I am not a regular reader of Doug’s Blog and Mablog, so some folks in an online discussion forum where a felllow subscriber had posted a link to it had to set me straight on the meaning of the title.
Proof that I am also not a regular reader of J.R.R. Tolkien!
It turns out to be a reference to the elf queen in one of Tolkien’s middle earth fantasy novels, and a reference to an incident involving a drunken chimpanzee who thinks he sees Galadriel when he looks in the mirror.
To make sense out of that title, and also to make sense out of my blog post today, you really ought to take a few minutes to go and read “Galadriel and the Chimp”. Click here. I’ll wait…
Doug Wilson and the Reconstructionists
I want to discuss Wilson’s Galadriel post because I think it illustrates quite well the problem that many Christians have with being identified and associated with a particular “school of thought” within the church that preaches and practices a certain “hardcore” brand of biblical Christianity.
I’m speaking, of course, about Christian reconstructionism.
You know. The Bible-based world-and-life-view that dares not speak its name.
The anti-reconstructionists, both inside and outside the church, have done a marvelous job for over half a century of slandering and misrepresenting reconstructionists and their theological distinctives and perspectives with regard to advancing the Kingdom of God and of His Christ on earth and in history through the propagation of the law of God and the transformational, regenerative power of the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel and God’s people as His law, truth and grace permeate every human institution progressively until Christ returns.
It’s almost like they don’t want us to succeed!
Well, I’m happy to report that I do not count Pastor Wilson among these ill-informed naysayers.
I am equally unhappy to report that I find his aversion to being lumped together with us Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, Bible-centered, eschatologically optimistic, theonomically inclined folks more than a little puzzling.
I also find it to be par-for-the-course among Reformed Christians.
And that’s the problem.
Galadriel and the Card-Carrying Recons
If you’ve read Tolkien’s books and are familiar with the elf queen that Doug is referencing, then maybe you see more clearly than I do the application he is making and the connection he is inferring with his chimpanzee/Galadriel metaphor.
But I’ll take a stab at it.
He is calling out all those end-times-obsessed, prophecy-intoxicated Christians who hanker for a Gospel-centered, Christ-centered kingdom to come, but who don’t want the hard work and awesome, comprehensive, long-term responsibility that the Great Commission imposes on them — the real Great Commission given by Jesus, not the attenuated, pietistic, present-oriented version adopted by most Christians.
They just want to throw a little paint on the old barn and, voila!–Christian culture!
Such a shallow perspective is not worthy of those who name the name of Christ. Agreed.
On the other hand, what is to be accomplished by distancing yourself from those “hardcore”, card-carrying, Bible-centered, Christ-centered recons, who are doing exactly what you say Christians should be doing?
Where is the consistency and coherence in applauding recons and agreeing with them on virtually everything they say and do and have been saying and doing for at least the last 40 years (“If only we had listened to Rushdoony and Bahnsen!”) — even recommending to others that they should go and do likewise — only to deny any association with them.
“I’m not one of them. Stop accusing me of being one of them!”
First, Wilson recalls:
“Many years ago I had a conversation with Greg Bahnsen, in which I told him that I was not a reconstructionist.”
But, once Bahnsen clarified for him the difference between a “movement” and a “school of thought”, Wilson found relief. No more guilt-by-association.
“Whew! I can adopt the thinking of a reconstructionist, without having to suffer the indignity of being called a reconstructionist!”
Thus, all these years later, he now confidently proclaims:
“I believe that every Kuyperian Christian is now a part of the reconstructionist school of thought. If you believe, as we do, in “all of Christ for all of life,” then in principle that means that the entire conservative Reformed evangelical world is now reconstructionist or reconstructionist lite…”
See how painless this is? No more stigma!
He then adds, triumphantly:
“And if you are postmillennial, then that makes you self-consciously reconstructionist.”
Amen, brother Doug.
To drive the point home, he asks, emphatically, rhetorically:
“Does the authority of Jesus Christ, does the lordship of Christ, extend in practical ways over every field of human endeavor?”
He answers, non-rhetorically:
“If you say yes, you are some kind of a reconstructionist.”
What kind are you?
Well, if you are Gary North, then you are the “hard-core” kind. So hard core, in fact, that you are like a wind chime playing lightly in the breezes — sorry, the zephyrs — of a small-town in Idaho. Such a sweet sound as you sip your morning coffee!
Alas, Wilson senses that winds of change are blowing. In the wrong direction.
“We are going to see a barrage of accusations that we here in Moscow are trying to establish a theocratic republic, and that we are, wait for it, reconstructionists.”
So, in the end, even though Doug admits that the recons have been right about just about everything they’ve warned Christians about “since the eighties” — Rushdoony on the public schools, Bahsen on defending the faith, North on schools and Critical Race Theory — he wants to be very clear about something.
“I am not a card-carrying reconstructionist.”
And don’t you forget it.
But wait. Pastor WIlson would like to leave you with this one final thought and another rhetorical question.
“To point out the obvious, the old America is currently being dismantled. That means that somebody is going to rebuild it, someone is going to reconstruct it.”
And who should be the ones to do the rebuilding?
WE should, of course. Because…
“We are all reconstructionists now.”
Like he said near the beginning of his post, arguing most straightforwardly, “all” means “all”.
He says our choice is simple. And he is right. Who will be the ones to ultimately succeed in rebuilding the new America?
“Will that reconstruction be conducted by the totalitarians who tore the old one down?
Or will it be done by Christians who think like Christians should?”
Will you let the enemies of God plant their fields of thistles? Or will God’s people plant their dreamed-of fields of barley?
Think it over. Maybe even sleep on it. You decide.
But be forewarned. If you “think like a Christian should” about this all-encompassing, long-term, kingdom-building project,…
That of retired (and now deceased) California state senator W.H. “Bill” Richardson.
Richardson died this past January at the age of 92. He was a prominent gun rights advocate and also a Bible-believing Christian and ardent defender of the U.S. Constitution. He was known in California politics for his sophisticated and highly effective approach to gaining victory at the ballot box by practicing the fine art of what he called ‘confrontational politics’.
In the 1960s, 70s, 80s and into the 21st century, he perfected his rigorous, systematic, direct-marketing-based approach to local political action. It struck fear and loathing — and frequently disgruntled changes of votes — in the hearts of the opposition.
Richardson’s proven system of confrontational politics hinged on what he called “positive confrontation”, which he describes, as opposed to the kind of negative confrontation that usually ended in failure and defeat at the ballot box.
Time and again his tactics worked, and his no-fear approach proved highly successful — whenever and wherever it was tried.
Predictably, whenever and wherever it wasn’t tried, the results were failure and defeat.
Case in point: Judge Robert Bork’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which went down in a blaze of disingenuous infamy in July 1987.
That humiliating (and in Richardson’s opinion, supremely avoidable) historic defeat is the occasion of the article I am reposting today.
Gary North has written numerous times over the years about his friend Bill Richardson. You can do a search of Gary’s website and find dozens of references to him, all having to do with emulating Richardson’s proven tactics of organized resistance and an advanced strategy of successful positive confrontation, particularly in the area of politics.
Yesterday, Gary posted an article he found that was written by Richardson sometime after the Bork debacle.
Gary says this article deserves ‘wide distribution’.
In this case, Gary will have to settle for my two cents’ worth of narrow and shallow distribution.
With an equal or lesser value of positive confrontational remarks and subheadings (mine, bold italic) inserted along the way.
California State Senator Bill Richardson was a friend of mine. We worked on projects in the late 1960’s. He brought me to Sacramento to testify to a Senate subcommittee in 1969.
He had been in advertising before he went into politics. He became the first California state senator to use direct mail to inflict pain on the Left. He knew his business.
In 1975, he founded Gun Owners of America.
Bill died last January. His Wikipedia entry is here.
I am not sure when he wrote this. I have a photocopy. It was not dated. It was written in response to the failure of the nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court. That was in July 1987.
A decade later, he wrote a book: Confrontational Politics. You can buy a Kindle edition for about $4. Order here.
The Bork nomination could have been a slam dunk, but instead, it was another example of Republican retreat when victory could have been easily achieved. Why do Republicans constantly get their political posteriors plummeted? The reason is the Republican membership from top to bottom has little technical knowledge of confrontational politics and its dynamics. It isn’t enough to be right on issues alone. Victory or defeat is embodied not only in the efficacy of the concept, but within the methodology of implementation as well. To put it more bluntly, the idea might be dynamite, but unless someone is smart enough to light the fuse nothing happens. Republicans do not understand confrontational politics. Up to this time, they don’t even own a match.
Confrontational politics. What is it? If one does not know, one better find out! Conservatives and Republicans have been getting their backsides chewed up politically because they have not understood the dynamics of confrontation or the techniques applied. They have been engaged in a karate fight while adhering to the Marquis of Queensberry Rules and have been kicked where a gentleman never contemplates.
Nothing could prove the point better than to witness the confirmation hearings on Judge Bork. While the Reagan Administration was trying to be rational “nice guys” and play by the old rules, the opposition wanted Judge Bork defeated, as well as coerce the Administration to nominate a more Leftist member to the Court. The Administration’s “nice guy” posture was predictable, thus attackable. The Left was given the field advantage, the offensive, the stadium, and use it, they did. First, they framed the nature of the debate by inferring that Judge Bork was a racist. Since truth is situational to the Leftist United States Senate leadership, and to their comrades on the outside, all they needed to accomplish was to level the charge and wait for the predictable response out of the Administration. How predictable and brilliant it was: “No, he is not a racist.” The Reagan Administration then spent valuable time trying to convince people Bork was not a bigot, but all they did was elevate the issue of racism in the minds of the public. Deny something long enough and a number of people will wonder–if there’s smoke, there’s fire! Once on the defensive, it is hard to get off of it; the Administration never did.
Before we go much farther into this article, it is important for the reader to understand confrontational politics and what it means. It requires pondering the subject matter. Time well spent, if one is to understand contemporary confrontational politics, and thus what is happening in Washington.
Here, Richardson gives his EPISTEMOLOGICAL argument for the basis of the conflict:
There are two diametrically opposing views over the nature of man which prevail in contemporary American politics, two fundamental concepts totally alien one to the other.
