P. Andrew Sandlin, Founder & President, Center for Cultural Leadership

A Tale of Two Racisms

Posted on September 18, 2018

Biblical Christians, of all people, should not avoid or tiptoe around the issue of race. Shout it from the housetop without fear or favor: racism is anti-Christian. White supremacy is evil. Leftist identitarianism is evil. The idea that whites are superior to blacks is evil. The idea that whites are “structurally” racist is evil. The defense of racial slavery by the South in the Civil War was evil. Using the history of racial slavery to attack whites, Asians, and Hispanics is evil. Nazi ideology is evil. Cultural Marxist ideology is evil.

For Christianity, this is what really matters: all races are created in the image of God; all races fell in Adam and Eve’s sin and are born into sin; and all races can and should be redeemed by the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The church is a multinational, multiracial, multiethnic unity of the people of God swearing allegiance to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Racial reconciliation” is not an objective of the church. It is a presupposition of the church.

The real difference in this world has nothing to do with race. It has to do with religion: Those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith versus those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ.

The only color that fundamentally matters is not black or white or yellow or brown, but red: the shed blood of Jesus Christ and all washed from their sins in that atoning blood.

Anything less than or different from this is contra-Christian.

“Deep Culture”: CCL Symposium Nov. 3

Posted on September 17, 2018

2018 Center for Cultural Leadership Symposium, San Francisco, Saturday, November 3

 

5634f05a8f3484588f852324The symposium will be held at a lovely, scenic hotel overlooking San Francisco Bay. (To avoid unwanted press and controversy, we don’t publicly disclose the location. Let’s just say that our sociopolitical views are not in harmony with the predominant views in San Francisco.)

Our symposium is not just informative and applicational. It’s also an ongoing community where Christians committed to creating a new God-glorifying society meet, share ideas, and enjoy each other’s company. For older friends, it’s “old-home week.” For new friends, it’s a discovery of a place they’ll want to visit annually.

The event is free, but by invitation only. Please contact me if you wish to attend. If you’re flying in, please contact me about accommodations at the hotel. The event includes a catered lunch.

The theme is Deep Culture: The Deepest Danger and How to Uproot It.”

We’ll have six presentations, but we’re not a “talking head” sort of think tank. You’ll be invited to join the conversation so we can all learn from one another. Here are the topics:

P. Andrew Sandlin: “Deep Culture”

Jeffery J. Ventrella: “Law Follows Culture — Except When it Creates It”

Brian G. Mattson: “Victimhood is Not a Virtue”

David L. Bahnsen: “Economics Creates Culture: Individual Economic Choices” and “Economics Creates Culture: Government Economic Policy” 

Dustin Messer: “The Culture(s) Education Creates” 

Please contact me by FB messenger or at sandlin[at]saber[dot]net. 

You can learn more about CCL here.

The 25 Best Movies You’ve (Probably) Never Seen

Posted on September 13, 2018

  1. The Damned
  1. Burnt by the Sun

 

  1. Incendies
  1. Animal Kingdom

 

  1. Indochine

 

  1. Orphans of the Storm
  1. The Long Good Friday

 

  1. Nosferatu

 

  1. Cobra Verde
  1. Cries and Whispers

 

  1. Gilda

 

  1. The Leopard

 

  1. East-West
  1. Three Colors: Blue

 

  1. Elevator to the Gallows
  1. Phoenix

 

  1. Barry Lyndon

 

  1. Picnic at Hanging Rock
  1. Mephisto

 

  1. The German Doctor

 

  1. Death and the Maiden

 

  1. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
  1. Rabbit-Proof Fence

 

  1. Black Narcissus

 

  1. Kafka

 

To Oppose “Social Justice” is to Oppose Cultural Marxism, by Ardel Caneday

Posted on September 10, 2018

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The author is Professor of New Testament & Greek, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

Joel McDurmon wrote “A Response to the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel.” This brief essay makes no effort to address all his concerns but focuses narrowly on one aspect, namely the third point for why he claims that he will not sign the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel (SoSJ&tG)—“The document combines disparate social issues (race, marriage, sexuality) under one overgeneralized label.”

McDurmon seems not to discern that when, in the current culture, people appropriate “Social Justice” they do not simply employ a combination of words. They are employing an expression that has a history that has filled up the word combination with Marxist assumptions and beliefs. Contrary to McDurmon’s claim, the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel does not combine “disparate social issues (race, marriage, sexuality) under one overgeneralized label” as though race, marriage, and sexuality were equal categories. Indeed, “race, marriage, and sexuality” should not be categorized together and certainly not under “one overgeneralized label.”

Any fair reader of the SoSJ&tG recognizes that the issue at stake in the Statement is not to categorize race, marriage, and sexuality under a single label. Rather, what distresses the signers of the statement is how some Evangelicals are accommodating the gospel’s and Scripture’s call for our obedience to Christ Jesus concerning various issues among us, particularly inclusion of ethnically diverse fellow believers in our midst, to Marxism’s concept of “class conflict.” By framing this issue in terms of “majority culture” versus “minority culture” or “oppressors” versus “oppressed victims” or similar other expressions, Evangelicals are importing the categories of Social Justice, borrowed from Cultural Marxism, that appeal to the baser nature of fallen humans, and applying them to resolve problems that they perceive to be plaguing Evangelicals and our churches. Alert Evangelicals are readily aware that some fellow believers are implementing Cultural Marxism’s class conflict of oppressor versus oppressed concerning how Christians and the church ought to address issues that have social aspects to them such as race, ethnicity, marriage, same-sex sexuality, so-called trans-sexuality, etc. Various Evangelicals are turning to the Marxist Social Justice toolbox to employ its class conflict tools to advocate concerning their Social Justice causes. They exploit the same accusations, the same strategies, the same emotional ventings, the same claims, the same assertions, the same categories, and the same tactics as society’s Social Justice activists to demand appeal for not only acceptance of but for endorsement of their solutions on how to resolve problems they perceive to exist in the church concerning race, ethnicity, marriage, same-sex sexuality, trans-sexuality, etc. To disagree with evangelical Social Justice advocates is to be accused of guilt for opposing their cause just as with Social Justice activists in the larger society. Herein is the concern of the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel. The Statement endeavors to prompt fellow Evangelicals to recognize these concerns and to take action to prevent further intrusion of Cultural Marxism into evangelical churches, corroding biblical and Christian teachings and practices concerning doing justice among us.

Without any equivocation, I most strenuously object to every form of injustice. I teach against, I preach against, I advocate against, and I act against injustices and I seek to rectify injustices. I oppose every form that the sin of preferentialism takes because favoritism is sin. It is sinful whether one shows favoritism for the rich over the poor or for the poor over the rich, or prejudice for white versus black or for black versus white, or preference for males to the detriment of females or for females to the detriment of males. Preferentialism, or if you prefer, favoritism, is always and invariably sinful and must be rebuked. This is the clear and undoubted teaching of Scripture and is integral to the gospel’s call as James makes unequivocally clear: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (2:8-9). Love, in other words, refuses to show favoritism. Christian love is the antithesis of favoritism.

So, let’s apply this to the issue of same-sex sexual attraction. As I have affirmed more than once in social media, it is right, proper, and necessary for Christians to reject every advocacy for same-sex sexual attraction because, as many others and I have argued same-sex sexual attraction is itself inherently sinful. It is righteous not unrighteous to denounce same-sex sexual attraction as sinful. To call same-sex sexual attraction and engagement in same-sex sexual acts sinful is not an act of prejudice but an act of righteousness. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ calls for us to condemn sin in all its forms.

Likewise, as I have affirmed in sermons, in lectures and in publications it is right, proper, and necessary to object strenuously against every argument for and act of prejudice against another human on the basis of what has come to be called “race,” an ill-chosen term. “Racism,” which takes the form of favoritism for or discrimination against persons on the basis of skin color is a reprehensible sin and worthy of our intense denunciation and call for repentance. To defend the integrity and dignity of a person who has been subjected to the wicked effects of preferentialism (discrimination) on the basis of skin color is an act of righteousness. To denounce acts and attitudes of demeaning and discrimination is our righteous, good, proper, and necessary calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel does not equate same-sex sexual attraction and race under one generalized label, contrary to McDurmon’s claim. Anyone who reads the statement and draws such a conclusion does so wrongly. Perhaps the statement needs to be made clearer concerning this. But when I read and signed the statement, I detected no such confusion. Nevertheless, I will attempt briefly to clarify the matter for my readers by commenting on two recent conferences held by Evangelicals. As I do so, it is not necessary for me to identify persons. Anyone who has kept pace with these discussions will have certain names in mind.

Organizers and advocates of the recent Revoice Conference exploit worldly Social Justice categories—“oppressed,” “oppressor,” “marginalized,” “minority status,” “victimhood,” “invisible,” “intersectionality”—to argue that Christians and churches need to accept and approve of same-sex sexual attraction as not sinful but perhaps even holy. Christians who sign the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel oppose same-sex sexual attraction as sinful. That is not at all in doubt. Signers also object to the arguments and tactics that same-sex sexual attraction advocates exploit because they exploit the worldly Social Justice toolbox of Cultural Marxism when they claim that they hold “minority status,” that they are “victims,” “marginalized,” rendered “invisible,” and occupy a place of “intersectionality of faith, of gender, and of sexuality.”

Earlier this year, organizers and speakers at the MLK50 Conference certainly had a just and righteous cause for which to advocate which can be expressed well with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” King’s cause was righteous regardless his standing before God. His cause is righteous because it agrees with James 2:1-13. It is righteous because to favor or to disfavor human beings on the basis of “the color or their skin” is vile, wicked, unrighteous, unholy, reprehensible, and sinful. Have I made my assertion clear enough? Have I made my point unequivocally unambiguous? Signers of the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel affirm this wholeheartedly and without any mental reservation at all.

So, what are signers troubled about concerning some who spoke at the MLK50 Conference and some who have published articles in the wake of the conference? Signers of the Statement of Social Justice & the Gospel are in full agreement with conference speakers and writers who are concerned to admonish Christians and to appeal to churches to receive and to welcome all who confess faith in Christ Jesus as full covenant members regardless of racial or ethnic differences. This is not at all disputed. So, what troubles the statement’s signers concerning what some conference speakers and some post-conference bloggers have said? The Statement’s signers object to the exploitation of the worldly Social Justice toolbox of Cultural Marxism when they accuse Christians and Christian churches as “oppressors” who are “guilty” of racism both individually and corporately, oppressors who have subjected “people of color” or people of “minority status,” “marginalizing” them, subjecting them to “victimhood,” and a few add to this the affliction of “intersectionality” for some. Advocates of and practitioners of the kind of Social Justice that derives from Cultural Marxism invariably do injustice toward people whom they deem oppressors when they attempt to do justice toward people whom they deem oppressed. Favoritism toward people based on skin color is still injustice even if it has the appearance of reversing discrimination based on skin color. Why? It is because it is still a form of preferentialism, a form of prejudice.

