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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect


ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Gordon H. Clark on Libertarianism



"Anarchy is the worst possible form of society."  Dr. Gordon H. Clark


For those who advocate the secular philosophy of libertarianism under the rubric of "Reformed Libertarianism," Dr. Clark was at least on one occasion an outspoken critic:

March 5, 1980 

Dear Dr. Robbins,

Yesterday I received a letter with (1) a copy of the “Trinity Manifesto,” (2) “Christian Libertarianism,” (3) “Galatians Fellowship,” and (4) “Wood, Hay, and Stubble.” I am disturbed by the Libertarian folder. The Libertarian movement has been usually anti-Christian. This folder uses very vague ambiguous language. But some of it is too explicit. It seems to hold that there should be no human governments at all. “According to the Old Testament, God’s will in terms of his people is that He alone (not a government) should rule them. This I made explicit in many passages.” But first, God established Moses’ rule. The N.T. teaches us to honor the king, and be subject to the powers that be. This does not harmonize with the statement, “God not only preferred that we live without a government, he actually saw a government as a curse.” I would agree with Augustine that if man had not fallen, there would have been no civil government. But with sin, government is not just a curse, in so far as it limits freedom, but a blessing in that it restrains crime. Anarchy is the worst possible form of society. The pamphlet “stands behind the abolition of all laws against…drug use, pornography, and prostitution.” If you have any comments or knowledge concerning this movement, I wish you would let me hear what you have to say.
Cordially, Gordon H. Clark

Gordon H. Clark. Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Kindle Locations 3640-3655). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

In other places Clark has affirmed his support of the principle of general equity and the responsibility of the civil magistrate to uphold the moral values of the Decalogue.  One such place was the question and answer session after his lecture on Puritan ethics.  Clark referred to the liberal and socialist view as "contemporary impuritans."  The Reformed Libertarian movement is therefore neither Reformed nor puritan.  Worse, it is is "impure".  I once asked Sean Gerety to show me from where in Scripture he could deduce libertarianism.  I never got an answer.

The Westminster Confession of Faith explicitly denies that moral anarchy is freedom whatsoever.  In fact, the WCF upholds the principle that all persons and governments are accountable to God and the moral law revealed in the Decalogue or Ten Commandments:

WCF 19.4  To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.1

WCF 19.5  The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;1 and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it.2 Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.3 (WCF 19:4-5 WCS)
Of course the standard response is that the WCF is not infallible Scripture.  So it is not.  But I have yet to see the biblical statement of faith of any self professed libertarian who claims to be a Christian.  If they could produce one, it would be fallible as well.  I would rather trust the Westminster divines who were all men of great learning and who were familiar with the issues of biblical exegesis, logic, and the Protestant Reformation.

Contemporary Impuritans

. . . The central cause of this widespread moral collapse, so it seems to me, is located in the decline of Puritan religion. This returns us to the main theme of religious rather than civil history. When the seminaries and churches declare that God is dead, or when, less extreme, they substitute for the Puritan God of the Ten Commandments a different concept of god, inconsistent with the Ten Commandments, it logically and factually follows that morality is changed, too. A man’s view of morality depends on his view of God or whatever his first principle may be. Different types of theology produce different types of morality.

And the clincher is that Clark after delivering this lecture was asked if he thought the judicial and civil laws of the United States of America should be based on the Ten Commandments said yes.

Questions and Answers

A panel including Gordon H. Clark.

Moderator: Dr. Clark, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?
Moderator: This is in line with your Puritan ethics, I suppose.

Dr. Clark: If you make the franchise dependent on church membership, it results in great hypocrisy in the church. And it has proved deleterious in the case of the Puritans. Now, what was further in that question?

Moderator: Should we, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?

Dr. Clark: Well, yes I rather suppose so. And in fact it has been done done perhaps not completely. But people who say that you cannot legislate morality and people who say they don’t want Christian morality imposed on them, don’t seem to object to laws against theft.  Particularly if they’re the victims. And the law against theft of course comes from the ten commandments. So those who make these objections are inconsistent. They don’t follow the logic of their principles. I don’t see how they could sustain any laws.

The Gordon H. Clark Foundation:  Questions and Answers. A panel including Gordon H. Clark.

Clark was all for separation of church and state but not to protect the moral anarchists from the church but to protect the church from the civil government.  Christians should not take each other to court for this very reason.  He gives the example of a Baptist church where the majority of membership voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.  The minority of members of the sued in court and won the church property.  In more recent years Episcopal congregations left the mainline Episcopal Church or The Episcopal Church over the ordination of homosexual priests and the consecration of a homosexual bishop.  But the federal courts in every single case awarded the church property to the mainline denomination even though the local congregations had funded and built the properties in the majority of cases or had been there so long that the congregation had precedence over an over reaching hierarchy of bishops in the general synod.

Those who are promoting moral anarchy under the guise of libertarianism are not even in line with the biblical view in the Old Testament since the view there was not moral anarchy and libertarian or libertine politics but rather a confederacy.  It was only after Saul became king that the confederacy of the Hebrew tribes was united under a central government.  (See: Confederacy in the Bible).  Technically, after the conquest of the land and prior to the anointing of Saul as king the form of government of Israel was a confederation of the twelve tribes.  It was not God's command that the people should have a king until they rebelled against God's own sovereignty over them.  (1 Samuel 8:1-22).

Also, the libertarians forget that it was God's command that the Hebrews should drive out the immoral nations from the land so that their immorality would not become a snare to them to lead them away from God: 

And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. 32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. (Exodus 23:31-33 KJV)

Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. (Joshua 23:13 KJV)

But we are not a theocracy they will complain.  Certainly we are not a theocracy since there are no longer prophets who receive direct oracles from God.  But we do have the Bible as our axiom and the moral principles of the Bible still apply today to both nations and individuals. 

