Tag Archives: commandments

Truth Is Rags — Jedi Are Crappy Cake With Icing On

Short summary of a thinking thread I had this morning:

Atheism, like the Star Wars Force, is wishful thinking, a self-centered tool that only appears to be filled with extra-human influence, connecting all things at their core, holding men accountable to themselves for whatever is done based on whatever criteria fit personal opinion. Essentially carte-blanche to do whatever in the name of whatever since it’s all up to me. Atheists don’t want to have a God. Bummer, cause it’s pretty bleak if we’re all destined for the soup-bowl. Subjectivism is horrible evil with really pretty icing on top.

Otherwise, men can go with a slightly more worthwhile lifestyle: Somebody is out there watching and literally in control. Man is neither trapped in his own cesspool with nothing else to look at, nor is he stuck with wishful thinking. And his every screw-up (commonly referred to as sin) has been dealt with. At least we’re not stuck with self-realization to call upon for salvation. Having someone to run the show for all of us is rather a relief, isn’t it? And One who actually stepped down to rectify the problem that started when we decided to try running our own show is doubly relieving.

I suppose at one point (for me) it was relatively easier to get along without worrying about moral boundaries and any worry of being under a threat of answering for my self-righteous self-sufficiency. But that was for about maybe 30 seconds. Then settled in the crippling restrictions of having nothing to which (no-one to whom) I was able to turn, able to trust, able to obey. For I found that I needed to be obedient. This may well have been that key to my soul, that I must be subordinate whereas I had lived for so long with the lust of self. I needed to be first, in all things, in my dirty little heart. Until I got broken down, mostly by circumstances that, conveniently, could not have me at the center.

Something I’ve come to terms with over the last decade or so, slowly but certainly, is that it’s not our particular sins per se, rather our particular sin (singular) of disbelief. Disbelief is that sin wherein all other sins of act, word or thought find their origin. It’s the unpardonable sin simply because it is the sin. And the human race’s misconception, convenient as it is, is to reject the Christian faith because it is all full of rules and tells us what things are sins that we cannot do or think or say, and because it has rules of things that we must think or do or say, making their non-commission sinful as well. Sorry, that’s actually wrong, I believe. Every sin we commit is due to unbelief. That is what condemns us. We will not turn from our sin, our belief in anything but what is actually believable and turn toward the truth. Once that’s done, we suddenly find, I found, those other rules about do and do-not were accessible. I didn’t find the laws of God much easier, but I could suddenly see traction in my pursuit and a purpose for them.

Though it took me either a decade or four of them to figure it out (depending on whether you count my whole life as learning or just the redeemed part), I am most thankful that I no longer subscribe to the misconception that Christianity is about rules and fear – that was unbelief. I am passionately thankful that it is about a chain of truths that end with transformation and completion far better than nirvana, being a dead Jedi or whatever. That truth chain, there is a God – He made everything – He is the center – He chose to come to us and bring us back to the center by his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ – His promise of removing unbelief and ultimately the marks of that unbelief, is all there is that is worthwhile. If I can keep the focus on that (Holy Spirit) then it is finished.

Objective truth is dressed in rags because otherwise, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, which makes it subjectivism. “The first reaction to truth is hatred” – Turtullian. Hatred is where the rags come in. And the stones. And the mud. And the blood.

 


Ayn Rand Failed But Not Entirely

objectivistYes, she got too many things wrong in “Atlas Shrugged.” But she tipped the iceberg over, revealing much that needs pondering.

Dagny and Hank got trapped into serving the moochers. Rand said they were wrong for giving of themselves. In reality, they were wrong for giving to those they gave to. Rand failed to notice her characters giving to each other and to those who truly needed. Galt himself gave to the right ones, though that giving was denied throughout the story. He gave and gave and was willing to sacrifice in that giving.

The almighty dollar was and is stupid, but the idea behind finding one’s place and blessing others from that lofty place is the almighty token in its place.

Rand said they built for the building, the self-expression. Yeah, but the only way that story worked out as it did, with its ending in tow, was because they gave in their building. The railway, the steel, all were integral to each other in gift. Of not just material which was easy and disposable, but of self, which is of inestimable value.

This wasn’t even implied in Rand’s writing, but it’s implicit if you look for it. Read it into the book and it’s there.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Ayn Rand almost got it.

This is just a rough, maybe I won’t get back to it, but I had to spew the words before I lose them.


