Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some Facts About the Worst Mass Murderers in History: namely, Secular States in Pursuit of Socialist Utopias

The triumph of secular humanism has led to a complete shift in the way people in British society think, speak and live. Under secular humanism the control and regulation of life by the State will continue relentlessly. It has to because this is the logic of the idolatry of man as his own God. This is why individual freedom is ultimately an obsolete concept for secular humanism. Even the terminology has now shifted decisively away from freedom to rights. This means that there has been a shift from the real, the tangible, the individual, to the abstract and the ideal, which must be embodied in some institution that has absolute control and authority.

This move to the abstract is inevitable because individual men disagree and dispute with each other and their rights cannot be harmonised on an individual basis. Therefore the many (individuals) must always give way to the one, the abstract idea of human Will, which is embodied in the State.[1] The one and the many cannot be reconciled on the basis of man as his own ultimate principle, man as God.[2] The question therefore is this: can the abstract, the ideal, as embodied in the State, guarantee the freedom of the individual? The answer is that it cannot. In enforcing the rights of one it must negate the freedoms of another. The State, therefore, must rule as an absolute authority and suspend the liberty of the individual in principle.

This is the only alternative to total anarchy for secular humanism.[3] Ultimate authority has to reside somewhere, and if there is no God then ultimate authority must belong to man. But such authority cannot belong to each man. Ultimate authority is therefore embodied in the State as the realisation of the abstract idea of human Will, and the one (the State) takes precedence over the many (individuals), thereby abridging the God-given liberty of the individual. The State, therefore, as Hegel tells us, is its own motive and absolute end; and the highest duty of the individual, over whom the State exercises a supreme right, is to be a member of the State.[4] The State is “the objective spirit, and [the individual] has his truth, real existence, and ethical status only in being a member of it.” [5] This is where Great Britain is heading. The increasing control and regulation of life by the State is all part of the religious apostasy of the age, all part of the politics of man. Slavery is the end product of the politics of man. It always has been, and it will be no different in the societies of the Western nations as they increasingly reject the Christian faith. The thin veneer of liberty that we still have in Western society is being relentlessly stripped away by the modern secular State. “[W]hile under the old order the state had recognised its limits as against a spiritual power, and had only extended its claims over a part of human life, the modern state admitted no limitations, and embraced the whole life of the individual citizen in its economic and military organisation.” [6]

The consequences for mankind of this idolatry of political power by modern secular States have been immense, from the reign of terror unleashed by the French Revolution to the mass murder programmes of national and international socialism. Leaving aside those killed by the two World Wars, over 100 million people were murdered in the twentieth century alone by secular States in pursuit of the religious ideals of secular humanism. This is a fairly conservative figure, though not the most conservative. Gil Elliot, writing in 1972, estimated the total number of “man-made deaths” in the twentieth century up to that point, including both World Wars, between 80 and 150 million [7] and assumed a mean figure of 110 million, with World War One accounting for about 10 million and World War Two accounting for about 40 million deaths.[8] A more recent conservative estimate, again including both World Wars, has put the total number killed by the State in the twentieth century at 188 million.[9] A less conservative estimate puts the figure at 231 million.[10] According to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday the Chinese Communist State alone was responsible for over 70 million peacetime deaths under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung.[11] Alexander Solzhenitsyn claimed that a similar number perished in the Soviet Union.[12] Commenting on State activity in the twentieth century Paul Johnson writes:

“The state has proved itself an insatiable spender, an unrivalled waster. It has also proved itself the greatest killer of all time. By the late 1990s, state action had been responsible for the violent or unnatural deaths of some 135 million people during the century, more perhaps than it had succeeded in destroying during the whole of human history up to 1900. Its inhuman malevolence had more than kept pace with its growing size and expanding means.” [13]

Likewise, Niall Ferguson states that the “hundred years after 1900 were without question the bloodiest century in modern history, far more violent in relative as well as absolute terms than any previous era.” [14] The secular humanist State has been responsible for more deaths, both in war and as a result of the various secular humanist inquisitions and witch-hunts carried out in the twentieth century, than any other form of religious establishment in history. In 1957, only half way through the twentieth century, Denis de Rougemont stated that “The wars of this century killed more men than all the other wars of our history.” [15] Even the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm acknowledged that the twentieth century was “an era of religious wars, though the most militant and bloodthirsty of its religions were secular ideologies of nineteenth century vintage, such as socialism and nationalism, whose god-equivalents were either abstractions or politicians venerated in the manner of divinities.” [16] 

The modern secular State has proved to be the most brutal and murderous form of political rule that the world has ever seen. “Every idol, however exalted,” said Aldous Huxley “turns out, in the long run, to be a Moloch, hungry for human sacrifice.” [17]

  1. See for example Jean Jacques Rousseau’s concept of the “general will” in The Social Contract, Bk, I, chapters vi–ix; Bk II, i–iv.
  2. On the philosophical question of the equal ultimacy of the one and many and the irreconcilable nature of these concepts outside of Christian thought see R. J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy.
  3. According to Ernst Nolte, “The word ‘totalitarian,’ in the sense of laying full claim to, and obligation on, a human being, is applicable to every religion, every outlook on the world and on life, even the liberal. But only in the eyes of liberalism is this form really purely formal—that is, not ultimately concretizable and hence Kant’s categorical imperative is its classic formulation. It leaves religions free, tolerates them, because it does not regard truth as demonstrable or personal freedom as definable. The only reason it is non-totalitarian in the material sense, and appears to abandon man to the mere whim of his moods, is because, from a formal point of view, it is more totalitarian, that is, more inexorable, than other ideologies. In an analogous sense Western Christianity is also liberal. By distinguishing between God’s sphere and the emperor’s, it leaves many possibilities open to political man; but it lays unyielding claim to his soul for its path to salvation. The ancient world never knew this kind of separation, this kind of freedom, even the polis was ideally a completely totalitarian unity of the spiritual and the political” (Three Forms of Fascism: Action Française, Italian Fascism, National Socialism [London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965, trans. Leila Vennewitz), p. 219). But in the West it appears now that the more liberalism has become disconnected from the Christian cultural matrix from which it originated the less its totalitarianism has remained purely formal and the more it has sought to realise this totalitarianism in concrete social forms, and consequently the less freedom the liberal political establishment is willing to grant to Christians in the modern liberal societies of the West. Britain’s increasingly institutionalised apathy and even hostility to Christianity and the growing restriction of previously recognised fundamental freedoms stemming from its Christian past are testimony to this fact. It is precisely this trend that gives modern liberal Western States the character of totalitarianism similar to that of ancient Rome. But because of its relativism liberalism is weak and cannot provide a stable foundation for civilisation, and it is becoming apparent now that Western liberalism is a transitory phenomenon, a mere staging post on the road from one civilisation to another.
  4. “The state, which is the realised substantive will, having its reality in the particular self-consciousness raised to the plane of the universal, is absolutely rational. This substantive unity is its own motive and absolute end. In this end freedom attains its highest right. This end has the highest right over the individual, whose highest duty in turn is to be a member of the state” (S. W. Dyde, trans., Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, p. 240 [§258]).
  5. Ibid., p. 240f. [§258]. According to Hegel “The State is . . . the embodiment of rational freedom, realizing and recognizing itself in an objective form . . . The State is the Idea of Spirit in the external manifestation of human Will and its Freedom” (The Philosophy of History [New York: Dover Publications, Inc., (1899) 1956, trans. J. Sibree], p. 37). Bertrand Russell described Hegel’s doctrine of the State as “a doctrine which, if accepted, justifies every internal tyranny and every external aggression that can possibly be imagined” (A History of Western Philosophy [London: George Allen and Unwin, 1946], p. 768f.).
  6. Christopher Dawson, Enquiries into religion and Culture (London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1933), p. 111.
  7. Gil Elliot, Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (London: Alan Lane/The Penguin Press, 1972), p. 1.
  8. Ibid., p. 215.
  9. Matthew White, “Wars, Massacres and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century” in Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century (; accessed on 26 March 2007).
  10. Milton Leitenberg, Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the Twentieth Century (Cornell University Peace Studies Occasional Paper No. 29, Third Edition, 2006), p. 1.
  11. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005), p. 3. Of all secular political systems it is the socialist States that have proved to be the most oppressive, both economically and socially, and the most murderous. Yet ironically Lenin predicted in 1917 that the Communist State would be transitional, eventually “withering away,” that it would cost mankind less than the capitalist State, and that it would engage in less bloodshed: “during the transition from capitalism to Communism suppression is still necessary; but it is now the suppression of the exploiting minority by the exploited majority. A special apparatus, a special machine for suppression, the ‘state,’ is still necessary, but this is now a transitional state; it is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word; for the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of the wage slaves of yesterday is comparatively so easy, simple and natural a task that it will entail far less bloodshed than the suppression of the risings of slaves, serfs or wage labourers, and it will cost mankind far less. And it is compatible with the extension of democracy to such an overwhelming majority of the population that the need for a special machine of suppression will begin to disappear . . . the state will also wither away” (The State and Revolution [Peking: Foreign languages Press, 1973], p. 107f.).
  12. “Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations” in Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ed., From Under the Rubble (London: Collins and Harvill Press, 1975), p. 119.
  13. Paul Johnson, Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the year 2000 (London: Phoenix Giant, 1999 [1982]), p. 788.
  14. Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred (London: Alan Lane/Penguin Books, 2006), p. xxxiv.
  15. Denis de Rougemont, Man’s Western Quest: The Principles of Civilization (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1957), p. 156.
  16. Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914–1991 (London: Michael Joseph, 1994), p. 563; my emphasis.
  17. The Devils of Loudun (London: Chatto and Indus, 1952)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Communism in the New Testament (Part IV—concluded)

