"The world is in flames, consumed by evil. Is it possible that there is no one who cares?"—Abraham Heschel
The word "anchorite" comes from the Greek verb "anacwre-ein" translated "to separate, to withdraw." The anchorites, comprised of both men and women, considered the prevailing culture so out of concert with God's will, that only removal from it could preserve their spirituality and devotion to God. From the early years of the church the anchorites valued isolation from the world as a preservation to their faith. Within this self-imposed exile they viewed prayer and study of the Scriptures as the highest form of the spiritual life. From this beginning, the monastic movement was born. "Anchorites were, in the early church, a class of religious persons who generally passed their lives in cells, from which they never removed. Their habitations were, in many instances, entirely separated from the abodes of other men, sometimes in the depth of wildernesses, in pits or caverns. The continual prevalence of bloody wars, civil commotions, and persecutions at the beginning of the Christian Era must have made retirement and religious meditation agreeable to men of quiet and contemplative minds." (The Probert Encyclopedia). The anchorites of the Middle Ages lived in cells called anchorholes, approximately 12 x 12 feet with a small aperture cut through the wall to view the world outside. They devoted their entire life to academic and scholastic study, while repudiating a world they felt was irretreviably lost. Their influence on society was as effectual as one solitary raindrop in the desert. "It [the neo-anchorites] places the great problem of Christianity not in the transformation, but in the abandonment of the world." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 159)
"Both Evangelical Evangelism and charismatic experientialism tend to nuture a type of Dead Sea Caves detachment from the central concerns of the present civilizational crisis."—Carl F. H. Henry, "God, Revelation and Authority," Vol. 6, p. 436
The modern anchorites have not built walls of stone to enclose them but they have erected noetic walls on the fallacious assumption that the culture is irredeemable. They circumscribe the Gospel, and whatever they conjoin to it, to the fractional domain of the spirit, which in reality is the minute community they function within. From the solipsistic experientialism of the pentecostals to the marginal expositions of the evangelicals, that textually boundary the Holy One of Israel (Ps. 78:41), the retreat into communalism of the neo-anchorites is stifling. At this critical juncture in the history of the United States, as the nation has selected a new president, there is passivity, indifference and unconcern among pastors and the Christian church regarding policies and legal decisions that impinge directly on every believer's life. As one prominent church leader, John MacArthur, said before the election, "I wouldn't spend five seconds thinking about the Fall 2008 election." This mindset is antithetical to the Scriptures and historical theology. It reveals a perverted view of church and state that consigns the secular world to a realm outside the influence of the Christian community. By inversion, this myopia views the spiritual as the only sphere wherein God's will is accomplished. The modern church has become a micro-fortress consigning the society in which we live to irrelevance. The anoetic verbiage of a MacArthur exemplifies the passive retreat from every sphere, it is a concession to the malignant powers of the age. Nearly a century ago, the Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen sounded the alarm, "We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the relentless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion." (The Scientific Preparation of the Minister, address given at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1912). This is exactly what has happened. Christians have been compartmentalized into the category of insulated religionists. The current Christian mindset is incapable of confrontation with the age. "I believe that it is a part of our modern apostasy that we have abandoned much of the world to the devil and restricted the Gospel to a narrow realm." "I believe that we shall be under God's judgment if we neglect to proclaim the whole counsel of God for every realm, church, state, school, philosophy, economics, political science, etc. This is not making Christ partisan: it is simple asserting, to use the old Reformation battle cry, 'The Crown Rights of King Jesus over every realm.'" (Rousas Rushdoony, The Bibilical Philosophy of History, p. 143-144).
"And ye, O peoples, to whom God gave the liberty to choose your own magistrates, see to it, that ye do not forfeit this favor by electing to the position of highest honor, rascals and enemies of God."—John Calvin
Under the leadership of a Saul-like figure, a political-cultic movement clearly set forth its agenda: the removal of all legal restraints on the killing of the unborn, stem-cell research with the destruction of nascent life, legalized cloning, the destruction of labor-intensive free markets toward economic determinism, the ecumenism of faith-based ministries, the redefinition of marriage and a teleology that would render any relationship legal, encroachment upon religious freedom of expression under the guise of hate-crimes or incendiary speech and pressure upon Israel to further compromise territorial security. Every one of the above value judgments directly impact the Christian church theologically, economically, ethically and legally. Within days, after the inauguration of Barack Obama, every one of the above issues have seen Presidential fiat, or legislation, to expand the scope of government to the detriment of the individual and the unborn. We are witnessing the transformation of our democratic republic into an auto-cratic state while millions blindly hail this as the genesis of a new era of governmental involvement. In the face of such self-exaltation the words "I would not spend five seconds," rings hollow, shallow and troglodyllic. The disconnect from reality is as distorting as Alice in her wonderland. She sees what she wants to see, she hears what she wants to hear, all through the prism of distortion. The neo-anchorites vainly believe that they are insulated from such governmental intrusion and cultural decline. They receive confirmation from each other that all is well while the gathering storm of hostility encircles a passive church. The vacuum of non-involvement with the secular world by Christians is immense. In the words of a 20th Century Reformation scholar, the passivity of the modern church is diagnosed, "In the early church there were persons called 'anchorites' who went off into the desert, separating themselves from all social contacts and living solely for God. From that early movement, monasticism was born. In our time, we see a somewhat similar response among some evangelical protestants. They believe that the Christian community should be so separated from the secular sphere that individual Christians should not go into politics or vote in elections, that they should withdraw from the culture, live in distinct communities, have Christian friends exclusively, work for Christian companies, or in general, have nothing to do with this world. It is a way of saying that the authority of the state is illegitimate." (James Mongomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 691). The institution of civil government is not illegitimate, it is ordained by God to restrain evil and show forth His glory. Martin Luther said that the state exists as a "dike against sin." But currently, the state does not restrain sin but promotes rebellion against God. The state does not exist outside the purview of the church. As the state mestasizes in power the community of the faithful is to call into account and restrain such abuses of civil, legal and economic power. In the words of John Murray, "...when the civil magistrate trespasses the limits of his authority, it is incumbent upon the church to expose and condemn such a violation of his authority." (The Relation of Church and State, p. 253).
The present-day anchorites confidently assume that their weekly or weakly sermon will counter the encroaching darkness that is encircling their religious sphere like a hurricane enveloping a small island. Behind a bluster of verbiage they vainly believe their words are holding back the night. The lacuna of pro-test-ant voices from the matrix of the Christian church has allowed the virulent hatred of theism to capture the agoura of ideas. Mere exposition is anemic without confronting a degenerating culture. Apologetics confined to an ecclesiastical cell is cowardice, not Biblical courage. The words of a 19th Century Reformation scholar and theologian, Abraham Kuyper, are disturbing to our comfortable isolation, "There is no doubt then that Christianity is imperiled by great and serious dangers. Two life systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the Son of the Living God, and God, Himself, are bent upon saving the 'Christian Heritage.' This is the struggle in Europe, this is the struggle in America, and this is also the struggle for principles in which my own country is engaged, and in which I myself have been spending all my energy for nearly 40 years. In this struggle, apologetics have advanced us not one single step. Apologetics invariably begun by abandoning the assailed breastwork, in order to entrench themselves cowardly in a raveline [three-sided fortress] behind it. If the battle is to be fought with honor and with a hope of victory, then principles must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power." (The Stone Foundation Lectures, 1895, p. 3). A one-dimensional perspective of the church is ecclesiastical suicide. It divests civil government from the purview of church authority and God's sovereign will. "...it was always understood that both church and state were responsible to God in whose wisdom each had been established. They were two independent servants of one master. Although neither was permitted to rule the other, each was to remind the other of its God-appointed duties and recall it to upright, godly conduct if it should stray. Today, however, the doctrine of the separation of Church and state is taken, primarily by church people to mean that the church is irrelevant to the state--through the state increasingly brings it secular philosophy to bear on the church. Thus, Christians withdraw from politics, neglect even to inform themselves of national and international issues. And, as a result, the articulation of spiritual or moral principles is eliminated from debates on national and international policy. The state becomes its own god with its chief operating principle being pragmatism." (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 665). When the church is anemic, civil government by default becomes the guardian of the people. The state occupies a position that transcends its delegated authority. Government becomes the foci of trust and hope. In this climate the church poses no restraint to the hubris of elected officials. For millions, the fiat declarations of a president replace the declared Word of God. "By aggrandizing law and human rights and welfare to their sovereignty, all manner of earthly leaders eagerly preempt the role of the Divine and obscure the Living God of Scriptural relevation. The alternatives are clear; either we return to the God of the Bible or we perish in the pit of lawlessness." (Carl F. H. Henry, "God, Relevation and Authority," Vol. 6, p. 454).
"On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth."—Isaiah 62:6-7
"And I set watchment over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen'."—Jeremiah 6:17
"At every stage of her existence the Church is in need of watchman who will guard the flock from all that would destroy it."—E. J. Young, Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 470
"She [the church] must fulfill the role of a watchman with respect to the State, she must remain principally critical with respect to every State and be prepared to warn it about transgression of its bounds."—Raymond Zorn, Church and Kingdom, p. 186
As ancient sentinels were stationed on the walls of a city to alert the inhabitants of approaching danger, so the prophets of Israel were to sound a toxin voice to the nation of impending calamity. The prophets of Israel were the heart of God in human flesh. They encountered every aspect of life in reference to God. The prophets diagnosed the spiritual, cultural, social, economic, political and military condition of the nation from the perspective of eternity. Their voices knew no bounds of influence and repercussion. Nothing was outside the authoritative domain of the prophetic voice. From kings to pauper, all would come to know the mind of God through the enflamed heart of the prophet. Their message embraced the totality of Israel's life and history. Their voice captured the present from the transcendence of eternity. The prophets mindset encompassed the world, not just a sliver of religious activity. "The prophet is not only a prophet. He is also a poet, preacher, patriot, social critic, moralist." "The prophet was an individual who said, 'No' to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness and syncretism." "The prophet faces a coalition of callousness and established authority and undertakes to stop a mighty stream with mere words. Had the purpose been to express great ideas, prophesy would have had to be acclaimed as a triumph. Yet the purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness, to change the inner man as well as to revolutionize history." (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, p. VIII, XIII, p. 16-17). The prophets left no avenue of society untouched by the revelation of God. Their voice hit the solar plexus of society with warning and redemption. No aspect of life was sacrosanct from their fiery confrontation. "By his very claim, his was the voice of supreme authority. He not only rivalled the decisions of the king and the counsel of the priest, he defied and even condemned their words and deed." (The Prophets, p. 260). The prophets' words brought doom to nations and restoration to others (Hos. 6:5, Jer. 1:10, 18:17 and Ezek. 32:17-18). The prophets spoke to nations and delineated the rise and fall of kingdoms. They could not be sequestered into a provincial setting. The world was their arena. They ordered armies and battles to be fought in God's name. They indulged in direct political action to influence the policies of state. "Intensely patriotic they were representatives of the charismatic tradition of the tribal league; filled with the Divine fury, they had roused men to rage Holy War against the Philistine masters." "This was in a true sense a political office, for the prophets spoke as messengers of Yahweh's heavenly court, the appointed agents of his imperium in the world, and it was their duty to remind kings and officials of state that the real ruler of Israel is Yahweh, and to criticize and correct the state in the light of his declared will. Such criticism the prophets had carried out repeatedly..." (John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 245, 262). The "thus sayeth the Lord", has ceased, we hear only the silence of God. The lack of authoritative voices that speak power to power, truth to lie, clarity to obfuscation, is sorely felt in a nation inebriated by the rhetoric of self-exaltation. The burden and call of a watchman still rests upon the church to warn and instruct the believer and secular society, of the impending intrusion of powers that aim to devalue and reinterpret the image of God and man. If the believer's voice is silent then the lacuna will be filled by the sound of allegiance from those who subordinate their lives to the god of the state. "She [the church], as the proclaimer and interpreter of God's word, must make clear its application to the State, setting forth the scope of the State's duty to its citizens and delimiting the bounds of the realm in which it exercises its authority." "The duties of the watchman for the Church are an ever-renewed challenge to her in whatever generation she may find herself, less the mystery of iniquity, in its ceaseless development, exceed its bounds and win by default what should have been defended at all costs by the Church." "...the Church must be prepared to resist all attempts by the State, whenever they shall come, to deify itself by arrogating to itself such authority and prerogatives which belong unto God alone." (Raymond Zorn, Church and Kingdom, p. 187).
"...he (Antiochus) compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar;..."—Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 1.1.2
After the prophetic voice ceased, a 450-year interval until the birth of Jesus, the Maccabean revolt against the tyrranical reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 B.C., Dan. 8:23-27, 11:21-35), kept the nation of Israel from extinction and their religion from complete syncretism. Under the reign of the Seleucide king Antiochus Epiphanes, referred to in II Macc. 9:28 as a "murderer and blasphemer", a decree was issued to eradicate the distinctiveness of the Jewish way of life. Monotheism, study of Torah, circumcision, the sacrificial system, and observance of the Sabbath were to be abolished, with the intent of forcing upon the people Hellenic institutions and customs. "The king then issued a decree throughout his empire: his subjects were all to become one people and abandon their own laws and religion. The nations everywhere complied with the royal command, and many in Israel accepted the foreign worship, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath. Moreover, the king sent agents with written orders to Jerusalem and the towns of Judea. Ways and customs foreign to the country were to be introduced. Burnt-offerings, sacrifices, and libations in the temple were forbidden; sabbaths and feast-days were to be profaned; the temple and its ministers to be defiled. Altars, idols, and sacred precincts were to be established; swine and other unclean beasts to be offered in sacrifice. They must leave their sons uncircumcised; they must make themselves in every way abominable, unclean, and profane, and so forget the law and change all their statues." (I Macc. 1:41-50) Any infraction of the edict of Antiochus was met with swift retribution intended to stamp out any residue of faith in the God of Abraham, "The penalty for disobedience was death. Such was the decree which the king issued to all his subjects." (I Macc. 1:51) The oppressive measures of Antiochus culminated in the "abomination of desolation" in 167 B.C. "On the fifteenth day of the month Kislev in the year 167 B.C., 'the abomination of desolation' was set up on the altar." "On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the pagan altar which was on top of the altar of the Lord." (I Macc. 1:54, 59) A pagan altar was erected on top of the altar of burnt offering in the temple in Jerusalem. "And when the king had built an idol altar upon God's Altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country. He also compelled them to forsake the worship which they paid their own god, and to adore those whom he took to be gods;..." (Josephus, First Century Jewish historian, Antiq. 12.5.4) Antiochus dedicated the Temple to the Greek god Zeus, II Macc. 6:2. Thus the Temple was profaned and desecrated, it was now a place dedicated to the worship of the pantheon of Greek gods. The Jews were also compelled to keep the Dionysiac Festival, crowned with ivy, marching in procession as devotees of Bacchus (I Macc. 1:41-64, II Macc. 6:1-11, Jos. Antiq. 12.5.4). The brutally bold attempt to abolish all aspects of Jewish worship and way of life was a catalyst that aroused an otherwise silent mass of the populace to withstand, even unto death, the edict of Antiochus. "It was just the extreme and radical character of this attempt that saved Judaism...the whole mass of the people, was roused to do battle for the old faith." (Emil Schurer, 1844-1910, Biblical scholar and specialist of the late Inter-Testamental and early Christian periods, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, Vol. 1, Ch. 4, p. 21, ed. by Nahum Glatzer, Schocken Books Edition) In the eyes of Antiochus, the God of the Hebrews had now been displaced, and they as a people had lost their identity.
"...become such sons as are worthy of me; to be above all force and necessity, and so to dispose your souls, as to be ready, when it shall be necessary, to die for your laws,..."—Josephus Antiq. 12.6.3
"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will fight on your side."—Ecclesiasticus 4:28
When the aged priest Mattathias lay dying, he beseeched his sons to withstand the religious and political oppression in the land and to restore the ancient form of government. "The time came for Mattathias to die, and he said to his sons: 'Arrogance now stands secure and gives judgment against us; it is a time of calamity and raging fury. But now, my sons, be zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers. Remember the deeds they did in their generations, and great glory and eternal fame shall be yours.'" (I Macc. 2:49-52) "...be mindful of the desires of him who begat you, and brought you up, and to preserve the customs of your country, and to recover your ancient form of government, which is in danger of being overturned, and not to be carried away with those that, either by their own inclination, or out of necessity, betray it,..." (Josephus Antiq. 12.6.3) After the death of Mattathias in 166 B.C., his son Judas Maccabaeus (the "hammer"), led a small army in surgical raids on the forces of Antiochus (Dan. 11:32-33, I Macc. 3:3-9). His military prowess resulted in victory after victory finally culminating in the capture of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple in 164 B.C. (Dan. 8:14, I Macc. 4:36-55, II Macc. 10:1-8, Josephus Antiq. 12.7.6-7) For the first time in over four centuries, the city of Jerusalem was now in Jewish control. The purification of the Temple which dates to the 25th of Kislev (December, 164 B.C.), was celebrated for eight days. The act of purifying the Temple and the rededication of the altar was to be celebrated each year starting on the 25th of Kislev. "All the people prostrated themselves, worshipping and praising Heaven that their cause had prospered. They celebrated the rededication of the altar for eight days; there was great rejoicing as they brought burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace-offerings and thank-offerings." "Then Judas, his brothers, and the whole congregation of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness at the same season each year, for eight days, beginning on the 25th of Kislev." (I Macc. 4:55-56, 59) "...they made it a law of their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their Temple worship, for eight days." (Josephus Antiq. 12.7.7) This ceremony is remembered and celebrated each year by observant Jews in the Festival of Hanukkah, i.e., dedication. The festival of Hannukah commemorates the wonders performed by God on behalf of the nation under the leadership of Judas Maccabees and His continuous preservation of the nation, "...blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, the King of the World, who has kept us alive, and preserved us, and brought us to this time;..." (Sader Tephillot, fol. 234.1, 2.) This festival is mentioned in John 10:22-23. There is allusion to the heroic feats of the martyrs in the Maccabean period in Hebrews 11:35-38. They are eulogized for a faith that conquered their aggressors (II Maccabee 7:9, 11, 14, 24-25, Ch. 10:6). The heroic lives of godly men and women defeated the maniacal attempt to eradicate the Jewish religion. Israel had a teaching institution in place and a Messianic consciousness in the First Century due to the devoted Jews that confronted the attempt to exterminate the faith of Abraham. "The Maccabees gathered a band of people around them; destitute wanderers, they went into hiding among the wild beasts in the caves of the mountains (I Macc. 2:28ff). In view of the fact that remnants of believers still persisted in such a hopeless situation, and afterwards came out into the open, can anyone deny that they were preserved by the wonderful providence of God? Who would ascribe it to human protection that the books of Moses and the prophets escaped undamaged from those flames?" (John Calvin, Concerning Scandals, p. 44).
"For the zeal of Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me."—Psalms 69:10
"Go hence, ye sons of Eli, ye defiled the Temple of Jehovah."—Pes. 11.8
"And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated. And he made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves, 'Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for Thy House will consume Me.'" (John 2:13-17). The action of Jesus at the Feast of Passover, destroys the modern church's caricature of a passive, tolerant and conventional Christ. To those who think Jesus only functioned in what they term "the spiritual realm" this display of Jesus is shocking to their constrained view of Christ. This action of Jesus was a violent awakening to a benumbed religion that had long-forgotten that the worship of God is not to be conjoined to monetary gain. Jesus destroys the lie that you can communicate the gospel for profit and justify it with pragmatic numbers. For the thousands of Jews who would come from all over the world to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the onerous series of taxes, fees and exchange rates would have been a gauntlet of commercial impediments that would distort the meaning of Passover. For the devout Jews to even enter the Temple Precincts, there was a temple tax, likened to today's registration fees for religious conventions. The Jews had to pay for the sacrificial lamb and a payment was exacted for the subsequent examination, for the lamb could not have any discernible defects. All of this monetary exchange had to be in the temple currency. Foreign money was exchanged and large profits were made on the exorbitant exchange rates. Jesus' act was a violent protest against the commercial, judicial and religious establishment of Jerusalem. Jesus in righteous anger reveals that the commercialization of religion is intolerable. The profiting of one shekel off the act of worship is to be rejected in the most violent means. No one is to leave the temple with monetary gain. The Passover lambs spoke of Him who would pay the full sacrificial price (I Pet. 1:18-19), and any commercialization from such a time of worship was the height of avarice and greed. Christ did not remain silent. He was eaten up with grief and sorrow at the profaning of the Father's house. He is consumed for the honor of His Father, it's like fire burning through him. He is not quiescent as he violently preaches his message. "Scarce had He entered the Temple porch, and trod the Court of the Gentiles, than He drove thence what profanely defiled it. There was not a hand lifted, nor a word spoken to arrest Him, as He made the scourge of small cords and with it drove out of the Temple both the sheep and the oxen; not a word said, nor a hand raised, as He poured into their receptacles the changer's money, and overthrew their tables. His presence awed them. His words awakened even their consciences; they knew only too well, how true His denunciations were. And behind Him was gathered the wondering multitude, that could not but sympathize with such bold, right royal, and Messianic vindication of Temple sanctity from the nefarious traffic of a hated, corrupt and avaricious priesthood. It was a scene worth witnessing by any true Israelite, a protest and an act which, even among a less emotional people, would have gained him respect, approbation, and admiration,..." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 3, p. 373-374). Jesus in a seminal act confronts the commercial, judicial and religious establishment of Israel. This is a confrontational Christ in the lineage of the Old Testament prophets.
How applicable is the action of Jesus, when currently men are promoting conferences to instruct in historical theology or a doctrinal emphasis, but profit personally by upfront registration fees, selling of merchandise (CDs, books, tapes, etc.) and additional offerings that destroy any semblance of faith. This is peddling the gospel for money. Would these men attend and speak for just a "freewill offering"? If so, then they should. No one is to be levied any charge or fee to attend any such gathering. Jesus would most certainly overturn their tables of registration and expose such avarice conjoined to the Word. They are making money off the gospel in direct violation of Jesus' command. "Do no acquire gold, or silver, for your moneybelts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support." (Matt. 10:9-10). The "Tarmil," or large leather bag, was utilized by shepherds to carry their provisions for the journey ahead. It was also used as a "begging bag" by the Pharisees to exact fees for their interpretations of the Torah. The disciples were to rely on the freewill offerings of hearts touched by the Lord, not use the Scriptures for gain. "Now these several things were forbidden them, partly because they would be burdensome to them in traveling; and partly because they were not to be out any long time, but were quickly to return again; and chiefly to teach them to live and depend upon divine providence." (John Gill, notes on Matt. 10:10). The disciples were to rely upon the sustaining providence of God. They were to live by faith in the loving care of the Father. "...the disciples should not take with them a [big] wallet with (considerable) provisions, like others journeying across the country. This rule, too, shows that they were to put their whole trust in God's generous help." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, p. 121). The evangelical church has no excuse for the perfidy. The profit motive must be exposed and excised. The detritus from the compost heap of pentecostal telethons and preaching is egregious, but the evangelicals cannot in hauteur elevate themselves above such bilge. At present, the evangelicals and pentecostals have the same operative motivation, preaching for personal gain. John Piper, John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul benefit financially from conferences while deriding the pentecostals for their greed. Strange bedfellows. "...for nothing that is of God can be bought with money. Even though we have a kind of cash-box, the money does not come from admission fees, as when one buys membership or position in a society. That would be like 'buying religion'. Rather, everyman contributes something once a month, or whenever he wishes to, and only if he wishes to, and if he can; for no one is forced, but everyone gives his share freewillingly. These contributions might be called the deposit funds of fellowship with God as they are not spent on banquets or drinking parties or on gluttony. Rather they are used to feed and to bury the poor; for boys and girls without means and without parents to help them...for shipwrecked sailors; and for those doing forced labor in the mines, or banished on islands, or in prison, provided they suffer for the sake of God's fellowship. That makes them beneficiaries by virtue of their confession of faith." (Tertullian, Apology 39, A.D. 198)
"Galerius [260 A.D.] saw in Christianity the last obstacle to absolute rule."—Will Durant
In a world where the killing of the unborn and infanticide was considered a right, the early Church condemned this culture of death. Their protestations against abortion and infanticide confronted the murderous edicts of emperors. The earliest documents of the church, some predating the Book of Revelation, are unequivocal regarding the right to life of the unborn. "...thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born..." (The Didache 2:2, approx. 75 A.D.). "Never do away with an unborn child, or destroy it after its birth." (Epistle of Barnabas, Ch. 19). "Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs...to expel what was conceived, since they did not want to have a child. See then what great impiety that lawless one [Emperor Callistas] has fallen to, by teaching both adultery and murder at the same time." (Hippolytus of Rome, 170-210 A.D.). "...if we would not kill off the human race borne and developing according to God's plan, then our whole lives would be lived according to nature. Women who make use of some sort of abortion drug kill not only the embryo but, together with it, all human kindness." (Clement of Alexandria, 180-220 A.D.). "What reason would we have to commit murder when we even say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God's care, and at the same time slay it, once it had come to life." (Athenagoras of Athens, A Plea Regarding Christians, Ch. 35). "The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. The hair-splitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the fetus." (St. Basil, Letter 188:2, 370 A.D.). Some church leaders (Tertullian and Origin) articulated the revolutionary principle that no man obey a law he deemed unjust (see Guignebert, Christianity, p. 164). Tertullian and Origin advised Christians to refuse military service in the Roman army (Origin Contra Celsum, VIII:69). The revival of the barbarian attacks in 249 A.D. saw a wave of patriotism in the Roman provinces. The temples were filled with worshippers beseeching the gods with prayers, but the Christians stood apart, discouraging military service (see Rostovitzeff, Ancient World, II, p. 349). The Roman Empire viewed Christianity as the final impediment to absolute rule. Christians challenged all the gods and superstitions of the empire. The Christian faith miniaturized the Emperor as a sinner under the judgment of God. The early church presented the Kingdom of God as the only reality in a world of passing shadows. "The greatest of historians held that Christianity was the chief cause of Rome's fall. [Gibbon, Vol. 1, p. 274]." "It [Christianity] had declared war upon the classic culture—science, philosophy, literature and art." "It had disrupted the unity of the Empire while soldier-emperors were struggling to preserve it;...Christ's victory had been Rome's death." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part III, p. 667). Without mass media and the communication apparatus of the 21st Century, the early church confronted and defeated the might of Rome. The early church out-lived, out-thought and out-died the greatest power on earth.
"The Puritans,...wanted the church to conform exactly to the Biblical pattern, to be purged or purified of all the Roman and idolatrous practices which remained in the Church of England and were enshrined in the Prayer Book."—John Legg, The Footsteps of God, p. 195
In early 17th Century in England, there was a growing group of non-conforming Protestants, i.e., Puritans, whose influence in the pulpit and in Parliament was to, "purify the Church of England from all traces of what they held to be the remains of the corruption which survived from the Roman connection." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 813). The Puritans were a powerful force in Parliament and in the dissenting church in 17th Century England. "Puritans—those bent on 'purifying' the Church of England—had not only increased greatly in number by the time of James I but had also prospered particularly as merchants and tradesmen, and a goodly number of them had made their way into the House of Commons. There they were at the forefront of the struggle between the King and Parliament in the 17th Century." (Clarence Carson, American Government, p. 135). With increasing political strength the Puritans attempted to limit the king in his acquisition of wealth through oppressive taxes, that supported the Anglican Church, and to restrain him from censoring preaching and worship. "But the House of Commons now included among its 467 members many representatives of the rising mercantile classes—who could not stomach a limitless royal power over their money—and many Puritans who repudiated the claim of the King to rule their religion. The house defined its rights in bold disregard of James' divinity. It declared itself the sole judge in contested elections to its membership. It demanded freedom of speech and security from arrest during its sessions, without these, it argued, Parliament would be meaningless. It proposed to legislate on matters religious, and deny the authority of the king to decide such issues without Parliamentary consent,..." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Book VII, p. 139). In 1603, in a rather bold move, the Puritans presented King James with the Millenary Petition, which was signed by a thousand ministers. It set forth their demands for changes in the Church of England. He realized his power over the church was threatened and rejected their petition outright. This set the stage for confrontations with the King, Parliament and the Puritans throughout the century. Laws of Uniformity were issued, dictating rules of worship, conduct, and the nature of preaching to be in concert with the Church of England. "James sought (1622) to restrict preachers to topics which seemed to him non-controversial and forbade them to deal with predestination or matters of state or to rail at 'either Papist or Puritans', an obvious attempt to curb both Puritans and their opponents." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 818). In rebelling against oppressive laws the Puritans would be classed as "seditious sectaries and disloyal persons", and persecuted in the form of imprisonment and execution. The famous Puritan writer, John Bunyan, would spend years in prison because his preaching violated the "Conventicle Act", in essence, a loyalty oath to the Church of England and the king. Unfortunately, this was not an anomaly. The desire to worship God in truth with political liberty was now borne. "Puritanism was not merely a religious doctrine, but corresponded in many points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency that had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the government of the mother country, and disgusted by the habits of a society which the rigor of their own principles condemned, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world where they could live according to their own opinions and worship God in freedom." (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1848, Vol. 1, p. 33). The brilliant theologian and colonial pastor, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), who entered Harvard University at age 11 and graduated at 15, who authored 450 books, chronicles in his magnum opus "Ecclesiastical History of New England, 1620-1698", the impulse of the early Puritans to risk all on the Atlantic to reach an unknown land. He perceived the same movement of God's Spirit upon their hearts that the Old Testament prophets revealed in the Hebrew word "ur" that "stirred or awakened", the heart of Cyrus and his armies and the nations of the earth to execute God's will (I Chron. 5:26, II Chron. 36:22, Ezek. 23:22, Isa. 13:17, Jer. 50:9,11, 51:11, Ezra 1:1). Cotton Mather, a Hebrew scholar, alludes to this Hebrew word and its theological significance. In the Old Testament "ur" is used in the causitive with God as its subject. God is not aloof or passive in history. He is in complete charge, manipulating his plan. Mather recognizes this in the action of God's Spirit to incline their hearts and direct the Puritans on an ardurous journey. "Briefly, the God of Heaven served as it were, a summons upon the spirits of his people in the English nation; stirring up the spirits of thousands which never saw the faces of each other, with a most unanimous inclination to leave all the pleasant accommodations of their native country, and go over a terrible ocean, into a more terrible desert, for the pure enjoyment of all his ordinances." (Ecclesiastical History of New England, 1620-1698, Vol. 1, p. 71). The Puritans would embark on a journey of faith more tumultuous than the navigation of the Atlantic under the inclination and direction of the sovereign God.
"Who would true valor see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather;
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim."—John Bunyan
Upon landing in Plymouth, the Pilgrims formed a compact that set forth their overriding intent and reason for the establishment of the colony. "It must not be imagined that the piety of the Puritans was merely speculative, or that it took no cognizance of worldly affairs. Puritanism,...was almost as much a political theory as a religious doctrine. No sooner had the immigrants landed on the barren coast...than it was their first care to constitute a society..." (Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 36). In the form of an "Old Testament covenant" the Puritans acknowledged all rights were from God and service to Him their highest calling. "In the Name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland; having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honor of our King and Country a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, due by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience..." (The Mayflower Compact, 1620). The Pilgrims conjoined religion and state into a working contract that would influence all the subsequent colonies. "On November 21st, the colony's leaders assembled in the main cabin and drew up a social compact, designed to secure unity and provide for future government. In effect, it created a civil body politic to provide "just and equal laws," founded upon church teaching, the religious and secular governance of the colony to be, in effect, indistinguishable. This contract was based upon the original Biblical covenant between God and the Israelites." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 29). The Mayflower Compact was the earliest constitution on the soil of America. The influence of the first Puritans would permeate the development in America of a national constitution that would secure the rights of the individual. "...besides this republican condition of society, the early settlers bequeathed to their descendents the customs, manners, and opinions that contribute most to the success of a republic. When I reflect upon the consequences of this primary fact, I think I see the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on those shores, just as the whole human race was represented by the first man." (Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 301).
"It must never be forgotten that religion gave birth to Anglo-American society."—Alexis de Tocqueville
"...it was Calvin who provided a way of organizing churches that opened paths to the modern Western world of democracy, federalism and representative government."—Daniel Boorstin, The Seekers, p. 98
The theology of the Reformation through John Calvin was the matrix from which democracy and the principles of a national constitution would proceed. The philosophic and theologic influence of the Reformation not only established churches but created nations from the central teaching of God's sovereign will and call. No individual would hold allegiance to any foreign despot that restrained the worship of God, for God alone was the Ruler of heaven and earth. The matrix of constitutional principles came from an understanding of God's sovereign nature. The individual has dignity and worth not deriving from civil law, but solely from God's hands, as made in His image and likeness. "...Calvinism has captured and guaranteed to us our constitutional civil rights; and that simultaneously with this there went out from Western Europe that mighty movement which promoted the revival of science and art, open new avenues to commerce and trade, beautify domestic and social life, exalted the middle classes to positions of honor, cause philanthropy to abound, and more than all this, elevated, purified, and ennobled moral life by Puritan seriousness..." The Reformation, "Created a church order, which became the preformation of state confederation, it proved to be the guardian angel of science; it emancipated art; it propagated a political scheme, which gave birth to constitutional government, both in Europe and America." (Abraham Kuyper, Stone Foundation Lectures, p. 29, 155). The teaching that above the law of man was the law of God and that no man was to be enslaved to the legal fiat of an earthly monarch resonated in Puritan Theology. Man was made in God's image and was bequeathed with inalienable rights. Individual dignity and worth came from a sovereign God and could not be taken away by any earthly power. "The Protestantism of the Thirteen Colonies was laying the foundation for the democracy which found expression in the American Revolution and the United States. For example, in New England, the clergy were preaching the rights which came from nature and nature's God, the theory that all men are born free, the duty of resistance to encroachments on those rights, and the popular element in government. While many of the clergy looked askance at pure democracy, the radical Protestantism [Puritans] which predominated in the churches in the Thirteen Colonies, seeking as it was to carry through the distinctive principles of the Reformation, salvation by the faith of the individual, and the priesthood of all believers, underlay and permeated the democracy which characterized the United States." (A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 963). The Puritans were equipped with an understanding of civil government and fortified by a theology that ennobled the individual. They went forth from England to worship God in freedom and to secure that liberty by the recognition of the ultimate authority of God. "Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and triumphs, as the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom." (Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 46).
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other."—John Adams
The signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that religion was essential to the governing of a free people. The acknowledgement of a transcendent God would restrain the power of human government and empower the populace. Everyone was under the law of God, no one was above the law. Religion was the heartbeat of the nation that animated the republic. The expressed faith of the early founders exude a mature and expansive understanding of God that miniaturizes what is the usual fare from pulpits on any given Sunday in America. Listen to the voices of our heritage, men who knew that their faith and sacrifice was ordained by God and under His sovereign providence. "I...recommend my Soul to that Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins. (Samual Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the will of Samual Adams). "On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to his precepts." (Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, from letter to Charles W. Wharton, Sept. 27, 1825). "Sensible of my mortality, but being of sound mind, after recommending my soul to Almighty God through the merits of my Redeemer and my body to the earth;..." (William Cushing, Supreme Court Justice, appointed by George Washington, from will of William Cushing). "Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity. " (John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, from will of John Dickinson). "I John Hancock...being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to God therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die [Heb. 9:27], due make and ordain this my last will and testament...principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth...nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God..." (John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the will of John Hancock). "This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed." (Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, from will of Patrick Henry). "Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son. His protection has accompanied me through many eventful years, fatefully employed in the service of my country; his providence has not only conducted me to this tranquil situation but also given me abundant reason to be contented and thankful. Blessed be His holy name!" (John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, from will of John Jay). "I commend my soul to the infinite mercies of God in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, who died and rose again that He might be the Lord of the dead and of the living...professing to believe and hope in the joyful Scripture doctrine of a resurrection to eternal life..." (John Langdon, signer of the Constitution, from will of John Langdon). "I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of gospel light where the glorious tidings of the Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears." (Robert Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the papers of Robert Treat Paine, Vol. 1, p. 48). "To the eternal, immutable, and only true God be all honor and glory, now and forever, Amen!" (Charles Coatsworth Pinckney, signer of the Constitution, from will of Charles Pinckney). "My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing by His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusivel upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come see quickly!" (Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence. (Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, George Corner, editor, p. 166). "I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]...if you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish." (John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Works of John Witherspoon, Vol. 5, p. 276-278). "It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by ourselves..." (George Washington's Inaugural Address). The early founders were animated with the desire to please God. They saw no conflict between faith in the Living God and executing his will in the affairs of the political life of the new nation. They recognized God's blessing on the nation and praised Him for his copious grace. "The Pilgrim Fathers had come to America precisely because England had become immoral and irreligious. They had built the 'City on the Hill.' Again, their descendents had opted for independence and liberty because they felt their subjugation itself was immoral, irreligious and opposed to the Providential plan. There is no question that the Declaration of Independence was, to those who signed it, a religious as well as a secular act and that the Revolutionary War had the approbation of Divine providence. They had won it with God's blessing and, afterwards, they drew up their framework of government with God's blessing,..." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 204).
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long-established shall not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patience suffrage of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." "...with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."—Declaration of Independence
The colonial founders and many pastors were deliberate in their progress toward a break with England in an act of rebellion toward complete independence. Thomas Jefferson set forth in the Declaration of Independence a litany of grievances against King George III that embodied a reasoned and studied logic toward independence. The colonies were being ruled by an aloof potentate, whose directives were characterized as despotic and tyrannical by the early framers and churchmen. The pastor, Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1760), in 1750, set forth in a sermon the right of the people to revolt and replace an oppressive regime. "If we calmly consider the nature of the thing itself, nothing can well be imagined more directly contrary to common sense than to suppose that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man (who has naturally no superiority over them in point of authority) so that everything that is valuable in life, even their lives also, shall be absolutely at his disposal, if he happens to be wanton and capricious enough to demand them. What unprejudiced man can think that God made all to be thus subservient to the lawless pleasure and frenzy of one, so that it shall always be a sin to resist him..." (Perry Miller, Editor, The American Puritans, p. 125-126). In 1776, the most dominate thinker of the age, Edmund Burke, exposed the evil intent of the Crown and the righteous cause of the colonists. Burke told Parliament that the King was abusing his power in America by a "succession of acts of tyranny." It was "governing by an army." The British were shutting the ports, abolishing the antecedent state constitutions, and burning towns and churches. Burke said, "You (Parliament and King) drove them into the declaration of independency." The abuse of power, Burke said, "was more than what ought to be endured." When King George ordered church services and a public fast in support of the war against the colonies, Burke stunned the House of Commons by stating, "Till our churches are purified from this abdominable service, I shall consider them, not as the Temple of the Almighty, but the Synagogue of Satan." (Conor O'Brien, A Thematic Biography of Edmund Burke, p. 161-162). Edmund Burke's view was in concert with the Declaration of Independence and the interpretation of Romans 13:1-5 by many colonial pastors. Power had been so abused that America was justified in seeking independence from Britain by revolution.
The civil war era theologian Robert Dabney fillets the teaching of a vestigial remnant of those called "Legitimatists." They erroneously taught that the Bible teaches a monarchial succession that must be obeyed without dissent. The Legitimatists valued the prevailing power as having the intrinsic right to rule, irrespective of the oppressive nature of the government that refuses to obey God's law. They dismiss the value of the people to choose their own officials. The principle of "consent of the governed" was rejected by the Legitimatists. They asserted that the Bible teaches "...that the power the civil magistrate holds, is in no sense delegated from the people, but wholly from God; that the people have no option to select or change their form of government, any more than a child has to choose its parent, or a soul the diety it will worship; that no matter how oppressive or unjust the government may be, the citizen has no duty or right but passive submission, and that the divinely selected form is heritary monarchy..." (Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 864-865). Robert Dabney exposes the ahistorical teaaching and the flawed understanding of Romans 13:1-5, "The New Testament does not limit its teaching to the religious obligation to obey kings, but says generally! 'The Powers that be are ordained of God:' thus giving the religious source, equally to the authority of kings and constables, and giving it to any form of government which providentially existed de facto. The thing then, which God ordains, is not a particular form of government, but that men shall maintain some form of government. Last, it is peculiarly fatal to the Legitimatists' theory that the actual government of Rome, which the New Testament enjoined Christians to obey, was not a legitimate nor a heritary monarchy, but one very lately formed in the usurpation of Octavius Caesar and not in a single instance transmitted by dissent, so far as Paul's day. "The original source of the power, the authority and the obligation to obey it, is God. The human source is not an irresponsible Ruler, but the body of the ruled themselves, that is, the sovereignty so far as it is human, resides in the people and is held by the rulers, by delegation from them. It is, indeed, the ordinance of the Supreme God, that such delegation should be made, and the power so delegated be obeyed, by each individual; but still the power, so far as it is human, is the people's power, and not the ruler's. '...the government is for the governed, not for the special benefit of the governors. The object of the institution, which God had in view, was the good of the community. The people are not for the rulers, but the rulers for the people. This is expressly stated by Paul in Romans 13:3-4. Having thus cleared the Scriptural theory from the odious perversions of the advocates of legitimacy." (Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 864-865). There are some evangelicals, MacArthur and his sycophants, who view the American Revolution as illegitimate. Their perspective values the authority of colonial England as the God-honored government of the land. They reject the Reformation foundation of the American Constitution and diminish the value of our democratic state, as decreed by God for the ennobling of man and the propagation of the Gospel. This ahistorical view rejects our religious heritage and fosters a myopic mindset that perceives no interrelation between the church and state. Such a view of our history is quite simply troglodytic. The ordained power set forth by Paul in Romans 13:1-5, refers to the state, not an ordained form of government. Paul is referring to a "generic state." The Emperor Nero was on the throne when Romans 13 was written. He was a madman and a despot in every sense of the word. Nero was not in an orderly transfer of power, but he was a usurper of power, a violent renegade. Paul is referring to the structure of government that is ordained by God. "The several forms of government are of human will and pleasure; but government itself is an order of God. There may be men in power who assume it of themselves, and are of themselves, and not of God: and others that abuse the power that is lodged in them; who, though they are by divine permission, yet not of God's approbation and good will. And it is observable, that the Apostle speaks of powers, and not persons, at least, not of persons, but under the name of powers to show that he means not this, or the other particular prince or magistrate, but the thing itself, the office and dignity of magistracy itself; for there may be some persons, who may of themselves usurp this office, or exercise it in a very illegal way, who are not of God, nor to be subject to by men." (John Gill, Notes on Romans 13:1). When the colonies rebelled they had antecedent state constitutions that protected the right of the individual. A revolutionary principle was already in place predating the Declaration of Independence, government would exist by the "consent of the governed." The early church could not have imagined the principle of "inalienable rights" and "consent of the governed" under the tyranny of autocratic emperor rule. The majority of Christians living in the Roman Empire were unprotected by law.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."—First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791
There are those in the secular camp that immediately raise a complaint when there is the faintest protest from the religious sphere regarding government or state policy. They believe that religion should be sequestered into a circumscribed domain, not to function outside that purview. Many in the church have unquestioningly believed that the political realm is sacrosanct, that it is not to be influenced by religious values or confronted in debate. Both positions are fallacious. They are a distorted picture of our Bill of Rights. According to James Madison, the architect of the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments of the Constitution), a Hebrew scholar and a champion of religious freedom, the goverment was to be restrained from any intrusion into the full freedom of religious expression. The Bill of Rights put a permanent restraint upon the power of government. It recognized the "inalienable rights" of the individual, rights that did not originate from government and subsequently could not be legally abridged. The federal government was not to support or promote any particular denomination or group, but remain neutral from influencing the religious sphere. The religious community was to be protected from the power of the state. "If to this it be added that experience teaches that the magistrate [civil authoritities] is the most unfit person to discharge these duties [church discipline and appointment to church offices]; that his attempting it has always been injurious to religion, and inimical to the rights of conscience, we have reason to rejoice in the recently discovered truth, that the Church is independent of the state, and that the state best promotes her interests by letting her alone." (Charles Hodge, from Lecture "The Relation of Church and State", printed in the Princeton Review 1863). The dominance of the government over the church in England was not to be replicated on the soil of America. The church was separated from the state in order to protect the right of each individual to worship freely, without fear of persecution. Madison had said, "Religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government." A wall of separation was to restrain government from establishing a national church or interfering into the doctrines, preaching and worship of the church. Such intrusion would overstep the bounds of government authority without the sanction of law. "Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, 'that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.' The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men." (James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, October 1785). In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the church is protected from the intrusive power of a rapacious state to influence and dictate religious matters. It was an anti-establishment clause that forbids the government from establishing a state religion or manner of worship. "It is against this background that we should place the opening sentence of the First Amendment, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' This guarantee has been widely, almost wilfully, misunderstood in recent years, and interpreted as meaning that the federal government is forbidden by the Constitution to countenance or subsidize even indirectly the practice of religion. That would have astonished and angered the Founding Fathers. What the guarantee means is that Congress may not set up a state religion on the lines of the Church of England, 'As by law established.' It was an anti-establishment clause. The second half of the guarantee means that Congress may not interfere with the practice of any religion,..." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 209). Government is not to be unresponsive to the influence of religion. The separation was from government intervention not a restriction on the religious community. The church has the freedom to influence by word, deed and vote the direction of the nation. In fact, without the influence of religion, democracy will ultimately devolve into a power-hungry entity that acknowledges only the rights it bestows. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens." "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." (George Washington's Farewell Address). George Washington understood that a vibrant religious faith infuses a democracy with life and stability. When the faith of a nation wanes the health of a society declines.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."—Ephesians 6:12
"Therefore, woe be unto our daintiness, who, having suffered a little persecution, do by and by give up the torch to another as if we were now old worn soldiers."—John Calvin, Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, p. 228
The Apostle Paul sees the present age as influenced by demonic powers (Eph. 2:2, 6:12). Fallen man is a captive and is motivated to possess a passing world and forfeit eternity (Matt. 16:26, I Jn. 2:15-17). The governments of this present age are the outward manifestations of an unseen order of demonic power, to exalt man and his transitory plans to the level of transcendence (Gen. 3:15). "Behind the visible structures and institutions of society and culture, evil forces are at work using these invisible powers to enslave..." (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 651). The movement toward "building a kingdom on earth," which President Obama and other world leaders have expressed, come from a malignant source in defiance of God's word. "These forces are called rulers of the world [Eph. 6:12] in order to bring out the terrifying power of their influence and comprehensiveness of their plans..." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3, p. 914). These insidious powers are under God's control and execute his will in ways that defy the sequence of logic (Col. 2:15, Eph. 1:21-22). Paul says that the powers of darkness are encountered in prayer, in an ongoing conflict between them and the believer. The believer, in the power of God's presence and equipped in God's own armor (Isa. 59:16-17), can withstand and triumph through intercessory prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). "The Christians new wardrobe includes a war suit! The cosmic purpose of God embroils the believers with the spiritual hierarchy of the unseen world organized under the power of Satan." (George E. Harpur, The International Bible Commentary, p. 1438). God's will is accomplished through the weakness of our flesh. This is far more expansive than praying for the spirituality of a local pastor or for church growth. This is combat in the spiritual realms. Tragically, few understand the battleground. Prayer renounces all of our natural capacity, the will and limited power of our flesh, and consigns our dependent self into the hands of the powerful Lord of heaven and earth. In prayer we are stripped of natural reliance and then, and not until then, fortified for the fight in His armor and strength. It is a battle waged for His Glory. In intercessory prayer the powers over the world systems are restrained and enlightenment from the Word reveals the glory of God. All of this is orchestrated by the Victor of all heaven and earth. "Whoever reads the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) upon his bed is as though he holds a two-edge sword in his hand (to ward off evil spirits); as it is said, 'Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edge sword in their hand.' (Ps. 149:6)" (Ber. 5a). "And the children of Israel feared and cried unto the Lord (Ex. 14:10) when they saw Pharaoh approach. They betook themselves to their ancestors weapons [prayer]." "For prayer, the weapon of the mouth is mighty. Why is Israel called 'the worm, Jacob' (Isa. 41:14)? The worm's only weapon is her mouth but with it she fells mighty cedars." (Tanh., Beshallah, Sect. 9, folio 111a). "Sovereign of all worlds! Not because of our righteous acts do we lay our supplications before thee, but because of thine abundant mercies. What are we? What is our life? What is our piety? What our righteousness? What our helpfulness? What our strength? What our might? What shall we say before thee, O Lord our God and God of our fathers? Are not all the mighty men as not before thee, the men of renown as if they had not been?..." (The Jewish Prayer Book, p. 7).
If every demon in America went on a holiday most of the church world would not notice the absence. Several years ago in one of the largest churches in California, located in Sun Valley, the pastor expressed to the church that for several years there were only the same four people attending the prayer service each week. In a church, at the time of approximately 15,000 members, this admission of weakness was rather shocking. Unfortunately, this condition is not rare but characterizes the current spiritual climate in America. This is weakness and retreat, not combat. To those who respond in a hackneyed fashion to the passivity and indifference of the church with the mantra, "I am concerned about spiritual matters, not earthly. My job is to evangelize the lost." They invariably have no interest in the spiritual realm either. They are not confronting the realm of darkness with concerted prayer. During World War II, there were many military men and women in Pensacola, Florida, that performed clerical work. At the same time thousands of GIs were storming the beaches of Normandy. The majority of Christians are content with clerical work while only a few fight in the heavenly realm, asserting the victory of Christ. The church is in full retreat from the conflict of the age. "When the whole of Scripture compares this present life to a stern warfare and teaches that it is filled with many different struggles, they [anemic Christians] nod their assent that it is all true and correct. Therefore, the name 'Church Militant' is so commonplace and trite that it echoes even on the lips of children but when it comes to the point of decision, they seem to have forgotten all those things and run away from the image of Christ as though it were some strange monster." "...as long as it is a sojourner in the world it [the church] is to wage war under the perpetual cross." (John Calvin, Concerning Scandals, p. 29, 30). As the church removes itself from confronting the declining culture, it is indicative that the confrontation with the spiritual realm has been forfeited.
"Neutrality is an illusion. At the end of his days man always emerges either as a priest or as a pirate."—Abraham Heschel
The idea of neutrality is a myth. Indifference is the enemy of truth and the ally of evil. Allowing a blind and benumbed culture to rush along a path to complete ruin without warning is the result of cold indifference not compassion. In his discussion of Martin Luther, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "No, Luther had to leave the cloister and go back to the world, not because the world in itelf was good and holy, but because the cloister was only a part of the world...the only way to follow Jesus was to live in the world." (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 38). In a 1933 national radio address, the 27-year-old Bonhoeffer warned the German people of the evil of idolatry, "Should the leader allow himself to succumb to the wishes of those he leads, who will always seek to turn him into an idol, then the image of the leader will gradually become the image of the misleader. This is the leader who makes an idol of himself and his office and who thus mocks God." (Radio speech: The Younger Generations Changed View of the Concept of Fuhrer, 1933). Bonhoeffer perceived at an inchoate stage the insidious sin that the nation was committing in attributing attributes to a mortal that were innate to God. In 1943, when Bonhoeffer was in America teaching, he received the news that the churches were under increasing pressure to conform to the Reich Church. Without hesitation, he made reservations to return to his home and shepherd his flock. He knew what trouble would await him, but he returned "to the world." He returned to Germany and spoke out against the regime and joined the resistance to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. He was convinced that the greater evil was to do nothing. Lives had to be saved from the tyranny of a madman. The resistance to Nazi Totalitarianism by the Confessional Church represented by Bonhoeffer and Von Stouffenberg so impressed a young scientist that he would write, "Only the churches stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistance to stand for truth and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly." (Albert Einstein, quoted from the Political Christ, Allen Richardson, p. 102).
"A people which no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul."—Alexander Solzhenitsyn
During the Nazi era, Christians in Germany faced the daily pronouncements of a devilish dictator and his demands for conformity. The Reich Church, which conformed to the government policies, was in the majority. Only a minority of churches, the Confessional Church, spoke out against the anti-semitic laws, euthanasia and the glorification of the state. A few pastors continued to preach against such atrocities. One pastor, Martin Niemoeller, was put in prison for resisting the edicts of the state. One afternoon, he was visited by a fellow minister who condemned him for his political protests. He urged him to remain silent and respect the government and then he could be set free. He then said to Niemoeller, "And so, why are you in jail?" Niemoeller replied, "Why aren't you in jail?" (Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 9, p. 106-107). Silence was abetting the murderous regime. Modern evangelicals standing on the railway platforms with cattle cars filled with Jewish men, women and children to be sent to Dachau, Treblinka and Auschwitz, would give out tracts announcing upcoming services. The overriding call to save lives would be sublimated under a religious act that would carry an aura of spirituality. This is what, in essence, the Reich Church did, the majority of Christians in Germany did nothing. Complacency, passivity and in many cases allegiance, fueled the monstrosity of the tyrant. "...having the support of Hitler was the Faith Movement of German Christians. It confined its membership to those of Aryan descent, cut off all Masonic connections, denounced communism, stressed what it declared to be the spirit of Germany and Luther, and sought by a nation-wide organization, to make of the Church a united body to parallel national socialism. For a time, it seem successful and effected a centralized nation-wide organization embracing both Lutheran and Reformed which had as its head an ardent supporter of Hitler." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vo. 2, p. 1375). Love without truth and truth without sacrifice is a perversion of the Gospel. The Christians in Germany failed as a body to serve God in resisting a state that murdered over six million Jews. This blight will never be forgotten. As the German church compromised its faith, the church in America embraced an "America First" mentality. The majority of Christians were pacifists and isolationists. Even after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the mood was detachment from involvement in a conflict on another continent. The American church was unprepared for the dire consequences of a genocidal program that was utilizing the Scriptures for devilish ends.
Jesus gave a warning in Matthew 10:16 to his disciples, to be alert of impending danger on the horizon, in the midst of a hostile world. "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves." The phrase "shrewd as serpents" and "innocent as doves" is found in the Midrash on Cant. 2:14. Israel is described as "harmless as the dove", towards God, and "shrewd as serpents" toward the Gentile nations. The serpent has a sensory system that can detect approaching prey or predator by ground vibrations. They can detect motion more than 100 feet away. The believer is to be cognizant of what is on the horizon. We are not to be overtaken by events. When Israel failed to be prudently prescient, they paid a high price as a nation. The epithelium of the church has placed the believer in a state of vulnerability to the encroaching dangers of the culture. "If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life,..." (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Commencement Address delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978).
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing any more, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." (Matt. 5:13). There was a common expression among the rabbis in the time of Jesus that the Torah was the "salt of the earth." "For as the world could not do without salt, neither could it do without the Torah." (Soferim 15.8). The Torah was believed to have a preservative effect upon the world. The world would rot in an accelerated rate without the retarding affect of the Word of God. But Jesus does something amazing in this passage, He transfers the meaning of Torah to the Galilean disciples, a band of weak, incompetent, unschooled men, despised by the educated of Jerusalem. Jesus says that the Word in and through them would restrain the spoliation of the world. No teacher in the history of Israel has ever made such a declaration. Our presence in word and deed, is to be a preservative in the midst of a dying age. Our lives are to penetrated every realm, retarding corruption. Our influence is to glorify God and affect this world. "...if Jesus' disciples are to act as a perservative in the world by conforming to kingdom norms, if they are 'called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or nonexistent, they can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their virtue." (D. A. Carson, Matthew, p. 139). May we see the glory of God once again shine from sea to sea as at our nation's birth. Our presence in the midst of this age retards the accelerated spoliation of a dying world.
Abraham Kuyper once said that there are times in a nation's life when the heart of the Church beats very faintly. We are in such a time. After decades of redefining God (Ps. 50:21), the Church is experiencing His chastening hand. The exaltation of man and the miniaturization of God has provoked God's smarting rod (Ps. 51:16-17, 94:12, 118:18). God's intent is to educate us afresh in the glories of His manifold nature. When the Church is weak the nation reflects the anemia of spirit. As the foci of faith is removed from God, the object of trust becomes the state and the word of man. The government becomes the 'god' of the nation in contradistinction to the Living God of Scripture. "Civil government similiarly assumes divine prerogatives when it arrogates to itself illegitimate authority and power." (Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. 6, p. 438). The promise of solutions to all aspects of life, originating from Washington, leave the church as an afterthought in the nation. "Throughout the ages, Caesar has generally got the lion's share and God has taken the leftovers. We often laugh about government and make jokes—I have repeated some of them today. But then we quietly let the primary questions of culture be answered by the government: questions of right and wrong; questions of life and death. The moral imperative of God is often surrendered with the limp words, 'Here Caesar, this is your business.'" (Halford E. Luccock, Exposition of the Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 841). When Caesar's business is all of life, the Church has little to commend itself to the world.
"Evangelism is not enough. What is needed is a total world and life view, in which the fundamental principles of Biblical Christianity are applied to every area of human life and thought."—James Boice, The Doctrines of Grace, p. 212
The church is losing its spiritual and moral ground to the kingdoms of this world. Yet in their conceited illusion the evangelical anchorites justify such societal degradation as a sign that the end of the age is imminent. This is the ultimate escape from responsibility to our children and their children's generation. "Religious living is not only a private concern. Our own life is a movement in the symphony of ages. We are taught to pray as well as to live in the first person plural." "All generations are present as it were, in every moment." (Abraham Heschel, A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 422-423). The Christian cannot shut himself up in his church and abandon the world to its fate. A concatenation of generations have falsely assumed that the consummation of the age was within their lifetime. "...Occupy [Gk. "pragmateuomai", daily affairs of life, commerce, judicial functions] till I come." (Luke 19:13). "Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord doeth come." (Matt. 24:42). Jesus commands constant vigilance regarding the believer's interaction with society. "Too many of us evangelicals either have been, or maybe still are, irresponsible escapists." "As for social activity, we have tended to say it is largely a waste of time in view of the imminent return of the Lord. After all, when the house is on fire, what is the point of hanging new curtains or rearranging the furniture? The only thing that matters is to rescue the perishing. Thus we have tried to salve our conscience with a bogus theology." (John Stott, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today, p. 14).
"...humanity glorifies God by subduing the earth by words and by work. Tragically, the pious abandon culture to the non-pious. They foolishly argue: 'Why polish brass on a sinking ship?' One polishes brass to glorify the ship's Maker, who will not allow His ship to sink. In other words, the 'purpose-driven life' aims among others things to produce a godly culture." (Bruce Waltke, Old Testament Theology, p. 221).
"God is not like a ship-owner who does not own the cargo. But the universe and the fullness thereof are His." (Midrash Tehillim, 24, 2). In spite of the carnage that man's rebellion has wreaked upon this world, God alone holds the title deed, the Divine imprimatur of nontransferable possession. Yes, the ship of state is listing, but we are called to be a restraint and empowerment toward a God-honoring government and culture. We are at a crisis in American history and only the Sovereign God can restrain a movement that is dishonoring to Him at its very core. Though millions have cried out for a leader after their own heart, as Israel of old, the consequences of God giving Israel an alter-ego, Saul, for a leader was grievous. "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness unto their soul." (Psalms 106:15). We must pray and seek God to take us out of the small confinement that we are in. We must see Him as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and the nations of the earth. Only God bearing His holy arm can restrain the arrogance and the supercilious movement that is capturing the imagination and seducing millions of Americans. The change in the fabric of the nation is immense. We are experiencing a declining church and culture via political, legal, judicial and spiritual compromise. Only God can stop this declension. "All indications are that the Church—including the Reformed churches—will continue to decline in its integrity and influence. While this trend is discouraging in itself, the coming darkness may give the Church an unpredented opportunity to shine with the light of Jesus Christ, who has promised that against his church the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matt. 16:18). This is the promise of the Sovereign God, whose purpose will stand (Isa. 46:10), and who has called us to live for His glory in the church and the culture." (The Doctrines of Grace, p. 225).
The systems of dependence are rapidly diminishing in stature and reliance. The promise of constant economic expansion is now being seen to have been illusory and myopic. The stratum of an economic and material foundation of life is being shaken by the seismic changes that call our entire capitalistic system into question. It is as if we as a nation are being sequestered into a cul-de-sac of despair. In this time of the death of America's golden calves may we be granted the grace of God to be quickened by His spirit to breathe again the breath of eternity in the midst of the death throes of a dying age. "A sense of contact with the ultimate dawns upon most people when their self-reliance is swept away by violent misery." (Abraham Heschel, A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 422).
"The world is in flames, consumed by evil. Is it possible that there is no one who cares?"—Abraham Heschel
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