Why “Conservatism” is not Enough

In the last couple of blog posts I tried to set forth the idea that without the sanction of biblical faith, conservatism alone cannot capture the hearts and minds of men. Many of conservatism’s tenets can be easily supported by the imperatives of faith and morality, and must be. This should be an important goal of conservative polemics. This, I don’t believe, is optional. Arguments which rely only on an empirical analysis of data can be easily ignored or rendered misleading by a point-counterpoint manipulation of the supposed facts. The man-made climate change debate is one case in point. We must get to the spiritual root of the matter, whatever the issue may be. This requires a rebirth of theology.

A hundred years ago, the great Christian author and teacher J. Gresham Machen described the problem we are considering with great clarity. The things he wrote could have been written today without any lack of relevance. In his essay “Christianity and Culture” he explains the need for a “consecration of culture”. He states that if Christianity becomes a mere appendage of culture, a line item on a person’s resume’, then Christianity is destroyed. If, however, Christians regard culture as irremediably evil and abandon it to live in pietistic isolation, then culture is destroyed. This is our present situation.

The third and only way for Machen was the consecration of culture. By this he meant most specifically “high” culture. This is characterized by the dedication of the highest efforts of art and science to being conducted under the aegis of biblical truth. This he considered essential to a genuinely evangelistic outlook because it creates a culture that affirms and confirms the truth at all points and makes the Gospel an entirely  relevant message in the mental world that men inhabit. Without this, the Gospel becomes only a harmless hobby of churchgoers that leaves the majority of men indifferent to it’s claims. Gospel preaching and teaching then become confined, in most cases, to mental and physical ghettos and backwaters where men are destitute of any other significant cultural engagement.

The word “world” in almost every New Testament usage is translated from the Greek word cosmos. This word does not refer primarily to physical things, but to the systems of belief, governance, and order to which men subscribe and which animate their lives. The “Great Commission” , then, is the reconciling of all these things to biblical truth by means of faith in Jesus Christ. God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only begotten Son so that this might be accomplished. This is the broadest statement possible of the “consecration of culture”. I believe the consecration of “high” culture is imperative in this regard if as many men as possible are to be reconciled to God in Christ. Those in authority, whether in government, science, education, business, art, or whatever, are not to be constantly suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

But the consecration of culture must also be an all-encompassing idea. It certainly cannot be limited to the realms of the learned and powerful. I believe in Ezekiel 38: 11, an image of the land of Israel, we are given a picture of “consecrated culture” in it’s broadest sense. A vision of quiet people living in villages without bars, walls, or gates is a vision of godly society. This is a spiritual vision, not a material vision of rural necessity. This shows us, in a simple picture, a culture devoid of wickedness. This is a culture free of covetousness and unbridled ambition, the lording of authority over men, theft and violence, lies, slander, and false witness, lust and immorality. This is a culture of contentment, simplicity, peace, and security. It is a culture the “world” of ungodly men hate and attack, but that it is upheld and protected by God. This is a culture for every man of faith and uprightness. In such a culture we should hope and expect to see an entirely symbiotic and complementary relationship between this bedrock of godly society and the finest works of art, science, and industry.

 

 

 

 

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Dear Rush: Conservatism Alone Cannot Prevail, Part II

In my last post I attempted in very broad and simple strokes to suggest that conservatism will ultimately prove an ineffectual ideology in public policy if presented as unmoored from a theological anchor. The short space of a blog post does not allow for a wide-ranging, in-depth exploration of the topic. I will, therefore, try to expand upon this theme a little more by means of a couple of examples.

I have recently had a couple of discussions with my daughter that dovetail perfectly with this problem. My daughter is a skilled craftsman who works in the field of historical trades. She is a Christian, is very well-read, and cares deeply about ideas. She works with other people who are highly skilled, artistic, historically oriented, thoughtful, industrious, and highly productive. None of them lead lives that are overtly immoral. The premises of socialistic leftism would not seem to define their lives on any level personally and yet they are almost all liberal in their political orientation. My daughter is greatly disturbed by this and finds it difficult to reconcile these apparent contradictions.

One example she has used in discussion is the subject of environmentalism. Her friends buy into all the premises that the left asserts and believe only liberals care about such things and have policies that answer these perceived problems. The bogeymen of the left are presumed to be real and conservatives present no apparent and morally compelling, belief-based counter-argument so that liberalism’s agenda becomes, as almost always, the default choice.

“Environmentalism” is a vastly important topic. The biblical view that the earth was formed to be inhabited and that it is man’s calling to subdue and cultivate it needs to be fully and properly understood to counter the vicious, anti-human, anti-capitalistic Luddism of the left. The earth was designed to be fully beautified and benefited by the work of man in proper submission to God.