Although the Bible does not explicitly condemn the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with voluntary communism as sinful per se, it seems clear from what Scripture says elsewhere about the use of wealth and the organisation of society economically that it was a mistake that produced long-term adverse consequences for the Jerusalem Church and her mission Churches in the Gentile world, which had to support the believers in Jerusalem financially. And although it cannot be argued directly from Scripture, this may well have weakened the Jerusalem Church’s ability to function as an example to the growing Church throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, thereby weakening the moral and spiritual authority of the Church at Jerusalem. Already, within the time span covered by the Book of Acts, Antioch takes on a much more important role as a centre of missionary activity than Jerusalem, which quickly seems to lose authority and credibility as the geographical centre of the Christian faith.

If this is the case it may well be asked how the Church over which the apostles presided could have made such a significant mistake. But of course this was not the only mistake made by the early Church and the apostles that the Bible records for our instruction. The apostolic Church was not infallible, nor were the apostles infallible. There are two other incidents that illustrate the fallibility of the apostles and caution us against treating their actions as examples to be followed and drawn into rules without further confirmation from the broader teaching of Scripture.

First, Acts 2:12–26 records the decision of the Church following the Ascension to replace Judas Iscariot, thereby bringing the number of the apostles back up to twelve. The criterion that the apostles laid down as being essential for anyone who was to fulfil the role of an apostle was that he should have been a fellow companion with themselves and Jesus from the beginning. They therefore chose two men who fulfilled this criterion and selected one of them, Matthias, by means of lot. This whole process of choosing another apostle to replace Judas was carried out in direct disobedience to the explicit command of Christ himself that the apostles should remain in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4f.). Instead of waiting for the outpouring of the Spirit, whom Christ had promised would lead them into all truth (Jn 16:13), Peter decided to set himself up effectively as the archbishop of the whole Church and establish the first code of ecclesiastical law to govern the future ministry of the Church. But this led to a problem, because God then chose Saul of Tarsus to be his apostle to the Gentiles, a man who not only had not been with the apostles and Jesus from the beginning, but who had been a fierce persecutor of the Church up to the point of his conversion to the faith. Furthermore, he was sent out as an apostle from Antioch, not Jerusalem, and the apostles in Jerusalem had no part in his being chosen and ordained as an apostle to the Gentiles. After his first mission to the Gentile world, therefore, Paul had to defend his apostleship before the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. When Paul appeared before the apostles and reported to them all that had taken place in his mission to the Gentiles the apostles accepted Paul and Barnabas into the company of the apostles (Acts 15:1–35; Gal. 2:1–10). In doing so they overturned their previous criterion for accepting anyone into the company of the apostles. The criterion initially used to determine suitability for apostleship by the apostles themselves was clearly erroneous, and the recognition that this rule was worthless was only brought about when the issue was forced upon the apostles by subsequent events. Indeed, in 2 Cor. 5:16 Paul attacks the very principle upon which the apostles’ original ruling was based, i.e. knowledge of Christ according to the flesh, which for Paul has no bearing on apostolic authority.[1] With the conversion of Paul and his calling to preach the gospel to the Gentiles it became clear that the man-made and self-serving rules laid down by Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem were detrimental to the mission of the Church and that the spread of the gospel could not be dependent on the authority, direction and example of the Jerusalem Church. Centralised international control of the Church by clergymen and ecclesiastical law-making had no part in God’s plan for the apostolic age—and if the apostles themselves could not be trusted with such power, much less are the lesser men of the papacy and large centralised denominations to be trusted with it. The divine calling of Paul took no account whatsoever of the ecclesiastical law laid down by Peter and the other apostles for ordaining their successors. It was as if God had thumbed his nose at the apostles’ vain attempts to control the future of the Church’s ministry by means of ecclesiastical laws and regulations and the ordaining of clergymen. The concept of apostolic succession was, therefore, discredited at its very inception by the divine calling and ministry of Paul, which represented its complete antithesis.

Second, when the apostle Peter visited Antioch he at first joined in fellowship with the Gentiles, who had been accepted into the Church without having to convert to Judaism. The acceptance of the Gentiles in this way was a principle that Peter believed and practised as a result of being shown by the Lord in a revelation that the Gentiles were to be accepted into the Church without having to be circumcised first. But when certain Judaisers, who had come from James, arrived in Antioch Peter, fearing the party of those who insisted that Gentile believers should be circumcised, stopped mixing with the Gentiles and stood aloof from them, with the result that the rest of the Jews joined him and even Barnabas was led astray by Peter’s hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11–21). Paul therefore opposed Peter and rebuked him for his hypocrisy and the bad example he had set.

It is clear from these incidents that the apostolic Church was not infallible, that the apostles were not infallible, that they made mistakes and committed sins, and that the Scriptures, which are the inspired and infallible word of God, record these errors for our instruction, i.e. so that we might understand what happened and learn from the mistakes of the early Church.[2] In neither of these incidents can the initial actions of the apostles be held up as examples to be followed, let alone drawn into rules for the Church to follow in all ages. In just the same way, the community of goods practised by the apostolic Church in Jerusalem is not an ideal to be followed. As with the criterion for apostleship and Peter’s hypocrisy in Antioch, subsequent events and the wider teaching of Scripture must be taken into account when assessing the meaning and value of the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with communism. These events are recorded in Scripture to teach us something. Of that there can be no doubt. But it is not that the community of goods is an ideal to follow. Rather, it is that the community of goods is an example that we should not follow and that such practices end in the economic and/or social impoverishment of the communities that adopt them. What is held up in the Bible as the ideal of a just economic system is incompatible with the community of goods: i.e. private ownership of property, private stewardship of the economic resources of society and the inviolability of legitimate inheritance.

