Thursday, August 31, 2006

Statue on the Federal Capitol Not an Idol

Statue of Freedom

Some people have wrongly suggested the statue on top of the US capitol is an idol. Apart from that fact people do not worship it, the statue does not represent any deity. It is "an allegorical figure of Freedom triumphant in War and Peace." At the link is the explanation of the statue at the Capitol's web site.

Of course there probably are some morally or spiritually suspect uses of false gods in the seals and statuary of state, local and federal governments. But unless you disapprove of symbolic statues in general, the one on the US Capitol seems relatively safe.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dean McConnell on Sci Phi Show

At the link is my radio appearance on the web cast Sci Phi Show. The topic was Natural Law. The connection to science fiction was "I, Robot."

Why Christians Should Serve in Government and Law

I had an interesting response to the fundamental law quotes from Martin Luther. One of Luther’s quotes indicated that Christians should be involved in government and that rulers ought to be Christians. I received a couple of emails that strongly disagreed. They believed that government was “unholy and unclean” and that Christians had no business touching it with a 10-foot pole, let alone actually becoming officers of the state.

Within Christianity there has always been a segment which has held this view. In the times of ancient Rome, it made more sense because participation in the imperial government frequently involved the worship of idols or of the emperor. Even today, some Christians mistake art for idolatry and believe that because there are statues of pagan gods on government buildings or murals, these deities are in some way being worshipped or respected, and therefore government is inherently idolatrous and therefore, not a place for a Christian.

Throughout Christian history, Pietists have also tended to be opposed to Christian involvement in government. For the Pietist, they see power, coercion and violence as always evil (unless, of course, done by God Himself or in response to His direct order). Since all government is ultimately based upon power, coercion and violence, these radical Pietists are unwilling to participate in government in any way. Pietists reject violence because of Jesus’ statements in the Sermon on the Mount. The real difficulty for them comes in harmonizing other passages of Scripture that approve of violence for stopping oppression or punishing evil. In this respect, Pietists tend to be volunteerists and believe that God can do whatever He wants—forbidding violence to His people while engaging in violence Himself or ordaining non-Christians to engage in violence. But this view is difficult to fit with a more thorough theology. God is really the ultimate source and definition of goodness. His nature is what leads Him to do what He does, to allow what He allows, and to forbid what He forbids. God forbids what is contrary to His nature and allows what is in accord with His nature.

God judges evil, and repeatedly uses violence against it. He also states in Romans 13 and in I Peter chapter 2 that government is God’s servant to reward good and punish evil. Non-Pietists have traditionally harmonized these verses with the verses ordering individual Christians not to engage in acts of vengeance by saying that we turn the other cheek as individuals, while we act as a third party or a group or a government to defend others. We allow someone to strike our cheek, but we don’t allow someone to strike someone else’s cheek. As Luther said, because government is an ordination of God, it ought to be done by Christians since Christians are going to be better at carrying out God’s will expressly than non-Christians are at carrying it out against their will. Pietists like to fall back on God’s sovereignty and say that God will use evil, pagan government to carry out whatever purposes He has for government. But this is a difficult argument to really make about anything in life. God obviously uses our actions. Even though God is completely sovereign and in control of human history, we still have the apparent need to make free will decisions and to be involved in affairs. If we work for a living and save money and use our money wisely, we may be blessed to find that God has sovereignly allowed us to prosper. If we refuse to work, spend whatever we have, and throw away whatever God brings our way, we may discover to our shock and dismay that God has sovereignly decided that we will starve to death and die in poverty. If we are cautious to live a healthy life and to minimize risks, we may discover that God in His sovereignty will allow us to live a long time (there is always the risk that He won’t, despite our precautions). But if we take many risks, such as jumping off cliffs and driving cars into stationary objects and eating things that are poisonous to our system, we are likely to discover that God has sovereignly determined that we will not live very long (though again, He could miraculously intervene to preserve our lives—He just usually doesn’t in those circumstances). The same sort of thing is true of government. If we allow evil people to dominate government, undoubtedly God will still sovereignly act to get some modicum of justice out of them. But it undoubtedly will not be a government as good, benevolent or as helpful as a government run by godly people. If godly people do get involved in government, they will still make mistakes because they are still sinful human beings. But because they are willing and able to be guided by God, they are likely to make fewer mistakes. By the same token, God may still allow a godly government to make disastrous miscalculations if He is determined to punish a people for their sinfulness. The demise of Israel and Judah at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively was occasionally postponed by the repentance led by Judah’s good kings, but it was not prevented.

If we get involved in government, it will be a blessing to our neighbors. If we allow our government to be evil, it will be a curse to our neighbors. To expect God to give us a good government when we’re not willing to do anything about it or to willing to tolerate bad government when we can do something about it, is not faith—it is tempting God. It is like the man who jumps off a cliff and demands that God save him.

In addition, what does the Bible really say about Christians and participation in government? In the Old Testament, many of the people of God were involved in government. We have all of the good kings of Israel and Judah. We have all of the respected advisors of King David and the good kings. Isaiah was apparently an official in the government of Judah. Daniel, Nehemiah and Ezra were not only willing to work with their fellow Israelites, but had official positions with foreign governments – governments that openly worshiped idols. Esther was willing to be made queen of Persia and her uncle was a member of the Persian military. Naaman, the commander of the army of Aram, was converted and healed of leprosy under the ministry of Elisha. Naaman mentioned that he would be required to enter a pagan temple on state occasions. But Elisha does not tell him to leave the service of Aram.

In the New Testament, we still have some involvement of Christians in government. There are a number of Roman centurions mentioned in the New Testament account. All of them are in one way or another commended for their faith. None of them are criticized for their position in the Roman military. None of them are ordered in the biblical account to leave their service to Rome. When soldiers come and talk to John the Baptist, he doesn’t tell them to leave their soldiering, but rather to be just in the way their treat civilians and to be happy with their pay. When Paul speaks to numerous government officials throughout the Mediterranean world, he shares with them about Christ. He never tells them that if they become a Christian, they will need to leave government service. In fact, there isn’t any place in the entire Bible where people are told they should not be involved in government service or in the work of legitimate militaries. While there is criticism of some evil kings and evil armities, there is no rule or blanket prohibition whatsoever. There is no statement in the biblical account to the effect that government is in any way unclean or inherently evil.

There are statements in the Bible that by implication should encourage us to be involved in government. For example, Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves certainly requires interaction with the government. How can we love our neighbor and then allow them to be oppressed by the government? The Old Testament is full of injunctions to do away with oppression and to work for justice. Generally speaking, it is only through the power of government that we are able to work for justice or to do away with oppression. Mere preaching and witnessing without any civic or group action rarely brings true evildoers to justice or gives them any genuine pause. In the New Testament, Paul was willing to use his Roman citizenship as a tool for the Gospel. Paul made no objections to being treated like a Roman, but made many objections to people disregarding his rights as a Roman citizen.

