Between Babel and Beast

Between Babel and Beast is Peter Leithart’s newest book, this time on the subject of American Empire. My copy is on the way. I just read a review from Roger Olson, a man who is probably not at all sympathetic with Leithart’s theological positions, but hear what he says:

If Leithart were not who he is, a theologically conservative American Protestant (and possibly some kind of Christian Reconstructionist), he would be labeled (by Religious Right types and conservative evangelicals in general) a liberal liberationist critic America and dismissed as a “leftist.” Of course, he’s not that. But many of his criticisms of America echo ones found in the literature of Latin American liberation theologians. For example, he gives numerous examples of instances in which America has contributed to the overthrow (often violent) of democratically elected Latin American governments solely to protect “American interests” (viz., the interests of large American corporations). He doesn’t just throw these charges out there without supportive detail. Read the book.

[…]

Of all the books I have read in the past several years, this one strikes a chord with me most strongly. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Get it and read it. Let it speak to you. Share it with someone you know who believes in “American exceptionalism.”

I don’t know if Leithart is a prophet in the same category as Isaiah or Amos or John the Baptist (or Gregory of Nyssa or Chrysostom), but this book is prophetic. It (especially Parts II and III) ought to be required reading in every American church and Christian organization.

I think this will be a great follow up to Against Christianity and Defending Constantine.

Julie Ingersoll: Wrong on Cameron

In her latest argument free column, Julie Ingersoll tells us that Kirk Cameron is “…increasingly connected to Christian Reconstruction and dominion theology.” She says this due to guilt by association and Cameron’s apparent embrace of postmillenialism. If she is going to assert that postmillenialism equals Reconstruction, then the list of Reconstructionists would grow large and stretch back through time. But she doesn’t tell us how he two positions, one which is eschatological, the other which is largely legal, are one in the same. She just connects some dots, asserts some things and assumes that it is all bad and scary. Par for the course.

Reconstructionism as a movement is largely dead, having passed from the scene with the death of Bahnsen and Rushdoony. Ideas connected to Reconstruction are still alive here and there, and are largely related to Christendom and an embrace of the entire Bible. But you would think that it is 1992 if you read Ingersoll. And even then, the percentage of Christians who embraced it (sadly) was never more than a few thousand.

Ingersoll never explains why her worldview is correct, she simply assumes that we agree with her. She is preaching to the choir, not engaging in argument.

Julie Ingersoll Columns – Argument Free

Over at “Religion Dispatches”, a leftist site devoted to attacking Orthodox Christendom, Julie Ingersoll regularly posts on the horrors of a nascent Christian Reconstructionist movement, never mind that it largely passed out of existence a decade ago. The thing about her columns is that they are generally argument free. She just states things like:

In Rushdoony’s vision, the single most important tool for transforming the whole of culture to conform to biblical law (i.e. the exercise of dominion), was to replace public education with biblical education. The decades since have brought the rise of the Christian school and the Christian homeschool movements, both of which are rooted philosophically and even legally in Rushdoony’s work. A handful of Christian Reconstructionist writers who came after Rushdoony laid out detailed strategies to build a “biblical” system responsible only to parents, convince Christians that they are being disobedient to God if they send their children to government schools, and gradually choke off funding for alternatives that are public and/or secular.

And doesn’t offer any arguments as to why this is wrong. Her worldview is so totalizing and assumed to the readership that she needn’t even advocate as to why someone should believe what she says. In other words, what is wrong with Biblical law? Why should Christian parents send their kids to government schools? Ingersoll won’t tell you, it’s just a “duh” thing. With “arguments” like this, you can see how bankrupt the Apostate left really is.

Antithesis and Credenda

At the beginning of the 1990’s a magazine called Antithesis was published by Covenant Community Church of Orange County (OPC). It was only published for two years. The masthead included Douglas Jones as the Editor, with men like David Hagopian and Greg Bahnsen as Senior Editors. Bahnsen’s influence on the magazine was apparent as it featured presuppositional reasoning throughout its articles.Over the short period that it was in print, Douglas Wilson and Wesley Callihan from Moscow, ID, were added as Contributing Editors. The final issue was published in July/August of 1991. I am not sure how Wilson came to the attention of Jones at that early time.

