In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We’ve seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.
Now ladies and gentlemen we can’t read that and say, “Ho-hum, isn’t that interesting?” Passages like this speak to the truthfulness of the adage “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” These sorts of things happened to a multitude of Christians who did not recover as swiftly as Paul did on this occasion. Indeed, many in the Christian community of the first century became human torches in the gardens of Nero. Others were thrown into the arena to go against professional gladiators, or to be fed to the lions while crazed emperors and a depraved public watched the spectacle with perverted glee. That’s our history as Christians. And down through the ages every time the gospel has been preached openly in the public square, it has been met with some degree of hostility, violence and persecution. And no doubt such things continue in our day in various pockets of the world.
Now one of the things that I think about in terms of my own ministry is why I’ve never been cast into jail. Why has no one ever thrown a stone at me because of the boldness by which I preach the gospel? Well, I preach it in a safe zone, I suppose—a zone that has been declared something of a reservation. The church has been banished in our day from the public square, and a deal has been made. The deal goes something like this: If we confine our preaching and teaching to spiritual matters (matters of the world to come) and keep our mouths shut about what’s going on all around us in the culture in which we live, then we will be protected by the powers that be. But if we venture off the reservation and intrude our opinions into the public square, then we will feel the full measure of the wrath of the culture and indeed of the government itself.
That government today perpetuates a myth which is totally ungrounded in American history. This myth is articulated every day under the rubric of the “separation of church and state”. But I defy anybody in this room or in this nation to find such a concept anywhere in the Constitution of the United States of America or in the Declaration of Independence. The phrase originated in some private correspondence from the pen of Thomas Jefferson where he spoke of erecting a wall of separation but it never become part of the fabric of the law of this land historically. And I say today in our age that the concept of the separation of state and church that even Jefferson had in view in the 18th century has also been changed dramatically in its public understanding. What was meant in the 18th century even in the informal way in which Jefferson spoke of it was the division of labor between the church and the state. In other words, it is not the state’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church and it is not the state’s responsibility to preach the gospel or to administer the sacrament. Those duties have been given to the church that God ordained and to the Christian ministers whom God has called and appointed. But on the other side of the coin God also instituted government for the safety and well being of the people who live in its midst. And the government has been assigned by God the responsibility of preserving, protecting and maintaining the sanctity of human life. The government has been ordained by God to protect those areas of life in the realm ofcommon grace—blessings that God gives to all people—not just Jews or Christians or any other group. I’m referring to blessings such as the sanctity of marriage. That’s why the church recognizes marriages that take place in the secular world. But it is God who ordains the state and before whom the state is ultimately responsible and to Whom it will be held accountable at the end of the age for how it exercised its responsibility.
A few years ago I was invited to give the address at the inaugural breakfast of the newly elected governor of the state of Florida. And on that occasion I said to the governor elect, “Good sir, today is your ordination day. You have received your mandate to govern not from the will of the people, but from almighty God, who Himself establishes government and calls you His minister, not the minister of the church, but His minister as a guardian of the affairs of the state. And I remind you that you will be judged by Him in how you carry out your duties.” But in our time the separation of church and state has come to mean the separation of the state from God. It is one thing to say the state is not accountable to the church, it’s another thing to say the state is not accountable to God. And when the state assumes its autonomy and declares its independence from Almighty God it is not just the right but the duty of the church to call the state to task: Not to ask the state to be the church, but to tell the state to be the state under God.
And that has been the task of the church throughout the ages, throughout the pages of the Old Testament and into the New. I know there are people in Christendom who believe that the church should never say anything about the public square or what happens in the political realm. But given our biblical history I wonder how anybody can come to that conclusion. You read the pages of the Old Testament and you read the history of the prophets. You see a king like Ahab using the power of his secular authority to confiscate the personal private property of neighbors. And nobody says a word until Elijah risks his life to declare it unjust and call him to task. Isaiah was raised and anointed to go into the palace and speak to king after king after king, bringing God’s criticism to the nation. Amos was the one who cried in the marketplace “let justice roll down like an ever-flowing stream.” And for calling the culture of their day to righteousness every one of those prophets faced hostility, bodily harm, and death. Why was John the Baptist beheaded? Because he called attention to the immorality of the king, and the unjustness and illicit basis of his marriage. Jesus criticized Herod as well, calling him a fox. And when He called the nation of Israel to righteousness, corrected the Sanhedrin, and criticized the leading authorities and their corrupt practices, He was arrested and executed. He was not executed because he said, “Consider the lilies, how they spin.” He was executed because He said, “Consider the thieves, how they steal.”
