Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Need for a Christian Social Order

Over the past century Christianity has increasingly ceased to function as public truth in the Western nations. Whatever a society considers to be public truth will inevitably function as the religion of that’s society. What functions as public truth in modern Western nations is secular humanism. Secular humanism is the religion of the West today. Christianity has been reduced to the status of a mere mystery cult, i.e. a personal salvation cult.

But secular humanism is too relativistic to function as a stable foundation for civilisation and must eventually give way to some other religious foundation. Only Christianity can provide a true, stable and lasting foundation for civilisation, and that the abandonment of Christianity as public truth in the twentieth century has led to world into chaos. The answer to the chaos that the modern world faces is therefore the revival of Christianity as public truth, i.e. as the religious foundation of our civilisation, in terms of which both individual men and nations, with their civil governments, must organise their whole life by conforming to the precepts and teachings of the Bible. In other words Christianity must be the established religion of all nations. This is precisely what the Great Commission calls for.

But this will not be possible without the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the lives of both individual Christians and the Christian communities of all nations as a concrete social order that models to the world what true society should be, and by doing this calls the world to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without the manifestation on earth in tangible form of this prophetic social order the world will not be won for Christ. The Christian community is to be a light to the world. Only as that light is seen, i.e. only as Christians are seen living as a real social order that transforms the whole life of man, will the world be drawn to it:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many peoples: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up swords against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:2–4).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Religious Cause of the Recent Flooding on the Somerset Levels

The recent flooding of the Somerset Levels (winter 2013–2014), and particularly the flooding at the beginning of February 2014 has been one of the main items in the United Kingdom news media for some time now. There has been excessive rainfall, there is no doubt about that. But the extreme flooding in early February has not been caused by excessive rainfall. It has been caused by the nation’s rejection of Christianity and its conversion to a new religion, secular humanism, which has provided a haven for the champions of neo-pagan “back to nature” ideology. Now, I know this claim may seem rather incredible, but please give me a minute to explain. There is nothing magical about this, and I am not saying God sent heavy rain as a punishment for our abandonment of Christianity. The flooding is a form of judgement of course, but not in that sense; rather it is a judgement in the sense that it is the consequence of man’s rejection of the Cultural Mandate. Nor am I saying there has not been excessive rainfall; there has, and this would have caused flooding in any event. This is not the problem. The Somerset Levels are prone to flood, and flooding is a common occurrence there, but not on this scale.

Some years ago a deliberate decision was made to let the water table rise on the Levels to preserve the wildlife habitat. The dredging machines were sold off for scrap and it was decided that the Levels should flood more often. According to Gordon Rayner, writing for The Telegraph: “Michael Eavis, the farmer and organiser of the Glastonbury Festival, said the Environment Agency had sold off 50 dredging machines for scrap several years ago because it had decided its priority was ‘to preserve the riverbank life—river oysters and little voles and things.’ He said: ‘It floods every winter here now. It's not a 100-year thing. It floods every single year and it never used to. For the sake of the meadows and the wild flowers and the fields and the farmers and the cows, this drainage has to be done. There's no other way of doing it. The choice is to abandon the farmland and let it all flood and leave it all to wading birds. (Farming) is so fundamentally important and an essential part of the Somerset Levels and the alternative is a terrible, terrible prospect.’ Critics of the Environment Agency have pointed out that it recently spent £31m creating a bird sanctuary at the mouth of the Parrett river in Somerset—six times the estimated cost of dredging. There have also been claims that the RSPB [the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] has become too powerful a lobby group, with too much influence over the Environment Agency’s decisions on how to balance the needs of farmers with the needs of wildlife” (Gordon Rayner, “Dutch engineers could be called in to sort out Somerset Levels flooding,” The Telegraph [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/], Monday 10 February 2014).

The reason for this is the growing acceptance of the ideology peddled by the eco-activists in which wildlife takes priority over man. The Bible teaches that God created man to develop the world, which was not meant to be a wilderness. Man’s Creation Mandate was to conquer the wilderness and tame it, and develop it: the result was civilisation. Of course managing wildlife is part of this and no one with a biblical understanding of this would want to see the extermination of species and the obliteration of the countryside etc.—rather the reverse. But man cannot live in a wilderness. Man’s job is to tame the wilderness and manage the earth for God’s glory and the betterment of mankind and the world itself. Part of that task in some countries has been draining the land and cultivating it so that it can sustain mankind. This is what has happened on the Levels, which without the management of man would be frequently in the condition it is now and worse. This management of the land was made possible by the deliberate policy of dredging to allow the water to drain off the land.

There is also a further aspect to this, namely deforestation of land for farming, since it has been argued that the existence of more forests and bogs on higher ground would help prevent excessive flooding down stream by holding back the water to some extent (See George Monbiot, “Dredging rivers won't stop floods. It will make them worse,” The Guardian [http://www.theguardian.com/], 20 January 2014). In other words, the alternative to dredging is to let the land revert to a wilderness. Of course there could be a balance between these two things. But it seems that such a balance has been achieved neither in the past nor in the present.

On the morning of 10 February 2014 Evan Davis interviewed Baroness Barbara Young on the BBC Radio Four Today programme about the flooding on the Somerset Levels (BBC Radio Four Iplayer, Today, 10/02/14 [http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03trkbz], 02.49.55–02:52.20). Barbara Young is a former Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and was Chief Executive of the Environment Agency from 2000 to 2008. She has also been vice chair of the BBC and chairman of English Nature. Davis questioned her as to whether there has been a deliberate policy to allow the Levels to flood more often for the sake of the wetland wildlife. Here is what he said: “You were quite keen on habitat protection . . . you gave talks called Instant Wildlife: Just Add Water . . . we’ve got this document, it’s a consultative document, but it appears to be outlining what the policy is . . . the draft we have does suggest that the Somerset Levels, from your time there [i.e. her time as Chief Executive of the Environment Agency—SCP], the policy should be to increase the frequency of flooding. I’m just wondering what your take on that is.” She evaded the question with typical political waffle saying she sympathised with the people affected and blaming the problem on the excessive rain. She also said that it is seven years ago since she was involved. But of course the problem goes back much further than this. I can remember hearing people complain over twenty years ago that one could walk over the river Parrett in places because it was so shallow due to there having been insufficient dredging. She was asked again if there was a deliberate policy to allow the Levels to flood more often: “But do you recollect it being a policy to have more flooding in the Somerset Levels?” Again she evaded answering the question. The BBC did not pursue it any further, but the answer was obvious. We’ll take that as a yes then. When you stop the dredging and let the water table rise to facilitate greater wetland wildlife what do you think the result will be? It’s not rocket science. Wetland wildlife was prioritised over the people who lived in the area.

Underpinning this was a religious perspective, namely that wilderness and wildlife have priority over man, that the problem with the world is man’s interference with the natural order, that Nature is normative and that man must be subject to Nature, not the Creation subject to man. I am not saying this is necessarily a self-consciously religious perspective. It may well not be, but that does not alter the fact that it is the result of a particular world-view, a particular religious perspective. I use the world Nature (capitalised) here because what many people believe about Nature is a sort of throw-back to paganism. Actually there is no such thing as Nature in this sense; what we call Nature is God’s Creation. But when God is denied something has to take his place and for the eco-activists Nature becomes a sort of god. Some eco-activists have publicly criticised Christianity because of its doctrine of the Cultural or Creation Mandate, i.e. that man should rule over the earth and have dominion over it. This is wrong in their eyes. Man does not have the right or duty to rule over Nature, which is effectively their god. This is a religious conflict. Our society has rejected Christianity as public truth. But now Christianity has been downgraded as public truth something has to take its place as public truth (public truth equals religion). What has taken its place is secular humanism, which is the dominant religion of course. But secular humanism is defenceless against neo-paganism and it has all the silliest neo-pagan religions you can think of nesting in its rotting boughs. If it is not man’s divine calling to have dominion over the earth, an idea that is now seen as a vicious doctrine that harms Nature, then man must be subject to Nature.

Before Christianity became dominant mankind was terrified of Nature. The modern “back to nature” ideologues do not know what they are talking about. Ancient man did not see Nature in the way the modern “back to nature” people see it. He was at its mercy and terrified by it. That is why he tried to placate it with his magical rituals. He used magic to attempt to control it. Christianity changed all this. The Creation is not man’s master. Man was meant to be master of the Creation. His task on earth is to subdue it to the glory of God and the betterment of mankind. This means that what we are to aim for is not a wilderness, but a managed environment. This includes looking after God’s Creation and managing the wildlife of course, which is why we have parks etc. But this is not the ideology that is now dominant. What has taken over is the idea that the wilderness has the priority and that man’s management of the earth, his dominion over it as God’s vicegerent, is evil. The doctrine of the Creation Mandate has been openly criticised by well-known high profile nature-buffs and eco-activists who are hostile to the biblical view and whom our rulers, in their zeal to debunk Christianity, are happy to cuddle up to, granting them whatever idiotic requests they make. What has happened as this new ideology, which is a form of neo-paganism, has become popular and triumphed is that man has again become subject to the terrors of Nature. Welcome to the real world of “back to nature.” If Nature is normative (i.e. if the natural world is not God’s Creation, which man is meant to have dominion over in God’s name, but functions effectively as a god—it is a form of naturalistic pantheism of course) then man is subject to it, and of course subject to all its terrors.

