Fundamentalism, while sincere, sold virile Christianity into 20th century cultural bondage, and wherever it rears its head, it ends up emboldening that cultural depravity.
Read the article here.
Fundamentalism, while sincere, sold virile Christianity into 20th century cultural bondage, and wherever it rears its head, it ends up emboldening that cultural depravity.
Read the article here.
All of those justified in Jesus Christ are eternally secure, but all who abandon the Faith are without hope and destined to eternal judgment.
“To de-objectify the Faith is to overturn divinely established institutions like the church. To de-subjectivize the Faith is to undercut divinely mandated internal consecration. Both are fatal.”
Read the article here.
“If we’re united to Jesus Christ, we will persevere and cannot apostatize, and we can have rock-solid assurance that we cannot.”
Read the rest here.
Center for Cultural Leadership Annual Symposium in San Francisco
9 AM — 3 PM
Includes catered lunch in a four-star hotel on the Bay
“David L. Bahnsen: “Politicized Economics in One Lesson” and “Pietized Economics in One Lesson”
Jerry Bowyer: “The Maker and the Takers”
Brian G. Mattson: “Alarmed by Cultural Marxism? Don’t Forget Real Marxism!”
P. Andrew Sandlin: “Creational Economics versus Contra-Creational Economics”
Jeffery J. Ventrella: “The Anthropology of Judicial Economics”
Since this isn’t a talking-head conference but a symposium, every attendee will get a chance to comment and share his views.
Hotel rooms available for early registrants. Airport hotel with easy, quick 24-hour shuttle.
This event is free, but it isn’t open to the public. It’s by invitation only. You get invited by contacting me (P. Andrew Sandlin) privately.
Seating is limited, but I hope to see many of you there.
Brian G. Mattson is a public theologian, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center for Cultural Leadership, and adjunct professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, has written several books, and lectures on theology and culture.
I am an American citizen enthusiastic about the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment. As a citizen I must first register my objection to the rule-making process itself: namely, concerned citizens are at an inherent disadvantage having to provide public comment directly to the governmental agency seeking to make them felons by their proposed rule. This conflict of interest or power disparity will inherently distort the true levels of opposition to the proposed rule, given that a vast number of gun owners and enthusiasts will be reluctant to “signal” themselves as out of compliance with the proposed rule. It is, nevertheless, my civic duty to comment.
I have grave concerns about BATFE’s newly proposed rule (Docket Number ATF 2021R-08) regarding “stabilizing pistol braces.” Allow me to summarize them, and then more fully explain each in turn.
1. AR-15 “pistol” variants clearly fall within the definition of “common use” under District of Columbia v. Heller.
2. AR-15 pistol variants are not “especially dangerous and/or unusual weapons.”
3. ATF’s claims about the public benefit of this rule are simply mistaken.
4. The proposed rule’s “Options for Affected Persons” are ineffective and unduly burdensome on law-abiding citizens.
5. ATF’s proposed rule is prima facie ineffective unless the component itself (the “stabilizing brace”) is regulated as an NFA item, thus making it more difficult to obtain; however, ATF admits that “The GCA and NFA regulate ‘firearms’ and, with limited exceptions, do not regulate individual components.”
(1) District of Columbia v. Heller clearly upheld a citizen’s right to keep and bear firearms in common use. The Bureau’s own background summary reveals that at minimum 3 million “stabilizing braces” are in circulation, and this is almost certainly an underestimation. SB Tactical, the most popular manufacturer of stabilizing braces, claims to have manufactured 3 million braces alone. The addition of other popular manufacturers would significantly revise the number upward.
Moreover, in ATF’s OMB Accounting Statement, they claim that the rule would affect “1.4 million purchasers of AR pistols.” That number is obviously incomplete. It may refer to purchasers of fully built, retail purchases of AR pistols, but leaves out the millions of gun enthusiasts who purchased a stabilizing brace to incorporate into other gun platforms.
The sheer numbers of these weapons leaves no doubt that AR pistol variants are very much in “common use.” Anyone familiar with the firearms industry knows that they are in common use. The very fact that ATF has proposed this rule demonstrates that they know these weapons are in common use. What is uncommon is criminal use. (More on that under  below.) For now, under Heller, these weapons are not “unusual” or “rare” in any sense of those terms, and should therefore be free from burdensome governmental infringement.
(2) The Bureau states that the NFA was passed to regulate “gangster” type weapons, which were viewed as “especially dangerous and unusual.” It is not a self-evident fact that AR-15s of any type are “especially dangerous.” What is self-evident is that they are not unusual. The Bureau is well-aware that a typical AR-15 caliber is significantly smaller than most hunting ammunition, a fact that by itself refutes the notion of “especially dangerous.” One might counter that muzzle velocities of AR weapons (often exceeding 3,000 feet per second) renders a weapon “especially dangerous,” but that raises an insoluble problem. ATF is ostensibly concerned about shorter barrel lengths; yet shorter barrel lengths reduce muzzle velocity and effective firing range, thus making them less, not more, dangerous. It is simply not cogent as a matter of logic and law why Congress and Federal agencies wish to make the less dangerous weapon subject to burdensome regulations; it directly contradicts the stated purpose of the NFA, which they admit regulates “especially dangerous and unusual” weapons.
