Category Archives: God’s Sovereignty

A Theology of Christian Resistance in 2018

It’s New Year’s Eve.

In addition to whatever “New Year’s Resolutions” you may have committed yourself to for the coming year 2018 — starting a “good” habit, dropping a “bad” one, earning a certain amount of money over and above what you made last year, achieving a certain goal (or, if you’re the ambitious type, goals), accomplishing certain things that are on your “simply must-do” list, etc. — you can add this one: reading a certain book.  It’s called, The Theology of Christian Resistance, Christianity & Civilization, vol. 2, Winter 1983.

It’s an oldie but a goodie.

It was one of those seasonal symposiums published in paperback form by the Geneva Divinity School Press back in the early 1980s — volumes of essays put together by that prolific cadre of Reconstructionist writers, pastors and scholars residing in and around Tyler, Texas.

For the previous twenty years or so, Christian Reconstructionists had written and published boatloads of articles, books, position papers and newsletters.  (And they have continued to do so  well into the 21st century.)  But now it was time to start swinging into action, “getting practical” and putting their money where their footnotes were.  The times they were a-changing.  Evangelical Christians were beginning to awaken from their long, Washington Irving-esque political slumber.  It was now time to play catch-up against the humanists and liberal religionists.  It was time to rediscover our Western heritage of political and social action based on Christian principles.

The resulting broad-based coalition has united conservative Christian leaders and thinkers from different denominational, theological and even eschatological persuasions.

Just take a look at the contributors to The Theology of Christian Resistance:

Gary North

John W. Whitehead

Francis A. Schaeffer

James B. Jordan

Joseph C. Morecraft III

T. Robert Ingraham

Jim West

Archie P. Jones

Alan Stang

Allen C. Guelzo

Michael R. Gilstrap

David Jones

M.E. Bradford

William Marina

Diane Cuervo

Tom Rose

Pieter Jongeling

Lonn Oswalt

Tommy W. Rogers

John Calvin (posthumously)

All of these folks wrote with a singular conviction in the back (and front) of their mind: “The Bible demands action, not inaction!”

To set the table for the rest of the book, here are a few choice excerpts from Dr. North’s Introduction,

We are the inheritors of traditions of political freedom that are intimately bound up with the successful and unsuccessful revolutions of the past. We are the beneficiaries of a common law tradition that itself is the product of revolutions. Ultimately, the history of Western civilization is the history of Christians’ struggles against unlawful State power and the anti-Christian theologies that have under-girded it. Some of the West’s revolutions have expanded State power, others have resisted it.

Because we are under God, we are also under God’s revelation of Himself in His law. Thus, the Bible says, we are citizens of heaven. Paul wrote: “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20a). Yet we are also citizens of this world, and therefore under lawful authorities (plural) here. This position of dual citizenship becomes even more complicated when we face the fact that we are citizens of nations, counties, and cities. we are citizens of multiple commonwealths.

When Christians face multiple sovereignties on earth, they find themselves in a perplexing position. Whose sovereignty at any point in time should take precedence? Whose requirements are closest to the ethical demands placed on us by the Bible at any point in history? Furthermore, there are multiple principles of ethical action in the Bible. For example, we are to be truthful, but not at all times (Rahab’s example). It is the ethical task which we all face to apply the relevant biblical principle to the decisions we make daily.

What each man needs, unquestionably, is biblical law-disciplined intuition, meaning a thorough familiarity with the whole of biblical law, and a detailed knowledge of the issues of the day. Men should almost instinctively know the proper course of personal and communal action for a specific decision, assuming they have devoted time to a study of the Bible in this particular area. No Christian can afford to be ignorant of his Bible and of daily affairs. He has to pick and choose among the issues on which he will take a stand, depending on such matters as: his knowledge of the specifics; the likelihood of success in opposition; his responsibility under the circumstances; the importance of the issue for the culture at large, the local culture, and the future; the cost of the resistance project; and his own personal talents. No man can take a stand on all issues simultaneously, and devote all of his resources to all of them. There is a division of labor principle in all human action. We are not God; we cannot know all things exhaustively, nor can we finance all projects exhaustively. But the church, as the total body of believers, though not necessarily as an ecclesiastical institution, should be able to speak with confidence to the issues of the day.

There is more where that came from.

Now, there is a very good reason why this particular volume was written and published before the follow-up, Tactics of Christian Resistance, which came out later on in the summer of that same year 1983.

