Culture, politics

Against “Post-Liberalism,” Left and Right

Memo to U. S. conservatives:

1. We should be standing boldly for Jesus Christ, the Bible, marriage, the family, preborn children, the elderly, two sexes and two sexes only, patriotic conservatism, and respect everywhere for God’s moral law.

2. We should be standing boldly for liberty — classical liberalism: religious liberty, political liberty, economic liberty; free markets at home and abroad, a multi-party system, negotiated politics, severely limited government, checks and balances, and the God-given right of every God-imaged human to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We should grasp that culture, not politics, is the great vehicle for social change.

3. We should be standing boldly, for both 1 and 2, simultaneously.

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Culture

My 10 Favorite Modern Novels

The Straw Men, by Michael Marshall — They are brilliant and bloodthirsty elite nihilists who are convinced they’re the next stage in human evolution. They have lots of money. They live on huge, rural estates. They like to experiment. WARNING: don’t read alone at night.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt — Classical humanism has never been more macabre.

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbø — Scandinavian thrillers are chillers: literally.

Dune, by Frank Herbert — If you can read only one sci-fi novel in your life, read this one.

The Charm School, by Nelson DeMille — In the old Soviet Union a young American tourist in a Trans Am picks up a fellow American hitchhiker on the run. The story he tells the driver is staggering. Soon, both are dead.

Hannibal, by Thomas Harris — If the good doctor is terrifying behind bars, what would he be like roaming around a free man?

Spy Line, by Len Deighton — A British intelligence agent gets into East Germany to exfiltrate a double agent. She happens to be his wife.

The Broken Shore, by Peter Temple — An Aussie detective hunting down a wealthy sexual fiend.

The Leopard, by Jo Nesbø — Why does the deeply flawed detective Harry Hole (WHO-lu) get stuck investigating the most pernicious serial killers on the planet.

Red Leaves, by Paullina Simons — Such close-knit school students. The red boots of one are found standing alone in the snow. The wearer is not.

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Bible, Church, Theology

The Pleroma of the Son

Introduction

Sin unleashed nothingness into the world. The Edenic world was brim-filled and overflowing with the goodness, righteousness, and joy of God actuated by creation’s mediator, God’s only Son. The creation account speaks of “filling” the earth and its “abundance.” God-ness drenched everything (though, of course, not in a pantheistic sense). Sin introduced cosmic rebellion. One rarely recognized blight of this rebellion is nihilism: life is meaningless because the universe is meaningless. “The demonic is essentially meaninglessness,”[1] and when Satan offered Eve the knowledge of good and evil, he was promising the contra-creational ability to create her own meaning. To create one’s own meaning presupposes an absence of meaning. “Eve, you can get behind God’s universe of meaning to a void in which you can create your own conceptual universe.” To be as god is to drain (in one’s own mind) God’s meaning-full universe to fill it with your own.

A fascinating NT word is pleroma, usually translated “fullness.” Its meaning is actually hard to reduce to one word. It denotes abundance, leaving no unoccupied space (as in a ship). There is no available room to compete with that which fills it. Pleroma is a pivotal biblical word that describes the person and work of the Son.

The Pleroma of the Trinity

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him [Jesus Christ] dwells all the pleroma of the Godhead bodily.” This is an extraordinary claim. The entire fullness (pleroma) of Father, Son, and Spirit indwells the incarnate Son. This is not some sort of Christic Unitarianism, that God is only one person whose name is Jesus. God is one being in three persons. No, it means all that the Father and Spirit are is revealed in Jesus Christ. When you see his agony on the Cross, his fulmination against the Pharisees, his forgiveness of an adulterous woman, his joy, his weariness, his anger — you’re seeing also the Father and the Spirit. Jesus Christ is full of the Trinity.

Some Christians seem to have the idea that there is one God, and that Father, Son and Spirit are the three “parts” or expression of that one God. But that’s heresy. One reason we know this from the Bible is that all three fully dwell in the very body of the Son. Everything we need to know about God we could know by knowing Jesus Christ, which also means people could know much more about God after his Son’s incarnation. The Father and Spirit are equally persons, and equally God, but Jesus also bears them in his very body, since he is “the express image of His [God’s] person” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is stamped everywhere as God, even — perhaps especially — in his humanity. Jesus images God to man and to the rest of creation.

This means that being right with Jesus is being right with God — and that being wrong with Jesus is being wrong with God. Muslims and Hindus and orthodox ( = heterodox) Jews don’t love and serve the true God because the true God is in Jesus alone. It means we can’t “get behind” Jesus to get to the true God. “There is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ”:[2] “He who has seen Me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). It means that to seek after God with all our heart is to seek after Jesus.

Jesus is the pleroma of God.

The Pleroma of the Church

But not just the pleroma of God. The church is the community of the redeemed, called out of the sinful world to be God’s peculiar treasure. But the church is more. As the body of Christ, it is the earthly receptacle of his pleroma, his fulness:

And He [the Father] put all things under His [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the pleroma of Him who fills (pleroo) all in all. (Ephesians 1:22–23)

Christ saturates his church, both in its Sunday liturgical cultic[3] expression as well as its weekday non-liturgical kingdom expression.[4] By all outward appearance, the church is often feeble, sinful, failing. In its Lord’s Day celebration, it looks much like any other gathering of people dedicated to some specific purpose. In its weekday kingdom life, it might look like just another “special interest group.” But appearances deceive. The church is not a merely human community. It’s equally a divine community. The church is the fulness of Jesus Christ. The post-ascension church, by the Spirit, is the presence of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17a).

What in this world is God doing? He’s extending his kingdom in his Son Jesus Christ. But the church is the pleroma of the Son. Our Lord doesn’t fill just our individual bodies. He fills a community, his church. And he fills his church in a way he doesn’t fill us as individuals. So, if you want to be filled by Jesus Christ, you can’t experience this filling all by yourself. You need the corporate fulness of the people of God. The church is full of Jesus. 

