Category Archives: Christian Reconstruction

*VIDEO* Update on World Evangelism: the Crisis and the Opportunity

This is probably Gary North’s most important slide presentation to date on the subject of church planting, evangelism and missions. It follows the back-to-back Skype presentations he did back in July for a regional evangelism conference. It is basically a consolidation of those two into one.

He produced it with the express purpose of offering it immediately to the public via YouTube, rather than offering it first to a small, privately held conference.

Well, that isn’t completely true. He offered it first to his subscribers (making it a publicly-available video on YouTube at the same time, as he did with his two Skype-recorded videos).  That is how I discovered it.

This newest presentation was featured in one of his free articles which he writes and posts daily, Monday through Saturday, along with the members-only articles on his site. So what does that mean?  It means that even if you are not a subscriber (shame on you!), you can still read this, for free, by clicking HERE.

Anyway, let me go ahead and boil the presentation down for you as follows.

  1. An “evangelism explosion” has begun.
  2. You haven’t heard about it because First-World Christian churches are not participating.
  3. Current conditions—a global “crisis of faith” coupled with the proliferation of cheap and free digital technologies—have created an unparalleled opportunity for the church to realize widely successful world missions as never before in history.
  4. Western Christians have a proven model for successful “church planting” (David Watson: India) and thus have an obligation to imitate and replicate it.
  5. The enemies of Christianity are losing ground.
  6. The friends of Christianity are not gaining ground fast enough.
  7. Time is running out for billions of souls.
  8. World evangelism: “No time like the present!”

It will be time well-spent to watch this completely through.  And listen to it, multiple times.  Lots of helpful statistics and facts, with lots of helpful historical background to give “flesh and blood” to the bone-jarring statistics and facts about the state of the world in 2017.

If you clicked through the link above, and read Gary’s article where this video was posted, you saw that he referenced a couple of resources by Catholic scholar Philip Jenkins: his article and his book, The Next Christendom. I recommend reading both.  (Note: the link below is an Amazon affiliate link.  If you make a purchase, I will get a small commission.)

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy)

You also saw the reference to David Watson’s book, co-authored with his son Paul Watson: Contagious Disciple Making. (Note: the link below is an Amazon affiliate link.  If you make a purchase, I will get a small commission.)

Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery

I have bought this myself and read it.  It is a terrific primer on How to Spread the Gospel Exactly the Way Christ Said To!

Several articles on the aging and demographic changes impacting the Roman Catholic Church in recent years were also referenced. I can relate to these since I was born and raised a Catholic (Mexican descent, native of the Southwest, so naturally!).

  • Priests are getting older.  They were old when I was in Catholic elementary school.
  • Nuns are getting older.  They were old when I was in Catholic elementary school.
  • Seminary grads are getting fewer.  I never saw any seminary grads either at our church or in our grade school.  Priests were pretty well-seasoned by the time they arrived in my parish.  Some were young, but this was not their first liturgical rodeo.
  • Catholics are confessing that they no longer go to Confession. My most unpleasant experience as a Catholic growing up was going to confession. Small, dark, cramped room. More like a large box with carpeting and a kneeler. And a disembodied voice speaking to you from behind a screen-like partition. Scary!

The world missions spoken of by Dr. North here are mainly Protestant. Most are Pentecostal and spreading like wildfire. The super-successful “church-planting movements” begun by Watson are non-Pentecostal (Watson is Baptist).  Catholics are too busy trying to stay alive.

Enjoy the presentation.  If you are wise (and you are: that’s why you’re reading this!) and you connect all the factual and statistical dots, you will be as encouraged as I was, and optimistic about the bright hope of the future of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in time and in history, and the conversion of the world to Him, to the glory of God!

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VIDEO: Gary North on Church Planting and Evangelism

GaryNorthatMisesUsually, when you hear Dr. Gary North speaking to a group of attendees at a weekend seminar or conference, it is on the subject of economics.

Austrian economics. Mises. Rothbard. The Fed. Gold. Fiat money and central banking. Federal spending. The Great Default!

But on July 8th, 2017, in Reading, Pennsylvania at the Future of Christendom Conference, he gave two 90-minute lectures via live-stream video to a conference that was gathered to discuss a very different topic.  It, too, starts with the letter “e”.

Evangelism.

Yes, I know.  You don’t normally associate the name of Gary North with “evangelism”.

But, honestly, if you’ve ever read his book, Millennialism and Social Theory, you know that deep down, in his heart of hearts, beneath the stoic, staid, Calvinist exterior, this academic and intellectual giant and human-printing-press of a man really does have a genuine and long-held burden for the salvation of the billions of unconverted people living on planet earth.

Despite all appearances, Gary North has the heart and mind of an evangelist!

If you’ve read his many articles on the subject of evangelism and the church over the years, you already know this.  You also know that when he speaks on this subject, it is from decades of first-hand experience, knowledge and . . . historical research.

And let’s face it.  No one else breaks down a topic in black-and-white, no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it, take-no-prisoners fashion like Dr. North — with an extensive historical background provided before cogently and skillfully moving from stating the problem to offering the solution.

Which means the first part of his presentation is devoted to doing just that: providing an in-depth historical backdrop to understanding the problem at hand: billions of unconverted souls awaiting eternal damnation unless the church fulfills its role and mission in the world.  He states what “the challenge” is that confronts the church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century: a multi-faceted, “world-wide crisis of faith” that is unfolding–one which he says actually started in the late 19th century, particularly among the group of folks he calls “the elite”.

Once he is finished conveying the bleakness of the situation — with representative examples of the disintegration and decline — Dr. North then presents what he sees as a unique and golden “opportunity for evangelism” that now exists for the church to capitalize on.

But I don’t want to be a “spoiler”.  So, without further ado and spoilage on my part, here is the first of his two presentations.

He Who Makes the Rules Gets the Gold

No doubt you’ve heard the cynic’s version of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

This is supposed to have come from a 1967 comic strip by Johnny Hart: The Wizard of Id. 

As a kid, I read The Wizard of Id religiously. The title of today’s post, I think, is a somewhat more biblically-correct rendition of Hart’s humorous turn-of-phrase.  He Who Makes the Rules Gets the Gold.

My version addresses two fundamental questions:

  1. Who makes the rules?
  2. Who owns the gold?

If you’ve read what the Bible says about private property and stewardship vs. ownership, you already know the answer.

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

Psalm 50:10-12

This leads us to installment #4 of my Tithing and the Church project.

Today’s chapter gets into the question of authority, namely, who has the authority to collect the tithe.  It also gets into the clash between authority and autonomy.  Here, too, a connection is made between the practice of mandatory tithing and Christians’ authority (and individual and corporate responsibility) to carry out the Great Commission — which, as Gary North describes it, offers a great “commission” plan to those who are employed in this long-term global enterprise.  (But I don’t want to be a spoiler.  You can read it for yourself. . . .)


2

AUTHORITY AND THE TITHE

          Moreover he [Hezekiah] commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD (II Chron. 31:4).

          Hezekiah understood at least two things about the tithe.  First, as king, he possessed the God-delegated authority to command Israelites to pay their tithes.  Second, the Levites and priests had the God-delegated authority to collect these tithes.  There was not a trace of “moral voluntarism” anywhere in the arrangement.  The tithe in Israel was morally mandatory.

          Was the tithe also legally mandatory?  That is, did church and State possess the authority to impose negative sanctions against those who refused to tithe?  The Mosaic law does not list any.  The history of Israel does not provide cases where such sanctions were imposed.  My conclusion is that the command to tithe that was issued either by priest or king was moral and exemplary rather than judicial.

