believing that this world is demonic. Let’s see what the Bible actually says about this.

Satan is a creature. Like all creatures, he has certain limitations. Even under the Old Covenant, Satan had to be granted permission by God before he could act (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). Satan’s limitations have been multiplied since the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

The Bible shows us that if we “resist the devil he will flee from” us (James 4:7). The only power that Satan has over the Christian is the power we give him and the power granted to him by God (2 Cor. 12:7-12). Scripture tells us that Satan is defeated, disarmed, and spoiled (Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7; Mark 3:27). He has “fallen” (Luke 10:18) and was “thrown down” (Rev. 12:9). He was “crushed” under the feet of the early Christians, and by implication, under the feet of all Christians throughout the ages (Rom. 16:20). He has lost “authority” over Christians (Col. 1:13). He has been “judged” (John 16:11). He cannot “touch” a Christian (1 John 5:18). His works have been destroyed (1 John 3:8). He has “nothing” (John 14:30). He must “flee” when “resisted” (James 4:7). He is “bound” (Mark 3:27; Luke 11:20). Finally, the gates of hell “shall not overpower” the advancing church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18). Surely Satan is alive, but he is not well on planet earth.

So then, what does Paul mean when he describes Satan as “the god of this world,” actually, “of this age”? (2 Cor. 4:4). To hear some people tell it, this verse teaches that Satan has all power and authority in this dispensation and in the locale of planet earth. Where God is the God of heaven and of the age to come, Satan is the god of this world and this present evil age. This dualistic view of the universe may be part of Greek philosophy, but it has no place in biblical theology.

While it’s true that the devil is said to be the god of this age, we know that God is “the King of the ages” (1 Tim. 1:17). Paul is simply stating that Satan is the chosen god of those who deny Jesus as God’s rightful heir of all things (Matt. 22:1-14). These are the true antichrists (2 John 2:7; 1 John 2:18, 22). Jesus is in possession of “all authority,” in both heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18-20). In addition, we know that Satan’s power has not increased since Job’s day. He is still a permission-seeking creature. This is especially true under the new and better covenant inaugurated by Jesus Christ. As the above verses make clear, Satan is a second-class creature who has been cast out and judged: “The ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31); “the ruler of this world has been judged” (16:11).

What, then, does the apostle mean when he describes Satan as “the god of this age”? First, we must never allow one passage to finalize our understanding of a particular doctrine. Scripture must be compared with Scripture. There are no contradictions. Therefore, we can’t have the Bible saying of the one true God, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5) and then making Satan a rival god. Paul must have something else in mind. We can’t say that Satan has been judged and cast out, something that does not happen to gods, and still maintain that he is the god of this world similar to the way Jehovah is God of this world. Paul is making a theological point. For example, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the devil is their father (John 8:44). We know that Satan is not their biological father. Rather, he is their spiritual father in that they rejected their true Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Physically these Jews, to be sure, are children of Abraham; but spiritually and morally–and that was the issue–they are the children of the devil.

Jesus is describing the devil as one who gives birth to a worldview, a worldview that includes lying and murder. In this sense, Satan is their spiritual father. In the same way, Satan is a god to those who cling to the fading glory of Moses, “the ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7). This is the age over which he is a god, an age that “has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it” (v. 10).

Second, the devil is chosen as a god by “those who are perishing,” and he must blind them before they will follow him: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). This passage teaches that unbelievers are fooled into believing that “the old covenant” where the “veil remains unlifted” is the way to life (v. 14). Satan is the god of the “ministry of death.” The “god of this age” keeps them in bondage, “but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (v. 16). Liberty from the ministry of death only comes where the Spirit of Lord is: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (v. 17). But Satan has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving so they cannot see the lifted veil. They are still trusting in the shadows of the Old Covenant.

Third, like idols in general, the devil is “by nature” not a god (Gal. 4:8; cf. Deut. 32:17; Ps. 96:5; Isa. 44:9-20; 1 Cor. 8:4; 10:20). In Philippians 3:19, Paul tells us that those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ” worship “their appetite”: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” The appetite is not a god, but it can be chosen as a god.

Fourth, the only way Satan can pass himself off as a god is to first blind his victims. Keep in mind that Jesus described the devil as “a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Though Satan masquerades as a god, this does not make him a god.

Satan wishes, albeit vainly, to set himself up as God, and sinners, in rebelling against the true God, subject themselves to him who is the author of their rebellion. The unregenerate serve Satan as though he were their God. They do not thereby, however, escape from the dominion of the one true God. On the contrary, they bring themselves under His righteous judgment; for Satan is a creature and not a God to be served (cf. Rom. 1:18, 25). Just as there is one in the world and every pretended alternative to it is a false no-gospel, so there is only one God of the universe and every other “deity” whom men worship and serve is a false no-god.

When all the evidence is in we learn that Satan is the god of an age that was passing away. “This age” and “this world” are used “in an ethical sense,” denoting “the immoral realm of disobedience rather than the all-inclusive, extensive scope of creation,” representing “the life of man apart from God and bound to sinful impulses, a world “ethically separated from God.” Calling Satan the “god of this age” is more a reflection on the condition of “this age” than the real status of the devil. Chrysostom comments that “Scripture frequently uses the term god, not in regard of the dignity that is so designated, but of the weakness of those in subjection to it; as when he calls mammon lord and belly god: but the belly is neither therefore God nor mammon Lord, save only of those who bow themselves to them.”

When the church makes Satan the “god of this age,” it has fallen for one of the devil’s schemes–giving him a lot more credit and power than he deserves. He is quite satisfied in having anyone believe one of his lies.

As Martin Luther said,

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure,
one little word shall fell him.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

NEW: Wars and Rumors of Wars, by Gary DeMar

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 15:29

50 Nobel Prize winners have spoken. It’s the end of the world as we know it, but they don’t feel fine:

In a survey, the brainiacs revealed fears that nuclear war, environmental disaster, and even Facebook pose a risk to the future of our species.

War is always on the list of end-times events. But it took second place to population growth (even though there’s a birth dearth in much of the world) and environmental degradation. They were said to represent “the gravest apocalyptic risk.”

When you dig down through the list, you will find that at the bottom it’s all about money.

“The ultimate insurance policy is to make humanity a multiplanet species,” one laureate said. “And science obviously has a big role to play in that.”

A “big role” means “big bucks.”

Apocalyptic themes are usually reserved for religious prophecy writers who have made a fortune from end-time books. The multi-volume Left Behind series brought in tens of millions of dollars to its authors.

The Left has learned a lesson from these end-time scare books. Fearmongering is profitable! Create future crisis scenarios and petition the government for money to fix them. It made Al Gore a multimillionaire.

Prophetic date-setting has a long history going back centuries. While there are new threats on the list (e.g., Facebook and Donald Trump), for the most part it’s the usual suspects, with wars and rumors of wars being the scariest, especially with a nut ball who thinks he’s a god leading the oppressive regime of North Korea and threatening the world with nukes.

All this talk about the end of the world is to get people to put their faith in government to save them: “Give us more money and more control and we’ll save you!” Where have we heard that before? “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you (but it will cost you trillions of dollars and the loss of your liberties).”

For Christians, prophetic speculation has affected their willingness and ability to fight the good fight. If it’s all going down, why bother? Titanic USA is going down. You don’t polish brass or rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Every time there’s an earthquake, a storm like Harvey (study the history of the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 where 8,000 people were killed, or the Lisbon earthquake of 1755), a stellar phenomenon like a solar eclipse, or a “blood moon,” prophecy prognosticators come out of the woodwork assuring the faithful that the end is near and Jesus is coming soon to “rapture” His church to heaven.

Leftists and fascists love it when millions of Christians think this way. It gives them the chance to take over the schools, the government, social media, music, art, film, and everything else.

In fact, they’ve already done it because Christians claimed the world belonged to Satan!

One of the worst false doctrines that was ever been foisted on the church is the belief that we are living in the last days and Jesus is going to return “soon” to rescue us through a “rapture.”

God has called on His people to apply their faith to this world. When the floods came in Texas, the people got to work. Yes, God could have rescued everyone, but that’s not the way He works.

Some of you may be perplexed and even be angry with what I’ve written, but I can assure you that it has ample biblical support. You might appeal to Matthew 24 where Jesus mentions wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and so much more.

But Jesus was not describing some distant generation. He was warning that generation about what was going to happen to them (v. 34). It was a local judgment that could be escaped on foot by going to the mountains surrounding Jerusalem (vv. 15–20).

I’m sure some of you have questions about my interpretation of the above verses and others in the Olivet Discourse. I’ve just published a book that will answer most if not all your questions if you are willing to be a Berean and search the Scriptures to see if what I’ve written is the truth (Acts 17:11).

The book is titled Wars and Rumors of Wars: What Jesus Really Said About the End of the Age.

I can assure you, I won’t be making millions for it. Maybe just enough to pay the electric bill and the books I purchased to finish the project.

 

Categories: Worldview

Must Christians speak out against injustice?

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 08:30

 

Do Christians have any moral responsibility to speak out against injustice and evil in their culture? Assuredly, the individual Christian cannot repent of someone else’s sin. The individual Christian will not stand before God and have his personal sin weighed together with his local church’s sins or his country’s sins. However, the Christian’s duty and responsibility extends beyond himself or herself. God deals with individuals, but He also deals covenantally with corporate bodies. The Christian life is not primarily individualistic or collective. It is both.

Throughout all of history pagan and pagan-influenced pseudo-Christian ideologies have drifted towards an overemphasis on the primary importance of either the individual or the collective. This drift has followed the predominant philosophical presuppositions of those cultures. Which has primacy, not just in culture but also within reality: the one or the many? These abstract philosophical questions find their way into families, societies, religions, politics, corporations, and everything in between. There has always been the tension between the one and the many; the primacy of the collective or the individual.

Only Christianity answers this question adequately. The answer is found in the doctrine of the Trinity throughout genuine Christianity: God is both One and Many equally and ultimately. R. J. Rushdoony elaborates:

Since both the one and the many are equally ultimate in God, it immediately becomes apparent that these two seemingly contradictory aspects of being do not cancel one another but are equally basic to the ontological trinity: one God, three persons. Again, since temporal unity and plurality are the products and creation of this triune God, neither the unity nor the plurality can demand the sacrifice of the other to itself. Thus, man and government are equally aspects of created reality. The locus of Christianity is both the believer and the church; they are not independent of or prior to one another. The wishes of husband and wife do not take priority over marriage, nor does the institution of marriage have primacy over the partners to it; marriage indeed is a type of an eternal reality (Eph. 5:22-25), but man is himself created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).

When the Church, therefore, is faced with injustice and evil, whether it be widespread abortion, racism, socialism, or humanism, the Christian has an individual responsibility, but he also has community responsibilities. The Christian must keep himself clean, but he must also understand and fulfill his responsibility to speak out against the evil within his communities. These two types of duties are not contradictory, but rather work together. The sins of the culture do not condemn the man in his individual standing before God, but they may bring about covenantal curses upon the people as a whole that could negatively affect even the righteous man. Similarly, the faithfulness of a nation may receive covenantal blessings, and those blessings can fall on the wicked as well as the righteous alike. Covenantal realities may not always be soteriological, but they are still realities.

These covenantal realities, keep in mind, are not vague social forces divorced from faithfulness and God’s Sovereignty. They are based upon the Will of God because of the faith or the lack of faith of a nation or community. For example, the dehumanizing, racist, and heretical chattel slavery of the Antebellum South (and North) still plays a role in our nation. We are dealing with the fruit of that sin. Not only slavery, but the bloody, lawless, and sinful way slavery was abolished in this nation also plays a part in where we are today. We are dealing with the fruit of that sin as well.

Though this is true, every Image-Bearer of God is a personally responsible individual. None of us are mindless automatons, nor are we at the mercy of the sins of yesteryear. We are, nevertheless, subject to the workings of a sovereign God who heaps blessings and curses upon people and nations according to His divine will.

