Multiculturalism, Not Immigration, Is the Problem

Posted on March 17, 2017



The United States and the West don’t have an immigration problem; we have a multiculturalism problem. American openness to immigration has waxed and waned over its history, but immigration has never until recently eroded the fabric of our society, for the simple reason that to be an American was first of all a cultural fact, rooted in a basic Christian past. This doesn’t mean the U.S. was ever an explicitly Christian nation, but it was implicitly Christian in that it was founded on Christian principles rooted in generic conservative Protestantism.


In the 1960s, however, Libertarian Marxism (Marxism designed for the West, a systematic attack on Christian civilization, one which requires multiculturalism) began to erode the Christian inheritance within the U.S. Before that, immigration was a great benefit to the nation, which in fact could not have existed without it. Even today, if we recovered our heritage, our immigration policy could again be robust. The problem has never been a proliferation of foreign workers, as long as they adopted our shared culture, shaped by Christianity. Foreign workers committed to American ideals have always been good for America. But since Libertarian Marxism has fostered a relativistic culture (= multiculturalism) guilty about and averse to our common heritage, immigration in the last half century has helped erode that heritage — a major goal of the Libertarian Marxists. When we once again properly separate multiculturalism from immigration, the latter will be a blessing and not a burden.


It should not be necessary to employ immigration as a tool to fight multiculturalism, since a self-respecting American culture would demand that immigrants assimilate to our historic ideals and we would, under those conditions, welcome immigrants with open arms. But Donald Trump and other Western leaders are increasingly using the blunt axe of immigration precisely because we have failed as a culture to preserve our heritage, and they are not prepared to educate the nation about that heritage. Recovering that heritage would open the way again for a generous immigration policy.


The fact that the courts are poking their noses into the present immigration executive orders testifies to the almost perpetually wild overreaching of the judiciary. Allegedly at issue is the implicit targeting of Muslims (“animus toward Muslims”) for non-immigration. Presumably the orders violate the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the Bill of Rights. The problem is that the Establishment Clause was designed to forbid a national church (like the Church of England), and the Free Exercise Clause the curbing of the exercise of religion of U. S. citizens. Neither secures rights for non-citizens, and even if they did, neither forbids the President from issuing immigration orders to protect the nation from terrorism. Whatever your view on immigration policy, it’s not the purview of the courts to decide that policy. That’s chiefly the responsibility of Congress, and secondarily the President.


The proper solution to the immigration conundrum is a reeducation of the U.S. citizenry of its heritage and, more profound still, a revival of the ideals of American culture shaped by Christianity. Until then, secular Leftists will advocate ever more open borders and less aggressive vetting as a means of diluting the uniquely American composition of the nation, and secular Rightists will advocate a nearly racist immigration policy, assuming that America’s heritage rests in its northern European racial roots.


Both of these approaches are evil.



The Failure of Secular Arguments for Marriage

Posted on February 23, 2017


While Christians welcome specific secular arguments for marriage that contribute to sound public policy, our civilization can’t eventually avoid a head-on clash between Christian sexual ethics and non-Christian sexual ethics as they play themselves out in our culture. The problem with secular arguments for sexual ethics (including arguments for “traditional” marriage [= marriage]) is that they spring from the same root as arguments for same-sex “marriage”: human autonomy. Able secular proponents of “traditional marriage” argue for “the common good” and “human flourishing” — only marriage gives us happy, well-balanced children; strong family bonds; and useful citizens. The problem is that many advocates of homosexuality (for example) see a society that discriminates against same-sex “marriage” as not a “common good,” and, even were they to grant that “traditional marriage” fosters more well-adjusted families, they would still insist that a sexually discriminatory society must be abolished. For them, the right of homosexuals to marry is part of “the common good.” For these homosexuals and their heterosexual allies, what constitutes “good” is not held in “common” with “traditional” marriage advocates. It’s not, therefore, “the common good” or “human flourishing” to which Christians must ultimately appeal, but to the word of God.

Therefore, the Christian stake in the same-sex “marriage” debate isn’t merely to preserve marriage as an institution — it’s to recover the biblical worldview and its religious presuppositions that demand marriage. Sexual ethics are a single cloth woven of many strands, and to remove one is eventually to unravel the entire cloth. The Enlightenment got rid of the Bible as binding revelation. Romanticism elevated the individual’s feelings and emotions as paramount to the “authentic” life. Existentialism resituated ethics as human choice. Postmodernity and multiculturalism undermined “meta-narratives,” including ethical and sexual meta-narratives, and glorified moral relativism. Pluralism installed the libertarian ethic best expressed in the aphorism: “I’m OK and you’re OK, as long as your OK doesn’t infringe on my OK.” In such an ideational climate, rife on TV and the Internet and in elementary schools and universities and in pop culture and, yes, too often in the church, same-sex “marriage” is a logical and reasonable social and legal fact. Indeed, not to have same-sex “marriage” in such a climate would be odd and counterintuitive. Same-sex “marriage” isn’t compatible with Christian sexual ethics, but it is fully compatible with the guiding presuppositions and plausibility structures of Western civilization in the 21st century.

In the end, there can be no convincing argument for marriage and against same-sex “marriage” not rooted in religious presuppositions disclosed in creation and crystallized in the Bible. Therefore, the task of Christians committed (as they must be) to Christian sexual ethics is a robust Gospel life — the Christian worldview summarized in the creation-fall-redemption paradigm.[1] We must tell and show our sin-sick world that God’s way isn’t simply the best way among many, but the only way that doesn’t end in civilizational degradation and eternal damnation. Christian sexual ethics aren’t repressive — they’re beautiful, because a loving God’s way is infinitely preferable to a sinful man’s way of ordering man’s world. What would this change look like? Gertrude Himmelfarb draws a picture . . .


where motherhood and domesticity are as respectable a calling as the profession of law for the practice of business; fatherhood (present, not absent fatherhood) is identified with manhood; sexual promiscuity is as socially unacceptable as smoking; the bourgeois family is an object of esteem rather than derision; and the culture is not diluted by the familiar euphemisms that dignify out-of-wedlock birth as “an alternative mode of parenting,” or cohabitation as a “relationship,” or an unmarried mate as a “significant other.”[2]


We’ve tried man’s sexual ethics for several generations now. Amid rampant divorce and broken families and fatherless children and the objectification of women and sex-minus-love college students and “gender” chaos, how about Christian sexual ethics in our culture?

[1] Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 28–36.
[2] Gertrude Himmelfarb, One Nation, Two Cultures (New York: Vintage, 1999, 2001), 58.

Top 10 Movies of 2016

Posted on February 14, 2017

1. La La Land — old-fashioned musical, unabashedly heterosexual, grown-up, pitch-perfect in almost every way 

2. Zootopia — mesmerizing, and oh those sloths manning the DMV 

3. Hell or High Water — revisionist modern Western, gratifyingly slow-paced with exquisite character development 

4. Eye in the Sky — uncharacteristically balanced treatment of modern warfare, and almost unbearably tense 

5. Arrival — like all good sci-fi, the science and CGI are subordinate to the absorbing human drama 

6. Rogue One — best Star Wars since Return of the Jedi

7. The Green Room — dark indie thriller with a menacing Patrick Stewart 

8. Sully — totally straightforward biopic that wins via plot and Hanks

9. The Infiltrator — Bryan Cranston is one of the finest living actors, and the story really proves the adage that truth is often stranger than fiction

10. The Accountant — Ben Affleck is a fine actor (and director), but this one succeeds on plot. And J. K. Simmons is always a delight to watch

Honorable Mention:

10 Cloverfield Lane 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 

Social Justice Isn’t

Posted on February 4, 2017



We hear a lot about social justice these days. The January 21, 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. and Atlanta was billed as championing social justice. We even hear the expression “social justice Christians,” that is, Christians interested in social justice since, presumably, other Christians are not. Cru, the ministry once known as Campus Crusade for Christ, wants to interweave the Gospel and social justice. The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) even has its own Office of Social Justice. This shouldn’t surprise us, because the expression was invented in the first half of the 19th century by the Italian Roman Catholic priest Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio.[1] “Social justice” began in the Christian church.[2] At that time it meant what we today term private associations (families, churches, businesses) working to alleviate social problems. That’s not by any stretch the meaning of social justice today, since it has come to mean something like: a Leftist worldview secured by political coercion.




The first main fact to notice about social justice is that the expression is a redundancy — all justice is social. There’s no justice necessary for a person stranded on a desert island. Justice pertains to how people treat other people. There can be no solitary, nonsocial justice. If we are to retain the expression “social justice” at all, we need to bear in mind this redundancy. There are different views of social justice, but all justice is social.


Justice = Righteousness


A second fact is that, in the Bible, justice is equivalent to righteousness. In fact, every time we encounter “justice” in our English Bible, it’s the same word that’s translated “righteousness.”[3] As Christians, if we use the expression “social justice,” we actually denote “social righteousness.” The reason most people don’t use “righteousness” in this context is likely that “justice” has a religiously neutral ring to it. We can be atheists and still cry out for social justice — and some social justice champions in fact are. But if we use the language “social righteousness,” people will know that we have some religious presuppositions in mind. Since the acceptable cultural stance in our time is separation of religion from culture, it’s much less offensive and embarrassing to refer to “justice” than “righteousness,” though in the Bible they’re the same thing. The Christian conception is righteousness/justice.


God’s standard of justice


Third, if to act justly is to act righteously, we might ask: who or what decides what is righteous or just? The answer is not hard. Righteousness/justice is adherence to God’s standard. That standard is his moral law revealed in his word (Dt. 4:8). If we treat others according God’s moral law, we are treating them justly, or righteously. If we do not, we are acting unjustly/unrighteously toward them. This means that justice isn’t subjective. It’s defined by God. You and I don’t get to make up what justice means. God has already revealed what justice means.


Unjust “social justice”


For this reason, much of what’s called social justice today is the opposite of social justice.[4] An obvious example is “reproductive justice.” While it might be assumed that this nomenclature was developed to describe only widespread contraception or the quest for additional abortion rights, it actually has been used to include in addition “gender identity issues.” In the Bible, both abortion and “gender identity” ( = inventing one’s “gender”) are unrighteous. Righteousness includes protecting innocent human life from murder. The preborn child is innocent human life (Ex. 21:22; cf. Ps. 139:13–18), and, therefore, willingly to take it is murder. It is the opposite of justice or righteousness.


Similarly, God made humanity as male and female (Mt. 19:4) limiting legitimate intercourse to the husband and wife (Gen. 1:28–30), and there is no third option. To confuse the two sexes or to support homosexual acts or worse yet, the marriage of homosexuals is therefore unjust or unrighteous, since they violate God’s only standard of justice, his moral law. The pro-abortion and pro-homosexual agendas are ones of injustice and oppression. They oppress preborn children and the family, which is assaulted by perverse sexual acts (and also by abusive husbands and rebellious wives, as well as by premarital sex, adultery, pornography, and all other forms of fornication).


“Economic justice”


Another subgenre of social justice is “economic justice,” which is defined as requiring state socialism. But this is the opposite of biblical righteousness/justice. The Bible protects what we today term private property (Ex. 20:15) and prohibits the state’s theft of property (1 Kin. 21). The socialistic society is, therefore, the unjust, oppressive society.


“Environmental justice”


Moreover, social justice includes “environmental justice,” which largely means enforcing the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency. But many of these regulations pose great burdens on the poor, who are the least equipped to bear those burdens and for whom God manifests special care. “Environmental” justice is consequently an agent of unjust oppression.


The actual oppressors


These are only a few of the ways in which social justice is actually social injustice and unrighteousness. The great champions of genuine social justice (if we do opt to use that expression), therefore, are the pro-life, pro-family, and pro-economic liberty champions. On the other hand, the great social oppressors today are the supporters of (for example) abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and state socialism.


Needed: Young Social Justice Warriors, the Right Kind


Last week I spoke with a long-time friend, a devout older Christian with many years of experience in both Christian ministry and in the business world. He told me that in recent years he knows of only two Christian young adults in his well-known West Coast city that grew up in church and still are strong, conservative, Bible-believing Christians. All the rest have either embraced “progressive” (= contorted) Christianity or walked away from the Faith altogether. Most are vocal champions of social justice.


Thousands of young adult Christians inculcated in the church and Faith flocked to the January “social justice” Women’s Marches. They loudly criticize Donald Trump (and who denies that he often deserves criticism?), but they wouldn’t have been caught dead criticizing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom endorsed the injustices of elective abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and state socialism. It would be simplistic to suggest only one factor contributing to this betrayal of the Bible, but one incontestable factor is the unwillingness of pastors and other Christian leaders to speak boldly, frequently, forthrightly, and thoughtfully about biblical justice. Gratifying exceptions like the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, Summit Ministries, and the Wilberforce Academy are far too few. A primary agenda item for churches, home schools, Christian schools, Christian colleges and universities and seminaries must be to teach young Christians God’s moral law in the Bible and show them how to apply it in society today. Let us train an entire new generation of “social justice warriors.”


Let’s just make sure they know where the standards of justice are found (the Bible) and what they are (God’s moral law).


[1] Michael Novak, “Social Justice: Not What You Think It Is,” Heritage Lectures, October 29, 2009, 5.
[2] For a Christian assessment, see Ronald H. Nash, Social Justice and the Christian Church (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1983).
[3] H[arold] G [S]tigers, “(sedek), justice, rightness,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:752–755. In English, “justice” is almost entirely Old Testament language while “justification” and “justified” and “justify” are New Testament language. But all are virtually synonymous with “righteousness” or its cognates.
[4] On the conflict between modern, alleged Christian, interpretations of justice and the biblical view, see Joseph Boot, The Mission of God (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Freedom Press, 2014), 157–160.

