A Christian Philosophy — The Rights of God

THE PECULIAR DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL, EXPLAINED AND DEFENDEDnebula

From the Panoplist and Missionary Magazine United

DEAR BROTHER,

I have read the little pamphlet, entitled, a “Review of Hints on Evangelical Preaching,” which you sent to me, requesting my thoughts on the subjects of which it treats. That the writer and the publisher of that review may have been actuated by very honest motives, I would not dare to question. Multitudes of respectable and intelligent men in this country, and probably in Europe entertain the same unfavorable opinion of what is called evangelical preaching. I once entertained similar opinions, though probably not to the full extent with the writer of the review. But I was opposed to everything that looked like enthusiasm in religion, and talked much about the propriety of being a rational Christian. I am still opposed to enthusiasm, but I am not convinced that my former opinions were erroneous, and that I formerly included under that term, a belief in some of the fundamental, and most rational principles of the Gospel.yukon delta alaska

That some preachers, who call themselves evangelical, may utter opinions which are not evangelical, is not at all improbable; nor is it to be expected that no man, who ministers in holy things, should go too far in depreciating the moral duties. Minds, impelled by zeal, may acquire a momentum that may carry them beyond the Gospel mark, at which they aim. But, if I understand the reviewer, he not only censures what may be really wrong in zeal, but aims to make the moral duties the essence of the Gospel, which the publisher of the pamphlet calls the benevolent and moral religion of Jesus. And this I understand to be the creed of many respectable men in this country. I am probably as sincere a frien[d] to the moral duties as the reviewer; but that these constitute the ground-work of the Gospel, I believe to be a fatal error; a rock on which perhaps more intelligent men are shipwrecked than on any other. Were there no other defect in this creed, this alone would overturn it, that no man destitute of a principle of holiness, or a supreme love and regard to his Maker, can perform the moral duties, in the manner which the laws of God require. His motives cannot be pure; they cannot spring from the right source; nor will any man, without a higher principle than a mere regard to social happiness, ever be able to perform all the moral duties with steadiness and uniformity.O

But let us examine this scheme of religion on other grounds. It is the principle of our religion, and of all true religion, that there is a God of infinite perfection, who is the Author of whatever has been created. This Being is man’s Creator and, of course, his sovereign Ruler; and if his Sovereign Ruler, He has a right to give laws to man for his government. From God’s sovereignty, or his character as Creator and Governor of the universe, results necessarily his right to the supreme reverence of all the rational beings he has created; and from this sovereignty, and from the perfection of His nature, as well as from His benevolence to man, in creating him, and supplying him with all the means of happiness, results God’s right to man’s highest love and gratitude. For nothing is more obvious than that supreme excellence is entitled to the first place in our esteem. Our first class of duties then respects our Maker, our Preserver, our Benefactor, and Redeemer. These duties, I apprehend, are dictated by reason and natural religion, as well as commanded in the Scriptures. They result necessarily from our relation to the Supreme Being, as the head of the universe.F

In the next place, men are made for society. Our natural propensities lead us to associate with each other; and society is necessary to the continuation of the species, as well as to our improvement, protection, and happiness. From this association of men, and the various interests involved in it, result numerous social duties, which we comprise under the general term, morality. These constitute the second class of the duties of men. This distribution of our duties is precisely that which Moses has made in the Ten Commandments, which were originally divided and engraved on two tables. The first table contained our duties to God; the second our duties to each other; and this distribution is expressly recognized by our Savior, who declares that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind; and that the second, which is like to it, is to love our neighbor as ourselves.A

Now let me ask the advocates of a moral religion, with what propriety, or by what authority, can we dispense with the first table of the law, or even postpone it to the second? Are not the duties of piety as necessary, and as positively commanded as the duties of morality? and more, are they not placed at the head of the list? The command, “thou shalt have no other God before me,” [Exodus 20:3] which enjoins supreme love, reverence, and adoration, as duties to the Creator of the universe, precedes all the other commands, not only in the order of arrangement, but in the order of propriety, resulting from God’s character and supremacy. The Scriptures inculcate this doctrine from beginning to end; and it is as consonant to reason, and the moral fitness of things, as it is to the Scriptures.planting

To illustrate great things by small, let me state the following case. The father of a family, wishing to furnish his children with the means of enjoying happiness, tells them, “I have the means of supplying you with everything you can desire. I will build, for each of you, a house in my neighborhood, and I will send you every day whatever you want or can enjoy; and you shall have no trouble in living, except in dressing and preparing the provisions and materials I shall send, to suit your own desires. But to secure to yourselves the continuance of my favors, it is necessary that you comply with two conditions…the first is that you shall treat me with the respect due to a parent and call daily at my house to thank me for the benefits you receive. The second is that you shall treat each other with the utmost kindness and justice.” Suppose then that these children, placed in this eligible situation, and living in profusion on their father’s daily supplies, do actually comply, in a good degree, with the second condition; performing all their social duties, with tolerable, or even with strict punctuality; but pass thirty, forty, or fifty years, without once calling upon their benefactor, to make to him their grateful acknowledgments. What shall we say to such base ingratitude? But suppose further, that these children, instead of H pious veneration, and daily expressions of gratitude to their kind father, should declare that they owe him no immediate duties: that to be kind and just to each other is all that is necessary to fulfill the conditions, on which they hold their estates and enjoyments, and some of them even reproach their father as a hard master, and treat him with open contempt! What can be said in vindication of such conduct? Can such children claim from their insulted benefactor a continuance of his kindness? Much less can they expect, or even hope from him, further means of enjoyment, and a more splendid establishment! I leave this case, my dear brother, to be decided by the advocates of a religion consisting of moral duties; referring you, however, to a single passage of Scripture in which Jehovah, as the Father and Ruler of men, claims His rights with the affecting benignity [kindness] of a God. “A Son honoreth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a Father, where is my honor? And if I be a Master, where is my fear?” Mal. i. 6.

If I understand anything of God’s character and moral government, and of our relation to Him, as His dependent creatures, a supreme regard to Him, as the first great cause and last end of all things, is the foundation of all true religion in the heart…as indispensable to the perfection of His moral government, as it is to the happiness of His rational creatures. Perfect excellence being entitled to supreme love and regard, and God being perfect excellence and the only Being of that character in the universe, it results that intelligent creatures must give to Him the first place in their hearts, or they do not conform to the standard of moral rectitude which God has established; and if they do not conform to that standard, they cannot be entitled to the happiness which results from such conformity. Hence, we are repeatedly informed in the Scriptures, that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom;” [Ps. 111:10, Prov. 9:10] the foundation on which the whole system stands. God then claims from us, as the first duty, a supreme regard to His character and laws, which is to be manifested by the duties of piety, prayer, worship, fear, love, attendance upon His instituted ordinances, and a reference to His will as the only rule of our moral and religious conduct; in short, an unreserved submission to His laws and government. He, as the Sovereign of the universe, has a right to this regard; He demands it as His right; and according to my view of His character and government, He cannot dispense with it. It should even say, with reverence, it would be an imperfection in His government if He could.

But this is not all. While God makes His own glory the chief object of His works and government, He has made holiness or conformity to His image, the condition on which His rational creatures are to enjoy supreme happiness. The connection between holiness and future felicity is inseparable. The happiness of a future life is represented as consisting in the enjoyment of God’s favor and presence. How, let me ask, can a soul enjoy the Divine presence without supreme love to the divine character? What joy can a soul experience in the presence of a God to whose attributes and laws it is not previously reconciled? How can a soul be delighted with the favor of God in heaven, which has never loved him supremely on earth? Is the heart to be changed after death? This we are forbid to believe. A man may, in this life, perform moral duties without any particular regard to his Maker and without any particular relish for His character and government. He may perform good works to his fellow-men, even from a sense of their fitness and propriety, without performing a single act of homage to the Supreme Being, although, as I have before remarked, without a reference to God’s will, he will rarely perform them with uniformity, even in the view of the world. But the natural heart is enmity against God; and if such moral man dies without a change in the affections of his heart, what qualification will he possess for that heaven, whose employment consists in loving and praising God? How will he relish the joys of pure and holy spirits? It is impossible. Even in this life, nothing is more painful to a man than the presence of a kind benefactor whom he has injured. Were a man of mere morality to be instantly transferred to the presence and favor of a pure and Holy Being, Heaven itself would be a hell. An unholy being cannot be happy in the immediate presence of a Holy God; at least, in my apprehension, it appears to be impossible.

Hence it appears that regeneration and holiness of heart are in the very nature and fitness of things necessary to the enjoyment of Heaven; and the Gospel doctrines really stand as well on the immutable order of things in the universe, as on the positive declarations of Christ and His apostles. We are placed on this earth in a state of trial and probation, furnished with intellectual powers to learn the character of God and our own duty; with the Word of God to direct us and a free will to accept or reject the offers of salvation. To complete the means of salvation a Mediator has been provided to make an offering of Himself for our sins and satisfy that law which we have violated and which we ourselves are certainly unable to satisfy. In this state, the seeds of holiness are to be planted in the heart and are destined to grow and ripen into a full harvest of felicity in a future life. Holiness, in this life, is the germ of Heaven. But holiness, in a Scriptural sense, and indeed in any sense, is a distinct thing, from a principle of morality. Morality, or good works, respect our fellow-men; holiness respects God. It is that state of the heart which proceeds from supreme love to God, faith in Christ, and entire submission to the Divine commands. Without this holiness, the Bible informs us, no man shall see the Lord. And this holiness is indispensable to the performance of good works. As faith without works is dead; so good works are the fruit of faith [James 2:14-26]. And according to the Gospel, it is not possible for moral duties to be acceptable to God unless they proceed from faith and holiness or from a supreme regard to God’s will as their spring or motive.

These doctrines involve the necessity of regeneration, a doctrine which many men, called Christians, deny; and which the morality-system utterly excludes. I know not how men who believe the Scriptures can reason away a doctrine so fully and expressly revealed as that of the new-birth. The passages of Scripture which directly assert the necessity of such a change, I need not recite; they must be familiar to you, but I will make a few remarks on this subject.

That the heart of man is naturally destitute of holiness, or true love to God, is equally provable from the Scriptures and from observation. That the natural heart is at enmity with God, one would think any person must admit who reads history or observes the state of society within his own view. But I want no other evidence of the fact than that which is furnished by the men who make morality or good works the basis of all religion, and the ground of acceptance with God. The disposition to exclude the duties of piety as of primary importance in a scheme of religion; or a disposition to obtain salvation, by the merit of moral duties in exclusion of the merits of Christ’s righteousness, without a supreme love to God and His laws and an entire dependence on sovereign grace, is to my mind a demonstration that the natural heart is “enmity against God.” [Romans 8:7] Indeed, it is an astonishing proof of pride and ingratitude, that men who acknowledge themselves to have been created without any agency of their own and who cannot raise an arm or draw a breath without the agency of their Creator, should attempt to prove that they can obtain salvation by their own works, without Divine aid and without the infusion of a principle of holiness by the same Spirit which first breathed into man the breath of life. Why is it more improbable that God should exert His sovereign power in regenerating the soul to make it a suitable being to dwell in immortal glory, than that he should form the body as a suitable being to inhabit the earth? It should be observed that the Supreme Being reserves to Himself exclusively the glory of creation. He created man and the universe with all its furniture. He has placed the animals, plants, and minerals of this globe at the disposal of man. We have the means, under His providence, of multiplying the number of animals and plants at pleasure; we can modify and use the species which He has made; but observe, we can create nothing. We cannot add a single new species to those which God has made. If the heart of man, in its natural state, is not qualified to be an inhabitant of Heaven and must be renovated, how is the change to be effected? The Scriptures everywhere represent the change of affections in the heart, as a new birth or creation; and if such is the change, who but God is to be the Creator?

Regeneration consists in an entire change of the affections. The natural man’s affections are placed on temporal enjoyments and objects of this life. Hence the social duties are the sum of his religion. The affections of the regenerate heart are placed on God, as the first and noblest object of love; on Christ as the Redeemer, through Whom man has access to God and happiness; and on the will of God as the only rule of his conduct. It looks to God as the Author of all good; trembles at the thought of offending Him; submits cordially to his commands and dispensations; and reposes with delight and unshaken confidence on his promises. The real Christian does not, in his moral conduct, make his own honor, interest, or reputation the primary rule of decision; but endeavors to regulate his actions by God’s law; “for of Him, and through Him, and to him are all things.” [Romans 11:36] In short, his heart recognizes the great truths delivered by our Savior, that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind; and that the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is unquestionably the order of pious affections; the order of nature; the order of moral fitness; and the order of the Gospel. And how is it possible for men who study the universe and read the Scriptures, to attempt to invert this order? From what cause proceeds this unnatural perversion of truth, as immutable as God himself? Is it not the natural pride and the evil propensities of the human heart? Why does man wish to dispense with the duties of piety and obtain salvation upon the strength of duties performed to his fellow-men? Is there anything painful or mortifying in piety and a dependence on Divine grace for salvation? If there is, the heart is wrong. There is certainly no durable pleasure in sin. Long before I had these views of the Gospel scheme of salvation, I was convinced that sin, even in this life, produces more pain and misery than real pleasure. No, my friend, there is no substantial satisfaction in this life, except in conforming to the laws of the Supreme Lawgiver. As His laws and character are the most excellent, and as intellectual happiness can proceed only from truth and excellence, it results that man must enjoy the most happiness, when his heart is reconciled to the Divine laws and most conformed to the Divine character.

So far are the duties of piety and religion from being painful that the human mind, roving from one temporal object to another, unsatisfied with the pleasures they afford, perplexed with doubts, and, like Noah’s dove, finding no solid ground on which to rest, never enjoys permanent peace until it has sought a refuge in that ark of Divine safety, the Redeemer’s kingdom. The soul of man is, I am persuaded, never tranquil till the will is subdued and has yielded, with implicit submission, to God’s sovereign grace. This submission, however humiliating it may appear to the natural man, is accompanied or followed with unspeakable satisfaction. The most dignified attitude of feeble, sinful man is that of a penitent at the foot of the cross, imploring pardon from an offended God; and I firmly believe that every man must be brought to this posture before he can enjoy any permanent tranquility of mind in this life, or possess any qualification for the happiness of the next.

These sentiments may perhaps expose me to the charge of enthusiasm. Of this I cannot complain, when I read in the Gospel that the apostles, when they first preached Christ crucified, were accused of being full of new wine; when Paul was charged by Felix with being a madman; and when Christ Himself was charged with performing miracles through the influence of evil spirits. If, therefore, I am accused of enthusiasm, I am not ashamed of the imputation. It is my earnest desire to cherish evangelical doctrines and no other. That the opinions here expressed are substantially true, I firmly believe; and I number it among the strong arguments in favor of the truth of these doctrines and of revelation, that pious men in every age have entertained similar views and experienced corresponding affections of the heart. In every period of the church and in every country where the true religion has been professed, men of piety have had substantially the same views of the character of God and of the duty of man; the same supreme love to their Maker; the same submission to His will, faith in His promises, and zeal in His cause, as were manifested by Abraham, by David, and the apostles. This uniformity of affections among pious men, in distant countries and periods of time, affords a solid proof of the truth of their religion and of its Divine original; for nothing is uniform but truth; nothing unchangeable but God and His works.

‘ Nor is the opposition to this scheme of religion, in my apprehension, less an argument of its truth. In every age, men who are unwilling to submit to God’s sovereignty and who desire to have as little dependence as possible on His power and mercy, have opposed the religion which gives to God His true place in the universe. The men who now reject the doctrines of the divinity of Christ, of regeneration, of the atonement, of saving faith, and of free grace; follow the footsteps of the chief priest, scribes, and Pharisees; substituting external duties for the doctrines of the cross. But, in my apprehension, we must receive these doctrines or reject the Scriptures as a forgery and Christ as an impostor. To reject the Scriptures as forgeries is to undermine the foundation of all history; for no books of the historical kind stand on a firmer basis than the Sacred Books. The correspondence of the geographical descriptions, interspersed in various books, with the real state of the countries described as it now exists, will demonstrate the historical truth of the Scriptures beyond the possibility of cavil [objection].

If then the Scriptures are ascertained to be faithful histories or relations of many facts still capable of unequivocal proof, we have a pledge that the writers have not deceived us in regard to facts not now equally susceptible of proof; and we have the strongest ground to believe that they are what they are declared by the writers themselves to be, the records of God’s revealed will. No historical facts are better attested than the miracles performed by Jesus Christ; and to deny the facts is to set afloat all history. If Christ then performed the miracles ascribed to Him, He must have been a Divine person or a mere man possessed of Divine powers for particular purposes; but He could not have been a mere man, for He expressly declares, that “Before Abraham was, I am,” John viii. 58. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was,” John xvii. 5. We must therefore admit with the apostle that Christ was “God manifest in the flesh,” [1 Timothy 3:16] or place these declarations to the account of falsehood, and hold Christ for an impostor; which no believer in the Scriptures will have the hardiness to do. I once had doubts on this subject; but my mind is now satisfied of the divinity of our Savior. “Never man spake as He spoke.” [John 7:46] The prophecies respecting Christ and the astonishing train of events recorded in the Jewish history, as preparatory to his appearance, have had no small effect in satisfying my mind on this subject. Let any man attend, among other prophecies, to the clear predictions of Christ, in the ninth and fifty-third chapters of Isaiah and he will find abundant evidence of Christ’s divinity and the inspiration of the Scriptures. It cannot be said that these predictions are forgeries, for we have ample proof that they were written several centuries before the birth of Christ. A part, if not the whole of the Old Testament, was translated into Greek by the seventy, nearly three centuries before Christ appeared, for the benefit of the Jews who, after their captivity and dispersion, had lost a knowledge of the Hebrew language; and this translation is now extant. In addition to this, it has been justly remarked, that the quotations from the Old Testament by the apostles and evangelists are taken from the Greek copy. If, then, the predictions of the prophets are genuine, as I firmly believe, they must have been dictated by the Spirit of God. Now the prophets apply to Christ not only the attributes, but the title of Jehovah [ ] Jehovah our righteousness, Jer. xxiii.6, and xxiii. 16. I have long regretted that, in the common version of the Bible, the original word Jehovah has not been generally retained in the translation. I think the original loses much of its force in the English word Lord and, when applied to Christ, the evidence of the Divinity of Christ contained in the title is to an ordinary reader, entirely lost or much impaired.

To those who object to this doctrine of Christ’s divinity on account of its mysteriousness, I would reply, that there is nothing more mysterious in this doctrine than in everything else respecting God and His works. Men should not stumble at mystery after having disposed of the difficulties attending the belief of a preliminary mystery, the least comprehensible of all. The existence of a God, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being and perfections is, in my apprehension, by far the greatest mystery that can be presented to the human mind. Yet few men hesitate to believe in the existence of such a Being. Men who are not staggered at this first and greatest mystery, one would think, could not hesitate to give their assent to doctrines involving less difficulties; for when once the existence of a God of unlimited power is admitted, we may safely admit the existence of any facts, however mysterious and astonishing, that do not involve an absolute contradiction. I am not perfectly satisfied with the terms used in creeds, “three persons in one God;” the terms are not Scriptural and may not assist the understanding in its contemplations on this subject. I receive the doctrine just as the Scriptures represent it without attempting to explain it in terms of my own. I bow to this, as to all other mysteries in the kingdoms of nature, providence, and grace. All creation is full of mystery; indeed the constitution of man is, perhaps, as great a mystery as any other. The union of an intelligent principle with a certain organic structure of bones, flesh, vessels, and nerves, is perhaps as really incomprehensible by us as the existence of God or the Divinity of Christ; for we cannot compare degrees of incomprehensibility. Explain to my understanding, how a man, by an act of the will, can move a finger, and I think I may safely undertake to unfold any mystery in the Gospel. Explain to me the natural cause of attraction, in gravitation, cohesion, or magnetism; describe to me the process of vegetation on the earth, and of mineralization beneath its surface; attend the chemist in his laboratory, and see two invisible colorless gases combined in a certain proportion, producing that visible substance, water, and the same substance decomposed and converted into gases; in short, unfold to my comprehension the cause of heat, the operations of light, and of congelation [thickening], before you complain of the mysteriousness of Christ’s divinity. What is there, my dear friend, in Heaven above or on the Earth beneath, which we do comprehend? Surely, beings of our limited capacities have no right to expect we shall be able to understand all the works and counsels of the infinite Jehovah. It is our duty to admire and adore, to love and obey. In short, it is the duty of man to be humble. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact, that God rarely communicates to man the consolations of His grace and evidences of His favor till severe convictions have reduced him to a strong sense of the feebleness of his powers as well as the sinfulness of his heart. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” [Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6]

Men who depend on their own works for salvation, appear to question the special influences of the Divine Spirit in renewing the heart. It is difficult to reconcile this skepticism with a belief in the Scriptures, which repeatedly and unequivocally assert the fact. Real Christians have the witness within themselves; that is, they have evidence from their views of divine things and the affections of the heart, which leave little or no room to doubt the divine influence which produced them. The operations of the Spirit are very various. In some persons convictions produce anxiety and error, which drive them almost to despair. In others, convictions are less violent but produce a solicitude which leads the subjects of them to read the Scriptures; to inquire the way to Zion; to attend to the means of grace and gradually to renounce all reliance on themselves, and to seek God through Christ with humility, prayer, and submission. In some cases, though less frequently, persons without much previous distress, have opened to their minds, most luminous views of the excellence of the Divine character, of God’s love and mercy in Christ; and seem to pass at once from death to life; and from the most determined enmity of heart and opposition to the Christian scheme of salvation, to the most cordial delight in the doctrines of the Gospel. These facts, which are within the observation of every honest inquirer, correspond with the account of Christ Himself has given of the operations of the Spirit, which are compared to the blowing of the wind, whose effects only are perceived. Many persons, whose views and affections are evidently changed, are not sensible of any particular operation on their hearts. They have new affections and views, but know not the time or the manner in which they received them. In others, the impressions are too sensible not to be recognized. I know there are men who denominate such impressions enthusiasm and spiritual delusion. But the instances of such sensible changes of the heart, in persons of sound judgment and cool, dispassionate minds, not prone to yield to fanciful suggestions and transient feelings, furnish evidence of the reality of such special agency of the Divine Spirit on the heart which I cannot think it right to reject.