The change of religious world-view in our society has led to a change in what is prioritised by those who manage the environment on the Levels. The Levels have always flooded. But when the Levels were dredged regularly the water could drain off before the next flood. The stopping of the dredging, brought about ultimately by a change of religious ideology, which led to a change of priorities in which wetland wildlife took precedence over mankind, has meant that the water cannot drain off before the next flood. So the situation gets worse and worse. Now the South West is cut off by train and it will cost million of pounds to put right the problem caused by the stupidity of neo-paganism. But there is no guarantee that this problem will not recur. For a long term solution, the ideology, i.e. the religious world-view, that caused the problem needs to be addressed.

One of the problems with this is that even many Christians have bought into this neo-pagan eco-agenda,—eco-Nazism is what I’ve heard it called—and so the Church does not give clear teaching and direction to the nation. (By the way, the eco-agenda was a part of Hitler’s original Nazi agenda as well—you eco-worriors did know that didn’t you? You didn’t? Oh dear! Well you need to look into it because there is a whole host of other stuff that the West is now embracing with gusto that is ant-Christian and that Hitler and his neo-pagan warriors were equally zealous about as well.)

Until we repent and turn again to the Lord Jesus Christ and govern our lives and society according to his word we will have more of this, not because God sends more rain to punish man for his rebellion, but because ideas have consequences, and religion underpins civilisation; i.e. it underpins how we see mankind and his place in the world, and this governs how we go about living, whether and how we develop the world, and therefore what decisions we make about priorities. The Levels are reclaimed land. If we do not believe man has the right to reclaim land, that wetland wildlife has a prior claim, then there will be consequences. If we believe that God created the world and put man in it to subdue it and have dominion over it there will be a different set of consequences. The latter produced civilisation, the former produced paganism in which man is subject to Nature, becoming the slave of the idol Nature rather than master of the created order with dominion over it, which is what God intended him to be. The abandonment of a Christian view of man’s place in the world by our society has led to the ideology that is at the root of the stopping of the dredging. And it is this that has caused the crisis. The rain always comes. What we do about it is ultimately a religious decision.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Kingdom of God

To speak of the Kingdom of God is to speak of a divine political order that stands in contrast to the politics of man. Christians throughout the world are not merely members of the various nations who worship the same God in their personal devotions. They constitute a nation in their own right, a distinctive people, called out and separated from the kingdoms of the world, and born from above through faith in Christ into another kingdom with its own political order.

The form of this political order is absolute monarchy. Regardless of the particular forms of administration under which the Monarch’s sovereignty is delegated to his ministers in the different spheres of life (i.e. family, Church, State), the Christian nation is governed by an absolute Monarch whose law is unchangeable, whose jurisdiction is unlimited, and whose will is final. His ministers, or vicegerents, who govern under his law in the various institutional aspects of the life of the nation, may or may not be chosen by means of elections, depending on the nature of the institution (e.g. elections may be used in choosing elders—Ex. 18:25; Dt. 1:13–15; Acts 14: 23 cf. 6:3–6, but such elections have no place in the family). Nevertheless, those chosen by whatever means are bound absolutely to govern these institutions under the will of God as revealed in his law. This applies not only in the government of the Church but in the family and the State also. No Christian politician, chosen by whatever means, or belonging to any particular political party, has any dispensation to serve any other Lord. In his work as a politician he owes an absolute and unswerving loyalty and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rome recognised the inevitable conflict between Christ and Caesar that this fact created. So did the early Church. It is the modern Church’s failure to recognise the inevitable and exhaustive nature of this antithesis that has in large measure rendered the Church so irrelevant and powerless in the modern world. We can put this another way by saying that the modern Church has failed to recognise that all political thought and action is inevitably religious, and that since Christianity is a religion it must of necessity have a distinctive view of political order. Had the early Christians been prepared to do what the modern Church on the whole seems prepared to do, namely to restrict their worship of Christ to a personal salvation cult, which is what the various permitted mystery cults were, there would have been no conflict with Rome. But they were not prepared to do this. The conflict was a political conflict because it was a religious conflict. It has been observed that in Rome

“The framework for the religious and familial acts of piety was Rome itself, the central and most sacred community. Rome strictly controlled all rights of corporation, assembly, religious meetings, clubs, and street gatherings, and it brooked no possible rival to its centrality. One of the reasons for the later supremacy of the military bodies over Rome was the lack of any organized bodies within the state to provide a counter-balance to the two swollen bodies which became the rulers of the Empire: the army and the abiding and growing civil service. The state alone could organize; short of conspiracy, the citizen could not. On this ground alone, the highly organized Christian Church was an offense and an affront to the state, and an illegal organization readily suspected of conspiracy.” [1] 

The early Christians proclaimed Christ as Lord not only with their words, but with their lives also in the way they lived and organised themselves as a community, and in doing this they constituted a distinctive social and political order that was in direct and open conflict with the social and political order of Rome. “Very early in her life the Church set up agencies to deal with every sphere of life. They had their own courts, schools, exchequers and hospitals. It was their faith that dominated every sphere of life; to have any area of life outside the Lordship of Christ was considered idolatry. The reason behind the violent Roman persecutions of the third century was not religious, but rather that, as the charge read, the Christian Church was—imperium in imperio—a sovereignty within a sovereignty; an absolute authority within the jurisdiction of another. It was because they were regarded as politically subversive that they had to be destroyed.” [2] Speaking of Celsus’s opposition to Christianity A. D. Nock observed that “Both the Christians and their opponents came to think of themselves as a new people: and it is clear in the work of Celsus that his real aim was to persuade the Christians not to forget loyalty to the State in their devotion to this new state within a State.” [3]

We must recognise, therefore, first, that the kingdom of God, the body of Christ on earth, and the Christian ecclesia, are political concepts, and second, that the realisation of these concepts in human life and society constitutes a distinctive form of political action. There is a sense, therefore, in which we can say that the kingdom of God is primarily a political order and that the Christian faith is primarily a political faith. Politics for the Christian is not merely one aspect of life among others, but the whole of it. Christianity is about politics.

Not only is it the case that for the Christian politics, in this general sense, is the primary context of life; it is the case also for the non-believer. Life is primarily political because politics is inevitably religious and has as its raison d’être, its entire rationale, the administration of the law of an ultimate authority, i.e. a God, in the totality of life.[4] In this sense, therefore, we can say that Christianity is the only true politics. All other political ideologies are false, i.e. idolatrous. There is only either obedient or disobedient politics in God’s sight. The body of Christ, as the polis (the city) of God, whose demos (people) constitute the ecclesia (the body politic) of the Kingdom of God, is a political organism, and all other political organisms are apostate and in rebellion against God, their only rightful King, to whom the nations of the earth have been given as his rightful inheritance.[5] Christianity is the true politics, the only true politics. Christianity is primarily a political order because it concerns the kingdom of God, which is the heart of the Christian gospel, and which we are commanded to put first above all else (Mt. 6:33).

It is important at this point that we understand precisely what is being claimed here and what is not being claimed. First, it must be remembered that I am using the term politics here in a wide sense as a general category for understanding the Christian faith. I am not, at least at this point, referring to a particular form of civil government or to a particular form of the administration of public justice.

