VIDEO: How to Understand Gary North

GaryNorthatMises“Understand Gary North?”

Sounds like a pretty tall order

Not really.

Not if you understand, first, the men who influenced Dr. North early in his Christian, post-graduate academic life.

Then (and only then), can you begin to understand what makes him tick.  You will also, then, begin to understand what makes him tap: tap millions and millions of keystrokes over his half-century, contrarian career as a writer and speaker, to produce dozens of books, large and small, plus big, fat commentaries (economic) on the books of the Bible, plus newsletters and many thousands of articles written day after day after day, on everything from money to “millennialism and social theory,” all from the perspective of what the Bible and the historic, orthodox Reformed Christian faith have to say about all of these things.

No problem.

You start with John Murray, venerable professor at Westminster Seminary for nearly four decades (1930-1966), whose classes on ethics, systematic theology and the book of Romans served as an exegetical and eschatological wake up call to a young Gary North.

Then you add the uncompromising Christian apologetics philosophy of Cornelius Van Til, who unapologetically held court at Westminster Seminary for 43 years (before retiring in 1973).

Toss in a mind for truth, and a heart for God and His Word, and, presto.

Instant paradigm shift!

Hmm.  A Scotsman and a Dutchman…

No wonder Gary North ended up Reformed and Presbyterian!

Anyway, here is Dr. Joel McDurmon, son-in-law to the curmudgeonly co-founder of the Christian Reconstruction movement, speaking about the things (and people), that massively shaped the thinking and theology of his famous (infamous) father-in-law.

Of course, there were other men whose work and writings informed and profoundly influenced Dr. North’s developing views.  Conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet, under whom he studied while obtaining his master’s and Ph D. degrees at the University of California-Riverside.   And ultimately, R.J. Rushdoony, the man who finally launched Gary’s fully-integrated biblical perspective into a permanent Reconstructionist orbit — and the man who, likewise, ultimately became his father-in-law.

Covenantal history repeats itself.

This talk was given in early 2016 at Branch of Hope Church (OPC) in Torrance, California.

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VIDEO: How to Understand Rousas John Rushdoony

Well, you can start by getting his name right!

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

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

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

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

I plan on posting more of these.  Stay tuned!

How to Be a Reconstructionist in a Non-Reconstructionist Church

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

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

This presents a problem.

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

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

Answer: you do one of two things.

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

Option #1.

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

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

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

Option #2.

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

So, where should you worship?

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

Bloom (and grow) where you’re planted.

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

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

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

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

And Now a Word About the Church’s (Least) Favorite Subject: TITHING

TithesLet me ask you, what is your opinion of tithing?

Is it part of “Old Testament” religion?  No longer binding on Christians?

Is it a pretty good idea… as long as you can afford it?

Does it really have to be ten percent? (Or is setting a percentage for giving “legalism?”)

I’ll tell you this much.  If you want to get Christians arguing about money and especially about tithing, talk about whether or not the practice of giving ten percent (minimum) of their net income or net profits to the local church where they worship is a mandatory part of their religious faith which Christ did not annul or discontinue or eradicate with his coming and his death, resurrection and ascension ushering in the New Covenant, or whether “tithing” is simply a handy term we use in New Testament times to describe our giving at church, regardless of the amount.

Such a discussion will separate the theological men from the epistemological boys.

“We’re not under law but under grace!”  “No law but love!”

Well, Jesus said, if you love me, keep my commandments…

So, is tithing still commanded?

That is the question addressed head on by Dr. Gary North in his 1994 book, Tithing and the Church.

Note: this is not a new book.  It was published more than 20 years ago.  Yet its message is just as vital and as relevant as ever — written on a topic that North believed was so urgent and fundamental and critical not only for the long-term success of the church, but also for the long-term survival of it, that he wrote this at the beginning:

Because of the importance I place on the question of tithing to the local church, I hereby place the entire contents of Tithing and the Church into the public domain.  Anyone may reproduce all or any part of this book without permission from the author or the original publisher.

That’s how seriously he takes this!

He has not changed his views.  In fact, he expanded on this subject later on when he wrote and published a followup title, The Covenantal Tithe.