That the operations of the Holy Spirit are sometimes accompanied with a light exhibited to the imagination, is not generally believed; but I am inclined to believe the fact on the authority of well authenticated cases. I see no more reason for disbelieving the fact, than for rejecting the account of St. Paul’s conversion; for the soul of man is undoubtedly the medium through which the Supreme Being makes His communications. At the same time, there is so much danger of deception, in the force of the imagination, that I think the evidence of such facts should be very clear to encourage confidence. The proof of a real change of heart should rest on the subsequent life; for “the tree is known by its fruit.” [Matthew 12:33, Luke 6:44] But that God does make special communications of His favor to man, through the intellectual and spiritual principle, or soul; and that He often grants the requests of His children, by a direct agency, independent of visible means, are facts fully revealed in the Scriptures and well known to Christians.

“Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” [John 14, 13] is the repeated promise of our Savior; a consolatory promise that many pious souls have known to be fulfilled, to their unspeakable joy and to the great confirmation of their faith.

These are points which I am sensible are not generally believed. But why should they be questioned? For what purpose was the soul infused into man? Why was man distinguished from the brute? If man was made to perish like the beast of the field, of what use is his intellectual part? The animal appetites of the brute afford, perhaps, in the gratification, as much pleasure as those of man. Surely, then, man was endowed with superior powers and faculties for some important purpose. For what purpose? The soul bears some resemblance to divinity and is evidently designed for enjoyments of a superior rank. To direct the intellectual powers of man to their proper objects, it was doubtless necessary for him to have a revelation of God’s will and such revelation requires a direct communication from God. It may be said that such communications were undoubtedly made but having been made and the substance of them recorded, further communications are unnecessary. This may, in a sense, be true; but I see no improbability in God’s continuing to make special communications of His will to man, by illuminating the mind, in the present, as well as in former periods. The instances in which such revelations are distinctly recognized, may be rare; but some well authenticated facts of this kind may serve to confirm the truth of former revelations, and fortify the faith of Christians. Such instances now, as in former ages, may be intended to answer some important purposes in the economy of Providence and grace; and are, probably in most instances, given in answer to fervent prayer.

It is no objection to these opinions that such communications are not general or common, any more than it is to the special infliction of punishment by Divine wrath on some heinous crimes, while other crimes, apparently as offensive, are suffered to pass, for the present, unpunished. If a blasphemer, riding in company, should, with an oath and a lie upon his tongue, declare that the horse he is on never stumbles, and his horse should instantly fall and break the man’s neck, no person could hesitate to believe it at least probable that the Almighty had interposed, by His agency, to execute sudden vengeance on the offender. Yet many other men, committing a like offence, may escape present punishment without, in the least, impairing the evidence of God’s special interference in the case stated. For it is the character of God as represented in the Scripture, and manifested every day, to exercise mercy rather than vengeance and, by a few instances of His wrath, to give examples and evidences of His power and government, to recall other offenders to their duty. It is equally probable, that special communications of His will, and of His favor, may be made to strengthen the faith and animate the hopes of those who confide in him. Not to believe in such instances, is to discredit all human testimony. If you will take the trouble to converse with experienced Christians, and read the written accounts of their lives, you must, I think, be satisfied that God does, at times, as directly interpose in behalf of those who ask Him in faith, as He did in restoring health to the sick, and sight to the blind, under the ministration of our Savior on earth.

Such facts serve to establish the doctrine of a special Providence, the truth of which I once questioned, but now fully believe. Indeed, it is surprising I could ever entertain a doubt on the subject; for it is as unphilosophical as unscriptural to admit a general Providence without a special one; as a general Providence implies particular providences. I was probably led into this error by the false philosophy which prevails in the world and of the universe. This philosophy substitutes for the mighty hand of Deity, the operations of second causes and laws of nature. We are taught in our youth that nature, or created things, are subject to certain laws, such as attraction, gravitation, and repulsion; and with the help of these we pretend to account for all the phenomena of the universe, without the direct agency of a supreme, intelligent Cause.

But what are the laws of nature? Nature, in its most comprehensive sense, means all that is made or produced; and laws, when applied to such created things, signify the regular motions, operations, and changes of these things, or the causes by which they are produced. If the laws of nature are the motions and changes of bodies, then they are effects and not causes, and we ascribe the phenomena of the universe to the effects of something else. If these laws are the producing or primary cause, they must be the supreme Author Himself, whom all rational men must admit to be an intelligent Being. Is it possible that laws or principles, competent to carry on the stupendous operations of the universe, can be attached to matter and not immediately dependent on the Almighty Author! Is matter susceptible of such active principles independent of an intelligent mind? I would not dare to circumscribe, even in thought, the power of Jehovah; but I have given up this philosophy and am compelled to resolve all the laws of nature into the direct agency of the almighty First Cause. The operations of nature are evidently the effects of that power constantly exerted, which first called all things into existence. Hence their uniformity; for nothing can be uniform but God and His operations.

The Jews were an illiterate people, cultivating neither arts nor sciences, to any considerable degree; yet, surprising as it may appear, they were, for ages, the only people whose history has come down to us, who appear to have had just ideas of the only true philosophy which, mounting to the true source of all created beings and their operations, ascribes all vents to Jehovah. Upon this scheme of philosophy, the difference between miracles and natural events is that natural events are usual, constant, and regular operations of Divine Power and supernatural events are the unusual and special operations of the same power which astonish men merely because they are not frequent. It cannot be the magnitude of the event which excites our wonder; for we have no ground to suppose the raising of the dead is a greater act of divine power, as it regards the Supreme Being, than the growth of a tree. If any person should incline to allege that the difference between a miracle and a natural event is that a natural event takes place by means of some medium or instrument and a miracle without such medium; this would only compel us to mount one step higher, to find the immediate agency of God. The waters of the Red Sea were removed to make a passage for the Israelites [Exodus 14], by a “strong east wind;” but it was “God who caused that wind to blow,” and the effect produced may have been as really supernatural as the revival of Lazarus from the dead [John 11].

I see nothing, therefore, in reason, to make me doubt, that God’s moral government may admit and even require, in every period of the world, special interpositions of power, divine and supernatural; nor can I see, in such special interpositions, anything more improbable than in the first formation of man, by molding matter into a particular organic frame and infusing into it an intelligent principle. The God who created the universe governs it, and all the things that inhabit it by such exertions or operations of power, general or particular, as best suits His own purposes.

The doctrine of predestination and election, is one which is much opposed by some denominations of Christians. But I see not how this doctrine can be separated from the being and attributes of an infinite God. If God is infinite, there can be no such thing as past and future, or a succession of ideas in the Divine Mind. The terms predestination and foreknowledge, are therefore inapplicable to the Supreme Being; and are used only in reference to finite beings, who have a succession of ideas. An Infinite Being must know with certainty every event, future as well as past; and if events are certainly known to Him, they must be unalterably determined: for how can He know them but in consequence of His own determination? If they are not certain, He cannot know them; and this supposition involves both a limitation of His knowledge and an imperfection in His attributes. I conceive, therefore, the Scriptural doctrine of election stands on the very character and attributes of that Being, “with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” [James 1:17] Yet we are conscious of free agency in our determinations. That man is not, in a strict sense, perfectly free, that is, independent of God in determining his actions, we must believe; for there can be but one such Being in the universe as a perfectly independent mind; but I see no contradiction nor absurdity in the doctrine of a predetermined order of events in the universe and, at the same time, the possession by man of such a freedom of will as to render him accountable for his actions. The first is affirmed in the Scriptures and, in my apprehension, is inseparable from the sovereignty and infinite perfections of the Deity; while the last is equally affirmed in the Scriptures and authorized by our own experience. The terms, unconditional election, I think, are inapplicable to the subject; for we have the Scriptures for our authority, supported by every principle of reason, that every man’s future state will be determined by his voluntary obedience or disobedience. I think it better to submit and obey, than to perplex our minds with abstruse [difficult to understand] reasonings on subjects beyond our comprehension.

To many men, the doctrine of free, unmerited grace in the salvation of sinners is very offensive. Such persons seem to suppose they can merit salvation and claim it as a right. But was not our first formation an act of free grace and uncontrolled sovereignty? Was not the gift of an intelligent mind to man, distinguishing him from the brutes, an act of Sovereign grace? Did a man ever plant a field with corn and claim from the Almighty, as a right, a fruitful harvest? Why then object to free grace in the work of salvation? Surely man, a feeble, frail being, who holds his life and all his powers at Divine sufferance, should be more humble.

But is there nothing for man to do? He is commanded to “work out his salvation with fear and trembling.” [Philippians 2:12] Yes, my friend, man has much to do…he must work out his salvation with fear and trembling; but the misfortune is a great part of the world wish to work out their salvation without fear and trembling. They are willing to be honest and just to their fellow-men and then confidently claim salvation from their Creator, without fearing His laws, or trembling at his judgments; without performing the duties of piety, submitting to His will, or accepting a Savior: in short, without that humility which gives God all the glory, and that holiness, without which there can be no enjoyment in Heaven. The condition of salvation, which God has imposed, is that the heart must be right with God; not with man, for man is not the Lawgiver or Judge—but with God, the only Being who has the right to judge and the power to punish or reward.

Man comes into the world without any knowledge of his Maker, and with a heart opposed to His law. His business is to learn the character of God, from the Scriptures and from the works of nature and Providence; then to learn his own sinfulness and frailty and his obligations to love and serve his Maker. Being convinced of his own sinfulness and utter helplessness without Divine aid, it is his duty to abandon every sin, to humble himself before his Maker, repent of all His transgressions, bow to God’s sovereign will, implore his pardon, and cordially accept of the Savior as his only hope and refuge. On such conditions salvation is freely offered; and those who comply with them, may expect the consolations of the Spirit and good hope through grace of their acceptance with God. But men cannot expect these consolations until they are humbled. Those who proudly rely on their own good works, virtually tell their Maker they do not want His assistance and grace; and God gives His Holy Spirit to those only who ask it in humility. God is the Sovereign of the universe. He does govern it; He has a right to govern it; and men, if saved, can be saved only on the conditions which He has prescribed. He reserves to Himself the whole glory of saving sinners and the hearts of His children rejoice in the Divine determination.

I am therefore of opinion that the doctrines of Divine sovereignty, the Divinity of Christ, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and free grace through Christ, are fundamental in the Gospel scheme of salvation. Those who reject these doctrines appear to me to tear out the vitals of Christianity, leaving nothing but a lifeless skeleton. The cold doctrines of Arminianism almost exclude the Divine agency in man’s salvation. They supersede the necessity of a Redeemer and of public worship, for morality may be taught in families and schools. In short, they never reach the heart and appear not to alter the life and character.

Such are not the doctrines of the Gospel. These elevate the soul to God, the Fountain of light, life, and blessings; they subdue the natural pride of the heart, control the passions, and change the affections. They infuse a principle of supreme love to God and create a faith in Christ which tranquilizes the soul, dispels the gloomy anxieties of skepticism, alleviates the cares, and enlivens the joys of life; and to crown all, reposes, with delightful confidence, upon the Almighty Arm of a Redeemer for salvation.

Nor are the temporal benefits of real religion less conspicuous in the effects they produce in families and in society. In minds the best regulated by family discipline and the rules of civility, there will at times break forth sallies of envy, jealousy, petulance, and discontent, which annoy the peace of families and of neighborhoods. Nothing seems effectually to restrain such passions but Divine grace. The fear of man and a regard to decorum, will not produce the effect in minds of a particular structure. But the humbling doctrines of the Gospel change the tiger to a lamb. Real religion, which implies a habitual sense of the divine presence, and a fear of offending the Supreme Being, subdues and controls all the turbulent passions; and nothing is seen in the Christian but meekness, forbearance, and kindness, accompanied by a serenity of mind and a desire to please as uniform as they are cheering to families and friends. On this subject I speak with delight from observation.

At the same time, real religion inspires mutual confidence, it establishes a guard over the heart, and creates a security for fidelity and affection, in husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, which cannot be derived from authority or instruction, from the force of law, or the influence of example.

These, my dear brother, are some of my views of the Calvinistic doctrines and their effects. These doctrines, in the main, I do believe to be evangelical; and my belief is not the effect of education, for formerly my opinions were unfavorable to some of these doctrines. My belief is the fruit of some experience and much inquiry and reflection.

It is with heart-felt regret that I see a large portion of the world so inattentive to religion. Men often live for many years, gazing upon the stupendous fabric of the universe, apparently without a sentiment of piety; and wander among the charming beauties of the earth, where the power, the wisdom, and the beneficence of the Creator are displayed on every flower, and every leaf, with as little admiration and gratitude as the beasts that graze on the field. Equally insensible are they to the beauties of the Divine Character, unfolded in the works of Providence and grace; forgetting that the same God who arrays the lilies of the field with more than Solomon’s glory [Matthew 6:28-29], is ready to clothe his children with the splendid robes of the Redeemer’s righteousness [Isaiah 61:10]. And what is astonishing, but often true, the more temporal blessings men enjoy, the less disposed are they to love and obey their heavenly Benefactor: a truth which gave occasion for our Savior to remark, how difficult it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God [Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25]. It is a melancholy proof of the depravity of the human heart that men often invert the order of things and suffer their gratitude to abate in proportion as their wealth increases. Indeed it is extremely painful, to a reflecting mind, to observe men in affluence, who live amidst a profusion of everything the bounty of Heaven bestows, indulging in sensual gratifications and rolling in splendor; but forgetting, or insulting the Benefactor, while they riot on the benefit.

But I must come to a conclusion; or instead of a letter, I shall write a book. I could dwell on subjects of this kind with pleasure; but if what I have written is the truth, it is enough: if not, it is too much. If my opinions are erroneous, I should be happy to be corrected; if they are substantially true, I hope they will have their due weight. As pilgrims on the same journey, it would be for our mutual happiness on the road, “so to be agreed as that we might walk together,” [Amos 3:3] and be united in principle as well as by the most endearing of all ties, Christian love.

*****

I am, with sincere affection, Yours, & c. NOAH WEBSTER, jun.

[This was a] letter, from Noah Webster, Esq. to a friend in Boston, written for private use, [and] published at the earnest request of some gentlemen of piety, who had read the original; the author having, on revision, made some alterations, and added a few remarks to elucidate particular points. Such parts as were of a more private concern are omitted. Editors.]

New-Haven, Feb. 23d, 1809

This letter [Article] from www.wallbuilders.com

Posted in All-Encompassing Gospel, Holy Spirit, Law of Christ, Theology/Philosophy, Unity, Z-Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Socialism: its Violent Impulses and Fallacies

Liberal godsThe Violence Inherent in “Christian Socialism”

by Dr. Joel McDurmonoccupy and the elite

 

Socialism means the denial of private property to a great or even total degree. It means the use of State power—violence inherent in the power of the sword and gun—to redistribute property according to the dictates of some officer or committee of officers. Violence is therefore inherent in Socialism. Why some Christians see this as a means of fulfilling God’s will defies both reason and revelation.

[To explore “Christian Socialism” further, see the author’s book God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.]

The “Christian” Wedge

The Social-Gospel historian C. H. Hopkins notes that Unitarians formed the seedbed of the Christian Socialist movements and planted some early seeds in it.[1] To those familiar with the liberalism associated with Unitarianism, thatfall fashions 2 socialistic activism grew out of it will come as no surprise. I would like to mention the links between socialism and violence in the context of allegedly Christian activism. In short, since violence is inherent in socialism, “Christian” socialism—whether its proponents call it by that name or not—will necessarily rely on violence as well. To the extent it relies on violence beyond the few instances God’s law allows the civil ruler to exact punishment, to that extent—which is nearly the whole of it—we must understand Christian socialism to be anti-Christian in essence.tax the rich 2

As early as 1826, although the idea of redistribution of property already abounded, but few Christian or Unitarian representatives had begun calling for State coercion to effect it. Instead, Unitarian ministers (and others) organized private Christian social services, such as Joseph Zuckerman’s “ministry at large.”[2] In fact, some Unitarians vehemently defended the sanctity of private property. Harvard Professor of Moral Philosophy Francis Bowen wrote in 1856, “No nation has ever been discovered on earth, so low and brutal in their inclination and habits, so destitute of any idea of right, that the institution of property, to a greater or lesser extent, does not exist among them.”[3]

The literary critic and radical abolitionist William Ellery Channing some twenty years earlier had argued from the principle of private property against socialist movements among workers in Boston. He urged them not to be “so insanely blind to their interests [or] so deaf to the claims of justice and religion,… as to be prepared to make a wreck of the social order, for the sake of dividing among themselves the spoils of the rich.”[4] Channing, in fact, argued against the ownership of slaves by acknowledging private property as a sacred law, not merely a civil law. In this sense, some of the pro-slavery crowd subverted society by making property rights (and thus the right to own slaves) dependent upon civil legislation:

Of all radicals, the most dangerous, perhaps, is he who makes property the creature of law; because what law creates it can destroy. If we of this Commonwealth have no right in our persons, houses, ships, farms, but what a vote of legislation or the majority confers, then the same masses may strip of them all.[5]

This devotion of the sanctity of individual property unfortunately did not stick. Channing’s nephew, William Henry Channing, who had moved into Transcendentalism while remaining a Unitarian minister, had a greater appetite for government force and even violence if necessary to bring in a socialistic society. In 1848 he published The Christian Church and Social Reform—his opinion that a collectivist society would be the literal fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom on earth.[6] When pulpits and scholarship would not be enough to persuade, the radical nephew would set the tone for revolutionary activism: “The next thing is guerilla war … at every chance.”[7]

The Secret Six

A little-known story of terrorism and revolutionary causes in American history involves the abolitionist John Brown and the “Secret Six.” The Six was a group of Boston Unitarian ministers (a point rarely emphasized) intent on using and financing agitation, violence, and guerrilla tactics in order to advance their cause. They imposed themselves in more than one theater, notably in raids in Kansas in 1856, and Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, 1859—a bloody confrontation that hastened the War. One of the six, the Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made little secret of his inclination for armed conflict. Master-historian James C. Malin notes,

  1. W. Higginson announced to [financier] Gerrit Smith that he intended to “start a private organization of picked men, who shall be ready to go to Kansas in case of need, to aid the people against any opponent, state or federal.” He confessed that he wished “to involve every state in the war that is to be.…”[8]

Higginson had “prophesied” the war he spoke of, calling for revolution if need be. Malin tells of Higginson’s prophecy, that whoever was elected president that year,

the administration would be “resisted as one. If that is treason, make the most of it. Such treason as this is fast ripening in Kansas. Call it Revolution if you please. If the United States Government and Border Ruffians are to mean the same thing, the sooner the people of Kansas have revolution the better.” Before the conflict was ended, he declared, the two Nations, North and South, would be separate.[9]

Higginson had been the ringleader of early agitation and violent actions that foreshadowed the secret six. His beginnings in Boston with several others of the six included an organized campaign of violence to buck the fugitive slave laws. Hearing news that a U. S. Marshall had just imprisoned an escaped slave, Higginson organized some sixty men to storm the courthouse and free him. The group bore at least one pistol and wielded a dozen axes freshly purchased by Higginson at the local hardware store. In the short version of the story, the plan failed as armed guards subdued the invaders with clubs and cutlasses. One guard was shot dead and Higginson escaped with a slashed chin which he thereafter wore proudly as the scar of a hero-martyr for the cause. Not long after, Higginson delivered a powerful sermon that was printed and influenced a broad audience.[10]

The U.S. Marshall who arrested the slave later encountered an attack in Worcester. Abolitionists somehow conjured a warrant for his arrest, though his mission was legal. At trial he was rushed, beaten, and threatened with calls for lynching and tar and feathers. When a judge acquitted him, abolitionist crowds pelted him with eggs and spat tobacco upon him. By the time he reached the train to Boston he might have counted himself lucky to be alive, save that Rev. Higginson had been among the crowd and now traveled back to Boston at his side “to lecture him on the evils of his ways.”[11]

It is no surprise, then, that when the famous vigilante and known terrorist murderer John Brown came to Boston, Higginson and his circle were drawn to him. Brown had come seeking money for his radical raids; he found much more. He met the Unitarian ministers Higginson, Parker, Howe, and Stearns, all of whom were “either famous or wealthy men who shared a common despair of the wisdom of their countrymen; each seemed to believe that slavery could only be ended by revolution.”[12] Higginson, at least, among them knew of Brown’s murderous past. Many people did. “In accepting that knowledge—and by silence and protection accepting the principle that innocent lives could be destroyed in the name of Higher Law—all these men darkened their cause and altered its essence.”[13]

Otto Scott explains how matter-of-factly John Brown approached his revolutionary violence: “Brown’s project was fairly simple. He wanted thirty thousand dollars to ‘fight for freedom’ in Kansas and ‘carry the war into Africa.’”[14] Rev. Higginson had expressed his revolutionary violence just as plainly: “Give me a convention of ten … who have drawn their swords and thrown away the scabbard and I will revolutionize the world.”[15] Playing off his abolitionism as the central cause (perhaps it was), he argued for violence in general to get political control. He said,

Give us the power and we can make a new Constitution … how is that power to be obtained? By politics? Never. By revolution, and that alone.[16]

Nearing the beginning of Brown’s most famous raid—upon the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry—his train’s engineers heard the tracks were blocked ahead. They scouted ahead to see but were met by gunfire. Hayward Shepherd, the Negro baggage-master at Harper’s Ferry, ventured out, was shot, and hit.”[17] His wounding was the first in the raid, and turned out fatal. In an ironic twist of fate, symbolic of the tyranny of good intentions, “The first casualty of John Brown’s blow for black freedom was a free black man.”[18]

Otto Scott’s masterful work on the subject suffers from that bane of all hard-truth-telling: it was ignored by the establishment literati. Though Scott’s book was still in print and had long since been entered into the Library of Congress, a New England journalist named Edward J. Renehan, Jr., wrote another with the identical title, The Secret Six.[19] Coming some sixteen years after Scott’s, Renehan’s book has the nerve to boast, “The existence of the six has been known to scholars, but there has never been a book devoted to them.”[20] He includes a bibliography: notably absent are Scott’s far superior work as well as Malin’s two-volume masterpiece.

