John Wayne is Not Our Problem

(The title of this post is a reference to the increasingly popular book by Kirsten Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.)

Christians, our failure is not that 81% (based on exit polls) of “white evangelicals” voted for Trump, but that Trump was even a candidate. We are seeing large-scale accusations that the “white evangelical” voting block is really just power hungry. No, what is being seen is the vestiges of a once clear moral sense now in tatters.

The failure of Christians in the application of Christ’s character to civic action, is not in having voted for the lesser of two evils candidate, but of failing to ensure that a character-filled candidate was available. That prior failure is behind the growing chorus of false accusations about why we voted as we did; a chorus increasingly joined by liberal Christians confused about the basics. But of course, conservatives are also confused about the basics (though in different ways) —and that is the point.

Don’t get it twisted: biblical values are under attack, and the solution to our massive moral decline is not to embrace anti-biblical values, but to be truly radical (Latin from radix = root) and return to the character of Christ in every way. Don’t criticize the seemingly incongruous protests of the last 50 years coming from conservative leaders. Instead, get behind a total return to biblical life: which will transform every. single. aspect. of your life: how you eat, how you vote, how you spend, what you watch, what you listen to, etc.

The problem is our complicity with the evil of our culture; the solution is not to join it, but to be truly radical. There is no corner of your life over which Jesus does not declare: that is mine.

This is a gospel issue, because when Christian lives do not display a real alternative to the hopelessness of the world, the Gospel will not be embraced.

What is the fix? Start with you: set your heart to study, to do, and then to teach God’s law. You understand, I hope, that God’s law is nothing more than the application of Christ’s character to human circumstances, and wherever we see it in Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation—it serves to model for us, via application of principle, how we are to live today. Of course we cannot “keep it” so as to accomplish our salvation, but if a failure to imitate Christ’s character condemns us, then having been justified from the reality of that condemnation we are now set free to stumble after the imitation of Christ in our admittedly failure-ridden fashion (the righteous person falls seven times but get up yet again).

One final tip: getting radically Christlike will not make you acceptable to the progressive culture (secular or Christian), so if you’re feeling appreciated and embraced by those in tune with the zeitgeist…something is off.

Sphere Sovereignty and Contextual Application


So far as I am aware, this basic concept was first expressed in a manner similar to this by Abraham Kuyper.

God established three societal institutions: family, church, and state. Each of these three institutions have sovereignty (under God) over their own sphere (or jurisdiction). They inevitably overlap, but if the leaders of one sphere attempt to exert authority over another sphere, that is tyranny. As I read it, the 1st Amendment says nothing more than that the State has no jurisdiction over the Church. In matters of civil government the Church must heed the State’s authority, and in matters of religion the State must heed the Church’s authority.

Legislation is the act of applying a morality to governmental issues. Morality is the application of a god’s character to human affairs. How God’s character applies to matters of state is somewhat different than how God’s character applies to matters of religion and family. All law is contextual and cannot be discerned correctly if torn from the situation of its application.

If a YHWH-worshiper sacrificed to an idol this was worthy of the death penalty (“church sphere”); if a Moabite did so the same did not apply. If the Moabite became a sojourner with Israel, however, in that case, “For the [religious] assembly”, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you….” (Numbers 15:15)

Now, in the scope of time, God will hold the “Moabite” responsible for not worshiping Him, but that is God’s prerogative, not ours.

How do we know this was relative to the religious assembly? Context. The entire chapter is about worship regulations, and the immediately preceding sentence says, “And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do.”

So Ruth the Moabitess was constrained by this passage, but her sister, Orpah, was not.

Covenant of Redemption

I read the following words in Fountain of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition by Charles McCoy and J. Wayne Baker today, and I think it sparked a light bulb moment.

“Second, federalism understand the relationships between God and the world and among humans as based on covenants among their members, some tacit and inherited from the past, others explicit and made or renewed in the present” (p 12).

The idea of tacit vs. explicit covenants sparked what seems to me the implications of the above quote, and which I have attempted to state succinctly as follows:

When eternal, inviolate beings have a tacit understanding of relationship, formed in virtue of their purposive unity and common character, that agreement forms what in human terms we call a covenant.

The term “covenant” is required to lend the strength of Divine imitation to human relational compact(s). In other words, implicit agreement among the Godhead is, by virtue of their nature, a covenant in human terms, though human covenants must be explicit due to the depravity of human character.

