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

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

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 I: The Venture

[This blog article is the first of a series on this topic. Other articles will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

October 9th, 2020: That is a day that will live in infamy, so the saying goes, in my life as long as I’m on this earth. We may be dimly aware of how our lives can be altered at a 180 degree turn, but until we come face-to-face with the experience, it remains only a shadowy piece of guesswork. On the morning of 10/09/2020, I got out of bed and discovered that m[y life may very well have changed in ways that will not go back to what we call normal. As I stepped out of bed, I suddenly became aware that I had lost all sense of balance, couldn’t stand up without leaning against the wall, and had totally lost the ability to walk. Just over a year has passed now sense that day, and although the goal of this article and the one that will follow next month is to tell my story, the ultimate goal of my writing this narrative is to highlight and place in the forefront of thought the powerful providence of a Holy and loving God.

The Comical Version

I found out the hard way the truth of the adage that I can either constantly cry about things that happen to me or laugh about them. The real truth is that’s not an either-or action; it’s a both-and. Although I’ll describe that morning with a few laughs, don’t think that I take what happened to me lightly. Most of the funny stuff comes through the thoughts that popped into my head as I struggled that morning to get out of bed and eventually call 911. As I stated above, when I climbed out of bed, it hit me that I couldn’t stand up as I reached toward the wall to keep myself upright. I tried to take a couple of steps, but my body wasn’t having it. Thought: Something’s not working right here. This thought was made even funnier because I said it out loud to myself.

At this point, I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I was going to have to call 911. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. Thought: I don’t want the EMC’s taking me out of here in my underwear. I noticed my jeans and a tee-shirt lying in a chair that I had in the bedroom, so somehow I had to get them on. I stepped toward the chair, had to drop to the floor, and I leaned against the front of the chair. In that position, I struggled to pull my jeans on and then with some effort reached up, grabbed the tee-shirt and managed to get it over my head and on correctly. I thought about shoes, but my body said no way. It was at this point that I felt the left side of my face going numb and the left side of my mouth drooping some. Thought: I’m having a doggone stroke. Later that would be confirmed by an MRI and a CAT-SCAN.

In an instant nausea hit my body, and I felt for sure that I was going to throw up. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. I had just moved into the apartment, which had been thoroughly furbished with new carpet and tile that resembled hardwood floors. I didn’t want to mess up the carpet or any of the floor, so I lunged into the bathroom that was adjacent to my bedroom. I hit the wall where the handbasin set, lunged backward into a cubicle where the toile set, hit the far wall of that cubicle, slid down the wall to the floor, and lunging forward one more time, somehow I ended up right in front of the toilet. Thought: Later when I reflected on this move, I remembered how I used to love to play pinball years ago when I was in Junior College. I reminded myself of a pinball that miraculously ended up in the slot where I belonged. But all was for naught. I had the dry heaves, so I wouldn’t have stained the carpet or floors.

The time had come to call 911. My cell phone set on a table on the opposite side of the room from the bathroom entrance. I knew I couldn’t walk over to retrieve it. So I decided to crawl on my hands and knees. Nope. My body wouldn’t have it. Playing army all those days as a young kid paid off, so I begin to battlefield crawl on my belly across the room. I was actually pleased with the speed at which I could crawl. About halfway across the room I stopped. I didn’t laugh, but – Thought: If someone were to take a picture of this, it would really look strange and weird.

I made it to the table and called 911 on my cell phone. When the woman asked me the nature of my emergency, i told here that I needed an ambulance because I was having a stroke. She responded, What makes you think you’re having a stroke?Thought: I really don’t want to have this conversation right now. Actually, she was great and very professional. I immediately thought of my numbing face and told her that the left side of my face had lost its feeling and that I couldn’t stand up.

How they did this I do not know, but at the very second that she and I hung up, the EMC’s were knocking at my door, which was locked. I lived in a studio apartment, and thought I was going to have to fall down some fairly steep stairs to let them in. But they got in. I asked them how, and they said they got in through a window. The windows in that apartment were locked or sealed. I decided that I didn’t want to know how they got in. Everyone should be thankful for how the EMC’s work efficiently and professionally. They are top grade at what they do.

I was glad to be taken out in the stretcher in my jeans and tee-shirt rather than just my skivvies. But once in the transport vehicle, one of the EMC’s said that I have to loose the jeans and shirt. Thought: If you only knew what I went through to get these on. Next came the infamous and notorious hospital gown, which I would get to know intimately for the next 43 days..