Jesus took His message to the public square. But Uncle Sam has cut a deal with us, and here’s the deal: They’ll give you and I a tax exemption whereby we can deduct from our income taxes our tithes and offerings that we give to the church. But on one condition: that we not speak out on the political issues in our day. Ladies and Gentlemen that’s a compromise that the church can never afford to make. I’m not allowed by law at this point to tell you who to vote for, to recommend or endorse a particular candidate, and I’m going to obey that law because I’m called to obey the civil magistrates even when I disagree with those civil magistrates. But at the same time I’m going to protest against that condition and say to the church if it means that we have to give up our tax deductions so be it. Because we shouldn’t be giving our donations and charitable gifts to the church just so we can get a tax write-off. Our responsibility to tithe to the Kingdom of God is there whether we receive any benefit from the secular government or not. Surely we must all understand that. And I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you some things you should be concerned about when you go to the voting booth.
But here is what I’m going to tell you to do when you vote. As a Christian you have obligations opposed upon your conscience that in some sense other people don’t have, although they should have. And the first thing is this: You have to understand what a vote is. The word vote comes from the Latin votum, which means ‘will’ or choice. And when you go to the ballot box and you vote, you are not there to vote for what’s going to benefit you necessarily. Your vote is not a license to impose your selfish desires upon the rest of the country. You only have the right to vote for what is right. And not only do you have the right to vote for what is right, but when you vote you have the duty to vote for what is right.
I’m reminded of the work of William Wilberforce in England. You may recall that in debate after debate after debate, and in election after election after election, Wilberforce was soundly and roundly defeated when he sought the abolition of slavery in the British Commonwealth. But if ever there was an exercise in perseverance, it was by Wilberforce. Wilberforce refused to give up. He simply would not walk away from being the conscience of the English nation. And he publicly testified that slavery was wrong and he promised to oppose it as long as he had breath in his body. And finally in the providence of God, Parliament woke up and abolished this unethical practice that was a plague on the English speaking world.
We’ve gone through the same plague in the history of America, and thanks be to God slavery has finally been abolished in America. But I believe that slavery is the second most serious ethical issue that our country has ever faced. From my perspective the number one ethical issue that this nation has ever faced is the issue of abortion. Abortion is not a matter of private choice—not for the Christian who understands anything about the sanctity of life. The first century church made it very clear in their day, explicitly stating that abortion is murder.
I’ve written over 70 books. The book that had the shortest shelf life of all of my books was my book on the case against abortion. I talked to pastor after pastor and sought to understand why they weren’t using this material (for which we also made a video series). They told me, “Well, we agree with it but we can’t do it in our church.” And I said, “Why?” They responded: “It will split the congregation.” And I said, “So be it!” A million and a half unborn babies are slaughtered wantonly in the United States of America every year in the name of women’s rights. If I know anything about the character of God after forty years of study, I know that God hates abortion. And I could never vote for a candidate who supported abortion—even if I agreed with that candidate on every other policy position. If he supported abortion I would not vote for him and I urge you to do the same.
I know that abortion is not the number one issue in this campaign because it has become acceptable. Just like slavery became acceptable. But it cannot be acceptable to ethical people. The people of God have to rise up and say ‘NO’! We are not asking the state to be the church but we must say to the state, “Please be the state. God ordained you to protect, maintain, and preserve the sanctity of life, and you are not doing it.” So that has to be on your mind when you walk into that voting booth.