Christians, Expect Nothing Less Than Victory

Posted on January 28, 2017


Introduction to Victory


The Bible is festered with God’s promises. By one count, there are 7,487 promises by God to man in his Word.[1] Every section of the Bible contains God’s promises. Every book features God’s promises, directly or indirectly. If we got rid of God’s promises, we’d lose the Bible. We’d also lose the Christian Faith, which rests squarely on the promises of God. No promises, no salvation.

Here I’ll follow just a single line of promises, the most prominent line. I’ll begin where God begins — in the book of Genesis. This is where we always should begin. We must learn to read our Bibles in the sequence that God wrote it — from beginning to end, and not simply jump into the middle.


Genesis 3:15


Let’s begin specifically in Genesis 3:15, the first redemptive promise in the Bible:


“ … I will put enmity [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise [crush[2]] your head, and you shall bruise [crush] his heel.”


Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, and God pronounced his curse on sin. But his curse was accompanied by a promise. God’s purposes in the world would not be frustrated by Satan. The entire course of the rest of the Bible is a description and a fulfillment of this promise.

God focused his blessing and judgment not chiefly on Eve and the serpent, who was possessed by Satan,[3] but on each of their respective offspring. Early in its history, the church understood the (single) offspring of the woman to be none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This verse is called the protevangelium: the first Gospel promise. The (plural) offspring of the serpent is humans enslaved in his diabolical kingdom. “Offspring” is both individual and collective.[4] The offspring of the woman is Jesus Christ, and that includes all united him by faith (Gal. 3:26–29). The offspring of the serpent is perhaps an idealized antilord, and that includes all united to him in unbelief (Jn. 8:44–45).[5]

This traditional interpretation is verified in the New Testament itself. Paul promises the Roman church, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20). For Paul, Jesus Christ is God’s agent for accomplishing the Satan-crushing work (see vv. 18, 25–26). It’s impossible to believe that this language of crushing Satan under foot is taken from anywhere but Genesis 3:15. If this is true, then Genesis 3:15 must be talking about Jesus Christ.

This inference is verified in Revelation chapter 12. We read symbolically of the great Dragon (“the ancient serpent,” v. 9) who is poised to consume the offspring, the man-child, of the woman. The male offspring was the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (v. 5). Clearly, this is Jesus Christ. The woman as an individual is likely Mary, the new Eve, the mother of Jesus; but collectively the woman is the Jewish nation, which birthed our Lord. Immediately after his birth, the child is snatched up to heaven, while God’s great army of angels wages relentless war against Satan and his hosts. We read, “And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated” (v. 7; see also v. 10). This is a symbolic fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, and Jesus Christ is the offspring of the woman who fulfills it.

God says he creates hostility between these two offspring. The course of history is the great cosmic conflict between the children of God and the children of the devil. It is a holy war,[6] the greatest and most momentous war in history. The woman’s offspring will win, but not without a great conflict, and at great cost. The serpent will crush the heel of the woman’s offspring. No doubt this refers chiefly to the agonizing death of Jesus Christ, but also to the suffering of the church at the hands of Satan and an ungodly world (1 Pet. 2:21). Like our Lord, we will be victorious, but the victory won’t be easy.[7]

We don’t often understand the magnitude of this victory because we don’t understand the magnitude of the sin that it is calculated to overcome. Sin wreaks havoc everywhere it touches, and it touches everything in the created order.[8]

Sin wreaks havoc between man and his fellow man. Right after our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their oldest son Cain murdered their youngest son Abel.

Sin wreaks havoc between man and his environment. God cursed the created order, not because it’s evil itself, but because of man’s sin. Man’s task of stewarding creation is now a burden to him. The animals aren’t in full harmony with man. The weather, the environment, can be destructive to man’s purposes.

Sin wreaks havoc within man himself. When Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced a strange new sensation: guilt. This is why they sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness and hid themselves from God. Sin disrupted their internal peace and order, what God calls the “heart.”

Finally, and most importantly, sin wreaks havoc between man and God. Man hides from God. Man is at war with God, and man born into the world is God’s enemy (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:3).

Sin poisons everything it touches, and it touches everything. All humanity participates in Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12f.), including humanity today. Our world is a sinful world. The poison is everywhere, inside us and outside us, everywhere we turn. It poisons our education. It poisons our politics. It poisons our technology. It poisons our science. It poisons our art. It poisons our music. Evil is pervasive.

But God sent Jesus Christ to crush the evil. That’s the Gospel promise of Genesis 3:15.


Psalm 110:1


There’s the related promissory metaphor in Psalm 110:1 —


The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”


This is the same general idea we find in Genesis 3:15. “Both phrases,” writes Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “were oriental pictures from the ancient Near East of vanquished mortals: they laid face down prostrate before the conquering monarchs often forming nothing more than a footstool for his throne.”[9] What’s especially riveting about this passage is that it’s the most frequently quoted Old Testament verse by New Testament speakers and writers — a whopping 22 times.[10] Apparently, they thought it was profoundly significant. It also just happens to be a promise.

The right hand of the ruler is the place of the vicegerent, the joint ruler. He sits next to the king and shares in his kingship and authority.[11] In Psalm 110:1, Jehovah says to his chosen One that he has bruised his enemies under the feet of the one sharing his rule, and he simply uses them as his footstool.

The New Testament makes clear that the ruler sitting next to the universal king is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, in Peter’s Pentecostal sermon a few weeks after our Lord’s ascension, he directly ties that ascension to our Lord’s assuming the heavenly throne from which he rules next to the Father (Ac. 2:22–36). Jesus rose from the dead in great triumph, ascended to his heavenly throne, and from that throne he rules the world. It’s from that throne that Jesus showers his gifts on his citizens. At Pentecost, of course, those gifts included the mighty, onrushing power of the Holy Spirit to begin spreading this kingly gospel to the world. That’s how Peter interpreted Psalm 110:1.

Second, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul adds to that interpretation. He lays out the sequence of redemptive history: Adam sinned and brought death to the world, but Jesus Christ brought life — resurrection life. Our Lord rose from the dead, and as a result, he reigns over the earth, subjugating all enemies under his feet. After he has subdued all his enemies, he’ll deliver the kingdom back to God the Father, at which time death itself will be destroyed (vv. 21–28). He’s reigning until all his enemies are crushed under his feet (see also Phil. 2:5–11). His reign is progressive. It’s a progress to victory.

Third, in Hebrews 10:12–13 we read this —


But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.


The writer of Hebrews adds a twist to the interpretation of Psalm 110:1. He’s intent to argue that our Lord’s atoning death is far superior to the old covenant sacrifices, and that one of its goals was precisely to install Jesus Christ as victor over his enemies. In other words, Jesus’ death on the cross is designed to crush the head of his enemies. This is just what we expect after reading Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 110:1. It’s at the cross that he crushes his enemies.


Victory Assured


Synthesizing these texts, here’s the picture we get: God created a good world, but Satan used the serpent to lead Adam to sin. That sin poisoned all humanity. But God promised that he would use his Son to crush Satan and sin. Jesus came to earth to crush his sinful enemies under his feet, which is what he did at the cross and resurrection. He ascended to his Father’s throne and assumed his royal position as ruler of the cosmos. He will reign until all of his enemies are placed under his feet. God sent his Son to defeat evil, and he tells us how he will defeat that evil.

In many ways, Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 110:1 lay out the basic Biblical worldview: Creation-Fall-Redemption.[12] God created a good world, and employed man created in his image as his deputy to steward that world, but Satan led man to sin. God’s solution is to send his Son to redeem man in order to restore him to his exalted, pre-Fall position. Satan thought he was destroying God’s good world, but through Jesus Christ, God gets the last laugh.[13] God’s destroying evil by means of his Son, Jesus Christ.[14]

[1] Herbert Lockyer, All the Promises of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964), 10. See also Samuel Clarke, Precious Bible Promises, [Kindle edition], retrieved from
[2] “zera‘, Sowing, seed, offspring,” W[alter] C. K[aiser], Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:253.
[3] The serpent spoke as a human being, one with first-hand knowledge of God, and not simply as an emissary. See Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 77.
[4] Bruce K. Waltke observes that “seed” is primarily collective in the case of the serpent, since the woman’s seed persistently struggles against it over time, but the woman’s seed is individual, since “we expect an individual [in contrast to a group] to deliver a fatal blow [to the single head of the serpent].” See his Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 93. Still, there can be no doubt that a collective seed of the woman is implied as those united to the head-crushing Messiah (see Rev. 12:17). See also E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (McLean, Virginia, MacDonald, n.d.), 1:15–16.
[5] The ensuing battle is between the family of the woman (God’s offspring), and the family of the serpent (Satan’s offspring), with Jesus and Satan as the respective covenant representatives. See Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (Overland Park, Kansas: Two Age, 2000), 133.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “God’s judgment reveals that suffering plays a part in those who identify with God’s overcoming of the Serpent. As a result, morality will not be confused by pleasure and reward. Adam and Eve must serve God out of a desire for righteousness, not from a desire for self-gratification, which originally led to this place of judgment,” Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis, 94.
[8] Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1982), 2:69–71.
[9] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, 78.
[10] Mt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62;16:19; Lk. 20:42, 43; 22:69; Ac. 2:33; 7:49-56, Rom 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; 2:6, Col 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2, 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev 3:21.
[11] W. S. Plumer, Psalms (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1867, 1990), 973.
[12] Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 28–36.
[13] Jack Crabtree, “Satan and the Significance of Easter,”, accessed March 5, 2015.
[14] Excerpted from P. Andrew Sandlin, Crush the Evil (Coulterville, California: Center for Cultural Leadership).

A Very Different Kind of Populism

Posted on January 22, 2017


Both supporters and critics of President Donald Trump’s political philosophy, to the extent that he consciously embraces one, refer to it as populism and invoke the name of that early American populist, President Andrew Jackson, for a comparison. President Trump’s populism was evident in his inauguration address, and therefore it might be interesting to consider it in light of Andrew Jackson’s own March 4, 1829 inaugural address.


President Jackson immediately invoked the U.S. Constitution that he took his oath to withhold. He felt bound by the Constitution and consequently must work closely with Congress:


As the instrument of the Federal Constitution it will devolve on me for a stated period to execute the laws of the United States, to superintend their foreign and their confederate relations, to manage their revenue, to command their forces, and, by communications to the Legislature, to watch over and to promote their interests generally. And the principles of action by which I shall endeavor to accomplish this circle of duties it is now proper for me briefly to explain.


Jackson knew that his power was limited by the Constitution and was committed to avoid violating those Constitutional limitations:


In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power trusting thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority.


Jackson was a firm believer in states’ rights. He was careful about arrogating to the federal government the prerogatives that the Constitution grants the states:


In such measures as I may be called on to pursue in regard to the rights of the separate States I hope to be animated by a proper respect for those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted to the Confederacy [federal government].


Jackson knew that deficit spending by the federal government is dangerous, that a debtor nation threatens its own independence, and that careful spending will protect against bad economic habits, both in private and public lives:


The management of the public revenue — that searching operation in all governments — is among the most delicate and important trusts in ours, and it will, of course, demand no inconsiderable share of my official solicitude. Under every aspect in which it can be considered it would appear that advantage must result from the observance of a strict and faithful economy. This I shall aim at the more anxiously both because it will facilitate the extinguishment of the national debt, the unnecessary duration of which is incompatible with real independence, and because it will counteract that tendency to public and private profligacy which a profuse expenditure of money by the Government is but too apt to engender. Powerful auxiliaries to the attainment of this desirable end are to be found in the regulations provided by the wisdom of Congress for the specific appropriation of public money and the prompt accountability of public officers.


Jackson (a military hero) knew that while a national army is necessary, it should not be enlarged in a time of peace and, in any case, the most effective protection against foreign invasion is a large, well-equipped and -trained militia:


Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor disregard that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches that the military should be held subordinate to the civil power. The gradual increase of our Navy, whose flag has displayed in distant climes our skill in navigation and our fame in arms; the preservation of our forts, arsenals, and dockyards, and the introduction of progressive improvements in the discipline and science of both branches of our military service are so plainly prescribed by prudence that I should be excused for omitting their mention sooner than for enlarging on their importance. But the bulwark of our defense is the national militia, which in the present state of our intelligence and population must render us invincible. As long as our Government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long as it is worth defending a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable aegis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we may be subjected to, but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe. To any just system, therefore, calculated to strengthen this natural safeguard of the country I shall cheerfully lend all the aid in my power.


Most importantly, Jackson did not consider himself particularly wise or brilliant, but looked to his predecessors and, in particular, the Founders of the United States for guidance. Above all, he craved God’s blessing in undertaking his herculean task as President:


A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualifications will teach me to look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my illustrious predecessors, and with veneration to the lights that flow from the mind that founded and the mind that reformed our system. The same diffidence induces me to hope for instruction and aid from the coordinate branches of the Government, and for the indulgence and support of my fellow-citizens generally. And a firm reliance on the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties in various vicissitudes, encourages me to offer up my ardent supplications that He will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine care and gracious benediction.


As much as historians might refer to Jackson as populist, his speech from our historical vantage point looks a great deal like an iteration of the republican philosophy of the Founders. The uncompromising notes of Constitutional fidelity, checks and balances, states’ rights, cautious economics, a modest military, historic precedence, and Christian devotion would be just the notes — and were the notes — rung by Washington and Jefferson.


Today’s populism of both Right (Trump) and Left (Bernie Sanders) could learn a great deal from Jackson’s populism — and that of the Founders.

What Noah Can Teach Today’s Protestants

Posted on December 3, 2016


The biblical narrative of Noah doesn’t fit neatly into the contemporary paradigm of the Protestant Reformation. But understanding Noah will assist us in returning to a truly biblical and balanced reformation in church and culture.


