Book Review: The Biblical Philosophy of History [R. J. Rushdoony]

Introduction

Because of modern approaches to historical research, we are accustomed to thinking of history as simply the reporting of chronological events whereby the historian holds neutral his underlying presuppositions that form the basis of any interpretation of historical events. History then is more or less a journalistic reporting of events without bias. Indeed, according to some historians, history should not entail an interpretive process that looks to understand the meaning of events. But can historians simply report events without any underlying presuppositions? The very facts they choose to chronicle involves a choice on their part of some material while bypassing other material. In his book, The Biblical Philosophy of History, R. J. Rushdoony provides a different picture of history. He challenges us with questions like, What is history? What are the underlying presuppositions of various historiographies (historical method)? Can there really be a neutral approach to history? On the basis of these questions Rushdoony then proceeds to proffer a Biblical philosophy of history. In his various writings, Rushdoony posits the contrast of a Christian worldview with other worldviews that he designates as humanism. Whether those worldviews entail Greek philosophy,  medieval scholasticism, Enlightenment rationalism, positivism, or existentialism, they have in common their antagonism toward a Christian worldview because at their core they are all humanistic in that they view man as the determiner of all things. A Biblical Philosophy of History is a work meant for those who believe in a historical Jesus, who offers salvation to those who place faith in Him as called by God. 

History and Meaning

A popular movement emerged in the 1960’s that had its roots in the 19th century and the writings of Frederich Nietzsche. The movement was a philosophical one and anti-theological one known as the God is dead philosophy. Following Nietzsche, theologians such as Thomas J. Altizer held that the era of Christian civilization had come to an end, and all morals and values generated by a Christian worldview had collapsed. Historically, then Christianity became nothing more than a myth to be reported in the annals of historical research. What this meant for human beings was that they were then immersed in the process of historicity, thereby the search for a transcendental meaning in history is a meaningless pursuit. In contrast to this philosophy, Rushdoony brings forth a Biblical Philosophy of History. Throughout this work, Rushdoony pits a view of history as grounded in Biblical truth against various humanistic philosophies of history, including the Greek view of history, medieval scholasticism, Enlightenment rationalism, the positivism of Comte, pragmatism, Marxism, Fabian socialism, scientism, and relativism. Rushdoony’s first chapter, with the same title as the book, lays the groundwork for the entire work. 

The Biblical Philosophy of History

In his opening chapter, Rushdoony goes straight to Genesis and the Biblical perspective of creation as the foundation to the Biblical philosophy of history. He delineates nine implications for historical understanding if we accept the Biblical claim of God as Creator. 1) The doctrine of creation asserts that the universe, time, history, man, and all things are the handiwork of a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and triune God (p. 7). 2) This means that the meaning of history is to be understood primarily and essentially in terms of that God (p. 7). If God created time and history, then they are determined by Him. Hence, as human beings we are not immersed in time without recourse to any transcendental meaning. History is not caught in time but proceeds from eternity. 3) Creation is described by all of Scripture as a creative act of God, in six days, and thus it must be understood as an act, not of process (p. 7). 4) The Biblical doctrine of creation not only asserts that creation is the creative act of God, but also, because it is totally His creative act, creation is totally under His government (p. 10). 5) The source of energy and power is radically different in the Biblical faith from that in the humanistic creed. For the orthodox Christian, who grounds his philosophy of history on the doctrine of creation, the mainspring of history is God (p.12).God’s sovereignty and providential control give history meaning because history unfolds on the basis of His eternal decrees. 6) The Biblical philosophy of history is grounded not only on the doctrine of creation, but also on the doctrine of the infallible Scripture (p. 13). 7) The Biblical philosophy of history means that time does not come out of a primeval past, but from eternity (p. 15) 8) The doctrine of creation has reference to the nature of man (p. 16). Human beings are not caught up in the process of time and historicity; they are passive in their relationship to God, but active agents in relation to time and creation. 9) All factuality is . . . made personal, because it is the handiwork of the personal triune God, and it derives its meaning from His personal, creative act and eternal decree (p. 18). Rushdoony builds the theme of his book, The Biblical Philosophy of History, as he expounds on these nine principles while also contrasting the Biblical philosophy with humanistic philosophies throughout history from ancient Greece to the modern era. 

The Structure of the Book

Given the nine implications for the Biblical Philosophy of History from the premise that God is creator, Rushdoony takes Christian readers on a journey of how these implications relate to what Orthodox Christians hold as basic truths of Scripture. Hence readers will delve into what it means for history if we accept what Romans 9 says about inescapable truths seen in creation. What does the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth mean for our understanding of history? What does regeneration of the believer mean for our understanding of history and our place in history? Rushdoony takes Orthodox believers into these discussions and others. Two appendices to the book delve further into historiography and Rushdoony’s plea for the need of Christian scholarship in this area, as one means of Christian Reconstruction where all spheres of life are taken captive for the name of Christ.

Conclusion

As stated, The Biblical Philosophy of History is written straightforwardly for the Reformed Orthodox Christian. It provides the believer with a firm foundation for why we should study history, whether we pursue it as a professional, a student, or a layperson. History has meaning and purpose. The Christian interpretation of history is at odds with all humanistic approaches to understanding history, if indeed there is any understanding to be had from humanistic presuppositions. 

[Rushdoony, R. J. (2000). The Biblical Philosophy of History (originally published in 1969; reprinted in 2000). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.] [All page numbers refer to the Kindle edition.]

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./November 14th, 2022

BOOK REVIEW/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Waiting on God

Introduction

As we pray, study God’s Word, and face the vicissitudes of life that come at at us, Scripture tells us over and over again about the comforts that come with waiting on God. What exactly does it mean to wait on God? What are the comforts and blessings that come when we do wait on God? Is the Fruit of the Spirit, patience, implicated in our waiting on God? If we learn what it truly means Biblically to wait on God, what is God trying to teach us through our waiting on His timing?

The Sovereignty of God

There are many attributes we could study concerning God’s character. God’s sovereignty, however, speaks to who God is in contrast to who man is. God’s sovereignty simply means that God is God. He does what He pleases, when He pleases, how He pleases. It is tempting to qualify this statement with God’s other attributes, so as to not make it sound as if God is whimsical and arbitrary. Nothing God does is antithetical to His holiness and justice. However, let’s stay focused on God’s sovereignty for the moment without moving too quickly to qualify the power and glory that is His being as seen in the simple fact that God is the great I AM. There is nothing that is outside of God’s control. All that happens in the world and to us individually is under His control. Two years ago I experienced a cerebellum stroke that still effects my ability to walk to this day. (I wrote about this experience, beginning here). Obviously, the why question emerged for me, but I’ll probably never have a specific answer to that question, other than it was God’s will that I had the stroke. The important thing for created beings to realize is that no one gives God counsel or advice for what and how He does things. He is sovereign, and He is His own counsel. Two important Books in Scripture can highlight this truth for us: The Book of Job, and Genesis in detailing the life of Joseph. God is God, and He is sovereign over His Kingdom, and rules as He knows best. Waiting of God calls on us to rest in His sovereignty and let things play out as they will. Many times we pray for something, and we want an answer to our prayer to come about immediately, as quickly as possible. Waiting on God requires the Fruit of the Spirit, patience, as well as trusting all the other magnificent and magnanimous attributes of God.

The Providence of God

God’s sovereignty speaks to His absolute control over all that occurs in life. God’s sovereignty is worked out through His providential hand. The stroke I experienced entails God’s providential hand in my life. God teaches us things through the sufferings and difficulties we face in life. God blessed me in displaying His providence at every turn as I worked through the difficulties of that stroke for a full year. Although I believed in God’s sovereignty and providence prior to my stroke, the twists and turns I went through during that time solidified for me God’s providential hand in my life. There was a lot of waiting I had to do, particularly waiting to regain strength, to walk again with the use of a roller and cain, to restore my voice so as to talk again, and to develop my ability to swallow and eat again. I would have preferred all that to have happened overnight, but that’s not the way strokes work. And in many cases it’s not the way God works. I learned a lot during that time about prayer, working hard in rehab, and waiting on God’s good timing. Waiting on God requires us to trust in His providential timing. God hears our prayers. He may not answer them all in the way we would prefer, and some prayers He may answer with a no. But His providential care is for certain.