And a second ethical issue that you need to keep in mind before you vote is this: Don’t be a lobby group of one. I read in the Sentinel that they did a poll of athletes, asking them for whom they were going to vote. And one said it straight out. He said “I’m going to vote for the one who’s going to give the most money away.” How many times have you heard the phrase ‘I’m going to vote my pocketbook’? I’m going to go to the trough of the public and drink as deeply as I can. Alexis de Tocqueville, when he came and examined the great American experiment of democracy, said two things can destroy this experiment: One is when people learn that their vote is worth money, that you can bribe people to get their vote or that you can use the vote to somehow shelter yourself from financial or other obligations imposed upon others. Have we taken the blindfold away from lady justice? Are we not all equal under the law?
On the contrary, we have an income tax structure today that is inherently unjust. We almost never hear anybody discuss this injustice. But when God set up a system of taxation, He did things differently. God said I’m going to impose a tax on my people and it’s going to be ten percent from everybody: The rich man and the poor man are not going to pay the same amount. The rich man’s going to pay much more than the poor man, but they’re both going to pay the same percentage. They’re both going to have the same responsibility. That way the rich man can’t use his power to exploit the poor man, saying, “I’m going to pay five percent, but you’re going to pay fifty percent.” The rich weren’t allowed to do that. Nor were the poor allowed to say, “We’re going to pay five percent and the rich are going to pay fifty percent because they can afford it.” What that is ladies and gentlemen is the politics of envy that legalizes theft. Anytime you vote a tax on somebody else that is not a tax on yourself, you’re stealing from your brother. And though the whole world does it and though it’s common practice in the United States of America, a Christian shouldn’t be caught dead voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else. Isn’t that plain? Isn’t that clear? And until we get some kind of flat tax, we’re going to have a politicized economy, we’re going to have class warfare, and we’re going to have the whole nation’s rule being determined by the rush for economic advantage at the polls. Don’t do it. Even if that means sacrificing some benefit you might receive from the federal government. Don’t ask other people at the point of a gun to give you from their pockets what you don’t have. That’s sin.
It is, of course, the American way. But we Christians should not be involved in that sort of thing. Rather we should be voting for what is right, what is ethical. And our consciences on that score need to be informed by the Word of God, not by our wallets. And so I plead with you: When you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your Christianity in the parking lot. And be bold to speak on these issues, even if it means somebody picks up a rock and throws it in your head. Because it is through tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God. I pray for you, beloved, and for our nation in these days to come.”
A wonderful word that Calvinists today need to hear.
Consider me irked. Irked, as in, “I love you, guys, but you’re talking down to me, not with me.”
That’s my basic response after reading a brief interview with Matt Barrett and Tom Nettles about their new book Whomever He Wills (Founders, 2012) that puts forth a robust argumentation for a Reformed view of soteriology.
Many of you are my friends, including some of the authors of this volume. So, allow me say at the outset how much I admire your conviction, your theological rigor, and your commitment to rightly interpreting the Scriptures.
Let me also put this little squabble in perspective. When I consider the culture’s current trajectory as well as the disturbing evangelical capitulation to culture rather than biblical truth, this in-house debate between people who believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture is just that, in-house. It is certainly not the most important topic for discussion.
But as one who doesn’t follow your logical arguments all the way to their conclusions, I confess my frustration with the type of condescension that often accompanies your passion for your position.
Particular Redemption in Service to Universal Atonement
Here’s an example from the interview. Consider how the question is worded:
What about the death of Christ have convictional “four-point Calvinists” perhaps failed to adequately consider?
Instead of asking, “Why do you reject the unlimited atonement view?,” the question is framed in a way that treats four-point Calvinists like they have simply failed to adequately consider all the relevant points. The implication is this: Oh, those four-pointers are good guys, but they obviously haven’t thought it through as well as we have.
No, my brothers. There are plenty of us who reject the traditional Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement precisely because we have adequately considered the arguments and have found them wanting. The reason I stand with theologians like J.C. Ryle, Millard Erickson, Gregg Allison, Bruce Demarest, and Bruce Ware is because their argumentation is more persuasive than yours.