The EMC took me to Denton Presbyterian Hospital, and I began then what would become a long haul of 43 days in hospitals and rehab clinics. The people at Denton Presby were wonderful, but I didn’t get to stay there long. A couple of days later, I was transferred to Fort Worth Harris, known for its neurological specialities. Denton Presby transferred me to Forth Work around 8 o’clock one evening. I remember a sermon given by Tommy Nelson, pastor at Denton Bible Church, about how he talks with people who come to him, telling him they have a serious illness or diagnosis, that God is taking them on a venture. The issue becomes how people respond to the venture. As I lay on my back on a transport stretcher heading down I-35W from Denton to Fort Worth, I thought of all the times I had driven that stretch on my own. I could see the streetlights and exit signs even though it was a foggy and cloudy night. Recalling Tommy’s sermon, I thought here I am on the venture that God has chosen for me. At that point all anyone can do is just go along for the ride, trusting in God’s lovingkindness and providential care.

Conclusion

Although I used some humor in this article, like a friend of mine said, a stroke is not for the weak of heart. She too had experienced one in her past. I don’t know about not being weak of heart, but I was scared much of the time that I was in the hospital. I recall when I was in a men’s group for a short while at a Bible Church in Austin when the leader of the group asked what kind of experience would challenge our faith the most. I said if I lost the physical ability of my body, that would usher me into some deep doubt. Praise God that I didn’t lose sight of prayer and the desire to cling to him during those times. I confess that when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get better or have any healing, I prayed that God would take me home. But I was on the highway of the venture he chose for me. As stated, at that point, all one can do is run the highway. Over the 43 days I was in the hospital, God’s grace abound in many different ways. Whether we realize it or not, we are steeped in his providential care. To know him intimately makes level the highway and gives meaning to the venture.

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

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Church & State

Introduction

Today we have reached the point of critical mass as to just how far we intend to let the State run roughshod over our lives. On one level, as people who live in a country, born of a revolution that established a republican form of government, all Americans face the challenge of how much power they are willing to grant the State to use in curtailing their liberty. As Christians, those who believe that Jesus Christ is sovereign King, Savior, and God, we have to ask ourselves what is the proper role of the Church in engaging the political realm. I believe that for far too long we of the Church have stepped aside from the fray, allowing the State to become the Leviathan that has overreached its proper and moral limits. As citizens the Church can and should speak to the legitimate limitations of the State.

Conflicting Views Within the Church

Those who believe in Christ hold conflicting views regarding the Church’s role in engaging political matters. Although there are many views and nuances, I believe there are three general positions commonly held among Christians. I designate them as passive observers, Romans 13 absolutists, and political engagers.

Passive Observers

The Christian author, Francis Schaeffer, first coined the terms upper story and lower story, describing those Christians who compartmentalized their beliefs so that their spiritual life makes little contact with their day-to-day affairs. Some in the Church hold that our Christian beliefs have nothing to do with the daily struggles we face in life. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Apart from voting, such individuals hold that Christians should not engage the worldly confines of politics. Such engagement, they warn, defies Scripture’s indictment to be in the world, but not of the world. Worldliness, according to Scripture, entails living in alignment with the world’s values rather than those precepts found in God’s Word that speaks to the way in which he would have us live. The passive observer equates political engagement with worldly engagement. They accuse Christians who are politically engaged with seeking ultimate meaning and purpose in worldly politics at worse. At best, they simply believe that Christians who are politically engaged are wasting their time on things that are not eternal. This is a startling example of Schaeffer’s notion of the upper and lower story split. Things in this life simply do not matter. The world as we know it is going to pass away. To spend any time on making it a better place to live is a worldly affair, hence, not a spiritual endeavor.

Romans 13 Absolutists

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement (Romans 13:1-2).

At first glance, this passage written by the Apostle Paul appears straight ahead with no clarification needed.A closer look at its context, however, raises some questions, especially when applied to the political context today in America. Following these verses, Paul states that rulers are a terror not to good conduct, but to bad. Hence, if one does good, he doesn’t need to fear the authorities. If he does wrong, however, then rulers are servants of God to punish evil doers. So the question arises – what if governments reach the point where they call evil, good, and good, evil? In other words governing authorities pit themselves against God’s precepts and law. What is our response to authorities to be then? Moreover, we have Biblical examples where Christians did not simply bow to worldly power. The Apostle Paul, himself, appealed to his status as Roman citizen when wrongly accused and arrested. When a Roman centurion struck him, Paul replied, Do you strike a Roman citizen? Additionally, the Apostles in the Book of Acts when ordered to cease proclaiming the truth about Christ replied, We obey God rather than man. The early Christians defied worshiping the Roman emperor as a god as well as breaking Roman law when they secretly met in the catacombs to worship. Romans 13 absolutists claim that verses 1-2 mean that Christians should obey the government no matter the context. As such they have given a carte blanche to the State, providing it with absolute rule over the Church.