Patience: A Fruit of the Spirit

I would like to wax eloquently on how I’ve developed patience over the past two years in dealing with this stroke, but if I did, I would certainly be falling into sin. I am one impatient dude. Patience is one of the nine Fruit of the Spirit, delineated in Galatians 5:22-23. Notice, Scripture does not designate them as fruits, but as Fruit. They are one and indivisible. Waiting on God requires us to wait on God’s timing, not ours. There are still things with which I struggle as a result of my stroke. My balance is still not the best, and eating some things can be difficult due to my inability to swallow certain types of food. My left side was affected by the stroke, so I tend to drop a lot of things, which can really test my patience. I have prayed quite often for this Fruit of the Spirit to become manifested in my life. So it too is something for which I have to wait on God to develop within me through His Holy Spirit. There are some truths we can know. God wants for us the blessing that comes with the Fruit of the Spirit. So I know He will answer my prayer for patience in His own way and in His own timing. Waiting of God requires patience because patience requires trust in who God is and what He is all about.

Conclusion: What the Future Holds

Waiting on God to work things out in our lives is no easy task. Patience and trust require faith in who God is. We are promised in Scripture that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We are still fallen creatures on this side of life, and it is easy for us to give up on God’s promises. David faced this struggle, stating that he said in haste, I am cut off from before your eyes/Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications/When I cried out to You (Psalm 31:22). I have mentioned on this blog before the idea of Christian Reconstruction as put forth by R. J. Rushdoony who established the Chalcedon Foundation. If we as Christians are to bring every sphere of life captive to Christ, we have to be a patient people, not just because that is a decent character trait to possess, but because patience shows that we believe in the sovereignty and providence of God, that we trust by faith that He will bring about all things in His good timing. And what he will bring about will be Holy, Righteous, and Just, according to all His magnificent attributes.

This nation is going through some difficult times right now. And God judges the nations (Joel 3:1-23). I am not sure what the future holds for us. We face a 31-trillion-dollar debt, which just to say that is unfathomable as what it means. We are a nation, grounded in humanism whereby people look to the State for salvation. As believers, we need to pray diligently for this nation. And those prayers will require us to trust by faith in God’s sovereign plan, meaning we must wait on the Lord our God to do what He will do. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage. And He will strengthen your heart; wait, I say wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./October 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Contemplations: Faith & Analysis Kickoff

Introduction

One might say that the notion of truth has fallen on hard times, but actually it has been a long-time coming. We see today the fruits of what was sown beginning in the Enlightenment, working its way into the modernist age. Although rationalism born out the Enlightenment is at odds in many ways with the postmodern age in which we now live, both are the result of humanism. If man is the ultimate measure of all things, then the radical relativism of postmodernism is the result of that presupposition. Spinoza opened the door to postmodernism, whether or not one wants to admit it, in his attack on Biblical truth and the existence of a personal God. Because of at least a Christian consensus, our culture did not feel the full force of the undermining of absolute truth for a couple of centuries. Now we see it in full force in every sphere of life from education to economics, and for sure in the political realm. One only had to listen to Biden’s speech the other night to know that we live in a time of full-blown rhetoric. Lest people think I’m picking on one political party, the same is true about the statements spewed by Trump. Unfortunately, much of the church under the guise of Christianity embraced the modernist form of thought as witnessed by the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy, modernist theology (Barth, etc.), liberation theology, and a segment of the emergent church that denounces the place of doctrine in Christianity. Without truth grounded in a solid foundation, the human creature is rudderless, directionless, and embraces the notion of a meaningless and purposeless universe.

Faith & Analysis Kick Off Time

Over the summer I previewed what was coming in the blog with the name change to Contemplations: Faith and Analysis. The September publication is the beginning of what I pray is a bright future for this blog. I have come to believe that the basic foundation for anything designated as the truth is the Christian faith. In the months ahead, and hopefully longer, I will provide analysis of what is transpiring in our culture and nation from a Christian point of view. Presently, we face a time when just about anything is acceptable other than an Orthodox Christian worldview. Contemplations, moving forward, will draw on a Reformed Christian framework to critique what is occurring in the realm of culture, politics, economics, education, business, the arts, etc. Although I will draw on the works of many Christians, I primarily will base what I write here on R. J. Rushdoony and his thoughts on Christian Reconstruction. Unfortunately, there is a much caricaturing of his position and, thereby, misunderstanding of what Christian Reconstruction is all about. Basically, it comes down to taking captive to Christ all areas of life. Due to Neo-Orthodoxy, and the modernist movements in the church, the concept of Christianity itself unfortunately means a variety of things to people. I will delineate where I’m coming from in this blog article

Reformed Theology

I embrace my faith from the perspective of an Orthodox Reformed theology. What exactly does that entail? There are several elements to my faith that I want to delineate here, but how they apply to an analysis of our culture via faith will come to light only in time across the months through my published blog articles.

Five Fundamentals of the Faith

First, I am Orthodox in that I hold to basic Biblical Christianity. The foundation of my beliefs lies on what I consider the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. These are 1) the eternal existence of the Creator Triune God and His creation ex-nihilo of the universe and all there within, and the Fall of man; 2) the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Works of the Holy Spirit; 3) the necessity of the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ and its apprehension by faith alone; 4) the death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Jesus Christ; 5) the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. The way in which I draw on my faith to critique the present climate of our culture will unfold in the months ahead.

The Five Solas

The Five Fundamentals of the faith delineated above can be somewhat correlated to what are called the Five Solas that emerged out of the Reformation. These are 1) sola fide – faith alone; 2) sola Scriptura – Scripture alone; 3) sola gratia – grace alone; 4) solus Christus – Christ alone; 5) Soli Deo Gloria – to God the glory alone. These Five Solas help sum up the Five Fundamentals of the faith described above.

T.U.L.I.P. Calvinism

As one whose faith is grounded on Orthodox Reformed theology, God’s sovereignty and His providential hand over our lives is at the core of what I believe. Unfortunately, Calvinism is another one of those terms that carries with it much caricaturing and misunderstanding. Hopefully, over the course of time I will make clear how this Reformed view of theology provides a foundation for analysis via faith of our culture and nation. The Five Points (T.U.L.I.P.) of Calvinism are: 1) Total Depravity; 2) Unconditional Election: 3) Limited Atonement: 4) Irresistible Grace; 5) Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.

Conclusion

The discussion above is only a thin layer of what Reformed theology entails. But it provides a basic starting and kickoff point for establishing a foundation for the analyses that will be forthcoming in the months ahead. Contemplations: Faith & Analysis will provide analyses through various formats – essays, ideas regarding Christian counseling, book reviews, political analyses, discussions of economics, and other formats. We are entering an election season, and this heyday of rhetoric unfortunately fits a postmodern mindset. The goal of Contemplations is to provide a thoughtful analysis of the culture from the perspective of Christian thought, particularly in terms of Christian Reconstruction as described by R. J. Rushdoony and the Chalcedon organization. .

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./September 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Foundations for Christian Counseling: Van Til on Self-Realization

Introduction

Most of what we know from the world of psychotherapy and counseling is grounded in humanistic presuppositions. Having studied and worked as a professional counselor, I used to believe that it was possible to integrate various counseling theories with Christian beliefs and a position that holds to the inerrancy of Scripture. I’ve gravitated from that belief, finding that it is more and more difficult to integrate my Christian beliefs with the philosophy and theoretical foundations of counseling and psychotherapeutic theories. Somewhere along the line a Christian has to conclude that the presuppositions of Christianity are diametrically opposed to humanistic philosophies. Various counseling theories were developed purposely in opposition to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Indeed although one may draw from certain theories to work with his or her clients, at rock bottom, Christianity and the humanism that undergirds theories of psychotherapy are irreconcilable in terms of worldview. What does this mean for the practitioner who wants his or her practice to stand solidly on Christian foundations? One response to such a question is obviously to make sure the theories one holds and the work he or she undertakes is Biblically sound. I believe the presuppositional approach of Reformed theologians can provide a solid basis, not only for counseling practice, but for all spheres of endeavor that Christians hope to take captive to Christ. Along those lines, I want to discuss Cornelius Van Til’s ideal for self-realization.

Cornelius Van Til & Presuppositional Apologetics

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) was a Dutch-American Reformed theologian, known primarily for his presuppositional approach to apologetics. His family moved from the Netherlands to Midwest America, Indiana, when he was about ten. He studied under the systematic theologian, Louis Berkhof at Calvin College before transferring to Princeton Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and began teaching at Princeton Seminary. Not long after he began working at the Seminary, it underwent a split, so Van Til shifted with the conservative group and taught for forty-three years at Westminster Theological Seminary. Van Til developed his presuppositional approach to apologetics, not only as a method to apologetics, but also as an undergirding epistemology to all of Christianity. He rejected traditional methods of apologetics and systematic theology that held that there is a common ground between believers and non-believers regarding the Christian faith. Hence, he was opposed to what he viewed as an Enlightenment rationalistic approach to apologetics and systematic theology. Unfortunately, his approach is labeled, even by some evangelical Christians, as irrational. Although he is not opposed to the use of reason – after all, we are to worship God with all our mind – he did not believe that apologetics could be used to rationally prove the truth of Scripture. All individuals believe and act on a set of presuppositions, whether or not they are aware of the presuppositions they hold. Likewise, Van Til’s position has been labeled fideistic. However he believed that believers could offer a rational defense of the faith, but that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to use arguments for the faith to convict the unbeliever of the truth of Scripture and the Person and Work of Christ. [Obviously, this paragraph is a short and truncated presentation of Van Til’s approach. Such a discussion would entail one or several blog articles, not to mention many books and articles that have been written regarding Van Til’s systematic theology. The best advice is to read Van Til for one’s own education].

Self-Realization, Self-Actualization, Etc.

The first thing to realize is that with such concepts as self-realization, self-actualization, self-awareness, self-consciousness, self-efficacy, and more, within the field of psychotherapy and counseling, these terms are replete with humanistic underpinnings. Take for example, self-realization. Self-realization as a concept has its origins in Western thought taken from psychoanalysis. Freud purposely developed his approach to psychoanalysis as antithetical to religion as a whole, and the Judeo-Christian worldview in particular. Self-realization was also incorporated in Western esotericism, where self-realization is held to be the ultimate goal of life, e.g. New Age approaches. Additionally, self-realization was incorporated in Eastern thought, e.g. Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism among others. All of these approaches are humanistic at base, regardless of their particular differences and disagreements. Other approaches to counseling are based on rationalistic premises, stemming from the Enlightenment, such as Rational-Emotive-Behavior-Therapy or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Hence, one will come across the concept self-efficacy. Although I find these approaches to be more easily integrative with my beliefs, the caution is that a concept like self-efficacy emerging from these counseling approaches is grounded in the humanistic presupposition of autonomous reason. The question that continues to emerge, as posed by R. J. Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen, is by what standard do we understand these approaches to be true or even pragmatically helpful? Cornelius Van Til, as a Reformed theologian who takes a presuppositional approach to theology and apologetics proffers an ideal viewpoint of self-realization. Although ideal, I believe it can be helpful to Christian counselors who want to remain true to Biblical inerrancy and the fundamental truths of Christianity.

Van Til on Self-Realization

Self-realization, as pointed out, is a concept loaded with various presuppositions, depending on to whom one talks or whom one reads. Van Til’s explication of this concept, I believe, can provide a good solid Biblical viewpoint for those counselors who seek to shape their practice from a Reformed and evangelical position. He delineates his approach to self-realization in his work, Christian Theistic Ethics. In chapter five of this work, he poses the questions: what then, in more detail, is involved in the goal of self-realization that man must set for himself (p. 45). First, it is important to realize that Van Til is discussing theology, not counseling, and he builds his discussion on an ideal type that would have existed prior to the Fall. He opens chapter five with his presupposition that he sees as in alignment with Reformed theology. The chapter, more than a discussion of self-realization, seeks to explore what forms man’s ultimate good, summum bonum. He states, The ethical ideal that man, as originally created, naturally had to set for himself was the ideal that God wanted him to set for himself. This is involved in the fact that man is a creature made in the image of God. God himself is naturally the end of all of man’s activity. Man’s whole personality was to be a manifestation and revelation on a finite scale of the personality of God . . . man especially was created to glorify God . . . God is man’s summum bonum (p. 41). Ideally then, all of man’s activity is directed toward God. However, the space-time Fall occurred, and to approach the ideal summum bonum set for man, requires grace from God, which comes only by being in Christ. What does this mean for one’s self-realization?

There are three core elements that Van Til delineates if the Christian is to engage self-realization. First, man must learn to will the will of God. Man must work out his own will, that is, he must develop his own will first of all. Man’s will must become increasingly spontaneous in its reactivity. Man was created so that he spontaneously served God. For this reason he must grow in spontaneity. Whatever God has placed within man by way of activity must also be regarded by him as a capacity to be developed . . . In his heart there was the inmost desire to serve God . . . God wants men to develop this will (p. 45). Obviously, from a Reformed Christian perspective, man cannot do this on his own. Following the Fall, every human creature requires grace to live as God wants him or her to live.

The second core principle is that man’s will needs to become increasingly fixed in its self-determination . . . man must needs develop the backbone of his will . . . Man was created as a self . . the creature of an absolute self . . . for this very reason again man has to develop his self-determination . . . God is absolutely self-determinate; [man can only be] self-determinate under God (pp. 45-46). As a Reformed theologian with a postmillennial outlook, Van Til believes that as Christians develop their self-determination under God, they are by God’s grace accomplishing His plans for His Kingdom on earth. God accomplishes his plans through self-determined creatures (p. 46).

The third core principle is that man’s will must increase in momentum. . . As man approaches his ideal, the realization of the kingdom of God, the area of his activity naturally enlarges itself (p. 46). This principle addresses Van Til’s postmillennial position regarding the Kingdom of God. Like any Reformed theologian, Van Til does not see the Kingdom as coming through man’s effort apart from God. It comes as the result of man’s sanctification by grace. Christians are to take captive every sphere of life to the obedience of Christ.

Self-Realization in Counseling Practice

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Van Til’s presuppositional approach to theology and apologetics, or his postmillennial view on the Kingdom, I believe Van Til, as a Reformed theologian, offers an important contribution to Christian counselors and those pastors who take on the counseling role in the church through his discussion of the ideal type of self-realization. As to the first core principle, Christian counselors can work with other believers to help them develop their spontaneity through their development of the capacities God has placed in them. In general, this means encouraging other believers to understand that they were created to serve God in some fashion. More specifically, this means working with believers to support them in discovering and developing their Spiritual gifts. I’ve talked with believers over the years who question what their Spiritual gifts might be, and they seemed at a loss as to how to be certain about what God is leading them to do. While searching out such areas for our Christian lives entails diligence, this should not be an area that leaves Christians open to constant doubt.

The second core principle regards one of those concepts that is so easily misunderstood, reading into it all sorts of humanistic underpinnings. No doubt, self-determination is a loaded concept right along with self-realization. Again, let’s look at the basic premise off which Van Til works here. As creatures, we are imbued with the Imago Dei, the image of God. Whatever capacities God has instilled in us, we develop them in terms of who we are as God created us. From a counseling perspective this can mean we support believers to discover all their capacities with which they have been created, to develop those capacities, and in doing so develop their self-determination, pursuing the life God has called them to pursue. In developing his self-determination, man is fulfilling not only God’s plan for himself, but who he is in relation to all other Christians so as to fulfill God’s plan for the church, and according to Van Til, God’s plan for His Kingdom on earth. I believe as a Christian counselor who works with other believers, we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ fill out who they are in Christ, whether or not we hold to a postmillennial position. Such work enables believers to fill out what God’s plan is for the church because we are all members of one Body.

The third core principle that Van Til discusses regarding self-realization is momentum. An an individual develops in spontaneity and self-determination, he will naturally develop his momentum. For one thing, this means, everything we do and pursue in life, we do it in pursuit of God and in the desire to be in His will in everything. As an individual grows in momentum, his activity will enlarge itself. This pertains, most importantly I believe, in the goal of taking every sphere of life captive to the name of Christ. Too many Christians believe that their specific Spiritual gift should be used in one way or in one field of endeavor. I’ve seen this work itself out among Christians who unfortunately believe that if they are not pursuing full time Christian work, e.g. pastoral work or some other full-time Christian work situation, they see themselves as secondary citizens in the church. We are supposed to be in full-time Christian pursuit, but that has nothing to do with the specific job title we work under. Taking captive all spheres of life in the name of Christ IS a full-time endeavor. And while that can be accomplished as a pastor, Seminary professor, or Christian counselor, it can be done as a businessman, a scientist, or an artist as well – and all the other pursuits that human beings engage. Even more importantly, it can be engaged beyond just our field of endeavor in which we work. Taking all spheres of life captive to Christ is accomplished by the way families work, how we engage friendships, and how we act in all our day-to-day interactions with others.

Conclusion

As Christians, how are we to engage the world? We are to engage every sphere of life in the name of Christ. As a counselor who is a Christian, I firmly believe that Christians can help, support, and encourage other believers to fill out who they are in Christ. Only via grace can the counselor and the individuals with whom he or she works come close to accomplishing that task. I believe Van Til’s explication of self-realization gives us a blueprint by which to accomplish that task. Importantly, Van Til has placed the concept of self-realization upon a solid Reformed theological foundation, stripping it of any humanistic underpinnings. David in Psalm 16, speaking to God said, Apart from you, my goodness is nothing. Apart from God and His grace, we cannot even begin the work that Van Til challenges us to do, and as Reformed theologian, he knew that.