The communistic model is nowhere repeated in the Bible, nor is it held up as an example to be followed. If it were a good example to be followed we should expect it to be referred to in other passages where the Bible gives teaching on wealth, work and helping others. But there are no such references. Paul does not refer to it in giving advice to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:8–12; 2 Thess. 3:8–12) or to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:28), where we should expect it if it were good advice and where helping the poor is commended—something that is only possible if we produce wealth in greater abundance than our own needs. On the contrary, in these Scriptures Paul gives alternative advice that is incompatible with the community of goods. Neither does he refer to it when writing to the Corinthians regarding the support of his own ministry while among them (2 Cor. 11:7–9). In this respect it is significant that the great model of welfare provision for the needy was pioneered by the Gentile Churches of the Roman empire and was one of the great testimonies to the Christian faith in the ancient world.[3] But this was not the practice of the Jerusalem Church, which was a recipient of welfare not a provider.

What this experiment in the community of goods in the Jerusalem Church clearly demonstrates, therefore, is that if communism did not work in the New Testament Church under the guidance of the apostles of Christ, it has little chance of working anywhere. The end product of communism is universal poverty, and this was just as much the case with the New Testament Church as with any other society that has practised it. The only exceptions to this general rule historically are communities that have abolished the Christian ideal of family life and either denied procreation altogether or separated it from the normal family context of raising children—in other words marriage and procreation are practised but the family unit is replaced by the broader community.

However, the Bible does show us that the Church [4] is to be a real society, i.e. a social order that functions effectively as a model for the nations. The goal of apostolic labour in the New Testament period is the Christian community, which stands in Christ as a work of God’s redemptive power manifested in history.[5] This work of God’s power is not a commune, but it is a community,[6] a social order that should grow and increase until it displaces and ultimately supplants the godless society of non-belief that surrounds it.[7] This is our calling in the Great Commission to disciple the nations (Mt. 28:18–20). The Jerusalem Church was a failure in this respect. There is nothing about the economically debilitated condition of the Church in Jerusalem that commends itself as an example to the world. The example, rather, is the practice of the Gentile Church, which did not follow the ideal of communism and was able to provide financial assistance to those in need. Both the mission and the influence of the Gentile Church were therefore much greater.

We must not confuse the ideal of the commune with the ideal of the Church living as a real society, a social order that functions across the whole spectrum of human life. When the Church functions as a real society, meeting the needs of human society in a Christian way of life, she provides light to the world. This of course involves helping and caring for each other and for those in need. But the Jerusalem Church fell at this very point, as do all communistic societies, with the exception of those that reject the family as the basic unit of society. Helping those in need is an important part of living as the Church. But in order to do this we need to provide an example to the world of how society should function. This necessitates the rejection of the social ideal of the commune and the adoption of the Christian community—i.e. a true society founded on faith in Christ—as our social ideal.

  1. See von Campenhasuen, op. cit., p. 37.
  2. Despite the clear testimony of Scripture regarding these matters it is common to find theologians arguing to the contrary on the presumed authority of Scripture—i.e. claiming scriptural authority for dogmatic statements that contradict Scripture. According to Charles Hodge, for example, “the apostles were inspired, and as religious teachers infallible” (Commentary on Romans [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, (1835) 1975], p. 16). Similarly, Edward J. Carnell tells us that the marks of an apostle were “to be with Jesus from the beginning, to be appointed by Jesus, and to perform signs and wonders" (The Case for Orthodox Theology [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959], p. 20f.) According to Carnell, “Orthodoxy is that branch of Christendom which limits the ground of religious authority to the Bible” (ibid., p. 13). On this basis Carnell’s own statement about the marks of apostleship is unorthodox. Peter claimed that a mark of an apostle was to have been with Jesus from the beginning. Subsequent events proved him and all who follow him in this claim to be wrong; these events are recorded in Scripture for our instruction. Furthermore, at one point even Paul himself in his first epistle to the Corinthians warns his readers that what he has to say on a particular question about which he had been asked for guidance is his own opinion and not to be considered the infallible word of God (1 Cor. 7: 6, 12, 25). It is of course true that orthodoxy limits the ultimate ground of religious authority to the Scriptures; but it limits it to the Scriptures as a whole, not to texts taken out of context and interpreted contrary to the genre of the literature from which they are taken or contrary to reason, though of course what is to be considered reasonable must also be determined in subjection to the teaching of Scripture. In other words, Scripture must be allowed to interpret itself: “The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly” (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.IX). To read the Bible in any other way is to reduce it to a mere collection of unrelated proof texts at best, and therefore unorthodox and unfaithful to Scripture as a whole.
3. This led the apostate emperor Julian (361–363) to comment that “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well” (cited in Hugh Flemming, Post Hippocratic Medicine: The Problem and the Solution—How the Christian Ethic has Influenced Health Care (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2010), p. 30.
4. I am using the word Church here to refer to the body of Christ, the community of believers, in other words the Church as an organism, not an institution, much less a denominational structure.
5. Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theologial Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968, trans. G. W. Bromiley), Vol. II, p. 313.
6. See my essay “The Church as a Community of Faith” in Common-Law Wives and Concubines: Essays on Covenantal Christianity and Western Culture (Taunton: Kuyper Foundation, 2003), pp. 179–194.
7. According to Christopher Dawson, for Augustine “the Church is actually the new humanity in process of formation, and its earthly history is that of the building of the City of God which has its completion in eternity . . . Hence, in spite of all the imperfections of the earthly Church, it is nevertheless the most perfect society that this world can know. Indeed, it is the only true society. Because it is the only society which has its source in a spiritual will. The kingdoms of the earth seek after the goods of the earth; the Church, and the Church alone, seeks spiritual goods and a peace which is eternal” (op. cit., p. 256f.).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Communism, in the New Testament (Part III)

How are we to understand the community of goods practised by the Church in Jerusalem in the light of what the Bible has to say about this practice and what it has to say about other issues bearing upon it?

First, the community of goods practised by the Church at Jerusalem is nowhere in the Scriptures commanded, nor even commended. In fact the practice of the Jerusalem Church is not commended in the Book of Acts; it is merely described. What then, it may be asked, does the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11), who failed to enter into the Spirit of this experiment and were struck dead for their sin, teach us? It teaches us precisely that they were under no obligation to participate in the community of goods and that failure to do so brought no disapprobation. This is clear from Peter’s rebuke of Ananias: “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:3–4). Sapphira’s offence was that she was complicit with her husband in this lie (Acts 5:7–10). Their sin was lying to the Holy Spirit about what they had given to the community, not their holding back part of the proceeds of the sale of the land. Peter acknowledged that the property was their own, that they had the freedom to dispose of it according to their own will, and that they were under no obligation to give the land or the proceeds of its sale to the community. Scripture makes no further direct comment on this incident nor on the experiment in the community of goods as practised in Jerusalem, nor does it give any further teaching on this issue other than what can be deduced from the condition of poverty into which the Church subsequently fell, evidenced by the need of the Gentile Churches to support the community of believers in Jerusalem financially. Nowhere in the Bible is the community of goods advocated as a social theory or an advisable way to life.