The Pleroma of the Cosmos

But Jesus’ fulness isn’t limited to the church.  Paul declares in Colossians 1:15–19 that the pleroma of the universe, all things created, both in the church and beyond the church, is Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ pervades the universe. This didn’t start at his incarnation. It started at creation. This is why Paul writes in the same place that all things consist, or “hang together,” in him. The stars, the sun, the planets, gravity, the tides, cause and effect, morality  — all cosmic regularity is maintained by Jesus Christ. We sometimes talk about the sovereignty of God in his eternal decrees, but it’s even more relevant to talk about the pleroma of Jesus that is God’s sovereignty. Jesus is perpetually accomplishing God’s plan for the world.

For this reason, although we should be both heartbroken and angered by today’s sociopolitical chaos — Washington’s partisan bomb-lobbing, the LGBTQ++ genital mutilation agenda, and increasing talk of cultural civil war, we need not be anxious over any of it. This created order is sustained by Jesus Christ. Just as the earthly Jesus permitted storms on the lake in which his boat was rowing but rebuked the waves, so he won’t allow Satanic opposition to tip over into the destruction of creation.

This is God’s good world, which is to say, it’s Christ’s good world. He’s its pleroma. There’s no vacuum or recess or “white space.” He fills every inch of it.


[1] Allan D. Galloway, The Cosmic Christ (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951), 243.

[2] Thomas F. Torrance, “The Atonement. The Singularity of Christ and the Finality of the Cross: The Atonement and the Moral Order,” Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 230.

[3] Organized, formal, public, corporate worship.

[4] Hendrik Hart, “The Institutional Church In Biblical Perspective,” International Reformed Bulletin, 49/50 [1972], 15–21.

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Culture

What I Do

It occurred to me that I often take for granted when I post on social media that everybody knows what I do.

I’ve been leading the Center for Cultural Leadership for almost 23 years now, and I assume everybody knows that. Apparently, they don’t. So here’s a quick summary of what I do:

I lead CCL, about which you can learn more at the link provided. It’s a Christian educational foundation designed to influence Christians to influence culture in distinctively Christian ways. It is Reformational (Kuyper, Bavinck, Dooyeweerd, Van Til); conservative (theologically, socially, and politically); and classically liberal (pro-liberty, free society).

We have a number of distinguished senior fellows and a cooperating board, and you can read all about that at the website too.

You can access the numerous CCL resources at the end of the web post.

Dr. Brian Mattson and I are the two full-time scholars, and we have several part-time scholars. You can subscribe to his superior weekly e-newsletters and his other resources.

We’re intellectuals, and we make no bones about it, though we’re not eggheads, I hope! We’re part of what has been called the “adversarial intelligentsia”: relying on our Christian presuppositions, we try to go toe to toe with the reigning secular and neopagan intelligentsia.

Ideas have consequences, bad ideas have bad consequences, and bad theological ideas have the worst consequences of all. We try to specialize in the very best ideas.

A root distinctive of CCL is that the Christian Faith is designed to apply beyond the four walls of the church, the family hearth, and between anybody’s two ears — to the entire culture.

We try to be firm, uncompromising, biblical, and appropriately confrontational while avoiding insulting, incendiary, junior-high, scorched-earth rhetorical antics.

CCL relies for support on a faithful donor base.

I’ve been happily married 40 years to the most faithful wife God could give a man, with five children, four grandchildren, and too many great friends that I don’t deserve. I pastored two churches (11 years each), served as an executive at two other Christian foundations, was headmaster at a Christian day school, and have been involved in the Christian ministry at almost every level. I was reared in a devout Christian family and started preaching when I was 16 years old. I hope nobody still has copies of those cassette tape sermons.

That’s a summary of what I do.


The CCL website is here.

My Amazon author page (print and digital) is here.

Subscribe to “CultureChange,” my weekly e-newsletter here.

You can find my sermons and lectures at my YouTube channel.

Sign up to get my blog updates here.

Here’s my Twitter feed.

If you want to get the free exclusive hard copy publication Christian Culture, please send me a Facebook private message.

The CCL phone number is 831-420-7230.

The mailing address is:

Center for Cultural Leadership

P. O. Box 100

Coulterville, CA 95311

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Uncategorized

Baptist and Paedobaptist Very Hot Takes

For some reason the temperature of the perennial arguments between Baptists and paedobaptists has spiked, though it seems to me most of the faulty hot takes lately have been over-microwaved by my fellow paedobaptists.

Here’s a humble exhortation from somebody that’s been on both sides of this issue and studied it for 40 years:

If you can’t conduct yourself civilly without making incendiary and, in some cases ridiculous, accusations, just keep quiet.

Better yet: arrive at your position, hold it firmly, and don’t loudly try to convince everybody else in the world, or people outside your own church or community.

The barbarians currently storming the cultural gates couldn’t care less whether you’re a Baptist or paedobaptist.

Know the enemy. And he is neither a Baptist nor a paedobaptist.

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Church, Culture

The Character of Christ’s Kingdom

He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Is. 42:2, 3)

A principal theme of the Old Testament prophets relating to Messiah’s glorious kingdom is the manner in which it was to contrast with merely human kingdoms. The kingdoms of man arrive with and feature great pomp, pride, and power, crushing all who dare oppose them. They constitute visible manifestations of man’s glory, and are usually attended by an arrogance toward both God and man.

Alternatively, Christ’s kingdom was predicted to arrive in humility, far from the centers of human power (Mic. 5:2). When we examine the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth, life, and death, we discover that the Old Testament prophecies were infallibly fulfilled: Christ was born in poverty and humility, attended not by royal heralds but humble shepherds. The kings of the earth did not hail him; the principal ruler in Israel at the time tried to murder him. Our Lord was reared by a humble, God-fearing family in relative obscurity. His adult teaching and healing ministry, while attended by thousands, did not bear the character of earthly royalty. His ignominious and cruel death in punishment as a common criminal was the most humiliating execution known in the ancient world.