This is why it is proper to speak of a “Covenant of Redemption” among the Trinity, even though such a covenant, as such, is never named in Scripture.

Wrestling with God’s Law as Ceremonial, Civil, & Moral

In light of recent posts that have touched on the overarching structure of Scripture and how the OT and the NT properly interact, I’m curious…how do you all feel about the traditional division of the law (moral, ceremonial, civil), and how would you say it’s proper to determine that something from the OT does *not* carry over?

While there is significant preceding evidence that God entered into covenantal relationship with humans, at Sinai he specifically and exhaustively made clear—in a manner intended to be received by all who heard it, and to endure for all to come—that he intended to relate to mankind in a covenantal manner. He thus promised to be faithful to his chosen (elected) people, and they in turn were expected to obey his law or Torah. The law dictated the lifestyle of the people and reflected how a human was to relate to God, to others, to self and to material things (see McGonigle & Quigley, A History of the Christian Tradition from Its Jewish Origins to the Reformation, pg. 34).

To the degree that these laws directly reflected the nature of God in universal and timeless application these laws have never and will never be annulled. Laws of this nature have sometimes, helpfully, been called the moral law of God. Those laws appear in seemingly random places throughout Scripture and are variously summarized in multiple places and ways, including the 10 Commandments, the 2 Great Commandments, Micah 6:8, and elsewhere.

It is impossible to ignore the observable reality that within the Sinai legislation are laws peculiar to the situation of national Israel within the Land of Promise, ruled by judges and magistrates constrained by the Sinai legislation as their national law, and in the presence of a functioning Tabernacle/Temple system. Christian men have therefore sometimes quickly summarized those laws which endure with universal application as moral, those which apply specifically to the Temple system as ceremonial, and those which specifically direct the nation-state of Israel in the Land and governing themselves as civil. This shorthand description can function as a helpful categorization in aid to the complex process of deriving healthy, biblical application in diverse times and places.

To the degree that so-called ceremonial or civil laws reflect the character of God in a universally applicable manner, these laws remain binding in every age, though they do not, necessarily, direct all men in every place with specificity. So, all men everywhere are required to acknowledge God and no god before Him (Ex. 20:2-3), yet it is also true that all men everywhere are not mandated to redeem their firstborn son for the price of five shekels, to be given to the sons of Aaron (Num. 3:40-51).

There are several Reformation-era statements on these matters that are very helpful, especially when read as summary statements, reflecting extensive underlying exegetical work. Here are two that I especially like:

I. As the ceremonial law was concerned with God, the political was concerned with the neighbor.

II. In those matters on which it is in harmony with the moral law and with ordinary justice, it is binding upon us.

III. In those matters which were peculiar to that law and were prescribed for the promised land or the situation of the Jewish state, it has not more force for us than the laws of foreign commonwealths.

(Johannes Wollebius [1589-1629]), Compendium theologiae christianae)


The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.”

(39 Articles of Religion, 1562)

I’ve been giving this topic significant thought for several years now. In fact, I think I first mentioned it briefly in public at the 2013 New England Messianic Conference. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the topic recently because I think I’m finally making some progress in articulating something that will make sense to people. For a long time it was something I was intuiting, and I struggled to convey what I meant.

One thing I believe we should acknowledge is that the stereotypical response of pro-Torah people to this topic has not been well thought out, or sensitive to historical context. Among the Reformers and their early descendants (with some exceptions) references to the tripartite division of the Law were not meant to be rationale for how to escape the present applicability of God’s law, but used as a short-hand reference to figuring out how to apply God’s law. Unfortunately, being not well-informed on Reformation-era thought, too many have reacted against one sentence in the 19th chapter of the Westminster Confession (echoed in Chapter 19 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession), without being familiar with the broader context in which those statements were made.

I think we can all agree that figuring out how to apply God’s law to our contemporary situation is rarely easy. Just like “circumcision” had become shorthand for the proselyte conversion process in the 2nd Temple era, the division of the law into ceremonial, civil, and moral categories had become shorthand during the Reformation era and following for referring to the significant wrestling they had done to determine the manner in which God’s law should be applied in their time period.

But we read, “All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament,” and we freak out. Forgetting how precise these folks were in their working out of these concise statements. See, for example, the two quotes above.