Noah obeyed God comprehensively


Noah obeyed God to the letter. That’s the meaning of “he did all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). The emphasis is on the comprehensiveness of his obedience. Faith is obedience, and faith issues in obedience. If we believe God, if we take God at his word, we obey, and we obey comprehensively. We aren’t cafeteria Christians. We don’t choose what to obey and what not to obey. Noah didn’t say, “I believe God, and I’ll build and ark for me and my family, but this business of constructing a boat to haul hundreds of animals is excessive. God doesn’t expect me to go to such lengths.” Or, “Why does it have to be 300 by 50 by 30 cubits? God is so arbitrary. I’ll do my own engineering calculations and then decide.” No. Noah had faith that God knew better than he did, so Noah obeyed to the letter. Noah didn’t see himself as wiser or more advanced or more “progressive” than God. Noah believed God, and he acted on his belief — as all true faith results in godly action.


As a result, God favored Noah. We might say that, in an evil culture, Noah was God’s favorite (Gen. 6:8). God destroyed the entire world except for Noah and his family. That’s how much God favored Noah. Noah rubbed shoulders with God; that’s the literal meaning of “Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Noah took God at his word. And Noah obeyed God to the letter. This is why God favored Noah.


What Roman Catholicism taught


Christians haven’t always been entirely comfortable with this truth, particularly those in the Protestant Reformation tradition. That tradition was launched as a result of the questions: Whom does God favor, and how, and why? In the medieval era, the Roman Catholic Church taught salvation is by both faith and works. God sent his Son to die on the Cross to save us. If we exercise faith in him and perform good works, he will justify us, or declare us righteous, on the final day. These good works were all wrapped up in the sacramental system of the church: baptismal regeneration, the mass, indulgences, and purgatory. The church itself, in effect, stands in for Jesus Christ. To get into Jesus Christ, you must first get into the church.


What the Protestant Reformation taught


The great rediscovery of Martin Luther is that salvation is not by what we can do, but by what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross. By simple faith we trust in him, and his righteousness becomes ours. The Reformation was a recovery of Pauline theology. We are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves or our good works (Eph. 2:8–10). The Reformation re-situated the gospel at the center of the church. This means that it re-situated salvation by Christ alone at the heart of the church. You get into the church by first getting into Jesus Christ.


The Reformation (over)reaction


In practice, this meant that every recovery of the great cause of the Reformation also included a deep suspicion of good works and obedience. This is just what the early Roman Catholics had predicted would happen. It’s not what should happen. Reformation teaching, properly understood, does not entail suspicion of good works and obedience. John Calvin made his point abundantly clear. For him, the central truth of soteriology is union with Jesus Christ.[1] When we become one with Jesus Christ by faith, we do not get only justification; we get sanctification. In other words, God saves us apart from works, to good works. And if we do not perform good works, we only prove that we have not been justified.


Did God favor Noah because of his good works?


But this was a relatively technical point for many people, and for them the Reformation truth reduced largely to this: “I’m saved by grace apart from works, and I dare not stress good works. If I do, I’ll undermine the work of the Cross.”


So when they come to the Bible’s teachings like those about Noah (and there are many others in the Bible, and not just in the book of James), they get uncomfortable. They’re often at pains to make sure we don’t understand Moses to be teaching that Noah gained God’s favor by good works. But the fact is, this is precisely what Moses is teaching. He’s teaching that Noah was God’s favorite because he loved and obeyed God. The book of Hebrews teaches the same thing (11:7). His faith was an act of obedience, and his faith led to further obedience. The implication of the alternative is just as true: if Noah hadn’t believed God; if he hadn’t walked with God; if he hadn’t obeyed God, he would’ve perished with the rest of the world.


The teaching of Genesis 6 isn’t that Noah and his family were just as depraved as the rest of the world, but that God sovereignly selected Noah and protected him from the flood. There is nothing whatsoever in either Genesis or Hebrews to give us that idea. That Noah found favor with God does not mean that Noah was an abject sinner, but that in the abundance of God’s love, he saved him anyway by grace alone. If that’s what happened, Moses missed a golden opportunity to tell us.


What Moses is and isn’t teaching


Make no mistake: no one is sinless. Were it not for God’s grace (gift), Noah could not have walked with God, trusted God, obeyed God. Noah was saved the way everyone else in the history of the world has been saved: by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the pre-Christian saints looking forward in prospect, and the Christian saints looking back in retrospect. We’re saved by the blood and resurrection of Jesus. We gain Jesus’ righteousness by our faith and not by our works (Tit. 3:5).


But this isn’t the point that Moses is making. It’s also not the point that the writer of Hebrews 11 is making. Nor is it the point that James is making. Nor is it the point that many other biblical writers make, including Paul (see Rom. 2:6–7; 6:3–4), although all of them believed in salvation by grace through faith. Their point, however, is that God favors those who love and obey him, and he disfavors those who do not love and obey him. And this point is taught so clearly and frequently in the Bible, that we almost have to work hard to miss it.


Moses isn’t trying to teach us about justification or even about sanctification.[2] He’s telling us why Noah was God’s favorite, and, by implication, how we can be God’s favorites too. He’s telling us why God judged almost the entire world, and what we ourselves can do to avoid God’s judgment. He’s teaching that obedient faith, and obedience that results from Faith, are the only way to please God and the only way to avert God’s judgment.




According to Moses, if you want God’s favor, trust in him and obey him. If you want God’s judgment, do not trust him and disobey him.


God has not complicated how we please him. Noah was living proof.


It’s about time many Protestants today allow Moses’ truth about Noah to shape their own view and practice of salvation, faith, and obedience.



[1] Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 2:37–39.
[2] For a superb treatment on the relation of justification and sanctification in our union with Jesus Christ, see John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2008), [Bk. 3, Ch. 16, Sec. 1], 523.

But What Made America Great in the First Place?

Posted on November 30, 2016



We just concluded a convulsive political season. It’s a relief to enter the peaceful Advent season. The politics of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ includes the One who carries the government on his shoulders (Is. 9:6). His are the politics of redemption, grace, and obedience. His goal is nothing less than worldwide dominion, and his politics, which is perpetuated not by the power of the sword but by the power of the sword of the Spirit, cannot fail.


Donald Trump’s winning campaign slogan was: “Let’s Make America Great Again.” It’s a fine slogan, but how can we make America great again if we don’t know what made it great in the first place? I know what made our country great: a reliance on the Almighty God. Our nation was founded on Christian truth. It was never an explicitly Christian country launched by all Christians, but it was instituted by people who assumed a Christian worldview. That worldview is woven into our founding documents and institutions (see John Eidsmoe’s Christianity and the Constitution). Since the Founders devised our system to work only in a Christian context, to abandon Christianity is to assure the erosion of our nation. America was never designed to work without Christianity — and it won’t.


The election might have de-accelerated our cultural apostasy (that remains to be seen). If it does, we can be grateful. One thing is certain: nothing less than a recovery of Christian culture will assure God’s persistent blessing on our nation.


CCL is all about that recovery, and our work in these chaotic, divisive times is imperative more than ever.


To redouble that recovery, we need prayer, and we need money. We need to increase our budget $36,000 ($3000 a month) in 2017. If you don’t support CCL monthly and can instruct your bank to send $50 or more monthly, that would help greatly.


So would churches that add CCL to their monthly budget.


If you already donate to CCL annually but can also give monthly, that would be a great movement forward.


Of course, if you can give a large, year-end gift contributing a chunk of that $36,000, that would certainly work too.



You can donate to CCL (tax-deductible) here




I’m deeply grateful for all of you who give so sacrificially and so faithfully.


Before Christmas I’ll send to all donors my booklet Crush the Evil: God’s Promises Heal Man’s Pessimism. If you want a copy, please send a gift right away. The Honorable William Graves’ Prudent Jurisprudence: Essays on Constitutional Liberties and Law, Jeff Ventrella’s Putting the “Human” Back in “Human Rights,” and Joe Boot’s The Self-Destructive Doctrine of Islam should be out early next year.


Brian Mattson, Senior Scholar of Public Theology, has been traveling the country and in France lecturing on Christian culture. His book Politics and Evangelical Theology is a trenchant defense of an explicitly Christian politics. His podcasts for Dead Reckoning are a model of thoughtful but humorous analysis of our culture.


Richard A. Sandlin was married this past summer (to Samantha née Matheson) and is finishing his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of British Columbia.


Bill Blankschaen, our Director of Development and Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology, co-authored with Erick Erickson You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe. He continues to work with prominent Christian conservatives to hone their message for impacting our culture for Jesus Christ.


There’s much more re-Christianizing work we’re planning: more preaching and lectures and symposia around the country (and overseas), more web articles and essays and video and audio, and more strategic contacts with young cultural leaders. Much, much more.


That’s how we retake lost cultural ground.


Please help us this year’s end to retake that ground. Our children and grandchildren’s future depends on it.


Skeptical Conservatism versus Sola Scriptura

Posted on November 21, 2016


One striking difference between our 18th and 19th century 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.


God’s faithfulness in not answering prayer?


A Southern Baptist writer firmly committed to the Reformation truth of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) recently explained what God’s faithfulness is not. He enlisted unanswered prayer as a prime topic. He argued that even when God doesn’t answer the requests of his children, he remains faithful. If we suppose that only when things are going well for us is God faithful, we implicitly endorse the false “prosperity gospel” and the “prosperity God.” He is correct in principle: God is faithful even when our life’s circumstances are less than we desire. God is faithful whether we consider him faithful or not.

But the author never gets around to articulating another, and more important, truth; and because he does not, he leaves an incomplete impression: that God’s faithfulness is not verified by answered prayer that improves our lot in life. This assumption is so false and the Bible is so clear and abundant about the truth of answered prayer that it is almost an embarrassment that one must document it. Here, I’ll note only four texts from the Psalms:

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Ps. 34:6)

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. (Ps. 116:1)

I thank you [God] that you have answered me and have become my salvation. (Ps. 118:21)

The New Testament is equally clear. God promises to answer the simple, heart-felt prayers of his children:

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (Mt. 18:19)

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (Jn. 14:13-14)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (Jn. 16:23b–24)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt. 7:7-11)

The texts could be — and are — multiplied.[1]


Sola Scriptura undermined


Too many Christians formally committed to sola scriptura, however, are shy about these texts, which means: shy about taking God at his word. They seem eager to defend God’s honor in asserting that his faithfulness includes not answering our prayer. Heaven forbid we claim God is not faithful if he does not keep his word, in spite of the fact that this is just what the godly claimed in the Bible (Ex. 32:11–14; Jud. 6:1–18; 2 Chr. 20:1–12). They knew God’s promises, and they expected him to fulfill his promises, and if he did not, he was not being faithful. This is why in Malachi 3:10 God charges a faithless and rebellious Israel, “put me to the test,” that is, trust me to prove to yourself whether my word is true. For us to scoff at this way of speaking to God, considering it sub-Christian, is simply rank unbelief decorated with a pious veneer. To refuse to hold God to his word is not a shining example of piety; it is a tragic example of faithlessness.


God’s revealed word or his covert counsel?


The biblical approach is too brazen for some Christians, however, particularly those most eager to defend God against the calumny that somebody prayed and God did not answer and, therefore, they were disappointed and have come to believe that God either isn’t real or isn’t a caring God. After all, our prayers these days are too often not answered, and this cannot be our fault due to our unbelief. There must be some other explanation. For example, God has a secret, eternal, unrevealed, covert plan that contradicts his written word; and if we actually knew his hidden intentions, we could safely ignore his written promises that contradict them.[2] The fact that the Bible teaches that our unbelief can and does sometimes contribute to unanswered prayer is an unpleasant prospect that congregations don’t like to hear, but the Bible does teach it (Mk. 6:1–6; 11:22–24; Jas. 1:6). Methodist minister E. M. Bounds wrote, “The millions of unanswered prayers are not to be solved by the mystery of God’s will. We are not the sport of his sovereign power. He is not playing at ‘make-believe’ in his marvelous promises to answer prayer.”[3]

Today unbelief is not a sin preachers are inclined to expose as nearly as preachers did in the past, despite the fact that unbelief is a damning sin, perhaps the most damning sin (Jn. 3:17–18). Instead we say that unanswered prayer is a result of God’s covert purposes not disclosed in his written word, and in this way we contradict sola scriptura while preserving our reputation of glorifying God. But God is not glorified when we blame our unbelief on his alleged covert purposes.[4]


The “triumph” of unanswered prayer?


The pastor of possibly the most noted historic evangelical church in the nation preached a message titled, “The Triumph of Unanswered Prayer.” No saint in the biblical record could have conceived of preaching or believing such a thing. The pastor is properly concerned with those Christians who lose faith because they have suffered great pain and illness and have not gotten their prayers answered, and have resolved never to pray again. The pastor’s intentions are pure, but his construction is wrong. The Bible nowhere teaches that the Christian should rejoice when God does not answer prayer. If God does not answer prayer, the Bible supplies other explanations than his covert intentions that contradict the promises of his word: unbelief (Jas. 1:6–8), inward iniquity (Ps. 66:18), despising God’s law (Pr. 28:9), self-indulgence (Jas. 4:3), and Satanic interference (Dan. 10). Conflict with God’s covert, unrevealed desires is not offered as an explanation for unanswered prayer.


The new “liberal evangelicals” at prayer


Many of the same conservative Protestants who castigate their benighted evangelical and Pentecostal brothers and sisters or “liberal evangelicals” for adjusting the Bible to their own experience have no problem adjusting the Bible to their own experience when it means suggesting that they lack faith in God’s promises to answer the simple, heart-felt requests of his people. They explain away passages that unambiguously promise that God will answer the faith-filled prayers of his people. Since the Bible plainly teaches that homosexuality is sin, they correctly rebuke those “liberal evangelicals” who twist the Bible into saying what it plainly does not. But when it comes to biblical promises about answered prayer, they adopt the skeptical methodology of the very people they criticize; they believe the Bible only when it’s convenient. The “Bible alone” rules — except when we find God’s promises inconvenient.


