Post-Zimmerman Thoughts: How Many Potential Crime Victims of Trayvon Martin Have Been Saved Since Feb. 2012?

Trayvon Martin w: FatherWhile the media and the public continue to play Monday morning quarterback following the jury verdict handed down in the Zimmerman trial last weekend, there is a certain question in my mind that I have not seen asked by anybody.

The question is this:

How many potential crime victims of Trayvon Martin have been saved, and how many of his potential, future crimes and violent acts against others have been avoided and averted since Feb. 2012 when the tragic shooting took place?

Obviously, that’s a question no one can answer.  But the fact is, had this seriously delinquent young man lived, who knows how many more people would have been his unwitting victims as his budding career as a street thug and heartless criminal was just starting to take off.

The highly manipulated image of Trayvon as just a mischievous kid who was innocently walking down a rainy residential street one night with a bag of candies and a soft drink in his hand when he was suddenly accosted by a “white Hispanic” racist-aggressor, skinhead-in-disguise-with-a-gun (and-no-badge) George Zimmerman, was (and still is) just that — an artificially crafted and controlled image and prejudicial narrative that the “mainstream media” and the corrupt political establishment in Washington have worked furiously to maintain throughout the entire unwarranted murder trial.

Nobody is glad to see a 17-year-old, regardless of his race, meet with a violent and untimely death like this.  But there are PLENTY of people who would not only be glad but absolutely elated and overjoyed to see the “antagonist-perpetrator” 28-year-old in this made-up saga meet with as violent and untimely (and brutal) a death as possible!

What Would Jesus Have Done?

Some high-profile “Christians” (Jim Wallis) have vigorously denounced online and in-print both the outcome of the trial and the actions taken by Mr. Zimmerman that night in February 2012.

But the issues of self-defense and the use of lethal force against another person — and the quasi-issue of racism — are not the subjects being dealt with here.  (I’ve addressed the matter of guns and self-defense from a Christian perspective in a previous article.)

The issue I’m bringing up is that, in this particular case — as in so many others that are not obsessively covered (twisted, distorted, co-opted) in the media and by the pro-criminal establishment — the net result of the altercation was the immediate halting (via death) of the violent, injurious and potentially deadly actions of the perpetrator, aggressor and law-breaker, and the protection and preservation of the life of the real victim, the non-aggressor and non-violent law-keeper (volunteer law-“enforcer”).

To throw a bone to the “WWJD” crowd, let it be made perfectly clear that Jesus came to fulfill, satisfy and scrupulously NOT disannul, disavow and deny, but rather “preserve, protect and defend” the continuing force and validity of the unbreakable, immutable and perfectly righteous and holy Law of God.  He himself was judged by it.  So, what would Jesus have done?  Frankly, nothing that would have been in any way contradictory or in violation of His Father’s Law!  And he would want his followers to do likewise.  Biblical law is a system of justice and equity based on restitution and restoration, not revenge.

Stripping away the thin veneer of falsehoods and omissions that were contrived from the beginning to conceal the true facts of this shooting, one is left with a simple case of a young man acting defensively and, yes, desperately in response to a vicious, unrelenting and violent physical assault brought on by another young man, who was clearly acting offensively, hatefully and with undue force and without any restraint.

God’s law, properly applied, would hold the first young man innocent of wrong-doing because he was acting (actually reacting) solely in self-defense of his person to preserve and protect innocent life — his!   That law would also likewise hold the second young man guilty of acting unlawfully and unjustifiably to intentionally cause physical harm and serious injury (and possibly death, we’ll never know) to another.

He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.  And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.  But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. ~ Exodus 21:12-14

If Trayvon had lived, God’s law — biblical law — would require him to compensate George Zimmerman fully for the injuries he caused him: medical bills, lost income, etc.  It would require the guilty party, the perpetrator, the aggressor, NOT the TAXPAYER or the STATE, to make restitution to the victim.

And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:  If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed. ~ Exodus 21:18-19

If Trayvon had lived and continued his life of crime and violence and burglary and theft and “substance abuse” and possibly (later on) rape and murder or manslaughter (which he might well have committed and been guilty of in this instance if Zimmerman had not had a gun!), then he would be liable under God’s law to be punished to the fullest extent by relinquishing his life via the civil authorities administering capital punishment — utilizing private citizens to actually carry it out (ex. Numbers 15:36, Joshua 7:25, I Kings 21:13), but that is another non-pietistic, anti-sentimentalist aspect of biblical law for another day! — as this would be the only form of restitution available to him to somehow “compensate” his past and present (and future) victims and their families, for their losses.  And most of all, restitution owed to the holy God whose justice and “legal system” requires man’s blood for the shedding of innocent blood, and for incorrigible, violent repeat-offenders whose presence in the community poses a continual threat to the life and safety of others.

All of this is based on the original principle of the “sanctity of life” (innocent life) set forth by God:

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. ~ Genesis 9:6

That is the hard truth of it.  No sentimentality or emotion or political expediency or practiced prevarication should be allowed to influence prejudicially and corruptly the outcome of a case that is so clearly “open-and-shut” and an obvious one of justifiable self-defense not meriting a trumped-up show trial lasting one and a half years!

A far more desirable outcome — infinitely more desirable — would have been for Trayvon to have lived through the encounter, hopefully learned from it as well as his past “indiscretions” and offenses, and brought to saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and experienced forgiveness and emotional healing and full and free redemption, and thus had a very different life after that.  But, tragically, regrettably, that didn’t happen.  Only the mysterious providence of God can explain why.