VII. Of the Old Testament.

THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.

Does this mean that Dr. Gordon H. Clark was a theonomist or that he called for theocracy?  Hardly.  If you mean theonomy in the general sense of the term, the Reformed view is theonomic.  But this does not mean that theonomy as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith is in agreement with the views of Van Til's student Greg Bahnsen or Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North or other extremists who conflated the Old Testament judicial laws with the moral law and general equity.  The Reformed view is clearly against both libertarianism and the extremes of the theonomist and reconstructionist movement.  Theocracy is impossible today since there are no prophets or apostles and no continuation of God breathed revelation.  The canon of Scripture is closed.

Michael Horton's Theological Contradictions and Weak Calvinism



Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. (Proverbs 30:5 KJV)

“The notion of analogy begins quite simply and innocently in Aristotle.”   Dr. Gordon H. Clark

"In no case does a prophet put his words forward as his own words. That he is a prophet at all is due not to choice on his own part, but to a call of God, obeyed often with reluctance; and he prophesies or forbears to prophesy, not according to his own will but as the Lord opens and shuts his mouth . . . and creates for him the fruit of the lips . . . In contrast with the false prophets, he strenuously asserts that he does not speak out of his own heart . . ., but all that he proclaims is the pure word of Jehovah."  Benjamin B. Warfield


Michael Horton’s Theological Contradictions and Weak Calvinism

Some years ago when I began listening to The White Horse Inn I will concede that I thought Mike Horton was a sincere Calvinist and that his stand for the doctrine of justification by faith alone was brilliant.  We are constantly told that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the true visible churches stand or fall.  I say “visible” churches because from a Calvinist perspective the invisible church is composed of only those elected from before the foundation of world.  (Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Isaiah 53:11; Revelation 13:8).  But when Martin Luther wrote against Disiderus Erasmus of Rotterdam on the issue of libertarian free will, Luther did not say that justification by faith alone was the central issue.  He said that predestination was the central issue.  But I will return to this later in this blog post. 

Unfortunately, those who follow the theology and apologetics of the now deceased professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, see almost everything in the Bible as apparently contradictory.  Because of Van Til’s adherence to idealism as his philosophical starting point, Van Til rejected the doctrine that logic and propositional revelation is how God lowers himself to our human level.  Instead, Van Ti contended that God is totally incomprehensible or beyond understanding to the human person, by which he meant that man can know nothing God knows except by analogy.  From this Van Til contended that the Bible is analogical revelation and not propositional revelation. 

The distinguishing characteristic between very non-Christian theory of knowledge on the one hand, and the Christian concept of knowledge on the other hand, is, therefore, that in all non-Christian theories men reason univocally, while in Christianity men reason analogically. By this distinction we mean that every non-Christian theory of method takes for granted, that time and eternity are aspects of one another, and that God and man must be thought of as being on the same plane. God and man must be thought of as correlative to one another. God and man work under a system of logic that is higher than both, and that exists in independence of both. The law of contradiction is thought of as existing somehow in independence of God and man or at least as operating in both God and man on the same level.

In contrast to this, Christianity holds that God existed alone before any time existence was brought forth. He existed as the self-conscious and self-consistent being. The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should therefore never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that, as such, determines what can or cannot be true. . . .

Cornelius Van Til.  An Introduction to Systematic Theology. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979).  Chapter 2.A.2.  [Logos Bible Software edition.  The page numbers didn’t show when I copied the quote.]

Of course, Van Til is using a propositional statement and the law of contradiction to deny Gordon H. Clark's view of revelation as propositional and subject to the law of contradiction.  Worse, Van Til is essentially and explicitly denying that the Bible is true.  Whether this was his intention or not is not the issue.  The fact remains that Van Til has openly denied the Bible is the direct revelation of God in written form.  Secondly, Van Til misrepresented Clark's view since Clark held that God is in the simplicity of His being Logic itself.  The eternal Logos is the second Person of the Trinity.  The law of contradiction is not something external to God to which God is subject. (John 1:1).

It is often contended by the Van Tilian camp that univocalism is the doctrine of modernists who make logic a magisterial lord over the Scriptures.  While this is somewhat true because the modernists used rationalism to explain away the inspiration of the Bible, biblical inerrancy, and the supernatural miracles of the Bible—including the virgin birth and the deity of Christ in His incarnation as a human being--in regards to the Fundamentals of the faith it is a non sequitur.

If the Bible is not univocally the very words of God, the implication is obviously neo-orthodoxy, not Reformation Christianity.  But liberals do not accept the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration or the doctrine of absolute biblical inerrancy.  For example, the modernists in the early part of the 20th century rejected the virgin birth on the basis that miracles in the Bible do not make logical sense in regards to modern science and empirical observation.  So in the Auburn Affirmation the liberals in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America denied the fundamental doctrines of the Bible including the supernatural conception of Jesus Christ and his natural birth from the virgin Mary, his physical and bodily resurrection, and the absolute truth of the Bible because of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.  Later the new modernists or the neo-orthodox liberals who followed the teachings of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann and other irrationalists adopted a similar view when they said that the Bible only “contained” the word of God but was not the actual words of God.  

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, in contrast to Van Til and his followers, said that the Bible is literally the very words of God in written form and to deny this is to invite equivocation, ambiguity, and sophistry on the part of those who wish to hide their liberal leaning views.  Clark pointed this out in his remarks on the Auburn Affirmation in his book, What Do Presbyterians Believe?

With the introduction of modernism into our churches in the nineteenth century and with the coming of neo-orthodoxy in the twentieth, an appearance of loyalty to the Bible and to the Confession has been attempted by emphasizing certain words in the standards, by failing to mention others, and by misinterpreting the whole.  Thus unbelieving ministers made the double claims that they themselves accepted the Confession as originally intended, while the fundamentalists were inventing theories never before heard of.