          The context also makes it clear that under the Mosaic Covenant, when covenant-keepers paid their tithes, God brought great wealth to them in a unique fashion (vv. 5-10).  There is no biblical reason to believe that this system of corporate sanctions has changed in the New Covenant.  Building wealth begins with tithing, and not just tithing as such – the whole tithe delivered to the local church: a single storehouse (Mal. 3:10).  Respect for God requires respect for God’s institutional church.  This means that we must pay our tithes to the local church as a duty.

          Without access to a growing quantity of economic resources, Christians will not be able to extend God’s dominion.  If a person cannot afford to buy or lease the tools of production, he will remain a salaried worker in someone else’s enterprise.  He will remain, economically speaking, a second-class citizen.  So, subordination to the institutional church, manifested by the payment of the tithe, brings the economic means of dominion.  He who is subordinate to God reigns in history.  This is a basic principle of biblical hierarchy: point two of the biblical covenant.1

Tithing and Dominion

          There was a time, over three centuries ago, when the Puritan merchants of London exercised national influence far out of proportion to their small numbers.  They were the English capitalists of the seventeenth century.  They were also the source of almost half of the charitable giving of the nation.  This gave them considerable political influence.  Cromwell’s militarily successful revolution against the crown added to their influence, 1650-1660, but they had not gained this influence militarily; they had gained it economically and charitably, beginning in the.late sixteenth century.2

          In this century, the State has replaced private charity as the primary source of money and support for the poor.  The State is perceived as the primary agency of healing.  For as long as its money holds out – and still buys something – the State will continue to be regarded as the healer of the nation. But this ability to heal rests on political coercion and bureaucratic control.  The State is now reaching the limits of its ability to confiscate the wealth of nations, all over the world.  If its ability to exercise dominion by creating dependence by means of continual grants of money is ever interrupted by economic or other social disruptions, there will be a temporary void in society.  That void will be filled by something.  Authority flows to those who exercise responsibility. Who will that be?

          Who should it be?  Christians.  But Christians are ill-prepared today to exercise such responsibility.  They are themselves dependents on the State. They, too, send their children to public schools, collect Social Security checks, and plan their lives on the assumption that the State will serve as an economic safety net.  The State’s wealth-redistribution system has steadily eliminated competition from private charitable and educational associations.  When the State’s safety net breaks, as it surely will, most Christians will find themselves as economically unprepared as everyone else.  They have been taught to trust that which is inherently untrustworthy: the modern messianic State.  When this trust is finally betrayed, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in churches, Christian college classrooms, and other supposedly sanctified places.

          In that day, there will be a shift in local and national leadership, as surely as there was during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Regarding this coming shift in leadership, the question today is: Who will inherit authority?  The answer is: those who bear the greatest economic responsibility in the reconstruction of the economy.

          Will this be the church? If not, why not? If not, then who?

Redemption: Definitive, Yet Progressive

          The basis of biblical dominion in history is the redemption of the world.  To redeem something is to buy it back.  This process of long-term repurchase began at Calvary.

          At Calvary, Jesus paid God the full redemption price.  He did not pay it to Satan.  Satan had occupied the world only as a squatter occupies it: until the owner comes to evict him.  When Adam fell, he lost tide to everything, including his own life.  God, by grace, granted Adam an extension of his temporal life.  But by “having subordinated himself covenantally to Satan through his act of rebellion, Adam had brought whatever God had “granted to him under the temporary domain of Satan.

          Satan did not gain lawful title over the earth, since Adam had forfeited this title back to God.  Satan has gained administrative control for as long as Adam’s heirs remain alive and also remain under Satan’s covenantal authority.  Satan would have lost this administrative control had God executed Adam in the garden, for Satan’s legal claim was dependent on Adam’s legal claim.  Adam’s claim was null and void except through God’s common grace in history: life, knowledge, time, authority over nature, and capital.3

          Jesus definitively paid God the full redemption price.  This does not authorize His heirs the right to collect immediately on their inheritance.  The world-redemption process is a process.  It is progressive, although grounded legally in ]esus Christ’s definitive act of redemption.  In this sense, world redemption mirrors personal sanctification.  At the moment of his redemption in history, the redeemed person receives by God’s judicial declaration the moral perfection of Christ’s perfect humanity.  But this moral perfection, while definitive and judicially complete, must be developed over time.  Sanctification is progressive: a working out in history of the moral perfection of Christ.4  This is why Paul wrote of the Christian way of life as a race with a prize at the end:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (I Cor. 9:24-27).

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you (Phil. 3:14-15).

The Greatest Commission System Structure

          God has given to the Church a Great Commission: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).  This commission is well known among Christians.  What is not recognized is the commission system by which the Great Commission is carried out.

          When a company establishes a commission payment system to reward its sales force, it designs it so that the individual salesman has a financial incentive to stay on the road or the phone for long hours.  He is expected to develop continually his powers of persuasion so as to produce more revenue for the company per contact.  The higher the commission, the greater the incentive.  The higher the commission, the more qualified the salesmen who will be attracted to join the sales force.

          The company must balance the rewards offered to salesmen with the rewards offered to other members of the operation: salaried personnel, investors, bankers, and suppliers.  But to maximize the number of sales, there is no doubt that a large commission paid to salesmen is the great motivator.  Some companies may pay as much as 20 percent of gross revenues to the sales force.

          God, the owner of the whole earth, has established the most generous commission structure in history: 90 percent after expenses is retained by the sales force.  Any business that would offer its sales force 90 percent after expenses would attract the most competent salesmen on earth.  The firm would be flooded with applicants for any sales position that might open up.  This is what God offers to His people.  They keep 90 percent; His church receives ten percent; the State is entitled to no more than ten percent (I Sam. 8:15, 17).  But men rebel.  They think this tithe burden is too onerous.  They have been deceived.

The Con Artist

          Satan appears,on the scene and makes a more attractive offer: “Keep it all!”  He can afford to make this offer: he does not own the company.  He is like the con artist who walks into a temporarily empty office and signs up salesmen as if he were the president of the company.  He makes his money on the back end of the transaction when he sends his goons to collect payments from the salesmen.

          The salesmen have kept all the money from their efforts.  The goons then make the salesmen an offer they cannot refuse.  The Mafia calls these goons “enforcers.” Civil government calls them “revenue agents.”  Their purpose in each case is the same: to extract far more than ten percent of net earnings from the naive but now-trapped salesmen.  He who refuses to pay faces unpleasant consequences: broken bones or a bullet in the head (Mafia); fines, tax liens, or jail sentences (civil government).

          The victims went into the deal thinking they could get something for nothing.  They firmly believed that someone would gladly provide them with productive capital and also allow them to keep everything they earned from their own labor.  Any wise man would have spotted the offer as fraudulent as soon as he heard it.  But there are not many wise men in history, at least not so far.  Wide is the gate that beckons the unwise, and they eagerly rush through it.

          So, Satan comes to men with a proposition: “Keep everything you earn.  I have no legal claim on your wealth.”  The second statement is true; he has no legal claim on anything.  The first statement involves making a verbal promise to transfer to man God’s lawful share in the business.  Satan is not in a position to deliver on this promise, but billions of people believe he is.  They believe that God has no legal claim on them.  They also believe that God has no economic claim on them.  They are incorrect on both points.  They will learn this on judgment day.  In the meantime, they bear the economic and civil consequences of having believed a lie.  They pay dearly.

The Wealth of My Hand!