Again, Dr. North:

The question of Christian resistance is a complicated theological matter. It is also personally demanding, for when the issues become clear, men must commit themselves to a position: Resist or capitulate? Understanding the fundamental issues is preliminary to taking action. Without self-confidence in the legitimacy of the cause of resistance, a resisting group cannot expect to be successful. Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance. Before a Lenin there must be a Marx- theory before practice.

“Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance.”

Exactly.

Theory must come before practice.  Doctrine before application.

Which is why a knowledge of the Scriptures is just as vital to finding the right solutions and taking the right courses of actions as is knowledge of the issues and the challenges that face us.

It’s funny.  Even today, more than three decades after these symposiums were published, the public discussion of Christian “resistance” and Christian “activism” in politics and the pursuit of “social justice” is still dominated by liberal Christians, liberal theologians and liberal pastors and leaders, not conservative, Bible-believing ones.

That shouldn’t be surprising, though, since it has been the case since the “social gospel” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  During that crucial period, Bible-believing conservatives en masse abandoned their hopeful, forward-looking eschatologies, and instead embraced the “end-times”-obsessed, present-oriented, heaven-directed “blessed” hopes that remain popular today.

What happened?

Pietism replaced pro-active faith.

A Theology of Christian Reluctance took its place.  “Backward, Christian Soldiers!”

It is time for that to change.

So, in the coming new year, how about we conservative, Bible-believing, forward-looking, theologically Reformed Christians embracing hopeful eschatologies resolve to start embracing a new mindset.

“Think biblically. Act locally.”

Start by thinking biblicallyTHE THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE (PDF download).

Happy New Year!

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The Authority of God’s Church… Over Your Checkbook

This is installment #2 of my Tithing and the Church project.

A few of you have read Gary’s book.  (I mean actually read it.)  I know the overwhelming majority of you haven’t.  Guess what?  YOU are my target audience.

That’s why I’m doing this series.  It is meant to serve as a literary reminder to ALL of us that God’s sovereignty is absolute and all-encompassing over the affairs of men, and this includes the economic affairs of men.

Christians like to compartmentalize the sovereignty of God.  They also like to spiritualize the Bible’s teaching on non-spiritual things.  This (they hope) gets them off the hook for being responsible to God for practically applying what they read in the physical, non-spiritual realm when dealing with physical, non-spiritual things.

Things like money. And what they can and can’t do with “their” money.

In this opening section of Gary’s book, Part I: Church Sovereignty and the Tithe, he makes the case that the ecclesiastical authority granted by God to His institutional church over the affairs of His people, flows not from the Mosaic covenant, but from the Abrahamic.

Here he quotes a familiar passage:

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.  For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.  Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.  And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.  And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.  And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.  For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

Heb. 6:20-7:10

He follows this immediately with another New Testament passage on the preeminence of the Abrahamic promise:

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Gal. 3:17-18

And with that, Dr. North launches into his argument for the authority and sovereignty of the church over the economic as well as spiritual affairs of God’s people being based squarely on this pre-Mosaic precedent — an important distinction for answering the opponents’ perennial objection that tithing is a relic of the Mosaic law.

According to Dr. North, it isn’t.


INTRODUCTION TO PART 1.

     Paul makes it plain that God’s covenant with Abraham established the promise that was fulfilled in a preliminary fashion by Moses, but in a culminating fashion by Jesus Christ, the promised Seed (Gal. 3:16). The New Covenant has a major part of its origin in this Old Covenant promise given to Abraham.1  The church’s judicial claim to this Abrahamic inheritance rests not on the Mosaic law but on the Abrahamic promise.

This is a familiar doctrine to Protestant commentators, from Luther to the present, but its implications for ecclesiology have not always been clearly recognized.  What God promised to Abraham was crucial for establishing the authority of the church and the gospel: a future Seed. But Abraham was not a lone ecclesiastical agent.  He was under ecclesiastical authority.  The mark of his subordination was his payment of a tithe to Melchizedek, the king-priest of Salem, a man without parents: ‘Without father, without mother, without descent, having nei-

1. The other major part is the promise in Genesis 3:15: the seed of the woman.


ther beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually’ (Heb. 7:3).  Furthermore, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear, the Mosaic priesthood in the tribe of Levi was representatively subordinate to a higher priesthood, one established apart from any family.  Jesus Christ, a son of Judah rather than Levi, traced His priestly office to Melchizedek, not to Levi or Aaron.  His is a higher priesthood than theirs, for Melchizedek’s was.