History is not a product of vague social forces but very real peoples, who by faith embarked on brave ventures and made great steps forward. Behind every great age of advance in history, we find men of action vitalized by a powerful faith. Forces do not exist in the abstract. A social force is the product of a people’s faith and action. It has no existence in and of itself, and it cannot exist apart from a people’s beliefs.

Racism, whether it be the racism of theologically-astute, 19th Century Presbyterians, or the racism of jackboot-wearing, swastika-waving, alt-righters, is not a vague social force that causes those they dehumanize and hate to hate in return as a deterministic effect. The reality is not based on environmental forces, but the faith and actions of real people (or, sadly, the lack of faith and lack of action of real people).

Though sin does not justify sin, sin does beget sin. What is sown will be reaped. The Gospel can always put this cycle to an end, and that is what we should focus upon. History affects the present, so sin in our history can also affect the present. Even so, we do not worship a God bound by the past sins of man. Nevertheless, reactionary injustice, hatred, and sin is not a necessary outcome. Whenever we address and confront sin, whether on a broad social level or a personal level, the answer remains the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The same Christ commands us to come to Him for salvation also commands us to seek justice and show mercy to those in need.

God will judge our personally-committed sins, and he will also judge our sins of omission when we fail to speak out and act against evil. As Rushdoony once remarked, if we sit quietly and without protest, God will not hold us guiltless:

The Christian has a corporate responsibility with the country at large for the evil if he has taken it without protest, if he has done nothing about it. And the Christian who sits silently in churches that are apostate share a corporate responsibility for all the evils the church has committed, and the country has committed, because they sit there without protest, without doing something about it, they have a corporate responsibility, and God will not hold them guiltless. But Christians who have made a stand in terms of the faith are guiltless. Christ has come to set them free from guilt, not to allow men to put guilt upon them, and they have separated themselves in terms of Christ from these things, they have witnessed against them, they have testified against them, and they are innocent.

Because God deals with both individuals and communities at the same time, there are both individual and community responsibilities for sin. We must not fall into a pagan individualism that self-righteously claims that you are only ever responsible for yourself. We must also not fall into a pagan collectivism that claims that the sins of the whole will damn the individual. We must have a distinctly Trinitarian understanding of responsibility that embraces both the individualistic aspect of personal salvation but also the corporate nature of how God deals with corporate entities.

So no, we can’t repent on behalf of history’s man-stealers and we can’t repent on behalf of an abortion-addicted nation, but we must speak out against past sins and present sins and seek to understand the covenantal ramifications of corporate sin. God will not hold us blameless if we do not speak out for the oppressed, the hated, the dehumanized, and the butchered. He will certainly not hold us guiltless if we refuse even to listen to them to begin with.

Must Christians innocent of injustice speak out against injustice? The hard but true answer is that if Christians do not speak out against injustice, they are not innocent.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

Southern secession and “dishonest court historians”

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 09:33

Yesterday’s post began a couple comments on Paul Craig Robert’s claim that the South did not seceded over slavery—a view somewhat representative of many defenders of the Old South. Today we continue with his second major piece of information: a unique spin on South Carolina’s official declaration of secession in 1860.

One irony involved here is that this document is usually a piece of evidence for the opposing position: that the State did in fact secede over slavery. The document, like most of the other southern declarations of secession, simply says so explicitly. Roberts has to work hard to overcome this irony, so he, in part, resorts to name calling:

Surely there must be some hook somewhere that the dishonest court historians can use on which to hang an explanation that the war was about slavery. . . .

If we look carefully we can find a phony hook in the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession (December 20, 1860) as long as we ignore the reasoning of the document. . . .

The secession document reads as a defense of the powers of states and not as a defense of slavery.

This particular spin is one of the most absurd interpretations of that document I have seen. Certainly no one in the scholarly field of literature I’ve seen would entertain such an idea that the secession document pinpointed state rights and not slavery as the cause of secession.

But just in case these scholars are all, every one, “dishonest court historians,” a recent contribution by Gary North will alert any reader that the “hook” ain’t so “phony.”

But hey, maybe Scary Gary is a “dishonest court historian” in disguise, too.

Gary directs us simply to read the document. Roberts does, too, but it appears to me he hopes the reader won’t bother to connect much of its own internal thought, let alone the historical context of which it speaks.

Yes, it speaks of American independence from Britain. Yes, it speaks of the “law of compact.” Yes, it speaks of the northern states having allegedly violated their obligations in that compact. Yes, it speaks of the right of voluntary secession. Yes, yes, yes. But why? On what grounds? On what law and on what fact?

It is on the law for recovery of fugitive slaves and on the fact that northern states were effectively nullifying their slave laws. Nothing else. In short, it was the South’s demand that the northern states be forced to participate in policing its slaves versus the North’s insistence on maintaining the underground railroad.

Just read the document:

But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation. . . .

Constitution, eh? Here was what they found sooooo important about the Constitution:

The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burdening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

The parts dealing with their slavery. Nothing else. How had the northern states broken their Constitutional obligations? Read:

We affirm that these ends [the slavery-ends] for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of [anti-slavery] societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to enloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. . . .

By what means had the north “subverted” the Constitution, and “assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions”? It was merely the refusal to enforce the fugitive slave act of 1850 within their own northern states. Northerners refused to capture or convict slaves themselves on behalf of the southern slaveholders. Slavery was the issue.

It was not just fugitive slaves, but as we saw yesterday, it was the expansion of slavery also. Indeed, they thought Lincoln’s inauguration and the ascent of the Republican platform spelled the end of the expansion of slavery in the territories. The South had temporarily rested in Dred Scott’s settlement in their favor for the territories, but the Republican platform asserted a contrary agenda:

7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.

8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory [not “states”], ordained that “no persons should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.

The SC Declaration of Secession spelled this out clearly also, with clear reference to the Republican Party platform:

On the 4th of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States. . . .

You call slavery a “phony hook” in this declaration? You call this not understanding the reasoning of the document? You’ve got it backwards. When one sees their appeal to the Constitutional settlement for the sole purpose of protecting the institution, you’ve got it right. When you understand SC seceding because that protection for that particular institution and that alone seemed in danger to them, you’ve got it right. Yes, they may have even appealed to those rights in more general terms, but it was always and only to protect that institution of slavery, and that institution alone.

Over other issues of federal intrusion, SC did not see a reason to secede. South Carolina specifically had nullified federal laws in the past, even declaring them specifically as unconstitutional, yet not seceding over them. It was willing in 1832–1833 to resist that highest affront of tariffs by nullification but not secession. Thus the state recognized and exercised the right to nullification. Yet when northern states, by SC’s own confession, nullified laws that pertained directly to her slave property, she reacted with this document and secession. She could cite the nature of the Constitutional compact all she wanted, but the central, primary, necessary and sufficient cause is clear: slavery. Not even for the vaunted issue of tariffs was she ever before willing to secede. For slaves, she was.

Meet Max and Larry

There are yet other “dishonest court historians” who say it was about slavery. My friends Max and Larry, for example, both interested historians, disagreed over the nature of that document. Max said it speaks a lot about slavery, but everyone knows it should really speak more about tariffs:

Not one word is said about the tariff. . . . The main stress is made upon the unimportant point of fugitive slaves, and the laws passed by various Northern States obstructing the recovery of fugitive slaves.

Larry says in response that tariffs were only a dividing issue in decades prior. Virtually every one of the SC Congressmen had voted in favor of the tariff that was in place at the time. That would make them look pretty silly seceding over the tariff, wouldn’t it? No, the issue at the time was slavery. The people were exercised about slavery and the North’s agitation of the question over fugitive slave laws and expansion.

Max, after just a brief persuasion, agreed, gave up his argument on behalf of tariffs, and added that the real immediate cause of the war was in fact the election of Abraham Lincoln.

I suppose that by Paul Craig Roberts’s standard, my two friends here are also “dishonest court historians.” But these two men are actually Maxcy Gregg and Lawrence Keitt, debating on the floor of the SC Secession Convention. They are the “dishonest court historians” who actually wrote the resulting document. They are the ones who agreed: this is not about tariffs, literally “we must not make a fight on the Tariff question,” but this is about slavery and what the election of Abraham Lincoln portended for the institution of slavery. You can read their debate below the document here.

Maxcy Gregg had been an outspoken proponent of secession over slavery for many years, he advocated reopening the slave trade with Africa, and had taken part in an earlier attempt at secession in 1852. At that time, the convention could say hardly anything but “slavery.” That attempt to secede was aborted because no other states would join them at that time, but the resulting resolution is instructive as to their purpose:

Resolved, That South Carolina, through her sovereign Convention, now pledges herself to her sister Southern States, to resist, in company with them, or alone if need be, by all the means which nature and God have given her, any and every attempt on the part of Congress to interfere with slavery in the States, or the slave trade between the States, or to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia without the consent of the owners, or to exclude slavery from the Southern territories of the United States, or the forts, navy yards, and other public places in the slave-holding States belonging to the Federal Government, or refuse the admission of a State into the Union on account of slavery, or refuse to enforce and carry out the existing constitutional provisions on the subject of rendition of fugitive slaves, or alter or change the Federal Constitution in any respect touching slavery.

Maxcy Gregg alone submitted a dissent to this report, not because he disagreed with it, but because he agreed so strongly he did not want a mere declaration of words without action. His views had not changed in 1860.

It takes the most unfortunate amount of spin today to read slavery out of the equation. Roberts himself cannot even do so, but reads himself right into the middle of the subject. He says,

South Carolina saw slavery as the issue being used by the North to violate the sovereignty of states and to further centralize power in Washington. The secession document makes the case that the North, which controlled the US government, had broken the compact on which the Union rested and, therefore, had made the Union null and void. For example, South Carolina pointed to Article 4 of the US Constitution, which reads: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” . . .

It was hardly incidental that the fugitive slave clause was the focus. They did not choose it at random. They also did not choose any other. Put two and two together from this paragraph alone and you can see the issue. Add to it all the other discussion, the debate, the background, and the historical references, and it’s inescapable. You cannot escape the fact that secession was over slavery, period.

The real question is, why would you try? And why try so hard? I gather that the greatest evils of our time appear in the guise of statism, and we must make that a focus of our fight today. But how are Christians to “fight” a culture war?

It must begin with the House of God. We must first repent ourselves. Among other things, that means stop slandering the memory of those African and American blacks who suffered for two hundred fifty years because of it, and for a hundred years afterward because of it, and the legacies of it. It means stop whitewashing the abject evils of our “forefathers,” southern or not. Stop it. Instead, own up to it. Move on to something better: a future of liberty built on love of neighbor.

The answer to Roberts’s initial question, “How come the South is said to have fought for slavery?” is this: “Why would anyone say the South fought for anything else?” Slavery was so pervasive, so evil, so deep, so ingrained, so desperate, and so ready on everyone’s lips that the effort to suppress it as a cause leads one into the deepest, most circular and transparent of absurdities.

Appealing to “state rights” and constitutional rights while buying and selling humans, beating them, working them to death, raping them, dehumanizing and brutalizing them in a million ways was the height of hypocrisy. (And yes, all that happened a hundred times over and it is widely attested and easily provable.) Trying to defend the South as a bastion of Constitutionalism in light of American slavery is delusional and naïve, ignorant, flippant, careless, reckless, partisan, and unholy.

The South trying to defend itself by appealing to the Constitution is like a rapist fleeing into the safety of his own home expecting the castle doctrine to protect him from the law. You can cry “Constitution” all day long, but when you have the blood on your hands, it doesn’t work like that. Likewise, God is not mocked. What a man sows, that he will reap. You can’t sow kidnapping, theft, rape, and murder and reap Constitutional liberty. Maybe in a slave economy, but not in God’s.