I understand you believe you are safeguarding the reality of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice when you affirm a definite atonement position. Many non-Calvinists believe they are safeguarding the free offer of the gospel by affirming the general atonement position. The truth is, just as Calvinists can believe in definite atonement and the free offer of the gospel, so also can non-Calvinists believe in general atonement and penal substitution. Neither one is necessarily lost by either position. That’s why I defend Calvinists from the charge that taking a limited atonement position necessarily leads to apathy in evangelism. I’d appreciate it if you’d defend your general atonement friends from the charge that our position leads to universalism instead of saying our view “threatens to tear apart the Holy Trinity.”
Yes, there are statements in Scripture that stress the particularity of Christ’s sacrifice and its universality. But to squeeze universal feet into tight, particular shoes is precisely the wrong choice to make. Instead, when the particular texts are nestled snugly into their universal shoes, they fit more naturally.
In the context of the Old Testament, particularity serves universality. God chose a particular man in Genesis 12 (Abraham), in order that through his seed, the whole worldwould be blessed. God’s chosen people, Israel, are not selected merely to receive God’s covenantal benefits, but to be God’s missional people, a light to the nations. In other words, God’s choice of Israel was prompted by His love for the nations. The particular nation of Israel was the means by which He would provide redemption for all people.
In the same way, Jesus can say that He comes only to the lost sheep of Israel, not because He has no heart for the Gentiles, but because it is the particular nature of His ministry that will provide the catalyst for worldwide restoration. His mission to Israel enables the church’s mission to the nations.
Likewise, our election has a missional component. We are chosen to be the means by which God’s salvation extends universally. The particular nature of our salvation has, as its intention, the universal extension of the gospel as a sign of God’s benevolent heart to all.
So, just as my friend David Schrock can title a chapter “Jesus Saves, No Asterisk Needed,” I like to say, “Jesus died for the sins of the world,” and I don’t need an asterisk either.
Calvinism and the Gospel
Leaving debates about the extent of the atonement aside for a moment, I want to point out something else that continues to trouble me – the equation of Calvinistic soteriology with the gospel itself. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that you would abandon this divisive rhetoric, not because it’s divisive but because it’s simply untrue. The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.
Now, to be fair, you consider the doctrines of grace as “the foundation on which the gospel itself is built,” not the message itself. And when you quote Charles Spurgeon’s words equating Calvinism and the gospel (a place where I believe the great Spurgeon got it wrong), you are not saying that those of us who do not subscribe to all the points of Calvinism fail to believe the gospel. Instead, you consider this shorthand for biblical Christianity.
I get what you’re saying. But please consider what it sounds like to those of us who disagree. It sounds like you are making a systematic presentation of theology the gospel. As if the gospel were a set of doctrines, not the announcement of King Jesus. Plus, it smacks of elitism and sends young Calvinists back to their churches, thinking that if their pastors haven’t parsed the petals of TULIP, they aren’t really gospel preachers.
Let’s be very clear. The gospel is the royal announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life in our place, died a substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of the world, rose triumphantly from the grave to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as King of the world. This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).
The gospel is not the ordo salutis. It is not Grudem’s systematic theology. Nor is it the fivesolas.
I understand your desire to buttress the gospel announcement with a robust, theological vision of soteriology. But I think a stronger case can be made that one’s ecclesiological underpinnings are just as important (if not more so) to safeguarding the gospel. (I digress. That’s the Baptist coming out in me, so I’ll need to save that for another time, another post.)
So, my brothers, I thank you for your love for the Lord, the Scriptures, and the church. I simply ask that you consider the effect of your rhetoric on those who disagree with you, and that even when you disagree, you do not put forth your view with condescension.
Side by side with you,
Your Calvinist-loving but sometimes frustrated friend,
“Shortly after finishing my book Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, I became more sensitive at spotting logical fallacies all around. Not that I take pride in doing so — it just happens. Since I had just spent the better part of nine months writing sections on dozens of informal fallacies out there, I was kind of in “fallacy detective” mode, sniffing out disturbing claims left and right.