Each of these premises serve as the genesis for political action, followed, mimicked and repeated over and over with most of the political actors playing out each scenario without the slightest idea of the epistemological foundation or the authorship of the drama.
Our behavior originates in our perceptions of reality and our relationships with each other. When these fundamental beliefs vary among people, clashes and conflict occur. Compatible beliefs formulate cultures and whenever radical, differences of beliefs appear within an established culture, division and dissention arises.
Let me be more specific. Western culture has its genesis in Judeo-Christian beliefs. Six thousand years of recorded history and experience has shaped contemporary Western man’s perception of the character and nature of the human being. This understanding formulates his actions and reactions to his fellow citizen. Based upon this knowledge, Western man perceives himself and others as singularly unique, individual, spirit worthy, created in the image of the Creator. He has been taught to: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, “Be respectful of other’s opinions”, “Recognize one’s own fallibilities”, and “Be not quick to judge”. We are taught to love one another, even our enemies. Scripture tells the believer to love is to obey His commandments, and to live the law in dealing with each other. We are to honor our parents; we are to respect the property of others; we are told not to lie or be deceitful to our fellow man–friends and enemies alike.
We are raised believing these and other fundamental truths from childhood. They are ingrained in us by family, friends and the society which owes its origin to these ideas. We are told in Scripture that God instilled in everyone the knowledge of right and wrong. The fundamental desire then is to work harmoniously with each other. Whenever differences occur, they should be amicably treated, and if necessary, compromises met when men of good will differ.
If Christian love is the basis of negotiation, and shared by both parties, usually differences can be resolved. The goal is harmony and mutual compatibility, any other behavior other than this triggers negative vibes. Harmony then is the answer, disharmony is perceived as bad, unhealthy, and unproductive behavior. But, what happens when someone rejects these fundamental premises and is trained to think that man’s origins are different? What happens when someone believes all valuers are variable and changeable, and thus, situational? What is the result of man’s premise that man is but a graduate animal, nothing but matter in motion? What is the result from the rejection of God and the immutable laws that emanate from a creator?
Let me highlight that last question:
What is the result from the rejection of God and the immutable laws that emanate from a creator?
What do you suppose the result of this is, hmm? You don’t have to look very far, the results are all around us!
What actions evolve from one who believes the world is a dog eat dog place, or survival of the fittest, or might makes right? What is the logical argumentative posture of one who believes that conflict and confrontation is the nature of human development and unless confrontation and conflict exists, advancement cannot be made?
One third of the world’s land surface and 1.7 billion people are controlled by a philosophy that adheres to the conflict and confrontation theory of human progress. It’s called Marxist-Leninist, scientific dialectical materialism. This philosophy, at this very moment, is being taught to millions of children worldwide as contemporary gospel. It has permeated Eastern Europe, most of Asia, over half of Africa, South America and is the dominate philosophy of behavior taught all over the world. More people are taught dialectical materialism than are taught Christianity. This ideology-has permeated segments of American politics and has been now exerting an influence on our national policy, both ideologically and methodologically.
Marxism: two steps forward, one step back.
Let me be more specific. Leftist dialectical action espouses direct confrontation as necessary in order to gain any social objective, so success is not possible without conflict and the predictable reaction from those attacked. When serious reaction is met and the debate or conflict becomes heated, the opposition generated is perceived as a good sign, as confirmation of the righteousness of the program. The Left then looks upon conflict and resistance as a positive, a necessary ingredient in advancement. The Left also believes that dialectical confrontation can be carried only to a certain point because resistance can sometimes become so overpowering as to negate the overall objective. So, when resistance becomes formidable, it then becomes practical to back off, step back, compromise, but never retreat far enough to negate a net gain. The Marxists refer to it as two steps forward, one step back. They even teach their children to march that way as to inculcate the principle into their youthful minds. Two steps forward, one back, net gain, one step.
The Art of War and the wisdom of Sun-Tsu: “Leave ’em an out!”
Sun Tsu stated over 2500 years ago, “Never surround an enemy so completely that he has no means of retreat.” Even a mouse will fight if it has no escape route. Sun Tsu concluded, one must always give a back door, an escape route to the opposition because when cornered, they will usually avail themselves of the escape route in order to avoid more conflict. In dialectics, the step backward creates the back door for the opposition to escape further punishment, and, as is often the case, the opposition will take this “compromise” sometimes even offering the compromise in anticipation of attack.
Let us now put this in perspective; Leftism program, status, quo opposition. The Left designs a new social program replete with new revenue, increased bureaucracy, more governmental control, more socialism. They have formulated and structured the program, complete with positive arguments, couched in terms designed to evoke sympathies out of segments of the population. They introduce legislation then push aggressively ahead until opposition is met.
Conservatism = conserve the STATUS QUO?
At this point, one must remember what the term conservative implies both factually and politically. It usually means to conserve the status quo, to keep things as they are, to preserve existing institutions.
Momentum, planning, and opportunity are on the side of the offensive, plus they know in advance where they want to go. The Leftists march straight ahead implementing aggressively, awaiting opposition, expecting opposition.
Conservatives react. They oppose and organize to stop the Leftist thrust. All the time hating the conflict that has occurred. Confrontation is an affront to their fundamental nature, conflict is unpleasant and gut wrenching, especially since they have been categorized as old fashioned, non progressive, hard-hearted tight wads. The conservative cannot wait until the controversy ends, however, fighting for preservation of the status quo is a matter of principle and so, unwillingly, begrudgingly he fights on. When he reaches a level of successful opposition, he is usually presented with a compromise, the backward dialectic step. Usually someone in the conservative rank is all too willing to accept the compromised as a means of stopping the controversy. The sum and total is net gain for the Left and a moving of the status quo farther and farther to the Left. Incrementally, the Left achieves its purpose. They wait until their program is institutionalized, then they begin expanding it bit by bit. These programs are now accepted as part of American institutional fabric. Socialized medicine, Social Security, food stamps, OSHA, federal participation in public education, so-called equal opportunity employment practices, the list goes on and on.
What is our plan? Do we have a plan? Or even a consistent WORLDVIEW?
Let us now analyze the differences. The hard Left has a long range program, socializing the world and the elimination of capitalism. What is our plan? There is none, except protecting the status quo. Protecting the status quo is not a plan, it is a precursor to disaster. One hundred years ago Americans had a world view. We were willing participants in exporting Christian Judaic ethics. We set up missionaries around the world to bring the Gospel of Christ to the heathen. Those were the days we called people heathens, and, those were the days we knew the difference between a heathen and a civilized man. Our intention was to bring truth, freedom, and civilization to the world’s misguided and oppressed. It was our Christian duty to do so. We judged our culture and ethics to be superior. We, as an example, judged cannibalism, witch doctors, and cow worshippers as inferior, not just another value system. We-believed they were, in need of redemption and salvation and it was our duty to see they were exposed to God’s Word. Today Christians rest comfortably in their pews, forgiving everyone and everything, holding no one accountable for the crimes against God’s laws, and taking dominion over nothing, when there is much over which to take dominion.
That last, stinging rebuke against so-called Bible-believing Christians bears repeating:
Today Christians rest comfortably in their pews, forgiving everyone and everything, holding no one accountable for the crimes against God’s laws, and taking dominion over nothing, when there is much over which to take dominion.
Taking dominion… Hmm. Where have we heard that before?
He goes on…
By their programs and actions, the Left creates hostilities and antagonisms to their schemes. They afford us many opportunities to attack them successfully. Socialism is a failure when applied and creates ample constituency who can be organized and led. The Left rubs against the grain of history and civilized man.
His theological assessment of the Left (shades of Isaiah):
The Left gives lip service to belief in God but their actions deny His existence or His laws. The hard Left is openly atheistic to the degree of open antagonism to all of God’s people as well as His ordinances.
They believe the “thou shall nots” of the Ten Commandments are nothing but constrictions placed upon mankind by the ruling capitalist classes to hold the people in line, giving them verbalistic placebos to placate their desires for a better life. All laws and/or rules, are then man-made, thus all rules can and may be broken if the situation dictates.
We must recognize this contemporary nihilistic philosophy has been around most of this century. The followers of Nietzsche, Rousseau, Saint Simon, Sartre, are permanent fixtures in our colleges and universities and the disciples of Darwin and John Dewey abound. Pumped full of this nihilistic nonsense, our young people are ready fodder for the dialectic methodology-promulgated by the campus resident Marxist.
During the 20s and 30s, Norman Thomas’ Socialist nirvana became the intellectual fodder on our campuses and the Democratic Party became its political vehicle of implementation. The Republicans, once the majority party, defenders of the status quo, found themselves under attack and for the past half a century have compromised themselves into a whining, retreating, gutless minority. The contemporary liberal Democrat makes Norman Thomas look moderate by comparison; Democratic leadership is permeated by such people. A former California State Chairman of the Democratic Party was an identified communist. They all knew it, but no Democrat activist voiced any complaints.
The hard Left has gravitated to, or either substantially influenced leadership within, the Democratic national structure. Moral and ethical standards based on Judeo-Christian premises are not in evidence either in commentary or actions of their elected leadership. Their blatant support of abortion and homosexual causes and their tolerance to the Ted Kennedys, the Metzenbaums, Bidens, and the Harts, knows no bounds.
Since ethics are dictated by the situation, then half truths, innuendoes, threats, intimidation, coercion, propaganda, character assassination, even pretense of religious beliefs become successful behavior if it achieves the desired ends. Situational ethics reigns in political leaderships so recognize it as such and recognize that those who are in leadership are able practitioners of the act.
Whenever any kind of behavior is rewarded, there will be more of it. If situational ethics succeeds in politics, More will engage in it. It also stands to reason that when unethical, immoral conduct is punished, there will be less of it. When morality is rewarded, the same is true, whether morality is believed or not, it will be practiced in politics if it is the ingredient that elects.
Read this next section VERY carefully.