     When the Epistle to the Hebrews equates the priestly office of Jesus Christ with the priesthood of Melchizedek, it makes a very important ecclesiastical point.  The authority of the church in dispensing the sacraments of bread and wine, which Melchizedek gave to Abraham (Gen. 14:18), is not derived from the priestly office under the Mosaic Covenant.  The Melchizedekan priesthood is judicially superior to the Levitical.  “Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.  For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him” (Heb. 7:9b-l0).  The New Covenant’s communion meal is the restoration of the Old Covenant’s covenantal feast of Salem.  The Lord’s Supper is analogous judicially to the Passover, but the bread and wine of Melchizedek had greater authority than Passover.

     In our day, it is common to hear Christians dismiss as “Mosaic” the requirement that they tithe a tenth of their income to God.  They claim that as Christians, they are not under the Mosaic law, and so they are not under the Mosaic obligation to pay tithes.  But the New Testament does not ground the tithe on the Mosaic law.  On the contrary, Hebrews 7 establishes the authority of Jesus Christ’s high priestly office in terms of Melchizedek’s collection of the tithe from Abraham.  The superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant is seen in Abraham’s payment of his tithe to Melchizedek – a representative judicial act of submission in the name of Israel and his son Levi.  Any attempt to escape the obligation of the tithe is an assault on the New Covenant’s High Priest, Jesus Christ.


The Authority of the Institutional Church

     To undercut the institutional church’s source of funding is to compromise the testimony of the church as the inheritor of the Abrahamic promises.  This weakens the church’s authority.  Anything that weakens the legitimate authority of the institutional church necessarily establishes one of the other two covenantal institutions as a rival, either the family or the State.2  The authority of the institutional church to collect the tithe is the most important economic mark of its God-delegated sovereignty.

     In the late twentieth century, the assault on the institutional church comes from all sides: right and left, inside and outside.  Christians have lost confidence in the church as an agency of national and international healing.3  Some Christians have relied on a rebirth of the family to replace the visibly faltering authority of the church in our day.  Others have passively – and sometimes actively – promoted the welfare State as the agency of healing.  These attempts to create an alternative to the church will fail.  The family is not the central institution of Christian society; the church is.  The family will not extend into eternity (Matt. 22:30); the church will (Rev. 21:1-2).  Meanwhile, the State has become an agency of plunder.  To rely on it to bring social peace is the grand illusion of our age – an illusion that is fading fast, but no widely acceptable replacement is yet in sight.  That replacement is under our noses: the church of Jesus Christ.

     This section of the book deals with the sovereignty, authority, and present-day weakness of the institutional church.  This weakness is manifested in the inability of churches to collect the tithes that its members owe to God through the local churches.  I have focused on the tithe as a visible mark of men’s attitudes

2. I capitalize State to distinguish it from the regional civil jurisdiction in the United States known as state, e.g., California, Arizona, Michigan, etc.

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


toward the church.  I begin as Jesus did in several of His parables: with men’s pocketbooks, which they understand far better than they understand theology or social theory.

     As far as the Bible reveals, the tithe began with Abraham’s payment to Melchizedek, the priest of Salem (peace).  The tithe is an aspect of point two of the biblical covenant model: hierarchy-authority-representation.4  The tithe is owed to God through a representative agency: the institutional church.  The sacraments are an aspect of point four: oath-sanctions.5  They are dispensed by this same agency.  Tithing is unbreakably connected to the institutional church because the sacraments are unbreakably connected to the institutional church. This is why I have tided this book, Tithing and the Church.

     Part 1 is divided into five chapters.  They parallel the five points of the biblical covenant model.  The structure of Part 1 is: church sovereignty, church authority, church membership standards (boundaries), monetary sanctions, and the war over inheritance – church vs. State.

     Any attack on the God-delegated authority of the institutional church to collect the tithe is an attack on the God-delegated monopoly source of the sacraments in history.  Taking the sacraments in a local church without paying a tithe to that church is a form of theft.  Any refusal to take the sacraments because you are unwilling to pay your tithe to a local church is a form of excommunication: self-excommunication.  To create your own home-made church as a means of giving yourself the sacraments while paying yourself the tithe is not only self-excommunication, it is theft as well.  A word to the wise is sufficient.

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

5. Ibid., ch. 4.


Next time, Sovereignty and the Church (Chapter 1).