One such disturbing claim appears in the book The Law Is Not Of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant, particularly in the chapter entitled “Abraham and Sinai Contrasted in Galatians 3:6–14, written by T. David Gordon. Gordon, you will remember, is the guy who has attacked theonomic thinking with the harshest language possible, once calling it “the Bible-thumping error par excellence,” and the doctrine of the “never to be wise.” Not content to trash theonomy, Gordon has now singled out one of the stalwart Reformed theologians whom he disagrees with, John Murray. Well, I will leave the details of the chapter aside for another time (I have covered some of them in three successive radio talks on The Gary DeMar Show, May 20–22, 2009); here I would simply like to highlight a classic logical fallacy, the Appeal to Ignorance. One page 253, Gordon claims that to his knowledge, “Murray never wrote so much as a paragraph about the Galatian letter,” which letter Gordon himself emphasizes as “fatal to Murray’s thesis” about the covenants. The fallacy appears in footnote 18 on page 253, where Gordon mounts an Everest of arrogance:
According to the bibliography published in volume 4 of the Collected Writings of John Murray… from 1931 to 1973 Murray wrote 221 reviews, articles, essays, and books. Not one of these addresses Galatians generally, nor a particular passage within Galatians specifically. Considering that Murray was both a New Testament scholar and a professor of systematic theology, it seems odd that he would publish nothing about what many consider to be one of Paul’s most important theological letters. Luther, for instance, was less squeamish than Professor Murray, and was quite willing to write a lengthy commentary on the letter. But then Luther was willing to recognize the covenantal contrasts in Galatians, and so was happy to write about it.
Amidst all of this insinuation and outright trash talking about a deceased man who cannot defend himself — does Gordon really believe Murray was “squeamish” about Galatians? — stands one big Appeal to Ignorance. Gordon’s claim essentially amounts to this: “Murray never wrote on Galatians; therefore he was squeamish about writing about it.” You can’t base a positive claim on what you don’t in fact know! The fallacy gets exposed by the fact that you can prove anything with this type of “logic.” I think Murray thought the Galatian letter was so sacred that he dare not add his own commentary to it, and therefore he never wrote on in. Highly unlikely, but just as logical as Gordon’s undisciplined claim. I think that every time Murray began to write on Galatians, the Holy Spirit personally redirected him elsewhere as He did Paul on occasion (Acts 16:6). Hardly. But just as logical as Gordon’s argument.
Further, if Gordon’s logic applied here, it would apply to every person who never wrote on Galatians. R. C. Sproul never wrote a commentary on that letter. Is he squeamish about it? Gordon’s buddy Michael Horton, to my knowledge, has never dealt at length with Galatians. Is he also squeamish? We could add the Hodges, Warfield, and most contemporary Reformed New Testament scholars and Systematics professors: few if any have published much on Galatians in detail. The whole Reformed world must be squeamish about Galatians. T. David Gordon alone (with Luther!), apparently, has the courage to exegete this high-wire of a “theological letter.”What we really learn from Gordon’s logical knot is that Gordon simply doesn’t like Murray’s view very much. As a result, he crosses the line between professional criticism (in which he is weak) and childish mud-throwing (in which he has an established history). In the paragraph in question he spills how his conclusions really rest on his desires (as opposed to facts). Of Murray’s not writing on Galatians, Gordon opines,
He could have made no sense of the letter, and anything he might have written about it would therefore have been obfuscatory in the highest degree [another fallacy: hypothesis contrary to fact, which he implicitly admits with the word “speculate” in the next sentence]. We can only speculate as to why such a prolific writer as he never wrote about it, and I would like to think that he was, at some level, aware of his incapacity to make any sense of it.… I like to think that he was aware that he was entirely flummoxed by Paul’s reasoning, and that he therefore determined not to write anything about the matter until he could make sense of it.