Against the fundamentalists, who insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible, the modernists asserted that the Confession does not say the Bible is inerrant.  And today neo-orthodoxy loudly insists that the word of God is found in the Bible, perhaps only in the Bible, but that not everything in the Bible is true.  These modernists could appeal to the Shorter Catechism, Question 2:  “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy him?  Answer:  The word of God, which contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”  Does it not say that the word is contained in the Scriptures?  Somewhere, but not everywhere, between Genesis and Revelation, the word of God is to be found.  This is their contention.  But if now we wish to know whether or not this was the view of the Reformers, whether not this is the position of the Presbyterian standards, and whether or not it is the teaching of the Scriptures themselves, which the standards summarize, we need only read other parts of the Confession. . . .

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Trinity Foundation:  Unicoi, 1965). Pp. 15-16.

In fairness to Van Til, the doctrine of Scripture as analogical revelation is not exactly the same as the neo-orthodox view that not everything in the Bible is inerrant or inspired by God.  However, the practical result of denying propositional revelation and the law of contradiction is irrationalism.  If all Scripture is paradoxical or apparently contradictory, does it not follow that nothing in the Bible is rationally understandable and therefore cannot be systematically arranged into a dogmatic system that is logically consistent?  

I should also point out that the fundamentalists mentioned by Dr. Clark in the above quote were “B. B. Warfield, William G. Moorehead, E. Y. Mullins, and a score of others” who wrote articles in “twelve booklets called The Funamentals.”  (Clark, ibid.  P. 14).  Yet Dr. Michael Horton disparages “fundamentalists” in his writings, among whom Horton includes Dr. Carl F. H. Henry and Dr. Gordon H. Clark:

. . . We must recall that the Bible was generated in the context of a covenantal drama.  The script includes the speaking parts of unfaithful covenant servants, whose speech is nevertheless judged and corrected by the covenant Lord with the unfolding dialogue.   . . .
Similar to the early Christological heresy of Docetcism, which denied the reality of Christ’s full humanity, is a well-established historical tendency that one may discern in church history to downplay the humanity of Scripture.  Some ancient theologians spoke of the biblical writers as mere “flutes” on which the Spirit played or “secretaries” through whom he dictated his revelation.  Such analogies became literal theories in fundamentalism.  J. I. Packer refers to the comment of J.W. Burgon:  “Every book of it, every chapter of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High.” 16  W.A. Criswell expressed the same view:  “Each sentence was dictated by God’s Holy Spirit. . . .  Everywhere in the Bible we find God speaking.  It is God’s voice, not man’s.”17  Fundamentalism and Protestant orthodoxy are distinct traditions, and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in their differing emphases concerning biblical inspiration.

Dr. Michael Horton.  The Christian Faith:  A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2011).  Pp. 161-162.

The first point to be noticed in Dr. Horton’s comments is on page 161 where in contending that there are erroneous human remarks recorded infallibly and by the inspiration of the Bible he asserts that the Bible is a covenantal “drama”.  This description leaves one wondering if Horton accepts plenary verbal inspiration, propositional revelation and absolute biblical inerrancy.  And in fact in his comments on page 162 he uses the same tactics as the liberals by accusing the “fundamentalists” of thinking that God did not inspire human authors as instrumental means of writing His very words.  In short, Horton is equivocating here since B. B. Warfield himself asserted that the Bible is literally the very words of God.  The doctrine of dictation does not mean that God literally took control of the minds and hearts of the biblical writers as if their personalities had no part in what was written.  Rather the doctrine of dictation means that the biblical writers were so superintended by the Holy Spirit that even though what they wrote was written in their personal style and their words, their words were also the very words of God.

When evaluating the relationship of God’s activity and that of creatures in the production of Scripture, the doctrine of analogy already proves its merits.  If agency is univocal (the same thing) for God and for creatures, then the question is raised:  Who acts more?  Is God the author of Romans or is Paul?  However, if agency is analogical, then God’s activity in producing these texts is qualitatively different from human agency. 
Horton, Ibid. P. 162.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark gave a thorough critique of Thomas Aquinas’s view of Scripture and revelation as analogical.  His examination of the Thomist view shows that the doctrine of analogy makes for a view that truth is two fold, not univocal.  If there is more than one truth or more than one logic, the door is opened wide for the abuses of equivocation, sophistry, and dissimulation because the obvious implication is that there is no such thing as absolute truth and if there is absolute truth God alone can know it.  Neither here on earth nor in heaven will a human being be able to understand or comprehend anything God knows at any single point because  God is the Creator and creatures,  according to the Van Tilian philosophy of idealism, can know nothing God knows at any single point.

The notion of analogy begins quite simply and innocently in Aristotle. He notes that when we call a book a medical book, and when we call an instrument a medical instrument, and when we call a man a medical man, the predicate medical does not bear exactly the same sense in the three instances. The term is not equivocal, as is the case when we call Argos the dog of Ulysses and when we call Sirius the dog in the sky; but on the other hand, the term is not strictly univocal. It is analogical. 

This simple distinction was elaborated by the Scholastics and the Neoscholastics into a complicated theory, in which, it would seem, the original situation no longer serves as a solid basis. The motivation and intricacies of the theory are seen most clearly in the arguments for the existence of God and our knowledge of him. God, according to the Thomists, is an absolutely simple being; but a simple, eternal, and immaterial being cannot constitute an object proportionate to our human understanding. Simplicity and eternity are not factors in our world of experience, and therefore we have no positive concept of them. To say that God is eternal means nothing more than that God is not temporal. What eternity positively means remains unknown to the human mind. What man has in this instance may be called negative knowledge. 

Similarly, when we call God wise and when we call a man wise, the term does not bear the same sense. God’s wisdom is not distinct from his essence or his being; but the wisdom of man is. In general, there is no affirmation whatever that can be made of God and of man in the same sense. The reason for this impossibility is not only that the predicates do not bear the same meaning in both cases, but that, far more radically, the copula is bears two different senses. In God essence and existence are identical: What God is and that God is are the same. In every case other than God this is not so. Accordingly, when we say God exists and when we say man or dog exists, the term exist does not mean the same thing. Therefore, no term, not even the copula, can be used univocally of God and man. 

Now, if the only alternative to univocal predication were equivocal predication, knowledge of God derived by abstraction from experience would be patently impossible. When words are used equivocally there is no definite relationship between the meanings, and knowledge of God would be in a state similar to a knowledge of Sirius that would be based on an experience of Ulysses’ dog. To avoid this fatal difficulty, the Thomists are forced to find some intermediate between univocal and equivocal predication, and they appeal to analogy. Between Argos and Sirius there is no resemblance, but in the case of God, man resembles God, they say, though God does not resemble man.17 This resemblance permits us to attach some meaning to the statement God is, so that we are neither in complete ignorance, nor limited to negative knowledge, but have an analogical if not a univocal knowledge. Thus empiricism in its Thomistic form attempts to escape the limits of experience.

Gordon H. Clark. A Christian View of Men and Things.  (Kindle Locations 4528-4550). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

The problem with Van Tililans is that they not only reject experience but they also reject propostional revelation and the internal logical consistency of the biblical revelation.  Irrationality seems to predeominate and Horton’s refusal to define his terms or rationally harmonize his views with Scripture or define what he means by the term qualitative demonstrates adequately that he has no clear commitment to divine truth or divine revelation. 

Moreover, if there is a difference between God’s providence and the human agency involved in the writing of the Scriptures, would not that difference be an actual difference between the definition of God as an absolute and timeless being and the definition of a human being as limited to the realm of the created universe, created time, and discursive thinking?  Since God is timeless, omniscient and never learns anything new, how would God not know what the biblical writers would write?  Furthermore, since God can indeed control the minds, wills, thoughts and actions of humans without violating their psychological agency, intellect or volition, how does it follow that fundamentalists are advocating “mechanical dictation”?  (Proverbs 21:1).  B. B. Warfield said that the Scriptures are the very words of God but denied that this is mechanical dictation:

The process of revelation through the prophets was a process by which Jehovah put His words in the mouths of the prophets, and the prophets spoke precisely these words and no others. So the prophets themselves ever asserted. “Then Jehovah put forth his hand, and touched my mouth,” explains Jeremiah in his account of how he received his prophecies, “and Jehovah said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9; cf. 5:14; Isa. 51:16; 59:21; Num. 22:35; 23:5, 12, 16). Accordingly, the words “with which” they spoke were not their own but the Lord’s: “And he said unto me,” records Ezekiel, “Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezk. 3:4). It is a process of nothing other than “dictation” which is thus described (2 S. 14:3, 19), though, of course, the question may remain open of the exact processes by which this dictation is accomplished. The fundamental passage which brings the central fact before us in the most vivid manner is, no doubt, the account of the commissioning of Moses and Aaron given in Ex. 4:10–17; 7:1–7. Here, in the most express words, Jehovah declares that He who made the mouth can be with it to teach it what to speak, and announces the precise function of a prophet to be that he is “a mouth of God,” who speaks not his own but God’s words. Accordingly, the Hebrew name for “prophet” (nābhīʾ), whatever may be its etymology, means throughout the Scriptures just “spokesman,” though not “spokesman” in general, but spokesman by way of eminence, that is, God’s spokesman; and the characteristic formula by which a prophetic declaration is announced is: “The word of Jehovah came to me,” or the brief “saith Jehovah” (נאם יהוה, neʾum Yahweh). In no case does a prophet put his words forward as his own words. That he is a prophet at all is due not to choice on his own part, but to a call of God, obeyed often with reluctance; and he prophesies or forbears to prophesy, not according to his own will but as the Lord opens and shuts his mouth (Ezk. 3:26 f.) and creates for him the fruit of the lips (Isa. 57:19; cf. 6:7; 50:4). In contrast with the false prophets, he strenuously asserts that he does not speak out of his own heart (“heart” in Biblical language includes the whole inner man), but all that he proclaims is the pure word of Jehovah.

Warfield, Benjamin B. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Revelation and Inspiration. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008. Print.  Pp. 19-20.  Chapter I, Section  III.

While in other places, Horton speaks approvingly of Warfield, here Horton disparages Warfield as a fundamentalist by implication.  Horton seems to be outright denying that God is in absolute providential control of what was written in the Bible.  Can it not be that God can control human agency through secondary means without violating the human will yet what is spoken or written through the prophets is the very words of God?  Or is the Bible just a covenantal drama or an inspired story as the neo-orthodox theologians contend?  Is God the author of Scripture or is He not the author of Scripture?  

Basically it boils down to this.  Since all knowledge is propositional, it follows that the Bible is propositional revelation.  Propositional revelation, as the late D. Broughton Knox once said, is the only revelation there is.  Even Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God cannot be deduced or adduced from empirical experience.  His confession is divine revelation.  And so the argument is that we do not prove the Bible is true by empirical evidences, historical evidences, or by rationalism.  Rather we accept the Scriptures as the axiom.  Since everyone starts with unproven axioms—whether they admit it or not—we as Christians are on solid ground by basing the Christian worldview on the axiom of Scripture.   The apologetic approach is not demonstrating the truth of the Bible by reason, experience, or history but rather showing the absurdity of the many contradictions in other worldviews based on other axioms which cannot produce an epistemology that is internally logical, consistent, harmonious, and without contradictions.  Christianity is the best worldview precisely because it is divine revelation from God who is Logic.  (John 1:1, 9).  Van Til and his many followers have unwittingly opened the door to compromise, equivocation, and neo-orthodoxy.  