Through The Wringer

I wrote about how we can’t do anything to earn salvation and that there’s no route we can take to lose our salvation. I asserted that God keeps the promises in our family and though He commands our affection, loyalty and trust, it is He who enables and moves us into those qualities. We don’t add to our salvation.

I didn’t go into our end of the program much. Strangely enough that’s the hard part. I think I begin to understand why. Theology may actually be easier than Me-ology because I can read, hear and understand what God says about Himself from a nice distance that enables a more objective, humble and careful study. Looking at me is always tainted with Sin. It looks like God is less affect-able by my sinful perceptions where I’m just plain messed up from the start.

So when I look at me, I’m aware of my sin and my need to do something about it. It’s easier to see and trust what God does about it and to understand that I can’t do anything, really, myself. I don’t even contribute. But there is still the command and desire to do things. God demands my works and I really want to do them. I want to be more like Him, to love Him and my neighbor. I want to discard my hang-ups and sins very much, and so I keenly search the Scriptures and the help of my contemporaries and elders for help.

But keeping in mind that I don’t do anything that earns or improves my salvation, life becomes hard. Especially when it comes to that lingering habit or obsession, I sometimes feel the tendency to toss it off as “oh well, that’s what Sunday is for.” This is fairly easily quelled with a self-imposed flogging or prayer, but it’s the fact that the tendency is there that kills me. I don’t want to think like that.

And all the above is part of assurance. This sort of discussion should be in our heads. Of course we should desire good works. Of course we need to seek our sanctification (working out our salvation with fear and trembling). Faithful Christians are not antinomians, believing that we’re free to live any way we like now that we’ve been saved. Actually, I said that wrong – We really are free to live any way we like. Before saved, we like to live in Sin or squalor or self-pity. When saved, we like to live out of sin and in the joy of our Lord. If the two are mixed up then there is something seriously wrong. Our hearts or minds are completely mixed up and in deadly peril.

Faithful Christians do not do good deeds or seek to grow in faith and truth in order to appease or please God. We, of course want to please Him. It’s our goal to glorify Him, and that is His great interest in His creation in the first place, His own glory. We want to be more like our God, not just because He commands it, but because we, having been saved by Him and knowing Him in the manner of being His children, have tasted the sweetness of His nature. Experiencing and knowing God’s goodness in His mercy and grace should bring about the desire to align with God’s nature.

As I look back on my own progress in the Faith and the particulars of my own track in sanctification, I have trouble discerning where I, myself, have had much success in changing my ways. Yes, there have been times when I’ve had to sort of pummel myself into a process or ordered practice, but even those are not of my own volition. I think I can say that every improvement has been, at a minimum, because I’ve seen the light – been convinced of a fundamental truth and thereby complied with what seemed inevitable. Mostly, things have changed for the better in my life because of gradual “evolution.” I haven’t just stopped in the middle of something and swerved back onto the path or into a new paradigm because I chose to. It just doesn’t seem to work like that. In fact, whenever there’s an abiding sin or sin-causing condition in my life, the more I stomp on it and intentionally try to snuff it out, the more it haunts me and eludes my efforts.

I’ll tell you what really makes the difference. Every place I’ve been in the last eight years has been an increase in the clear understanding of the Word. The exposure to sound Biblical teaching and my own studies has grown incrementally over six distinct places and a few churches, each building upon the other. And the impact has been greater at each turning, which culminates in an exponential way at this most recent stop in NLPCA. The thoroughly Reformed environment here has been like a sweat-lodge of theology and practice. It seems like every aspect of worship and fellowship has a real, tangible God behind the scenes and in the mix. That, if anything at all, has been my sanctification. It’s not mystical, but it is mysterious. The more I learn about God, the more I desire to be like what I’m seeing. The more I spend time with His people and in His place, the more I spend time contemplating Him and conforming to Him.

Antinomianism is a pagan problem. It is those liberal christians and rank pagans who enter the church by false profession and misguided pretense that inflict and suffer from antinomianism. I am willing to guess, though maybe I’m wrong, that a true believer may have significant challenges in obeying God and conforming to Him (I always do), but they will not be a true antinomian for long, if at all, if they are truly in Christ. We have, as in our conversion, no say in the matter. God pulls us, kicking and screaming, into His family (remember that Christ said “all whom the Father gives Me will come to Me“) and so He pulls us through the wringer of sanctification as well. We will be made in His image, progressively (painfully slowly for all of us, I surmise) in this age and immediately in the next.