One More Thing…

Something else that comes brilliantly through in this travesty-turned-vindication-of-justice is this.  Jury trials are probably one of our last, best hopes to defend ourselves against advancing government tyranny and the encroachment of the state and trampling of our rights via power-hungry politicians, self-serving and wicked public figures and state-worshipping “leaders” and an ungodly legal system that is increasingly prone to manipulation and convolution and distortion of truth and the adjudicatory process, and the promulgation of falsehoods and lies in the name of “justice.”

Juries, Justice and God’s Law

Here again, we see the biblical model in Scripture:

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? ~ I Corinthians 6:3

From a covenantal and theonomic standpoint, jury trials are an excellent example of God’s law in action through self-government: private citizens judging matters at law themselves that involve other private citizens, by applying the law themselves to the facts of the case brought before them.  Their decision can go against the judge, the state, even against the law itself — jury nullificationand most especially (and necessarily) against the general public, who almost never has access to all the facts of the case as they do.   And best of all, despite all that opposition and contradiction, when a verdict is handed down, their decision STANDS!

So if I’m ever involved in a life-threatening situation where I am compelled to act radically and forcefully in order to defend myself (or my family), and my actions result in the death of the perpetrator-aggressor, I would certainly hope and pray that, if I had to be tried in a court of law, I would be judged by a jury of my peers — even if they were all women! who understood what was truly at stake and were not influenced by the popular media or a willfully (and woefully) ignorant and easily manipulated and prejudiced public, not kow-towing to external pressure (thank God for sequestration) on them to find the case a certain way, but would, rather, judge righteously all the facts, and even the law itself, and make a decision and reach a verdict that would ultimately preserve law and order and justice and continue the precedent set by our biblical (and some of our political) forefathers, who recognized that “liberty and justice for all” only happens when all are informed and all are equally and equitably applying God’s law and principles to every area of life.

Why Our Ethics Should Be ‘Biblical’ and Not Merely ‘New Testament’: Greg Bahnsen

Greg Bahnsen pointingHere is another Blast from the Past reprint!  Taken from the archived newsletters of the Institute for Christian Economics.  This is the Oct. 1978 issue (vol. 1, no. 2) of BIBLICAL ETHICS.  It is Greg Bahnsen’s article, “The Entire Bible, Our Standard Today.”

If you remember Dr. Bahnsen, he was a talented and articulate speaker, and a skilled and devastating (to the atheists and antinomians!) debater.  His works were among those which laid the intellectual and rhetorical foundations for all future Reconstructionists and theonomists.

This article has been carefully and scrupulously extracted and restored to its original integrity from primitively scanned (1990s OCR technology!) images of the paper newsletter.  Believe me when I say, this was no simple matter of copy-and-paste!  But it was a rewarding endeavor to have to read very closely this well-expressed and intelligently written essay.

Read and savor the wisdom of Dr. Bahnsen, as he talks about why our Christian ethics should be ‘biblical’ and not just ‘New Testament’…

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BIBLICAL ETHICS

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 Vol. 1, No. 2                    © Institute for Christian Economics                    October 1978

The Entire Bible, Our Standard Today

By Greg L. Bahnsen, Th.M., Ph.D. 

All of life is ethical, and all of the Bible is permeated with a concern for ethics. Unlike the organization of an encyclopedia, our Bible was not written in such a way that it devotes separate sections exclusively to various topics of interest. Hence the Bible does not contain one separate, self-contained book or chapter that completely treats the subject of ethics or moral conduct. To be sure, many chapters of the Bible (like Exodus 20 or Romans 13) and even some books of the Bible (like Proverbs or James) have a great deal to say about ethical matters and contain vary specific guidance for the believer’s life. Nevertheless, there will not be found a division of the Bible entitled something like ‘The Complete List of Duties and Obligations in the Christian Life.” lnstead, we find a concern for ethics carrying through the whole word of God, from cover to cover — from creation to consummation.

This is not really surprising. The entire Bible speaks of God, and we read that the living and true God is holy, just, good, and perfect. These are attributes of an ethical character and have moral implications for us.  The entire Bible speaks of the works of God, and we read that all of His works are performed in wisdom and righteousness — again, ethical qualities. The world which God has created, we read, reveals God’s moral requirements clearly and continuously. History, which God governs by His sovereign decrees will manifest His glory, wisdom and justice. The apex of creation and the key figure in earthly history, man, has been made the image of this holy God and has God’s law imbedded in his heart. Man’s life and purpose take their direction from God, and every one of man’s actions and attitudes is called into the service of the Creator — motivated by love and faith, aimed at advancing God’s glory and kingdom. Accordingly the entire Bible has a kind of ethical focus.

Moreover the very narrative and theological plot of the Bible is governed by ethical concerns. From the outset we read that man has fallen into sin — by disobeying the moral standard of God; as a consequence man has come under the wrath and curse of God — His just response to rebellion against His commands. Sin and curse are prevailing characteristics, then, of fallen man’s environment, history, and relationships. To redeem man, restore him to favor, and rectify his wayward life in all areas, God promised and provided His own Son as a Messiah or Savior. Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to qualify as our substitute, and then died on the cross to satisfy the justice of God regarding our sin. As resurrected and ascended on high, Christ rules as Lord over all, bringing all opposition into submission to His kingly reign. He has sent the Spirit characterized by holiness into His followers, and among other things the Holy Spirit brings about the practice of righteousness in their lives. The church of Christ has been mandated to proclaim God’s good news, to advance His kingdom throughout the world, to teach Christ’s disciples to observe everything He has commanded, and to worship the Triune God in spirit and in truth. When Christ returns at the consummation of human history He will come as universal Judge, dispensing punishment and reward according to the revealed standard of God’s word. On that day all men will be divided into the basic categories of covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers; then it will be clear that all of one’s life in every realm and relationship has reflected his response to God’s revealed standards. Those who have lived in alienation from God, not recognizing their disobedience and need of the Savior, will be eternally separated from His presence and blessing; those who have embraced the Savior in faith and submitted to Him as Lord will eternally enjoy His presence in the new heavens and earth wherein righteousness dwells.