Despite all of their talk about equality and freedom, at least one of the Six, Rev. Theodore Parker (also a Unitarian Minister), expressed his rank elitism in absolute disdain for the black race. Near the end of his life, he penned to fellow Six-man Rev. Howe, “What a pity that the map of our magnificent country should be destined to be so soon torn in two on account of the negro, that poorest of human creatures, satisfied, even in slavery, with sugar cane and a banjo.”[21]

Elitism expressed as racism is bad enough, but the greater expression of elitism is the violence in support of one’s cause. As long as man thinks he is the great liberator (and that was the name of the Boston abolitionists’ newspaper—The Liberator), and that his [violent] agenda for liberation is justified, he will have no problem imposing his will on other men, using violence if necessary, in an attempt to further that agenda. And he will easily convince himself that whatever blood he sheds, or has shed, is justified by the goodness of his cause.

Justification for Violence

This justification of violence—be it for abolition or redistribution of property (as with the Socialists)—appears in all of the great exponents of revolution. A few come to mind. Karl Marx, in his earlier writings (around 1844), expressed his ultimate reliance not to be persuasion, but force: “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force.…” His preferred version of force was to agitate the masses into mob action: “theory also becomes material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.…”[22]

Marx lamented the fact that in his situation in Germany no one had a strong enough grip on the masses to effect a violent revolution:

But no particular class in Germany has the consistency, the severity, the courage or the ruthlessness that could mark it out as the negative representative of society. No more has any estate the breadth of soul that identifies itself, even for a moment, with the soul of the nation, the genius that inspires material might to political violence, or that revolutionary audacity which flings at the adversary the defiant words: I am nothing and I should be everything.[23]

Note how Marx called for the “me” generation over a century and a half ago, urging people to think that “I am a nobody in society, but society owes it to me to give me everything.” Socialism is institutionalized envy and selfishnessinstitutionalized, that is, by government force. With the promise of the use of material might to achieve his ends, Marx provided a powerful incentive to realize the workingman’s envy of greater wealth.

Likewise, Marx’s partner-in-crime Friedrich Engels argued against Socialists whose theory got too consistent. Certain Socialists were beginning to take the idea of equality literally (a no-no for elitists who know the word is just a useful illusion). They thought that since they believed in abolishing all material difference, and leveling everyone to the same status, they should get rid of hierarchies in the workplace as well. End oppressive authority of man-over-man altogether. Engels saw this as unrealistic. Who will organize and schedule? We need some authority! Someone (guess who) should make the rules after all. In advancing his argument, however, Engels might have spilled the Socialist beans:

Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets, and cannon—authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries.[24]

He might have been saying this in hyperbole, but the truth of revolution rings out through his words. Even if he ultimately denied violent revolution—oh nooo…we’d never call for violent revolution to seize and redistribute property—he nevertheless expressed it pretty clearly in this passage. Socialism, redistribution, is obtained and maintained through the barrel of a gun. This is authoritarian, Engels argued. To call for an end to this authority, he finished out his essay, would be to sell out the cause of the working masses.

A final example comes from Chinese Communist murderer Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. In 1926 he expressed the exact same sentiment as Engels:

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.[25]

This is the violence inherent in the systems of Socialism. Violence is justified by proponents when an elitist acts in the name of the “common good,” or some beneficent law. If redistribution of property lies at the heart of the cause, you can bet they will need violence to enforce it.

An Oxymoron

It was a split from orthodox Christianity that paved the way for ideas like this to take hold in the Christian world. It was a combination of atheists, radicals, Unitarians, and liberals—all groups that could care less about God’s commandments—that brought [the pagan ideal of] socialism into the modern world. But the quasi-Christian groups made it sound acceptable to Christians. This continues today.

None of these proponents, old or new, can justify their implicit appeals to violence in light of God’s law, so they ignore that law. They speak of benefits, care, loving one’s neighbor, welfare, help, aid, etc.—but they call for the use of government guns to fulfill those values. It is a subdued, modern version of John Brown and the Secret Six, of Marx, of Engels’s and Mao’s calls for the barrel of a gun. Except it is no secret—except insofar as Christians in public schools and drawing from welfare programs either do not know better, or refuse to admit it. There is no greater oxymoron than Christian socialism.

Socialism IS Mob Violence

It just seems commonplace to us, I guess, that Europe is a Continent of adolescent children who throw things and break stuff, writhing in tantrum, when they don’t get their way. And they have a common phrase over there, “Crazy Americans.” We could reciprocate, but choose to ignore.

What no one seems yet to have pointed out in all the recent news reports is the obvious: socialism itself is by definition mob rule. It is the most powerful organized and collected interests in society leveraging government force to sate their lusts. To do so they extract wealth from other members of society, divvy the loot amongst themselves (the pirate image is too mild—it is more like hyenas over a carcass), and stuff their gullets.

Socialism is the political embodiment of plunder. It is the denial of the rule of law, or private property, individual liberty, and therefore of Christianity.

This system of governmental piracy unleashes at least two important aspects: the lusts of the mob, and the police-power of the mob.

The lusts of the mob manifest the depravity of man: rebellion against maturity, responsibility and honesty. The curse of the fall—the thorns and sweat—are, consciously or not, assumed to be overcome not through godly ethics, but through political policy. That is, through man’s legislative fiat, not God’s—man’s law-order, not God’s. By passing a law limiting work hours, price controls, wage rates, etc., the mob proclaims itself free of the need to work, build, plan, save, sacrifice, etc. This is fallen man’s futile proclamation that he is free, and free indeed. It is futile and blind—blind to the fact that this alleged freedom must be imposed by force of government. “Free at gunpoint.”

But someone has to pay the bills. So the rich get soaked; then they quit producing as much as they would in a free market; then general productivity declines; then national living standards decline; then the State prints and borrows to maintain its promises; then the debts start to get called. Someone has to pay those bills. You can’t just legislate them away indefinitely.

Eventually, someone, somewhere, must sacrifice, work hard, and produce. And those unnecessarily receiving an unnecessarily generous dole must take some cuts.

This means “austerity.” But austerity means backlash from the lustfully entitled mob. The conversation goes like this:

“We need cuts.”

“Yes we do.”

“Who will take the cuts?”

“Not me. You take the cut.”

“No, not me. You take the cut.”

Someone has to decide where and when cuts will come. But when they are announced, then the police-power of the mob comes into play. By “police power” I simply mean mob force, mob violence. The mob riots, burns, shatters, breaks, murders. The message: “Not me. You take the cut.”

Let us review this scenario in the recent events:

Recently, the Greek national debt threatened to sink the entire Eurozone currency, and even possibly the good will among the European Union itself (a socialist political organization self-consciously and officially symbolized by a divine rapist, Zeus, who in mythology raped “Europa,” the namesake of today’s victim). Debt burdened by state employees’ unions, pensions, and other entitlements, was simply unsustainable.

Austerity was announced. People would have to cut back—a drastic cut of 7 percent for public sector employees’ bonus pay, cuts in extra bonuses called “holiday” bonuses, a few percentage tax increases here and there, and no more automatic increases for state pensions. These cuts are planned to last two whole years! It is a horrible thought—temporary cuts of no more than seven percent, most no more than two.

A Greek mob of unionists rioted, tossed Molotov cocktails, burned down a bank, and killed three people including a pregnant lady.

Not much was different in France, although fickle French socialism moves its radicals to erupt over matters much less austere. Two main groups have rioted: labor unions and students. Labors unions strike and riot over government mandated increases in retirement age. French students riot because, well, they’re French students.

The French simply want their socialism. Remember, in 2005, they voted against a European Constitution because it was not Marxist enough in favor of French entitlement.

But the bills, like all socialist bills, will come due.

Someone had to decide on some cuts. So, French president Nicholas Sarkozy, with nerves of steel, just signed into law the brazen step of raising the minimum age requirement for government-sponsored retirement by a ghastly and oppressive two years. Poor hapless French workers can no longer eat cake at 60, they must wait until 62.

Imagine these oppressed workers toiling in a slavish environment a whopping government-mandated 35 hours per week, and receiving on average only 40 paid vacation days per year, and now having to bear the added opprobrium of enduring this burden an extra two years. Two more years! Two more years before going from a government-funded workers’ paradise to a government-funded retirees’ paradise.

Strikes and even riots broke out all over France, especially with vandalism in the wealthy town of Lyon, and suburbs of Paris.

By comparison with the French, the Greeks have it much rougher. They only get 37 paid days a year.

British austerity beats them both. It only offers its poor huddled masses only 36 paid free days by government mandate.

In the teeth of such a bestial abandon of capitalist exploitation, poor Brit students have—as any sane and self-respecting individual would—stood up against outrageous reform measures. Parliament announced a plan to cut public debt by $128 billion by targeting one of its high public costs—higher education. The plan is to raise student fees at public universities to an exorbitant $14,000 per year—still less than the average resident ride at an American state university (imagine going to Oxford or Cambridge for the price of, say, West Virginia University). The thought of paying one’s own way to college was too much to bear:

British students rioted violently, bashing the conservative party headquarters in London, breaking glass, injuring people.

“Not me. You take the cut.”

In a letter to Supreme Court Justice Thomas Johnson, dated June 12, 1823, Thomas Jefferson praised the American system of representation, Constitution law and amendment: “And it has been the peculiar wisdom and felicity of our constitution, to have provided this peaceable appeal, where that of other nations [of Europe] is at once to force.”

Despite a few nuances in the style and justification of force applied, not much has changed.

America is still fundamentally different than Europe, for now. While we had heated town halls for a couple years, we focused our energy on the lawful event: the election. The only real violence came in reaction from union members on the left, paired with plenty of lies and propaganda trying to demonize the forces of freedom. We endured, we waited, we elected; now we live with the results as long as we must. We pray for a better day when God in His Providence will give us an even better opportunity, and we plan and prepare for that day to come. Christian political “activists” avoid violent mob action as it is a direct sell-out to socialism and a denial of Christianity.

Crazy Americans.

As I wrote in God versus Socialism:

Socialism is the belief . . . that stealing is acceptable as long as another man or group of men says so. Socialism believes in theft by majority vote, or theft by a majority of representatives’ votes in Congress. Socialism is the belief that it’s OK to steal from your neighbor if you do it by means of the government’s gun. Socialism places man, and ultimately the State, in the place of God. Man becomes owned by other men, instead of by his Maker. Socialism is an entirely humanistic, God-denying, God-usurping belief. (p. 9)

We see merely the logical extension of this plundering group of men in the European mobs. They essentially skip Congress, parliament, the State, etc., and go straight to the source—the lusts and power of the mob. This is socialism incarnate. It is unredeemed and satanic.

The Christian has so much more to offer. The vestiges of Christian federalism still restrain our system, even if Courts and lawmakers have long-since abandoned the ideal; and even if socialistic interests—pensioners, private-public corporate deals, labor unions, social security, agricultural subsidies, the military industrial complex, and the pharmaceutical-medical-insurance-industrial complex—have torn at the seams of the system for decades. We still have a slim view of the path back to peace and freedom, should we have the will and integrity to take it.

Socialism’s Fallacies

Dean, perhaps is best remembered as Howard “yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh” Dean from the yell that cost him a 2004 Democrat nomination, has now surfaced in a hidden-camera video clip from a town-hall forum he recently gave in Paris, France. To a European Socialist audience—far from American soil and, perhaps he thought, from American earshot, too—Dean courageously affirmed the virtues of European Socialism and the belief that capitalism must simply give way. God bless those little advances of unbridled capitalistic technology called cell-phone cameras.

Here’s what Dean had to say about capitalism and Socialism:

There’s not so much of a debate on the Left anymore about capitalism, whether we should have it or not. There’s a debate about how to have it. I think capitalism is always going to be with us because capitalism represents part of human nature. But the other part of human nature is communitarianism. There’s a natural tendency in human beings—in addition to wanting to do things for themselves—they feel a great responsibility in wanting to be part of a community. And so I think the debate for the new generation is instead of capitalism or socialism, is we’re going to have both, and then which proportion of each should we have in order to make this all work. It’s a much more sensible debate.

Thankfully, he’s only talking about a debate “on the Left.” He’s not saying that the debate in general is over. And who in the world thinks there ever was a debate about capitalism on the Left? (At least not in the last century.) Dean is simply appealing to the image his French Socialist Party audience still holds of America—an image in which even the Leftist party believes in capitalism. Ha. So much for the idea that Europeans are so much more enlightened about politics and history than Americans. “Capitalism is always gong to be with us…” but don’t worry, “It will be tempered by as much socialism as we see necessary.”

But what of Dean’s argument—that capitalism and socialism are both justified since they both grow out of human nature? The idea is fallacious on two major counts: first, just because human beings have a “natural tendency” for something does not mean we need government to enforce it or that it even pertains to government to begin with. And second, no tendency is justified as good or right just because it is “natural.” Let us look at these two points.

First, granting that humans do have natural impulses towards both individuality and community, this does not logically entail, or even merely imply, that we should have government policies to enforce or regulate the economy according to socialism. What Dean is actually saying here is shown to be absurd when we state it plainly: “People sometimes have a natural tendency to work in groups; therefore, the government should own most of the property and distribute it according to its dictates.” How in the world, by any standard of logic, does this follow? Why does natural human cooperation imply the need for government theft?

If anything, a natural human tendency towards community would imply the opposite—that we do not need governments to coerce people to work in groups, we do not need government to force people (with threats of violence) to socialize and work together in the marketplace in order to meet each other’s needs. If the impulse is natural, why should we need artifices—laws, regulations, courts, armed policemen, etc.—to enforce the impulse? If it is natural, it should happen without these things.

In fact, this is the way community should be—free. We already have a fundamental Constitutional law, after all, that allows the people “peaceably to assemble” as they see fit. The First Amendment denies to Congress the power to keep us from assembling (working together) whenever, however we wish. Is it a far stretch to say that this recognizes the fundamental human right to be free from coercion in regard to whom we wish to engage in business, in charity, in communication? Is it a far stretch to see this Constitutional freedom as the negation of the government’s power to enforce any given community upon freely associating (or dissociating) individuals? Seen this way, it becomes clear that Socialism actually works against nature and against law.

Inherent in Leftist thought (and that of many conservatives, too, unfortunately), is the fallacy that while that which is “individual” obviously pertains the individual, “community” somehow means “government.” This lies at the heart of Dean’s fallacy here. Liberals pretend that since we have a natural impulse towards wanting community, therefore we have a justification for government regulation. But this is hardly true. Community by no means automatically implies government power. The best and most productive communities are free communities, ones we create, join and/or fund voluntarily: churches, charities, non-profits, and business. In the past, this list included schools and universities, which are still available in voluntary forms, as well as medical care. We should also mention families, which, while not joined voluntarily, are created and funded voluntarily—and are certainly the nuclear community of humanity. Government is not necessary for any of these to be productive and good for society.

The only way government can compete with these voluntary forms of community is to tax the productivity of those who do voluntarily engage in community. Government cannot fund itself, it produces nothing. It must steal (tax). It consumes the produce of hard-working, voluntarily associating people, usually in behalf of non-working people in artificial, government-enforced “communities.” Dean is right: the real debate today is over how much socialism versus how much capitalism. The Left won’t let capitalism fade entirely because it needs capitalism to pay its bills. It needs hard-working people to tax. It must feed on the blood of hardworking people, but it must keep its bleeding victims alive to feed again later. Socialism is, yes, a Vampire.

The best thing “the Left” could do to reap the greatest benefit from both of our natural impulses is to get government more and more out of the picture. For people best to “do things for themselves” while at the same time most efficiently and productively to “be part of a community,” government should cease trying to tax and regulate how people act and work as both individuals and communities.

Secondly, Dean’s statement is fallacious in that in enshrines a natural human tendency as a government policy simply because that tendency is natural. How absurd is this notion? Rape and murder are also natural human tendencies. Fraud and conspiracy are also natural human tendencies. Case closed. Many human tendencies are abjectly evil. The question of “What form of government and economics is right?” is not answered merely by recourse to natural tendencies. We must have a higher law which discerns human tendencies and teaches us right and wrong before we create socio-economic policies.

But this fallacy pretty much explains Socialism, doesn’t it? Socialism elevates the basest natural human instincts—murder, fornication, theft, lies, and covetousness—as the duties of public office and law. It wants to enslave the people to its will against their will if necessary, and this requires physical threats of violence. Socialism wishes to be the sole community of man, and thus it attacks the nuclear unit of the family. This involves the glorification of sexual lust, the legitimizing of easy divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc. Government does not produce its own wealth, thus Socialism must steal that of others. Socialism wishes to define truth so must deny the truth of what exists and what works already—lies and permanent propaganda. Socialism wishes to control the future, thus it forces educational policy—what we must believe as “correct” about the world—and it redistributes wealth to those whom it sees fit. Thus it covets the life and property of others and schemes to steal it and further its agendas.

To maintain such a racket, Socialism requires constant propaganda. It must continually brainwash and reeducate the people in order to keep itself in power. This is the thrust of the second part of Dean’s fallacy:

[T]his is a new innovation from Obama, and I think it’s a great thing for the Democratic Party. Remember I talked about the “Permanent Campaign”? Well, before I got to the DNC we didn’t have a permanent campaign. You would campaign for one year while you had a candidate, and then if you win you wouldn’t campaign for the next three years. No wonder we’d lose.… Now we don’t just have a permanent campaign for electing democrats, we have a permanent campaign for influencing policy. It brings us a little closer to the European model.

It’s clear that the Left in America wants European style socialism. Exactly what about European socialism actually justifies this admiration no one ever really says. It can’t be the productivity or freedom of it, for there is little. Either way, in order to have their Socialist way, Dean says, they need a “permanent campaign” to influence policy. In other words, they must wage a continual war with the ideals and values of American life, history, culture, and religion in order to brainwash them into accepting Eurpoean-style socialism. This means more lies, and actually requires a good bit of leader-worship (idolatry) on top of it. The Left has plenty of both.

Any Christian that has a biblical bone in his or her spine will have to stand against the pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-moral scam of Socialism. I have written God versus Socialism in order to illustrate, in a very simple way, the radically anti-Christian nature of Socialism. God mandated the institution of private property. Socialism is the negation of private property. God alone shall be worshipped and obeyed, and He institutes divine law; Socialism is the usurpation of God’s rule by earthly rulers, and the rejection of biblical law in favor of secular humanism. There is no simpler way to put it. Socialism is rival god. It is by nature a Satanic worldview.

The question of how to have capitalism is not one of how much Socialism to temper it with. Any Socialism is the destruction and negation of capitalism. Where the State gains a foothold in society, it makes society its footstool. Dependence on coercive power to further political agendas is an infectious disease born of sin and lust. The only answer is to roll back the power; remove the temptress of Socialism, and deny the lusts of those using government power to plunder their neighbors. For Liberals this is a tall order. For Christians it should be a no-brainer.

*****

Articles from www.americanvision.org

[To explore “Christian Socialism” further, see the author’s book God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.]

Endnotes:

[1] Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism: 1865–1915 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), 4. [2] Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism: 1865–1915 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), 4. [3] Quoted in Daniel Walker Howe, The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805–1861 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988), 230. [4] Quoted in Howe, The Unitarian Conscience, 230. [5] Quoted in Howe, The Unitarian Conscience, 273. [6] Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 5. [7] Quoted in Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (New York: Times Books, 1979), 15. [8] James C. Malin, John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six, 2 vols. (New York: Haskell House Publishers, Ltd., (1942) 1971), 2:698–699. [9] Malin, John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six, 2 vols., 1:226–227. [10] Otto Scott, The Secret Six, 10–13. [11] Otto Scott, The Secret Six, 14. [12] Otto Scott, The Secret Six, 228. [13] Otto Scott, The Secret Six, 227. [14] Otto Scott, The Secret Six, 229. [15] Quoted in Scott, The Secret Six, 231. [16] Quoted in Scott, The Secret Six, 243. [17] Quoted in Scott, The Secret Six, 288. [18] Quoted in Scott, The Secret Six, 288. [19] New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1995 [20] From the dust jacket front flap. [21] Quoted in Scott, The Secret Six, 285. [22] Karl Marx, “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, Introduction,” Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 3:182, 185. [23] Karl Marx, “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, Introduction,” Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 3:182, 185. [24] Frederick Engels, “On Authority,” Basic Writings on Philosophy: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ed. by Lewis S. Feuer (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1959), 485. [25] Mao Tse-Tung, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, 23.

 

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The Church vs. Socialism

sunset churchTHE CHURCH VS. SOCIALISM

By Dr. Gary North

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common (Acts 4:32).