Second, however, the teachings of the Bible on the use of wealth and the kind of economic system advocated in the Bible are incompatible with the community of goods. For example, the Bible teaches that “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children” (Pr. 13:22). Leaving an inheritance to one’s children and grandchildren is a godly ideal in Scripture. The expropriation of a man’s inheritance is condemned in Scripture (1 Kg. 21). The inheritance of the Israelites was jealously guarded by the laws of the Torah. The social and economic system of ancient Israel as laid down in the law of Moses was aimed at protecting the inheritance of the Israelites and ensuring that a family’s inheritance could not be permanently alienated either by force or choice. Furthermore, the eighth commandment (Ex. 20:15) and the command not to move the boundary mark of another man’s land (Dt. 19:14; 27:17; Pr. 22:28; 23:10f.) are meaningless in a communistic society. The Jubilee was instituted precisely to ensure that the people were not permanently dispossessed of their inheritance.[1] Inheritance is a significant theme in the history of Israel and an important concept in Scripture both economically and eschatologically. Such an economic and social system is not compatible with the ideal of communism.

Third, the community of goods practised in the Jerusalem Church runs contrary to the principle taught by Paul to Gentile believers, namely that they should work to provide for their own needs and produce a surplus (i.e. a profit, to use the economic term) so that they would be able to help those in need (see for example Acts 20:33–35; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11–12 and 2 Thess. 3:8–12 taken together). The community of believers in the Jerusalem Church was not able to provide for its own poor, let alone provide help for others, and this is why Paul had to secure financial help from the Gentile Church.

Does all this mean that the experiment in the community of goods in Jerusalem was sinful? It may be difficult to maintain such an argument without some qualification, but it is clear, first, that for those participating such an experiment could only be entered into voluntarily and second, that one would need to ensure that such a lifestyle did not lead to the disinheriting of legitimate heirs (Dt. 21:15–17; Pr. 13:22) or neglect of one’s duty to provide for one’s dependants (1 Tim. 5:8–16).[2] Failure to abide by these two principles would have involved participating members of the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with communism in sin. It is clear from the case of Ananias and Sapphira that communism was not mandatory for individual believers in the Jerusalem Church, even though it appears to have been practised by the community as a whole. Third, subsequent teaching by the apostle Paul makes it clear that the Jerusalem Church did fall short of the Christian ideal with regard to the provision of welfare: “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God . . . if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel . . . If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:4, 8, 16).[3] The communism of the Jerusalem Church produced a lifestyle that Paul here condemns in no uncertain terms as worse than that of non-believers and a practical denial of the faith—i.e. an ongoing situation in which neither the participating believers nor the Church as a whole could provide for their own dependants. Surely, if the community of goods practised by the Jerusalem Church is God’s will for his Church, and indeed for society as a whole, we must ask why the apostle Paul never teaches this himself in his epistles nor requires its practice in the Gentile Churches he founded. He does not even so much as hint at such an arrangement. Indeed, he teaches the precise opposite, namely that believers should provide for their own dependants and that Church welfare should be available only when the family is not able to provide. It is as if the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with communism was an embarrassing failure that is not spoken about, but rather avoided. It may even conceivably have been the failure of the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with communism that prompted Paul to give these strongly worded instructions to Timothy. In the light of this subsequent apostolic teaching, therefore, it is questionable whether such an experiment in communism as that undertaken by the Jerusalem Church could now be repeated without sin, i.e. without the flagrant disregard of subsequent apostolic teaching, which, Scripture tells us, is part of the foundation of the Church and of the life of faith (Eph. 2:19–20). At the very least we can say that even in the best scenario (i.e. where no sin is involved) such a way of living is not advisable in the light of biblical teaching. The community of goods is not a biblical ideal. The Jerusalem commune failed miserably to live up to the ideals given us in Scripture about the use of wealth and charitable provision for those in need. Charity necessitates the production of a surplus—i.e. a profit. Subsistence living is incompatible with the ideal of charitable aid to the poor because such aid requires the accumulation of wealth that can be transferred to those in need. But the Jerusalem Church did not last very long before the community of goods failed even to produce enough to meet the needs of her own members. Instead of providing for their missions in the Gentile world the Christians in Jerusalem became dependent upon their mission Churches financially.

. . . to be continued

   1. On the biblical Jubilee see Appendix C, “Help for the Poor and the Meaning of the Jubilee” in my book The Political Economy of A Christian Society (Taunton: The Kuyper Foundation, 2001), pp. 282–300.
  2. Cf. also the implications of the case of the daughters of Zelophehad in Num. 27:1–11 and 36:1–9. On the Old Testament laws of succession and inheritance see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961, trans. John McHugh), p. 53ff. and R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973), p. 180ff.
   3. See further Rushdoony, op. cit., p. 770ff.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Communism in the New Testament (Part II)

Throughout history communistic communities, of whatever nature, voluntary or State-enforced, have not been economically viable communities except under certain abnormal conditions. Where societies that practise a community of goods are economically viable they are not usually family based societies. In fact, the rejection of the biblical model of the family is usually to be found in such communities in some form. For example, monasteries are often economically viable communities, [1] but they are not family based communities. They are single sex communities that require the rejection or suppression of a fundamental aspect of human nature. They are therefore abnormal societies. Furthermore, although they are often economically viable in the narrow sense, i.e. they produce enough to enable the community to live from year to year, and even a surplus beyond this that can be used to generate successful business enterprises, they are dependent upon the outside world for new members, since reproduction is denied as a means of securing the long-term future of the community. In other words, the continued existence of the community requires the existence of a world that does not share the ideals of the community, and indeed that lives in a way that contradicts the ideals of the community, from which it must recruit new members. If everyone were to adopt the ideals of monastic living the community would not so much cease to be viable economically as cease altogether. In that sense it is a sterile community that contradicts one of the most basic and fundamental purposes of God’s creative will for mankind, the command to multiply (Gen. 1:28).

There are other economically viable communistic communities that do not share this ideology of sterility or infertility. The Hutterite Anabaptists, for example, whose ideals are derived from the Radical Reformation, live in societies that practise a community of goods and that are economically viable, but retain marriage and procreation. Nevertheless, these societies do not usually practise normal family life. The family is communised as well as man’s goods. Children are not brought up in family units but by the whole community. [2] In this sense the ideal of the commune goes much further than the community of goods. The children are not really treated as the children of particular families but as the children of the commune and they are brought up in a way that is consistent with this belief. Normal family life is abandoned.

“The function of the family is to produce new souls and to care for them until the colony takes over the major responsibility of training [i.e. educating—SCP] the children. The family performs those functions that cannot easily or efficiently be performed by the colony. Child-rearing is not thought of as a private enterprise; children are not extensions of the parents’ egos but gifts of God who belong to the colony, and potentially to the church.” [3]

This amounts to much more than the existence of a mere extended family. It is rather an ideology that structures the community.