The “I like to think” claims say it all. Gordon has said nothing about Murray and a whole lot about his own desires—desires which, well, leave little to be desired. Why doesn’t Gordon “like to think” something much more charitable about Murray’s view? Good question. To argue based on fallacy is bad enough. To argue fallaciously for the “incapacity” and “flummoxed” mind of one of the greatest of the twentieth-century Reformed theologians is to expose oneself as careless, classless, and graceless.
I just wish I had not already completed the indexing on my book dealing with fallacies. Gordon’s article would make a fine addition to the examples therein. Perhaps it’ll make it in the second printing—or so I would like to think.”
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
Another day, another terrible article on the Gospel Coalition. This ministry, at least as far as there blog is concerned, continues a downward spiral. Kevin DeYoung posted an article entitled “Just say “No” to Legalizing Drugs”. The article contains very little of DeYoung’s own words, most of it is consists of quotations from John P. Walters, former “Drug Czar” during the George W. Bush administration in his article in The Weekly Standard, a top Neo-Conservative magazine. I don’t really want to deal with Mr. Walters comments, I want to focus more on Mr. Deyoung Publishing the article. But I will say a few brief words regarding the comments Mr. Walters makes:
Walters, like any good Neo-Conservative big government crony, attempts to convince people to deny reality. Is there a single American alive today, other than Mr. Walters, who could honestly take a look at the lives of teenagers in any town in America, or the intercity in any part of the nation and say with a straight face that the war on drugs has succeeded? Drugs infest our society now more than ever. They are both easy to get and unsafe. As I will show in a moment, to deny the prison system is clogged due to the war on drugs is to deny reality. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The War on Drugs has not only failed to make Drugs any less available or widespread, it has clogged America’s prison system and created a new class of criminals, it has ignited a drug war in Mexico, it has expanded the power of the federal government to a Un-Constitutional level and trampled the rights of our citizens. If you want to read a rebuttal of Mr. Walters:
This article exposes some of his absurdities: http://www.mediaite.com/online/the-weekly-standard-is-absolutely-wrong-about-drug-legalization/
Here is a study from the Libertarian Cato Institute studying the effects of drug legalization in Portugal: http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/greenwald_whitepaper.pdf
And here is a simple graph, showing the obvious facts he attempts to deny, that our prisons are clogged: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/US_incarceration_timeline-clean-fixed-timescale.svg
But statements like that of Mr. Walters are nothing new, they are so numerous they are not even worth mentioning, much less to blog about. What makes it special is that Kevin DeYoung blogged this on his “reformed” blogspot. There are three big problems with his approach to the issue of drugs and what the states attitude towards them should be:
1. DeYoung did not consult the Bible on drugs.
In fact, he didn’t consult the Bible on anything. In an issue of remarkable importance, ethically and practically, he did not adduce a single verse in favor of his assumed position that drugs are inherently sinful, or any other positions. I don’t have the space, time, or frankly the experience to write an article detailing with the Sinfulness of drug use or lack thereof. But, it doesn’t take a scholar to note Drugs are not specifically mentioned in scripture. This should be all the more incentive to laboring in Biblical principles instead of just assuming a cultural practice is in accord with Biblical teaching.
2. DeYoung did not consult the Bible on the scope and limits of government.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter that the state is supposed to praise those who do good and punish those who do evil (1 Peter 2:13-14). But this is certainly a qualified statement, the state is not supposed to eliminate ALL evil from society. In a fallen world, that is a manifest impossibility. A state that attempts to eliminate all evil from society would have to be a totalitarian state that controls all aspects of life, and even then it could not root out all evil. The state is tasked, rather, with eliminating severe public manifestations of evil. Just because something is unhelpful to society, such as drug use, does not mean the government has the authority to seek to destroy it, much less to trample everyone else’s rights in the process. What in the Bible could be used to support a massive and powerful Federal Government seeking ever increasing amounts of control over peoples lives in order to purge society of things it Autonomously deems unlawful and dangerous? That sounds more like statist Egypt than God ruled Israel.
