Category Archives: Gary North

Dr. Gary North: A Giant Has Departed, R.I.P.*

At least he lived long enough to celebrate his 80th birthday.

At least he lived long enough to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Sharon.

At least he was able to fulfill his vow and complete his life’s work–and then some–before he died.

But the sad, harsh reality is… last Thursday, February 24th, he died.

I am going to miss him. I already do. So do a lot of people. His departure has left an intellectual and theological void that no other living person can fill. Plain and simple.

Dr. Gary North, Ph.D. has exited the planet.

But only temporarily.

His eschatology says he’ll back at a later date for an extended stay once the renovations are completed.

That may take a couple of thousand years, give or take.

Meantime, the good doctor (History, University of California, Riverside) left us with a literary and spiritual legacy that could and should fill a library: his Bible commentaries, books, articles, videos, homeschool courses on economics, history, government, literature. His vision for an online Christian curriculum.

All of this comprises our vast, rich inheritance.

Of course, being the academic that he was, this also means that he left us with a lot of homework.

Lots to read. Lots to learn. Lots to do. With an emphasis on do.

His stern, grandfatherly advice: “Get busy!”

An Obituary Like No Other

If you have not already read it, here is Craig Bulkeley’s excellent article that he wrote. It was posted on the front page of Gary North’s website yesterday. I think you should read it.

https://www.garynorth.com/public/23334.cfm

Since there will come a day when that page will no longer be available online (my expectation is that WordPress will outlast Membergate), I repost it here in its entirety.

Before you read it, I want to propose an alternate meaning to the customary initials, R.I.P.

Especially in Dr. North’s case…

From now on, “R.I.P.” shall mean:

*Reconstruction In Progress*

Prayers for consolation in the LORD to the family of Dr. North. God bless and be with you.

Gary North, RIP

Craig Bulkeley – February 26, 2022

When Gary Kilgore North passed away on February 24, 2022, at the age of 80, he left behind a massive storehouse of Christian scholarship without parallel in the modern church. For nearly fifty-five straight and solid years he applied himself as a craftsman with single-mind devotion to researching, writing, and speaking about God’s world from the perspective of God’s Word. While he lived his work benefited his large readership around the world. For generations to come it will be of great use to the Church of his Lord Jesus Christ.

The Formative Years

North was born in 1942 to Peggy North, a homemaker, and Sam W. North, a World War II veteran and FBI Special Agent. In the idyllic “American Graffiti” era of 1950’s southern California, he excelled in high school and developed skills in research, writing, public speaking, and photography. He served as president of the school’s California Scholarship Federation chapter and was elected to the statewide office of “Superintendent of Public Instruction” at California’s prestigious Boys State. In his senior year he was elected president of the student body of 2000 students. He also learned business and music working at the local record store. Under his father’s influence, he developed a healthy sense of discipline and responsibility that he carried throughout life. North’s experiences in his youth helped develop in him a sense of self-confidence. At the age of 18 he came to faith in Jesus Christ which led him at the age of 21 to devote his career to the development of biblical economics.

While a student at the University of California, Riverside, North became increasingly more aware of the essential connection between various social and academic ideologies and their foundational philosophical and theological principles. In the spring of 1962 he read R. J. Rushdoony’s Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education (1961). It was a penetrating critique of public education and a systematic dismantling of the notion of academic neutrality. After corresponding they later met at an academic conference where Rushdoony was teaching on economics. The following year Rushdoony hired him as a summer intern with the newly formed Center for American Studies. North lived that summer and the next with the Rushdoony family. His job, for a good salary, was to read full-time. He read Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State (Fall 1962), The Panic of 1819 (1962), and America’s Great Depression (Spring 1963). He learned the monetary and free market theory of Ludwig von Mises and Austrian economics. He also attended a conference that year where Mises was teaching.

Having completed his undergraduate work in history North did a year of graduate work at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. There he studied under Cornelius Van Til, the godfather of anti-neutrality. Rushdoony had shaped his books on education from Van Til’s early essays on education.

North returned to UCLA in the fall of 1964 but within a month became disillusioned with the prevailing Keynesianism and Chicago School economics. In the spring of 1965 he transferred back to the University of California, Riverside, to study history, specializing in economic history and Puritan New England. His summer reading had prepared him for the work. He also studied Western intellectual history and social theory under Robert Nisbet who later held a distinguished chair at Columbia University. He completed his dissertation, The Concept of Property in Puritan New England, 1630-1720, and in 1972 received his Ph.D.

The Cultural Crisis

But North can be rightly understood only by understanding the times in which he lived. By the mid-1970’s, now in his thirties, North saw clearly that America was far down the fast track of radical transformation and on its way to ruin. The tranquil 1950’s had given way to the turbulent 1960’s and been transformed into the full-blown chaos of the 1970’s. Vietnam raged. Decades of Keynesianism and Socialism were crippling the economy. Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974. While the U.S. Supreme Court had banned Bible reading and prayer from public schools in the early 1960’s, in 1973 it doubled down, overturned state laws across the country, and legalized the killing of babies in the womb. Organizations like the National and the World Council of Churches were promoting “situational ethics” and an apostate “Christianity” throughout America’s mainline churches. Having been taught not to bother polishing brass on a sinking ship, Bible-believing Christians and conservatives were watching the world they took for granted be dismantled before their eyes as they waited for the Rapture. Society’s bedrock foundations were crumbling and the whole social structure with it. The rot was going to the roots and it was bearing very bad fruit.

North (and Rushdoony) saw and understood the crisis and were on the leading edge of working not only to expose the unbiblical ideologies driving this transformation but, more importantly, to articulate the biblical foundations, principles and blueprints necessary for a revived social order. Rushdoony had already established the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. In February 1967 North published his first article for pay. It appeared in The Freeman, the monthly magazine of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the only libertarian think tank at the time. The Freeman was mailed to some 25,000 readers. It was the first of literally thousands and thousands of articles he would write over his career.

