Book Review: Backward, Christian Soldiers?

(Continued from previous post)

The first thing to notice about Gary’s book is that he frames its title as a question: Backward, Christian Soldiers?  

As if to elicit the response (from us, upon reading his book): No way! NOT ANYMORE! Not us soldiers of the living God and of his victorious, reigning Christ!

That’s because the book is a call to action.  A call to arms.  It is not a devotional.  It is not a commentary–unless you consider it a “commentary” on the sad state of affairs in the Church with respect to the impotence of Christians in the arena of battle known as The Culture War.

And it is not a large, unfathomable (big, fat) tome.  It is a small, very readable paperback of about 300 pages.

The book is divided into five parts:

I. THE WAR

II. THE ENEMY

III. STRATEGY

IV. TACTICS

V. THE DURATION

Part I has five (brief) chapters: Backward, Christian Soldiers?, Impending Judgment, Eschatologies of Shipwreck, Fundamentalism: Old and New, Why Fight to Lose?

Part II chapters: 1984, Not 1948, Capturing the Robes, Humanism’s Chaplains, Humanism’s Accomplices, Subsidizing God’s Opponents.

Part II chapters: The Stalemate Mentality, What Kind of Army?, Progressive Responsibility, The “Little Things” of Life, Shepherds and Sheep and The Three Legs of Christian Reconstruction’s Stool, Crisis Management and Functional Illiteracy and Pastoral Education.

Part IV chapters: Reviving Apprenticeship, Brush-Fire Wars, Church Newsletters, The Tape Ministry, The Computer, The Case for a Satellite TV Reception Dish. (The book was written in 1984, so some of these chapters show their age, but still good reading!)

Part V chapters: Optimistic Corpses, How Much Time?, The Long, Long Haul, and Small Beginnings.

The remainder of the book consists of: conclusion, a glossary of terms, Scripture index and recommended reading (a few titles written by Gary as well as David Chilton and James Jordan).

Now, I’ll briefly summarize the book.

First, Gary calls Christians to challenge the culture.  Western Civilization was largely built on the premise that “the Bible has the answers for all of life’s problems.”  Yet Christians seem to have retreated–especially during the last 200 years–intimidated, it seems, by the apparent intellectual superiority of modern secularism, which has overtaken the very universities and institutions Christians themselves founded several centuries ago, and relinquished control over the reins of influence in these institutions to their mortal and spiritual enemies.   He points out (rather pointedly), “A book like R. J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) should have been written two centuries ago; a culture should have flowered because of it. Instead, we let the secularists do our work for us. We do not trust our own competence.”

Confidence, buoyancy and optimism used to characterize our Western Civilization.  Not anymore.

Right now we face “Impending Judgment”.  But this can be turned around.  If pastors will preach like prophets.  Old Testament prophets.

The prophets of the Old Testament believed that there is a fixed relationship between the moral character of a nation and the external blessings or cursings visited by God on that nation. They believed in the reliability of biblical law. They knew that if people continue to cheat their neighbors, commit adultery, break up the family, and defy all lawfully constituted authorities, the land will be brought under judgment. They had no doubts in this regard. They recapitulated the teachings of Deuteronomy 28:15-68, warning their listeners that God’s laws cannot be violated with impunity forever.

Gary observes: “twentieth-century preaching has neglected the outline of Deuteronomy 28.”

He then draws attention to the Church’s “Eschatologies of Shipwreck.”  Which are based on a “theology of shipwreck”.  Which, in turn, leads invariably (he says) to tyranny:

If men have no hope of being able to reform the external world–the world outside the institutional churches–then they are faced with two sources of tyranny. The first is ecclesiastical. The second is political.

The historian in Gary then talks about Fundamentalism: Old and New in chapter 4.   He gives an interesting political vignette that highlights the huge transition Fundamentalist Christians made mentally from the defeatism of the early 20th-century to the triumphalism of the 1970s and 80s.  Unfortunately, their theology didn’t make the transition, so now they are (as of the writing of the book) suffering from “theological schizophrenia”!

We will find out whether fundamentalists are committed to premillennial dispensationalism- pretribulation, midtribulation, or posttribulation- or whether they are committed to the idea of Christian reconstruction. They will begin to divide into separate camps. Some will cling to the traditonal Scofieldism…. Others will scrap their dispensational eschatology completely and turn to a perspective which offers them hope, in time and on earth…. Pessimistic pietism and optimistic reconstructionism don’t mix.

Boy, isn’t that the truth! (I know from firsthand experience.)

In the chapter, “Why Fight to Lose”, Gary talks about the enormous opportunity presented to Christians, validated and assured by the successes they enjoyed beginning, almost immediately, during the First Century–improbable successes given the insurmountable odds they overcame through the power and sovereignty of God, who predestined their victory beforehand, and is still carrying out that victory, conquering Satan’s weak, temporary and unstable dominion on their behalf. Moreover,…

Satan cannot win. Why not? Because he has denied God’s sovereignty and disobeyed God’s law…. It is time for Christians to stop giving Satan credit for more than he is worth. Christians must stop worrying about Satan’s power, and start working to undermine his kingdom. Contrary to a best-selling paperback book of the 1970’s, Satan is not alive and well on planet earth-alive, yes, but not well.

More of this scintillating review coming in our next post….

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