3. DeYoung did not consult the Law of God.
Nowhere in this article does DeYoung look to the Law Code of Scripture. In Biblical times, drunkeness was both a heinous sin and a social problem, just as it always has been. But nowhere in the Law was the government authorized to punish it. Why should Christians support the already massively intrusive war on drugs when God’s OT Law didn’t even list a similar crime, alcohol abuse, as a crime worthy of punishment? If DeYoung is convinced that drug use requires such drastic action, he should be able to persuade us that the Bible teaches it also requires drastic action. Because if God in his Law did not think similar addictions were worthy of a drastic government initiated “war”, then we certainly shouldn’t either.
We need to look to scriptures for the answers to our ethical questions, our questions of the power of the state, and the Law of God. The further we move away from a Bible centered view of Law and Government, the more we will move towards the humanistic view of Government. A Government that takes the role of savior, purging society of all evil. A state that decides what should or should not be punished by the sword autonomously , instead of looking to the scriptures for the standard of wise governance is a state that has assumed the place of God. Kevin DeYoung should have approached this subject analyzing the Bibles teaching on these matters instead of supporting a popular Neo-Conservative political position without any Biblical support on a supposedly “reformed” blog.
I have been displeased with the general trend of the blog posts on The Gospel Coalition site for a while now. From the undertones of opposition to the free market, to the increasing accommodation of sinful culture, and the just downright silly articles. Today, I was once again disappointed by an article with a bizarre undertone.
Today, May 3rd, marks the Birthday of one of the greatest minds of the Christian church has ever produced, Cornelius Van Til, who has born on this day in the year 1895. To mark the occasion, The Gospel Coalition produced a short article on him, why he should be read, and what books would be a good start. However, I sensed a faint yet strange tone in the article. Yes, the article acknowledged Van Til as a great mind, yes it prompted readers to discover his writings. But there seemed a hint of annoyance in the very brief article. Almost a frustration that we are forced to acknowledge the contributions of Van Til . The very title of the article is telling, “The Most Boring Important Thinker You Should Read”. Deep theological reading can be hard stuff, just try to read through John Owen or Francis Turretin. Would the Gospel Coalition have a blog post calling them boring? Just because somebody writes without constant distractions and jokes doesn’t make them “boring” if you are out to discover the truths of the faith.
The article starts off in a equally bizarre fashion, for a post that is supposed to encourage people to read his writing:
“On this day, in 1895, on a dairy farm in the middle of the Netherlands, the world changed. The effects, however, would not become apparent for another 50 to 60 years. Cornelius Van Til, future philosopher and apologist at Westminster Theological Seminary, was born.
I offer this dramatic introduction only half-seriously, which means I’m only half-joking.
By reading some of Van Til’s followers, you would think he authored the first thoroughly biblical understanding of the knowledge of God. “
Is such a form of strange, almost irritated sarcasm really necessary? The brief article neglects a greater part of Van Til’s legacy and arguably links him to people he would want to have nothing to do with. Is this the best the Gospel Coalition could do? One short and strange article?
Perhaps I am reading to much into the short article, have a look at the few sentences yourself:
I do feel bad that I keep posting other people’s articles instead of my own. But right now, I don’t really have the time to write anything much at all, so the best I can do is post things by other people. When my school work load goes down I hope to write a blog about The Law and Love, The Covenants, The Kingship of Jesus and etc. But for now, here is an article by R.C. Sproul about the awful reality of Hell. He says it all here. All credit goes to R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries.
Here ya go:
“We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.
Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.
There is no biblical concept more grim or terror-invoking than the idea of hell. It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.
Almost all the biblical teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. It is this doctrine, perhaps more than any other, that strains even the Christian’s loyalty to the teaching of Christ. Modern Christians have pushed the limits of minimizing hell in an effort to sidestep or soften Jesus’ own teaching. The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These graphic images of eternal punishment provoke the question, should we take these descriptions literally or are they merely symbols?
I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. It is probably that the sinner in hell would prefer a literal lake of fire as his eternal abode to the reality of hell represented in the lake of fire image. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.
A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.
No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.”
Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.”
All credit goes to R.C. Sproul and Ligonier.