          Men are not content with God’s grant of 90 percent after business expenses.  They see this as an infringement on their property.  They want to keep all of it.  They have not heeded God’s warning to the Israelites of the generation of the conquest of Canaan:

And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.  But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day (Deut. 8:17-18).

          Men resent God’s demand that they pay Him ten percent.  They do not see themselves as working on commission.  They see themselves as sole owners of the company.  They think the tools of production are the product of their own hands: a combination of land and labor over time.  Men insist on keeping all of the appropriate payments to each of these factors of production: rents, wages, and interest. Educated men today are asked to believe that land and labor arrived by way of eons of cosmic evolution.  Many of them do believe this.  They do not see themselves as indebted to God.  They do not see themselves as God’s sharecroppers.  So, they look at the 90-10 arrangement and do not conclude: “The greatest commission structure in history!”  Instead, they conclude: “God is trying to get into my wallet.”

Who Lawfully Collects the Tithe?

          The civil magistrate collects taxes.  Paul identifies him as God’s minister (Rom. 13:4).  He is collecting taxes in God’s name, whether he names God or not.  God has ordained him.  He is a subordinate to God.  In his capacity as the representative of God to men through the State, he lawfully collects taxes.  Men complain about today’s level of taxation, as well they should – it constitutes tyranny (I Sam. 8:15, 17) – but they rarely rebel.  They do not blame God.  They accept their burden as members of a democratic political order.  They fully understand that they do not possess the authority as individuals to determine where their tax money should go.  They dutifully pay the tax collector.

          Then who lawfully collects the tithe?  The minister of God.  But this minister is not a civil officer; he is an ecclesiastical officer.  He comes as God’s designated, ordained agent and insists on payment.  That is, he should do this.  In fact, he is too timid to do this in our day.  Why?  Because he has adopted – or at least acceded to – a modified view of Satan’s offer: “Pay whatever seems fair to you. God has no legal claim on ten percent after business expenses.”

          This outlook transfers authority over the distribution of the tithe to the tithe-payer.  This transfer of authority is illegitimate for two reasons.  First, the giver defines the tithe’s percentage as he sees fit, but somehow this figure is usually less than ten percent.  Second, he reserves to himself the authority to distribute this tithe to those organizations that he approves of.  This violates God’s system of hierarchical authority.  The tithe-payer assumes that not only does God not have a legal claim to a full ten percent, God has not identified any single organization as the sovereign agent of collection and distribution.  This leaves the tither in control over who should receive his tithe – an unlawful transfer of authority to the autonomous individual.5

A Hole in the Wallet

          Covenant-breaking man affirms his self-professed autonomy by controlling his wallet.  His control over the allocation of his money is the number-one manifestation of his faith.

          Money is the most marketable commodity, economist Ludwig von Mises argued.6  This means that money is the most representative form of wealth.  This is why Jesus warned that men cannot serve two gods, God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).  This is why Paul warned that the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10).  What a man does with his money reveals his priorities.

          Covenant-breaking man’s number-one priority is to affirm his own autonomy without coming under God’s judgment in both history and eternity.  He believes that he has the right to decide what to do with his money.  God tells him he is wrong about this.  God has first claim through His institutional church.  Men in their rebellion do not accept this teaching.  They would prefer to keep 100 percent of a shrinking economic base, which is what God promises they will eventually experience.

          It is not surprising that we find Christians who deny that Haggai’s prophetic warning (Hag. 1:3-11) is still valid under the New Covenant.  Christians still seek to affirm theologies that defend man’s partial autonomy before God.  Anyone who affirms the mandatory tithe has to this extent broken with the covenant-breaking philosophies of his era.  Christians are still so impressed with covenant-breaking philosophies of human autonomy that they have not obeyed God in this area.  They ding to their wallets as tightly as the Israelites of Haggai’s day clung to theirs.

          But they have nevertheless felt guilty about this.  They have therefore sought to justify themselves theologically.  In doing so, they have abandoned the tool of dominion: God’s law.7

To Escape the Obligation

          There are many ways that Christian theologians have sought to escape the cause-and-effect relationship between tithing and wealth described by Malachi.  One way is to apply to the theology of tithing Meredith G. Kline’s theory of cause and effect in the New Covenant era.  Kline denies that in the New Covenant era there is any predictable relationship between covenantal law and economic sanctions.

And meanwhile it [the common grace order] must run its course within the uncertainties of the mutually conditioning principles of common grace and common curse, prosperity and adversity being experienced in a manner largely unpredictable because of the inscrutable sovereignty of the divine will that dispenses them in mysterious ways.8

          Kline self-consciously has abandoned the Mosaic Covenant’s doctrine of covenantal predictability in history.  He has substituted a theory of God’s common-grace inscrutability to mankind in New Covenant history.  Social cause and effect become mysterious from the point of view of biblical revelation.  This theology of mystery, if true, would make biblical social theory impossible.  Christians would then be forced to seek for reliable social theory – assuming that such a theory even exists – in the writings and speculations of covenant-breakers.9  This is exactly what Christians have been doing from the days that Christian apologists began to appeal to Greek philosophy as the foundation of common-ground truths.  It is this quest for common- ground principles of reasoning that Cornelius Van Til rejected as a compromise with the devil.10

          Another way to deny the moral necessity of tithing is to declare, with fundamentalism, “We’re under grace, not law!”  The result of such a universal affirmation is the self-conscious surrender of history to covenant-breakers.  Christians then find themselves under pagan laws and pagan lawyers.11

          A third way is to affirm that God’s Holy Spirit will inform each Christian how much to give.  This opens the Christian to feelings of guilt, either because he thinks he has to give more than the tithe – but exactly how much? – or because he gives less and worries about it.  Guilt produces doubt.  Guilt and doubt are not conducive to entrepreneurship and economic growth. 12

          A fourth approach is to affirm the mandatory tithe, but then deny that the institutional church has any legal claim on it.  This leaves the tither in control over the allocation of his tithe.  This is an affirmation of man’s autonomy, but in the name of covenantal faithfulness.13

          All four approaches deny God’s warning through Malachi.  All four seek to evade man’s responsibility to bring one-tenth of his increase to the single storehouse, the house of God.

Conclusion

          The leadership of Christians in society depends on their covenantal faithfulness.  The leadership of individual Christians within the institutional church also depends on their covenantal faithfulness.  If God still brings predictable corporate sanctions – both positive and negative – in history in terms of His law, as the Old Testament affirms repeatedly, then in order for men to prosper, they must obey God’s Bible-revealed laws.  The failure of Christians to exercise dominion in any era of history is closely associated with their unwillingness to preach God’s law and obey it.  To put it concretely, it is associated with their unwillingness to bring all of their tithes to God’s single storehouse: the local church.

          It is unlikely that individual Christians will be able to exercise leadership outside of the institutional churches if Christians remain economically second-class citizens, struggling to keep up economically with covenant-breakers.  It is time for pastors to start preaching the biblically mandatory nature of the tithe if they want the church to lead in society.  Unfortunately, not many pastors really want this added responsibility for themselves and their congregations.  So, they continue to nag members for “donations.”  But unlike the State’s appeal for larger “contributions,”14 churches threaten no negative sanctions against members who refuse to donate.  Preaching apart from institutional sanctions becomes either nagging or cheerleading. The Bible does not set forth a leadership program through either approach.

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

Footnotes:

1. Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), ch. 2.

2. W. K. Jordan has discussed the influence of Puritan businessmen in his book, Philanthropy in England, 1480-1660 (Russell Sage Foundation, 1959).

3. Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), ch. 1.

4. Gary North, Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory (3rd ed.; ‘lYler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), pp. 66-72.

5. See Part 2, below.

6. Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, [1912] 1953), pp. 32-33.

7. Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

8. Meredith G. Kline, “Comments on the Old-New Error,” Westminster Theological Journal, XLI (Fall 1978), p. 184.

9. Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Chris- tian Economics, 1990), ch. 7.

10. Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1969).

11. GaryNorth, Political Polytheism:The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler,Texas:Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Part 3.

12. David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider (5th ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

13. See Part 2, below.

14. In the U.S., the compulsory tax (FICA) on salaries that is used to pay those people who receive Federal pensions (Social Security benefits) is called a contribution.

The Buck Stops Here… Or, At Least It Should

This is Part 3 of my Tithing and the Church project.

Gary North’s 1994 book was a wake-up call to me on this all-important subject of tithing.  I had first read parts of it some 15-20 years ago when I saw the PDF edition he had posted online.

I will be honest, it was a jarring experience.  (Of course, reading almost anything Gary North writes can be a jarring experience!)

It was a major course correction.  Why?  Because, just a few years prior, I had bought into the very appealing idea of the “sovereignty of the tither.”  A lot of Christians have bought into this idea.  “I control the purse strings.”  I liked that.  What self-respecting Christian wouldn’t?  After all, as a born-again, Spirit-led, “covenant-keeping,” “Bible-believing” follower of Christ, I was therefore entitled to be the chief decision-maker as far as how to allocate “my” tithe money the way I saw fit.

What were the criteria?  Only one: wherever I thought (or felt) that God’s law-word was being most faithfully practiced (or preached)–according to my humble opinion and based on my finely-tuned and unimpeachable personal-experience-based perception–by whatever church, charity or non-profit organization that I felt was worthy of my money, that is where I would send my check.  (I wrote more checks in those days.)

Lo and behold, wonder of wonders, this resulted in only a fraction of my tithe going to a local church.  (From time to time, this might even be the one I was attending — assuming that the pastor and his ministry were up to my lofty biblical standards!)

But more often than not, the lion’s share of my “ten percent” — or whatever New Testament percentage I deemed appropriate — went to non-church and other organizational entities which I felt were doing “the Lord’s work.”  My definition of it.

However,… once I got a hold of Gary’s book — or, at least, once I got to reading the electronic, onscreen, non-physical version of the book — my tither’s sense of sovereign superiority quickly evaporated, along with the self-appointed, self-centered practice that went with it: Outcome-Based Tithe Administration.

Here, in this series, I am now giving you the same opportunity that I had 15-20 years ago: to come face to face with a digital, onscreen, non-physical version of Gary North’s trenchant and tenacious argument that, according to God’s covenant and the uniform teaching of Scripture, your tithe belongs in one storehouse: the institutional church.

Last time, I posted the Introduction to Part I of Tithing and the Church.

Today, I am posting Chapter 1: Sovereignty and the Tithe.

Here it is…


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SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TITHE

       Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:10).

       One storehouse, one tithe: this is the heart of the matter.  The day that covenant-keeping men multiply storehouses for God’s tithe is the day they begin to lose the blessings of God in history.  Why?  Because the existence of many storehouses reveals that men no longer believe that there is a single, sovereign, God-authorized collector of the tithe: the institutional church.  Their tithes are broken up into a series of offerings; then these offerings are perceived as morally voluntary; then this moral voluntarism transfers visible sovereignty to the donor: he who pays the piper calls the tune.

       The sovereignty of the donor over his tithe is an illusion.  This form of sovereignty cannot remain with the individual.  Individuals possess delegated sovereignty, but they cannot retain it if they rebel against the ultimate Sovereign, God.  They refuse to tithe; then the State’s tax collector steps in and imposes compulsion.  The State increasingly calls the tunes.

Voluntarism vs. Sovereignty

       The modern church is consistent.  It does not preach its own lawful delegated sovereignty because it does not preach the absolute sovereignty of God.  It does not preach the economic mark of this delegated sovereignty – the morally mandatory tithe – because it does not preach the morally mandatory law of God.  By dismissing three-quarters of the Bible as “God’s Word, emeritus,” the church has cut its own purse strings.

       When the church teaches that God has no legal claims on modern man’s institutions – pluralism 1 – it places itself under another god with another law.  God is presented as if He had no legal claims on modern man.  “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life” has been substituted for “God claims you, and has placed you under an eternal bond, which you have broken.”  The doctrine of a claims-less God has financial consequences for the churches, just as it does for the people in them who refuse to pay: wallets with holes.

       Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, 0 ye, to dwell in your celled houses, and this house lie waste? Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes (Hag. 1:3-6).

          This warning is easily dismissed today as “Old Testament stuff.” Non-judicial preaching has presented the church as a strictly voluntary institution, contractual rather than covenantal: just one more voluntary institution among many. Such preaching regards the communion table as it regards biblical law: an occasional ritual for remembrance’s sake only.  The church is barely distinguished theologically from a non-profit social club.  It is not perceived as sovereign.

       There is very little sense of the judicial presence of God anywhere in modern church liturgy.  Men may sing, ”All hail the power of Jesus’ name; let angels prostrate fall,” but neither angels nor the power of Jesus’ name are taken seriously.  In liberal churches, such realities are seen, at best, as non-historical (Barthianism); at worst, as mythical (Bultmanism).

The institutional church manifests God’s moral and judicial standard for the world,2 just as Israel manifested His standard under the Mosaic covenant.  This, too, is not believed by the modern church.  We find that there is no sense of the judicial presence of God in the civil courtroom, the voting booth, and on inauguration day.  The following phrases are mere formalities: “So help me, God” (courtroom oath), “In God we trust” (slogan on u.s. money), and “God bless you all” (tagged onto the end of televised speeches by American Presidents).  Invoking God’s name has become a mere convention.

The Judicial Marks of Sovereignty: Oath and Sanction

       The presence of a self-maledictory oath is the judicial mark of covenantal sovereignty.  Only three institutions lawfully can require such an oath: church, State, and family.3  Such an oath implicitly or explicitly calls down God’s negative sanctions on the person who breaks the conditions of the oath.  These sanctions are historical, although few Christians believe this, despite Paul’s warning regarding the misuse of the church covenant’s oath-renewal ceremony: the Lord’s Supper.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge our- selves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world (I Cor. 11:27-32).

          Self-judgment, institutional judgment, and God’s judgment: all take place in history.  But the modern church has doubts about God’s predictable sanctions in history.  Most Christians do not expect to experience God’s positive covenantal sanctions in history.  The next step is obvious: to lose faith in meaningful historical progress.  Here is the origin of pessimillennialism’s lack of confidence in the work of the church, the effects of the gospel, and the future of Christianity.4

Without the oath and its associated sanctions, the church is not legally distinguishable from any other oathless, voluntary institution.  This skepticism regarding the church’s lawfully delegated sovereignty has spread to another covenantal, oath-bound institution: the family.  Today, the oath that creates a new family is undermined by a judicial monstrosity: no-fault divorce.  Only one oath-bound institution is still taken seriously, because of the sanctions attached to the oath: the State.  The rise of modern statism has been accompanied by a decline of the institutional church and a decline of the family.

Which oath does God understand as central in society?  The church’s oath.  Why?  Because only the church survives the final judgment.  It alone extends into eternity (Rev. 21:1-2).  Only the church has been assigned the task of baptizing whole nations in Christ’s name (Matt. 28:18-20).  Baptism is a church monopoly.