In communes that are economically viable there is usually a price to be paid in this way. The social theory and practice of the commune is abnormal from the biblical point of view. That is to say it involves the setting aside of the biblical pattern of family life, and this usually involves the denial of some aspect of man’s created nature. The family does not function as the basic unit of society. Rather, the community takes over this function. The basic building block of normal society, the family, is either dispensed with altogether or restricted virtually to a mere biological function. The community replaces the family. In the more extreme mediaeval European heretical communistic sects and also in the socialism of many Enlightenment philosophers the communisation of sexual relationships was also an article of faith. [4] Another example of this is the communistic community established by the Oneida Perfectionists in Madison County, New York, between 1848 and 1880 under the leadership of John Humphrey Noyes. Although commercially successful as a communistic community sexual communism and the abandonment of normal family life was a central doctrine of the community. [5]

The eradication of marriage and the abolition of family life based upon it in favour of “free love”—i.e. sexual communism as well as economic and political communism—has also been one of the goals of Marxist communism. [6] According to the Russian communist diplomat and radical feminist Alexandra Kollontai:

“The old form of the family is passing away; the communist society has no use for it. The bourgeois world celebrated the isolation, the cutting off of the married pair from the collective weal; in the scattered and disjointed bourgeois society full of struggle and destruction, the family was the sole anchor of hope in the storm of life, the peaceful haven in the ocean of hostilities and competitions between persons. The family represented an individual class in the social unit. There can be no such thing in the communist society. For communist society as a whole represents such a fortress of the collective life, precluding any possibility of the existence of an isolated class of family bodies, existing by itself, with its ties of birth, its love of family honour, its absolute segregation.” [7]

This ideal of free love proved impossible to sustain even in communist Russia: “Experience taught the Government that lawless love endangered the good of society, that there were fundamental laws that could not be infringed without peril; and so new legislation corrected the excessive liberties permitted at first.” [8] Nevertheless, although communism has not been successful in achieving its goal of eradicating family life altogether, the rise of socialism has been one of the main causes of the decline of marriage and stable family life in those countries where it has had any influence, either as an individual ideology or as a form of economic and social organisation. According to Shafarevich, speaking of socialism as a phenomenon spanning the entire history of mankind: “in socialist states we observe the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, state control of everyday life, and the subordination of the individual to the power of the bureaucracy; in socialist doctrines we observe the destruction of private property, of religion, of the family and of marriage, and the introduction of wife sharing.” [9]

In societies practising community of goods, whether voluntary or State-enforced, where the family does remain the basic unit of society, economic viability is compromised, though where there is a sudden change to communism from a previously highly capitalised non-communistic organisation of society it may take considerable time, possibly even a generation or more, for this fact to become evident. Such communistic societies, whether voluntary or State-enforced, are not economically viable societies. This is why there were shortages of food and other basic necessities of life in Soviet Russia. It is also why the Church at Jerusalem ended up in the situation in which she could not take care of her own poor. History has shown this to be the case time and again. And it would seem that it is this same lesson that the Bible teaches with regard to the Jerusalem Church when all the biblical evidence is considered. The Christian community in Jerusalem had become unable to support itself economically and needed help from the Gentile Church. Therefore Paul had to take collections from the Gentile Churches, which did not practice the community of goods as described in Acts chapters 4 and 5, to help the poor in the Church at Jerusalem.

. . . to be continued

  1. Despite the ideal of poverty espoused by the monastic orders, property was not forbidden to most monastic communities. It was private property that was forbidden. Property was owned by the community not the individual. The Rule of St Augustine, for example, requires the surrender of private property to the monastic order—i.e. common ownership. Likewise the Rule of St Benedict. The Rule of St Francis, by contrast, requires not common ownership of property but poverty, i.e. the rejection of all ownership by both the individual and the community. This requirement was founded on the reputed poverty of Christ. The doctrine of the absolute poverty of Christ, however, was declared heretical by Pope John XXII in 1323 (Gordon Leff, Heresy in the Middle Ages [Manchester University Press, 1967], Vol. I, p. 238; see ibid., pp. 51–255 for a full discussion of the Franciscan problem and its history).
2. According to Peter Rideman, one of the founders of the Hutterite movement, “God from the beginning ordained naught private for man, but all things to be common” (Account of Our Religion, Doctrine and Faith, given by Peter Rideman of the Brothers whom men call Hutterians [Hodder and Stoughton/The Plough Publishing House, (1565) 1950], p. 88). For Rideman’s views on marriage see ibid. p. 97ff., and on the education of children ibid. p. 130f. Rideman’s Account of Our Religion, Doctrine and Faith etc., originally written in 1540, has remained the fundamental confession of the Hutterian Brethren up to the present.
3. John A. Hostetler, Hutterite Society (John Hopkins University Press, [1974] 1997), p. 203, see further ibid., pp. 203–224; see also Karl Andreas Peter, The Dynamics of Hutterite Society: An Analytical Approach (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1987), pp. 62–70.
4. See Shafarevich, op. cit., pp. 18–130.
5. See R. Bruce Taylor, “Communism” in James Hastings, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1980), Vol. III, p. 785bff.
6. See Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936, trans. J. Kane), pp. 87–107, and Shafarevich, op. cit., pp. 243–248.
7. “Prostitution and ways of fighting it,” speech to the third all-Russian conference of heads of the Regional Women’s Departments, 1921, cited in Christopher Dawson, Enquiries into Religion and Culture (London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1933), p. 262.
8. M. C. D’Arcy, S.J., The Mind and Heart of Love: Lion and Unicorn—A Study in Eros and Agape (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, [1946] 1954), p. 161.
9. “Socialism in Our Past and Future” in Alexander Solzhenitsyn ed., From Under the Rubble (Collins and Harvill Press, 1975), p. 44 (italics in original).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Communism in the New Testament (Part I)

Christians usually look back to the early Church of New Testament times as an example that the Church should emulate in succeeding ages, even in the modern world of the twenty-first century. Indeed, it is sometimes argued that the best examples given us in Scripture should be drawn into rules for the Christian life. The community of goods described in Acts chapters 2:44–45; 4:32–37 and 5:1–11 has often been held up as an example that the Church should follow. It has also been claimed, often with alarming social and political consequences, that this example should be taken as indicating how society should be organised politically; i.e. it is sometimes taken not merely as an example of voluntary communism, which is in fact all that it was, but also as an example of how States should organise the economic life of society, by force if necessary.

Perhaps the most notorious example of the outworking of this “Christian” communist ideology is the Anabaptist revolution that overtook Münster, the capital city of Westphalia, Germany, in 1534. “Taking advantage of the struggle going on between Catholics and Lutherans, the Anabaptists gained control in the municipal council and then completely subjugated the town. All who refused to accept a second baptism were expelled after being stripped of all their possessions. Thereafter all property in the city was appropriated for the common lot, everyone being obliged to deliver his possessions under the supervision of special deacons. Next polygamy was introduced, and women of a certain age were forbidden to stay unmarried.” [1] This was not an isolated example however. There is a long tradition of violent revolutionary “Christian” communism stretching from the heresies of the Free Spirit and the Apostolic Brethren in the thirteenth century through to the Taborites of the Hussite Wars in the fifteenth century, the heretical teachings of the Zwickau prophets and Thomas Müntzer, the Anabaptist revolution itself in Münster in the sixteenth century,[2] and on to the Marxist communist ideology of the modern Liberation Theology movements.