Teddy Roosevelt may have been the last major political figure who understood these sorts of things. I think he would have agreed that productivity and prosperity are good things but that they need to be obtained by the proper restraints of a morally sound concept of stewardship rather than by raw exploitation. The saving of the American bison, for example, preserved an animal of great economic worth that can be safely and productively raised in large numbers. Exploitation almost brought them to extinction but proper stewardship has shown how to manage these magnificent creatures to the benefit of both man and beast. This is a biblical perspective.

As another example, some of my friends have done missionary work in India where we have a situation of countless animals ranging free foraging for scarce food causing destruction of property and a vast accumulation of filth. The human population is also perpetually undernourished. Biblical stewardship would incalculably benefit both men and animals in this context. Of course there is the problem, again, of a vicious, anti-human, idiotic idolatry, in this instance called Hinduism, to deal with. The point is that the problems of men and nations require theological solutions.

Getting back to Rush for a moment, he once had a frequent guest host named Roger Hedgecock. One day Mr. Hedgecock got into one of the favorite economic arguments of conservatives that the unbridled pursuit of personal self-interest in an economic sense ultimately leads to the benefit of others. We are to picture Bill Gates and Steve Jobs working feverishly in their garages as young men moving computer science a quantum leap forward and so, presumably, benefitting us all. This may be true in some respects but the message radically de-spiritualizes men as if we were no more than economic animals (more like a Marxist belief). This completely ignores the whole life of man and rather callously disregards the full range of human responsibility and motives especially from the standpoint of religious belief. This sort of thing may serve as a topic of discussion in the faculty lounge in the economics department at Hillsdale but it does not advance the cause of conservatism in public discussion at all. Mr. Hedgecock went on to say something to the effect that if anyone was not earning $100,000 a year in America at that time that they were a failure. That was the perfect example of what is wrong with the public face and assertions of conservatism. I suspect there was great offense taken to this statement because I don’t think the hapless Mr. Hedgecock appeared on Rush’s guest host roster again.

I will close this post by saying I believe the term “conservatism” itself is, in reality, a sellout to secularism. We use the term to talk about principles and policies without having to mention much of anything about biblical faith and doctrine for fear of igniting the ire of lawless, anti-Christian types everywhere. Nobody wants to invite all manner of slander, mockery, vilification, and actual violence from such people but we are pretty close to having no choice. An avowedly Christian view of man and society must become the gold standard of our culture once again or a bleak and hollow future awaits us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Rush: Conservatism Alone Cannot Prevail, Part I

I address this blog as an open letter to Rush Limbaugh because if anyone is the voice of conservatism, he is it. But this is addressed to anyone who believes conservatism, as a set of merely empirical economic, constitutional, or social principles, can ultimately carry the day against liberalism. To be fair, I’m a huge fan of Rush and have listened to him since he went national with his radio show. Furthermore, Rush does not fail to invoke God from time to time in his discussion of the issues of the day.

The theme of this blog post is that liberalism is a religion and conservatism, as defined above, is not (Rush acknowledges this aspect of liberalism). Consequently liberalism readily captures the hearts and minds of people in an almost impenetrably loyal fashion creating a very distinctive manner of reasoning while conservatism and other dispositions such as libertarianism and pragmatism, do not fully do this. Any reflective and honest person must acknowledge that the fundamental definition and disposition of man is that he is a religious being. Many, if not most, liberals would deny that they are “religious” persons. They simply do not understand or deny the fundamental things that actuate them. Every human being has a set of of assumptions and premises that cannot be proven as some brute, absolutely objective factuality that guide and color all of his motives, attitudes, and reasonings. No human being lives by instinct alone. He could not, then, be fully human (This emphatically DOES NOT imply that severely mentally damaged or disabled people are to be regarded as sub-human). Theology, whatever form it takes, must underpin the set of principles a person claims to espouse or others will never be fully or comprehensively convinced.

To define liberalism we can say that it is Darwinist, evolutionary, and materialistic to the core. It absolutely eschews any concept of an inviolable Divine claim upon our determining what is good and what is evil. Leftist pseudo-religious activities such as Gaia worship or transcendental meditation are purely materialistic and self oriented and have no coherent concept or apprehension of an eternal, omnipotent, creating, and redeeming deity. True liberals instinctively know the politically correct opinion to have about everything with very little prompting. Political correctness is their plan and expression of personal sanctification and requires no honest reflection on the substance of any issue. I have often wanted to ask a true dyed-in-the-wool liberal what the end-game of their agenda is actually supposed to look like. At what point would they say they have arrived? I have come to believe, though, that this does not really trouble their ruminations very much, if at all. For the liberal it is the political process that counts. The endless contentiousness, disqualification, slander, faux-indignation, and fault-finding directed against all who disagree with them is what matters. It is the process of maintaining a sanctimonious, self-righteous sense of moral superiority and unfettered self-assertion that defines them.