It is easy to see, then, that everything the Bible teaches from Genesis to Revelation has an ethical quality about it and carries ethical implications with it. There is no word from God which fails to tell us in some way what we are to believe about Him and what duty He requires of us. Paul put it in this way: “Every scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, in order that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we disregard any portion of the Bible we will — to that extent — fail to be thoroughly furnished for every good work. If we ignore certain requirements laid down by the Lord in the Bible our instruction in righteousness will be incomplete. Paul says that every single scripture is profitable for ethical living; every verse gives us direction for how we should live. The entire Bible is our ethical yardstick, for every bit of it is the word of the eternal, unchanging God; none of the Bible offers fallible or mistaken direction to us today. Not one of God’s stipulations is unjust, being too lenient or too harsh. And God does not unjustly have a double-standard of morality, one standard of justice for some and another standard of justice for others. Every single dictate of God’s word, then, is intended as moral instruction for us today if we would demonstrate justice, holiness, and truth in our lives.

It is important to note here that when Paul said that “every scripture is inspired by God and profitable” for holy living, the New Testament was not as yet completed, gathered together, and existing as a published collection of books. Paul’s direct reference was to the well known Old Testament Scripture, and indirectly to the soon-to- be-completed New Testament. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul taught New Testament believers that every single Old Testament writing was profitable for their present instruction in righteousness, if they were to be completely furnished for every good work required of them by God. Not one bit of the Old Testament has become ethically irrelevant according to Paul. That is why we, as Christians, should speak of our moral viewpoint, not merely as “New Testament Ethics,” but as “Biblical Ethics.”  The New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16-17) requires that we take the Old Testament as ethically normative for us today. Not just selected portions of the Old Testament, mind you, but “every scripture.” Failure to honor the whole duty of man as revealed in the Old Testament is nothing short of a failure to be completely equipped for righteous living. It is to measure one’s ethical duty by a broken and incomplete yardstick.

God expects us to submit to His every word, and not pick and choose the ones which are agreeable to our preconceived opinions.  The Lord requires that we obey everything He has stipulated in the Old and New Testaments — that we “live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Our Lord responded to the temptation of Satan with those words, quoting the Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 8:3 which began “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do” (8:1). Many believers in Christ fail to imitate His attitude here, and they are quite careless about observing every word of God’s command in the Bible. James tells us that if a person lives by and keeps every precept or teaching of God’s law, and yet he or she disregards or violates it in one single point, that person is actually guilty of disobeying the whole (James 2:10). Therefore, we must take the whole Bible as our standard of ethics, including every point of God’s Old Testament law. Not one word which proceeds from God’s mouth can be invalidated and made inoperative, even as the Lord declared with the giving of His law: “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” ( Deut. 12:32). The entire Bible is our ethical standard today, from cover to cover.

But doesn’t the coming of Jesus Christ change all that? Hasn’t the Old Testament law been either cancelled or at least reduced in its requirements? Many professing believers are misled in the direction of these questions, despite God’s clear requirement that nothing be subtracted from His law, despite the straightforward teaching of Paul and James that every Old Testament scripture – even every point of the law –has a binding ethical authority in the life of the New Testament Christian. Perhaps the best place to go in Scripture to be rid of the theological inconsistency underlying a negative attitude toward the Old Testament law is to the very words of Jesus himself on this subject, Matthew 5:17-19. Nothing could be clearer than that Christ here denies twice (for the sake of emphasis) that His coming has abrogated the Old Testament law “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish.”  Again, nothing could be clearer than that not even the least significant aspect of the Old Testament law will lose its validity until the end of the worfd: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the slightest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law.” And if there could remain any doubt in our minds as to the meaning of the Lord’s teaching here, He immediately removes it by applying His attitude toward the law to our behavior: “Therefore whoever annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”  Christ’s coming did not abrogate anything in the Old Testament law, for every single stroke of the law will abide until the passing away of this world; consequently, the follower of Christ is not to teach that even the least Old Testament requirement has been invalidated by Christ and His work. As the Psalmist declared, “Every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Ps. 119:l60).

So then, all of life is ethical, and ethics requires a standard of right and wrong. For the Christian that yardstick is found in the Bible — the entire Bible, from beginning to end. The New Testament believer repudiates the teaching of the law itself, of the Psalms, of James, Paul and Jesus himself when the Old Testament commandments of God are ignored or treated as a mere antiquated standard of justice and righteousness. “The word of our God shall stand forever” (Isa. 40:8), and the Old Testament law is part of every word from God’s mouth by which we must live (Matt. 4:4).

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Here endeth Dr. Bahnsen’s article.

If you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to like it, share it, tweet it (and comment on it)!

Be Careful Not to Turn the Sword of God’s Law into a Machete

Nathaniel Darnell has written a brief epistle of admonition in the form of a loving rebuke directed at his fellow theonomists.

He tells them, in a word, Guys, don’t screw this up for the rest of us!

Well, he didn’t exactly say it that way.

But, he does remind us, in his recent post, that those who profess to love God’s law and respect it and cherish it and desire to implement and emulate it in our lives, had better make sure that our handling of that sharp, two-edged sword of God’s law and Gospel with respect to our brethren in Christ does not end up putting our own foolishness on display rather than the wisdom of God who wrote it, in that we wield it more like a machete!