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (Acts 5:3-4).EmilyCarr-Indian-Church-1929

The first-century church was not opposed to private property, as Peter’s words clearly indicate. But great wealth is too great a temptation for most people. Jesus laid down the general rule: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24). Nevertheless, this rule is not absolute: “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:25-26).AAA

The deciding factor is personal self-government under God’s law, whether we are speaking of great wealth, great power, great intelligence, great beauty, or any other blessing in abundance. Christians have been suspicious of great personal wealth in the hands of the spiritually average person. They are aware of God’s covenantal warning to Israel: beware, lest “thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day” (Deut. 8:17-18).simon says

God gives individuals the power to get wealth. Should civil governments deny this principle by passing legislation that deliberately reduces this power for some men — specifically, the successful? On what biblical basis could such legislation be justified? These are rhetorical questions. There is no possibility of legitimately invoking biblical judicial standards to defend either socialism or modern egalitarianism, i.e., hard-core liberation theology or soft-core liberation theology. Peter’s words to Ananias are judicially and ethically authoritative. Socialism is therefore a form of ethical rebellion. This is why liberation theologians, not to mention outright Christian socialists, do not begin their analyses or manifestos with a detailed exegesis of this passage.Karl Marx

Until modern times, the leadership of orthodox churches steadfastly opposed socialism. They did not proclaim the ideal of free market capitalism, but they did proclaim ideals that eventually produce free market capitalism: the legitimacy of private property, geographical mobility for the sake of one’s service to God (the ideal of missions and one’s calling before God), personal responsibility, and voluntary charity to relieve individual cases of poverty. Within the churches, there have occasionally been defenders of compulsory State socialism — as distinguished from the voluntary socialism of certain vow-taking religious orders — but they have always been regarded as heretical by the churches’ leadership. The march into socialist ideology by the leadership of modern mainline churches has been accompanied by their march out of theological orthodoxy.(1)

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”

This famous slogan of the French Revolution embodies the Enlightenment’s revolutionary ideal — an ideal of radical simplicity.(2) These three ideals can be found in the Bible, along with many others. To single out these three ideals as the foundations of social order is to adopt the fallacy of simplicity — the principle of the lowest common denominator.(3) This fallacy has always been the fundamental error of socialist economic theory: the idea that an economic plan simple enough for a committee to design and enforce will suffice to fit together the comprehensive wants and productive capacities of an entire society.(4)

Liberty under God and God’s law has been basic to the ideal of Western liberty. “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32b) has been a guiding principle of Western thought from the beginning. Each man is responsible before God for his own thoughts and actions. Liberty is a corollary to this high degree of individual responsibility.

Equality as an ideal is found in Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality” (II Cor. 8:13-14). The context of his remarks was his fund-raising for poor Christians in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:26; I Cor. 16:3). The Corinthian church had pledged these funds a year before (II Cor. 16:10-11). Paul was reminding them of their year-old pledge — a practice still common in Christian fund-raising. He was calling for voluntary sacrifice in order to meet the needs of a specific group of poor Christians. He was not laying down a judicial ideal for political economy.

Fraternity is an inescapable implication of the doctrine of the fatherhood of God. Paul told the Athenians that God created all things (Acts 17:24); therefore, He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). But God has disinherited the sons of Adam. Entry into God’s holy family is available only through adoption by God, who has predestinated each redeemed person’s salvation before the foundation of the world. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:4-5). The disinherited sons of Adam are outside the judicial boundaries of God’s adopted family. This theology of exclusion infuriates them.

The three-fold revolutionary ideal, which is at bottom deeply religious, is a substitute for the Bible’s multiple ideals. It is based on faith in the healing power of the predestinating State. All men must be adopted into the universal family of man. (This implies the need for a universal, unitary world State.) They must all become citizens, brothers, and comrades. Those who resist or repudiate this political adoption must either be killed or enslaved: the modern totalitarian’s version of the conquest of Canaan. This is the underlying theology of the guillotine and the Gulag Archipelago.

Socialism: Ideal vs. Reality

Liberty, equality, and fraternity have proven to be unattainable socialist ideals. In the name of liberty, socialist states have repeatedly crushed liberty through taxation, inflation, confiscation, and regulation, while simultaneously creating rigid hierarchies based on access to political power and privilege. In the name of equality, socialism creates new hierarchies based on access to office rather than access to money. The failed Soviet Russian experiment, like the tottering Red Chinese experiment, provides abundant evidence of political favoritism, especially for family members of Communist Party members. In the name of the abolition of private property, socialism creates new forms of control over property: second homes (dachas) for high Communist officials; special stores for high Communist officials who, along with members of criminal syndicates, alone possessed “hard” (Western) currency. As for fraternity, the various brotherhoods established by socialists have resembled the brotherhood of Cain and Abel. Stalin and Trotsky serve as representative examples.(5)

The promise of equality has proven to be the most powerful appeal of socialism. Part of this appeal has been based on jealousy: the desire to confiscate another person’s wealth in order to augment my wealth. A far stronger impulse has been envy: the desire to destroy another person’s wealth even though I do not profit from this destructive act.(6) It is not that socialist voters really expect politicians to legislate new tax codes that sharply reduce the tax burden of the poor and the middle class; it is that they want tax codes that punish the rich.

Equality before the law in a world of different resources, especially personal resources, leads to the inequality of economic results. Adopting an admittedly imperfect analogy from the sports world — a rhetorical strategy used by Paul on occasion(7) — if men cannot run a race at the same speed, then an even starting line, a straight runway,(8) and a simultaneous start will always lead to winners and losers: inequality of results. Socialism denies the legitimacy of the inequality of competitive economic results, so the socialist must invoke the coercive power of the State to stamp out all forms of inequality based on service to consumers. Inequality before the law becomes the socialist’s inevitable judicial standard.

Socialism transfers ownership from individuals, families, churches, and corporations to the State. It substitutes bureaucratic management for profit management.(9) It substitutes central planning by committees for entrepreneurial planning by risk-takers. It substitutes State sovereignty for consumer sovereignty.

In the name of the family of man, socialism wages war on the family, for the covenantal family possesses a separate judicial authority; it resists absorption into the State. Socialism wages war on the church for the same reason. Heavy taxation, special exemptions, subsidies for those who publicly conform, and bureaucratic regulation are the State’s main strategies of conquest in both of these wars.

The Early Church

Clement of Alexandria, in his late-second-century sermon on the rich young ruler, enjoined self-discipline, not poverty. Extreme poverty is bad, he said. “For it is impossible and inconceivable that those in want of the necessaries of life should not be harassed in mind, and hindered from better things in the endeavour to provide them somehow, and from some source.”(10) Therefore, he concluded, “And how much more beneficial the opposite case, for a man, through possessing a competency, both not himself to be in straits about money, and also to give assistance to those to whom it is requisite so to do! For if no one had anything, what room would be left among men for giving?”(11)

It is clear that his concern here was with individual Christians, not the State. Individuals should administer wealth. They are required by God to gain the skills necessary to become competent administrators of wealth. There is nothing morally wrong with great wealth. “Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbours, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they lie to our hand, and are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument. If you use it skillfully, it is skillful; if you are deficient in skill, it is affected by your want of skill, being itself destitute of blame. Such an instrument is wealth. . . . That then which of itself has neither good nor evil, being blameless, ought not to be blamed; but that which has the power of using it well and ill, by reason of its possessing voluntary choice. And this is the mind and judgment of man, which has freedom in itself and self-determination in the treatment of what is assigned to it. So let no man destroy wealth, rather than the passions of the soul, which are incompatible with the better use of wealth. So that, becoming virtuous and good, he may be able to make a good use of these riches.”(12)

A similar attitude toward great wealth prevailed in the centuries that followed. In their detailed study of medieval political theory, the Carlyles wrote in 1927: “The earliest Fathers carry on these conceptions very much as we find them in the New Testament: on the one hand they do not seem to have any dogmatic theory of the community of Christian men’s goods; on the other hand they continue to insist that the Christian man is bound to use his property to relieve the wants of his fellow-man, and especially of his fellow-Christian.”(13) Honest labor was required of church members, charity was strongly recommended, and the ideal of voluntary poverty for the gospel’s sake was affirmed. But there was also faith in God’s external blessings for those who are obedient to Him. One such blessing is wealth. So, any public denunciation of wealth was generally qualified.(14) The church during its first three centuries did not advocate communism or State action to redistribute wealth.(15)

Then what about private property? Is it a commandment of God? The early church, like the medieval church, identified the origin of private property with the fall of man. (A secular version of this account was offered by Karl Marx, and before him, by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Marx viewed alienation — a kind of secular fall — as the origin of private property.(16) Rousseau viewed private property as the cause of man’s fall into the evil of civil society rather than its effect.(17)) This explanation became an important argument of the conservative churchmen against the radical equalitarians.(18) Both Cyprian and Chrysostom preached on common property as an ideal, using Acts 4:32 as their text.(19) But they did not argue that the State should enforce such a community of common ownership.

The major early church exponent of the egalitarian tradition was St. Ambrose in the late fourth century. On the one hand, he affirmed the traditional view of wealth: “But riches themselves are not blameable.”(20) On the other hand, he was an equalitarian. He viewed the origin of private property as part of the fall of man: usurpation. He argued that the poor are not responsible for their poverty. Charity is actually a form of restitution. But he proposed no coercive power for the creation of a wealth-redistribution program. As Arthur Lovejoy observed, not much ever came of Ambrose’s teaching in this regard. “The most significant fact concerning this side of the teaching of St. Ambrose is that so little came of it. The most powerful and most popular figure in the Latin Church through two critical decades, he played a large part in determining the direction which it was to take in theology, in its ecclesiastical polity, its liturgy, and its relations to the secular authority. But his preaching of a virtually equalitarian and communistic ideal of a Christian society had no effect commensurate with its earnestness and eloquence.”(21)

The Medieval Church

We think of medieval monasteries as being the incarnation of the anti-commercial spirit. Regarding private property, Benedict’s sixth-century manual (Rule) of monastic rules announced: “This vice especially ought to be utterly rooted out of the monastery”;(22) it is a “most wicked vice.”(23) Yet even here, the power of thrift, hard work, and careful management kept leading to the accumulation of institutional wealth. In the sale of the produce of the monasteries to the general public, Benedict was committed to one of the most fundamental aspects of modern capitalism: price competition. “And, as regards the price, let not the sin of avarice creep in; but let the goods always be sold a little cheaper than they are sold by people of the world, that in all things God may be glorified.”(24) The result was that the Benedictine monasteries accumulated great wealth over the centuries. Dom Cuthbert Butler writes of Benedict: “Whether he contemplated his monasteries acquiring great wealth, it is impossible to say; probably it did not enter his mind. But this in time did come about, and inevitably. The mere fact of a body of men working without personal remuneration, living frugally, and pooling their earnings, would of itself in time accumulate wealth. Then came the flood of gifts of all sorts that are constantly made to a permanent community. As a matter of fact, history attests that the great Benedictine abbeys in all lands were rich, and very rich.”(25) Within a century of Benedict’s Rule, some European monasteries were issuing their own coinage.(26) The Cistercians in the later Middle Ages became large-scale farmers and rural bankers.(27)They were great reclaimers of waste lands.(28) One estimate of their productivity is that during the thirteenth century, as much as one-sixth of the economic output in England was the result of their activities.(29)

The main exception seems to be the Franciscans, a late-medieval order. St. Francis had established the ideal of poverty in his Rule for the order. These poverty clauses were removed when the order received papal approbation in 1223 by Honorius III.(30) Also, the Franciscan order repeatedly bordered on the heretical. There was a long struggle for control within the order: Spirituals (heretical) vs. Conventuals.(31) Pope John XXII in the early fourteenth century brought the Spiritualists within the order under strict church discipline. He condemned the ideal of absolute poverty.(32) This is not surprising. It would have been unthinkable to the medieval church to promote either absolute poverty or communism. Private property was understood to be the result of the fall of man, but it is now a natural right — not opposed to nature but the result of nature.(33) The church owned far too much property for its theologians to have taken a totally hostile view of private property. This ownership accelerated throughout Europe after Charlemagne.(34) By the tenth century, as much as one-quarter of Europe’s land was owned by the church.(35) This percentage began to decline in the twelfth century.(36)

What about profit-seeking business? There has been a tendency throughout church history to characterize the merchant as a cheater and morally suspicious person. From the church fathers until the Protestant Reformation, the merchants have been persona non grata in the eyes of some (though not all)(37) theologians. (The canonists actually respected and protected the merchants.)(38) Theologians always recognized the importance of the merchant class in serving the needs of society. The merchant was regarded by some as a necessary evil in fallen society.(39) This somewhat hostile outlook was not universal, however. The late-medieval scholastics of the Spanish school of Salamanca were generally positive regarding business; their views were free-market oriented.(40) One careful historian of the medieval church’s views on property has concluded that “In business matters, civil law was often more harsh than canon law, a point that is often overlooked when considering the relevance and influence of the latter.”(41)

The poor were regarded as possessing a moral claim on the wealth of those who had a surplus of property. This surplus was always estimated in terms of the owner’s station in life.(42) This made it very difficult for the poor to enforce such a moral claim. The emphasis of the theologians was on the need for balance between the rights of private property and the needs of the community, especially the community of the saints. This was as true of the Reformation as it was of the earlier era.(43) But from the eleventh century forward, the individualism of Roman law steadily gained ground in the thinking of the theologians.(44)

From the late sixth century, beginning with the council of Tours in 567, the Frankish church recommended that laymen give a full tithe to the church. The duty of the Christian community — not the civil government — to assist the poor was recognized. The synod of Macon made this exhortation into a precept; as historian Walter Ullmann says, “everyone was compelled to pay the tenth into the chest of the bishop.”(45) The justification was relief of the poor: at least a quarter of the tithe, and as high as one-third — a proposal supported by Charlemagne.(46) But this was church law, not civil law. Ullmann is correct: “To this function, nay, this achievement of the early medieval bishops far too little attention is paid: it was they, not as monarchic governors of their dioceses, but in their corporate function as members of the councils, who saturated this society with Christian elements and thus brought about a unity of basic outlook which no sword, no royal measure, no legislation by kings could have attained in so short a span of time.”(47)

Heretical Movements

Prior to 1660, there were numerous heretical movements within European Christianity that proclaimed various forms of Christian socialism. Dominicans and conservative Franciscans were sent by the church to challenge Roman Catholic groups.(48) In a few cases, non-heretical groups proclaimed the socialist ideal. The most famous exception was the communist society in Paraguay run by Jesuits in the early seventeenth century. This society was directed by 150-300 local members of the Jesuit order. These Jesuits were not primarily Spaniards, but mainly Germans, Italians, and Scots. This society consisted of 150,000 to 200,000 inhabitants: mostly Indians, but with 12,000 black slaves. This communist experiment was constructed in part on the traditions of the socialist empire of the Incas.(49) The experiment came to an end in 1767-68, when the Spanish government drove the Jesuits out of the region.(50)

The best brief study of the heretical socialist movements of the late medieval and early modern periods is Igor Shafarevich’s book, The Socialist Phenomenon.(51) Shafarevich, a mathematician, was a prominent member of the Soviet Union’s anti-Communist protest movement of the 1970’s.(52)Shafarevich surveys the history of several of these heretical sects: Cathars, Free Spirits, Adamites, Taborites, and Anabaptists. Some were world-denying Manicheans and Gnostics; others were world-affirming pantheists. All were desirous of overcoming the Creator-creature distinction. He concludes: “All these individual theses can be reduced to one aim: overcoming the conjunction of God and the World, God and Man, which had been accomplished through Christ’s incarnation (the fundamental principle of Christianity, at least in its traditional interpretation).”(53) But how could the Bible’s Creator-creature distinction be overcome theologically? Through either gnosticism or pantheism: escape religion or power religion. He writes:

There were two ways to achieve this: denial of the world or denial of God. The first path was taken by the Manicheans and the gnostic sects, whose teachings conceded the world to the domain of an evil God and recognized as the sole goal of life the liberation from matter (for those capable of it). The pantheistic sects, on the contrary, not only did not renounce the world, but proclaimed the ideal of the dominion over it (again, for a chosen few, while others, the “rude” folk, were included in the category of the world). In their teachings it is possible to find the prototype of the idea of “subjugating nature” which became so popular in subsequent periods. The dominion over the world was considered possible not through the carrying out of God’s will — but by denying God and by transformation of the “Free Spirits” themselves into gods. The social manifestation of this ideology can be seen in the extreme trends of the Taborite movement. Finally, the Anabaptists apparently tried to find a synthesis of these tendencies. In their “militant” phase, they preached the dominion of the elect over the world; moreover, the ideas of dominion completely overshadowed the Christian features of their world view (for example, Muntzer wrote that his teachings were equally comprehensible to Christians, Jews, Turks and heathens). In their “peaceful” phase, as can be seen in the example of the Moravian Brethren, withdrawal from the world was predominant: a condemnation of the world and a breaking of all ties with it.

The ideas of chiliastic socialism constituted an organic part of this outlook. The demands to abolish private property, family, state and all hierarchies in the society of the time aimed to exclude the participants of the movement from the surrounding life. This had the effect of placing them in a hostile, antagonistic relationship with the “world.”(54)

Socialist ideology is imbued with the notion of a coming fundamental break, of the end and destruction of the old world and the beginning of a new order. This concept is interwoven with the idea of “imprisonment” and “liberation,” which, beginning with the Cathars, is understood as imprisonment of the soul in matter and as liberation in the other world. Later, the Amalricians and the Free Spirits saw the idea as spiritual liberation through the achievement of “godliness” in this world. And finally, the Taborites and the Anabaptists conceived of it as material liberation from the power of the “evil ones” and as the establishment of the dominion of the “elect.”(55)

The New Hierarchy

Also involved in these heretical movements was the creation of a unique organizational structure: a concentric structure, with “a narrow circle of leaders who are initiated into all aspects of the doctrine and a wide circle of sympathizers who are acquainted only with some of the aspects.”(56) This system re-established a centralized hierarchy, but in the name of initiation into the inner circle of free men.(57) The older magical humanistic ideal was steadily replaced (in public, anyway) by a secular humanistic ideal. “The leading role in the development of socialism passes to a new type of individual. The hermetic thinker and philosopher is replaced by the fervent and tireless publicist and organizer, an expert in the theory and practice of destruction. This strange and contradictory figure will reappear in subsequent historical epochs. He is a man of seemingly inexhaustible energy when successful, but a pitiful and terrified nonentity the moment his luck turns against him.”(58) It is not surprising that the two primary streams of Europe’s nineteenth-century socialist revolutionary movements — international socialism and national socialism — had their origins in occultism and journalism.(59)

From Revelation to Reason

The English Civil War and Interregnum of 1642-60 was the last occasion for the socialist heretical sects to gain power in Europe. The openly religious-ecclesiastical phase of socialist agitation ended in Europe with the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660. As Shafarevich notes, “The development of socialist ideas did not cease, of course. On the contrary, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, socialist writings literally flooded Europe. But these ideas were produced by different circumstances and by men of a different mentality. The preacher and the wandering Apostle gave way to a publicist and philosopher. Religious exaltation and references to revelation were replaced by appeals to reason. The literature of socialism acquired a purely secular and rationalistic character. . . .”(60) This was equally true of the defenses of economic science. Appeals to Christian morality and biblical revelation were removed from the post-1660 literature of economics. It is this self-conscious removal that marks the origin of scientific economics.(61)

The restoration of Charles II to the throne led to the suppression of all independent Puritan sects, including the communists (Diggers and others). There could be no doubt in the minds of orthodox Anglicans: private property is central to society.(62) In the thinking of the religious leaders, the question of the State-imposed limits on private property is best left to the king and his Parliament. The question was too complex. “Outside the churches the opinion was rapidly growing that clergymen ought not to meddle with secular policy.”(63) This same attitude progressively prevailed in Puritan New England after 1676.(64)

The Advent of Christian Socialism: Nineteenth Century

In the first half of the nineteenth century, there were numerous English and American experiments in voluntary socialist communalism.(65) These communes were sometimes described by their founders as Christian, but their founders were more often Unitarians or openly heretical. A good example is Adin Ballou (1803-90), co-founder in 1841 of the Hopedale Community, a joint-stock Christian venture, who led the group from 1841 until 1852. He was the author of Practical Christian Socialism (1854) and editor of The Practical Christian. He was a universalist, a pacifist, and an abolitionist.(66)

Better candidates were the co-founders of nineteenth-century British Christian socialism, Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice, an anti-Unitarian, anti-Catholic theologian, King’s College historian, and a Church of England cleric, and his close friend, Rev. Charles Kingsley. They were a strange pair. Kingsley was a successful novelist (YeastAlton LockeWater Babies), a Darwinian evolutionist, and chaplain to Queen Victoria. He was vehemently opposed to Calvinism.(67) The orthodoxy of his theology can be judged by a letter that he wrote to Maurice in 1863 to describe his new discovery that “souls secrete their bodies, as snails do shells. . . .”(68) Maurice, in contrast, was devout, but his language indicated that he was a universalist. At best, he completely confused common grace with redemptive grace. “Every man is in Christ; the condemnation of every man is that he will not own the truth — he will not act as if it were true that except he were joined to Christ he could not think, breathe, live a single hour.” Every man, “as man, is the child of God. He does not need to become a child of God, he needs only to recognize that he already is as such.”(69) This confuses the two forms of sonship: disinherited (Adamic) and adoptive (Christian). Mauruce wrote to Kingsley in 1847 to criticize him for having inserted what Maurice regarded as “a sneer against the idea of a Divine Bridegroom. . . . I fully defend your right to be humorous, if by any words in your own mouth or any other you weakened people’s faith in this mystery, I should think you were inflicting a deep wound on humanity.”(70)

Maurice and Kingsley were socialists in the post-1848 era.(71) The failed socialist revolutions of 1848 were a major turning point in European thought and culture.(72) These simultaneous uprisings were important for the subsequent development of a confrontational Christian socialism.(73) Kingsley wrote to John Stuart Mill in 1869: “In five-and-twenty years my ruling idea has been that which my friend [Thomas H.] Huxley has set forth as common to him and Comte; that `the reconstruction of society on a scientific basis is not only possible, but the only political object much worth striving for.'”(74)

Beginning in the post-Civil War (1861-65) era in the U.S., the rise of the Social Gospel movement within Protestantism led to a fusion of liberal religion and socialism, or at least government intervention into the economy. The general morality of socialism was defended in the name of Christian morality.(75) The Social Gospel movement gathered momentum in the first third of the twentieth century, effectively challenged only by the rise of officially non-political neo-orthodoxy after the First World War and by neo-evangelicalism after the Second World War.(76) But both of these alternative movements have incorporated many of the Social Gospel’s ideas regarding “social justice,” i.e., State intervention. The leaders of both groups have repeatedly embraced political liberalism.(77) Twentieth-century political liberalism is addicted to humanism’s messianic dreams of salvation by civil law. This is the socialists’ dream, too.