According to the Mexican Liberation Theologian José Porfirio Miranda,

“Jesus himself was a communist . . . communism is obligatory for all Christians . . . The Ananias episode . . . means: pain of death for whoever betrays communism, Christianity’s indispensable condition . . . No one can take the Bible seriously without concluding that according to it, the rich, for being rich, should be punished. Not to let them into the kingdom when the whole point is to establish the kingdom is clearly punishment. To commit them to torment, as the parable teaches, is punishment. To deprive them of all their goods and send them off with nothing is also punishment—for the simple crime of being rich.” [3]

In the last few pages of his book Communism in the Bible Miranda provides a defence of mob violence against private property based on John 2:15 in which Jesus is represented as the leader of a pogrom against the Temple.[4] Not surprisingly, therefore, Miranda describes Jesus as “a hardened revolutionary.” [5] According to Miranda “The sacred authors know that all differentiating wealth is ill-gotten, that it has necessarily been obtained by despoiling and oppressing the rest of the population, and that therefore to be rich is to be unjust. They sigh for Yahweh to intervene and re-establish justice by despoiling the despoilers. For the sacred authors, the problem of evil is a social problem.” [6] The bizarre conclusion that Miranda comes to is that even God himself is obliged to support the communist revolution because it is his creative act that is responsible for the existence of the poor in the first place and the denial of their strict rights:

“To the extent that one does not participate in this [communist—SCP] revolutionary struggle, one participates in the benefits of a society which lives essentially by exploiting and oppressing the poor. Merely abstaining from the struggle constitutes complicity. The situation of the poor is injustice in the most strict, and commutative, sense of the word . . . in the sense that obliges restitution. Even God is under obligation in this matter, for it is God who set in motion the machinery of creation which has resulted in tearing to bits the strict rights of the poor, who did not ask to come into the world in the first place.” [7]

Although Miranda’s views are on the very extreme of the socialist ideological continuum, the basic principles that underpin his perspective and revolutionary conclusions are not essentially dissimilar to those espoused by more moderate “Christian” socialists. That is to say, many Christians have extrapolated from the practice of the Jerusalem Church in the early chapters of the book of Acts to the idea that the State should enforce communism, or at least to the idea that Scripture supports the organisation of society on a socialistic model. Of course this begs the question of how we determine what the best examples in Scripture are. There are plenty of bad examples in Scripture that we are to learn from. They teach us to do the opposite. But there are also examples in Scripture of good people doing very bad things, and we are to learn from these also. King David’s example of adultery and murder is hardly to be imitated, though in other respects he is held up as a model of faith, and rightly so. We must be careful, therefore, about how we determine what examples in Scripture we are to follow. It may be argued, of course, that Scripture elsewhere condemns adultery and murder. Before following the example of those whose lives are described in Scripture, therefore, we must look carefully at what else the Bible has to say about these people and their actions. Likewise, we must look carefully at what else the Bible has to say about wealth, ownership of property, the family, and social order, all of which have an important bearing on the issues surrounding the community of goods in the Jerusalem Church of Acts chapters 2 to 5, before we draw the conclusion that the latter is an example that we should follow.

But there is one practice of the early Church of the New Testament that the Church throughout subsequent history has not followed; nor has it ever been argued, to my knowledge, that the modern Church should follow this practice. And yet it is no more directly condemned in Scripture than the community of goods in the Jerusalem Church is directly condemned in Scripture. Nevertheless, the Church has not considered this to be a good practice to follow, and with good reason. The issue here is the funding of missions. The primitive Church of the New Testament, the Church in Jerusalem, became, within a few years of the inauguration of the Great Commission, financially dependent on her mission Churches, i.e. the Churches of the Gentile world (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:26–27; 1 Cor. 16:1–3). This was the reality of the New Testament situation.[8]

Are we right not to follow this example? Is the practice of the Jerusalem Church a good example? Yes, we are right not to follow this example, because no, the practice of the Jerusalem Church was not a good example. Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 12:14, “I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children,” may well be an indirect criticism of the Jerusalem Church’s experiment with the community of goods because of its consequences for the Gentile missions. And here lies a cautionary tale for those who would use the Church of Jerusalem as their model for the modern Church and society at large, and indeed for all primitivist thinking about ecclesial and social theory.

The Jerusalem Church could not provide for herself economically. At the very least the community of believers at Jerusalem was too poor to be able to provide relief for the poorest members of the Church. And yet this was the Church that practised community of goods. Why was the Church in Jerusalem so poor that Paul had to provide financial aid from the Gentile Churches of Macedonia and Achaia?

 . . . to be continued

   1. Igor Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), p. 40.
   2. See further ibid., pp. 24–79; see also Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (London: Secker and Warburg, 1957, p. 139ff. et passim.
   3. Communism in the Bible (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1982 [1981]), pp. 7, 8, 11, 24.
   4. Ibid., p. 77–78.
   5. Ibid., p. 22.
   6. Ibid., p. 32. Miranda’s claim that all differentiating wealth is condemned in Scripture takes no account of the fact that some of the greatest saints of the Old Testament, e.g. the Patriarchs, were fabulously wealthy men by comparison with the greater part of the people among whom they lived. Even in the New Testament differentiating wealth is nowhere seen as in itself being inconsistent or incompatible with Christian discipleship, as the case of Joseph of Arimathaea demonstrates (Mt. 27:57). The acceptance of Joseph of Arimathaea as a disciple by Christ also demonstrates that in the case of the rich young ruler (Mk 10:17–27; Lk. 18:18–27) what is being considered is not wealth or even differentiating wealth per se, but rather the idolatry of wealth. The command to sell everything and give it to the poor is not a universal command to all the disciples, therefore, but Jesus’ calling to this particular young ruler, whose sin, i.e. his idolatry of riches, was manifested by his disobedience to Christ’s command. This fact is further confirmed by the case of Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1–9), who gave away only half his riches to the poor (v. 8), an act that brought forth no criticism or rebuke from Christ, and which was accepted as just, the Lord Jesus declaring that salvation had that day come to the house of Zacchaeus (v. 9).
   7. Ibid., p. 69.
   8. It has been suggested by Hans von Campenhausen that the primitive Church at Jerusalem may have seen this contribution from the Gentile Churches as implying a formal payment of dues (cf. Rom. 15:26–27), but von Campenhausen emphatically denies that this was how Paul himself saw it (Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries [London: Adam and Charles Black, (1953) 1969], p. 34).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Politics and Religion

Politics and religion are inseparable. This fact alone accounts for the persecution of the early Church by the Roman State. Francis Legge stated the facts clearly when he wrote: “The officials of the Roman Empire in time of persecution sought to force the Christians to sacrifice, not to any of the heathen gods, but to the Genius of the Emperor and the Fortune of the city of Rome; and at all times the Christians’ refusal was looked upon not as a religious but as a political offence.” At the trial of Christ the chief priests of the Jews said to the officials of the Roman Empire: “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15). The early Christians, when faced with the same question, replied: “We have another King. His name is Jesus Christ.” The Romans understood what this meant: either Jesus would bow the knee to Caesar or Caesar would have to bow the knee to Jesus (cf. Jn 19:12). The Church faces this same question again today, and in a way that she has not had to face it since the days of the Roman emperors. Who is Lord: Christ or Caesar? Christ or the modern secular State? There was, and is, no third option, no “third way.” This was, and still is, a political issue. Jesus Christ was victorious in his struggle with the Roman State. He will be victorious in his struggle with the modern secular State. The only question that remains is this: on whose side will you stand? Whom are you for? Whom will you obey? The Lord Jesus Christ or the modern idolatrous secular State?

Christianity is not a private devotional cult, a worship hobby, that could find a quiet place in the greater context of ancient Roman idolatry. Christianity is not comparable with the mystery cults that were popular in ancient Rome. For the early Church, merely adding Christ to the Roman pantheon—a tactic that was tried, unsuccessfully, by at least two emperors—would have been a denial of his lordship and sovereignty and would have successfully neutralised Christianity as a threat to the Roman State. But Christianity is more than a devotional cult. It is a religion that structures the whole of man’s life. Both the early Church and the Roman State understood this. Modern Christians on the whole have signally failed to understand this. And it is this failure that accounts for the decline of Christianity in the West today.