Let’s also look at the practical problems. While some people believe that harsh governments that persecute Christians are good for the Gospel, and so if Christians stay out of government, the results will be positive because the Gospel will be spread. While it is true that the Gospel not only survived but prospered under Roman persecution, this is not always the case. Christianity was nearly wiped out in Japan by the persecution of the Tokugawa shogunate. It is interesting that Japan has never been responsive to the Gospel in a major way since that time. In addition, look at the entire Middle East and North Africa and Central Asia. During the Roman times, North Africa was heavily Christianized. The Middle East, likewise, had many Christians. During his travels through Central Asia, Marco Polo reports encountering Christians and Jews throughout his journeys. Yet today, Christianity is virtually gone in all of these places. Islam has almost completely choked it out. In the majority of places where the Gospel has not yet reached, it is no longer a problem of logistics—it is a problem of the local government. Through the use of government and diplomacy, doors can be opened to the Gospel around the world and be kept open. Since one of our primary missions as a church is to carry out the Great Commission by preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations, it only makes sense that we would use government and diplomacy when we can to ensure our ability to take the Gospel to all nations and to keep taking it to them.

Another problem with the Pietists’ desire to avoid government service is that, as I have said before, in a republic such as our own, we are the government. The people of the United States are all citizens with an obligation to vote. If we do not show up at the ballot box on elections, we are effectively voting to agree with the majority of other people who cast their votes. Our abstention is a kind of voting all by itself. Non-participation is a participation on the side of those who disagree with us. But government is not merely office holding or voting. Lawyers are officers of the court and they are actually, in a sense, members of the government. Lawyers are part of the machinery of the judicial process and part of the work of government even when they defend people against lawyers employed directly by the government. So if Christians are serious about staying out of government, they should stay out of the law courts and stay out of the legal profession as well. But if Christians really are supposed to be active in their love of neighbor and in seeking justice and ending oppression, it makes perfect sense to be active in the practice of law. The legal profession provides more opportunities for ending oppression, working for justice, counseling people to do what is right and having opportunities to share the Gospel with people who are in a stressed situation than almost any other profession.

If Christians think that they should stay out of government, not only should they not be office holders, lawyers, policemen or warriors, but they must also renounce government employment and government services. In the end, I’m afraid there are very few things that a thoroughgoing Pietist can actually do in our society. There is also another problem. In many small American communities, the majority of people are Christians. If you live in a tiny town in rural North Carolina or rural Texas, you might have 40 heads of household in the town and they might very well all be committed Christians. Who then is going to be the mayor? Do you have to import a non-Christian to be the mayor of your town?

Another argument made by the Pietists is the great evil observed in human governments. But again, if Christians are not willing to participate in these governments, why shouldn’t we expect them to be evil? But since all human governments involve humans, we can’t expect any of them to be perfect. Humans commit sins and they are never going to run a government perfectly. But this still does not mean we shouldn’t work for the best possible government we can have in a fallen world. Government is not God; it is not the answer to all of life’s problems. But a bad government certainly can add to our problems. Should Christians also stay out of business because of the dishonesty and greed found there? Should Christians stay out of medicine because doctors often take a pagan oath? Should Christians avoid farming because many farmers swear and tell coarse jokes? Where does the separation mentality end?

Being involved in law and government is part of being “in the world.” It need not mean being “of the world.” There is plenty of room in today’s world for godly people to follow in the footsteps of Joseph and Daniel. They would even do well to follow in the footsteps of those great Christians who have already gone before us in law and government, such as Edward Coke, Matthew Hale, Thomas Sherlock, Thomas Erskine, I.H. Linton, Sir Alfred Denning, William Wilberforce and enumerable others.

In this encouragement I am not saying that everyone needs to become a lawyer or an office holder. But I do think that everyone in American needs to acquaint themselves with issues and be willing to vote and share the truth not only about Jesus Christ, but about proper and just government with their neighbors. And in deciding whether we or our children should become shoemakers, firemen, factory workers, construction workers, sailors, soldiers, policemen, bakers, accountants or businessmen, we should not neglect the vocations of the lawyer, the judge and the statesman, or even the job of the government bureaucrat without whose just services so many people suffer.

When God gave His covenant to Noah, He ordained human government. When He said that if man sheds man’s blood, then by man’s blood shall his blood be shed, God was setting up a system which would require someone to decide that a murder had been committed, someone to investigate the murder, someone to present the case regarding the murder, someone to try the murder case, someone to decide the facts, someone to pass the sentence and someone to carry out the execution. In ordaining human government, God was not ordaining evil because He Himself is not evil. While God uses evildoers, He prefers to use good people. This is why He replaced King Saul with King David—the man after His own heart. Why should we think then that those who do God’s will are less likely to serve God in government than those who oppose His will? Why should we think as citizens of a republic that God will not consider us responsible for the deeds of the republic when we fail to influence those deeds and act to restrain evil and further good?

The work of justice and of government is not easy. It is very difficult. It requires the making of complex, moral decisions and will occasionally involve making mistakes. But God has not called us to hide the treasure He gives us in the earth. He has called us to put our treasure at risk that He might gain interest from it and be prospered by our labor with what He has given us.

Yet one last objection that the Pietist makes to government involvement is eschatological: they believe that because Jesus is coming back soon, we are merely polishing the brass on a sinking ship. Indeed, Jesus may return soon. But He may also not return for another 10,000 years. There is simply no way for us to know. There have been many times in the last 2,000 years that it looked as though the return of Christ was imminent. His return could be imminent now. But we cannot act as though Christ were coming back tomorrow. The Bible instructs us not to. Paul discouraged those who would quit their jobs to await the Second Coming of Christ. We need to go about the business of preparing for the future, loving our neighbor, spreading the Gospel and making disciples so that when Christ returns, He will find us acting faithfully instead of sitting around doing nothing. Even if fighting for the right is a losing battle, I want to be found faithful when Christ comes back or when I fall awaiting His return.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Song's article on Contextualization

Song's Echo

At the link is a very good short article (dated July 7, 2006) on contextualization by a bright student in the UK. I have not read all her work, but I stumbled across this and thought it was worth linking.

Hezbollah lost 500 fighters

NASRALLAH'S BLUNDER By AMIR TAHERI - New York Post Online Edition: Postopinion

At the link, a story on the real harm to Hezbollah. Despite prior bluster, Nasrallah admits the attack on Israel was premature, ever from his warped perspective.

Hat tip to Rantburg.

