Russia and China today both enjoy the same grand-strategic advantage against the United States that the United States enjoyed through the 44 years of the Cold War.
The Soviet Union was then the superpower of the left, as the left had been globally understood since the French Revolution. It was the state committed to the promotion of revolutionary change across the world.
The United States, by contrast, was the superpower of the right. It was committed to the maintenance of stability and continuity in government systems around the world.
The United States won the Cold War. The craving for stability, peace, and continuity among governments and populations alike proved infinitely stronger than the fleeting flashes of revolutionary fervor. The Soviet Union eventually became physically exhausted and globally isolated by its ideological commitment to revolutionary change.
Today, however, the roles of the two great powers have been reversed. Since the advent of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state in 1997, the United States has become increasingly ideologically committed to the spreading of “instant powdered democracy” in every nation of the world, as defined and approved by the United States. Russia and China have become the main “conservative” or “right-wing” powers committed to preserving the status quo.
Ironically, the U.S. commitment to continual revolution around the world is a revival of the discredited concepts of Leon Trotsky. Josef Stalin abandoned Trotsky’s ideas in the 1920s when he took power in the Soviet Union. This gave him the ideological flexibility to create the Grand Alliance with the United States and the British Empire that won World War II—the Great Patriotic War.
But Nikita Khrushchev revived Trotsky’s disastrous concept: he and his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, drained their superpower dry by pouring resources into promoting revolution throughout the developing world, from 1954 in Egypt to Afghanistan in 1979-87. This led to the collapse of the Soviet system. It also prompted governments around the world to seek protection from efforts to fan the flames of revolution within them by turning to the United States for security on U.S. terms.
Today, it is the United States under presidents of both parties that has embraced the Trotskyite delusion. The bipartisan policy of the United States has become Permanent Revolution until Total and Perfect Democracy is finally achieved. This can only end the way it ended for Maximilien Robespierre in the French Revolution and for Trotsky in the Bolshevik one.
It is fitting that so many of the older generation of American neoconservatives started life as communist enthusiasts in the 1930s and ’40s. For today’s neocons are really neo-Trotskyites promoting the old, doomed enthusiasms under a new label.
By contrast, Russia and China are led by pragmatic governments guided by the concepts of profit and self-interest. They support and want to do business with existing governments and governing systems around the world. This has made them the 21st century’s major global powers of the right.
This is the strategic and psychological force behind China’s immense success in displacing the United States and the European Union in Africa. Chinese investment and aid comes free from the destabilizing, potentially revolutionary ideological strings that undermine existing systems of government throughout the region.
The governments of China and Russia hate and fear revolution and see the endless ideological promotion of democracy American-style in small countries around them and in their own homelands as planting the seeds of chaos and disintegration.
Democracy works admirably in societies where it is allowed to develop organically. But when other governments try to accelerate its growth artificially or hasten its triumph from outside, especially when they resort to military force to do so, the result is almost always a fierce reaction against the forces of democracy. This reaction often generates extreme fascist, repressive, and intolerant forces. And these forces usually win and take power. Then they impose themselves on the societies in question, delaying any real democratic development for decades or generations.
The efforts of the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon to export liberty, equality, and brotherhood across Europe by fire and sword instead ensured the survival of the old traditional empires for another 120 years. The efforts of Lenin and Trotsky to export socialism and communism by similar means were even more catastrophic. The backlash against them in Germany propelled Adolf Hitler to power.
It is not in America’s interests to follow in those footsteps—to put it mildly.”
It has been common, especially among some varieties of Protestantism, to take Paul’s statements about circumcision as pieces of a theology of ritual. Paul’s statement about inward and heart circumcision in Romans 2 is transferred to rites of entry in general, especially to baptism: “Baptism is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
It’s fairly obvious, though, that this cannot be done without qualification. Paul says, “neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,” and he would not have said the same about baptism. “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” he writes earlier in Galatians, but this is preceded by “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ” and he immediately adds that the reason why this distinction has been erased is because “you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Circumcision divided humanity; baptism unites it.