What I have written here pertains to Christian counselors working with other believers. As a Christian, I believe that is the optimal way to work as a counselor. Although I have worked with unbelievers, there is a strong absence of common ground on which to work. As a retired counselor, the one thing I would change, looking back on my life, is my clientele. Moving forward, I hope this short exploration of Van Til’s discussion of self-realization can help and support counselors work from a solid Biblical and Reformed theological base. The field of counseling is otherwise seeking to stay afloat over the abyss of humanistic philosophies, all of which ultimately default to man’s autonomous reasoning or nihilism. For those evangelical and Reformed Christians who have not read Van Til, I highly encourage you to read and study his work.

Reference: Van Til, C. (1980). In Defense of the Faith, Volume 3: Christian Theistic Ethics. [Originally published in 1970]. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

John V Jones, Jr, Ph.D./August 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT/PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

The Need for a Christian Manifesto

Introduction

In this postmodern age, the idea of a Christian Manifesto may sound like a throwback to a time when the Church prevailed as a political entity, or a time when more people claimed the name of Christian. However, the need is not to return to some idealized past, but to surge forward into the future, thinking in terms of what R. J. Rushdoony calls Christian Reconstruction. For this discussion I will draw on four Chalcedon Reports written by Rushdoony over the years. This blog article is not merely a summary of what Rushdoony has already stated, but a charge to move forward into the future with his ideas of Christian Reconstruction and all that can mean for Christians in this age and the years ahead, whether or not one totally agrees with Rushdoony on every point. The one thing on which we as Christians can all agree is that Jesus Christ is our King, the victory over all of life is ultimately His.

Salvation by Politics

As I stated in last month’s blog article, we live in a political age. We look to the State to meet all our needs and to rescue us from the difficulties that we confront as a part of living. I too harbor guilt for this way of thinking that crept into my life for a number of years. Rushdoony a number of years ago wrote about The Fallacy of Politics (Chalcedon Report 357, April 1995). He stated that one of the truly great evil ideas of the Twentieth Century is that the American people came to see themselves as some kind of victim at the hands of others. Victims tend to be helpless, and so by default they look to others to help them. In a political age, the American people called on the State to save them from their victimhood – whatever they surmised that to be. Consequently, people sought political answers to their dilemmas. Rushdoony pointed out that politics means that a small minority exerts control over the majority. Once the State intrudes into our lives, it will seek to maintain its existence in whatever way it can, including our pocketbooks. Note our present Thirty-trillion dollar debt. Handing over power to the State means topdown control and an ultimate pragmatism on the part of politicians who will sacrifice principles to stay in office. Rushdoony claims that God has made men the primary agent of government (Chalcedon Report 357). If we sacrifice self-government by handing over our lives to the State, then ultimately we destroy ourselves.

Self-Government

This raises the question of what Rushdoony means by self-government. He delineates seven points of self-government in Self-Government Under God, (Chalcedon Report 364, November 1995). First of all, government is the self-government of the Christian man. Second, the basic government institution is the family. Third, for the Christian, the church plays a part in an individual’s government. Fourth, education and the school make up a component of the Christian’s government. Hence, we see the conflict between homeschools/private schools and state schools. Fifth, our vocations govern us. We are to do our work as unto the Lord. Sixth, as members of society, we should meet social expectations where they do not contradict God’s law. And finally, civil government makes up only one part of what is considered government from a Christian perspective. These are the areas that as Christians we must take captive to Christ. When we give our lives over to the State, government becomes and external power that rules over us. Rushdoony states, if self-government is lacking, then no good government can prevail in any sphere (Chalcedon Report 364). We see today a persistent intrusion into the first six components of self-government from the seventh component, civil government or the State. Although now there appears to be more freedom for homeschooling and private schools, these entities had to fight the State for some time to exist. Even today many Christians still send their children to State schools while deploring the content their children receive there. Additionally, those people who homeschool or send their children to private schools are coerced by the State to support State schools via taxation.

The Fundamentals of Statism

In April, 1985, Rusdoony penned Chalcedon Report 237 titled The Ten Fundamentals of Statism. I will summarize what he claimed. First, as citizens we have to realize that the State will seek to maintain its own existence at the expense of the people. This is why it is naive to look to the State for any kind of security, and above all to depend on the State for salvation from life’s daily struggles. Second, although other States are occasional enemies of the State, the people are always enemies of the State. A truly liberated people is not to the State’s benefit. Third, the purpose of taxation is confiscation and control. Note the rise of Executive Privilege over the past decades at the hands of both major political parties. Likewise taxation is about the redistribution of wealth. Fourth, steps to increase State power is always said to be done for the people; however, State power can only increase at the expense of personal liberty. Therefore fifth, the mindset of the State is that freedom is dangerous, but controls are good. Statists always view social problems as due to too much liberty in certain areas. Sixth, freedom must be redefined, especially to counter Christian morality. Seventh, children are the property of the State. Many Statist educators will tell you that children are wards of the State. Note the antagonism toward private education, especially private Christian schools and Christian homeschoolers. Eighth, the State sees church and family as its two primary enemies. Ninth, humanistic education for the most part denies the existence of God and salvation in Christ. Tenth, the State operates in the name of the public. Privacy is a problem to Statist actions and controls. Given these ten fundamentals of the State, Rushdoony delineates what a Christian Manifesto involves.

A Christian Manifesto

Almost exactly a year earlier, Rushdoony authored Chalcedon Report # 225, April 1984, A Christian Manifesto. The manifesto delineates ten points for Christians to act on so as to take captive all spheres of their lives to Jesus Christ. It is also important to realize that the manifesto is not a call for revolution against the State. It is a call to live according to God’s law for those who are in Christ. As such, it represents no coercion or harm to unbelievers who want to live otherwise. But the manifesto does call for Christians to establish their communities in ways that will not be viewed in a friendly manner by the world. As with the Ten Fundamentals of the State, there are ten points to the Christian Manifesto. First, sovereignty is an attribute of God, not of man or the State. God alone is sovereign over all spheres of life. Second, the Bible is given as the common law. The foundation for justice rests on God’s truth. Third, salvation is not by politics, education, or the church. Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. Fourth, the Machiavellian premise that men at the top can make a good society is a myth, if not an outright lie. Fifth, civil rulers who deny God are in places of power, and thereby make them dangerous. This is also true of Christians who do not live according to God’s law. Sixth, the State is not the government, but only one form of government. (See the paragraph on self-government above). Seventh, if the State equates itself with government, the results is tyranny and evil. Liberty is primarily about freedom from the State. Eighth, the Christian is called to exercise dominion in all spheres of life. Ninth, humanism, man seeking to be his own God, is the way of death. Tenth, all institutions will either serve God or be judged by Him. There is no doubt that the Christian Manifesto as delineated by Rushdoony calls for Christians to be active in all areas of life. Although this may sound threatening to the unbeliever, again, such a manifesto does not call for a violent revolution. The basis for society becoming the good society is regeneration, not rebellion or coercion.

Conclusion

Although the Christian Manifesto is not based on coercion toward those who do not believe in God and Jesus Christ as their savior, Christian morality and God’s Law definitely represent concerns for the unbeliever. It means that Christians may indeed begin a mass exodus from State schools. Given that fact, those who depart from State education will not want to support State schools with their tax dollars anymore than unbelievers would want to financially support Christian schools or private schools. It means that Christians will look to God’s word as foundation for civil law. Note the present response to the SCOTUS overturning of Roe v. Wade. We live in a world where people hold diametrically opposing values. Such opposing values will lead to open confrontation, particularly regarding government and the State. According to the Manifesto, Christians will seek to live out their beliefs in ways that counter many values held by a humanistic society. As stated above, the definition of freedom represents one of the core conflicts between believers and a humanistic society. Christians will not look to the State for their idea of a free society. Indeed, freedom is freedom from the State. More importantly, at the moment, Christians need to think about the Christian Manifesto as a way of taking back their family, economic decisions, and education from the State, looking to self-government and all that entails. Many Christians still send their children to State schools although they deplore what the schools teach their children in terms of moral principles. Whether or not we agree with every theological point of R. J. Rushdoony and his notion of theonomy, there is much he says with which Bible-believing Christians can agree.

[All content is based on the Kendal Edition of Faith and Action by R. J. Rushdoony.]