And could it be that the very statism, leftism, and threats we endure today stem directly from our own failures, and denials, so frequently exhibited, in these very areas? I believe so. And I believe we could, and would, absolutely destroy the left if we quit thinking in terms of prejudice, fear, jealousy, self-righteousness, and selfishness ourselves. These fears may be cloaked fully in the guise of old school libertarianism, but they end up feeding the state just as much as leftism and neoconservatism. Better shed them. Find a neighbor you can love, and figure out what it means to love them. It’s the only way forward to freedom.

(Now, just to be clear, the point made in this article refer to the limited issue of slavery as a cause of secession for the South. There is of course much more to say. This is not a comprehensive treatise, though it is self-sustaining for the points it makes. More will be said, and proven, when the book gets out.)

Categories: Worldview

The Corwin Amendment and its false absolution of the South

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 08:18

I had hoped to save articles such as this for the release of my upcoming book on the subject, but the currency of the issues of Southern secession, right, slavery, the Civil War, etc. has generated articles of interest that demand attention.

Tom Dilorenzo’s recent and characteristic shellacking of Abraham Lincoln demonstrates that man’s racism and economic agenda. This sparked Paul Craig Roberts to ask himself, “How come the South is said to have fought for slavery when the North wasn’t fighting against slavery?” What followed was a diatribe from Roberts on how anyone who believes otherwise must be a complete moron or a “court historian.”

Name-calling is a poor substitute for proving points, and Roberts succeeds only in the former.

To begin with, Tom Mullen has more than ably answered Roberts indirectly. Mullen’s position is much closer to my own, suffering the extremes of neither a one-track focus on Clay’s American system or the whitewashing of the South so common in these discussions in differing aspects of the libertarian movement. Mullen’s position is that both Lincoln and the Confederacy were awful, and those interested in liberty ought to move on from both.

I concur with this assessment in a particularly biblical, Christian way, only adding for now that no understanding of these issues can ever escape the truth of Lincoln’s second inaugural address. When we consider what the abolitionists (and many southerners, only for a different reason) had been saying all along about the North’s deep complicity, and when we consider more than half of the 600,000 dead fell of the North, we must understand “those by whom the offense came” to include the whole nation. With this understanding, every single word of that address is true and inescapable for the whole nation. It also implicates all of us today in her continued healing and the restoration of liberty.

Nevertheless, Roberts is concerned to show that the South did not secede over slavery. He offers two major pieces of information: the Corwin Amendment and, oddly, South Carolina’s Declaration of Causes of her secession.

Since I have had several people point to the Corwin Amendment as proof the War was not “about slavery,” it is certainly worth addressing. It does cause some confusion, mainly because it is so little discussed at all.

First, let’s simply acknowledge what American history textbooks for decades have acknowledged: The North did not go to War to stop slavery. Lincoln went to war to save the Union. We can speak more on this later, but for now it is enough simply to state it as a fact, which it is, and inform many of those most commonly exercised by the lack of recognition of that fact that it is actually a well-known fact, and one well attested among the “court historians” themselves, believe it or not. Let’s quit fooling ourselves here.

More importantly, however, here’s Roberts’s version of the Corwin Amendment argument:

Two days before Lincoln’s inauguration as the 16th President, Congress, consisting only of the Northern states, passed overwhelmingly on March 2, 1861, the Corwin Amendment that gave constitutional protection to slavery. Lincoln endorsed the amendment in his inaugural address, saying “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Quite clearly, the North was not prepared to go to war in order to end slavery when on the very eve of war the US Congress and incoming president were in the process of making it unconstitutional to abolish slavery.

Here we have absolute total proof that the North wanted the South kept in the Union far more than the North wanted to abolish slavery.

If the South’s real concern was maintaining slavery, the South would not have turned down the constitutional protection of slavery offered them on a silver platter by Congress and the President. Clearly, for the South also the issue was not slavery.

The real issue between North and South could not be reconciled on the basis of accommodating slavery.

Again, none of this is a shock even to the most ardent Lincoln-worshipping court historian. The reason for this is that the political battle for a decade (really several decades) up to this point had never been merely about the South’s right to keep its slaves, but about the expansion of slavery into the territories (as well as the effects of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which were huge).

This may seem like a fine distinction to us today, but a whole world of millions of souls and billions of dollars hung upon it, and the whole society was energized and willing to fight battles, build empires, and die defending it. Indeed, every southerner with any knowledge knew that the whole southern slave system depended upon the expansion of slavery, and would eventually wither and die without it.

In short, the North knew that by prohibiting expansion of slavery, the institution would slowly die. While certainly under pressure from immediate abolitionists, the majority of the North were not so radical. The majority were content with gradual emancipation. They were content to let it die slowly in the Union. Southern slaveholders understood this paradigm even more keenly, and thus fought for expansion in every way and to the utmost degree possible—many prominent ones even desiring to reopen the African slave trade, start an international slave colony in Cuba, or expand a slave empire throughout Mexico and central America. They failed, but not for want of trying.

When Lincoln was elected, the South, beginning with South Carolina, assumed the worst in regard to their dreams of expansion and of the enforcement of the Act of 1850. They assumed this would spell the end of their slave system in the long term, and so they seceded to protect it. Yes, they could cite American secession from Britain, states rights, and the Constitution all day long, but all of these arguments were subservient to the one main goal of continuing their slave system and power, which meant perpetually expanding it.

But wait, this is supposed to be about the Corwin Amendment? Right. This all puts that Congressional ballyhoo, which came to nothing, into perspective. By the time that Amendment came to any real discussion, eight of the Southern states had already left on their own accord, because Lincoln was elected, and thus to protect their slave power against their assumptions about him. For the issue of the South and secession, it was moot.

So why an Amendment to make slavery a perpetual constitutional right? Lincoln was a consummate politician, and knew any hope to keep the Union together (his casus belli, remember?) demanded grasping for everything he could keep, including keeping the border states—Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, etc.—in the Union. Lincoln already believed that the Constitution protected the institution of slavery within the states, so he had no problem with giving any and all assurance to such a fact if it would help retain some of these states within the Union.

But doesn’t that prove it wasn’t about slavery? Listen, again: it was never about the Constitutional protection of the institution of slavery within the states. Never. It was about the Constitution’s protection of expansion of the slavery. The states had fought and compromised over this in 1820. They did so again in 1850. Again in 1854. Then the Dred Scott (1857) decision one-sidedly tilted this argument in favor of the South’s slavery-expansionist belief. Lincoln and the Republicans, and the North, did not and would not concede this, but the Deep South states would secede if they thought the North would not abide by it.

Again, as fine a point as it may seem today, just listen to Abe himself in his first inaugural: “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute” [my emphases].

The Corwin Amendment did not touch this dispute at all. It only dealt with what both sides agreed was not at issue: the Constitution’s protection of the institution within the States where it existed already. This is the real reason it had no effect whatsoever on the South’s already-seceded position.

Among the few academic treatments of the Corwin Amendment, law professor A. Christopher Bryant’s paper, “Stopping Time: The Pro-Slavery and ‘Irrevocable’ Thirteenth Amendment,” drives these points home. He writes,

Some today might be surprised to learn that the South would not have been satisfied with an express constitutional guarantee for slavery where it already existed. As noted above, however, for at least the preceding decade, political agitation over slavery had been channeled into the debate about Congress’ power over the territories. Lincoln had attacked Dred Scott and had insisted that Congress could and should prohibit slavery in the territories. His election meant that the South had finally suffered defeat with respect to that issue. Largely to save face, and partially out of habit, southern leaders wanted the North to renounce part of that victory by agreeing to constitutional guarantees for slavery in the territories. The Republicans strongly resisted such a proposal, perhaps out of fear of southern expansion. Because the Corwin Resolution did not address the issue of slavery in the territories, however, it perhaps appeared to be too painless a concession by the northern Republicans to win the South’s enthusiastic support.

At least one southern Senator—a Virginia Democrat—opposed the Amendment specifically on these grounds. He saw it as a pointless concession of nothing designed to distract attention from the real issue: the North’s refusal “to deny to Congress the right of interference with slavery in the territories.” He added that Virginia would “not be influenced one hair’s breadth by the passage of this joint resolution.”

Other southern Senators rightly picked up on the Republicans’ intention of using the Amendment to divide the South. Little if any hope remained of bringing back the Deep South states, but the border states were in the balance. Lincoln and the Republicans supported the Amendment as a hopeful attempt to keep them in the union while the others seceded. Doing so would not only strengthen the North’s stance, but would divide southern Democrats and hopefully have a leavening influence among southerners in general when they saw that some valued union over secession.

The Corwin Amendment was nothing more than a particularly transparent, clumsy, desperate, and pitiful political stunt to help keep, or at least delay, the remaining southern states from leaving the Union. It was never anything more. It was certainly not proof positive that the South did not secede over slavery, because the Deep South states had all seceded already—over slavery. And no one entertained any delusions at the time that the Corwin Amendment would actually win them back, for that was not its very limited and weak political purpose.

Now, this does not get to Mr. Roberts’ second piece of information: the South Carolina secession declaration. I’ll address that tomorrow, but suffice it to say that far from helping his view, it does just the opposite, even when we consider the particular spin he attempts to put upon it.

While I would disagree also with Mullen on some points, in the end, he is right: “21st century Americans shouldn’t pick a side in the Civil War.” I will go further: no Christian or libertarian who reads all the facts and understands the history can in conscience pick a side. We must accept the outcome in God’s providence, but we should go beyond that, too. With God’s Word, we should be willing openly to criticize the failures of the past, to repent of our own biases and prejudices where necessary, and to use God’s Law to chart the course forward in society, law, economics, criminal justice reform—in short, in the liberty of Christian people and society.

Categories: Worldview

Franklin Graham, school prayer, and godless socialism

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 10:03

 

Franklin Graham’s outrage over government-school coaches being forbidden to pray on school property and at school functions reveals the deep inner conflict that has inflicted the greatest damage upon conservative Evangelicals in America.

Graham posted Friday blasting a decision by the Ninth Circuit to uphold a government school district’s suspension of a coach for praying at the 50-yard line after every game. He says,

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that coaches can’t pray or make religious gestures on the field after a game. These progressive activist judges have gone too far.

He calls for action:

At next Friday night’s game, on Sept. 1, I think it would be great if football coaches across the country went out on the field wherever they are and prayed. And those there to watch the game stand in prayer with them.

Perhaps nothing gets conservative evangelicals as riled up as messing with “our” schools. Whether school prayer, religious symbols on clothing, Bible reading, or the homosexual agenda, Christians today routinely express their feeling that they are “under attack” in government schools.

Christians less often, however, see the underlying problem. When the government owns the building, property, buses, teaching contracts, administration, books, and virtually everything else about the system, and also taxes local property owners to pay for the system, we have a phrase for that: government ownership of the means of production. We also have a single word for that: Socialism.

Stick with me, now.

The deep inner contradiction among conservatives and evangelicals today is that in so many areas of life, they are the foremost opponents of socialism; yet when it comes to education, we are totally blind to it.

Franklin Graham’s career over the past couple of decades or so exemplifies this conflict. Graham has been among the most vehement critics of “socialism.” Just last fall during the election season he decried the “forces of evil” and their “irresponsible socialism.”

About the same time, he rightfully condemned socialized health care, saying “socialists and atheists are scared to death of the church.” He criticized “Democratic socialists” for wanting government-run programs in health care and welfare where private individuals and the church ought to provide solutions.

Earlier last year, he blasted socialism on Fox News: “Socialism is godless,” he said.

That being the case, why would any Christian desire to hand their children over to it? Who would want their children raised, trained, and educated by a system fully rooted in that which is “irresponsible,” “evil,” “godless,” and “scared to death of the church”?

Yet when it comes to the government education system, Graham is its foremost defender. Just a couple years ago, Graham decried the teaching of “gender fluidity” in government schools. His solution was for Christians to run for school board. While it may sound good to put righteous people in leadership, that will not work if the system is what is corrupt to begin with. This does nothing but legitimize the system the left invented. Baptized socialism is still socialism.

