politics

David Bahnsen on the 2022 Election

  1. The Republicans have lost the Senate, and will either lose or narrowly regain the House. How did this history-defying disappointment come about?

Well, first of all, the Republicans will not lose the House. They are likely to end up with a majority of about 220-225 seats, meaning a net pick-up of roughly 7-10 seats. But yes, when realistic projections were for a net pickup of +25 seats, and many were calling for a net pickup of +30-40 seats, the end results are all at once disappointing and informative.

With the Senate, there is simply no question that it came down to candidate quality, and President Trump. Those two elements are not quite as separate as one may at first suspect. Gov. Doug Ducey would have won as a Senate candidate in Arizona but President Trump threatened him if he ran. Gov. Brian Kemp easily won re-election in Georgia and David McCormack would certainly have won in Pennsylvania had he prevailed in the primary over Dr. Mehmet Oz. From Arizona to Georgia to Pennsylvania, candidates cost us Senate seats – period.

But President Trump’s singular theme on [unproven] election fraud in 2020 had no resonation with voters, and where candidates made that their campaign’s purpose, they lost (House and Senate). When candidates were (a) Good, and (b) Message-focused outside of Trump, they won. It’s really that simple.

  1. Donald Trump is the elephant in the room, and he has been for the last few years. How should the Republican Party view him now?

Even a Trump critic like me would not suggest running as if all he did as President was bad. He was mistreated by the media, the Russia-gate moment remains an outrageous atrocity, and he did nominate excellent judges and sign into law the Paul Ryan/Kevin Brady tax cut. Those positive elements of his Presidency can be maintained in party messaging without this sycophantic, electorally-destructive fealty to Trump the man, who has proven himself to be a disaster at the ballot box (we have lost the House, the Senate, and the Presidency under his watch), and simply incapable of expanding a coalition needed to win. Even where one likes various policies, they have to view President Trump as someone who undermines the potential for more policy success, period.

  1. What are the economic implications of this election?

Very little. With gridlock not much will get done, at all, and a GOP majority House assures gridlock. Ironically, the Democrats likely “Manchin-proofed” their Senate lead (assuming they win the run-off in Georgia), but now lost the majority in the House. So fundamentally I don’t think much these midterms are that pertinent to that which our economy faces. The Fed, the direction of inflation, and the labor participation force are the primary factors in our short-term economic prognosis.

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Culture, politics

Pro-Family Abortion?

Carle Zimmerman has observed that the ancient Roman Empire supported abortion and infanticide precisely because it was so aggressively pro-family, just the opposite of the rationale for their support today. What he terms the trustee family placed life-and-death authority in the hands of the father or clan or kin, which could kill their preborn and children at will.

In radical contrast, today‘s abortion and infanticide is undergirded by radical individual autonomy, not radical familial autonomy as in the ancient world.

The church countered the trustee family with the domestic family, and subordinated the family to the church.

Biblical faith opposes both individual autonomy and familial autonomy (as well as ecclesial autonomy, for that matter), and forbids all abortion and infanticide.

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Culture, Family

CCL’s 23rd Annual Symposium: The Family

Join us in San Francisco for an illuminating, inspiring, and equipping conversation.

In our time of unrelenting assault on the family and marriage, this year’s symposium will provide spiritual and intellectual ammunition to combat the diabolical, contra-creational forces confronting us.

This event will be especially suited for spouses, as well as high school and college students. I urge them in particular to attend.

The symposium is a discussion, not a conference, and everyone, not just the presenters, will have an opportunity to contribute.

There are no recordings of any kind for these CCL symposia.

This event is free of charge, but it is not open to the public. You must be invited. Please contact me privately if you wish to reserve a space.

It includes a continental breakfast and gourmet lunch. Hotel rooms are available for early registrants.

The venue is a four-star, Bayside hotel a short shuttle ride from the airport.

I’m eager to see many of you there.

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Culture, politics

Against “Post-Liberalism,” Left and Right

Memo to U. S. conservatives:

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

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

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

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Culture

My 10 Favorite Modern Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bible, Church, Theology

The Pleroma of the Son

Introduction

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

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

The Pleroma of the Trinity

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

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

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

Jesus is the pleroma of God.

The Pleroma of the Church

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

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

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

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

The Pleroma of the Cosmos

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Culture

What I Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CCL relies for support on a faithful donor base.

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

That’s a summary of what I do.


The CCL website is here.

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

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

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

Sign up to get my blog updates here.

Here’s my Twitter feed.

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

The CCL phone number is 831-420-7230.

The mailing address is:

Center for Cultural Leadership

P. O. Box 100

Coulterville, CA 95311

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Uncategorized

Baptist and Paedobaptist Very Hot Takes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Church, Culture

The Character of Christ’s Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ’s is a quietly and unobtrusively advancing kingdom.

But it cannot fail.

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Holy Spirit, Sanctification

Clinging to Our Torments

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

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

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

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

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