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.”
God Almighty owns everything. This is the biblical view: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1); God says, “[E]very beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains (Psa. 50:9-12).
God created mankind in His own image. Man reflects God’s character and order. Just as God owns everything, God delegated the stewardship and dominion of property to His image, mankind (Gen. 1:26-28), and thus humans have the capacity and calling to act as private owners. God planted a special garden—the Garden of Eden—and placed man in it to till it, and to guard its boundaries (Gen. 2:8, 15). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s law-order, God kicked them outside of those boundaries, and placed a “no-trespassing” sign in the form of an angelic guardian at their gates (Gen. 3:23-24). Adam and Eve very quickly learned the ins and outs of private property.
This doctrine continued as God’s way of ordering and prospering society, and we see this in the fact that God’s fundamental laws for living—the Ten Commandments—include the prohibition of theft (Ex. 20:15). No man or group of men can take another man’s property—by individual act, legislation, petition, conspiracy, or appeal to the “common good”—in disregard for God’s law. The Old Testament frequently refers to the moving of a neighbor’s landmark (a property corner) in order to increase one’s own property (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10; Hos. 5:10). The references forbid or condemn the act as an attack on inheritance and possession (Deut. 19:14).
The same doctrine holds in the New Testament. In the early Church in Acts 5, as many Christians voluntarily sold their goods and gave to the poor among them, one couple sold some land and laid only a portion at the apostles’ feet pretending they had given all. Nevertheless, even for these corrupt-hearted individuals, Peter up-held the doctrine of private property: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4). God punished them, not for not giving all, but for lying about what they gave.
Other apostles upheld the doctrine as well: Paul preached against theft (Eph. 4:28), as did Peter (1 Pet. 4:15) and James (Jam. 5:4). Not to mention that Jesus saw the command as quite relevant as well (Matt. 19:18).
The biblical witness is clear: God believes in private property, and He not only desires us but commands us to live by that rule as well. Under this system, our rights and freedoms come from God. No man can take them away. He who tries must answer to the law, and ultimately to God.
Socialism is the belief that individual private property is a bad idea. It is thus an anti-Christian and anti-biblical belief. Socialists believe that governments should own most or all property and distribute it out as government experts, scientists, politicians, or occasionally voters see fit. Under socialism, the State puts itself in the place of God and says, “The earth is the State’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Under this view, the individual has no protection from his neighbor if his neighbor is in the majority, or if the State somehow deems his neighbor as needful in some way; the State simply uses force to take that individual’s property and give it to someone else. In this sense, the State moves landmarks every day. In this view, the State determines our rights, and gives us our freedoms; here there is no appeal beyond the State.
Socialism is the belief, therefore, that stealing is acceptable as long as another man or group of men says so. Socialism believes in theft by majority vote, or theft by a majority of representatives’ votes in Congress. Socialism is the belief that armed robbery is OK as long as you do it through proxy of the government’s gun. Socialism places man, and ultimately the State, in the place of God. Man becomes owned by other men, instead of by his Maker. Socialism is an entirely humanistic, God-denying, God-usurping belief.
Between these two beliefs—private property and socialism— there exists fundamental conflict. They represent contradictory views of sovereignty, man, law, society, and inheritance. They are fundamentally rival religious systems. Choosing one, you reject the other; service and honor to God, or servitude to fellow men. Either God commands and judges man, or man commands and judges man.”
The clash between Peter and Paul at Antioch is one of those back-water biblical incidents that changed the world. It’s ancient history, but it’s as relevant today as it was in the first century, if not more so. Paul recounts the incident in the second chapter of his letter to the Galatians, his main epistle against the “Judaizers.” According to some Jewish converts in the early church, Gentiles could not become full disciples of Jesus without first becoming Jews. They had to be circumcised, observe Jewish purity laws and dietary restrictions, and follow Jewish rules about table fellowship if they were going to be full members of the Christian community.
The battle between Paul and the Judaizers focused on table fellowship. Initially, Peter didn’t require Gentiles to “judaize” but ate openly with uncircumcised Gentiles. Pressured by believers from the Jerusalem church, though, he withdrew and refused to share meals with Gentiles anymore. Whether these were common or sacred meals, the same logic would apply to both: If Peter wouldn’t eat common meals with unclean Gentiles, he certainly would have avoided the contagion of Gentiles at sacred meals. For Paul, this wasn’t a small or marginal issue. In Paul’s judgment, Peter was “not straightforward about the gospel” and his actions undermined justification by faith. Unless Jews and Gentiles share a common table, Paul insisted, the Gospel is compromised.
At the center of Paul’s message was the announcement that Israel’s hopes had been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because of those events, Torah no longer provided access to God. Torah belonged to the age of the flesh, and now the age of the Spirit had come. Thus, the badges and boundary markers that once marked Israel as the people of God no longer did so. Jews were free to keep Torah in respect for their ancestors, but Gentiles were grafted in as full members of Christ’s body without observing Torah. Faith in Jesus was now the sole badge of membership, faith ritualized by baptism. When Peter implicitly demanded that believing Gentiles observe Jewish ceremonies, he turned back to the age of Torah. Peter obscured the gospel because he acted as if Jesus had never come.
For Paul, Christians should share meals with any and all who confess faith in Jesus, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, and this unity should be especially evident in the Eucharistic meal that is the high point of Christian liturgy. One Lord must have one people sitting at one table. Any additional requirement beyond faith in Jesus betrays the Gospel.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Some profess Jesus but betray him with their lives. Jesus and Paul both teach that impenitent sinners and heretics should be excluded from the Church and from the table of communion. As Reformed Protestants say, the table must be fenced.
Even with that crucial qualification, Paul’s assault on Peter poses a bracing challenge to today’s church. It is common in every branch of the church for some believers to exclude other believers from the Lord’s table. Some Lutherans will commune only with Christians who hold to a Lutheran view of the real presence. Some Reformed churches require communicants to adhere to their Confessional standards. The Catholic Mass and the Orthodox Eucharist are reserved, with a few exceptions, for Catholics and Orthodox.
I cannot see how these exclusions pass the Pauline test. Catholics will say that they don’t add anything to Paul’s requirements. They exclude Protestants from the Mass because Protestantism is (at best) an inadequate expression of the apostolic faith; for Catholics, a credible confession of Jesus must include a confession of certain truths about the Church. Lutherans and some Reformed Christians will point to Paul’s warnings about “discerning the body” and ask Amos’s question: “Do men walk together unless they are in agreement?” All this avoids the central question: Do Catholics and Orthodox consider their Protestant friends Christians? Do Lutherans consider Reformed believers to be disciples of Jesus? If so, why aren’t they eating at the same table? Shouldn’t the one Lord have one people at one table?
I have shared meals in diners, French restaurants, and at Indian buffets with Rusty Reno, David Mills, David Bentley Hart, Francesca Murphy, Matt Levering, Robert Louis Wilken, Vigen Guroian, George Weigel, and Robert George. At those tables, we were family, and I am exceedingly grateful for that warm expression of communion in Christ and in one another. Such friendships are a heartening sign of ecumenical progress.
But when we assemble as Church, in the place where our brotherhood should be most evident, some of us eat while others watch. If Jesus showed up as host, wouldn’t he invite Timothy George, Alan Jacobs, Robert Jenson, and Gilbert Meilander to share his table along with Reno, Hart, Mills, and all the rest? If Jesus showed up, wouldn’t he want all of us to join him at his table? And, doesn’t Jesus show up?
“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.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 is Paul’s teaching about what is popularly called the rapture. The rapture is the miraculous transportation of all living Christians to heaven at the return of Jesus. There is a lot of misinformation about this event, but this passage gives us some definite truths about it. Paul made it clear that Jesus’ return will not be secret but will be visible; it will be a bodily return; and it will be a triumphant return, for He will not come in lowliness and meekness as He did at His first advent, but in power and glory. The angels told the disciples, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Just as He left visibly on the shekinah cloud, so He will come again visibly on this cloud of glory.
There is a view, one that is very widespread in the church today, that holds that Jesus will come back to rapture the church out of the world, but that the great tribulation will then occur, after which Jesus will return again. I think this view is a result of a serious misunderstanding of what the Apostle described here in 1 Thessalonians.
I once spoke with one of the leading representatives of this school of thought, a man who teaches the “pretribulation” rapture. I said to him, “I do not know a single verse anywhere in the Bible that teaches a pretribulation rapture. Can you tell me where to find that?” I’ll never forget what he said to me: “No, I can’t. But that’s what I was taught from the time I was a little child.” I told him, “Let’s get our theology from the Bible rather than from Sunday school lessons we heard years and years ago.”
Let us look at the events Paul described. First he noted: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven.… And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16–17). Here we see that the purpose of the dead rising and our being caught up into the sky is not to go away but to meet Jesus as He is returning. He will not be taking us out of the world to stay. He will be lifting us up to participate with Him in His triumphal return.
When the Roman legions were dispatched to go into a foreign country on a military campaign, their standards bore the letters SPQR, an abbreviation for Senatus Populus Que Romanus, which means “the Senate and the people of Rome.” It was understood in Rome that the conquests of the military were not simply for the politicians who governed, but for all the citizens of the city.
The army might be gone for a campaign of two or three years. Finally, the soldiers would return, leading captives in chains. They would camp outside the city and send in a messenger to alert the Senate and the people that the legions had returned. When that news arrived, the people began to prepare to receive the conquering heroes. When everything was ready, a trumpet was sounded. With that, the citizens of the city went out to where the army was camped and joined the soldiers in marching into the city. The idea was that they had participated in the triumph of their conquering army.
This is exactly the language that Paul used here. He was saying that when Jesus comes back in conquering power, believers, both dead and alive, will be caught up in the air to meet Him, not to stay up there, but to join His return in triumph, to participate in His exaltation.
It seems that Paul’s goal here was to comfort the Thessalonians, who were saddened that their dead loved ones were apparently going to miss the triumphal return of Christ, the great conclusion to the ministry of Jesus at the end of time. Paul assured them that the dead in Christ will not miss His return at all. In fact, they will be there first. The dead will rise first, and then those who are still alive and are Christ’s will be caught up together with this whole assembly to come to the earth again in triumph.”
Here is an excellent summary of the Reformed doctrine by B.B. Warfield. The only exception I would take to it, is the “visible” church language and section 21 which says the state must operate off of “human reason”. I think thats a big error. Otherwise, it’s good.
“1. I believe that God, since the creation of His world, has plainly revealed through the things He has made His eternal power and divine nature, and the requirements of His law, so that there is no excuse for unbelief or disobedience on the part of any man; yet however glorious this revelation, it is not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary for salvation.
2. I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify and enjoy Him in His inerrant Word, that is, the Bible, which He has given by the infallible inspiration of His Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning Him and what duty He requires of me.
3. I believe that the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by alleged new revelations of the Spirit or by traditions of men.
4. I believe that God authenticated His prophets and apostles as agents of revelation by mighty acts of His power employed by Him as signs whereby all men should confess, concerning those who are gifted with such power, “We know you are a teacher sent from God, for no one could do the things you do lest God were with Him”; and I believe that the great outpouring of such miracles displayed in the ministry of Christ and His Apostles signified the breaking into history of God’s promised kingdom, which kingdom, when established in its fullness, will issue in the miraculous renewal of all creation; and that until such time, God is at work bringing men and women into that kingdom through the supernatural work of regeneration.
5. I believe that because God has completed His revelation in Jesus Christ, the former ways of revealing His will are now ceased; and because the final and manifest establishment of His kingdom is yet to come, God does not now choose to publicly display His miraculous power. Nevertheless I believe that God is directly upholding and governing His creation, moment by moment; that God faithfully supplies the needs of His people through His constant providential care; and that He often blesses them with special providences wherein He strengthens their faith and displays His special love for them to the world.
6. I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth; incomparable in all that He is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and truth I may safely put my trust.
7. I believe that God has all life, glory, goodness, and blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of me, or deriving any glory from me, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon me in Christ Jesus; and that He has most sovereign dominion over me, to do by me, for me, or upon me whatsoever He pleases.
8. I believe that God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence done to the will of the creature; and trusting in the decree of God, I who am called according to His purpose, I may be assured that all things will work together for my good.
9. I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that in them is, are the works of God’s hands; and that all that He has made He directs and governs in all their actions, so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in Him shall not be put to shame, but may rest securely in the protection of His almighty love.
10.I believe that God created man after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and that all men owe their Creator thanksgiving and worship; yet God condescended, making a covenant with man, that men might know God, not just as Creator, but as their blessedness and reward. And I believe that while the requirement of this covenant, originating under Adam, was obedience, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit him to disobey, having purposed to order it to His own glory; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that I, in Adam, lost the rewards of a covenant keeper, and suffer the curses due a covenant breaker. Therefore my only hope of salvation is that Christ the second Adam, has kept the covenant, securing its rewards for the elect, among whom by grace I am numbered.
11. I believe that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior.
12. I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith He has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto Himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world His kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord.
13. I believe that God has redeemed His people unto HimseIf through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though He was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that are under the law; I believe that He bore the penalty due to my sins in His own body on the tree, and fulfilled in His own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to His Father as His purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of His grace forever; wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my redeemer.
14. I believe that Jesus Christ my redeemer, who died for my offenses was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where He sits at he right hand of the Father Almighty continually making intercession for his people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for His Church; so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of His hands and nothing can separate me from His love.
15. I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectualy applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until His gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
16. I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that, out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of His mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to Him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God’s sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone; thus, and thus only, do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.
17. I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake, it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom He has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my leader, who has died for me and granted to me His Holy Spirit that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them.
18. I believe that God has established His Church in the world, one and the same in all ages, and now, under the Gospel, has endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and prayer; in order that through these means, the riches of His grace in the gospel may be known to the world, and by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to His people; wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use by best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world.
19. I believe that the visible Church consists of all those who are united to Christ, the Head of the Church, by profession of their faith, together with their children; and that the visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians. Therefore I believe that all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.
20. I believe that God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any respect contrary to His Word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. I believe therefore, that the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable and that no religious constitution should be supported by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security equal and common to all others.
21. I believe that the Church is God’s spiritual minister for the purpose of redemption and the state is God’s providential minister for the purpose of thisworldly order. The power of the Church is exclusively spiritual; that of the State includes the exercise of force. The constitution of the Church derives exclusively from divine revelation; the constitution of the State must be determined by human reason and the course of providential events. I believe therefore that the Church has no right to construct or modify a government for the State, and the State has no right to frame a creed or polity for the Church.
22. I believe that disciples of Jesus Christ are called to be His witnesses in the world, proclaiming the justice and mercy of God to all men, and making evident His wise and righteous rule over every aspect of human culture. Therefore it is my obligation to search the Scriptures with all the skills God has allotted me, and to seek, within the bounds of my calling, to apply my understanding of His Word to the entire created order, and to all the outworkings of His most wise providence. And I believe that it is my privilege and duty to pursue a vocation in this world that employs my gifts to the glory of God, and for the good of my family, my congregation, my community, and, as God brings opportunity, to any who may be in need.
23. I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is He to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal reward; the wicked shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them, wherein their consciences shall fully concur, and they shall be cast into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both in body and soul, with the devil and his angels for ever. The righteous in Christ shall be caught up with Christ and there openly acknowledged and acquitted; shall be received into heaven, where they shall fully and forever be freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy in both body and soul, in the great company of all God’s saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity.
24. I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord, and when He shall return in His majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity; encouraged by which blessed hope, it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardships here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with Him I shall also live with Him, if I endure, I shall also reign with Him.”
Doug Wilson has an insightful blog post where he responds to Randy Alcorn’s reluctance to affirm Limited Atonement. Enjoy.
“It is not often that I get to agree with a 4-point Calvinist about limited atonement, so when I do, I ought to seize the opportunity. Right?
First, check out this statement here.
I believe Alcorn is absolutely right that the plain teaching of Scripture trumps our logical mastications. I also believe he is right that the reasoning of many Calvinistic exegetes on passages like 1 John 2:2, 1 Tim. 2:6, Is. 53:6, and 2 Pet. 2:31 seems to set a new standard of special pleading.
Of course you haven’t lived until you see an Arminian preacher sweating over Rom. 8:28-39. But in a similar way, your cup of life has not been lived to the full until you have read A.W. Pink explaining how “God loved the world” means that God actually loved His elect (coupled with the background assumption that the elect are made up of 15-17 people, tops). You see, world means the opposite of what it seems to mean. Our Procrustean theology demands it.
At the same time, I agree with RC Sproul that it is five points or no points. And I am a full five-pointer. And on some days, when I have had some robust hotel coffee, I am a six-and-a-half pointer. What to do?
Not surprisingly, postmillennialism is the answer. Not only does postmillennialism ride to the rescue of the world, it also rides to the rescue of a decrepit, rationalistic Calvinism. Calvinists don’t like to be told that when they are hobbling through the universal texts that they look just like the Arminians hobbling through the sovereignty texts. But they do.
So try this out. The world will be saved. The nations will come to Christ. The families of the earth will turn to the Lord. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of God as the Pacific is wet. Why will all this happen? Because Jesus died so that it would. Jesus died to secure the certainty of it.
Jesus is the savior of the world. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the propitiation for the sins of the world. There’s more, but you get the drift.
The problem is that Jesus did not die to purchase raffle tickets for everybody. He did not die to give everybody a chance at it, a chance that most will muff. He did not secure options with His blood. Jesus did not die so that anybody could be saved if they chose, but they probably won’t.
Rather, Jesus died to secure salvation, sin-removal, and propitiation for the world. This means that whateverworld means, it is an entity that has been saved, has had its sins cleansed, and has received the blessing of propitiation. This is where the Arminians and four-pointers fail to live up to their own professed standard. They say that they can’t get around Jesus being the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and then the first thing they do is get around Jesus being the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Against this position, Jesus is the propitiation, not could be the propitiation, if you only . . . Against truncated Calvinism, Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not for the sins of some elite Delta Force.
So I don’t want Calvinists to throw away their logic, or as Alcorn put it, their “western” logic. I want them to pick it up. Follow it out farther. No points without five points, yes. And no five points without the sixth point of postmillennialism. This means the starchiest five-point amill guy is in the same logical position as the four-pointers.
So when the knowledge of God fills the earth as the waters cover the sea, we may be content to know that semi-Pelagianism will then be well beneath the waves, in Davy Jones locker. And not until then.””