Evidence of this may be found in the opposite approach to evangelization. When we Reformed proclaim the Gospel, calling that act our evangelization method, we are right and in accord with Scripture. Those who say that people are brought to the Faith by seeing the impact Christ has had in the lives of believers are, usually unawares, preaching a failed system of religion. When a pagan sees a Christian’s “changed life” and is converted, how is he convinced that God is real and Christ died for his sins? All he sees is a happy-trail. Is he not converted to a works-religion that fails on all parts? The new “believer” came in looking at the worldly benefit of salvation, not in the true Gift that God presents to His children. They see a trusting in Christ for relief of pressures, or a solution to marital problems. They see what we have and they want it (who wouldn’t), that sweet disposition, passion for the study of God’s things. It becomes a way out in marital strife and parenting, in job dissatisfaction and social injustice, to cast our cares upon Jesus and become “peacemakers” just as He said. But a Buddhist can pull all that off.

Just for the record, the sweetness and light Christian witness is going to crumble eventually. Those of us who are “in” know this, and we’re lying to ourselves if we go the route of “witnessing” by our “testimony.” Either to win new converts or to disciple others into greater knowledge and grace. Fooey!

I think we have to (seriously) consider how far down and how subtle the problem is here. A person in the church, who professes the faith, tries his darnedest to keep up and really desires to change may be under the impression that he’s really in there, has hit the spot. And yet the real trusting is not in Christ for the forgiveness of sins but for the relief, that “light yoke” of Christ’s burden. They come in, having heard the gospel of someone’s grand testimony (like mine on the about page) and believe in that rather than the Gospel of the Bible. We may all have that tendency from time to time, at least in a small dose. And it is deadly. It is so close to the Gospel. We trust something. We’re even able to say the words “not me but God” and believe them. But it doesn’t sink in that it’s salvation we’re looking for, not relief or a program. This misconception sure sounds viable to me. I think it is a result of us just not being able to conceive of Man as what he really is and therefore pinning our arms, disabling them so we cannot reach out to our Savior in belief and trust.

This is almost identical in our sanctification as in our initial salvation. We can be misled by a testimony that is not our Lord’s testimony.

That right there leads me to think that good works is a product, not a pursuit of the faithful. We want the works, we do the works, we do pursue them, but in the end it almost just happens. Remember the despair in Isaiah, and then again when Paul likens his righteousness and works to pure rubbish? When in Romans 7 he presents the Horrible Equation of the Christian life? I do what I don’t want to do and then I don’t do what I want to do? That is it, right there, for works. God works in us to will and to do His things. Even our decisions are dependent on His good will. Wretched men that we are, who will rescue us from these bodies of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; — Isaiah 64:6

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. — Philippians 3:8

Experience didn’t save me. Experience won’t keep me saved. My comfort is most often in looking back, at the facts, of what has happened in my life. But the inspiration for continuing is my ongoing exposure to the Gospel and Sacraments. Perseverance and sanctification are supplied by God. Through His declaration, demonstration and application in my life. Not my experience and broken thumbnails.

So we come full circle to “what do we do?” We are in the church, in the brotherhood of the saints. We are in the sanctuary, receiving the gifts of God, His means of grace and fellowshipping with each other. We grow in grace and truth, faithfully yes, but in His faithful application. We increase in our trust and desire for Him, His ways and His Word which produces fruit. Yes, we worry and sweat over our salvation, grinding our teeth and fingers into the work set before us, but Christ’s burden truly is light, for in the end our efforts are fueled by Him. It’s a trust exercise, get it? Like closing our eyes, trying not just to know but to know that there’s a team behind us, catching us as we fall back off the stump. Man, it hurts to let go of balance and lean back, and it’s scary and painful in the air as we plunge to the depths of trust, unable to feel our way down. But the sweet, sweet refrain of trusting Him finally being realized, even in the little things, is ecstasy in the light of day.


Slightly More and Less Specific Discussion Regarding The Law Including Puritans This Time

Puritan FolksTo continue on my lines of thought (when have I ever had just one at a time?), I have a bit on the awesome Puritan question.

Note: What follows is my synthesis and impression of the whole thing based on a lot of reading and thinking. That does not imply that I’m speaking authoritatively or even accurately. If I’ve boned it up in here, I’d like to know, especially since some of my impressions of this are probably not going to receive much happy-claps from theonomists or historians. I don’t think I’ve come up with anything original, just my own opinions and words on what’s probably been hashed over by better men than me. What I did conscientiously attempt to do is avoid the ad-hominem and straw-man thing that seems to be the theonomists’ biggest beef with their detractors.

So did the Puritan utopia work out?

Nope. Here’s why I think so, and I have some references to back this up.

Something that sort of fits, a session with Albert Mohler on his Thinking In Public podcast entitled Christianity and Worldview on the Geopolitical Stage: A Conversation with Walter Russell Mead
And another is Peter Leithart’s “Defending Constantine” to which I’ve referred a little before.
And the White Horse Inn gang on The New Covenant

I understand that these are all recent, but I see that often my studies sort of circle around each other and providence is most likely involved in the curious ways external source themes arise that apply to what I’m working on.

First, the utopia ended. There must be a reason. Some will say that it was a breakdown of the covenantal union of the people in the society. Some might say that they were repressed into failure. I think, based on my reading, that more likely the system, honorable and well-intended as it was, was doomed to fail. And had it not failed in the way that it did, we’d have a little sister version of the Roman Catholic Church in our backyard. I can’t back up this last statement much, but if you read the Leithart book, you just might see the hints therein. I suspect that, rather than lending credence to the idea of theonomy being good for society, the fallout lends itself to indications that it is not feasible. Notice that I didn’t claim theonomy is outright wrong as a system of government, just that it isn’t going to work.

As Christians, we are to be peacemakers.

John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Matthew 5:38-52 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”

God has demonstrated this policy even in the “horribly warmongering” Old Testament. He visited peace and mercy on many, many of His enemies and taught Israel the same thing. His directives for conquest and violence were not the only way our God dealt with His creation. Keep this thought in mind as I go along.

My thought here is that the colonial “theonomic” form of government failed because of doctrines, conflicts and plenty of other things that eroded the unity and integrity of the society. It proves (to me) the inability of a state of Christendom to sustain itself. If not internal strife and error, there is no question of the capitulation of leaders who had to maintain peace with their neighbors. I refer directly to the ideas discussed in the Mohler piece above. Christians of particular traditions have had to change their theological language, practice and priorities in order to coexist with the surrounding friendly, yet different groups. They have been dispersed by disease or war over and over again. Sometimes disease or war caused by their own systems.

I’d hazard a guess that, in fact, to militantly adhere to the idea of theonomic society is to promote conflict. The idea that God’s law should be the standard for a secular government implies a call for Christians to “bear arms” for their faith-society which results in Christians dying for their faith – sort of. I mean that martyrs in the Biblical sense won’t be made, rather something more similar to extremist “martyrs” today. I do not write this in order to stir up or provoke, it is frankly how I see it. If you take unregenerates, give them God’s Law, they at most become a legalistic system that unavoidably has a skewed understanding of the what-and-why of the whole thing. Compare to what happened in Oslo recently. Extrapolate to what other, non-Biblical cultures have developed for their systems of law and the philosophy of action that ensues (extremists are not all that extreme if you take the Biblical concept of total depravity).

Look, Christians are pictured as humble, suffering people who are at peace, as much as possible, with all and who submit to not only their elders but the states to which they belong. It should not be wrong to think that a Christian can fight to defend his land and people from danger – nobody has said he cannot do this. But for him to arm and fight against politics and philosophies? Are those not the battle of the church, whose weapon is the Word of God?

Romans 12:14-21 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In reading Leithart’s Constantine, it is apparent that in creating a society that is entirely under God’s law, both cult and culture – church and politics, war is going to erupt or compromise is going to be engaged. It is apparent that the theonomic ideology is flawed, not because God’s Law is abrogated or obsolete, rather because it was not codified as a government system with the pagan world in mind. In fact, the only way for God’s law to work might be if one loks to the millennium of dispensational theology wherein, after the tribulation, 1,000 years of the good-life is happening on Earth as a “restored” literal kingdom under Christ the King (which, of course, is not restored in any sense, since there hasn’t been a literal physical kingdom of Christ anywhere in temporal history).

Let me say it again. The failure of theonomy is not that God’s Law is wrong. It is actually the fact that God’s Law is prescribed in morals for all of God’s children. The penal system was for Israel. There is, however, a corresponding penal system for the Church which is known as church discipline which is carried out in the context of the church, never the state, nor from the church to the state.

