Sunday, December 30, 2007

More on Cromwell/Marxism

TexasBob noted that "Is it possible to have any economic freedom in a theocratic state?," or something to that effect. That's a loaded question. I understand what he is getting at, but the phrasing of the question is where I take issue.

1) First, I don't like the phrase "theocratic state." When people talk of the state, they usually have the modern monopolist-territorial taxation machine in mind (Hoppe's definition). Most theocrats (I don't even think I am one, but that is beside the point) are actually against such a state.

2) Anyway, TB's point assumes a statist outlook. He is assuming a top-down structure. Again, most theocrats have opposed that outlook. Given a theonomic model, the govt would only be financed by 10-13% of the people's income. The modern state is financed by 40-70% of the income. Simply stated, it is hard to start pogroms without a large bank account (which a theocratic state wouldn't have). A theonomic model would be a loose confederation of independent commonwealths.

3) Why haven't theonomists responded to Douglass North? I don't know. Probably because most theonomists are dead by now. And to the living ones (Gentry), they are responding to challenges that are not economical in nature. But North is an economist. Surely he could do it. Yes, he could. I don't know why he doesn't. I think with the election coming up, crash of the dollar, and rise of a statist govt, he has other things on his plate.

TB, I appreciate your questions. I don't know if I will pursue this line of thought in the near future (might come back to it). I don't really consider myself a theonomo-theocrat, so I won't spend much time defending them.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cromwell and Marxism

I know, the title is misleading, given Marxism's inherent atheism. Being said, Marxist historians are more faithful interpreters of Oliver Cromwell and political Puritanism than modern day Reformed historians.

Interspersed are comments from Lester de Koster's outstanding study on the social elements of Calvin's preaching, of which Cromwell was the best applier.

"Cromwell saw the Christian life as a City-fying this-worldly fruit of God's word preached. He saw a Christianity active in the streets, normative in the halls of decision, citizens compelled, propelled, impelled by the Spirit and inspired language" (21).

More light must be shed on de Koster's thesis. De Koster maintains that the preaching of the Word liberates people. Rather than waiting for "heaven" these liberated people invade the "intererim." The intererim is the space between earth and eternity or more precisely, it is the earthly perspective of eternity. They are, in other words, to build The City. The city is the focal point between the Churchc adn the Kingdom of God. Or, better put, it is the fruit of the Church's harvest. The Church harvests the Kingdom of God and the result is the City. It is the throne of Christ's Kingdom on earth. The City is the focus of the most influential world power in the history of Civilization: Christendom.

German historian Oswald Spengler says in Decline of the West, "While the Lutheran movement advanced leaderless in central Europe, Calvin viewed his rule in Geneva as the starting-point of a systematic subjugation of the world under a Protestantism unfalteringly thought to its logical conclusion. Therefore, he, and he alone became a world power."

So back to Marxism. Why are Marxists so interested in Calvinistic Christianity, of which capitalism is an obvious corollary? First of all, Marxism, like political Puritanism, was a unified worldview. It made no divorce between faith and works, religion and politics. Even though perverted, it understood that law was inescapably religious.

Moreover, Cromwell's Commonwealth was the closest thing to an "ideal moral order" ever realized on earth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

political cartoons

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I am reading (trying to finish) Dante's Divine Comedy. It is quite good. While I disagree with the implicit premise of Purgatorio, it is masterful psychology.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Can Intrusion Ethics Maintain Moral Absolutes?

I want to take intrusion ethics to task. I am disturbed by the popularity of men like Hart, Kline, Lee Irons, and essentially most of the Modern Reformation staff. I fear that their attack on normative ethics, particularly its Reformed expression (I have documented where the RTS faculty accused Bahnsen of being too Puritan, but we won't go there) will have a sharp backlash in the next generation.

First, I will outline the necessity for "a moral absolute." To play fair, in critiquing Kline I will not refer to Bahnsen or Gentry. Rather, I will quote a third party, yet one critical of Bahnsen. Secondly, I will outline, in briefest terms but I think a fair one, Klinenianism's argument. Thirdly, by way of conclusion, I will show how Intrusionism fails to meet the moral absolute criteria.

The nature of moral absolutes
Norman Geisler states, defending and defining moral absolutes,

  1. An objective moral duty--a duty for all persons
  2. An eternal obligation--a duty for all times.
  3. a universal obligation--a duty for all places
( Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 501)

Kline's Morality
Meredith Kline writes, "It will only be with the frank acknowledgement that ordinary ethical requirements were suspended and the ethical principles of the last judgment intruded that the divine promises and commands to Israel concerning the Canaanites come into their own" ( Structure of Biblical Authority, 163).

Now, before I attempt the checkmate, I will add a few sub-premises. I understand the tri-partite division of the law. I don't think those divisions are as easy and smooth as Reformed people want them to be, but I will go along for the moment. I understand that people will try to rescue Kline by asserting that God's moral law is the natural law which isn't limited to the Mosaic law (okay, fine. We will get to that in a second).

~1. Intrusion ethics denies that God's revealed law is applicable to all people. In fact, it most certainly is not. You often hear Klineans remark, "Israel was a type and the law doesn't apply to those outside the covenant with whom it was made (that is Irons' specific argument).
~2. Intrusion ethics by its very definition denies premise 2. If ethics (justice) intrudes, then it most specifically does not apply.
~3. Premise 3 is a corollary to premise 1. If it doesn't apply to all peoples, then it doesn't apply to all places.