(3) The Bureau’s claims about the public benefit of this proposed rule are mistaken. The OMB Accounting statement asserts that the rule: “Prevents manufacturers and individuals from circumventing the requirements of the NFA.” But the rule does not prohibit the manufacture of pistol stabilizing braces; nor does it subject such braces to NFA regulation. The rule, in other words, does nothing to make the production of AR pistols more difficult. Therefore, it “prevents” nothing; all it does it put ink on some paper. This may, by definition, prevent a law-abiding citizen from utilizing a pistol stabilizing brace; but in the incredibly rare event of a criminal using such a weapon, it is unlikely that a person bent on violence will be deterred by the proposed rule.
Secondly, the OMB statement asserts that the rule “Enhances public safety by reducing the criminal use of such firearms, which are easily concealable from the public and first responders.” Given the observation in the foregoing paragraph, this is simply mistaken. It does nothing to “reduce the criminal use of such firearms.” It is still perfectly legal to buy an AR pistol variant without a stabilizing brace, and perfectly legal to buy a stabilizing brace. Nothing has been proposed that would actually reduce the (newly) criminal activity of putting the two together. Furthermore, the notion that an AR-15 pistol variant is “easily concealable” is ridiculous. It is not. This is why such weapons are rarely used in crime, and the weapon of choice in the vast majority of crimes is a handgun. The Bureau is well-aware of this fact.
The Bureau raises two examples of AR-15 pistol variants being used in “mass shootings.” First, these events are irrelevant unless the Bureau can establish that the pistol brace involved in those shootings somehow made the weapon more dangerous than a handgun or a 16-inch rifle would have been in those circumstances. ATF should not be allowed to simply assert this as a fact. Second, the fact that the Bureau appeals to two incidents is quite revelatory. Recall for a moment the Bureau’s own (certainly low) numbers: 3 million pistol braces; 1.4 million purchasers of AR pistol variants. Millions of people “keep and bear” AR pistol variants and there are two examples of criminal use? This would suggest to me that there is no acute public health crisis to precipitate the intrusive infringement of the proposed rule.
(4) The proposed rule makes law-abiding citizens retroactive felons. There is no “grandfather” arrangement proposed. This is intolerable as a matter of law; no citizen, having engaged in good faith to legally purchase a firearm should be retroactively rendered a felon by fiat. Moreover, the proposed “Options for Affected Persons” has zero chance of success. Leaving aside the paternalistic language (“we want to help you with compliance”) and options seemingly drafted in such a way as to infuriate the populace (e.g., “destroy the firearm”), the Bureau will quickly find itself, should the rule go forward, tasked with actively seeking out millions of citizens who refuse to comply. As the Bureau is likely aware, a scheme in New Jersey to “buy back” standard-capacity magazines netted the state zero magazines. If gun-owning citizens refused to part with their magazines, the likelihood of them parting with their AR-15s is even less.
(5) Finally, the Bureau is clearly frustrated in its task of enforcing the requirements of the NFA, and complains that the firearms industry is “circumventing” the NFA with the use of stabilizing braces. I understand their frustration. However, the problem is not the industry; the problem is the NFA itself and the statutory limitations it places on the ATF. The Bureau admits that the NFA does not give jurisdiction to regulate (most) individual firearm components—they cannot prohibit the manufacture of a stabilizing brace or effectively prohibit someone from utilizing one on their personal weapon. Rather ironically, the proposed rule represents ATF attempting to circumvent their own statutory limitations.
In sum, AR-15 pistol variants are in common use; they are not “especially dangerous or unusual”; there is no acute public health interest in regulating them under the NFA; law-abiding citizens of this country should never be retroactively declared felons by fiat; and as a simple matter of fact, the rule faces very little possibility of actual compliance. It is thus impractical and an example of bad public policy.
I strongly oppose the proposed rule, and encourage the Bureau to lobby Congress to abolish the real source of this longstanding institutional problem: the National Firearms Act of 1934.
“What has changed over my lifetime is the self-consciousness of Leftists and secularists. They can no longer peacefully coexist with Christians. As in imperial Rome, Christians must go.”
Read the rest here.
Few topics generate more theological debate with less productivity than baptism. I observed recently a reignition on social media of the baptist-paedobaptist dispute; and as nearly always, it included unnecessary heat and very little light. I’ve been on both sides of that debate in my life, and I’ve rarely seen a different, more gracious and successful, conclusion. I’m convinced this issue won’t be solved entirely by appeal to specific biblical texts, because the theological and interpretive assumptions one brings to the texts will influence how he understands them. I’m not suggesting that extensive discussion of the baptist-paedobaptist disagreements is unwarranted, only that public debate might not be the best way to arrive at a defensible conclusion.