As far back as 2004, Graham spoke on a proposition at the Southern Baptist Convention to pull children out of the socialistic school system. He opposed the move, saying, “I hope Christians will not surrender the public schools. Instead, let’s take them back. Let’s consider them a mission field.”

There was no acknowledgment of the “godless” socialism inherent in that system.

Graham probably has not realized that his argument is exactly how the socialist “Christians” around the world, and on the left in America, defend every other socialist program. Imagine how you (or Graham) would react if you heard a liberal saying:

I hope Christians will not surrender public health care. Instead, let’s take it back. Let’s consider it a mission field.

I hope Christians will not surrender on raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. Instead, let’s take it back. Let’s consider it a mission field.

I hope Christians will not surrender food stamps. Instead, let’s take them back. Let’s consider them a mission field.

I hope Christians will not surrender the public housing subsidies. Instead, let’s take them back. Let’s consider them a mission field.

On down the list of socialist welfare programs we could go. Granted, all of these areas—poverty, housing, health care—are mission fields, but we don’t want the government in them! They are not the government’s job! And neither is education.

Now Graham is speaking out because a federal court has inched the bar of “godless” socialism one step further and forbidden a coach from exhibitions of public prayer. He calls for Christian coaches everywhere to defy this ruling and pray.

On the one hand, it’s wonderful that a Christian leader is willing to call for civil disobedience. Bravo! We should ignore, criticize, resist, demonstrate, nullify, and in some cases even fight against unjust laws. So few Christians today believe it’s acceptable to resist unjust laws in general. It’s refreshing to hear one, even if only for such a small thing.

But that’s just it. This really is a “safe” thing to speak up about, isn’t it?

Because on the other hand, the real problem is godless socialism itself: the redistribution of wealth and state control of the educational system in general, and Graham (and millions of other evangelicals and evangelical leaders) not only won’t speak up about that, he defends it.

There is no greater expression of socialism in our culture that the government-run school systems. There is hardly an area in which government ownership and control of the means of production is more entrenched than in education.

Christians like Graham also don’t realize that the moment the try to defend government schooling, that very moment they legitimize every other socialist welfare program that exists, and many others than leftists would like to exist. If it works for education, and Christians defend it, it’s only a matter of time before it will “work” for health care, housing, jobs, transportation, industry, agriculture, and everything else, too. Why not? The Christians already told us they’d defend it once it’s in place.

Leaving your kids in government schools is such a powerful endorsement to socialism in all other areas of life, it far outweighs a direct vote for Bernie Sanders any day. Bernie, Hillary, and Karl Marx have all been laughing for decades as we prove them “right,” not by speaking socialism, but by practicing it.

Christians, you have good options, and the more we pull out of government schools, the better the free market reacts and makes those options even better: home school, private schools, private tutors, online schools.

The only way to defeat socialism is to delegitimize it. This means, we must get out of the system while we can, while we are free to do so, and replace it with that which we truly believe and preach: private, free market solutions.

Socialism is theft. Don’t be a thief. Let him that stole, steal no more (Eph. 4:28).

If you’d like to learn more about a more biblical view of Christian education, download my FREE report, Restoring Education in America.

Categories: Worldview

Barth and the blind squirrels: Reformed scholasticism, Biblicism, and false prophets

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 21:30

The latest dispensation of the continuing effort by Dr. Jones to regenerate protestant scholasticism appears in the form of a primer. Dr. Jones gives a little indication, perhaps, of his motivations with the following comment:

Of course, the Reformed could have adopted a rather simplistic Biblicism – crying, “we are just letting the Bible speak for itself” – but that would have convinced no one, though perhaps the Socinians would have been impressed to have such allies in method!

We’ll let the guilt-by-association fallacy there pass with only a mention, but the suggestion that the alternative to scholasticism is a “simplistic Biblicism,” and worse, one that is “crying,” deserves a little attention. Of course, if this is the type of argument one could expect from neoscholasticism, then perhaps its introduction will be its refutation. More charitably, we can suggest that it is just poor scholasticism that creates such false dichotomies.

Must we, in fact, decide between a neoscholasticism or a simplistic Biblicism (whatever that would fully entail)?

I have no intention here of giving a full analysis of this issue, but one comment Dr. Jones offers somewhat tongue-in-cheek (I assume) near the end of his post provides a fruitful point of departure:

Karl Barth once remarked, somewhat ironically, “The fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet” (Church Dogmatics I/1. 279). Indeed. At least the fear of scholasticism might suggest some acquaintance with it; but ignorance is even worse, especially when it forms such a large part of our Reformed heritage.

It is not clear what the antecedent of that last “it” was supposed to be: was it the scholasticism that forms such a large part of our heritage, or ignorance? I would posit that an ignorance of scholasticism only hurts much from the perspective of the historical theologian, or church historian, each trying to understand the past. Purely as historical pursuits, Latin and scholasticism still have some utility. In some cases, they can be useful for translating lost or forgotten works that do have some abiding merit, such as Johannes Piscator’s Disputations on the Judicial Laws of Moses. But even here we must use discernment.

But whence cometh discernment? Aristotle’s Organon? Socrates, Seneca, or Scotus?

We all know it is from Scripture, and no amount of effort to prop up any heritage or tradition besides that can ever amount to anything better than intellectual filigree. In most cases, however, they become theological albatrosses and millstones hung about our necks.

The big question is why one sees the quest for a purely Scriptural worldview and method as something to be dismissed in favor of such a millstone as scholasticism. I have my ideas, but for now, I am intrigued by Jones’s decision to drag Karl Barth into it. In short, he is being cute here, but the interesting thing is that the quotation ends up being far cuter than Jones’s use of it.

What follows comes from Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, I.1.275–287, and is in no way an endorsement of his theology at large (nor am I in any way an expert). He was, however, hugely influential, and his thoughts in this particular area are more than solid. Barth also provided some influence on Van Til, and thus on presuppositionalism. As opponents of the natural theology traditions, catching Barth speaking highly of scholasticism is like catching Pope Leo X admiring Luther.

The problem here is not only the apparent misunderstanding of the quotation, but the context which goes on, immediately and at large, to make such a vigorous point to the opposite of what Jones’s neoscholasticism would like to hear.

Barth said, indeed, “Fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet.” Now here’s the rest of the story:

Nothing that can claim to be truly of the Church need shrink from the sober light of “scholasticism” [note the quotation marks!]. No matter how free and individual it may be in its first expression, if it seeks universal acceptance, it will be under constraint to set up a school and therefore to become the teaching of a school. Fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet. The true prophet will be ready to submit his message to this test too. . . .

By “scholasticism” here, Barth merely meant normalizing and systematizing one’s preaching so that it can be judged, accepted, and used as regular teaching for the whole church. Else, it is just opinion and pontification.

One of the fears I have with the high praise of Latin, scholasticism, etc., is the attempt to uber-professionalize the preaching and teaching of the church—to remove it into the caste of only those who have been professionally trained in the upper echelons of forming properly scholastic syllogisms. But Barth’s point runs exactly counter to this impulse:

Anyone who wants to pursue regular dogmatics will have, of course, special cause to remember that this way of doing the task cannot claim a monopoly, even or especially as regards scientific character. It is certainly as well to reflect that at any moment it is possible that the question of dogma may be put and answered much more seriously and fruitfully in the unassuming Bible class of an unknown country parson than in the most exact academic discussion imaginable. School dogmatics should not try to regard itself as better dogmatics, only as a necessary second form of dogmatics. And it should not disdain to listen time and again to the voice of free dogmatics. [Emphasis JM.]

Instead, our modern scholastics seem to deny this and do the opposite. Instead of testing their scholasticism against freelance biblical theology time and again, they “listen time and again” only to the voice of their Latin circles and certain pagan systems, and keep preaching a natural law theology based on them.

Barth goes on to note that the Protestant scholastics of the more modern era were guilty of just that, and it cost them:

It has had disastrous results that the dogmatics of the 19th century Protestant schools, which was much prouder at this point than that of the age of orthodoxy, did very largely disdain to listen in this way, . . .

But listen it must, and often to “free-lance” theologians and preachers outside of, or against, the mainstream ecclesiastical establishment.

But we’re still a bit wide of the mark if we have not stated the focus at which all theologians ought to aim. The task of what Barth calls “free-lance” or “irregular” dogmatics, and of “school” or “regular” dogmatics checking, correcting, and sustaining each other must be carried out according to an authoritative standard. By what standard? After all, how can either criticize or correct the other if both are autonomous? Or if either one is autonomous? If the free-spirits are autonomous, they are loose cannons. If the system contains elements of autonomy, it is both unstable and is a threat of tyranny—which is more often than not the case in church history and today. If both are autonomous, you have a powder keg.

Neither can be autonomous. Both must submit to Scripture, so that when the free spirits get too loose, the system points them back to Scripture; and when the system gets shaky or overbearing, any free spirit can point it back to Scripture with immunity before God. Remember, Arius was a bishop and in the majority, and Athanasius a lowly deacon.

Barth got the part about the need for an authoritative standard right, too:

Whether or not regular or irregular dogmatics is scientific depends on the answer to the question how far they stick to their task and are not distracted by very different things. But their task consists in criticism and correction of Church proclamation regarding its agreement with the revelation attested in Holy Scripture. [Emphasis JM.]

Eventually, Barth calls this the “decisive point.” He continues, that having a purely scriptural standard (and it would appear, method, too) does not mean one must resort to “simplistic Biblicism”:

It is quite right—and we are not questioning this here but emphatically underlining it—that an education in the arts and a familiarity with the thinking of the philosopher, psychologist, historian, aesthetician, etc., should be demanded of the dogmatician or the theologian. The dogmatician, too, must think and speak in a particular age and should thus be a man of his age, which also means a man of the past which constitutes his age, i.e., an educated man. Nevertheless, the only element in education that makes him a dogmatician is the one which is not provided in all these other disciplines and which consists in indemonstrable and unassuming attention to the sign of Holy Scripture around which the Church gathers and continually becomes the Church. By this attention and by nothing else, the theologian becomes a theologian.

Mark that well, scholastic: by attention to Holy Scripture, and by nothing else, is one made a theologian. Be a church historian if you like; be part of any “heritage” you like; just don’t call it theology if it does not have full investment in, and only in, Scripture for its heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Then Barth moves to the crux of another issue before us still today, and where the modern churches have repeatedly failed:

It is not a question, then, of depreciating other disciplines. It is sheer nonsense to talk of criticizing culture in this regard, for in the last resort attention to Holy Scripture might be called an element of culture or education. Nor is it a question of the barbarous demand that the problem of culture as such must be indifferent to the theologian.

Barth goes on to say that this “decisive point” about the ultimate foundation in the Bible is special, not decided by culture or apart from culture, but “has its own set of laws which is not to be confused or intermingled with any other.” Further, “Without any arrogant criticism of culture we may postulate that he may realise that in this sphere the criteria of other philosophies cannot play a role which they might perhaps be assigned in every other sphere.”

As students of Van Til may note, Barth has arrived the idea of a presupposition here: Scripture is primary and foundational to all these other questions: the Church, dogma, all the other disciplines, culture, and the whole bit. Other philosophies are prohibited from entering here.

The modern recourse (by many groups) to classical scholasticism may indeed be correct to say that Reformed traditions of days gone by had indeed thoroughly furnished their intellectual house with classicism, strains of classical and medieval scholasticism, etc., but that is hardly the most important question to ask before we go redesigning the seminary according to the Lyceum. Barth recognized the danger here, too: “In fact there has never been, not even in the Reformation, an unequivocally scriptural dogmatics that has not been determined at all by other authorities.” This is not a license to fail, though; it is a challenge to do better. Then we can reduce it to a school of thought—Barth’s sense of the word “scholastic,” and the only one that is probably beneficial for theologians to use.