It appears then, given the above premises of Intrusion Ethics, why there is no reason to call God's law culturally relative. And if God's law is culturally relative, and if God's law is a reflection of his character, then God is a relativist!

But what about the natural moral law written on the heart? On one level I agree with it. But is it different in substance than the revealed moral law? If it is, and it differs with its commands at the same time in history (which would necessarily be the case since on the Klinean premise 3 it is conceivable that two different legitimate commands would be given at the same time), then we have a logical contradiction. But if both these laws are given by God, and there is a contradiction, then we have contradictory norms within the Godhead. But it is impossible to have contradictory norms within the Godhead. Therefore, God's natural moral law does not contradict the Mosaic law.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bayou Pictures

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Premillennial post coming soon

When I am not busy (which won't happen) I plan to put together my thoughts on premillennialism and show how it ties in with other doctrines.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Review of Lucas' biography on Dabney

I began this biography on Robert Lewis Dabney with mixed emotions. On one hand I was glad a new biography was written on Dabney. I view Dabney as one of the more heroic Christian leaders of the American church. There should be a plethora of material on him. For this reason, Lucas is to be praised. On the other hand, sadly, if one is not a Southron, it is hard to understand Dabney. This proved to be true in Lucas' case. Lucas' thesis--with which I agree--is that Dabney is far from unusual or aberrant, but rather represents the 19th century Southern Presbyterian Church and Southern Conservative Tradition (217). By understanding Dabney's mind, we have a window in which to see the minds of an entire sociological group--the modern-day Southern conservative.

Lucas develops his thesis in 8 chapters, all alliterated: Preparation, Pastor, Professor, Patriot, Presbyterian Partisan, Passing, and Perspective. The last two chapters were top-notch. The chapters on Presbyterian Partisan and Patriot were not very well-done. I will take particular issue with Lucas on those two chapters. I will briefly note some of Dabney's distinctives in the other six chapters. Dabney held to a conservative, doctrinal Presbyterianism that found strict adherence to the Westminster Standards. His epistemology, Common-Sense realism, allowed him a unique plank to attack unbiblical thought, namely "The Sensualist Philosophy."

Was Dabney a hero or coward concerning his military performance? Lucas sets the stage with a scene from Ivanhoe. This book helped define the Southern ideal as one of true courage and the desire (and demand!) of the Christian knight to seek glory (especially) in the face of death. Continuing this line of thought Lucas says that Dabney struggled to embrace the Southern manhood concerning the war because he, by virtue of his position as a chaplain, could not participate in the fighting. At this point Lucas engages in intense pyschologizing of Dabney. Objectively, Lucas is right. Dabney, being a minister, didn't do much fighting (although he was a key player in a few battles). Subjectively, I don't think this bothered Dabney like Lucas said it bothered Dabney. In fact, I don't recollect Dabney saying this bothered Dabney.

And then there is the strong counter-evidence from General Stonewall Jackson himself. Jackson said Dabney was one of the finest officers he knew. (This is the type of evidence that wins the discussion). Lucas recognizes this strong statement by Jackson and tries to dismiss it by quoting other historians and officers of the war who criticize Dabney as not being a professional soldier and not staying long enough in the campaigns (Dabney was forced to the home-front because of extreme illness). Even granting their points (and I don't), this doesn't prove that Dabney was indecisive as a soldier. I, with General Jackson, believe that Dabney was a competent man in the military who did what he was called to do.

Lucas then tries to point out inconsistencies in Dabney's ethic: How could Dabney support war as a minister of the gospel? The argument is that Dabney should have seen the inconsistency in being a chaplain on one hand (the saving of souls) and fighting as an officer on the other hand (the killing of men). I maintain, to the contrary, that Dabney exercised the "Two Kingdoms" ethic in the most consistent manner. Dabney, like all of us who are aliens in this commonwealth, are called to seek the prosperity of "the City (Jeremiah 29)." Therefore, Dabney, prophetically seeing the destruction of a Christian civilization that a Northern victory would bring, urged men to defend "the City." This was his "civic" or secular duty. This in no way contradicted his "sacred" duty. If it does, then the Two Kingdoms ethic falls (which few in Reformed circles would be willing to grant).

Presbyterian Partisan
I admit that Dabney warranted much criticism in this chapter. But we should be cautious in these criticisms. Dabney was wrong to forbid the ordination of African-Americans. Also, much of Dabney's opposition to the Northern church was wrong-headed (although his overall perspective and position is correct). While Dabney was correct to point out that the Bible, either Old Testament or New Testament, does not forbid slavery and the Bible cannot be used as an argument against slavery, he should have seen that the Bible has provisions for the long-term freeing of slaves.

But let's get to the heart of the issue. Dabney's rhetoric and refusal to forgive can only be understood in the context of Reconstruction. If one does not understand the nightmare of Reconstruction (drive through downtown Natchez, MS today), then one cannot understand Dabney's fight. Dabney saw that Reconstruction was the overturning of constitutionalism and the rule of law in the land. Dabney could not just "forgive and forget" a people who raped his homeland, destroyed the finest of a civilization, and in many cases, attacked the Christian faith. Perhaps he should have forgiven some (not all!) of the Northern crimes.