While it is true that some of Clark’s students—including Edward Carnell and Paul Jewett—later went into apostasy, the reasons were not that they continued in what they learned from Dr. Clark.  On the contrary, the reasons for their rejection of biblical authority were that they also rejected Dr. Clark’s rational and logical emphasis on the law of contradiction, propositional and systemic epistemology, and deducing from Scripture by good and necessary consequence all the doctrines of the Christian faith.  They rejected Dr. Clark’s view that all truth is innate in God’s eternal mind.  If we know any propositions that are true, God must know those same truths since He is omniscient.  This does not mean that we know everything God knows.  But if God knows that Jesus is the Son of the living God, we can univocally know that proposition on that single point even if we cannot know every single proposition that can be deduced from that one proposition.  (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20).  Holy Scripture is not an analogical revelation but a univocal revelation from God in propositional form.  Scripture is the Word of God.  (2 Timothy 3:16).

All the truth of the revelation of Scripture existed in God's mind before He ever created.  God predestined the Bible would be the way we could know Him and His will.  Not one word of it fails.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

A Scripturalist Critique of Libertarianism


WCF 23.3  The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:1 yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemes and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.2 For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.3  (WCF 23:3 WCS)  [Westminster  Confession of Faith.]

“The sovereignty of God is the key to the basic problem of ethics. Why is anything good, right, or obligatory? Neither utilitarianism, nor pragmatism, nor emotionalism can give a rational answer. Calvin has given the answer in very precise language: ‘the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it.’ God establishes moral norms by sovereign decree.”  Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  “Ethics”.  The Gordon H. Clark Foundation.

“….And as for the “inviolability of personality,” man has no “rights” that are inviolable by God. God is the creator; man is a creature. “Who are you that replies against God?” Just return to chapter one on creation. Omnipotence settles the argument. ….”  Predestination.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

“Thus the first understanding and use of the Law is to restrain the wicked. For the devil reigns in the whole world and drives men to all sorts of shameful deeds. This is why God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances, so that, if they cannot do any more, they will at least bind the hands of the devil and keep him from raging at will.”  Martin Luther

A Scripturalist Critique of Political Libertarianism

In an email exchange with another blogger who self identifies as a Clarkian Scripturalist I was informed that libertarianism in his opinion is the best system of political philosophy in regards to government.  Moreover, the American system of government is subject to a right or proper interpretation of the founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Liberals and progressives interpret the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as changing with time and open to new interpretations and applications in regards to changes in culture and the United States’s changing values and mores.  In addition conservative pundits interpret the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a matter of immutable principles that anchor the government to certain and absolute values which cannot change with time, culture or revisionary historical interpretations.  What ultimately matters is what was intended by the founding fathers who wrote and signed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  But in regards to Clarkian Scripturalism the founding document for any political system or philosophy must be Scripture.  According to the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark, the basis for all knowledge is the beginning axiom of Holy Scripture.  Knowledge does not begin with human reason, empiricism, or solipsistic opinions of individual persons but with the truth of God as He has logically revealed Himself and His preceptive will in the propositional revelation of Holy Scripture.  (2 Timothy 3:16; John 10:35; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 4:4; Romans 13:1-5).

In this paper I intend to examine the beginning axiom of the secular philosophy of libertarianism as that has been adopted and revised by Reformed or Calvinistic libertarians and compare and contrast that dogmatic political philosophy with the Calvinism which is deduced from Scripture and  which is summarized by the system of theology in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Before I do that, however, I want to discuss Gordon H. Clark’s theology and philosophy of knowledge. 

I.                 Scripturalism and Epistemological Systems of Thought.

According to Dr. Clark, all knowledge must be propositional.  This sounds puzzling to those who are unfamiliar with Dr. Clark’s writings.  However, John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning the second Person of the Godhead, the Word, was with God and the Word was God. Most readers of the Scriptures understand that this is the Pre-incarnate Christ.  The Koine Greek word used for the Word in the text is Logos.  This word can also be translated as rationality, intellectual thought, reason, or logic.  From this verse Dr. Clark deduced the proposition that God is Logic.  In other words, logic is how God thinks.  It should be noted clearly there that logic is not subject to temporality or the passing of one thought to the next in God’s eternally immutable mind because God knows all the propositions that can possibly be known and He knows them all at once.  Furthermore, since propositions can be arranged in systematic form, God knows every possible proposition in every possible combination as these can be arranged into an immeasurable system of knowledge.  God is absolutely omniscient.  The human creature, on the other hand, can only think discursively and sequentially in time.  That is, man thinks one thought after another while God thinks the whole system as one comprehensive whole.  From the human perspective this is immeasurable and incomprehensible but not absolutely beyond understanding since man can know certain propositions God knows at single points of coincidence if not exhaustively and comprehensively.  Only God is absolutely omniscient and never learns anything new.  He knows the end from the beginning in every single detail.  (Isaiah 46:9-11; Ephesians 1:11). 

Furthermore, since man is created in God’s image and the image of God is spiritual (John 4:24), it follows that the image of God is rationality and the ability to think intelligibly.  (John 1:9).  Even the unbelieving reprobate person has the ability to think despite the noetic effects of total depravity.  The fall of Adam means that mankind thinks irrational and sinful thoughts instead of thinking pure and holy and logical thoughts.  (Philippians 4:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:5).  In fact, it is the inborn depravity of the soul inherited by natural generation that predetermines fallen mankind to a sinful corruption and disposition from birth.  (Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-23; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; Psalm 11:5).