It is not a plea for ecumenism or doctrinal compromise.  Just a plea for good sense and good will.

That was the heart and soul of the message of one of Christian Reconstruction’s most beloved, most gifted spokesmen, a highly-educated and articulate pastor, teacher and writer, Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

Bahnsen did not shrink from ardently defending orthodox, theonomic Christianity against its detractors, mainly those within the Reformed, Calvinist academic camp:

But he did warn the rest of us, make sure your zeal is powered by love and wisdom and a godly confidence in the truth, and not by arrogance, belligerence, and especially, ignorance.

Darnell’s warning is the same.

Greg Bahnsen Speaks on Wielding God’s Law with Wisdom

“Be affectioned to love one another with brotherly love. In giving honor, go one before another.” Romans 12:10

Why does it often seem that there are more divisions between fellow Christians than fellow unbelievers? Why does it seem oftentimes that Christians have a harder time getting along with fellow Christians—that theonomists have a harder time getting along with fellow theonomists even!—than with the ungodly?

The truth is that unbelievers actually do have just as many disagreements and divisions as Christians (often more so), but these are not often as obvious because unbelievers are frequently not as self-conscious about their worldview and faith as many Christians are trying to be. We are more likely to talk about our differences up-front because we are trying to be self-conscious and internally consistent, whereas most non-Christians don’t care whether they are self-conscious and consistent. Indeed, many of them have adopted post-modern philosophies that shrug off concern with contradiction and inconsistency. Relativism is the flavor of our day.

But there is another, deeper reason for why Christians often have a harder time getting along with fellow Christians—even ones with whom they have far greater doctrinal agreement than with most other people. As the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen would say, they simply lack wisdom.

mqdefaultWhen the history of Christendom is chronicled, Dr. Greg Bahnsen will no doubt be ranked as one of the “founding fathers” of Christian theonomy. Along with Dr. R.J. Rushdoony, Dr. Bahnsen left behind a body of messages and books that have been foundational in helping the Church of Christ return to a sound Biblical perspective on civil government. He’s been called Mr. Theonomist by some.

As zealous as Dr. Bahnsen was for the Law of God, even he realized before he died that there were some disturbing characteristics rising to the surface among the growing number of Christians willing to call themselves “theonomists” or “reconstructionists.” They were becoming often characterized by belligerence, back-biting, slandering, and arrogance.

Galatians 5:15 warns: “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another.” That passage goes on to list the “fruits of the Spirit”—against which, it says, “there is no law.” Those fruits are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperancy” (Galatians 5:22-23, 1599 Geneva Bible).

In 1994 at the church Dr. Joe Morecraft serves as an elder at in Cumming, Georgia, Dr. Greg Bahnsen shared this message embedded below, expressing the need for those Christians zealous for a sound Biblical orthopraxy and worldview to do so with charity, justice, peaceableness, and humility — not back-biting or sowing discord among the brethren. It’s a message on genuine Christian piety (not pietism) in the midst of promoting a Biblical morality. He speaks about how the problem is not with the Law of God. The Law of God reflects the holy character of God! But he stresses that the Law of God in the hands of the foolish can become a frightening tool for much hurt and destruction.

Please take one hour from your day to listen to this message from Dr. Greg Bahnsen. I believe in will truly bless you. (If for some reason it is not appearing, click here to listen to it.)

Often those new to the faith, or new to a particular teaching, are the most zealous to see it promoted. It’s encouraging to see this zeal in action, to be sure. But this zeal must always be tempered with wisdom. Wisdom that will lead the zealous to thoroughly study the Bible and their Christian predecessor’s scholarship carefully before they begin to get dogmatic on the subject themselves. (See James 1:19; Proverbs 18:13, for example.) I Timothy 3:6 warns that a Christian leader should ”[n]ot [be] a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (KJV).

bahnsenAs I observe much of the debating going on among my fellow Christians, and even fellow theonomists, on various issues, I often observe them debating over things that were studied and addressed by Christian scholars and leaders of previous generations long ago. Rather than consulting with the Christians of the past, they are trying to re-invent the thenomic wheel, as it were, and thus they are personally recapitulating the maturity process Christendom as a whole has undergone over the last 500 years since the Reformation. They are arguing and dividing over many matters godly men like Luther, Calvin, Baxter, Cromwell, Witherspoon, Kuyper, VanTil, Rushdoony, and Bahnsen answered and honed over the course of many years. If we all exercised the humility to listen and read before we jump to write or speak on a particular controversial topic, we might experience more harmony in our discussions. Of course, everything we take in from a respected Christian teacher should be subjected to careful Biblical evaluation. (See Acts 17:11.)

In the end of the day, we must remember that we are reconstructionists, not merely deconstructionists (no matter how many times my computer’s auto-spell corrector says otherwise!). We are not trying to merely tear-down. We are wanting to build up a way of life that reflects God’s virtue in every arena. But we cannot be building up the Body of Christ when we are biting and devouring one another. Building a godly culture must begin with me personally putting my life under the unconditional submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ—even if He requires me to be just, gracious, and longsuffering to someone who is dead wrong about an important matter of orthopraxy.

Reprinted with permission from the author.  Read the original article here.

So Why Do They Hate Rushdoony’s ‘Institutes of Biblical Law’ So Much?