Political Engagers

The Reformed Presbyterians heavily contributed to the values that shaped early America and that eventually led to its break with England. Many of what I call political engagers, can be found today within the confines of Reformed Theology. The aforementioned Francis Schaffer falls within that theological persuasion. Many of those who strongly advocate that Christians should be politically active and savvy are Reformed postmillennialists. Although it’s not the purpose of this article to stake out an eschatological position, I find that I like the work and thought that postmillennialists proffer. To be fair, not all political engagers hold to a postmillennial eschatology. Schaffer held a premillennial position. Having said that I would point to theologians, pastors, and writers such as Doug Wilson, Joel McDurmon, Gary North, R. J. Rushdoony, and James White as examples of those who believe Christians should actively engage the political realm. Although I may not agree with every jot and tittle of what these individuals say, I do like their optimism and the conjectures they offer for ways that Christians can reclaim the culture that we seem to have handed over to those who are diametrically opposed to God’s law.

Conclusion: Engaging All of Life

Reformed Theology and the postmillennialists cited above do not dwell solely on the political realm. They call for Christians to engage all of life’s endeavors – business, education, science, the arts, technology, politics, etc. – and take all these spheres captive in the name of Christ. Indeed I don’t see that any particular millennial position is required to agree with such a notion. We have witnessed over the past several decades, and particularly the past few years, an unprecedented growth of the State and its interventionist strategies that snake inexorably through all the nook and crannies of our daily livelihoods. The attitude that as Christians we should stand idly by and let Statism and its anti-Christian philosophy take over the culture due to some pietistic notion of worldliness seems self-defeating at best and cowardice at worse.

By God’s providential hand, we live in a republic forged out to some degree by Reformed theology by which we are a nation ruled by law, not men – Lex Rex. The call for Christians to actively engage all spheres of life is a transformative one. None of us know when Christ will return. But to merely sit by and wait for his return, doing nothing about the corruption of this culture, while some may see that as an option, I do not believe such passiveness to be a Biblical option. We Christians today have to confront the reality that we will not necessarily witness during our lifetimes the changes in culture that can occur if believers enter all spheres of life and place all their endeavors under the Lordship of Christ. That’s an overwhelming proclamation. None of us know how it will work out. But that’s not a reason for the Church to remain invisible in the midst of cultural battles.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that all three of these camps as I’ve designated them comprise believers in Christ. Hence, regardless of where we land on this issue, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should let unity rule rather than divisiveness. We need to learn how to agree to disagree, yet remain united.

We live in a republic by God’s providence. Politicians are not our authorities. We do not obey men. We obey the law. Perhaps the ones being disobedient to government are not the ones who draw Constitutional lines in the sand and say to politicians, you do not cross here. Rather it is those who do not engage the political realm and work to set it right.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

When Doubts Arise

. . . as far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins from us. [Psalms 103:12]

Introduction

As Christians, do we really live as though God through Christ has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a series of sermons that are a commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), explores the wiles of the devil, and the different ways in which he throws Christians into confusion, particularly about their salvation. One of the ways the devil comes at us is that he uses guilt about our past to make us doubt our relationship to God, leading us to question our salvation. How many believers get caught up in rehearsing their past then wondering how on earth they could be saved? Such guilt plummets us into doubting God’s promises and then into despair. However, regardless of our past, God’s promises through his Son, Jesus Christ, hold true for eternity. At the moment we trusted Christ’s Person and Work for our salvation, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment for that day when God redeems his possession (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Oppression of Doubts

As believers in Christ, many of us most likely have come face-to-face with the crushing doubts that make us question our salvation. In so doing, we have transferred the power of salvation from God’s work to our own efforts. Nonetheless, such doubts arise, and they are oppressive. Whether it’s in a counseling session, a church setting, a family gathering, or among friends with other brothers and sisters in Christ, we hear these doubts voiced by others, or indeed we voice them ourselves. How can we help those who state such concerns, and how can we seek help ourselves when we are thrown into an abyss of doubt? There are many ways within the Body of Christ to find support and guidance. But the Word of God is always one such rock to stand on. What I want to discuss in this article is Paul’s discussion of Abraham (Romans 4), and then what is called the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11.