There are at least four items of background we need to be aware of when considering this topic:

  1. For the Reformers, the reference to a tripartite categorization of God’s law was not a way to escape keeping God’s law, but a shorthand reference to textual exegesis focused on the manner in which his law should be kept.
  2. Over time, however, at least in practice if not in theology, this idea became a justification for why, essentially, nothing more than the 10 Commandments applied to contemporary Gentile believers.
  3. Dispensationalists seized on the complexity of the problem and the inevitable resulting inconsistency and said, “See, you can’t do this, it’s a unified whole and you must acknowledge that the entire thing has been done away with.”
  4. In reaction against the Dispensationalist’s view, which had increasingly influenced the practice, if not the theology, of Reformed people in the pews, Pro-Torah folks (ironically) insisted that the Dispensationalists were right and the law could not be categorized into parts, but must be accepted as a unified whole, but then in practice continued to inconsistently practice only those things which might be described as moral, while ignoring all those things which might apply to our congregational life (ceremonial) or political scene (civil).

It is time for us to stop reacting and to continue proactively articulating historically sensitive, theologically mature, biblically defensible, and eminently practical statements of our own. These will correct but not reject the overwhelmingly faithful line of reliable saints who have preceded us.

Inescapable Logic

When you assume there is such a thing as evil,
you must assume there is such a thing as good.
When you assume there is such a thing as good,
you must assume there is such a thing as a moral law,
on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil.
When you assume there is such a thing as a moral law,
you must posit a moral law Giver.

If there is no moral law Giver, there is no moral law.
If there is no moral law, there is no good.
If there is no good, there is no evil.

If sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4),
and all have sinned (Rom 3:23),
and if the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23),
then I need a Savior.

If I still need a Savior there must,
still be an eternal, moral law, or…
I no longer need a Savior.

I Saw the Lord

High and lifted up is the LORD on a throne, and his train filled the temple where I stood, and I felt the wind of seraphim wings.

Into the throne room walked a prosecutor, the Adversary, with evil mien. From the throne a voice filled the room, “From whence have you come?”

“From going back and forth in the earth,” answered Satan, “and from walking up and down in it.”

Then the Voice replied, “Have you considered my servant?” and all eyes turned toward me.

Then with dramatic gesture, the Adversary extended his bony finger toward my heart and spoke an octave lower, “This one is a law-breaker!”

I noticed then that One stood on the right of the throne, for he leaned toward the Father and said, “For this one, I died.”

And I felt the floor under me tremble as those above the throne broke forth in thunderous voice:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of Hosts! The whole earth is full of his glory!”

And suddenly I saw that I was clothed in white raiment, and with twenty-four others I cast my crown before the throne, exclaiming, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, the Holy One, to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power, for you created all things, and because of your desire they exist and are created!” And my voice with the others was like a trumpet filling the room, and I saw the Accuser flee.

Then from my knees I saw before my eyes a hand like a stone mason’s, thick-fingered and calloused, and following the arm up I saw an olive-skinned man who beckoned me stand. Rising, he embraced me; then arms extended to grip either shoulder, his eyes gazed into mine a moment and he spoke, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” His eyes smiled as he heard my gasp, and I saw the Lord, and he saw me.

In the King’s Army

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:56-58

Imagine a lengthy campaign to displace enemy forces and occupy the Asian theatre. Imagine, if you will, the plans made by the Joint Chiefs. Now imagine a solitary lieutenant of a single platoon stranded on a specific island with dwindling supplies who somehow comes into possession of a page from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Operation Order. Imagine his disillusionment as he reads the assigned objective: invade and occupy the continent of Asia. He can’t even get off the beach and they are telling him to conquer an entire land mass of nations. The grand plan seems wholly unrealistic. Discouraged by his present situation, he may even lose the will to get to the top of the next sand dune.[1]

As servant-soldiers in our King’s army this may be the situation we often find ourselves in. Facing seemingly repeated and unending defeat in our personal lives, we quail at the thought of the grand mission assigned to us. This perspective, however, reveals the consequences of the individualistic focus bequeathed to us by the baptistic perspective which has come to dominate the conservative landscape of North American Christians.

