Ground Level Tactics of Christian Resistance

As we continue to think about the things that must be done in the pursuit of cultural reformation, we must make yet another distinction between strategic level thinking, and tactical thinking. There will be times when the strategic application and the tactical application line up perfectly — as when, during an assault by the entire army, one platoon is also participating in the assault. The whole army is attacking, and so part of it also is.

But there are also instances when the larger strategy requires one thing, and on a tactical level, the opposite is required. Take for example one principle of war, what we have called taking the offensive. When the Israelite army attacked the city of Ai the second time, the larger strategic plan was an offensive attack. But a smaller part of this was the tactical retreat on the part of the forces that had come up to the front of the city. They feigned a retreat so that the soldiers of Ai would think they were doing the same thing they had done the first time, which was to run away. They were the retreating bait so that the offensive trap could be sprung.

So sometimes tactical applications are exactly the same as the larger strategic applications, adjusted for scale, and sometimes they are not. Saul Alinsky gave his followers 13 tactical principles, which is discussed elsewhere. These are suggested tactics of Christian resistance — some of them are tactical versions of larger principles, some are Christian restatements of Alinsky’s tactics, and some are just free information from somewhere else. There are 21 of them, way better than Alinsky’s paltry 13.

Think of these as exhortations to sergeants in the culture war — local Christian leaders, pastors, bands, writers, activists. You will never be invited to a summit meeting that has the word geopolitical anywhere on the agenda, but you still want to be faithful in the station where God has assigned you. What can you do tactically?

1. Think cosmically, act locally. This is a rip-off of the progressive bumper sticker which urges us to think globally, act locally. What they mean by that is think in gauzy abstractions, act irrationally in the moment. What we mean by it is that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and that therefore we must spend our time discipling all the nations of men, teaching them how to honor and follow Him.

2. Cultivate personal loyalty. Your only absolute loyalty is to God and His Word, but because of this, He has required that you love your wife, love your neighbor, and love your enemy. Everybody you meet will be at least one of those. Not only so, but God has defined for us in His Word what love and loyalty look like in each one of those instances. Your love for God, your loyalty to Him, must be constant. Because it is the one constant, your love and loyalty to your family and companions, and adversaries, can look very different at different times. But it must be the same constant thing, looking different, not different things, falling apart.

3. Relate everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This will help you break down the walls of arbitrary dualisms in your head. Think in such a way that you learn to relate your opposition to gun control, your support of free markets, your love of mercy ministry, your embrace of new media, and so on, to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Doing this makes you a biblical Christian, and not a Republican or a right-winger. People will call you that — except for the secular Republicans, who will consider you a dangerous hazard to all their hopes and dreams.

4. Courage is the testing point of every virtue, and because the point of every conflict is always local, courage is exhibited on the individual and family level. Be sure to love and encourage your wife so that she is with you in it. Be sure to love and teach your children so that they grow up in such a way as to stand with you in the city gates. Do not neglect your family for the sake of “the cause.” Your family is part of the cause . . . an essential part. One of John Knox’s daughters was named Elizabeth, and she married a great preacher, a man named John Welch. He was exiled to France for many years, until his doctors told him that he would have to return to England for his health. So Elizabeth (Knox) Welch came to the court of King James to seek for permission for him to return. She was told by the king that he could return to England if he would submit to the bishops. She lifted up her apron and said, “Please your majesty, I’d rather kep (receive) his head there.” She was on board.

5. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t let the martial spirit overtake you in such a way as to justify all your personal failings. Of course, if no one ever complains about you, you aren’t doing your job. But it does not follow from this that if people are complaining about you, that you are doing it.

6. Worship God every Lord’s Day. Confess your sins. Sing psalms. Listen to sermons that are preached out of the Bible. Confess your faith. Take the Lord’s Supper. Between worship services, read your Bible daily. Pray without ceasing. Read books. Prepare for next Sunday.

7. Provide your children with the best Christian education you can find. There is no excuse for Christians giving their children over to the enemy for their education. There is no sense in giving them over for education in “the neutral parts,” for there are no neutral parts. Christian children must have a Christian education.

8. Defend free markets at every opportunity. It is not possible to understand the gospel of free grace intelligently if it does not lead to a love for free markets. Free grace creates free men, and free men trade in free markets. If you have a biblical worldview, you cannot be a libertarian. But if you have a biblical worldview, you will be accused of being one.