In all honesty I think Lucas damned Dabney with feigned praise. He overplayed Dabney's faults and did not do justice to Dabney's ideal of "Christian heroism." I do not believe we should whitewall Dabney. Dabney made some statements that cannot be justified biblically. He could have fought (and won) the same battles had he fought them on biblical and doctrinal lines. The last chapter, Perspective, was quite good. Lucas did some good, hard thinking on this part. He makes a very good comparison to Abraham Kuyper and notes that both Kuyper and Dabney developed, more fully than anyone else, the idea of a "Public Theology." Lucas hints that both Kuyper and Dabney have "theonomic" tendencies (241). I agree.

Is the Book worth getting? Yes. It incorporates new material and employs good, technical scholarship. I do wish that Lucas had been more sympathetic to Dabney. I understand why he kept his distance in this book. This book is written in the context of professional scholarship and "the academy." Dabney's ideas, obviously, are not that popular. We hope one day they will be.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Incomparable Christ

Deo volente, I am exhorting on Hebrews 1:3-4 at my church in a few weeks. The basics of the outline:

1. The Word.
2. The Inheritance
3. The Glory

Some resources I found helpful:
Russell Moore's teaching on the material
Greg Bahnsen's message on said passage.

Friday, August 31, 2007

For Crown and Covenant

In my opinion the Scottish Covenanters were among the greatest heroes of the faith. Purves tells of men who would rather die than say, "God save the King." They differed from their Puritan Cousins whereas the Puritans resisted Stuart Tyranny because it trampled on the rights of English Free-men. The Covenanters resisted Stuart Tyranny because it trampled on the Crown Rights of King Jesus and his church.
Purves was a mid-20th century Scotsman who wrote for Scotsmen; so a little background study before reading the book would be helpful. The theme is thus: King Charles II was restored to the English throne and sought to force the Scottish Presbyterians to prelacy and Episcopal worship. The Scots refused. Charles II made it illegal for Scottish ministers to perform their duty (I am simplifying for the sake of time). The Scots responded by worshipping outdoors. Charles thought that these "coventicles" were armed uprisings so he sent troops to quell them. The Scots out of desperation began to arm themselves for worship; that's when the story gets good. Feed your faith on stories of good courage. Here the tale of Richard Cameron--"The Lion of the Covenant"--who died praying and fighting against Christ's enemies. For a more in-depth study see John Howie's *The Scots Worthies.*

In my opinion the Scottish Covenanters were among the greatest heroes of the faith. Purves tells of men who would rather die than say, "God save the King." They differed from their Puritan Cousins whereas the Puritans resisted Stuart Tyranny because it trampled on the rights of English Free-men. The Covenanters resisted Stuart Tyranny because it trampled on the Crown Rights of King Jesus and his church.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Communist has Second Thoughts

The great historian professor Eugene Genovese was an open Marxist for much of his career. By the mid 90s, however, he was having his doubts. He writes,
Having scoffed at the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount we ended a seventy year experiment with socialism with little more to our credit than tens of millions of corpses. HOw could we have survived politically were it not for the countless liberals who, to one extent or another, supported us, apparently under the delusion that we were social reformers in to big of a hurry--a delusion we ourselves never suffered from.

The horrors did not arise from perversions of a radical ideology but from the ideology itself. We were led into complicity with mass murder and the desecration of our professed ideals not by Stalinist or other corruptions of high ideals...but by a deep flaw in our understanding of human nature--its frailty and possibilities--and by our inability to replace the moral and ethical baseline provided by the religion we dismissed with indifference, not to say contempt.[/QUOTE]

[U]The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History[/U], p.161

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Labour and the "Manliness of Soul"

For the godly man, work is a delight and often provides godly manliness.

History shows also, than an artificial and luxurious mode of living surely affects the literary taste of a nation. The simplicity of thought is banished. The manliness of soul which proceeds from labor, struggles with difficulty and intercourse with nature, becomes rare.
R.L. Dabney, "Simplicity of Pulpit Style," Discussions vol. 3, page. 81.

Indeed, Rushdoony would go on to say,

A basic and unrecognized cause of tensions in marriage is the growing futility of work in an age where apostate and statist trends rob work of its constructive goals. The area of man's dominion becomes the area of man's frustration. There are those who can recall when men, not too many years ago, worked ten hours or more daily, six and seven days a week, often under ugly and unsafe circumstances. In the face of this, they could rest and also enjoy life with a robust appetite. The basic optimism of that era and the cer¬tainty of progress, the stability of a hard money economy, and the sense of mastery in these assurances, gave men a satisfaction in their labors which made rest possible

The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 346.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Suffering and Joy of Christ-thrilled souls

This is from Fair Sunshine,

There was no fear of faith in those "Christ-thrilled souls" and they triumphed over every power that could be brought against them. They overcame the world by their faith.

King, Parliament, Church and Army, all heard afresh and clear that "the bleeding remnant" would obey God rather than men, and live, and die if need be, for the Crown Rights of their Redeemer. It is quite clear that Renwick both wrote the Second Declaration of Sanquhar and proclaimed it: "Let King Jesus reign, and all His enemies be scattered."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Calvinists not fatalists

As Calvinists we hold to the decree of a Personal being; fate, on the other hand, is merely the connection of impersonal causes and effects.