Plamegate - the Truth is Finally Emerging

Plamegate's ridiculous conclusion. By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

I love it when the truth finally comes out. I only hope people notice. At the link Christopher Hitchens discusses the truth in the Plame affair. In case you had not heard Saddam really does seem to have been trying to by Uranium from Niger. Wilson, not Bush is the one being deceptive about it. And, Plame was put in the news not by Karl Rove, but by the administrations anti-war faction in the person of Richard Armitage. But is anybody listening or are they just believing what they want to believe?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maintaining our Advantage through Home Schooling and Christian Education

Recently in the news there were a variety of articles on a study that shows that conservative Americans have considerably more children than liberal Americans. This means that over time, all things being equal, conservative values would be likely to prevail in America. As a number of blogs have pointed out though, there is a problem. The secular world and the radical left seek to convert our children to their points of view through public schools and through public and private higher education. I would add that the entertainment and advertising industries are also working against us most of the time.

I would also suppose that it is almost certainly true that committed Christians have more children on the average than people who are atheistic or openly opposed to Christianity. The only exception would be that there are probably also high birth rates among people committed to Islam.

If culturally conservative Christians are going to maintain a voice in the culture, we need to hang on to our advantage in birth rate (or increase it by having more children) and also maintain our advantage by making sure that our children are properly educated and discipled. Proper education and discipleship are critical.

This is another reason why it is so important for people who can do so, to home school their children or to send them to quality private Christian institutions. The public schools cannot teach morality or theology. And they cannot teach a completely true view of history, philosophy or literature because of their desire to avoid perceived favoritism toward Christianity. In higher education, there is even greater hostility to Christianity than we find in the public schools. In higher education, secular materialist modernism and radical post-modernism are rampant. While there are quality faculty in America, all too often faculty are advocates for lifestyles and beliefs contrary to the Christian worldview. This is especially true in law schools where the views of justice, natural law and legal interpretation upon which the western world, and England and America in particular, were built are rejected in favor of radical positivism, pragmatism, Marxism, materialism, relativism, and post-modernism. There is no concern for natural law, equity or justice. Instead, depending on where students go to school, either money, power, class, and/or personal sexual license are the only things that matter.

American’s young people need to be taught and discipled in the truths of Christianity, history, philosophy, literature, science, etc. They need to understand the good, the true and the beautiful. They need to know what other people who disagree with them think, but they also need to know how to refute worldly positions. They must not merely learn by rote, but learn how to think critically from a Christian perspective. They need to be encouraged in faith, nurtured in love, and discipled in truth. We need to be certain that our young people learn to read and write well at as young an age as practical, and then are encouraged to read foundational Christian and Western works. We need to support Christian colleges and universities and make sure that they provide an education of higher quality than their secular counterparts. This is an expensive business, but our children’s future and the future of our neighbors are worth the investment, time and trouble.

Public schools and even private schools are by necessity largely a one-size-fits-all solution to educational problems. By contrast, home schooling allows education to be geared to the learning style, preferences and metabolism of the young student. And, home schoolers need not be lacking in social interaction. With the home schooling networks available today, there are many avenues of social interaction with other home schoolers as well as through church, family, social organizations, and youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Indeed, it is hoped that the rise in organizations related to home schooling may help to restore the America that was seen as an association of associations by de Tocqueville so long ago. Good education cannot solve all the world’s ills. But it is far more productive and far less destructive than bad education which can add immeasurably to the world’s ills. I say this not as an alarmist or as a radical separatist, but rather than someone who believes that quality education is merely a matter of wisdom and common sense.

As dean of a Christian law school, I am often in the position of interviewing prospective students. I have seen and heard with shock and surprise philosophy majors who cannot tell me what existentialism is, economics majors who do not know what externalities are, and history majors who cannot describe in detail the characteristics of their favorite era in history. I have not seen the same problems with students who have been home schooled and sent to Christian institutions of higher education. We have seen in the students who have attended Trinity Law School the value of home schooling. Many of our home schooled students are far better acquainted with the classics and western civilization than their state-educated counterparts. They also tend to write better and to have better verbal skills. They have a certain brightness and spunk about them, perhaps because they have not been beaten into conformity by the combined powers of the state, MTV and Madison Avenue.

Even if culturally conservative Christians have greater numbers, they will not be free in the future if they do not also have the intellectual power, confident faith, broad and deep knowledge, cultivated wisdom and social skills beyond their pseudo-intellectual anti-Christian foes. If we neglect our children’s education, we will either see them co-opted by the other side or enslaved by fallacious arguments and mass-marketing techniques of the secular world.
All of this is not to say that we should try to avoid being in the world while not of it. It is to say that we need to be prepared and fully armed when we venture out into the world, as we must. This is also not to say that children should not attempt to evangelize their peers. But there are far better places and means of doing so than sending our children into the public schools before they are ready to answer the arguments and handle the social pressures of those who dominate that forum.

Let’s be good stewards of the advantages God has given us and use them for the blessing of our neighbors and our posterity.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Embryoinc Stem Cell Breakthrough or Shell Game?

Stem cell breakthrough to challenge Bush objections - World - Times Online

At the link is an article about the newly touted breakthrough in stem cell research. Adult stem cells and embryonic cord blood have already shown a great deal of promise in research. Embryonic stem cell research has lagged far behind and has serious scientific problems. But the most serious difficulty with embryonic stem cells is moral. Embryonic stem cell research normally requires the destruction of human beings in the embryo stage in order to harvest their stem cells. The new method claims to circumvent this moral problem by removing a few stem cells from a human being in the blastocyst stage without destroying the embryo itself. In this way it is possible to harvest stem cells without the destruction of the embryo.

Hugh Hewitt and Captain’s Quarters have pointed out that this is a victory of sorts because without moral pressure against embryonic stem cell research, it is probable that science would have made no serious attempt to find a way to harvest stem cells from embryos without embryonic destruction. But there may still be some problems with this new technique as applied.

First, the new technique in all probability risks serious damage to the embryo in question despite the fact that the technique claims to be relatively safe. Would we accept the morality of any technology that risked say, a one-in-twenty chance of death or serious injury to a human being with no actual benefit to the human being who was being put at risk? Second, I don’t really trust scientists utilizing this technique to keep the embryos that they do not kill when they harvest the stem cells. If scientists clone a human embryo, harvest stem cells from it without killing it, and then kill the embryo by throwing it away, they are still killing a human being as a result of their research. The only way for the research to be moral would be if the embryo were implanted and allowed to grow to term. But even then, there are moral problems, as discussed above, because of the risk posed to the embryo. If the embryo is an embryo produced by human cloning, these risks are multiplied many times over since cloning is not at the stage of science where it can be safely performed without serious risk of disease and other problems in the clone.

So, while this new technique may be less immoral than old fashioned embryonic stem cell research, it still is morally problematic. We should not rush to fund research using this technique apart from a variety of strict and probably unavailable assurances. Besides, adult stem cell research and cord blood research have proven far more fruitful. Why not spend public funds on ideas that work and are free from the risk of killing human beings “for science.”

Foundational Law Quotes XI

"How the secular Sword and law are to be employed according to God's will is thus clear and certain enough: to punish the wicked and protect the just. . . ."