9. Do not assume that government regulators have the authority to tell you what the true meaning of Romans 13 is. We are to submit to the governing authorities, but not in everything, and not in the ways stipulated by them. Understand the important role of civil disobedience, and realize that it can occur in areas other than worship or gospel preaching. Gideon was threshing in the wine vat because he was hiding from the tax man. The apostle Paul ran a road block at Damascus. David spent a good deal of time in the wilderness evading a man whom he acknowledged to be the Lord’s anointed.

10. Do not accept any sexual bribes. Chesterton once noted that free love is the first and most obvious bribe to be offered to a slave.

11. Love and encourage your wife and children, constantly. What the world needs first is gospel, and your family is the best place to showcase the gospel to a lost and wandering culture. The gospel must be preached by anointed evangelists, but what we desperately need is a chorus of amens coming from families that live out this gospel.

12. Do whatever you can with whatever you have.

13. Utilize social media, but not in a way that identifies you as a vapid waster-of-time on the one hand, or a certifiable crank on the other. If you are the kind of person who sends Instagrams of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with updates on your periodic potty breaks, you are wasting a precious resource. But on the other hand, if you are in deadly earnest all the time, and will tweet nothing not found in Leviticus, then we all hope that the concerned furrows on your brow don’t stick that way.

14. Cultivate a robust sense of humor. Use irony, satire, and ridicule, as appropriate. Whether or not it is appropriate should not be determined by the target. The target never likes it.

15. My fifteenth rule is Alinsky’s fourth. Make your adversary live up to his own rules. Turn in papers that act on the assumption of absolute relativism taught in the class. Apply for affirmative action scholarships because of your Scottish descent. Your clan was persecuted in the 14th century, and you are still dealing with it. Have your son try out for the girl’s shot put event. Make them say, “No, girls are different.”

16. Don’t fall for abstract calls to repentance, and don’t use abstractions to make you look like you are a courageous denouncer of sin. Call for “Repentance! Broadly considered!” and lots of people will call you The Thunderer. But call for repentance for homosexuality, or porn use, or confiscatory taxation, and people will suddenly say you have become “too political.” You have left off preaching, and got to “meddling.”

17. Wherever you are on the line, keep the pressure on. Do not spend your time worrying about how you are going to put out the fires that the adversary sets. Wake up in the morning thinking about the fires you can set. Let them be the fire department.

18. Enjoy yourself. God is in control. Jesus is on the throne.

19. Keep your weapons sharp. Read. Study. Reflect. Grow.

20. Conflict is always personal, and so don’t be shy about keeping it personal. As Alinsky stated in his 13th, we are to pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. But there is a caveat. This is a valuable principle, but we have to understand it in a Christian context. Because of the cross of Christ, it is possible to distinguish a sinner and his sin. This means that your adversary might wind up repenting, as Saul of Tarsus did, and if you have trouble with that possibility, you are being vindictive instead of being principled.

21. Accept and acknowledge what our ultimate goal is, which is the reestablishment of a mere Christendom. We do not insist on the whole thing now — we are incrementalists, and this is a long war — but we know what the point of our labor is. We must know the objective, and that objective, assigned in the Great Commission, is for every tribe and nation confess the name of Jesus, and bow down to Him. We do not believe we have to conquer Canaan in the next ten minutes, but we also don’t believe that we have the right to settle down and make peace treaties with Amorites.

 

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35 thoughts on “Ground Level Tactics of Christian Resistance

  1. In point number 8: “If you have a biblical worldview, you cannot be a libertarian. But if you have a biblical worldview, you will be accused of being one.” Can you write another whole article on that? It really struck me because I have been recently calling myself an inconsistent libertarian since much of what that title refers to resonates with me, but not all of it….

  2. It’s kinda like how they say “the conservatives will think you are too liberal, and the liberals will think you are too conservative.”

  3. Doug, an you direct me to a source you recommend supporting this dominionistic teaching of yours? When I read Jesus words in John 18, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world,” and Paul’s instruction to pray for our leaders so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, and Paul’s charge not to ‘get entangled in civilian pursuits,’ I think your insistence on making the world Christian/theonomistic agrees with Scripture.

  4. Sorry I sounded like a babbling idiot in that comment. I meant to say obviously that your teaching does *not* seem to agree with Scripture.

  5. Seth: Basically the idea is you can’t pit one part of Scripture against another. Sure Christ’s kingdom does not originate in this world, but that doesn’t mean it has no presence or effect. Yes we must live quiet and peacable lives, so Christians shouldn’t gain dominion by rioting and killing each other.