I got this gem from W.G.T. Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, new edition, page 322.

Friday, August 17, 2007

R.L. Dabney and the Rising of Virginia

This is from Dabney's biography on Stonewall Jackson.

But when the tyrant tried the perilous experiment, he was startled by a result as unexpected as that which followed the touch of Ithuriel's spear. She, whom he thought a patient, hesitating, helpless paralytic, flamed up at the insolent touch, like a pyramid of fire, and Virginia stood forth again in her immortal youth, the unterrified Commonwealth of 1776, a Minerva radiant with the terrible glories of policy and war, wielding that sword which has ever flashed before the eyes or her aggressors, the Sic semper Tyrannis.... Hence, except in the breast of a few traitors, there was now but one mind and one heart in Virginia. In one week, the whole State was converted into a camp, and the gauntlet of deathless resistance was flung back with high disdain.

p. 157

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

George Washington's Sacred Fire

Dr Lillback gives us a masterful display of Christian historiography.

Thesis: George Washington was neither a Deist nor a modern Fundamentalist Evangelical. Rather, he was an orthodox Latitudinarian within the Anglican church. This means that while he did not have the outward, expressive, emotional zeal of 20th century counterparts, he did have a real faith in a Personal Triune God, and sucha faith did inform his public policies and inspire commitments.

Critics object that Washington never referred to Jesus; refused to partake of the Lord's Supper, and among other things, used Deistic language. Lillback skillfully rebuts all claims:

(1) Washington did refer to Jesus, and those who say otherwise just ignore several letters where he recommends "the author of our Faith" (a reference to Christ in the book of Hebrews), and the religion of Jesus to the Indians. Also, Washington didn't like to speak of himself at all. It is not the case that he refused to speak of his Faith. Rather, he refused to speak of Washington.

(2) It is true at times that Washington refused to take communion, but a number of points need to be made: a) this was not like the modern, high church Episcopalism. Due to the lack of ministers, and the frontier nature of the church, congregations would celebrate communion only a few times a year. Given that other evidence shows Washington took communion, this objection is actually a strong argument for Washington's faith: it is only a few times that Washington actually missed communion!

(3) Did Washington use Deistic language? I think we can answer no on two counts. Dr Lillback shows that terms that Deists use were actually Christian terms that were subsequently stripped of their orthodox meaning. Therefore (2) if he used Deistic language, his lifestyle and other references indicate that he did not mean by it the same thing Deists meant by it.

This book is a monster! Over 200 pages of valuable endnotes. Reading Washington's letters is quite devotional and reading of his struggles is inspiring. Was Washington a practicing Christian? I leave on the following count: Given the nightmare and stress of Valley Forge, wouldn't it make sense if Washington indeed got down on his knees and prayed?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stardust: Movie Review

I saw "Stardust" this weekend. All in all it was a delightful fairy-tale fantasy film. The characters, while at times dense, were fun and enjoyable all the same. Tristan, the hero, crosses a barrier and finds himself in another world. There he finds what a real falling star is, and the difference between conditional and unconditional love.

The heroes in the movie do not conquer by force of arms, per se (although there are some delightfully good swashbuckling scenes), but by....well, you will see.

A few caveats:
There is one implied scene of immorality, but you don't see anything. A guy meets a girl at a fair. The door closes. The next screen has a man handing him a baby. The next screen skips 18 years. So it sets up the story but doesn't sully the movie.

There is another scene that is open to interpretation as to what happened. I, personally, do not think anything happened, but I can't prove it either way.

On a good note, the cinematography was quite good. The final scene reached crescendo-like qualities. Caveats acknowledge, I recommend this movie.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Future Topics

I said I would talk about why I moved to historic premillennialism. I do want to talk about that, but I don't want to seem like one of those guys who does nothing but talk about eschatology. So I am holding off on the moment.

I found some old John Owen works that I would like to eventually study: The Mortification of Sin and Display of Arminianism. I have read most of the Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Tonight I read Robert Reymond on God's Eternal Plan of Salvation. By and large it was well-written. I am not persuaded as of yet his supralapsarianism, but he made a good case.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nihilism or the Nazarene

CS Lewis made a chilling observation:

If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family – anything you like – at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrast weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.

A good example of this is the movie culture. It has become extremely banal. If you have the stomach, walk down the aisles of the "New Releases" at the movie rental place. We come to expect the sexual aspect--and that's bad enough--but many of these new movies are engaging in horror and gore that is unthinkable.

It is "Fight Club" versus "Narnia." Fight Club is the paramount movie of the postmodern age. There is no meaning--only brutality.

It is as Carl Henry said, "We will either have Nihilism or the Nazarene."

Monday, August 06, 2007

More apologetics in action

Scroll down to reply # 18. My handle is Liberalism's Worst Nightmare. This was a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fictional dialogues with a sceptic

This is for an assignment, and I am having fun with it. Carl is a reference to the great Carl F H Henry. Madeline is a reference to Madeline Murray O'Hare.