Second, it has been claimed that Christianity is primarily a political faith because it concerns the kingdom of God, which is a political order because a kingdom is a political concept. However, it is clear from Scripture that the kingdom of God is not of this world (Jn 18:36). There is, therefore, a radical break, a discontinuity, an antithesis, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Christ’s authority and power are not of this world—in other words he does not derive his authority and power from the political orders and empires of men. His authority comes from God. But this does not mean that his authority has no relation to the world of politics and the empires of men, that it does not address the political life of men and nations. It does. We are commanded to pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). The source of Christ’s authority and power is not in this world; but its object is the transformation of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of Christ (Ps. 2; Rev. 11:15). The Christian nation or kingdom is not just another political order among the many political orders that exist in the world. It stands out over and against these and is completely different in origin and nature. There is a complete antithesis between the two. Nevertheless, the theatre in which Christ’s kingdom is to be manifested is the world of men and nations, not some vague otherworldly spiritual realm. It is the nations that are to be brought under the discipline of Christ by the preaching of the gospel (Mt. 28:18–20).[6]

Third, there is a fundamental principle of secular humanist politics that demonstrates very clearly the nature of the antithesis that exists between the kingdoms of the world, or the politics of man, and the kingdom of Christ, i.e. the politics of God. In the politics of man human government takes priority over all else. Man becomes the measure of all things. Man is supreme. This supremacy must manifest itself in the form of human government over all spheres of life. This inevitably leads to totalitarianism and the denial of human freedom in the name of man, indeed even in the name of the rights of man. Well did Jesus say “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36). There is no real freedom outside of Christ, only idolatry, and all idols are tyrants that enslave men and crush their spirits. This is no less the case with the modern idolatry of democratic political power in which man rules himself according to his own law in the name of human rights. This kind of human autonomy from God, i.e. the proclamation of the rights of man, can only be achieved by denying the rights of God over all spheres of life. Such a proclamation of the rights of man, because it is a denial of the rights of God, is necessarily in principle also a denial of all the freedoms that God has given to men, and ultimately will inevitably produce a society that in practice denies these freedoms in the name of man as the captain of his own fate. This is a serious problem that we now have to face in Britain. Politics in modern Britain has become a relentless campaign to strip men of their legitimate freedom under God and replace it with State control over the whole of life in the name of human rights that are superficial and ineffective and virtually meaningless to the individual. The antithesis here reaches its zenith in the idolatry of secular humanism, which offers real men, or rather forces upon men, a new kind of salvation, a salvation in which the State, as the embodiment of man’s own idea of himself as God, rules over every facet of human life and provides men with their “rights” and the solutions to all their problems. This is the State as God,[7] the new Rome. Hegel even refers to the State as “this actual God.” [8] The only real difference between ancient Rome and the new Rome is the more consistently secularised form in which the new Rome is manifesting its tyranny. “Just as the church organized the faith during the medieval era in Europe, the national state regiments it in the modern era. The state sees itself as performing an eternal mission: it demands to be worshipped, has substituted strict civil registration for the religious sacraments of baptism and marriage, and regards those who question their national identity as traitors and heretics.” [9]

This is the religion by which Western societies live today. And yet the body of Christ, the nation or kingdom of God, those who belong to a different political order that claims their absolute loyalty, must also live amongst this apostate and rebellious political order in which man usurps the place of God and whose chief idol, the secular State, is accorded all the attributes of divinity, although in a secularised form.[10] How are Christians to do this? How are the members of the ecclesia of God, a rival political order, to live among the political orders of men that now dominate society? How are we to live in the antithesis while both maintaining that antithesis and at the same time supplanting the political orders of man with the political order of God’s kingdom so that the latter triumphs over and vanquishes the former? (1 Jn. 5:4) How are we to practise the politics of God amongst the political orders of men?

The correct response to this question will involve us in a great deal of sacrifice. It cost many of the early Christians their lives. Unfortunately, the way that the modern Church has dealt with this question on the whole has been either to deny the validity of the question and embrace pietistic withdrawal, or, as with liberalism, to deny the antithesis.

Neither approach is correct. If we deny the antithesis or the validity of the question the result will be that we shall engage in the politics of man instead of the politics of God. This may be self-conscious or unselfconscious. But it will be inevitable. There is no third way politics for the Christian. There is only the politics of God and the politics of man. Either we engage in the politics of God or we succumb to the politics of man.

   1.   R. J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy (Fairfax, Virginia: Thoburn Press, 1978), p. 92f.
   2.   Hugh Flemming, Post-Hyppocratic Medicine: The Problem and the Solution—How the Christian Ethic has Influenced Health Care (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2010), p. 28f.
   3.   A. D. Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford University Press, [1933] 1961), p. 207. Cf. Allen Brent: “The victory of early Christianity and its success in annihilating its pagan rival both as a political and intellectual force is the victory of a state within a state, an imperium in imperio, which both challenged the State itself, and sought finally and unsuccessfully to replace it totally” (The Imperial Cult and the Development of Church Order: Concepts and Images of Authority in Paganism and Early Christianity before the Age of Cyprian [Leiden, Boston, Köln: Brill, 1999], p. 1).
   4.   See the interesting article by Thomas Schirrmacher, “‘Lex’ (Law) as Another Word for Religion: A Lesson from the Middle Ages” in Calvinism Today, Vol. II, No. 2 (April 1992), p. 5.
   5.   It is not being claimed here that all political institutions other than the Christian Church are apostate, but that all political organisms other than the Kingdom of God, and therefore all political institutions that are not in subjection to the law of Christ, are apostate. Cf. H. Dooyeweerd, “Romantic Redirection” in Roots of Western Culture (Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation, trans. John Kraay, [1959] 1979), p. 182.
   6.   It is a common misconception that the Great Commission is a command to make disciples of individuals from among or out of all the nations (i.e. to engage in personal evangelism or “soul saving”). It is not. Strictly speaking the English language has no verb to disciple. The nearest the Oxford English Dictionary comes to such a verb is to discipline. Consequently the Revised Version’s translation of Mt. 28:19 reads “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” Unfortunately, due to the ambiguity of the English language at this point, this translation can be taken, and has been taken, to mean “Go therefore and make disciples of people from among all the nations”—in other words it has been taken as a command to make individual disciples from among the nations, not a command to make the nations the disciples of Christ, which is precisely what the Greek text says. This erroneous interpretation of a badly translated phrase has unfortunately now become almost ubiquitous. But Mt. 28:19 does not say “Go therefore and make disciples of people from all nations . . .” It says “Go and disciple the nations . . .” Matheteusate (aorist active imperative of matheteuo), which is usually translated as “make disciples of,” means be a disciple. The transitive use of the verb is not found in classical Greek (H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew [Winona Lake: Alpha Publications, Sixth Edition (1883) 1979, trans. Peter Christie], p. 527). In the koine Greek of the New Testament, however, it is used transitively to mean make a disciple of (F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Cambridge University Press, 1961, trans. Robert W. Funk], §148, p. 82af.), taking as its direct object in Mt. 28:19 panta ta ethne, “all the nations.” The Great Commission is not a command to evangelise individuals therefore (though of course it is impossible to fulfil the Great Commission without making individual disciples), but rather a command (1) to disciple and (2) to baptise the nations, which means of course that they must be evangelised and brought to faith in Christ, and (3) to teach them (i.e. the nations) to obey God’s commandments. See my essay The Great Decommission (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2011).
   7.   Cf. Jacques Ellul’s interesting comment that “The state, whenever it expresses itself, makes law. There are no longer any norms to regulate the activity of the state; it has eliminated the moral rules that judged it and absorbed the legal rules that guided it. The state is a law unto itself and recognizes no rules but its own. When, in this way, technique breaks off the indispensable dialogue between the law and the state, it makes the state a god in the most theologically accurate sense of the term: a power which obeys nothing but its own will and submits to no judgment from without” (The Technological Society [London: Jonathan Cape, (1954) 1965, trans. John Wilkinson], p. 299).
   8.   “The state is the march of God in the world; its ground or cause is the power of reason realizing itself as will. When thinking of the idea of the state, we must not have in our minds any particular state, or particular institution, but must rather contemplate the idea, this actual God, by itself” (S. W. Dyde, trans., Hegel’s Philosophy of Right [London: George Bell and Sons, 1896,], p. 247 [§258 add.]).
   9.   Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (London/New York: Verso, [2008] 2009, trans. Yael Lotan), p. 43f. Sand is here summarising the views of the American historian Carlton Hayes. Sand goes on to say: “There are significant differences between nationalism and the traditional religions. For example, the universalistic and proselytizing aspects that characterize a good part of the transcendental religions differ from the contours of nationalism, which tends to enclose itself. The fact that the nation almost always worships itself, rather than a transcendental deity, also affects the manner of rallying the masses for the state—not a permanent feature of the traditional world. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that nationalism is the ideology that most closely resembles the traditional religions in successfully crossing class boundaries and fostering social inclusion in a common system of relationships. More than any other worldview or normative system, nationalism has shaped both a personal and a communal identity, and despite its high degree of abstraction, has succeeded in bridging the gap and strengthening the union between the two. Identities of class, community or traditional religion have not been able to resist it for long. They have not been erased, but their continued existence became possible only if they integrated into the symbolic interconnections of the newly arrived identity” (ibid., p. 44). However, the era of the nation State—i.e. nationalistic idolatry—may well be coming to an end. Traditional religious forces have begun once more to affect the social life of Western cultures significantly if not always positively, and other forces are at work in the modern world, especially economic forces, that have begun to rival nation States as the primary determinants of mass culture. The decline and even survival of Western cultures is intimately bound up with the interplay of these forces.
   10.   On the modern State as a secular God and the ascription of the attributes of divinity, particularly the attribute of sovereignty, to the modern State in a secularised form see my essay Baal Worship Ancient and Modern (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2010).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

False Prophets

This is what we have to tolerate from our pastors and Church “leaders” in the UK today. The following statement was made by David Pawson, a well-known and popular evangelical Baptist preacher a few years ago in a conference speech. Observe the words in italics, but read the paragraph from the beginning—and weep!