But a crucial point on which all Christians should agree is that baptism is (among other things) a visible, public declaration of allegiance to Jesus Christ. The reason this is necessary is simple: the Gospel necessitates allegiance to our Lord, and baptism is the initial public testimony to the reception of the Gospel. We speak of salvation by faith alone, but this is equivalent to salvation by allegiance alone, because faith at root is allegiance. Faith in the Bible is a wholehearted, surrendering trust to Jesus Christ. It’s not identical to belief, when defined as intellectual assent. The devils believe and tremble (Jas. 2:19). A criterion for baptism is “[i]f you believe with all your heart” (Ac. 8:37) i.e., cast yourself on Jesus Christ in full submission.
We are baptized into the name of Jesus or the names of the members of the Trinity. This doesn’t require the administrator’s language “I baptize you in the name of….” Rather it means “under the authority of.” This is why in the great commission, baptism is identified as a chief step in discipling the nations. Similarly in Galatians 3:27 Paul writes:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
At baptism we are identified with Jesus Christ and his people and his kingdom. To be baptized into the Lord’s name is to be baptized into his/their authority. We swear allegiance.
God takes the initiative in baptism just as he does in salvation. But also just as in salvation, man is not inert. Salvation by grace doesn’t mean salvation without obligation. When we trust Christ, we transfer allegiance to a new king (Col. 1:13), but at baptism, we swear this allegiance publicly. This is true whether one affirms infant baptism or adult baptism. The covenant representative pledges allegiance for the infant, and the adult pledges allegiance for himself.
Another fact lends weight to this allegiance. Meredith Kline draws attention to 1 Peter 3:20–22, where Christian baptism is likened to the Noahic flood. The floodwaters were the world’s judgment, which Noah and his family escaped only by God’s graceful provision. They went through the waters of divine judgment because they cast faith in ( = were allegiant to) God (Heb. 11:7). The waters of baptism signify not just cleansing, but cleansing by judgment. We are baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3). He bore God’s judgment for us. The condition for God’s deliverance, according to Hebrews, was faith, an act of allegiance.
Baptism, therefore, implies an oath of allegiance, and often it is required of the convert at its administration, such as: “Have you trusted Christ, and do you purpose to follow him all the days of your life?” That this latter provision is heard less and less at today’s baptisms shows the increasing antinomianism (anti-allegiance) of our churches.
Christians who deny baptismal regeneration (the idea that water baptism spiritually regenerates) wonder at those numerous biblical texts like Acts 22:16 (“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’”) that tie baptism inextricably to cleansing from sin. While other texts are incompatible with baptismal regeneration (notably those that make repentance a condition for baptism), a principal truth to grasp is that baptism is the visible component of invisible regeneration. That’s the intimate connection.
Paul writes in Romans 6:4 —
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
We might have thought that Paul would mention justification, or adoption, or regeneration as the path by which we’re raised to walk in obedience, but his accent is on visibility. Just as Christ was raised from the dead visibly from a tomb, so we are raised from sin visibly at our baptism.
Many of us have baptismal certificates. None of us has a born-again certificate. This isn’t because baptism is more important than the new birth, but because baptism is a datable, documentable, visible reality to which one (and others) can point. Allegiance to Jesus Christ begins in the heart but never ends there.
The postmodern world is high on inflamed hearts and low on sustained obedience. This is a fruit of 19th century Romanticism, which for the first time in human history replaced objective standards with subjective intentions as the criteria for valid choices (“Darling, I don’t agree with the terrorists, but at least I can admire their well-intentioned hearts”). Christian baptism is an inherent repudiation of any attempt to reduce the Faith to our hearts. Baptism says, “I am now a child of the King, a follower of the Lamb, and you may judge my profession by my visible adherence to the King and Lamb’s Word.”
A leading reason for the futility of today’s church is its severance of allegiance from the Gospel. Christ died, it is thought, to take away our sins and give us hope and assure our eternal bliss with him. Correspondingly baptism is treated as a celebration of a saved sinner or a new church member. It is these, for sure.
But the meaning of baptism is at once more glorious and more severe. Glorious, because it signals a lifelong covenant devotion to Jesus Christ as risen Lord, and severe, because it’s a self-maledictory oath calling down new covenant curses if we turn our back on him (Heb. 10:29).
As a covenant, baptism is bilateral. God has a part, and we have a part. God’s part in the covenant is always more important and always comes first. At baptism he visibly pledges his love and care and protection, the blanketing blessings of his Lordship.
In response, we pledge our faith and fidelity (allegiance), acknowledging the never-ending claims of his Lordship. He tattoos us with his loving mark of ownership, and we bear that mark our entire lives.
Christianity is a serious faith that demands serious allegiance. Baptism is the vestibular, visible testimony to that allegiance.
The Christian life is a battle, and battles presuppose enemies. The chief enemy of Christians is Satan (and demonic spirits aligned with him [Eph. 6:12]), but a leading strategy in thwarting God’s earthly kingdom is his enlisting humans to assist him. This diabolical strategy started in Eden.
The Bible assumes that the true Faith will constantly be under attack in the sinful world and in the church. This doesn’t mean that we should invent enemies when there are none. There are enemies aplenty already.