Morality of Knowledge (Epistemology)

Carl: I will hold that unless you maintain biblical revelation, you have no foundation for knowledge or ethics.
Madeline: I have problems with that statement.
Carl: I gathered as much. Go on.
Madeline: For one, you begged the question. Two, unbelievers do have knowledge and live ethically, and three, you Christians don’t live up to that statement.
Carl: I agree with you on all three points.
Madeline: What?
Carl: Your objections just proved my point.
Madeline: How?
Carl: Our time tonight is short. Can I just focus on the knowledge statement?
Madeline: Sure.

Carl: I will open tonight with a discussion on epistemology: the theory of knowledge.
Madeline: That sounds rather abstract.
Carl: Stay with me—whatever we say later on will be determined by what we establish or fail to establish at this point.
Madeline: Ok, fine. What are you getting at?
Carl: In short—and I know you will have objections to this—I believe in God and his word based on a higher authority than myself.
Madeline: Oh, let me guess—you believe in the Bible because God says so?
Carl: It’s a bit more than that. Before I answer your question—and I will give you an opportunity to cross-examine me, can I ask you a few questions as well?
Madeline: Ok, I’ll bite.
Carl: We all have ultimate authorities—
Madeline: Wait, you mean absolutes! I don’—
Carl: Just let me finish. That’s not what I am getting at, although we will discuss that later. I will ask you a question: What is your authority?
Madeline: I don’t have any authorities. I am free, independent.
Carl: What do you believe in, then? If not God, then what?
Madeline: I believe in reason; I believe that people should be free to live how they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others.
Carl: That’s a good, clear answer. Your answer actually demonstrated your worldview.
Madeline: There goes that religious jargon again.
Carl: No, I was giving you a compliment. Few people can state their worldview so clearly and succinctly.
Madeline: So you think I am right?
Carl: No, you have a naïve epistemology and your ethical system avoids the hard questions.
Madeline: So now you will engage in name-calling?
Carl: No, that’s not my point.
Madeline: Can we get back to your original discussion? You were going to tell me how “I believe the bible because the bible tells me so” isn’t question-begging.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why I changed eschatology

I used to hold to theonomic postmillennialism. Recently, I have come to embrace historic premillennialism. (For the record, my views on theonomy haven't changed all that much). What made me change? I might do a series of posts on why I changed my eschatological positions.

Friday, August 03, 2007

dodging the impasse between dispensationalism and covenant theology

Thesis: The church doesn't replace Israel; Jesus does.

Every spiritual blessing was won by Christ. The new testament says these blessings are "in him," and if we are in Christ, then they belong to us. All the promises of the Old Testament now apply and are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, if we are united to Christ, then they are ours! The kingdom that God promised his people in the Old Testament is not some fuzzy, spiritual reality now-called the church. No, the kingdom is given to Christ and we, the church, experience it through him! (Moore, 119). And what does the resurrected Jesus inherit? He inherits the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 13:32-33)

The NT applies to Jesus language previously applied to Israel (Ex. 4.22; Matthew 2.15). So Jesus replaces Israel, not the church.

So it's not the church that replaces Israel, but Jesus that replaces Israel--and the church by union in Christ share and inherit these blessings (heirs with God, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ).

Baby apologetics in action

I love debating liberals. Atheists are clever. Mormons and Catholics are slippery because they have competing revelation-claims. Liberals just don't know what to say.

My username: Liberalism's Worst Nightmare

See here:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Without Holiness, Hope Dies

David Wells has a striking quote,

For in the end God's holiness will prove to be the final line of resistance to all that is wrong, all that is evil in the world. The day is coming when truth will be placed forever on the throne, and error forever on the scaffold.

For without holiness there is no drama and there is no hope. Hope dies when it can no longer see through this vale of tears to the triumph of God's sovereign goodness on the other side.

God in the Wasteland, 142

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

S. Lewis Johnson: Some of the Best Preaching Online!

I disagree with his dispensational premillennialism, but the man spoke on everything theologically. His sermons on Reformation thought are outstanding, as well as sermons on most books of the bible. Hundreds of them--for free. Load up your Ipod!

Lewis Johnson Institute

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Cry for a Christian Phalanx!

I got this beautiful gem of a quote from Carl F Henry.
A Christian phalanx, however much a minority, can impart a sense of purpose to a nation and to the world on less than the early church did in a former dark age of paganism...By not speaking up in the present cultural debate, we will fail not only the church and society but God as well.
gods of this age or God of the Ages, p. 92.

What is this to do with spiritual warfare? 2 Corinthians 10.5 tells us to tear down strongholds and take captive EVERY THOUGHT TO CHRIST (thus justifying a Christian perspective on everything.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Refutation of Moral Relativism: Dialogues with an Absolutist

This book is typical Peter Kreeft: it couldn't be boring if it tried. The book gives ten or so arguments, for and against, moral relativism. The moral absolutist is played by a Muslim. The relativist by a liberal feminist.

Ben Isa argues that relativism is the most serious crisis to civilisation. He documents from history that all civilizations have presupposed some absolute moral code. Any civilization that operated on relativism, he argues, commits suicide.

The key arguments, that I have found most persuasive:
1) relativism has an absolutist premise in it: it argues that it is *good* to be relativist and *bad* to be absolutist. These are normative, absolutist judgments which are not consistent with the relativist claim.

2) The notion of progress demands an absolutist standard. If there is no absolute standard, and values are relative, how can a society make progress? To what is it progressing?