Fear of developing one’s thought within a biblical system of thought and by a biblical system of thought is indeed the mark of a false prophet. Therefore, so is adhering to non-biblical traditions—which is the point Barth makes, if his readers don’t equivocate. It hardly makes any sense, then, based upon such a thought to run to false prophets like Aristotle to find one’s system.

For a well-spoken conclusion, we can stick with Barth here, too:

What finally counts is whether a whether a dogmatics is scriptural. If it is not, then it will definitely be futile, for we shall definitely have to say regarding it that in it the Church is distracted, i.e., it is busy about other matters and is not doing justice to the scientific task set for it by the problematic nature of its proclamation.

Again, we certainly cannot follow Barth is so much of what he taught; but his outlook and proposed method here were spot on. His work is simply testimony that even a biblical outlook at the start is not enough.

Categories: Worldview

Paul and the blind squirrels: quoting pagans at Mars Hill

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 06:29

After my article on “quoting pagans” the other day, some people were quick to point out the obvious: “But Paul!” Even Dr. Jones, whose article sparked the discussion, responded to my demand for what he would call “biblicism” only with a wry, “Poor Paul.” Of course, Paul did actually quote from pagan sources, so I need to provide some explanation for how this fits with my Scripture-centric program. That answer is quite easy, actually.

The problem centers generally on why Paul quotes to the Athenians what “some of your own poets have said” (Acts 17), and likewise in other places as well.

In a nutshell, Paul quoted Pagan authors for the purposes of critiquing and bringing judgment upon pagans. The basis from which he did this was always the Bible, a biblical worldview, and a biblical methodology—that thing proponents of modern scholasticism derisively label “biblicism.”

How does this work? It just so happens that I wrote about Paul’s use of pagan references and his biblical background in my first book Manifested in the Flesh. Below is the excerpt.

Now, some of you will read this and think I have automatically contradicted myself about quoting pagans because . . . I favorably quote from N. T. Wright. Suffice it to say that a few things have changed in the eleven years since I published this, and I am not sure I would be so quick to use Wright as the right source for conveying some of this info, though I have not fully kept up with his latest to make my own informed judgment as to whether or not he has lapsed into heresy and/or paganism. That aside, I stand by the points made by him here because—to my overall point—they faithfully express what I see in Scripture. Paul was a Biblicist bringing his biblical worldview to bear upon pagans. He quotes pagans to show they are inexcusable in their idolatry.

In short, if a pagan says something that lines up with Scripture, then he’s just caught up to where God expects us all to be according to the Bible. If a pagan says something that is true, and Christians have not realized it yet, that is no argument to go scrambling after pagan sources, but a strong suggestion that we have not understood our Scripture as well as we need to yet, or have forgotten it along the way.

More on scholasticism and its dangers later; for now, my few old notes on poor Paul:

***

To begin with Paul must have been a very well cultured and educated man. His ability to travel the entire Roman Empire preaching the Gospel, planting churches, training leaders, interacting with all types of people, arguing in courts and before philosophers, operating in prison and from house arrest, writing letters, settling disputes, etc., shows him to be a multi-talented, versatile genius of thought and social skill. Few people could compile such a resume without a great amount of character.

Not only this but Paul exhibits specific knowledge of local cultures in many of his letters and in the accounts about him. For example, when confronting the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers on Mars’ Hill, Paul quotes their own poets—Epimenides and Aratus—to them (Acts 17:28), and thus appears to be versed in more than one pagan writer. He shows familiarity with Stoic vocabulary, style, and thought in Romans 1–2 and again quotes Epimenides in Titus 1:12. From such usage it appears that Paul must have spent lots of time in the Greek literature of his day.

Getting below the surface, however, provides a somewhat different picture. The context of Paul’s confrontation in Acts 17 begins with him being moved at the great idolatry of the city of Athens: “While Paul waited for [Silas and Timotheus] at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). Paul was not merely playing philosopher as an intellectual game, but he “disputed” first with the Jews and then with anyone in the market who would listen (Acts 17:17). The subjects were idolatry, false worship, and superstition. Once he drew the attention of the philosophers, he confronted them also on the same charge. But he was able to quote from their own poets to drive the point home.

Why was Paul the Jew so quickly able to recite pagan poetry? Aratus’ poem enjoyed wide circulation, since he wrote one of the most popular textbooks on astronomy for his day. Every student in Greek and later in Latin would have read his verses. The book was read as widely as Homer in the schools. If Paul was schooled during his early years in Tarsus then he, too, might well have memorized it. It would naturally have come to mind when trying to relate to the Greek thinkers. In their culture, “Everyone would have known Aratus’s poem.” This understanding makes Paul’s argument all the more powerful: he undermined the proud professional philosophers of his day with what every school-child would have known! Paul simply used well-known Greek poetry to challenge the misguided thinking of the Athenians.

Furthermore, Paul gave his challenge in an unmistakably Jewish-Christian manner. So much attention has been given to the fact that he actually quoted Greek literature that scholars have often missed the larger picture of Paul’s speech. “What a Stoic audience might not realize is the extent to which Paul draws on Old Testament creation and temple theology (Gen. 1:1–25; Exod. 20:11, 1 Kgs. 8:27; Is. 42:5; 57:15–16; Amos 5:12–23).” The entire meeting at Mars’ Hill represents a typically Jewish attitude against pagan idolatry. Paul simply commandeered their own language to preach the Gospel to them. Far from showing Greek influence in Paul’s thought, the scene depicts Greek thought under the judgment of the conquering King Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30–1).

Paul and Old Testament Theology

We have to immediately suspect, then, those arguments that would force Paul into a Greek mold over against a Jewish background. This is not to say that Paul was not familiar with Hellenistic culture—he certainly shows that he was. Arguments, however, that force Paul to be primarily a Hellenistic thinker have to ignore or radically redefine too much of what he said. Thankfully, recent times have seen a blossoming of thought regarding the Jewish origin and background of everything about the Apostle Paul. This new and welcome emphasis in Pauline studies complies more with the apostle’s own words. He said, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus . . . yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers” (Acts 22:3). He also emphasized his Jewish background to the Philippians. He wrote that he was, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:5). Paul’s ready identification of his roots directs us to the source of his world-view, and it is not pagan.

In this respect, the most recent New Testament studies have provided the Christian world with some of the finest scholarship in decades.

  1. T. Wright follows a precedent set by W. D. Davies in his 1948 Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, which sees Paul primarily as “a Jewish rabbi who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah,” and, “Rejects outright the attempt to derive Paul’s thought from Hellenism.” Working from this viewpoint—which has been greatly developed since Davies—Wright proceeds to exegete sections of Paul’s letters that leap out with a fresh clarity.

In many places we can see Paul referring to the classic Jewish tradition of monotheism. This tradition includes all the obvious features of the Old Testament doctrine of God: it confronts any idea of God that does not include him as the good Creator of the physical universe, and thus it contradicts the dualists, Platonists, and gnostics. It confronts any earthly ruler who would make a claim to sovereignty or divinity, and thus it rejects Caesar as lord. Likewise, it rejects the whole spectrum of pagan gods and myths both as nonsense and as idolatry. This teaching is summarized in that foundational confession of Judaism, the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart” (Deut. 6:4–5 NKJV).

It is just this verse that Paul draws upon when he confronts idolatry in Corinth, but he adds a new twist: he elevates Jesus to the status of one Lord as well. He begins in 1 Cor. 8:1–3 by teaching that the worship of God is not a matter of mere knowledge, but of love (“Love the LORD your God. . .”). He then reveals a typically Old Testament attitude toward pagan idolatry: “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). Then he drops the bomb on every theory that tries to paint him or early Christianity as Hellenistic: against the so-called “gods many, and lords many” of the pagans, Paul quotes the Shema: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we in him” (1 Cor. 8:6). In order to see how Paul places Jesus within the monotheism of the Jewish tradition, Wright places the verses side-by-side:

The Lord our God / One God . . . the Father . . . (Deuteronomy 6:4)

The Lord is One / One Lord . . . Jesus Christ . . . (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Now we have a true parallel! Paul’s mission to the Corinthians was one of a Jew, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, prosecuting that message against the idolatry of the pagan world. Right when we would expect Paul to try to find some common point of departure with his pagan audience (as sometimes he does), he falls back upon the most basic of Jewish Scriptures and places Jesus squarely in the middle of it. Wright adds, “This verse is one of the most genuinely revolutionary bits of the- ology ever written.” Paul at once surpasses Judaism with Christianity, and rejects pagan polytheism and idolatrous practices. . . .

(From Joel McDurmon, Manifested in the Flesh, pp. 70–74.)

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

The coming eclipse and Last Days Madness

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 06:42

On August 21, much of the United States will see a solar eclipse. In some areas, the eclipse will be total. Prophecy prognosticators are already making claims about the prophetic significance of this solar event. What is there to it?

For the uninformed, there is nothing unusual about an eclipse. They happen on a regular basis around the world. Here’s a site where you can see a list of the various eclipses (lunar and solar) for the next ten years. What makes this one unusual is that it will traverse much of the United States.

An eclipse is about positioning and timing. There will be a point in time when the moon will pass between the sun and the earth and block the sun from our eyes. How is this possible since the sun is 400 times the size of the moon’s diameter? There is also a 400 times difference in distance. We can make the moon disappear by positioning one of our thumbs between our eyes and the moon. This is a good way to explain an eclipse to young children without harm to their eyes.

What also is not unusual is for prophecy prognosticators to make claims about the prophetic significance of solar events. The recent blood moon phenomenon is one example. Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, has written, “Is God’s Judgment Coming on America?” She’s basing her opinion, although not being dogmatic about it, that the eclipse could be a warning of our nation’s judgment:

In light of Ezekiel 33:1-6 that commands a watchman to be faithful to warn others of the danger coming against the land, I feel compelled to issue the warning once again. The warning is triggered by the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, nicknamed America’s Eclipse. For the first time in almost 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be seen from coast to coast in our nation.

People are preparing to mark this significant event with viewing parties at exclusive prime sites. The celebratory nature regarding the eclipse brings to my mind the Babylonian King Belshazzar who threw a drunken feast the night the Medes and Persians crept under the city gate. While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger.  Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed.

Jewish rabbis have historically viewed solar eclipses as warnings from God to Gentile nations. Therefore, my perspective on the upcoming phenomenon is not celebratory. While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is.

Americans do not need a solar eclipse to know that America is headed for judgment for its many sins against God and His laws if they do not repent. The warning signs are everywhere. The Bible is filled with such warnings. But is this eclipse a specific sign of judgment? Anne Lotz says we’ll have to wait and see. That’s not the way biblical signs work.

Prophecy speculators have been cashing in on apocalyptic scare tactics for centuries. I have twelve book cases filled with literature related to prophecy and prophetic speculation. While we’re looking at the sun, moon, and stars, our culture is being stolen from us. Christians need to stop with the speculation and get to work applying the principles of the Bible to our world rather than prophetic speculation.

Here’s one prophetic speculator that the media are quoting:

“I believe it is a prophetic sign,” said Paul Begley, host of the Coming Apocalypse radio show. Begley said the eclipse could possibly fulfill a Bible prophecy recorded in the book of Joel, which says, “the sun shall be turned to darkness” before the “Day of the Lord come.” Begley said, “Somebody sound the trumpet,” because the eclipse may mean, “we are living in the last days.”

Here’s another one:

Mark Biltz, author of the 2016 book God’s Day Timer, said the fact that the eclipse’s path falls exclusively on the United States means it is a sign that God’s judgment is coming to America. “From a biblical point of view, a solar eclipse is meant as a sign from God,” he said. “When there is a total solar eclipse, it is a warning to a specific nation or nations depending on its path. … Could God be giving us a warning that we need to repent or judgment will be coming to the United States? The timing couldn’t be clearer!”