Financing the Kingdom of God

Giving to support the institutional church is only a part of God’s overall plan for funding his kingdom.  The other primary institutions involved are also included: state and family.  Yet, as Gary argues, the preeminent authority for collecting and expending funds for the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, the worship of the saints, and cradle-to-grave ministering to the spiritual and (in the case of qualifying widows) certain of the material needs of Christ’s body and that of the local community and society at large, and for fostering the overall “healing of the nations,” has been delegated to the church.

To do all of this requires money.  A steady, reliable, predictable supply of it.

The main question asked by Christians is, “How much should I give” to support all this?

The answer is best found by the inquiring mind through a thoughtful reading of Tithing and the Church.

(Then later, The Covenantal Tithe.)

Since Gary explicitly states that his former book is essentially FREE for anyone to read and share due to the crucial importance of the subject, I’ve decided to oblige not only by posting a link to the book below, but also by posting portions of it here in a series of articles upcoming.

So let’s get started!

Step one: download and read the book by clicking here: Tithing and The Church

Step two: do what it says.

Think of the possibilities for expansion of the kingdom of God when his people decide to withhold no more than ninety percent of what they earn as their commission for being his agents of change in the world!

Bad Church Ideas That Produce Bad Political Consequences

EndTimesBy P. Andrew Sandlin

(Reprinted with permission)

You may have heard the saying, “Ideas have consequences.” That’s actually a famous book title from a political conservative just after World War II.[1] And it’s true. Ideas do have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. This is just as true in culture and politics as anywhere else. If you look at the cultural and political evils that surround us today (abortion, same-sex “marriage,” Obamacare, gun confiscation laws, judicial tyranny), at their source are bad ideas. It’s hard to get rid of the bad politics without getting rid of the bad ideas that feed them and give them sustenance.

But the bad ideas I want to address right now aren’t so much bad ideas in the culture and in politics. I want to talk about bad ideas in the church that allow these bad ideas in the culture to flourish.

Many of us are conflicted today. We’re political conservatives. We believe in limited government, the dignity of human life, the traditional family. We believe in what’s called “civil society”: the church and family and other “private” institutions are buffers that protect the individual from, and are competitors to, the state. We believe in Christian virtues: love, faith, hope, honesty, sacrifice, hard work, personal responsibility, We believe that God’s moral law binds everyone, Christian and non-Christian.[2]

But we’re more: many of us are activists. Our country is dangerously adrift — a monster federal government, erosion of states’ rights, abortion, pornography, gay “marriage,” euthanasia, Obamacare, increased gun control laws — and we are committed to doing something about it. We embrace conservative ideas, but those ideas lead us to action: perhaps staging get-out-the-vote programs, trying to elect Christian and conservative candidates, influencing legislation for conservative principles. We’re aggressive.

This is just where a conflict rises. As Christians, we’re church people. We must believe in and belong to the church. But many of our churches are not comfortable with our conservative political action as Christians. Some alleged Bible-believing churches aren’t even politically conservative. Even churches that are politically conservative look down on political activism — what we’re committing part of our life to. They practice what I’d like to call “separation of church and politics.”

The pastor may mention conservative issues, but political action isn’t seen as part of a Christian calling. Maybe it isn’t even Christian at all. Maybe it’s just like picking up groceries or attending the football game. It’s OK, but it’s not especially Christian. It’s just something we choose to do. And we’re tempted to think: “I can’t be a good Christian and an active conservative” or, “I must leave my politics at the church door, or leave my Christianity inside the church.” This is the conflict that we feel.

I’d like persuade you today: there is no actual conflict. You can be a political activist and good Christian at the same time. I’ll be even bolder: you cannot be a good Christian unless you’re zealously conservative.

Today I’ll refute three popular but bad ideas in the church. You can be more confident, not just as conservatives … but as politically active Christian conservatives.

Pietism

By pietism I don’t mean piety. What is piety? It’s “the quality of being reverent.” It’s worshiping the Triune God, loving, honoring him, trusting in his Son Jesus Christ. It’s a heart right with, and riveted to, God. We need more piety.

In addition, by pietism, I don’t mean the 17th – 18th century movement reacting against the cold, hard, sterile orthodoxy of scholastic Protestantism.[3] That was a good movement, and it restored an emphasis on warm piety and love for Jesus Christ.

I mean pietism in a more recent, limited sense. The distinctive of this pietism is that it limits the Christian life to private devotion or the church (Bible reading, personal evangelism, end times conferences, “quiet time,” personal taboos). It’s mostly vertical religion.

Pietistic thinking goes like this: “God doesn’t care about politics (or education, art, medicine, technology, economics, music, movies). He cares about my private relation to him.”

Pietistic churches think this way: “You’ve done your Christian duty when you pray, attend church, read your Bible, and volunteer for VBS.”

Pietistic pastors preach: “Political action distracts and detracts from true Christianity. Real Christianity in the church is about a bigger gymnasium, a larger AWANA program, and more beautiful robes.”

Pietism reduces Christianity to a “personal worship hobby.”[4]

The big problem with pietism is that it undercuts Jesus Christ’s Lordship. We all know the simple saying: Jesus Is Lord. Actually, did you know that this was the earliest creed of the Christian church? Long before the Apostles Creed, there was this simple creed: Jesus is Lord, and Lord = Master.[5]

Question: What is Jesus Lord of? I think we’d answer, he’s Lord of everything. Next question: Is politics part of everything? Yes. Then by simple logic, Jesus is Lord of politics, and this is just what the Bible teaches.

The Lord instructed us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). On earth, not just in the family and church — but everywhere.

Another question: how is Jesus’ will done in heaven? It’s done perfectly. The angels and saints obey him without sin. That’s just what we need to pray for this earth. And this must mean everything, not just our private time and Sunday worship, not just the house and the church house but also the state house and the schoolhouse and the White House.

And then we read Jesus’ parting words to his disciples in Matthew 28:18, the so-called Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And then he commands his followers to disciple the nations, not just individuals, but nations. He means to bring all nations, political units, under his authority.[6]

God the Father gave Jesus the authority to bring all nations under his rule, and he charged us to preach the Gospel and baptize and instruct the nations to do just that.

Therefore, pietism dilutes Jesus’ Lordship. It wants to say to Jesus: “You can be Lord here, but not there. You can be Lord of the church house, but not the state house.” This is a denial of the full Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Pietism leads to strange bedfellows. Secularists say, “Christianity should stay private.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christians should stay out of politics.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “God’s Word has nothing to say to our society.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Unbelievers should be calling all of the shots in society and culture.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christianity is a ‘private worship hobby.’” Pietists respond, “We agree.”

I think it’s about time we Christians quit agreeing with the secularists.

Pietism surrenders culture to Satan: it’s a sub-Christian idea, and it’s dangerous.

Apocalypticism

Apocalypticism is end-is-near thinking that inspires cultural sit-on-your-duff Christianity, except for pietistic soul-saving: “The world is getting worse and worse; so it’s a waste of time to change things.” As D. L. Moody once said, “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel…. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.”[7] It’s the idea that since the Bible teaches that the world must get worse and worse (the Bible doesn’t actually teach this[8]), it’s futile to try to change things. God has predestined evil to triumph, so why stand in his way?

Now, there are many different views of eschatology (views of the future). Sincere, Bible-believing people hold different eschatologies.[9] We can agree to disagree. However, I don’t care what your eschatology is, apocalypticism is wrong. We read in Acts 1:6–8 … “So when [the disciples] had come together, they asked [Jesus], ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Jesus is saying, “You don’t need to know the ‘end times.’ You need to take the message of salvation of my Gospel Lordship (that includes politics) everywhere.” [10]

Similarly, we read in Luke 19:13 that Jesus in a parable said to his followers: “‘Engage in business until I come.’” In short, be busy in my kingdom work. Don’t sit around and wait for the Second Coming or “rapture.”

Twenty years ago in Ohio I was preaching to pastors on this topic. I was lamenting abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and socialism. I was exhorting these pastors in their calling to stand up and oppose these evils.