3) If relativism is true, then we must condemn men like Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, and abolitionists--people who are usually championed by relativists (I would have chosen different examples, but that's beside the point). They are known as cultural prophets, calling the evils of a society to account. But do you see the problem? If a society is the source and norm for values, and a society determines what is right and wrong (like slavery and the oppression of women), then who is the prophet to blame them? All of the cultural prophets have assumed a moral law to which society must be judged. This moral law, obviously, is absolutist.

4) Kreeft's arguments from the history of philosophy were quite impressive.

Pros: the book was extremely well-written. It was very insightful and covered the standard arguments used in the debates. Some pages were so good one had to stand and applaud.

Cons: his choice of a Muslim will no doubt bother some readers. I, personally, would have chosen a different hero. True, Islamic morals are absolute, but if consistent, they look a lot different than biblical revelation. 2) Kreeft sold the farm on evolution. He masterfully refuted it and then in the next paragraph affirmed it. I know what he is getting at but this is a poor way to phrase it.

I recommend this book.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pictures of my dog

Book Review *Evangelicals in the Public Square*

Budziszewski, J. Evangelicals in the Public Square. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006. 218 pp.

Evangelicals have come out of political hiding. Whatever faults they may have, they have captured the minds and hearts of the majority of American Christians. Despite some shallow appeals to political action—for instance, the less promising elements of the Moral Majority—Evangelicals were forced to draw upon older intellectual streams, notably those of the Reformers. It is Budziszewski’s contention that for all the good Evangelicals have done in politics, they have harmed themselves by failing to draw from the natural law tradition (37). Budziszewski outlines four major thinkers as representative of the Evangelical political tradition: Carl F. Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, and John Howard Yoder.

Budziszewski’s Analysis

Budziszewski launches into a 100 page essay dealing with the pros and cons of the Evangelical political tradition. He begins with Carl F. Henry. Henry’s notable achievement was sounding the trumpet for Evangelical engagement with his The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, uneasy because it had no voice to say to the world. Henry was quick to point out that the biblical message involves both personal regeneration and social transformation. Budziszewski, however, critiques Henry on the grounds that Henry’s system, while allowing for the possibility of general revelation, in practice denied it. With this downplaying of general revelation comes a denial of natural law. And if natural law is denied, on what grounds will Henry engage the secular man? Budziszewski objects that Henry’s call for Evangelical action amounts to little more than “evangelize.” Henry could appeal to the “shared conscience” but in the next breath said that conscience applied only to the regenerate (53-54).

Budziszewski then turns to Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper’s most notable concept—sphere sovereignty—led him to posit a “principled pluralism.” Kuyper argued that human reality is divided into God-ordained spheres: family, school, church, state. No one sphere has dominance and authority over the other. This is to protect the liberty and freedom of conscience of those within the spheres. So far, so good. Budziszewski, however, gives a telling critique of this move. Kuyper posits two principles concerning man’s relation to the state. 1) No citizen may be compelled to remain in a church he considers mistaken and 2) different churches must be granted legal standing (67). If Kuyper is speaking of “churches,” the point is granted. But if Kuyper is speaking of “religion,” then we must demur. After all, on what grounds would we prohibit Satanists from practicing their religion?

Next we move to Francis Schaeffer, with whom most Evangelicals will identify. It is hard to critique Schaeffer, given the man’s love for the lost and for culture. Budziszewski focuses much of his critique on Schaeffer’s political ethic expressed in A Christian Manifesto. Here Schaeffer, following Samuel Rutherford, argues that when Caesar goes beyond his authority Christians are to, in increasing levels of intensity and in this order: 1) protest in the public square, 2) flee to different lands, and finally 3) resist by armed force led by the lesser civil magistrate. Budziszewski critiques this along the lines that it presupposes a Constitutional government found in Western countries. Furthermore, given the American context, if Congress has refused to impeach the Supreme Court by legal means, what guarantees they will do so by armed means?

Finally, Budziszewski dialogues with John Howard Yoder, the Anabaptist theologian. Yoder argues for a church-centered political theory. Budziszewski is most critical here. Yoder doesn’t seem to answer the question of Romans 13, given his commitment to pacifism. Yoder wants to posit a good creation with good structures (as he should), but given Romans 13 and the fact that God commanded wars in the Old Testament, how can one then critique Just War Theory and the use of the sword? This is Budziszewski’s best analysis.

After this essay follows four rejoinders by four scholars. In my opinion, William Edgar of Westminster Seminary had the best essay (“Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square”). I do not think that Schaeffer had the strongest political ethic, but Edgar’s response is most enlightening. In short, he agrees with Budziszewski’s construction of Schaeffer. He defends Schaeffer on resistance saying that we need a vague resistance ethic, since not all cases are clear-cut. While this may appear to dodge the issue, it is actually wisdom. Edgar then focuses on Budziszewski’s contention that Evangelicals, particularly presuppositionalists, have downplayed natural law and general revelation. Edgar, a student of Cornelius Van Til, says this is the bedrock of the presuppositional apologetic. We can appeal to general revelation and the unbeliever’s use of it because we maintain that the unbeliever can only interpret it rightly through “the lens of Scripture.” Furthermore, general revelation doesn’t deliver what its advocates promise. Unbelievers distort the truth, not just special revelation (185).