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Hi Dr. Sandlin, I hope all is well with you. I have been struggling through Old testament prophecies and I am having a hard time seeing how Jesus fulfilled the office “Conquering King” who would unite the jews who were scattered back to Jerusalem. I can very clearly see the connection of the suffering servant, the one who was pierced, the Messiah who was cut off just before the destruction of the temple, as well as the priest, and in an implied sense the perfect sacrifice. But I’m really struggling to see how Jesus is Messiah if He did not gather the Jews back to Jerusalem/Judah. The NT prophecies don’t seem to speak to a regathering of the Jews either that I have seen so far (though my study is not yet thorough). Would you be able to help me shed some light on this? It has been greatly troubling and I fear worshipping God wrongly. Thanks.
Hi, —-. It’s a great question, and I can understand your perplexity.
It’s important to understand that the NT must interpret the OT. The inspired apostles can interpret the OT much better than you or I can. Peter‘s Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2 plainly applies OT prophecies concerning Messiah’s rule on David’s throne to Christ’s ascension and present session.
The NT in several cases (note Galatians, Hebrews, and Revelation) refers to Jerusalem as now existing in Jesus Christ’s heavenly abode. The true Jerusalem is the heavenly Jerusalem, not the Jerusalem in present-day Israel.
In Ephesians 2 we read that both Jew and Gentile are brought together under the reign of Jesus Christ by means of his atoning death. The church is now the inheritor of the Jewish promises – and it was always intended to be.
Remember that Jesus plainly said that he was the temple to be rebuilt, and his temple was in fact rebuilt 2000 years ago in a borrowed tomb outside old Jerusalem.
Again and again the NT identifies the multiracial, multiethnic church of Jesus Christ as the true Israel. I do believe that according to Romans 11, a glorious future awaits ethnic Israel, but not as a separate, distinct people from the church of Jesus Christ. There will be massive conversions among the Jews one day and among the Gentiles also, and I believe all of this will occur before the Second Advent.
A great book dealing with all of these issues is Roderick Campbell’s Israel and the New Covenant.
I hope this helps.
Cultural Marxism is a complicated ideology and I’ve given a simple explanation, but here I’ll lay out several points by which you can identify this increasingly pervasive intellectual poison.
1. Humanity‘s deepest need is not economic (as the classical Marxists believe), but existential.
2. Every individual must be free to realize himself or herself, to be exactly what that person desires and wants above all else. “Self-actualization” is the great human need.
3. Any social barriers to that self-actualization must be redefined, marginalized, or destroyed. The leading ones are the family, the church, and business.
4. Social evolution from relatively worse to better necessitates incessant conflict. Progress cannot occur in peaceful, mutually beneficial ways as is assumed in classical liberalism — and Christianity. Conflict between humans is imperative.
5. That conflict in the modern world is always between oppressor and oppressed classes, not individuals as such. The chief examples are men versus women; heterosexuals versus homosexuals and transgendered; whites versus blacks, Hispanics, and Asians; First world citizens versus Third World immigrants; and business owners versus employees.
6. Nomenclature weaponized to advance Cultural Marxism includes: toxic masculinity, systemic racism, heteronormativity, white supremacy, intersectionality, neo-colonialism, Black Lives Matter, and cisgenderism.
7. The vast majority of the oppressed are not in a social position to defend themselves, so they require a highly educated, literate, capitalized, and prominent secular elite in education, politics, journalism, media and entertainment to champion their cause.
8. The stipulated goal is comprehensive equality, not so much economic equality, but ethical, moral, and relational equality. Every absolute must be demolished – except for the absolute that there must be no absolutes.
9. Because progress is never possible without conflict, and because progress is never ending, comprehensive equality can never be achieved.
10. Therefore, the conflict of Cultural Marxism must continue “to infinity and beyond,” and any successes are counted as temporary, demanding ever greater conflict.
Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D., is Distinguished Fellow of Law and Culture at the Center for Cultural Leadership and Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs & Training for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Today’s world is awash with sexual confusion, clutter, and corrosion. Sexuality, though culturally ubiquitous, is often avoided by Christians and congregations, or if they do address it, they merely focus on one facet or symptom, often inadequately. Worse, compromise also decorates many Christians’ and congregational approaches to this crucial topic.
One thing needed to combat the clutter, confusion, and corrosion, is a secure conviction about how to think Christianly about sexuality. To that end, what follows are theses that tap into the Christian worldview and how that worldview understands sexuality: its meaning, purpose, and end.
• Sexual ethics is a subset of Marital Ethics — always; this requires expounding creational norms “from the beginning” (Matt. 19) and therefore the ethic is not properly confined to “Christian” practice, setting aside that some traditions consider marriage to be a sacrament
• These immutable creational norms require affirming and expounding the “sexed” and complementary nature of the human person, male and female
• Because marriage is a pre-political, foundational public social institution, the role of the State vis a vis marriage must be identified, and public policy — properly within the State’s jurisdiction — must protect and support this institution: marriage, family, parental rights and duties, etc.