"[N]o one can be made just in the sight of God by the secular government."

"[K]eep to the Gospel and suffer injustice as a true Christian. But where the next man and what is his are concerned, you act in accordance with love and you tolerate no injustice against him. . ."

"In the same way it is right and necessary that all princes should be good Christians. The Sword and power, as a special service rendered to God, are more suited to Christians than to anyone else in the world, and so you should value the Sword and power as much as the married state, or cultivating the soil, or any other trade instituted by God."

"When [secular government] is given too much freedom of action, the harm that results is unbearable and horrifying, but to have it confined within too narrow a compass is also harmful. In the one case there is too much punishment, in the other too little. But it is more tolerable to err on the side of the latter: it is always better that a villain should live than that a just' man should be killed."

"Secular government has laws that extend no further than the body, goods and outward, earthly' matters. But where the soul is concerned, God neither can nor will allow anyone but himself to rule. And so, where secular authority takes it upon itself to legislate for the soul, it trespasses on [what belongs to] God's government, and merely seduces and ruins souls."

"The use of force can never prevent heresy. Preventing it requires a different sort of skill; this is not a battle that can be fought with the sword. This is where God's Word must fight. And if that does not win, then secular power can certainly not succeed either, even if it were to fill the world with blood."

"'A prince who lacks prudence shall oppress many with injustice.' For however good or equitable the laws might be, they are all subject to this exception: they cannot prevail against necessity. Therefore the prince must keep the laws as firmly under his own control as he does the Sword, and use his own reason to judge when and where the law should be applied in its full rigor, and when it should be moderated. So that reason remains the ruler at all times, the supreme law and master of all the laws."

"[The ruler] is not to think: the land and the people are mine; I shall do as I please. But rather: I belong to the people and to the land; I ought to do what is advantageous for them. I am not to see how I can lord it over them, but how they may be protected and defended, and enjoy the blessings of peace."

"And in such a war, it is a Christian act, and an act of love, to kill enemies without scruple, to rob and to burn, and to do whatever damages the enemy, according to the usages of war, until he is defeated. But beware of sins and of violating women and maidens. And when the enemy is defeated, then those who surrender and submit are to be shown mercy and granted peace."

"But what if a prince is in the wrong? Are his people obliged to obey him even then? No, because no one has a duty to act unjustly; we must obey God (who will have justice prevail), rather than men [Acts 5:29]."

"But it is love and natural law, with which all reason is filled, that confer such good judgment. [W]ritten law is to be held in lower regard than reason, for indeed reason is the source of all laws, that from which they sprang. The source is not to be constricted by the stream, and reason is not to be held captive by letters."

- Martin Luther

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Foundational law Quotes X

“[I]n many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such Act to be void.”

“The Law of Nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction; and this is lex aeterna, the Moral Law, called also the Law of Nature. And by this Law, written with the finger of God in the heart of man, were the people of God a long time governed before that law was written by Moses.”

“This Law of nature is part of the Laws of England . . . the law of nature was before any judicial or municipal Law in the world . . . the Law of nature is immutable and cannot be changed.”

“Nothing that is against reason is lawful. For reason is the life of the Law, nay the common Law itself is nothing else but reason, which is to be understood of an artificial perfection of reason, gotten by long study, observation, and experience, and not of every mans natural reason . . . This legal reason is the highest reason.”

“For it is one . . . of the great honors of the Common Laws, that Cases of great difficulty are never adjudged or resolved in darkness, or in silence, suppressing the reasons, but in open Court, and there upon solemn and elaborate Arguments . . .”

“The reporting of particular Cases or Examples is the most perspicuous course of teaching, the right rule and reason of the Law; for so did Almighty God himself, when he delivered by Moses his Judicial Laws, He taught the Laws with examples, as it appears in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And the Glossographers, to illustrate the Rule of Civil Law, do often reduce the Rule into a Case, for the more lively expressing and true application of the same.”

- Sir Edward Coke, early 17th century.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What Is 'Islamofascism'?

What Is 'Islamofascism'?

At the link is an article on the genesis of the term "islamofascism" by Stephen Schwartz the originator of the term.

Government and Idolatry

In the news of late, we are once again hearing some people claim that the church is guilty of idolatry with respect to the state. They usually mean by this, either that Christians have substituted a belief that by taking over and operating the state they can in some way further the kingdom of God or they mean that Christians have come to think that the interests of the United States as identical to the interests of the kingdom of God. Both of those ideas would be wrong. The state does not have the power to further the kingdom of God in any significant way. As Luther said, the state’s interests and powers concern external actions and the disposition of earthly property. The government cannot change people’s hearts even though it frequently tries through education. While education can change some of the things people believe, it cannot eliminate sin or make people sinless. Good education can, however, help people be good citizens. Bad education can certainly make people worse citizens. But ideally, education should be the province of the church and the family rather than of the state, since the state does not properly concern itself with eternal things, and education must deal with God and the eternal as a central focus. (See the blog article for August 19th, the Key to Knowledge.)

There probably are some people who actually do have the mistaken belief that the interests of the United States and of government are in some way tied up with the kingdom of God. But I don’t think that there are nearly as many of these people as those who complain about this form of idolatry actually believe. Most Christians who are interested in an involvement in government (lets call them CPs for Christian Patriots) do not believe that government is the end all or that it can achieve terribly significant things. CPs are mostly interested in keeping the government from encouraging evil. CPs are also concerned about the arrogance of the managerial burrocratic elite, who, falsely, believe they can plan and manage society better than free people making their own choices under the rule of law. In addition, CPs do not see an identity between the interests of the kingdom of God and the interests of the United States. They want the United States to be on God’s side. They are eager to use the United States for the interests of the kingdom of God, but they recognize that there is a difference.

There is also another kind of state-idolatry that is not spoken of so often. This is the idolatry that says that the state is in some way an autonomous being that runs itself and is outside of the citizen’s influence or control. People who subscribe to this form of idolatry (let’s call them SAs for State Abstainers) discourage Christians from being involved in the state because SAs believe that such involvement is ultimately a waste of time since government will do whatever government will do; and what government will do is undoubtedly always going to be bad. SAs treat government as if it were a force of nature with a mind of its own outside of the will of any group or set of individual human beings. This is surely attributing to government far more than is actually the case. Government is not an autonomous body that runs by itself. It is a collection of individuals who have responsibility and commitments to society as a whole, to the groups and parties which they sympathize with, and to the individuals of society. In a republic like our own, we can, in fact, influence government. Whether we admit it or not, we are the government. Government is influenced by our voting, by our letters, petitions, emails and phone calls. It is influenced when we run for office or when we work as a government employee. Government is influenced by all of the people who are engaged in the business of government. Because government is ultimately made up of people and people listen to other people, government is ultimately influenceable. While the political process may seem mysterious to some, it is entirely possible for a well-organized and articulate minority of people to convince others to elect their candidates. Government is not some implacable and mysterious force that moves on its own. To think that it is is really a form of idolatry, turning the government into some kind of god rather than recognizing it as merely a label for collective human action in accord with various institutions, principles and ordinations.