Truly, if we consider his life on earth, the kingdom of Christ bears little resemblance to human kingdoms.

There is a good reason for this. The kingdom of Christ is not chiefly a political kingdom. Nationalist Jews at Christ’s first Advent expected that this Man who claimed to be King and Messiah would fulfill the old covenant Scriptures which prophesied that God’s Chosen would break the yoke of Israel’s Gentile oppressors (Jer. 23:5-9; Ez. 34:24-31; Mic. 5:5,6). In this assumption they were absolutely correct. They were grossly mistaken, however, in their assumption of the manner in which Messiah would do this. They presumed—like the dispensationalists of the modern era—that Christ’s is a cataclysmically induced, centrally enforced political kingdom. They somehow missed those old covenant Scriptures which foretold that the Messiah-King would accomplish his will through regenerative, humble, non-coercive means (Is. 15:14, 15; 42:1-7; 52:13-53:12; Zech. 9:9). Christ indeed will crush his opponents (Ps. 2); but he will not crush them in the manner of a merely human king.

The principal amillennial error is in holding that Christ’s kingdom is limited to the Christian family, church, or the intermediate or eternal state. It does not recognize all the promises of the Messianic kingdom which pertain to the Godly Golden Age of the entire earth, including politics and the state (e.g., Ps. 2; 22:27; 47:2, 3, 7; 72; Is. 2:2-4; 11:1-10; 42:1-4; 65:17-25; Mic. 4:1-5).

A central error of all dispensationalists, most premillennialists, and even some postmillennialists, on the other hand, is in supposing that Christ’s kingdom is a fundamentally political phenomenon. The first two foresee Christ returning physically to earth accompanied by the deceased saints with, as it were, guns firing and eyes blazing, intent on mowing down the Antichrist and his wicked disciples in cold blood. Some mistaken postmillennialists, though, trip into a similar error. They seem to think that if Christians can just capture state power they will be poised to usher in an intensified millennium by imposing Biblical law, punishing God’s enemies, and creating a Christian state. While their sincerity may be impeccable, their agenda is unthinkable.

The earthy Kingdom of Christ begins in the hearts of regenerate man (Lk. 17:21; Col. 1:13). Under the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Christian reorders his life, family and all other areas he influences in terms of the Christian Faith and Biblical law, God gradually rolls back evil and its effects in all of human life and society. Politics is one such—but never the chief—area. It is a fatal flaw of those suckled on the heresy of the ultimacy of political solutions to suppose that Christ’s kingdom will progress mainly by means of politics. It will not. It will advance mainly by the operation of the Spirit in the lives of increasingly sanctified, law-keeping Christians who practice their Faith in family, work, school, church, and all areas of their lives.

Fathers inculcate the orthodox Christian Faith into their families. Pastors lead their flock into greater obedience. Educators instruct their pupils in terms of a comprehensive Christian life-system. Churches revive the diaconate and care for the sick, the needy, the widow, the orphan. Christian doctors practice the godly craft of natural (sometimes, perhaps, supernatural) healing by following God’s law and the products of God’s common grace. Entrepreneurs create wealth by starting new businesses that benefit others. And on and on in all spheres.

Make no mistake: politics (like medicine, the arts, the media, technology, economics, etc.) is a legitimate area of principled Christian action. To surrender politics, or any other legitimate sphere of Christian activity, to the Devil and his disciples is an evil tack. But establishment of an explicitly Christian state will be the effect of broadly based Christian faithfulness beginning with the regenerated individual and family and reformed church. It will not be the effect of electing a few Christian politicians (though they are needed), nor even a Christian President (as beneficial as such an election would be). Elect a Christian President and Congress in November, 2024, and appoint an all-Christian Judiciary, and the nation’s most vexing moral problems would not evaporate. It is as Christ’s kingdom progresses among men—by means of Christ’s gospel and individual submission and obedience to the law-word of God—that politics and the state will enjoy Christian redemption.

Christ’s kingdom is less externally spectacular than earthly kingdoms, just as his birth was less externally spectacular than merely human kings’ births. But the small mustard seed and pinch of leaven of Christ’s kingdom (Mt. 13:31-33) will not fail ultimately to dwarf other kingdoms in its profound efficacy in the earth.

Christ’s is a quietly and unobtrusively advancing kingdom.

But it cannot fail.

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Holy Spirit, Sanctification

Clinging to Our Torments

It is one of the great mysteries of the hold of sin that we cling so tenaciously to those vices that most grieve and torture us — resentment, unhappiness, jealousy, vengeance, anxiety, bitterness, covetousness, pessimism, and unbelief.

Our fist-clenched grasp on these self-destructive sins is almost a form of masochism. We cherish them despite the deep torment they bring to us because we find in them a perverse security, though they will eventually destroy us.

To surrender these agonizing, grievous, self-harming sins is a form of death.

That death-to-life is precisely what a robust, victorious Christianity offers.

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Church, Theological Method

The Bible Is Complementarian, But Don’t Monkey Around With the Trinity

A majority of complementarian evangelical scholars sympathetic to the eternal economic subordination of the Son (EES) returned to the orthodox position in 2016. (EES = though each member of the Trinity is equal in being [one nature or “ousia”], the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father in function. There are still a few pushback hangers-on to this potentially fatal theological error.

Let me state this clearly. The Father, Son and Spirit are eternally equal in power and glory and authority in every way. The Father has no more eternal authority than the Son or Spirit.

During the economy of redemption (beginning with his incarnation), the Son willingly subordinated himself to the Father’s will. This is called “economic” because it pertains only to a particular task at particular time. It is not an eternal reality in the Trinity. The Trinity can exist, and ordinarily does exist, without it. Had man never fallen, there would never have been the economic subordination of the Son.