Afterward a pastor accosted me and said: “Yes, all the abortion, porn, homosexuality, and socialism are bad, but really in the end they’re good, since they mean Jesus coming soon.”

If that idea sounds perverted, it’s because it is.

The churches obsessed with “end times” (conferences, books) while Planned Parenthood crushes and sells baby parts, and the U.S. Supreme Court allows sodomites to marry, are dangerously misguided. They’re selling us into cultural slavery.

Apocalypticism, like pietism, is an evil idea.

Retreatism

Recently a leader in the very conservative Southern Baptist Convention declared, “We’ve lost culture wars.”[11] His view is: Let’s just witness; we must be careful about pushing for a Christian America, turning people off. We need to change our strategy.[12]

And churches line up to retreat — they stay out of politics, quit praying outside abortion clinics, pull back from pressing for godly candidates and legislation.

Christian leaders say: “We live in a time when the church is in the wilderness, in exile. Let’s hide out from the Devil. Admit it. We’ve lost. Let’s regroup and wait for a more culturally hospitable time.”[13]

This is pure poppycock. Canaan was devilishly depraved when God told the Jews to take it for his name (Gen. 15:16).[14]

The Roman Empire was a moral sewer when our Lord gave his world-conquering commission to his disciples. He didn’t say, “There’s no way we can win this thing, fellas, so let’s retreat until we can plan a counterattack.” The early Christians took the Gospel to the known world, and in less than 300 years the Roman Empire was forced to become Christian. Why? Because our forebears refused to retreat during culturally depraved times like ours.

Some Christians seem to believe that if they just avoid confronting the Devil in the culture, he’ll leave them alone in their churches and families. This is a dangerous illusion. You might hide out from the Devil, but the Devil won’t hide out from you. If you retreat from him in public and politics, he’ll hunt you down in the privacy of your own home.

Then behind retreatism is the additional idea that world belongs to Devil: “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passin’ through,” so goes an old gospel song. “Why should we stand for truth in our world since it doesn’t belong to us or Jesus, but to the Devil?”

Have you ever read that in Bible? No.

You did read in 1 Corinthians 10:26, “For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.’”

This is God’s world; he created it; he sustains it. He designed it to operate by his truth.

God allows man freedom, so there’s a great battle between good and evil. But if we give up the battle for this world, we are traitors to the King; it’s not our world, it’s his world.

Retreatism is treason; it surrenders God’s world to his enemies.

Conclusion

Pietism, apocalypticism, retreatism — these are bad church ideas that produce bad political consequences. And if you want to know one reason the culture is so depraved today, it’s because the church has bought stock in these ideas, and this creates the conflict in the minds of hearts of politically active Christian conservatives.

But you should not feel a conflict, because there is no conflict between true Christianity and conservative political activism. In fact, if we do not stand for what we today call basic conservative principles, we are not standing for biblical Christianity, because those principles reflect biblical truth.[15]

The call for retreat from political battle for Christ the King is a sub-Christian message.

In the early 40’s amid euphoria of the rescue of thousands of British troops from the German army at Dunkirk, Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned: “Wars are not won by evacuations…. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Wars are not won by evacuations. Wars are won by soldiers who stand and fight.

That is our rallying cry for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And we can expect nothing short of complete victory — the unconditional surrender of Satan and his hosts by the power of Jesus Christ.


[1] Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 1948).
[2] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 6:442–446.
[3] Dale Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978).
[4] Stephen C. Perks, The Great Decommision (Taunton, England: Kuyper Foundation, 2011), 12.
[5] Oscar Cullmann, The Earliest Christian Confessions (London: Lutterworth Press, 1949), 23.
[6] Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954), chs. 15, 33.
[7] George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 38.
[8] John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).
[9] Millard J. Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977).
[10] John M. Frame, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ, 2014), 32–33.
[11] Leonardo Blair, “‘The Bible Belt Is Collapsing’; Christians Have Lost Culture War, Says ERLC President Russell Moore,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-bible-belt-is-collapsing-christians-have-lost-culture-war-says-erlc-president-russell-moore-102576/, accessed October 12, 2015.
[12] Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Moore at the Margins,” Christianity Today, September 2015, 32–33.
[13] See John Yemma, “To Separate, Strengthen and Return,” The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, October 12, 2015, 7.
[14] Of course, the Jews as God’s unique nation were called to fight with physical, military arms. Our arms are not physical, military arms but are no less powerful (Eph. 6:10–20).
[15] John M. Frame, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, 231–234.

Bad Church Ideas That Produce Bad Political Consequences

The New Sound of Dominion: Reconstructionist Radio

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

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

Jason has started an ambitious project called Reconstructionist Radio.

I call it music to my ears!

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

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

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

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

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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

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

Rare Lectures from David Chilton: “The Days of Vengeance” (An Exposition of the Book of Revelation)

Rev. David H. ChiltonHere is a real treat.  A series of lectures on the Book of Revelation given by Rev. David Chilton several years before he died.  He died in 1997.  I’m not exactly sure when these were recorded. Probably in the late 1980s.

The series is in eight parts.  In the first part, Chilton introduces the Book of Revelation.  He does it as only David Chilton can.  With his masterful understanding of biblical symbolism and prophetic themes from Genesis through Revelation, coupled with his manic, southern-California style and sense of humor–you haven’t heard a prophecy teacher like this before!

(Examples: Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh: “Bambi Meets Godzilla.”  Disobedience to God’s commands meant that, of a surety, you were in deep guacamole; the New Jerusalem is NOT a “space station” hovering over planet earth; etc.)

The Revelation of. . . Jesus Christ

The main point Chilton makes in part 1 is this:  the prophecies of the Bible — including those in Revelation — are not pure prediction in the “Jeanne Dixon” sense of the word.  They’re not a display of God’s foretelling prowess. They are covenantal and they are ethical.  They’re God’s judgments pronounced infallibly through His prosecuting attorneys, His prophets. And the main thing that is revealed in the book is, . . . JESUS CHRIST.

Chilton advocates for reading the Book of Revelation as though it were a part of the Bible, and not, as many do, as a separate work of “science fiction.”

Let that sink in.  Read the Book of Revelation as though it were a part of the Bible.

In other words, let all of the rest of Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, be your guide to interpreting this last book of the Bible.  Stop decoupling it from the other 65 books!  That is the key to understanding it.  It will help you to avoid the trap of “headline hermeneutics.”

His commentary on Revelation, The Days of Vengeance, is probably the best expository work on that book.  I’ve written about it here.

I love these lectures.  The comedic confidence exuded by Chilton in this series will ensure that you will not fall asleep during his free-wheeling expository, exegetical and rhetorical bull ride.  Let the rodeo begin. Yee-haw!

Enjoy the lectures.

Here is Part One:

For a little bit more info on who David Chilton was, here is an article.

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

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

Joel McDurmon talks about this in his two articles:

Cornelius Van Til’s ‘Spirit of Reconstruction’

When Van Til Got Crazy Political

‘Spirit of Van Tillianism”

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

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

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

By Which Double Standard?

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

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

To paraphrase the old adage from the Reformation:

Rushdoony and North hatched the egg that Van Til laid.

The Greatness of the Great Commission

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

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

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

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

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

You would think so.

Theonomy and Reconstruction: A Reformed Response

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

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

No argument there.  He then asks:

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

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

He concludes with this:

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

Amen, brother.

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

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

Who, indeed?

Sproul 2.0 (“Did I Really Say That?”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where premillennialists and postmillennialists part company.

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

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

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

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

Is Biblical Christianity ‘Reconstructionist’?

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

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

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

An equally fair question.

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

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

Do fish swim?

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

Do birds have feathers?

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

Do cows give milk?

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

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

Yes!

An Informed Response

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

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

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

A New State Agency: Department of Ecclesiastical Subordination

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Faith-based” alliances and partnerships are all the rage.  Since January 2001 when George W. Bush — within days of being sworn in as president — created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (later renamed the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), the lure of federal money to assist in community assistance programs has been irresistible.  Churches and non-profits have lined up to take the king’s nickel, forgetting that there are government-mandated “strings” attached to that nickel.

In my home state of Arizona, the state agency responsible for administering welfare, “child safety,” job training, unemployment, senior, family and other social services is the Department of Economic Security.  The DES.

Last week, Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order creating a new state agency: the Office of Faith and Community Partnerships.  It is modeled after the federal program, which Barack Obama renewed in February 2009 — again, shortly after being sworn in as president.  (Government control of churches and charities seems to be a high priority with these newly-elected presidents!)

I suggest a new name for this new state agency:

Department of Ecclesiastical Subordination

Its mission: to protect you from unwanted unconstitutional abuses like… being presented the Gospel and quoted inspirational Scripture verses by church workers or rank-and-file Christian volunteers who overstep their statutory bounds by inadvisedly sharing their faith with the people they serve in the context of showing their faith to the people they serve, while they are engaged in providing state-supported, publicly-funded social services.

It’s for your own good, you know. Separation of Church and State.  Establishment of Religion and all that.

If I were a pastor or church worker, I wouldn’t worry one whit about the state controlling what I say or what I do while I’m “on duty” administering state-supported, publicly-funded social services.  Nope.  I would simply tell that poor mother or handicapped person or jobless or homeless person, “Sorry, Charlie (or Charlene), I know I’m a Christian.  But since I’m helping you here using your hard-earned (or not) taxpayer dollars, I have to play by the unbiblical, religiously intolerant rules.  I can’t say a single syllable that might be construed (by government or ACLU or SCA lawyers) as being “religious” or proselytizing, or else — BAM! — no more tax money.

And we can’t have that.

Better for you to be warmed and fed and spiritually-deprived than for us to violate agency rules and not gain more tax money!   This is called high finance for high callings.

Cainsian Economics

How does this work?  It’s really very simple.  Let’s say you’re pastoring a church that has a legacy of helping the poor and “underprivileged” in the community.  But, the economy being what it is, you’ve fallen on hard times.  Giving is down.  Building projects and expansions are up.  The needs are there.  The means to meet them are not.  What do do?

“Partner” with the state.  Of course!

In exchange for some free tax money, you get to dole out services and shut your mouth.  They’re not paying you to talk about Jesus and all that Christian stuff.   They’re paying you to be the hands and feet of the state.  Do good unto others, but don’t talk about Him who is good.  They want the works without the faith.  It’s the American way.

Why do Christians accept this? Why do Christians believe this?

Because they have been fed a steady diet of artificially-flavored, theologically-homogenized evangelicalism.

Because they have refused the solid teaching, the strong meat-and-potatoes of covenantally-robust, historically-orthodox biblical theology.

Because they have sat under preaching and worshipped in churches that believe in “no creed but Christ; no law but love”: antinomianism.  Pietism.  A perfect recipe for swallowing bad ideas wrapped in good intentions.

And because they have, for the most part, been “educated” in the public school system — a rigorously atheistic, pro-government, pro-socialist system that Christians overwhelmingly support and put their own kids through.  But I digress. (But maybe I don’t.)

This kind of “partnership” is rightly called, Faith-Based Fascism.  Churches get some extra money.  Along with an extra muzzle.  The state gets more useful idiots to do its bidding.  And Christians get to feel like they’re “in the game” and “have a seat at the table.”

Seat at the table? What’s for dinner?  Your faith and religious freedom of speech, that’s what!

If your pastor thinks this is a good idea, tell him that it isn’t.

How to ‘Reconstruct’ Medicine: Healing the Healing Arts, Part I

EarlyCancerTreatmentLOLLately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of the “Christian reconstruction” of medicine.

Namely, what does that mean and what does that look like (or what would it or should it look like)?

Now, to those of us who subscribe to the theology of applying our faith to every area of life, it doesn’t seem strange at all to apply the same comprehensive biblical world-and-life-view that we apply to religion, education, business, politics and economics (to name a few), to the practice of medicine — a field that at first blush seems far removed from the philosophical, theological and ideological turbulence that usually goes along with any discussion of faith, morality and (therefore) ethics in those areas.  After all, “medicine” is scientific, isn’t it?  A purely rational, objective, “evidence-based,” empirically-driven discipline, right?  And it attracts only the most caring, compassionate, empathetic, highly intelligent individuals who love humanity and wish to direct their formidable talents, skills and training towards the practice of medicine in order to serve and help (and to heal) their fellow man and visit him in his physical affliction, right?