John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., July 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Faith and Analysis

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? – – Psalm 11:3 (NKJV)

Introduction

We live in a political age. Although politics are not unimportant, the messianic character witnessed in the political realm became a reality decades, if not centuries ago in this country, and millenniums ago throughout the world. From the Pharaohs being deified to the divine rights of kings in the Middle Ages to FDR and the New Deal, to Johnson and the Great Society, and so on, etc., people have looked to the political class for some kind of salvation. One only has to recall the so-called pandemic in 2020 to understand how people look to politicians to save them from the flames and arrows of life. Humanistic presuppositions, not only in politics, but deeply Imbued in our culture, have replaced or made secondary most people’s faith in God. Over the summer, July and August, I’m going to write about how this culture looks to politics or various kinds of leaders to save it from the vicissitudes of life, sacrificing any semblance of godly faith. Even those who claim to have faith in Christ have so compartmentalized their beliefs to the point that they have no real bearing on the daily life struggles that people confront. This summer will be a preview for what is to come beginning in September when I kick off the official name change of Contemplations to ContemplationsFaith and Analysis: A Christian Perspective. For convenience, I will call this page Faith and Analysis. I will write a little bit about what that change means in this blog.

Faith and Analysis

There are a variety of ways to analyze what is going on in this culture, from the pure logic of the Enlightenment to the emotionalism of the Romantic era to the rhetoric of postmodernism. All of these methods though they may be at odds in strategic ways are man-generated. As such they ultimately lead to subjectivism and relativism. Faith and Analysis will provide analysis of cultural events from an unabashedly Christian perspective, a Christian approach that is Reformed and fundamental in its approach. Although I will touch on apologetics at times, this blog is not about proving the veracity of Christianity. I hold that without understanding God’s truth, given in Scripture, as foundational to all that we do, then all that we pursue will result in no meaning or purpose. Given this presupposition, Faith and Analysis will be Christian to the core. Church institutions that claim the name of Christ have splintered into many theologies. As stated, the content of this blog will align with Reformed theology and what are considered the five fundamentals of the faith (to be delineated more specifically in a later blog). Suffice it to say, I believe in 1) the existence of the Triune God, 2) the Incarnation and Deity of Christ, 3) the necessity of the Christ’s substitutionary atonement, 4) Christ’s death, resurrection, and second coming, and 5) the inerrancy of Scripture.

Expectations

Having stated my position, I’m sure one the major questions that will arise is what will be the primary content of Faith and Analysis? First, I hope to instill in people the desire to get grounded in Scripture. God’s truth is foundational to our existence and all that we do and pursue. Second, the content definitely will be theological. I hope to introduce readers to theologians over the decades and centuries who have written, lectured, and preached from a Reformed perspective, from the Church Fathers to the present theologians. My hope here is that the appetites of readers will be whetted to the point of checking out these individuals of faith through their writings, which are more numerous than we could get to in a life time. Third, although theological, I desire the main thrust of Faith and Analysis to be analytical, critiquing our culture from a Christian perspective. As Christians, we need to take every area of life captive to Christ. That means, not only theology, but economics, science, the political realm, the arts, family, and the areas of work we engage. All of this requires action on our part to live out our faith as fully as possible, knowing that we can do so only by God’s grace. Finally, I desire that Christians come to see that if we do not live out our faith in our cultural setting, then we hand the culture over to those who are humanistic and anti-Christian in their presuppositions and principles.

Conclusion

Contemplations – Faith and Analysis: A Christian Perspective will contain a variety of types of content, from analyses to historical portraits to book reviews to foci on current events. The word contemplation defines the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. Additionally, it means deep reflective thought and the state of being thought about or planned. Although I established this website in the role of a professional counselor, God was providential in my using the title Contemplations. I can’t think of a better word that addresses our need to meditate on the truths of Scripture as inspired by God. As stated, this summer I will preview what is to come in September. I hope readers will join me for the ride.

John V. Jones, Jr. / June 14th, 2022

GENERAL ESSAY

A.W. Pink – The Sovereignty of God

Introduction

Christianity today has splintered into a variety of theologies, many of which are not only unsound Biblically, but are also purposely anti-Biblical. The five fundamentals of the faith, 1) the existence of the Triune God; 2) the Incarnation and Deity of Christ; 3) the necessity of the Substitutionary Atonement by Jesus Christ for salvation; 4) the death and resurrection of Christ and His second coming; and 5) the inerrancy of Scripture, are not countenanced in many seminaries and churches. Even those churches that claim to be conservative or evangelical do not teach that absolute sovereignty of God. Hence, in many settings today, Christians lack a sound doctrine of God that brings them the comfort that should come with knowing the omnipotent Creator of the universe, whom they claim to worship. They lack the knowledge in God’s word that tells them what He has promised. Moreover, He is with us in our day-to-day struggles in this fallen world, providentially sovereign over every aspect of life.

Arthur W. Pink championed sound doctrine. He wrote the book, The Sovereignty of God, (1918) because he believed that the church during his time lacked sound doctrine regarding that attribute of God. Consequently, he discusses God’s sovereignty from the perspective of sound doctrine based on the five fundamentals of the faith delineated above. Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952) was born in Nottingham, England. As a young man, he ventured into Theosophy, a gnostic-like cult, which he later denounced, converting to evangelical Christianity. He briefly studied at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Through several moves, Pink finally settled in as the pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Eventually, he and his wife moved backed to England where he died in 1952. He became one of the most influential preachers and theologians in the first half of the 20th Century, strongly renewing an interest in Calvinism and Reformed Theology. Because Pink believed strongly in the necessity of sound doctrine, this blog article is not so much a book review as it is a restatement of Pink’s main points on God’s sovereignty. I pull mainly from Pink’s opening chapter, Sovereignty of God Defined, and the final chapter, The Practical Value of This Doctrine. In due time, I may write a full book review, but my hope is for those who upon reading Pink’s cogent thoughts on the sovereignty of God, will be enticed to read this work as well as many others by Arthur W. Pink.

Arthur W. Pink’s Teaching on The Sovereignty of God

In his final chapter, The Practical Value of This Doctrine, Pink delineates 10 important theological reasons why believers in Christ should obtain a sound doctrine on the sovereignty of God. These will be delineated below with a short commentary based on Pink’s thought for each one, pulling primarily from this final chapter and the opening chapter, God’s Sovereignty Defined.

God’s Sovereignty Deepens Our Veneration of the Divine Character

IfGod is sovereign, He is supreme in all things. Basically, to say that God is sovereign means that God is God. God’s supremacy means that no one or anything thwarts His plan and will for the universe and all that is contained in it. God determines the sweep of history as it pleases Him. What he has determined to come to pass will come to pass. God is the Power and the Glory, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He seeks no one’s counsel or advice in what He sovereignly declares to occur. God’s sovereignty means that He is a law unto Himself. He is under no obligation to give an account of what He decrees to anyone. To demand such an account is an ultimate act of blasphemy.

God’ Sovereignty Is a Solid Foundation for All True Religion

God’s sovereignty is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. Contrasted with other religions, without a view to the sovereignty of God, taking in all His attributes, there is no progress in theological knowledge. Just as idolatry is man’s worship of what he makes with his own hands, other religions posit a god that is simply man-generated, thereby possessing no solid foundation on which truths about God may stand. God is to be feared, revered, and served as Lord. Believers in Christ are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. As such God is just and the justifier of those who believe in His Son for salvation.

God’s Sovereignty Repudiates the Heresy of Salvation by Works

God’s sovereignty takes in all of His attributes, including His lovingkindness and His grace. However, one of the most difficult teachings regarding His sovereignty is that human beings possess no merit before God. Salvation is a gift from God. And He gives the gift of salvation to whom He pleases. It is common to humanity that people believe their works and the way they live provide some merit before God for salvation. God will have mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy. As the Potter, He molds the clay as He sees fit (Romans 9) Scripture proclaims, Jacob I loved; Esau I hated (Romans 9) before either on of them was born and could merit anything before God.

God’s Sovereignty Is Deeply Humbling to the Creature

Pink called God’s sovereignty the great battering ram against human pride. The philosophy of man champions man’s merit, either before God, or in man’s own reckoning. As stated above, salvation is from God and no one else. We possess no merit before God. We have nothing to offer Him in-and-of-ourselves. John Stott in his work, The Cross of Christ, stated that God does all the work of salvation from propitiation to redemption. Pink likewise declares that God is the originator and sustainer of our salvation and will bring it about according to His own plan. If sovereignty humbles mankind, then it also leads to the praise of God.