One more:

“[T]his solar eclipse will be a warning of impending natural catastrophe and also will involve the warning of a war that the United States and Israel will be entangled in,” wrote Michael Parker, who runs the Prophecies of the End Times website. Parker believes the eclipse is connected to America’s attempts to devise a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. (The Trumpet)

Since there have been and will be total eclipses of the sun and moon in other parts of the world, why is Anne Lotz only now making a connection between an eclipse and God’s judgment? It’s hardly reasonable to have an event like an eclipse be a prophetic sign when eclipses are predictable, as they have been for centuries.

In 1504, while Christopher Columbus was shipwrecked in Jamaica, the Spaniards were having a tough time trading with the natives for food. Their food supply was fast coming to an end, and the natives were becoming tired of the hawk bells and trinkets that Columbus’ crew were trading. Columbus knew he had to take drastic measures. He told the natives that if they did not keep his crew supplied with food, his God would get angry and make the moon “die.”

Coming to the admiral’s rescue was Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436-1476), known by his Latin pseudonym, Regiomontanus. He was a highly regarded German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. Before his death, Regiomontanus published an almanac containing astronomical tables covering the years 1475-1506.

Regiomontanus’ almanac turned out to be of great value, for his astronomical tables provided detailed information about the sun, moon and planets, as well as the more important stars and constellations to navigate by. After it was published, no sailor dared set out without a copy. With its help, explorers were able to leave their customary routes and venture out into the unknown seas in search of new frontiers.

Columbus, of course, had a copy of the almanac with him when he was stranded on Jamaica. And he soon discovered from studying its tables that on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 29, 1504, a total lunar eclipse would occur, beginning around the time of moonrise.

*****

Just moments before the end of the total phase Columbus reappeared, announcing to the Arawaks that his god had pardoned them and would now allow the moon to gradually return. And at that moment, true to Columbus’ word, the moon slowly began to reappear, and as it emerged from the Earth’s shadow, the grateful Arawaks hurried away. They then kept Columbus and his men well supplied and well fed until a relief caravel from Hispaniola arrived on June 29, 1504. Columbus and his men returned to Spain on Nov. 7. (Space.com)

To bolster her claim, Anne Lotz cites Joel 2:31: “The sun will be turned to darkness … before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” The sun is not turned to darkness during an eclipse. The same passage also states that the moon will turn “into blood.” Since there have been many eclipses and many times the moon looked red (it never has nor ever will turn into literal blood), why didn’t Joel 2:31 apply then? Why is it only applying now? Peter quotes Joel in Acts 2:19-20 and applies it to his day when there was neither an eclipse nor a red moon.

James Jordan gets to the heart of the meaning of the moon turning into blood passage:

[T]he turning of the moon to “blood” points, I believe, to something particularly Jewish: the sacrificial system. If they will not accept the blood of Jesus Christ, the final Sacrifice, then they themselves will be turned into blood. They will become the sacrifices…. That is what the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was all about.

But Joel is issuing a warning. Those who listen can escape. “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of Yahweh will be delivered; for ‘on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape,’ as Yahweh has said, even among the survivors whom Yahweh calls” (Joel 2:32). Just as Isaac escaped death on Mount Zion because of the substitute ram that God provided (Genesis 22:14), so those who trust in the Lamb of God will escape the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Such is Joel’s warning, reiterated by Peter on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:19-21].

Neither Joel nor Peter had solar eclipses and red-looking moons in mind. God’s Judgment was based on the reckless abandonment of God’s law and the rejection of God’s Son.

The Bible records that at Jesus’ crucifixion there was darkness over the land. Some have speculated that this was due to a lunar eclipse (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33). Luke adds that the sun was “obscured,” but he does not say how (Luke 23:44-45). It could have been thick cloud coverage or changing atmospheric conditions. It could not have been a solar eclipse since they are of much shorter duration, no longer than seven minutes. The darkness at the time of the crucifixion lasted three hours. Lunar eclipses occur when the moon is full and visible at night and the earth passes between the sun and the moon. Jesus was crucified during the day.

Too many people are fixated on the end of history rather than on the One who made history nearly 2,000 year ago on the cross of redemption and the empty tomb. When the dust settles and the light returns and nothing prophetic happens, how many people will drift away from the faith because of another prophetic false alarm? Fortunately, not many people are proclaiming the upcoming solar event an apocalyptic event. But hold your breath, there’s the Revelation 12 Sign/September 23, 2017, Alignment prediction on the horizon.

For more on a truer understanding of Bible Prophecy, the sun, moon, and stars, and much more, see my Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church and American Vision’s many other books on Bible prophecy.

Categories: Worldview

Why no preaching on racism?

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 06:11

It is astonishing to me that some conservative and Reformed elders and teachers refuse to address racism. Even more startling, however, is that some even refuse to acknowledge that racism is a real thing.

Although this sort of denial brings to mind holocaust denial and flat-earth madness, we should be fair to some of these critics. Some are truly denying ethnic-based hatred and prejudice, and these people should be ignored as the lunatics they plainly are. Others, however, are opposed to the use of the term “racism” because they claim that the concept is not a Biblical concept. They are opposed to addressing this particular form of racial hatred directly, though they acknowledge that some racial hatred may truly exist.

The argument is that all hate, of course including ethnic-based hate, is just hate and so only hatred should be addressed and condemned. Of course the Christian should be striking at the root of these sins. Of course the Christian should not merely address social evils as if they are divorced from spiritual realities. Of course not. But is there some sort of Biblical principle that states that you can’t address specific forms of hatred? Specific forms of sin? Those on the religious right who claim that racism is merely a construct of the liberal left find themselves constructing a special hermeneutic to serve their own special purposes.

This inconsistently employed hermeneutic postulates that it is somehow wrong or unhelpful to address very specific forms of sin because Scripture does not list that specific sin out in a plain and neat way. Hating others is sin, according to these men, but racism is not a valid or righteous sin to address.

This is a tempting line to take. After all, the root must be struck. We cannot address racism without addressing the sin behind racism. But is this Biblical? In other words, did the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles solely address the core heart problem, or did they call out, condemn, and destroy very specific sins and sinful ideals? Does Scripture teach that we should divorce the heart from the particular sin?

The Prophets dealt with many forms of idolatry, murder, theft, and general lawlessness. They could have simply preached against this idolatry in indistinct terms. But instead, they named names (Jer. 19:4-5). They pointed out and addressed the false gods of their day, the child sacrifice of their day (Jer. 32:35), and the lack of justice (Amos 5) in their day. They pointed these sins out specifically. They did not give a vague sermon calling on Israel to abide by the vague Law of God. They named the specific sins.

Our Lord was likewise not shy about being specific. In Matthew 23, our Lord goes into great depth on the specific sins of Pharisaism. Instead of addressing the sins of Pharisaism, should our Lord have just focused on the “main thing” and given a vague exhortation to abide by the heart of the Law?

The Apostle Paul was very direct with a great number of specific sins. While Paul could have written a letter about general obedience to the Seventh Commandment (Ex. 20:14), he instead chose to address the very specific sin of sleeping with your father’s wife (1 Cor. 5). This is certainly covered as a type of sexual immorality, so why didn’t Paul just focus on the heart of the Law? Why did he need to get into the nasty detail of the specific sin?

There is example after example of Prophets, our Lord, and the New Testament authors addressing very specific sins that function as a subset of a more general sin. This is so commonplace, I’m ashamed that it needs to be pointed out. But I’m also, sadly, not surprised. In regards to abortion, I have been told by men of ecclesiological office again and again that we should just address the “main thing” and not waste our time on specific evils. Many have said that instead of addressing mass murder we should just talk about sin in the abstract, the atonement, and repentance in the abstract. This is, clearly, not the Biblical model.

Some commit the juvenile error that attempts to discredit an idea (or the existence of an idea) because the term is not found in Scripture. This is where the inconsistency of this silly hermeneutic comes into sharp focus.

Homosexuality is also not a term found in Scripture, but racism-deniers have no problem condemning homosexuality. Same applies to transgenderism. Same for socialism, communism, and fascism.

According to the logic of some racism-deniers, they should be passionately opposed to Christians addressing socialism, because as well all know, the term isn’t found in Scripture. Furthermore, should it not be covetousness and theft that we address, not socialism?

But of course there won’t be any consistency. There will be cherry picking when to apply this made-up hermeneutic. The vast majority of pastors will address some sort of “ism”, but when there’s a reason to hide from a particularly politically charged form of a sin, like racism, why is it that many want to hide behind vagueness?

Some racism-deniers will say that they simply do not like the term because it presupposes multiple races. Fine. I get that. There is only one race, the human race, so an ideology that attempts to separate the human race into ethically loaded subsegments isn’t legitimate. I agree. But the same could be said of homosexuality. As the left defines it, it is a fiction. But as the Church defines it, homosexuality is a very real sin. With racism, the use of the term itself does not imply a biological distinction between Image Bearers, although the meaning of the term may sometimes imply that.  When someone uses the term “racist”, it has never meant that they are necessarily Darwinists. It is ethnic-based hatred and prejudice. If when you say racism you mean the Darwinistic presumption of intrinsic value differences between Image Bearers of God, then I oppose the term. If when you say racism you mean ethnic hatred and prejudice, then it is obviously and clearly a real thing that should be discussed.

It is productive to discuss particular sins. The Church should have a response to humanism. The Church should have a response to socialism. The Church should have a response to Darwinism. The Church should have a response to racism. In all of these things the Church should presuppose the truth of God’s Word and strike at the idolatrous root of whatever Godless “ism”.

There is a danger in jumping on a bandwagon to talk about an issue that is very much in-vogue. We should not be opportunistic and desiring of attention, and we should never compromise on God’s Word. There is also a danger in being so caught up in a mindless counterculturalism that we have a strong reactionary disdain for discussing issues that may be a popular talking point in culture. Of course the Gospel is counter-cultural, but a mindless counterculturalism that rejects anything and everything that the culture may be getting at least partly right is not Gospel counterculturalism. Rather, that’s an addiction to novelty and an implicit denial that the pagans are Image Bearers of God and capable of picking up on some problems, although their solutions aren’t right.

My fear is that issues of justice have been co-opted by the left to such an extreme degree that many Christians believe, at least functionally, that justice belongs to the left. This attitude is so deeply ingrained that even mentioning racism and justice on social media can get you accused of being a socialist, as if the only answer to racism or other societal evils must be a governmental program. It is, frankly, ludicrous. Racism is important to discuss because racism is real, racism is sin, and the answer to any sin is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not just a “liberal” issue to talk about, this is a Gospel issue.

Categories: Worldview

Blind squirrel theology: the allure of “pagan sources” in Christian scholarship

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:56

An interesting debate opened up recently after a post by Dr. Mark Jones entitled, “Reformed Theologians Using Pagan Sources,” over at The Calvinist International. Dr. Jones seems to want to correct the mistake against Reformed “Catholicity” that decries the alleged rampant Aristotelianism that shackled the purer theology of Calvin and many of his contemporaries. This argument can only be made when one chooses to actually disregard what the primary sources say and also the fact that Aristotelian–like terms were used in the same way by Calvin and his “heirs.”

After showing a sampling of instances in which Reformed theologians, including Calvin, quoted pagan sources or employed their concepts or categories, Dr. Jones concludes that they were “not afraid to quote pagans.”

All truth is God’s truth, and certain pagans possessed a certain special endowment of natural knowledge that Christian theologians were happy to make use of them if it enabled them to make a point more forcefully.

The general idea of interacting with and quoting nonbelieving sources is not only perfectly acceptable, but if a theologian is going to have any meaningful impact in the world at all, he is going to have to engage in the practice of quoting pagan authors almost of necessity. Sometimes, perhaps even often, we will find ourselves quoting them approvingly.

That does not, however, serve us with a blanket justification of indulging in that medieval torture device known as scholasticism, or any other pagan foundation or methodology for that matter.