Men who are at war with themselves, and resentful of life and its requirements, are not able to command the future: they cannot even command themselves. –R.J. Rushdoony

When entering the Armed Forces, individual recruits go through a process of being broken down and then rebuilt, no longer as a mass of individuals, but now as a cohesive unit with each person thinking of themselves as a cog in the wheel of their collective mission. Having focused in on individual responsibility to decide for themselves and be baptized as a sign of their decision, we have largely lost this concept of being part of the Body of Christ, who is our Commander-in-Chief. As a result, we are taking no territory for our King. Too rarely is even the land of our own lives fruitful for the Kingdom; almost never are we conquering Canaan.

Implicit problems, however, with the Anabaptist view of the covenant have consistently taken Baptistic thought into Pelagianism.  Anabaptist theology individualizes the covenant. Consequently the covenant becomes subject oriented. Once that happens, the problems involved with subjectivism, mentioned earlier, cannot be prevented.” (emphasis mine) [2]

And therein the problem! Believer’s Baptism emphasizes the decision of the individual to the detriment of a focus on the Covenant Body, while deprecating the sovereign, solely capable, saving action of God. This has inexorably led to the completely out-of-control individualism of contemporary American Christianity. Why could the early Separatists and the Puritans pull off what they did in the colonies? Because they practiced infant baptism, and even if they were Baptists, they still held the residual perspective of the whole, rather than the over-arching autonomy of the individual, which has now utterly undermined the stability of America.

Look at the total inability of the Messianic movement to interoperate, and it becomes quickly apparent that a rescue of the covenantal perspective of circumcision/infant baptism is a desperately needed antidote to the presuppositional baptistic perspective of the majority of North American Christians, and almost all people of a Messianic persuasion. Tie this to objective rather than subjective salvation (and sanctification) and I am growing in my suspicion that “Reformed Baptist” (or Believer’s Baptism Messianic) might be the greatest oxymoron of the American era.

[1] I’m indebted to Jim Wilson in Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism (p. 14) for this illustration.

[2] Ray R. Sutton, “The Baptist Failure” in James B. Jordan, ed. The Failure of American Baptist Culture: Christianity & Civilization, No. 1. Paducah, KY: Geneva Divinity School, 1982, p. 157.

A Christian Nation?

In a recent discussion on facebook a friend posted a meme which purported to evidence that America’s founding fathers explicitly rejected the idea that America was a Christian nation. The meme was so wildly inaccurate and yet so seemingly conclusive that I was inspired to write a significant exposé and rebuttal.

First, let’s analyze the meme (seen below). Oh, how pesky a thing is context! The first quote by Jefferson is lifted from a letter he wrote to Thomas Cooper (in 1814), enclosing his notes from law school (in 1763 or 64). The sentence quoted is part of a discussion of Anglo-Saxon common law previous to 686 A.D! Nice try by the meme author suggesting that this was Jefferson’s opinion about United States law (c.f., Jefferson’s letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, from Monticello, February 10, 1814).


Similarly, the “in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty” quote comes from a letter by Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford where they are discussing English law books, and the influence of England on the new generation of Americans. Jefferson prefaces his comment with this sentence, “I join in your reprobation of our merchants, priests and lawyers for their adherence to England & monarchy in preference to their own country and it’s constitution.” When Jefferson discusses priests he has in mind Roman Catholic priests (he adamantly opposed state churches like the Vatican, or like in England), and declares that they “perverted the purest religion ever preached to man…” He is by no means criticizing Christianity, but rather the corruption of Christianity.

What’s wrong with the John Adams quote? Well, for starters he never said it. I could go on, but perhaps that’s enough.

Thomas Paine, was so beloved by our nation’s founders that 6 people attended his funeral. Yes, he was an atheist and ridiculer of Christianity… his views post the pamphlet “Common Sense” were overwhelmingly rejected by Americans.

How about the James Madison quote? Well, at least it is accurately attributed! But it does not mean what it is purported to represent. Again, the quote comes from a personal letter written by Madison to Edward Livingstone in 1822, and Madison closes his letter in this manner:

“We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.”

In other words, was Madison opposing religion? Not by any means (the many quotes from him supporting religion make the use of a quote from him in an attempt to deny the Christian character of America laughable), he was arguing that it is improper for civil government to sponsor religion, but he recognized like the rest of our founders that the form, nature, structure and success of our nation depended upon the presumptions of Christian belief for its defence, and in the belief and practice of its people.