Another recent discussion of the Law issue is this one from the White Horse Inn: “Why Can’t I Own Canadians?”


Still Thinking On Theonomy

Crusaders from the Middle AgesI dealt with some initial thoughts on theonomy last week. I have refinements and more questions today.

Simply for reference (and fun), I found this site that has A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). This is not to indicate that I’m about to “prove” the silliness of theonomy or some such foolishness. In fact, I think I’m closer to agreeing with at least a semblance of theonomology (did I make that up just now?) after a bit more consideration.

Here’s what I find myself agreeing with:

God’s moral law, that which has been around all along in the hearts of men is not to be discarded in light of Christ’s New Covenant. The NC validates the Law in this respect. Christ didn’t teach a new law, rather spent plenty of his time (most of it) giving further explanation of what it means to obey as well as know what is really being commanded.

Now, having said all that, I cannot come to agreement on the penal system. This is difficult to argue because of the blanket either-or arguments that Bahnsen & co. present. It comes from my presupposition of how Christians interface with the pagan world, which I also perceive is analogous to some extent with Israel’s interface with the rest of mankind. Namely, only in a Bible-believing theocracy can the law of God be enforced in the manner in which the Torah describes. Only Israel could enforce, via the penal code of the Law, the Law on Only Israel. They could not hold outsiders to the Law. They could certainly proclaim the Law and call all men to repentance, faith and obedience, but they could not start waving the rod in disciplinary action. Furthermore, in the days of Israelite exile (or occupation as with the Romans), Israel couldn’t even execute discipline on her own people due to local rules.

The church of Christ is in the same position today and has been all along, with periodic exceptional circumstances (such as Puritan colonists). We are not a theocratic government/country. We are an embassy to a foreign government. In order to execute corporate discipline such as defined in the OT, we would need to extradite Christian offenders to Heaven (current country from which we hail) for said punishment. And we cannot, as ambassadors, demand that our government’s laws be copied by the government to whom we are ambassing (I made that word up too). 

Here is an ideal reference for Church Discipline as it is to occur today. I’m referring to the PCA Book of Church Order:

27-4. The power which Christ has given the Church is for building up, and not for destruction. It is to be exercised as under a dispensation of mercy and not of wrath. As in the preaching of the Word the wicked are doctrinally separated from the good, so by discipline the Church authoritatively separates between the holy and the profane. In this it acts the part of a tender mother, correcting her children for their good, that every one of them may be presented faultless in the day of the Lord Jesus. Discipline is systematic training under the authority of God’s Scripture. No communing or non-communing member of the Church should be allowed to stray from the Scripture’s discipline.

Boiling this down to what should amount to a reality check, I am still convinced that we can only compel our own household to adhere to God’s Moral Law and that only by the instituted discipline in the New Testament (I.E. what we recognize as Church Discipline today – teaching, exhortation, excommunication). No beatings or stonings, eye-for-eye or monetary restitution. We can’t do that because it is not given to us by the government that is hosting us. We’re not free from the law of the world in this sense. Though our freedom in Christ lifts us from the penalty of sin and also frees us from the compulsion of this world’s rule that we must break God’s Moral Law (sin), we are not “not of this world” as the bumper sticker goes. We’re in it and stuck with it ’til Christ returns. And He is going to engage the sword to punish lawbreakers.

Final argument: sin twists the Law to its own end. The unregenerate will not comply with the law in a manner that is positive. He hates God and God’s Law (see how it is written on his heart and how he strives to break it every moment of every day?). The godless is lawless in the sense that he denies the truth and authenticity of the moral law. Since this is so, demanding that he obey it, let me time-travel into the future where there is a reconstructed theocratic society as Postmil folk seem to expect will happen. That lawless man will benefit nothing from the penalty communicated to him because he denies the validity of the law he broke. He doesn’t recognize the authority therefore will not accept the punishment, whether you kill him, beat him, take his money or his left hand.

Christian martyrs do the same thing. We deny the punishment of this world’s laws when they are ungodly. Paul, James, Peter and all the others got the sword of this world and counted it as no punishment. Their torture and deaths were invalid from a worldly perspective. Similarly, a Wiccan will take the punishment that a Christian deals and count himself a martyr for his faith – death for his beliefs. Look, here is an equation:

God’s code is written (hard code) on the hearts of all men.

All men have hearts that are twisted, dead in sin.

God’s code has been twisted in the twisted hearts of men.