We have to be very careful not to make the mistake of thinking that just because Calvin quoted Aristotle in a helpful way in one place, on one issue, therefore we can give equal assent to “quoting pagans” elsewhere. His use elsewhere on some foundational epistemological issues is precisely why someone like Cornelius Van Til could criticize Calvin—and much of the rest of the Reformed tradition—profoundly on that point. It is also why men like Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North, DeMar and others can so easily criticize him on issues of natural law, government, and more. He was eaten up with classical paganism in his views of government and law—not just quoting them in a helpful way, but wrongly adopting the pagan worldview in which those quotations were most at home.

In such a discussion over the use of pagan sources, we also have to be careful not to talk past each other. Is it alright to quote pagan authors? Sure. Can even pagan methodologies and insights not made anywhere else by Christian authors also provide help and illumination for Christian theologians? Absolutely. I see D. A. Carson making references to hermeneutical “horizons” which came from Anthony Thistleton who got a ideas from Gamader and Wittgenstein. I see Van Til himself appropriating terminology from Kant, “limiting concepts.”

Then what’s the fuss? The fuss is when people neglect the preeminence of the biblical worldview and the impossibility of anything else ultimately being true or foundational. Carson is reapplying the concept of “horizons” within a proper biblical worldview. Van Til was reinterpreting the concept of “limiting concepts” and filling it with biblical meaning which Kant absolutely did not have. These men are going into the enemy’s camp and taking back what he stole from us.

The problem underlying so much of scholasticism was the move from finding Aristotle useful to using him as foundational. This does not mean that every time Aquinas quoted from Aristotle he did it in a bad way. But often he did. And every other scholastic must be interpreted in every instance—but always the standard by which we judge is Scripture. No matter how hard we try, the question will always be “By What Standard?” No matter how hard the Reformed Theologians today try, they will never escape the echo of Van Til, Rushdoony, and Bahnsen in their ears.

In some cases, the scholastic love of Aristotle even went from foundational to obsessive. Anyone who thinks it did not become a great problem has not read the history. I’ve written on this before. So fiercely did the scholastics of the 1600s era defend their Aristotle that

Oxford University decreed “that Bachelors and Masters who did not follow Aristotle faithfully were liable to a fine of five shillings [about $150 today] for every point of divergence, and for every fault committed against the logic of [Aristotle’s] the Organon.”

Likewise, the earliest Reformers all maintained undue reverence for pagan sources. Luther loved the platonic mystical work Theologica Germanica and said it was the second best book ever written next to the Bible. Melanchthon was a huge classicist and also dabbled in astrology and Kabbalah. Zwingli loved the pagan authors so much he thought he would see some of them in heaven. He called Seneca a “holy man” and a man of faith in his heart. (See my Blaming Moses for such instances during the Reformation.)

I doubt we would want to follow any of these guys in these areas. Yet abuse is never a blanket condemnation of mere use if we do it right. So what’s a good rule of thumb?

A good rule is this: it’s not that you quote pagan authors, but what you do with what you quote that matters. Sure, all truth is God’s truth, but since that is the case, all truth only fits properly within the true worldview of God’s truth. When a pagan hits on truth, Christians do not need to praise paganism for its ability to produce truth, and then try to imitate the pagans. Instead, Christians should reclaim the nuggets of truth and place them within the context of Christian worldview.

There is no neutrality in life. All truth is God’s. But that means all truths must be made to serve Him. When we come across truth in pagan hands, there are only two options for the Christian: syncretism or reclamation. The Canaanites may possess the promised land that God has decreed belongs to us. We can take what belongs to us and conquer (either through conversion, restoration, or displacement), or else we will inevitably become like the pagans and allow their idols to pollute our thinking.

Here’s the bottom line: if a pagan has stumbled onto a useful intellectual tool, bit of wisdom, bit of truth, or helpful categorization, he or she did so despite their fallen nature and pagan worldview. Whether we chalk it up to common grace or whatever doesn’t matter. What matters is that the truth in question is not consistent with the presuppositions of their worldview, and cannot be—no truth, meaning, morality, or understanding can be—and it is the job of the Christian thinker to judge and discern this.

In the long run, the theological nuggets from pagans that are useful to Reformed theologians in some way are aberrations from the pagan worldview. It’s the old blind squirrel finding a nut once in a while. When Reformed theologians—biblical theologians—rely upon such pagans for their understandings, methodologies, intellectual tools, etc., they are relying upon the theology of blind squirrels. Perhaps more accurately we might say they are collecting the nuts that the blind squirrels happened to come across—but the nuts themselves belonged to God and the Christian worldview all along. If we think more of it than that and invest too much in the value of the pagan sources these nuts came from, we are indeed relying upon the theology of blind squirrels—i.e., a theology of blindness.

But when we acknowledge that the nuggets are mere nuts that belong to the Christian worldview already, it means that, honestly, we could have derived or deduced those ideas ourselves all along, yet within the proper boundaries of a proper biblical worldview. We may actually be able to refine them further into a more faithful version by going through such an exercise even after we collect them from the blind squirrels. But I don’t want to be in a position of relying upon the blindness. I prefer to walk in the light. In God’s providence, we may in unpredictable ways obtain a valuable nugget once in a while, but it is our duty before Him to discern those nuggets of truth within the worldview of truth, and not find ourselves feeling haplessly about in the blindness of the source by which they came to us, especially while thinking we are uniquely enlightened.

This also brings up the issue of time management and stewardship. If it is in fact true that God has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” through the knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3), then we really need to discern all truth through and within that worldview. Reading scores of volumes of scholasticized theologians so enamored with pagan authors may yield a nugget of truth here or there that was gleaned by pagan authors, but is this really the best use of a theologian’s time? Why not study Scripture and Scripture-based worldview applications, biblical law, etc., and spend your time deducing your worldview from that?

Personally, I really don’t care ultimately how many times Calvin quoted Plato (it was a bunch), or his successors quoted Aristotle, or modern theologians can quote others. If those quotations line up Scripture, I don’t need them, and if they don’t line up Scripture, I don’t want them. There are the limited few times that a pagan source provides some insight no Christian has yet derived from Scripture, but should have. I don’t like being the one that eats the whole briar patch to get one berry, so as a general rule I’ll leave that work to others. But when they feel they need to make us all Aristoteleans in order to be good Reformed folk, I say nah. That’s wrong headed, and we’ve all got better things to do.

One deeper concern might be that the whole fight on behalf of pagan sources is really a fight against Van Til and his disciples, Bahnsen, Rushdoony, etc. It’s just like the fight the followers of Meredith Kline led out west in the OPC, and lost, only that was on the law and this is on epistemology and methodology.

If that’s true, the whole upsurge in the study of Reformed Scholasticism over the past decades in order to justify angles like Dr. Jones’s is really a huge compliment to Van Til. It’s got to be kind of flattering for Van Til, looking down from heaven. They have started a whole army of scholars on a project to prop up the dead carcass of Reformed Scholasticism, with probably millions spent on digitizing projects, seminary courses and programs, study centers, and collections like Mueller’s 5 tedious volumes (which somehow misses the discussion of God’s law and social theory almost altogether).

The enlightenment writers parodied the medieval scholastics for arguing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. It wasn’t exactly true but it was effective satire because it was true enough in type. But it was a joke.

Not everyone got the joke, however.

The Reformed Scholastics were the ones who didn’t get the joke, and then spent the next 400 years replicating its mistakes—in Latin. It really is the deadest of the dead spots in the history of Christian thought. But now the modern guys want to spend another 400 years learning that Latin and translating those mistakes by which to train the next generations to fill their pulpits. Why anyone with a Bible would need to go there is beyond me.

But the modern proponents who have reacted against the Van Til-to-Reconstructionist stream of thought have to go there, because they have nothing else to go to. They have denied Presuppositionalism, they have denied Theonomy, and they have denied Postmillennialism, so they must go back to natural law, paganism, syncretism, and evolutionism. Where else can they look for inspiration?

But if the scholastics had developed their views upon Biblical law instead of the classics, the West would likely have been spared the horrors of the Slave Trade, Inquisition, Socialism and Communism. Biblical law would have prohibited all of these things, but also would have met the needs upon which they preyed. The pagan classics not only could not and did not prevent these things, they laid the cultural and legal foundations for them—all.

One of the reasons I vehemently oppose “scholasticism” is because all these things can be a reality once again, and in fact some of them already are. Christians need to 1) recognize that, and 2) care. They need to take their Bibles more seriously than their traditions—especially the traditions which have caused so much pain.

And that’s one more reason you won’t find me too often quoting pagan sources: the modern Christian sources have enough bad ideas that need correcting already.

Categories: Worldview

What that policeman’s child-drowning meme tells us about racism and power

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:27

Former Assistant Police Chief Wayne Welsh’s most recent defense of his racist sin reveals not only the true depths and insidiousness of sin, but also the dangers of depravity when in positions of power.

Welsh made news Monday when he sparked outrage over a racist meme he posted to his Facebook page. He shared a meme depicting a mother drowning her small daughter in a bathtub; the pic bore a caption stating that this is what you do “when your daughters first crush is a little negro boy.”

While the local stories earned him quick condemnation in national news, Welsh has not seemed to learn from it. He continues fanning the flames of the racial firestorm he ignited, now insisting bluntly that he should not be forced to resign. And his reasons why ought to concern us all.

“I am not a racist”

Welsh literally shrugged as he told his local news he should not have to resign because there is no police policy against what he did: “I just don’t feel like I should have to resign on this because there’s not a policy saying that I can’t do this on Facebook.” He would not resign, either, were he not forced to do so: “I’m not happy about it, but I’ll do it to make the chief happy.”

Deeper than this, Welsh did not think the meme itself was even racist: “To me, I am not a racist, I mean, I knew it wasn’t. It was just a picture that everybody shares on Facebook.”

He seems to think he only got in trouble because he was a police officer: “But I was wrong for sharing it for being a police officer.” Perhaps he felt it was just the PC police and SJWs attacking blue lives again?

Welsh’s defense is consistent with his behavior when his first post ignited a backlash. At that time, he defended his actions against critics he called “Facebook police”:

“It’s not against the law to share something on Facebook. It’s social media. Internet,” he posted.

“I shared somebody else’s posts and everybody mad at me again,” he wrote. “So Facebook police mad at me.”

He also tried the political defense: “People always want to play the race card. They want to think your [sic] the bad guy.”

After tremendous outcry, he finally removed the pic, and apologized, not for having posted an indescribably racist murderous idea he thought was funny—not for the demerits of the offense itself and what it revealed about him—but because some people happened to get offended by it (implying that perhaps they shouldn’t have?).

“Well, I posted something on Facebook that made a lot of people mad,” he wrote. “Well, I’m sorry for what happen.”

At that moment, he still thought he was being a good spiritual guy: “have a blessed day.”

It’s clear the essential I’m-sorry-you-got-mad apology was no deeper than any such deflection could be. This was revealed in his latest comments. Even after the backlash, even after his chief told him he had to resign for this, even after enormous public outcry over an obviously racist picture—no repentance, and apparently not even any understanding of the offense, had followed. Only an affirmation of the opposite: “I am not a racist” “I knew it wasn’t [racist]. It was just a picture that everybody shares on Facebook.”

Only a defense of how good a guy he himself really is: “I treat everybody the same. You can ask anybody in town if you would walk around. They all like me, and I do my job right.”

What this means for us

Obviously, we can’t condemn others for sins a guy like this committed, but I can say a few things about the type of rationalizations involved in such a sin as this, particularly regarding race and power, exemplified by Mr. Welsh.

First, this is a lesson on how a person can be self-deceived as to their own racism. Yes, none of us would write or share something so overtly racist and terrible as this. Yet we can still be insensitive to a million other lesser racist offenses we don’t even realize. If called out on them, we would defend ourselves by saying it was no big deal, not really racist, everyone else does this, this is normal, the offense has been imagined, the critic is playing victim, the critics are playing the race card, and well, if you keep harping about it, alright, I’m sorry you got offended. Gosh, you can’t say anything these days without some social justice warrior calling you the bad guy. PC police.