Today, this view of the centrality of the church and its sacraments is not widely shared.  Liberals affirm the centrality of the State.  Conservatives affirm the centrality of the family.  Both views are at war against the plain teaching of Jesus.

       And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fallon the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are ofmore value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy ofme: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10:28-37).

Family Values and God’s Sanctions

          “Family values.”  Everywhere we turn, we hear American conservatives proclaiming family values.  Fund-raising mailing list empires have been built on family values.  Politicians are supposed to profess family values, and all of them do.

But a question arises: Which kind of family values?  How about Islam’s family values?  How about defending chastity the Islamic way?  The family gets together and executes the unmarried daughter after she has delivered the baby.  Not the right approach?  But these are surely family values.  Are you against family values?5

We are all for family values.  No doubt about it.  Show me the politician who stands up and says: “Basically, I’m all for adultery and abortion.”  Not many, right?  But how do they vote?  How do they live their lives?  As people who are unafraid of God’s negative sanctions in history.  And why shouldn’t they be unafraid?  The modern church teaches that there are no covenantally predictable corporate sanctions in history.6

          Christians have accepted this equation: original sin minus God’s historical sanctions plus God’s common grace = legitimate civil jurisprudence.  All the weeping and wailing and direct-mail solicitations concerning the breakdown of family values will change nothing until Christians at last admit that their view of God’s historical sanctions is essentially the same as covenant-breaking, late-twentieth-century humanist man’s.  The argument is over the degree to which the State’s negative sanctions should be allowed by modern democracies to deviate from the Old Testament’s negative sanctions.  Modern man has decided: there should be very few overlapping sanctions.  No-fault divorce, no-fault abortion, and no-fault adultery are basic tenets of belief on Wall Street, Main Street, and Capitol Hill: (1) “If it feels good, do it.” (2) “If it leads to morning sickness, kill it.”

Then there are the economic considerations: (1) “If it ever gets born, someone must pay for it.” (2) “If the parent can’t pay for it, the government will.”  Therefore, “Balance the family budget: kill the unborn” soon becomes: “Balance the government’s budget: kill the unborn.”

The covenant-breaking State and the covenant-breaking family are common allies against the church whenever the church preaches God’s law.  But the church no longer preaches God’s law.  So, the covenant-breaking State and the covenant-breaking family assume that society can safely. ignore the covenant-ignoring church.  Everyone ignores God’s warning:

          Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:19)

He Who Holds the Hammer

          Neither the morally mandatory tithe nor God’s negative sanctions in history: here is the message of the modern evangelical church.  No mandatory tithe, reduced positive sanctions in history: this conclusion is the result of such preaching.  Because the church will not impose negative sanctions.against members who refuse to tithe – the loss of voting membership7 – it finds itself less capable of bringing a crucial positive sanction in society: charity.  The local church buys a debt-encumbered piece of land, builds a debt- encumbered building, and pays a debt-encumbered pastor.  The moment it pays off one building, it builds another.  Fund-raising in American evangelical churches today is heavily dependent on building programs.  Modern churches have an edifice complex.  What most do not have are charitable ministries.

There is a legitimate division of labor in society.  There are many things that the church cannot do well – running a Christian school, grades K-12, comes to mind, or running a crisis pregnancy center, or running a drug-rehabilitation center (a basic need in any society where the State runs the schools).  The church should support Christian agencies that can do these things well.  These agencies, to the extent that they are dependent on the money provided by the churches, will then reflect the standards of the churches.  Why?  Because of the fear of negative sanctions: the churches’ refusal to write more checks.

Churches today write checks mainly to bankers.  The bankers have the negative sanction: no payment, no church building.  They, not the churches, “hold the hammer.”  Then the local government finds that it can disrupt the flow of funds by revoking a church’s property tax exemption.  There are now two hammers.  Then the Federal government threatens to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status.  There are now three hammers.

          Where is the churches’ hammer?  In heaven.  But churches insist that God does not bring predictable negative sanctions in history.  His hammer is exclusively post-historical, they preach.  In short, the church offers no threat of a hammer in the modern world, which does not acknowledge God or eternity.  Or, as a pair of famous political theorists have put it:

       And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go (Ex. 5:2).

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? (Dan. 3:15).

          He who holds the largest hammer gets paid first.  The church preaches that it holds no earthly hammer at all.  The church therefore gets the leftovers: after personal and family taxes; after personal and family debt payments; and after food, clothing, college expenses, and entertainment.

If Not Tithes, Then Offerings

          The church, burdened with debt, denying its possession of meaningful sanctions, comes to its members and pleads: “Do what the Spirit leads you to do.”  But what the Spirit apparently leads them to do is less – far, far less – than He required from God’s Old Covenant people.  There is no denomination in the United States that collects anything approaching half a tithe from its members.

          Old Covenant people were spiritual children, we are assured.  This is why God gave them so many laws.  He told them exactly what not to do.  But we are adults.  No one tells us what to do or not to do (not counting the State, of course).  We must respond as adults do.  We must sacrifice.  That we sacrifice economically at less than half of the required rate of sacrifice of Old Covenant children is of course beside the point.  After all, they were a rural, tribal people.  We are urban globalists, about to enter a stupendous New World Order.  Should we expect the laws of such a primitive people to serve us well today?  Of course not.  We’re all adults here.  Taxpaying adults.  The church deserves ten percent of our income?  Primitive!  Childish!

What should we give the local church?  Not tithes and offerings, surely.  Just offerings.  The size of these offerings is exclusively our decision.  So is the recipient.  Sovereignty belongs to us.  We the people impose the sanctions around here (not counting the State, of course).  We the people giveth, and we also taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the people.  We administer the oath.  We baptize the church.  Shape up, church!

So, the church’s officers come before the people mainly as representatives of the people.  They beg in the name of God, but collect in the name of the. people.  They are then sent back to God, offerings in hand.  There is hierarchy here: the people tell the church, as God’s agent, what they are willing to pay.

Modern Christians come before God and remind Him: “Not a cent more, mind You!  You should be grateful for whatever You get.  Don’t pull any of that fire and brimstone rhetoric on us!  That’s Old Testament stuff.  We don’t take kindly to it.  We can walk across the street and join another church, You know.  It needs our money.  It will be glad to get us.  This is a buyers’ market, Old Fellow.  We can shop around.  This is a free market system.  We’re price sensitive.  We’ll take the best package deal offered by one of Your churches.  There are so few of us these days.  It’s a declining market.  This makes us valued customers.”

(People ask me: What does it matter which eschatology a person holds?  I will tell you.  Postmillennialists are not persuaded that the present “down market” in the number of converts is permanent; pessimiIIennialists are persuaded.  This means that their eschatology reinforces “buyers’ market” mentality.  It also affects their churches’ discipline: gutting it.)

          There was a time, three centuries ago, when Christians believed that there are only three ways out of the church: death, excommunication, and letter of transfer.  They no longer do. Excommunication is old fashioned.  Letters of transfer only carry weight when receiving churches sanction them, rejecting the visitors’ request for membership, if only for the sake of creating respect for their own letters of transfer.  But in a buyers’ market for voluntary donations, churches are rarely choosy.  They have become beggars. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Conclusion

          The churches no longer hold the hammer.  They dropped it over a century ago.  Why?  Because they applied the philosophy of nominalism to the church itself: a world of contracts, not binding covenants under God.  When Holy Communion became in most Protestants’ thinking a mere memorial, the church covenant became a contract in their thinking.