Moreover, mankind in general is held accountable both as individual men and as collective groups of men in regards to nations and other organizations.  In other words, the propositional system of epistemological foundations applies everywhere as a total worldview rather than simply making mankind only isolated individuals held accountable as individuals.  The idea that Adam acted solely for himself is called the heresy of Pelagianism.  The Bible does not teach that everyone is a sinner because of their own decisions to sin whereby they become sinners by following Adam’s bad example.  Rather the Bible teaches that Adam is our federal representative in regards to original sin being imputed to all of Adam’s progeny.  Scripture teaches that a real corruption of the human soul is spiritually inherited by natural general from Adam and passed on to each successive generation.  (Psalm 51:5; 58:5).  In the same way, sin affects not only individuals who are held accountable to God but nations and churches are also held accountable for their collective sins as a corporate group.  (Westminster Larger Catechism 35, 53; Judges 11:27; Ezekiel 11:8-13).  God judges nations and the Bible overwhelmingly upholds this in both the Old and New Testaments.  (Psalm 67:4; Psalm 82:8; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).  In other words, God controls not just individuals but entire nations through His providential governance of all things.  (Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5).

II.               Definition of Libertarianism.

There are likely to be different particular definitions of Libertarianism.  However, for the purposes of this paper I will focus on the definition given by Christians who support the political philosophy of libertarianism.  I will also speculate on their motivations for taking this position and whether or not their reasons accomplish the goals they think Christian libertarianism will accomplish in regards to peace among competing worldviews in the political and civil realm.


In regards to the economic issues, capitalism, free enterprise, and private ownership of property I fully agree with the biblical implications of limited government and the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It should be noted that much of the founding documents were deduced from the Bible and its influence through the Magna Carta and, in the United States, the Westminster Standards.  The real issue for me here is the alleged “rights” of the wicked to live as they please under the auspices of a secular humanist philosophy of morality and values.  I will further elaborate on this in later sections of this paper.  (See:  “Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933”.)

For now, I will try to give an accurate explanation of the Christian libertarian philosophy of political science as that is espoused by certain Christians who profess to follow the Scripturalism of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  One of the founders of this point of view was the late Dr. John W. Robbins, who was at one time a theonomist himself but later adopted the political libertarianism of Ron Paul.  Robbins also served as one of Ron Paul’s advisors during Paul’s presidential campaign.  Other advocates of this point of view are C. Jay Engel, Doug Douma, and Sean Gerety.  


What is the most basic axiom of Christian libertarianism?  This is difficult to ascertain but I will attempt to pull together a few stated propositions from the Reformed Libertarian website.  However, it should be noted the site does not follow the logical implications of the law of contradiction since it seems to continually use fallacious arguments that contradict both the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith.  It should be noted that Dr. Gordon H. Clark was a strict subscriptionist to the WCF and that nowhere does the Bible or the WCF advocate moral libertarianism as it is defined by libertines and antinomians.   The problem is that most often these Christian libertarians conflate the issues of economic liberty, personal property, and free enterprise with the issue of moral anarchy as if the two are two equally ultimate implications of a generic “liberty”.  But is it so?


If the so-called Reformed libertarian view was restricted to the economic and capitalist point of view that private property and free enterprise are the foundations of free society I would have no objections.  But the problem is that the Reformed libertarian view is not biblical and it is therefore not Reformed either.  In short, the point of libertarianism in general is not political freedom but moral license and the libertine position of antinomianism and moral relativism.  To each of these points of view and propositions anyone even remotely familiar with Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s writings should know that equivocation and dissimulation is being used to justify a point of view that Clark himself would have strongly opposed.  Appealing to Clark as an authority for an antinomian point of view is also a logical fallacy called appealing to authority.  Unfortunately, Clark would have opposed moral anarchy as advocated by all forms of libertarianism.


But to show that my accusation against Reformed libertarianism is accurate I will quote from a primer on Reformed libertarianism.  I do not know who wrote the piece since the author is not named on the page.  But the article flatly states that the government should not enforce any moral point of view whatsoever:

Thus, there is a hard and fast rubric for determining where the libertarian thinker will stand on a variety of so-called “policy issues.”  If a given action in society is not a violation of the above principle, then no aggressive force is required to address it.  The “aggressive force” that addresses crimes in society can also be referred to with the phrase “The Sword.”  Those who legitimately “wield The Sword” must do so justly, that is, in response to an actual crime or in self-defense.  The sword-bearer has been referred to in history as a “magistrate” or “government,” and we think it is monumentally helpful to make a distinction between the just sword-wielder and sword-wielder that thrives in corruption and criminality.  We have explained the logic of this distinction here and here (in which we cite Augustine).

The purpose of “civil law” (as opposed to moral law —which details what is required of man to be right with God) is to make men right with each other by seeking the avoidance of actual conflict in society, given our world of scarce resources and mutually exclusive wants.  We agree with J. Gresham Machen when he wrote:

There are vast departments of life with which they [civil laws] should have nothing whatever to do.  They are exceeding their God-given function when they seek to enforce inward purity or purity of the individual life, since theirs is the business only of enforcing –and that in necessarily imperfect fashion — that part of righteousness which concerns the relations between man and man.

In all this, we understand precisely what is meant when society advocates for something to be “illegal.”  And thus we also know what it means when we say something should be “legal.”  All we are referring to, once we honestly consider the situation, is that “illegal” means that the use of aggression is justified against a given activity and “legal” means that the use of aggression is not justified to prevent it.  As we have stated before in a review of an essay,

Baptist Isaac Backus who, opposing the  “interrelation of church and state” of a certain paedobaptist, stated: “Therefore the dignity of [Christ’s] government is maintained not by carnal but by spiritual weapons….

The rubric by which we determine the legitimacy of punishment against the criminal is the criminal’s transgression against the person and property of another individual.  Beyond that, in our estimation, the Christian ought to use all sorts of “spiritual weaponry;” that is, we must use persuasion and instruction to speak truth into the life of those around us, especially those in sin.  To use Backus’ vocabulary, “The question between us is not whether it be the duty” to act ethically and obey God’s commands, but rather, the question is “whether that duty ought to be enforced by the sword.”