    All tribes and tongues and people should be exhorted to repent and submit to Christ’s authority, yes? Then you’re a dominionist.

  6. “What you have in the libertarian movement, if you want to see it
    philosophically — if you look at it in terms of the actual dyanmics of
    libertarianism, it’s an utter mess. There is no harmony among
    libertarians. They’re all exercising their anarchistic freedom very
    nicely — they can’t get along with each other. And that’s just a
    social fact. //

    “But philosophically, let’s be polite, put the gloves on now and look
    at this in kind of a dry, academic way. Libertarians defend rights
    either in aristotelean fashion (as you find in the argument that there
    is a certain nature to men and so forth, and a nature to society and
    so forth), or they are defended in an egoistic framework, which is the
    way John Hospers does it. //

    “Now, neither the aristoteleans nor the egoists among the libertarians
    believe that they have to invoke the existence of God in order to make
    good on their claims. Of course, they can’t resolve their differences,
    either. One would think if it’s a natural matter that they ought to be
    able to resolve their differences, but they can’t. And so I guess
    that’s what leads me to think of libertarianism as basically secular
    in its character, rather than Christian. //

    “There are people who call themselves ‘Christian libertarians,’ and I
    think that qualification is very important because basically what
    they’re saying is, ‘We believe in a Christian approach to social
    theory, and we think that the Bible promotes maximal freedom for the
    individual, or a free market,’ or what have you. And in that sense,
    you can call me a Christian libertarian. I am a defender of the free
    market. I think it’s very important to defend the free market. I also
    believe you can only do that in a Christian framework.”
    //

    ~ Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, from a lecture entitled “God’s Sovereignty vs. Individual Sovereignty,”
    given at Hillsdale College (date unknown)

  7. Christian libertarians are aware of how power can have a corrupting influence on fallen man, thus wish for government limits. Secular libertarians may be aware of man’s fallible nature (it is observable), but some also wish to keep money so they can spend it, and have state stay away from their vices. The motivation for small government may be entirely different for different people.

  8. The aims and objectives of dominionists are not simply to seek out faith and repentance in Christ, at least not the way I believe Scripture teaches it. In Wilson’s final point he states, “Accept and acknowledge what our ultimate goal is, which is the reestablishment of a mere Christendom.” This is what I want to understand. As of now, I do not think this is what Scripture teaches. God does not teach us to establish Christianity on earth, but rather that this earth is passing away, and as the author of Hebrews said, ‘But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.’ So yes, we are ‘dominionists’ in the sense that we are living out and sharing the gospel, but the objective is not to ‘restore’ Christianity to the earth. That is not what I see Scripture teaching. As soldiers of Christ, we are not to get entangled in the civilian affairs of the world that is passing away, but we desire a better country, a heavenly one. I don’t think what is meant by dominionism agrees with Scripture, and that’s why I am asking for a thorough presentation of this topic because I’d like to understand the position better.

  9. Seth, quick thought on the passage from John. When you deal with the genitive case in NT Greek, there is often a significant possible range of meaning. So, in John when Jesus says “of this world” does He mean “from this world,” “existing in this world,” “of the kind of kingdoms one normally encounters in this world,” or 2 or 3 other possibilities. That doesn’t mean we can’t figure it out, it just means we have to apply a little context. Most post-mills would look at the larger picture of John’s Gospel and other Scriptures, then say that Jesus means something along the lines of “my Kingdom does not originate from this world,” or “my Kingdom is not like other kingdoms in this world,” or (as John likes to do in other places in his Gospel) both.

    That doesn’t deal with your larger question, but I hope the little thought on that verse is helpful.

    -tob

  10. One little addition (after I actually went back and looked at the text-duh): the preposition present “ek” has some flexibility of interpretation also (Greek prepositions aren’t magic, they’re often as squishy as our English prepositions). It can also imply “out of” in the sense of leaving or not being a part of something, but it can also mean that something originates from something. Along the lines of: “You just pulled that argument ‘out of’ thin air.” So Jesus’ Kingdom originate from this world, rather it originates in Heaven.

    Apologies for two posts, next time I’ll actually read the passage first instead of going from memory.

  11. Well, this explains why my CREC friends are so difficult to be around. This sounds like a list of requirements for being in a cult. I am sad for you, Doug Wilson, and for your followers.

  12. St. Paul does tell us those things Seth referenced, but then he also tells us to use our spiritual weapons to tear down strongholds, arguments, and everything that tries to exalt itself over God.