• Sexual ethics may not rightly be reduced to biology, mechanics, or desire; rather, teleology lies at the foundation: “What mankind is for” must inform and precede “What mankind does” — accordingly, an informed anthropology is crucial, accounting for both mankind’s finitude and fallenness. This also means that a revelational epistemology comes into play at some point as one cannot fully comprehend anthropology, including human calling (cultural mandate) and Imago Dei, from other supportive philosophical tools such as natural law, new natural law, et al
• Sexual ethics presupposes a cosmology and the cosmology’s theology correlates to the cosmology’s ethics. Sexuality therefore rests not only on the embodied human person but also on the structure of “real reality” in which the human person lives
• Because “contrast is the mother of clarity” (Os Guinness frequently articulates this), competing cosmologies, theologies, philosophies, and ideologies, et al that impact or have influenced how sexuality is or has been both conceptualized and practiced ought to be understood and critiqued. This requires delving into intellectual history as well as engaging in cultural apologetics
Understanding and applying these theses and their implications deeply and well generates moral clarity, moral conviction, and moral courage for today and the future.
The following resources will benefit this task:
George, Girgis, and Anderson, What is Marriage?
Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Anderson, When Harry Met Sally
Ayers, Christian Marriage – A Comprehensive Introduction
Sandlin, The Christian Sexual Worldview: God’s Order in an Age of Sexual Chaos
Snead, What It Means to be Human – The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics
Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? Parental Rights, Civic Education, and Children’s Autonomy
Morse, The Sexual State
West, Our Bodies Tell God’s Story
Reilly, Making Gay Okay – How Rationalizing Human Behavior is Changing Everything
Regnarus, Cheap Sex – The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy
Fortson and Grams, Unchanging Witness – The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition
Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice
DeYoung, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in the Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law
Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality
Jones, Whose Rainbow? God’s Gift of Sexuality: A Divine Calling
Eberstadt, Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics
Bavinck, The Christian Family
Shrier, Irreversible Damage – The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters
Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West
Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
Pearcy, Love Thy Body
The January 6 Capitol breach by several hundred members at the massive Trump rally was instantly labelled an “insurrection” by the Washington Post and other Leftist mainstream news outlets and even by prominent conservatives. One suspects that Leftists and Democrats would have been less scandalized had Trump not been president and had they not been able to wield this event (to which his characteristically reckless language contributed, even though he likely did not envision such tragic developments) for their partisan impeachment purposes.
Still, by any objective standard, this was an insurrection, defined as “a violent uprising against an authority or government.” As of early March, 315 people have been charged (Insider, March 9, 2021) — justifiably charged. When you illegally breach a federal government building, threaten legislators and the vice president, and set up shop as a tinpot invading force, whatever else you’re guilty of, insurrection is one of them.
The Bible unreservedly condemns political insurrection. While Romans 13 is no manifesto for unconditional obedience to civil government, neither can it be erased from the Bible. Paul has been laying out proper order and submission to human authority, of which the civil magistrate (politics) is a prominent example.
Our Lord himself was obliged to combat the forces of political insurrection. A party of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries known as Zealots were committed to the violent overthrow of the occupying Roman forces. These Jews tried to make Jesus king by force (Jn. 6:15), and he would have none of this insurrectionist impulse.
Jesus’ apostle Simon Zelotes (Mk. 3:18) was probably also originally a Zealot. Barabbas, pardoned by Pilate to make way for Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion, was almost certainly a Zealot (Jn. 18:40). The attitude of the NT is deeply anti-insurrectionist. It nowhere condones political evil or tyranny but suggests that tyranny is overcome by faith, prayer, obedience — and non-insurrectionist resistance (Ac. 4:18–20; 16:38; 1 Tim. 2:2).
I agree with John Calvin in the final chapter of his Institutes of the Christian Religion that armed resistance to political tyranny is justified only when undertaken by lower territorial magistrates (today: governors or mayors). Individuals may not take up arms against or violently oppose the state. Political tyranny must be met by lawful, ordered resistance.
But this January 7 political insurrection, despite the loss of life it unleashed, pales before another insurrection in our society: creational insurrection. This insurrection has become a mainstay of Leftism and, increasingly, even many conservatives and faux Christians. What is creational insurrection? It is bald, highhanded rebellion against God’s created order, notably against his creational norms stated in Genesis 1–2: the Creator-creature distinction, humanity created in God’s image, man and woman equally human with inherent ontological distinctions, and the cultural mandate, among others. To attempt to reverse any of these norms is creational insurrection, war against God and his created order.
The most graphic example today is the cluster of sexual assaults on creation: homosexual “marriage,” transgenderism, and radical feminism. The creational order of man and woman qua male and female designed to be only male and female and nothing different (as if there could in fact be anything different) collides with the guiding tenet of the contemporary world: radical human autonomy, summarized as: “I should be able to do anything I want and be anything I want as long as I don’t hurt anybody else.” If this means a male’s becoming a female, or a female becoming a male gorilla, or an androgynous being (sexless, or combined two sexes), nothing is permitted to stand in my way.
Not only should nothing stand in my way. The state should perceive as its chief role protecting and even financing my ability to do just that. This is an overarching tenet of Cultural Marxism: political engineering of the revolutionary erotic regime.
If today’s church wishes to bring many sinners to Jesus Christ, she must be eager first to challenge the creational insurrection that makes the reception of the gospel impossible.