The Drifting Evangelicals

All socialist economic thought relies on a specific view of civil law, namely, that it is legitimate for the State to use its power to redistribute wealth from richer residents to poorer residents. This view is inescapably a denial of the requirements of Leviticus 19:15: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”(78)Socialism comes in many varieties: utopian, Communist, Fabian, and Keynesian interventionist. In some periods of Western history, it has even come in the name of Jesus Christ. Prior to the nineteenth century, however, such claims were regarded by the church as heretical. No longer. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that few churches today are willing to define heresy formally, and fewer still are willing to impose the negative institutional sanction of excommunication against those who publicly uphold heresy. It is not merely that socialism is no longer identified as heretical; it is that almost no belief is defined as heretical.

Throughout the twentieth century, the evangelical churches have been progressively unwilling to make up their collective minds about much of anything. They have steadily abandoned the non-negotiable doctrines of the past. When the spokesmen of the church of Jesus Christ no longer believe that God created the earth in six 24-hour days, that God sent a universal flood, or that hell is a real place, we should not expect them to be able to decide in God’s name between the biblical legitimacy of competing economic ideologies. J. Gresham Machen identified the theological problem in 1923: modernism, a rival religion.(79) For doing so, and doing it so effectively, he was savagely attacked personally by his liberal critics and was thrown out of the Northern Presbyterian Church in 1936, though of course not for theological reasons, according to the hierarchy.(80) No one is thrown out of the modern Protestant ministry for theological reasons; only for bureaucratic reasons. By the 1970’s, modernism was triumphant in the mainline denominations and was nearly triumphant in all but the smallest denominations.(81) One by one, decade by decade, evangelical seminaries drifted into theological liberalism and Barthianism.(82) By the 1970’s, the neo-evangelicals had become, in the perceptive phrase of Richard Quebedeaux, the worldly evangelicals.(83) Without an anchor — the ideal of an infallible Bible and its permanent and universal relevance to every society — there has to be drift away from orthodox Christianity. There is no neutrality in life.

Halfway House Theology

Neo-evangelical Protestantism is a halfway house theology, one adopted by budding theological liberals on their way out of orthodoxy, and by converts out of liberalism into orthodoxy, but mostly by the former.(84) Calvinist philosopher Ronald Nash should have known better when he wrote in 1963 that “The charges implying that evangelicals are perhaps half-hearted heretics, i.e., men who are beginning to drift away from the basic centralities of the Christian faith, are totally without support.”(85) On the contrary, far from being “crude misrepresentations” of the neo-evangelical position, as Nash termed the critics’ accusations,(86) these accusations have proven, year by year, decade by decade, to have been right on target. One by one, the neo-evangelical leaders and institutions of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s have steadily shown their true colors.(87) They have steadily sold out the faith, and more to the point, have sold out the donors whose funds built the institutions that now pay the salaries of the neo-evangelicals. When, at a 1989 meeting of almost 400 of these neo-evangelical theologians, a voice vote confirming the existence of hell was called for, the motion failed.(88) The merest hint of “biblicism” has been enough to gag them.(89)

Nash subsequently “atoned” for these “sins of youth.” He spent the 1980’s in a valiant attempt to call the “outward-bound drifters” of the neo-evangelical movement back to conservatism — moral and theological — though without visible effect. His later work may have been beneficial in guiding a few of the “inward-bound drifters” from outside the movement toward the morally and economically productive shores of free market economics.(90) But his early negative response against the critics of neo-evangelicalism was typical of what goes on among academics: refusing to see what is happening under their noses until it is too late to do anything effective about it, they attack anyone who calls attention to the looming crisis. Then, when the disaster has become visible to almost everyone else, they either remain silent about their earlier skeptical position or else they go around saying to everyone who will listen — and few people will — “Golly, I wonder how this happened.”

Liberalism in Formerly Conservative Bastions

By 1980, if a denomination or ecclesiastical association had a seminary that was staffed by theologians rather than by pastors (meaning virtually all seminaries), the worldview of modernism probably had established at least a foothold in the denomination or convention.(91) Even Westminster Theological Seminary, the last bastion of academic Presbyterian Calvinism, has steadily drifted away from the free market opinions of its founder, Machen.(92) The tenets of theological liberalism and outright apostasy have almost universally penetrated the leadership of the modern church, undermining the leaders’ confidence in the reliability of the biblical narratives. This has left them philosophically and morally defenseless against the tenets of political liberalism, which have been imported into the church through the back door of the seminaries and officially Christian liberal arts colleges, all of them staffed by holders of advanced degrees from humanist universities and certified by apostate academic accrediting agencies.(93) Subordinating themselves judicially to liberal humanists in the various academic accrediting agencies, the once-conservative Christian academic institutions have steadily taken on both the institutional structure and the worldview of their accreditors.

By the 1970’s, American evangelical colleges had become heavily influenced by the liberal worldview.(94) By 1980, the leadership of the American churches had become anti-capitalist.(95) This hostility to the free market left church leaders vulnerable ideologically to the overnight collapse of the Communists’ economies in late 1989 — or more accurately, to the unexpected public admission by Communist leaders in Eastern (Central) Europe and the USSR that their economies were bankrupt, accompanied by a plea for tens of billions of additional dollars in unsecured loans and outright gifts.(96)The embarrassing setback suffered by their humanist peers and intellectual models inevitably afflicted the neo-evangelicals and the liberation theologians.

The Christian-Marxist Dialogue

The Social Gospel as an intellectual movement culminated in the 1960’s, a century after its creation, with the attempt of Christian intellectuals and Marxists to establish a new dialogue. This attempt began in earnest in 1965 with the Communist Party’s preliminary dialogues with Roman Catholic intellectuals and priests.(97) This was an obvious Party strategy by 1965, given the collapse of the conservative forces within Rome as a result of Vatican II’s four sessions (1962-65), especially in the final year.(98) By 1965, Pope Paul VI (Montini) had led the Roman Church into liberalism and had opened the doors to radicalism.(99) Simultaneously, avant-garde Protestants were going through the short-lived fad known as the death of God theology (1963-66).(100) Then came the works of Jürgen Moltmann, especially his Theology of Hope. The dialogue movement escalated in the late 1960’s. Its character is well illustrated by one of the self-professed Christians in this dialogue, Paul Oestreicher, who began his essay on “Dialogue in Hope” with this stirring analysis: “Anti-Communism, in its ideological form, is a social disease still prevalent in many parts of the so-called free world. When it has the cloak of the Christian crusader thrown around it, the disease becomes virulent.”(101) The Communists’ intentions were not the creation of a new fusion between Marxism and religion. Their goal was the capture of the minds of leading churchmen. The creation of this Christian-Marxist dialogue was high on the Communists’ list of priorities. Even Herbert Aptheker, the old war-horse of American Communism, got into the act, succeeding at long last in getting a mainstream publisher to issue his manifesto.(102)

The best symbol of the Party’s unilateral goal was the brief public career of Roger Garaudy, the French Marxist theoretician.(103) He was the most prominent European Communist spokesman of the Marxist-Christian dialogue. His book, From Anathema to Dialogue: A Marxist Challenge to the Christian Churches, published in France in 1965 and in the U.S. in 1966, may be said to have launched the dialogue movement. He announced in 1968: “Without us, Communists, I fear that your Christian love, marvelous though it is, will continue to be ineffective; without you, Christians, our struggle risks again confinement to a horizon without stars.”(104) He co-authored a book with a Jesuit philosopher, Quentin Lauer, A Christian Communist Dialogue (1968). But when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968, Garaudy opposed the action. He was then expelled from the French Communist Party. Only then, still a socialist, did he write about “the theoretical bankruptcy of the Soviet leaders,”(105) the “crime against Czechoslovakia” and the Soviets’ “official lies,”(106) and the “impotence” of the French Communist Party because “it continues to consider as the only valid socialist model one that would impose the leadership of the Soviet Union.”(107) But, by then, no one was paying much attention to him. (His expulsion was not even mentioned by one Lutheran student of Garaudy’s works, despite the fact that his book of praise appeared in 1974.)(108)His career as a professional Communist was finished, and so was his usefulness in the dialogue. He had disappeared from public view by 1975.

So much for Communist dialogue. From the beginning, it had been a dialogue between loyal Communists and disloyal Christians. Its importance was in laying the foundations of the liberation theology movement.(109)

Self-Imposed Blindness as a Way of Life

The Soviet economy by 1989 had visibly reached “meltdown.”(110) Eastern (Central) European Marxist economies had all been poverty-stricken and poverty-producing from the very beginning of Communist rule (the end of World War II), but the West’s media and academic community had steadfastly refused to acknowledge this fact. Communist rulers have always relied on terror as a means of political control over the citizenry,(111) even using psychology as a means of terror.(112) The Soviet judicial system was corrupt.(113) The Soviet Union’s economy was corrupt and always encouraged corruption.(114) Soviet society was based on extreme class divisions, with the favored few living lives of luxury and the vast majority of people in poverty.(115) The Soviet economy always was utterly irrational.(116) A few ex-Communists defected and revealed the truth.(117) So did people who had been put into Soviet concentration camps.(118) So did journalists who had been stationed there.(119) But until Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, these reports were steadfastly ignored by a large majority of the most influential Western intellectuals.(120)

A few American economists told the truth over the years, but they were generally ignored.(121) All of this negative information had been accessible to American intellectuals from the beginning, but they self-consciously refused to believe it until the Soviets themselves admitted it in 1989. When Western intellectuals journeyed to Communist nations, they saw what they imagined to be wonderful sights, for they were political pilgrims.(122) No better description of these pilgrims has ever been penned than Malcolm Muggeridge’s, who was an increasingly disillusioned reporter for England’s liberal newspaper, The Manchester Guardian, in the 1930’s.

For resident foreign journalists in Moscow the arrival of the distinguished visitors was also a gala occasion, for a different reason. They provided us with our best — almost our only — comic relief. For instance, when we heard [George Bernard] Shaw, accompanied by Lady Astor (who was photographed cutting his hair), declare that he was delighted to find there was no food shortage in the USSR. Or [Harold] Laski singing the praises of Stalin’s new Soviet Constitution. . . . I have never forgotten these visitors, or ceased to marvel at them, at how they have gone on from strength to strength, continuing to lighten our darkness, and to guide, counsel and instruct us; on occasion, momentarily abashed, but always ready to pick themselves up, put on their cardboard helmets, mount Rosinante, and go galloping off on yet another foray on behalf of the down-trodden and oppressed. They are unquestionably one of the wonders of the age, and I shall treasure till I die as a blessed memory the spectacle of them travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid, over-crowded towns, listening with unshakeable faith to the fatuous patter of carefully trained and indoctrinated guides, repeating like schoolchildren a multiplication table, the bogus statistics and mindless slogans endlessly intoned to them. There, I would think, an earnest office-holder in some local branch of the League of Nations Union, there a godly Quaker who once had tea with Gandhi, there an inveigher against the Means Test and the Blasphemy Laws, there a staunch upholder of free speech and human rights, there an indomitable preventer of cruelty to animals; there scarred and worthy veterans of a hundred battles for truth, freedom and justice — all, all chanting the praises of Stalin and his Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It was as though a vegetarian society had come out with a passionate plea for cannibalism, or Hitler had been nominated posthumously for the Nobel Peace Prize.(123)

This phenomenon did not end in the 1930’s. It went on to the last gasp of the Soviets’ economic deception. The long-term moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the West’s intellectual leaders was finally exposed in 1989 by the acknowledged economic bankruptcy and tyranny of the Marxist regimes that the West had accepted as a valid alternative to capitalism.(124) No better example of this intellectual self-deception can be found than the case of Paul Samuelson, economics professor (emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first American to win Nobel Prize in economics (1970), former Newsweek columnist, and the author of by far the most influential economics textbook of the post-war world (1948-present): three million copies, 31 foreign languages.(125) He announced in the 1989 edition of his textbook: “The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.”(126)

On January 1, 1990, Time Magazine featured a photo of Gorbachev on its cover, which announced: “Man of the Decade.” The managing editor gushed: “Instead of naming Mikhail Gorbachev Man of the Year for 1989, we decided to designate him Man of the Decade. The only precedent for such a departure from the Y word occurred at the end of 1949, when Winston Churchill was TIME’s Man of the Half-Century.” Gorbachev had beenTime‘s Man of the Year in 1987. While this award is given as a “news judgment,” said the managing editor, the lengthy accompanying articles on Gorbachev gave the game away: the political genius of Mikhail Gorbachev. Michael Kramer announced confidently: “Whatever happens to Gorbachev and his risky experiment, he already qualifies as a political genius, if only because he radiates a sense of purpose, motion, decisiveness, and hope. . . .”(127) But Gorbachev never had a plan, as Kramer admitted in the opening paragraph, where he compared Gorbachev with President Franklin Roosevelt, who lacked any anti-Depression plan in 1933, but who was committed to government-directed social experimentation. Planless, Gorbachev lurched from one disastrous policy to another, 1985 to 1991: the Cernobyl nuclear power plant’s meltdown in 1986, a potential ecological disaster that he had been warned about in advance but failed to deal with; the Soviet military’s ignominious retreat from Afghanistan in February of 1989, which forever broke the Soviet Union’s mythology of military invincibility; his refusal to support the Central European Communist regimes, which led to their collapse in 1989; his bankrupting of the economy, whose bankruptcy he openly admitted in 1989; and his “genius” in gaining the absolute hatred of the Russian people of all persuasions. He was a headliner in 1989, all right: the world’s most famous loser of the decade.

From August 19-21, 1991, a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev was attempted by a handful of military leaders. It failed when the ring leaders failed to arrest Boris Yeltsin, the head of the Russian Republic. When Gorbachev returned to Moscow after a brief imprisonment in his own gigantic dacha, he found that Yeltsin, his old rival, had captured the reins of authority during his absence. Within months, Yeltsin had replaced Gorbachev as the head of the USSR. Within a year, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was no more.(128) It had been replaced by a federation of independent states. From 1989 to 1992, the legitimacy of Marxist Communism disappeared in the West. Only a small but entrenched core of Western university professors — defenders of lost causes — kept the faith. In Russia, the old Marxist faith had faded years before, as Solzhenitsyn kept telling the West. It was buried with the failed coup.

President Reagan, who oversaw the covert strategy that destroyed the Soviet Union,(129) never did make Time‘s “Man of the Year.”

Conclusion

The promotion of the idea of a Bible-mandated, State-imposed socialism or communism was confined to heretical religious and social movements until the late nineteenth century. The theological justifications for private property have varied, but the vast majority of Christian theologians who have written on the subject have regarded private property as a God-given social institution that is overwhelmingly beneficial to society in a sinful world.

European socialist movements after 1848 began to influence radicals inside the Roman Catholic Church, but the Church International never did adopt socialism as an ideal. It was only with the rise of Darwinism, and specifically the statist variety of Darwinism,(130) in the late nineteenth century that leaders within Protestant churches began to promote the idea of Christian socialism. It is worth noting that this period coincided with the refusal of the conservative churches to prosecute for heresy.(131)

The collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989-91 has set back Christian socialists and welfare State advocates. Without much warning, the legitimacy of socialism as an ideal collapsed. Only by substituting ecological and environmental concerns does socialism still appeal to voters.(132) This will have its effect inside the churches. Christian socialism has visibly become a lame-duck position. It did not survive a full a century in American Protestantism before it suffered a major setback because of events across the ocean where fashionable Western intellectual trends had long been set: in the Soviet Union.(133) Socialism as an ideal will eventually depart even from American theological seminaries — decades after the USSR abandoned it, I imagine. Seminary professors are too often the promoters of intellectual fads that liberal college professors abandoned decades before. Seminary professors are very slow learners, even among academicians.

*****

Footnotes:

  1. C. Gregg Singer,The Unholy Alliance (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1974); Edgar C. Bundy, Collectivism in the Churches(Wheaton, Illinois: Church League of America, 1957).
  2. James H. Billington,Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 4.
  3. R. J. Rushdoony,Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church (Fairfax, Virginia: Thoburn Press, [1968] 1978), ch. 9: “Constantinople II: The Fallacy of Simplicity.”
  4. Ibid., p. 97. Cf. F. A. Hayek,Individualism and Economic Order (University of Chicago Press, 1948), ch. 4: “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”
  5. The executioner hired to kill Trotsky at Stalin’s command used an ice axe. This surely was not accidental. The axe was the ancient Russian symbol of man’s dominion over nature. It was also used as a revolutionary image. James H. Billington,The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture (New York: Vintage, 1966), pp. 26-28.
  6. Helmut Schoeck,Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, [1966] 1969), pp. 249-51.
  7. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24). “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
  8. On a curved track, the runners do not run the same distance if the starting line is even. Those in the outer lanes must run farther. In such races, the starting line is staggered. Semi-socialists demand a staggered start in order to keep life’s economic race fair: economic inequality at the beginning. But only God knows how a staggered start should be arranged, since no one but God knows how far away the finish line is for each person. There are limits to analogies.
  9. Ludwig von Mises,Bureaucracy (Grove City, Pennsylvania: Libertarian Press, [1944] 1983).
  10. Clement, “Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?” XII.The Ante-Nicene Fathers, II, Fathers of the Second Century. (reprint edition; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 594.
  11. Ibid., XIII, p. 594.
  12. Ibid., XIV, p. 595.
  13. R. W. and A. J. Carlyle,A History of Medieval Political Theory in the West, 6 vols. (2nd ed.; Edinburgh: Blackwood, [1927] 1962), vol. I, The Second Century to the Ninth, p. 132.
  14. Cecil John Cadoux,The Early Church and the World (Edinburgh: Clark, 1925), pp. 195-97.
  15. Ibid., pp. 603-4.
  16. Marx wrote that “though private property appears to be the source, the cause of alienated labor, it is rather its consequence. . . .” Marx, “Estranged Labor,”The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, edited by Dirk J. Struik (New York: International Publishers, 1964), p. 117. Cf. Marx and Engels, Collected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1975), vol. 3, p. 279. See Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution: Regeneration Through Chaos (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, [1968] 1989), pp. 169-70. This assumes, of course, that Marx regarded these documents as manuscripts, as distinguished from notes taken from others’ writings.
  17. Rousseau regarded “crimes, wars, and murders” as the result of civil society, which in turn came when “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, be-thought of himself of saying `This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him. . . .” Rousseau, “A Dissertation on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind” (1755), inThe Social Contract and the Discourses, Everyman’s Library (New York: Dutton, [1913] 1966), p. 192. This famous passage introduces Part Two.
  18. Richard Schlatter,Private Property: The History of an Idea (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1951), p. 35.
  19. Ibid., p. 39.
  20. Letter LXIII, inA Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. X, St. Ambrose, p. 470.
  21. Arthur O. Lovejoy, “The Communism of St. Ambrose,”Journal of the History of Ideas, III (1942), pp. 467-68. This essay includes extracts from Ambrose’s writings.
  22. The Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Abbot Justin McCann (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1952), p. 85.
  23. Ibid., p. 87.
  24. Ibid., p. 129.
  25. Dom Cuthbert Butler,Benedictine Monachism (2nd ed.; London: Longman’s, Green, 1924), p. 155.
  26. J. Gilchrist,The Church and Economic Activity in the Middle Ages (New York: St. Martin’s, 1969), p. 41.
  27. Ibid., pp. 42-43.
  28. Coburn V. Graves, “The Economic Activities of the Cistercians in England (1128-1307),”Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis, XIII (1957), p. 16.
  29. Ibid., p. 20.
  30. Friedrich Heer,The Medieval World, Europe, 1100-1350 (New York: World, 1962), p. 183.
  31. Ibid., pp. 187-88.
  32. M. D. Lambert,Franciscan Poverty (London: SPCK, 1961), pp. 236-40.
  33. Bede Jarrett,Social Theories of the Middle Ages, 1200-1500 (New York: Ungar, [1926] 1966), p. 129.
  34. David Herlihy, “Church Property on the European Continent, 701-1200,”Speculum, XXXVI (1961), p. 88.
  35. Ibid., p. 93.
  36. Ibid., p. 98.
  37. Gilchrist speaks of “the infinite variety of attitudes towards the merchants over the thousand years or so of the Middle Ages.” Gilchrist,Church and Economic Activity, p. 129.
  38. Idem.
  39. John W. Baldwin, “The Medieval Merchant Before the Bar of Canon Law,”Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters, XLIV (1959), Pt. II, pp. 287-99.
  40. Bernard W. Dempsey,Interest and Usury (London: Dobson, [1943] 1948), pp. 131-210; Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, The School of Salamanca: Readings in Spanish Monetary History, 1544-1605 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952); Murray N. Rothbard, “Late Medieval Origins of Free Market Economic Thought,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, II (Summer 1975), pp. 62-75; Alejandro A. Chafuen, Christians for Freedom: Late-Scholastic Economics (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986).
  41. Gilchrist,Church and Economic Activity, p. 28.
  42. Brian Tierney,Medieval Poor Law: A Sketch of Canonical Authority and Its Application in England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), p. 37.
  43. See the essays inChristianity and Property, edited by Joseph Fletcher (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1947). See also H. G. Wood, “The Influence of the Reformation on Ideas Concerning Wealth and Property,” in Property: Its Duties and Rights (London: Macmillan, 1915), p. 156.
  44. Frederick Hastings Smith, “The Middle Ages,”Christianity and Property, p. 73.
  45. Walter Ullmann, “Public Welfare and Social Legislation in the Early Medieval Councils,” inCouncils and Assemblies, edited by G. J. and Derek Baker (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1971), p. 9.
  46. Idem.
  47. Ibid., p. 4.
  48. Bede Jarrett,Medieval Socialism (London: Jacks, 1914), p. 30.
  49. Louis Baudin,A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru (Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand, [1928] 1961).
  50. Igor Shafarevich,The Socialist Phenomenon (New York: Harper & Row, [1975] 1980), p. 144. A Hollywood movie, The Mission (1986), gave a distorted, highly favorable picture of this socialist experiment.
  51. The Institute for Christian Economics bought the last copies of this book from the publisher. It deserves to be reprinted.
  52. Igor Shafarevich, “Socialism in Our Past and Future,” in Alexander Solzhenitsyn (ed.),From Under the Rubble (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975), pp. 26-66.
  53. Shafarevich,Socialist Phenomenon, p. 76.
  54. Ibid., pp. 76-77.
  55. Ibid., p. 78.
  56. Ibid., pp. 78-79.
  57. Georg Simmel, “The Secret Society” (1908), inThe Sociology of Georg Simmel, translated and edited by Kurt H. Wolff (New York: Free Press, 1950), pp. 349-51, 356-58, 366-76.
  58. Shafarevich,Socialist Phenomenon, p. 79.
  59. Billington,Fire in the Minds of Men, ch. 4: “The Occult Origins of Organization”; ch. 11: “The Magic Medium: Journalism.” The ICE bought the last copies of this book. It deserves to be reprinted.
  60. Shafarevich,Socialist Phenomenon, pp. 80-81. ICE bought the last copies of this book. It deserves to be reprinted.
  61. William Letwin,The Origins of Scientific Economics (Garden City, New York: Anchor, [1963] 1965), ch. 6. Published originally by MIT Press.
  62. Richard Schlatter,The Social Ideas of Religious Leaders, 1660-1688 (London: Oxford University Press, 1940), p. 87.
  63. Ibid., p. 99. Cf. R. H. Tawney,Religion and the Rise of Capitalism: A Historical Study (New York: Mentor, [1926] 1954), pp. 159-63.
  64. Gary North,Puritan Economic Experiments (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, [1974] 1988), pp. 38-39. For a more detailed treatment, see North, “From Medieval Economics to Indecisive Pietism: Second-Generation Preaching in New England, 1661-1690,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, VI (Summer 1979), pp. 165-72.
  65. Many of the utopian communities of the nineteenth century had their ideological roots in the work of the industrialist, trade unionist, philanthropist, and radical reformer Robert Owen (1771-1858), who in his later years became hostile to family and church. At the very end of his life, he became a spiritist, claiming to be in communication with the dead. His influence was very great in Christian (heretical) circles. Cf. E. R. A. Seligman, “Robert Owen and the Christian Socialists,”Political Science Quarterly, I, No. 2 (1886). A detailed account of his socialist ideas is J. F. C. Harrison, Quest for the New Moral World: Robert Owen and the Owenites in Britain and America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969).
  66. Henry J. Silverman (ed.),American Radical Thought: The Libertarian Tradition (Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath, 1970), p. 148.
  67. Charles Kingsley,Letters and Memories of his Life, II, p. 250; cited by Harry W. Laidler, A History of Socialist Thought (New York: Crowell, 1933), p. 654.
  68. Cited in William Irvine,Apes, Angels, and Victorians: The Story of Darwin, Huxley, and Evolution (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955), p. 142.
  69. Cited by Talbot W. Chalmers, “The Inaugural Address of Professor Briggs,”Presbyterian and Reformed Review, II (1891), p. 31.
  70. Maurice to Kingsley, Dec. 10, 1847;The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, edited by Frederick Maurice, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884), I, pp. 446-47.
  71. On their crucial influence in English socialism, see Laidler,History, pp. 652-62. Laidler was Executive Director of the League for Industrial Democracy. In 1910, Laidler became the first paid organizer of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS). The LID was the successor (1921) of the ISS, founded in 1905 by such luminaries as novelists Jack London and Upton Sinclair, lawyer Clarence Darrow (later of the Scopes “monkey trial” fame), and the elderly Thomas Wentworth Higgenson, one of the original Secret Six who had financed John Brown in the years before the Civil War. Cf. Otto J. Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (New York: Times Books, 1979). On the ISS, see Rose Martin,Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A., 1884-1966 (Chicago: Heritage Foundation, 1966), ch. 13. On the LID, see ibid., pp. 190-93; chaps. 15, 16.
  72. On the European Revolutions of 1848, see Jean Sigmann,1848: The Romantic and Democratic Revolutions in Europe (New York: Harper & Row, [1970] 1979); Theodore S. Hamerow, Restoration, Revolution, Reaction: Economics and Politics in Germany, 1815-1871 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1958), Part 2; Frank Eyck (ed.), The Revolutions of 1848-49 (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1972); Geoffrey Bruun (ed.), Revolution and Reaction, 1848-1852: A Mid-Century Watershed (Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand, 1958). Three primary source documents of great importance are Alexis de Tocqueville, Recollections (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970); Karl Marx, “The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850” (1850), in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, 3 vols. (Moscow: Progress Publishers, [1969] 1977), I, pp. 206-99; Frederick Engels, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany” (1852), ibid., I, pp. 300-87. See Oscar J. Hammen, The Red ’48ers: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969).
  73. Charles E. Raven,Christian Socialism, Eighteen Forty-Eight to Eighteen Fifty-Four (New York: Kelley, [1920] 1968).
  74. Cited by Walter E. Houghton,The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, [1957] 1964), p. 35n.
  75. Charles Howard Hopkins,The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865-1915 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1940); cf. Singer, The Unholy Alliance. Singer’s study picks up where Hopkins’ leaves off. It traces the history of the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches.
  76. American Fundamentalism collapsed as a social and intellectual force immediately after the Scopes trial of 1925. George M. Marsden,Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), ch. 21.
  77. The Christian Centuryand Christianity Today are the respective journalistic organs.
  78. See Chapter 14, above.
  79. J. Gresham Machen,Christianity and Liberalism (New York: Macmillan, 1923). Reprinted by William B. Eerdmans Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  80. See Gary North,Rotten Wood: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1994), Part 2. I want to dissent from George Marsden’s identification of Machen as “the foremost spokesperson for the fundamentalist coalition.” George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991), p. 182. Throughout his career, Machen remained a spokesman; the androgynous creatures known as “spokespersons” appeared on the scene quite late in the twentieth century, and then only in liberal circles, neo-evangelical circles, and liberal-certified, guilt-ridden, academic Reformed circles.
  81. The successful strategy of three dedicated conservative men to win back the 12-million member Southern Baptist Convention, a strategy begun in the mid-1970’s, is the one major exception to this process of infiltration. By 1991, the reconquest by the Bible-believers was virtually complete in the Convention and had begun tentatively in the Convention-sponsored seminaries and colleges. The “moderate” faction, as the press invariably refers to it — a hard core of theological liberals surrounded by a larger group of stand-patters and confrontation-avoiders — formed a new association in the spring of 1991. It then faced the most terrifying of all prospects in the world of theological liberalism: having to fund its own operations without the enormous financial contributions of the traditionally complacent conservatives.

The other exception has been inconclusive: the conservatives’ triumph in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, in the early 1970’s. On the early successes of the conservative wing, see Kurt E. Marquart, Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977). The battle is still going on. The conservatives elected a representative to head the church by about a dozen votes out of a thousand cast at the General Synod of 1992. So far, he has refused to denounce the denomination’s liberals or thwart them publicly.

  1. The classic case is Fuller Theological Seminary. George Marsden,Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987).
  2. Richard Quebedeaux,The Worldly Evangelicals (New York: Harper & Row, 1978).
  3. The most rigorous criticism of the neo-evangelical movement that I have read is Cornelius Van Til’s 75-page, single-spaced essay, “The New Evangelicalism” (1960?), which he released in an uncopyrighted, mimeographed form to his students.
  4. Ronald Nash,The New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1963), p. 155. It is not surprising that Eerdmans published this book, since Eerdmans was then drifting toward what it is today: the most prominent of the borderline publishing houses — neo-evanglical and neo-orthodox.
  5. Idem.
  6. The careers of Edward J. Carnell and Bernard Ramm are excellent examples of this process. So are InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and IV Press, Wheaton College, andChristianity Today. Cf. Gary North, “Drifting Along With Christianity Today,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, II (Winter 1975-76).
  7. World(June 3, 1989), p. 9.
  8. A personal example: In 1983, I was invited by Robert Clouse to participate in a four-way symposium-debate on the Bible and economics. This symposium was published by InterVarsity Press in 1984:Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views of Economics, edited by Clouse. My essay led off the symposium, and I was my usual confrontational self in strongly criticizing each of the other three authors: a “down on the farm” communal socialist, a Keynesian, and an advocate of socialist central planning. These were intellectually bankrupt positions, both biblically and academically, and I said so as clearly as I could. This, of course, is not considered good form in American academia, although it is common in British academia. The next year, InterVarsity pulled the book off the market, despite the editor’s opinion that it had been selling reasonably well. He expressed surprise to me that it had been unceremoniously dumped at 25 cents per copy. (I had bought all of them.) He had edited several other such symposia for InterVarsity, and none of them had been pulled off the market while still in print, he wrote to me. But I would have been astounded had this one not been suppressed. Neo-evangelical intellectuals are not used to direct confrontation from scholars who believe that the Bible is infallible and still judicially binding today. Also, they do not want their more conservative followers to see just how far they have drifted away from the authority of the Bible, as revealed in its moral absolutes.
  9. Ronald Nash,Social Justice and the Christian Church (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1983); Poverty and Wealth: The Christian Debate Over Capitalism (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1986); and Nash (ed.), Liberation Theology (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1984).
  10. “The IEA/ROPER Center Theology Faculty Survey,”This World, No. 1 (Summer 1982), pp. 28-108.
  11. For evidence of this drift, see the essays by Timothy Keller and John R. Muether in the Westminster faculty symposium,Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academie, 1990), edited by W. Robert Godfrey and William S. Barker. For critical responses, see Gary North, Westminster’s Confession: The Abandonment of Van Til’s Legacy (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991); Greg L. Bahnsen, No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991); and Theonomy: An Informed Response, edited by Gary North (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991).
  12. The old rhetorical question — “Can’t a theological conservative be a political liberal?” — should be answered as follows: “Occasionally, we do hear of such people, since some people are intellectually schizophrenic.” Not many people can rationally favor the modern welfare State if they also firmly believe that Paul’s words were inspired by God when he wrote: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess. 3:10). It is mainly Christian college professors and seminary professors who hold such contradictory views.
  13. For evidence of the theological drift toward liberalism within the major evangelical colleges, see James Davison Hunter,Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 165-80.
  14. “Religious Teachings on Economics,”This World, No. 2 (Winter/Spring 1982), pp. 7-69.
  15. Judy Shelton,The Coming Soviet Crash: Gorbachev’s Desperate Pursuit of Credit in Western Financial Markets (New York: Free Press, 1989).
  16. Santiago Alvarez, “Towards an Alliance of Communists and Catholics,”World Marxist Review, VIII (June 1965); Walter Hollitscer, “Dialogue Between Marxists and Catholics,” Ibid., VIII (August 1965); Kevin Devlin, “The Catholic-Communist `Dialogue’,’ Problems in Communism(May/June 1966); Charles Andras, “The Christian-Marxist Dialogue,” East Europe (March 1968).
  17. See Malachi Martin,The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Church (New York: Simon & Schuster Touchstone, 1988), Part III. On the immediate transformation of the American Jesuit order, see Garry Wills, Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy and Radical Religion(Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972), ch. 10.
  18. Joaquin Saenz Arriaga,The New Post-Conciliar or Montinian Church (La Habra, California: Lucidi, [1971] 1985). The author was a Jesuit priest, holding doctorates in theology, canon law, and philosophy. For having written this book, he was excommunicated, although the translator says that this was done by a bishop without jurisdiction who did not call a tribunal to hear the case. The author died in 1976.
  19. Radical theologian Thomas Dean uses autobiography to trace the dialogue movement to the death of God school: Dean,Post-Theistic Thinking: The Marxist-Christian Dialogue in Radical Perspective (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1975), p. xi. Dean was co-editor (with John C. Raines) of Marxism and Radical Religion: Essays Toward a Revolutionary Humanism (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1970).
  20. Paul Oestreicher, “Introduction: Dialogue in Hope,” in Oestreicher (ed.),The Christian Marxist Dialogue: An International Symposium (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 1.
  21. Herbert Aptheker,The Urgency of Marxist-Christian Dialogue (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).
  22. Roger Garaudy,Karl Marx: The Evolution of His Thought (New York: International Publishers, [1964] 1967). International Publishers is the primary Communist publishing house in the U.S., which also publishes the Collected Works of Marx and Engels, a large set which was typeset in the now-defunct Soviet Union. Ironically, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 before the Communists could get all of Marx’s works translated into English and published.
  23. Le Monde(May 5-11, 1966). Cited by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technotronic Era (New York: Viking, 1970), p. 87n.
  24. Roger Garaudy,The Crisis in Communism: The Turning-Point of Socialism (New York: Grove Press, [1969] 1970), p. 253.
  25. Roger Garaudy,The Alternative Future: A Vision of Christian Marxism (New York: Simon & Schuster, [1972] 1974), p. 53.
  26. Ibid., p. 145.
  27. Russell B. Norris,God, Marx, and the Future: Dialogue With Roger Garaudy (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974). The book is not a dialogue with Garaudy; it is an insufferably boring book that reads like a doctoral dissertation, and a mediocre one at that.
  28. On liberation theology, see Chapter 14, above, subsection: “The Theology of the Poor; or, Poor Theology.”
  29. Paul Craig Roberts and Karen LaFollette,Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1991).
  30. Barrington Moore, Jr.,Terror and Progress — USSR: Some Sources of Change and Stability in the Soviet Dictatorship (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1954).
  31. Zhores Medvedev and Roy Medvedev,A Question of Madness (New York: Vintage, 1971); Sidney Rich and Peter Reddaway, Psychiatric Terror: How Soviet Psychiatry Is Used to Suppress Dissent (New York: Basic Books, 1977).
  32. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 3 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1974-78); Dina Kaminskaya, Final Judgment: My Life as a Soviet Defense Attorney (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982).
  33. Konstantin Simis,USSR: The Corrupt Society — the Secret World of Soviet Capitalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982).
  34. G. Warren Nutter,the Strange World of Ivan Ivanov (New York: Morrow, 1969); David K. Wills, KLASS: How Russians Really Live (New York: St. Martins, 1985); Michael Volensky, Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984).
  35. Leopold Tyrmand,The Rosa Luxemburg Contraceptives Cooperative: A Primer on Soviet Civilization (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
  36. Freda Utley,Lost Illusion (Philadelphia: Fireside Press, 1948); Wolfgang Leonard, Child of the Revolution (Chicago: Regnery, 1967) — German edition, 1955.
  37. A list of English-language titles by people who had been victims in Soviet concentration camps appears in Eugene Lyons,Worker’s Paradise Lost: Fifty Years of Soviet Communism: A Balance Sheet (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1967), pp. 333-34. This literature has continued to grow: Alexander Dolgun, Alexander Dolgun’s Story: An American in the Gulag (New York: Knopf, 1975); Vladimir Bukovsky, To Build a Castle — My Life as a Dissenter (New York: Viking Press, 1977); Victor Herman, Coming Out of The Ice: An Unexpected Life (2nd ed.; Oklahoma City: Freedom Press, 1984). Coming Out of the Ice is a movie based on this book.
  38. Eugene Lyons,Assignment in Utopia (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, [1937] 1971); Worker’s Paradise Lostop. cit. Lyons’ highly critical study of American Communism, The Red Decade, published in 1941 by Bobbs-Merrill, immediately went out of print and remained out of print until the conservative publishing firm Arlington House reprinted it in 1971.
  39. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. This helped his later revelations penetrate the intellectuals’ consciousness.
  40. Paul Craig Roberts,Alienation and the Soviet Economy: Toward a General Theory of Marxian Alienation, Organizational Principles, and the Soviet Economy (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1971). This is a minor university press, and the author was at the time a faculty member at the UNM. Cf. Marshall I. Goldman, USSR in Crisis: The Failure of an Economic System (New York: Norton, 1983).
  41. Paul Hollander,Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, 1928-1978 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981). This is an old tradition: Sylvia R. Margulies, The Pilgrimage to Russia: The Soviet Union and the Treatment of Foreigners, 1924-1927 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968).
  42. Malcolm Muggeridge,Chronicles of Wasted Time: Chronicle I: The Green Stick (New York: Morrow, 1973), pp. 243-45.
  43. Arch Puddington,Failed Utopias: Methods of Coercion in Communist Regimes (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1988).
  44. Mark Skousen,Economics on Trial: Lies, Myths, and Realities (Homewood, Illinois: Business One Irwin, 1991), p. 47.
  45. Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus,Economics (13th ed.; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989), p. 837; cited in Skousen, ibid., p. 208.
  46. Michael Kramer, “The Gorbachev Touch,”Time (Jan. 1, 1990), p. 54.
  47. In 1992, Gorbachev became the director of his own non-profit, internationally financed research institute, the Gorbachev Foundation, whose U.S. headquarters have been located in the Presidio since 1993. The Presidio is a recently privatized U.S. military fortress located for over two centuries in San Francisco. So, the man who had headed the Soviet Union’s military empire was allowed in less than two years to set up shop in a former U.S. Army base. In 1993, he was appointed director of the Green Cross, a propaganda organization promoting world economic planning for the sake of the environment.
  48. Peter Schweitzer,Victory (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994).
  49. Gary North,The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), pp. 297-318. Cf. Sidney Fine,Laissez Faire and the General Welfare State: A Study of Conflict in American Thought, 1865-1901 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1956), ch. 8.
  50. The trial of Henry Preserved Smith in 1894 was the last successful prosecution of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (northern) of a heretic. Union Theological Seminary (New York) professor A. C. McGiffert resigned from the Presbyterian ministry in 1900 to prevent another successful trial.
  51. This was frankly admitted by the millionaire socialist-economist and best-selling textbook author Robert Heilbroner: “Reflections: After Communism,”The New Yorker (Sept. 10, 1990), pp. 99-100.
  52. A collapse of Western banking, a government-created and government-regulated oligopoly, could revive a non-Marxist version of socialism.

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The Eschatology of Death — Future Zero

skulls-khmer rougeThe Eschatology of Death

By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony

The dying have no future, and they know it. They speak of, and limit their vision to, the present and its sufferings. The future of the dying is a very limited one, and, usually, they do not go beyond a few days, or more than a month, in their thinking. Theirs is the eschatology of death, and men without faith have no other eschatology. Death and the certainty of death blots out all other considerations or else governs them all.church-a-float

The same is true of cultures. Death comes upon them rapidly when the faith of the culture collapses or wanes. The confidence which once enabled them as a small minority to dominate their world melts away, and they cannot set their own house in order nor control it. Dying cultures block out tomorrow, having no confidence in their ability to cope with growth and the problems of growth. Dying Greece and dying Rome both saw themselves as overpopulated and as overwhelmed with peoples and problems, and so too does our modern, dying statist humanism feel. It talks desperately about zero population growth and zero economic growth, because behind such thinking is a zero  future , an intellectual and religious bankruptcy.expressionism

The father of modern humanistic economics, Lord Keynes, when asked about the consequences of his economic theories “in the long run,” answered simply, “In the long run, we are all dead.” The growing disaster of Keynesian economics, and a world practicing it, should not surprise us. It was born without a future, and it was a product of an age which, like the dying, lived for the moment and with no thought of the future.

The dying live for the moment, because they have no future. Converted into a formal philosophy, the name of such a state of anticipated death is existentialism. For the existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, man is a futile passion who wills to be a god but is faced only with the certainty of death.

In one area after another, the eschatology of death governs our world. Yesterday, a letter came from a young man in Alaska which read in part as follows:

I’m a surveyor, but I’m not registered by the state because I haven’t passed a test, but I can’t take the test because I haven’t worked for a registered surveyor for eight years… At this time…there is no chance of employment for a registered land surveyor. I have to turn down work, because I can’t sign for it. I have an education in land surveying and I feel that I could Pass the test…The registered land surveyors have legislated themselves a monopoly.

Alaska may call itself the last frontier, or a new frontier, but it was born dead, with an eschatology of death. Like dying New York City, it strangles itself with its own ungodly laws.

This situation is not unusual but commonplace. In some cities and states, no young man can qualify to be a plumber, or a carpenter, or in various other callings, unless his father is an important person in the union. The dying legislate against the future.

This eschatology of death is common to all ages and classes. The old are very prone to damning the younger generations, but one of the menaces of our time is the growing demands on public funds by the aging. With the decline in the birth rate, the United States may face a crisis in not too many years when each gainfully employed person will be supporting two persons on social security, and other forms of aid. Such a situation will not occur only because disaster will first overtake any society which works itself into such a predicament.