Biblical-Law stone tables

If you pull out a copy of R. J. Rushdoony’s seminal work, The Institutes of Biblical Law (vol. 1, especially)–that path-breaking, paradigm-shifting, pietism-slaying, antinomianism-busting book which essentially launched the Christian Reconstruction movement into orbit in 1973–and set it in front of your average evangelical, or even Reformed, Bible-believing Christian today, you’re liable to get one of two reactions: (1), “What do I care about ‘biblical law?’ After all, we’re under grace not law!“, or, (2), “Aaagggghhhh! Away with that heretical book!  Take it out of my theologically-prejudiced, Jesus-will-be-here-any-minute-now-so-don’t-confuse-me-with-new-biblical-data-that-I-don’t-agree-with presence.  My pastor warned me about THOSE PEOPLE!”

I’m sure he did.

And that’s the problem.

Theonomy, optimistic, postmillennial eschatology and a Christian’s responsibility to apply his faith (comprised authoritatively in both the Old and New Testaments) in EVERY area of life–including politics and culture–are, even now, “foreign” concepts in many Christian circles.  And even though they continue to gain a hearing in some churches and a following among more biblically and historically enlightened Christians, these and other ideas and concepts garnered from the vast mother lode of Christian Reconstructionist resources are still among the undesirable “stones” that are routinely rejected by the “builders” of Christ’s kingdom since the last century.

This is from Martin G. Selbrede at Chalcedon Foundation.  It is the feature article in the Jan./Feb. edition of their official publication, Faith for All of Life.  He discusses the impact that Rushdoony’s Institutes and its teachings on biblical law have had over the years and are having in certain churches and among certain Christians, and why it is having that impact.

Get into a comfortable chair, maybe get a little something hot to drink, and savor what Martin–that is, Mr. Selbrede–has to share with you.

You’re going to like this!

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Another Rejected Stone

By Martin G. Selbrede
Men invariably find themselves on the wrong side of the great reversals wrought by God. The things men regard highly, He esteems lightly. He uses the simple to confound the wise, and the weak to overcome the strong. The stone the builders reject becomes the chief cornerstone (Ps. 118:22, Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17). While this particular scripture involves the rejection of the Messiah, it nonetheless establishes a general mode of behavior that Christians seem dead set on repeating. Christian leaders building the edifice of evangelical Christianity for the last half-century have been quick to refuse many stones they’ve deemed to be unsuitable building materials for God’s Kingdom.

For good reason did the translators of the King James Version select the term refuse to express the builders’ attitude to the stone that God intends for “the head stone of the corner” in Psalm 118:22.  God’s people treated the Lawgiver the same way they treated His laws. Our contemporary misconceptions concerning His law are legion, so much so that when God asks “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws,” we are certain this was uttered some time after the law was delivered on Sinai. But it was not. God asks this in Exodus 16:28, months prior to the “official” delivery of the law (“official” as determined by the reigning builders leading our churches and seminaries).1

Small wonder that in an age when the great things of God’s law are esteemed a strange thing (Hosea 8:12) we end up traveling across the country with an unsettling message to our fellow Christians: everything you know about the law of God is wrong.

If God’s law has fallen on tough times in our antinomian age, it should be no surprise to find that proponents of God’s law are refused by the builders as well. When R. J. Rushdoony wrote The Institutes of Biblical Law, the book quickly joined the ranks of refused stones. In affirming this, we’re not ascribing canonical status to this imperfect work by an imperfect man, nor equating his book with Scripture, nor identifying its author with the Author above all authors. Nonetheless, the importance of this particular work can hardly be overstated.

The cynics among the builders will be quick to impugn our motives here as self-serving: “You’re promoting that book because you publish it!” No, we don’t publish it. It is published by Presbyterian & Reformed. We draw attention to it because it benefits the Kingdom of God to do so, not because it benefits us financially. Our goal is to expand the reader’s awareness of the significance of this book. In a cynical age, this will be an uphill battle, one made more difficult in the face of resistance mounted by today’s builders.

Rushdoony’s Unforgivable Sins

Why does Rushdoony’s Institutes elicit such hostility among the builders? After all, books about the Ten Commandments have been fairly common in Christendom. At the dawn of the Reformation, John Wycliffe expended considerable ink on the government of God and the Ten Commandments in one of his most important works, his Summa Theologiae (not to be confused with the Summa of Thomas Aquinas). The heirs of the Reformation, the Puritans, likewise regarded the law of God as an issue that needed to be engaged, not neglected or ignored. The fact that God’s law was generally held in high esteem at the high point of Biblical scholarship in the Western world should not be missed. In contrast, today’s quick-and-dirty, sloganized dismissal of the law of God is worse than embarrassing: it has utterly neutered the people of God.

Modern evangelical Christianity has veered off its moorings into the plush comfort of vague generalities. Today’s builders have yet to meet a spiritual cliché they won’t embrace with enthusiasm. Perhaps those of us influenced by the Puritans have been marginally less than gracious when ascribing “warm, fuzzy, pious gush and mush,” to modern ChurchSpeak, with its unbalanced elevation of feelings over all other considerations. If this dominant mindset hadn’t mired so many Christians in a potentially fatal immobility, patience would have been easier to exercise.

The appeal of generalities is that they don’t touch us directly, they mediate information by way of abstraction, and abstraction is always a step or more removed from concrete reality. Speaking in generalities permits us to be oblique. When we generalize the Word of God, we dull its sharp edge. The Word of God becomes a two-sided pillow2 rather than a two-edged sword.

This was the first of Rushdoony’s sins: he was specific. He didn’t spiritualize the Decalogue with high-sounding rhetoric that would actually make void the law of God (Ps. 119:126) or render the commandment of none effect (Matt. 15:6). Recognizing that all of the law and the prophets hang on the two great commandments, Rushdoony mined from God’s own commentaries on His law. God was specific, so Rushdoony’s exposition followed suit.