God’s Sovereignty Affords a Sense of Absolute Security

God is infinite in power, so nothing nor no one will resist the outworking of His decrees. The Psalms declare multiple times that those who believe in God can enter His rest, take refuge in Him, and lie down and sleep knowing that they are secure (Psalm 4; 91). The Apostle Paul writes, I know in Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12). God as King of kings, Lord of Lords, is the author and sustainer of our salvation.

God’s Sovereignty Supplies Comfort in Sorrow

For the Christian, God’s sovereignty provides a great sense of peace. There is nothing that happens that is not in His control. As finite human beings, we may at time feel that life is chaotic and totally out of control. God is our refuge, a tower of strength into which we run in times of difficulty and trouble. In all times, God is always there, and He never leaves us. Without the doctrine of sovereignty, the countless difficulties that life would throw at us would be overwhelming indeed. It is hard to embrace in the midst of painful times, but God, in His lovingkindness, wills only our good. God is perfect in His goodness as in all His attributes. The Book of Job is some of the best reading for understanding God’s goodness, even in times of stress.

God’s Sovereignty Begets a Spirit of Sweet Resignation

Upon believing in Christ, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit indwells us. To bow before the sovereign will of God brings an overwhelming sense of peace. It is a peace not understood by the natural man. Unfortunately it is a peace that escapes believers who have not fully embraced the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. David declared that God desires a contrite spirit rather than sacrifices, addressing those who misunderstood and misinterpreted God’s Law. Our bowing before God’s sovereignty is not a resignation to acquiescence, but a willingness to live as God would have us live, thereby demonstrating what is good and true. (Romans 12:2). It means that we are content for the Lord to have His way with us.

God’s Sovereignty Evokes a Song of Praise

The question that believers want answered at times is – Why? Why was I, who no different than any unbeliever singled out before the foundation of the world to be saved by God’s grace in Christ? In time, my life as an unbeliever evidenced all the ungodliness that could be imagined. Yet God in His infinite grace chose to foreordain, predestine, call, justify, and glorify me (Romans 8:38-39) when I possessed no merit before Him. And the only merit I possess now comes in my being seen through Christ and His work of redemption. The why question is not answerable, nor should it be. God’s grace is sufficient. And His grace should lead us to say rejoice in Lord always (Philippians 4:4).

God’s Sovereignty Guarantees the Final Triumph of Good Over Evil

Sometimes it’s hard to look at what is going on in the world and think that one day good will triumph over evil. Yet we should begin with ourselves. God’s gift of salvation means that by His decree, good triumphed over the evil that was us. And one day, the Kingdom will come as prophesied. God reigns, and His purpose will not fail. Numbers 23:19 posits the question Does God promise and then not fulfill? God’s Kingdom will not fail nor all the promises connected to it. As believers in Christ, the Prince of Peace, we can look forward to that time when He will reign in righteous and peace.

God’s Sovereignty Provides a Resting Place for the Heart

As Pink says in this section of the final chapter, no words can do justice to this practical value of God’s sovereignty. God is transcendent and above all, it was He who stooped low to provide the justification for the unbeliever. Christ, as the Second Person of the Trinity, paid the infinite price that salvation costs, a price that no mere man could ever pay. In paying the price we couldn’t pay, He not only is the Lord of our destiny, but He is also the Lord of our heart. When a believer truly understands the cost of his salvation, he can understand how and in Whom his salvation is secure.

Conclusion

There is much more that this book has to offer the believer in Christ than what I’ve drawn here from the opening and closing chapters. Again, I didn’t intend this blog to be so much a book review as a statement of Pink’s teaching on the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, his view on the importance of doctrine, which simply means teaching, and specifically why this doctrine is of supreme importance to any church that purports to be a Bible-believing church. Obviously, I highly recommend that believers in Christ read this work along with other works authored by Pink. A good tandem reading would include this work and Pink’s The Attributes of God. I hope this blog whets the appetite for many who would want to pursue Pink’s writings. What he felt about the modernizing of the church in his time, what Rushdoony would call humanistic philosophy, is still true of many churches today. The absolute Sovereignty of God is not a welcomed doctrine in many pulpits today.

Reference:

Pink, A.W. (2017, Kindle Edition). The Sovereignty of God [published in 1930 by Baker Books]. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books [A.W. Pink first published this book in 1918 and it went through four different editions).

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./May 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part VI – The Venture Continues

[This is the final blog in a series of six articles on this topic.]

Introduction

Throughout Parts I – V on this topic, I wrote much about my personal experiences regarding my stroke, hospitalization, and rehab. I don’t want readers to lose sight of the major theme that surrounds this venture, and that is the sovereignty and providence of God in our lives. He is sovereign and providential in everyone’s life. The blessing is that as believers in Christ, we can know that truth whether our lives run smoothly or hit hard turns on our journey.

God’s Sovereignty

There is nothing particularly special about the fact that I suffered a stroke. I know many individuals (most of them are Christians and are on my prayer list) who suffered or are suffering illnesses much more devastating than what I experienced. God brought many of them from the threshold of death to full healing from such diseases as cancer, myelofibrosis, diabetes, blood clots and amputations, COVID, heart conditions, and heart attacks. As believers in Christ, they can speak to their experiences and how their faith carried them through tough times, fear, and doubts. God is sovereign over all aspects of our lives. Not a sparrow falls of which he is unaware. I believe the difficult times through which we sojourn cause us to focus more on how God works in our lives.

Arthur W. Pink wrote two powerful works, The Attributes of God and The Sovereignty of God. In the former, Pink dedicates a chapter to the sovereignty of God. He states, The sovereignty of God can be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. . . He is the Most High Lord. . . Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. People will ask, if you believe in the Sovereignty of God, and that He is a loving God, then why did He let you or cause you to have a stroke? There was a time in my Christian life, such experiences and questions would have stumped me. And I’m not saying that I have any simple answers for them now. Not a day goes by that I find myself wishing I didn’t have the residual symptoms of my stroke hanging on. But I do not doubt that God is sovereign over my illness. Accidents don’t happen in God’s wise planning. As Tommy Nelson said in his sermon on the venture, we have to decide whether or not we are going to trust God in our understanding of why things happen to us. Some people recover from devastating diseases, and some don’t. One of the things that my stroke helped me solidify to some degree was the truth of God’s sovereignty and providence. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts at times, grow impatient, and find myself perturbed and angry because of my circumstances. That’s what prayer, confession, and communion with God is all about. I would never attempt to guess the reason why God allowed my life to be hit by a stroke. But one fruit of it is I have come to have a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence. In his work, The Attributes of God, Pink states further, quoting C. H. Spurgeon, There is no attribute more comforting to His children than God’s sovereignty.

God’s Providence

God’s providential care of each of us is the outworking of His sovereignty, His sovereign decrees, established before the foundation of the world. Arthur W. Pink, in his work, The Sovereignty of God says this: The Sovereignty of God. . . means the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. That God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. . . He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. If we reflect on the Book of Job, no one can question God or counsel Him on why He has done what He has done. If I had wallowed in the question of why God allowed me to have a stroke, I would have wallowed in a mire from which I could have never extricated myself. Thinking of my illness as a journey ( a venture) on which God is taking me, led me to rest in God’s hands when I had not the slightest idea about what my future held. I look back on that year that followed my stroke, and I have the comfort that God was with me all the way. One understanding of God’s providence is that it entails the means by which God establishes His sovereignty. As I’ve written on previous blogs, I can’t think of a better plan than the path I followed from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital to Denton Select to Day Neuro at Medical City. Add to that the return to Fort Worth Harris and the Pecan Creek Rehab facility following my sub-venture with COVID, and not a better and more caring plan could have been written out. Above all, the graciousness of the Terrell family to take me into their home for nearly a year exceeded all expectations. And here is the truth of the matter: I had absolutely no control over any of that pathway that I followed for a year. God’s providential care is the outworking of His sovereignty. The facilities, the doctors, the therapists, and my friends the Terrells were all the means that God used to providentially guide me through my care and rehab work. God is likewise sovereign in His mercy and love.

Conclusion

The venture continues. God is sovereign and therefore providential over every detail of our lives. As finite creatures, it is difficult for us to see the countless ways God works in our lives. John Flavel, in his work, The Mystery of Providence says, the greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. He states that it would not be worthwhile to live in a world devoid of God and providence. As long as our ventures continue in this life, God’s sovereignty and providence never cease in our lives. A good exercise for all of us would entail our looking back on our lives so as to recognize the various ways that God has been providential in our lives and write them down. Flavel challenges believers in Christ to reflect on God’s providence: It is the duty of saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence in all the states and through all the stages of their lives. The experience of my stroke is simply a reminder to me that God is providential. He always was whether or not I recognized it.