Ironically, the CPs usually want government to be smaller because they recognize that government does not have the power to solve social problems or to undo the effects of the fall.. By contrast, the SAs who idolize government by thinking it is an autonomous beast frequently have the belief that government can and should solve the problems of war, poverty, disability, sickness, alienation, unhappiness and every other effect of human sin. It is ironic that those who want us to stay out of government think that government can solve our problems, while those who think that Christians should be involved in government frequently want to be involved to prevent government from tampering with every aspect of life.

CPs often hope human law will provide support for public morality instead of giving the “government seal of approval” to activities and lifestyles rejected by scripture. In doing this they seek to make the government God’s servant. But the SAs usually expect the government to allow abortion, cloning, homosexual marriage, polyamoury etc. SAs often say things like “if only we could get past the abortion issue, we could get on with the real business of government.” The same people, SAa, often see the existence of poverty or the mass marketing of unhealthy foods, or the failure of businesses in the free market as problems government should tackle with a vengeance despite government’s inadequacy for such fallen world conditions. If today’s SAs lived in 1840 would they have been saying “if only we could get off the issue of slavery and do something to stop these terrible rail roads cutting up the countryside” or not? Government should have just laws that reflect moral realities even though it cannot forbid all vice or require all virtue.

Of course the truth is that while government cannot solve all problems it needs to be involved in exercising the rule of law to reward those who are doing good and punish those who are doing evil. Government cannot successfully plan the economy or change human nature. It can stop criminal activity and stay out of the way of people’s productivity. Government can make sure that businessmen play fair instead of engaging in fraud and predatory practices. Government can deter and punish violent crime, fraud and theft. Government can outlaw and guard against the most vicious forms of immorality that are expressed publicly through public actions. Government can deter or fine those whose acts disregard public health and public safety. Government can fight to defend people from the armies of tyrants and the bombs of terrorists. Government can work for justice even if it cannot fully achieve justice. But to do what government can do well it needs the involvement of wise people of good character – it needs the involvement of well discipled and educated Christians. Government needs Christians who know the limits and the value of good government. We should not place faith in government as an infallible guide to the good, but we also must not place faith in government to run itself. Support for the state should never be worship. But the vocation of statecraft should never be neglected. Otherwise we may really end up with a state that thinks it is god.

Foundational Law Quotes IX

“The great law does not arise from our conventions and compacts; on the contrary, it gives our conventions and compacts all the force and sanction they can have. It does not arise from our vain institutions. Every good gift is of God; all power is of God; and He who has given the power, and from whom alone it originates, will never suffer the exercise of it to be practiced upon any less solid foundation than the power itself. If, then, all dominion of man over man is the effect of the Divine disposition, it is bound by the eternal laws of Him that gave it, which no human authority can dispose – neither he that exercises it, nor even those who are subject to it; and if they were mad enough to make express compact that should release their magistrate from his duty, and should declare their lives, liberties, and properties dependent upon, not the rules and laws, but his mere capricious will, that covenant would be void. . . . Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity.”

Edmund Burke

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Key to Knowledge and the Lawyers

While lawyers have been among the most influential individuals in our society for over a millennia, lawyers have also always been a source of trouble in society. This was even true in ancient times. Witness Jesus’ discussion with an expert in the Mosaic Law in Luke chapter 12, verses 44-52.
Jesus has just finished discussing some of the errors of the Pharisees when a lawyer pipes up: “One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher when you say these things, you insult us also.’” Jesus replied:

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Woe to you, because you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute. Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

How true this is, not only about lawyers, but frequently about religious people. Especially lawyers and religious people in our own day. So often we take God’s basic rules and in order to create a boundary so that people do not even get close to violating God’s basic rules, we set up a perimeter of extra-biblical and unnecessary rules in a perimeter around the area actually marked off by God’s rules. In the government, in order to achieve specific purposes, we invent complicated regulations. When these complicated regulations prove inadequate or in some way full of loopholes, we do not junk them and go back to having freedom in the area. Instead, we add yet another layer of regulations which likewise prove inadequate. Eventually, there are so many rules and regulations about everything that no one can know what they all are at any given time. We are doomed to live in a world in which all of us probably violate some government rule intentionality on a regular basis without even knowing the rule exists.
Rules become a greater and greater burden but the people who create them do almost nothing to help people comply with them. They have no compassion on the people who are burdened by rule upon rule. Rules help contribute to keeping people poor by making it difficult for them to go into business. Rules prevent social mobility by taking away people’s money and resources as quickly as they’re able to earn money or save resources. Rules distract us from the really important things in life like God and family, and add hours of extra work to our day. Undoubtedly, they were all created with some good and beneficial thing in mind.
I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t have the rule of law or that we don’t need regulations for various activities. But the point is that we tend to make these man-made regulations and rules more and more burdensome without making any provision to either help people abide by them or to provide grace to people who fail to do so. Instead of grace, we currently live in a society that comes to rigidly emphasize “zero tolerance” because it is incapable of making the moral judgments necessary to equitably apply rules with exceptions and justice rather than in a rigid and unjust fashion. We think that treating everyone the same way whether or not they are really in the same circumstances is “equality.”
God’s law is not meant to be a heavy burden, even though we as fallen human beings don’t keep it. But God Himself through Jesus Christ can give us the power to be obedient to His law when we’re willing to choose to use that power to be obedient. We need to commit our lives to Christ and then the Holy Spirit and the Word of God sanctify us and provide us with the ability to be obedient to God if we will but use that ability. And even more important for us, God’s grace is there when we fail to obey His law. Our sins are covered by the blood of Christ and the atonement and forgiveness for our sins has already been made. God not only gave us His law, but He provided a way to obey the law and a way to be forgiven for not obeying the law. He Himself bore our burdens and was punished for our iniquities. Much more, we should have the same attitude with our own human laws as much as we can.