Christian antisupernaturalism


This is one aspect of the creeping antisupernaturalism that afflicts the orthodox, though we would be the last to admit that Enlightenment antisupernaturalism has impacted our thinking (that problem is for liberals, not us). We are quite certain that God exists and that he upholds the world and that he regenerates believing sinners. But we are less audacious when it comes to God’s interference in creation in response to our crying out to him in prayer. “[T]he biblical writers and those to whom they wrote were predisposed to supernaturalism.”[5] By contrast, we are predisposed to naturalism. Our default is to appeal to antisupernatural explanations of events in history and our lives unless a supernatural explanation alone will suffice. This is to reverse the biblical order.

Skeptical conservatives know that the Bible does not promise that God will answer every possible faith-filled prayer of his people, and they point as verification of this thesis to (1) David’s prayer for his child with Bathsheba, (2) Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, and (3) Paul’s prayer for the removal of the “thorn” of his flesh. They are quite right. What they often do not assert is that these are likely the only examples in the Bible of clearly unanswered prayers for the godly.[6] When we read the Bible, we arrive at some amazing statistics. Even apart from the Psalms, which are full of prayers, “[T]he Bible records no fewer than 650 definite prayers, of which no less than 450 have recorded answers.”[7] That’s a fascinating proportion. Probably more than 450 of the prayers in the Bible were answered. Still, that’s almost 70% of answered prayers that we know of. If we knew the entire story, the proportion surely would be much higher.


Righteousness versus the “health-and-wealth” gospel


The reluctance to embrace such audacity is driven partly by aversion to the “prosperity gospel” or “health-and-wealth gospel,” according to which God exists to glut his children with all of life’s lustful bounty that their carnal minds desire. But the Bible is quite clear that such an approach is wrong. God does not answer prayer to satiate our own lusts (Jas. 4:3). More significantly, we learn from James 5:16 that it is the effectual prayer of righteous persons that obtains answers in heaven’s court. Righteous people pray righteous prayers. God is not interested in the prayers of lust-drenched, narcissistic people. The biblical promises of answered prayer are directed to Christians who wish above all things to please God.

In the words of Grant R. Osborne, “God is sovereign and can say ‘no [to our prayers],’ but we should not expect God to reject our requests.”[8] The default assumption of Christians is that God will answer their prayers. To shy away from this truth is to bear an evil heart of unbelief (Heb. 3:12).




In 1915 Moody Press published a book by Charles Blanchard, the second president of Wheaton College, arguably the most prominent evangelical college in the country (both then and now). The full title was Getting Things from God: Great Chapters on Prayer. A chief theme of the book is that answered prayer means getting from God precisely what we pray for. He abhorred the prevalent idea (both then and now) that “no” from God is an answer to prayer. Answered prayer, according to Blanchard, denotes that God gives his children what they ask him for. It is almost inconceivable that any evangelical college president today would write a book with this title and argument. Reviving prayer as a mighty force in the church and culture is simply not high on the evangelical agenda. And then we puzzle over the paltry influence of Christianity in church and culture.

But the Bible everywhere expects God’s people to expect God to do just what he says he will do — including, perhaps especially, to answer the prayer of his righteous, faith-filled people. It also declares that God will not answer the prayers of those who do not expect him to work — in other words, unbelieving, doubtful people cannot expect God to answer their paltry, unbelieving prayers:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (Jas. 1:5-8, emphasis supplied)

Protestant reformer John Calvin asks,

What kind of prayer would this be? “O Lord, I am indeed doubtful whether or not thou art inclined to hear me; but being oppressed with anxiety I fly to thee that if I am worthy, thou mayest assist me.” None of the saints whose prayers are given in Scripture thus supplicated. Nor are we thus taught by the Holy Spirit, who tells us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:16); and elsewhere teaches us to “have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Christ,” (Eph. 3:12). This confidence of obtaining what we ask, a confidence which the Lord commands, and all the saints teach by their example, we must therefore hold fast with both hands, if we would pray to any advantage. The only prayer acceptable to God is that which springs (if I may so express it) from this presumption of faith, and is founded on the full assurance of hope.[9]

If the Bible is true, then we can expect that when with simple, honest, obedient faith we cry out to God for material provision, he will supply it. When we beg God to heal the sick, he will heal them. When we implore God to convert our unbelieving friends and relatives, he will convert them. When we pray and fast for God to send revival in the church and reformation the culture, that’s just what we will see. And if we do not receive these answers, we should persevere in prayer, and we should not warp the Bible to conform to our paltry experiences but ask whether we have not met the conditions God lays down for answering prayer.

We do not really believe the Bible if we do not believe God’s promises to answer prayer.

[1] See Herbert Lockyer, All the Prayers of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959).
[2] John Murray argues that God’s eternal decrees will sometimes contradicts his declared desires. He writes, “This is indeed mysterious.” I would suggest is it so mysterious as to court incredulity. See Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 4:131.
[3] E. M. BoundsThe Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 186.
[4] 1 John 5:14 promises, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” To define “will” as God’s covert, unrevealed purposes is gratuitous. God’s will is revealed in his word.
[5] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm (Bellingham, Washington: Lexham Books), 18.
[6] E. M. BoundsThe Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, 197.
[7] Herbert Lockyer, All the Prayers of the Bible, 5.
[8] Grant R. Osborne, “Moving Forward on our Knees: Corporate Prayer in the New Testament,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 53/2 (June 2010), 257.
[9] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 20, Sec. 7,, accessed November 21, 2016.

The Cosmic War Zone

Posted on October 21, 2016



The spiritual electromagnetic spectrum


Detecting the intersection of the seen and unseen worlds is much like considering the electromagnetic spectrum.[1] There’re all sorts of waves surrounding us, though we can see only a portion of that spectrum. But the fact that we can’t see microwaves and gamma rays, doesn’t mean they’re not there. The problem is not with the reality. The problem is that our eyesight is limited. The biblical writers are “predisposed to supernaturalism.”[2] We, by contrast, are usually predisposed to naturalism, and enlist the supernatural only when we’ve exhausted all natural explanations. If we want to get back to the biblical world, we’ll need to get back to more supernatural explanations. The invisible world is no more an illusion than the visible, and these worlds are not identical, but they are interpermeable.


Our problem spiritually is that the Enlightenment has shaped our worldview more than we might want to admit. The Enlightenment has produced a number of benefits for the modern world but, unfortunately, it also gradually led us to abandon the reality of the unseen world. This means in the end that there is no God, because God is spirit. Some of the early Enlightenment religionists didn’t want to go that far, so they embraced deism. This is the idea that God is the Creator but that once he created everything, he simply let it operate according to his pre-established laws. He’s like a great watchmaker who created the watch and then got out of the way to watch it tick. That’s not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is actively involved in this world at all points. In the same way, the fallen gods of the Bible, and the demons and unholy spirits, are actively involved in the world at all points.


Two falls


The first fall wasn’t the fall in Eden. That was the second fall. We don’t know much about it, but we do know that it was the first fall that produced the second fall. The Bible (Is. 14) teaches that Lucifer, or the Star of the Morning, one of the heavenly beings, mounted an insurrection against the true God. He was the first revolutionary. He took a number of other angels or gods with him. Many of these are what we today call demons or fallen angels and even the gods, elohim.


Think about it. These fallen creatures were all there watching when God created the universe. In fact, in Daniel (4:13, 17, 23) these gods are called the “watchers.” Why? Originally they were charged with watching over God’s creation and reporting back to him. This is possibly what Satan’s initial assigned task was. The book of Job tells us he was observing the earth and reporting back to God. Of course, God doesn’t need anyone to report to him. He knows all things. But he has chosen to share his rule. Just as he shares his rule with man in the dominion mandate, so he shared his rule with angels and the elohim before creation. The fallen gods and angels failed in their insurrection against God, so they decided to disrupt his creation. They couldn’t overthrow God, so they decided to overthrow his other created beings, humanity. That’s where the fall in creation came from.


Aligned with the supernatural


All human choices in the Bible are aligned with heavenly beings. This alignment starts in earnest in Genesis 3. Spiritual warfare in history is at root the battle for this world: who will control us, what we will believe, how we will live, and what status the animals and plants and weather will have. Man was created to be God’s deputy, his vicegerent over creation, but Satan is constantly trying to enlist man for his side of the battle. He enlists not just man, but a nonhuman creation, including the weather, for his evil purposes. Since the fall, therefore, we’ve been in the midst of a cosmic war zone.[3] The supernatural evil is pervasive, just as the supernatural righteousness is.


All evil is not human


Have you noticed that when Jesus confronted those who are possessed by demons, he never laid the blame on them? Today we talk a lot about people’s sins that invite demon possessions, and they certainly can (Mt. 12:43–45). But Jesus looked at these poor, pitiful creatures as the victims of Satan’s hatred for God and for his kingdom. They were casualties of war. This of itself shows us that there’s great evil in the world, and it’s not the results of man sin but of Satan and his insurrectionist minions.


Sovereignty and evil


People sometimes ask the perennial question, Why do bad things happen to good people? The Bible’s answer is simple. Because there is great evil in the world. We can’t say, well, God is sovereign, and he could stop it. Of course he could. But in stopping evil he would have to stop the entire universe. He chose to create both human and nonhuman beings with the capacity for choices, and those choices are sometimes evil. This doesn’t mean they can overthrow his sovereignty. God can and will still accomplish his purposes, but he will accomplish them partly by means of human and nonhuman choices. And those choices, tragically, are often evil. In this way, God got can use sin for his own purposes without being the author of sin. God’s not the author of little babies being burned and buried alive by ISIS, but he’s still working all things for his own glory. In short, there is evil in the world, great evil, and it won’t overthrow God’s plan, but he is also not the source of it.


Victory assured, but battles rage


Jesus defeated Satan on the Cross, but this doesn’t mean that Satan’s entirely finished. A helpful metaphor (first employed by Oscar Cullmann) is D-Day in World War II. After the Allies invaded Normandy and moved into interior France, the war’s victory was assured. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t battles left to fight. The war was over in principle, but the battles — some of them the bloodiest of the war — certainly were not over.


God doesn’t annihilate sin; he defeats it


God has chosen not to annihilate Satan and his forces, but to get the victory for his people through great conflict over sin. He’s decided to defeat it, not abolish it. He could have abolished sin and the bloody Cross would never have been necessary, but then salvation would have been eliminated too. Think about that fact for a moment, because it’ll help you understand many things about Christianity and the Christian life. God allows Satan and his hosts to continue their work. God refuses to give Satan the satisfaction of accomplishing his will by simply abolishing evil. God accomplishes this will by defeating evil. This means that there’re great battles that we must fight, and they’re great battles of the heavenly realm.


The great battles both individually and culturally, from addictions to politics to abortion to greed to same-sex “marriage” to pride to vindictiveness to socialism are at root battles with the “principalities and powers.” God and Satan are both battling for the control of earth. The victory is assured, but the battles still rage.


This is ordinary life in the cosmic war zone.

[1] Meredith G. Kline, God, Heaven, and Har Magedon (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2006), 4.
[2] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen World (Bellingham, Washington: Lexham, 2015), 18.
[3] Gregory A. Boyd, God At War (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1977), 98. I strongly dispute Boyd’s Open Theism but appreciate his valuable contribution to the idea of the warfare worldview.

To Re-Christendom the World

Posted on October 16, 2016


Last month at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, England I lectured to the Wilberforce Academy, led by Dr. Joseph Boot, on “The Legacy of Christendom.”  The expression “legacy of Christendom” could be interpreted to mean that Christianity leaves a legacy called Christendom, which is true. Or it could mean, the legacy that Christendom itself leaves. That latter point is one I want to address. What exactly is the legacy of Christendom? Christendom is not identical to Christianity. Christendom is what a culturally dominant Christianity looks like. It’s possible to have Christianity without Christendom (that’s what we have today, in fact). But it’s not possible to have a full-fledged Christianity for long without Christendom. That is to say that the Christianity of our times is not full-fledged. In losing Christendom, we have lost a particular kind of Christianity.

The legacy of Christendom is much harder to identify than the legacy of Christianity. We know that Christianity has impacted our world in numerous ways. But how has Christendom impacted our world that is no longer Christian? That’s a harder question to answer. Christendom is an entire way of thinking and living socially. That way is gone. But does Christendom still impact our world? I suggest that it does.

We hear the term “post-Christian” a lot these days. I would prefer to use the term post- Christendom. It’s not Christianity that’s behind us, but Christendom. I offer three observations about our post-Christendom world.[1]

Genuine Apostasy

First, our post-Christendom world is genuinely apostate. Notice that I didn’t just say that a mass of individuals is apostate. I said our civilization is apostate. This is historically unprecedented. It’s true that civilizations have turned away from God. The Old Testament and the rest of human history are filled with examples of this apostasy. What we have not had examples of is Christian civilization that has entirely turned its back on Christianity. Christendom was established from about the 5th century in the West. It survived until approximately the 18th century, the 19th century in England the United States. It has gradually diminished and is now gone. In other words, we have gone from pre-Christendom, through Christendom, to today’s post-Christendom. We are living in historically unprecedented times.

Lack of Precedent

Second, this means that we lack precise historical precedents for addressing our civilizational apostasy. Some might suggest that we go back and act as the early apostles and prophets did. This approach is both understandable and mistaken. We must always base our actions on the inspired words of the biblical prophets and apostles, but we don’t live in their historical situation. They were living in a pre-Christendom world, not a post-Christendom world. We must adopt their truth, but we need not — and should not — adopt their strategies. We must think very hard about how to re-Christendom (notice I did not say re-Christianize) the world.