This serves to address the concern that, in allowing a variety of immoral deeds to go unpunished, we are in effect refusing to make it plain that these deeds are wrong. But in the same sense that most would agree that lying is both immoral yet should not be illegal, so there are many things which require “spiritual weaponry” and not the sword of the state. God will have his own vengeance in due time.


The basic error of this position is that the government is said not to enforce moral values whatsoever and everyone is free to make their own moral decisions without any interference from the government.  But this implies moral relativism at best.  How can the government not enforce values of any kind whatsoever?  One only needs to see the enforcement of the LGBTQ agenda on the nation as a whole to see that there is no such thing as moral neutrality.  Is abortion a non-issue for Christians since Christians are only morally accountable for their own individual actions?  Does the Christian have a moral obligation to resist the government enforced immorality of laws that encourage and promote licentiousness and immorality?  (Acts 5:29).  According to the premise of the above post, Christians should only be concerned with their own personal morality and leave society to its own amoral, moral or immoral values.  But if the basic principle of libertarianism is do no one no harm, is it harmful to allow a society to self-destruct by defying God’s moral law and using widespread propaganda to undermine traditional Christian family values in order to seduce your children and family members into immorality and licentiousness?  Should government run education be teaching communism, socialism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and moral relativism at tax payers’ expense?  And further, does propagating gambling and other moral vices undermine the moral fabric of a safe community?   The basic error of libertarianism is its hostility to the Christian worldview.  It is my contention therefore that libertarians are not advocating freedom of conscience but another form of totalitarianism that basically accepts the propaganda of the left that homosexual marriage should be the moral norm of a “free” society.  The subtilty of this deception makes it sound convincing on a superficial examination but the implications of endorsing a society that endorses moral relativism is that it enforces an immoral system of values on the Christian and attempts to undermine the very liberty of conscience that Reformed Libertarians claim to support.

Futhermore, what is the motivation for libertarianism?  Reformed Libertarians seem to think that the secular humanist manifesto is more authoritative than the moral law of God and that following secularist axioms which place the rights of individuals above God’s moral law is the way to achieve peace in society.  But it is my contention that both the Bible and the Reformed Confessions deny this.  Even worse, the idea that government can be neutral seems to imply the common grace position, not the confessional teaching that all mankind is totally depraved and fallen in Adam.  There is no one who does good, not even one.  (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 3:10-12).  The thoughts of the wicked are continually wicked all the time.  (Genesis 6:5).

To make things even worse, some of those who claim to be confessionally Reformed openly advocate New Covenant Theology, not the confessional and covenantal theology of the Westminster Standards.  One Baptist who advocates for the NCT is Brandon Adams who mistakenly says that the Old Covenant is abolished:

2) The civil penalties that were given to Israel were given as part of the Old Covenant, specifically as covenant curses (Deut 27:26; 21:22-23). Its purpose was to create a holy, earthly kingdom as a type of the holy, heavenly kingdom of Christ. Israelites were given explicit authority to execute God's judgment upon sin with the iron sword in order to purge the physical holy land where God physically dwelt, of evil. They were thus not violating the moral law when they executed adulterers because God is free to judge as He pleases. However, the Old Covenant has been abolished. No one is under it today.   [Stated in the comments under the article, “What Is Reformed Libertarianism?”]

The WCF in contradistinction from Brandon Adams’s view says that there is one covenant of grace that is revealed under various and sundry dispensations of the one covenant of grace:

WCF 7.6  Under the gospel, when Christ the substance1 was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper,2 which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,3 to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;4 and is called the New Testament.5 There are not therefore two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.6 (WCF 7:6 WCS)
……6.   Gal. 3:14,16; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21,22,23,30; Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:3,6,16,17,23,24; Heb. 13:8.
[Addendum:  The covenant of works is also binding since the time that the moral law was given to Adam in the garden of Eden.  The moral law is forever binding on all, though believers are not under the moral law as a means of justification before God or as a covenant of works.  See:  WCF 7:2; 19:1, 6; WLC 30; WLC 97.]

To avoid becoming too distracted with other details I will now move on to the next section of this paper and compare and contrast the biblical and confessional view of political philosophy with the secular view that the Reformed libertarians are endorsing.  Although I consider the term Reformed libertarian an oxymoron and an outright contradiction of the Reformed and confessional view of the civil magistrate, I will retain this term for the sake of an easier identification of what I am refuting.

III.              Comparison and Contrast.

How does libertarianism compare to Reformed theology and how do the two differ in regards to a political philosophy of government?  It should first be noted that that the Westminster Confession of Faith was written during a time when there was no secularist attack against the free exercise of religious freedom and no attempt to relegate Christianity to the closet or private practice.  The WCF upholds the civil magistrate as a legitimately appointed authority to prosecute heresies as defined by Scripture and the church:

WCF 23.3  The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:1 yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemes and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.2 For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.3 (WCF 23:3 WCS)
WCS Notes (WCF 23:3)

Notes: 
1 2 Chron. 26:18
2 Matt. 16:19; 1 Cor. 4:1,2
3 John 18:36; Mal. 2:7; Acts 5:29
4 Isa. 49:23
5 Ps. 105:15; Acts 18:14-16
6 2 Sam. 23:3; 1 Tim. 2:1; Rom. 13:4

It logically follows therefore that the Westminster divines were opposed to libertarianism as defined by the so-called Reformed libertarians above.  Even if we concede that the American version of the WCF amended and revised this section, the American version does not advocate an absolute separation of church and state in regards to morality and religious freedom.  In fact, the religious freedom advocated by the American revision only advocates freedom of Christian churches to differ with one another within the framework of a Protestant and Christian denominationalism with the broader Evangelicalism of Protestant denonominations.  This would exclude churches like the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church which advocate that there is only one true church or communion of faith.  Even the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects papal supremacy, the main issue underlying the Great Schism of the 11th century.