“Now I want to say a number of things about the Muslim religion, which to a Christian raise questions. Number one, I didn’t know what adjective to use; I’ll start with this, Islam is a holistic religion. I could’ve said a totalitarian religion. I mean by both adjectives that it is about the whole of life. It is a total religion—it can’t ever be a hobby, it’s a total religion, not just for the whole life of an individual, but the whole life of a family, the whole life of a community, the whole life of a society, the whole life of a nation, and the whole life of the world. True religion is for the whole of that. And therefore it has much in common with the religion of the Old Testament. We call such a religion a theocracy, where the laws are not decided by a government or the politicians, but by God, and He gives the laws for the whole of society. And that is why the law of Moses has no distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, social law, crime, punishment of crime—it’s all mixed up together, because God was the King of Israel, and the whole of their life, even down to their toilet arrangements, is legislated for by God in Moses. Christianity is not like that, but Judaism and Islam are. They cover everything.”

You can listen to him say this online at Youtube here. The relevant section is at: 0:07:00 to 0:10:12 with the actual words "Christianity is not like that" at 0:09:56. From this he goes on to criticise converting nations and Christendom, but the problem is that if Christianity is not the established religion some other religion will be. Today in the West this is secular humanism.

It is no good complaining about our secular rulers while we are tolerating this sort of thing in Church. If the Church refuses to be salt and light to the world, it is no wonder the world is in such darkness. The Bible tells us that judgement must begin at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). Judgement is not only condemnation for sin, it is justification of righteousness. It is also rule. To judge is to rule. Accordingly Peter goes on to say that if judgement does not begin with the house of God, what will be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God (i.e. non-believers)? If the Church will not be ruled by God's law and rejects God's law, if she will not rule herself according to God's law, how can we expect the world to follow God's law? If the Church preaches that God's law is no longer applicable to society how can we condemn the world for believing that God's law is no longer applicable? The Church is supposed to set an example for the world to follow. Here in the UK the Church has cast aside the covenant and is thoroughly antinomian. The Church refuses to obey God's law and therefore she does not set an example to the world of what society should be like. Consequently the world is in darkness. The salt has lost is preservative effect upon society.

Who is responsible for this? The Church leaders, the clergymen and the pastors who have led the Church into this ditch. A evangelical clergyman here told his congregation from the pulpit "There are no rules in Christianity." And we have the appalling statement from Pawson above telling us that the Christian faith does not apply to the whole of life. This is typical of what the Church preachers and Christians believe today in the UK. We have to stop pretending that things are not what they are. Our pastors and clergymen are blind guides leading the blind into a ditch, as Jesus said they would. These men are false prophets. We are under no obligation listen to them or follow them. And we should expose them for what they are. We must stop pretending that they are doing the Lord's work. They are not. Judgement must start at the house of God, and godly rule, according to God’s law, must start at the house of God if the world is to be led to Christ.

One last point. The Bible does make a distinction between different types of law, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Pawson is wrong when he says there is no distinction between sacrificial and other laws, showing thereby his theological ignorance. Consider the meaning of the following verses: 1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 40:6–8; Pr. 21:3; Ecc. 5:1; Is. 1:11–17;  Jer. 7:22–23; Hos. 6:6–7; Mic. 6: 6–8; Mt. 9:13; 12:7; Col. 2:16–17; Heb. 8:5; 9:22–23; 10:6–9, which are incomprehensible on the basis of Pawson’s claim.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Real Answer to Islamic Jihad

There are now daily articles from many different on-line media organisation reporting on atrocities committed by Muslims against those who do not accept their faith. Most of these do not get reported in the main news media. You can see some examples here, here, here, and here. (You may also find this interesting).

All this is gruesomely relevant. Our politicians and media seem to be in denial about this kind of thing. While this does not of course mean that all Muslims want to commit atrocities like these, we should not forget that the Koran encourages Muslims to do this sort of thing to their enemies. "When ye encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have made a great slaughter among them" (Koran, Sura 47:4). There is no ethic of "love your enemy" in Islam.

Just because not all Muslims want to make war on non-Muslims in this way does not mean that Islam as a religion does not teach this. Islam is not a religion of peace. It divides the whole world into the House of Islam and the House of War. The Koran teaches that the Muslim's duty is to conquer the House of War, by force if necessary. The Koran recognises that war is hateful to Muslims but it still recommends it: "War is enjoined you against the Infidels; but this is hateful unto you: yet perchance ye hate a thing which is better for you, and perchance ye love a thing which is worse for you: but God knoweth and ye know not" (Sura 2:216). Yet the same Sura says "Let there be no violence in religion" (256).

Some Muslims have claimed that the command to fight against infidels only relates to defensive war, but this a modern interpretation, and not universal, and the history of both ancient and modern Islamic States contradicts this interpretation. A well attested hadith states that Mohammad said "I am commanded to fight against men until they bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad is God's messenger; only by pronouncing these words can they make their property and blood secure from me" (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Bk 1, no. 24).

The Koran contradicts itself. Muslims will doubtless choose which bits they will prioritise and how they will interpret the conflicting statements. Apparently, the peaceful statements came first, the violent ones later. But as I understand it later revelation modifies earlier revelation. The hadiths are very important for Sharia law, more important than the Koran in many respects. However these conflicts are interpreted, the violent interpretation of Islam is a legitimate interpretation, not a misunderstanding or a corruption of Islam.

The real issue though is not Islam but Christianity. God has used Islam throughout history as a stick to beat the apostate Christian nations of the West with for their apostasy. It is no different today. The West is apostate from the Christian faith. If the Western nations do not repent and turn back to God, and this means returning to God's law as the nations' standard of justice and man’s rule of life, God will continue to beat them with the rod of Islam and other rods of judgement (Rom. 1:18–32). This repentance will not happen until the Church once more starts teaching God’s law to the nations (Mt. 28:18–10). But the Church has largely abandoned this mission and replaced the biblical gospel with pietistic and sacramental mystery cults that are antinomian (i.e. they do not teach the abiding validity and relevance of God’s law) and useless to the world. The answer lies with the Church therefore. Judgement must begin with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The Church must repent of her apostasy and return to God. When she does, and when she starts to provide a model for the world to follow in the way she herself lives as a true community, a true society of faith with a social order that conforms to God’s will as revealed in his law, that witness will start to have results, and we shall again begin to see the discipling of the nation. Unless and until this happens, the Western nations, which now suppress the truth in unrighteousness, will continue to experience the judgement of God upon their ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

The Great Commission is the only real answer to Islamic Jihad (and to all the other problems besetting our world). But Christians must dispense with the fake pietistic version of the Great Commission that has been peddled in the Churches of the West for so long and embrace the biblical vision of discipling the nations. That means not merely making individual converts but making Christian nations. And that inevitably means teaching God’s law to the nations:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:2–4).
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:20).
“He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgement in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law" (Is. 42:4). 
"The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Is. 42:21).
“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgement to rest for a light of the people” (Is. 51:4).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Church: A Model of True Society to the World or Clergy-Dominated Principality?

The Hang the Bankers web site recently ran an article on the inevitability of economic collapse given our present banking system. You can read the article here. My experience in the UK has shown that not only do secular politicians and economists not want to listen to this message, but Christian pastors do not want to either. They are simply not bothered about the state of our society or the economy (with the exception of stopping sex shops from opening and banning homosexual marriage). One leader of a Church here said to me "I am not concerned about what is happening in the world, our job is to snatch brands from the fire." The real question for Christians however is this: when secular society collapses because of this economic debacle, will the Church be ready to step in with an alternative Christian model of society, including a biblical economic model? When society collapses the Church needs to be ready to lead the way in modelling to the world what society should be like. The Church is not ready for this, at least not in the UK, and the reason for this is entirely down to the pastors and clergymen who lead the Church and who do not believe that the Church has such a role to play. This is because they are ignorant of the history of the world and ignorant of the history of the Church.

There is only one way to deal with this: get rid of the pastors and clergymen who are misleading the Church. Their religion is mysticism and pietism and has no relevance to the real world or to a biblically informed understanding of the Christian faith. It was because the early Church was relevant, because she was a society that could show the world how to live as a true society, that she was able to conquer the Roman Empire. Things started to go wrong with the rise of clergymen—who did not exist in the apostolic and sub-apostolic age—and their control of the Church. As clergymen became more important the Church became a principality controlled by the professional clergy. The Church as a dynamic community was transformed into an institution with a professional bureaucracy and the life of faith was redefined as the performance of rituals by professional clergymen. This situation has continued. Today the whole culture of choosing and training pastors is defective and is vitiating the life and mission of the Church. 