The unbeliever will use the essence of the Law, taking all the commitment, submission, integrity and glory of a righteous, obedient life in Christ and point it at himself. He will not accept punishment for disobeying the Law because it is not his law and he did not convict himself of breaking the law. It is alien and cannot compel. Only the Word of God, with the power Spirit of God will change the lawless man to view and accept the code as it was originally written. Which then changes the equation above.

God’s code is written (hard code) on the hearts of all men.

Some men have hearts that are twisted, dead in sin renewed, dead to sin.

God’s code has been twisted in the twisted  validated in the renewed hearts of  those men.

Okay, so in closing this session on theonomy, I think I have said that Christians are morally obligated to uphold the Moral Law. I have not said Christians are to uphold all the particular details provided to Israel in further episodes of lawgiving (I.E. the 10 Commandments in their root form is all I’m discussing at this point). I have said that the world of unbelievers is not to be compelled by Christians to adhere to the law. I have not said Christians cannot teach the law or encourage obedience. I have said that we cannot punish in accordance with the OT penal code. I have not said we cannot punish Christian lawbreakers at all, only that we may punish via prescribed church discipline.

I hope this brings me closer to a fair view of the Law and kinder approach to theonomy. I’ll continue study as I’m working my way through Bahnen’s books.

Here is another Theonomy reference I discovered
And here is one on Church Discipline from Reformed.org.


Going Back To Babel

The sermon today was on Genesis 10:1 through 11:26. The center of the passage in 11:1-9 pulls the preceding and following sections together into a tight story that is packed with valuable theology.

Further focusing in to 11:4-5 is where I was struck most.

“Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of man had built.”

We’re always attempting to return to this passage. Always going back to Babel. Throughout history, it’s the same theme of making God in our image, becoming pagan over and over again. I remember saying almost the same thing as a witch.

“Let us come together, united in this worship that we’ve created for these gods we have created. Let us make a pact of faithful devotion to each other in this unity. In it we’ll find community and validation of our beliefs and practice that will protect us from others’ attempts to dissuade or stop us from our pursuit.”

Funny how men create for themselves the very thing God has made for us in His own commands and institutions. He made that unity for us in the garden. He again set that unity and community before us following the flood. He created it in Israel, that unity and insulation of the priests and tabernacle. Again with the kings, God capitulated to the desires of His people yet through this still provided that Name and Brotherhood that we have needed all along. Christ’s work provided a final setting for us in time where we are united together in Him. And this, of course, looks forward to our ultimate and perfected unity in the new Heaven and Earth.

In the meantime, it appears we will face the endless temptation to return to Babel. And we must look at the world around us and where we can find places in which Babel is rising again, when possible we must fight to disperse them. Liberalism appears to be a divisive thing that separates us and frees people to “worship as they truly believe” as individuals. This is but another unity of pagans, another Babel being built with the bricks of personal rights and feelings. Equity among the sexes and freedom of cultural, philosophical or sexual beliefs are obviously centers of unification for the masses. Even the obstinacy of conservatives is a tower that reaches to the heavens.

Do we most often look back on the stories of the Bible and quietly shudder in revulsion? Are we grateful like the pharisee casting furtive glances at the tax collector as he thanks God with all his heart that he is not like that man in the corner who beats at his chest in misery? Do we see the men of Babel as some deeply malignant shadows of humanity? Or do we see ourselves right there with the builders just as we perhaps see ourselves standing round the tree atop the Hill of the Skull unified in support of the dark festivities there?

There is one place for unity that is not pagan, that does not place man above God or place gods in place of God. That is in Christ’s Church, the church that believes and teaches the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel and strives to only unite under the Truth in Love. Of course, there I see the theme that the church does save, at least it certainly is the sustenance of salvation in Time. God brings us to faith in the Church and keeps us in the faith through the Church. And He unites us in His Son in His Church.

 

 


Are We Still Responsible to The Law's Demands?

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. – Galatians 3:16-18


JSYK
Don’t get me wrong,

I’m not even touching on the possibility
that we can keep the Law for our salvation -
Sola Fide, dude.

So, I don’t doubt that my argument here can be refuted by someone more educated and intelligent than I am. I’ll go with it anyway though I insist that readers not treat this as an exhaustive coverage of my position. I’m not entirely situated on a side, nor am I filled to the brim with decisional data for either side. It’s time to at least start squaring the corners and so…

The question has been itching in my head for some time and it needs scratching. Is the Law, in its specific directives and consequences, the norm by which Christians should live and how governments should operate?