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is no longer taken seriously.  While the following development may not be predictable in every instance, it is familiar enough to be considered highly probable.  When weekly communion goes to monthly communion, and monthly communion goes to quarterly communion, and grape juice is substituted for wine, tithes become offerings.  Nominalism undermines tithing because nominalism undermines men’s fear of church sanctions: faith in God’s predictable covenantal sanctions in history whenever church and State fail to enforce His law by means of the law’s mandated sanctions.

When the churches stopped preaching the mandatory tithe, the State adapted the idea and multiplied by four: taxes.

Endnotes:

1. Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

2. Gary North, Healer of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for International Relations (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), Introduction.

3. Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), ch. 4.

4. Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Chris- tian Economics, 1990), chaps. 3, 4, 7, 8, 9.

5. In November, 1993, a new movie was released: Addams Family Values. The Addams family is a comedy family of bizarre sadists and masochists.

6. North, Millennialism and Social Theory, ch. 7.

7. See Chapter 3.



Next time: Chapter 2, Authority and the Tithe

Tithing and the Church: Preface

Tithing and the Church book coverSome time ago, in a previous post, I mentioned (threatened) that I would begin periodically sharing excerpts here from Dr. Gary North’s 1994 book, Tithing and the Church.

Well, sufficient time has passed that I need to at least make some effort to make good on that promise.

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since that book was first published.  Here is my question: is the church any more faithful now in its keeping of this Bible-mandated financial-planning practice than it was in the mid-1990s?

Is Washington, D.C. any less powerful (or corrupt) now in its exercise of Bible-mandated civil authority than it was in the mid-1990s?

In other words, obviously, a rhetorical question.

And we all know the answer: “No, but, Real Soon Now we hope things will be different!”

I have an idea.  Rather than just hoping that the church will rediscover its historic task of financing the Kingdom of God through systematic tithing by its members,  let’s each one of us be intentional and — yes I’m going to use that word — pro-active in setting the example and being doers of God’s Word on this important matter and not just hearers (and readers) of it.

Needless to say, because of the (controversial!) nature of its content, the book has not been well-received, particularly by Bible-believing Christians (surprise!).

A Unique Book

Gary prefaces his book, literally, with the following words.  I post them here verbatim.

What you hold in your hands is unique: a book written by the head of a parachurch ministry published by that ministry which warns you not to send donations to that ministry unless you have already paid ten percent of your income to your local church.

My personal economic self-interest appears to be opposed to writing and publishing such a book. Because so few people tithe a full ten percent of their income to any church, this book seems to be economically suicidal. If this book does persuade people, they are presumably less likely to send money to any parachurch ministry including mine.

On the other hand, some readers may be willing to consider my thesis more readily when they recognize that someone whose personal self-interest seems opposed to such a thesis is nevertheless willing to go into print with it. If nothing else, readers will recognize that I take my thesis seriously. This book could bankrupt my ministry. It is still worth publishing.

There comes a time for someone in the Christian community to remind his fellow Christians of what God had Malachi say in His name, even if this costs his ministry some income:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal. 3:8-12).

Most pastors today do not believe Malachi’s warning. Of those who do believe it, there are not many who will go into the pulpit and preach it. Of those who do preach it, they do not preach it often. Of those who preach it often, they find that most members pay no attention except to suggest that the minister preach on something “less worldly.”

No church or denomination today is willing to bring sanctions against members who refuse to tithe. Preaching God’s law for the church without the ability to enforce it ecclesiastically is an exercise in futility. It is not surprising that pastors refuse to tackle this topic.

Even if they did, tight-fisted members could comfort themselves with this thought: “Well, he’s not an impartial witness. If everyone started paying his tithe, the church’s income would rise, and the pastor might get a raise.” The grumblers see self- interest as primarily economic. It never occurs to them that a pastor might preach on tithing because he is afraid that God’s warning through Malachi is still in force.

Here is the problem today: most Christians agree with all humanists regarding God’s predictable, covenantal, corporate sanctions in history, namely, such sanctions do not exist. But they do exist, which is one reason why I wrote this book. I fear these sanctions. Even if I pay my tithe, I may come under God’s corporate negative sanctions. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were carried into captivity by the Babylonians, despite the fact that they had preached the truth to doomed people who paid no attention to the threat of God’s predictable, corporate, covenantal sanctions in history. My conclusion: better to persuade Christians to pay their see donations to this ministry decline, and avoid the sanctions. This is what I call enlightened self-interest. It is called fearing God.

It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians do not pursue such enlightened self-interest.

I hope this book encourages pastors to preach on tithing. I hope it encourages church officers to re-think their responsibilities before God and men. I hope it changes the minds of those who read it. I hope it silences those who deny God’s covenantal sanctions in history. Finally, I hope it silences anyone who believes in these historical sanctions but who has decided that the local church is not entitled to the tithes of its members. Preaching such a version of the tithe is an ideal way to call down God’s sanctions on one’s head. I recommend against it.

And he’s just getting started!

Next time, we’ll look at the opening chapters of Part I: Church Sovereignty and the Tithe.

VIDEO: How to Understand Greg Bahnsen

GregBahnsenportraitIn 1985, the Great Debate on “Does God Exist” was held at the University of California-Irvine campus.  Defending the atheist position was Dr. Gordon Stein.  Defending the Christian/theist position was Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen.

It was historic.  Like Ali-Frazier.  “The Thrilla in Southern Californilla.”  To say that Bahnsen cleaned Stein’s non-intelligently-designed clock is to put it mildly.  He took Stein to school and put on a debate clinic for the audience.

You can watch (listen to) the entire debate here:

This was vintage Bahnsen.  An intellectual-academic heavyweight delivering philosophical and apologetic knock-out punches in rapid-fire succession against any and all non-Christian, non-biblical worldviews and arguments against God, the Bible and the doctrines of the Bible.

He was a world champion/gold-medalist in the arena of Christian apologetics.  Nobody could beat him.  (Only complications from a heart-valve surgery in 1995 would finally end his brief and brilliant but turbulent career as a pastor and academic superstar.)  Nobody could beat him on the debate stage.  So his real enemies — fellow Reformed Christian ministers and academics — simply kicked him out of their confessionally-conflicted, ethically-challenged clubs

Bahnsen embraced Van Til’s apologetics.  Unfortunately for his academic and ministerial career, he also embraced theonomy.  And his peers in the denominational world — which was his “first love” (as a good friend of his eulogized on the 20th anniversary of his death) — made sure that he paid dearly for this unpardonable sin.

He was betrayed both by his church brethren–the Orthodox Presbyterian Church–and by his scholastic brethren–Reformed Seminary and Westminster Seminary.  Joel McDurmon has compiled a collection of documents having to do with Bahnsen’s unfounded termination from Reformed Seminary.  Gary North wrote a book (Westminster’s Confession) that was occasioned by Westminster’s fateful decision to abandon Van Til’s legacy by refusing to hire Dr. Van Til’s hand-picked replacement — Dr. Greg Bahnsen — to head up the apologetics department there, on the unofficial grounds that Bahnsen was now a theonomic powerhouse, a forceful proponent of what Dr. North called “a positive judicial alternative to natural law theory,” and Westminster’s president Edmund Clowney would have none of that, especially with so formidable an advocate as Bahnsen.  So in the end nepotism won out over God’s law, and Clowney hired his uniquely underqualified (and non-Van Tillian) son to take over Van Til’s chair.

Bahnsen’s road through life was no primrose path.  The champ took a beating.  But he kept on defeating, apologetically speaking.  He remained undefeated.  He “fought the good fight,” and he kept the faith.