Christ does not merely demand that we refrain from burning the incense to Caesar; he demands that Caesar burn the incense to him and acknowledge his lordship and sovereignty over Rome and the empire. To burn the incense to Caesar was to acknowledge that Caesar was the political overlord. For Christians, to refuse to burn the incense meant that Jesus Christ is the political overlord, the King of kings to whom all kings must bow, Caesar included. There is no area of religious neutrality anywhere in the created order. Politics is not a religiously neutral enterprise, it is an intensely religious enterprise. Burning the incense was a religious act of political submission. Refusing to burn the incense was not a religious crime in the narrow sense (a devotional offence); it was, rather, a religious act of political rebellion against Rome.

The Church in the twenty-first century must recognise this truth and begin living in terms of it, as did the early Church, by challenging the political idolatry that is destroying the Western world today. Only when the Church awakens from the deadening slumber that has overtaken her and proclaims once more the lordship and sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the whole of life, including the political realm, will the world be delivered from its slavery and bondage to sin as manifested today in the politics of rebellion against God; and only then will the world experience real freedom, the glorious liberty that the gospel of God brings to all nations that submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The law and gospel of God is a public truth, a light not only for man’s personal devotions but also for the government of the nations. It must inform all that we think, say and do, as individuals and as nations. Only when submission to the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a reality in the life of the nations of the earth can it be said that the Great Commission is being fulfilled, since the Great Commission is not a command to disciple individuals from among the nations, but a command to disciple the very nations themselves.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Clergymen II

When the article on Clergymen was published below (see Saturday 13 October 2012) someone asked me “How do you view what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14?” This is what the text says: “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Here is my response.

The problem with clergymen in principle is not their being paid for the work that they do. Being paid for what one does is a biblical principle, and if someone works he deserves to be paid. This goes for Christian ministry as much as anything else. The problem rather is this: (1) ministry is tied to office. Only office bearers can effectively exercise ministry in the Church. (2) Ordination is required for office bearers (ordination means appointment by men). While this is biblical for an elder (which is an office), it is not for the gifts of ministry (Eph. chapter 4). (3) Those in office then set professional qualifications for anyone who wants to enter the field. In other words they restrict entry into their field by creating a guild. This gives clergymen a virtual monopoly. (4) Those in the guild choose those who can enter the guild. They choose those whom they can shape into their own mould. (5) They then restrict payment (the tithe) to those in their own guild. This is the real money problem. Not that people are paid for the work they do, but that the clergy guild attempts to restrict payment for ministry to members of their own guild. They argue that only they should be paid by the tithe. They teach for example that he tithe should only go to the Church—that means to them—not the Christian ministry generally, but to the local church, because they are the chief recipients of it (they want control over your tithe, they want to exercise your responsibility for you, to make sure the whole tithe goes to them). This starves legitimate ministries that are not tied to Church office of funding (even where these are God-given ministries and clergymen have no God-given ministry—see below).

You see from this that what emerges is a profession guild with a closed shop union mentality that restricts access to work to those who are members of the guild and also restricts payment for work to those who are in the guild. In other words what we get is monopoly control of office, ministry and funding in the church. The important point for these people is not whether you have a God-given ministry but whether you are in the guild. Most clergymen I have known I would say show no signs of having been gifted with a ministry. The most prominent feature of the clergy system and of clergymen is the desire to control, which goes flatly against the command of Christ (Mt. 20:25–28).

It is true that Free Churches can circumvent this system if they want to because they are not members of a denomination. But they seldom want to do so. Often they have their own old-boy networks that work just as effectively as (sometimes more effectively than) the denominational guilds, the rules of which are certainly less clear but just as effective and restrictive. The whole point of this system is to maintain control.

This system starves the Church of the ministries she needs because the control freaks who operate the clergy system are seldom equipped with the gifts necessary for effective leadership and ministry in the Church (why else is the Church is such a decrepit state?). What drives them is not the message and the desire for the Church to fulfil her mission, but control of the Church.

This has been the way it has been throughout most of Church history, although there have been times when things have been better, and times when they have been worse than they are now. We have mostly realised now that politicians who bleat endlessly about just wanting to serve their people cannot be trusted, that they are liars (possibly fooling themselves in the first instance sometimes but not the people any longer) and that what they want is power over others. This is what drives politicians. Jesus said this was so. But he said it was not to be so in the Church (Mt. 20:25–28). But this is also what drives clergymen. Power and payment, restriction of access to office and ministry, and restriction of access to the tithe, which is meant to fund Christian ministry, to themselves. They always have their pensions in view when it comes to preaching the message of God’s word. They do as their masters tell them in order to keep their jobs and their pensions, whether their masters are the denomination or their congregations. They will not preach a message that might jeopardise their salary and their pension. They are hirelings. Jesus warned us about this (John 10:12–13). Few of these people have callings from God. I have observed this for nearly 40 years, and you can see it throughout history. If you ask clergymen about their callings nine times out of ten you will get a load of waffle. The prophets and apostles in the Bible never waffled about their callings. For the prophets it is often the first thing they tell us. This is a calling from God, it did not come from themselves, they say. Clergymen’s callings are usually a load of introspective subjective waffle. An elder does not need a calling from God, he needs a calling from men, provided he has met the biblical qualifications for marriage and the upbringing of his children in the faith etc. Ministries are given by God. The same man can exercise both, but they are not tied, and the one does not guarantee the other.

The upshot of all this is that the Church is starved of the vision and ministry she needs to fulfil her mission. As a result the Church atrophies, perishes through lack of nourishment. Clergymen are seldom good ministers of the gospel. At the same time those with genuine ministries (callings from God to the work of preaching the gospel) have to work outside Church office because they are not permitted to minister in the Church by clergy guild members. They are then regularly abused for having “para-church” ministries by clergymen and their dim-witted followers, who are the ones who refuse to let them exercise their ministries in the Church. They are also starved of the legitimate payment they should get for the work they do (and this is where Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 9:13–14 does apply) because the greedy clergymen, who are usually ill-equipped for the work, spend so much of their time telling us that only they should be recipients of the tithe.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Although Paul was accepted into the company of the apostles in Jerusalem, and was therefore recognised as an apostle by the Church, he was never formally ordained as an apostle by the apostles in Jerusalem. Furthermore, Paul never recognises or acknowledges the necessity of such an ordination and always refers his own calling as an apostle to the will of God (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1). However, in his epistle to the Galatians, among whom his apostleship seems to have been in question and to whom he had to defend it, he goes much further than this and specifically denies any such ordination, insisting instead that his calling as an apostle was neither by man nor through man (Gal. 1:1) but through Jesus Christ (cf. vv. 15–17). Even in Acts 13:2 where Paul and Barnabas are chosen for the work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles it is the Holy Spirit, not the Church at Antioch, who calls and appoints them to this ministry.