Or are believers to look to the New Testament words of Christ for our guidance in moral and ethical activity. In Bahnsen’s “Theonomy In Christian Ethics” the argument is presented that Christ (and following apostles) intended to reiterate the Old Testament Law in its original particulars.

I have a couple of problems with this. First off, the practical/reasonable issue: Too much cultural correction has to be made in order for the OT system to endure outside the Jewish world of yesteryear. I don’t think I need to go into specifics – just read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Also, if the Law is still the guiding principle of practice and ethics for believers, has this theme held up consistently throughout history after Christ instituted the church. If it hasn’t, then in light of this disparity it seems very difficult to accept claims that entire swaths of the last two thousand years’ churches are a-scriptural or antinomian. Granted, my reading of Church history is still barely getting underway, but so far I haven’t heard much about this particular trend of Law remaining.

Next, clear direction from Scripture. I don’t see where we can still be under the Law and its penal system when Christ taught in Matthew 5 that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” – we should be dealing out the penalty to just about every man alive. I know this may sound silly, but think about it. Christ throws the law in our face just the way it should be thrown: in order to convince us that we’re in a hopeless state unless He is our Savior.

Granted, the basic laws of the Decalogue stand as proper guidance. Don’t murder, don’t steal etc. Those are DUH items and Christ reiterates them (with frosting). Note that, however, He does not maintain the penalties associated with these laws. Christ instead pays the penalties on the cross and then offers us sweet release from the continuing penalties: we confess our sins now, and He forgives us (1st John 1:9).

Here’s where I’m thinking: Those laws and penalties are not explicit for today because

  1. We’re not in a theocracy ruled by religious heads.
  2. Christ handed out the keys to His kingdom church-wise – in otherwards, access through the Gospel, not through enforcing the Law.
  3. Christ also directed authority to the secular government, not restoring the Law as His opponents had hoped (Luke 20)

Can we expect the secular world to comply with God’s Old Testament Law? Can we demand that the government take its cues from Moses and tailor the penal code to match that of a theocratic society? I don’t think so. The Law, specifically the OT Law was given to the Jews in their own context, in their part of the Bible narrative. It was their guardian and judge. We saw (and see today) what comes of Pharisees and their ilk. The Law is doomed to be misapplied and twisted in the hands of men. Well intentioned or not, it does not endure as a valid system of ethics and practice, either for justification or for obedience. I suspect that there’s a hermeneutical error in here somewhere: In missing the big contextual picture of the story of Israel, there’s a literalistic approach to the Law (at least, it appears to me).

It’s a great check-and-balance for Christians today, as far as the relevant parts go (Decalogue), but are we bound to the actual wording and particular instances of the Old Law? Applying it to worldly governments is certainly not workable – since when do pagans want to or care about the Law? In an ideal world that was Christian in culture, the Law would be workable and the government could mete out the penal system; unfortunately for the Law, in an ideal world we would not need to worry about the penal system because we’d all be Christians and obedient. 

The argument that makes claims based on Christ’s words in Matthew 5:17-20 doesn’t fly well either: It’s looking at the Law in regards to justification. Reword here, if I may: “If you choose to claim the Law as your path to righteousness, it will not ever go away nor will it change. You’ll be bound to it and do much better than the Pharisees if you think it’s going to get you into Heaven. How much better? As good as ME, The Son Of God.” If I read this passage in error, correct me ASAP, but if I read it correctly, there’s nothing that says the OT Law continues today as our conscience-binding LITERAL operating procedure.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. – Galatians 3:21-26

As a sort of closing comment, I think that we need to look at hope. In Christ is our hope. We need that hope. I think that, to remain under the particular Law as our unmoving standard for practice and ethics is to dance too near the edge of hope. We hope in Christ and His righteousness and the demands of this brand of Law, especially with the requisite penalties, I think ask too much. Better to heap burning coals on their heads, Paul style. Moral? Yes. literal? No.

____________________________________________

Here is some resource material I’ve scanned:

Applying The Old Testament Law Today

The Covenant of Grace: A Key To Understanding The Bible

Preach Only To Some? An elderly blog post from a good friend at church who has been encouraging me to work through this whole issue carefully.

Theonomy from Third Millenium Ministries

The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Theonomic Document? By Dr. Ligon Duncan. 

Monergism has tons of stuff to wade through.


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