The divine relation between the members of the Trinity is not patterned on human relations. The human son has a beginning. The divine Son did not. The human son submits to the authority of the father. The divine Son does not eternally submit to the authority of the Father, because, being equal in being, they have equal authority.

Please note this. Despite all protests, if you believe in the EES, even if you state that the Father and Son are equal in being, you’re talking nonsense — and embracing subordinationism. To be equal in being means the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally authoritative, and not subordinate one to the other.

Those who champion EES to buttress the subordination of the wife to her husband are just as wrong as the egalitarians who hold that man and woman are equal in relation since the members of the Trinity are equal in relation.

The error of both is in assuming that the ontological Trinity is a pattern for human relationships. But there is nothing in creation that corresponds to the ontological Trinity. To say that there is undermines the Creator-creature distinction and is potentially catastrophic.

The Bible teaches what we nowadays call complementarianism. But don’t monkey around with the orthodox Trinity in order to support that view.

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Uncategorized

David Bahnsen: Everybody, Not Just Pro-Lifers, Should Be Celebrating Dobbs

Those celebrating the repeal of Roe v. Wade should not be limited to the pro-lifers who rightly see it as an avenue towards reduced abortions, but it should be pro-choicers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg who knew full well there was no Constitutional right to such embedded in the Constitution. It. Was. Bad. Law. I demand good faith from my own side of the political aisle and I’m in full rights to demand the same of those who don’t see this issue as I do. It. Was. Bad. Law.

But I haven’t said a thing in my above paragraph about abortion itself. If one believes it is good law to have it, the Supremes said NOTHING about democratically-elected legislators allowing it or disallowing it. That is now in the hands of legislators. I believe you’re being an intellectual fraud to claim that rights were taken away by the courts. In fact, I think we both know which of us will have an easier time finding our agenda in the founding documents … the right to life, or the right to an abortion.

For those who believe the right to abortion is good law, you have the rights of citizenship to pursue such.

For those on the right who doubted the necessity of long-term strategy, institution-building, coalition-building, learn now. Temper tantrums don’t effect change. God knows the French Revolution barbarism of evil people doesn’t either.

Sometimes things grow like mustard seeds.

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Uncategorized

Collectivist Man: Europeanizing the United States

PEOPLE MAKE CULTURES, but cultures make people. In The Character of Nations, Angelo Codevilla shows that over time, the distinctives of a political regime create a particular kind of individual unique to that political arrangement. He offered as contrasting examples the pre-1980’s United States and the Sovet Union of the same period. The character of Americans was in general different from the character of Soviet citizens, and that difference was due largely to the differences between the American constitutional republic and the Soviet communist dictatorship. The politics isn’t just different; the people are. And the politics is the engine driving personal transformation.

THE UNITED STATES AND LIBERTY

THAT THOUGHT WAS IN MY MIND as I observed the citizens of Vancouver, Canada on a recent visit to my son Richard’s ordination to the diaconate there. Though the effects of the Covid virus had grown negligible, 60% of people walking outside were masked, and vaccine passports were required for entrance in most business establishments. Though my visit postdated the “Freedom Convoy” of trucks protesting the mandates, I detected no evidence of protest or even resistance during my visit. Canadians had simply adjusted themselves to political edicts, and there seemed to be no dispute about them, only willing compliance.

This passivity is in stark contrast to the American spirit, which pushed back almost everywhere against the politicized Covid mandates. Obviously there were a multitude of exceptions, particularly in dense urban areas and in deep blue states, since they both reflect a majority of Leftists. Still, the pushback was significant, and recalcitrant, liberty-loving citizens posed a great frustration for Leftist politicians: “Why can’t these deplorables just do as they’re told?”

A hallmark of the United States from its Founding has been liberty — religious, political and economic. This liberty was enshrined in our Founding documents like the Bill of Rights. This was liberty Americans have traditionally insisted on, seen as their national birthright, to be defended to the death (and on occasion has been). The Declaration of Independence reversed the rationale for nations by insisting that governments are instituted to protect individual liberty:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men… (emphasis supplied)

For almost all previous governments in history, man was to find his purpose in the state; man exists for political purposes. This is collectivism, and it was true for ancient tribalism, notorious in Plato’s idealized society, the linchpin of the world empires, and obvious even in much of medieval Europe, despite its unmistakable Christian conviction. The United States’ grand experiment in liberty turned this traditional order on its head. The Founders, rooted in Protestant social theory, knew that individual liberty was so precious that the only rationale for political governments was to defend that liberty. If government doesn’t defend individual liberty, there’s no reason for its existence. The state exists for people; people don’t exist for the state.

Europe preserved the old collectivist ideal, and when the modern empires fell, the new secular non-imperial society simply replaced one collectivism for another. No one would suggest that the French and Russian Revolutions were less collectivist than the regimes they replaced. All to the contrary.

The unofficial European motto has been: “We’re all in this together, and the state makes sure we stay together.” The U. S. has countered with: “Give me liberty or give me death, and if the state doesn’t protect that liberty, it should meet death.”

THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPEAN COLLECTIVISM

BUT FROM THE 30’S ONWARD, and especially since the 60’s, elite Leftists in America have wanted to recreate the U. S. in the collectivist European image. They were devoted to fashioning the New Utopian Society of radical egalitarianism — not only economic but also religious and sexual equality. They were influenced by Cultural Marxism, first developed in Germany, Italy, and Hungary and imported into the U. S. during the mid-30’s by thinkers like John Dewey (see Ralph de Toledano’s Cry Havoc!). This Cultural Marxism wanted to accomplish by peaceful cultural subversion (“the long march through the institutions”) what Lenin in Russia (and later Mao in China) accomplished by military conquest: politically enforced equality.

The problem with the Founding American tenet of individual liberty is that it impedes the elite vision of society creating a new humanity that would willingly share all material resources, affirm all sexual lifestyles, and recognize the commonality of all religions — or, preferably, no religion at all (except their own secular religion, of course).

Collectivist Man is content to be an informal ward of the state, as long as it guarantees him unfettered sex, a monthly stipend, and a risk- and carefree life.

Liberty is dangerous because people don’t know what’s best for them (a great theme of that early modern collectivist Jean Jacques Rousseau). “We elites know what’s best for citizens, so we must strip them of their liberty to give them what they need.”

LIBERTY MAN TODAY

LIBERTY MAN, THE MAN OF THE U. S .FOUNDING, still survives, but he’s under blinding assault by Leftists wielding the most potent cultural weapons: Hollywood, mainstream media, the public schools and universities and law schools. This assault is hard to resist over decades. In this way, Liberty Man is being gradually supplanted by Collectivist Man. Rugged individualism is demeaned as “toxic masculinity” and blamed for a myriad of cultural evils. Men are feminized and women are masculinized. Hard work and thrift and providence are degraded while leisure and laziness and reliance on state largesse are deemed noble. Christianity is judged a “judgmental” relic of the past hindering The Good Life, defined as maximum individual autonomy free from all constraints — except the state itself.

Collectivist Man is content to be an informal ward of the state, as long as it guarantees him unfettered sex, a monthly stipend, and a risk- and carefree life.

CONCLUSION

THIS EMERGENCE OF COLLECTIVIST MAN is one dire consequence of the loss of Christian culture, which is necessitates liberty culture. Christian culture stresses God’s sovereign government in the earth. Just below it is man’s self-government under God’s sovereignty. There are God-established institutional governments like the family, the church, schools, and businesses. One government is civil government (politics), perhaps the least important of all. Apart from God’s kingdom government, there is no more important earthly government than the self-government of the virtuous man. Because men have abandoned self-government, they’ve invited intrusive imposed governments, particularly the only government with a monopoly on violence, civil government.

To try to recover the society produced by the U. S. Founding, therefore, is not to grasp at provincial nationalism (“my country right or wrong”), but rather a restoration of the biblical Protestantism that has a God-honoring liberty at its heart. God has blessed America because it was founded on basic biblical truth. The fruits of that Founding have survived the widescale European collectivization project of the Left. But those fruits will eventually be depleted, and if we don’t recover, the U. S. will go the way of the collectivist European societies: politically dictatorial, economically deprived, and religiously desiccated.

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Bible

Recovering Regal Soteriology: Christ’s Kingship in Salvation and All of Life

Deeply entrenched ideas die hard, and this includes bad ideas, even (perhaps especially) bad ideas in Christian history. Examples abound, but one of the most prominent is the gradual shift from the cosmic soteriology (Jesus died and rose to redeem all creation) of the Bible to the individualized soteriology (Jesus died to save sinners) of the late patristic (early post-apostolic) church. In this way, it appropriated aspects of the Gnostic heresy that it formally condemned.

The Reformation recovered the biblical doctrine of grace alone in salvation, but it did not fully return to the Bible’s cosmic soteriology. It basically substituted accent on justification by faith alone for preoccupation with the sacraments as the means of salvation, but both sacraments and justification were interpreted in a highly individualized way.

Get the e-book here.

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Economics

David L. Bahnsen on Inflation, Supply-Chain Shortages, and the Fed

David L. Bahnsen is Founder, Managing Partner, and Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, overseeing the management of over $3.5 billion in client assets.

Prior to launching The Bahnsen Group, he spent eight years as a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and six years as a Vice President at UBS. He is consistently named as one of the top financial advisors in America by Barron’s, Forbes, and the Financial Times (2016-2021). He has been a CCL fellow from its inception and is one of the most respected economic and wealth analysts in the country.


PAS. The latest inflation numbers have appeared, and they’re quite high. All along you have disagreed with a lot of the prevailing wisdom about inflation. What’s going on, and what are likely to be the short- and long-term effects of inflation?

There are really two different conversations going on around inflation but for a variety of reasons they are easy to conflate.  The bond market and the U.S. dollar has continued to take my side on the inflation discussion (okay, the better way to put it is that I continue to take the bond market’s side of the discussion), which is to say that long-term growth expectations are low, because long-term excessive indebtedness has put downward pressure on both nominal and real growth.

But the current price escalations are real, and the bond market’s sanguine response does not change the fact that fuel prices are higher, food prices are higher, car prices are higher, etc.  I have long felt that most people do not care what is causing price escalations; if prices are going higher it stings people regardless.  However, based on my day-to-day responsibilities in allocating capital, I don’t have the luxury of not understanding why prices are going higher.  And nor do I think it is helpful (whether myself from a capital allocation standpoint or a layman just making heads and tails of the daily economic news) to paint the entire story with one brush.  The fact of the matter is that there are different circumstances happening with energy vs. housing vs. automobiles, no matter how inconvenient or “complex” that makes things.

The narrative that the inflation was caused by recent bouts of government spending does not stand up to the basic scrutiny of the last 30-40 years of history.  The first $25 trillion of national debt was deflationary but the last $3 trillion was inflationary?  The first $5 trillion of quantitative easing couldn’t even create 2% inflation but the last $3 trillion of it created 7% inflation?  It is admittedly a potentially powerful political argument from a partisan standpoint, but I am only staying in an economic lane here.

Housing prices have escalated because of inadequate new supply, demographic shifts (late age household formation), a preposterous distortion in the cost of capital (low rates), and the increase of rent costs that have made home purchases more relatively attractive.  This is unhealthy and policy-driven inflation, and I believe it has been the law of the land for three decades, and created an affordability crisis in our country.