Abraham: Justification by Faith

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 4) sets out to demonstrate that justification for our salvation comes through faith alone in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, not as a result of keeping the works of the law. Drawing on Genesis (Genesis 12- 25), Paul appeals to the Scriptures to show that Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Consequently, Abraham was declared righteous by God three hundred years prior to when the law was given. Paul goes on to say in Romans 4:11-12, that the purpose of Abraham’s faith was to make him the father of all who believe apart from the works of the law or any form of works that man may devise. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations through his faith. God’s promise to Abraham has come true through Jesus Christ and the church of believers who have embraced Christ through faith alone. Throughout Romans 4, Paul lifts up Abraham as a man of faith, a man indeed whose faith did not weaken (Romans 4:19). Furthermore Paul claims that no unbelief made him waver concerning the promises of God (Romans 4:20).

Abraham in Action

Let’s consider Abraham the man.The Apostle Paul describes Abraham in magnanimous terms as one whose faith never wavered, and as one who continuously grew in his faith (Romans 4:20). One might be tempted to ask is this the same Abraham we read about in Genesis. This is the very man who lied about his wife twice as being his sister for fear of losing his life, not to mention placing her in danger of becoming another man’s concubine thereby undermining the promises of God.This is Abraham who impregnated a concubine to help out God with his promises. Yet Paul describes Abraham as one who was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21). The Apostle Paul reiterates Abraham as the father of those who believe God by faith in his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:6-9).

The Epistle of James: Faith and Works

James, the brother of Christ also exalts Abraham in showing that his faith led to fruitful works when he offered up Isaac, his only son, as an offering to God. He was then called a friend of God (James 2:21-23). No doubt, Abraham grew in faith, but like all of us, he was far from perfect. Additionally James cites Rahab as one who evidenced her faith through her works of allowing the spies of Israel into her city. She was also a known prostitute.

Hebrews 11: The Faith Hall of Fame

The author of Hebrews offers what has been called the faith hall of fame, a list of individuals from the Old Testament who are known for the power of their faith. Let’s considered some of the ones named there. Abraham is once again considered for the strength of his faith. Listed there are Abel, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Sarah, Sampson, and David. Moses was forbidden to enter the Holy Land because he struck a rock in anger to obtain some water for those who had followed him out of Egypt. Isaac is listed for granting blessings to Esau and Jacob, yet he was tricked by Jacob to obtain the oldest son’s blessing for himself. Indeed Jacob is known somewhat as a trickster by character. Sarah laughed when God said she would bear a son during her old age. David faced heavy times of trouble for his adultery with Bathsheba. And Samson was known as a womanizer. The important point here is not the imperfections of the individuals mentioned here. The place these people hold in Scripture is due to the strength of their faith, which is to serve as an example for believers today. None of the sins into which some of these people fell are mentioned in the New Testament because they were cleansed through their faith. And that is the reason we are to remember them and hold them in high regard.

Conclusion

I have been in some dark places in my life at times when I turned my back on God and was not walking and being led by the Spirit. Instead I was sowing to the flesh. After confessing the sins I committed during those times, they still surface in my mind, whether it be by the wiles of the devil or my own guilty conscience. Either way, when I dwell on them and thereby doubt the promises of God, I disparage the work that God has done for my salvation through Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This verse implies that if we confess our sins and God does not forgive us our sins, in some way he is unfaithful and unjust. How can this be? His forgiveness does not depend on our confession, but in and through whom we confess, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. For this reason, as I write this I hate to even mention the shenanigans into which the Old Testament figures fail even though they became part of the New Testament faith hall of fame. Yet their historical and biographical narratives are given to us via God’s Word for a reason.

The Apostle Paul

In addition to the Old Testament saints, we could focus on the apostles and the actions they took in denying and fleeing Christ at his arrest just prior to his crucifixion. The Apostle Paul in a letter to Timothy calls himself a former blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul considered himself to the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1: 15). Yet for those of us who are frequently assailed by doubts due to our checkered and tainted past, I believe that Paul via the inspired Word of God should have the last say here. In his Epistle to the Romans he writes: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Believer, is your salvation in Christ secure? Yes it is.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT