‘Harsh on Criminals, Soft on Victims’–Yet Liberals (and Conservatives) Still Hate Biblical Law

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.

http://bit.ly/RWWarticle

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:

http://www.magazinevolume.com/33053WB/page_13.html

Those Were the Days

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?

That was Lear’s wife, Frances.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Lear

Art imitates life. Ain’t that America!

Anyway, . . . Why 1981?

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:

http://bit.ly/36ShNkj

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.)

Onward.

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.

It’s called, Victim’s Rights: The Biblical View of 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 will keep you righteously posted.

In the meantime, go and read thou likewise.

Victim’s Rights: The Biblical View of Civil Justice

Scientific Evangelizing: How to Address an ‘Age-Old’ Problem with Modern Conservative Christianity

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.

Hmmm.

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?

Exactly.

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!

But for now …

I’m out of time. The clock has run down.

Until next time. Download Is the World Running Down?. Or even better (my preference), buy a hard copy to read.

Keep it on your righteous bookshelf.

How to Be a Success in 2019

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:

http://garynorth.com/biblicalsuccess.pdf

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.

Moreover,

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:

http://garynorth.com/biblicalsuccess.pdf

I wish you much success — “in God’s eyes” and the way He defines it — in 2019.

What If Ben Shapiro Had Interviewed–Gary North?

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!

Shocking.

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.

GARY:  Your staff should have read my Wikipedia bio a little more carefully.  I’m not a British soap opera star, I’m not a radical LGBT journalist from LA and I’m not a retired Air Force general.  I am an economist, author, writer, historian and purveyor of a particular brand of Christian theology and eschatology living in suburban Atlanta.

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.

GARY:  Then you clearly haven’t read my book, The Judeo-Christian Tradition: A Guide for the Perplexed.

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.

————————————————

How to Be a Biblical ‘Progressive’ in 10 Easy Steps: Introduction

Matt.15.27-28

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.

Sad.

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).

Perfect!

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.)

Next, we’ll cover “Easy Step” (or “Successful Habit”) #1…

What the Bible Really Teaches about the “Favor” of God.

Hint: this is Dr. Gary North, so it’s not what you think or what you’ve been taught.  Make sure you read the Introduction and Chapter 1 of his book so you’ll be primed and ready.

Anyway, until then, keep on enjoying those unmerited gifts of common grace!

Common Grace: An Uncommon Perspective

Have you read “Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress” by Dr. Gary North?

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.

Wait.

Which one of Dr. Gary North’s books ISN’T controversial?!

Exactly.

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

DACG-GN book cover“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:

  1. How can unbelievers possess so much power after generations of Christian dominion?
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Can born-again believers fall from grace and then rebel?  in short, can Satan gain recruits from the born-again invisible church?  Answer: No.
  3. 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.)

How to Rebuild a Social Order: First, Start with a Creed

Foundations of Social OrderHere is a good question for a Bible-affirming Christian to ask himself: “Why should I study the creeds?”

In other words, “I believe in Jesus.  I believe the Bible.  I believe in what it says.  I know I’m saved and I have a bright eternal future to look foward to.  Why should I look to the past?  Why should I concern myself with man-made formulations and decisions and writings that were put together centuries ago in a different time and place for different people — for reasons that no longer seem relevant to me?”

I’ll give you one good reason: because civilizations are built on them.

More to the point, because Western Civilization was built on them — meaning, the civilization you and I take for granted because it’s all we’ve ever known (you know, the one that so many who have enjoyed its benefits and advantages are quick to vilify), is historically founded on the ancient creeds and doctrinal formulations that were put together during the earliest centuries of the Christian Church to defend against her mortal enemies, and which were given to strengthen the growing society of believers and prepare them for the task of building a new social order, a new civilization to replace the one that was crumbling and disintegrating around them.

That’s why!

I wasn’t always convinced of this myself.

Having grown up Roman Catholic, I was used to creeds.  Mainly, the Nicene.  We said the Nicene Creed every Sunday at mass.  Its words always made a profound impression on me.  I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.  And that’s just the first line!  By the time I recited the last line, the final affirmation — I look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come. Amen. — I knew that I had just publicly recommitted myself, along with the rest of the congregation, to upholding the entirety of the crucial fundamentals of the historic Christian faith.

Corporate, public statements of faith are a powerful thing.

By the time I graduated from Catholic grade school and went on to atheistic, anti-Christian public high school and junior college, religious creeds and professions of faith became a thing of the past.  Their profound impressions had worn off.  At least for a while.

When I finally came around to personally embracing what I had so many times publicly stated as a child that I believed — the basic tenets of the Gospel and of the Christian faith — my newly-rekindled belief in Christ over the next few years began to move in a decidedly different direction: away from creeds and councils and “historic” Christianity.

‘Grounded’ in Scripture

You see, I became a “Bible bigot.”

What’s a Bible bigot?  John Wesley said it best.

My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small. - John Wesley

“Nothing but the Bible, God’s Word, for me!”

Sounds admirable. Even exemplary.

Funny thing is, I didn’t practice what I preached.  (I’m not sure the Rev. Wesley did, either!)  I didn’t “follow it in all things, great and small.”  How could I when my newly-minted anti-nomianism and hyper-animosity toward anything resembling the dead, denominational “Churchianity” that I had abandoned all those years ago, was at a fever pitch?

My “New Testament” faith couldn’t possibly turn to Old Testament laws and principles — or (heaven forbid) ancient “Romish” councils and creeds and outdated statements of man-inspired religious convictions and preferences — for scripturally sound guidance let alone authoritative governance.

It was the fundamentalist non-war cry ringing in my ears: “No creed but Christ. No law but love!”

Can you relate?

Back to the Future

Then along came Calvin.  Into my life.  The Puritans.  The Reformers.  The Westminster Confession of Faith.  Historic, orthodox Protestant Christianity.  Rushdoony.  North.  Sutton.  Gentry.  Chilton.  Jordan.  Bahnsen.  “Christian Reconstruction.” “Theonomy.”

I soon shed the stifling cocoon of my former “Bible-believing” self.  My Christian worldview took to flight.  Apocalyptic, end-is-near, pessimistic pietism gave way to biblical blue skies and scripturally-grounded eschatological optimism.

Eventually, the creeds and councils and theological decisions of the early church to me became the blood, sweat, and tears and vital, living legacy of my spiritual forbears, my ancient brethren in the faith.  Valiant, doctrinal defense of the faith was the arena in which they fought, and many died.  They weren’t perfect.  But, then neither are we!  And yet the church progresses.  The faith advances.  The kingdom proceeds.  The truth stands.

Why study the creeds?

Well, because we owe it to our spiritual forbears.  It is the blood, sweat and tears of a vibrant theological legacy they have bequeathed to us!  We also owe it to our civilization, whose very life is built on them, and whose very survival depends on the preservation and revitalization of that legacy.

So, let’s move forward.

How Firm a Foundation

I start with Rushdoony’s Preface, which he wrote in 1998, a full thirty years after the original publication (1968) of Foundations of Social Order.

Here, he says that the critical theme in all of his writings is the integral relationship between the theological doctrines of the church and the civic health and life of the society around it.  When doctrine and theology are abstracted from life, the result is disaster and evil.  The loss of sound theology in the church leads to decay in the Christian life.

And when the early church was busy “hammering out definitions of doctrines” in its creeds and councils, it was also “laying down the foundations of Christendom” along  with them.  I get the sense in reading the accounts later in the book that they knew they were doing much more than merely engaging in intellectual and theological debate over rhetoric and the nuances of pious prose.  They knew there was much more at stake: their lives and their very societies.

Rushdoony cites legal scholar Harold J. Berman and his book, Law and Revolution, where Berman discusses how the doctrine of Christ’s atonement literally “reshaped” law and society, and also how “the present decline of that doctrine is leading to the death of Western civilization.”

Thus, Rushdoony concludes (he can do no other): “the foundation of true social order can only be in the triune God and His enscripturated truth and word.”

So, let’s take a look at one of those early foundations.

The Apostles’ Creed and Creedalism

Why even have a creed?

That’s a fundamental question you have to answer before you even begin to go to the trouble of putting one together.  The apostles and the early church had the Gospels, the Epistles, ultimately the entire Old Testament and New Testament, plus letters, sermons, tracts and treatises that were composed, written, preached, copied and shared throughout the churches in the inhabited regions of the empire.

Lots of theological information being spread around, disseminated.  In that environment, what purpose does a creed serve?

Here is the answer (from Rushdoony):

The creed is the door to the house of faith.  It is the minimal statement of belief.

Moreover, he adds,

It is intensely personal.

“Intensely personal”?  Creeds?

Rushdoony points out that creeds were written for the individual, who had to affirm every article of the creed as “his personal faith.  This meant that a believer was held accountable for what he said he believed personally, rather than corporately.  Here is where you find one of the peculiar differences between the Eastern church and the Western church, in the formulation of their creeds.  The Eastern church (Greek) uses the first person plural “we”, while the Western church (Latin) uses the first person singular “I”.

Result: there’s less wiggle room in the Western church for an errant believer to walk back from what he said!  But this also has resulted in the Western church being more open to reforms and more successful at summoning and marshalling the loyalty of the faithful.

Creeds were born of necessity.  Churches were collective affairs. They still are.  To join one, you had to least give assent to the basic tenets of what that church taught and believed.  These basic tenets had to be boiled down from a large and growing body of literature (and opinion).  Thus were born these brief, personal “statements of faith”.

The Apostles’ Creed was so called because it was written by early church leaders to briefly summarize apostolic teaching and preaching.  There’s no exaggeration or misrepresentation in the title, though, since the authenticity of its doctrinal pedigree is based on the fact that “all of its articles are to be found in theological formulas that were current around A.D. 100.”

In other words, you can take it to the bank.

The only question is, which version would you take to the bank?  The creed has gone thought several rewrites over the last two millennia.  Rushdoony includes the texts of: The Old Roman Form (A.D. 390), The Received Form (A.D. 700), and an early English form (pre-1066)

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Here is a typical modern version:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed

Rushdoony points out that the Apostles’ Creed is different from all other religious creeds (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, humanist, etc.). Radically different. How?  Instead of being a “body of ideas or claims concerning reality” (as all of those are), it “offers a synopsis of history.”  In fact, the whole creed is a declaration concerning history.

He discusses the Creed further, along with some interesting quotes by Tertullian, Irenaeus, and the church historian Schaff, drawing attention to the fact that Schaff at the end of his excerpt declares, unequivocally, “Without a correct doctrine of creation there can be no true doctrine of redemption.”  Thus, Rushdoony notes, all of the early creeds begin with God as creator, the starting point of all that follows.

Finally, he observes that “biblical creedalism” is passive: an assent by man that he is a recipient of God’s gracious act of redemption. Yet this gives man ground for “true activity”: to move in terms of true law, the canon of Scripture, “to exercise dominion over the earth in the name of the triune God.  Christian creedalism is thus basic to Western activism, constitutionalism, and hope concerning history.”

Next: Nicea!

By the way, The Foundations of Social Order can be purchased new from Chalcedon Foundation (you can also read it online for free there), and buy new or used from Amazon and other resellers.

Easter, and the Resurrection of Creeds

I’ve been reading R.J. Rushdoony’s classic study on the major creeds of the early church, The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church. If you have read it, you know what a masterpiece of historical and theological perspective it is.  If you haven’t read it, you need to!

So, here it is, Easter Sunday 2018 (April 1st), and I am just finishing chapter 19 on the Forgiveness of Sins and about to start chapter 20, The Resurrection of the Dead.

What a coincidence!  Easter. Resurrection.

That isn’t the only one.  Another “coincidence” occurred to me as I sat down and began to think about what I was going to write today.  That coincidence had to do with the chapter number which happens to enumerate those particular six pages in Rushdoony’s book (Foundations of Social Order) having to do with the resurrection of the dead.  The number is, as I mentioned, twenty.

Let that number sink in for a minute.

“Turn with Me to the Twentieth Chapter of _________.”

Can you think of any other “chapter twenties” in, say, a certain inspired Book that has a lot to say in a lot of chapters about, among other things, the doctrine of the resurrection?

Correct.

Now, I haven’t checked for any Old Testament examples of this yet — I will get to that — but I have spotted a few New Testament ones just to illustrate the point, and so I will limit my discussion today to these few, so as to keep this article to a reasonable length and scope.

What I found were five examples of New Testament chapter twenties in which the subject or the doctrine of resurrection is being dealt with in some way.

Here they are, in canonical order.

1. Matthew 20.  This is where Jesus gives the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, illustrating the economics of the kingdom of heaven: everyone given his “fair share”.  Immediately following, he goes to Jerusalem with his disciples and on the way he tells them, in verse 18, of his imminent death and, in verse 19, of his resurrection.

Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,  And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

“The third day he shall rise again.”  There you have it, that’s the first example. Here is another one…

2. Luke 20.  Here, Jesus is confronted with two waves of opposition to his teaching, one after the other.  He quashes them both, one after the other.  The first is from the chief priests and scribes who question his authority.  He fights fire with fire.  They get burned (pretty badly), and they know it.  They regroup and try again. And again they fail.  They know they’re whipped, so off they go to lick their wounds.

Then along come the Sadducees.  They’re the guys who deny the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  (At least the Pharisees and scribes allowed for it in their highly confused and convoluted theology.)  Anyway, this is the part of the chapter, verses 27-44, that we’re interested in for our discussion.  The Sadducees come along and propose a hypothetical situation to Jesus having to do with the resurrection of the dead.  It is obvious from their fictitious example that they have not only a sketchy idea of resurrection, but also of marriage!–so Jesus clarifies to them the biblical doctrine of both.  In his response recorded in verses 34-38, he refers to marrying and marriage four times, and to resurrection, rising from the dead and life after death four times. He devastates their argument.

The final nail in the coffin of the Sadducees’ argument gets driven in verse 37, where Jesus tells them:

Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.

To this they have no response.  They are left speechless.  Some brave scribe, however, does get up the courage to speak up and he says, sheepishly, (vs. 39, my paraphrase), “Master, you said it!”

When the Lord Jesus Christ talks, smart and spiritually-minded people LISTEN (and do what he says)!

On to the next example.

3.  John 20.  In this chapter, we don’t just have a doctrine of the resurrection presented.  We have an actual resurrection that has taken place!  That of our Lord Jesus.  Now, being that this is Easter Sunday, no doubt you probably heard a sermon — perhaps it was an impassioned and earnest one — on this chapter or on one of the other Gospel accounts dealing with Christ’s rising from the dead to the astonishment of his followers.  So, that being the case there is no sense in me spending much time here on that narrative.  Just so long as we understand that this is The Most Significant Resurrection chapter of all of them!  We  move on…

To the next Chapter Twenty Resurrection:

4.  Acts 20.  This chapter in the book of Acts is where Paul bids a very emotional and tear-filled farewell to his beloved followers and saints at the church at Ephesus, where he has spent the last three years ministering to them with all of his heart and soul (v. 31).  A cursory reading of Acts ch. 20 might lead you to say to yourself, Hmm, I see Paul here traveling and preaching and talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance and faith and the grace of God and all that, and even the undeniable and active role that the Holy Ghost has played in making the Gospel effectual and powerful in its working.  But nothing here explicitly about resurrection.

Ah, look again.  This is like John chapter 20.  It isn’t a mere teaching about resurrection.  It’s an account of an actual resurrection that happened.  You know what I’m talking about.  Read verses 7-12.  Paul is in Troas.  It’s Sunday night.  He has just spent a week there with the saints and he is leaving in the morning.  He starts preaching.  He is on a roll.  He is also on the third floor!  This is his farewell sermon.  He goes until past midnight.  Folks don’t go home.  A young man is there, named Eutychus.  Despite all the bright lights in the room, Eutychus falls asleep.  He falls out the window.  The third-floor window.  The fall kills him.  His death is clearly stated in Luke’s account (remember, Luke was a physician).  It is also clearly stated that he comes back to life.  Paul says, “his life is in him.”  Read it in any translation you like.  The saints were quite happy with the outcome.

I like how Eugene Peterson concludes this in The Message (Acts 20: 12):

On that note, they left—Paul going one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.

Sometimes resurrection is a four-letter word: life!

By the way, the name Eutychus means “happy” and “fortunate”.  I should say so.

Anyway, Paul continued on his journey, eventually passing through Ephesus to say goodbye.

On to our fifth and final example.

5.  Revelation 20.  This is an easy one.  Even people who don’t study the rest of the Bible will study the book of Revelation and see all the biblical themes, symbols and motifs there.  Two of the big ones: death and resurrection. In Revelation chapter 20, resurrection is center-stage.  Saints are resurrected.  All the dead are resurrected.  Even Satan is “resurrected” — loosed out of his prison — for a while (“a thousand years”) before being burned one last time and then hauled away to his final destination in the lake of fire with all the wicked resurrected, to be tormented day and night forever and ever.

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The main take-away from Revelation 20 is: not all resurrections have happy endings!

There you have them.  Five New Testament examples of the biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, dealt with in five distinctive chapters which all happen to be numbered “20”.

Now, remember what I said about keeping this article somewhat “reasonable” in length and scope?

I think we’re there!

And so I will continue this discussion of creeds and councils and the doctrinal defense of biblical Christianity — which, frankly, I really did not even get started, did I? — in my next post.  But at least we laid a good scriptural (even numerical) foundation for it.

Until then, Easter Blessings and the joy of Christ’s Resurrection to you and yours.

He is risen.

A Theology of Christian Resistance in 2018

It’s New Year’s Eve.