Other organizations were beginning to emerge in an effort to stand against the onslaught of the antagonist atheism. In 1972 Phyllis Schlafly founded Eagle Forum. In 1973 The Heritage Foundation was established by Ed Fuelner and Paul Weyrich. In 1974 Howard Phillips founded the Conservative Caucus and Weyrich started the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, later called the Free Congress Foundation. In 1976 Bill Richardson founded the Gun Owners of America and in 1977 the near century-old NRA redirected its focus to politics. In 1977 Pat Robertson launched the CBN cable network. In 1978, Beverly LaHaye established Concerned Women for America (10 plus years behind the National Organization of Women, founded in 1966). In 1979 Falwell and Weyrich founded the Moral Majority. Not to be overlooked, in June of 1974 the remnant of Austrian school economists, including North, Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman and many others, met in Vermont. In the face of a relentless humanism, conservatives and Christians were beginning to organize and take action.

But the Christians had some limitations. Generally they had a common goal: live as lights in a dark world and pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” They also generally shared a common motive: love of God and your fellow man, particularly by sharing the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. But in the area of content or standards they had little of real substance to offer. “The Bible has the answers for all of life,” was the common refrain. But other than the general command to “love,” the Christians had few if any specific biblical answers and solutions to offer for the myriad of specific problems facing society on so many fronts. Christians – the Church – had come to take for granted the predominantly Christian character of their culture and were almost wholly ignorant of the biblical principles on which it was built. More rigorous analysis and deeper study of the Bible had to be done in order to set forth those truths.

Rebuilding on Biblical Foundations

In September 1971, North joined the senior staff of FEE. When Leonard Reed, FEE’s founder, informed him that any money he made writing or speaking would have to go to FEE, North decided he would not stay long.

In 1972 he married R. J. Rushdoony’s daughter, Sharon. He would say that if it were not for her, “you probably would never have heard of me” and “the only reason that I was successful was that my wife was patient with this lifestyle.” Understanding her father’s intense academic lifestyle, she could adapt to and support North in his. In addition to being committed to their children and providing an excellent family environment, she was an excellent accountant and operations manager.

In March of 1973 Sharon suggested he write an economic commentary on the Bible, verse by verse. After 4 years of work on the project and believing the pace to be inadequate, he took a vow. To complete the work he would devote 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, until his 70th birthday. He was then 35 years old.

In the spring of 1974 he and Sharon also began publishing a newsletter at the suggestion of someone who heard him speak at a conference. They named it Remnant Review, a testimony to be faithful in the calling and trust in the promises of God. Around 1976 North founded the Institute for Christian Economics and began publishing through it. He handled the writing. Sharon handled production (subscriptions, printing, filling envelopes, mailing, and even running the mechanical dog tag stamping device for addresses). She did it until the mailing list approached 2,000 subscribers. She also kept track of the money, never losing a dime.

In 1977 North published his first direct-mail book. It was based on a compilation of Remnant Review issues. His ad for the book led to the sale of some 20,000-30,000 copies from 1977-79 at $10 each ($40 in 2022). Those sales led to 2,000 subscribers. In 1979 he wrote another ad. It grew the list from 2,000 to 22,000, at $60 ($245 in 2022) per subscriber. He had become one of the few economists (and historians) actually making “real money” from his knowledge of economics and history.

His newsletter led to a job in Washington on the staff of one of his subscribers, a medical doctor from Texas named Dr. Ron Paul who had been elected to Congress. He hired North. Later in 1976 Paul lost reelection by 268 votes out of 192,802. North helped close down his office at the end of what would be just the first of Dr. Paul’s many terms in Congress.

North continued to produce. At the core were his convictions concerning certain fundamental truths.

First, man is God’s creation and inescapably subject to his authority. He is in a covenantal relationship with his Creator and, therefore, the status of that relationship is of absolute and paramount importance. As a consequence of his sin, he became an enemy of God and a stranger in God’s world. But based on Jesus’s perfect life and on his death, burial and resurrection, God brought redemption to anyone who would call upon him in repentance and faith. Based on the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, God would declare a condemned sinner forgiven and righteous and renew his relationship with his Maker.

Second, God had made man free and designed him to fulfill the Creation Mandate: subdue the earth and have dominion over it. Though the “first Adam” and his posterity failed because of sin, the “second Adam,” Jesus, would succeed. He would redeem his people, restore them to their created calling, and empower them by his Spirit to fulfill that mandate throughout the world on his behalf and to his glory (“Dominionism”).

Third, North believed that Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission to make disciples and teach throughout the world all that God had revealed. Jesus declared that he had “all authority” in heaven and earth and that he would build his church and even the gates of hell could not stop it. Based on his Word and promise, despite the conflicts and troubles in the world, the nations of the earth would eventually bow before the King of kings, and his kingdom would be realized in history in significant measure and on a vast scale before his return (“Postmillenialism”).

Fourth, North believed that God’s Word governed all of life and that mankind would either suffer or be blessed in rejecting or following it. Whether it concerned man in his psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, history, science or any other area, the Bible was the absolute standard. No professor, politician or “public intellectual” knew better than the Bible. This applied even in the areas of the political order and the law (“Theonomy” – God’s law).

Based on these truths, man was called to engage in the great task of working to see the fallen world reconstructed to God’s glory according to the Bible (“Christian Reconstruction”). North was committed to this calling.

As North would work out these principles in his writing, chief among his influences were Cornelius VanTil (philosophy/theology), Rushdoony (law), Ludwig von Mises (economics), John Calvin and John Murray (theology), and Robert Nisbet (social theory). Each was an exceptional scholar and produced critical writings with tremendous insight. North would follow in their train and his production would be nothing less than astounding.

It is noteworthy that among those influences, neither Mises nor Nisbet were professing Christians. What concerned North was not whether one claimed to be a Christian; there was no shortage of ministers and so-called Christian academics promoting unbiblical teaching like evolution, Keynesianism, and socialism. What was critical was the quality of the scholarship and whether the ideas the individual taught were consistent with the Bible or provided valuable information and insight to help understand it. In so many areas the writings of Mises and Nisbet did this. The same could be said for scholars like Rothbard, Harold Berman, Jacques Barzun, Martin van Creveld, James Billington, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and so many others whose work North admired.

North made great strides in laying out the biblical foundations, principles and blueprints for a revived social order.

As Marxism was becoming entrenched in American universities in the 1960’s, North wrote Marx’s Religion of Revolution in 1968. In 1972 he began to consolidate his views on economics and published An Introduction to Christian Economics. In 1976 he published and edited The Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective. It was a groundbreaking collection of essays by PhDs and experts in a variety of disciplines: economics, psychology, sociology, history, education, political science, mathematics, theology, and philosophy. Each had as its central focus the truth that the Bible, God’s revelation, was the ultimate standard for understanding each field. No field was “neutral.” None, ultimately, was even understandable apart from that revelation. Even when they did function in some measure, they had in fact borrowed and presumed biblical truths despite their formal antagonism to Christianity.

North continued to produce Remnant Review and eventually brought it under his website GaryNorth.com which he began in 2005. Over its 17 years North published four articles a day, six days a week, every week. The range of topics was encyclopedic and topics were treated in depth and detail. With his 23,000+ articles he was constantly trying to encourage his readers to excel in their jobs and callings, provide insights and tools to help them do it, and give them a greater understanding of their relationship to the movement of history. His website also had active and robust forums where subscribers could and would engage with him and each other on how to apply the information to their individual circumstances.

Amazon’s Alexa service ranks the popularity of websites, of which there are estimated to be over 200,600,000 that are active. The lower the number the more popular the website. Ranked lower than 500,000 (top .25%), the website has some influence. Lower than 200,000 (top .1%), it is significant. Lower than 100,000 (top .05%), it is widely read and influential. Before North’s illness bore down on him, his website ranked around 36,000 (top .018%). No website for any evangelical news magazine, news site, theological seminary, church denomination, or publisher was even close. Only John McArthur and John Piper, now established in well-staffed and promoted organizations (Grace to You and Desiring God), had similar web traffic. Among web magazines, only the 66-year old socially liberal and marginally evangelical Christianity Today had similar web traffic. Ligonier Ministries ranked around 80,000. Few were ranked lower than 150,000, and most, far higher, some near 2,000,000. As to time spent by visitors on the websites, the numbers are not even close. Readers of North’s website spent five to seven times more time on his than readers did on any of the others.

In addition to his newsletter and website, North published almost 100 books, half of which he wrote. Most he financed with his own money. The vast majority of what he published he has provided to the public free of charge at Free Christian Educational Resources, https://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/.

In 2012, after nearly 40 years, North fulfilled the vow he had taken in 1972 and completed his 31 volume economic commentary on the Bible. It was a remarkable achievement, accomplished only with resolute commitment. He then synthesized his years of economic study into six volumes: The Covenantal Structure of Christian Economics (2015, 2018), and a four volume series titled Christian Economics: Vol. 1: Student Edition (2017, 2020), Vol. 2: Teacher’s Edition (2017, 2020), Vol. 3: Activist’s Edition (2017, 2020), and Vol. 4 (in 2 volumes): Scholar’s Edition (2020). His books just on economics can be found here: https://www.garynorth.com/public/department180.cfm.

North also wrote extensively on history. Among his many books was the masterpiece Crossed Fingers (1996), a 1000-page detailed account of deceit used by theological liberals to capture the northern Presbyterian Church during the 20th Century. Ever a lover of footnotes North provides over 900 in just the first 300 pages.

To beat it all, North was a superb writer in every respect and a treat to read.

With his practical understanding of Austrian and Keynesian economics, North also knew how to interpret and benefit from market conditions. Just one example will suffice. When between 1999 and 2002 England’s worst Chancellor of the Exchequer in a thousand years persuaded the nation to systematically sell off 401 tonnes of its 715-tonne gold supply for an average price of $275 per ounce, North told his subscribers to buy. They bought. By the time of his death, gold was over $1,900.

North was also a frequent contributor to the two primary organizations that promoted Austrian economics and libertarian ideas. He provided many articles for the popular website LewRockwell.com and was a frequent speaker at the Mises Institute, particularly for its gathering of young scholars. His lectures on Mises, Keynes, and Rothbard alone were exceptional. The increasingly higher profile of the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell’s website encouraged North that it was only a matter of time before defective ideas would fail and sound ideas would prevail.

Aware of the dismal condition of public education, North was also concerned that young people have access to top quality curriculum. After Ron Paul ended his service in government and his final campaign for President of the United States, he and North reunited to establish The Ron Paul Curriculum. Paul had spoken to massive crowds and received over 2,000,000 votes in the 2012 presidential primary. Families across the country would be eager to have their children educated consistent with the fundamental biblical principles Paul was articulating. North could create the material and organization to provide that education. Recruiting the teachers, preparing his own courses, and running the institution, North created an online K-12 school that has trained thousands of students across the county.

North’s interest in educational curriculum was not limited to grade school. Even up to his final months, he was working on plans to create a free seminary curriculum designed particularly for pastors working in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

North was also concerned about evangelism. His 2005 website Sustained Revival: A Comprehensive Plan for a Comprehensive Christian Revival, provided material focusing on that work. https://www.garynorth.com/public/department132.cfm.

North was also concerned to help those in financial trouble. For people wanting to get out from under the weight of debt he developed the website Deliverance from Debt, https://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/. While he lived in the areas of Tyler, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee, he worked with Kairos Prison Ministry International. Some prisoners were soon to be released. Others would never be released. He taught them the gospel and that wherever they might be God had valuable work for them to do and they could serve him anywhere. During that same period he worked with a ministry that helped people learn how to get and keep a job.

Advice for the Future

North followed some important principles that enabled him to stick to his knitting, stay out of trouble, and be as productive as he was. At least 11 are worth mentioning. They are applicable to everyone.

First, a person must know his life’s calling: the most important thing he can do in which he would be most difficult to replace. North settled on his early: developing the field of biblical economics.

Second, remember the prophets. Isaiah’s job was to speak even when people would not listen and the work appeared fruitless. Elijah’s job was to speak even when he seemed to be the only one left. Jeremiah’s job was to speak but still conduct business (buy the land) knowing God’s plan for the future will prevail.

Third, forget trying to be in the “Inner Ring,” as C.S. Lewis called it. Do not yearn to be in the “in” group. There really isn’t any inner ring. Fourth, stick to your knitting. Do not get sidetracked. Press on.

Fifth, work to serve. Meet a need. Provide or do something useful. If someone will pay you for it, better still. Provide it for free if needs be, particularly if it’s consistent with your calling.

Sixth, discipline your time. It is the one resource that cannot be replaced. Once it’s gone, it cannot be recovered.

Seventh, strive to be the best, but don’t worry if you are not No. 1. There is plenty of room at the top for success and every expectation that you will surpass your peers if you simply apply yourself wisely and stick to your knitting.

Eighth, understand that you can’t fight something with nothing. Christians cannot just curse the darkness. They must pursue a positive biblical understanding and plan. When the world, suffering and at its wits end, asks Christians for help, they should be able to give biblical answers of substance.

Ninth, don’t pay too much attention to your critics. Some of North’s critics accused him over the years of having a poison pen, of being uncharitable, sharp and harsh. North’s piercing critiques, however, were usually reserved for those who held themselves out to be experts in a field, “teachers of the law,” so to speak. As they sought to persuade and lead others, he would challenge them if he thought they were leading people into error and trouble. If their work was shoddy or suspect, North was likely to expose it and in colorful terms. Some took the lead and criticized his work first. In addition to lacking depth and rigor in general, his opponents were generally short on historical background and real world understanding. When the exchange ended they were likely to find themselves on the losing side and unable to respond; they slipped quietly away. His most disingenuous critics simply misrepresented his positions and raised straw man arguments, the most uncharitable kind of all.

Tenth, be confident in God’s power and his plan to change the world. God’s kingdom would not likely come in a single generation. Nor would it come from some sudden political takeover, a centralized government, or vigilante violence. It would not come from the top down. But it would come. It would come gradually, over time, from the bottom up, as God moved in people’s hearts and they embraced a biblical worldview and system of law.

Eleventh, pay your tithe. It reminds a person that he owes everything to God.

Finally, North hoped his work would help lay a solid foundation, not be the final answer. He hoped others would take up where he left off and improve on his work. As he concluded his Christian Economics: Scholar’s Edition (2020), he wrote: “Finally, count the cost. If you then decide to become a Christian economics scholar as a calling, I offer this strategy. Correct my errors, extend my breakthroughs, write several monographs, produce videos, recruit and train followers, and do not become sidetracked. It is easy to become sidetracked, especially by money. Also, if someone asks you what kind of economist you are, never say ‘Northian.’ ‘Northist’ is even worse. Say that you are a covenantalist. Now, find your calling and get to work.” https://www.garynorth.com/public/20635.cfm

May there be many who will pursue their own callings as North did his. The world will be a better place for it.

His work is done. His rest has begun.

North was preceded in death by his son Caleb who suffered from a rare illness. He is survived by Sharon, his wife of 50 years, and their other children Darcy North, Scott North and his wife, Angela, and Lori McDurmon and her husband, Joel, and eight grandchildren.

Memorial service details forthcoming.

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

I’ve been reading Claude C. Hopkins’ classic little book on modern advertising: Scientific Advertising. “Classic” meaning that it was published in 1923. I’ve also been reading its slightly longer and slightly more recently published (1927) companion volume, My Life in Advertising.

Both of these should be read together, by the way, if they’re going to be read at all. Together, these two books form a cohesive unit. They complement and reinforce each other, in the sense that they both proclaim the very same message: a doctrine of modern advertising which says it no longer is to be based — as it was in the past — on unproven ideas, personal fancy or the baseless notions, “intuitive” instincts and intellectual consensus of the learned.

Hopkins proved from decades of field testing and reams and reams of data-driven, market-based experience that this kind of whimsical “shot-in-the-dark”, “will-of-the-wisp” approach to advertising was a royal road to failure. Success, if it ever came at all, was rare and unpredictable this way. It therefore could not be explained. For sure it could not be replicated, unless by accident.

From now on, all successful advertising could be based — confidently — on solid, enduring principles and proven, fundamental laws that transcended human nature itself … because they were based on real-world experience with human nature itself: buyers and sellers.

In other words, modern advertising could now be called scientific. Because it was based on facts, not fancy. Data, not dogmas.

Why was that important?

Well, because it meant that catastrophic losses (in sales as well as advertising revenue) could now be avoided … cheaply (through testing). Successes could now be made more predictable … and more common — and even bigger than expected — if one would simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles.

Successes could now be made more predictable … and more common — and even bigger than expected — if one would simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles.

Hmmm.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here.

Laws … and Gospels

What brings this to mind is a book mentioned this past week by Gary North in a brief online discussion about Moore’s Law and Bell’s Theorem in reference to his article on quantum computing.

The book he mentioned was one that he wrote — a treatise published in 1988 called, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview.

You can download a free PDF of that book by clicking here.

I pulled my hardcover copy of Is the World Running Down? from off of my righteous bookshelf, and began to look through it.

Have you read it?

I’ll be honest with you. Neither have I.

But that isn’t going to stop me from using it as a launch pad for gleaning a good Bible-based lesson or two.

One lesson is this …

Never pin your hopes, aspirations and expectations on the “immutability”, “infallibility” and “irrevocability” of any man-made law. None. Never.

Want an example of such a law?

How about the Law of Entropy. Otherwise known as Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The “Science” in Creation Science

Now, Gary has admitted — in print — that the only reason he went ahead and dealt with this eschatologically-infused subject in depth and in full-length book form in 1988 was because of Dr. Arthur Robinson. He says (in the book’s dedication) that Dr. Robinson essentially “pushed him into an intellectual corner, thereby decreasing his intellectual entropy.”

So, the way I see it, Dr. Robinson simply applied Newton’s First Law of Motion to Dr. North.

Why is this important?

In other words, why does the Law of Entropy matter so much?

i will tell you why.

It’s because, thanks to the influence (thank God for them) of the 1960s-and-beyond Creation Science movement, now practically ALL conservative, “Bible-believing”, six-day-creationist Christians have bought into the notion that the Law of Entropy– the Second Law of Thermodynamics — is an immutable, infallible and irrevocable law.

Which means, in spite of everything the Bible says about the “reformation” and “restoration” of all things and the gradual, inexorable advent of a “new heavens and a new earth” now that Christ the Lord has risen and ascended and reigns forever and ever as King of Kings … the universe is doomed.

Guess what. It isn’t.

By This Standard (Not That One)

Here is where we could easily get lost in the theological, eschatological and scientific weeds.

Don’t worry. We’re not going to go there.

At least, not today.

All I’m going to say is that … there are really two issues in play here, not one.

One is the issue of a pessimistic Newtonian worldview superimposed over what should be an eminently and consistently optimistic biblical worldview.

The trouble with this is, it has led to too many six-day-creationist Christians being what I call “Winnie the Pooh” believers — Tigger on the outside, Eeyore on the inside. “Eternity really looks amazing … but, gosh, things sure do look bleak in the meantime!”

Yes, this comes down to eschatology: last things. Your understanding of what is supposed to happen (and how it is supposed to happen) between now and Christ’s Second Coming. As well as what is supposed to happen after that (and how it is supposed to happen).

Let’s save that for another day.

The other issue is one of “laws” and “principles”.

And that comes down to this: Whose law governs the universe? Man’s or God’s. Which one of these can change? Which one can’t … and doesn’t … and won’t?

Exactly.

This brings me back to Claude Hopkins and his evidence-based, data-driven approach to advertising.

There’s Good News Tonight … and Tomorrow

We really need that same approach to evangelism and the Gospel.

Let’s start by identifying what is personal fancy, unproven, intuitive notions and the “intellectual consensus” of the learned — things that we might mistake for immutable, irrevocable, infallible facts and truths about the world around us and the universe we live in.

We have in our possession an infallible, immutable, field-tested, “evidence-based, data-driven” manual that was written especially for us to go into the marketplace and carry out our mission.

What’s more, the ultimate success of this divinely-appointed campaign is assured — and even predictable to a large extent (and will someday be more than we expect) — if we will simply observe and adhere to these fundamental laws and principles … which you will find in the pages of that manual.

You know, I want to spend more time on this. I also want to get into Dr. North’s book. After all, it is packed full of scientific evangelizing from cover to cover. Lots of good news!

But for now …

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

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

Keep it on your righteous bookshelf.

How to Be a Success in 2019

First, a sermon on the subject of success, preached last Sunday (January 6) at my church.

How To Be A Success In God’s Eyes from Redemption Gilbert on Vimeo.

The man who preached this is pastor of central operations.  (My church is part of a multi-site megachurch.)  He has been preaching, teaching… and accounting… for this church for nearly two decades.  He brings a unique perspective: he is Jewish, having grown up in a Jewish family in Boston.  He converted to Christ in college after encountering fellow students belonging to Campus Crusade for Christ who witnessed to him.  For years he has referred to himself as the church’s “Jewish bookkeeper”.  As far as his sermons and public ministry go, he has also been the resident Old Testament scholar and Hebrew language specialist.  (I have heard many of those sermons over the years.  I think every congregation should be so blessed as to have a Jewish bookkeeper who also preaches and teaches!)

You’ll notice he defines “success in God’s eyes” as integrity, excellence and obedience to God–in all circumstances.  His primary exemplars for this are Joseph (Old Testament) and Paul (New Testament).   You’ll also notice the absence of money and personal wealth and prosperity in this definition.

Spiritual Rags to Riches in Glory

The sermon dovetails nicely (though not explicitly) with the principles and teachings of another man who, though not a pastor or ordained minister or elder, has devoted his life and calling to exploring–and explaining–what the Bible teaches on practical matters such as wealth, success and individual and corporate obedience to God in all areas of life and in every sphere of our existence, including our institutions (family, church and state), with special emphasis on our stewardship of God’s resources: economics.

Of course I’m talking about Gary North.

Gary doesn’t preach on the subject of success.  But he certainly does write about it — in prodigious amounts — with the intent of expounding everything the Bible has to say on the subject.

Case in point: about ten years ago he wrote a book: The Five Pillars of Biblical Success.

If you want instant, Bible-based gratification, you can click here for a free PDF download of the book:

Click to access biblicalsuccess.pdf

His thesis is similar to the thesis of all of his other books: namely, that not only is the Bible our final authority on any given subject — remember Van Til’s famously uncompromising  proposition: “The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything.” — but there is a five-point covenant model governing any and all areas of life having a covenantal basis to them.  Obedience to this model brings blessing (success), and disobedience to it brings cursing (failure).

That includes all of our institutions, and it also includes our concept and definition of success.

Actually, our concept and definition of success are fatally flawed: they’re not based on the premise that all success depends on the absolute sovereignty of God and on nothing else.  Success, as North says, is a gift that depends on God’s grace, much like salvation.  He grants it.  We receive it.

Fortunately (for us), we have a consistent and predictable way and means of achieving “success” in His eyes and in this world.  It is called His Covenant.   Specifically, it is called obedience to His Covenant.

This is what Joseph and Paul (and so many others in Scripture) demonstrated, and it is what we are to emulate.

North’s over-arching point — as it is in all of his books and articles — is that, in the long term, covenant-keepers will enjoy temporal as well as eternal success, and covenant-breakers will, ultimately, suffer both temporal and eternal failure and loss.

That’s putting it mildly.

Granted, in the short term, this situation is often flipped, with covenant-breakers frequently enjoying temporal triumph and success, and covenant-keepers suffering continual temporal loss and defeat.

The “injustice” of this is made even more demoralizing (and success-attenuating) when you couple it with an eschatology of defeat–the doctrine of the church and Gospel in history (pre-Second Advent) losing to Satan: amillennialism and premillennialism.

Combine these two ingredients and you have a recipe for individual and corporate impotence and  large-scale cultural defeat.  Under such a scheme, the only success that really matters is eternal and spiritual.  Temporal, earthly success becomes merely a cheap and inferior (and even satanic) substitute.

Success: A Covenantal Perspective

Reading Dr. North’s book, however, you find that looking at success through covenantal eyes changes your perspective–and therefore your actions.

In its opening pages, North makes no bones about what the first of those “actions” should be:

The first public step in the application of the first principle of success in history is to rest one day in seven.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:9–11).

The second step is to tithe the required 10 percent. Tithing is the beginning of the process, not the end.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23).

The third and subsequent steps are not to leave the other things undone.

Moreover,

The first principle—a day of rest—should remind us that success is not earned. It is instead received. Success is based entirely on grace, and in no way on works—at least not our autonomous works. Success is a gift undeserved by its recipients.

All the other action steps, biblically speaking, flow from this “first principle” and out of this “beginning of the process”.

So, here is my recommendation.  If you are someone who makes “New Year’s Resolutions”, I think the best resolution you could make for 2019 is this:

Resolve to be a “success in God’s eyes” — the way He defines success and the way he prescribes achieving (receiving) it — by first understanding what constitutes biblical success, and then by acting in obedience to this revealed truth.

A simple (though not necessarily easy) way to begin this process is by reading Dr. North’s book.  It isn’t very long, at least by North’s standards — a mere pamphlet, a tract — about 160 pages.

Then do what it says.

Remember this basic principle: obedience to God’s covenant brings blessing; disobedience brings cursing.  Choose you this day which one you would like to receive!

Here’s the link again:

Click to access biblicalsuccess.pdf

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

What If Ben Shapiro Had Interviewed–Gary North?

You may have already seen the interview published last week on The Daily Wire between Ben Shapiro and John MacArthur.  It now has nearly half a million views on YouTube.

I watched it today.

After I did, I began thinking…  Hmm… What if…?

What if Ben Shapiro had interviewed Dr. Gary North instead of John MacArthur?

Sure, I know.  it’s too late to “unring the bell”.  MacArthur got the gig and the (additional) name fame.  But maybe you and I can sort of visualize a little bit and think about what it might be like to “ring the bell a second time.”

What if Ben were to do another interview and ask those very same questions of Dr. North?

Wouldn’t that be fun!

So, I began to imagine what an exchange like that might look like.

Well, here is what I came up with.

I put together a mock interview between Shapiro and North, discussing the same things that Shapiro and MacArthur did: religion, politics and the role Christians and the Bible should play in shaping society and civil governments.

Wonder of wonders, wouldn’t you know it, Shapiro gets VERY different answers from Dr. North!

Shocking.

Anyway, here is just a sample of what a few minutes of that dialogue might sound like.  I hope you enjoy it.  Enjoy the satire!

Note: I am assuming that you’ve watched the original (actual) interview before reading this.

————————————————————————————

The Ben Shapiro Show – Sunday Special

(Opening music and graphics)

BEN:  We’re here on the Ben Shapiro Sunday Special today interviewing someone who is probably the most influential and controversial Christian intellectual, thought leader and scripture-quoting libertarian we could ever hope to find, especially on such short notice, Dr. Gary North.  We’ll get into his philosophy and an enormous amount of his work and views on religion and politics and other good things,…  But first, let me do this rapid-fire one-minute plug for a mail-order mattress company while Dr. North gets his Skype connection working.

Dr. North, we can see you now–can you see and hear us?

GARY:  Yes, I can.

BEN:  Good.  Thank you for joining us today, sir, even if it is only virtually via Skype.

GARY:  It was either this or spend the hour indexing my latest book, Christian Economics for Dummies, Non-Activist Edition.  I hate indexing.

BEN:  I see.  Well, I must say, Dr. North, my staff had a much easier time getting Pastor MacArthur on the show than they did lining up this Skype interview with you.

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

BEN:  Sorry about that, Dr. North.  You’ll be pleased to know that my producer has postponed those other gentlemen’s appearances for later dates.  Anyway, let’s jump right into the issue of the day and that is, religion and politics.  Now, you’re known as somebody who has very openly written and talked about for many years the idea of religion and politics and how they are almost interwoven, or should be, with each other, as if they were two sides to the same coin.  What do you think the relationship should be between folks who are in the “business” of religion and trying to inform people about religion and politics–how often should they be doing so and should they be doing it openly, or should they just be preaching about “values”?

GARY: Well, unlike Pastor MacArthur and his abbreviated view of his calling, I view my calling as one of a lifelong task of finding out everything the Bible has to say about, in my case, the field of economics.   That is the most important thing I can do at which I would be most difficult to replace, at least until some others come along after I’m gone.  But this is something that should be done in all the disciplines.  It is my conviction that the Bible speaks authoritatively on whatever subject of which it speaks, as my former seminary professor Dr. Cornelius van Til used to say, “and it speaks of everything”.

BEN:  I kind of like that.  As an orthodox Jew, I would say the same thing about the Talmud and the Mishnah, and of course, the Torah.

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

BEN:  No, I can’t say that I have.  I’ll have my producer order a copy.

GARY:  You may be sorry you did.

BEN:  Okay, well, anyway let’s talk about something Pastor MacArthur and I spoke about, the idea of submitting to authority and to the powers that be.  So, let’s look, for example, at the kinds of leadership that we pick.  If you go back to the Old Testament. you had prophets anointing kings.  In a democracy, what should our role be in terms of shaping the values of our democracy for political reasons, like, for example, you have pastors endorsing particular political candidates or speaking out on certain issues that a few years ago weren’t considered political but today they are.  These are things that have real-world consequences.

GARY:  Pastors do whatever they can to insulate themselves from suffering the real-world consequences of the bad theology and bad eschatology that they preach from their pulpits to their congregations.  They may go out to an abortion mill or endorse a certain candidate or address a certain issue privately or at least as discreetly and non-controversially as they know how, but because they have been drinking so long and so deeply at the well of pietism, premillennialism (or amillennialism) and antinomianism, they will not do or say anything to jeopardize the unmerited, tax-exempt favor, the showers of blessing and special administrative grace they have received from the omnipotent and omnipresent hand of the IRS.

BEN:  That’s a very different answer from the one I got from Pastor MacArthur.

GARY:  I’ve got a million of them, Ben, if you’ve got the time.

BEN:  I’m afraid not, Dr. North.

GARY:  Well, I’ve got the time–I am a postmillennialist.  And speaking of time, as you may or may not know, time is a ‘common grace’, just as structured societies and ordered families are a common grace.  You see?  MacArthur and I do agree on something!

BEN:  Yes, then let’s use our time remaining to talk about something I struggled with in 2016: that is, seeing somebody represent the party to which I’ve been an adherent so long I forgot that it was when I was a Harvard law student writing my first book denouncing liberalism in the universities—anyway, seeing a candidate in 2016 who while he stood for some of my values, he was not someone I considered to be of high moral authority because he did not fulfill on a personal level some of the basic moral precepts that I believe in with regard to character and decency especially when it comes to women.  As religious people, how should we handle that–should we vote for someone who may stand for some of our values publicly even though they fall short of them on a personal level, or should we just disengage completely.

GARY:  Disengaging is what American evangelicals and fundamentalists did for half a century, from the 1920s until the 1970s when the so-called New Christian Right came along.  I don’t recommend it as a successful long-term strategy (or even a successful short-term strategy) for social and political victory.  When it comes to voting for presidents, I don’t get too overwrought.  it’s all just an elaborate Punch & Judy Show anyway.  Ben, I’m sure you’re too young to know what I’m referring to when I say that.  You can YouTube it later on after the show.  In any event, presidents can’t do much more than what the Congress and the entrenched administrative bureaucracies will let them get away with once they’re in office.  They can nominate Supreme Court justices and other candidates for various offices in their administration and issue executive orders and all that, but the real power behind the throne over time is in the nameless, faceless administrative bureaucratic leviathan that Harold Bermann warned about when he wrote his book,   I will tell you that if you want to vote for a presidential candidate who won’t do a whole lot of damage while he’s in office through bad economic or foreign policy decisions–and the candidate is not Ron Paul or Rand Paul–then vote for the guy who can’t find Aleppo on a map.  That’s your man!

BEN:  Sounds like good advice.  And with that let’s take just a minute and talk about life insurance.  While I’m doing that, I will have my producer Google ‘the Punch and Judy Show’ and see what comes up!

GARY:  I will remain here as long as this Skype connection holds up.  I have time.  Anyway, the longer I can put off indexing this book, the better.

————————————————

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

Matt.15.27-28

Okay, so, maybe there are not 10 “easy” steps to becoming a biblical ‘progressive’.

But when it comes to understanding what ‘the Biblical Basis of Progress’ is, there is a certain book out there that’s been in print for more than three decades which dives headfirst into this topic and brings to the table at least 10 different aspects of this idea of ‘progress’ and how to have a biblical perspective on it, which I think are fairly easy to explain and easy to grasp.  Of course, that’s just me.

Now, we could give this series a more catchy but commercially dubious title like:

The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Biblical ‘Progressives’

But,… I think not.

Anyway, whatever catchy but commercially dubious, grab-you-by-the-theological eyeballs title I choose to give it, the topic at hand is a serious one that warrants some thoughtful consideration.

So, let’s have a seat at this table and get into the meat-and-potatoes of our discussion as we thoughtfully consider 10 highly unique, biblical insights into this idea of what we moderns like to call “progress”.

Now, these are not my insights.  They come from Dr. Gary North’s little book published in 1987 called Dominion and Common Grace — which is 300+ pages of theological tough love directed, first, at a venerable and well-loved figure in the Reformed presuppositional apologetics world, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, and, second, at the amillennial defenders of a certain doctrine of ‘common grace’ that Dr. Van Til spoke of and wrote about during his career as a Westminster Seminary professor.

In Dr. North’s opinion, it has been to the great detriment of the church in modern times and its evangelical mission in the world that a faulty doctrine of common grace as promoted by Dr. Van Til and embraced mostly by the Reformed (Dutch amillennialist) wing of the Christian church has been promulgated — if any doctrine of common grace has been embraced and promulgated at all.

Dr. North’s book seeks to remedy this.

(You can find a new or used copy of his book online or else download it and read it for free as a PDF.  Click here for a free PDF: Dominion and Common Grace.)

So, let’s get started.

Let us unpack this eschatologically hefty baggage and see what’s inside.

What in the World is ‘Common Grace’?

For starters, common grace is not exactly a term that has been in common use among Bible-believing Christians.  Not now, not ever.

It’s one of those doctrines that, like the Trinity, you’ll never find by name in a concordance.  Or even a topical Bible.

And it seems that only the Calvinists have been the ones spending much time debating and discussing the term and what it means.

Dr. North, a PhD in history and an expert in early American, especially colonial American history, points out that colonial American Puritans used the term ‘common grace’ quite a bit.  He says the term goes back at least to Calvin’s writings (Institutes of the Christian Religion , Book II, Chapter II, 1559).

So this conversation has been going on for at least the last five centuries!

Isn’t That Special?  (Yes, It Is.)

The kind of ‘grace’ that the Bible talks about most explicitly is the kind that everyone understands–even unbelievers: unmerited favor, unmerited gifts.  (Unmerited by us, that is. All gifts are merited by Christ.  More on that.)

The unmerited favor demonstrated by God towards his people is especially shown by his unmerited gift of salvation given to them through his Son Jesus Christ.

Theologians call this type of grace, ‘special grace.’

Fine. No argument there.

Now, where the doctrinal pond gets a little murky is where we start to look closely at another type of grace not so clearly shown in the Bible but shown nevertheless: the type of grace demonstrated by God in those unmerited gifts and apparent “favor” (more on that) shown not to his children exclusively but to all of mankind, including unbelievers, regardless of their ethical status before him (saved or lost).

Things like life, health, beauty, law and order, food, clothing, success, prosperity.

Two Kinds of Grace in This World

Here is how I boil it down (based on my reading of Dr. North’s book).

Grace is an unmerited gift.

Special grace is the unmerited gift of salvation given by God to his people.

Common grace is the unmerited gift of temporal blessings and the good things in life given By God to all of his creatures to some degree regardless of their ethical status before him (saved/lost).

Keeping in mind that ALL gifts given by God are merited by Christ his Son, not by us or by any of his creation.

Clear so far?

Well, just you wait.  Here, at the doctrinal watering hole called ‘common grace’, is where good Christian men and Dutch Calvinist theologians and church leaders have sometimes refused to drink together and have parted ways.

About a century ago (1924), the Christian Reformed Church did just that.  Or, I should say, some dissenting members of the CRC did just that.  They parted ways and formed the Protestant Reformed Church over this debate.

Sad.

All they had to do was see things Dr. North’s way.  Then they’d still be together.

Or,… maybe not.

That was then, this is now.  And, now, it helps to have a good visual from Scripture to understand a very abstract concept like this one.

Crumbs = Grace

Thankfully, as Dr. North points out, James Jordan has given us a very helpful “visual” from Scripture: common grace is the equivalent of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table to be eaten by the dogs that are under the table (Matt. 15:27-28).

Perfect!

End of debate, right?

Wrong.  That’s actually the beginning.

You see, the modern debate sparked by the CRC controversy of the early 20th century that resulted in a church split centers on this one key question (actually there are several posed by Dr. North).

Gifts = Favor?

Here is how he frames it:

“For the moment, let us refrain from using the word grace. Instead, let us limit ourselves to the word gift.  The existence of gifts from God raises a whole series of questions:”

Here is the first (and crucial) question.

Does a gift from God imply His favor?

That is a REALLY important question.

Does a gift from God imply His favor?

Spoiler alert: Dr. North says “No.”  And he uses the rest of his book to answer this and several other equally important questions related to this one, which you’ll find listed on pages 8-9.

Now, in his Introduction there are two basic points that he makes about common grace.

One, common grace is continuity.  It runs throughout history, and it increases over time, but only as a prelude to judgment.  (He goes much more into this later.)

Two, common grace is about eschatology.  This is where he parts company with Van Til and his amillennial detractors.  Whereas their whole theory of common grace is built on the inevitable defeat of the church and the Gospel in history before the final judgment, Dr. North’s theory (being that he is a postmillennialist and a theonomist) is built on the inevitable victory of the church and the Gospel in history before the final judgment.

That’s a mighty big difference of opinion!

A big enough difference, in fact, that it puts Dr. Gary North at odds with just about everyone else in the Reformed/Calvinist world on this matter.  Surprise!  There’s nothing new about that.

Well, my friend, it looks like we’re out of time.  (Not eschatologically.)

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

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

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

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

Common Grace: An Uncommon Perspective

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

Maybe I should ask you this first: Have you heard of “Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress” by Dr. Gary North?

I can understand why if you answered ‘no’ to either of these questions.

It’s not one of his more commonly known titles.  It’s also not one of his more endearing like, say, “Millennialism and Social Theory” (with its focus on evangelism and the lost).

But it certainly is (at least for me) one of his more illuminating.  And it is certainly one of his more controversial, at least in Reformed circles.

Wait.

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

Exactly.

Dominion and Common Grace

Granted, the title doesn’t pack the same polemic punch as, say, “Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church,” or, “The Hoax of Higher Criticism.”

And it doesn’t carry the sublime subtlety combined with in-your-face innuendo of “Westminster’s Confession” or “When Justice is Aborted.”

Still, like the titles I just mentioned, this book is both an analysis and a critique. Heavy on the critique.

On the positive side, it not only presents the problem, theologically and historically speaking, but it also proposes the solution: Dr. North’s Biblically-Based, Exegetically-Proven Remedy for Eschatologically and Theologically Defective Christian Doctrines.

Extra Strength. Use Only As Directed.

Fortunately, this particular remedy is given at a lower dose and in a smaller form factor than some of his other high-potency rhetorical prescriptions (you know the ones, those great big “fat book” hardcovers like “Crossed Fingers”).

This one comes dispensed at just over 300 pages including preface and indexes.  “Available in easy-to-digest, soft trade paper!”

Big subject. Small Book

DACG-GN book cover“What’s It All About,… Ga-ry?”

What is the subject of Dominion and Common Grace?

More to the point, who is the subject?

You know Gary, Dr. North.  He takes no prisoners.  And he is “no respecter of persons” when it comes to picking his subjects/victims for literary scrutiny.

His subject in this case is one of the key figures and leading theological thinkers — or as Dr. North refers to him, a classic “puzzler” — a “founding father” in the arena of Christian philosophy and presuppositional apologetics.

Dr. Cornelius Van Til.

If you know anything about Dr. Van Til, you know he was no mean theologian and philosopher.  And you know the doctrine of common grace is no mean doctrine and not a trivial matter. (Although, after reading this book some may accuse Dr. North of being mean and trivial to Van Til, the Christian Reformed Church and amillennialists in general.)

In any event, you can’t accuse Dr. North (without being 100% wrong) of being unfair, disingenuous and denigrating towards other leading theological thinkers who fairly, honestly and judiciously differ and disagree with him.  For proof, just read the dedication page:

This book is dedicated to / John Frame / an uncommonly gracious man, / who will do doubt conclude that / portions of this book are good, / other portions are questionable, / but the topic warrants further study.

An uncommonly gracious dedication.

Now, let’s take a look at the uncommon perspective on common grace offered in this book.

In his preface, North lays out the central theme of his argument.  Namely, that a biblical doctrine of common grace is crucial to a right understanding of history and especially of the Bible’s teaching on “last things”: eschatology.  A wrong understanding is why most modern Christians reject postmillennialism in favor of eschatologies of defeat: amillennialism and premillennialism.  On this point, by the way, he says that he is not out to prove postmillennialism in this book: “I simply assume it, and then get on with the business at hand.”

The business at hand, at least for a large portion of the book, is to show how it is that a final rebellion of Satan at the end of history — prophesied in Revelation 20 and agreed on by “99.9% of all Bible-believing Christians” — can take place, and the postmillennial position (gradual, progressive spread of the kingdom of God and general success of the Gospel) still be correct.

He calls it, The Postmillennialist’s Problem.

He reassures fretting postmillennialists, there is a solution.

The solution involves answering these two questions — two of five that he poses:

  1. How can unbelievers possess so much power after generations of Christian dominion?
  2. How can a world full of reprobates be considered a manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth?

Answer these, and you resolve the “postmillennial problem.”

As for the other three questions, he answers them briefly.

  1. Does a theology of the extension of God’s kingdom on earth require that almost everyone on earth in the era close to that final day be a born-again believer in Christ?  Answer: No.
  2. Can born-again believers fall from grace and then rebel?  in short, can Satan gain recruits from the born-again invisible church?  Answer: No.
  3. Can unbelievers seem to be saints in the camp of the saints, almost as spies who successfully invade an enemy military camp?  Answer: Yes.

With that, the groundwork for answering all five questions is laid.  The full development of the answers, especially to the first two questions, comes later.

And with that, the groundwork for discussing the contents of Gary North’s book, “Dominion and Common Grace” is laid.

Next, I will cover what North says in his Introduction are the crucial elements for understanding what common grace is (as opposed to special grace), how it operates in history (think continuity vs. discontinuity, Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares), and how and why the modern debate over common grace started in the first place (hint: it involved a bunch of Calvinist Dutch guys!).

Speaking of “continuity” and “discontinuity”. . .

Continuity: the remaining nine chapters of the book, plus the Conclusion and Appendix, will be discussed in future installments.

Discontinuity: this post has ended. (Go in peace.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here come ninety minutes very well spent…

 

*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!

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.