As a signer of the statement who has addressed these issues for 30 years in lectures and forums and has published an article and an essay on “Multiculturalism and Diversity,” I have demonstrated that those who employ the tools from the Social Justice toolbox, including strategies, emotional ventings, claims, assertions, categories, and tactics invariably stir up conflict, anger, animosity, hostility, and alienation, the very opposite from the “reconciliation” and “harmony” that they intend to accomplish and which they claim is their objective. Why are hostility, animosity, and alienation the effect? It is because the tools from the Social Justice toolbox appeal to the baser aspects of human nature by promoting victimhood and without biblical warrant charging fellow believers and the church with corporate guilt. Invariably, this strategy and these tactics incite division and disharmony among believers. For example, the alleged “oppressors” (“whites”) are obligated to listen patiently to the “oppressed” (“blacks”) who recount their experiences of being subjected to racism while they heap “white guilt” upon their captive audience, individuals who, if they object that they have not engaged in racist behavior are told that their objection is itself proof of their guilt. Hence, I have repeatedly argued that to turn to the Social Justice toolbox is to turn away from the gospel and away from Scripture to implement worldly and ungodly tactics to address an otherwise sacred and righteous cause (e.g., “Multiculturalism Goes to College”). Of course, many have tried to baptize Social Justice tactics as Christian by looking to Scripture to find divine authorization for their strategy and tactics. The desire for racial harmony is righteous. Use of the strategy and tactics borrowed from the Social Justice toolbox is unholy, subversive to the gospel, and antithetical to Scripture’s teachings. Hence, again, I have demonstrated how those advocates and activists who employ the Social Justice tools from the Cultural Marxist toolbox invariably abuse Scripture to support their claims. “Let’s Get Biblical: Moving from Scripture to Theology Concerning ‘Racial Reconciliation.’

Love one another as Christ has loved us. This is the gospel’s call to us.

Evangelicals and the Encroachment of Cultural Marxism, by Ardel B. Caneday

Posted on August 31, 2018

The author is Professor of New Testament & Greek, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

Cultural Marxism, a designation Leftist advocates despise and naïve evangelical proponents reject, has always exploited Orwellian Newspeak to identify itself lest its origins with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels be exposed. It began long ago after Marxism’s failure to achieve worldwide revolution following WWI. Marxism began to morph under the ingenuity and directives of Italian Antonio Gramsci, Hungarian György Lukács, and the multiple members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research who birthed Critical Theory, with its various iterations, all appealing to pompous, pretentious, eggheaded, erudite sophisticates at America’s universities who imposed the poison pill upon a whole generation of students beginning in the 1960s, perverting their morals and ethics and twisting their reasoning, Cultural Marxism continues its Long March through the Institutions under various designations but always with the same Marxist agenda.

Once college and university students of the 1960s and 1970s who had joined the Long March graduated, they perpetuated the Transforming of America by imposing Critical Theory upon the American society and culture. Advocates of Critical Race Theory hijacked the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s by shifting the achievement of Equality Before the Law and the demise of Jim Crow Laws. How did they accomplish this? The Critical Race Theorists of Cultural Marxism achieved it by exploiting Newspeak with the hope that Useful Idiots would hear “Equality Before the Law“ when they fully meant “Equality of Outcomes.” They exploited the same Newspeak appeal when speaking of equality of the sexes. The naïve, the ingenuous, and the Useful Idiots applauded the affirmation that male and female are equal, which is a truism if the context is “before the law,” but the apparatchiks of Cultural Marxism had in mind utopia, the eventual erasure of all distinctions between males and females as their substitution of “gender” for “sex” presaged. Instead, they spoke of Equal Outcomes as they patiently bided the time until they could make their demands more explicit in subsequent generations. For a generation they have touted their slogan, ad nauseam, “Equal Pay for Equal Work,” which was actually established by law (Equal Pay Act of 1963), but the facts have never deterred Cultural Marxists from their repetitive sloganeering that denies reality and subverts the truth.

College graduates who had been subjected to Critical Theory’s doctrine of Equal Outcomes brought the dogma with them into their careers, whether law, politics, industry, or education. Thus, Cultural Marxism’s Critical Theory took on various iterations but always advanced its universal cause that invariably entails its design for cultural revolution, the notion that equality within any society is fictional and immoral unless that society achieves Equal Outcomes. Perhaps its most influential domain became government-sponsored education where “Outcome-Based Education” (OBE) which sounds so noble and righteous, mingled with the “Self-Esteem Movement,” became crucial features of the philosophy of education that reigned supremely from the 1970s onward, though the buzzwords have changed. Outcome-Based Education has corrupted every generation of American students since its inception. Thus, apart from parental instruction and guidance, children and grandchildren of the 1960s generation became Cultural Marxism’s compliant and unwitting apparatchiks.

Since its beginning, Cultural Marxism’s Long March through the Institutions, that has exploited Newspeak Political Correctness, eventuated in the rise of President Barack Obama who instantiated and embodied the essence of Critical Theory, with all its nuances and iterations concerning world cultures, race-ethnicity, male-female, same-sex sexual relations, etc., as well as all the features of Cultural Marxism with his outspoken agenda to Transform America both domestically with Class Warfare and internationally with the mantra that no culture is better than any other culture, derogating the United States of America as he did during his first 100 days in the presidency in 2009 while on “The Apology Tour.” Thus, Rush Limbaugh rightly stated, “I hope President Obama fails,” a statement which, despite his full and adequate explanation that he was referring to Obama’s “Transform America” agenda, the Useful Idiots of the Mainstream Media seized upon it as an ad hominem and racist attack upon President Obama.

Of course, the politically ambitious Community Organizer from Chicago could never have become President Obama apart from the corrosive, destructive, and poisonous Long March of Cultural Marxism’s Critical Theory through America’s institutions. Critical Theory’s exploitation of its subjects by way of Sensitivity Training, a form of brainwashing, during the 1960s with its varied iterations since has subjugated subsequent generations to the tyranny of Political Correctness, the holiness speech code of Cultural Marxism. Since the 1960s Cultural Marxists have used a variety of designations for Sensitivity Training that conceal their continuity with the early forms of brainwashing that more palatably appeal to subsequent generations of gullible recipients, designations such as Diversity Training or Cultural Competence and more recently as Cultural Intelligence (CQ), Cultural Awareness, Implicit Bias Training and Unconscious Bias Training. Regardless which banner or slogan the disingenuous apparatchiks exploit to advance their deceptive cause, the agenda is always the same: subversion, corrosion, and destruction of individuality and of society. To accomplish their semi-veiled agenda, they exploit legerdemain and trickery as they project upon their political, cultural, social, and theological domestic opponents their own mischief and faults to divert society’s attention from their own destructive activities and agenda which they impose with nimbleness upon their naïve, ingenuous, gullible dupes.

Twenty-seven years ago, in 1991-92, when I was a young college professor, Cultural Marxism began to target Christian universities and colleges for cultural transformation. Cultural Marxism marched onto campuses under the Newspeak banner, “Multiculturalism and Diversity.” The impetus for this was the Racial/Ethnic Diversity Initiative of the Coalition of Christian Colleges (CCC) now known as the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). The CCC executives called for every member institution of higher education to establish an office that would advance the cause of “Multiculturalism and Diversity” on campus. This initiative entailed Tom Skinner, a prominent preacher and member of the National Black Evangelical Association, who visited Christian college campuses as a “Minister of Reconciliation” to call upon boards, administrators, faculty, staff, and students to repent for their alleged implicit if not explicit racism. What was the evidence for their alleged implicit racism? The principal evidence to which Skinner appealed to support his allegations both he and the CCC borrowed from secular multiculturalists and race “experts.” It was the claim that “Coalition schools failed to mirror the ethnic diversity of the surrounding culture” (James A. Patterson, Shining Lights: A History of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001], 93; see “Multiculturalism Goes to College”). He, of course, attempted to ground his argument in Scripture by using passages such as Exodus 20:5 with Jeremiah 32:18 or 2 Corinthians 5:13-21 with Ephesians 2:11-16 or  Revelation 5:9-10 with 7:9 (for rebuttals see “Let’s Get Biblical”).

Far from bringing reconciliation and harmony to campuses, Skinner stirred up animosity, strife, and hostility but especially toward anyone who would not acquiesce to his angry invectives and acknowledge their presumed inherent racialism if not racism. Yet, Skinner’s nimble appeal to Scripture to buttress his charges of racism invoked credulous college boards and administrators, under the burden of needing to show themselves receptive if not atone for the guilt heaped upon them, conceded to the demands of the Coalition of Christian Colleges. So, under the direction of the CCC and authorized by college boards and administrators, directors of campus offices for the advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, without knowing the term Critical Race Theory or understanding how it subverts the gospel, they heedlessly embraced its agenda and baptized it with Christian lingo and propped it up with cherry-picked Scripture passages (see “Let’s Get Biblical”). Thus, they effectively ostracized and demonized anyone who would (1) critically assess the tactics of Critical Race Theory, (2) see through the worldly agenda, and (3) administer caution and thoughtful repudiation of the diabolical, destructive, and anti-gospel goal of “Multiculturalism and Diversity.”

Cultural Marxism’s seductive intrusion into Christian colleges and universities took place a generation ago where it came to hold sway and to suppress dissenting voices more than a decade ago. Thus, Christian universities and colleges have been graduating a generation of students who have been subjected to Christian baptized Cultural Marxism which dresses up as Social Justice. It is not surprising that many of them are Social Justice Warriors. What is surprising and disheartening is that many prominent evangelical leaders now lend the weight of their influential positions to the cause of Social Justice, and mockingly reject concerns that they are embracing and advancing the cause of Cultural Marxism. Now Cultural Marxism increasingly encroaches to threaten local evangelical churches that have remained relatively uncorrupted by its tentacles. This fresh encroachment is coming about through large national annual and regional conferences sponsored by movements such as The Gospel Coalition, Together For the Gospel, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Revoice, Love Boldly, and others. Hence, some forward-thinking Evangelicals have drafted and signed the forthcoming “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” with a full sequence of affirmations and denials. Watch for it.