The younger generations are no better, of course. They seek statist solutions for all problems: totalitarianism in the economic sphere (and therefore in the political as well), and total permissiveness in the moral sphere. This is irresponsibility, and irresponsibility is an urgent invitation to disaster and death.

Not surprisingly, humanistic education is dominated by the eschatology of death. It creates a demand for instant results and instant gratification. It teaches children to play at being a state senate, or a congress, and to legislate feelings, as though “good” wishes can determine reality. The child matures physically but remains a child, demanding instant results and gratification, utopia now without either work or faith. Education for permanent childhood means a society of incompetents, of all ages, whose politics becomes a demand politics. Because a demand politics produces disasters, the politicians who feed or gratify this demand are readily and angrily made the scapegoats for a graceless and irresponsible citizenry.

In Speech and Reality (1970), Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote of the social dangers and evils confronting modern civilization. These are, he said, first, anarchy. In anarchy, people and classes “do not care to come to an agreement.” Instead of ties uniting men, there are now divisions only, with each pursuing his own interest. Second, decadence is a very great evil. Decadence is manifested at a critical point: parents do not have “the stamina of converting the next generation to their own aims and ends. Decadence is the disease of liberalism today.” The consequence is the barbarization of the younger generation. Since they are not made heirs of the past and its faith, they become the barbarians of the present. (The modern family, like the modern school, is a school for barbarians.) “The only energy that can fight this evil is faith. Faith, properly speaking, never is a belief in things of the past, but of the future. Lack of faith is a synonym for decadence,” Rosenstock-Huessy held.

Third, in his list of evils is revolution, which is a consequence of anarchy and decadence. The old and the past are liquidated or eliminated as meaningless and irrelevant, which indeed they have made themselves to be, by their lack of faith and their destructive education of the young. Fourth in the list of evils is war. War is a sign of impotence. A system or philosophy of life which has no power to convert becomes imperialistic. For the zeal and faith of peaceful missionary work it substitutes brutal terror. A failing faith resorts to war, because it lacks the contagion of faith and conviction and can only force men into its own system. War is the resort of those who lack true power and are declining.

In brief, Rosenstock-Huessy said, anarchy is a crisis created by a lack of unity and community. Decadence is the collapse of faith. Revolution means a lack of respect, indeed, a contempt, for the past and present. War is an indication of a loss of power and a resort to force to perpetuate or advance a system.

All of these things are aspects of the eschatology of death. But there is still another aspect. Because the modern taboo is death, people are prissy and hesitant about the plain facts of dying. It is often assumed, out of fear, that most deaths are costly, long, and lingering, which in most cases is not true. Death often comes quickly. It is also assumed that death comes to a bland man, again not true. It comes to Christians and to unbelievers, and with many shades of difference. Death among some of the ungodly who die a lingering death unleashes a radical hatred of the living. One man, a life-long reprobate and adulterer, abandoned his wife as “too old” and moved in with a younger widow, whom he enriched to a degree. When terminally ill, he was ordered out by his mistress, and only his wife would have him. Instead of gratitude, he daily showered her and their children with hatred, profanity, and abuse, hating them for their faith and health, “wasted” on them, he would shout, because they “didn’t know how to live.” This is an aspect of the eschatology of death, its hatred for life and the living, and its will to destroy them. At the heart of this is what Wisdom long ago declared: “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).

We are surrounded today by dying men whose eschatology is death and whose politics, religion, economics, education and daily lives manifest what Samuel Warner has called “the urge to mass destruction.” Of this world system, Revelation 18:4 declares, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” In spite of this, all too many professing Christians not only refuse to separate themselves but are insistent on the morality of sending their children to humanistic state schools, an act of anarchy.

We have described the nature of the dying. What about the dead? The dead cannot wage war nor revolution, nor manifest hatred. The dead have their place, and they remain within it. No corpse can outgrow its coffin, nor conquer an inch of ground beyond that which it occupies. The dead stay in their coffins.

All too often the church is like a coffin. Instead of being a training ground and an armory for the army of the Lord, it is a repository for the dead. The people within have not the life and power to occupy any other ground, to establish Christian Schools, to conquer in the realm of politics and economics to “occupy” in Christ’s name even one area of life and thought and to bring it into “captivity” to Jesus Christ (Luke 19:13; II Cor. l0:5). Where Christianity is confined to the church, it is dead, and it is only a corpse claiming that name but having none of the life nor the power thereof (II Tim. 3:5).

Christianity cannot be caged into a church and confined there like a zoo animal. “It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Power commands; it exercises dominion, and it reaches out “to every creature” (Mark 16:15) with the good news of Christ’s redemption and lordship. It works to bring all things under the dominion of Christ, who is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). Jesus began and ended His ministry “preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God” (Mark l:14f]. That Kingdom begins with our redemption through His atonement and continues with our exercise of dominion with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness over every area of life and thought.

Coffin churches have no such gospel. Instead, they summon the living dead to enter the safety of their particular casket, far removed from the problems and battles of life. They encourage their people to gush about the peace within the coffin, and to embellish the coffin with their time and effort. Coffin churches have no ministry to a dying world.

When our Lord declared, ALL POWER is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), He did not limit that total power which He as King of Creation exercises to the narrow confines of man’s soul. Christ’s “all power” is over all things in heaven and in earth in their every aspect, and over every atom, moment, and possibility in all of creation. He is the Lord, lord over all. To limit His lordship and power to the church is as absurd as limiting the sun to shining over Europe, or selected portions thereof. Even less than we can limit the sun to one continent or one country can we limit Christ the King to one sphere or institution. To do so is a denial of His deity and is, practical atheism.

Because “all power” is His, the Lord of Creation sends His elect messengers out to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). All nations are to be summoned to bow before their King, both as individuals and in every aspect of their lives, civil, ecclesiastical, educational, familial, vocational, and all things else. An eschatology of life and victory allows us to exempt nothing from Christ’s dominion and lordship.

A sickly term in Reformed theological circles refers to God’s “well-meant offer of the Gospel;” the image of God it invokes is a false one. God’s word is never a “well-meant offer” but always the command word, the word of power which redeems and regenerates, or reprobates. To be “well-meant” smacks of impotence and failure, and it speaks of men whose powers are frail, fallible, sinful, and dying. It belongs to eschatologies of death. God’s word is the command word, the word of power, the word of life and death because it is the omnipotent word. Only of Him can it be truly said, “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up” (I Sam. 2:6). Apart from the Lord, man has no future. In every area of life and thought, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).

Education in its essence is always the transmission of the basic faith and values of a culture to its young. Education is thus in essence always a religious concern.

In many cultures, the basic values have been non-verbal and non-literary, so that education then has not been concerned with literacy but with other skills. A few cultures only have been concerned with literacy, Biblical faith and culture in particular, because of the insistence on the knowledge of the Scriptures. Modern humanism (as against classical humanism) under-rates verbal and literary skills.

Thus, not only is education a totally religious subject, but the curriculum, its contents, and its methods are all religious, in that they reflect the faith and values of a culture. To allow our children to be in humanistic schools is to be unequally yoked and to serve two masters.

*****

(Taken from Roots of Reconstruction, p. 14; Chalcedon Position Paper No. 14, June, 1979)

 

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Chalcedon and a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical Law to society.

Article from http://www.chalcedon.edu

 

Posted in All-Encompassing Gospel, Gov't/Theonomy, Theology/Philosophy, Worldview/Culture, Z-Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Silence of Pastors on Economic Evils

sunset churchThe Economics of DeathEmilyCarr-Indian-Church-1929

By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony

 The Bible is full of economic wisdom which often goes neglected in our day because the Bible, the book for all of life, is too commonly reduced to a devotional manual and all “non-spiritual” truth is discarded. Solomon, for example, tells us, “cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days” (Eccles. 11:1). The reference here is to rice planting. The rice is broadcast into water paddies, as it were; the family’s “bread” or food is thrown away, in a sense, but only thereby is a harvest possible in the days to come. In Psalm 126:5,6, the same fact is stated even more vividly: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Here we have a famine in view; the precious grain is sown with tears, because life depends upon its harvest. In both texts, the first emphasis is that present advantages must be sacrificed for future benefits; there is no harvest tomorrow without a sowing today. Sowing seed constitutes an investment in the future.

Second, very obviously, the man who sows seed has, on the most basic and elementary level, some hope for the future. A society without hope is present-oriented. It is a consumer society; it eats up its seed grain rather than planning for a future harvest. It becomes therefore something that God condemns, a debt-oriented society rather than a saving and sowing one. It pays no heed to the six-year limitation on debt, nor to the principal that the godly goal is to owe no man anything save to love one another (Rom. 13:8).Karl Marx

A debt society is death oriented; it makes saving, thrift, and future-oriented planning difficult or unprofitable, because it encourages consumption but not production. A “tax-break” is offered to debtors on their interest payments; savings are taxed (for accrued interest) as well as production and profit (or harvest). The tax structures of our time are anti-Scriptural with a vengeance. Moreover, the moral order is reversed; debt becomes an asset to these statist humanists, and wealth a liability and an evil. Money today does not have gold or silver behind it, but debt.

The Monetary Control Act of 1980, which went into effect on June 1, 1981, allows the U.S. to monetize debts other than those of the Federal Government, debts both domestic and foreign. This is eating our bread or grain, not casting it upon the waters!

looking-upThe power of a popular existentialism on the 20th century mind is apparent in its present-oriented economics. For existentialism, the moment, stripped of all morality and religion, and all considerations from the past or about the future, is everything. This too is the essence of all the varieties of Keynsian economics. Keynes despised the future; his premise was, “In the long run, we are all dead.” This death orientation marks modern economics, and it marks the reprobate. As Proverbs 8:36 declares, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”

The Bible requires a future orientation of us, but, not in terms of our selves, but in terms of Christ, the gospel, and the Kingdom of God. Our Lord says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35; cf. Matt. 10:39, 16:25; Luke 9:24; Matt. 6:33). Our Lord here, in speaking of “losing” out lives, is not talking about martyrdom, but about “sowing,” casting our lives by faith on the waters of the future, to yield a harvest to Him, and ourselves in Him.

 Third, we are told that our godly investment in the future, God’s future, shall certainly bear fruit: “Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.” Again, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Humanly speaking, while there is no harvest without sowing, there is still then no certainty of a harvest. Drought, blights, floods, insects, war, and other disasters can wipe out a potential harvest. We are, however, promised a certain and inescapable harvest if we, in all our ways, seek to serve and glorify God: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”, (Rom. 8:28). This same fact is set forth powerfully and in detail in Deuteronomy 28.

Deuteronomy 28 emphasizes beyond any possibility of misunderstanding the moral and economic consequences of faithlessness to God. Inescapable curses and blessings are set forth: the religious, political, economic, personal, and agricultural consequences of denying God’s law (and becoming present and man-oriented) are clearly spelled out.

The economic world of humanism is a world of present possibilities and no future certainties. Hence, existential economic experimentation is held to be both possible and necessary. We have then fiat money and economics, with man playing God and seeking to determine all possibilities by his fiat will. The world of causality is replaced by a world of non-consequential possibilities. Such a perspective leads to the economics of death: a thousand and one ways of economic death are experimented with rather than to pursue an economics of life, because only the economics of death reserves determination to man. The world of law is replaced by the fiat word of man.

As a result, by March 31, 1980, what Martin D. Weiss, in The Great Money Panic (1981: Arlington House) calls “The Debt Monster,” meant a $1.5 trillion debt for the nation’s corporations; a $949 billion Federal debt; and, for homes, office buildings, and shopping centers, a$1,362 billion mortgage debt. At the same time, cash liquidity remains comparatively low; unemployment in the United States and abroad increases, and the “solution” more and more in view is increased inflation. This is like prescribing more liquor to an alcoholic!

With all this, we have also seen a reversal in moral order. As even one “Reverend Doctor” wrote me recently, “gay” is good, and heterosexual is evil (and all “straights” should be put into concentration camps, he held!) Abortion is good, and pro-life is fascistic, it is also held. Such moral disorder is to be expected in an era which sees debt as an investment in the future and an economic asset.

One of the great evils of modern economics is its purported scientific basis. Mathematics of a sort, and science of a sort, are substituted for morality. It will not do to tell our statists that their economics is a form of theft by law; their graphs and statistics are designed to replace economic morality with economic “science.”

Economics was once taught as a branch of “moral philosophy.” Adam Smith himself was a Professor of Moral Philosophy (although his ethics followed Hume, unhappily, but his economics presupposed an “Invisible Hand”). Today, moral considerations are banished from economics in favor of pseudo-science.

As a result, economic issues are seen, not in terms of moral considerations, which require character, work, and a future orientation, but in terms of “needs” and “lacks.” Because of this, we speak of “underdeveloped” nations, which Peter F. Drucker, in Toward The Next Economics, and Other Essays (1981; Harper and Row; p. 64) calls an error: no country, he holds, is underdeveloped because it lacks resources; rather, it does not utilize its resources; its capital in such forms is not productively employed. Neither its human resources nor its physical resources are put to productive use.

We must add that productive use requires a faith and character geared to the future, and to a vision of a growing and dominion-oriented society. Unless such a faith revives, all nations will soon be “underdeveloped.” As Proverbs 29:18 summarizes it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

To abandon moral and theological considerations in any area, including economics, is to abandon reality and meaning. It is to deny knowledge. Drucker cites the shift to a new definition of knowledge as “whatever has no utility and is unlikely to be applied.” p. 49). We can add that such “knowledge” cannot successfully be applied. This certainly would cover the contemporary economics of death and suicide.

When a civil government rules by fiat, and when its economics is a violation of moral order, the result is either anarchy, or a return to or a revival of, the most conservative forms of moral order, or, usually, both of these at the same time. The U.S.S.R. has no lack of anarchy; it is a way of life for many. For many others, very ancient forms of family life and order are providing a close world of meaning. As a result, even the levirate continues within the U.S.S.R. (Helene Carrere d’Encausse: Decline of an Empire, The Soviet Socialist Republics in Revolt; Newsweek Books, 1979, p. 256).

The pre-occupation of contemporary national economic policies is with “the problems of unemployment and inflation,” as Lewis E. Lehrman has long ago pointed out (“The Creation of International Monetary Order,” in David P. Calleo, editor: Money and the Coming World Order, P. 71; N.Y.U. Press, 1976.) Economic order having been violated, the consequences of national economic policies are disorders and increasing problems.

In the face of all this, the silence of the church on economic evils is amazing. Not only so, too often it manifests hostility to any mention of the critical issue of debt. In the past decade, my own comments and those of Gary North on unbiblical debt policies have brought forth some outraged responses. Just recently, because of references to the question of debt in some Chalcedon Position Papers, some highly emotional and angry letters have come in from people who have been handed copies of these papers. This is not surprising. We have in such cases a very obvious fact. The person of the church is heavily in debt, and in debt for many, many years to come. They are also in a serious economic “bind.” Instead of confessing to the Lord that their debts are violations of His law, and seeking His help to re-order their lives, they pray for “blessings,” i.e., to be relieved of their debt situation by some miracle, and without penalties. To be told that they are in sin, and that the wages of sin are always death (Romans 6:23), triggers in them an angry hysteria. They want a god who will let them eat their cake and have it too.

There is a fourth aspect to the religious, moral, and economic implications of Psalm 126:5,6: He who is future oriented and sows with hope in the Lord, “shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bearing his sheaves with him.” The result is not only productivity, but joy. David, in Psalm 144:12-15 prays for an obedient people, a faithful people, faithful to their covenant God and His law, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace; That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets; That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.”early bbq

Such a society begins with your faithfulness and mine. It is time to say, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

*****

(Taken from Roots of Reconstruction, p. 1060; Chalcedon Report No. 192, August, 1981)

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Chalcedon and a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical Law to society.

Article from http://www.chalcedon.edu

 

Posted in All-Encompassing Gospel, Gov't/Theonomy, Law of Christ, Theology/Philosophy, Worldview/Culture, Z-Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Jesus Cleansed the Temple — Twice

olivet discourseWhy Jesus Cleansed the Temple Twice

(a long-standing mystery solved)EmilyCarr-Indian-Church-1929

By Dr. Joel McDurmon

A long-standing problem of New Testament studies has been why Jesus is recorded as having cleansed the temple of the moneychangers twice. John records it happening at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the Synoptic Gospels all record it happening at the end. Which is it? Or is it both? If so, why? What sense does that make?

First, let’s read the texts. The synoptic Gospels record the account:

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:45–46).

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt. 21:12–13).

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. . . . And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:1215–17).

John also records a temple cleansing:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:13–17).

You may notice some differences in the accounts—not necessarily contradictions, but clear differences. The most notable difference has been the subject of much discussion among scholars for a long time: Matthew, Mark, and Luke record a temple cleansing at the very end of Jesus’ ministry while John’s account happens at the very beginning of the ministry. In John’s account, Jesus leaves many believers behind in Jerusalem and eventually goes back home. He is not crucified until years later. In the synoptic accounts, the cleansing follows Jesus’ triumphal entry and it is the very thing that gets Him in trouble with the Priests and scribes, etc., and leads directly to His crucifixion within days.

Liberal scholars have jumped on this problem as evidence that the Gospels are not inspired, but pieced together according to the whims and agendas of their mere mortal authors. Mark used the account for one purpose, John cut and pasted for his own. But this, of course, assumes 1) that the accounts indeed derive from only one incident, or 2) they derive from each other, and/or 3) that even this would disprove the inspiration of the account. This knee-jerk reaction probably says more about the biases of the scholar than it does about the Bible.

The standard conservative response to the problem has been simply to say that Jesus cleansed the temple twice. And while a decent stand-alone case can be made for two cleansings,[1] it still seems arbitrary for Jesus to have done the same thing in the same place on two separate occasions without any good explanation as to why. The standard explanation is that Jesus was just really passionate about the purity of the temple. But He had just moments before, wept and pronounced the soon-coming leveling of that temple, and it seems unlikely He would have undergone such an abrupt emotional change to a zeal for its purity. Our Savior was never one subject to such emotional swings. There must be some better explanation for two cleansings.

[In what follows, I will answer this problem with biblical theology which indicates strongly that Jesus did in fact cleanse the temple twice, and that He did so for very clear and powerful biblical reasons. In doing this, I credit a friend of mine in seminary who suggested the seed idea which started this study for me. I also note for you that this article is taken from the slightly longer version in my book Jesus v. Jerusalem. This commentary on a large section of Luke contains this study and many more like it.]

Inspection of a Corruption in a House

Indeed, there were two separate cleansings of the Temple, and there is a better explanation for them. What lies behind these separate instances is Jesus fulfilling the role of the High Priest visiting and inspecting the touch of affliction/corruption in the house. This is described in Leviticus 14:33–53. It accounts for the multiple visitations and the repeated act of removing the corruption, then finally pronouncing the house (temple) unclean and decreeing the total destruction of the house. It also fits in with Jesus’ mission against Jerusalem. Now for considerations of space, I will not reproduce the whole long section of Leviticus here, but it is important that you take up your Bible and read it at this point. What follows are the highlights of the priestly duties throughout that passage, and how they pertain to Jesus’ ministry.

First, the phrase “plague of leprosy” or “leprous disease” is misleading. It has more relation to translation history than the actual Hebrew of the text. The actual phrase should more simply be translated “touch of affliction,” or “corruption.” The “leprosy” mentioned was not a disease, obviously, since it affected building stones and garments as well as people (see Lev. 14:54–57). It was also certainly not anything like what is known as leprosy today. It was an unknown affliction or corruption and God was giving them detailed steps on how to determine the level of threat and how to deal with it based on the determination. Since it also obviously pertained to something dangerous, undesirable, and potentially unclean, I will refer to it as a “corruption.” (I will also alter the translation of the ESV’s “disease” to “corruption.”)

Second, the owner of the house had to take the initiative when he suspected a corruption was present in his house (Lev. 14:35). In the case of the temple, we know it was Jesus’ “Father’s house” (John 2:16), and thus God the Father took the initiative.

Third, the owner was to contact the priest and the priest was to “go in to see the house” and “examine the corruption” (Lev. 14:36–37). In John’s early account, Jesus “found” the corruption. We should think this was by chance; He was examining everything. In the later incident, we are specifically told by Mark that Jesus “looked around at everything” (Mark 11:11), the evening before He actually drove out the corruption. We earlier [see Jesus v. Jerusalem] discussed the idea of “visitation” as a special judgment-inspection in the oversight God had for His people. They were before His face continually, constantly subject to His scrutiny (Ex. 25:30Deut. 11:12). Jesus incarnated this face, and set it toward the visitation of Jerusalem (Luke 9:51ff).

Once the priest had seen the corruption, he was to shut up the house for a period of seven days, and then return to see if the corruption had spread. We do not see this played out exactly in the two separate incidents in the Gospels, but this seven-day period is there in John, as I will discuss in a moment. The two cleansings do, however, directly parallel the rest of the inspection process. I will explain why they are separated from the first part momentarily as well; for now, let us finish with the two cleansings as follows:

The Two Cleansings

Fifth, on the seventh day after shutting the house, the priest was to return for another inspection (Lev. 14:39). If the corruption had spread, then he was to remove the spot of the corruption from the house: “then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which is the corruption and throw them into an unclean place outside the city. And he shall have the inside of the house scraped all around, and the plaster that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city” (Lev. 14:40–41).

Before we consider this as Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple in John, let us, (Sixth), briefly note the continuation of the Levitical house-cleansing process. If the plague returned to the house after the stones were removed and walls scraped the first time, then the priest was to declare the corruption “persistent” (Lev. 14:44), and based on that declare the whole house “unclean.” What followed next was the total destruction and removal of the house: “And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place” (Lev. 14:45).

Now this progression of first-visit cleansing, second-visit declaration of destruction is basically what we find in Jesus’ two visitations of the temple. And it makes sense of the minor differences in the narratives of John and the synoptic. In the first visit, Jesus drove out the merchants and the moneychangers, poured out their money and turned over the tables. His message then was, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” In other words, Jesus had removed only the corrupted stones themselves, and sent them “away.” After another day or two, He left Jerusalem completely and went into Judea. He would not return for a while.

When He did visit the temple again for inspection, two years later, he found that the corruption of the moneychangers and merchandisers persisted. Upon this inspection he drove them out again but with a message that expanded upon the first: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark, 11:17; Luke 19:46). This was a final condemnation of Israel’s failure to be what he was called to be (as I will explain in a moment). Jesus thus determined that the corruption in this house was persistent. He apparently anticipated this, for He had announced the dismantling of the house as He was riding in. But He confirmed this again only days later when people were marveling at the beautiful stones of the temple: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6).

Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated “persistent” or “fretting” in Leviticus 14:44 is ma’ar, and it literally means “pricking.” It literally has reference to the work of thorns, and thus is a direct reference to the curse on the land (Gen. 3:18). It was part of God’s promised curse that if the Israelites did not drive out all the pagan nations from Canaan, then those nations would become “thorns in your sides” (Num 33:55). Thorns were a frequent prophetic reference in God’s punishment of faithless Israel (Is. 5:67:23–2532:13Jer. 12:13Ezek. 2:6Hos. 2:69:6) and as a symbol of the curse of fallen man, rightly so.

How then did the money changers and merchants actually constitute corruption in the house? It was just as Jesus said: Instead of making that house a witness to all nations, they were selfish and covetous robbers acting just like the surrounding pagans. It was a fundamental failure of Israel as a nation, of which Jerusalem and the temple were the central representatives. Instead of redeeming the nations, Israel wallowed in his own fallen nature. . . .

New House and New Stones

The house cleansings are separated from the first inspection by seven days, according to the Levitical law. As I mentioned, the seven-day period does appear in John. In order to see it, however, we need to consider the whole picture of what I have discussed so far: Jesus as the true Temple, and His cleansings of the Old Covenant temple as a visitation of judgment on an idolatrous and complacent house. This is the story of Jesus in John’s Gospel.

It all begins at the initiation of Jesus’ public ministry at His baptism. The day of Jesus’ baptism in John’s Gospel begins a seven-day narrative. On the first day, Jesus is baptized, John proclaims Him to be the lamb of God, and the Holy Spirit descends live a dove and remains upon Jesus. This was all done for the purpose, as John the Baptist says, “that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31). There is so much theology here it is impossible to note it all without distraction. In short, here we have the Spirit of God hovering over the New Creation on the first day; here we have the new Ark of salvation coming up out of the water of baptism, and the dove finding the dry land of the New World. But most importantly for our purposes, here we have God’s Spirit-glory filling the New House. This is explained as follows:

In Exodus 40:34–35, when Moses first erected the first house of God, the tabernacle, we read: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Two aspects are important: the cloud, which was God’s Spirit or presence, and the fact that it settled (or dwelled) there. The Hebrew word for “settled” is shakan, from which we get the phrase shekinah glory. It simply refers to God’s abiding presence. (Ironically, the Hebrew word for “tabernacle” throughout the book of Exodus is mishkan—the noun form of shakan—which means literally “a dwelling place.”)

This scene is replayed exactly when Solomon dedicates the temple:

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell [shakan] in thick darkness. I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell [shakan] in forever” (1 Kings 8:10–13).

This is exactly what God told John the Baptist to watch for in Jesus: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain (John 1:33). It is clear from this image alone that Jesus, the Son of God, was in fact God’s New House, New place of dwelling. Jesus was the New Temple. This would mean, of course, that the old temple in Jerusalem was already obsolete. From the day of the revealing of the true temple to Israel, all those old temple rituals and all the traditions and idolatrous practices that had grown up around them, were nothing but corruption in God’s house of Israel. The new house was already established and indwelt by the spirit. This, by definition “closed” the other house for covenant business. The closing of the house, also, was part of the seven-day wait period (Lev. 14:38).

It is ironic that it is only in John’s Gospel that Jesus claims he would “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20). He then tells us that He spoke of “the temple of His body.” So Jesus was conscious that He was the New Temple as soon as it had happened, and this was His sign to the Jews for His authority to cleanse the old house of corruption. The irony of this is in the fact that no one else mentions this claim of Jesus until the second time He cleanses the temple three years later. Yet, none of the synoptic accounts record Jesus saying this during the second cleaning. Nevertheless, this is the very claim that “false witnesses” bring against Him during the kangaroo court as recorded in the synoptics (Matt. 26:6127:40Mark 14:5815:29). If He didn’t say this during the second cleansing recorded in the synoptics, then where did these people even get this idea? It could only have come from the first cleansing episode years earlier when Jesus actually did say something like this, and which is only recorded in John 2. This would also account for the fact that their versions of the claim were not quite accurate.

John’s Gospel then begins counting the first few days of Jesus’ ministry. The New House was established at the baptism. That was day one. On the “next day” (day two, John 1:35), Jesus begins making disciples. One unnamed disciple of John the Baptist follows Jesus, plus Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael (John 1:35–51). Then, “on the third day” (John 2:1), Jesus performs His first miracle, changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana (2:1–10). He then visits Capernaum for “a few days” (2:12). Then, we are immediately told, “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (2:13). The Passover itself was held on the 14th day of the month Nisan, and it was a sabbath day. So this means this whole story of John 1:29–2:13 takes place in the space of seven days. And it means Jesus visited Jerusalem when that seventh (Sabbath) day was “at hand.”

In other words, Jesus (who already knew the first house was corrupt) established the New House, then waited seven days, and visited the house (this time, the old house) for a second inspection. Finding the corruption, he removed the stone. He returned later and found the corruption persistent, and He declared the house would then be completely demolished.

New Stones

Another interesting aspect is that of the Levitical duty to replace the corrupted stones which had been removed. The law says, “Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other plaster and plaster the house” (Lev. 14:42).

We saw in John that Jesus successfully recruited disciples, but He only made five on that second day; no others are mentioned. But as soon as He removed the corrupt stones from the temple (the merchants, moneychangers, etc.), He also began making new disciples: there were many who believed in His name (John 2:23). Among these was Nicodemus, who asked about being born again, and who later helped bury Jesus’ body (John 3:1ff19:39). Not long afterward, Jesus is seen with a larger number of disciples, from which He chose twelve to be apostles (Luke 6:12–16). Indeed, Jesus had selected “other stones” to replace the corrupted members of the old order. In fact, when Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, the Lord renamed him on the spot—“Cephas” or “Peter” in Greek—“A stone.”

This is exactly how Peter himself saw the members of the New Testament church: as ‘stones’ in the New Temple which was the body of Christ. He wrote, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5).

No Escape

Jesus Christ established a new house of God, and He has made us to be stones in that house. The old house was full of corruption. And as He cleansed the corruption out the first time, He began replacing it with new stones for His new house. When He returned finally to that old house and found the corruption persistent, he declared it to be destroyed completely.

There is yet a final note we must make in this study. When a house was declared unclean, everything in that house by law also was declared unclean. For this reason, the priest allowed everything to be removed from the house before his initial inspection, “lest all that is in the house be declared unclean” (Lev. 14:36). Jesus had pled and pled with the Jews all over Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem that the visitation was about to come, but they would not come to Him. Instead, all that were in the city themselves, even their children, would by proxy be pronounced unclean as well. This is stated in Jesus’ mourning over Jerusalem: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43–44).

Conclusion

Jesus’ second cleansing of the temple was His final judgment-inspection of the house of Jerusalem. It was indeed “the time of your visitation” for the city. Jesus had, from the day of His baptism, focused His mission on that city, and the message of destruction He would one day bring to it. Here in Luke 19:41–46, we see that judgment made and that message delivered. From here on out, it was merely a matter of fulfilling that which was determined.

[For more studies like this, see Jesus v. Jerusalem, or get my latest work on the law of God and its application today, The Bounds of Love: An Introduction to God’s Law of Liberty.]

*****

Notes:

[1] See the six-point case made in Craig A. Blomberg, the Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987), 171–173.

Article from AmericanVision.org

 

Posted in All-Encompassing Gospel, Law of Christ, Theology/Philosophy, Unity, Z-Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Big Picture — A Supernatural View of History

sunA Supernatural View of History

By Mark R. Rushdoony

History is a frustrating subject for many people. For many, it is only of interest to the extent it bears on one’s personal heritage. It is often seen as boring because it has no perceived meaning or relevance. I remember one student in a college class on ancient history saying angrily, “This is just a history of war.” He was largely correct because, when we view history, we often have to focus on the conflicts and who won. The victors, then, invariably write the history books to justify their actions.earth

Missing the Big Picture

We have even more difficulty assessing the meaning of contemporary history because we perceive a self-interest in the struggle and its outcome. Even when we try to step back and look at events dispassionately, it is easy to get lost in the details, and we often focus on those that seem prominent at the time. When we look back at the political and cultural issues of even a few years ago, we realize that it is not hard to miss the forest for the trees when we look for the important trends of our own day.

crossThis has always been the case. Josephus, the most important historian of first-century Palestine, took little notice of Christ or Christianity. He was Jewish and had no interest in Christianity, and he wrote for a Roman audience so he wrote ably of politics and military campaigns, the things that mattered to first-century Romans. This narrow perspective meant that he failed to appreciate the most important development of his day. The atoning work of the incarnate Christ and the beginning of His church represented the most significant event of human history. Satan was defeated, redemption was accomplished, and the earth-centered humanistic dream of a culture without God that Scripture callsabstract tree Babylon, and of which Rome was then a part, was doomed to failure. The Kingdom of the Messiah would come to prominence, though the Roman Empire would collapse. This is exactly what the prophets had said would happen. In terms of the prophesies of Daniel, for instance, Rome had largely accomplished its role, and the focus of history was now on the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Josephus missed all of that because he focused on the apparent power players of his day.

Hebrews 12:26–28 refers to the work of God in history after Jesus as a shaking of heaven and earth, the purpose of which was, “the removing of those things that are shaken” so “that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”

This passage, obviously a synopsis of historical events after Jesus Christ, follows what has been called the “honor roll of faith” in Hebrews 11, which lists historical figures who acted in terms of their faith in God. It mentions individuals from Abel through the prophets who obeyed God and were blessed and used by Him. They were individuals who stood faithful in faithless times and ordered their priorities in terms of what they confessed.Travel Trend Myanmar Tourism

Then, in chapter 12 verse 1, the lesson is stated for us: we have their example behind us and we have the course that Christ has laid down before us: therefore, we should “run with patience the race that is set before us.” In other words, the faith, the assumption, these saints had that God’s promises were sure, together with the historical knowledge of Christ’s finished work and His commission to the church, should give us the fortitude of faith that enables us to live in terms of the certainty that our work in terms of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not in vain.

Too many Christians today view the world as did Josephus, in terms of the Rome of our day. They are focused on the leaders of our modern Babels who themselves believe they are controlling history. To do this is, however, to miss the ongoing work of God in history and their responsibilities in terms thereof. If we do not have faith in the God of history, we will, like Josephus, focus only on the men of history. It is for us, rather, to speak as did the apostles who knew the power of God and the shaking it surely represented throughout history.

Transcendent or Immanent Meaning?

How are we to view history, not just that long past, but our own history, in fact, all of time? We must begin by seeing that time itself is a creation of God. Scripture gives its beginning at the Creation and its end at the final judgment. Man is constrained because he is a finite creature with a finite lifetime in this finite world in this finite provision of God we call time. Contrast that with the comment by Dostoyevsky, who once noted that if there is no God, then all things are possible. That is the hope of man in rebellion against God, the dream of Babel, a world where anything is possible for man.

The nonbeliever has a problem with history, namely, where does meaning come from? History is full of billions of occurrences. The course of history has often hinged on one particular, seemingly minor, event. Without a providential view of history, it is easy to say history is chance, a parade of random events. That is in fact the conclusion of postmodernism: there is no meaning, no big picture.

If there is no transcendent meaning governing history, the only one, if one is possible, must be immanent, present in the cosmos and time-bound. This can lead me onto two different paths. If history is entirely immanent, it can be either ignored as meaningless or seen as the sole source of meaning. Take your pick: no meaning in history or all meaning within time and history.

Every denial involves a corresponding affirmation of some kind. The denial of transcendent meaning is often for the purpose of ascribing an immanent source of meaning. Since the Enlightenment, and particularly after Darwin, modern man thinks in terms of a naturalistic faith to explain the big picture of life, history, and social order. Naturalism explains all things and occurrences in terms of the characteristics inherent in matter. No naturalistic ideology can countenance a supernatural because naturalism is an affirmation of a particular faith. The denial of the supernatural necessitates the affirmation of the natural. To the extent naturalism claims to give any recognition to the supernatural, it usually reduces it to an aspect of the psychology of man, which, in reality, makes it naturalistic.

The Bible does not give a naturalistic view of history. It presents all human existence in a moral perspective, stemming from a transcendent order the source of which is a sovereign God of all His creation. It presents our history as the outworking of both man’s sin nature and that sovereign God’s gracious redemption. History is the outworking of man’s position relative to either Genesis 3:5 or Genesis 3:15. Genesis 3:5 was Satan’s bogus offer to man that he could be “as gods, knowing good and evil”; Genesis 3:15 was God’s promise that He would send a seed of the woman to crush Satan. All men are in relation to God either in terms of Adam (sinfulness, the curse, and judgment) or in terms of Jesus Christ (redemption, justification, regeneration, and sanctification), in terms of covenant faithfulness or covenant rebellion.

Man was created a moral being, and despite the Fall remains a moral being, so man has to accept time, matter, and history as moral issues. His understanding of these things will be in terms of his relation to God. Man’s problem is his rebellion against God and the meaning that comes from His sovereign creation and providence. That is why the writers of Hebrews had to remind Christians to think of the future in terms of their faith, as did the saints of old.

Artificial Meaning

Given their denial of the God of Scripture, the position of the postmodernist is a reasonable one because without God, time and history are at best only empty pages on which man tries to impose an artificial meaning, usually for the purpose of social and political control. Many years ago history was replaced in government schools by social studies: history and cultures were “studied” to reeducate young men and women on how they were expected to think and act in the “social” order the educators sought to create.

Man’s life is so short, however, that his artificial meaning rarely outlasts him. Man consistently fails to create a meaning greater than himself because he is not, in fact, a god knowing, or determining, good and evil. The stories of God’s providential movements in history are to remind us of the fact that He always controls history. The past is “His story,” and the future is His will.

Without some transcendent purpose to time and history, all that is left for man in Adam is the moment. The past then has no lasting relevance. If anything, it becomes a hindrance, a burden to man because its events constrain him in the present. The future, then, is either meaningless chance or an artificially imposed meaning. All that is left such men is the existential moment, and postmodernism can be seen as no more than a form of existentialism.

Men in Adam do still love to play as though they were gods, so the answer of some to meaningless time and history is the creation of an artificial meaning, a substitute for the providential view of history by God. Karl Marx tried to impose an artificial historical meaning. Darwin tried to impose an artificial science and narrative of man’s origins. Freud fabricated an interpretation of man’s early family experience. What man is trying to do when he forces an artificial meaning into time and history is replace God’s predestination.

Naturalism presents a world that lacks meaning, that needs meaning, but because it presents no transcendent meaning, it presents an open door to contrived meaning, and all naturalistic meaning will be immanent and thoroughly humanistic.

The naturalistic view of history has man as the interpreter of time and history. This presumed prerogative is applied to Scripture, which is assumed to be natural and subject to a rewrite that excludes the supernatural. The only Jesus tolerated is the historical Jesus, one that is entirely human, the product of human history. But this is not the final humiliation of Christ. Man knows his knowledge is always changing, so he takes it as his prerogative to make Jesus and Christianity constantly evolving. Not only has Christ’s relevance and Christianity evolved, it is said, they must be allowed to continue to evolve. The concept of the historical Jesus does not allow any room for fixed orthodoxy.

It is only humanism that has a problem with meaning in history. The Christian faith allows us to live with an imperfect understanding of history because we know complete and perfect understanding is in the God who governs history, not in the process itself. The Christian can know there is meaning in history without seeking it from within history. Transcendent meaning dictates submission in faith; immanent meaning necessitates that man find that meaning.

Modern man has increasingly rejected God as the source of meaning. The Enlightenment reacted against religion and revelation, and advanced science and reason in their place. The Enlightenment faith was in nature and reason. The Enlightenment’s rejection of Biblical faith was concurrent with a faith that law was inherent in nature and that man could discern it by reason.

Beginning with the French Revolution, this shift from Christianity to humanism quickly sparked revolutions in terms of the new view of man and social justice. Karl Marx welcomed revolution and saw it as the power that drove historical process from one stage to the next. He even had a perverse version of the Kingdom of Heaven in his belief that communism would usher in the final stage of social evolution. For his followers, meaning was in Marx’s dogma. Communism was a “moral” force. Revolution was the power from below that forced history forward to its predetermined climax, which Marx revealed to his disciples. These operated with a religious dedication, an evangelistic zeal, an ideological devotion to the unfolding worker’s paradise he promised.

To the Enlightenment’s social evolution, Charles Darwin added biological evolution. It was Darwin who embedded naturalism in the modern mind. He represented a new faith in how the world operated, a greater antithesis to theism. Marx’s belief in revolution was one that held that the essential power and force is from below, not above. Thus Marx welcomed the work of Charles Darwin with delight. Darwin provided a reason to believe that power was from below. Darwin thus changed man’s view of the past, the future, and himself. Darwin shifted the West to a thoroughly naturalistic worldview.

The Chaos of Rebellion

Humanism is not a monolith, nor is it a single movement. All forms of humanism share a common philosophical assumption, a belief in man as the measure of all things, based on that promise of Satan in Genesis 3:5. When men rebel against God’s reality, however, they do not march in lockstep. They run helter-skelter in chaotic panic; they contradict one another constantly.

Darwin thoroughly separated modern thought from Christian presuppositions, but in doing so, he destroyed the Enlightenment’s basis for its brand of humanistic thought. The Enlightenment held to natural law and the supremacy of man’s reason. Darwin destroyed the possibility of relying on either, because his view on man’s origins described nature as chaotic and man’s reason as an evolutionary latecomer; after Darwin neither nature nor reason could be the basis for anything. Darwin’s foundation of biological evolution became not the basis for a great new beginning for man, but the cause of an emerging loss of belief in any possibility of meaning. Darwin had thrown a bomb into the Enlightenment’s intellectual presuppositions and paved the way for postmodernism’s rejection of any meta-narrative.

Sigmund Freud then further discounted man’s reason and even his consciousness, saying man was controlled by his primitive past. Freud explained guilt in terms of man’s supposed subconscious memories of his evolutionary beginnings, yet his work and its acceptance also represents the moral character of modern man’s rebellion against finding meaning in God. Freud dedicated his life to explaining guilt, yet he never once claimed to be able to remedy it. All he offered was a naturalistic explanation, and modern man preferred that to repentance and faith. Freud gave psychology a thoroughly humanistic perspective, which men still cling to, but he could not bring unity to rebellion. The March 27, 2006, issue of Newsweek published a chart illustrating twenty-three spin-off revisions of Freud. Once man is the measure, there can be as many meanings as there are men.

Karl Marx recognized the problem of meaning for modern man, so he avoided trying to find it. Instead, he chose to change things. Marxism is now increasingly seen as an artificial construct that only does harm in the context of the real world. We must pray that one area of humanism after another will soon be regarded as similarly artificial and absurd. The world does not need humanism’s artificial meanings. Man needs the truth that there is a sovereign God. The answer to a world without meaning, or with an artificially imposed one, is still found in God. Of course, this is a meaning man fears because it is a moral meaning against which he is in rebellion.

The ugly reality of artificial meaning imposed on time and history is that it inevitably means imposing, like Marxism, not only meaning on, but also control over, man. Just as God’s predestination implies God’s providence and governing, so man’s predestination implies man’s governing, man’s control.

Modern humanism has been very hard on humanity. Back in the 1960s when humanistic clichés were regarded with reverential deference, cartoonist Charles Schulz once had one of his characters admit, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!” According to Gil Elliot’s Twentieth Century Book of the Dead, in the twentieth century, a higher percentage of the world’s population died at the hands of other men than in any other century in recorded history.

Flight from Reality

Naturalism seeks meaning within the confines of time and matter, but it cannot find meaning, only a flight from the reality of a world that is governed by its Creator and His law. This is the message of Scripture, and is why it begins with God as the Creator and ends with Him on the throne of heaven.

When man rejects this meaning, he has to make up his own. Man thus creates modern superstitions and mythologies by which he teaches and reinforces them. These irrationalities are then projected onto reality. The Enlightenment thinkers developed a mythological source of law and social order. Darwin created a biological mythology of origins. Freud created a mythology of psychology and anthropology. Marx created a mythology of historical process. Without God, man is lost in his attempts to create meaning or hope.

The world is full of men and women who see the events around them as did Josephus. They see what man the rebel is doing, not God, and so they miss the most important trends of history.

The world of humanism is in crisis. As many of us saw the Soviet Union collapse, we will see the further disintegration of a civilization built upon a repudiation of God and His Word. The mythologies of modern man will fail him, but this must be seen as part of the great shaking spoken of in Hebrews.

Christians all have a dual citizenship, and our Lord was very clear as to our primary allegiance. It is our part to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness so that we will be part of “those things which cannot be shaken” and which will remain.

*****

Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony is president of Chalcedon and Ross House Books. He is also editor-in-chief of Faith for All of Life and Chalcedon’s other publications.

 

Article from www.chalcedon.edu

 

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