Energy prices have escalated because of an abandonment of U.S. production capacity (some policy driven, and some decision-making during COVID to excessively turn off rigs and wells), combined with a surge in demand that seems to have surprisingly surprised some people.  This is also unhealthy and policy-drive inflation.

The bulk of the non-housing and non-energy price inflation we see is a surge in demand for goods post-pandemic that has been met with an inadequate surge in supply.  In fact, that shortage in supply has been created by a perfect storm of supply chain disruptions, a grotesque inadequacy in semiconductor manufacturing, a lack of port capacity for imports, a lack of truckdrivers for distribution, and an overall lack of laborers at various stages of the supply chain.  Here, you see used and new car prices up 20-30% since 2019, and other goods and services up 3-6%.  So in both cases you see > trendline inflation, but an obvious inequity in the distribution of that inflation.  This screams for an idiosyncratic explanation, and the occam’s razor of it is that semiconductor manufacturing is the BIG problem, while supply/demand imbalances in food, consumer goods, etc. are the SMALLER problem.  But yes, both are problems.

Inflation is a presidency-killer and I believe that this will hang on President Biden in 2022.  My narrative change versus “Fox News talking points” is not because I have a different political point of view – I don’t, and I get it.  But I believe those arguing for the simplistic notion that excessive government spending out of COVID and excessive Fed QE out of COVID are missing something from the past and the future.  The real tragedy of excess government indebtedness is how it suffocates and stagnates future growth. The narrative that “it has created a red hot economy” is catnip for the current inflation blame-casting, but it is causing us to miss the forest for the trees.

PAS: What’s causing the supply-chain issues, and how long are they likely to last? What will solve them?

It is not one single thing – it is a perfect storm that involves labor shortages and semiconductor manufacturing inadequacy (two of the lowest hanging fruit out of as many as five different factors).  Marginally, it will begin improving Q2 and take into Q4 to be truly felt.

PAS: What do you predict the Fed will do to address the current economic situation?

The Fed will use the inflation headline narrative to drive some monetary policy tightening (that is, the tightening of policy that has been far, far, far too accommodative) – and will do so until credit markets force them to stop, which I believe will be sooner than people think.

PAS: Any specific economic advice for Americans in the present situation?

Ignore the media.  Save, invest, work, and grow. 


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Church, Culture, Uncategorized

Thoughts on Self-Respecting Manhood and the Use of Public Language, by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is Pastor of Lifespring Church, Crosby, Minnesota

I Corinthians 16:13….”act like men”.

There is something which has struck me over the past couple of years, as it relates to men in our culture. That is, the jettisoning of manly self-respect in what is said and what is not said public-ally. I think, by both common grace and saving grace (as a Christian has received), there is a distinction in the language of manhood on how we see ourselves and the world around us. There are things which are unmanly, necessarily including both the tone and content of our speech.

Over the past generation, through the unrelenting assault upon men, the result has been an increasing men who seem to be willing to public ally emasculate themselves in their talk. There seems to be a void of self-respect as related to being a man, in our dress but also, particular to this post, in our language. For example, here are some types of statements and tones I have noticed that my conscience recoils against and will not allow me to mimic or pass on in any way.

  1. I cannot give public “COVID” safety lectures (as written by the safety czars) beyond the basic reiteration of “use common sense.” I cannot lie nor repeat manipulative narratives regarding love or safety.
  2. I cannot make generalizations based upon a person’s ethnicity.
  3. I cannot use straw-men to gain authority, particularly when clarity is called for.
  4. I cannot make general public apologies according the law and language of the culture.
  5. I cannot use therapeutic language of “brokenness” “Lament,” “trauma,” or “toxic masculinity” to describe problems and solutions
  6. I cannot, as a pastor (and as a man) virtue signal via using the language of “weeping” or “lament” or “mourning” about general cultural situations in which I am not directly involved.
  7. I cannot use and will not sing effeminate, breathy songs in public worship.

Call me a product of toxic masculinity. There is woke-type of language which I, fundamentally, as a man, recoil against and cannot participate in, and when I see other men (particularly pastors) doing these things public ally, it screams as phony, insincere, and deceitful. Conversely, I have noticed that when a man turns to Christ Jesus and begins to willingly and consciously take real responsibility, facing his fears, his language changes to simple, clear, bold, nuanced; in summation: Manly.

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Culture, Uncategorized

A Brilliant, Profound, Complex Credo on Covid and Liberty

If you want to get vaxxed, get vaxxed. If you don’t want to get vaxxed, don’t get vaxxed.

If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t.

If you want to stay 6 feet away from people all the time, do that.

If you don’t want to do that, don’t.

If you want to avoid establishments that don’t maintain the Covid protocols you prefer, don’t frequent those establishments.

If this doesn’t matter to you, by all means, frequent those establishments.

Whatever you do, don’t try to enlist politicians and other coercive do-gooders to impose your own personal preferences on everybody else.

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Bible, Sanctification, Uncategorized

Some on Broken Pieces, by Salle J. Sandlin

Of the many hundreds of articles my late godly mother wrote, none has moved me as deeply as this one.

If you feel your life is an irreversible series of hardships and disasters, this article is for you.


“And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.”Acts 27:44

It is possible for broken things in our lives to rescue us in the end.

Every time I read this story in the life of Paul the Apostle, as recounted by his companion and physician, Luke, the whole near-death experience comes alive in my imagination. I see it all: the storm and wind, the waves, the crumbling, fragmenting ship; I hear the cries of despair and anguish and the one, lone voice shouting, “Be of good cheer, for I believe God!” Luke says that miraculously all them reached land, by either swimming, hanging onto boards from the ship, or against all odds,” clutching only mere pieces of the ship. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? I can. A splintered piece of wood is not much to hang onto, but I would remind you again, they all reached land.

