The Loss of Liberty’s Underlying Principles

Founder of the OPC, J. Greshem Machen, wrote in 1923:
A public school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficient achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist.\
Machen wrote from a perspective where he saw this happening in Europe and noticed that the same effect was delayed in America, as he said, by “the remnants of Anglo-Saxon individualism.” Of these remnants, he goes on to say:
… but the signs of the times are all contrary to the maintenance of this halfway position; liberty is certainly held by but a precarious tenure when once its underlying principles have been lost. For a time it looked as though the utilitarianism which came into vogue in the middle of the nineteenth century would be a purely academic matter, without influence upon daily life. But such appearances have proved to be deceptive. The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.
Has this not been the trend of our school systems since the time of Machen’s writing? Has their goal not been to produce citizens capable of contributing to the economy and nothing more? And along the way, have they not stifled the higher intellectual pursuits? Long gone are the days of critical thinking and philosophy in public schools. Such things simply cannot be connected to productive output, and so they are disallowed.
Want proof that this is the state of things? I propose a test: simply mention a perspective that doesn’t fit the narrative that was given in school. Question the validity of some State program that was taught as a good and necessary thing in your school years. How quickly will you be called crazy, or worse? Even if, by sound reason and evidence, you can support your position, are you met with equal reason and evidence? Or does your attempt to back up your position provoke an emotional response?
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No, The Ark Encounter is Not Scientific… And That’s OK

Bill Nye recently toured the Ark Encounter, the new exhibit created by Answers in Genesis as part of the Creation Museum. Unsurprisingly, Nye’s evaluation was unfavorable.

Nye’s position is that the exhibit is unscientific. He believes it to be a tool of brainwashing that is hindering the progress of scientific education in our country, particularly as it pertains to combating climate change.

As an atheist, Nye’s worldview is full of holes, logical contradiction, and truths borrowed from the Christian worldview which he seeks to debunk. He can give no rational assurance to himself or anyone else why the claims of science or even his own senses or reason are to be trusted without begging the question. Such is always the case of one who believes that we evolved by random chance through undirected scientific processes over billions of years.

So it is hardly worth our time rebutting him. There is some value in it, but there is danger as well.

But for the sake of our thinking, what are we to say about his claim that the Ark Encounter is unscientific?
Well this all depends on what you mean by scientific.

Answers in Genesis founder and president Ken Ham has poured a great deal of effort into advancing the distinction between Observable science and historical science. This was the crux of his position in the 2014 debate against Nye.

The argument, which has a high degree of merit and yet has not been addressed by Nye or any other critics of creationism, goes that you simply can’t apply modern scientific methods to testing historical claims because they are claims about one-time events that happened in the distant past. You simply can’t use the scientific method here. You can’t conduct an experiment to try to reproduce it in a lab. You can’t peer review the Bible.

Of course here’s the point. The Bible doesn’t need to be peer reviewed. It wasn’t written to be peer reviewed. Because God doesn’t have any peers!

So Ham’s argument is that when Nye and others say that the Bible is unscientific, they are expecting it to meet the same rigors as claims about the efficacy of new drugs, or the physics of gravity/the general theory of relativity, or biology, or chemistry, or any other of the hard sciences we have today.

But because history – not just biblical history – doesn’t work that way, we can’t apply those same rigors. Sure we can do archeology, and we can examine manuscripts. But that usually creates more questions than answers. It certainly leaves large gaps, and what we fill those gaps with is determined more by our presuppositions than hard science.

Nye would probably object that he fills in the gap with hard science. In one sense this is reasonable, but there’s an unprovable presupposition there that this is always appropriate. More to the point, he has to presuppose that the particular facts he imports from hard science are the appropriate ones and are arranged in the appropriate way.

So when it comes to whether the claims of the Bible are true, they simply can’t be tested with the scientific rigor Nye wants them to be.

Should we expect them to be? Here’s what bothers me a bit about creation science. The flood is not only an historical event that took place thousands of years ago, it was a divinely orchestrated event.

The Scriptures are full of things like this. They tell of everything being created from nothing in six days. They tell of a catastrophic worldwide flood. They tell of fire from heaven destroying a city, of the waters of the Red Sea being parted so the Hebrews could cross on dry ground, of the sun standing still, of a man living in the belly of a fish for three days and nights, and of a multitude of people being raised from the dead.

These are not claims of science. They are the mighty acts of the God given to display his transcendent power over the natural world which he created and scientists study . This is the God who made the laws that scientists rely on. He therefore can suspend or change them when he wishes.

These claims require no scientific proof, not that any could ever be forthcoming.

This is not to say that the evidence of science cannot be arranged in a way that demonstrates how it does not actually contradict these claims, as is so often and vociferously argued by Nye and his ilk.

[As an aside…. My own criticism of the Creation Museum was that I wish they would do more of this, or at least would make a more prominent feature of their museum. When I went through it felt like I was walking through a life size diorama of Sunday School illustrations. There are some science bits, but they were tucked off to the side and I had to go looking for them intentionally.

[They also spent a lot of time trying to make it look like atheists are this big conspiracy out to try to attack God and his people. While we know that such a conspiracy is true in one sense – the enemy who has darkened their understanding certainly wages war against God and his people! – individual scientists aren’t necessarily consciously trying to do this. Are they contributing to that war? Sure, but they don’t realize it and wouldn’t claim to be doing that. They are as much victims of it as they are participants in it, and when you accuse them like this, it constitutes an ad hominem or a poisoning of the well. That does sort of put a toe into the brainwashing territory. At the very least in undermines credibility. But I digress.]

But let us not think that by showing how the claims of the Bible are not debunked by science we are somehow proving God’s existence. He doesn’t need us to, and it would be impossible anyway.

That’s not because he doesn’t exist, but because trying to prove God by scientific means is a rigged game and the house always wins.

When we engage in attempts to prove God’s existence to an atheist by scientific means, we enter his home turf and of necessity must employ means that he controls. We must present him with evidence he would consider compelling, but since he is the arbiter of what is compelling, he is going to set that standard such that it is impossible for us to meet.

Better to defend his attacks by showing how he begs the question in trying to disprove God.

Better still to try to deconstruct his worldview to show that it is inherently self-contradictory and relies on the worldview he seeks to debunk in order to make his arguments.

Best of all to love him in Christ, live the light of the gospel out before him, preach the good news to him whenever possible, and pray that God would open his eyes of faith.

Lexington, Concord and Dallas

Recent events have troubled me, as they should trouble us all. It seems that the hits just keep on coming, and now they’re coming rapid fire. Three incidents in one week!? That’s crazy.

Between Philandor Castile, Alton Sterling, and the Dallas shooting, there’s so much to cover. I’m not here to cover the facts of those case. What can be know, can be learned elsewhere, and there is still much that hasn’t come out yet.

But regardless of the facts of the case, what we are left with is seven men who are no longer among the living and a sickening feeling in our stomachs. Do you feel it? I sure do. All seven of these deaths are, from what I can gather, senseless and unjustified. I don’t know, maybe facts will come out to change that, but I always start with this presumption.

It doesn’t matter the situation. Death is never the ideal outcome. Aggression is never the prescribed course of action. De-escalation is always to be preferred to escalation. These situations all went seriously wrong at some point when someone chose to act with aggression and escalate the situation, and the result was death. Death for an innocent or death for the guilty? We may never know, and if we can know, only time will tell. In any case, I’m left sickened.

But there’s another feeling deep inside me, and that is a feeling that I need to address. It’s the feeling that things are happening. The stuff is hitting the fan, so to speak. I can’t help but feeling that this shooting in Dallas may be a signal of history repeating itself. Could this be the next Lexington and Concord?

It could very well be. Only time will tell, but we may be witnessing history unfold before our eyes. Certainly if the government wants a civil war, they can pretty much guarantee it by their response here. And it would be just what you expect. They will use this as reason to beef up the police state, sowing the seeds of future conflicts with citizens. They will even point to this as justification for the pre-existing police state, ignoring all cause and effect that lead up to it.

How will the State respond to this shooting? Will they escalate?  Will they come for guns? Will they enter homes? Will they institute martial law? Will they further militarize police? Willthey involve the police/national guard?

If they do all that, how will Americans respond? In short, is America gonna America?

I can’t help but feel like history is repeating itself, and that a civil war is coming. Maybe not this year, maybe not in the next five years. But can this current conflict go on and continue to escalate without blowing up? I say no. It can’t.

So I find it necessary to clarify that I in no way condone the actions of the sniper. This was a horrible, despicable act of violence that should never be tolerated in civil society. However I may sympathize with his motivations (I don’t know those motivations for certain, not having spoken to him), this is not the way you go about making your point.

These cops were not your enemy. There’s a deep problem in the system. There’s a lot of disagreement about what exactly that problem is or where it comes from, but it cannot be denied that there’s a deep problem in the system. And some cops are part of the problem.

But these cops were not. In fact, they were part of the solution.

I find it necessary to clarify this because many might assume that I’m on his side. I’m not exactly pro-cop. Many people take me for anti-cop. I’m neither. I’m anti-aggression no matter who is involved. A lot of what earns me the “anti-cop” moniker is the way I try to point out that the problems with the system come from even having a system at all. This, naturally, causes people to say, “well then if the problem is with the system itself, then everyone in the system is automatically a part of the problem.”

In one sense you’re right. But in another very important sense, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Yes, it’d be awesome if the good guy cops would stand up to the State’s unjust laws and refuse to enforce them, like the midwives in Egypt. It’d be awesome if they would report the misdeeds of their fellow officers to internal affairs and if internal affairs would actually investigate them thoroughly to fully resolve the matter rather than sweeping them under the rug.

In this way, the fact that good cops don’t hold each other or the system accountable is unfortunate, and in one sense could be said to be a part of the problem.

But the problem is much deeper than them. It still lies with the State and the departments they are employed by. I insist that 99.9% of cops out there are among the most upstanding individuals you can find in society who joined the police force out of a genuine desire to bring justice to those who harm the innocent. This is to be commended and honored. Are there bad apples in the bunch? Sure. But it doesn’t mean that the rest are all bad too.

But that doesn’t mean that the system they work for is good. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with the State itself and the departments these officers are forced to work for because of the monopolies maintained by the State.

Good cops are in bad situations because of bad laws.

These officers who were gunned down in Dallas were examples of those good cops. They were stellar examples to boot.

They were shot while on duty serving peacefully to help protect protestors at a demonstration that was being held to protest the police.

Think about that sentence and let it soak in. These were the best of the best, guys. I need to have a word with the shooter here. What do you think you accomplished by shooting these men? What justice do you think was served?

I’m all for justice being served. But this. isn’t. it.

These cops were not the ones who shot Philandro Castile. They didn’t shoot Alton Sterling. They didn’t kill Tamir Rice or Eric Garner. But they were to helping protect the people who were protesting them! And you gunned them down. How shameful and cowardly of you.

And to all you liberty minded folks out there who might be tempted to applaud this, remember: our revolution cannot be waged on any battle field. Our battle cannot be won by force of arms. Why? For two reasons.

The first is that our fundamental principle is Non-Aggression, and War is the exact opposite. We can’t advance the cause of liberty through aggressive means. There’s something to be said for defending ourselves when attacked, but initiating conflict is never to be done, encouraged, or applauded.

Second, cops are not the problem, as I’ve already said. They are not our enemy. The system that uses them as its enforcers is, but that system will use them as front lines of any war we might try to wage. The result would be a catastrophic loss of innocent life on both sides.

Yeah, you’d hope the cops would never go along with the State’s orders, but you gotta remember how strongly they believe in the goodness of the State, and how hard it would be for them to question anything the State says. All the State has to do is call us terrorists or whatever, and that will be all the justification they ever need. Because why would the State ever lie about that? We know they would. Cops, unfortunately, don’t believe that.

Cops are not our enemy. They are a crucially important servant in our society who exists to bring criminals to justice. Except for the handful of bad ones out there, cops generally want to do that job well.

No, cops aren’t the problem. The State is. But what is the State really? I mean, where does it get its power? How does it keep getting away with these attrocities? Because there are far too many people out there who refuse to question the State. The vast majority of people believe that these heinous atrocities committed by the State are somehow justified and necessary.

I mean there’s a lot of outrage that Castile and Sterling were killed. But where’s the outrage about the drug war that imprisons plenty of men and women who weren’t killed. Society is plenty fine with lesser aggressions, because they believe the States’ justifications for them. They’re plenty fine with bombing children in other countries because they’re the enemy.

No the State is not even really the problem. The State is a tiny entity compared to its people. If we simply seceded and withdrew our support from the State, there would be nothing they could do about it.

The problem is the people. Ordinary every day Americans who think that the State is this benevolent agency that only does good things. I mean, we don’t like it when the other party is in power, but even what they do is better than not having a State at all. I mean, who would build the roads, right?

So here’s the point. If Cops aren’t the enemy, but people who continue to believe in the State are, and we’re going to go shoot the enemy, who are you going to shoot? Are you going to shoot your neighbor who’s voting for Hillary? What about the guy who works down the hall who’s voting for Trump?

This is not the way!

No, our “war”, our “revolution”, if it is to succeed, must be won by persuasion. We must peacefully spread the ideas of liberty to those around us. Then, and only then, would the peoples’ support for the State evaporate, and then, and only then, will society find a better way.

This, of course, all casts the best of motives on the shooter. Who knows? Maybe he was just a terrorist? Maybe he was in ISIS? Maybe he was in the mod or from the drug cartel? Who knows?

But it doesn’t matter, because even in the best of cases, we should decry this as senseless and heinous. Also, the result will be the same, nonetheless. The State will likely use this as an excuse to further beef up the Police State. To what extent? We shall see. What will happen as a result? Time will tell.

Was this another Lexington and Concord? Was this a shot heard round the world? I seriously hope not. I would love to live in a truly free society, but war is not the way to achieve that. Plus there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t end up with a Robespierre on the other side.

I would rather these matters can be resolved peacefully. I would rather people come to realize that the State is unnecessary and simply withdraw their consent wherever and however peacefully possible. But I have a strong feeling that the pieces are already in motion, and I think it wise to begin to gird our minds for the coming conflict.

So what should our mindset be as Christians? Which side should we be on here? If there is a war, what should we do? Should we join in on either side?

I say no. We should not choose either side. This is not our war. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. For us, all of this is secondary to our great commission to make disciples. Peter calls us to live as free men, and so we will no matter what.

There’s definitely a common interest between the gospel mission and the liberty revolution, which is why I am a Reformed Libertarian. There’s also a common interest between the gospel and the peace that can be had in society when criminals are brought to justice, as the police, ideally, do. We cannot favor one side or another of this coming conflict. We owe allegiance to neither. Our allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ alone, and his kingdom is not of this world.

While we’re here in the world, though, what should we be doing? Making disciples. Liberty would give us the freedom to that in peace, a privilege we have enjoyed for a long time in this country.

Many have sensed a change in the winds, and as long as the State remains unchecked, those winds will continue to change. So what do we do? Do we make it our mission to check the State? I say no. Our obedience to our great commission is not dependent upon favorable conditions. We are called to faithfulness no matter what.

Further, our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are called to honor the emperor (1 Peter 2) and be subject to his authority (Romans 13).

But let us never confuse this with an obligation to capitulate to his demand that we call evil good and call good evil. We must, as the pillar and buttress of the truth, reserve the right to speak the truth. And when his evils cause the weak to be oppressed around us, shall we remain silent? I say no.

So as long as we have latitude to do so, I say we must proclaim the cause of liberty. It is secondary to the gospel, but it is critically important nonetheless. The two go hand in hand, I believe, for where Christ is regarded as King, allegiance to earthly kings ought rightly to subside.

Our message must begin and end with Jesus as Lord and Savior. But in the middle what are we saying? Are we calling good good and evil evil? I do hope so.

Be wise and vigilant.

Wealth Inequality in America 

This video is rather old, but it came across my news feed again today, and I figured it warranted comment.

With the hard charge of Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it would seem that this idea of inequality is becoming increasingly more popular.

There’s a major problem with it, though, and that’s that they are looking only at one side of the financial ledger to measure wealth solely by dollar income.

This isn’t all that surprising given that the cultural understanding of economy centers entirely around the government and their attempts to manipulate things through the income tax. 

Never mind that the effect of the income tax pales in comparison to the damage done by the Federal Reserve. That really doesn’t matter to most people who remain blissfully unaware of all but what the news media talks about. 

So to most people the economy is all about how much is the rich people’s money the government takes to help the poor. Republicans, of course, counter the Democrats’ desire to take it all (Democrats are no true socialists by the way, but that’s off topic), by saying that doing so would stifle the economy. 

Why is this bad? To them is because the money won’t trickle down in the form of jobs. So really both sides ultimately measure the health of the economy by how much of the dollar wealth finds its way into the pockets of poor people. 

(Kind ironic then, isn’t it, that this is the same government that encourages those poor people to spend their little hearts out by disincentivizing savings while at the same time sapping the purchasing power of what dollars they do have to spend…. But that’s another digression).

So what’s the proper economic analysis here? Is there a problem with this distribution? It certainly seems unfair, doesn’t it? But is it?

No. It’s not. Why not? Because of that whole idea of trickle down. 

Of course any time a fiscal conservative mentions the trickle down, the progressives are always quick to point out that the trickle down doesn’t work.

Is that true? No way! The fact is that the trickle down has already worked and this distribution is the proof.

Now that sounds backwards, right? If the trickle down worked, this graph would even out, wouldn’t it?

Well it certainly seems like it would, and that’s what the progressives say world happen. But that’s only because they are incorrectly measuring wealth in terms of income or dollars in a bank account instead of standard of living.

If you look at standard of living and then compare those poorest Americans with people in, say, Rwanda, it’ll put things into proper perspective pretty quickly.

All of this of course begs the question of why any one person has any greater claim than another to any given unit of wealth. 

The videographer’s bias (and the one growing increasingly common) is that at a certain point someone has enough and someone else has a greater claim to his excess, because… fairness.

The root of this idea has to do with need. Why does the top 1% NEED all that cash? Certainly if we distributed a chunk of that to the bottom 10% that would significantly increase their standard of living, right?

Or would it?

This whole thing seems to forget what money and income really are. Money is the measure of how much you have enriched the lives of to those around you.

It’s easy to understand when we break it down. If I give you a gallon of milk, and you give me $3, that $3 I have been enriched is roughly equivalent to the amount I have enriched you. My wealth has improved by $3. Yours has improved by $3 worth of milk.

Then suppose I buy a cow and sell all the milk I get from it to not just you but all my other neighbors. Every gallon I sell enriches someone else by $3 worth of milk and enriches me by $3 worth of currency. 

Now after a while that currency will start to pile up. Except for the amount I have to spend feeding and keeping my cow healthy, and except for the amount I have to spend on consumable goods and services for my own well-being, that cash is all going to accumulate into a nice pile of dough.

And since that wealth comes from a multitude of sources, if you compare me to any one of my customers, it will appear as though I have a great advantage over them. But that is merely because I serve more people than just that one. To be fair, you would have to compare me to the whole community, and you would have to count all the milk I’ve produced in the balance on their side.

These guys in the top 1% got there because in one way or another they have directly or indirectly enriched the lives of millions of people. 

Suppose $1 of every Star Wars ticket found its way into JJ Abrams’ pocket. If a million people went to see the movie, that would be $1 million to Mr Abrams.

It wouldn’t be fair for my neighbors to gang up on me and demand I distribute my pile of cash among them. Why do I owe them anything? I gave them milk. 

Similarly, it’s not fair for society to gang up on rich people and demand they redistribute their wealth. Why should they redistribute it? 

They gave us Star Wars and iPhones and Facebook and well-stocked grocery stores and cars and loans when we needed to buy a house or pay for college and so on and so forth.

Don’t look at this graph and think only about how much cash is at the top without realizing that that cash got to the top because the guys at the top are responsible for the fact that the guys at the bottom live better than kings did 400 years ago.

The wealth has already trickled down – not in the form of cash, but in the form of standard of living.

Don’t believe me, just look around you! The poor in this country are not that bad off. Some people are truly suffering, but there are almost always circumstances surrounding that, and even the worst of of them are doing pretty well actually.

Again, compare them to people living in Rwanda or the Philippines or Myanmar. 

With relatively few exceptions, the poor in the United States (and most of the so called “first world”) have food, clothing and even cell phones and tvs. 

But more to the point, because if the efforts of guys at the top, even the poorest in this country have indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, forced air central heating, air conditioning, some firm of automotive transportation, telephones, access to a computer with Internet access, and a thousand other things poor Americans take the granted every day that simply did not exist or at least were not available to the poorest of people even as recently as 100 years ago. 

All of these comforts enjoyed by everyone in our society that came about because of the hard work of those at the top.

Sure there’s always going to be a certain handful of exceptions to every rule. But by and large, the pattern is that the guys at the top, though they have indeed amassed a vastly greater sum of cash than everyone else in this country, have done so by serving others.

The implication – or rather the outright statement of this video maker – that the rest of the people are suffering as a result of all this hoarding is patently false. In fact quite the opposite is the truth, because how did these guys amass all this wealth? 

They did it by enriching the lives of millions of other people which has drastically improved the standard of living for those who seem to have less.

Systematic Theology vs Biblical Theology – Cage Match!

Did you know that it’s technically impossible to tune a piano? No, Really. It seems that the octave cannot be divided into 12 equal semitones without there being some dissonance. Ancient tuning systems would focus on making certain of the intervals as in-tune as possible, stashing the dissonance into lesser used portions of the scale. This gave rise to things like the “wolf note” or the “devil’s interval”, which were particularly dissonant sounding notes or intervals. An instrument tuned in this way would sound very good in certain keys, but absolutely miserable in others.

Bach introduced the idea of “Well Temperament” which was the precursor of the modern “Even Temperament” which are tuning systems designed to spread the dissonance out evenly throughout the scale with the result that “technically” none of the notes are perfectly in tune, but the dissonance is hardly noticeable (especially to our 21st century ears that have never heard anything else) and the instrument can readily play in any key with equal proficiency.

This, to me, forms a great analogy of Systematic Theology vs. Biblical Theology. Study Theology for any length of time and you will realize that we just don’t have all of the answers. There are certain things in Theology, even the most Biblically Accurate Systematic Theologies, where there seem to be competing realities that we can’t seem to reconcile. How do we reconcile God’s Sovereignty with Man’s Responsibility? How do we explain the Trinity? What is going to happen in the Last Days? Study any of these issues for long enough and you will come away with your head spinning – but hopefully in a good way.

The classical approach to these issues is Systematic Theology which is an attempt to resolve as many of the tensions as possible by putting forth a framework upon which to hang the answers to all of these questions. By doing this, the theologian builds a structure on a foundation that appears very solid. Every question has an answer, and there appear to be no contradictions.

By contrast, Biblical Theology would be more like Equal Temperament. It’s purpose is not to spread tension out, directly, but it’s effect is much the same. Biblical Theology is exegetical in nature and builds its theology out of the text, relying on the historical-grammatical hermeneutic, and not requiring an interpretation to fit into any previously chosen system in order to properly interpret its meaning. Biblical The0logy allows the text to speak for itself, drawing from it to discover whatever theological realities it teaches. Rather than attempting to solve (or hide) the tensions in various things, Biblical Theology embraces them, allowing the richness of God’s revelation to come through as God intended to communicate it. The result is that there are no ignored texts, but there are questions that don’t have straight-forward answers.

Which is better? I think both are important, but due to both the finite nature and fallen nature of man’s mind, there are weaknesses to both. The biggest danger I see with Systematic Theology is that, left unchecked, the System can take on a higher authority than the Word of God. This is never the intent, but it can happen nonetheless. This can lead to certain problems, not the least of which being eisegesis. A lesser problem may be that you’ll find that certain of the answers that are given are based more on reasoning that is clearly intended to keep things within the parameters of the system than on the Scriptures. Press for direct Biblical support on these particular questions, and you’ll be met with hems and haws. You’ve found the wolf note. This is fine if it is understood what question is being answered by these answers. The question is not “What is X Y or Z,” the question is “Given Premises A and B, what would X, Y or Z logically be?” Systematic Theology can be really valuable in helping us evaluate and formulate rational understanding of what is logically derived from the Word of God, but the System ought always be evaluated to ensure that the foundation is built on is Biblically accurate and Biblically prioritized.

By contrast, Biblical Theology has direct Scriptural support for everything, but it doesn’t always fit together into a cohesive whole that resolves the tensions the way the Systematic Theologian desires. But even more dangerous, it can lend itself to having too narrow an interpretation of any given passage, missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.. Each passage must be interpreted within its historical and textual context if the full richness of its meaning is to be exegeted, which requires answering certain questions: What happened before? What happens next? What is the Big Picture? How does this passage fit into the big picture? Answering these questions would seem to require a certain degree of Systematic Theology!

So we seem to be in a Catch 22! What’s the solution? Don’t try to tune the piano perfectly! It can’t be done! Embrace the tension. We need to let God be God, and accept the fact that we can’t answer every question. There are times when Systematic Theology is extremely useful, and there are times when we just need to wrestle with what the text right in front of us is saying, even if we can’t seem to figure out how it fits into our system. And it’s even better when we use both Biblical and Systematic Theology to refine each other, with the goal of better understanding what God’s Word says, and what that means for us, but our hearts need to be receptive to what his Spirit will teach us through the Word.

I write this on the heels of doing some informal research into New Covenant Theology, as espoused by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel, along with the similar, but slightly different, ideas communicated in Kingdom Through Covenant (a book that, actually, I have not yet had the time to read for myself), and the more historical Baptist Covenant Theology of 1689 Federalism. This post was a bit of an epiphany (which I like to call a BFO – Blinding Flash of the Obvious) as I watched this video trying to critique New Covenant Theology and I realized that New Covenant Theology and the Kingdom Through Covenant approach has arisen mostly out of Biblical Theology. It’s heavily dependent on exegesis of Matthew 5 and Hebrews 8, among other passages. On the other hand, 1689 Federalism is a well developed Systematic Theology that takes into account certain questions that Biblical Theology doesn’t quite address directly, leaving these scholars with a sense of incompleteness and inadequacy about NCT. I find that many my exegetical Biblical observations leads me to the NCT idea, but that if I had to hold to a System, I would feel right at home in Federalism.

The Economics of Worship

Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Have you ever gone to the store to buy something you thought would cost you $20 and found out that they wanted $50 for it? What did you do? Did you buy the item? Well that depends, doesn’t it? If you’re like me you probably stood there for a few minutes and mulled it over before ultimately making a decision either to buy it or to walk away. What determines the outcome of that choice? What are you considering as you mull this over?

Essentially what you are doing is making a value judgment. You are deciding whether you really need or want that item. What goes into this decision depends in large part on your circumstances and what the item is, but ultimately it comes down to your values. What is important to you? What do you consider to be of greater worth, the item or the $50 you would have to spend on it? Whatever the outcome, you have acted according to your values. You may feel grumpy about the situation, for you may have preferred to buy the item for $20, but if you bought, you showed that you really did value that item more than your $50. If you didn’t buy, you showed that you valued it less than $50.

This is a fundamental principle of economics. If two people engage in trade through voluntary mutual consent, then they both expect to benefit. If I have a pen, and you have $5, and I sell you my pen for $5, then you wanted my pen more than you wanted your $5, and I wanted your $5 more than I wanted my pen. In this case, we both expect to win. Economics is based on this assumption. For who would voluntarily consent to an action they do not expect to benefit from? It’s like two baseball teams. Team A has four good outfielders, but only four good starting pitchers. Team B has only two good outfielders, but six good starting pitchers. So Team A says to Team B, I’ll give you an outfielder for a starting pitcher. Team B thinks it over and agrees. Now both teams are better off because they both have a full outfield and a full starting rotation.

When individuals participate voluntarily in a free market, then it can be assumed that they expect to benefit from the transactions they agree to. If I’m at the store hoping to buy printer ink for $20 and the store wants $50, I have to decide how important it is to me to have that printer ink. If I have a super important document I need to print, then I may just value it that much. If I’m just supporting a hobby, or looking to buy a backup, then I’m likely to pass and wait for a better deal. In any case, my circumstances and my values determine to me which is more important. Indeed, trade is made of win.

But this post isn’t really about economics, it’s about worship. What does this economic principle have to do with worship? Continue reading The Economics of Worship

Theology of Human Authority and Civil Government Part 4

This is it, I promise!. This post is the fourth and final part in a 4 part series on a Biblical Theology of Human Authority and Civil Government. You will really be lost trying to read this post on its own without the context of the other posts. I strongly recommend getting caught up first.

In Part 1, I laid a foundation for the discussion, noting that my opponents and I share critical common ground and that we need to properly contextualize Romans 13 if we are to understand what it means to us as we stand in the place of the civil magistrate in the voting booth.

In Part 2, I discussed the foundational principle of human ethics: that each individual person is made by God and for God and in his image, which means that each individual person has inherent human dignity and the right to his life, liberty and property. It is with those things in mind that we turn our attention to Romans 13.

In Part 3, I analyzed Romans 13 and discovered that there are some Biblical commands for the civil magistrate that we ought to consider: namely that the civil magistrate is commanded to punish criminals and that he is commanded not to be a terror to good conduct. 

In today’s post, I deal with a potential objection, discuss some additional concerns, like what light 1 Peter 2 and Titus 3 shed on this, and lay out my Conclusion. Thank you for reading!

OBJECTION! Surely the Government Can Do Things That Don’t Involve the Sword?

No, it can’t. Continue reading Theology of Human Authority and Civil Government Part 4