This was entirely unacceptable.

Although the builders may concede that the law of God is good if used lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8), that the law is perfect, just, holy, spiritual, and to be delighted in with the inner man (Rom. 7:12, 14, 22), the law must always be presented as a vague generality, an inaccessible goal, or (better yet) both. When presented in this way (stripped of specifics), the builders believe they’ve realized the ideal of the spirit (a general ethos) that gives life rather than the letter (God’s statutes) that kills. They’d surely deny that they’ve added or taken away from the law: they’ve simply generalized it. (When pharmacists invented Bufferin to make aspirin easier on the stomach, the notion was valid. Had Bufferin been invented by evangelicals, there’d be no aspirin in it-just buffers to soothe the stomach.)

Books about the Ten Commandments that deal in generalities, that play it vague, that rearrange our Christian clichés and slogans with eloquence, don’t elicit hostility. They’re welcomed because they buffer us from God and the power of His Word.

This was a game that Dr. Rushdoony had seen played out too many times, to ruinous results (especially as a missionary at Owyhee). Muzzling the Word of God was an exacerbation, not the solution, to man’s burgeoning problems. The New Covenant, among other crucial things for Christians, did indeed involve the writing of God’s laws on our hearts and mindsin specifics, inculcating the same spirit motivating David’s composition of Psalm 119. The first Psalm was to be taken as written (it extolled the law of God), not as hijacked by the builders (who point to anything but the law of God as the thing to meditate upon day and night).

In other words, one of the stones already rejected by today’s builders is Psalm One’s reference to the “law of God.” That ugly stone has since been replaced by a much better brick, one hewn by the hand of man, leading the reader away from specifics and back into the evangelical fog.

The Puritans were not crippled by such “improved readings” of the Psalms. We today are not merely crippled; we’re in a body cast and on life support. We ourselves are the emperors without any clothes.

Then along comes Rushdoony.

Rushdoony: the one who waxed specific about the law. The one who treated the specifics as if God had actually written them. By talking about specifics as if they mattered (and they do), he did something dangerous to the generalizations. He swept them, all of them, aside as thinly veiled attempts to repackage human autonomy within the contours of Christian spiritual terminology.

Rushdoony did this two ways. First, he painstakingly documented the consequences of neglecting the specifics of God’s law. Second, he did the same for the consequences of “observing His commandments, to do them” (Psalm 103:18). Most observers expected a Christian writer to speak to the first point, but not so much to the second. But by dealing with the law’s specifics across all domains of human action (cultural, economic, sociological, environmental, scientific), Rushdoony opened up new avenues for seeing the folly of mankind and the wisdom of God. He was unmuzzling the whole counsel of God. And the builders found this to be unacceptable. They preferred to repose true value in God speaking through His Spirit to individual souls, not in His speaking to us through His law. Not merely to assert value, but moral obligation and a ground of blessing, of the law of God (like the Scriptures, in their irksome way, sometimes seemed to do) was beyond the dimensions of our modern cramped orthodoxies.

It is somewhat remarkable that the concept of orthodoxy can even survive in the context of vague outlines and fuzzy generalizations, but that haze is strenuously guarded not for its own sake, but for what hides behind it. The man in Matt. 5:19 who loosens even the least commandments of God and teaches men so is deemed “the least in the kingdom of heaven.” By blowing away the fog, the sharp outlines of the antinomian’s razor is revealed in stark contrast against the background of Scripture.

But there was more. The loosening of God’s commandments creates an ethical vacuum that is always filled by something else. In fact, creating new rules of conduct for Christians is itself one way that God’s laws are loosened, not only individually but in the aggregate. Why? Because such attempts at lawmaking undercut the sufficiency of Scripture. The man of God is assuredly not “thoroughly equipped for every good work” with the Old Testament, no matter what 2 Tim. 3:17 reads: men must amend God’s law, peel some of its unacceptable or unworkable parts away, and using our vague general spirituality as a guide, build a more workable set of rules for Christian conduct for our modern era.

Over the course of its 800-odd pages, Rushdoony’s Institutes gives the lie to that misguided Christian conceit. For faithfully recounting the wonderful things in God’s law, the book’s author was labeled a dangerous extremist (that’s when the builders were being nice). In fact, the builders found themselves in agreement with the enemies of Christianity in their assessment of Rushdoony. This is strange company to be in … or is it? Perhaps their joint commitment to human autonomy (overtly so among the humanists, covertly so among far too many Christians) led these two groups to sing in harmony this one time … against the evils and horrors supposedly riddling God’s law.

The Dislocation of Liberty

Beyond the sin of magnifying all the commandments of God (that is, the sin of dealing with specifics, the fleshing out of God’s moral imperatives for man), Rushdoony revealed something else about the law’s detractors. These men invariably pose as champions of liberty, but God’s law maximizes human liberty while rejection of it puts us under the oppressive power of our fellow man. Isaiah 5:20 refers to those who call good evil and evil good, and this moral reversal is routinely played out over against the debate concerning the place of God’s law in our world.

When observing Rushdoony’s achievement in documenting the truth of the Psalmist’s assertion that he walked at liberty because he sought God’s precepts (Ps. 119:45), the builders are quick to contradict the Scripture: pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Avoid the bondage of God’s law. Enter into the freedom that comes when those ugly specifics of God’s law are set aside.

But just as Psalm 119:45 cannot be broken, neither can Psalm 94:20: the wicked frame mischief using law. When the law is slacked (Hab. 1:4), something else takes up that slack: the precepts of men. Men abhor moral vacuums, and if God isn’t Lord over the matter addressed by one of His statutes or precepts, then man slips his feet into God’s shoes to legislate in His stead.

