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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Few Thoughts on How God's Moral Law Relates to the Civil Magistrate

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.   

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  Essays on Ethics and Politics.  John Robbins, ed. (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1992   P. 167.

There is a constant danger for Christians who become involved in the political process.  But that applies equally to those who refuse to be involved in the political process.  Not speaking up when evil is dominating our nation is a violation of the command to preach the Gospel everywhere.  (2 Timothy 4:2).  The apostles said in Acts 5:28-29 that we ought to obey God rather than man when the political forces tell us to shut up and keep our faith in the closet.

However, the danger for the Christian who becomes involved in the political process is that his or her own theological system of thought and worldview could become compromised by watering down biblical principles and biblical theology for the sake of having an ecumenical common ground with unbelievers.  I am the first to admit that the danger of becoming a die hard Ted Cruz supporter, which I openly confess that I am, is that some people confuse the civil magistrate with the Bible and the result is what is usually called civil religion.  For example, Glenn Beck, a Mormon, is a strong advocate for God's moral law and for the United States Constitution.  But Glenn Beck is not a Christian.  Beck is strong on pro-life issues.  But I cannot in good conscience pray with Glenn Beck.  But on television I saw Ted Cruz praying with Glenn Beck.   Mark Levin, also a constitutional conservative, is Jewish and has a Pelagian view of free will.  Neither of these men are Christians.  So I cannot in good conscience pray with either of them.

Moreover, the American principle of religious pluralism is based solidly on the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, which guarantees the separation of church and state.  That definition does not exclude Christians from public service in the government as Steven K. Bannon of Breitbart News contends.  Bannon is continually misquoting the Bible as if Jesus somehow advocated a complete disconnect between Christians and the government.  The verse in question was render unto Caesar.  It is disturbing to me when I hear the Bible misquoted and trashed in a thirty second sound byte for a liberal or pseudo-conservative cause.  But anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that render unto caesar was a political trap laid for Jesus by his political and eccesiastical opponents, the scribes and Pharisees:
14 When they had come, they said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
 15 "Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it."
 16 So they brought it. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's."
 17 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at Him. (Mark 12:14-17 NKJV)

I actually called into Bannon's radio program and was able to rebut his irrational argument on the air at the Patriot Channel, Sirius XM.   He did not much like being shown to be ignorant of the Bible.   I later learned that Bannon is a Roman Catholic.  He probably has not read the Bible much in his life.  For the Protestant the main emphasis is the preaching and teaching of the written Scriptures, which are the final authority in all matters of faith, practice and morality.  (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 8:20).  This applies equally to how one does politics.  The Bible, according to Dr. Gordon H. Clark's Scripturalism, is the beginning axiom for Christianity and Christianity applies to all life, including the political realm.

I also called in to comment on Bannon's contention that "Evangelicals are voting for Donald Trump."  Well, the problem with this logically and Scripturally speaking is that if the term Evangelical is not specifically defined, then it is a meaningless term and you have said nothing other than that people in general have voted for Trump.  What they really mean is that from a civil religion point of view people who identify with some generic religious spirituality voted for Trump.  I pressed Bannon on this and asked him how he defined Evangelicalism.  His response was that Evangelicals were "self-identifying as Evangelicals in exit polls".  Well, if that is so, then the term is still meaningless because Bannon and the liberal press are just using a generic term as a propaganda device to manipulate an expected outcome and to persuade generally religious people to vote for the candidate favored by the press.  But the traditional definition of an Evangelical is someone who adheres to the five solas of the Protestant Reformation, the main one being Sola Scriptura or Scripture Alone.  Scripture is the final measure of truth in the political realm as well as in the private realm.  We know that murdering the unborn is murder because the Bible is propositional and logical revelation and because we can logically deduce that human babies have a right to live.  Thou shalt not murder is the principle upon which we base that inference.   (Exodus 20:13 KJV).  But here is a surprise for you.  God expects you to obey your elders and that expectation is the first commandment in the second table of the Decalogue.   Do not murder is commandment number six while the command to honor your parents and other elders is commandment number five.  (Exodus 20:12 KJV). The commandments are listed in a descending order of importance, though to break one commandment is to break them all. (James 2:10-11 KJV).

The idea that the Christian and Evangelical churches, moreover, cannot speak to political issues in their services or in sermons is understandable given the danger of civil religion, a tradition that started with the evangelist, Billy Sunday.  On the other hand, the theological doctrine of two kingdoms theology is foreign to the Protestant Reformers and to the Bible.  On that point, I can wholeheartedly agree with the reconstructionists and the theonomists.  But I am not theonomist or a reconstructionist because their theological system is inherently based on a confusion of the civil or judicial law of the Old Testament nation of Israel with the moral law of God.  The two are not the same thing at all.   (See chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith). 

The problem here is that the socialist left and the liberation theologians of the mainline liberal denominations are openly preaching the social sciences in their churches and in their sermons because they have replaced special revelation with general revelation or natural revelation.  According to the liberal model, God is totally transcendent and man can know nothing except what can be known from below.  We cannot know anything God knows because, as Kant said, we cannot know anything on the noumenal level.  We can only know what can be empirically observed from below and what we can establish by rational reason.  Kant called this the phenoumenal or phenominological realm--that is, what we can observe in natural phenomena.  But Kant did presuppose certain innate and pre-existing abilities in man such as the ability to think, to tell time, etc.  These are not learned but are innate in man, according to Immanuel Kant:

A large part of Kant’s work addresses the question “What can we know?” The answer, if it can be stated simply, is that our knowledge is constrained to mathematics and the science of the natural, empirical world. It is impossible, Kant argues, to extend knowledge to the supersensible realm of speculative metaphysics. The reason that knowledge has these constraints, Kant argues, is that the mind plays an active role in constituting the features of experience and limiting the mind’s access only to the empirical realm of space and time.

Matt McCormick, "Immanuel Kant: Metaphysics," in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:  A Peer Reviewed Academic Resource.

The point being made here is that liberal mainline churches are preaching and teaching a form of theonomy but they are doing it from the perspective of the theological left.  Their theological views are deduced from a humanistic view of the social sciences and the empirical sciences, including their higher critical views of the Bible and textual criticism.  Their views are not deduced from the Bible except as the Bible is interpreted by means of their liberal and socially progressive presuppositions.

In African American churches there has been a long standing tradition of preaching on social justice issues since the days of slavery, when the slave who could read would read the Scriptures while another would expound on the text that he could not read.  Of course, times have changed.  But in this tradition you can still visit some black churches where one of the deacons or another lay person will read the text verse by verse while the minister then preaches on the text verse by verse.  Verse by verse is not a bad way to preach, by the way.  So if liberation theology, feminist theology, black liberation theology, socialism, the LGBT or homosexual issues can be openly preached in liberal churches and political applications of the social "sciences" like psychology, sociology, evolutionary sciences, etc., can be and are openly preached in liberal churches, why do Evangelicals think they cannot apply biblical principles to the same issues and do so as openly as the political and theological left does?  In effect, the left has established their liberal theology as the civil religion of our nation.  All religions lead to God, right?  They have confused the political doctrine of religious pluralism with establishing a theological liberalism and comparative religions as the official state religion.  Religion, according to this view is nothing more than man's cultural adaptations of existential angst to help someone cope with the vicissitudes of life.  Secular humanism is another established version of this state religion and said religion makes it heresy to disagree with the state dogmas on evolution, homosexuality, abortion, gun rights, religion as an opiate of the people and a whole host of other politically correct dogmas that are strictly enforced by our increasingly socialistic government.

For example, Barack Obama appealed to the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence to justify his endorsement of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the perversion of gay marriage.  He said that homosexuals have a "god given right" to marriage.   But is that what the Declaration of Independence said?  All agree that Thomas Jefferson was a deist and not a Christian theist or an Evangelical Protestant.  But why did Jefferson appeal to the axiom that all men are "created equal"?  The answer is that Jefferson believed in a supernatural creation.  While it is true that Jefferson rejected  the supernatural miracles of the Bible, he did not reject the biblical doctrine of creation and in fact he got his doctrine that all men are created from the Bible.  (Genesis 1-3).  Obama's progressive morality is therefore anachronistic and is not to be found in either the Bible or the Constitution.  The Bible without any doubt condemns homosexuality.  Of course, the liberals do not believe the Bible is inspired by God.  They consider it to be a product of human invention in order to deal with  man's experience of suffering.

Additionally, the Bible nowhere advocates the separation of church and state.  Although I agree in principle with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I do not agree with the liberal presupposition that religion cannot be an influence in political matters.  The theological left is extremely engaged, so it is hypocritical and a double standard to forbid Evangelicals from the same engagement.  There is no political test for public office.  That would mean that Ted Cruz and other Evangelicals deserve the same consideration for office as any theological liberal, any Roman Catholic, or any atheist.  

From a Clarkian Scripturalist perspective, the beginning axiom of Christianity is the Bible, not the social sciences, not philosophy or rationalism, nor even political science.  All of these other beginning axioms lead to atheism or skepticism.  The Bible alone leads to a consistent Christian worldview or epistemology.  Scripture alone literally is the beginning of all knowledge. 

Proverbs. 1:7  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  KJV

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.  KJV

2 Pet. 2:20  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  KJV

I have much more to say on this subject but I will close here for today.

Question 191

What do we pray for in the second petition?

In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come, (Matt. 6:10) ) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, (Eph. 2:2–3) we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, (Ps. 68:1,18, Rev. 12:10–11) the gospel propagated throughout the world, (2 Thess. 3:1) the Jews called, (Rom. 10:1) the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; (John 17:9,20, Rom. 11:25–26, Ps. 67) the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, (Matt. 9:38, 2 Thess. 3:1) purged from corruption, (Mal. 1:11, Zeph. 3:9) countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: (1 Tim. 2:1–2) and the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: (Acts 4:29–30, Eph. 6:18–20, Rom. 15:29–30,32, 2 Thess. 1:11, 2 Thess. 2:16–17) that Christ would rule in our hearts here, (Eph. 3:14–20) and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: (Rev. 22:20) and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends. (Isa. 64:1–2, Rev. 4:8–11)

The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

No comments:

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.