Granted there is such a thing as the illegitimate race card, and it is used often. But there is a vast area of unrepentant sin and unhealed victims between the two extremes of what Wayne Welsh did and what race-baiting leftists do. Conservatives and conservative Christians routinely deny this, and in our denial we are participating in the same type of self-deception and self-defense Welsh exemplifies.

In doing so, we not only leave our Christian duty unfulfilled, we leave a huge mission field open to wolves. This is the very reason leftists, Muslims, and Black Hebrew Roots-type cults keep growing so fast. These forces have nothing to offer of their own but to prey upon resentment and pain. But there is a feast of resentment and pain because the church refuses to repent, to study the issue, to apply God’s word to it. The cults’ success is due only to the Church’s failure.

Further, the church’s failure to act will result in what usually happens in modern society: leftism will advance with leftist solutions. Then the church will adopt the left solutions, baptize them in Christian language, and pretend it has been in front of the parade all along. It will be one more version of baptized humanism collecting offerings for the causes of humanism in the name of Christ.

We don’t need huge government welfare programs or government-funded reparations programs; we don’t need to have everlasting political polarization. These are all “cures” that are worse than the disease (which is why conservatives who have no biblical answer always prefer the disease). But this is all of what we will get if we don’t do the right thing.

Finding that in-between area is the real job we ought to be doing. I am not the expert, I am not sure anyone is, but I have a strong feeling based on good evidence that it is much bigger than we think it is and that we use the types of devices just listed to deceive ourselves too routinely as well. More on that tomorrow.

The Importance of Strictly Limited Government

Second, the implications of this for government are also profound. Welsh feels he should be allowed to continue in a position of power because the department had no explicit policy against what he did. He never did own up to his sin at all, let alone for the depth of sin that it was. Instead, he tried to cover his sin under the cloak of policy.

Theologically, this is justification by man’s law, not by Christ. It always hides sin under power, and the victims always continue to suffer, always without justice.

When we succeed in hiding sin behind power, we will be tempted to start routinely using power to hide sin. When we do, we can create an institution of power on such principles, and the potential to hide more sins and greater sins is almost unlimited.

In biblical terms, power is only granted under specific enumerated terms. Where not enumerated, the government and its agents have no authorization to act. If they do, the agents involved can be strictly held accountable, and easily so, because the terms are narrow and clear. The offenders can be punished, and the victims restored. The limits are the rule; the powers are strictly enumerated.

We have allowed ourselves to reverse the biblical view of power in our systems (which is typical of all pagan systems): power is the rule; limitations are strictly enumerated. We create a blanket power first and demand everyone submit to it without question; then we try to hold that power accountable only through explicitly stated limitations, policies, and guidelines. But this leaves wide gaps in which power can hide sin—for abuse and for the depravity of man, cunning as it is, to seek ought many devices as it does (Eccl. 7:29). It creates a safe space for power to hide sin. We even give it immunity in the courts, and even give authorities tax-funded insurance policies for the rare events that they are in fact held accountable and have to pay. While hiding sin is unavoidable with people in general, in positions of power it is far more damaging. It ought not be so, and ought to be minimized as much as possible.

Yes, you may say, Welsh’s department forced him to resign: this shows how the system actually does police itself and does work. But this denies a biblical doctrine, and doing that is never safe. Read and listen to the stories closely. The police chief—however good a man he may be—defended the character of his Assistant, who had said the meme was not even racist, and said he did not do it to offend anybody.

The chief said, “He deleted it but, it was too late.”

In other words, he regretted that it got caught. Had the right people seen this before there was a public outcry, it apparently would have not been “too late.” They could have removed it and buried it, and no one would ever known that one more casual racist who jokes about drowning children over fears of miscegenation was still serving as one more Assistant Chief of Police.

If such a man ever then treated a black suspect more roughly than a white, and was called racist, the entire machine of power, public relations, immunity, and insurance would have gone to work to protect its agent if necessary, and to assure us all that no such racism exists in America, it’s only in the minds of leftists. And if you say differently, you are a blacklivesmatter extremist and race baiter.

If you want a real social thought experiment, please consider that in addition to this racism in the heart, there is a further legion of sins, prides, hatreds, blasphemies, and murders, according to Christ, and that anyone who resides in positions of power carries those with them. If that is not enough to make you realize the danger of increasing the powers of government, especially those officials who are most numerous, nearest you on a daily basis, armed, and held immune from many if not most routine mistakes, let alone injustices resulting from heart sins, even deadly ones, then what could?

If this is not enough to make your conservative and Christian self realize and beg for biblical reforms, nothing will.

Tomorrow, I hope to add a post about that wide area, between the two extremes of overt racism and unacceptable leftism, in which we need to get to work.

Categories: Worldview

Telegraph forced to revise article attacking the Bible

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 09:46

The UK’s Telegraph claimed Friday that they had disproved the Bible: “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out.” The story and its fake headline have gone viral.

Editor’s Note: Since the publication of Gary’s original article (below), among many others, the Telegraph was so hounded by public outcry from Christians pointing out its error that it has been virtually forced, if only by the power of embarrassment, to change its awful headline and revise the content of its article.

The revised headline no longer says “disprove,” and the article now correctly claims the opposite of what it originally did: “The Bible claims elsewhere that the purge was not successful, an account backed up now by a scientific study.”

It also adds at the end:

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously said the Bible claimed the Canaanites were wiped. However, elsewhere in the Bible, it says the elimination was not successful.

What a wonderful thing it is actually to read the Bible! Thank you to the Telegraph for poking its nose into the matter with such alacrity: they have given a platform to millions of readers to see that, as it always does, archaeology once again confirms rather than “disproves” the Bible. God be praised for the intelligence of the Telegraph’s readers! Perhaps the rag can consider hiring a few of them to be editors. –JM

It doesn’t take a Bible scholar, however, to figure out this is the fakest of fake news. What we see here is the perpetuation of fake history as news. Anyone only reading the titles of the various articles (as most people will do) will come away believing a lie and repeating that lie to others.

How do we know it’s a lie? Because, contrary to what the article states, the Bible does not say the Canaanites were wiped out.

The following is from the Telegraph article:

The ancient Canaanites were not wiped out, as the Bible suggests, but went on to become modern-day Lebanese, a study has found.

The Bible does not “suggest” the Canaanites were wiped out, which means the DNA evidence supporting the fact that there are descendants of Canaanites today actually supports the Bible.

The Telegraph continues:

Living between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, the holy text suggests things did not end well for the people living in the Middle East. According to a passage in Deuteronomy [20:17], God had ordered the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites. “You shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them … so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods.”

The command to wipe out the Canaanites is true, but what’s false is that the Canaanites were wiped out, an article from The Independent Online states, “While the Bible says they were wiped out by the Israelites under Joshua in the land of Canaan, later passages suggest there were at least a few survivors.”

There were more than a few. All it would have taken for all these articles to get their facts straight was to read the Bible. But they didn’t even have to do that. They could have done a Google search. In truth, the original article should have read, “Ancient DNA Confirms Biblical Account.” But that would not have served the paper’s purpose – to denigrate the historical record of the Bible.

The Canaanites were still in the land during the historical periods described in the biblical books Joshua and Judges:

But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers (Josh. 16:10; also 17:12-13, 16; Judges 1:29-30).

There it is! Not only were the Canaanites not wiped out or completely driven out but “the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites” (Judges 3:5). Some of the Israelites even married some of the Canaanites (3:6). This means there could be Canaanite DNA even among today’s Jews. It’s even possible that among Solomon’s “seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” (1 Kings 11:3) there was a Canaanite or two or three.

A woman in need of healing is called a “Canaanite” in Matthew’s gospel (15:22) and a “Greek, of the Syrophoenician race” in Luke’s gospel (7:26). The Telegraph could simply have read to notes on such passages in the Cambridge Bible for Schools, which has been around only since 1878:

The two expressions are identical, for the land of Canaan, literally, the low lands or netherlands, at first applicable to the whole of Palestine, was confined in later times to the maritime plain of Phœnicia. In Joshua 5:12 “the land of Canaan” appears in the LXX. version as the “land of the Phœnicians.” The important point is that this woman was a foreigner and a heathen — a descendant of the worshippers of Baal. She may have heard and seen Jesus in earlier days. Cp. Mark 3:8, “they about Tyre and Sidon … came unto him.”

The conversion of this woman could have been the beginning of the Christian conversion of today’s Lebanese Christians, which the Telegraph could have learned from Wikipedia:

Christianity in Lebanon has a long and continuous history. Biblical Scriptures purport that Peter and Paul evangelized to the Phoenicians, whom they affiliated to the ancient patriarchate of Antioch. The spread of Christianity in Mount Lebanon was very slow where paganism persisted in mountaintop strongholds. A 2015 study estimates some 2,500 Lebanese Christians have Muslim ancestry, whereas the majority of Lebanese Christians are direct descendants of the original early Christians.

Proportionally, Lebanon has the highest rate of Christians in the Middle East, where the percentage ranges between 39% and 40.5%, followed directly by Egypt and Syria were most likely Christians account for about 10 percent.

The Telegraph article deliberately told a lie, and the other papers and websites that picked up the story also told a lie. Is it any wonder that the media has lost our trust?

Let’s see them tell a similar lie or even the truth about Muhammad and Islam. Don’t hold your breath.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

The right and duty of jury nullification

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:51

An important avenue in which we can, and must, currently work to restore the principles of liberty is through jury nullification. This practice, once widely accepted among Christian and early American jurists and lawyers, has been largely forgotten—until very recently. Thanks to the increasing interest in liberty, civic involvement, and the advance of individual rights, we are seeing a resurgence of this principle. An interest in the principles of God’s law will take the Christian even further.

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

Several of the founding fathers understood the fundamental importance of jury nullification. John Adams said, “It is not only [the juror’s] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” Likewise, the first Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, John Jay, stated that “you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. . . . [B]oth objects are lawfully, within your power of decision.” Unsurprisingly, Jefferson joined these federalists in this view. He explained why we should support jury nullification: “To consider judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” ((Jefferson to William Charles Jarvis, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, 12 vol., ed. Paul Leicester Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons and The Kinckerbocker Press, 1905), 12:162.))

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

the people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his own fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainty will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation. ((In Jonathan Elliot, ed., The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 4 vols. (Washington, 1836), 2:94. Partially quoted also in Thomas Woods, Jr., Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse(Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2011), 179.))

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

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

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

This all means, of course, that the Supreme Court is forced by our Constitution to acknowledge the right of jury nullification, yet since judges don’t like to admit it, the Supremes have also given a pass to the “right” of judges to deceive and intimidate juries against it. “Home of the brave. . . .”

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

There is good biblical precedent for jury nullification as well. Not only is the right itself derived from the nature and structure of God’s law, but episodes such as the deliverance of Jonathan from unjust punishment in 1 Samuel 14 illustrate the right and duty in action.

A Fox News report on the subject relates,

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

For those wishing to have as immediate an impact as possible in this regard, they should not only embrace jury duty when called, they should learn as much as possible about it and actively work to spread knowledge of the right and duty among their families, communities, churches, and in public wherever possible. Likewise, interested parties should read and learn as much as possible about the subject. Here are some resources that can help:

First, I would highly recommend the compact Juror Handbook by Brent Allan Winters, which we carry. Brent says, “Without the Jury, protection of our fundamental rights by our Constitution becomes nothing more than ink on paper. In order for freedom to flourish, each American must become aware of the juror’s rights of responsibility.”

Secondly, there is the Duty of the Jury lecture course provided by the Institute on the Constitution. It can be a bit pricey, but it is built upon a biblical worldview. There is a fuller teaching kit available as well.

Finally, there is at least one secular organization devoted to this issue—the Fully Informed Jury Association. They provide resources for education, including a DVD lecture series for Churches. Although the biblical content is not nearly as strong as with the other resources, their material is still robust and very helpful.

Want to be a true social justice warrior? Start with learning the right and duty of jury nullification. Then spread the word.

Notes:

Categories: Worldview

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