The Church will not move on and the Great Commission will not progress until we deal with this problem, and this means getting rid of the whole clergy-dominated idea of the Christian Church. The New Testament Church gives us a completely different paradigm. In the New Testament Church there were ministries given by God. These were God’s gifts to the Church for the purpose of building up and equipping the Church for her work. These were the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11–16). These are not offices but ministries. There were also elders and deacons, who were chosen by the congregations from suitably qualified men. Office and ministry were not tied together. Officers (elders and deacons) do not need a calling from God, they need a calling from men. In other words they are, or at least should be according to the Bible, elected by the congregation (see below). Ministers cannot be chosen by men, whether by congregational elections or by ordination boards; ministers are called by God. They are a gift from Christ to the Church for her edification. Electing a man as an elder or a deacon does not confer on him any ability whatsoever; it certainly does not enable him to fulfil the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11–16. That is why the Bible lays out so clearly the qualifications that a man must have to be an elder or a deacon (1 Tim. 3:1–13). These qualifications have nothing to do with gaining academic degrees and attending theological college. They are based on a man’s having proved his ability to be the head and leader of his family according to Christian criteria. Elders also have to be apt to teach (v. 4), but this does not mean that they have been or that they have to be called by God to the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11–16 (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17–18). 

This is not the way it is with the ministries given by Christ to the Church as set out in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Those whom God calls he equips. Ministers are not elected by the Church or by ordination boards or boards of elders. They are given by Christ. Christ calls, appoints and equips his ministers, not the Church and not the elders. The Church chooses and ordains officers only, not ministers, and it is the congregations that should chose the elders and deacons by means of elections (Acts 6: 3–6; 14:23, cf. 2 Cor. 8:19). The Church herself cannot choose or create ministers, she can only recognise or fail to recognise those whom God has called and appointed as his ministers. She can of course elect donkeys who think they are ministers and charlatans who pretend to be ministers, just as Caligula appointed his favourite horse as a consul, and with as little sense or edification for the poor souls who have to sit in the pews each week and listen to them braying. 

Of course it was possible in the apostolic age for someone with a ministry in the Church to be an office bearer in the Church as well, as was the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:1 cf. 1 Tim. 5: 17–18). But this was not so with all ministers. The apostle Paul was not an elder, and he goes out of his way to point out that he was not ordained by anyone, but that his calling as an apostle was neither from man nor through man (Gal. 1:1). Being an office bearer did not mean one had a ministry. And, more importantly, having a ministry did not mean being an office bearer, and the route to ministry was not through the gaining of office. An elder had to be apt to teach, i.e. able to teach when a Church had no one with a ministry of teaching. The concept of clergymen was an invention of men. It arose when office was tied to ministry and only those who were office bearers were allowed to minister. From then on the clergy took control of ministry in the Church, and the results have been disastrous. 

The vandalism inflicted on Christ’s Church by this development has been enormous. Clergymen are not interested in the Kingdom of God, they are interested in the Churches as their own dominions. They see the Church as their principality, their area of control. The implication of this—though they will never admit this of course, but it is the logical conclusion of their clerical theology—is that only they have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The clergy have become guilds that control access to the work of ministry in the Church. This is what the training colleges and ordination processes are for. They control access to ministry in the Church and restrict it to those whom the guilds of clergymen can mould and control, thereby preserving their disastrous domination of the Church for the next generation. The fact that the Church today is in a massive nose-dive due to their ignorance, intellectual laziness and idiotic machinations means nothing to them. They are determined to hold on to their dominions even if it means the failure of the their Church’s mission to disciple the nation. In fact most of them are committed to the failure of the Church’s mission as a theological principle. They do not believe that the nations can become Christian and they will not be part of such a project, and they will do all they can to make sure their Churches do not engage in such a mission. Their eschatology is a belief in the triumph of failure. They redefine the Great Commission so that it becomes mere individual soul saving, the purpose of which is to bolster their failing Churches. 

The whole theory, structure, and culture of Church leadership and Church leadership training must change. We must get rid of the domination of the Church by clergymen. There were no clergymen in the New Testament. A biblical theology of the Church has no role for clergymen. It has a role for ministries and for officers, but the two are not coterminous.  Making the necessary distinctions is essential to a proper understanding of the Church and her work, and without reform on this issues there will be no progress in the Great Commission, just more of the currently highly successful Great De-commission.

Once we have got rid of this disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be we can embrace the biblical emphasis in which the Church models true society to the world and calls the world to repentance both by her words and by the way she lives as the true society, a prophetic community that is called to transform the world. But these two visions cannot co-exist in the same Church because they are fundamentally opposed to each other. It is time to get rid of the disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be and replace it with the biblical model. The Church cannot model to the world what true society should be and thereby fulfil her calling to transform the world while she is held captive to a false vision of her mission as result of being subjugated to a delinquent and unbiblical form of leadership that is committed to the failure of that mission. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Christian Hypocrisy and the Homosexual Question

Following the recent passing of legalisation by the British government legalising homosexual marriage a homosexual man has said that he and his partner will challenge the Church in court over the Church’s exemption from having to solemnise homosexual marriages. A news story about this was published by the Christian Institute, a British Christian lobbying organisation, on its web site on 1 August 2013 here.

Various Christian bloggers have commented on this on the internet and have bewailed this development. Lawyers had already warned the British government before the legislation was passed that there would be legal problems with the exemption and that such legal challenges were likely. But the government pressed ahead regardless.

Christians and Christian organisations are now busy condemning this legislation and bewailing the legal challenge to the Church that will inevitably arise. But it seems to me there is a problem here. Why are Christians objecting?

Over the last forty years, the time that I have been a Christian, and during most of which I have sought to promote God’s law as the standard of justice by which both individuals and the nation as a whole should abide, and which has been the standard under which our systems of common law and equity were developed and previously governed, I have repeatedly been told by Christians—leaders of Churches, pastors, clergymen and their fellow travellers—that we are not under God’s law any more but under grace and therefore that seeking to promote the application of God’s law to modern society is “legalism.” Those who have promoted God’s law in this way have been characterised as “heretics” by many mainline Christians, including evangelical and Reformed Churches and pietistic ministers.

Well, if this is the case why is there now all this fuss about homosexual marriage from Christians? Why should Christians require homosexuals to live by a standard (God’s law) that they themselves do not believe is relevant any more and do not believe they have to adhere to themselves? The Bible has a word for this: hypocrisy. The Churches for the most part have abandoned the preaching of God’s law and teach that it is no longer relevant to modern society. The Church of England, which in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign put the Ten Commandments up on large boards in every Church in the land to remind the people of their duty, and which required them to be read out every Sunday in the liturgy of the Church, no longer requires this. Most of the large boards with the Ten Commandments on have now been taken down and the Ten Commandments are seldom read out in church on a Sunday any more. I myself heard an Anglican vicar tell his whole congregation that “There are no rules in Christianity.” I also heard another vicar tell his congregation that the Ten Commandments were not for them but just for the clergy. The problem is not just in the Church of England though. The mainline denominational Free Churches and independent evangelical and Reformed Churches have on the whole been just as antinomian. And many evangelical and Reformed ministers and leaders have frequently excoriated, ostracised, abused and misrepresented those who have sought to promote a theonomic view of Christian ethics, while promoting themselves as champions of evangelical piety and Reformed orthodoxy. Contrary to their own opinion of themselves, however, such behaviour reveals them to be sanctimonious haters of God’s law—false prophets. Opposition to rather than acceptance of theonomy has been the norm in the British evangelical and Reformed Churches for decades.

But now all of a sudden Christians are up in arms and crying blue murder over the homosexual issue. They need to sit down and shut up and start thinking about this more biblically. And they need to ask themselves this question: why is this happening?

Romans chapter one tells us that a homosexualised culture, along with a lot of other things that we are currently experiencing in the West, is God's judgement on a nation’s spiritual apostasy. This problem will not go away until we deal with the apostasy of the Church. Much as I agree that homosexual marriage is wrong, the answer to this problem does not lie in challenging the homosexual lobby, nor in lobbying government to force one particular community (homosexuals) to abide by a law that Christians themselves do not believe is applicable to modern society. We have arrived here as a nation because the Church has abandoned God’s law, and when the Church abandons God’s law the nation abandons God’s law. This is not rocket science. We are dealing here with basic principles of biblical ethics and political theology. Yet the Church leaders are for the most part utterly ignorant of these principles.