Some builders might tolerate the restrictions that God’s law might impose on the secular state, but no builders will tolerate the restrictions that God’s law would place on the church’s most sacred activity: making rules for the congregants to walk by. Ultimately, the implicit defense of autonomy that drives the antipathy toward God’s law merely masks an aggregation of power by human authorities in both church and state. The law of God cuts across all these boundaries to liberate men from lawless overreaching by all human institutions. Since these institutions put on airs as the defenders of liberty (rather than its enemies, as is regrettably the case), they must either repent or characterize Rushdoony’s position as insane (as some have, for all intents and purposes, already done).

Is it not revealing that we have as hard a time finding an elected official who’ll actually follow the U.S. Constitution (setting aside the debate over its Biblical status) as we do a church leader who’ll follow the entire Bible (which, unlike the U.S. Constitution, is actually perfect)? In both cases, men seek to cast various cords from them and burst various bonds asunder (Psalm 2:3), no matter how glowingly they paint such rebellions as liberating acts.

Today’s builders, then, know full well that God’s law encroaches on their power, their authority, their autonomy, their spiritual sinecures, and their plans for the future. They know this as well as the secularists know it-perhaps even more so. If they were not wedded to these “benefits” of antinomianism, they would bend the knee and acknowledge the glory of God’s perfect law of liberty. Instead, they go away very sad, for their possession of legislative power in their spiritual communities is very great and they’re unwilling to put that at risk by unleashing liberty among their flocks as God would have them bestow it in their capacity as His mouthpieces.

If liberty is a dangerous thing, perhaps few should have the actual article, and the rest should merely be convinced into thinking they have it. Nothing achieves this goal better than the vague fog of ChurchSpeak, which has taken turns into Orwellian paths that would have been unthinkable a century ago. When the law of God is magnified, men can clearly recognize whether they’re abiding under their own vine and fig tree or not, and illusions become impossible to maintain. In a world sustained on empty illusions, a world that effectively “loves death” (Prov. 8:36), the gatekeepers have spoken appropriate words of comfort: “peace, peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11)-but they heal the wound of His people slightly.

The Sin of Contemporary Relevance

God makes clear to His people that His words are not distant and inaccessible but “nigh, even in thy mouths” (Deut. 30:11-14). But too many of our builders today will argue that while God’s laws may not be distant in terms of miles, it isdistant from us in terms of years. If it was delivered thousands of years ago, it was in a form that must only be useful to ancient agrarian societies-not to us.

The builders then assure us that this is their motive for retreating into the haze of vagueness: by so doing, they can glean some spiritual meaning for us today, thus preserving God’s law to us in the only form that we could possibly find benefit in. They find life for an old worn-out shoe by putting a new soul [sic] on it. Their paperback books glory in the hidden treasures of the old shoe (without ever denying, let alone challenging, the “fact” that it’s an old shoe). The builders are then back in the driver’s seat, now becoming the champions of restoring the contemporary meaning of God’s law (as they’ve discerned it) by teaching it in abstraction.

Rushdoony challenges this line of reasoning, arguing from Scripture that the law of God is timeless and speaks to all men in all societies across all temporal boundaries. His powerful exposition of the details of God’s laws so thoroughly establishes their contemporary relevance that it sounds the death knell for those who hold the opposing view (that God’s law is a quaint artifact that long ago retired as the Word of God Emeritus). It is here that Rushdoony’s encyclopedic knowledge comes to the fore, sweeping forward and backward in time with example after example illustrating the wisdom and perpetual applicability of God’s precepts.

Most builders wouldn’t have taken offense if Rushdoony had restricted himself to delineating the value of God’s law during its supposed earthly run (from Moses to Christ as many poorly-guided Christians currently hold it). Rushdoony does no such thing. He shows that Christians who embrace their calling to “establish the law” (Romans 3:31) have an unlimited runway in front of them. By opening the doors to possibilities the faithful had lost sight of after the Puritan era ended, the work of Rushdoony and like-minded Biblical scholars before and after him has set in motion something extraordinary: Christians who have finally taken up the proper armor to fight in, and the proper tools to build with. If the Word of God has contemporary relevance, and we’ve neglected to apply it, then the crying need of our era is to fulfill the Great Commission in its fullness while taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Men and women influenced by Institutes and by preaching based on the whole counsel of God know for a fact that the Word of God is sufficient.  The liberating power of that one point can change the entire world.

Then, the only task remaining is to extend the reach of God’s law, extending the realm of liberty and holiness and Christ’s lordship over all things in the process. This follows from the fact that there is no neutrality in God’s world (despite what the peddlers of piously fuzzy theology might argue). The Bible asserts that “even the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Prov. 21:4), so that men are to work toward an ever-broadening application of God’s law as implied in Psalm 119:96: “I have seen an end to all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.”

In short, if the law is merely for ancient agrarian cultures, we have to dig deep to find something of value in it for us andour world. But if, as Rushdoony shows, the law is addressed directly to us and our world, and our crises are a direct result of our studied neglect of the Scriptures, then we are actually equipped with the tools God has given us to establish His kingship over our persons and our families … and then beyond.

These are tools that the builders do not believe you should take up or use. They are not for you, they say. These are tools with no contemporary purpose. Stick with the current program, or hunker down, but in any case, do not build anything-especially without our sanction, and especially not with stones we’ve rejected.

But these are tools that Rousas John Rushdoony put directly into your hands, going around the builders entirely. It is yours to decide whether to slacken your grip and drop them into a dustbin, or to wield them like a man.