Next, Jesus criticizes the teachers of the law because they build tombs for the prophets put to death by their forefathers. At first, this is a confusing passage. But I think the key is in the fact that God knows why we do things and what the true significance behind our actions is. Undoubtedly, people could build tombs for martyred prophets because they approved of what the prophets spoke. But God knows that these people do not approve of the message of the prophets. Why does He know that they do not approve of it? Because Jesus Himself is the message of the prophets. As the Logos of God, Jesus is the representative to mankind, the intercession to mankind of God’s order, God’s plan, God’s ways, God’s logic, God’s reason, God’s being and God’s communication to us. He is the message of the prophets. When the ancient Israelites killed the prophets, they were rejecting Christ one piece at a time. When the teachers of the law and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day rejected Jesus’ message and identity, they were rejecting the whole of the message of the prophets all at one time. This is why Jesus says that the generation in which He is walking the earth is responsible for the blood of all the prophets—they have rejected the words of all of the prophets just as their forefathers rejected them one at a time in rejecting Jesus, the Word of God. But we shouldn’t gloat or think that they were any better than we were. We too do the same things. Sometimes people reject Christ as a whole and refuse to have anything to do with Him. But at other times, even people who want to be Christians reject a part of God’s truth and a part of God’s message. We put to death a prophet—we refuse to listen to some part of God’s Word and God’s communication. We say that we know and experience a relationship with Jesus, but then we reject who Jesus really was and deny the propositional truths expressed about Him in the Bible. When we do this, we’re effectively putting to death one of the prophets. When we build a great church or a great organization that is fueled by a rejection of part of God’s identity and part of God’s message, we build the tomb of one of the prophets. May God help us to accept the whole of His Word, the whole of who He is and the whole of His divine Logos.

Last in this passage, Jesus mentions that the experts in the law have “taken away the key to knowledge.” They have not used the key and they have prevented other people from using it. What is this key to knowledge? Again, it is Jesus Himself. The Logos of God is the key to understanding the universe. Through the intercession of Christ, God provides the divine light to all human beings. The divine light is that general revelation communication from God that enables us to know or learn anything. It is connected with our being created in the image of God. Without the basic information the God gives us—logic, reason, moral knowledge, the existence of God Himself—we could not make sense out of the universe or understand or know anything. Yet in enlightenment philosophy, human beings arrogantly try to focus and begin with themselves rather than focusing on and beginning with the Logos. They sought to use human reason and human sensation alone to try to develop certain knowledge. But as the successive philosophies of Hobbs, Hume, Neitzche and others make clear, modernism is a failure. If all we do is start with human reason and human sensation from the human perspective, in the end we cannot know and be certain of anything. Only subjective will is left.
It is only when we begin with the Logos, with the key to knowledge, that we can work our way back around to completing the philosophical puzzle as best as human beings can and understand and truly know things through the general revelation and special revelation that God has given us. It is actually the foundation of God’s revelation that makes possible all knowledge whether theological, philosophical, scientific, empirical or commonsensical. Today in the post-modern era, many people have realized the inadequacy of modernism and the empirical philosophy that dominated the modern period. But, instead of embracing the Logos, they have sought an anti-Logocentric philosophy that recognizes man’s ignorance but instead of turning to God, embraces human culture as the ultimate authority. Instead of turning to the objective authority of God’s revelation, many post-modernists seek authority in the will and power of the community. Just as there were many Christians among the moderns, there are still Christians among the post-moderns.
But just as starting with human reason and sensation does not lead to true knowledge, so, too, starting with the will of the community does not lead to true knowledge. Both the human individual as a radically autonomous source and the human community as a self-constructing entity are fallible and no adequate foundation for knowledge, wisdom or truth. In order to enter into true knowledge, we must start with the key to knowledge, with Jesus, the divine Logos, and with the Word of God as revealed in Scripture and made knowable by general revelation. We must bow our autonomous will and the folk tales of our communities to God Himself and to what He has to say to us. Instead of weighing the Bible by either our personal will or desire or our community’s will and desire, we should accept what it says and allow God’s Word to change both our community and ourselves as individuals. This is not to say that there are not hermeneutical difficulties or that our understanding of God’s Word is ever perfect. But it is to say that it is much easier to head in the right direction if you start from the right place and follow the real path instead of wandering all around the countryside. There are enough hermeneutical difficulties and difficulties with human sin even when we make God’s Word the center. We have no fewer difficulties when we make the individual or the community the center. May God guide us into His truth and help us to worship Him in spirit and in truth, recognizing the truth of His Word and seeking after that truth with all of our mind, soul, strength, will and power.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Law Quotes VIII

“Human nature, as we’ve explained, is never able to take complete control of all human affairs without being filled with arrogance and injustice. …We should run our private and private life, our homes and cities, in obedience to what little spark of immortality lies in us, and dignify this distribution of reason with the name law.”

“When the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own the collapse of the state is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its servant then the situation is full of promise. . .”

“Laws which are not established for the good of the whole state are bogus laws…people who say these laws have a claim to be obeyed are wasting their breath.”

“Those who abandon divine law and seek to enact their own will instead are subject to the vengeance of justice.”

“God is preeminently the measure of all things.”

“To succeed in law or anything else, we must imitate God’s character.”

- Plato

Foundational Law Quotes VII

Law is
the gift of God,
the model of equity,
a standard of justice,
a likeness of the divine will,
the guardian of well being,
a bond of union between peoples,
a rule defining duties,
a barrier against the vices
and the destroyer thereof,
a punishment of violence
and all wrongdoing.

- John of Salisbury, 12th century AD

Monday, August 14, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes VI

There are acts which the . . . Legislature cannot do, without exceeding their authority.
There are certain vital principles in our free Republican governments,
which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power; . . .
An Act of the legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact,
cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority . . .
A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean.
A law that punishes a citizen for an innocent action . . .
a law that destroys, or impairs, the lawful private contracts of citizens;
a law that makes a man a judge in his own cause; or a law that takes property from A and gives it to B.
It is against all reason and justice for a people to intrust a Legislature with such powers;
and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.
The genius, the nature and the spirit, of our State Government,
amount to a prohibition of such acts of legislation; and the general principles of law and reason forbid them.
The legislature . . . may command what is right, and prohibit what is wrong;
but they cannot change innocence into guilt; or punish innocence as a crime;
or violate the right of an antecedent lawful private contract;
or the right of private property.

Justice Chase in Calder v. Bull, 3 Dallas 386 (1798)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes V

“The Moral Law . . .
being contained under two heads,
the one of which simply enjoins us to worship God
with pure faith and piety,
the other to embrace men with sincere affection,
is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times.
. . .
Each nation has been left at liberty to enact the laws
which it judges to be beneficial,
still these are to be tested by the rule of charity,
so that while they vary in form,
they must proceed on the same principle.
Those barbarous and savage laws, for instance,
Which conferred honor on thieves,
allowed the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes,
and other things even fouler and more absurd,
I do not think entitled to be considered as laws,
since they are not only altogether abhorrent to justice,
but to humanity and civilized life.
. . .
Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral,
is nothing else than the testimony of
natural law,
and of that conscience
which God has engraven on the minds of men,
the whole of this equity of which we now speak
is prescribed in it.
Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws.
Wherever laws are formed after this rule,
directed by this aim, and restricted to this end,
there is no reason why they should be disapproved by us, however much they may differ from the Jewish law, or from each other.”

- John Calvin

Foundational Law Quotes IV

“there are two types of laws: just and unjust.
I would be the first person to advocate obeying just laws.
One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws.
Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,
I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’
. . .
A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law
or the law of God.
An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.
To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas:
an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.
Any law that uplifts human personality is just.
Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
All segregation statutes are unjust
because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.
It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority
and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber,
substitutes an
‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship
and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
Hence segregation is not only
politically, economically and sociologically unsound,
it is morally wrong and sinful.
. . .
The question is not whether we will be extremists,
but what kind of extremists we will be.
Will we be extremists for hate or love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice
or for the extension of justice?
. . .
the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes III

“law was not thought up by the intelligence of human beings,
nor is it merely some kind of resolution passed by communities,
but rather it is an eternal force
which rules the world
by the wisdom of its commands and prohibitions.
. . . that original and final law
is the intelligence of God,
who ordains and forbids everything by reason.”

“Human laws are guided in punishing the wicked and defending and protecting the good . . .
no other kind should be given the status or even the name of law.”

“law in the proper sense is right reason in harmony with nature.
It is spread through the whole human community,
unchanging and eternal,
calling people to their duty by its commands
and deterring them from wrong doing
by its prohibitions. . .
This law cannot be countermanded,
nor can it in any way be amended,
nor can it be totally rescinded.
We cannot be exempted from this law by any decree
of the Senate or the people . . .
All peoples at all times will be embraced by a single and eternal
Unchangeable law . . .
And there will be one master over us all –
who is the author, proposer, and interpreter of that law.
Whoever refuses to obey it turns his back on himself . . .
he has denied his nature as a human being . . .”

- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Discussion on Statements of Faith and Post-Modernism

I had a very encouraging e-mail discussion in response to my recent post on statements of Faith by Greg Strand, the Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing at the EFCA Home Office, and also Chair the Spiritual Heritage Committee.. The evangelical Free Church is already dealing seriously with the post-modernism issue. Here is the discussion, with minor editing out of small talk:

Here is the first e-mail:


Greetings in the Lord!

I appreciate what you have written in your Monday, August 07, 2006
blog, "Post-modernism and Statements of Faith." Here is the statement
in particular: "I have not in any way been involved in the Evangelical
Free Church's recent enterprise of evaluating and revising its
Statement of Faith. But I am curious whether they have considered
Adding any clauses that would deal with the problem of post-modernism.
Perhaps a statement of faith that forecloses post-modernism would need to
acknowledge what people reject as well as what they say they believe?"

We on the Spiritual Heritage Committee are very much aware of the
effects of postmodernism on epistemology and the notion of
propositional truth. In the First Draft Revision we included this statement in the
article on the Bible, #2:

"2. God's gospel is authoritatively announced in the Scriptures*
We believe that God has spoken through the Scriptures, both the
Old and New Testaments. They are the verbally inspired Word of God,
without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His
will for salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe
and do, and the ultimate authority which stands over every realm of
human knowledge. We confess that we cannot know God's truth
exhaustively, but we affirm that we can know it truly. Therefore, the
Bible is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it
teaches; obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as
God's pledge, in all that it promises."

What I have italicized gets at the heart of postmodernism. There is a
meta-narrative, that is the Bible is the ultimate authority, the
meta-narrative, which stands over every other realm of human
knowledge, the narrative. Moreover, we also address the correctives
postmodernism brought to modernism without completely capitulating to it as well.
This is how we explained this in the commentary:

the ultimate authority which governs every realm of human
This strengthens our statement on Scripture by affirming that no area
of human activity, including any area of study, lies outside the
authority of the divine Word of God. The Bible speaks with divine
authority in every area in which it speaks. With this statement and
the previous one we have unpacked and clarified the words in our current
statement: "the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and

We confess that we cannot know God's truth exhaustively, but we affirm
that we can know it truly.*

Perhaps the most debated philosophical issue of our day is

how do we know what we know? Postmodernism has issued a
strong rebuke to the hubris of modernism in this area, shattering the
false assumption that there can be a neutral point from which to
observe the world, thereby causing the modernist epistemological foundation
based on rationalism and empiricism to crumble. Many postmodernists
then claim that since there is no absolute and certain knowledge based on
the foundation of reason or empirical sense perception, there can be no
real knowledge of truth at all. This we deny.

This statement is a recognition that we have heard the postmodern
critique and that we do not stand on modernist assumptions. We seek to
avoid both the epistemological hubris of modernism, claiming that
everything is knowable, and the epistemological despair of
postmodernism, claiming that the search for knowledge is fruitless. We
believe that for the gospel to be good news it must be intelligible.
Reliable knowledge of truth, though not exhaustive, is still possible
and attainable through God's revelation of Him-self. Hence, we say
that we can know God's truth "truly."

When we confess that we can know God's truth in Scripture truly, we
are also affirming the doctrine of the perspicuity or clarity of
Scripture, i.e., the Scripture is able to be understood. This was one of the keys
of the Reformers, for the Book was to be in the hands of ordinary
people, of all people, to be read and obeyed; it was not reserved only
for the elite to read and interpret. With roots in the Reformation, we
recognize this is still a vi-tally important doctrine of our understanding of Scripture.

In our Second Draft, based on a number of comments we received, many
did not understand what was meant by the statement above in the First
Draft. We attempted to resolved that here:

2. God's gospel is authoritatively announced in the Scriptures*
We believe that God has spoken through the Scriptures, both the
Old and New Testaments. They are the verbally inspired Word of God,
without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His
will for salvation, and the ultimate authority that stands over every
realm of human knowledge and endeavor. Therefore, the Bible is to be
believed in all that it affirms, obeyed in all that it requires, and
trusted in all that it promises.

In our explanation of the deletion we stated, "Though we believe this
statement has something important to contribute which has been
appreciated by a number of comments, it has occasioned many questions
and is not well understood. For the sake of simplifying the statement,
we suggest deleting it."

Since we have heard many comments about including it. Either way, we
are very much aware of the importance of responding to postmodernism,
and a number of other things. If an explicit statement does not make
it into the actual SOF, we will include a section on postmodernism in the
written commentary addressing the article on God's Word. You will
also be interested to know that in the commentary we will address 1) what
we believe, i.e. what is being stated in the article, 2) what we deny,
i.e. what issues are being denied in this article, and 3) areas in which we
have agreed to be silent, i.e. which is one of the marks of the Free
Church as we major on majors and minor on minors, The Significance of
Silence (A. T. Olson). This does not mean we will not talk about our
areas of disagreement, e.g. Arminianism and/or Calvinism, we will do
so strongly and passionately, but we will not divide over it.

Greg Strand

I responded as follows:

Dear Dr. Strand,

I agree with you and the committee on the problems of modernism.
Empirical knowledge or human reason alone cannot "prove" or know
anything without a prior use of revelation. God must be the center, and
we must use what the divine light gives us to understand and know and
prove. The Bible is the one set of propositions we can trust to
calibrate and direct our minds, emotions, morals, etc.