For most of the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first century the Church in the West has been seeking to replace the God of the Bible with a feminine deity of her own devising. The Church was in the vanguard of promoting feminism. This is why the Church is full of effeminate men posing as leaders and pastors. I am not saying they are all effeminate, but the majority are, and the effeminate pietism of evangelicalism is as good an example of this as effeminate liberalism is.

The way to deal with this is to deal with the cause: the apostasy of the Church. When we do this, and when we start living in terms of God’s word, and conforming our lives and Churches to God’s law, we can trust God to bless our attempts to transform society. But if we are not prepared to live by God’s law in our own lives and in our Churches, why should we expect God to make non-believers live by his law? The homosexual clergy and the increasingly homosexual culture in our nation are God’s answer to the effeminacy of the Church and the effeminacy of the nation.

It seems to me increasingly, as Christians make their objections to the homosexual issue known, that so many in the Church, including the majority of evangelicals, seem to think that they do not have to live by God’s law but that non-believers should. Why can Christians be antinomians but not non-believers? This is hypocrisy on steroids. How come so many Christians object to homosexual marriage because it is immoral (i.e. against God’s law, since the Bible tells us that sin is the transgression of God’s law), yet they reject theonomy and say that we are no longer under God’s law. Either we are or we are not. If we are not then homosexual marriage is not immoral.

Christians who do not live by God’s law should not criticise homosexuals for not living by God’s law. Christians should not complain about homosexuals not living by God’s law until they have criticised the Church for not living by God’s law and until the Church has repented.

It is time to be consistent. God is beating us with the rod of chastisement for our apostasy. It is time that the Church woke up to this. The homosexualisation of our culture is a judgement on the Church and on the nation (though not the only one). It will not go away, because God will not hear our prayers for it to go away, until we as Christians start obeying God’s law in our lives and Churches and thereby provide a true witness to our societies, which is to say until we start living as a prophetic society that calls to world to repentance not only by our words but also by modelling to the world what society should be like—obedient to God’s law. If you are not prepared to subject your own life to God’s law, and if you do not think God’s law is applicable to your Church and to the political order, quit complaining about homosexuals. Take the log-jam out of your own eyes before you start complaining about the dust in other people’s eyes. The homosexualisation of our culture is God’s answer to the Church’s apostasy and disobedience. It is meant to bring the Church to repentance for her antinomianism and spiritual apostasy. It will not go away until the Church repents of her idolatry and disobedience because it is God’s doing, his chastisement of a disobedient Church and a disobedient nation.

If you are a member of a Church that does not believe in the abiding validity of God’s law as the standard of righteousness (justice) for personal and social—including political—behaviour, you need to challenge the leaders of your Church to repent of their sin (i.e. their rejection of God’s law) and insist that they start teaching God’s law to the Church. If they will not do this you need to do all you can to get together with other members of the Church and have the leaders thrown out and excommunicated. If they are not capable of teaching God’s law to the Church you still need to get them thrown out of their office and get someone in who can teach Christian ethics to them and to the Church. Get rid of these false prophets. They are the problem, not the homosexual sub-culture. They are the ones who have brought us to this sorry state, not the homosexual sub-culture. The homosexual sub-culture is part of God’s judgement on their sin.

If you are not able to do any of this in your Church you need to leave the Church and find a Church that does. If there are none where you live you need to get together with as many others as you can who will support you and get someone in as a missionary who will start a Church that teaches Christian ethics according to God’s law.

It is time to stop pretending that these antinomian ministers and clergy are what they are not. They are false prophets and if you do not get rid of them you will go down with them. “For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Socialism and State-Sponsored Art

An inevitable consequence of socialist logic is the belief that Mammon is the answer to man’s problems. This fact can be seen in the way socialist governments seek to solve virtually every kind of social problem. If only more money were available, if only there were more economic equality, we could solve all our problems. But money does not solve man’s problems. There are more funds available to the State now than at any other period of our history (due to the success, ironically, of capitalist enterprise), and we have more economic equality than at any other time in our history (due again to the success of capitalistic enterprise), but this has not solved our problems. Socialism has palpably failed to deliver the goods it has promised; indeed it has failed even to deliver the narrow economic benefits it promised to the masses. On the material level the extent to which modern Western society has these economic advantages is due entirely to the success of capitalism, not socialism.

Furthermore, the cultural progress experienced by the Western nations since the Reformation has not been the fruit of socialism, but rather the fruit of a Christian society in which individuals have been free to use their wealth in accordance with their own consciences. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy said that “Were it not for the right of man to do what he liked with his property little would exist in religion, art, science, social and medical work today.” It was the work of the Church, Christian charities, private donations and endowments, and voluntary giving motivated by a Christian conscience that created the educational and medical services that so revolutionised the life of ordinary people in modern Western society. The State did not create these institutions; it merely hijacked them once they had been created by the Christian society of previous centuries. And once it had taken over the secular State systematically set about stripping these institutions of the Christian values and ideals that brought them into being in the first place. For example, under the control of the British secular State’s National Health Service, hospitals originally created for the saving of life have been turned into death factories by the practice of abortion, and the grim reality of modern medical practice under the guidance of secular ideals seems likely to get only worse as a result of the constant attempts of politicians to legalise euthanasia.

Requiring the State to fulfil our responsibilities for us has not solved society’s problems. Far from solving our problems the socialist State has exacerbated them. For example, the modern State, which seeks to control so much of our lives, is one of the worst vandals history has known. It squanders vast millions of taxpayers’ money on useless and destructive projects that contribute nothing to the betterment of human society and culture, quite apart from the millions spent on unnecessary wars. Nor is this the case only with the tin-pot socialist dictatorships that seem to be endemic in the Third World and that seem only to reduce their societies to ever greater poverty in what appears to be their mission the spread human misery as widely as possible.

Western States are equally guilty of waste and vandalism at all levels, whether it is funding the above mentioned dictatorships, spending millions of taxpayers’ money on computer systems that do not work or giving grants to students to enable them to engage in idiotic performance art. I am thinking here, for example, of an arts grant given to some students in the UK a number a years ago for a performance art project in which two hard hats were yoked together on the top by a short plank of wood. The performance of the art, for which the arts grant was awarded, consisted of two students walking around the streets of the city wearing these hard hats yoked together by the plank of wood. A local TV news programme carried the story. Similar examples of idiotic activities and installations masquerading as “art” and regularly sponsored by the State with taxpayers’ money could be multiplied.

Well of course, art is a necessary element of human life. In the most desperate of conditions men have shown themselves to be artists. Art is vital to culture. Of this there is no doubt. Of course mankind is created in God’s image and therefore creativity is at the heart of what it means to be human. But does the taxpayer really have to foot the bill for this kind of thing? Where art is not funded by the State this is unlikely to happen. Stupidity is not an art form. Where people are allowed to retain responsibility for the stewardship of the resources that God has given them they can choose not to subsidise stupidity and they can subsidise excellence instead. The socialist State, ever ready to regulate society in accordance with the wishes of those lobbying groups that can gain the ear of politicians and promise votes at elections, has been a poor and wasteful sponsor of the arts, and consequently has engaged in cultural as well as economic and military vandalism. The modern State is anything but responsible in its attitude to taxpayers’ money. Its record as a steward of society’s resources is one of the worst.

The Bible gives stewardship of the economic resources of society to the family and to the individual, not to the State. To insist that the State should usurp the role of the family and abridge the liberty of the individual by calling for the socialist organisation of society is rebellion against God.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sodom and Gomorrah

It is commonly assumed that Sodom was judged by God and destroyed because of the homosexual sin that was prevalent in the city. The very term “sodomy” refers to the sexual perversion perpetrated by the men of Sodom. Yet, although this terrible sin was indeed practised by the people of Sodom and is condemned in the Scriptures as an abomination (Lev. 18:22), an act of sexual chaos, the truth is that the Bible nowhere gives the prevalence of this sin as the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Gen. 18:20–21 we are told merely that “The Lord said: Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.” And in Gen. 21:13 we are told that God would destroy the place because “the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord.” The fact that the angels whom God sent to assess the condition of Sodom immediately came up against the insatiable homosexual lust of the men of the city is then assumed to be the reason for the destruction of Sodom. This is perhaps an understandable reading of the text taken on its own. But like all texts of Scripture, it should not be taken on its own. We must interpret Scripture with Scripture, and it is when we do this that the whole sorry story of Sodom takes on a new meaning.