When the Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County decided 6–3 that prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex in the 1964 Civil Rights Act now included “sexual orientation and gender identity,” the high court enshrined creational insurrection as U. S. law. The fact that it is U. S. law doesn’t make it any less the greatest act of insurrection possible: rebellion against the God of the universe.
Political and creational insurrection are both evil, but the latter is more depraved than the former, because while political insurrection is rebellion against God’s delegated order, creational insurrection is an attempted coup of his cosmic reality. This in fact is just what creational insurrection is: war on reality.
This hints at why Christians need not despair over the current erotic regime and its exaltation of homosexual “marriage” and transgenderism and pervasive pornography. When you assault reality, you fight a foreordained losing battle. Reality bites back. Just as God’s cosmic physical laws (like gravity) govern our tangible realm, so his cosmic moral laws govern its ethical realm. And success in violations of the latter order is no more possible than in the former. If you leap from a 13-story building in trying to prove your autonomy, you’ll only end in proving the law of gravity. If you engage in transgenderism or legalize homosexual “marriage,” you’ll only end up destroying yourself and your culture — and proving God’s moral law.
A prime task of biblical Christians and Christian ministries today is to call the world back to reality, that is, to God’s creational order. The church is entrusted with the gospel, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. But “the gospel makes sense only in a moral world,” and the moral world is the created world. To share the gospel to people for whom God’s world is not an unstated assumption is a fool’s errand. Nobody who believes that the world is self-generated, that there is no God, that there is no sin (except maybe sexism, racism, or homophobia), and that eternal judgment is a hell-fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist fairy tale can become a Christian. The gospel is not designed for a sort of world that man created and from which God is excluded.
Therefore, if today’s church wishes to bring many sinners to Jesus Christ, she must be eager first to challenge the creational insurrection that makes the reception of the gospel impossible.
Brian G. Mattson is a public theologian, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center for Cultural Leadership as well as Adjunct Professor of Systematic and Public Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, has written several books, and lectures on theology and culture.
CCL: One of the hot theological topics the last few years among conservatives has been over the traditional attributes of God. All conservatives are classical theists in the broad sense, but some are convinced that a few attributes need “tweaked” to bring them more into like with the Bible’s picture of God. Example: “hard impassibility” (God’s creatures cannot affect him) or “soft impassibility” (man can affect God but not overthrew his will). What’s your general impression of this debate?
BGM: My impression is that this debate always exists; it may subside for a time, but then flares up with varying degrees of urgency. Talking about how an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God (as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it) interfaces and interacts with a finite, temporal, and changeable world is bound to be a mysterious subject matter, in the very nature of the case. How can God be and act in space, time, and change without this being at the expense of his very nature?
On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the concerns of the “hard” classical theists, as you describe them. Many modern attempts at expressing the God/world relation have sacrificed God’s transcendent Lordship in the interests of a more “involved” and/or “relational” Deity. I have in mind the basically pantheistic (or panentheistic) approaches of process theology, Open Theism, the Emergent movement, etc., which essentially deny that God is a se, “of himself,” having “a life and existence of his own” (Bavinck). God needs his creation in order to be God!
But pantheism is not the only danger. We must be careful that, stepping back from the pit of pantheism, we don’t stumble backward into the ditch of Deism, in which God is so transcendent and removed from the finite and temporal world that he is entirely “above it all.” I worry that some recent advocates of the classical view are veering into this territory when, for example, they understand “anthropomorphism”—God’s appearing to act in “human” ways (e.g., angered, grieved, relented, repented, etc.)—to mean mere appearance. It only looks like God was angry one moment and merciful the next. In fact, what happens in history—say, a sinner repenting—doesn’t affect God in any way at all! This strikes me as losing altogether the relationship between God and the world, in an (over)reaction to blurring the distinction between them. This is the Epicurean answer to the Stoics, and I fear that if it is carried out consistently to its logical conclusion we will lose much else of greatest importance. Who, exactly, suffered and died on the cross? To attempt an answer to that question is to realize that this stuff really does matter.
The Christian answer must be to get our understanding of what “transcendence” means and what “immanence” means from the Bible, not principles of pagan philosophy. It is paganism that constantly vacillates between a pseudo-transcendence or a pseudo-immanence, Deism or pantheism, Parmenides or Heraclitus, Epicureans or the Stoics. We ought to submit to how the Bible describes God’s transcendent Lordship of space and time and how he can—precisely because of that sovereignty—engage fully in his own story without sacrificing that Lordship. That is, it seems to me, the very uniqueness of the Christian message, over against all other philosophies and religions that vacillate on these very questions. The Word who was in the beginning, and who was with God, and who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us. And it is real.
CCL: Another big topic is whether the church can incorporate helpful aspects of Critical Race Theory without buying into its atheistic presuppositions. Your thoughts?
BMG: My thoughts begin with despair that this topic can be addressed with any light instead of heat. I am only barely kidding. Tim Keller wrote 40+ thousand thoughtful, nuanced, and often brilliant words on the topic and was instantly shuffled into whatever preconceived box people had already prepared for him—even when he didn’t belong in any of the boxes. So I’m not exactly hopeful that I can say anything helpful.