First, conservatives must understand the nature of the confrontational Left and the genesis of their actions. The hard Left is the driving force behind the leftward slant of the world, both in ideology and methodology. Their goals are unchangeable, which is total socialization of the world. They use dialectic techniques to ascribe these goals and glory in them. Why not, they have been immensely successful so far. These confrontational techniques must be recognized for what they are and understood. One need not like dialectical confrontation to understand it. One need not like conflict to use it, understand it or master it. I do not.
Richardson’s confession of faith:
I am a Christian and I do not enjoy confrontational politics at all. I am, however, embroiled in combat with the heathen and knowledge of their methodology is key to defeating them. I receive great satisfaction from throwing their plans out of kilter and cutting into the territory they have consolidated.
The key to winning is positive confrontation… Confrontation is INEVITABLE.
Is it possible to move them back farther and give up the protection of the status quo as the conservative position? The answer is yes. Of course we can, but first we need to understand that our lot must be participation in the use of positive confrontation. What then is positive confrontation? It is the methodology that must be used by conservatives to turn the tide of socialism. It would be impossible to go into all of the ramifications of positive confrontation at this time, but we can cover the high points.
Recognizing confrontation is inevitable when dealing with the Left. They have no intention of stopping their worldwide goals. Let us give them more confrontation, let us joyfully give it to them, but, joyfully or not, let us give them more conflict than they can handle.
Perseverance and Persistence will INEVITABLY win!
Leftists will always step backward when the pressure grows intense. It is part of dialectics. They play hardball until it is to their advantage to retreat to save ground already gained. Perseverance under confrontation bodes for our side, persistence will inevitably win.
Every confrontation builds a constituency of followers. The Left organizes these constituencies as a residual and uses these people in future confrontation. We rarely do. We have been happy just to conclude the combat and forget about it. However, we have at our disposal a great potential residual constituency if we would think in terms of long range conflict rather than singular battles.
A Real-World Example of Success
Let me give an example. In the 1970s, the Left organized a major drive to confiscate all handguns and control registration of all firearms. They successfully passed the 1968 Gun Control Act and were busy in some states with gun confiscations legislation. The normal course of conservative action would be to resist such legislation but such resistance failed to stop the anti-gun control act that was implemented in 1968.
I founded Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners of California in 1975. I had positive confrontation in mind. I believed the pro-gunners could be organized into a positive political force by taking advantage of the rampant anti-gun sentiment voiced by the media and the Leftists organizing the anti-gun movement. We formed a political action committee committed to electing pro-gun candidates to office and defeating anti-gun legislators.
The gun owners enthusiastically accepted this single positive purpose we proposed. We hired qualified experts in political operations and raised millions of dollars which we funneled into campaigns. It didn’t take the incumbent long to figure out the dynamics of what we were doing. We didn’t fight the gun issue as much as we leveraged politicians. We won a number of races where we were the dominate financial contributor. In fact, by 1980 Gun Owners of California gave more to candidates than the State Republican Party. G.O.P. became Gun Owners Party.
Gun Owners computerized all pro-gunner names so they could be retrieved according to political districts; we gave our membership advice on how to vote. We sustained and maintained these lists communicating to the gunner around issues with which he identifies.
Proactive Instead of Reactive
Instead of reacting, we acted. We engaged in positive confrontation on our battleground and knew, we were being successful whenever we were vociferously attacked by the Left. We have even been able to cut back on the federal 1968 Gun Control Act. The gun community is organized far better than it was in the 1960s, and with continued sophistication, we will be able to do more good work.
The Left has dialectically retreated in their direct attack upon firearms ownership due to the positive confrontational efforts of Gun Owners both state and nationally. This acquired computer knowledge and direct mail skills allowed us to set up other positive confrontational organizations.
We were smart politically. We didn’t fight one campaign on the gun issue, but the gun community financed successful political campaigns using issues germane to the races. We became the cutting edge in a number of races. We were given credit for being the deciding edge in the election of the Governor in 1982. Today, the Left cannot get an anti-gun Mother’s Day resolution through the California Legislature.
It’s about much more than just GUNS.
What are other positive places to organize?
Take examples of legislative immorality and rally those who find it reprehensible. Turn this into a confrontational body and train them in the ways of contemporary politics by elevating positive issues around which they can work.
Let’s legislate MORALITY for a change!
Example: Parental consent for abortion. Until recently a minor could get an abortion in California without her parents knowledge. Children need parental consent to take an aspirin or go on a field trip, but not to receive an abortion.
The pro-family lobby saw this as an important issue and rallied the fundamental churches, religious T.V. and radio, and antiabortion groups and introduced legislation to change the law. The pro-abortion, Planned Parenthood incumbency, is powerful and entrenched. Their influence on the California Assembly Speaker has kept this legislation from succeeding by sending it to a controlled committee which would kill the bill.
The pro-family lobby knew they had a good issue with substantial populace support so instead of backing off, they applied positive confrontation.
No Pain, No Gain.
Some leaders in the pro-family lobby, notably Barbara Alby, recognized that pain is a part of confrontation. One of the legislators needed for a vote in the Senate had rarely ever voted for the pro-family lobby; his constituency was quite liberal. The efforts to turn on Christian pressure in his district was extremely successful and over 10,000 phone calls were generated to his district office. That’s real pain.
The Senator was enraged. He ranted and raved over the pressure received. He even confronted Barbara Alby in the legislative halls and verbally abused her with vulgar obscenities, creating a great deal of emotional stress for Barbara. Some of the pro-life lobby crumbled under his ranting and raving and thought we had gone too far, they were willing to back off. Not Barbara. She understood the Senator was a Leftist and a practitioner of situational ethics. His protesting was painful and very intimidating but a good sign. The pressure was maintained even though some of our people were peeling off due to the conciliatory and non-combative nature of Christian activists. The Senator in question sat sullenly through the committee and then voted affirmatively for the bill. He translated these phone calls into votes in the next election and he did not want to be the Senator who was credited with killing the pro-family bill. He perceived it was better to vote for the bill (take a dialectic step backward) than to loose his seat. The bill passed to the Senate floor; there were other confrontational moves necessary before the final vote was taken. The entire success of the legislation was confrontation all of the way. Hard, gut wrenching, head to head, battles with the Leftists, cutting into their territory, forcing them to retreat, causing them a net loss.
Is the fight over? Of course not. We can expect the next battle in some Leftist superior court where they will try to claim the bill is “unconstitutional”. We are now in the process of building and reinforcing the residuals we gained from this battle. We are gathering our forces for a fight in the courts. We are raising the money, putting our supporters names on computer file, elevating a populous issue, attacking the liberal courts while putting the State Attorney General on the line. We have a great issue in which to rally the people as well as the leadership who understands positive confrontation. To capsulize, what is positive confrontation?
Positive Confrontation: a Quick-Start Guide
1. First, we must recognize the difference between positive and negative confrontation. Negative confrontation means reaction to a program promoted by the Leftists where the fight is strictly to preserve the status quo. They advocate a program, we try to defeat it. These battles are over ground we already hold. Our posture is strictly defensive. It is worthy to note that even when the liberals are totally defeated, the fight is debilitating for the conservative. No territory is gained by either side, but the Left usually amasses a residual for a future engagement on the same grounds. They have framed the debate in such a manner as to build some popular support. They have also recruited some new advocates for the next assault. Again the liberal views each conflict as a positive opportunity for advancement and recruitment. In negative confrontations the conservative inevitably loses some ground no matter how well fought.
2. Positive confrontation is emotionally painful, but, properly applied, it is more painful for the Left. When the other side starts to react and complain, it is confirmation the program is working.
Positive confrontation is controversial because any change in the status quo will affect some incumbent group that will suffer if the change is effected. If there is no controversy, there is no opportunity.
3. Positive conservative confrontation rejects situational ethics and dialectical behavior as morally corrupt but does not deny its existence as a Leftist mind set and integrals to his methodology.
4. Positive confrontation requires persistence and patience and a tranquil mind in the face of hostility. Righteousness is never born in anger. There is a difference between anger and righteous indignation; the first is destructive, the second can be organized.
5. Positive confrontation is hardball politics. Head to head uncompromising opposition unless compromise is on our terms and involves the loss of territory for the Left.
6. Positive confrontation sometimes ends in momentary defeat, but if a residual is built for future fights, the defeat becomes a strategic step in a protracted conflict.
7. Positive confrontation requires proper framing of issues to present the debate in the best light, while causing the opposition to debate on our ground.
8. Positive confrontation embodies the following:
A. People organized to achieve a singular purpose.
B. Networking with other groups.
C. Raising funds to professionalize the effort.
D. People are trained in the act of confrontation and recognize it as necessary tactics.
E. A residual of committed people gathered for a future fight on correlative issues.
F. New leadership emerges to fight on other fronts or to advance a long range program.
In conclusion, positive confrontation has worked and will work again. Our politicians must be evaluated in terms of how they act in terms of confrontational ability, either positive or negative, when faced with Leftist pressure.
Here is what it all boils down to: O-R-I-G-I-N-S
We have two opposing philosophies at work in American politics. It is not Democratic or Republican, it is not a classical liberal or conservative view of constitutional government. Both liberal and conservative adhere to the belief in a constitutional government and the dignity of the individual American. The battle is between those who differ over the origin of man and the extension of programs that each of these views implies. Are we just matter in motion. And, if so, then God is dead and has no relevance in the course of human action. All laws are then man constructed and changeable. Ethics are then situational. On the other hand, if this cosmos in which we live is organized and sensible, the product of a wisdom beyond our finite grasp, and if this world and all of its inhabitants are a part of this infinite wisdom, then it is reasonable to conclude we live in a world of cause and effect, marvelously conceived and miraculous to behold. It is also fair to conclude that such a God would reveal His wisdom to us about the nature of His creation. I believe He has. It is called the Holy Writ, Scripture. Is not the battle in which we are waging the fundamental fight between good and evil, right and wrong and choosing by whose laws we shall live, God or mammon?
NOW HEAR THIS:
We are called upon to take dominion over this earth and no where does it state that it will be an easy task. Dominion requires knowledge of ourselves and those who oppose us.
Confrontation in politics is a fact of life.
Let us now reflect on what has happened in relationship to the Bork confirmation. Let me quote from the press:
“By the time the Senate convened yesterday morning, only three senators had not announced their positions: John Warner, R-Va., William Proxmire, D-Wis., and John Stennis, D-Miss. All three voted against Bork.
“The biggest surprise was Warner, who had been openly agonizing for weeks over the decision. The ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Warner is almost unfailingly loyal to the Administration.
“But in a brief speech on the Senate floor, he said, Reagan’s recent statement that the opposition to Bork was a “lynch mob” was unbecoming the office of the presidency.”
It is obvious Senator Warner hasn’t got a glimmer of what he is doing. The comments of the Left against Bork was inflammatory compared with the more accurate “lynch mob” statement of a frustrated President Reagan.
Let us see what Senator Ed Kennedy said:
“If we receive a nominee who thinks like Judge Bork, who acts like Judge Bork, who opposes civil rights and civil liberties like Judge Bork, he will be rejected like Judge Bork, just like that!”
Kennedy was already framing the issue on the next Supreme Court nominee! Kennedy is an able practitioner of confrontational politics.
Now, let us see what Senator Strom Thurmond, Senior Republican from South Carolina, stated: “I would recommend they not send someone as controversial.” Strom Thurman is already caving in on the next fight before it has even begun! Senator Thurman is already preparing to retreat before the first shot is fired. Thurman’s knowledge of confrontational politics is abysmal at best, dangerous at worst.
The moral (“take-away”) of the Bork debacle:
There were no residual benefits gained from the entire Bork hearing. All that remained were scars and a retreating Republican Party. Our conservative politicians must understand confrontational politics and be able practitioners of its more positive nature. If they cannot or will not understand, then we better elect some politicians on our side who do.
Enough said. Now, let us end this article with a BANG!…
We cannot afford the luxury of elected representatives who are either unaware or incapable of meeting the Left head on. We need to recapture territory lost. If those in office cannot do it, and show no signs of practicing positive confrontation, then we should remove them post haste. A Republican who just takes up space is worse than no one at all.
Did this article grab you? The whole idea grabbed NPR. On October 20, NPR devoted a series of articles to covering disciples of Richardson. It took NPR over 30 years to figure out who was behind what is going on politically in the heartland. NPR is appalled. See for yourself here.
Gary North had persuaded Chalcedon’s founder, R.J. Rushdoony, that after years of cranking out articles and books and sermons designed to blow up the dikes of humanism with Bible-based truth-charges, it was time to get serious with the message of Christian reconstruction and publish a scholarly journal.
Not for scholars exactly. Not even college professors. No, this was to be written for “intelligent laymen, working pastors, and others who are interested in the reconstruction of all spheres of human existence in terms of the standards of the Old and New Testaments.”
Its mission: to boldly go where no semi-scholarly journal had gone before.
The ambitious project was coming on the heels of Rushdoony’s magnum opus in Christian casuistry, The Institutes of Biblical Law. The die had been cast. Now it was time to get the assembly line moving.
“Igor! Flip the switch!”
Rushdoony said yes to the proposal. On one condition: North had to do the editing. North, in a season of youthful exuberance, agreed to accept the challenge. “Sure thing, boss. I’ll do it. I like herding cats!”
And so began the hopeful publication of The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 1, no. 1.
Decades later (actually, the next century), North would ruefully reflect, recording this about that:
Scholarly journals sit on library shelves, gathering dust. Anyway, they did before online publishing. On average, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thayer, the typical journal article is read by no more than a hundred people. He might have added this: 80% of these are read in the first month after publication. After that, they are forgotten unless an article gets cited by other authors. Very few articles are ever cited by other authors, and then hardly anyone reads these authors’ articles.
To which he added:
Except for getting tenure, publishing articles in scholarly journals is a waste of time. I did not know this in 1973.
Hmm. “A waste of time”?
I don’t know. Maybe in hindsight it was. But, GOLLY, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time!
And who was the intended audience for this new journal?
As the editors’ preface puts it:
The editors are convinced that the Christian world is in need of a serious publication that bridges the gap between the newsletter-magazine and the scholarly academic journal. The editors are committed to Christian scholarship, but the journal is aimed at intelligent laymen, working pastors, and others who are interested in the reconstruction of all spheres of human existence in terms of the standards of the Old and New Testaments. It is not intended to be another outlet for professors to professors, but rather a forum for serious discussion within Christian circles.
A noble undertaking, indeed.
The editors agreed with the Marxists that “theory must be united with practice”. But they made it clear that they believed regeneration “through God’s grace in Jesus Christ and in the extension of God’s kingdom” was the way to do it, not violent revolution.
Reconstructionists place their hope in the shedding of one Man’s blood. Marxists placed their hope in the shedding of LOTS of men’s blood!
They ended on a note of optimism:
In the long run, it is the kingdom of God, not Marx’s “kingdom of freedom,” which shall reign triumphant. Christianity will emerge victorious, for only in Christ and His revelation can men find both the principles of conduct and the means of subduing the earth—the principles of Biblical law.
I’m all for optimism. Especially the biblically warranted kind!
And on that victorious note, the maiden voyage of the JCR was launched.
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
I. Symposium on Creation
Six-Day Creation, that is.
That is the central theme of JCR volume 1, number 1. Gary North in his introduction spells out the “Basic Implications of the Six-Day Creation”. He says that the biblical doctrine of a literal six-day creation is crucial and fundamental to everything. It is the bedrock upon which all the disciplines of the arts and sciences must be built. All other ground is … well, you know the hymn.
If you don’t read anything else in this book, read North’s Introduction! That and his article on Economics: Magical or Creationist.
But I’m sure you will find other articles that are worth turning to.
Remember, these were written especially for you if you are:
An intelligent layman
A working pastor
Someone interested in what Christian Reconstruction is all about based on the application of Old and New Testament principles
Otherwise, there are plenty of periodicals and lots of literature out there aimed at unintelligent laymen, distracted pastors and others who are NOT interested in learning how to rebuild a crumbling civilization and a fallen world according to the infallible, transformational standards of God’s Word the Bible.
“That’s too much like works. We believe in pure grace. No law but love. No creed but the Bible. Speaking of that, biblical prophecy says that Satan has to burn the place down first so Jesus will show up with His heavenly fire extinguisher and rescue us!”
But, I digress.
Apologetics, Mathematics and More
A few years have passed since publication, so you might not recognize some of the authors named in this volume. No worries.
You might appreciate the fact that the article on The Doctrine of Creation and Christian Apologetics was written by Cornelius Van Til.
Or that the article (one of the longest) on Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator was authored by Greg Bahnsen.
Or that the article on Creation and Mathematics: What Does God Have to Do with Numbers? was written by the one, the only Vern Poythress!
Or that the article on Contemporary Issues was penned (literally) by R.J. Rushdoony, from which we pull this salient observation:
The modern era is thus in trouble and is deathly sick. Its inability to create a tenable image for man to live by, to understand himself, and to find a purpose for living, is very much in evidence. Only as man sees himself as a sinner, one made in the image of God but in rebellion against his Maker, and then returns to the Lord whose image he bears, can man find a meaning to life, a purpose for living, and, in Christ, the true image of power, truth, and life.
Go ahead. Browse the table of contents. Thumb through… make that, scroll through the pages and chapter titles. See what interests you. Slow down, read some. Read some more. Rediscover the roots of reconstruction!
After all, these things were written that you might believe.
True, hardly anybody read the original volumes. And, true, hardly anybody has (or will) read the digital PDFs of them.
But that shouldn’t stop any of us who care deeply about these things from reading them ourselves and appreciating them for what they really are: groundbreaking intellectual and theological forays into the uncharted waters of modern-day application of God’s laws and God’s Word in EVERY area of life and every sphere of influence, in pursuit of fulfilling the biblical mission of Gospel reformation of all things to the glory of God and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom!
And with that eschatological wind blowing and filling your sails, go forth and make disciples… start with YOU, your family and friends.
Start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start, to quote Julie Andrews.)
Gentlemen, start your downloads!
For a free PDF of this historic first edition, first volume of the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, click HERE.
For a list of the first 14 volumes (1974 – 1981) of JCR, all available as free PDFs, click HERE.
Before I get into today’s article, I wanted to refer briefly to last year’s article on biblical law (‘harsh on criminals, soft on victims’). That was an experiment of sorts. It was on a critical subject (biblical law and civil justice) but it was also written, admittedly, in the voice of one Ben Settle. Ben Settle? Yes. The undisputed heavyweight champion of e-mail marketing and 7-figure, intrepid, take-no-prisoners-give-no-quarter, “goo-roo” copywriting. That Ben Settle.
So much so, in fact, that I feel I should add his name to the byline of that article. Co-authored by… You know, give credit where credit is doo. (There he goes again. STOP IT, Ben!) Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Settle. It was a fun joy ride. It ran its course, and it ran it, well, to the finish line.
Now that that’s settled…
Onward, Christian Readers.
Buckle up and get your helmet on because today’s article is fixin’ to hit you right between the ayes.
It, too, is co-authored. By this lowly blogger and by the eminent Reconstructionist historian and biblical commentator, Dr. Gary North. Only this time, you’ll know where my incoherent dribblings end and our guest author’s inestimable intellect and erudition begins.
Today’s topic comes from Dr. North’s The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments.
It comes from Chapter 6 in the book (“God’s Monopoly of Execution”), which focuses on the Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill (Exod. 20:13).
The first part of the chapter lays out the biblical arguments for and against “killing” — when it is prohibited, why it is prohibited, when it is justified and allowed, and even when it is required: capital punishment.
Since man is made in the image of God, murder is a direct assault on that image.
Murder is rebellion against God. It is man taking vengeance against man when, we are told repeatedly in Scripture, that vengeance belongs to God (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30). Vengeance, as North puts it, “is His monopoly.” (p. 117)
God avenges the blood of His servants. Individual men do not have this right. Except… where God delegates it to them. As He does in the case of civil government prosecuting capital crimes. North gets into this (“Delegated Monopoly”). He also gets into the argument for (and against) capital punishment as a deterrent against crime (“The Question of Deterrence”).