A. W. Pink in his work, The Attributes of God, delineates sixteen attributes of God. These various attributes are not discreet entities. God is self-contained, so His various attributes describe His being. When we hear or read explanations of God’s sovereignty, such as He does as He pleases, when He pleases with all the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, such a description may leave people cold, thinking that God is arbitrary, willy-nilly, or capricious in His dealings with out lives. Nothing is further from the Biblical truth about the Godhead. All of His attributes work together in who God is. As stated above, He is equally sovereign in HIs love and mercy as in his allowing difficult times in our lives. So people may ask, do you see your stroke as an act of God’s love? Every act of God toward His children is an act of love. The love that comes from struggles in life is the recognition that we share various types of sufferings with Christ. Moreover, such struggles are a means to understand more deeply our relationship to God and His providential care in our lives. As Paul stated in his epistle, God comforts us in our suffering so that we can better comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Throughout these six blog articles, I hope the focus on God’s sovereignty and providence stands out more than just my experience with a stroke. I pray that I have encouraged believers to think and focus more on how God works in their lives. If I have accomplished that goal in just a small way, then I’m truly thankful to Him.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

References:

Flavel, J. (1963). The Mystery of Providence.[Originally published in 1678]. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Books.

Pink, A. W. (1975). The Attributes of God. [Originally published 1930] Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Pink, A. W. (2017). The Sovereignty of God. [Originally published in 1918]. Swengel, PA: A. W. Pink Classic Books.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./ April 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part V – The Venture

[This article is the fifth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

After eleven days in rehab at Pecan Creek, Paul picked me up, and I returned to the Terrell’s where life took on its familiar pattern pre COVID. The question that remained was whether or not Day Neuro would take me back after having COVID. I asked my GP to provide a referral to Day Neuro since I had tested negative for COVID. The only thing left to do was wait. God’s providence shown through again. Only three days passed, and I received a call from Devlin at Medical City that I could return to rehab. I was set once again to engage this fine facility and group of therapists for all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. God’s grace displayed itself through the Terrell’s who transported me to and from Medical City three days per week. Paul and Jean’s daughter, Amy, transported me often, and on the drive into Denton from Collinsville, we would listen to Harry Potter audiobooks. The grace of God has many ways of showing itself. If our mindset is not right, we can easily miss how God’s lovingkindness works in our lives.

Medical City: Home Away from Home

Having gotten back on track at the outpatient rehab at Medical City, I discovered that it was a place with which I would gain much familiarity. The facility scheduled me to be there three days per week, three hours per day, for a total of nine hours a week. The work would be consistent, intense, and fruitful. The therapists there provided a tailor-made work out program for me that fit my needs perfectly. Each day, the facility scheduled a three-hour slot that entailed all three therapies. After having taken some time out for COVID, the therapists recognized I had more energy than I had previously to COVID. I reckoned this fact to be due to the infusion treatments I had received. I recognized that my energy level was up, so I was ready to engage rehab. I recognized God’s hand in everything, having returned to Day Neuro. I couldn’t have been at a better place for what my body required.

Physical Therapy

Rebecca served as my primary physical therapist, but others worked with me as well in this modality. Upon returning to Day Neuro, I was still wheelchair bound, but I had learned to do some things on my on, and I could transfer from the wheelchair to other activities without having to be lifted or carried by anyone. Physical therapy challenged me to move more, stand more often, and retrieve some of the balance taken away by the stroke. For the scheduled three days, daily routines included parallel bars, workouts on a stationary bike, standing from a setting and prostrate position, and walking practice with a roller. Progress felt slow but upon reflection, due to the skill and the persistent challenges by the therapists, my progress accumulated at an amazing speed. From my perspective, the balance exercises frustrated me the most. Constantly I experienced the angst of falling, but I never fell once the entire eight months I rehabbed at Day Neuro. I also worked with Mark, another physical therapist, who had attended Baylor, and was a solid Christian. Once again, God had placed me in a truly blessed environment. Every therapist had a particular saying that I remember. I hated mistakes, mishaps, and setbacks that I experienced. Rebecca and Mark would remind me that two steps forward and one step back was what rehab work was all about. Frustration on my part was nothing more than a blinder that would get in the way of what I had to learn. God most definitely used rehab work to teach me patience, a fruit of the Spirit, which I had not cultivated all that much across my life. I’m certainly not saying that I’ve cultivated it now, but I learned more about patience during this time than I had ever known before. Other exercises included the challenge of stepping up onto and over certain obstacles, as well as navigating a set of steps to ascend and descend. Three days a week of intense work paid high dividends following my eight months’ time spent there.

Occupational Therapy

Alex was my primary occupational therapist along with Carolyn. Although some of the occupational exercises overlapped with the physical therapy – e.g. walking with roller and cane – much of the occupational therapy focused on coordination skills, especially with my left hand that had been hit hard by the stroke. Exercises included working with cards, blocks, WiFi, puzzles, and weights, all targeting my strength and coordination. Alex had a saying that I remember fondly. I became overly frustrated with the WiFi tennis game. Noticing my frustration, she would say it doesn’t matter if you win the game but how well you’re learning to maintain you balance as you play. At the end of every tennis match the little figures on the WiFi would jump up and down as a statement appeared informing me that I had lost another match. I really got ticked at those little figures. Alas, Alex was right. I engaged several other activities in Occupational therapy that proved to be very practical. I worked on some typing skills, which helped me work on my computer at home. I also practiced transferring laundry from a washer to a dryer, then hanging the clothes up on a rack. The practice of buttoning the shirts increased the coordination in my left hand immensely. Additionally, this challenge provided me with confidence that I could engage some practical everyday functioning. Another challenge entailed the use of a storefront to shop for canned and other packaged items that I would place in a cart, and then return each item to its place on the shelves. This work challenged my standing balance and the coordinated use of my right and left hands. Carolyn helped me walk with a roller and cane. Her saying was that I was always harder on myself than anything else. Eight months of occupational therapy led to some great strides in my balance and coordination. One final task I accomplished involved my own cooking as I prepared some soup for a small lunch one day. It felt to me as if life was getting back on track.

Speech Therapy

Kayla worked with me as my speech therapist. The cerebellum stroke had paralyzed my left vocal cord. As I have stated in previous articles, my speech had reduced to a whisper, but eventually returned with a gravelly voice, causing me to sound like a bullfrog, although I’ve never heard a bullfrog speak. Kayla continued the swallowing exercises and e-stem work that Melissa had started at Denton Select. She increased the exercises, however, challenging me to do more swallows, including tongue-pinch swallows and what she called hard swallows. I began three different swallowing exercises with a fifteen-count and worked up to a 20-count. She also continued with the tongue exercises that Melissa had established. Kayla added timing to the tongue exercises so that my tongue received a good work out. I felt right away how both the swallow and tongue exercises affected my throat area and my speech. Kayla added a wonderful exercise that we called towel-crunch exercise. I used a rolled-up towel and would hold it under my chin against my throat for a full minute. Following that exercise, I would then do thirty crunches with my chin pressing the towel again to my throat. Without fail, both Kayla and I recognized that my voice would be stronger following the towel-crunch work. A perk in doing speech therapy included practice with certain foods to see how I could handle swallowing them. Ice chips, water, apple sauce, apple juice, and different forms of candies provided a good reinforcement for the work. After several weeks of speech therapy, I found an ENT doctor at U.T. Southwest in Dallas who injected my left vocal cord to see if it could begin to work again. My voice returned in full force for a couple of weeks, but defaulted to slight hoarse-sound bellowing from my throat. The good thing about the injection is that it removed the extra effort I was expending to talk in any length of time. Though my voice is hoarse today, I still do not have to expend any effort to carry on a conversation with someone. Kayla worked with me on voicing, blowing out air through a straw for as long as possible, and saying certain letters of the alphabet, holding the sound for as long as I could. The speech therapy reached its max not too long before my discharge date. I felt that my voice strengthened during my time with Kayla, as well as my ability to swallow certain foods. In fact, I begin to experiment with certain foods, which led to a saying that Kayla reiterated time and again. When I would tell her with what I was experimenting, she would say I can’t tell you not to do that, but I can say that I do not recommend it, which is something you need to know. I truly appreciated her skill and concern, but I must confess that I continued to experiment.

Conclusion

My discharge date from Day Neuro fell on October 6, 2021, three days short of exactly one year since my stroke. The work they put me through there did wonders for my body. When I began my time there, I was wheelchair-bound. Over the eight months of rehabbing, I graduated to a roller, and eventually walking with a cane. Presently I utilize a cane, and at times I practice walking without the cane if I’m on a smooth surface. If I do a long walk here at Good Samaritan out by the lake, I’ll still use the roller. However, the next goal is to engage the long walk with the cane. I well remember the day at Paul and Jean’s home when we put the wheelchair in storage. I hope soon to retire the roller.