The Christian life has often been compared to a ship voyage in both song and verse. Paul talks about Christians who are “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Eph. 4:14). The great old gospel song, “Ship Ahoy” starts, “I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea/And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be…” And I used to sing a rousing song of triumph by Ira Stanphill, that announced, “This old ship is tossing and turning/But I’m gonna make it through somehow.” It would seem to me, as in the story of Paul’s shipwreck, all reach that “heavenly shore” by the miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ, but some reach it clinging to broken pieces of their ship.

There are those who experience the ravages of broken health, so often the case in later life. At one time they were robust, vigorous, and untiring. Now they greet the nights with dread, and the mornings with foreboding. The normal winds and waves of life they handled quite well for so many years now seem unmanageable.

Others may suffer from a broken heart. Someone they loved was taken from them, either by distance or death. Or perhaps they were betrayed and cast aside by one in whom they placed great trust. The waves that sweep over them are filled with sadness and hurt; and they feel as bereft as Job, without family or friends.

Still others feel crushed with the aftermath of a broken reputation. They were sailing along in the breeze of praise and recognition, examples of usefulness and victory. Then came a gross “fall from grace.” Then the praise was turned to pity and the recognition to rejection, leaving only the sad epithet: “Their life is a shipwreck.”

Finally (and this is common after the last broken experience), there are those who suffer the agony of a broken faith, or a shipwrecked faith, as Paul refers to it in 1 Timothy 1:19. “What’s the use? Is any of it real? Once their faith was strong and their assurance complete, but now clouds of doubt sweep over their souls and minds. Disappointment in themselves and others has led to disappointment in God and mistrust in His love as well as His claims.

To all of these broken souls, I point us to our story, and the promise that they “escaped all safe to land.” God didn’t have to tell us that some reached there under better circumstances than others…but He did. I think He wanted those with broken health to know that God’s grace, mercy, and comfort of the Scriptures, would be enough to gently carry them the whole way home. He wanted saints with broken hearts to know they could cling to the Lover of their souls, who promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). And the baggage of a broken reputation can be thrown overboard in time, by repentance and forgiveness. Ask Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and Peter. Oh, and even broken faith can be revived and repaired! Don’t forget, Jesus referred to His own disciples at one point as “ye of little faith,” and even faith “as a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 17;20) can move mountains!

There are those who seem to have a prosperous and sunny voyage all the way home, with few storms. But not many, I’ll wager. To the rest of us I say, those “broken pieces of the ship” in our lives are well able to buoy us all the way home to Glory.

Don’t lament them; latch onto them!

–Salle J Sandlin (1943-2017)

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Church, Holy Spirit, Theology, Uncategorized

Prayer Changes Things, and Prayer Changed Me

A short autobiographical message on the power of prayer to change a life.

Listen here.


Also:

One striking difference between our Christian forebears and us is their repeated emphasis on prayer and our comparative de-emphasis of it. They prayed frequently and fervently. We pray infrequently and languidly. They called prayer meetings. We call staff meetings. They had revival and reformation. We have apathy and apostasy. A leading reason for these distinctions is that they were inclined to believe what God said about prayer. We are often less confident in God’s word when it comes to his promises about prayer. A blunter way to say this is: we commit the sin of unbelief. Prayer changes things. When we pray, we are asking God to change things. And when he answers our prayer, he does change things. This brings us to a most telling fact that we don’t often consider: if we are perfectly willing to accept the way things are as God’s unchangeable will, we will never be people of prayer.

Get the ebook here.


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Culture, politics, Theology

Cultural Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is an alleged mental malady in which one’s behavior is stamped by alternations of a period of euphoria, energy, and ecstasy, with a period of moroseness, withdrawal, and languidness. It is often treated by medications. Whether an actual clinical condition or not, all of us have known individuals suffering from what is termed bipolar disorder.

A. J. Conyers’ The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit[1] makes the intriguing suggestion that John Locke’s view of political and religious toleration that made such an impact on the modern West (not least on the United States) created a bipolar society that has led, despite his best intentions, to our present social disorder: a cultural bipolar disorder.

Two Poles: The State and the Individual

The two poles of society  are the individual and the state. This bipolar society was unprecedented before modernity. In most of the ancient and medieval worlds, society was comprised of individuals all committed to several interlocking and interdependent institutions, what we today term “civil society.” The most important were the family and church. Others included the guild and the local community. Individuals were also political citizens, of course, but the state was merely one institution among several, and in some ways the least important (though most coercive), since it was the only one that was artificially constructed.

The family, for example, was a given, a natural institution without which life was impossible. The church was a supernatural institution, created by the triune God as the indispensable public assembly of his blood-washed people. This means that individuals participated in numerous institutions concurrently, each of which fulfilled its own distinctive role and demanded its own loyalty of its members. Society was multi-polar, not bipolar.

Locke and others (including especially the French Romantic thinker Rousseau) believed that these pre-political institutions constituted a threat to social tolerance and stability since they demanded a devotion that conflicted with the devotion to other people’s families and churches. After all, the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), fought largely between Roman Catholics and Protestants and in Great Britain also between High Churchmen and Puritans, had left its bloody carnage all over Europe.

Locke and other thinkers wanted to propose a society in which intensity of religious belief in particular was mitigated and the state was empowered to forbid religious persecution by remaining neutral in religion (an impossibility, since some religion, even if it be secularism, will prevail). This could happen only if the chief loyalty of individuals was reserved to the state. Individualism and politics would thereafter govern life. The state didn’t mind individual freedom as long it was expressed individualistically and did not vest too much devotion to the family and church.

Our Disordered Bipolar Culture

With hindsight we know  how socially pernicious this proposal has turned out to be. Almost every social factor of modern life conspires to dilute civil society and embolden the state, always under the guise of liberating the individual from the oppression of the family and church and other “private”[2] institutions.

Children are encouraged to circumvent parental love and authority and create a separate relation with the state, allowing girls to get abortion and both sexes to get vicious, violent “gender reassignment surgery” without parental approval.