In addition to whatever “New Year’s Resolutions” you may have committed yourself to for the coming year 2018 — starting a “good” habit, dropping a “bad” one, earning a certain amount of money over and above what you made last year, achieving a certain goal (or, if you’re the ambitious type, goals), accomplishing certain things that are on your “simply must-do” list, etc. — you can add this one: reading a certain book.  It’s called, The Theology of Christian Resistance, Christianity & Civilization, vol. 2, Winter 1983.

It’s an oldie but a goodie.

It was one of those seasonal symposiums published in paperback form by the Geneva Divinity School Press back in the early 1980s — volumes of essays put together by that prolific cadre of Reconstructionist writers, pastors and scholars residing in and around Tyler, Texas.

For the previous twenty years or so, Christian Reconstructionists had written and published boatloads of articles, books, position papers and newsletters.  (And they have continued to do so  well into the 21st century.)  But now it was time to start swinging into action, “getting practical” and putting their money where their footnotes were.  The times they were a-changing.  Evangelical Christians were beginning to awaken from their long, Washington Irving-esque political slumber.  It was now time to play catch-up against the humanists and liberal religionists.  It was time to rediscover our Western heritage of political and social action based on Christian principles.

The resulting broad-based coalition has united conservative Christian leaders and thinkers from different denominational, theological and even eschatological persuasions.

Just take a look at the contributors to The Theology of Christian Resistance:

Gary North

John W. Whitehead

Francis A. Schaeffer

James B. Jordan

Joseph C. Morecraft III

T. Robert Ingraham

Jim West

Archie P. Jones

Alan Stang

Allen C. Guelzo

Michael R. Gilstrap

David Jones

M.E. Bradford

William Marina

Diane Cuervo

Tom Rose

Pieter Jongeling

Lonn Oswalt

Tommy W. Rogers

John Calvin (posthumously)

All of these folks wrote with a singular conviction in the back (and front) of their mind: “The Bible demands action, not inaction!”

To set the table for the rest of the book, here are a few choice excerpts from Dr. North’s Introduction,

We are the inheritors of traditions of political freedom that are intimately bound up with the successful and unsuccessful revolutions of the past. We are the beneficiaries of a common law tradition that itself is the product of revolutions. Ultimately, the history of Western civilization is the history of Christians’ struggles against unlawful State power and the anti-Christian theologies that have under-girded it. Some of the West’s revolutions have expanded State power, others have resisted it.

Because we are under God, we are also under God’s revelation of Himself in His law. Thus, the Bible says, we are citizens of heaven. Paul wrote: “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20a). Yet we are also citizens of this world, and therefore under lawful authorities (plural) here. This position of dual citizenship becomes even more complicated when we face the fact that we are citizens of nations, counties, and cities. we are citizens of multiple commonwealths.

When Christians face multiple sovereignties on earth, they find themselves in a perplexing position. Whose sovereignty at any point in time should take precedence? Whose requirements are closest to the ethical demands placed on us by the Bible at any point in history? Furthermore, there are multiple principles of ethical action in the Bible. For example, we are to be truthful, but not at all times (Rahab’s example). It is the ethical task which we all face to apply the relevant biblical principle to the decisions we make daily.

What each man needs, unquestionably, is biblical law-disciplined intuition, meaning a thorough familiarity with the whole of biblical law, and a detailed knowledge of the issues of the day. Men should almost instinctively know the proper course of personal and communal action for a specific decision, assuming they have devoted time to a study of the Bible in this particular area. No Christian can afford to be ignorant of his Bible and of daily affairs. He has to pick and choose among the issues on which he will take a stand, depending on such matters as: his knowledge of the specifics; the likelihood of success in opposition; his responsibility under the circumstances; the importance of the issue for the culture at large, the local culture, and the future; the cost of the resistance project; and his own personal talents. No man can take a stand on all issues simultaneously, and devote all of his resources to all of them. There is a division of labor principle in all human action. We are not God; we cannot know all things exhaustively, nor can we finance all projects exhaustively. But the church, as the total body of believers, though not necessarily as an ecclesiastical institution, should be able to speak with confidence to the issues of the day.

There is more where that came from.

Now, there is a very good reason why this particular volume was written and published before the follow-up, Tactics of Christian Resistance, which came out later on in the summer of that same year 1983.

Again, Dr. North:

The question of Christian resistance is a complicated theological matter. It is also personally demanding, for when the issues become clear, men must commit themselves to a position: Resist or capitulate? Understanding the fundamental issues is preliminary to taking action. Without self-confidence in the legitimacy of the cause of resistance, a resisting group cannot expect to be successful. Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance. Before a Lenin there must be a Marx- theory before practice.

“Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance.”

Exactly.

Theory must come before practice.  Doctrine before application.

Which is why a knowledge of the Scriptures is just as vital to finding the right solutions and taking the right courses of actions as is knowledge of the issues and the challenges that face us.

It’s funny.  Even today, more than three decades after these symposiums were published, the public discussion of Christian “resistance” and Christian “activism” in politics and the pursuit of “social justice” is still dominated by liberal Christians, liberal theologians and liberal pastors and leaders, not conservative, Bible-believing ones.

That shouldn’t be surprising, though, since it has been the case since the “social gospel” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  During that crucial period, Bible-believing conservatives en masse abandoned their hopeful, forward-looking eschatologies, and instead embraced the “end-times”-obsessed, present-oriented, heaven-directed “blessed” hopes that remain popular today.

What happened?

Pietism replaced pro-active faith.

A Theology of Christian Reluctance took its place.  “Backward, Christian Soldiers!”

It is time for that to change.

So, in the coming new year, how about we conservative, Bible-believing, forward-looking, theologically Reformed Christians embracing hopeful eschatologies resolve to start embracing a new mindset.

“Think biblically. Act locally.”

Start by thinking biblicallyTHE THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE (PDF download).

Happy New Year!

How to Build Strong, Vibrant Churches: a Biblical-Covenantal Model

One of the biggest criticisms against the Church Growth Movement of the 1950s to the 1980s was that, although it started with the best of intentions — reaching people with the Gospel in a more structured and systematic way, thereby growing more churches and bigger churches — it degenerated into a formula-driven, social-science-based, “get ’em in the door at all costs” approach to missions, evangelism and … church growth.

Well, today nobody reads C. Peter Wagner and Donald McGavran, except maybe as required reading for a seminary class on The History of the Church Growth Movement in the Mid-to-Late Twentieth Century.  But we still have the millennia-old problem of how to effectively reach the lost and win them to Christ, organize them into local, self-governing bodies as Christ and the New Testament writers said (following Old Testament example), while keeping these churches vibrant, growing and reproducing and making new disciples on a continual basis in their communities.

Solving this seemingly unsolvable dilemma in a reliable and biblically consistent way is the kind of thing that keeps covenantal-theology-embracing, Reformed evangelical Christians up at night… praying.

It is also the kind of thing that gets discussed at great length and in great detail at regional  evangelistic church conferences — like the one that was held last July in Reading, Pennsylvania by the MId-Atlantic Reformation Society.  It was titled, “The Future of Christendom Conference 2017”.

There was a LOT of discussion about evangelism and missions at this conference.  Among the featured speakers was Dr. Gary North.   Dr. North spoke via Skype from his home in suburban Atlanta, GA. He gave two 90-minute presentations.  The first one was on Church Planting.  The second was on Church Building.

I wrote about the first presentation in a previous post.  You can read that here.  Today, I’m publishing the second.

One thing you’ll notice here in this second presentation is that it is intensely practical. Lost of “actionable” material.  Yes, like the first one — and frankly, like EVERY presentation that Dr. North gives — there is also a lot of history: interesting, vividly recounted, highly relevant history.  (What else would you expect from a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History, who has a penchant for public speaking and has been lecturing on these subjects for the last half century!)

But, in addition to the historical backdrop, he also provides a very helpful doctrinal-theological overview of the church and its historical struggles in both beliefs and practices with regard to evangelism and missions.

Then, in keeping with good Pauline (and Puritan) fashion, he follows the doctrinal discussion with practical application.  It is a detailed discussion of “what to do” and “how to do it”.  Here is how I sum it up:

  • Problem: How to More Effectively Evangelize and Grow the Body of Christ.
  • Solution: Do What Jesus Said and What the Old and New Testaments Teach (as well as what history has taught us to do and not do).

After two thousand years, we’re still trying to figure that out!

So, do watch this video.  At the very least, listen to the audio first if you’re busy, then sit down and watch the whole presentation later.  It is extraordinarily insightful and incisive (Dr. North’s hallmark “attributes”).  It is, ultimately, a “call to action” with a comprehensive game plan and strategy that every local congregation and every church leader ought to follow and implement… IMMEDIATELY!

To supplement his talk, by the way, Dr. North mentions a web page on his site that is dedicated to this topic.  He calls it: Sustained Revival.

Here come ninety minutes very well spent…