Pros and Cons

This book, like most of Budziszewski’s work, was well-written and to the point. Budziszewski skillfully exploits holes in arguments. He has done us the favor of pointing out our weaknesses where we would miss them. He shows how we often take general revelation for granted. However, this does not necessarily conclude a natural law, as Edgar has pointed out. Sure, one can appropriate truths from general revelation. I think the problem, and Budziszewski implies this, is that Evangelicals have posited and either-or position on Scripture and natural law. Will this book convince you of natural law? No. Does it make a good case for natural law? While that is not the point of the book, it can encourage Evangelicals to see for themselves whether the same truths are found in general revelation that are found in special revelation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Luther's Anfechtung

The terror of the Holy, the horrors of Infinitude, smote him like a new lightning bolt...Luther's tremor was augmented by the recognition of unworthiness...Before God the High and Holy Luther was stupefied...The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no English equivalent. It may be a trial by God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man.

In consequence the most frightful insecurities beset him. Panic invaded his spirit. The conscience became so disquieted as to start and tremble at the stirring of a windblown leaf. The horror of nightmare gripped the soul, the dread of one waking in the dusk to look into the eyes of him who has come to take his life. The heavenly champions all withdrew; the fiend beckoned with leering summons to the impotent soul

Thursday, July 26, 2007

10 Theses Toward an Evangelical Political Theology

I am taking these from J. Budziszewski's Evangelicals in the Public Square, pp 23ff. JB is a Roman Catholic Natural Law theorist--that is his background. These are his theses; I am witholding comment for a while.

The Evangelical Dilemma

1. God is the true sovereign; he ordained allhuman government fo rthe good of man, whom he made in his own image.

2. Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations in the light of his Word.

3. He disciplines the nations according to their deeds.

4. He also disciplines their rulers.

5. In general, disobedeince to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only respect but honor.

6. But there are exceptions: Any government edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed.

7. The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed.

8. In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never delibeartely take the life of the innocent.

9. Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this van be done only be the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.

10. MOrever, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due the state, the church is never to be identified with it.

Problems with the above theses

A. Granted that all human government is ordained by God, it does not follow that God requires the continuance of the present regime or magistrates; we are told neither how rulers should be chosen nor what forms of government are preferable.

B. Granted that God disciplines the nations and rulers, SCripture explicitly denies that all good is reward or that all ill is punishment; only prophets can with certainty discern God's mind in unfolding events.

C. Granted that government edicts that contradict God's must be disobeyed, we are not instructed as to whether an unjust government may be resisted.

D. Granted that the just purposes of government include the commendation of good, punishment of evil, maintanece of peace, and protection of the oppressed, whether government may systematically pursue additonal purposes is not spelled out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Books that formed me

Every now and then someone gives a list of books that were influential for that person. These lists are never perfect-they always leave someone out. But they are fun and biographical. These books are in no particular order. And I will deliberately leave some out: Calvin, Van Til, Bahnsen, and Rushdoony. Not because they are unimportant, but that it would be obvious that these men have influenced me and aren't needed on the list.

(In no particular order)
10. God, Revelation, and Authority 6 volumes by Carl F. H. Henry. I went to an undergraduate school that in many ways was hostile to historic Christianity. Henry gave me a comprehensive worldview and response to the challenges of the faith (*I have only read volumes 1-3).

9. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper. The opening shot in the battle for the Christian worldview. Kuyper was a brilliant rhetorician.

8. Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. I read this in college. It showed me how to unite both head and heart, as well as steering me away from unbiblical spiritualities.

7. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton. This book got me excited about the Reformation and gave me the intellectual fortitude to face the attacks in college.

6. The Kingdom of Christ by Russell Moore. Moore went beyond Carl Henry. It was a call for political theology while avoiding both theological masochism and naive triumphalism.

5. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden. A challenging read that forced me to look at tensions I had in my own life concerning authority and new moves in the theological world.

4. Paul: An Outline of his Theology by Herman Ridderbos. An exciting work that affirmed justification by faith but also gave emphasis to other Pauline themes that were important to the apostle.

3. God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams by David Wells. Any book by Wells will count. Wells shows how we have remade God in our own image. This God demands little, has no hard angles, but can't save us.

2. Reformed Theology in America: A History of its Modern Development edited by David Wells. Opened my eyes to different traditions in the Reformed faith. The section on Dutch theology introduced me to Cornelius Van Til.

1. Beowulf by some Celtic bard. I read this poem whenever I need to feel a North wind blast against the fog in my brain.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Criswell on Apocalyptic Preaching


An unveiling of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Watchman, cries the world, what of the night? What of the night? What of the grave and what of the judgment, what of eternity and what of the night? We who believe in the inspiration of this book, and we who believe in the great apocalypsis--the great unveiling of Jesus Christ--we have a message for this world. The same Lord God who n the beginning revealed to us the creation of the universe and the earth on which we stand. The same Lord God revealed the great consummation of the age that no man can see without the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

And when a man stands with an apocalyptic message, he stands with solace for the sorrowing heart. God wipes away our tears and we live in infinite faith and the hope and conquest and triumph. Some day, by the word of the Lord, Satan shall be bound. Some day, these asleep in the dust of the earth shall be raised from among the dead. Some day God's people shall be raptured from this earth of judgment and live in the presence of our Lord.