The Progressives’ March Toward God’s Judgment

Posted on July 30, 2018

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“Liberal” has become a dirty word in the last few decades, so liberals have latched onto “progressive.” After all, who’s opposed to progress except hillbilly fundamentalists and head-in-the-sand technophobes? But behind the moniker “progressive” are also deep worldview assumptions. When candidate Barak Obama warned his Democratic audience that the Republicans would “take [them] back to the 1920’s,” he didn’t find it necessary to elaborate. He could assume they embraced the basic progressive presupposition that the measure of linear history is the march of moral improvement. In 2018, our cell phones and cars are superior to those of the past, and so are our political and sexual standards. This is the great premise of modern progressivism: whatever comes later is better.[1]

 

This is not only a contemporary idea. Still, the idea of historical progress was rare in the ancient world. Aside from the Jews, it was almost unheard of. Ancient pagans saw civilization as cyclical: rise, ascendency, prominence, decline, and fall.[2] This view led to pessimism and despair. Christianity inherited from the Jewish faith the belief in incremental progress toward a glorious age to come, ushered in by Messiah, whom Christians knew to be Jesus of Nazareth. True progress is the fruit of godly faith and obedience. It is social sanctification.

 

The Enlightenment began to secularize the Christian promise of progress. This secularized progress was served up in different forms. In the 19th century Karl Marx theorized that progress in society comes only by the conflict between human classes, but chiefly the bourgeoisie (property owners) and the proletariat (propertyless workers).[3] Today’s Cultural Marxists[4] take this a step further: progress is possible not only by economic conflict but also sexual, racial, and regional conflict. This conflict produces the New Man (excuse me: the New Person — the politically correct grammarian thugs must have their say). This development is the sociopolitical counterpart of Darwinism in science. Just as higher species develop by “survival of the fittest,” so higher morality develops by contesting and vanquishing traditional morality.

 

The battle of the Cultural Marxists (and theirs is the guiding elite sociopolitical vision of our time) is to liberate the West from the “repressive” tendencies of the past, especially the Christian past. This liberation crusade encompasses one sphere after another. For example, in jurisprudence, constitutions must be considered “living” documents, interpreted according to present standards. Why? Because the authors lived in a time when moral standards were inferior. They did not include the right of a mother to abort her unborn child or the right of homosexuals to marry. They didn’t know better at the time. We know better.

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And then consider economics. The free market system on which the U.S. was partly founded presupposes the biblical guarantee of private (or family) property. Private ownership is a God-given right. Progressives are confident that this is a false, naïve assumption. The individual is not important; we now know the collective is what’s important. As Marx taught, it’s not that the free market is absolutely bad; in fact, capitalism is a stage through which civilization must have travelled. But that stage is over, and we’re now in the higher, greater stage of socialism.

 

Nor has the church been immune from progressivism. The guiding adage of modernism, related to progressivism, is “Make it new!”[5] Every age must be governed by its own, unique views and standards, not those inherited from the past. In the case of Christianity this meant that the old, timeworn Bible must be replaced by human reason and experience, and that the classical creeds and orthodoxy were no longer relevant. In practical terms, this translated into the erasure of sin and judgment, the installation of women pastors and priests, and the introduction of Sunday morning laser-light-show entertainment.

 

Sexual progressivism will never stop with the abolition of marriage…. [T]he revolution must be permanent. The next step is progress beyond male and female … [T]he elites must restructure reality. Creation stands in the way of progress. Reality itself is the enemy.

 

Perhaps the most diabolical instance of progressivism, however, has been the Sexual Revolution launched in the Sixties. It has progressed (= regressed) from miniskirts and premarital sex to gay “marriage” and transgenderism. The Playboy culture and easy availability of condoms were not enough. In fact, they were just the start. The progressivist revolution must devour everything in its path. Its main impediment has been the institution of marriage. The gay “marriage” agenda is not to expand the marriage franchise, but to destroy the family. What makes marriage what it is, is the uniqueness of its participants: one man and one woman covenantally committed to one another before God for a lifetime. To redefine marriage is to destroy it. If just any relationship can be marriage, there can be no marriage.

 

But sexual progressivism will never stop with the abolition of marriage. As Trotsky claimed, the revolution must be permanent. The next step is progress beyond male and female: God’s creation is a barrier to human imagination, so the elites must restructure reality. Creation stands in the way of progress. Reality itself is the enemy. This was the claim of the ancient Gnostics, and it is the program of their 21st century successors.[6] “My male or female body parts assigned at conception and developed in the womb may not prevent me from realizing my dreams of utter sexual autonomy. I am entitled to ‘Gender Affirmation Surgery’ to make my body conform to my imagination. Sexual progress demands it.”

 

Progressivism necessitates the eventual overturning of the created order. The goal is not simply rebellion against God’s creation; it is the new creation by autonomous man. This goal is satanic. It is materially no different from the Serpent’s hiss in Eden: “Eve, God is trying to keep pleasant things from you. Break his unjust order so that you can be truly free.”

 

Because we live in a God-rigged universe, the new Gnostics will not succeed any more than Eve and Adam did, though their rebellion can wreak havoc in the process, just as our first parents’ did. Not just the Jews but also the Gentile nations are subject to God’s moral law (Is. 13ff.; Rom. 3:19). The progressives might believe that morals are evolving right along with history, but they will be judged by the ancient, unchanging standard of biblical law. This judgment is not limited to eternity, but will arrive in history — just as it did for ancient Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome (Dan. 2, 7). God will halt the progressives’ revolution in its tracks. He will create an earthly Zion corresponding to the heavenly Zion (Is. 2:1–4; 9:1–7; Heb. 12:18–29). God will throw the unrepentant progressives, today so proud of their moral superiority, into the dustbin of history.


[1] Kenneth Minogue, Alien Powers, The Pure Theory of Ideology (New York: St. Martin’s, 1985), 13.
[2] John Baillie, The Belief in Progress (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1951), 42–87.
[3] Isaiah Berlin, The Power of Ideas (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), 115–125.
[4] Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), 2016.
[5] Peter Gay, Modernism, The Lure of Heresy (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2008), 3–4.
[6] Thomas Molnar, Utopia, The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967).

Why Justification?

Posted on June 4, 2018

Theological development is largely an exercise in reaction and compensation. Theological emphases come along and respond to other, different or competing, emphases. This has happened over the last 30 years or so with the doctrine of justification among conservative Protestants. It has been known to Lutherans as the article of faith on which the church stands and falls. John Calvin said it was the principal hinge of religion. More recent theologians both within and influenced by the so-called New Perspective on Paul have correctly pointed out that the Bible doesn’t quite say this about justification. In short, they have argued that justification has been comparatively overemphasized in historic Protestantism. This assertion is correct, but to acknowledge this is not to suggest that justification is unimportant. All to the contrary: there can be no Christianity without justification. It is near the heart of the Christian Faith. Why?

The modern world and church tend to be lax about and indifferent toward justification because the holiness of God is no longer popular. Moderns tend to see God as an indulgent grandfather or as a self-help guru assisting us in our life‘s aspirations. This is far from the biblical picture of God. In fact, one characteristic that we find of God, literally from Genesis to Revelation, is that when humans come into his presence, they are awestruck by his majestic holiness. This is not quite the depiction of God popular in today’s Christianity, including much conservative Christianity, to put it mildly.

Again and again in the Old Testament we read how God established specific laws and methods by which his people were to approach him so as to cleanse themselves. The most obvious example of this was the sacrificial system in Israel. Of course, in the New Testament, we know from the book of Hebrews that this system pointed to the final, enduring sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, many Christians seem not to stress this rationale for our Lord‘s death. They do understand that he died for our sins so that we can escape eternal judgment. They seem not to accent as much that it was necessary to die for our sin so that we could be restored to fellowship with God.

What does all this have to do with justification? Just this: God does not fellowship with an unholy people, and he makes us holy by justification. In its simplest terms, justification means being right with God. Because we are sinners, we cannot be right with God by our good works. We are made right with God by what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and the empty tomb. The Bible teaches that his righteousness is imputed, or marked up to, our account. This is a judicial, or courtroom, way of looking at the matter, and this is just how the Bible puts it, no matter how foreign or distasteful it might be to us in the contemporary world. This is also why our union with Christ is the undergirding soteriological doctrine of the Bible. When we are united to Christ by faith (alone), we are aligned with his righteousness, which becomes ours. God does not make us righteous by first changing our lives from sinful to virtuous and accepting our virtue. Rather, he declares us righteous because of our union with the Righteous One, and on that basis changes us from sinners to righteous.

We are made right with God by Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. This is the only way in which we can approach God and God can approach us. We cannot fellowship with God if we are not right with God, and we cannot be right with God apart from justification.

This, in summary, is why justification is an indispensable truth of the Christian Faith. To marginalize justification is to marginalize the only way that we can be restored to fellowship with God.

If you want to be right with God, you must be justified. If you don’t care for justification, you can’t be right with God.

And good luck with that.

Who Do YOU Say that I Am:  “Preferred Personal Pronouns,” Ethics, Language, and the Gospel, by Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D.

Posted on June 2, 2018

The pressure rises on campus, in the public square, and in the church:  Use someone’s “gender affirming” pronoun or be deemed “offensive” at best or a bigot at worst.  And, in the Christian milieu, this is often seen as providing “passport” to affirm the trans-challenged individual or else risk permanently severing a [hypothetical subsequent] “gospel conversation.”

It’s almost pitched as:  “if you uptight Christians would only have the decency to use the preferred pronoun, then the gates of heaven would fly open without impediment.”  How ought we to navigate this quite real and increasingly prominent situation?  Is the issue of pronoun usage merely a matter of niceness and interpersonal courtesy?

Let’s begin with a thought experiment:

If one calls his car “water” that is one thing.  However, if he puts his “water” in his garage and closes the door, secure in his own supposed noetic autonomy that his “water” is in the garage, what happens upon re-opening the door?  Will he be greeted by a puddle?

Of course not; calling or labeling a car “water” does not mean that it becomes liquid.   This is to confuse the language label with the actual thing.  Labeling a car “water” will not convert it to being a puddle.[1]jeffery-j-ventrella-bio-110917The same way, there is in fact an underlying reality when it comes to sex and reproduction in humans—just as there is for all mammals and other higher species.  Every cell in your body, every neuron in your brain, is either male in its genetic makeup (XY) or female (XX).  Your body can produce eggs, or it can produce sperm.  Neither words, hormones, nor scalpels can change these and many other objective and sex-linked facts about you that you did not choose, that were handed to you at the first instant that you became you—at the instant of conception.

Tom Wright explains the central theological flaw committed by confusing a chosen label with actual reality:

We are not, after all, defined by whatever longings and aspirations come out of our hearts, despite the remarkable rhetoric of our times.  In the area of human well-being, that is the road to radical instability; the area of theological beliefs, it leads to Gnosticism (where you try to discern the hidden divine spark within yourself and then be true to it).[2]Calling things whatever one desires is not a Christian exercise; it is rather a Gnostic and hence, pagan exercise leading to instability and stifling human flourishing.  There’s more to personal pronoun usage than courtesy and niceness.

Let’s also consider language and its role and use in general.  Language stems from the eternal Word[3] who is Truth[4] and cannot lie.[5]  Accordingly, language when used by humans, those created in the image and likeness of this God, should be used for conveying truth.

Yet, what about when engaging with unbelieving suffering souls struggling with (or embracing) “gender dysphoria”?  Shouldn’t using their “preferred personal pronoun” be seen as a tangible act of loving one’s neighbor?  Don’t we risk “offending” or shutting down the conversation by tying the pronoun to the person’s sex? How should we think about this at the retail level where real people matter?

Let’s first be clear about what loving one’s neighbor biblically entails.  James K.A. Smith provides keen insight:

If we truly love our neighbors, we will bear witness to the fullnessto which they are called.If we truly desire their welfare, we should proclaim the thickness of moral obligations that God commands as the gifts to channel us into flourishing, and labor in hope that these might become the laws of the land, though with appropriate levels of expectation.[6]It is thus actually unloving to reinforce notions that detract from a person’s flourishing or compromise the moral duty to which God calls them. We do them no favors by mistakenly equating niceness for actual reality-based kindness and love.

And, let’s remember that “loving neighbor” is penultimate, not ultimate.  It’s the second great commandment.  The first also necessarily bears on this question and that commandment demands that we first love God with our entire being, including our mind.[7]  This means, among other things, that a God-defined thing must control a self-labeled thing.  Humans, as creatures, receive, that is, discern, not determine[8], the Creator’s description/interpretation of reality, including ethical reality.  Misnaming reality via personal preference or desire fails to justify that misnaming.[9]How does all this relate to interacting with a “gender confused” neighbor who insists on your using a pronoun that defies the real reality of his or her sex?  Here are a few thoughts.

First, personal pronouns refer to real persons and thus invoke and reference creational norms associated with those real persons, that is, the metaphysical reality of those persons.  Names in contrast are labels applied to metaphysical reality, not at bottom or in essence, reflecting that reality itself:  in other words, at bottom, there are men and women, but not necessarily Bob or Toby or Sam.  A woman who assumes her husband’s surname as is customary in some cultures doesn’t cease to be a woman, nor does her metaphysical status change when her name changes.

A single name, because it is a label, not a metaphysical reality, can refer to both sexes, whether male or female[10] and a person can possess multiple ones.[11]  Names are thus assigned; sex simply is.  No one is born with a name; they are born, however with a determined and immutable sex.  Personal pronouns necessarily refer to sex[12], unlike names, which may or may not do so.

Second, and expanding on this reality, God created mankind with a set metaphysical, binary complementarity called “male and female.”[13]  This is what mankind is in real reality, and no existential desire, personal preference, cosmetic camouflage, hormonal infusion, or tissue-destroying surgery alters – or can alter — that reality – these techniques can only distort it.  On the surface, sex can be superficially obfuscated; it cannot be obliterated.

Third, Jesus teaches that to become holy – sanctified – flows from applying a word-based truth.[14]  If one instead employs a realtiy-denying pronoun—calling a male “her” or “she” — one is thereby withholding, obscuring, or obstructing the means by which a confused and hurting person can become holy.  One is in effect withholding medicine from a needful patient fearing that the stick of the needle might be deemed “not nice” or “offensive.”

Fourth, the 9th commandment bans bearing false witness, which as a rubric proscribes a variety of linguistic and behavioral abuses, all rooted in protecting real reality, or truth telling.  One tradition put it this way in relevant part:

The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, . . . outfacing and overbearing the truth;[868]  . . .  concealing the truth, . . . perverting [the truth] to a wrong meaning,[877] . . . to the prejudice of truth or justice;[878]speaking untruth,[879]lying,[880] . . .[15]The law of God forbids speaking untruth or occluding the truth in all its forms, including calling a man a woman.  As Paul said,

“Let God be true, though every one a liar. As it is written, That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”[16]Fifth, though the confused person often claims unfairness or offense, note the manipulative asymmetry of their objection.  They seek to impose upon and overbear the conscience of all others.  The confused person is insisting that others pretend he or she is a different sex and that they thereby participate in or become complicit in this person’s confusion.  The people refusing to employ the wrong pronoun in constrast however are not similarly insisting that the confused person use the proper reality-based pronoun. Rather, those people are simply standing on reality and conscience and aligning their vocabulary with those choices, a position perfectly consistent with human flourishing and liberty—and a Christian ethic.

Sixth, note that proper sexuality always relates to marriage[17], as composed of one man and one woman.  This frames and informs the entire biblical narrative:  It is the creational norm; it marks Jesus’ first public miracle; and it is the consummational norm.  Marriage by creational norm and divine declaration is inherently and indispensably sexually binary.  A misused pronoun in principle undermines this foundational pre-political society by rendering both history and metaphysics as mere accidents – biology becomes bigotry.[18]And, seventh, proper pronoun usage is necessarily a “gospel issue.”  Paul teaches that human marriage is an analogue to the THE marriage of Christ, the [male] Bridegroom to the [female] Bride—for this analogy to work, “male” and “female” must be immutable metaphysical realities, not merely social constructs as demanded by gender ideology or personal preference.  The pronouns “his” and “her” and “he” and “she” thus attach to real reality; they link and refer to the immutable creational norms of “male” and “female.”  This is why gender ideology undermines reality and attacks the foundations of the Christian faith; it is a gospel issue as Archbishop Chaput explains:

In decoupling gender from biology and denying any given or “natural” meaning to male and female sexuality, gender ideology directly repudiates reality.  People don’t need to be “religious” to notice that men and women are different.  The evidence is obvious.  And, the only way to ignore it is through a kind of intellectual self-hypnosisGender ideology rejects any human experience of knowledge that conflicts with its own flawed premises; it’s the imperialism of bad science on steroids.  For Christians, it also attacks the heart of our faith:  the Creation (“male and female he created them”); the Incarnation – God taking the flesh of a man; and the Redemption – God dying on the cross and then rising in glorified bodily form.[19]

Who do we say people are?  They are who God, the Creator and Redeemer says that they are:  fearfully and wonderfully made, dignified and worthy, reflecting His very likeness and image as male and female – he and she; him and her; Bride and Groom – all to God’s glory.


[1] Illustration taken from British thinker and blogger, Dan Moody in 2016.
[2] N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, (New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2016), 398
[3] John 1:1
[4] John 14:6
[5] Numbers 23:19; for a comprehensive approach, consider, Vern Sheridan Poythress, In the Beginning was the Word:  Language, A God-Centered Approach, (Wheaton, IL; Crossway, 2009).
[6] James K. A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 163
[7] Matthew 22:34-40
[8]Compare Heb. 5:14
[9] And, affirming someone’s error in this regard contributes to their culpable suppression of truth.  See, Romans 1:18-32.
[10] Recall that King David’s wife, Saul’s daughter, was named “Michal.” (1 Sam. 18).  Other contemporary examples include Pat, Shannon, Leslie, Fran, Robin, Ashley, et al
[11] Think of the “alternative” names of Daniel and his friends in Babylonian captivity.  They had multiple names, but only one sex.  Or, consider Saul aka Paul.
[12] Gender ideology advocates recognize this truth, which is why they adamantly insist that others use preferred personal pronouns.
[13] Genesis 2, affirmed by Christ in Matthew 19 – “from the beginning.”
[14] John 17:17
[15] Westminster Larger Catechism, Answer to Question 145:  What sins are forbidden in the ninth commandment?
[16] Romans 3:4
[17] P. Andrew Sandlin, The Christian Sexual Worldview:  God’s Order in an Age of Sexual Chaos, (Coulterville, CA:  Tim Gallant Creative/Publishing Buddy, 2015).
[18] And, redefining “maleness” and “femaleness” as nothing more than preference means “parent,” “mother,” “father,” and “family” become not extant natural pre-political institutions, but mere fluid labels that become legitimate only through the State’s fiat. Power, rather than nature, thus determines status.  See, Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books Publishing 2018), 212-213
[19] Charles J. Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land:  Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World (New York, NY:  Henry Holt and Company, 2017), 93.

Armed to the Teeth, Pacifist to the Core

Posted on May 31, 2018

The Christian Faith is marinated in optimism because the Bible is hopeful from cover the cover. The biblical worldview is based on creation-fall-redemption. The catastrophe of sin is bookended by a hope-drenched creation and the restored and enhanced creation known as redemption. God created a lush, splendorous world of hope and joy and optimism. Right after man sinned in submitting to satanic rebellion, God promised a Redeemer who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). God later destroyed the depraved antediluvian world, but started over with Noah. Later, God called out Abram and launched a nation, promising him a great seed and land. The Jews tragically departed from their loving Lord and his law, but he sent his own Son to them, and to die for the sins of the world. In his death, our Lord beat down the “principalities and powers,” the satanic forces arrayed against God (Col. 2:13–15). In his resurrection he ascended to his heavenly throne from which he is progressively beating down the forces of evil by the power of the gospel (Ac. 2:29–36; 1 Cor. 15:20–26). The book of Revelation is a dramatic vision of the triumph of the Lamb over all his enemies. You cannot understand the Bible unless you understand its hopeful, optimistic message.

Unfortunately many Christians today seem to have missed the optimistic arc of the Bible’s message.[i] They either believe we are living in “the last days” and can expect nothing but increasing apostasy. Or else they embrace conspiracy theories that see sinister, secret forces everywhere preventing the gospel from succeeding. For still others the daily challenges of rearing children in a depraved culture, trying to stay current on bills, coping with broken family relations and friendships, and coming to terms with illness and death nearly overwhelm them. Since this pessimism is irreconcilable with the promises of the Bible, it can only mean that they (we) are living in unbelief. To trust and act on the promises of the word is to live in consistent optimism.

God promises victory in our individual lives. In Romans 6 and 8 Paul makes clear that by union with the crucified and risen Christ we are freed from the power of sin. Paul’s agonizing cry in Romans 7 over the power of indwelling sin is sometimes wrongly interpreted to refute the message of hopeful victory. He is not describing normative Christian living but rather anomalous Christian living. The standard Christian life is one of victory over sin, though never perfectly in this life. We can and should live in persistent victory over the power of sin. Take hope — you are not destined to enslavement to covetousness or lust or porn or anxiety or alcohol or drugs. There is no sin you must commit. The Holy Spirit has freed us for consistent victory.

God promises victory in our family. The family is under unremitting attack today, and Christians often abandon hope for an intact, joyous, multigenerational Christian family. But God’s promises are clear (Ps. 128; Pr. 11:21), and despite great failures in a marriage and children spiritually adrift, those promises hold secure to those who claim them in simple faith. If your marriage is faltering and your children failing, remind God of his promises — and redouble your commitment to obedience, expecting an entire family devoted to him.

Nouvelle_Vague_Paper

God promises victory to the church. The most obvious one is in Matthew 16:17–19: the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church. The Bible does not predict that the church will fail in its task to disciple the nations. The lamentable state of the church in the U.S. today is no predictor of its future. Pray and expect God to raise up great men and women of faith who will declare the gospel of Jesus Christ in power, edify the saints, and call the world to account for its sins: “The power is available, but the church seems in large measure to believe that the power does not exist, or she lacks the will to observe the necessary laws.”[ii]

Finally, God promises victory in our culture. Even Christians optimistic about victory in the individual life and family and church often draw the line here. But the culture-victory promises are just as prominent as the others. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). The end of all things will not come until the presently reigning Christ subdues all his enemies (1 Cor. 15:23–25). The victory comes not after the Second Advent, but before. It is a victory of the present age.

“It was no surprise that France folded like an unpegged tent in a windstorm when the Germans invaded.”

Christians today are conditioned for defeat. For 100 years they’ve been told that they cannot expect consistent victory over sin. That Christian families cannot expect to turn out better than non-Christian families. That the church will grow progressively weaker over time. That the world is destined to rush toward depravity before the Second Coming. And that Christians can do nothing to impede defeat on all earthly fronts. This view is poppycock, rank unbelief. In the 1930’s France’s intellectuals and schools and famous writers, the horrors of World War I fresh in their minds, churned out pacifism. France became a hotbed of defeatism.[iii] Winston Churchill wrote: “France, though armed to the teeth, is pacifist to the core.”[iv] It was no surprise that France folded like an unpegged tent in a windstorm when the Germans invaded.

Christians “are armed to the teeth [but] pacifist to the core.” Our King owns everything, but an alien, Satan, has subversively commandeered part of his domain, the earth, and set up a rival kingdom. We are the King’s citizen-army, commissioned to expel the usurper. That’s what the great commission is: The marching orders of the church. Satan is a squatter. He and his minions sneaked onto God’s property and erected little shantytowns and bought some BB guns and claim to be taking over. What a pitiful lot they are! We, conversely, enjoy the irrepressible promises of God’s word, the relentless power of the Spirit, and the authority of the risen Lord behind us. Let us march boldly in faith and hope and optimism, expecting nothing less than unconditional victory.


[i] Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954).
[ii] Ibid., 306.
[iii] Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 215–224.
[iv] Ibid., 223.

Pious Unbelief Is Still Unbelief

Posted on May 14, 2018

I’m surprised and disappointed at how many Christians, including Christian leaders, accept the status quo as the decretal will of God. They compound this tendency by suggesting it is an act of piety. They select Paul as an example, in that he submitted to his famous thorn in the flesh. They do not mention the hundreds of counterexamples, in which God’s people prayed for God to change their circumstances so that he would receive greater glory. It is true that in limited cases, God reveals to us that he plans not to change our circumstances. In the Bible, however, in the vast majority of cases, he implores his people to pray to him in great faith and expectation so that he can demonstrate his greater glory in changing our circumstances — converting our unbelieving loved ones, healing our physical illness, restoring our wayward children, providing a job or money. In this way, he strengthens our faith, and he blazingly exhibits his power in the eyes of unbelievers. Pious unbelief is still unbelief.

Cultural Marxism, Simply Explained

Posted on April 23, 2018

I am increasingly using the expression “Cultural Marxism,” and it occurred to me that I shouldn’t simply assume readers and listeners know what it means. I will try here as simply and briefly as I can to explain the basics. If you have questions, please pose them in the comments section or on Facebook.

Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and V. I. Lenin saw the basis of all human existence as economic. This was the social and political philosophy of the old Soviet Union. It is called classical or economic Marxism. This form of Marxism is not nearly as popular today (except in North Korea). By contrast, you might have heard of Marxists like Gramsci, Lukács, Sartre, and Marcuse. They are among the first cultural Marxists. Their view of Marxism was designed to appeal to and succeed in Western societies. They knew that economic Marxism would likely not win in the West. (This is why their revision is sometimes called Western Marxism.) For one thing, they doubted that the working class would rise up in violent revolution as they did in Russia in 1917; the workers in the West were mostly satisfied with life most of the time. To win in the West, you needed a Marxism suited to the West, one that took into account Western ways of thinking. Freedom, liberty, and equality, watchwords of the West, were ideas they could commandeer to win the day. They would engage in the “long march through the institutions,” words wrongly attributed to Gramsci but rightly describing the strategy of cultural Marxism. They would reinvent the meaning of liberty, freedom, and equality to seduce Westerners and gradually capture their culture.

Human Liberation

Unlike the original Marxists, they held that humanity’s main problem isn’t economic. It’s that society’s ideas and institutions prevent us from fulfilling the Good Life. What is the Good Life? It is being able to be exactly what we want to be, to live exactly as we want to live — maximum autonomy. Every individual should be an artist, but in a very basic and profound sense. Every person should be able to paint his own life, his own meaning, his own reality. The world should be the canvas on which the person paints himself.

61YVpu5O1hL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Unfortunately, our society conspires to restrict our autonomy. Traditional institutions like the family and church and business command our allegiance. Husbands lead families, parents direct children, clergy disciple laity, employers make demands of employees. This means they crimp our autonomy. It really means these institutions crimp our autonomy. Therefore, we live artificial, unreal, and unhappy lives to conform to these cultural institutions and expectations. We are alienated from our “true selves.” Marxists have always been very concerned about liberating the true, real self from the cultural environment suppressing it. That self might be atheistic, exhibitionist, homosexual, transgendered, bestial, or solitary; but in whatever form it takes, that self meets resistance in traditional culture. To be truly free, traditional culture must be marginalized or crushed.

An extended metaphor might help. Imagine thousands of tiny seeds, full of flourishing, fruitful potential, but they can never fulfill that potential because they’re submerged beneath hard, frozen, nearly impenetrable soil. Imagine further a sympathetic farmer who comes with a massive plow and cracks the soil and waters and fertilizes it so that the seeds can finally sprout upward.

The seeds in this metaphor are humans as we enter the world. But we’re stifled by the hard, frozen soil, which won’t allow us to unleash the potential of our real selves. That soil is our society, especially the chief cultural institutions like the family and church and business.  We should be free to sprout and grow upward and exhibit to the world all of our autonomous beauty. What we need is a plow to break up this hard soil and get it out of the way.

In our metaphor, that plow is the state. This is why cultural Marxists are statists. It’s not because they simply love power. They want state power so they can destroy traditional authority, and especially Christianity, which justifies and produces that authority. For cultural Marxists, what has been called liberty in the West, defined as absence of political coercion, becomes true liberation, the imposition of political coercion to guarantee human autonomy. Liberation becomes liberty from the institutions that our society grants the liberty to enslave us. The state must pulverize every barrier to our true selves.

Class Consciousness

How do cultural Marxists instigate this liberation? How do they get the state involved in their liberation crusade? Mainly by divvying up people into different classes and fomenting conflict, claiming that all classes must fight for equality. This is called class consciousness. In Marx’s day, the oppressors were the bourgeoisie (elites, business owners), and the oppressed were the proletariat (employees, “wage slaves”), who demanded equality. By equality, the cultural Marxists do not mean equality of condition — that is, they don’t mean everybody must play by the same rules. Rather, they believe in equality of results — the rules must be bent to make everybody get the same things. Today class consciousness is known as “identity politics,” and the battling classes are expanded — men versus women, whites and Asians versus blacks and/or Hispanics, children versus parents, millennials versus the middle aged, wealthy versus poor and “middle class,” cosmopolitans versus nationalists, and other binary categories. Cultural Marxists portray one pole of the binary (women, homosexuals, millennials, blacks) as oppressed, and demand that the state liberate them from their oppressors. Oppression here almost never means literal enslavement, abuse, or assault. Rather, it means disrespect, disapproval, or social inequality. If, for example, homosexuals are not as respected as heterosexuals, they are oppressed and deserve state-coerced liberation. This is also where the new campus speech codes come from. The newly defined oppressed (millennials) are entitled not to be offended by words from the oppressing class (older whites, teachers, men).

Liberation becomes liberty from the institutions that our society grants the liberty to enslave us.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-06-at-11.56.02-AM.sized-770x415xcOver time, this human liberation sees even nature itself as an oppressor. Like the Gnostics of old, creation is evil and a barrier to the good life. Male or female body parts are oppressive. “Sex-reassignment surgery” must become “gender-affirmation surgery.” A man becomes a woman who then becomes a dragon. This is an extreme case but not an inconsistent one. It’s simply the latest example of liberation, and, unless this grand social march is arrested, we should not expect the dragonization of man to be the most extreme example of liberation in the future.

Progress by Conflict

It is this class conflict that produces cultural progress. Marxists have always believed that life is everywhere filled with opposing forces, and the collision of these forces brings a higher, better reality. Today’s liberals like to be known as “progressives,” and the progress they want is human liberation ( = autonomy). That progress comes about only by conflict. So conflict is a good thing, and the elites should be fostering conflict everywhere. If you want a better society, you need to spread conflict to get there — unremitting conflict, violent if necessary. The objective of launching rallies and Twitter campaigns to challenge the “hegemony” (a favorite word of Gramsci) of men, parents, whites, straights, Asians, and Wall Street is to create a conflict that ends in the liberation of the oppressed classes and a better world, all (except the previous oppressors, who will be dispossessed and de-privileged) enjoying the Good Life.

And all led, of course, by the cultural Marxists, magically at the very top of the egalitarian heap.

Karl Marx Meets the Gospel Coalition

Posted on April 11, 2018

Both classical Marxism (Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin) and cultural Marxism (Gramsci, Lukács, Sartre, and Marcuse) assert that social progress is the result of conflict between humans. Man is a product of nature, “a three-dimensional lump of flesh, blood, and bone,”[1] on which the iron laws of nature do their irresistible work. The difference between humanity and the rest of nature is that he is a toolmaker; he fashions tools for his survival and enjoyment within nature. Those tools can be anything from a primitive club to an advanced iPhone. For classical Marxists, the people who get control over the tools dominate those who do not control them. They even create ideas (“ideology”) to justify their domination and to pacify those whom they oppress. In Marx’s day, the oppressors were the bourgeoisie (elites, business owners), and the oppressed were the proletariat (employees, “wage slaves”). But since the law of history is on the side of the oppressed, who will eventually overthrow any oppression that keeps them alienated from “their true selves,” the days of bourgeoisie dominance are numbered. They will increasingly initiate conflict — unremitting conflict, violent if necessary — until the oppression stops. This is a feature of “dialectical materialism”: inherent imbalances at all levels in society mean that constant change and conflict are necessary. Conflict = progress. Because Marxists have commandeered the progressive agenda of liberalism in the last century, all leading progressives today revel in conflict. Fostering conflict is the name of the game.

 

Western Marxism

 

The cultural (Western) Marxists like György Lukács extended this philosophy to include noneconomic features, which generate groups: sex and race, for example. Oppression is everywhere. It is pervasive and systemic. The goal of the progressives, who are the best of us, of course, and therefore hating all oppression, is to stamp it out everywhere. Women must be liberated from men, children from parents, homosexuals from heterosexuals, blacks and Hispanics from whites and Asians, laity from clergy, students from teachers, the mentally “challenged” from the allegedly sane, and convicts from law-abiding citizens. Hierarchy itself is oppression, so war on hierarchy is a war for the Good Society.[2] This is the Marxist agenda.

 

Racial Conflict as Gospel Progress?

 

In the United States, with its tragic history of black slavery, the appeal to racial liberation is especially attractive. Christians are perhaps the most sensitive to the Marxist message because they know the Bible’s abomination of man-stealing (Ex. 21:16) and its teaching that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, race is vanquished by grace (Gal. 3:28). Antebellum slavery, like the slavery in Africa today, is reprehensible. Redressing the grievances of that massive sin is an agenda for which Christians should quickly line up.

 

Exploiting this vulnerability has long been a tactic of Marxists, for whom persistent social conflict, “permanent revolution” (Trotsky), is the mechanism of progress. Black pastor and member of the Gospel Coalition Thabiti Anyabwile (aka Ron Burns) ignited a firestorm when he wrote in an article commemorating Martin Luther King’s assassination:

 

I’m saying the entire [white?] society killed Dr. King. This society had been slowly killing him all along. … . My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start [repenting] by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice. [emphasis original]

 

Pastor Anyabwile is a professed evangelical, but he puts into motion Lukács’ thesis that people must think in terms of “class consciousness.”[3] Today we call this “identity politics.” Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” but Pastor Anyabwile demands that that we judge people by the color of their skin. Because skin color (like creational sexuality) cannot be changed, it is a suitable subject for Marxism’s program of progress by conflict. The progress toward the Good Society can never end. There will always be oppressors to upend. Since neither whites nor blacks can change their skin, racial conflict will be part of the permanent revolution.

 

Inherent imbalances at all levels in society mean that constant change and conflict are necessary. Conflict = progress. Because Marxists have commandeered the progressive agenda of liberalism in the last century, all leading progressives today revel in conflict. Fostering conflict is the name of the game.

 

Pastor Anyabwile, rebutting those of his critics pointing to his cultural Marxism, reminds us that racism preceded Marx. How this assertion has any relevance whatsoever he does not explain. The issue is not that Marx invented race or racism (which has plagued human history as long as race has been around) but that Pastor Anyabwile exploits race in a manner consistent with cultural Marxism. He complains that racism is a unique sin among whites in that they refuse to confess it as sin. He trumpets:

 

I cannot think of a single particular sin people would encourage someone to avoid confessing except for the sin of racism…. There’s another reason we should be specific: the Bible is specific. Consider the places where the Bible gives us a catalogue of particular sins (Rom. 1:28-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Why does the divinely inspired Word of God give us so many lists with such specificity? It’s not solely that we might conclude we are sinners in general but that we might also know what sins threaten our souls or our sanctification and repent of them specifically.

 

The Bible is truly clear in calling specific sins what they are, but interestingly, Pastor Anyabwile does not show us where the Bible specifically declares racism a sin. There is a good reason for this. The Bible doesn’t. That racism is a sin must (and should) be inferentially derived. Pride is a sin (Pr. 16:18; Rom. 1:30). Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Racism fundamentally is a belief, not an act. It is rooted in pride, which is a grievous sin. It would have been helpful if Christians who (rightly) decry racism show why it is specifically a sin. The depth of this sin rests in pride. Pride, not the amount of melanin in human skin, is the culprit.

 

The gospel is a peace-creating message. It creates harmony among individuals, families, sexes, races, and nations. The gospel is a conflict-reducer, not a conflict-creator. In sharp contrast with Paul, however, Pastor Anyabwile employs race as a tool by which to perpetuate conflict.

 

Since racism is a belief, it is a sin of the heart, like lust or covetousness. It cannot be seen. It can only be objectively detected by others when manifested in one’s actions. Apartheid in South Africa was such a sinful manifestation. So is today’s post-apartheid state-sanctioned murder of white farmers by blacks. To call for repentance of the sin of racism is to call for a humble heart. That repentance can only be ascertained by changed (non-racist) actions.

 

The call by Pastor Anyabwile to white Christians to claim their “parents and grandparents and this country” were complicit in murdering MLK is so obviously ridiculous that we can only assume he was employing hyperbole for shock value. The Bible does teach collective guilt for ancestors’ sin but only among those who presently agree with that sin (Mt. 23:35), or who have not yet confessed ancestral sin for godless actions, like idolatry (2 Kin. 22). There are, to my knowledge, no examples in the Bible of a godly preacher’s assigning collective guilt for ideas or sins of the heart. This assignment is God’s province alone.

 

Racial Peace as Gospel Blessing

 

Assigning guilt to an entire class (like whites) by which to perpetuate conflict is a quintessentially Marxist technique. The biblical gospel, by contrast, creates peace (Col. 1:20–24), including peace among races:

 

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Eph. 2:11–16)

 

The gospel is a peace-creating message. It creates harmony among individuals, families, sexes, races, and nations. The gospel is a conflict-reducer, not a conflict-creator. In sharp contrast with Paul, however, Pastor Anyabwile employs race as a tool by which to perpetuate conflict. He calls white Christians to repent of sin of the heart that he cannot possibly detect, and he blames their ancestors for complicity in a murder they obviously did not commit. He does this in the name of the gospel — The Gospel Coalition even.

 

It is not actually the gospel that Pastor Anyabwile is advocating. Rather, it is the gospel fused with dialectical materialism, the gospel of conflict. There is little hope that the conflict will end:

 

This is a sick society. And we kid ourselves if we think all the sickness gets healed just by time and rest. Racism, prejudice, hatred and bigotry is not a cold. It’s a cancer. It mutates. It metastasizes. And despite our protest and insistence otherwise, this sickness gets passed on in a kind of social hereditary action, sometimes unconsciously and unsuspected, sometimes systemically, and sometimes intentionally and virulently.

 

In short, Pastor Anyabwile holds out little hope in the power of the Gospel. The gospel abolishes (Paul’s language) racial enmity, “creat[ing] in [Jesus Christ] one new man.” Pastor Anyabwile declares that racial conflict is “a cancer. It mutates. It metastasizes”; but this conflict is precisely what the gospel will abolish. Stirring up racial conflict by recklessly and ridiculously suggesting that “[m]y white neighbors and Christian brethren can start [repenting] by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering” MLK is the opposite of gospel peace making. If individuals are racists, they should indeed repent, but assuming an entire race is racist is itself a racialist interpretation of history championed by cultural Marxism.

 

That, too, is a sin worth repenting of.


[1] Isaiah Berlin, “The Philosophy of Karl Marx,” The Power of Ideas (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002), 116.
[2] Kenneth R. Minogue, The Servile Mind (New York and London: Encounter, 2010), 296.
[3] Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1968, 1971), 46–82.

Reforming Only the Family and Church Won’t Suffice

Posted on April 10, 2018

We live in transformational times for the Christian faith. The last vestiges of Christian culture are waning. Until recent decades, Christianity shaped the West. This doesn’t mean all or even most people were Christian; it means that the basic Christian gospel and ethic had historically rooted society’s institutions, and were recognized by most people (including unbelievers) to do this. At worst, the West was “vaguely Christian” in most people’s minds.[1] All that has changed. Today, Christian businesses are assaulted for simply acting on biblical, family truth, which had been practiced freely in the U. S. for over 240 years. Church attendance is declining. Millennials reared in the faith are leaving it by many thousands; they are more likely to be “Social Justice Warriors” than soldiers for Jesus Christ. Same-sex “marriage” is increasingly accepted among evangelicals. The social elites embrace and impose Cultural Marxism.[2] This is the ideology that adapts Marx’s classical ideas to the West. Armed revolution won’t work here, but the “long march through the institutions” will — and has: All hierarchies are evil. Individual autonomy, guaranteed by an iron-clad state, is the highest good. The courts must be used not to lay down impartial legal decisions but to secure the “just society,” as interpreted by “progressive” dogma. The previously marginalized in society (women, homosexuals, criminals, the poor, racial minorities, children, the disabled) must be exalted and championed, and the previously exalted must be humiliated and brought low: Christians, white males, fathers, the wealthy, and intact traditional families.

Amid this apostasy, unprecedented in the U. S., older, devout Christians are at a loss. The world is shifting under their feet. The 2016 election of Donald Trump was a welcome respite for them, not because his life and language have been exemplary, but because he represented a bulwark against this tide of politically correct unbelief. They still feel beleaguered. What is the remedy? Many are calling for revival and reform in the church and family. This idea is understandable. The church is Christ’s body in the earth. The church is the custodian of orthodoxy (right belief).

 

Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church.

 

The church monopolizes the sacraments or ordinances. The church holds the earthly keys to the kingdom — who is a Christian and who isn’t. There is no Christianity, no Christian culture, without the church. The family is similar, and even more foundational than the church. The family is a creational norm. It was around before the Fall. Had the Fall never happened, there would have been a family, though not a church or state, at least not as we know them in God’s redemptive order. To preserve the family is to preserve God’s basic unit of human society. To lose the family is to lose the human building block of God’s created order.

But society is much larger than these institutions, and therefore the apostasy of today’s world is much larger. Reforming only the family and church won’t suffice. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church. Family and church teach: “Put God first. Jesus is Lord. Obey the Bible. Trust God to provide. Sacrifice for others. Marriage is sacred. Sex is for marriage. Be careful of your words. There is a Final Judgment.” The surrounding culture teaches: “Put yourself first. You are lord. Obey your own impulses. You must make your own success happen. Your priorities are most important. Marriage is an informal, temporary arrangement. Sex is a malleable social construct. Say whatever you want whenever you want. You’ll never be required to give a final account for how you live on earth.” Of course, an anti-Christian worldview isn’t new. It’s been pervasive in other times and cultures. What is new in the West is that this secular worldview has consciously abandoned Christianity and Christian culture. In other words, what is historically unprecedented is a civilization that in sequence has consciously (1) embraced Christianity, (2) abandoned Christianity, and (3) embraced anti-Christianity. This is what is new: self-consciously anti-Christian culture. This is what devout Christians must contend with.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”It’s impossible for a virile Christianity to survive for long institutionally in such a hostile climate. Yes, devout individuals can. Noah, Moses, Daniel, the apostles, and the primitive Christians did. But since Christianity by its nature is a world-dominating faith, it suffers greatly when its cultural surroundings are not Christian. This is one chief reason that so many children reared in devout Christian families are drifting from Jesus Christ. The faith in which they were reared is an inherently cultural faith calculated by God himself to be reinforced in all of life. The radical disconnect between a God-loving family and church on the one hand and God-defying popular music and education and science and technology and art and architecture on the other creates spiritual schizophrenia.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”


[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1982), 5:423.
[2] Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

Unbelief in the Guise of Prophetic Piety

Posted on April 2, 2018

Dear —–,

I agree with you, of course, and find little in this article to commend it. I do not reflect on the author’s sincere intentions. I also agree with much of his diagnosis, and his description of the church as prideful and prayerless, e.g.

But here are a couple things to consider. Why adopt the sinking of the Titanic as the church’s governing paradigm? Why not adopt as the paradigm a few frightened, and embattled Christians praying in an upper room after their Lord’s resurrection and just before the rapid dissemination of the gospel?

My greatest objection, though, is a severe verdict: diagnoses like these are suckled on unbelief. Do we believe the promises of the word of God that if His people truly repent and turn to Him, He will heal them? Do we believe in the power of prayer to shake not just individuals and families and churches but entire nations and civilizations? Do we believe that God uses fully surrendered men and women to reverse apostasy just when it seems at its apex?

The Bible does offer a theology of surrender: surrender entirely to God, and not to a depraved and apostate culture.

Let us live in the promises of the word of God, and not according to the circumstances, which we likely misinterpret.

Feel free to share this, my friend.

Much respect, in Him,

P. Andrew Sandlin, S.T.D.

Founder & President

Center for Cultural Leadership

God Was in Christ Reconciling

Posted on March 25, 2018

The heart of our Christian Faith is this momentous fact: God saves sinners. This Holy Week, we memorialize the historic events that make that salvation possible. Because Jesus Christ’s death is the “crux” (Latin for “cross”) of that salvation,[1] we rightly focus attention on him, our Savior and Lord. But we dare not lose sight of the equally vital truth that the Godhead, God as Trinity, saves us. The Father, Son, and Spirit[2] — are all our Savior(s). A folk shorthand goes something like this: God the Father planned our salvation, God the Son secured our salvation, and God the Spirit applies our salvation.

 

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.”

2 Corinthians 5:19

 

This construction is not wrong, but it’s not entirely right either, or at least not complete. It doesn’t take into account the unified work of the Godhead in saving us.[3] It correctly perceives that each member of the Trinity occupies a unique role, but it marginalizes the truth that the person of God saves us, not just the persons of God.[4] In other words, our Lord’s death isn’t just a work of the members of the Trinity all working together but also as the person, the single living God, saving us.

 

Jesus is the fullness of God

 

God was in Christ reconciling …. There is no “Godness” deeper or more profound than Jesus Christ.[5] There is no God with higher or more exalted attributes than the Son. There is no greater God than Jesus. Jesus the Messiah reveals God because he is God. He and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30). To see Jesus is to see the Father (Jn. 14:9). Jesus is the express image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1–3). Jesus is entirely man, and his deity never mixed with his humanity to produce a weird, third amalgam: a deified human or humanized deity. Yet his deity and humanity are forever united in one person.[6] In Matthew 3 we read of the angel that appeared in a dream to Joseph, declaring that Jesus would be the name of the child whom Mary, his espoused wife, would deliver. We also read that this birth would fulfill the prophet’s word that his name should be called “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” The birth of Jesus is the incarnation of God. Wherever Jesus is, there God is. Jesus “is the human presence of the Eternal God.”[7]

 

Doubting ThomasIn the famous Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley exhorts, “veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” But this quote implies the opposite of what John teaches in his first epistle:

 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (vv. 1–4)

 

The Godhead was not veiled in flesh. The Godhead was revealed in flesh. God makes himself known, not hidden, in flesh. Man is not God and can never be God, but man was created in God’s image and is therefore a specially suitable means for God to reveal his very person. John saw and touched God, just as Thomas did (Jn. 20:28), because it was no less than God who was in Christ reconciling.

 

One God-man person only

 

In an effort to ensure the transcendence (exalted otherness) of God, Christians have tended for purposes of explanation to separate out his two natures from his one person and attribute certain actions and experiences of Jesus Christ to his humanity and not his deity.[8] Since Jesus was not a sinner, they could never say these traits are sinful, only that they are human and not divine. Examples would be anger, hunger, weariness, and grief. These all imply change and emotion, and change and emotion are not attributes of God according to many Christians. However, the Bible does in fact depict God, and not only Jesus, as sometimes changing and emotional. God grieves that he created humanity that had fallen into abject depravity (Gen. 6:5–6). God repented of his decision to obliterate the idolatrous Jews (Ex. 32:14). God is even sometimes weary, in his own way (Is. 1:14). I could multiply similar examples.

Jesus-resting

Many of the changes and emotions Jesus experienced are not do not sound much different from those that God experiences. Nor will it suffice to say that these are all anthropomorphisms, word pictures, which while not literally true, accommodate truth to us finite humans by depicting God with human qualities. After all, would we say that God’s traits of truthfulness, omniscience, love, justice, and kindness are anthropomorphic? And even if they all were, every anthropomorphism signals a referent. We read, for example, in Deuteronomy 33:27 of God’s “everlasting arms.” Because God is a spirit, this language is incontestably anthropomorphic. But what does it mean? It means that just as human arms might bear up those we love, so God’s love is everlasting in bearing up his people. Similarly, even if the language of God’s emotions and repentance is anthropomorphic, it refers to something very much like emotion and repenting. Jesus’ “actions are always those of divinity-humanity.”[9] Jesus sleeps (Mk. 4:38). God does not sleep (Ps. 121:4). But God-as-Jesus sleeps, and not merely Jesus-as-man sleeps. The person of Jesus is God.

 

Because Jesus is God in the flesh, when we see Jesus acting, we see God, and not just man, acting — or, rather, God and man unmixed, but united in one person.[10] We tend to reverse the order and in this way become perplexed. We develop ideas about what God is like and then try to conform Jesus Christ to those ideas. This has things just backwards. Jesus is the one who reveals the Father: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn. 1:18).[11] We need to get our most extensive ideas about God from Jesus the Messiah. Make no mistake: God reveals himself truly in the Old Testament. There is nothing in the Old Testament that deceives us about God. (He also reveals himself truly in creation.) However, in Jesus Christ God gives us his fuller and final revelation (Heb. 1:1–3).[12]

 

There is no more comprehensive display of God than we observe in Jesus. When we see Jesus acted on, we see God acted on. To say differently is really to say that Jesus is less than and different from God. To say that we are seeing only the humanity in his display of emotion but only his deity in (for instance) his forgiving others their sins, is to divide Jesus into two persons. When Jesus experiences grief, God grieves. When Jesus is angered over sin, God is angry. When Jesus feels compassion, God is compassionate. We learn of God by watching Jesus Christ. God was in Christ reconciling ….

 

God and death

 

1101660408_400Now back to Holy Week. You might be old enough to remember the short-lived “Death of God” theology in the 60’s, championed by radical theologians.[13] I once owned a book curiously titled The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann. Moltmann is a theological liberal, and I found the book unimpressive, as I do most books by theological liberals (see a summary of the thesis is here). Moltmann sees the immanence (presence in the world) of God in Jesus, but sees almost nothing of the majesty and transcendence of God. Much of his theology and its social implications reflect this absence of the power and might of the sovereign God. This is an error of most liberals. They exalt man at God’s expense. This is false theology. A book with a similar title that I did find impressive was Richard Baukham’s God Crucified.[14] He is much more conservative than Moltmann and persuasively argues that precisely in our Lord’s death is his deity best understood. Baukham argues that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah reveals Messiah as God in the most powerful way. Our Lord’s death is a striking exhibition of his deity, not just his humanity.

 

God is immanent, both in the Old Testament and most profoundly in Jesus Christ, and we must affirm that where Jesus is, there God is. To say otherwise is equally false theology, no less heretical than the denying-God’s-majesty of theological liberalism. This God-as-Christ-and-God-in-Christ is not less true of the Cross. Even in his anguished cry “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46), Jesus is not less than God[15] — unless we are prepared to embrace the adoptionist heresy that Jesus became God at some point and lost his deity at another, a blasphemous notion. But Jesus died on the Cross. Did God die? He cannot die. He is the living God (Dt. 5:26; Ac. 14:15). But God as Christ certainly dies, and if he does not die, there is no salvation, no gospel, no hope. Death is God’s penalty for sin, and his eyes are so pure that he cannot look (gaze) on evil (Hab. 1:13). But Jesus was (is) God and was not less than God on the Cross. This means that while God is always and ever the living God, he in his Son died.[16] Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). God tastes what his Son tastes. The fact that he is fully transcendent does not mean he stands aloof from us, even (perhaps especially) in our pain and suffering (Heb. 2:16–18).

 

My godly mother died of pancreatic cancer last year. As I observed her final days, body emaciated to bones by disease, breath arriving and departing in tiny gasps, pain held at bay by morphine, I wondered how God felt. Could he merely empathize? No. Not merely empathize. In his Son he entered into all the pains and agonies and abandonment of death. In Jesus Christ, the ever-living God knows what it is like to die, just as the ever-holy God knows what it is like to suffer the consequences of sin.

 

Temporal omnipresence

 

51wVlydXswL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgA key to understanding these sobering and profound truths is what John M. Frame terms God’s temporal omnipresence.[17] God is a-temporally omnipresent (in eternity), but he’s also present in time and history, which he created and sustains. He is a participant in history, and his participation isn’t as a play-actor or illusion. God is really here. And being here, he experiences time and its sequence of change, though, of course, only as God can, and not as man does. He experienced what his Son experienced, including death. How can the ever-living God, who cannot cease to exist, experience death? Because he is God.

 

This is how to grasp biblical statements that might otherwise perplex us. We read in Acts 20:28, in Paul’s final exhortation to the Ephesian elders, the curious statement: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The antecedent of “his” is “God”: God’s own blood. God is a Spirit, so he has no blood. But Paul knew that Jesus is fully God. God’s blood was reconciling.

 

(To be continued)


[1] Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 1.
[2] The Holy Spirit’s work is just as vital, but that’s not my theme here.
[3] P. T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ (n.p.: Beloved Publishing, 2017), 34.
[4] I hold with Cornelius Van Til that God is not simply an essence that each member of the Trinity shares but that he is himself a person. See John M. Frame, Cornelius Van Til (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R, 1995), ch. 5. To hold this view is to not suggest four members of the Trinity, since the personhood of the unified God is not defined precisely as it is in the case of each member of the Trinity.
[5] Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2015), 15.
[6] On the historical development of what became orthodox Christology (the doctrine of Jesus Christ), see Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 37–90.
[7] P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ (London: Independent Press, 1909, 1961), 73.
[8] While no human creed is revelationally authoritative, it is notable that the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 condemned this view as heresy. See Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1900, 1999) 14:211.
[9] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 2:735.
[10] I agree with Donald G. Bloesch that Jesus’ was a true but impersonal humanity. The Son of God took to himself a human nature. “Jesus was not autonomous or self-existent. God is the acting Subject in Jesus.” This does not mean that Jesus’ humanity was impersonal. It means that the person of Jesus Christ is the Son of God. See Jesus Christ, Savior & Lord (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1997), 56–57.
[11] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2:737.
[12] This truth formed the basis of Martin Luther’s early Reformation theology. However, in his battle with Erasmus, he later drifted from it, tragically seeing not Jesus Christ but the secret, inscrutable will of God, sometimes in direct conflict with his revelation in Jesus Christ, as God’s final word. See Alister E. McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985, 1990), 161–175.
[13] Colin Brown, “Death of God School,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974, 1978), 287–288.
[14] Richard Baukham, God Crucified (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), see especially pages 45–79.
[15] Baukham argues that is precisely in our Lord’s death, forsaken (until the resurrection) by God, that he most fully exhibits his deity. See his Jesus and the God of Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 254–268.
[16] A common way historically of addressing this issue is to say that Jesus Christ’s human nature died but not his divine nature, which cannot die. The person died, and since both the divine and human natures are united in the person, some action of one or the other can be attributed to the person. A careful and self-professed scholastic explanation of this view can be found in Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1994), 2:321–332. This is a second-order theological verdict (as with the early ecumenical creeds) that cannot be found in the text of the Bible but which can illuminate our understanding of the Bible’s broad teaching. A recurring problem has been that the patristic church took up the issue of the Trinity and the two natures in Christ without primary reference to Jesus Christ’s redemption, which they fit in later. They marginalized the gospel at the point at which it should have been at front and center.
[17] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R, 2002), 570–572.

 

I am indebted to John Barach, Matthew Colvin, John M. Frame, and Brian G. Mattson for valuable suggestions to earlier versions of this essay. I alone am responsible for its content.

No Creation, No Gospel

Posted on March 23, 2018

If you wonder why too many evangelicals are caving in to same-sex “marriage,” surrogacy, “gender fluidity,” and transgenderism, part of the fault lies in the DNA of Evangelicalism itself. Evangelicals champion the biblical evangel, the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead so that sinners can be saved. This is their paradigmatic specialty and, thank God, they have enjoyed great success over the last two centuries.

The Creational Marginalization

But with this specialization has come the marginalization of other parts of the Bible, notably creation. Not that Evangelicals deny creation. Some have been at the forefront of the six-day creation movement. However, they have tended not to integrate creation into their worldview. Worse: they have not understood that creation is the foundation of the gospel. This is very easy to prove, if you think about it. The gospel offers salvation from sin, but what is sin? It is a violation of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4). But how did this violation come about? It came about as result of man’s distortion of creation.

“The Jesus who died on the old rugged cross is the same Jesus who shaped the universe’s laws and upholds its existence.”

Genesis chapter 1-2 lays out God’s creational laws, or norms. These include the Creator-creature distinction, humanity made in God’s image, the distinction between man and woman within that single divine image, the fruitfulness imperative, the cultural mandate, the Sabbath, and the goodness of creation itself. We might call these the creational operating system. This is how God designed the cosmos to work.

And it is within just this operating system that the gospel software works. Sin introduced a virus into that operating system. The object of the gospel is incrementally to eliminate that virus. The virus doesn’t obliterate the operating system, but it does impair it. The gospel is God’s hunt-and-destroy-the-virus mission.

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Evangelicals have tended, however, to internalize, privatize, and Gnosticize the gospel. The gospel is chiefly about getting sinners forgiven by God and fellowshipping with him and taking them to heaven. It’s understandable that, in this telling, addressing same-sex “marriage” might be a tangent to keep the church away from the gospel. Taking on surrogacy, egg harvesting, and transhumanism (like the Center of Bioethics and Culture) is it best a secondary cause and, at worst, a distraction from the church’s mission.

But if we understand that the objective of the gospel is the restoration of God’s created order, increasing adherence to his creational norms, not just for his glory but for our delight, we will recognize these tasks and many others as well within the framework of the biblical gospel.

The Mediator of Creation

 

A fundamental theological flaw is at the root of this truncated gospel. Modern Evangelicals see Jesus is the mediator of redemption, but seem less interested in him as the mediator of creation. But the Bible plainly teaches both. See what Paul writes in Colossians 1:13–19:

He [God the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins [here’s Jesus, the mediator of redemption]. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [here’s Jesus, the mediator of creation.] And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

For Paul, Jesus’ mediation in both creation and redemption work together to convey the fullness of God to and within the cosmos. The Jesus who died on the old rugged cross is the same Jesus who shaped the universe’s laws and upholds its existence.

Because Evangelicals have embraced a truncated view of the Bible, because they have emphasized the evangel (narrowly construed) as the be-all-and-end-all, they have been willing to sacrifice the more fundamental creational truths on which the true evangel is founded. They didn’t set out to do this. And if someone had told them even 20 years ago that they would one day endorse or surrender to “gender fluidity” or same-sex “marriage,” they would have scoffed. But their preoccupation with one vital part of the Bible and relative neglect of other vital parts paved the way for these wholesale changes. The seeds of the present compromises were there from the beginning. The neglect wasn’t intentional, but it was neglect, and we’re now paying a bitter price for it.

The solution to this neglect is a return to a full-orbed, robust view of creation and creational norms. Let’s preach the Son of God on the old rugged Cross as well as the even older Son of creational Lordship. Christianity within this world requires both.

Liberal Christianity Isn’t

Posted on March 22, 2018

One of the leading American theologians of the 20th century was J. Gresham Machen. One of his most famous books was Christianity and Liberalism. He argues that theological liberalism, sometimes called modernism at the time, isn’t a new version of Christianity. Rather, it’s not Christianity at all. It’s another religion altogether.

 

41OFZDQBB4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Liberalism consisted of a fusion of 18th-century rationalism (man’s reason is the final arbiter of truth) and 19th century romanticism (man’s experience is the final arbiter of truth). The foundational spirit of liberalism is simple: Christianity must conform to the temper of the times. The Bible and Christian dogma are not finally authoritative. Man’s reason and experience in the modern world, particularly as exhibited in science, are finally authoritative.

 

Perhaps the single greatest source of all liberalism was the greatest Enlightenment philosopher of all, Immanuel  Kant. Kant believed that man can gain knowledge only from his senses interacting with pre-established categories of human thought. Man can know nothing of certainty about God or the spiritual world. Man’s mind isn’t constructed to know God. Kant did not deny God existed. He denied, however, that we could have reliable knowledge about God. Kant’s influence on theological liberals meant that they were free to invent the kind of God and the kind of Christian Faith they wanted to have.

 

This last point is liberalism in a nutshell.

 

The early liberals questioned the authenticity of the Bible’s text, the orthodox Trinity, the biblical account of miracles, the deity of Jesus Christ, and other central truths of Christianity.

 

Contemporary liberals have changed. They haven’t changed liberalism’s guiding principle (they still often deny the doctrines early liberals denied about the Faith); but they have changed what they emphasize in denying. Because the temper of the times has changed, they have been obliged to change. Marx-Jesus2The real issues for them today are sexual autonomy, moral relativism, and Cultural Marxism. In other words, the very things popular in the surrounding apostate culture.  If the credo of liberalism is conforming the Faith to the contemporary world, liberals must always be inherently worldly.

 

Just as the tenets of early liberalism with which Machen interacted were diametrically opposed to Christianity, so the guiding beliefs of today’s liberalism are. The Bible supports sexual fidelity (sexual intercourse between a married man and woman), not sexual autonomy. The Bible presupposes God’s revelation as final truth, and it obviously cannot permit moral relativism. The Bible dictates hierarchies in all areas of life, starting with God’s hierarchy over man. There’s no place for the leveling of all hierarchies, which is what Cultural Marxism is all about.

 

Machen understood that liberalism was not disputing important but secondary issues of the Faith, like the sacraments or ordinances, church polity, the specifics of biblical prophecy, the sign gifts, and so on. Rather, liberalism cut the heart out of the Faith — the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, the virgin birth and deity and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his substitutionary atonement on the Cross. When you don’t have these, it’s not orthodox Christianity you lose. It’s Christianity you lose.

 

“Churches that establish a policy accepting unrepentant homosexuals or same-sex ‘marriage’ or encouraging abortion or radical sexual egalitarianism are not Christian churches.”

 

The reason many Christians are confused as to how to classify today’s liberals is that they’ve not until recently encountered professed Christians who aren’t boldly denying the Apostles Creed but who are denying tenets of biblical teaching that the church everywhere until recently has affirmed. Those teachings include marriage as between one man and one woman, homosexuality as sin, abortion as murder, radical sexual egalitarianism as contra-creational. Today’s liberals deny them for the same reason: the Bible’s teaching doesn’t fit the temper of the age. Until recent decades (or years), no one — not even the early liberals — would have thought of questioning these biblical truths. Even if they agree with Machen about the early liberals, what should they say about modern liberals? They should say the same thing Machen said ­— liberalism isn’t Christianity. Churches that establish a policy accepting unrepentant homosexuals or same-sex “marriage” or encouraging abortion or radical sexual egalitarianism are not Christian churches. wolf_in_sheeps_clothing2.jpgWhy? Because Jesus and Paul and Peter and John would not have considered same-sex “marriage” less evil or dangerous (Rom. 1:18–32) than (for example) the Gnostic heresy that Jesus did not come in the flesh (2 Jn. 7). Not all false teaching striking at the core of Christianity is found in the Apostles Creed. Why? Because no one at the time the Creed was developed would have dreamed of assuming that the Bible would permit, for instance, homosexuality or radical sexual egalitarianism. If anything, this shows that the violations of today’s liberals might be even more destructive than heresies of the early centuries of the church since at the time nobody, including the heretics, would have even considered them. Arianism (the Son of God is a created being) is a pernicious heresy, but no Arian would have supported same-sex “marriage.”

 

Machen 2.0 would say what Machen 1.0 said: teachings that strike at the very heart of Christianity so distort it that if unchecked they produce another religion.

 

That religion is not Christianity.