If only.

If there is one kind of medicine that is NOT characterized by the idyllic characterization described above, it is the type of “western” (specifically American), allopathic, corporately-driven, technologically-sophisticated, mainstream “modern” medicine that is practiced today in the United States, the most historically and culturally (but not covenantally) “Christian” nation on earth.

Medicine and Morality

Yet how can we, as Christians, deny that the comprehensiveness of our faith, and the biblically-informed system of morality and ethics that flows from it, constrains us to give it a very prominent and decisive role in our understanding, interpretation and implementation of that great body of knowledge and empirical evidence and experience that we’ve garnered through the centuries in those areas of natural science — biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology — that have a direct bearing on our theory and practice of medicine, an area that deals intimately with the highly personal issues of a man’s health and the treatment of his diseases?

It is actually pretty easy to see the disconnect that exists today between faith and medicine.  The most visible evidence is the absence of — or at least the steady erosion of — a universal or “standard” code of ethics and morality to guide healing professionals in their respective capacities as they make inherently ethical and moral decisions regarding their patients, and interact with them on the express notion (or the notion implied by the relationship) that the “healer” is there to help his patients in any way that he can, and, if possible, to heal them.

Physician, Heal Thyself

In doing some background reading for this article, I came across a rather fascinating and helpful academic paper published in the Journal of Medical Humanities in 1987 and republished in the American Journal of Bioethics in 2006: “Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality.”  It deals philosophically with the ethical and moral issues that inevitably arise in the practice of medicine, touching only briefly on the theological aspect of it — and not at all on the ethical or moral validity or invalidity of certain approaches or methods.  But it is a good place to start the discussion.

The author, Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD, was a leading bioethicist and professor of medicine and humanities at Georgetown University before he died in 2013 at the age of 92.  (Georgetown posthumously named its Center for Clinical Bioethics after him.)  His paper deals with what he views as the root causes of the ethical and moral dilemmas which face healthcare professionals today, owing to the fact that, (a), there is no longer a unified, common understanding of what is “moral” and “immoral” in the practice of medicine as well as what is “ethical” and “unethical” — not just among physicians and other healthcare professionals but also between the professionals and their patients — and, (b), a “fracturing” has taken place of the traditional Hippocratic image of the physician as “a benign, benevolent, all-knowing, authoritarian figure who decides what is best for his patients,” being replaced by one or more of the following competing medical models: the “John Locke” philosophical model that pits doctor and patient as “two autonomous individuals entering a contract for service”; the overtly commercial, for-profit model favored by so many of his colleagues, where “medical knowledge is held to be a proprietary possession of the physician” and he makes it available “as the baker would make bread available” to the public, “when he pleases, in what manner he pleases,” “purveying it for a price on his own terms” — “for those who can purchase it if they please” — and if they don’t like the bread he is selling, “they can go to another baker.”  Lastly, there is the purely transactional model, where your dealings with your doctor are considered to be no different than your dealings with your auto mechanic.

Regarding this model, Pellegrino says:

To those who argue for the auto mechanic version of the healing relationship, I would suggest that, as distressed as we may be with the carburetor and the perverse things automobiles do to us in cold weather, the illness of our autos doesn’t have the impact on our very existence that illness does.

Indeed it doesn’t!

Pellegrino rejects all of the above and proposes instead a solution to this hodge-podge of disparate medical models: a return to a more “holistic” understanding of the true nature of the “healing relationship” that exists (or should exist) between doctor and patient — one that, historically speaking, according to the author, dates back to antiquity: First Century A.D. physician to the Emperor Claudius, Scribonius Largus, who said that the true nature of medicine can be summed up in two words: humanitas and misericordia.  “Humanity” (love of mankind) and “mercy” or compassion.  These, Scribonius Largus said, were supposed to be the aim of the physician “in the same way that justice was the end and aim of the judge and the lawyer.”