And once he is done with presenting these arguments in the biblical case for capital punishment, North then moves on to a discussion of the mode of execution.
Capital Punishment: Death By–?
You may ask, “Does it really matter HOW we execute a criminal convicted of a capital crime, just as long as it gets done… and it gets done humanely?”
YES, North says, it does matter.
And as far as a “humane” form of execution? Well, that’s where the humanists have got even the Christians thinking humanistically and apologizing for what the Bible plainly says.
Remember, it was humanist, anti-biblical thinking that redefined “humane” punishment for crime and gave us a “criminal justice” system that abolishes restitution, spares the perpetrator’s life and locks him up for years and decades and even a lifetime, with myriad fringe benefits — all paid for at taxpayer expense — while leaving the victim uncompensated, re-victimized and wholly unavenged.
If we ever get back to capital punishment and public executions being carried out the way God has prescribed them and not the way depraved, unregenerate, self-preserving, “compassionate” men think they ought to, we will begin to truly see the redemptive, transformative power of biblical law even in this seemingly obscure and narrow regard.
That may seem hard to believe.
That’s because you haven’t read what you are about to read.
So, I’ll let Dr. North take over from here and make his case. I rest mine.
In Defense of Stoning
Consider the mode of execution. The Old Testament specifies stoning as the proper mode in most cases (Lev. 20:2; Deut. 17:5). In the case of the sabbath-breaking gatherer of sticks, the whole congregation stoned him to death (Num. 15:36). Presumably, the phrase “whole congregation” refers to representatives of the twelve tribes, and not millions of people. Even the killer ox is to be stoned to death (Ex. 21:29). Witnesses of the capital crime are to cast the first stones (Deut. 17:7; Acts 7:58). But the whole community is to be involved. Adult males of the city are all to participate (Deut. 21:21). If the city is too populous, then it would appear to be legitimate to select repre- sentatives, but only because of the logistical problem.
Why stoning? There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost. Second, no one blow can be traced to any person. In other words, no one citizen can regard himself as “the executioner,” the sole cause of another man’s death. Psychologically, this is important; it relieves potential guilt problems in the mind of a sensitive person. The fact that public executioners in Western history wore masks indicates another problem: the threat of social ostracism (and socially imposed guilt) against a lone individual who does the community’s “dirty business.” Those who abstain from the “dirty business” of enforcing God’s law have a tendency to elevate their behavior as being more moral than the ex- ecutioner’s, where in point of fact such abstention is itself immoral.
Third, public stoning makes it clear to everyone that the whole community is responsible for the prevention of criminal behavior. God holds the city responsible, which is why representatives of the city in Old Testament times had to offer a slain heifer as a covering if the criminal could not be found. “And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them” (Deut. 21:6-8). There is a collective responsibility in biblical law in several instances. Execution of criminals is therefore to be collective.
Fourth, executions are to be personal, not impersonal. The condemned man has the right to confront his executioners face to face. He does not die in seclusion, a faceless entity who dies at the hand of a faceless entity. He receives justice in a public, personal fashion.
The fifth and by far the most important reason is that stoning is literally a means of crushing the murderer’s head by means of a rock, which is symbolic of God. This is analogous to the crushing of the head of the serpent in Genesis 3:15. This symbolism testifies to the final victory of God over all the hosts of Satan.
Stoning is therefore integral to the commandment against murder. It allows men to execute God’s justice, but not in a way that might lead an individual to believe that he, and he alone, has the right to take justice into his own hands. Executions are community projects– not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do “his” duty, but rather with actual participants. Execution is not to become a profession. It is not to be performed by a callous professional in a mask, who sees his job as just an occupation. The hangman, the masked expert at beheading men, or the official who throws the switch on the electric chair, or the man who releases the cyanide capsules: all are to be avoided by a consistently biblical social order. No man is to view himself as the community’s hired “angel of death.” Every citizen, beginning with the witnesses, is to set; himself as a lawful agent of execution, if and when a criminal is convicted of a capital crime.
Western civilization has been marked by an increasing depersonalization in the area of capital punishment. Criminals were executed for centuries in public squares by masked axemen. They were hanged, sometimes after anti-biblical torture, in public squares. These events were almost sporting events, and pickpockets always did a lively business, even at the hangings of other pickpockets. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the executions began to go indoors. By the early twentieth century, modern technology combined with modern jurisprudence to produce the indoor execution, where only a handful of observers attended. Often, they would become sick at the sight. By the latter decades, this impersonalism finally collapsed. The death penalty was seen as “inhumane ,” and the advent of “lifetime” sentences with paroles displaced the death penalty in most instances of capital crimes. A steady progression toward greater impersonalism finally led to repulsion on the part of political leaders and moral spokesman for humanism, leaving defenders of capital punishment to defend a long-corrupted imitation of biblical execution.
The grim reality is that personalism has been retained in such lawless acts as gangland murders and hangings by vigilante groups. In these cases, private citizens “take the law into their own hands,” which is to say that they deny the legitimacy of the existing civil government. They execute vengeance apart from the sanction of the civil government. They arrogate to themselves God’s monopoly of execution – a monopoly that he has placed into the hands of civil magistrates.
That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the re-introduction of stoning for capital crimes indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians. If humanistic concepts of punishment have persuaded Christians that there was something sinister about the Old Testament’s specified mode of execution, then we should not be surprised to discover that humanistic concepts of Justice, including economic justice, have also become influential in the thinking of Christians. Christians have voluntarily transferred their allegiance from the infallible Old Testament to contemporary God-hating and God-denying criminologists and economists. They have traded their birthright for a mess of pottage — or, given the nature of modern criminology’s propaganda, for a pot of message.
That God has delegated this right to execute to the civil government indicates that this institution has legitimate power. It can protect men from kidnapping, a capital crime (Ex. 21:16). It can also protect men from the spread of disease, especially killer diseases, by means of imposing a quarantine (Num. 5:1-4; Lev. 13-15). The police power of the State is to serve as one of the foundations of social stability. It thereby permits men to apply time and capital to their callings. It offers legal predictability, which is vital to the flourishing of personal freedom and economic development. Most important, the right of the civil government to take a man’s life under specified conditions is apt to remind men of the ultimate Judge who gives the gift of life, but who also retains the right to remove life from those who rebel against Him. The civil government’s monopoly of execution testifies to God’s absolute hostility against sin, especially the sin of striking out against God’s own image.
This is an extremely important point. Man’s life is to be protected, not because each man possesses a hypothetical absolute and original right of ownership over his own person (the fundamental assertion of most libertarian and anarcho-capitalist theoreticians), but because God is absolutely sovereign and the absolute owner of all things, including men. He will not permit His image, man, to be mortally wounded without imposing a form of judgment which, in time and on earth, is analogous to that final judgment beyond the grave. Peter speaks of “the grace of life” (I Pet. 3:7); to destroy human life is to reject grace. Murderers have no place in God’s in- heritance (Gal. 5:21; Rev. 21:8).
I don’t know much about WallBuilders or David Barton.
But I do know that their Christmas 2019 Catalog has the folks at RightWingWatch.org, an online media “watchdog” site run by the folks at People for the American Way, recoiling in horror and bristling like a prickly snow-covered pine cone.
Over what, you aks?
Over the fact that on page 13 of said catalog, there, brazenly listed under the category of “Children & Families / Curriculum”, those subversive anti-American extremists at WallBuilders have the unirrigated gall to advertise (at $20.00 off, no less) a three-volume set entitled “Historical & Theological Foundations of Law” that was written by . . . wait for it . . . “Christian Reconstructionist” legal scholar, professor and Attorney at Law John Eidsmoe.
This unpardonable promotion of Eidsmoe’s unsavory trilogy is, in the words of RIghtWingWatch’s writer, “a sign of the deep influence of Reconstructionism in today’s religious right—and of the near vanishing of whatever blurry line may have once separated religious right political advocacy groups from their more overtly extreme and dominionist compatriots.”
He said a mouthful.
Notice the article this writer links to which supposedly defines “Reconstructionism” is a 25-year-old piece conjured up by Public Eye, a left-leaning group of similarly enlightened journalists engaged in the same battle, nay, the same eternal infowar, sworn to defeat and exterminate once and for all, non-leftist scumbags everywhere.
Here is the offending page, from that highly offensive, seasonally incorrect publication:
You remember People for the American Way, don’t you?
If not, let me offer this unfriendly reminder.
They were founded in 1981 by Norman Lear, the rock-star TV sitcom producer who gave us a slew of popular hit series like All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time–and that family classic cult favorite everyone remembers, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman–along with retired Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and a few other deeply concerned folks.
By the way, do you know what real-life persons inspired Norman for the bigoted, racist, anti-semitic, uncouth working-class, Bible-believing barbarian character of Archie Bunker and his bubble-headed, screech-owl-voiced wife Edith?
None other than Lear’s own parents! Never mind that his parents and family were Jewish. That inconvenient truth was conveniently modified and reconstituted for the series: “Let’s make the Bunkers White Anglo-Saxon Protestants!“
And Edith’s loud-mouthed, unequally uncouth, flaming liberal cousin Maude?
Because 1981 was immediately after Ronald Reagan and the Christian Right — an unholy alliance if there ever was one — came into prominence. Evangelical conservatives had just woke up from their half-century-long, Rip Van Winkle-style nap. And, boy, were they hungry for attention–and political action!
Uh oh. Time to regroup and re-organize.
Thus was born People for (the Liberal Version of) the American Way.
Or, as I like to call them, the White Hat Society:
But it’s not just liberals and atheists who despise God’s law and reject Old Testament principles and case laws of civil justice.
Pickup truck loads of gun-toting, Bible-clinging right-wingers and conservative evangelical Christians do, too.
A Case Out of Joint
You probably attend a church right now that falls into that category.
Maybe you don’t. Maybe your church does its mid-level best to try and honor God’s law in some limited, perfunctionary way.
Naw. Chances are your church belongs to the antinomian super-majority that preaches and chants the standard evangelical and fundamentalist mantras of, “We’re not under law, we’re under grace!” and, “No creed but the Bible, no law but love!”