Was our nation founded as Christian? You tell me…

In July 1775 the Continental Congress called for a day of prayer and fasting. At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress ordered copies of the Declaration first be sent not to town clerks or newspapers but to parish ministers, who were “required to read the same to their respective congregations, as soon as divine service is ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s day after they have received it.”

After Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, George Washington issued the following missive:

“The General congratulates the army upon the glorious event of yesterday.… Divine service is to be performed tomorrow in the several brigades and divisions. The commander in chief recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.”

During the colonial period the average citizen listened to some 7,000 sermons in their lifetime. There was no TV, no Internet, often no newspaper; the colonial sermon was the dominant societal influence. Historians gauge that its influence on culture was so great that even contemporary television and internet are less influential than was the sermon on colonial America.18th century America was a deeply religious culture that self-consciously lived “under the cope of heaven.” Contemporary events were seen not so much from the human vantage point as from God’s. The overwhelming majority of colonists were Calvinists who saw all events as part of God’s providential design. The Christian ministers’ influence was so powerful that the British called them “the black-robed regiment.”

The American Revolution was an indisputably religious occurrence. On January 30, 1749–the 100th anniversary of the execution of Charles I–Jonathan Mayhew preached a sermon titled “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-resistance to the Higher Powers,” which was typical of most sermons preached throughout the colonies. In it Mayhew comes to the conclusion that rulers have “no authority from God to do mischief,” and that “It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers.”

Referring to Romans 13:1-7 as his text Mayhew writes:

“Let us now trace the apostle’s reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers, in common with others of a different character.”

During his retirement John Adams reflected on the origins of the American Revolution and credited Mayhew’s sermon as a primary source of shaping public opinion.

Why is this significant? Because even Thomas Paine and his wild best-seller Common Sense, argued in sermonic prose for a biblically-based revolt. He concludes:

“These portions of Scripture are direct and positive. They admit of no equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his protest against monarchical government is true, or the Scripture is false.”

Paine was later revealed to be a radical deist and eventually an atheist, but in the pre-Revolutionary period whether his personal views changed or he simply hid his opinions, Paine knew his audience well, and recognized that only biblical motivation would bring them to arms.

We might speak of Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran-trained Anglican minister who was present at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia when Patrick Henry gave his immortal cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Muhlenberg was so moved, he enlisted under Washington before returning to his own congregation to give his final sermon. After reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1, Muhlenberg said, “There is a time to preach and a time to pray, but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” He then threw off his clerical robe to reveal the uniform of a militia colonel, and began recruiting the men of his congregation, who became known as the “German Regiment.” Peter eventually rose to the rank of major general, and returned to Philadelphia after the war as a hero to spend the rest of his life in local and national politics.

Perhaps we should speak of Rev. John Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. He moved to America in order to become president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Witherspoon wrote, “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost and religious liberty preserved.” While Witherspoon was not present during the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, his presence was felt heavily through James Madison, who had been his student at Princeton. Witherspoon retired from Congress in 1782.

Consider this letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, describing the powerful religious sentiments that undergirded the first Continental Congress.

When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments—some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists—that we could not join in the same act of worship.

Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia but had heard that Dr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress tomorrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative.…

Accordingly next morning he appeared with his clerk and his pontificals [vestments], and read the Psalter for the seventh day of September, which was the 85th Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present:

“Be Thou present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the counsel of this honorable assembly. Enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed, that order, harmony, and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish among the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our Savior, Amen.”

Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households.… They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered].

And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for divine interposition. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia.

Or the congressional designation of the first day of thanksgiving:

IN CONGRESSNovember 1, 1777

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of; And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence, but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; That with one Heart and one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People and the Labour of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand, and to prosper the Means of Religion for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, that servile Labour, and such Recreation as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

Extract from the Minutes,Charles Thomson, Secr.

Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. II, pp. 309-310.

We would be remiss not to include something from George Washington.

“While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.” – George Washington

The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XXX, p. 432.)

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. 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. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence John Adams had on our country.

“[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.

“[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.

We could draw from the influence of individual states…

“[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God’s, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.”

Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania, 1682. Written by William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.

“No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).

We might turn to famous statesman…

“[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” – Daniel Webster

The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol. XIII, p. 492. From “The Dignity and Importance of History,” February 23, 1852.

And we could assess the thoughts and writings of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.

“We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.