Oh glorious apocalyptic and final day when the righteous are vindicated, when the kingdom shall come and when Christ shall reign over the earth and all creation--our blessed Savior! Oh, the day that is coming in the promise and in the word of the Lord. It may be at mid day, it may be at twilight, it may be perchance that the blackness of midnight shall burst into light in the blaze of his glory when Jesus comes for his own. Oh joy, oh delight, shall we go without dying? No sickness, no sadness.

My brother, in the pulpit I can tell you this: after 47 years of experience, the man who stands in that sacred place, and deliver to his people an apocalyptic message shall victory and triumph in the word that he brings!

God speed us as we stand there with God's message, as God's messenger

Authentic, this is it!
Authoritarian, this is it!
Absolute, this is it!
Apocalyptic, this is it!

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Revelation 20 and the Vindication of Martyred Saints

C. Marvin Pate writes,

"A spiritual resurrection can hardly explain the compensation provided for the martyrs in verse 4. From John's perspective they are physically dead but spiritually alive. What they need is a bodily resurrection. (b) The best understanding of the verb esezan (they lived) in verse 4 is that it refers to a bodily resurrection" (Pate, "A Progressive Dispensationalist View of Revelation" in Four Views on the Book of Revelation

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My journey to premillennialism

Several part series

The case for a millennial kingdom rests on three arguments: 1)The Old Testament prophets speak so emphatically of a coming universal age of earthly peace and justice that to transfer this vision wholly to a transcendnet superterrestial kingdom is unjustifiable; 2) because the historical fall of Adam involves all human history in its consequences it requires an historical redemption that extends 'far as the curse is found' to complete Christ's victory over sin; 3) the most natural interpretation of Revelation 20 seems to suggest an earthly, millennial reign prior to the inauguration of God's eternal kingdom" (Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 volumes. [Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983; reprint, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999], 6: 504).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I stole the title from Dr Carl Trueman
Petitionary Prayer as Rebellion against Status Quo

I read the following quote from David Wells and found it of much encouragement:

"It is in essence, rebellion--rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the
absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively
abnormal...It is the refusal of every agenda...that is at odds with the norm
established by God."

In other words, it is war against that which resists the plan of God. Wells writes that

prayer flousirishes only where there is a twofold belief: first, that God's name
is hallowed to irregularly, his kingdom has come too little, and his will is
done too infrequently; second, that God himself can change the situation.
Petitionary prayer is the expression of the hope that life as we meet it, on the
one hand, can be otherwise, and on the other hand, ought to be otherwise.

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 143.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Review of Russell Moore's *The Kingdom of Christ*

Carl Henry launched an Evangelical Renaissance and gave intellectual credibility for Evangelical social endeavors. Russell Moore continues that legacy.

Moore argues that Evangelicalism, for having all the right theology, has failed to put that into practice (Here he is following Carl Henry's *Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism*). He critiques both Reformed and Dispensational thinkers (the reviewer is Reformed). Moore argues for the Kingdom of Christ as a legitimate fulcrum for making social and political moves without losing the need for personal regeneration. Dispensational thinkers, argues Moore, make kingdom preaching irrelevant because it preaches an earthly, future kingdom which has no relevance to the Church. Covenant theologians, on the other hand, preach a kingdom that is *now* but when pressed, end up with a spiritual, heavenly kingdom--which again has no relevance for the church.

Moore argues to the contrary that the Kingdom is now, has earthly ramifications, and presently finds its culmination in Christ. Kingdom language, for Moore, is warfare language. He follows much of Kuyper in arguing that Christ claims are binding on the whole order. He follows Ridderbos in positing a "cosmic" redemption. If sin is cosmic in its reach, so is redemption. Well said.

While it may be true that Moore skews the discussion in favor of progressive dispensationalism, he does give credit to more biblical forms of amillennialism. He rightly notes that recent amillennialists, A. Hoekema and Vern Poythress, stress an "earthiness" about the future state that is sadly lacking in traditional amillennialism. This has important ramifications for current kingdom activity: our present endeavors for the kingdom are of eternal significance, for the "glory of kings" will enter the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22-27). This world is not a timebomb waiting to go off.

Criticisms and Personal Comments:
1. Moore comes from a premillennial background. He rightly critiques Amillennialism as being neo-platonic. His interpretation of Isaiah 65:20 ends most discussions of amillennialism. However, it is not clear how his interpretation of Isaiah 65:20 actually proves historical premillennialism and not postmillennialism?

2. He critiques theonomy when he should actually be critiquing Gary North.

3. The book is endnoted, not footnoted. The actual text is less than 200 pages. I read it in about a day.

This book promises much and leaves the reader wrestling with tough issues. The current reviewer is excited that Southern Baptists are getting involved with "kingdom issues" in a way that does not denigrate either the gospel or modern culture. One hopes that many conservative Presbyterians will take note. Aside from a few doctrinal criticisms, the current reviewer recommends this book without qualifications.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

History Refocused

Christ Jesus shattered those myths and, in principle, freed nature and history and humanity once again for a fulfillment of God's creation mandate through his resurrection triumph and moral and spiritual rule.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority III: 27


It has been a while since I have posted. Truth be told, I had forgotten about this blog (or at leas I had forgotten the password). But since Google and blogger merged, it came back to me.