Spouses can get a quick and easy “no-fault” divorce. Radical autonomy negates the marital covenant — what’s important is not “signatures on an old piece of paper” but my current desires and aspirations, which might not include my spouse. The state intervenes to collude in the elimination of the marital covenant. The state and the individual alone are the poles.

The church, in addition, is considered “non-essential” during draconian Covid lockdowns because the state insists on an unmediated relation to the health (or supposed health) of individuals. The church as an institution of safety and healing (including in some cases physical healing) simply doesn’t enter the bipolar cultural calculation.

At the heart of the bipolar society is “expressive individualism,” the widespread idea that The Good Life is about “following your heart,” getting plenty of “me time,” and “being authentic.” Before modernity, the good life was defined as knowing your place in God’s order and living there for his glory. Only those who did this could expect to be fulfilled, since the Creator alone knows how best to fulfill his image-bearing creatures.

We have lived to see, in Conyers’ words, “the long-term consequences of a society in which individuals come to think of themselves as free of every bond and every obligation except that of the state.”[3] A society plagued by divorce’s broken families, porn’s objectification of women, abortion’s slaughter of preborn children, homosexuality’s and transgenderism’s inversion of the sexual order, feminism’s purging the woman’s and man’s dignity, and Critical Race Theory’s inciting racism and racial strife exhibit the socially chaotic consequences of bipolar cultural disorder.

Conclusion

Rebuilding Christian culture demands restoring the multi-polar society. We must overturn statism, the notion that there is no social problem for which increased political control isn’t the best solution, that every social problem (poverty, drug addiction, uneducated youth, wealth disparities — or a viral epidemic) is really a political problem that just doesn’t know it yet. Christians in particular must implement and restore the pre-political society. The family and church must again meet most of the needs presently met (inadequately and oppressively) by the state.

For example, healthcare should be de-nationalized. Education should be returned to the family and church and “private” schools. There should be plenty of “social safety nets” — the net of the family and church and friends and neighbors, not the state. The reason those “private”-sector nets are so hole-filled today is that the bipolar cultural disorder resists all competitors; the state must marginalize any institution that competes for its loyalty. This hatred for civil society that so stamped Marxist regimes like the old Soviet Union is equally fierce in the benevolent social dictatorships like the United States.

But just as God exists in community (Trinity) so he created man to exist in community.

And that community dare not be limited to two poles: the state, and the individual.


[1] (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2001), 137–141. I’m grateful to my friend Dr. Roger Wagner for recommending this book several years ago.

[2] I place “private” in apologetic quotes to highlight the widespread semantic strategy of referring to politics as a “public” good and free markets as a “private” good, as though politics benefits everybody while the free market benefits only a few greedy people caring only for themselves. The opposite is more nearly true: free markets benefit everybody, while politics these days benefits the politically connected.

[3] A. J. Conyers, The Long Truce, 146.

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Culture

Critical Theory Is Neither Meat Nor Bones — It Is Alien

As I observe from a distance the current debate in major conservative denominations over the possibility of employing aspects of Critical Theory (CT), including Critical Race Theory, keeping the meat and throwing away the bones, it occurred to me that a number of the disputants (on both sides) seem unaware of a fundamental facet that would set the entire debate on a new footing — or abolish it altogether.

The early 20th century Frankfurt School of Critical Theory as well as the roughly contemporaneous Cultural Marxists outside Germany like Antonio Gramsci (GROM-shee) and György Lukács (LOOcotch) developed their program in conscious interaction with and reaction to an already de-Christianized intellectual climate. For them, the seminal intellectual sparring partners were Kant, Marx, and Hegel, and the schools of thought that served as their foil were the Enlightenment and, to a lesser degree, Romanticism.

Anybody who has read Max Horkheimer’s dense and brilliant (and pernicious) foundational essay “Traditional and Critical Theory” (download the chapter here) knows that he and the others weren’t assaulting Christianity, certainly not directly. To them, Christianity and Christendom were simply not a part of a plausibility structure. Their animating attitude could be summarized as: “Given that Christian theology and Greek metaphysics are no longer tenable, how then should we think and live?”

Both Classical and Cultural Marxism are nearly conscious alternative religions devised by intellectuals attempting to create a world-and-life view within the intellectual atmosphere of the 19th and 20th centuries (much earlier de-Christianized). That atmosphere was not so much opposed to Christianity as simply forgetful of it. They didn’t consider fighting Christianity because Christianity to them, at least, was already defeated and irrelevant. Christianity wasn’t their antithesis; it wasn’t even a player.

Now, it seems to me, the problem with the Christians today wanting to incorporate aspects of CT into a Christian social analysis, the usable meat as opposed to the unusable bones, is they’re unintentionally taking this lack of explicit conflict with Christianity on the part of CT as opening the possibility for the adoption of some of its contributions.

But if they understood that CT is grounded in a plausibility structure in which Christianity is not an enemy but simply an irrelevance, they might think differently. It’s not a case of this particular erroneous CT tenet versus the corresponding accurate tenant of the Christian faith.

No, CT is an entirely alien system developed within an intellectual architecture out of which Christianity is hermetically sealed.

This also means — and this is perhaps the most important point of all — that the leading tenets of CT make sense only within that de-Christianized intellectual atmosphere. This might sound like I am importing a form of Kantian idealism, but in reality, I’m simply recognizing that CT is a particular pernicious form of intellectual rebellion that by its very nature excludes anything Christian.

To be Marxist is to presuppose what Christianity excludes, and to be Christian is to presuppose what Marxism excludes.

This is why Cultural Marxism and CT are not merely objectionable on the grounds that they’re all bones and no meat.

They’re an entirely different species altogether (“aliens”), and Christianity was never designed to relate to them other than to refute them at their very root — and abandon and incinerate them.

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