Conservatism, on the other hand, tries to convince people by empirical argumentation that it is a superior ideology. This means that it requires a fairly high level of intellectual application and consistency. It is an ideology of the strong; those who will hold to their rationalizations in the face of intimidation and intense political pressure. It believes that eloquent arguments alone will have the power to change the minds of masses of men. It does not think that a bedrock, even if inchoate, system of belief is necessary to support it’s intellectual constructs. Only human reasoning is necessary to sustain it, not Divine sanction.

I believe that what is genuinely conservative, however, proceeds from God-given biblical truth and Christian faith about the nature and purpose of man. Conservatism has a vast reservoir of transcendent truth to recommend it’s findings and principles to the hearts and minds of men. For the sake of their own principles and the genuine welfare of men, conservatives need to steer the ship of public debate in the direction of theology. It is only in recent years that we have come to regard theological principle and debate in it’s Christian sense as out of place in the public arena. This is because we have allowed the religious premises of liberalism to bludgeon us into silence. Christian theology has always been part of the public debate since Jesus came on the scene. It lays claim to all that men think and do. It is the only thing that will genuinely capture the hearts and minds of men and refresh the springs of governance, culture, society, and all other things. True conservatives must, first of all, discover from whence the river of living water flows.

 

 

 

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An Introduction to The Revelation Mandate

Hello everyone! I’ve been absent this holiday season and blog posting has been sporadic at best. I realize that I’m leaving you all hanging, so today I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt from my book. Below are some screen shots from the introduction. Please let me know what you think!

So that’s the introduction. What do you think – worth a read? Let me know, and be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook!

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Pope Francis – Liberal Fellow Traveler?

Now that we are past the introductory humble-holy-man schtick, we are moving into the reality stage of what Pope Francis purports to represent. Is he a man merely of institutional religious public imagery and politics or is he a man of the Scriptures?

The papal progression underway somehow seems like deja’ vu all over again. The popes all seem to arrive on the public scene, all shiny and new, as “compassionate” champions of the common man. Then, oddly, no trenchant defense of the true Gospel message is heard again. No call goes forth to both great and small to repent of unbelief and lawlessness and to obey Jesus Christ through genuine faith and a full-orbed biblical understanding (Acts 17: 30-31). All we seem to get is a sort of politics of religion. Maybe Pope John Paul was a little different, but my memory of those years is bit sketchy now. I seem to recall he recognized lawlessness in its biblical sense when he saw it though.

So now we have a pope apparently imbued with the assumptions and worldview of “liberation theology”, an ecclesiastical Barrack Obama of radical leftism posing as a benefactor of men. He posits the belief that state power should forcibly eliminate any perceived inequities amongst men, ignoring the fact that many of those things might possibly be God-given for important reasons. So the state actually becomes God, defining the purpose, meaning, and worth of all men according to it’s own political dictates. What monstrous, presumptuous blindness.

Of course, “capitalism” becomes the all-purpose bogeyman of human suffering in these leftist formulations with “racism” waiting in the wings in case of a public relations emergency. Does anybody ever stop to think what the term “capitalism” actually means? Does it not simply mean that you must grow enough crops, not only to feed people, but also at a price and quantity that allows the purchase of tools, machinery, seed, fertilizer, and labor, i.e. capital, to grow next years crop? If someone does this well through industry, skill, intelligence, and innovation and prospers in his efforts, does that make him evil and not entitled to the fruits of his labor and ingenuity? Did the government teach him his skills and understanding and so gets to determine their worth? His physical and intellectual property and the fruit of his labor are not his own? Maybe they belong to God as creator and redeemer, but do they belong to the state? This is materialistic tyranny run amok.

And speaking of “evil” capitalists, how about we speak of evil parasites. Scripture gives no quarter to those who can work and will not (2 Thessalonians 3: 10, et. al.). No allowances are made for alleged racism, stacked decks, rigged systems, low self-esteem, or senses of entitlement. If we are going to talk about wickedness, how about covetousness, envy, and sloth. Are they not among the “7 deadly sins”? These are terrible things that gnaw at and destroy the lives of everyone they touch. Destroying someone who has more than you does not deliver you from these vicious things. What right do you have to devour the life and property of another because he has more than you? The problem is yourself and only the real, living Jesus can save you from yourself. Shouldn’t popes and other religious leaders address such matters and encourage the freedom people need to pursue their work and callings and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Does not true generosity, gratitude, and deliverance from want come from the freedom to work at whatever God has given you grace and ability to do and to be secure in the possession of your property and the fruit of your labor? The state does not confer such things, nor can it. To believe so is pure idolatry.