Wilson started publishing Credenda/Agenda in 1989 with a series of short papers, which became the basis of the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words.” By Volume 5, Number 1 of Credenda, Doug Jones was contributing to the magazine and was soon the Managing Editor. This was probably in about 1992-93. The format of Credenda then began to mirror what Antithesis had been to a large degree, with debates, cultural commentary and a Van Tillian emphasis. I would contend that Moscow thus inherited and reunified the streams of thought that had diverged in the 1980’s with the conflicts between Rushdoony, Bahnsen and the Jordan/North wing of theonomy. Moscow was influenced by all of those folks.

The Talmud in Calvinism

Writing in Christian Hebraists and Dutch Rabbis, Aaron Katchen discusses the Dutch Calvinist appropriation of the Talmud in Biblical exegesis. He quotes the the famous Dutch theologian Johannes Coccejus, as saying:
…it is a new thing I am attempting, namely, to show that a knowledge of the Talmud and of the talmudic writers is of extraordinary help in the elucidation of the New Testament.
Before that, though, quoting Grotious’s view from the De jure that:
the Hebrew writers can contribute not a little to our understanding of the meaning of the books belonging to the old covenant,
Coch continues by saying that the Talmud, the “Doctrinalis,” or the “authorized teaching” of the Jews, as he refers to it at this point, has its usefulness for the understanding of the law in all its facets: ceremonial, natural, and that fixed by convention (“positivus”).
Where, but the Jewish Talmud, can the learned traditions handed down by our forefathers be sought? Indeed, these are relevant, whether for a fuller understanding of Mosaic law, ritual as well as judicial and moral; or for an illustration of exotic (?) laws; or for shedding light on accounts of the Jewish commonwealths [e.g, Josephus(?)]; or, what is most important, for confirmation of the account in the Gospels, where there is abundant mention of Jewish customs, law and traditions.
Katchen, 68-69

Foundational Thinkers

In the theological circles that I identify with there are many streams of thought which converge in the current conversation. I would like to briefly identify some of the great thinkers, past and present, who define that conversation.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Eugen Rosentstock Huessy (ERH) was a German Christian thinker. Peter Leithart discusses him in this article, which I will quote here.

The scope of his life’s work is impressively unclassifiable. He disdained the disciplinary confinements of the modern university, and the disdain shows. He wrote on language, religion and the Bible, calendars, time, and grammar. He published a massive history of the Western revolution and a three-volume Soziologie, as well as a monograph on his academic specialty, medieval German legal history. When he came to America, he took a chair in German language and culture at Harvard, but he could have taught sociology, law, philosophy, comparative religion, or any of a half dozen other disciplines. Harvard didn’t know what to do with him. Since he talked a lot about God, they sent him to the divinity school.

Openly orthodox, Rosenstock-Huessy was also a remarkably progressive thinker, embodying what Chesterton, one of Rosenstock-Huessy’s favorite authors, described as the adventure of orthodoxy. This is evident particularly in his meditations on time, and the fundamental temporal orientation of his work. He observed that institutions, ideas, and systems have their day—and then something new is needed: “Philosophies have their time. It is a misunderstanding to attribute a perennial character to any particular philosophy. Philosophy is the expression of a zeitgeist. Philosophies must be buried at the right time. The Jesuits know that Thomism is dead.” He spoke of the world entering a “Johannine” age of history, an age of the Spirit that would move quite differently from the earlier ages of the Church: “each generation has to act differently precisely in order to represent the same thing. Only so can each become a full partner in the process of Making Man.”

I have not read ERH myself, but need to and hope to find the time to in the future.

René Girard

Rene Girard is a French philosopher famed for his theory of “mimetic rivalry” and his discussion of the scapegoat mechanism in society. Perhaps a portion of this interview will serve to summarize his views:

NPQ: Is Christianity superior to other religions?

Girard: Yes. All of my work has been an effort to show that Christianity is superior and not just another mythology. In mythology, a furious mob mobilizes against scapegoats held responsible for some huge crisis. The sacrifice of the guilty victim through collective violence ends the crisis and founds a new order ordained by the divine. Violence and scapegoating are always present in the mythological definition of the divine itself.

It is true that the structure of the Gospels is similar to that of mythology in which a crisis is resolved through a single victim who unites everybody against him, thus reconciling the community. As the Greeks thought, the shock of death of the victim brings about a catharsis that reconciles. It extinguishes the appetite for violence. For the Greeks, the tragic death of the hero enabled ordinary people to go back to their peaceful lives.

However, in this case, the victim is innocent and the victimizers are guilty. Collective violence against the scapegoat as a sacred, founding act is revealed as a lie. Christ redeems the victimizers through enduring his suffering, imploring God to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” He refuses to plead to God to avenge his victimhood with reciprocal violence. Rather, he turns the other cheek.

The victory of the Cross is a victory of love against the scapegoating cycle of violence. It punctures the idea that hatred is a sacred duty.

I have his book “Violence and the Sacred” but have not read it yet.

Cornelius Van Til

Finally, there is the great Cornelius Van Til. Van Til is well-known for being a pioneer of presuppositional apologetics and the transcendental argument for the existence of God. He stressed the antithesis between the believer and the non-believer. Van Til said this of his own method:

My understanding of the relationship between Christian and non-Christian, philosophically speaking.
1. Both have presuppositions about the nature of reality:
a. The Christian presupposes the triune God and his redemptive plan for the universe as set forth once for all in Scripture.
b. The non-Christian presupposes a dialectic between “chance” and “regularity,” the former accounting for the origin of matter and life, the latter accounting for the current success of the scientific enterprise.
2. Neither can, as finite beings, by means of logic as such, say what reality must be or cannot be.
a. The Christian, therefore, attempts to understand his world through the observation and logical ordering of facts in self-conscious subjection to the plan of the self attesting Christ of Scripture.
b. The non-Christian, while attempting an enterprise similar to the Christian’s, attempts nevertheless to use “logic” to destroy the Christian position. On the one hand, appealing to the non- rationality of “matter,” he says that the chance- character of “facts” is conclusive evidence against the Christian position. Then, on the other hand, he maintains like Parmenides that the Christian story cannot possibly be true. Man must be autonomous, “logic” must be legislative as to the field of “possibility” and possibility must be above God.

 

 

Against Antinomianism

A central characteristic of the churches and of modern preaching and Biblical teaching is antinomianism, an anti-law position. The antinomian believes that faith frees the Christian from the law, so that he is not outside the law but is rather dead to the law. There is no warrant whatsoever in Scripture for antinomianism. The expression, “dead to the law,” is indeed in Scripture (Gal. 2:9; Rom. 7.4), but it has reference to the believer in relationship to the atoning work of Christ as the believer’s representative and substitute; the believer is dead to the law an an indictment, a legal sentence of death against him, Christ having died for him, but the believer is alive to the law as the righteousness of God.

– R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 2-3

 

Molly Worthen on Al Mohler

Molly Worthen is an up and coming scholar/writer. She has an interest in theonomy and reformed theology, but she is coming at them from a very mainstream place, attempting to describe them for a larger audience. She has a new article here about Al Mohler. Some of her past pieces include articles on:

New St. Andrews College and Doug Wilson

Mark Driscoll

R. J. Rushdoony and Reconstruction

She’s doing the writing that I wish I could do if I had time and credentials!

UPDATE

Here are some reaction’s to Worthen’s article, all from blogs that I don’t read and have never heard of, but I put them here for archival purposes:

A Long Profile in the Wrong Direction

Justin Taylor on the Christianity Today Cover Story on Al Mohler by Peter Lumpkins

Dr. Mohler and “Stalled” Church Planting

Thoughts On Christianity Today’s Profile of Albert Mohler

Christianity Today’s Piece on Dr. Mohler: Not Liberal Enough

 

 

 

What to do after the Healthcare Defeat?

Many Christians are asking what is to be done in light of our latest defeat and the expansion of the Messianic State. Conservatives have lost every single battle of my adult lifetime and are forever retreating, even when in power. Back in the 1980‘s in an essay called “Rebellion, Tyranny, and Dominion in the Book of Genesis” from the book “Tactics of Christian Resistance”, James Jordan exegetes Genesis and its implications for Christian politics. His bottom-line is that right now we are in a situation where we must wait with patient faith, mature, and achieve power only in the distant future. Note that you should probably read the whole essay and understand his exegesis to understand his conclusions. An extended quote follows; Jordan writes:
 Is the “New Right” really “ready to lead”? I doubt it. The New Right has not yet figured out the message of the book of Genesis. It continues to think that reformation will come through the acquisition of political power. By looking to the state, New Rightists (and old conservatives as well) make themselves statist. […]
Many conservative Roman Catholics thought that John Kennedy would help turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Kennedy apparently spent too much time doing other things to ask what he could do for his country. Mainline conservatives then trusted Richard Nixon, a man knowledgeable in international affairs, to turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Nixon’s conscience was not sufficiently seared to permit him to act like a Democratic Party politician, guilt-free. Bible believing Christians had high hopes for Jimmy Carter. Need we add that they were disappointed by the decisions made by Mr. Carter’s mother, sister, and wife? And then the whole New Right got behind Ronald Reagan, who by his appointments betrayed them before he even took office, and has now signed a bill, updating social security, which directly taxes the churches.
[We could add the two George Bushes, New Gingrich and Sarah Palin to this list, we never learn. – Joel]
[…]
Frankly, I believe that in all of this God has, as always, been gracious to us. Are Christians in this country ready to take charge? Heaven forbid! Virtually none of them knows the first thing about the law of God, by which they are called to govern. Most of them do not even acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Few have any experience in governing, since their churches have no courts, being at best mere preaching points (where they have not degenerated into spas and literal circuses). The most powerful New Christian Right people are personality-cult oriented, one-man shows (and by shows I mean shows: radio shows, television shows, and the putting on of shows).
[…]
This is not to despise the New Christian Right, or to argue that we should not exercise our (remaining) liberties as Americans to pressure the larger governments toward more Godly actions. We need to remember, however, that there is only so much time and energy alloted to each of us, and essentially that time is far better spent acquiring dominion through service than in power politics.
We may contrast three different approaches, which are not mutually exclusive, but which are of varying value at present. First, there is the effort to change laws by getting people elected to office. That has not been very successful so far, and the reason is that the vast majority of Americans essentially like things the way they are. That’s why things are the way they are – it is what the people want, and it is what they deserve, and so it is what God gives them…
Second, there is the effort to go about our business as quietly as possible. We submit to the “powers that be,” not to any law that such powers may happen to enact. We do not recognize their right to make laws, for to do so would be to grant them absolute power; but we recognize that God has given them power, and we are not to contest that power as such. We practice deception where morally necessary, and that includes preserving our capital, protecting our households, and rearing our children, as Genesis makes clear. If we are taken to court, we fight in that arena for the right to conduct Christian lives, as Paul did in the book of Acts.
Third, there is the effort to develop a Christian subculture, building up the churches as true courts and sanctuaries, developing Christian arbitration and reconciliation commissions, Christian schools, Christian medical facilities, and the like. These latter two methods are the primary ones for our times. […]
When we are ready, God will give the robe to us. That He has not done so proves that we are not ready. Asserting our readiness will not fool Him. Let us pray that He does not crush us by giving us such authority before we are ready for it. Let us plan for our great-grandchildren to be ready for it. Let us go about our business, acquiring wisdom in family, church, state, and business, and avoiding confrontations with the powers that be. Let us learn to be skillful in deceiving them and in preserving our assets for our great-grand-children. For as sure as Christ is risen from the grave and is ascended to regal glory on high, so sure it is that his saints will inherit the kingdom and rule in His name, when the time is right.