Rushdoony’s Final Sin

Perchance the builders of modern evangelical Christianity could have forgiven Rushdoony for being specific instead of protecting the status quo ethical haze that hangs like gauze before the eyes of God’s people. They might have been able to overlook his proclamation of liberty from man’s better-reasoned substitutes for God’s laws in both church and state. They might even have been convinced to wink at the vibrant call to action implicit in Rushdoony’s treatment of God’s Word as a timeless revelation rather than a historically-conditioned temporary ethic for ancient Israel that God terminated after sixteen centuries (which He might reinstitute for yet another ten centuries as held by premillennial believers but which most definitely is not for us today). All of that might have been forgiven.

But R. J. Rushdoony won’t be forgiven by these builders.

If you read The Institutes of Biblical Law, you will quickly realize why this is so.

This book is so unremittingly Biblical, upholding such a high regard for God’s enscriptured Word, and then carrying the light of that Word in all its manifold details into every imaginable area, it comes across as a virtual roadmap for applying our faith in ways that are utterly concrete and ripe with meaning.

Rushdoony illustrates how God has actually positioned the true moral axis of the world: not upon moralism, but upon godliness. These two things, moralism and godliness, are not the same thing, as Rushdoony repeatedly proves, again contradicting the builders’ all-too-humanistic vision of morality and Scripture. But how many Christians know this? How many Christians continue to orbit the wrong moral axis, the one still commended by our builders?

Even less forgivable to the builders is the fact that Rushdoony’s book is absolutely formidable in stretching the scope of the Ten Commandments back out to their original total dimensions, thereby revealing the tragic fact that the Word of God has been shriveling and contracting under our watch as we’ve “limited the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78:41) under the urging of our builders. Rushdoony’s Institutes reverses the incredible shrinking Bible effect, and comes little (if anything) short of fomenting an explosion of the applied Word of God across all Creation. Every paragraph of this book has the net effect of retaking lost ground. There are few things that can motivate a dedicated Christian more than working to increasing his King’s holdings in the world, starting with himself and his own family.

But there is one thing that is an even greater motivation.

For the final sin of Rushdoony is how he turns the tables on all the builders who vaunt love as the great Christian value. Far from being what his enemies depict him as (an ungracious, unloving legalist), anyone reading Institutes in one hand and the Bible in the other will soon realize that it is Rousas John Rushdoony, not our evangelical leaders, who is the truetheologian of the heart. The careful reader will soon realize that Rushdoony is propounding nothing new, he’s calling for a return to a lost faithfulness on the part of God’s people and pointing the way.

There is no stumbling in the darkness when the statutes of God line the path you walk upon. That is the “highway of holiness” that is so easy to see under the light of God’s law that “wayfaring men, though fools, will not err therein” (Isa. 35:8). In modern language, we’d say that Isaiah is setting forth The Idiot’s Guide to Holiness by using such pointed terms: anybody can understand it, and everybody will know how to walk there. “The redeemed shall walk there,” Isaiah informs us (Isa. 35:9).

For the truth of the matter is that Rushdoony’s Institutes cannot help but prick hearts. It edifies, but it also indicts, for the Word of God always has two edges, and it is probes deeply into “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Moreover, the greatest commandment could not be more clear: we are to love the Lord God with all our heart. If all the law and the prophets hang on this command and its companion verse in Leviticus 19:18 to love our neighbor, theneverything in Rushdoony’s book is directed to how we love God with all our heart. To do this one ultimate thing, while still addressing every other culture-transforming aspect of the book disclosed above, ranks as the most valuable gift any Christian can give to another.

Releasing such a comprehensive, many-faceted love upon our families, churches, and culture, if pursued with the same heart with which David wrote Psalm 119, will quickly show how comparatively anemic our contemporary builders’ notion of love in all its vagueness really is. The specifics of God’s laws embody true love, toward God, toward man, and even toward creation itself, as Rushdoony ably documents.

The more ministries and churches and families incorporate Institutes as a source of exposition, of edification, of guidance, the more they find themselves building on the rock of God’s total word to man, and the less intimidated they become in handling the whole counsel of God in our modern world. The modern builders’ agenda of keeping their fog machine stoked, of refusing the stone of God’s law and any books that unleash it among God’s people, will always appeal to escapists, to antinomians, to those content with false liberty, and any who prefer emotional intoxication over a heart bent on fully serving God and man.

If you can’t see that our builders have already led us into an incredibly deep ditch,3 you will not recognize that Rushdoony is leading you to maturity, liberty, truth, and a faith that overcomes the world.

But once you read the Institutes, you’ll never again see the Ten Commandments as a tired Christian cliché filling dull Sunday school lessons for children. You will know that God’s Ten Commandments anchor nothing less than a siege engine that will level every shakable thing and lay them all in the dust so that the unshakable Kingdom alone will remain. And you and your family will act on that certainty with invincible resolve, total conviction, utter humility, and with every single atom of your being.

1. The strident, tendentious efforts to explain away God’s references to His statutes, laws, and commandments in Genesis 26:5 and Exodus 18:16 (and everything in-between) are likewise heavy with the fingerprints of today’s “builders.”

2. The Monty Python skit concerning the Spanish Inquisition mirrors our modern approach quite effectively, insofar as the most dreaded weapon the fictional authorities use against their targets is “the comfy cushion.”

3. As has been well said, the culture is the report card for the church.

Martin G. Selbrede is Chalcedon’s resident scholar and Editor of Faith for All of Life and the Chalcedon Report.

Reprinted by permission from the author.
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