I conclude (with reams of additional primary sources to draw from) that there is no possible way to honestly contest the factual evidence that America was founded because of her Christian presumption, upon her Christian principles, and to be a beacon of light for liberty and freedom among the nations, as a result of the outworking of Christian theology. There is no other alternative that can be honestly propounded after a survey of the available history/literature.

It’s 1775. The year 1787, with its novel constitution and separation of church and state is a long 12 years away. At the moment, you and your friends are just a bunch of outlaws. You’ve heard the debates in Parliament over taxation and representation; you’ve seen British troops enforce royal supremacy at the point of a bayonet. Your king, George III, and Parliament have issued a declaration asserting their sovereignty in “all cases whatsoever” in the colonies. You are, at least in New England, a people under siege with British troops quartered in Boston. You’ve dumped tea into Boston’s harbor in a fit of rage and had your port closed.

Who will you turn to now for direction? There are no presidents or vice-presidents, no supreme court justices or public defenders to call on. There are a handful of young, radical lawyers, like the Adams cousins, John and Samuel, but they’re largely concentrated in cities, while you and most of your friends live in the country. In many colonies, including Massachusetts, there are not even elected governors or councilors—they have all been appointed by the British crown and are answerable to it.

Where you turn is where you have habitually turned for over a century: to the prophets of your society, your ministers.

Harry S. Stout, “Preaching the Insurrection,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 50: Christianity & the American Revolution (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1996).

Four Foundational Principles on the Law of God

Here are four foundational biblical principles that will help you develop Jesus’ positive attitude toward the Law of God and revitalize your engagement with the Scriptures.

  1. The Torah of God is a loving Father’s teaching. The Hebrew word torah fundamentally connotes guidance and instruction—that which aims you so that you hit the mark. And the mark for the Torah always is life (Deuteronomy 4:1,6-9; Habakkuk 2:4b; Romans 1:16-17; Eph 2:2-3,8-10; 2 Peter 3:11-13). Much more than “the Law.” It is God’s will, wisdom and direction conveyed in love to His covenant children for their on-going fellowship with the Holy One of Israel.
  2. The Torah is a treasure. Only in light of the above can we appreciate the Psalmist’s attitude: “O how I love your Torah!” Psalm 119 consists of 8 verses for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and every one of the 172 verses extols an aspect of the multi-faceted Torah.
  3. The Torah is a gift of the Spirit. The Torah was written by the “finger of God” (Exodus 31:18); Deuteronomy 9:10). This Hebrew idiom is found in Luke 11:20 and explained in the parallel passage of Matthew 12:28. It means “the Spirit of God.” Truly the Torah—the foundational “Scripture” to which the Apostle Paul alludes in 2 Timothy 3:16—is “inspired”. Said another way, it is “in-Spirited.”
  4. The Torah is guidance for a redeemed people. The Law was given to Israel after they had been saved out of Egypt, not as the basis or means of their salvation. It was meant to guide the covenant people in paths of righteousness that would bring them to their appointed place of promise and productivity. It is good to remember in this regard that these things “were written for our instruction” as well (1 Corinthians 10:11).*

*Copied and slightly edited from Dwight Pryor’s Foreword to Keren Hannah Pryor’s book A Taste of Torah.

True or False?

This is purely a guess, but I would guesstimate that 85% (probably even higher) of the people I know (Christian and non-Christian) would either outright agree with, or feel pretty sure that some or all of the following seven statements are pretty much agreed upon by everyone and must be right.

  • The government can’t legislate morality.
  • No one should force their morals on anyone else.
  • As long as I don’t hurt anyone else, the government should leave me alone. Whatever consenting adults do is OK.
  • We’re a pluralistic society. We fundamentally disagree on values, so there are no common values to legislate.
  • Legislated morality is not enforceable because the government can’t force people to be good—just look at Prohibition!
  • We can’t legislate morality because doing so involves religion, and that’s a violation of the separation of church and state.
  • Laws can’t change hearts.

I bet you agree with at least a couple of those don’t you? Perhaps a couple of those make you feel uncomfortable, but you have no idea how to argue the opposite?

Guess what? Every single one of those statements is categorically wrong and would have sent any one of the founding fathers of our country (Christian or otherwise) into passionate-Patrick-Henry-mode. Want to know more? Stay tuned…I hope to blog through these ideas in the next month or so.