The American revision of chapter 23 reads:

Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments;1 or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven;2 or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith.3 Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.4 And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.5 It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever; and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.6 (WCF 23:3 WCS)

Notice that the American version does not endorse libertarianism but rather an interdenominational tolerance between Evangelical and Protestant churches.  Nowhere does this revision advocate atheism, secular humanism, or religious pluralism among world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or various other religious sects such as Mormonism.  In fact, it is the duty of the civil magistrate to protect the church from society and from the government which would make totalitarian laws that interfere with or suppress the public expression of religious beliefs.
Secular humanism, secular libertarianism and Reformed libertarianism are all agreed that in the public realm the church should not advocate Christian morality or values and that atheist and secular government should be the norm instead.  Reformed libertarians are in full agreement that God should be divorced from a secular government and that only concern is pragmatic peace between all parties on an amoral and values neutral playing field.

The axiom of secularism is do no harm to others.  The problem with this is who decides what is harmful to others and who enforces these moral norms?  Also, since Scripturalism advocates the view that epistemological knowledge begins with Scripture, why are so-called Scripturalists advocating a form of liberty deduced from a secular philosophy of political science rather than from the Bible or from a propositional system of knowledge deduced from the Bible and the propositional revelation in Scripture?

Conclusion.

Much more could be said.  However, in regards to the libertarian view that man has certain rights independent of God it should be pointed out that even Thomas Jefferson rejected this view when he said that men are endowed with certain unalienable rights from their Creator.  The moral law of God is innate in man such that man is without excuse even when he denies God and God’s morality.  (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 2:1-16; Romans 3:4-8).  Although it is impossible in such a short paper to give quotes and references to everything Clark said in rejection of licentiousness and libertine philosophy the fact is Clark absolutely rejected libertarianism.  According to Clark, before God man has no rights that he can demand of his Creator:


Jeremiah 32:17 reads, “Ah, Lord God,…there is nothing too hard for you.” Ten verses later the text uses a rhetorical question, “Behold, I am the Lord,… Is there anything too hard for me?” Come to think of it, this sentiment is a familiar one, not original with Jeremiah, for Genesis 18:14 reads, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Now, what does “anything” include? Of course it includes Sarah’s bearing a son at an old age. It also includes the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; for these two events are those specified in the contexts. But the principle itself is far wider. When God wanted to convince Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son, he did not say, “I can give you a son”; he said, “I can do anything.” Therefore, the general principle applies to anything and everything. It follows, therefore, that God can control the will of man. And as for the “inviolability of personality,” man has no “rights” that are inviolable by God. God is the creator; man is a creature. “Who are you that replies against God?” Just return to chapter one on creation. Omnipotence settles the argument. Therefore, God can control man’s will, and the examples show that he does.

Gordon H. Clark. Predestination (Kindle Locations 1803-1811). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

It logically follows that if God cannot do anything that violates man’s “rights” as a creature then surely God would not violate man’s rights by causing a nation to advocate a system of government that upholds the general principles of Christianity in regards to morality and ethical values.  The idea that the wicked are morally neutral has more in common with atheism or the Arminian doctrine of common grace than with the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty over the nations.  Even Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation and the advocate of justification by faith alone, did not reject the authority of the civil magistrate to enforce the morality of the Decalogue:

Here one must know that there is a double use of the Law. One is the civic use. God has ordained civic laws, indeed all laws, to restrain transgressions. Therefore every law was given to hinder sins. Does this mean that when the Law restrains sins, it justifies? Not at all. When I refrain from killing or from committing adultery or from stealing, or when I abstain from other sins, I do not do this voluntarily or from the love of virtue but because I am afraid of the sword and of the executioner. This prevents me, as the ropes or the chains prevent a lion or a bear from ravaging something that comes along. Therefore restraint from sins is not righteousness but rather an indication of unrighteousness. Therefore just as a rope holds a furious and untamed beast and keeps it from attacking whatever it meets, so the Law constrains an insane and furious man lest he commit further sins. This restraint makes it abundantly clear that those who have need of it—as does everyone who is outside Christ—are not righteous but unrighteous and insane, whom it is necessary to tame with the rope and with prison to keep them from sinning. Therefore the Law does not justify.

"Thus the first understanding and use of the Law is to restrain the wicked. For the devil reigns in the whole world and drives men to all sorts of shameful deeds. This is why God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances, so that, if they cannot do any more, they will at least bind the hands of the devil and keep him from raging at will. Therefore just as ropes and chains are bound upon men who are possessed and in whom the devil is ruling powerfully, to keep them from harming someone, so the whole world, which is possessed by the devil and is being led headlong into every crime, has the magistrate with his ropes and chains, that is, his laws, restraining its hands and feet lest it rush headlong into all sorts of evil. If it does not permit itself to be restrained this way, it will pay with the price of its head.

This civic restraint is extremely necessary and was instituted by God, both for the sake of public peace and for the sake of preserving everything, but especially to prevent the course of the Gospel from being hindered by the tumults and seditions of wild people. Paul is not discussing that civic use here (Galatians 3.19); it is indeed very necessary, but it does not justify. For as a possessed person is not free and mentally balanced just because his hands and feet are bound, so when the world is most restrained from external acts of disgrace by the Law, it is not righteous on that account but remains unrighteous. In fact, this very restraint indicates that the world is wicked and insane and that it is driven by its prince, the devil; otherwise there would be no need for it to be kept from sinning by laws.

#MartinLuther LW26:308-309





It is my contention therefore that it is not wrong for the civil government to restrain all kinds of evil, including the moral evils of pornography, gambling, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, and various other vices which violate the moral law of God.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Rom. 13:1-5 KJV)

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