Hmmm…  Humanity (love of mankind) and mercy (compassion).

Sounds like a good CHRISTIAN model for medicine to me!

He goes further.  The emphasis in this healing relationship is to be on obligations and responsibilities that are “mutually incurred by both physician and patient,” not on mutual rights.  In this relationship, a duty is owed by both.  The physician must first possess the knowledge necessary to help his patient, and then he must use that knowledge and the scope of his competence wholly “in the patient’s interest and not his own, for the patient’s good.”   And the patient, though he is the more “vulnerable” party in this unequal relationship (due to his state of illness) and in spite of his obvious disadvantages, is as much a responsible “moral agent” as the physician is.

Pellegrino, in fact, starts his essay by saying that medicine is a moral enterprise, having been conducted as such since Hippocratic times “in accordance with a definite set of beliefs about what is right and wrong medical behavior.”  Ethics, being a branch of philosophy and “a formal, rational, systematic examination of the rightness and wrongness of human actions” comes into play here as a “code” of medical ethics or bioethics.   But, medical ethics, as a distinct area of study, he says, was practically unknown in medical schools as late as 1963, and still remained untaught at about a dozen schools by the time of his writing 24 years later.  By the way, Pellegrino is considered not only a pioneer in medical ethics, he is viewed as the preeminent authority on it.

A couple of other points.  He talks about the need for a fully-informed consent on the part of the patient, acknowledging that “one of the realities of illness is the gap of information that separates the patient and the physician.  Certainly one of the physician’s obligations is to close that gap…”  This, he says, is a “moral imperative” that enhances the patient’s “moral agency” and his capacity “to make his own moral and value decisions based on a knowledge of the alternatives.”

At the end of the essay, Pellegrino deals briefly with how we can find moral and ethical agreement on “specific medical moral dilemmas” such as abortion, euthanasia, prolonging of life, birth defects, genetic engineering, etc., stating flatly that we can have NO agreement on these kinds of dilemmas until we can have agreement on the following:

  1. What we believe about the nature of man.
  2. What we believe about God.

In our pluralistic society, Pellegrino says, Good luck with that!

Still, he is hopeful that we can begin (in 1987) to “reconstruct” our ethics and morality of medicine by returning to the historically understood “true nature” of medicine as being a holistic healing relationship that is based on compassion and a love of mankind, with a clear conception of what the roles and responsibilities are of “those who profess to heal.”

His paper is worth reading.  In fact it is worth downloading, printing and reading.

You can do that here: “Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality.”

Toward a Christian Reconstruction of Medicine

Now let me give you some of my initial thoughts on this.

I think the “Christian reconstruction” of medicine goes way beyond merely getting everybody to agree (good luck with that!) on a common system of ethics and morals by which to examine actions in the practice and pursuit of it.

It goes beyond merely populating the medical schools and hospitals and clinics of America (and, while we’re at it, of the world) with “Bible-believing,” theonomically-minded, eschatologically-informed, Kingdom-of-God-driven, Christian doctors, nurses, chiropractors, therapists, practitioners, veterinarians, lab technicians, etc..

What is required in order to “remake” the present medical system (in America, primarily, since ours is the most egregious example of ethical and moral — and medical — failure) is the same thing that is required to remake, reconstruct and “recreate” every other human institution and system that we wish to remake and recreate, be it in education, government, economics or business.

We do it from the ground up, from the grass-roots, bottom-to-top reform, one person at a time, in an organized but decentralized, thoughtful, informed and deliberate fashion.

And we do it like any good Reconstructionist worth his presuppositions would do it.  We apply the five-point biblical covenant model to our study, and we thereby discover and learn: how we got where we are today, how we ended up with the outrageously expensive, inept-but-superficially-successful, bureaucratically-controlled, self-protecting, self-enriching, monopolistic, corrupt and ineffectual system that we have, and how we can replace it, and what with.

That’s definitely a tall order, so I will expand on it further in Part II.  Stay tuned!