In Romans chapter one Paul clearly sets out the course of human apostasy and its inevitable conclusion. He tells us there that the whole of created reality bears witness to the glory of God. But men refuse to accept this. They deny the God of creation and seek to find the meaning and purpose of life somewhere else. But the only place that men can turn for such meaning beside God is the created order itself. Therefore they elevate some aspect of this created order to the level of an ultimate principle of explanation. In other words they place some aspect of the created order in the place of God and seek to explain the meaning and purpose of life in terms of that which takes the place of God. This is what idolatry is. It matters little whether such idolatry is of the gross superstitious kind, or the more pseudo-intellectual kind such as evolution, the basic principle is the same, namely the belief that the cause, meaning and purpose of the whole cosmos is to be found in the created order itself. This is so for all forms of paganism as well as modern apostate philosophy and science, since the gods of the ancient and pagans worlds were themselves aspects of the cosmos itself, which was considered eternal. The gods that the pagans believed had shaped the world were further up the chain of being, to be sure, but they were essentially still part of the same substance, the same reality as mankind and all other things. This world is all there is. There is no totally transcendent being who created the cosmos out of nothing. Therefore the meaning of the cosmos is to be found in itself.

As a result of this idolatry, this search for meaning in the created order itself rather than in the one who created it out of nothing, men became fools and exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). Therefore God gave men up to their own sin, to their own degraded passions, i.e. the lust for homosexual relations, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, deceitfulness etc. (Rom. 1:26ff.).

The prevalence of homosexual sin in society, therefore, is not the cause of God’s judgement upon men for their sin. Rather, it is the judgement of God upon men for their sin. The very fact that society is afflicted with this sin of sexual chaos points to the judgement of God upon society for its idolatry and apostasy. Homosexual practices were common in the world of ancient paganism, and it seems that this pattern is repeated wherever society is in the grip of idolatry and apostasy. The blight of homosexuality upon society is God’s judgement against men for their idolatry, an expression of his wrath, not what initially provokes that wrath. The homosexualised culture is the end product of a society that has abandoned the God of Scripture and turned to idolatry in order to find the meaning and purpose of existence, and therefore the consequence of men being given up to their sin, to their own desire to be free of God and his will for their lives.

If as Christians we wish to see our society free of the blight of homosexuality, therefore, we must seek to understand the causes of God’s judgement upon the nation. Merely remonstrating about the evils of homosexuality will achieve nothing (though this does not mean we should not disapprove, and declare our disapproval, of such sin.) We must seek to understand what led to such a judgement being visited upon our society. The cause will be found in the nation’s spiritual apostasy from God, not in the gay bars of the homosexual underworld. And the remedy will be found in the repentance of the nation for that spiritual apostasy, not in the passing of laws proscribing homosexual activity. Of course this does not mean that we should not have laws proscribing homosexual activity. Homosexual acts are crimes in the Bible and our own legislation should reflect this fact. But merely re-criminalising homosexuals acts without seeking to remedy the national apostasy that led to God’s visiting this terrible judgement upon our society will not on its own solve the problem. We must take seriously the argument of Paul in the first chapter of Romans. Shutting our eyes to the truth he there expounds will not help us.

What light can the story of Sodom and Gomorrah shed on our situation. A great deal in fact. The Scriptures are given us that we might learn and understand God’s will for our lives and for our societies and nations, because as Jesus commanded, we are to disciple all nations to Christ, i.e. teach them to live in conformity with the will of Christ as revealed in his word, the Bible. That is our Great Commission from Christ himself (Mt. 28:18:–20. cf. 5:17–20).

What then was the reason for Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction? What was their sin? We are told quite explicitly by Ezekiel that the sin of Sodom was fourfold, namely pride, excess, idleness and neglect of the poor and needy (Ez. 16:49). And to this is then added that the people of Sodom were “haughty” and “committed abominations” before the Lord (v. 50). Furthermore, we are told that the sins of Jerusalem were greater than those of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Isaiah likens Jerusalem to Sodom, saying to the rulers of Jerusalem, “Here the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; and give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah . . . Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgement [i.e. justice], relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:10–17)—i.e. make sure justice prevails and that the orphan and the widow are not oppressed in their affliction. In these Scriptures the sins of Jerusalem and those of Sodom, against which the comparison is made, are not exclusively sexual sins, e.g. the perversion of homosexuality, but the sins of pride, excess, idleness, injustice perpetrated against and a lack of regard for those in society who are least able to defend themselves against oppression, e.g. the poor and needy, orphans and widows.

Now it is clear that modern Western society, including Britain, is afflicted with the plague of homosexuality. The comparison with Sodom is therefore pertinent. But the comparison is not limited to this sexual sin, as is clear from Paul’s listing of many other sins that plague an idolatrous culture. The pride and arrogance of modern Western society in its rejection of God and his word, the satisfaction with which it trusts in its own wisdom, and the ridiculing contempt in which it holds the law of God,—and such ridicule and contempt for God’s law is even to be found in the Church—is as heinous in the sight of God as the pride of Sodom, for which it was destroyed. The excess of bread, the satiety, to which reference is made by Ezekiel is explained in the book of Proverbs: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Pr. 3:8–9). There is nothing sinful in riches per se, and prosperity is not a sin. Indeed God promised prosperity to his people if they would obey his law (Dt. 28). We are told that the Lord takes pleasure in the prosperity of his people (Ps. 35:27). But the problem with the sinful human heart is that it tends to forget who the author of that prosperity is. Men congratulate themselves and refuse to give the glory to God. They come to trust themselves and believe they have no need to turn to God. What has God done for them? Their own industry has brought them the wealth they enjoy. It is their hard work that has led to their prosperity, not the grace and gift of God. And so God is forgotten. Men trust in their own power. Both of these sins, pride and excess, condemned by Ezekiel as sins that brought the judgement of God upon Sodom, are characteristic sins of modern Western society. We should do well, therefore, to heed the lesson that the story of Sodom provides.

Next is mentioned by Ezekiel the sin of idleness. At this point it would be difficult and erroneous to say that this sin is characteristic of Western society generally, though doubtless it is characteristic of some elements within Western society (see below). The Protestant work ethic has had a significant influence in the Protestant nations in this regard. But it has not been retained in its original form. Instead this ideal has been secularised, emptied of its Christian meaning, so that it exists now more as an idol, a symbol of materialistic gain for its own ends. In this sense it is part and parcel of the culture of excess that characterises modern Protestant nations. British people, for example, on the whole work a good deal longer than most other Europeans. Indeed, the long working hours demanded by many professions has led to these professions being called “totalitarian”—and there is some truth to this because this has been achieved at the expense of other important and God-ordained social institutions, e.g. family life. But the goal and purpose of work is not the glory of God for most people. It is the excess of material benefits, the pursuit of leisure, stripped of all constraint by the moral law of God. The meaning of life is reduced to the mere satisfaction of human appetites: excess! The net product of human industry thus does not contribute to the glory of God and the building of his kingdom on earth. Instead it contributes to the culture of excess in which individual self-satisfaction is exalted as the highest human ideal, the chief aim of man. In this self-centred culture those virtues and social institutions that are necessary for the preservation and amelioration of human society in terms of God’s will for mankind are forgotten and lost.

Take for example the Christian ideal of the family. In Britain now the traditional ideal of the family is in the minority. There are now more childless and one parent families than there are heterosexual two parent families. A marriage is judged to be successful or unsuccessful on the basis of what each partner can get out of it. If one party decides that the marriage is no longer offering him the best satisfaction of his wants and desires, and someone else is found who can offer more or make him happier, the marriage can be dissolved easily. Indeed marriage is being abandoned altogether by many as an unnecessary bind. The plight of children traumatised by the loss of one of the parents when a marriage breaks up is seen as a secondary issue and divorce is justified by all kinds of specious rationalisation. But the consequences are usually devastating and long-lasting. It is much harder for the children of broken homes to make successful and lasting marital relationships when they become adults than those who have had a happy and stable family background. This is in part at least what Scripture means when it says that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 34:7). It will take generations for our society to escape the socially destructive effects of the divorce culture that is now developing in our nation. As a result of the abandonment of stable family life society has become dysfunctional. The Christian ideal of the family is the foundation of a well-ordered society. If the family becomes dysfunctional society as a whole will become dysfunctional. And this is just what we are seeing increasingly.

But what about the sin of disregard for the poor and needy? Of all the sins listed by Ezekiel this is the one that most provoked God to anger in the Old Testament. The people of Israel are condemned for this time and again. Relief of the oppressed, the rendering of justice due to the poor and care for the needy were more important to God, and therefore constituted a more pure expression of true religion, than all the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Temple cultus (Is. 1:11–17 cf. James 1:27). Surely this sin cannot be imputed to modern Britain with its high cost welfare State. The poor are provided for more than adequately in this system, are they not?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not so simple. There is of course a sense in which the answer to this question is yes. But there is also an important sense in which such an answer would miss the point and fail almost totally to take account of the issues that the Bible sets before us.

It is so often thought that the welfare State is the best method of providing justice for the poor and needy because it ensures that there is an ongoing wealth redistribution programme run by the State. In Britain on the whole it is believed that this is how a caring society should behave, how it should provide for the poor. And it is believed by many Christians that State redistribution of wealth, i.e. the welfare State, in some form at least, is the closest approximation to, indeed the very incarnation of the Christian ideal of caring for the poor and needy that is set forth in Scripture as essential to the practice of true religion.

But it is precisely this notion that I want to challenge. The welfare society is not a caring society. It is a society that has abdicated its responsibility to care for the needy to the anonymous State. And the welfare State simply does not work, not only on the level of delivering real help for the poor, but in the way that it attempts to deliver that help. Indeed, in the very pursuit of this anonymous welfare State the function of the State, namely the administration of public justice, what the Bible calls doing judgement, is compromised, and the failure of the rulers to do justice is as severely condemned in Scripture as disregard for the poor. In fact it is the very failure to deliver justice that is condemned in the Bible as oppression of the poor. Such injustice may affect all classes in society of course, but those who are least able to defend themselves against it are the poor and needy, the orphan and the widow, i.e. those without economic power. For such people injustice is also oppression because they have no means of defending themselves against it. The redress for such oppression, the Bible tells us repeatedly, is the pursuit of justice: “seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:17). But in Scripture the magistrate is never given the responsibility of establishing a welfare State or of pursuing enforced wealth redistribution programmes within society. Why? Because such practices are unjust, and it is justice that the Bible commands. In other words, two wrongs do not make a right. We may not overturn the justice due to one person in an attempt to secure the justice due to another. It is the job of the State to do judgement, justice, and it is the job of society at large, individuals, families and communities, to care for those who are genuinely in need. The responsibility of the State to provide justice may not be abdicated in order to usurp the responsibilities of individuals and families, nor may the responsibilities of individuals and families be abdicated to the State.

Yet this is precisely what has happened in our socialist welfare State. In this process justice has been turned on its head. The guilty are set free to pursue their reign of terror and violence in society, which is held accountable for the evil that criminals do, while the innocent are continually oppressed economically to provide for the lazy. Society is constantly fed the lie that “poverty causes crime,” and this mantra is deemed to justify the continuous wealth redistribution programmes that constitute the fraudulent virtue known as “social justice.” But such a system does not merely fail to do justice—i.e. righteousness (in the Bible justice and righteousness mean the same thing). Neither does it help the genuinely poor, i.e. the deserving poor. It merely creates an indolent underclass who are able to live off the sweat of others and enjoy their lifestyle of idleness and irresponsibility as a “human right” because it is supported by a perverse and politically correct human rights industry funded by its victims, the tax-payer. The result is a kind of perverse slave society, but one in which all the usual norms of slavery are stood on their heads. It is not the rulers and the middles classes who live off the slave labour of the underclass but rather the underclass that lives off the benefits provided by taxation of those who create the wealth in society. Those who work labour at least two days each week (possibly a little more) in order to pay the taxes that fund the government agencies that provide this iniquitous system of handouts to the new leisured class in our society. The suggestion that the idle beneficiaries of this system should be made to do some work in return for their keep will bring down the wrath of our politically correct and tax-funded human rights industry. In this sense, therefore, there is in our society a significant measure of the sin of idleness condemned by Ezekiel as one of the causes of Sodom’s destruction. The welfare State has overturned the basic principle of biblical work ethics, namely that if a man will not work, neither should he eat (2 Thess. 3:10).

The welfare State is at the heart of our national decline. It is not merely that the State-run welfare system is experiencing the adverse effects of the de-Christianisation of our culture along with other institutions. The welfare State is itself a substantial cause of this deterioration of our culture, which is at heart a process of de-Christianisation of society. It is not the only cause. But it is a major contributing factor in our decline. For example, the welfare State is responsible in large measure for the decline of the Christian ideal of family life, for the loss of the responsibility of parents for their children, and particularly for the loss of the father’s headship of his family, which has been transferred to the anonymous welfare State. Here again we see the loss of those virtues that create and sustain family life because responsibility is abdicated to the State. Such abdication of responsibility is not the characteristic of a caring society at all. The welfare State is an expression of a people’s desire to rid themselves of the virtues that characterise a caring society.

For example, the welfare State has to be funded by taxation. Taxation on the scale necessary to maintain the welfare State confiscates the resources that the family needs in order to care for its own members properly, let alone care for others who need help. Such a system plunders the family’s financial resources to such an extent that the majority of families become dependent on the State in some measure. This in itself weakens the family, which is foundational to the whole structure of society. Indeed it makes the Christian family obsolete. The family is replaced by the ever bountiful State—bountiful to those who are its dependants that is, not to those who have to fund the tax bill for the irresponsible lifestyle of those who are dependants of the State. Increasingly the State takes the place of the family. Families that are taxed to pay for all the services that the State provides from a supposedly amoral, religiously neutral perspective are not able to provide for those in need in terms of Christian principles. (Of course such neutrality is impossible and the supposed amorality is immorality from the Christian perspective—witness the abandonment of Christian ethics in the spheres of education and health care, e.g. the crusade to abolish Clause 28 in schools and the growth of the abortion industry in the NHS).

The practice of the Christian faith is intimately bound up with care for the poor and healing of the sick: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). We are commanded not only to preach the gospel of the Kingdom but to heal the sick also (Mt. 1:7–8; Lk. 9:2, 10:9). But care for the poor and healing of the sick that disregards God’s will for the individual, the family and society at large is not really care at all, nor is it healing. It is idolatry, and idolatry enslaves men rather than freeing them. Welfare and health care that is stripped of all reference to God’s will for man is ultimately cruel.

What then is the answer to this situation? Christian work ethics must be brought back into our care for the poor. Christian charity should not be divorced from Christian work ethics. The separation of charity from Christian work ethics is the legacy of our godless State welfare system, which is, as a result, subject to massive abuse. The provision of welfare, education, health care etc. in our society must be restored to those God-ordained institutions responsible for these things—the family, the individual, and the Church, which can apply the biblical principles necessary for these spheres of life to function in a godly way. The amelioration of our society requires the practice of the Christian virtues. Such is not facilitated by State funding and organisation of welfare. Rather the reverse is true. State welfare has a deleterious effect on the practice of the Christian virtues and therefore on the practice and influence of the faith in society. We must begin replacing the welfare State mentality with a Christian understanding of what it means to be a caring society, i.e. with a perspective that links care for the needy with Christian work ethics, because both are essential to man’s well-being. Christian ethics must also be restored to the practice of medicine. This means not only that abortion, euthanasia etc. must be opposed and made illegal, but that the model of human nature that is used in the diagnosis and treatment of illness should be a Christian one, that we should start with an understanding of man as God’s image bearer and vicegerent and work from these principles in seeking to heal men. These developments will not take place in the godless welfare and health care programmes run by the modern secular State. Christians and Churches must, therefore, begin their own welfare and health care programmes that function in terms of Christians ethics, a Christian model of man as created in God’s image and a Christian model of the social order that God requires of our society.

The welfare State is not a system of justice, and therefore it is not consistent with righteousness. It is a denial of the righteousness that God demands of individuals and of society because it negates the responsibilities required of the individual, the family and the community, thereby rendering virtue obsolete. Thus in the Church, for example, virtue has been replaced by “piety.” The good Christian is the one who behaves piously, not the one who practises the Christian virtues, since these are largely now obsolete in our society. The State has usurped our duty to act virtuously. It cares for the poor and needy on our behalf, provides education for our children and health care for the sick, takes in the orphans and provides hand outs for widows—all of which were at one time functions of the individual and the family, and where these were unable to provide, the Church. But that was when this nation was a Christian nation. We no longer look to God for these things any more. The all-powerful State has taken the place of God. It is our new religion. Our idolatry is virtually complete. The State has claimed for itself a position and an importance in our lives and society that belongs to God. But unlike the Christian God, it cannot deliver what it promises. The growth of the State has gone hand in hand with the decline of the Christian faith, increasing breakdown of order in society and the growth of the culture of irresponsibility and crime described above.

The godless, indulgent, proud and immoral culture in which we live is a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. And the judgement of God is already upon us. Our society has been given up to its own sin. The plague of homosexuality and the pervasive immorality and crime in society is testimony to that fact. It is time that the Church woke up to the reality of the situation and faced up to the spiritual apostasy that has provoked God to pour out his wrath on our society. Instead a kind of deadening slumber has fallen upon the Church. What will it take to waken the Church out of this deep sleep, to impress upon her once again the high calling of the Great Commission and the social and political responsibilities that this commission entails? I do not know the answer to this question. But whatever it is, it will most likely be, given the current state of our nation, a rude awakening.

[This essay is an excerpt from my book Common-Law Wives and Concubines: Essays on Covenantal Christianity and Contemporary Western Culture (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2003), available from www.kuyper.org/books.]