Paul’s statements on circumcision obviously contribute to a theology of ritual. But they are in the first instance part of a theology of covenants, statements about what the scholastics called the “sacraments of the old law,” and only as such should be used to develop a theology of ritual in general.”
The Christian community is scrambling over themselves to publish articles and blog posts encouraging us to vote for the ‘conservative’ choice, Mitt Romney. Leaving aside the fact that by any historical definition Romney is not a “conservative,” or why we would want to ‘conserve’ any aspect of the political environment today, there is rarely any commentary related to more fundamental questions. Instead, appealing to the lowest common denominator, the strategy can essentially be summed up with one statement; ‘anyone but Obama.’
While it is true that many Christians have avoided altogether any discussion over Romney’s profession of faith in a false god, yet the objections to Romney, as a Mormon, are overturned or dismissed via a historical answer that has been used before in past candidates; namely that Obama is much worse. No doubt this statement is true, but the political environment of the moment does not set our standard for leadership, God does. Why do we look to Scripture for our standard of leadership both in home and church but leave civil government to pragmatics and compromise? Said another way, we eagerly support candidates for political office that would be easily dismissed and disqualified in other institutions.
Are the State and its officeholders suddenly beyond Christian reproach? The incremental approach to curbing evil, as is often cited as a reason to vote for less-than-ideal candidates, has actually worked against Christians for many years. Instead of a candidate representing a broad range of Christian opinions, we are now asked to support a man who not a Christian at all. In our eagerness to throw Obama out of office, we are now willing to cast our vote for a Baal worshipper as our political leader.
Below are three reasons why I cannot, in good conscience, vote for Mitt Romney:
- There is a big difference between God using wicked pagan rulers for His purposes and God’s people ‘asking’ for one by casting their vote for a known pagan, anti-Christ worshipper. The prophet Habakkuk was incredulous at the thought of God using the Babylonians to punish them but it appears in the case of America, we are self-consciously asking God for Babylon to rule over us. The only place we find Israel asking for a king is in their disobedience and lack of faith by wanting to be ‘like the other nations’. Peace and freedom are by-products of obedience, faithfulness, and repentance, and these will not be accomplished by asking God to give us Cyrus over Nebuchadnezzar.
- There is no biblical mandate that commands us to ‘cast our vote’ for someone. In other words, to not vote is not to disobey. Civic duty perhaps, can be called into question but I am more interested in Biblical Truth than national ‘obligation’. Writing in candidates or withholding their votes are both viable options for Christians. It is God who sets rulers on their thrones and it is man’s duty to be faithful to His Word.
- Getting the ‘lesser of two evils’ elected at the federal level is a short sighted and pragmatic goal, as if voting for any form of evil is acceptable at election time. Our goal as Christians should be to disciple the next generation on what godly civil government looks like. If that means not voting at the federal level for several elections, then so be it. We don’t have to achieve ‘victory’ in our lifetime; we are called to be faithful. Today’s governors and mayors are tomorrow’s presidents; we should focus our efforts on raising a generation of Christian statesmen at local levels and hope for political revival in the generations to come. As for the immediate future, as much as I would never wish or pray for persecution in this nation, if the Church is strengthened and our dross removed, to God be the Glory.
I would challenge Christians to define the ‘line’ at which any given Republican candidate would be unqualified for office. Is their abortion stance the only litmus test to earn their vote? God tells us that false weights and unjust scales are an abomination as well. If Christians demanded more from their candidates and withheld their votes from those that do not seek to uphold righteousness according to God’s law, the bar would be raised and the doors opened for true Christian statesmen to take office.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34, ESV).
“What shall we call the unborn in the womb?
If the entity is a living thing, is it not a life? If your person began as a single cell, how can that fertilized egg be something other than a human being? Isn’t it more accurate to say you were an embryo than that you simply came from one?
So when does a human being have a right to life?
Shall we say size matters? Is the unborn child too small to deserve our protection? Are big people more valuable than little people? Are men more human than woman? Do offensive linemen have more rights than jockeys? Is the life in the womb of no account because you can’t hold him in our arms, or put him in your hands, or only see her on a screen?
Shall we make intellectual development and mental capacity the measure of our worth? Are three year-old children less valuable than thirteen year-olds? Is the unborn child less than fully human because he cannot speak or count or be self-aware? Does the cooing infant in the crib have to smile or shake your hand or recite the alphabet before she deserves another day? If an expression of basic mental acuity is necessary to be a full-fledged member of the human community, what shall do with the comatose, the very old, or the fifty year-old mom with Alzheimer’s? And what about all of us who sleep?
Shall we deny the unborn child’s right to life because of where he lives? Can environment give us value or take it away? Are we worth less inside than outside? Can we be justly killed when we swim under water? Does where we are determine who we are? Does the eight inch journey down the birth canal make us human? Does this change of scenery turn “its” into persons? Is love a condition of location?
Shall we reserve human dignity only for those humans who are not dependent on others? Do we deserve to live only when we can live on our own? Is the four-month old fetus less than human because she needs her mom for life? Is the four-month old infant less than human when she still needs her mom for life? What if you depend on dialysis or insulin or a breathing apparatus? Is value a product of fully-functioning vitality? Is independence a prerequisite for human identity? Are we worth only what we can think, accomplish, and do on our own?
If the unborn life is human life, what can justify snuffing it out? Would it be right to take the life of your child on his first birthday because he came to you through sad and tragic circumstances? Would you push an 18 month old into traffic because she makes our life difficult? Does a three year-old deserve to die because we think we deserve a choice?
What do you deserve now? What are your rights as a human person? Did you have those same rights five years ago? What about before you could drive? Or when you used training wheels? Were you less than fully human when you played in the sandbox? When you wore a bib? When you nursed at your mother’s breast? When your dad cut your cord? When you tumbled in that watery mess and kicked against that funny wall? When your heart pounded on the monitor for the first time? When you grew your first fingernails? When you grew your first cells?
What shall we call the child in the womb? A fetus? A mystery? A mistake? A wedge issue? What if science and Scripture and commonsense would have us call it a person? What if the unborn child, the messy infant, the wobbly toddler, the rambunctious teenager, the college freshman, the blushing bride, the first-time mother, the working woman, the proud grammy, and the demented old friend differ not in kind but only in degree? Where in the progression does our humanity begin and end? Where does life become valuable? When are we worth something? When do human rights become our rights? What if Dr. Seuss was right and a person’s a person no matter how small?
Why celebrate the right to kill what you once were? Why deny the rights of the little one who is what you are?”
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,
1. Postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ founds his Messianic kingdom on the earth during his earthly ministry and through his redemptive labors. His establishing the “kingdom of heaven” fulfills Old Testament prophetic expectations regarding the coming kingdom. The kingdom which Christ preaches and presents is not something other than that expected by the Old Testament saints. In postmillennialism the church is the fulfilled/transformed Israel and is even called “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).
2. The kingdom’s fundamental nature is essentially redemptive and spiritual, rather than political and corporeal. Although it has implications for the political realm, postmillennialism is not political, offering a kingdom in competition with geo-political nations for governmental rule. Christ rules his kingdom spiritually in and through his people in the world, as well as by his universal providence.
3. Because of the intrinsic power and design of Christ’s redemption, his kingdom will exercise a transformational socio-cultural influence in history. This will occur as more and more people convert to Christ, not by a minority revolt and seizure of political power in history nor by the catastrophic imposition of Christ at his second advent from outside of history. As Rushdoony notes: The key to remedying the [world] situation is not revolution, nor any kind of resistance that works to subvert law and order. . . . The key is regeneration, propagation of the gospel, and the conversion of men and nations to God’s law-word. This is because evil men cannot produce a good society. The key to social renewal is individual regeneration.
4. Postmillennialism, therefore, expects the gradual, developmental expansion of Christ’s kingdom in time and on earth before the Lord returns to end history. This will proceed by a full-orbed ministry of the Word, fervent and believing prayer, and the consecrated labors of Christ’s Spirit-filled people. The ever-present Christ is directing kingdom growth from his throne in heaven, where he sits at God’s right hand.
5. Postmillennialism confidently anticipates a time in earth history (continuous with the present) in which the very gospel already operating will win the victory throughout the earth, fulfilling the Great Commission. The thing that distinguishes the biblical postmillennialist, then, from amillennialists and premillennialists is his belief that the Scripture teaches the success of the great commission in this age of the church. The overwhelming majority of men and nations will be Christianized, righteousness will abound, wars will cease, and prosperity and safety will flourish. It will be marked by the universal reception of the true religion, and unlimited subjection to the sceptre of Christ. It shall be a time of universal peace. It will be characterised by great temporal prosperity.
6. We can look forward to a great ‘golden age’ of spiritual prosperity continuing for centuries, or even for millenniums, during which time Christianity shall be triumphant over all the earth. After this extended period of gospel prosperity, earth history will draw to a close by the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ (accompanied by a literal resurrection and a general judgment) to introduce his blood-bought people into the consummative and eternal form of the kingdom. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.
“Apologetics is an answer to the “why” question after you’ve already answered the “what” question. The what question, of course, is, “What is the gospel?” But when you call people to believe in the gospel and they ask, “Why should I believe that?”—then you need apologetics.
I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with morewhat. Increasingly we live in a time when you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.
Is Apologetics Biblical?
There are plenty of Christians today who nevertheless say: “Don’t do apologetics, just expound the Word of God—preach and the power of the Word will strike people.” Others argue that “belonging comes before believing.” They say apologetics is a rational, Enlightenment approach, not a biblical one. People need to be brought into a community where they can see our love and our deeds, experience worship, have their imaginations captured, and faith will become credible to them.
There is a certain merit to these arguments. It would indeed be overly rationalistic to say that we can prove Christianity so that any rational person would have to believe it. In fact, this approach dishonors the sovereignty of God by bowing to our autonomous human reason. Community and worship are important, because people come to conviction through a combination of heart and mind, a sense of need, thinking things out intellectually, and seeing it in community. But I have also seen many skeptics brought into a warm Christian community and still ask, “But why should I believe you and not an atheist or a Muslim?”
We need to be careful of saying, “Just believe,” because what we’re really saying is, “Believe because I say so.” That sounds like a Nietzschean power play. That’s very different from Paul, who reasoned, argued, and proved in the Book of Acts, and from Peter, who called us to give the reason for our hope in 2 Peter 3:15. If our response is, “Our beliefs may seem utterly irrational to you, but if you see how much we love one another then you’ll want to believe too,” then we’ll sound like a cult. So we do need to do apologetics and answer the why question.
No Neutral Ground
However, the trouble with an exclusively rationalistic apologetic (“I’m going to prove to you that God exists, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Bible is true,” etc.) is that it does, in a sense, put God on trial before supposedly neutral, perfectly rational people sitting objectively on the throne of Reason. That doesn’t fit with what the Bible says about the reality of sin and the always prejudiced, distorted thinking produced by unbelief. On the other hand, an exclusively subjectivist apologetic (“Invite Jesus into your life and he’ll solve all your problems, but I can’t give you any good reasons, just trust with your heart”) also fails to bring conviction of real sin or of need.
There will be no joy in the grace of Jesus unless people see they’re lost. Thus a gospel-shaped apologetic must not simply present Christianity, it must also challenge the non-believer’s worldview and show where it, and they, have a real problem.”