His legacy lives on through the Bahnsen Conferences, Covenant Media Foundation, and through his numerous books and articles.  In early 2016, Kenneth Samples gave a brief vignette of Dr. Bahnsen in this talk that was recorded at Branch of Hope Church in Torrance California.

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VIDEO: How to Understand Rousas John Rushdoony

Well, you can start by getting his name right!

That’s what the late R. J. Rushdoony’s son, Mark R. Rushdoony, wanted you to know right from the get-go when he gave this talk about his dad earlier this year.

It’s hard to believe that the movement begun by his dad — after he had coined the term “Christian Reconstruction” to refer to the rebuilding task Christians have in this world — is now in its 6th decade of existence.

Here, Mark Rushdoony offers a unique perspective on the man: the perspective of a son growing up under his father’s ministry from its earliest days.  He speaks of the men who shaped his thinking, and the experiences that formed his approach to applying the Bible to all areas of life.

This was the first of several very interesting and insightful lectures given at Branch of Hope Church (OPC) in Torrance, California.

I plan on posting more of these.  Stay tuned!

How to Be a Reconstructionist in a Non-Reconstructionist Church

So maybe you’ve finally bought into the basic tenets of “Christian Reconstructionism.”  You’re a Calvinist in your understanding of God’s sovereignty and salvation.  You are covenantal in your theology.  Your eschatology has lost its fear of the future.  (And for that matter, fear of the present.)  You believe Jesus Christ is reigning as king over all the earth NOW and is gradually subduing and conquering His enemies even as we speak (although he seems to be taking an awfully long time to do that).  You’re a presuppositionalist in your apologetics (and you intend to prove that by naming your next male child Cornelius).

Worst of all, you are convinced that the ethical standards of God’s law are alive and well and still govern the planet — while the rest of your family and friends and practically everyone else you know, including Christians, are convinced that they do not.

This presents a problem.

How do you now find a church that preaches and teaches and believes like you do?

In other words, where and how do you find a “Reconstructionist-friendly” church to attend?

Answer: you do one of two things.

  1. Pray that you live within reasonable driving distance of such a church.  And you ask around within the circle of people whom you hope might know where one of those churches might be.  Or,
  2. Resign yourself to the fact that, (a), no such church exists within a Sabbath’s day journey from where you live, and so, therefore, (b), you learn to become a resident Reconstructionist worshipping and fellowshipping in a congregation of non-like-minded-but-probably-just-as-committed-to-the-Gospel-of-Jesus-Christ-as-you-are believers.  You may feel like a fresh-water fish in a salt water pond.  Things could be worse.  At least there’s water.

Option #1.

If #1 applies to you–that is, you do find that there is a Reconstructionist church in your neck of the woods–then rejoice, your search is over.  Perhaps.

That church is going to be small.  Very small.  Tiny, in fact.  Just like the denomination that probably ordained the pastor who ministers there.  Fact: the more well-defined (and out of the mainstream of evangelicalism, even Reformed evangelicalism) the theological distinctives of a particular church are, the smaller its size.  It is in the minority of the minority.  You will be part of a remnant of the remnant.  You will be an outlier.

If you’re okay with that, again, your search is over.  Just remember, your church will be its own “small group!”

Option #2.

This is the more likely outcome.  You’re a theological (and eschatological) oddity.  You’re Reformed with respect to the Gospel, but you’re un-Reformed with respect to the Law.  Some will call you hermeneutically confused.  Some will call you heterodox.  Ignore them.  You are better informed than most as far as what the Bible says about God’s authority over us.

So, where should you worship?

Answer: wherever there is a church that has (a), preaching you can tolerate, (b), music you can tolerate, and, (c), people you can tolerate.  It’s that simple.  You’ve got your doctrine down cold.  (Or hot.)  You’ve got the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and available 24/7 as a lifetime counselor/comforter.  You’ve got the Savior.  You’ve got God as your infinitely generous and loving Father.  You’ve got His enscripturated Word as your infallible field guide, training and service manual.  So, beyond that, you’ll just have to be liberal (biblically charitable) when it comes to assessing the fitness of a particular church to be graced on a regular basis by your humble, eschatologically-upbeat presence.  Thankfully, Calvinism is now cool.  More Christians, young and old, have become, at least to some degree, “Reformed.”  Hipsters and oldsters united in a common bond of TULIPs.  This makes your job a little bit easier.

Bloom (and grow) where you’re planted.

It might not be the ideal greenhouse or garden.  But as long as you get sunlight, food and water to sustain you (and there aren’t too many locusts and aphids) be content with that.

Be prepared to be a closet contrarian.   No need to be strident about it, though, needlessly pontificating your superior positions on various scriptural dogmas.  Be prepared, as Peter says, “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15)  “Study to show yourself approved”–someone who “does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)  Do this faithfully, and people will wonder at your unsinkable optimism and winsome attitude about the inevitable victory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and successful evangelization of the whole world in time and in history prior to the Lord’s return.  Make ’em want what you’ve got!

Don’t make folks irritated or exasperated with your apparent confessional peculiarities.  But don’t be ashamed of your Reconstructionist leanings, either.  Remember, the people who oppose you will do so because they are either ignorant or else misinformed about the biblical and historical and hermeneutical basis for the theological “distinctives” and perspectives of Christian Reconstruction.  So, don’t be “sorry” for embracing these perspectives.

Remember, theonomy means never having to say you’re sorry.

The New Sound of Dominion: Reconstructionist Radio

Reconstructionist Radio iconIf you have not come across this excellent online resource yet, it’s time for you to take a look.

The massive cache of books produced by Christian Reconstructionists over the past 50 years have been a treasure trove of theological, historical, practical, epistemological and philosophical works in and of themselves.  Now, many of these mostly forgotten and out-of-print-yet-still-invaluable books are being reproduced and republished as free audio books available to anyone online, thanks to the visionary hard work and inspiration of a dominion-minded truck driver by the name of Jason Sanchez.

Jason has started an ambitious project called Reconstructionist Radio.

I call it music to my ears!

Jason has assembled a team of narrators — growing and they are asking for more — to do the following: take an existing printed or electronic edition of selected titles from amongst the various authors and leading figures of the CR movement past and present, such as Dr. Gary North, R.J. Rushdoony, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Gary Demar, David Chilton and others, and then convert them, painstakingly, into digital audio format.

The resulting audiobooks and downloadable podcasts are being made available to anyone who wants to listen to them, at no charge, since they are produced from books which have been available online for years to anyone who wants to read them, in electronic or PDF format, at no charge.  (They are NOT public domain.  But they are freely available.)

This is similar in concept to Pocket College, which is a massive online collection of lectures and recordings by the late R.J. Rushdoony.  Except that these are original, derivative works rather than mere digital copies of existing works.  Anyway, to date, no one else has ventured to convert any of these books into audio format.  Jason is blazing a new trail here.  Or rather, he is paving a new highway — for truck drivers and everyone else to drive on!

There is a lot of work to be done.  Lots of book titles to be recorded and published.  Many hours and much labor and patience.  But it looks like Jason and his crew of volunteers are in it for the long haul! 

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

In any event, this is a worthwhile project that deserves our prayers and support.  These are important works and now they will find a new audience.  Sounds good to me.

“Let him who has ears to hear, click here”:  Reconstructionist Radio

Aren’t All Christians Supposed to Be ‘Reconstructionists’?