This article is next-to-the-last article I’ll write on this topic. I can say without a doubt as I look back on events, God guided me everywhere I ended up. He guided me to the facilities and the very people with whom I worked, and no better plans could have been made. As I think back on all that transpired from October 9, 2020 to October 6, 2021, the only thing I can say is that I had no control over any of it at all. From Denton Presbyterian to Forth Worth Harris to Denton Select to Paul and Jean’s care, to Pecan Creek, to Day Neuro at Medical City, and finally to Good Samaritan where I now live, God providentially guided me to the facilities and the people that best worked for me. Praise His Name.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./March 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part IV – The Venture

[This article is the fourth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

November 20, 2020: Due to COVID-19 and a host of other political upheavals, 2020 had become an infamous, if not notorious year. I will remember 2020 as the year of the stroke. More importantly than that, however, the autumn of 2020 became a time that taught me just how much I did not know about the multitude of ways that God works in our lives. God’s providential care became a stark reality for me. And November 20th provided ample evidence of God’s grace because on that day Denton Select discharged me, and Paul and Jean Terrell graciously took me into their home. For the next eleven months they would put up with me while I rehabbed through the various difficulties that resulted from my stroke. Rehab included some home healthcare, and the personal care of Paul and Jean;the majority of my technical rehab work would come through Day Neuro, the day rehab facility at Medical City, Denton, Texas.

Grace Followed by Grace

If I typed out this narrative until my hands and fingers no longer worked, I couldn’t say enough to convey all that Paul and Jean Terrell did for me during the eleven months I was in their home. Not only did they prove to be loving friends that went beyond the call of duty in putting up with me for that amount of time, but as a Christian family, they more than evidenced the Spirit of Christ in which they believe and by which they live. Although at times I believed I was a burden beyond description, they never made me feel that way, nor gave me any reason to doubt the care they demonstrated toward me.

Another large piece of grace that fell on me through living in their home involved my attending their church, Grace Bible in Sherman, Texas. I learned that many people who attended that church had been praying for me since the beginning of my stroke. My time at Grace Bible entailed the blessing that always comes with being surrounded by committed Christians who were receiving solid teaching and pastoring from George Cline. I sat under that teaching for several months with the added benefit of getting to know many of the individuals there week-in and week-out. God’s providential care entailed not only my physical healing, but also my spiritual growth. The Terrell’s home and Grace Bible involved a one-two-punch that begin the process of putting me back on solid ground.

Paul and Jean themselves are solid Christians. Hence they shared with me some Christian videos they watched, some books they were going through, and Paul and I began to pray each night for various individuals in the church, as well as for the country. Through Paul I learned about ministries I had not heard that much about – Joel McDurmon, Douglas Wilson, James White, Bruce Gore, and others. I had heard of Rushdoony and his works, but we also revisited his ideas as well. Suffice it to say, my eleven months with the Terrell’s was a time of deepening friendship, prayer, discussions about the things of Christ, and just wonderful all-around fellowship. I could say it was just what the doctor ordered, but more true to the point, my time there was God decreed through his providential care.

Another added piece of grace came with where the Terrell’s lived. There home set in the midst of some trees and land in the small community of Collinsville, Texas. There is something about country living that’s an aid to one’s healing process. There home included a large porch that wrapped around the entire house, and it became the place where a lot of my work took place that helped me move from a wheelchair to a roller, and then eventually to a cane. As I progressed from a wheelchair to the roller, Paul graciously walked with me to provide balance so that I didn’t fall. I faced the threat of falling for several months, and more than a few times I needed help getting off the floor after a fall. Vertigo continued to plague me at times, but slowly but surely the dizziness vanished. I began to reestablish skills such as moving from the bed to the wheelchair, standing up to use the roller, and taking a shower without any assistance. Daily I worked on my balance, lifted some light weights, and strengthened my grip with the aid of Thera-putty. As I stated, being at the Terrell’s home allowed me to rehab. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise. God’s providence became my refuge.

For approximately two months, I worked with a home healthcare group, involving all three therapies: speech, occupational, and physical. After that time I felt ready to engage Day Neuro, which I had heard so much about. My doctor made the referral, and the day finally arrived. A phone call came from Medical City, and finally I would undergo some heavy-duty rehab work at the Day Rehab center there. I was more than ready, but I still didn’t realize how far I had to go.

Sidetrack: COVID-19

I rehabbed at Day Neuro for about two weeks, realizing that once again, God had guided me to the right place. I experienced progress through all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. The work was difficult but going well. Then one day riding back to the Terrell’s home with Jean from rehab work, I experienced a chill. Later that night I developed a fever of 100 to 101 degrees. The next day, Paul took me to a facility that tested me for COVID, and I tested positive. Through a referral from my general practitioner, Jean drove me to Fort Worth for some infusion treatments (Monoclonal Infusion Treatment). Once there, they took a look at me and decided to put me in the hospital, which was right next door to them. Once again, I was back in Forth Worth Harris Methodist. Fort Worth Harris admitted me for a week, and I received the infusion treatments everyday for about forty-five minutes to an hour. God’s grace continued to shine through. The people on the COVID floor were skilled, compassionate, and consummate professionals. I had a wonderful room on the fourth floor that looked out over the freeway. I remember watching vehicles pass by, and yearning for the day I could drive again. The virus didn’t really affect my breathing that much, but it drained me of all energy. I was truly wasted. My oxygenation remained in the 90’s if I laid still. If I moved it drop to the upper 80’s. For the lack of energy the infusion treatments worked wonders. But the COVID treatment didn’t end there.

Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center

Following my stay at Fort Worth Harris Methodist, because I had contracted the COVID-19 virus, I was required to undergo rehab at a facility that accepted COVID patients. I was transferred to Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center in Gainesville, Texas. I knew absolutely nothing about this facility. Once again, the transport took place later in the evening. As the transport driver navigated I-35E North from Fort Worth to Denton, and then I-35 North to Gainesville from Denton, only questions and doubts clouded my mind. Although I had experienced God’s constant care since I had suffered my stroke, I wish I could say that I confidently rested in this sovereignty, but instead fear had seized me because I simply didn’t know what lay ahead. I arrived at Pecan Creek between 8:30 and 9:00pm. I was taken to the COVID unit and to an assigned room. I felt as though the unknown had engulfed me. I had no idea what was in stock for me for the next ten days, which was the determined time I would be in Pecan Creek.

God’s Grace Abounds and Never Ceases

As it turned out, Pecan Creek had an active little gym where staff worked with members who required physical therapy. During my stay, physical therapy was the sole work I embraced. I needed it to regain my strength, work on my balance, and practice more with a roller. I became confident at moving from my bed to the wheelchair and vice versa. Also during this time at Pecan Creek, I developed the ability to go to the bathroom on my own. Likewise I became more confident in using the roller rather than my wheelchair to get around. The nursing staff there worked with me so that I learned to do my own nourishment through my feeding tube.

Although these perks were truly blessings from God, I learned that there were Christian believers on staff, and group Bible studies were available to patients. Unfortunately, because I entered the facility as a COVID patient, the group activities were off limits to me. But God’s grace showed up abundantly in another way. I worked with one physical therapist, named Marsha, who was a committed believer in Christ. Each day we worked together, and she would end our time with prayer. God’s providence once again landed me in a place where blessings abound, not only through the facility and its amenities, but also through the people who worked there.

Conclusion

My work at Medical City Day Neuro had been interrupted by my COVID episode. I had no idea if the facility would take me back after having COVID. I wanted to get back there more than anything I could otherwise desire. Pecan Creek tested me for COVID, and the results came back negative. I was COVID free. I hoped that my General Practitioner could make the referral to get me back in Day Neuro.

About five o’clock in the afternoon, Paul picked me up at Pecan Creek. The hard winter temperatures had set in. But the energy I felt was in the ozones compared to the day Jean took me for the infusion treatments in Fort Worth. I had seen either Paul nor her for those fifteen days. I felt blessed to be back in their home. After being back home for a couple of days, I received a phone call from Day Neuro. I was back in. Treatments wold begin for three days a week, three hours a day. God’s grace had brought me around full circle from the COVID episode back to rehab work. Even in the face of seeing God work in so many ways since I had experienced my stroke, I still found room for fear and doubts. As believers, we are truly blessed that God relates to us through his grace rather than on the basis of our merit. Day Neuro at Medical City was now my immediate future. I felt ready to embrace it with all I had.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./February 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT