Category Archives: Gary North

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.

The Buck Stops Here… Or, At Least It Should

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is…


1

SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TITHE

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

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

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

Voluntarism vs. Sovereignty

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Judicial Marks of Sovereignty: Oath and Sanction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Values and God’s Sanctions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Who Holds the Hammer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Not Tithes, Then Offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. See Chapter 3.



Next time: Chapter 2, Authority and the Tithe