CorneliusVanTilThis past week there has been some discussion about Van Til and his worldview and whether it was more in line with Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy than previously thought, or (more to the point) whether his privately held views were a true reflection of his stated positions of amillennialism and an apolitical Christianity.

Joel McDurmon talks about this in his two articles:

Cornelius Van Til’s ‘Spirit of Reconstruction’

When Van Til Got Crazy Political

‘Spirit of Van Tillianism”

Lots of Reformed Christians consider themselves spiritual heirs of Van Til.  The Reformed world and evangelical Christianity owe him an enormous debt for his path-breaking work that established the philosophical framework for what would later become “presuppositional apologetics.”

Likewise, the philosophical and exegetical framework for Christian Reconstruction would never have gotten off the ground without his pioneering efforts.

So, why is it that Reformed Christians who embrace the philosophical and epistemological views of Van Til are loathe to embrace similarly held views when they are expressed by Christian Reconstructionists?

By Which Double Standard?

At their core, are they really that much different?  In their expression, yes, perhaps.  But not in their presuppositions.

Christian Reconstruction as espoused and promulgated by Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Chilton, et al., was a radical departure from conventional Christian thought — even Reformed Christian thought — at the time (mid-1960s).  But it was based squarely on the philosophical foundations of Van Til.

To paraphrase the old adage from the Reformation:

Rushdoony and North hatched the egg that Van Til laid.

The Greatness of the Great Commission

The title of Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s excellent book leads us to the larger issue at hand, and really puts our mandate as believers and followers of Christ into perspective: our commission as the body of Christ in the world is to take the Gospel to all peoples and all nations and to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded.

Modern evangelical Christians until the 1980s have sought to keep this a personal, private, home-based matter.  Fundamentalism institutionalized the thinking: “Save souls, not cultures!”  That is beginning to change.

But “making disciples” doesn’t simply mean making more church-goers and Bible-readers.

It means a Holy-Spirit-caused radical transformation that begins at the bottom and works its way up.  It starts out individually, privately, but it ends up collectively, publicly.  Transformed lives leading to transformed families.  Transformed families leading to transformed communities and transformed societies.  Then, transformed cultures, transformed nations and, ultimately, a transformed world.

Isn’t this what we are supposed to be striving for and praying for (“thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”) (“Go ye into all the world…”)?  Should that not be the earnest desire of our Christ-loving, Holy-Spirit-converted hearts for our fallen race, a humanity comprised of many of our fellow sinners yet-to-be-saved by grace?

You would think so.

Theonomy and Reconstruction: A Reformed Response

R. C. Sproul, Jr. has weighed in on this topic of Christian Reconstruction vs. biblical Reformation and the Great Commission before:

Let’s begin with what we all ought to agree on- that discipling the nations and teaching them to obey whatsoever Christ commanded should include some understanding of the Lordship of Christ over the cultural and political spheres. Jesus is bringing every enemy under captivity, causing every knee to bow, including the knees of princes, judges and kings who will not kiss Him, who will not acknowledge Him as Lord.

No argument there.  He then asks:

So how do we make known the reign of Christ over all things? We begin by bringing our own sinful natures under submission.

No argument there. That is where all true ‘reconstruction’ must begin.

He concludes with this:

What we are called to is neither to huddle in the corner because Jesus is coming back tomorrow, nor to hang out in back rooms cutting deals to hurry His return. Instead we ought to be about our own callings, raising up godly seed, voting for and supporting honest and honorable candidates that submit to the Lordship of Christ. Is this reconstruction, or is this faithful stewardship of our time? Is this reconstruction, or is this seeking first the kingdom of God? Is this reconstruction, or is this making visible the invisible reign of Christ over all things? In the end, it doesn’t much matter what you call it. We are to obey Christ, to train up our children to do the same. This is loving your neighbor and this will change the world. (emphasis added)

Amen, brother.

Nine days after posting that, he reposted another article that had been published two years prior, which was even more amicable to Christian Reconstruction.  It ended with this kind word of solidarity:

Theonomists, like the rest of us, long to see justice in the political realm. They long to see the nations discipled. They long to see the kingdom made manifest. They long to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Who, within His kingdom, could ever argue with that?

Who, indeed?

Sproul 2.0 (“Did I Really Say That?”)

More recently, however, Sproul seems to have lost his spirit of solidarity with theonomists and reconstructionists in a podcast and an accompanying article.

It is chock-full of back-handed compliments, like these:

These good folks have the wisdom to not be embarrassed by the Law of God. Every time somebody tries to discredit the Bible stance on sodomy, based on its stance on slavery, unlike the rest of the Christians, these guys don’t blush. They’re perfectly comfortable with slavery because they aren’t slaves to popular opinion. This movement, sometimes called Theonomy, sometimes called Reconstructionism, is the stuff of nightmares to the liberal left. These guys are well-educated, articulate, and medieval.

I see.  Well-educated, articulate, and medieval.

No matter.  What Sproul said in his previous two articles stands as sufficient testimony to the general agreement that exists between what “Christian Reconstructionists” want for the world and what other Bible-believing Christians want.

“WHAT DO WE WANT?”  A redeemed and reformed world.  If not for ourselves, at least for our children and their children and their childrens’ children.

“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?”  Later!  (After Jesus comes back bodily to fulfill the responsibilities of His church–right after we are air-lifted out of the global mess we left behind!)

This is where premillennialists and postmillennialists part company.

They’re looking for the lifeboats.  We’re building a whole new shipping company!

But Sproul sounds far more in congruence with the latter group in his eschatology than the former.  For that we are grateful.

This, friends, is the very progress of history, the making of God’s enemies into his footstool. And this is the very trajectory of history. Here we are told, not that things must get really bad before He comes again, but that they must get really good. He is now at the right hand of the Father, there He will stay until all His enemies are defeated. I confess that I don’t know exactly what this will look like, it won’t mean that everyone on the planet will serve Christ. It won’t mean that there will be no more sin and no more death. That will await his final return. But it does mean this, that every pretender to the throne of Christ will be brought low.

At least he is laboring — grudgingly alongside his theonomist provocateurs — toward the same worthy goal.

Is Biblical Christianity ‘Reconstructionist’?

Let’s take the familiar critics’ question and turn it around.

It is a fair question: “Is Christian Reconstruction ‘Biblical’?”

So we ask the converse of it: “Is Biblical Christianity ‘Reconstructionist’?”

An equally fair question.

Let’s wrap up this article by asking and answering it.

Does biblical Christianity see history as the progress of Christ’s kingdom on earth advancing before He returns? In other words, is it optimistic about the future before His Second Advent?

Do fish swim?

Does biblical Christianity see all of Scripture as self-authenticating and the inviolable basis for presupposing that ALL of its utterances and pronouncements are true, and that it is the authoritative rule and standard over ALL of life and ALL people and places at ALL times, by which ALL things are judged?

Do birds have feathers?

Does biblical Christianity see the Gospel as a comprehensive message of salvation to be preached to ALL the world, so that MANY souls (collectively and individually) may be saved and many cultures redeemed, to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Do cows give milk?

Is biblical Christianity a faith that is intended to affect everything in our lives and in our world, for good and for God’s glory?

Are these questions obviously rhetorical (and the answers self-evident)?

Yes!

An Informed Response

So, the next time somebody asks you, “Is Christian Reconstruction ‘biblical’?”, or they tell you that it isn’t biblical, ask them if they know what reconstructionists really want.

Tell them they want the same thing that all Bible-believing Christians around the world want.

A world won for Christ, the redemption of Adam’s fallen race, and the coming (and growth and advancement and ultimate victory) of His Kingdom!