The law of God is not merely a set of rules to follow. They are a representation of God’s very nature and how we, as creatures made in his image, are to be, likewise, respected and protected. No man consists of only his bare physical person. A person’s being and identity also include his personal relationships, his property and the fruit of his labor, his freedom of conscience, and his reputation. All of these are God-given. The state may protect such things but it cannot determine their meaning and importance apart from God without becoming a corrupting and deadly idol.

This article is not necessarily intended as a personal attack on Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church, or any other church structure, but as a call to Christian people everywhere to beware of the subtle deceits of leftist ideology and to seek to be faithful at all points to the genuine biblical view of man and his purpose. The “beast” of the leviathan state cannot be allowed to define us and hold us in bonds.

 Link to RushLimbaugh.com; Its Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is

 

Breitbart.com; Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interpreting Revelation Means Loving the Scriptures

Many people have asked me why I thought I was qualified to write a commentary on the book of Revelation. They seem to think you need to be a scholar that has spent years digging through ancient texts for clues or an “end of the world” aficionado who has spent a lot of time trying to correlate ancient folk legends with current events. A vivid imagination and a fascination with special effects couldn’t hurt either. However, none of these are necessary or even relevant. Revelation is actually not all that difficult, but you must first know that all of your interpretive ducks are accurate and neatly in a row.

Revelation is the capstone of Scripture, so the absolute first prerequisite  to understanding it is to know and love the Bible. Any interpretation must be entirely coherent with the rest of what Scripture teaches. One must also understand that the Bible teaches us in terms of an established framework of theological imagery developed in the course and representation of covenant history. The Bible doesn’t ever waste our time with meaningless, materialistic factoids about what things looked like or felt like. Scripture must always be interpreted within a covenantal context. We are never given a bunch of random observations from all over the map of human experience. It is solely focused on teaching us to know God personally and to understand his purpose in the world in terms of his covenantal requirements so that we might be truthful, accurate bearers of His image.

My personal quest to understand Revelation and the rest of “eschatological” teaching began over thirty years ago. So much of what was taught about so-called “apocalyptic” scriptures didn’t seem to follow logically from the rest of the biblical teaching I was exposed to. This so-called “end times” teaching appeared to be nothing more than wild speculations divorced from any real theological substance. I couldn’t live with this doctrinal dissonance and so I set about to resolve it. There were a number of books that were very useful in helping me to start to connect the dots. However, the bottom line in all of this is to be ruthlessly honest and humble before God and to develop your scriptural understanding by asking God a lot of hard questions, waiting patiently for answers. It is absolutely okay to tell God you don’t understand something and that you would like, earnestly, to be taught how to properly understand whatever you may be having confusions about. The Holy Spirit was given, after all, to lead us into all the truth. Very importantly, we must always be aware of and avoid the temptation to jump to materialistic conclusions (i.e., appearances vs. meaning), which is our natural tendency. Any search for true biblical insight is always a matter of your personal relationship with God. It will otherwise be without conviction or relevance. It must be a search to know God and his will in spirit and truth and certainly doesn’t exclude having those things revealed from the godly insights of others.

We, as Christians, must have a genuinely biblical worldview. Otherwise we may find ourselves laboring in vain. Revelation is our worldview. It shows us the titanic struggle involved in what it meant to move from the Old Covenant world to the New Covenant world. It thus shows us what spiritual warfare looks like and how we are to engage in it. This is why it remains continually crucial for us to understand Revelation. In short, it shows us who we are and why. It shows us that overcoming the world, on all levels, never becomes optional for us. The Church in our time is practically irrelevant socially and  culturally. The Gospel has been reduced to nothing really resembling the “Great Commission”, but rather to something like “pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye and witness to your neighbor if you can”. I have long thought that our materialistic, non-theological speculations about what Revelation and other “apocalyptic” scriptures teach has led us down this path of blind impotence. Understanding Revelation is essential to the work and well-being of the Church in all generations. We must resolve and understand the theological meaning of what the book teaches in a sound and coherent way. I had to write this book if I thought I cared at all about the success of the Church’s mission in the world and the true heavenly reward of God’s people.

 

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Nations in Tatters

We, as Christians, probably ponder from time to time why it seems that nations that once were considered Christian have all fallen away or grievously backslidden. North Africa, Asia Minor, and Europe, once the primary regions of what once was called Christendom, have come to a parlous spiritual state. The culture of the West, that which was rooted in Christian assumptions, seems to be tottering on the brink. Is this evidence of some sort of spiritual law of decay? The first thing we have to do is rid ourselves of any notion that this is what is inevitable.

Why has the world fallen away?

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The Revelation Mandate: The Foundations of the Priesthood of Every Believer

We are undoubtedly living in ominous and unsettling times in terms of freedom, peace, prosperity, and cultural health and stability. Should Christian people, then, view this with a sense of futility and defeat? If not, where should we turn to be strengthened and renewed? Does the book of Revelation seem like an unlikely place to turn? Actually it is precisely the place we should turn. Continue reading

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