It is questionable, therefore, whether Paul himself could in any sense be described as an office bearer in the New Testament Church, since apostleship is a ministry not an office, and the former is never inextricably tied to the latter in the apostolic and sub-apostolic age. It was the tying of ministry to office at a later period that produced clergymen, i.e. a special class of professional Christians, who reduced the faith to a set of liturgical rituals that were under their exclusive control. These rituals then took the place of the life of faith in the Christian community, and the clergyman, as the community’s professional Christian, effectively took on the role of performing the faith, in the form of these liturgical rituals, on behalf of the congregation, which became passive (for example the agape feast was discontinued, and eventually banned in Church buildings, and replaced by a liturgical ritual performed by the clergyman). This corruption of the Christian faith, i.e. its reduction to what amounts to little more than a ritualistic mystery cult, has continued in various forms up to the present time (anyone who doubts this need only consider that in most mainline Christian denominations only duly ordained clergymen are licensed to administer the Lord’s Supper, a form of sacerdotalism that is as characteristic of the Protestant denominations as it is of the Episcopal denominations), and has had disastrous consequences for the mission of the Church as a social order (one of the definitions of the Church given by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Usage is the clergy or clerical profession).

Peter makes it clear that he is an elder as well as an apostle, but not because he is an apostle (1 Pet. 5:1); and the fact that a man may have a ministry as well as an office in the Church does not mean that either cannot exist without the other. All that is required of an elder in terms of ministry is that he is apt to teach, i.e. that he is able to teach when it necessary that he do so (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24; the same term is used in both texts). Elders in the Church are ordained, i.e. chosen and appointed, by men (cf. Acts 14:23); ministers are given, i.e. called and appointed, by God (Eph. 4:8, 11–13). Eldership is a human calling. Ministry is a divine calling. Ministry and eldership are distinct categories; appointment to the office of elder (priest) in the Church by men does not in itself confer any ability to fulfil the ministries mentioned in Eph. 4: 8, 11–13, which are given to the Church by Christ. And it has been only too clear from the history of the Church up to and including our own time that many who manage to obtain office in the Church are not called by God and have not been equipped by God with the gifts and abilities necessary for exercising the ministries mentioned in Ephesians, and are therefore incapable of exercising such ministries, which are necessary for the building up and equipment of the Church for her mission. It is also clear that many who have held no office in the Church are called to, and equipped by God with the gifts necessary for, the exercise of these ministries. Yet the Church on the whole continues to tie ministry to office with disastrous consequences. The resulting concept of clergymen and their reductionist misrule of the Church as a community and as a social order has seriously misdirected the Church and severely weakened her mission to the world.

There is only one way to solve these problems: get rid of clergymen. Of course, this will not solve all the problems facing the Church; nevertheless, it seems impossible to solve the Church’s problems, and in particular the present failure of the Church to pursue her God-given mission to the world, without getting rid of what has been throughout history and continues to be the greatest single obstacle to the effective fulfilment of that divine mission: clergymen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The True Politics

Just as the decisive issue that faced the early Church was the battle between Christ and Caesar, with the emperor as the embodiment and representative of the ideal of the State espoused by classical antiquity,—i.e. the ancient Antichrist,—so too the decisive issue facing the modern Church in the West is the battle between Christ and the apostate secular State, the modern Antichrist. Until the Church recognises this conflict and begins to act in terms of it she will continue to decline and the State will continue to exercise dominion over her. If she is to conquer her enemies and fulfil her Great Commission once more she must proclaim that Christ is Lord (i.e. Ruler), not the State. Victory will not come instantly, and it will not come at all without a great deal of sacrifice and tribulation. But this is the mission to which we are called. We must pick up our cross and follow Christ.

The time is ripe for a change of politics in Western culture. The question is simply this: is the Church, the body of Christ on earth, prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to challenge the politics of man and replace it with the politics of God? God does not grant religious neutrality to the State. The State must kiss the Son or perish by the way. Christianity is the true politics. The Church must start living out this truth with every breath that she takes. Only when she does will the world be delivered from the tyranny and idolatry of the politics of man.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Church

“The name, pretence, and presumed power and authority of the church or churches, have been made and used as the greatest engine for the promoting and satisfying the avarice, sensuality, ambition, and cruelty of men that ever was in the world . . . To this very day, ‘the church’ here and there, as it is esteemed, is the greatest means of keeping Christian religion in its power and purity out of the world, and a temptation to multitudes of men to prefer the church before religion, and to be obstinate in their oppositions unto it . . . The secular, worldly interest of multitudes lying in this presumptive church and the state of it, they preferred and exalted it above all that is called God, and made the greatest idol of it that ever was in the world; for it was the faith and profession of it, that its authority over the souls and consciences of men is above the authority of the Scriptures . . .”

 —John Owen, An Enquiry into the Original, Nature, Institution, Powers, Order, and Communion of Evangelical Churches in Works (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust [Goold Edition, 1850–53], 1965), Vol. XV, p. 224f.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mission Impossible?

Your task, Mr Christian, should you choose to accept it, is this:

1. Understand what a Christian social order is, and how it differs from the secular and non-Christian social orders we face.
2. Construct a Christian social order in micro (small local settings that can be duplicated), and get it working, so that,
3. As the secular/non-Christian social order breaks down the Christian social order can take over in its place.

This is what I understand the Great Commission to be expressed in modern language. Problem: getting Christians to understand that this is the Great Commission, and getting them to read the Bible in terms of its own world-view rather than looking at it through secular humanist and Gnostic dualist spectacles. All we have at the moment is a Church that is little more than a Christian mystery cult comprised of elements of a Christian soteriology, with a spirituality that is essentially a modern version of Gnostic dualism, set in the context of a secular-humanist world-view. This gives us a Harry Potter version of Christianity that is about as realistic as the imaginary world of 
JK Rowling. The real thing is just not there, and the world sees this. 

Mission Impossible? Well, impossible or not this is what I believe the task of the Church is now, and actually always was.

I am trying to express this in such a way that people will understand the real issue. Tired and well-worn Christian terminology looses its meaning for a lot of people because it has been re-defined; for example, talk of the Kingdom of God, which in truth is an excellent concept and made sense in previous centuries (and is simply an older way of saying what I have said above), has lost its relevance because it has been so spiritualised away as to be virtually meaningless. Not that I think we should no longer use the term Kingdom of God. But we have to give it biblical content and express it in such a way that people understand what it really means. The term "kingdom of God" as used by most Christians today has no more meaning in terms of linguistic content than a swear-word, i.e. it is a rhetorical flourish used for effect but conveying little real meaning. Talk to Christians about the biblical content of the term and you will soon find yourself up against a Christian mystery cult that is essentially an escapist religion (as were the mystery cults of classical antiquity). For example, last year I went round many of the Christian pastors and Church leaders in the town where I live putting the above argument to them, and quite a number balked at it because of their eschatology (the rest, with a few exceptions, were just non-plussed and did not know what to say because they had not thought about such things before). “Jesus is coming back soon and he will take us all away. So what on earth are you talking about?” The idea that he isn't, at least not soon, and that he won't until we have discipled the nations, i.e. converted the nations to the Christian faith, is classed as erroneous eschatology that distracts us from the real business of the faith, namely, having a nice bless-up on Sunday mornings in which all the “prophets” spout their usual garbage and the minister preaches the usual irrelevant message and we all sing chorus till we are blue in the face and have a wonderful spiritual experience, oh and yes, of course, put enough money in the collection plate to keep this ridiculous circus on the road for another week. In other words a strategy for oblivion, which is precisely what we are facing. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin!

Well, to end on a positive note, steps 1, 2 and 3 above is what the early Church did, not perfectly by any means, but substantially nonetheless. We need to do the same, only learning from their mistakes and progress the Great Commission even further. Who’s up for it? Please all shout at once.