I am glad the committee is doing such thoughtful and difficult work as
wrestling with these issues. I look forward to hearing more in the

Is there a scheduled completion date fro the revised statement?

Thanks again.
Donald R. McConnell

Dr. Strand’s responding update:


At this past summer's national Conference, we had a Resolution before the Conference regarding the process of discussing the SOF. The Resolution was strongly affirmed, for which we are grateful. You can read the update at the following link:

We are planning a Third Draft Revision now, and if approved by the BOD at their fall meeting made public the first week of October, and we will likely be ready with a Fourth Draft Revision next April, which will probably be the Draft brought to the national Conference. If this is done next year, the earliest the Conference could vote would be 2008.

Because of Christ,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes II

Is this not the kind of fast I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then will your light break forth like the dawn . . .
if you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in darkness,
and your night will be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always . . .
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations . . .”

- Isaiah 58:3 - 12

Foundational Law Quotes I

“Learning in the law entails knowledge of God and man and mastery of the difference between justice and injustice.” - Justinian

Monday, August 07, 2006

Post-modernism and Statements of Faith

Recently a friend of mine attended a class being offered at a Christian school. The Christian school has a statement of faith and tries to be quite energetic in making sure that all of their faculty adhere to the statement of faith. What was interesting is that the professor turned out to be a post-modernist. The professor thought that all the truths of Christianity are really culturally constructed and can vary from culture to culture. As a result, the faculty member made it clear that theologies of different cultures could differ and that it was appropriate to evangelize people by co-opting the rituals and ceremonies already prevalent in their own culture. The faculty member denied the existence of objective propositional truth or the accessibility of objective propositional truth about God to human beings. With this kind of an attitude, it is difficult to understand how this faculty member could be seen to have an orthodox view of Christianity.

As the dean of a Christian law school, I take my part in the enforcement of the Evangelical Free Church’s Statement of Faith very seriously. We carefully interview all of our faculty to try to make sure that they actually adhere to the principles of the Statement of Faith. But if someone does not believe that the words in a statement of faith have a definite meaning, if they believe that words can be made to mean whatever their culture would want them to mean, if they believe that there is no such thing as objective truth, how can they be detected through a standard statement of faith? I am curious what readers think about this problem. Certainly some people are likely to say that the post-modernists are right and there is no such thing as objective truth as opposed to culturally constructed truth. I cannot agree with that point of view. Second, some people are likely to think that post-modernism is in the area of the indifferent rather than in the area of core truths. But if someone believes it is impossible to have and hold specific core truths that have a fixed meaning, how can one then be said to believe in and adhere to the core truths of the Gospel?

The post-modern attitude is becoming quite widespread in academia. It is entering into the church through the emergent church movement. It also is tied into the resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism among former Protestants. The Eastern Orthodox Church tends to be less specific and more mystical. The Catholic Church has always relied upon cultural construction in the form of the teaching magisterium of the church. The Protestant view is, or at least was, that the teachings of the church should be based upon the truth of an objectively accessible Scripture.

I have not in any way been involved in the Evangelical Free Church’s recent enterprise of evaluating and revising its Statement of Faith. But I am curious whether they have considered adding any clauses that would deal with the problem of post-modernism. Perhaps a statement of faith that forecloses post-modernism would need to acknowledge what people reject as well as what they say they believe? I think this is an important question because post-modernism is slowly invading and transforming our institutions in the same way that Unitarianism invaded and destroyed the value of the old New England universities and in which liberalism and pragmatism conquered American academia in the late 1800s.

I hope that sound biblical response to the errors of post-modernism can be had without the extreme bitterness, grumpiness and divisiveness that often accompany theological battle. But I strongly suspect that something needs to be done. Post-modernism does have some advantages. Its rejection of the radical politically liberal view that religion is irrelevant to everyday human life has helped restore Christianity to an influential place in the public square. But the place of the Logos of God is obviously not honored in a philosophy that is inherently anti-logocentric. How can truth be proclaimed in love to a people who reject the existence of truth itself? How can people expect to know and experience God without knowing anything about Him to define whether He is the real God or some imposter or impersonator?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

British School Administrators Seek to Stop Teaching Morality and Patriotism

Schools told it's no longer necessary to teach right from wrong - Britain - Times Online

The linked article, from the times on line (hat tip to Rantburg for linking it first), discusses a proposal that English schools no longer try to teach students the difference between right and wrong, British cultural heritage, or leadership skills.

Trends in the UK seem to evidence that such teaching stopped some time back and this is just an effort to conform the rules to what is already done (or undone as the case may be). As an unjustifiably ardent anglophile and advocate of objective morality I find this news distressing none the less.

As C.S. Lewis points out in the Abolition of Man, a book discussing the same kind of trends in British education about half a century ago, good education is essential to fine tune our emotions and higher conscience to be in tune with the deep conscience and the objective moral law of God.

I remember a chapel speaker who I heard in college saying that British youth were unlikely to catch evangelical Christianity because they had been inoculated by an exposure to a weakened or dead version of Christianity in the British schools. So perhaps this current move is less of a loss than it may seem. But woe to those who teach error to children.

Bad education is the foremost tool of the malicious and the misled for spreading relativism, materialism, false spirituality, bad economics, revisionist history, homosexuality, the playboy life style, islamofacism, anti-foundationalism, devaluation of human beings, and everything else wrong with the world. It seems every advocate of some idea or form of rebellion against God has discovered that teaching young people to see the world their way is the way to dominate the world of the future. This is an epidemic problem around the world, including in the US.

After a hundred years of domination by radical political liberalism, a world view that says religion and morality are unimportant matters of culture and emotion, unfit to influence government (which should only be run based on science), the west is slowly destroying itself as the logical results of such an erroneous philosophy distort our understanding of everything. Without belief in the real objective moral principles of God people sink in to worse and worse lifestyles that bring pain and mental troubles to them and all their partners and children. We fail to understand societies motivated with passion by false religions because we no anger accept the power of spiritual things. And the dissatisfied are ever more open to irrational and destructive forms of counterfeit or evil spiritual expression since they have been taught to ignore or discount the real thing. Philosopher J. Budziszewski discusses this all at length in his excellent book The Revenge of Conscience.

We need to teach our Children the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If state schools cannot teach orthodox historical Christianity and its world view, if they cannot teach children to understand history, culture, and humanity as they really are, we need to make sure we homeschool our children or send them to be educated somewhere where the truth is taught.

But then the size of the problem rapidly becomes even greater. So many of us Christians have learned the errors of our societies and failed to seek out and learn the truth, that few of us are satisfactory teachers of anything, and none of us are satisfactory teachers of everything. Many Christian faculty at universities no longer believe in objective truth at all, let alone know much of it. May God be merciful to us, and bring us not only a revival of faith in Christ, but a revival of true learning, wisdom and knowledge, that we might not only see things as they really are, but might be able to pass on truth to future generations.