(An extreme example of this scriptural schizophrenia would be Andy Stanley’s congregations of commandment-breaking, covenant-busting Christians. I don’t suppose you attend one of those houses of ill-reputed worse-ship, do you? Good.)
The Only Thing We (Don’t) Have to Fear is…
Here’s the dual-pronged dilemma facing both the anti-biblical law, anti-government-by-God liberals and the anti-biblical law, anti-government-by-God conservatives.
Their dually irrational fear of that dark and sinister but imaginary villain and mortal enemy of all that is good and theologically correct: Christian Reconstructionism.
More to the point, their irrational fear of what loathsome and dastardly agenda of darkness and ideological incontinence these scoundrels will try to malevolently and syrup-titiously impose on an unsuspecting and innocent humanity if given half a chance.
I tell you, the thought of such massively mistaken mass hysteria is disturbing to my faith-based, Scripture-induced peace of mind.
It makes my flesh want to crawl back under the iniquity-encrusted rock from whence it came.
Rx for Anti-Theonomic Depression
Instead of swallowing the second-hand regurgitations of left-wing and right-wing Nimrods of Narnia warning incessantly (and incestuously) about the coming theonomic Armageddon, I think all of those theologically paranoid (and, frankly, intellectually LAZY) critics of Real Reconstructionism — and you know who you are — should do one thing.
Just one thing.
Go pick up a prescription from the Doctor of Direct-Response Theology and Covenantal Derision-Based Marketing, Dr. Gary North. Dr. North, as you may or may not know, is renowned for issuing verbose diagnoses of what ails society and the church, and for administering heavy and large doses of strong exegetical medicines. Heavy and large doses. Very strong medicine. Use only as directed. Or die in your sins.
All you have to do is grab a copy of Dr. North’s literary remedy. If you’re one of those misfortunate souls suffering from an Irrational Fear of the Consequences of Enacting and Enforcing Biblical Law and Civil Justice.
Yes, I know he wrote a thousand volume, three-million-word economic commentary on the Bible. But it there were just one book you could read, one handy little volume (“little” by North’s standards) that will ‘get your mind right’ about who God’s law is intended to punish and who it is designed to protect, this is it.
Hint: it is the opposite of who the modern humanistic, atheistic, anti-biblical approach to law and justice ends up punishing and protecting–which has the bizarre and perverted consequence of preserving and protecting criminals and punishing and neglecting victims. That, my dear Watson, is precisely North’s argument.
You know that handy turn-of-phrase you read in the title of this post–‘harsh on criminals, soft on victims’–that comes from page 6 of Gary’s Introduction.
There’s plenty more eye-popping biblical naughtiness where that came from.
A full review of Victim’s Rights is in the works. Coming attractions. Under reconstruction. Slated for publication right here on this sanctified blog of mine.
I’ve been reading Claude C. Hopkins’ classic little book on modern advertising: Scientific Advertising. “Classic” meaning that it was published in 1923. I’ve also been reading its slightly longer and slightly more recently published (1927) companion volume, My Life in Advertising.
Both of these should be read together, by the way, if they’re going to be read at all. Together, these two books form a cohesive unit. They complement and reinforce each other, in the sense that they both proclaim the very same message: a doctrine of modern advertising which says it no longer is to be based — as it was in the past — on unproven ideas, personal fancy or the baseless notions, “intuitive” instincts and intellectual consensus of the learned.
Hopkins proved from decades of field testing and reams and reams of data-driven, market-based experience that this kind of whimsical “shot-in-the-dark”, “will-of-the-wisp” approach to advertising was a royal road to failure. Success, if it ever came at all, was rare and unpredictable this way. It therefore could not be explained. For sure it could not be replicated, unless by accident.
From now on, all successful advertising could be based — confidently — on solid, enduring principles and proven, fundamental laws that transcended human nature itself … because they were based on real-world experience with human nature itself: buyers and sellers.
In other words, modern advertising could now be called scientific. Because it was based on facts, not fancy. Data, not dogmas.
Why was that important?
Well, because it meant that catastrophic losses (in sales as well as advertising revenue) could now be avoided … cheaply (through testing). Successes could now be made more predictable … and more common — and even bigger than expected — if one would simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles.
Successes could now be made more predictable … and more common — and even bigger than expected — if one would simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here.
Laws … and Gospels
What brings this to mind is a book mentioned this past week by Gary North in a brief online discussion about Moore’s Law and Bell’s Theorem in reference to his article on quantum computing.
The book he mentioned was one that he wrote — a treatise published in 1988 called, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview.
You can download a free PDF of that book by clicking here.
I pulled my hardcover copy of Is the World Running Down? from off of my righteous bookshelf, and began to look through it.
Have you read it?
I’ll be honest with you. Neither have I.
But that isn’t going to stop me from using it as a launch pad for gleaning a good Bible-based lesson or two.
One lesson is this …
Never pin your hopes, aspirations and expectations on the “immutability”, “infallibility” and “irrevocability” of any man-made law. None. Never.
Want an example of such a law?
How about the Law of Entropy. Otherwise known as Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The “Science” in Creation Science
Now, Gary has admitted — in print — that the only reason he went ahead and dealt with this eschatologically-infused subject in depth and in full-length book form in 1988 was because of Dr. Arthur Robinson. He says (in the book’s dedication) that Dr. Robinson essentially “pushed him into an intellectual corner, thereby decreasing his intellectual entropy.”
So, the way I see it, Dr. Robinson simply applied Newton’s First Law of Motion to Dr. North.
Why is this important?
In other words, why does the Law of Entropy matter so much?
i will tell you why.
It’s because, thanks to the influence (thank God for them) of the 1960s-and-beyond Creation Science movement, now practically ALL conservative, “Bible-believing”, six-day-creationist Christians have bought into the notion that the Law of Entropy– the Second Law of Thermodynamics — is an immutable, infallible and irrevocable law.
Which means, in spite of everything the Bible says about the “reformation” and “restoration” of all things and the gradual, inexorable advent of a “new heavens and a new earth” now that Christ the Lord has risen and ascended and reigns forever and ever as King of Kings … the universe is doomed.
Guess what. It isn’t.
By This Standard (Not That One)
Here is where we could easily get lost in the theological, eschatological and scientific weeds.
Don’t worry. We’re not going to go there.
At least, not today.
All I’m going to say is that … there are really two issues in play here, not one.
One is the issue of a pessimistic Newtonian worldview superimposed over what should be an eminently and consistently optimistic biblical worldview.
The trouble with this is, it has led to too many six-day-creationist Christians being what I call “Winnie the Pooh” believers — Tigger on the outside, Eeyore on the inside. “Eternity really looks amazing … but, gosh, things sure do look bleak in the meantime!”
Yes, this comes down to eschatology: last things. Your understanding of what is supposed to happen (and how it is supposed to happen) between now and Christ’s Second Coming. As well as what is supposed to happen after that (and how it is supposed to happen).
Let’s save that for another day.
The other issue is one of “laws” and “principles”.
And that comes down to this: Whose law governs the universe? Man’s or God’s. Which one of these can change? Which one can’t … and doesn’t … and won’t?
This brings me back to Claude Hopkins and his evidence-based, data-driven approach to advertising.
There’s Good News Tonight … and Tomorrow
We really need that same approach to evangelism and the Gospel.
Let’s start by identifying what is personal fancy, unproven, intuitive notions and the “intellectual consensus” of the learned — things that we might mistake for immutable, irrevocable, infallible facts and truths about the world around us and the universe we live in.
We have in our possession an infallible, immutable, field-tested, “evidence-based, data-driven” manual that was written especially for us to go into the marketplace and carry out our mission.
What’s more, the ultimate success of this divinely-appointed campaign is assured — and even predictable to a large extent (and will someday be more than we expect) — if we will simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles … which you will find in the pages of that manual.
You know, I want to spend more time on this. I also want to get into Dr. North’s book. After all, it is packed full of scientific evangelizing from cover to cover. Lots of good news!
First, a sermon on the subject of success, preached last Sunday (January 6) at my church.
How To Be A Success In God’s Eyes from Redemption Gilbert on Vimeo.
The man who preached this is pastor of central operations. (My church is part of a multi-site megachurch.) He has been preaching, teaching… and accounting… for this church for nearly two decades. He brings a unique perspective: he is Jewish, having grown up in a Jewish family in Boston. He converted to Christ in college after encountering fellow students belonging to Campus Crusade for Christ who witnessed to him. For years he has referred to himself as the church’s “Jewish bookkeeper”. As far as his sermons and public ministry go, he has also been the resident Old Testament scholar and Hebrew language specialist. (I have heard many of those sermons over the years. I think every congregation should be so blessed as to have a Jewish bookkeeper who also preaches and teaches!)
You’ll notice he defines “success in God’s eyes” as integrity, excellence and obedience to God–in all circumstances. His primary exemplars for this are Joseph (Old Testament) and Paul (New Testament). You’ll also notice the absence of money and personal wealth and prosperity in this definition.
Spiritual Rags to Riches in Glory
The sermon dovetails nicely (though not explicitly) with the principles and teachings of another man who, though not a pastor or ordained minister or elder, has devoted his life and calling to exploring–and explaining–what the Bible teaches on practical matters such as wealth, success and individual and corporate obedience to God in all areas of life and in every sphere of our existence, including our institutions (family, church and state), with special emphasis on our stewardship of God’s resources: economics.
Of course I’m talking about Gary North.
Gary doesn’t preach on the subject of success. But he certainly does write about it — in prodigious amounts — with the intent of expounding everything the Bible has to say on the subject.
Case in point: about ten years ago he wrote a book: The Five Pillars of Biblical Success.
If you want instant, Bible-based gratification, you can click here for a free PDF download of the book:
His thesis is similar to the thesis of all of his other books: namely, that not only is the Bible our final authority on any given subject — remember Van Til’s famously uncompromising proposition: “The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything.” — but there is a five-point covenant model governing any and all areas of life having a covenantal basis to them. Obedience to this model brings blessing (success), and disobedience to it brings cursing (failure).
That includes all of our institutions, and it also includes our concept and definition of success.
Actually, our concept and definition of success are fatally flawed: they’re not based on the premise that all success depends on the absolute sovereignty of God and on nothing else. Success, as North says, is a gift that depends on God’s grace, much like salvation. He grants it. We receive it.
Fortunately (for us), we have a consistent and predictable way and means of achieving “success” in His eyes and in this world. It is called His Covenant. Specifically, it is called obedience to His Covenant.
This is what Joseph and Paul (and so many others in Scripture) demonstrated, and it is what we are to emulate.
North’s over-arching point — as it is in all of his books and articles — is that, in the long term, covenant-keepers will enjoy temporal as well as eternal success, and covenant-breakers will, ultimately, suffer both temporal and eternal failure and loss.
That’s putting it mildly.
Granted, in the short term, this situation is often flipped, with covenant-breakers frequently enjoying temporal triumph and success, and covenant-keepers suffering continual temporal loss and defeat.
The “injustice” of this is made even more demoralizing (and success-attenuating) when you couple it with an eschatology of defeat–the doctrine of the church and Gospel in history (pre-Second Advent) losing to Satan: amillennialism and premillennialism.
Combine these two ingredients and you have a recipe for individual and corporate impotence and large-scale cultural defeat. Under such a scheme, the only success that really matters is eternal and spiritual. Temporal, earthly success becomes merely a cheap and inferior (and even satanic) substitute.
Success: A Covenantal Perspective
Reading Dr. North’s book, however, you find that looking at success through covenantal eyes changes your perspective–and therefore your actions.
In its opening pages, North makes no bones about what the first of those “actions” should be:
The first public step in the application of the first principle of success in history is to rest one day in seven.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:9–11).
The second step is to tithe the required 10 percent. Tithing is the beginning of the process, not the end.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23).
The third and subsequent steps are not to leave the other things undone.
The first principle—a day of rest—should remind us that success is not earned. It is instead received. Success is based entirely on grace, and in no way on works—at least not our autonomous works. Success is a gift undeserved by its recipients.
All the other action steps, biblically speaking, flow from this “first principle” and out of this “beginning of the process”.
So, here is my recommendation. If you are someone who makes “New Year’s Resolutions”, I think the best resolution you could make for 2019 is this:
Resolve to be a “success in God’s eyes” — the way He defines success and the way he prescribes achieving (receiving) it — by first understanding what constitutes biblical success, and then by acting in obedience to this revealed truth.
A simple (though not necessarily easy) way to begin this process is by reading Dr. North’s book. It isn’t very long, at least by North’s standards — a mere pamphlet, a tract — about 160 pages.
Then do what it says.
Remember this basic principle: obedience to God’s covenant brings blessing; disobedience brings cursing. Choose you this day which one you would like to receive!
Here’s the link again:
I wish you much success — “in God’s eyes” and the way He defines it — in 2019.
You may have already seen the interview published last week on The Daily Wire between Ben Shapiro and John MacArthur. It now has nearly half a million views on YouTube.
I watched it today.
After I did, I began thinking… Hmm… What if…?
What if Ben Shapiro had interviewed Dr. Gary North instead of John MacArthur?
Sure, I know. it’s too late to “unring the bell”. MacArthur got the gig and the (additional) name fame. But maybe you and I can sort of visualize a little bit and think about what it might be like to “ring the bell a second time.”
What if Ben were to do another interview and ask those very same questions of Dr. North?
Wouldn’t that be fun!
So, I began to imagine what an exchange like that might look like.
Well, here is what I came up with.
I put together a mock interview between Shapiro and North, discussing the same things that Shapiro and MacArthur did: religion, politics and the role Christians and the Bible should play in shaping society and civil governments.
Wonder of wonders, wouldn’t you know it, Shapiro gets VERY different answers from Dr. North!
Anyway, here is just a sample of what a few minutes of that dialogue might sound like. I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy the satire!
Note: I am assuming that you’ve watched the original (actual) interview before reading this.
The Ben Shapiro Show – Sunday Special
(Opening music and graphics)
BEN: We’re here on the Ben Shapiro Sunday Special today interviewing someone who is probably the most influential and controversial Christian intellectual, thought leader and scripture-quoting libertarian we could ever hope to find, especially on such short notice, Dr. Gary North. We’ll get into his philosophy and an enormous amount of his work and views on religion and politics and other good things,… But first, let me do this rapid-fire one-minute plug for a mail-order mattress company while Dr. North gets his Skype connection working.
Dr. North, we can see you now–can you see and hear us?
GARY: Yes, I can.
BEN: Good. Thank you for joining us today, sir, even if it is only virtually via Skype.
GARY: It was either this or spend the hour indexing my latest book, Christian Economics for Dummies, Non-Activist Edition. I hate indexing.
BEN: I see. Well, I must say, Dr. North, my staff had a much easier time getting Pastor MacArthur on the show than they did lining up this Skype interview with you.
BEN: Sorry about that, Dr. North. You’ll be pleased to know that my producer has postponed those other gentlemen’s appearances for later dates. Anyway, let’s jump right into the issue of the day and that is, religion and politics. Now, you’re known as somebody who has very openly written and talked about for many years the idea of religion and politics and how they are almost interwoven, or should be, with each other, as if they were two sides to the same coin. What do you think the relationship should be between folks who are in the “business” of religion and trying to inform people about religion and politics–how often should they be doing so and should they be doing it openly, or should they just be preaching about “values”?
GARY: Well, unlike Pastor MacArthur and his abbreviated view of his calling, I view my calling as one of a lifelong task of finding out everything the Bible has to say about, in my case, the field of economics. That is the most important thing I can do at which I would be most difficult to replace, at least until some others come along after I’m gone. But this is something that should be done in all the disciplines. It is my conviction that the Bible speaks authoritatively on whatever subject of which it speaks, as my former seminary professor Dr. Cornelius van Til used to say, “and it speaks of everything”.
BEN: I kind of like that. As an orthodox Jew, I would say the same thing about the Talmud and the Mishnah, and of course, the Torah.
BEN: No, I can’t say that I have. I’ll have my producer order a copy.
GARY: You may be sorry you did.
BEN: Okay, well, anyway let’s talk about something Pastor MacArthur and I spoke about, the idea of submitting to authority and to the powers that be. So, let’s look, for example, at the kinds of leadership that we pick. If you go back to the Old Testament. you had prophets anointing kings. In a democracy, what should our role be in terms of shaping the values of our democracy for political reasons, like, for example, you have pastors endorsing particular political candidates or speaking out on certain issues that a few years ago weren’t considered political but today they are. These are things that have real-world consequences.
GARY: Pastors do whatever they can to insulate themselves from suffering the real-world consequences of the bad theology and bad eschatology that they preach from their pulpits to their congregations. They may go out to an abortion mill or endorse a certain candidate or address a certain issue privately or at least as discreetly and non-controversially as they know how, but because they have been drinking so long and so deeply at the well of pietism, premillennialism (or amillennialism) and antinomianism, they will not do or say anything to jeopardize the unmerited, tax-exempt favor, the showers of blessing and special administrative grace they have received from the omnipotent and omnipresent hand of the IRS.
BEN: That’s a very different answer from the one I got from Pastor MacArthur.
GARY: I’ve got a million of them, Ben, if you’ve got the time.
BEN: I’m afraid not, Dr. North.
GARY: Well, I’ve got the time–I am a postmillennialist. And speaking of time, as you may or may not know, time is a ‘common grace’, just as structured societies and ordered families are a common grace. You see? MacArthur and I do agree on something!
BEN: Yes, then let’s use our time remaining to talk about something I struggled with in 2016: that is, seeing somebody represent the party to which I’ve been an adherent so long I forgot that it was when I was a Harvard law student writing my first book denouncing liberalism in the universities—anyway, seeing a candidate in 2016 who while he stood for some of my values, he was not someone I considered to be of high moral authority because he did not fulfill on a personal level some of the basic moral precepts that I believe in with regard to character and decency especially when it comes to women. As religious people, how should we handle that–should we vote for someone who may stand for some of our values publicly even though they fall short of them on a personal level, or should we just disengage completely.
GARY: Disengaging is what American evangelicals and fundamentalists did for half a century, from the 1920s until the 1970s when the so-called New Christian Right came along. I don’t recommend it as a successful long-term strategy (or even a successful short-term strategy) for social and political victory. When it comes to voting for presidents, I don’t get too overwrought. it’s all just an elaborate Punch & Judy Show anyway. Ben, I’m sure you’re too young to know what I’m referring to when I say that. You can YouTube it later on after the show. In any event, presidents can’t do much more than what the Congress and the entrenched administrative bureaucracies will let them get away with once they’re in office. They can nominate Supreme Court justices and other candidates for various offices in their administration and issue executive orders and all that, but the real power behind the throne over time is in the nameless, faceless administrative bureaucratic leviathan that Harold Bermann warned about when he wrote his book, I will tell you that if you want to vote for a presidential candidate who won’t do a whole lot of damage while he’s in office through bad economic or foreign policy decisions–and the candidate is not Ron Paul or Rand Paul–then vote for the guy who can’t find Aleppo on a map. That’s your man!
BEN: Sounds like good advice. And with that let’s take just a minute and talk about life insurance. While I’m doing that, I will have my producer Google ‘the Punch and Judy Show’ and see what comes up!
GARY: I will remain here as long as this Skype connection holds up. I have time. Anyway, the longer I can put off indexing this book, the better.
Okay, so, maybe there are not 10 “easy” steps to becoming a biblical ‘progressive’.
But when it comes to understanding what ‘the Biblical Basis of Progress’ is, there is a certain book out there that’s been in print for more than three decades which dives headfirst into this topic and brings to the table at least 10 different aspects of this idea of ‘progress’ and how to have a biblical perspective on it, which I think are fairly easy to explain and easy to grasp. Of course, that’s just me.
Now, we could give this series a more catchy but commercially dubious title like:
The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Biblical ‘Progressives’
But,… I think not.
Anyway, whatever catchy but commercially dubious, grab-you-by-the-theological eyeballs title I choose to give it, the topic at hand is a serious one that warrants some thoughtful consideration.
So, let’s have a seat at this table and get into the meat-and-potatoes of our discussion as we thoughtfully consider 10 highly unique, biblical insights into this idea of what we moderns like to call “progress”.
Now, these are not my insights. They come from Dr. Gary North’s little book published in 1987 called Dominion and Common Grace — which is 300+ pages of theological tough love directed, first, at a venerable and well-loved figure in the Reformed presuppositional apologetics world, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, and, second, at the amillennial defenders of a certain doctrine of ‘common grace’ that Dr. Van Til spoke of and wrote about during his career as a Westminster Seminary professor.
In Dr. North’s opinion, it has been to the great detriment of the church in modern times and its evangelical mission in the world that a faulty doctrine of common grace as promoted by Dr. Van Til and embraced mostly by the Reformed (Dutch amillennialist) wing of the Christian church has been promulgated — if any doctrine of common grace has been embraced and promulgated at all.
Dr. North’s book seeks to remedy this.
(You can find a new or used copy of his book online or else download it and read it for free as a PDF. Click here for a free PDF: Dominion and Common Grace.)
So, let’s get started.
Let us unpack this eschatologically hefty baggage and see what’s inside.
What in the World is ‘Common Grace’?
For starters, common grace is not exactly a term that has been in common use among Bible-believing Christians. Not now, not ever.
It’s one of those doctrines that, like the Trinity, you’ll never find by name in a concordance. Or even a topical Bible.
And it seems that only the Calvinists have been the ones spending much time debating and discussing the term and what it means.
Dr. North, a PhD in history and an expert in early American, especially colonial American history, points out that colonial American Puritans used the term ‘common grace’ quite a bit. He says the term goes back at least to Calvin’s writings (Institutes of the Christian Religion , Book II, Chapter II, 1559).
So this conversation has been going on for at least the last five centuries!
Isn’t That Special? (Yes, It Is.)
The kind of ‘grace’ that the Bible talks about most explicitly is the kind that everyone understands–even unbelievers: unmerited favor, unmerited gifts. (Unmerited by us, that is. All gifts are merited by Christ. More on that.)
The unmerited favor demonstrated by God towards his people is especially shown by his unmerited gift of salvation given to them through his Son Jesus Christ.
Theologians call this type of grace, ‘special grace.’
Fine. No argument there.
Now, where the doctrinal pond gets a little murky is where we start to look closely at another type of grace not so clearly shown in the Bible but shown nevertheless: the type of grace demonstrated by God in those unmerited gifts and apparent “favor” (more on that) shown not to his children exclusively but to all of mankind, including unbelievers, regardless of their ethical status before him (saved or lost).
Things like life, health, beauty, law and order, food, clothing, success, prosperity.
Two Kinds of Grace in This World
Here is how I boil it down (based on my reading of Dr. North’s book).
Grace is an unmerited gift.
Special grace is the unmerited gift of salvation given by God to his people.
Common grace is the unmerited gift of temporal blessings and the good things in life given By God to all of his creatures to some degree regardless of their ethical status before him (saved/lost).
Keeping in mind that ALL gifts given by God are merited by Christ his Son, not by us or by any of his creation.
Clear so far?
Well, just you wait. Here, at the doctrinal watering hole called ‘common grace’, is where good Christian men and Dutch Calvinist theologians and church leaders have sometimes refused to drink together and have parted ways.
About a century ago (1924), the Christian Reformed Church did just that. Or, I should say, some dissenting members of the CRC did just that. They parted ways and formed the Protestant Reformed Church over this debate.
All they had to do was see things Dr. North’s way. Then they’d still be together.
Or,… maybe not.
That was then, this is now. And, now, it helps to have a good visual from Scripture to understand a very abstract concept like this one.
Crumbs = Grace
Thankfully, as Dr. North points out, James Jordan has given us a very helpful “visual” from Scripture: common grace is the equivalent of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table to be eaten by the dogs that are under the table (Matt. 15:27-28).
End of debate, right?
Wrong. That’s actually the beginning.
You see, the modern debate sparked by the CRC controversy of the early 20th century that resulted in a church split centers on this one key question (actually there are several posed by Dr. North).
Gifts = Favor?
Here is how he frames it:
“For the moment, let us refrain from using the word grace. Instead, let us limit ourselves to the word gift. The existence of gifts from God raises a whole series of questions:”
Here is the first (and crucial) question.
Does a gift from God imply His favor?
That is a REALLY important question.
Does a gift from God imply His favor?
Spoiler alert: Dr. North says “No.” And he uses the rest of his book to answer this and several other equally important questions related to this one, which you’ll find listed on pages 8-9.
Now, in his Introduction there are two basic points that he makes about common grace.
One, common grace is continuity. It runs throughout history, and it increases over time, but only as a prelude to judgment. (He goes much more into this later.)
Two, common grace is about eschatology. This is where he parts company with Van Til and his amillennial detractors. Whereas their whole theory of common grace is built on the inevitable defeat of the church and the Gospel in history before the final judgment, Dr. North’s theory (being that he is a postmillennialist and a theonomist) is built on the inevitable victory of the church and the Gospel in history before the final judgment.
That’s a mighty big difference of opinion!
A big enough difference, in fact, that it puts Dr. Gary North at odds with just about everyone else in the Reformed/Calvinist world on this matter. Surprise! There’s nothing new about that.
Well, my friend, it looks like we’re out of time. (Not eschatologically.)
Maybe I should ask you this first: Have you heard of “Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress” by Dr. Gary North?
I can understand why if you answered ‘no’ to either of these questions.
It’s not one of his more commonly known titles. It’s also not one of his more endearing like, say, “Millennialism and Social Theory” (with its focus on evangelism and the lost).
But it certainly is (at least for me) one of his more illuminating. And it is certainly one of his more controversial, at least in Reformed circles.
Which one of Dr. Gary North’s books ISN’T controversial?!
Dominion and Common Grace
Granted, the title doesn’t pack the same polemic punch as, say, “Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church,” or, “The Hoax of Higher Criticism.”
And it doesn’t carry the sublime subtlety combined with in-your-face innuendo of “Westminster’s Confession” or “When Justice is Aborted.”
Still, like the titles I just mentioned, this book is both an analysis and a critique. Heavy on the critique.
On the positive side, it not only presents the problem, theologically and historically speaking, but it also proposes the solution: Dr. North’s Biblically-Based, Exegetically-Proven Remedy for Eschatologically and Theologically Defective Christian Doctrines.
Extra Strength. Use Only As Directed.
Fortunately, this particular remedy is given at a lower dose and in a smaller form factor than some of his other high-potency rhetorical prescriptions (you know the ones, those great big “fat book” hardcovers like “Crossed Fingers”).
This one comes dispensed at just over 300 pages including preface and indexes. “Available in easy-to-digest, soft trade paper!”
Big subject. Small Book
“What’s It All About,… Ga-ry?”
What is the subject of Dominion and Common Grace?
More to the point, who is the subject?
You know Gary, Dr. North. He takes no prisoners. And he is “no respecter of persons” when it comes to picking his subjects/victims for literary scrutiny.
His subject in this case is one of the key figures and leading theological thinkers — or as Dr. North refers to him, a classic “puzzler” — a “founding father” in the arena of Christian philosophy and presuppositional apologetics.
Dr. Cornelius Van Til.
If you know anything about Dr. Van Til, you know he was no mean theologian and philosopher. And you know the doctrine of common grace is no mean doctrine and not a trivial matter. (Although, after reading this book some may accuse Dr. North of being mean and trivial to Van Til, the Christian Reformed Church and amillennialists in general.)
In any event, you can’t accuse Dr. North (without being 100% wrong) of being unfair, disingenuous and denigrating towards other leading theological thinkers who fairly, honestly and judiciously differ and disagree with him. For proof, just read the dedication page:
This book is dedicated to / John Frame / an uncommonly gracious man, / who will do doubt conclude that / portions of this book are good, / other portions are questionable, / but the topic warrants further study.
An uncommonly gracious dedication.
Now, let’s take a look at the uncommon perspective on common grace offered in this book.
In his preface, North lays out the central theme of his argument. Namely, that a biblical doctrine of common grace is crucial to a right understanding of history and especially of the Bible’s teaching on “last things”: eschatology. A wrong understanding is why most modern Christians reject postmillennialism in favor of eschatologies of defeat: amillennialism and premillennialism. On this point, by the way, he says that he is not out to prove postmillennialism in this book: “I simply assume it, and then get on with the business at hand.”
The business at hand, at least for a large portion of the book, is to show how it is that a final rebellion of Satan at the end of history — prophesied in Revelation 20 and agreed on by “99.9% of all Bible-believing Christians” — can take place, and the postmillennial position (gradual, progressive spread of the kingdom of God and general success of the Gospel) still be correct.
He calls it, The Postmillennialist’s Problem.
He reassures fretting postmillennialists, there is a solution.
The solution involves answering these two questions — two of five that he poses:
How can unbelievers possess so much power after generations of Christian dominion?
How can a world full of reprobates be considered a manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth?
Answer these, and you resolve the “postmillennial problem.”
As for the other three questions, he answers them briefly.
Does a theology of the extension of God’s kingdom on earth require that almost everyone on earth in the era close to that final day be a born-again believer in Christ? Answer: No.
Can born-again believers fall from grace and then rebel? in short, can Satan gain recruits from the born-again invisible church? Answer: No.
Can unbelievers seem to be saints in the camp of the saints, almost as spies who successfully invade an enemy military camp? Answer: Yes.
With that, the groundwork for answering all five questions is laid. The full development of the answers, especially to the first two questions, comes later.
And with that, the groundwork for discussing the contents of Gary North’s book, “Dominion and Common Grace” is laid.
Next, I will cover what North says in his Introduction are the crucial elements for understanding what common grace is (as opposed to special grace), how it operates in history (think continuity vs. discontinuity, Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares), and how and why the modern debate over common grace started in the first place (hint: it involved a bunch of Calvinist Dutch guys!).
Speaking of “continuity” and “discontinuity”. . .
Continuity: the remaining nine chapters of the book, plus the Conclusion and Appendix, will be discussed in future installments.
Discontinuity: this post has ended. (Go in peace.)