From the earliest centuries the Christian church has recognized that even pagans have great and beneficial insights, and the contemporary challenge with CRT is just our latest opportunity to wrestle again with that fact. How can an atheistic philosophy like Marxism (which is, in fact, the seedbed of CRT) have anything useful to teach Christians? There are a limited number of answers to this question.
1) Marxism, actually, is great (so let’s listen and learn!)
2) Marxism is godless philosophy (so let’s not listen and learn!)
3) Marxism is a unstable mixture of good and bad (so let’s discern!)
Number (1) essentially denies the antithesis between faith and unbelief and devolves into worldliness. Number (2) emphasizes the antithesis, but knows nothing of “common grace” and devolves into otherworldliness (no unbeliever can say anything true!). Number (3) is the consensus approach in Christendom, but that isn’t saying very much because we need to discern what constitutes “good” and “bad,” and we need to figure out what roots are producing what fruits and why. Moreover, whether the fruits really do come from the stated roots, or whether they’re “borrowed capital” from elsewhere—i.e., “borrowing” a Christian fruit (e.g., racism is wrong) and transplanting it into foreign intellectual soil. This is all going to take both deep biblical reflection as well as worldview thinking. Both of which are in extremely short supply.
I think CRT makes at least one reasonable and biblical point: sinners (including those whose sin is racism) can construct systems that benefit themselves at the expense of others. What was the Jim Crow south but systemic racism? It was codified in law! So far, so good. Where we’ve been complacent about such systemic sins, we ought to repent of it and rectify matters (as we did with Jim Crow, for example, at gunpoint from the 101st Airborne, in one instance) no matter who brings the charge, Marxists or otherwise.
However, along with that legitimate observation comes a whole worldview that goes way beyond anything Christians can affirm. As far as I can see, CRT as a school of thought is fatalist, unfalsifiable, divisive, ungrateful, uncharitable, unforgiving, unsatisfied, often slanderous, often empirically wrong, apocalyptic, utopian, and bears all the hallmarks of a new kind of Gnosticism. Read Galatians 5 and you won’t see these characteristics in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit.
My main long-term worry about churches in particular is that our massively sentimental age uniquely exposes us to manipulation. Because we (rightly) know our own sin and sinful propensities, because we want to be quick to repent and respond in humility, we tend to lean heavily toward niceness and empathy. We affirm, affirm, and affirm, and rarely, if ever, call the Marxist worldview to account for its destructive, conscience-searing, soul-crushing spiritual and intellectual totalitarianism. I’m all for compassionate hearts. But they’re useless without spines.
Oh, and read Tim Keller’s work. I think you’ll find it helpful.
CCL: You were deeply impressed by N. T. Wright’s History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology. Why?
Because I discovered that the subtitle is misleading.
Yes, really. When I picked up the book I expected a renewed defense of “natural theology,” the idea that if people just reflect on the created order they can somehow reason their way up to God—well, “god,” at least, and then later supplement with some Bible stuff to really get to “God.”
This book is the published version of Wright’s 2018 Gifford Lectures, a luminous endowed lecture series held at Scottish Universities. The last New Testament scholar before Wright to give the Giffords was Rudolf Bultmann, a half-century ago. The series was endowed by Lord Gifford in the 19th century to explore the topic of Natural Theology, and Wright rather boldly and winsomely took his opportunity to undermine the whole project down to the roots. Natural Theology, as it has been practiced since the Enlightenment, is, he argues, a revived form of Epicureanism, a sort of Deism where God is far off, way up there, unconcerned and inaccessible to the way down-here realm of history, science, and fact. Our job is to intellectually work ourselves up to him as best we can using our enlightened intellectual tools.
But what if our intellectual tools aren’t enlightened? What if Lessing, Schweitzer, et. al. just blithely and wrongly assumed Epicureanism to be true at the outset? What if the world isn’t like that at all? What if God really is involved in history (see your first question!)? What if God, in Jesus Christ, has radically intervened in human affairs, died and risen again, and inaugurated a new kingdom that gives us new eyes to see?
I am not the only one to recognize that Wright isn’t engaged in “Natural Theology” at all. That’s why the lectures and the book got very little academic attention. He’s actually drilling down and demolishing the entire edifice of what “Natural Theology” means. Instead of rigging the intellectual rules with Epicureanism, why not instead step inside a biblical worldview, take a look around in the Jewish world of Jesus, where heaven and earth were meant to interlock and meet (Temple) and eternity and time to co-inhere (Sabbath)? Why not look at Jesus again, as if for the first time, and see that he is the true Temple and that he brings the eschatological Sabbath by his resurrection from the dead?
The book is a workout. I’m not entirely without criticism, but it is a tour de force. If I were to pithily summarize: only by humbly presupposing the truth of the biblical record can we see it for what it really is, and not by subjecting it to the acid of Enlightenment skepticism. And only by immersing ourselves in that story can we see everything else rightly. It’s a presuppositional argument, start to finish, and it made my heart sing and my mind rejoice.
Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D., is Distinguished Fellow of Law and Culture at the Center for Cultural Leadership and Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs & Training for the Alliance Defending Freedom. He kindly agreed to answer a few pressing cultural questions:
CCL: Jeff, what seems to be the direction of the Supreme Court in light of recent decisions?
JJV: The Court has taken a decided interest in religious liberty and free expression matters, and has typically resolved them in ways which preserve privacy and/or expand liberty. We will know more at the end of the term (in June) as there remain some key matters awaiting resolution.
CCL: In today’s cultural ferment, why is it necessary for churches and Christian ministries to understand the Christian worldview?
JJV: The Gospel is good news about real reality and applies to that reality – put differently, the Gospel only makes sense when considered and applied in the world as God created it.
Moreover, this is the time for moral clarity, moral conviction, and moral courage. And, we must be bold (graciously bold, of course) in proclaiming and demonstrating that it is the Christian worldview that spawned human flourishing and the Western legal and political tradition of liberty for all persons – the early Christians opposed gladiatorial combat, infanticide, and slavery; then they worked to change the culture and the culture’s law accordingly.
Now we have the same opportunity because the Christian worldview supplies the justification for justice, liberty, and human flourishing for all. Orthodox theology correlates to orthodox ethics, personal, social, and public: self-government, families, associations, churches, and the state.
CCL: How is transgenderism is affecting conservative churches, and how should they respond to it?
JJV: The Trans Moment, as my friend Ryan Anderson calls it, is totalistic and absolutist, meaning that it seeks to impact and affect all areas of life (and therefore the church) as well as coercing conformity/affirmation, eliminating dissent. It arises in conservative churches by wrapping itself in supposed compassion: “Hey, Samantha is confused and wants to be called ‘Sam’ because she thinks she’s a boy and is demanding to participate in the boys’ small group and be called ‘he and him.’” Often, a well-intended compassion drives practices or policies to “accommodate” these demands in the name of “journeying” with the confused person.
The problem here is that doing so in this way transgresses creational norms and the 9th Commandment by imposing the girl’s confusion on others and requiring them to pretend a non-reality: that a girl can become a boy simply by subjective desire. The fact that every person possesses inherent dignity via the Christian worldview (Imago Dei) does not mean that the person also possesses comprehensive authority to rightly require others to affirm her in her dysphoria.
The Christian worldview teaches us that we must love God and neighbor — in that order. Misplaced compassion inverts that crucial order, which is what emergent folks like Brian McLaren explicitly, though wrongly, taught. The Trans Moment therefore undermines anthropological reality “from the beginning” which Jesus reaffirmed is the precise normative locus of and for sexual and human ethics (Mt. 19). The answer is to love God and then neighbor in that order in all that the church does.
Creational norms comprise humanity’s “instructional manual,” and to depart from it to any degree delegitimates the church’s foundational confession: Jesus is Lord. Of what? All of the creation, whether on heaven or on earth. Matter matters, and first things matter to all things, including matter.
“We need less navel-gazing introspection and more world-conquering extrospection.”
Read the article here.
Today the CalPers board considered the widely implemented Diversity & Inclusion Report and Framework. CalPers is a massive agency for California employees, retirees and their families and manages the largest pension fund in the United States. I was asked by one of the CalPers members to address the board on this pressing issue.
Here are my prepared remarks:
My name is P. Andrew Sandlin, and I am founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. I hold degrees in English, history, political science, and systematic and historical theology.
I hope you won’t mind a contrarian viewpoint.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the Diversity & Inclusion Report and Framework (statement linked above) incorporate widely attested Critical Race Theory whose root is Cultural (Western) Marxism. All of us deplore racism, for example, but Critical Race Theory instigates hostility between races at a time when we should be working toward racial harmony and understanding. The same is true of sexual preferentialism and its affirmative action.
Moreover, this program will alienate many hard-working Americans among your constituents, Christians, and others who believe in equality under the law, fair play, free speech, and equal rights. The attempt to create special preferences for special groups is a revitalization of the old classically Marxist idea of class consciousness, today known as identity politics.
CalPERS should recognize the equality of all members and not attempt to privilege some and (unintentionally) deprivilege others.
DEI will undermine the ideals of fairness, objectivity, and fair play and could alienate a sizable portion of your constituency.
We live in a time when new and dangerous ideologies are overtaking the elite reaches of our society and as they filter down, they are bringing great harm to our common, hard-working citizens and their families. DEI is a prime example of this ideological poison.
Bias is always a danger, but coercive preferentialism is perhaps the worst bias of all.
I urge you to bypass this proposal and, instead, work toward a truly fair approach toward all.
We need fresh, innovative thinking, not a rehash of old, discredited Marxism.
“One of the most prominent errors in the history of the church is postponing massive blessings of creation and the gospel to the eternal state. If the liberal churches wish to re-situate all the blessings in the ‘already’ (since they have no actual eternal hope, and often turn to revolutionary politics for salvation), conservative churches tend to push most of the blessings off into the ‘not yet.’
“They are both wrong.”
Get the e-book here.
“Funerals are a gauge of the impact of Gnosticism in Christianity. Underlying the Gnostic attitude in modern Christian funerals is the most troubling assumption of all: a theology of escape.”
Read the rest here.
The modern conservative church has been plagued by pessimistic, unbelieving, and anorexic eschatology. The biblical hope of a glorious future on the earth should animate all we do.