The Artifacts That Survive 

Third, and finally, because the influence, though not the reality, of Christendom survives, we still enjoy some of the structures of Christendom. They’re usually not evident to us as such. Think only of marriage. Today we’re fighting the redefinition of marriage, and it’s easy to get discouraged at our cultural and legal losses. But let’s remember that it is marriage we are fighting for, and marriage is a divine ordinance. We’re not fighting to establish a divine ordinance; it’s been established from creation. We’re fighting to revive an ordinance that our world simply cannot live without, one woven into its very cosmology. This fact puts our task in a more optimistic light. We can’t ultimately lose the battle for marriage simply because marriage is a divine ordinance woven into the very cosmos itself. We cannot lose the cosmos. Therefore, we cannot lose marriage.

Dr. Peter Jones has ceaselessly reminded us that our culture is shifting from secularism to paganism.[2] We call it neo-paganism, because it’s not precisely the paganism of old. It’s a paganism self-consciously rejecting Christian truth. It’s the paganism abandoning Christendom. It’s post-Christendom paganism. Unbelievers could never simply restore the pagan world. They can only hope to restore a world in which paganism must always look back on Christendom. This means that neo-paganism must always account for, and react against, Christendom.[3]

Think about it this way. The apostles were offering a message sharply contrasting with the message of the ancient pagan world, but we are offering even more. We’re not just offering the contrasting Christian message (the gospel), which is the foundation. We’re offering the contrasting Christian world, civilization, and culture. We’re offering a Christian message to a world that was once Christianized. We’re introducing not just Christianity. We are reintroducing Christendom.


Our civilization was structured by the Christian Faith and the Bible. As much as secularists and neo-pagans may deplore it, they can’t simply unmake it. They hate Christianity so violently not just because they hate its message and claims and demands. They hate it because they know that it creates an entire world that they hate.

Our job, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is to rekindle, recover, and remake that world.

[1] Massey H. Shepherd, “Before and After Constantine,” in The Impact of the Church upon its Culture, Jerald C. Brauer, ed. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 17–38.
[2] Peter Jones, One or Two, Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, California: Main Entry, 2010).
[3] Clinton Williamson, Jr., “Self, Secularism, and Suicide,” Chronicles, June 2016, 9.

Cultural Hegemony: Roots of Western Leftist Domination

Posted on September 3, 2016



Many middle-age and older Americans of a conservative bent, Christian or not, must sometimes scratch their head in wonder at what has become of their nation and its culture over the last 50 years. All generations seem to lament the losses of their youth and the past, but there is objective evidence that the present generation has departed radically from the civilizational truths and mores of even the comparatively recent past. Think only of the legal redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex, a scenario never occurring anywhere in the history of the world until recent times. Changes like these did not emerge out of thin air; they were planned.

Students of the history of ideas are especially interested in the genealogy of widely accepted ideas in today’s world. To understand the roots of Western Leftist domination, it’s important to know about the Italian revisionist Marxist Antonio Gramsci.[1] Almost every leading feature of Leftism in the modern world (and Leftism is almost identical to Libertarian Marxism, an expression I use to describe the philosophy undergirding the dominant social vision of our time) we can find in Gramsci.

Gramsci was a hunchback born in Sardinia. He was a dedicated Marxist and a contemporary of both Lenin and Stalin. He lived for a time in Moscow. He was later jailed until his death by Mussolini’s fascist regime, but was given freedom to read and write. His prison writings in particular lay the groundwork for Libertarian Marxism. His views are more important to us than Marx’s. No thinker had a greater impact on Asian and Eastern Europe in the 20th century than Marx. The Communist states are a testimony to this fact. But this isn’t true about Western democracies. In France and Germany and England and the United States, Gramsci’s ideas shaped the Leftist elite.


Marxism, Western-style


Gramsci agreed with Marx and the Communists in their atheism, socialism, and statism. But he felt they didn’t go far enough. In any case, the Communist ways wouldn’t work in the West. For Marx, the important goal was equalizing material conditions. All of life is at root economic, and nothing else. Everything else is just an expression of economic need and desire, even if it looks very un-economic. For instance, ideas and the state are simply tools of the ruling class’s economic interests. The goal is to capture the state in order to create the economically equal society. Then even the state would be unnecessary, and all could live together in peace and harmony, sharing all economic resources. This never happened in any Marxist society, of course, but that was what Marx predicted and wanted.

Antieconomic Marxism

Gramsci was a more profound cultural thinker than Marx, who was a philosopher and economist. For Gramsci, not just economics, but everything in culture should be equalized. Gramsci believed that Marx fell short. Oppression isn’t just economic; it’s cultural. Therefore, what was needed wasn’t just a liberationist economics but a liberationist culture in toto. After spending time in Moscow, Gramsci decided that since “radically different conditions prevailed in western Europe . . . a fundamentally different strategy for revolution [was necessary] in the west” (145). He was an “antieconomic Marxist” (39, 56). This Gramscian revolution is succeeding in the West where Communism failed. Libertarian, not Communist, Marxism is becoming the victor.


Cultural transformation


Gramsci believed that if you capture the culture, the state would be unnecessary. The state only enforces what the culture should dictate. If almost everybody buys into the culture, you don’t need political coercion. Though he didn’t invent this language, Gramsci was one of the first to grasp that politics is downstream from culture.[2]

The Leninist-Stalinist Communists were committed to overthrowing the alleged unjust order by force. For Gramsci, you overthrow the unjust order by capturing culture and its institutions: art, music, education, science, literature, religion, technology, music. Even the choice of grammar is a political act. When you note that the sword “gender” has replaced “sex” in common discourse as a result of Leftist feminism,[3] you are seeing the victory of Gramsci.

You don’t impose the just order; you create it. The new politics wins not by force but by worldview. His opposition to fascism, however, was not that it was tyrannical but that it did not revolutionize culture. The important thing isn’t power by a few at the top; it’s transforming an entire culture.

The long march through the institutions

For Gramsci, the way to win in the West is by incremental cultural gains. He called it “the war of position” (256–257), analogous to trench warfare. The revolutionaries take one cultural sphere after another, until they control all of society. This is the root of his famous “long march through the institutions” line.  Political coups, seizing power by seizing the state through force of arms, is not likely to work in the West. The West is committed to peaceful political transfers of power by democratic elections. You don’t change the culture by capturing politics; you capture politics by changing culture. Gramsci popularized the word “hegemony,” which is cultural dominance. Particularly when we hear about “cultural hegemony,” we’re hearing the echoes of Gramsci. “To create a counter-hegemony was the revolution’s first task” (30). It’s not a counter-politics; it’s truly a counterculture. Better yet, a new culture replaces the old one. Culture goes where politics cannot. Its change is therefore deeper and more permanent.


Leveling of hierarchies


For Gramsci the fundamental cultural change that was needed was the destruction of hierarchies. He hated hierarchies. As a hunchback, he suffered ridicule and exclusion. He turned his private grievances into a cultural philosophy. No person is better than another — and no person should be permitted esteem higher than another. Classes in society, the wealthy above the poor, the master above the slave, the freeman above the prisoner, the healthy above the unhealthy, the aristocrats above the commoners, men above women, the intellectuals above the less mentally gifted, the Italians above the Sardinians — any class or group that has been excluded from honor and esteem and leadership must be included. Gramsci was the self-appointed champion of the marginalized and outcast. Gramsci believed that the marginalized, led by intellectuals who tap into their plight, should gradually reshape the culture such that they become the insiders, and rip down the hierarchies that oppress them.

His objective is to abolish all privilege, not just economic privilege, as Marx suggested. The marginalized must “rouse themselves to bring down the entire hierarchical system that has prevailed in various forms from the beginning of civilization” (68). He completely redefined morality to mean exalting the excluded. He himself was sexually immoral in Christian terms, but Christianity doesn’t matter, so his morality was exhibited in his cultural project. It was one of the first examples of the so-called New Morality.

The notion that the world is what it is because God created it that way — that men are men and women are women, for example, because of creational law — is an illusion serving the interests of the privileged classes. There’s no God to whom to appeal. Present differences that privilege some and de-privilege others are simply matters of the human will. Just as these present differences were created by the human will, so they can — and must and should — be abolished by the human will. The de-privileged are to be liberated from their marginalized existence. Now you know where the great liberation movements of the 20th century — women’s liberation, black liberation, gay liberation, children’s liberation — really come from: they owe their ideological roots to Gramsci.

Bringing low the culturally privileged

But it’s more than liberation Gramsci envisions. He advocated turning the tables culturally. Gramsci wasn’t just about “inclusion.” He advocated the “periphery-centered society” (179). Those who were formerly privileged must be de-privileged. The upper crust must feel the pain of the marginalization and misery of the formerly oppressed. The oppressed must rule over their oppressors. When today we observe vocal homosexuals becoming prominent CEO’s while simultaneously Christians are fined for standing for biblical sexual ethics; when we see the normalization of families in which wives provide all the income and husbands stay home to care for the children and children dictate the family choices; when we encounter college professors forced to attend sensitivity training classes for offending the sensibilities of millennial students, we see on graphic display the spirit of Gramsci.

Replacing Christendom

The chief hierarchy that must be leveled, however, is Christianity. Christian culture has pervaded the West. It privileged some and de-privileged others. The Gramscian program necessitated the replacement of Christendom with the new radically secular order, in Gramsci’s words, “a complete secularization of all of life and of customary relationships” (260).

Liberation doesn’t just mean leveling hierarchies; it means the underprivileged rule. It means establishing a new hierarchy under the guise of compassionate equality.

Redefining normality

This project means it will be necessary to redefine common sense and even normality. What is considered normal today must be considered abnormal tomorrow. If it’s common sense to believe that men are different form women, that sense must become uncommon. If it’s normal to be heterosexual and abnormal to be homosexual, normality must change. Homosexuality must be normalized and heterosexuality de-normalized. The gays are cool are the straights are weird. This is Gramsci with a vengeance.


Individual transformation


To accomplish this momentous feat, nothing less than a new kind of individual is needed. “Gramsci makes it clear that real change can come about only through an intellectual and moral transformation of consciousness.”[4] He knows that his project is so massive that ordinary means won’t accomplish it. He needs something extraordinary to get it done.

The Bible teaches that sin is so deeply imbedded in man that God must supernaturally remove it (incrementally) by regeneration: the Holy Spirit must resurrect our dead spirit. God transforms the individual. Gramsci redefines sin as cultural hierarchies, and that sin is so deep that ordinary means can’t abolish it. Only a massive education campaign by a dogged act of the will, spearheaded by intellectuals, can do this. In Gramsci’s cultural program, man transforms the individual, “to remake the concept of man” (238). The final goal for society is “a shared mental universe” (256). All of us must be embracing the same egalitarian ideals, “above all . . . develop[ing] an alternative vision of the good society” (153).

Angelo Codevilla[5] suggests that for Gramsci, this vision is potentially both sinister and powerful because it tries to win by bypassing cultural conflict. Gramsci “advocated mostly nonviolent cultural hegemony [and] urged Communists to act as if alien ideas did not exist.”[6] Codevilla notes intriguingly that if the Libertarian Marxists had followed Gramsci fully, they would never have launched a culture war by enlisting the state to enforce their dictates. Rather, they would have tried quietly to capture society one sphere at a time. As long as there is a culture war, Gramsci’s full vision cannot be realized. It’s when the Libertarian Marxists get their enemies (us) to buy into their premises that they have truly and finally won. This is why the subversion of the church today (for example) is so sinister: it’s so much easier to convince your enemy than to crush him.

If Christians and conservatives were to be peacefully convinced of Libertarian Marxism, Gramsci would have finally won.

[1] For this entire section I am greatly indebted to Dante Germino, Antonio Gramsci — Architect of a New Politics (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1990). I could have added footnotes to specific assertions that are entirely reliant on Germino’s extensive research, but there would be so many that they would have unnecessarily cluttered the text. For specific quotes, I have included the page number.
[2] It was apparently invented by Don Eberly. See William B. Wichterman, “The Culture: ‘Upstream’ from Politics,” in Building a Healthy Culture, Don Eberly, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 77.
[3] Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution (Kettering, Ohio: Angelico, 2015), 44.
[4] John Fonte, “Antonio Gramsci and the Transformation of Institutions,” in Building a Healthy Culture, Don Eberly, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 204.
[5] Angelo M. Codevilla, “Cultural Hegemony, Gramsci, and Political Correctness,” private manuscript to be published in the fall 2016 edition of Claremont Review of Books.
[6] Angelo M. Codevilla, The Character of Nations (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 97.

Repressive Tolerance

Posted on August 27, 2016



In understanding the intellectual development of the great social vision of our time, Cultural or Libertarian Marxism, it’s imperative to know about Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse was a German Marxist and part of the so-called Frankfurt School, committed to Critical Theory.[1] Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer and Marcuse were Marxists who wanted to adapt Marxism to Western societies, and transplanted their modified Marxism to the campuses of the U.S. after fleeing Nazi Germany. Their views inspired the New Left of the 60’s and from their elite perch have filtered down to American culture. Marcuse’s view of repressive tolerance is at the heart of that cultural subversion, and it has become a linchpin of the Left in our day.


Hatred for classical liberalism


Like all other good Communists, Marcuse hated classical liberalism. By classical liberalism I mean the political philosophy that developed gradually in England from the Magna Carta and was transported to England’s colonies, the largest of which became the United States. Classical liberalism (not to be confused with modern liberalism) was shaped by Christianity. The Roman Church bequeathed to it the independence of the church from the state. In the ancient world, the state pervaded all of society. The Western church demanded, and got, independence. It broke the monopoly of the state’s authority. Second, Protestantism contributed liberty of conscience. Politically, this meant creating a zone of privacy around the individual. In turn, this generated individual rights, enshrined in bills of rights. Classical liberalism is marked by religious liberty, individual liberty, economic liberty, separation of powers, checks and balances, constitutions, and the rule of law. It generated the glories of the British Empire as well as the prestige and prominence of the United States. Most significantly, it created societies in which families and churches are free to live within the boundaries of the rule of law. Classical liberalism means maximum, law-based liberty for citizens.

For Marxists like Marcuse, that’s the problem. When you have that kind of liberty, some people and groups flourish and some do not. Some are rich, others poor, and most somewhere in between. Churches and families can reward and punish members. Businesses can establish policies preferring one kind of individual over another. Classically liberal society creates equality under the law. But equality under the law does not lead to equal results. It brings out the latent inequalities in humans. Some are wiser or smarter. Others are lazy and procrastinating. Some are intelligent and some are not. Some are born into wealthy families and some are born into poor families. It is this latent inequality of the human condition permitted by classical liberalism that Marxists simply cannot abide. For classical Marxists, the issue is economic inequality. But for the Libertarian Marxists like Marcuse, it is inequality across the board.


Two kinds of tolerance, two kinds of repression


Marcuse offered an ominous counterproposal. It’s expressed in his (in)famous 1965 Brandeis University lecture titled, “Repressive Tolerance.”[2] He means by this the tolerance within classically liberal societies like the United States and England. These societies do not guarantee equality of results (people getting the same wealth, acceptance and prominence), only the equality of processes (everybody is treated the same under the law). Therefore, classically liberal societies are repressive. By allowing individuals and families and churches the liberty to live their lives, these societies create the conditions that foster inequality. So, actually, according to Marcuse, they are repressing individuals who are entitled to equality even while these societies loudly champion tolerance.[3]

Marcuse’s solution is to create an entirely different kind of society. You can’t talk about tolerance objectively across societies. You can only talk about tolerance within a particular (kind of) society. In other words, he is after a different kind of tolerance than we have known in classically liberal societies. But how do you get there from here? For Marcuse, people looking for the just society, led by the elite like him, must reeducate an entire culture. But the presupposition for this reeducation is the repression of, and intolerance towards, all of those elements that would guarantee classical liberalism. Consider this long quote:


Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc. Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behavior ….

Earlier he wrote:


[T]olerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private [!] religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.[4]


Marcuse is saying that, by their very nature, democracies allow their own subversion by a subversive majority, who are opposing the inherent oppression of society. If there are impediments to the subversion, the way to get rid of them is to undemocratically silence them. The people he has in mind, of course, are the people who oppose the subversive program: classical liberals, Christians, modern conservatives, and so forth. This means that the subversives should loudly demand their right to free speech while denying free speech to people who oppose them. Sound familiar?


De-stabilizing language


Marcuse understands the importance of language in this program of subversion. The meaning of words must be destabilized. If you can destabilize words, you can destabilize the culture. If you can convince women that abortion is all about “choice,” and not about killing, it’s much easier to legalize abortion. If you can get people to refer to homosexuality as an issue of “equality” rather than subversion of the family, you can legalize homosexual “marriage.” The goal, according to Marcuse, is to “break the established universe of meaning.”[5] Marcuse is a linguistic nihilist: the common meaning must be destroyed to make way for new meaning in a new culture.




Nor is it’s simply a matter of repressing the speech of your cultural enemies. You must also censor their thoughts. In Marcuse’s words, the work of cultural subversion “must begin with stopping the words and images which feed this [opposing] consciousness. To be sure, this is censorship, even precensorship ….”[6] The subversives must eliminate words and images that reinforce and preserve classical liberalism. For instance, images of aborted pre-born children must not be allowed. Words like “crazy,” “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “tyranny,” “gypped,” and “illegal alien,” must be purged.[7] There must be no such thing as academic freedom as classical liberalism understands it. There must be only the freedom to indoctrinate students in the just society. In other words, freedom, just like tolerance, must be defined differently in the Libertarian Marxist society than in societies like England and America, shaped by Christian truth.

The intellectual elites lead this campaign of subversion. The culture suffers from “false consciousness” out of which it must be educated. This is the job of the intellectual elites: to lead the benighted masses away from their false consciousness of classical liberalism that fosters individual and religious freedom and, instead, lead them to abolish this freedom to produce the egalitarian society. This is the secular, statist, egalitarian society for which today’s radical Leftists are working.[8]


Revolutionary violence


And, if necessary, education and indoctrination must be supplemented by revolutionary violence. Marcuse is quite clear about this. He refuses to posit a moral equivalence between the violence perpetrated by classical liberals and the violence committed by subversives. The former is evil; the latter is justified. In fact, he argues that since history is not made by ethics, ethics are of no importance. In other words, might makes right. The ends justify the means. He writes that oppressed minorities — and this means people who lack wealth or prestige or acceptance — have the right to extralegal violence if they exhaust all legal means. No one has a right to judge them immoral or unethical. (Think: Black Lives Matter and the call to kill cops.) Marcuse offered a program for annihilating Christian culture and classical liberalism and replacing it with Libertarian Marxism. He had takers.

Those takers became college professors and journalists and foundation presidents and “community organizers” and artists and musicians. They have wielded massive influence on the West from 1960-2016. Their vision is the commanding social vision of our time, working out its implications right before our eyes.

To create Christian culture, Christians must vanquish that vision.

[1] Michael Walsh, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (New York and London: Encounter Books, 2015).
[2] Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” in A Critique of Pure Tolerance, Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, eds. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), 81–117.
[3] On these differing and mutually exclusive visions of justice and equality, see Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions (New York: William Morrow, 1987), 121–203.
[4] Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” 100–101, 88.
[5] Ibid., 98.
[6] Ibid., 111.
[7] Samantha Audia, “Public university spends $16K on campaign to warn students to watch what they say,”, accessed August 23, 2016.
[8] On the totalitarian propensity of Leftists, see Richard Wolin. The Seduction of Unreason (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004).

The Secular Regime

Posted on August 18, 2016



We live in a radically and increasingly secular society. This secularization has several prominent historical roots, and it would be reductionist to attribute it to only factor. My point isn’t so much to offer a genealogy, however, but a brief diagnosis.

First, we need to know what secularism is.

Secularism Defined

Secularization doesn’t mean that people no longer believe in God. It means that people no longer believe that God has any interest in culture. “[T]he process of secularization,” states Christopher Dawson, “arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.”[1] It’s possible for many people in a society to believe in God and Christianity and still live in a secular society. This is precisely the case in the West, and even in North America. Secularization isn’t the conviction that God doesn’t exist (it isn’t the same as theoretical atheism). It’s the idea that God doesn’t exist in any influential way in a society. Cultural secularists are rarely interested in what we’d call metaphysical issues; they just don’t want God or any religion crimping their style, and especially their sex lives. Secularization is the abolition of the Triune God from everywhere except between anybody’s two ears or, at best, the family, and the church between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Sunday. Secularization means that God and Christianity simply have no official or formal bearing (and have, in fact, practically no bearing at all) on politics, education, art, science, architecture, music, technology, media and so on.

Plausibility Structure

This secularism has created a massive plausibility structure. By that I mean, it has remanded Christian truth as culturally relevant to the far reaches of society. It has de-privileged Christian discourse. It has ruled it not wrong, but simply out of bounds. Secularism is a faith so widespread that it no longer needs to be defended or even promoted tenaciously. Almost everybody holds it, and to believe differently is not so much to be opposed as to be ignored. Racial equality (for example) is part of our plausibility structure (it also happens to be biblically correct). People today in the West who claim that Whites or Asians are superior to Blacks or Hispanics aren’t persecuted; they are ignored as kooks and cranks. Yet 250 years ago, this was an idea that was hotly disputed in the populace, including by educated elites. By contrast, if you say today that marijuana should be legalized, you’ll get a real fight on your hands. That’s because pot legalization is not a segment of the plausibility structure like racial equality is.

Secularization is one of the great plausibility structures of our time, and perhaps the chief one. If you contend that Christianity in the West should govern science and music and politics and education and sports and architecture and music (say, like it did 400 years ago), people will say, in effect, “This is the kind of arrangement they have in Islamic societies; nobody here believes that. Please get a life and leave the rest of us alone. You’re delusional. Do you also believe in the tooth fairy?” The fact that it is secularists who would have been deemed delusional 400 years ago shows how plausibility structures can change dramatically over time. In 1613 Christian culture was the rule. In 2013 it is not an exception; it is unthinkable.

The Tyranny of the Majority

I think immediately of the haunting prediction of Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America. He was the famous Frenchman who visited the States in the 19th century. He was a keen observer of the United States, and many of his predictions have uncannily proven true. He writes of the “tyranny of the majority.” This is a tyranny in democratic states that is more dangerous than the tyranny of the old despots. He writes:

Fetters [chains] and headsmen [executioners] were the coarse instruments that tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has perfected despotism itself, though it seemed to have nothing to learn. Monarchs had, so to speak, materialized oppression; the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind as the will which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of one man the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul; but the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose proudly superior. Such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved. The master no longer says: “You shall think as I do or you shall die”; but he says: “You are free to think differently from me and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but you are henceforth a stranger among your people. You may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will never be chosen by your fellow citizens if you solicit their votes; and they will affect to scorn you if you ask for their esteem. You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow creatures will shun you like an impure being; and even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence worse than death.”[2]

Secularization is the “tyranny of the majority.” It is a huge hindrance to Christian culture because its hostility is so invisible — it’s how the majority peacefully tyrannizes Christians. As long as it remains invisible, it’s very safe in its pernicious depredations. You’ve perhaps heard the Chinese proverb, “If you want a definition of water, don’t ask a fish.” The point is that once we invest in plausibility structures, it becomes very hard to evaluate them. The advantage of work by unbelieving scholars like Stanley Fish[3] (no pun intended) and Christian scholars like Herman Dooyeweerd [4] is to rip the mask off the pretended autonomy of modern faiths like secularism. The alleged bonanza of secularism is its reputation as a neutral, rational arbiter among competing worldviews. It sets the ground rules of all social debates. All worldviews have vested interests and agendas, and secularism assures they treat each other fairly in public discourse.

Secularism’s Secret

The secret that secularism (and secularists) can’t afford to have exposed is that secularism is itself a worldview and a rapacious, unrelenting one at that. Its goal isn’t the fair assessment of all viewpoints (a creditable goal) but rather the subordination and marginalization of any viewpoint hostile to secularism — especially Christianity. Secularism doesn’t protect freedom of religion, but assaults religious ethics and even its symbols in the “public” sphere (like manger scenes and displays of the Ten Commandments). Secularism doesn’t protect freedom of speech, but penalizes speech (like support for marriage and condemnation of homosexuality) not conforming to its worldview.[5] Secularism doesn’t protect freedom of property, but confiscates property for the purpose of financing its social agenda (“public” schools). Secularism is a lot of things; neutral isn’t one of them.

Secularism is an almost impregnable hindrance to Christian culture, and it will remain impregnable until Christians — and others — discover how false its benign pretensions really are.

[1]Christopher Dawson, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture, 19.
[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America,, accessed October 12, 2013.
[3] Stanley Fish, “Why Liberalism Doesn’t Exist,” There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech … And It’s a Good Thing, Too (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 134–138.
[4] Herman Dooyeweerd, The Twilight of Western Thought, 54.
[5] Manny Fernandez, “San Antonio Passes Far-Reaching Antidiscrimination Measure,”, accessed October 12, 2013.

Marriage: Communion, Community, Cosmology

Posted on August 7, 2016

Homily for the wedding of our son Richard A. Sandlin and new daughter-in-law Samantha Matheson, July 23, 2016, Grace Church-Vancouver, Canada






“The history of the human race begins with a wedding.”[1] If we’re under the impression that marriage is a casual, carefree legal arrangement, we’d do well to ponder that fact. Every human, with rare exception, was created for marriage. The creation of man and woman is inextricably linked to marriage. To be created as human is (in most every case) to be created for marriage.


God created humanity in his own image, but he didn’t create just one — a male or a female. A single individual wouldn’t have fully reflected that image. Man and woman both, in complement, comprehensively reflect God’s image. A man alone or a woman alone can’t fully display the image of God. In marriage, humanity most spectacularly images God. Adam must have Eve; Eve must have Adam. Together they embody and exhibit the divine image as fully as a creature can.


Marriage is communion, marriage is community, and marriage is cosmology.




The Trinity — God the Father, Son and Spirit, God as one nature in three persons — enjoyed infinite, eternal, blissful communion. Their communion was so indescribably joyous, that they decided to share it. God is not stingy. That’s why he created man and woman. The eternal communion of the triune God expands outward to man in time and history. Man and woman now share in the communal life of the triune God.


But communion with God wasn’t sufficient for Adam. God can’t meet — and was never meant to meet — the man’s entire needs. The man needed the woman. To revise Tom Wolfe, a man without a woman is a man in half.


So the male and female don’t each commune only with God. They commune with one another. Marriage is the co-mingling of faith, love, hope, dreams, children, possessions, and lives. St. Paul tells us that just as the church is mystically united to Jesus, so the husband is mystically united to his wife. There’s an ontological union in marriage whose mystical depths none of us can fully grasp. But as the woman and man join in marriage, they become bone of bone and flesh of flesh; in some mysterious way they become one being before the Lord.


Marriage is communion.




Moreover, marriage is community. Since God is a community (the Trinity), and since man and woman in marriage fully display God’s image, marriage is a community.


The entrance of sin into the world didn’t erase that community. God’s objective is to redeem that community, and all communities. The community of marriage is an integral part of the community of redemption. The apostle Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians that the husband and wife symbolize Christ and his church. Just as the husband lays down his very life for his wife, so our Lord laid down his life for the church. That community, the bride, is washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the groom. All who trust in him by simple faith become part of that community, the church. The church submits to her Lord, as the bride submits to the groom. The groom loves and cherishes the bride, as Jesus Christ loves and cherishes his church.


We live in times that champion radical individual autonomy. It always ends in loneliness, alienation and despair. Why? Because humanity was created for loving, self-sacrificial community, not for radical individual autonomy.


In the church, and in the wider Christian community, the community of marriage finds its fullest fulfillment. The church loves and nourishes and encourages and corrects and disciples the marriages in its midst. Just as man and woman weren’t designed each to be alone, so marriages were not designed to be alone. The Christian community is God’s great sustenance and bulwark for marriage. Marriage is community — and is itself designed for community.




Finally, marriage, the union (and communion, and community) of man and woman before God, is woven into the creational cosmos. It’s every bit God’s ordinance that the physical laws of gravity and propulsion are. It’s not a historically evolving, legally malleable, casually optional social construction. It’s rooted in the world’s creation order.


As a divine ordinance, it’s calculated to contribute to the smooth, organic existence of the cosmos. To our first parents God gave what we call the cultural mandate: to steward the rest of creation for God’s glory. Man and woman are God’s deputies in this world.


But not man and woman as separate, autonomous creatures. Rather, it is man and woman in marriage that fulfill (despite the effects of sin) God’s plan to steward this splendorous, awe-inspiring creation to glorify him.


This is why marriage is a permanent component of cosmology. Our world was created to be stewarded by humanity in the ordinance of marriage: the man and woman united in oath-bound covenant before the triune God.


And this is equally why the erosion of marriage necessitates the erosion of the created order itself. To preserve and perpetuate and promote marriage is to preserve and perpetuate and promote the world itself. The simple word of “yes” or “no” by the bride at the altar not only shapes and reshapes human history. It also, and more importantly, cultivates and nurtures and perpetuates the very cosmos itself.[2] The married man and woman cultivate the cosmos for God’s glory; and without marriage, the cultivation of the cosmos would finally fail. (This is why, by the way, despite the blistering assaults on it, marriage will not finally fail.)


It is for this reason that the most momentous event today in Vancouver occurs not in the ivory halls of government edifices, or in the opulent boardrooms of high finance, but in this solemn, sacred service before God.


Here. Now. Today. We are witnessing a world historical event.

[1] Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2012), 1.
[2] I take the basic idea from Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution (Norwich, Vermont: Argo Books, 1969), 9.

Racist Democrats and Crooked Clintons: A Review of Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America”

Posted on August 4, 2016




Long-time friend David Souther once told me that whenever there’s a radical discrepancy between the verdicts of the critics and those of the commoners on the popular movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, you should safely go with the commoners. This is certainly the case with Dinesh D’Souza’s explosive new (and highly successful) documentary Hillary’s America: The Secret Life of the Democratic Party. At this writing, the certification is 4% fresh for the critics and 80% fresh for the commoners, the greatest discrepancy I’ve ever seen.


The commoners are mostly right, but the critics are not entirely wrong.


D’Souza, convicted of campaign finance violations in helping a friend’s failed political quest, served the evenings of eight months in prison and must fulfill five years of community service for his crime. D’Souza claims he was unfairly targeted by the Obama administration, whose namesake he had himself targeted in his highly successful 2012 documentary Obama’s America. D’Souza’s thesis in that movie, based on his book of the same title, is that Obama’s goal has been the dismantling of American influence in the world and the diminution of prosperity at home. D’Souza flatly — and correctly — asserts that the ensuing four years have verified his thesis. On the basis of that fulfilled prediction, D’Souza now turns his attention more broadly to the Democratic Party and to its 2016 presidential nominee.


In Hillary’s America, D’Souza parlays his prison experience into an explanation for the Democratic Party’s agenda to control America and impose its radical agenda. Like the cons D’Souza met in prison who concoct unscrupulous schemes to bilk the naïve out of their money, the Democrats are pulling the wool over the eyes of simple Americans and pilfering their way of life. Their goal is to divert America from its heritage and rob Americans of their country.


The Not-So-Secret History of the Democratic Party


D’Souza begins with “the secret history of the Democratic Party,” exhibiting its roots in Andrew Jackson’s inveterate racism, slavery support, and sexual exploits. He also reminds viewers that it was the Democrats that sequestered Native Americans on reservations and in effect launched the KKK. He equally indicts the Democrats in Congress in both the 19th and 20th centuries for their persistent support of slavery and, after the Civil War, their staunch anti-black sentiments. He documents Democratic President Woodrow Wilson’s widely attested but less-mentioned racism, and he notes that more congressional Republicans voted for the 1960’s civil rights legislation than Democrats.


D’Souza links the Democrats’ racist past with the present by suggesting that today’s slavery plantations are the black ghettos, where the party essentially provides social programs in exchange for minority votes. D’Souza argues that the reason blacks today vote so overwhelmingly for Democrats is FDR’s New Deal, which assisted them economically at a time they were impoverished. It has nothing to do with the party’s movement away from racism, which persists. D’Souza contrasts the GOP, a party begun as a protest to slavery and which has constantly countered the Democratic Party’s racist sentiment and policies before, during, and after the Civil War.


One of the most riveting scenes of the movie is the interview with Vanderbilt’s African-American professor Carol Swain, who left the Democrats after researching the racist roots and subsequent flowering of it in the party of the vast majority of her fellow African-Americans. The Democratic Party is pulling a big con, positioning itself as the altruistic party of racial minorities and their interests when it’s anything but (D’Souza himself is an Indian-born American).


Hillary in America


D’Souza breaks off his exposé of the Democratic Party to unmask Hillary Clinton, whom he links with the self-serving, mob-inspired radical Saul Alinsky. Hillary, a “Goldwater girl” in her youth, was radicalized by Alinsky as a college student and brought him to her alma mater Wellesley College to speak. D’Souza claims that even in her college and law school days she was aware she had mediocre political instincts, so she latched onto tall, popular fellow student Bill Clinton. She saw her role as providing the (radical) political philosophy, and Bill as providing the popularity and political success. D’Souza argues that Hillary has always tolerated Bill’s numerous sexual dalliances because the marriage is one of political convenience. This explains why Hillary vilifies all the women who claim they were bedded or even raped by Bill Clinton, and why Hillary herself once seemed to make light of an accused rapist whom she was appointed to defend even though she believed him guilty.


D’Souza takes aim at the Clinton Foundation, notably its alleged fraud in its fundraising for Haiti and its quid pro quo influence peddling for a Canadian businessman and one of their big donors.


If Americans expect to preserve their country, they must wrestle it away from the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.


He’s right about that.


This commoner critic’s criticisms


Hillary’s America is far from flawless, however, though the defects do not diminish the impact of the movie’s factual content. Still, they are well worth mentioning.


First, D’Souza does not create a logical or even artistic link between the racism of the Democratic Party and the crookedness of Hillary Clinton. In fact, it seemed at times as though I were watching two one-hour movies rather one two-hour movie.


Second, D’Souza launches the movie with another attempt to vindicate himself in his own legal case, despite the fact that he pleaded guilty. True or not, the notion that the Left targeted him for prosecution does nothing to bolster his case against the Democratic Party and Clinton.


Third, D’Souza engages in gratuitous motive questioning. For example, he states that Clinton became disengaged from the notorious Benghazi debacle because there was no money in it for her. Where he came up with this idea or how he could prove it is beyond me.


Fourth, Hillary’s America offers a whiff of conspiracy thinking, an odor D’Souza actively cultivates. In his visit the DNC headquarters to uncover the real truth about the party, we see D’Souza furtively slipping into an off-limits door to enter the basement, where allegedly the hidden, damaging documentation is found. The irony is that most assertions he makes about the party are readily discoverable, and that is why in this review I never included a spoiler alert: there is no concealed plot to spoil. Everything he reveals as a secret history is as secret as a sixty-second Google search of D’Souza’s legal problems.


Finally, in the beginning of Hillary’s America, D’Souza declares that the Left in the Democratic Party is dedicated to controlling every aspect of the lives of every American. That thesis is far from far-fetched. Unfortunately, D’Souza doesn’t attempt to link his documentary research with that thesis. Apparently we’re left to assume that political racists, sexists and influence peddlers want to steal America. That thesis may be true (I think it is), but it’s far from self-evident. Here D’Souza missed a major opportunity to make a major case.


Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is at its best when it documents the racism and sexism of the Democratic Party and the crookedness of Hillary Clinton, and it’s at its worst when it postulates unconfirmable motives and conspiracy theories that only undermine its case among reasonable people and when it fails to connect the dots between bold assertions and facts that support them.


That’s a pity, because Hillary Clinton is bad for America, and the evils of the Democratic Party are no secret.

Cultural Truth Is Ecclesiastical Truth

Posted on July 4, 2016

The Modern Church


“Culture,” Henry Van Til memorably wrote, “is religion externalized.”[1] It’s the outward, external manifestation of the internal religious impulse driving and shaping a society. If you want to know what a society’s dominant religion is, look at its culture. Unfortunately, the Western church in recent decades hasn’t always been perceptive or relevant in assessing the culture in which God placed it. Much of that failure is rooted in diffidence toward culture. Culture just isn’t worth bothering about.


Dividing Gospel from Culture  


The propensity to sequester God’s truth for culture from his truth in the church is becoming harmfully common. The formerly orthodox Christ Church-San Francisco abandoned its requirement of celibacy for those members inclined toward or committed to homosexuality.[2] The reason? Their previous (biblical) policy of not permitting practicing homosexuals as members was “not necessarily the way of the gospel.” In turning from biblical truth, however, they turned away from the gospel. The gospel is family truth (God is our Father and Jesus is our elder brother; the Father adopts children into his family; Jesus is the groom and his church is the bride). Gospel truth necessitates family truth. You cannot be wrong about the family and right about the gospel — and to accept homosexuality as Christian is to be wrong about the family.


Today, in an effort to create a consensus in our culturally chaotic times, the attitude of many church leaders, including professed evangelicals, is: “We want to keep close to the gospel and not alienate members, present and potential, by addressing cultural issues. If we just peach the gospel, we can avoid the divisiveness that introducing cultural issues fosters. We want to be Gospel-centered and not trifle with culture.” The problem is that the cultural issues they are studiously avoiding cannot be severed from the gospel. To be gospel-centered is to be culture-concerned.


The Objective of the Gospel


The objective of the gospel is to defeat sin and its consequences wherever and whenever they are found. “The sweep of redemption is as comprehensive as the sweep of sin.”[3] The protevangelium, the first gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, speaks of the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) crushing the head of the seed of the Satanic serpent. The gospel is not only a message of individual salvation; it is also a message of cultural reclamation. The good news is about salvation from all sin, not just individual and private sin like pride, lust, prayerlessness, and unbelief. For the church to labor for the sanctification of its members from these sins but not more pubic and visible and social sins is not to live in the fullness of the biblical gospel.


The old covenant prophets routinely thundered against the cultural evils in the ancient Jewish church and society.


In his first sermon as Messiah at his hometown Nazareth, our Lord invoked the Hebrew Scriptures to identify his ministry as not merely rescuing individual sinners but also overturning cultural evil.[4]


Paul confronts the cultural evils of the magic arts and commerce derived from idolatry while preaching at Ephesus (Ac. 19). He preached the gospel of the kingdom, which is the gospel of the reign of God in the earth:[5] his reign over all things, including culture.


The message of Revelation to the seven churches of Asia Minor is suffused in warnings about and denunciations of imperial Rome and all of its seductive but oppressing cultural depravities.[6]


Confronting All Sin Everywhere


The gospel of Jesus Christ is calculated to confront and expose all sin everywhere and to restore God’s justice, his rightness, in the earth. For church leaders not to decry (for example) abortion, homosexuality (and all other extramarital sex), machismo, feminism, state socialism, covetous consumerism, and military pacifism is to say that some sins are not the gospel’s target of destruction. For ministers blithely to accept members who unrepentantly practice or advocate these and other cultural sins without an attempt to persuade them to trust Jesus Christ for salvation is to stunt the gospel. To argue, “We have Obama and Trump and Sanders and Cruz supporters all in our congregation, and we have many shades of belief on Obamacare and the LGBT community and abortion and gun control, and we all live together as one big, happy family because we center on the gospel” is actually to practice a form of ethical syncretism. Make no mistake: the Bible permits (no, demands) tolerance and grace on issues that are secondary and unaddressed. You won’t find in the Bible what a nation’s capital gains taxes should be, whether energy companies should opt for natural gas or solar power, or when a family should or should not adopt children. But the most pressing cultural issues of our time do not fit into this classification; the Bible is quite clear, explicitly or implicitly, about excessive confiscatory taxation, abortion, homosexuality, judicial activism, property rights, euthanasia, parental authority, human egg harvesting, and religious liberty.


Getting Back to the Gospel-Centered Church


The churches that avoid biblically defined cultural issues under the mantra, “We need to get back to the gospel” have the mantra right but the meaning wrong. If our churches would only get back to the gospel of the Bible, the good news that God by means of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is setting the world right, they would preach the convicting and healing and hopeful message to the proud and pharisaic, fornicators and adulterers, human egg harvesters and motherhood surrogates, the legalists and racists, socialists and authoritarians, feminists and abusers, and all other sinners.


Shying away from cultural issues is to omit a critical dimension of the gospel. It is neither brave nor beneficial. It might increase attendees but it will never increase God’s blessings. A chief calling of the church in culturally apostate times is to confront the apostasy with the gospel, living in glorious hope of great gospel victory in time and history.[7]


Hiding the culture-reclaiming gospel under a bushel is to succumb to ecclesial delinquency.



[1] Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1959, 2001), 179–189.
[2] Michael W. Hannon, “Against Heterosexuality,”, accessed July 4, 2016. There are only men and women. Humans are identified by God-given, creational biology, not by “sexual orientation.” I use the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” simply because of their popularity and currency.
[3] Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 86-87.
[4] See Luke 4:19, in which Jesus claims to be preaching “the acceptable year of the Lord,” the OT Year of Jubilee (the canceling of debts and slavery), and God’s vengeance on the wicked nations oppressing the Jews. See Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972, 1997), 3:460.
[5] George E. Ladd, Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 77-81.
[6] Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d., third edition), lxxviii–xcviii.
[7] For an example of how to interpret the Bible optimistically in this way, see Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954).

The Brexit Lesson: Decentralization is Progress

Posted on June 27, 2016




The howling disappointment from the transcontinental elites over the stunning victory for Brexit should come as no surprise. (Tony Blair’s is a prime example.) And David French is astute to point out that the patronizing “history is on our side” mockery that usually accompanies the political successes of the elite progressives seems to have hit a brick wall. What if, after all, history isn’t on the side of the elites? Actually, history doesn’t pick sides; people do. And a small majority of Britons chose against the elite progressives. History, apparently, isn’t cooperating.


The Meaning of Progress to Leftist Elites


However, I’d like to dig deeper on one point. Brexit didn’t only signal the end (for a while, at least) of the mantra of the inevitability of progress — as elites define progress, of course. In addition, Brexit actually exhibits progress. It turns on its head the great progressive presupposition of the last 100 years — that the measure of linear history is the measure of moral progress. To the elites, almost all of them Leftist, the progress of history marches from religious faith to human reason, from benightedness to enlightenment, from submission to authority to exercise of autonomy, from a free economy to a command economy, from the imago dei to “quality of life,” from family hierarchy to horizontal egalitarianism, and from local and territorial nations or states to global and transnational political bodies. The movement is not simply a historical fact, let it be noted. It is considered a moral postulate. When President Obama chimed, “They [the Republicans] want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950’s than the 21st century,” he was not merely offering a factual statement. He was handing down a moral verdict. It is one that all progressives would find noncontroversial and axiomatic. The longer we go, the better we get.


This is why Brexit stunned and angered them. It’s why they refuse to accept the verdict at the polls and are demanding a revote. You just aren’t allowed to contest history and get away with it.


But what if the progressives are wrong about what constitutes progress? What if what they think is progress is actually regress? That, in fact, is the truth of the matter.


The Progress and Regress of Progress


God created man and woman to steward the earth of his glory. They were to move outward and overspread the earth with their God-glorifying offspring. They sinned, but God didn’t rescind his cultural commission to them. One aspect of that sin was to retrench, to consolidate, to centralize in an attempt to overthrow God. Liberty to obey God’s mandate wasn’t paramount; centralized power to threaten his authority was.


This first great centralizing project was the Tower of Babel, which God unceremoniously demolished by confounding humanity’s languages, thus introducing a decentralizing tactic. But sinful man didn’t give up; he kept up centralizing. By their very nature, all of the ancient world empires centralized political power: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Conversely, the Israelites (and other tribal groups) decentralized politics. Jehovah mandated twelve tribes, each of which selected representatives to make national decisions under the rule of the Torah. We might even say that Israel was a primitive constitutional republic. But it was increasingly an exception. And even the Jews, over God and his prophet Samuel’s protest, demanded a king like the surrounding nations. The lust for political centralization dies hard.


Christian Culture as Political Decentralization


Christianity emerged during the slow decline of the Roman Empire. Eventually the Western church came to be massive and international, while the states of Europe grew weak and divided. Christian culture developed in a time of political decentralization. This was no coincidence. England and her Magna Carta and checks and balances on the Crown laid the groundwork for modern decentralized republics. The Protestant Reformation, in combatting Rome, unintentionally unleashed the modern nation-states. But two 20th century world wars and the collapse of the Soviet Union have reintroduced political decentralization. The rise of the European Union was a step backward toward centralization, and Brexit reversed that retrogressive move. The great cultural blessings of the English-speaking world spring from a break with the old, tired, centralization of the past.


Why does biblical faith demand political decentralization? Because God is the earth’s authority, and all human authorities are tempted to usurp his. This doesn’t mean that God desires political anarchy. Family, church, and state are valid subordinate authorities. However, each is prone to idolatrize itself, and therefore, decentralized human authority, especially political authority since it owns a monopoly on coercion, protects God’s prerogative final authority. In short: decentralized political authority most honors God.


The Blessings of Decentralization


It was decentralization that granted the world the greatest political liberty. It has been most graphically exhibited in England and America and wherever their influence has gone. Bills of rights and working constitutions and an independent judiciary and free markets and local prerogatives are all the fruits of this decentralization, this Christian culture. While many non-Christians voted for Brexit, they were voting for the freedom of decentralization and against the tyranny of centralization that many of the older voters once knew and have always cherished as a residue of Christian culture. They may have been old-timers, but they wanted progress. If political liberty is progress, then centralization is the opposite of progress.


A Tale of Two Progresses


Brexit is progress. It’s a step forward. Better: it’s a step backward to when England was taking steps forward, before she capitulated to elites who wanted to step backward. If this progress isn’t limited to England, we can expect other EU nations to abandon the large, cumbersome, bureaucratic leaky Ship EU and return to political liberty. In the United States, we can expect a revival of states rights, a delicate balance of power between the states and the federal government reminiscent of the Founders’ political philosophy. It would be the progress on which the U.S. was founded 240 years ago.


If you believe that liberty is progress, as our Founders did, you’ll cheer Brexit. If you believe that central political control is progress, you’ll lament Brexit. The great political battle of our time is whether liberty or control will win out.


Which is to say, whether Christian culture or anti-Christian culture will win out.

The Law Is God’s Blessing

Posted on June 5, 2016





If Christians are confused about the Gospel, they are flummoxed about the law. Many of them know a few biblical texts that have become dismissive catchphrases: “You’re not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). “We’re free from the law” (Rom. 8:2). “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Armed with these and a few other texts, they see the law as at best obsolete and at worst, harmful. Jesus came to get rid of the law (Jn. 1:17), and that is that. The NT writers (they think) have given us some instructions for life, but it has nothing to do with the law.


This dismissal is woefully one-sided and in fact, flat-out wrong. This post won’t permit anything resembling a complete discussion of the Christian law,[1] but let me make a few points to exhibit in summary form simply the blessing of the law as the Bible depicts it.


Holy, Righteous, Good


First, the law is holy, righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12). How could it be anything else? The law is a reflection of God’s character. We read in Leviticus 20:7–8,


Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.


“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” We must be holy like God is, and to be holy is to obey God’s law, for God’s law exhibits his character. To know the law of God is to know the character of God, in other words, to know the law is to know God. Some Christians might chafe at this description. Isn’t the law opposed to the grace of God, for example? And don’t we need to know the grace of God in opposition to the law of God? We do not. If the law of God is a reflection of his character, the law reflects his grace. This is why in Exodus 19:4–5, before he gave Israel the Mosaic law, God points out how gracious he is to his people in giving that law. The law exhibits God’s grace.


Moreover, when Jesus died on the cross, God was fulfilling the terms of his law.[2] The cross demonstrates the love of God because it demonstrates the law of God (Gal. 4:4–6; Rom. 5:6–11). God loved us so much that he gave up his own Son to the law’s justice. Remember that the only law to which God’s grace is antithetical is a manufactured, homemade law apart from Jesus Christ. But that’s not the proper use of the law. If you want to know what God is like, read the law. If you know want to know what God is like, look to Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:9), whose life and death fulfilled the law (Gal. 4:4).




Second, the law promises life (Rom. 7:10). This statement might perplex us, since Paul writes that the law doesn’t bestow life (Gal. 3:21). Only the Messiah can bestow life. However, the law does promise life to those that live within it (Dt. 30:1–16; cf. Rom. 10:5 –13), because if we live within it, we won’t rely on ourselves for salvation, but on Jesus Christ. This is another clue that many of Paul’s opponents weren’t following the OT law but a twisted, Christ-less, grace-less, faithless version of it. Not only will we know God if we live within the law. We’ll also be led into life. To live in this sphere of the law is to gain life. The law doesn’t bestow life, but the law points us to the One who does, Jesus Christ, and in him alone we should trust.


In addition, when we’re united to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us to obedience that elicits God’s blessings. If we obey, God blesses us. If we disobey, God judges us (Gal. 6:7–8). If we completely and finally turn our backs on God, he expels us from his kingdom (2 Pet. 2:17–22). What are we to obey? We are to obey God’s law. This is why the law promises life. To live within the law is to live within absolute trust in Jesus Christ and in obedience to him.




Third, the law bestows liberty (Jas. 1:25, 2:12). This is counterintuitive to many Christians today. For them the law is heavy and burdensome. They might get this idea from Acts 15, which tells of the Jerusalem council, where Peter identified the law as a heavy yoke (v. 10). But it seems they might have missed v. 1. The great error being combated at the council is the teaching that one must keep the law as a way of salvation. Of course, this is precisely what the law was never intended to do. When the law is turned into a system of works-righteousness, it does indeed become a yoke and a burden. This is a pharisaic and Judaic perversion of the law.[3]


The yoke the Lord Jesus imposes is easy and his burden is light (Mt. 11:29–30). Why is this? Because God is our Creator, he knows precisely how we are to operate within his world. His law, his instruction, is suited to man as the earth-bound creature made in his image. We might say that the law is the instruction manual for humanity. And this isn’t limited to the Mosaic law, but includes God’s entire word, which instructs us (1 Tim. 3:16–17). It is in the sense that we could say that the entire Bible is law.[4] It’s God’s revelation for how we should believe and live. God knows how we should live much better than we do. That’s why he gave us his word, his law. To turn away from God’s law is to turn away from the only truth that will help us to live with great blessing and profit in God’s world. We live in a God-rigged universe. Far from being hard and onerous, God’s law shows us how to live within our environment with the greatest of light and blessings.


Fulfilled in Believers


Fourth, the law is fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:4). If we ask the question, Can anybody fulfill or obey the law, the answer is, No and Yes. No, everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), and if we break one commandment we have violated all (Jas. 2:20). However, believers, by the power of the Spirit, can fulfill the law as much as a redeemed sinner can. This is why 1 John tells us that everyone sins (1:8), but also that we must not live within the reign of sin (2:4–6), which is a violation of God’s law (3:410). In other words, to live by the Spirit’s power is to live in obedience to the law. In this sense, we can keep the law. No, not flawlessly, but nonetheless faithfully (see Gen. 26:5; 1 Kin. 11:24; Lk. 1:6; Jn. 15:10). In a post-Fall world, the issue is not whether a person can be flawlessly sinful. It’s whether a person can live a life dominated by righteousness. He certainly can — and must. “In the natural man sin is the essential element, but in the new man sin is an alien element.” [5] Therefore, the most faithful Christians are those who’ve most faithfully kept God’s law. The best Christians are the best law-keepers.


In Harmony with the Gospel


Finally, the law is not contrary to the Gospel promises (Gal. 3:21). Paul makes this point quite emphatically (see vv. 21–29), and if we understand it, we might never again have a problem reconciling the law and gospel, law and grace, law and promise.[6] The Mosaic law was given to Israel subsequent to the Abrahamic promises. The promises are promises of eternal life. The law was never given to impart eternal life. It has given, as we have seen, to lead us toward eternal life, that is, toward the Gospel promises (see v. 24).[7] The law is not against the promises, precisely because they serve different functions. The promises tell us what God has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish in Jesus Christ. The law tells us how we are to live in relation to Jesus Christ. We are not saved by keeping the law, and no one was ever saved by keeping the law in any era.[8] In addition, no one was ever led to please God without the law. Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (11:6), and then it moves on to tell us how that faith led the great OT saints to great exploits of obedience, in other words, law-keeping. To perceive the law as a means of salvation or justification is to pervert it. To see it as a means of pleasing God is to see it precisely as God intends.


How to explain the verses that speak disparagingly of the law is a topic for another post, but suffice it to say that swiftly dispensing with God’s law is a contra-biblical move.


[1] For exegetical and theological evidence for the general viewpoint I espouse, without agreeing with their view of the law on certain points, see Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977, 1984); Karl Barth, “Gospel and Law,” Community, State and Church (Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith, 1968), 71–100; Heinrich Bullinger, A Brief Exposition of the One Eternal Testament or Covenant of God, in Fountainhead of Federalism, Charles S. McCoy and Wayne Baker, eds. (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), 99–138; C. E. B. Cranfield, “St. Paul and the Law,” New Testament Issues, Richard Batey, ed. (New York and Evanston; Harper & Row, 1970), 148–172; Robert L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 458–462; Daniel P. Fuller, Gospel and Law (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), ch. 4 and “Paul and ‘The Works of the Law,’” Westminster Theological Journal, 38 (1975-1976): 28; Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “God’s Promise Plan and His Gracious Law,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 33:3 (September 1990): 289, and Recovering the Unity of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 160–162; Robert S. Rayburn, “The Old and New Covenants in the New Testament,” unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1978; Norman Shepherd, “Law and Gospel in Covenantal Perspective,” Reformation & Revival Journal, 14, 1: 73–88 (2005); and C. van der Waal, The Covenantal Gospel (Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada: Inheritance Publications, 1990).
[2] Leon Morris, The Atonement (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 192–196.
[3] Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 130.
[4] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008), 176–178.
[5] Donald G. Bloesch, Theological Notebook (Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1989), 1:16.
[6] P. Andrew Sandlin, Wrongly Dividing the Word (Mount Hermon, California: Center for Cultural Leadership, 2010).
[7] Paul declares that the law no longer serves the function of a schoolmaster, since it has brought us to Jesus Christ. He doesn’t mean the moral law is unnecessary; he means that the law’s function as a schoolmaster is no longer necessary.
[8] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “The Law as God’s Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness,” in The Law, the Gospel and the Modern Christian, Wayne G. Strickland, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 190–192.