  13. I appreciate the replies, but I’m really looking for a full treatment of this topic, which can’t really be dealt with in a blog comment. Whether that be in a book, essay, or journal, I would be grateful for a recommendation. Thanks again.

  14. Seth, a good start would be by looking at the foundational postmillennialism. I would suggest Ken Gentry’s He Shall Have Dominion, or my Heaven Misplaced.

  15. Seth, I know this is a little off-topic a bit, BUT . . .

    Would you share the general notion that Pastor Wilson’s tactical recommendations are handy-dandy useful ideas for Christians–even those who might not share his eschatology? Some folks who don’t think that the Church will be culturally victorious before the Second Coming of Christ still accept these ideas from a “salt and light” perspective. Just curious, thanks for your replies.

    By the way, I would reiterate Pastor Wilson’s recommendations on the topic. His book, Angels in the Architecture, while not aimed straight at this topic, still paints a glorious picture of Mere Christendom. I am normally a very fast reader, but it took me 3 days to read Angels in the Architecture the first time because I had to read through tears on every page.

    -tob

  16. My concern is that there is a mixture of truth and error in this hermeneutical/theological framework. So yes, correct things are said, but other things seem to be said which are not informed by Scripture, but rather human reasoning. That being said, I truly want to give these things a full out fair chance, as much as my preconceived mentality will allow, either so I can accept these things, or refute them when required to do so. This will take some time, because the body of work is truly massive and robust.

  17. “. . .we are to pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

    You forgot to include, ‘Scream really, really loud.’ That is what Mr. Zimmerman did, according to his own account. We must emulate exemplary people.

  18. Interesting article, although I disagree on the statement that Christian kids should go to Christian schools. If that is how God guides the family, wonderful, but what of those called to public school? We homescholled our daughter then transitioned her to Christian school. Before her 7th grade year, she came to my husband and I and said she felt God was calling her to public school. At first we said, “Absolutely not!” But we spent a great deal of time in prayer and God showed us this was indeed His will. And she has honored that, sharing Christ with teens, mentoring, tutoring. She is not perfect nor fully mature, but she is very open about her faith and longs to see other teens come to Christ.

  19. Jennifer: Mr. Wilson has scads of books on the subject of why Christians should only attend Christian schools (at least until college). My response would be that we shouldn’t trust “private spirits” over the Word of God, and if you study the Word on that subject I think it will become clear Christians must. Education that is “neutral” towards God is not neutral, it is atheism.

  20. This is strikingly poor tactics and strategy. You have advocated a policy of fighting the flames while throwing oil into the heart of the fire. Instead of winning hearts, you propose to inflame wills. Instead of fighting principalities and powers, you propose to fight the lost souls who have become their pawns. The powers of this world don’t care how many of their minions are humiliated or even killed. In this fight, what you have termed victory is utter defeat. What profit to win the world at the expense of one’s soul?

  21. Vishwanath, I said virtually the exact same thing on the previous post on this topic (the Art of War one), and the response I got was not affirming.

  22. We should also remember that Jesus calls us to be servants to others, not lords over them, and that it is the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, and the poor who will be blessed. A certain lesson on foot-washing ring a bell? Some people here like to reinterpret that to mean that any Godly person who seeks power over others really means in his heart to serve them, but this is what Jesus said on seeking power: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

  23. I think being a servant really means being a servant, and not a Constantine who counts anything he does for the church in Dominion as “service”. Jesus is Lord, not one of us.

  24. A marvelous article Mr. Wilson. But regarding #8, I wouldn’t mind a bit of clarification regarding what is meant by “free markets” according to a biblical worldview. I think back to the debates over the North America “Free Trade” agreement, which Austrian school libertarians like Murray Rothbard vigorously opposed on the grounds that it was actually a manged trade agreement. Is there a clear, non-subjective, Biblical meaning you ascribe to the term which would would tell us which side of the NAFTA debate was correct?

    On a related point, here is a recent article by Patrick Buchanan who is arguably the most well known advocate of merchantilist trade policies in the United States. If Buchanan asked for your responce to this argument as a Christian, how would you respond?

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/we-need-a-tariff-not-a-corporate-income-tax/

  25. Sometimes the best way to minister to lost souls is to give other lost souls (particularly the angry, obstinate ones) a good, public shellacking. And before you object, ask yourself what Apollos was praised by the Holy Spirit for doing.

    You can make the argument that we shouldn’t argue with nonbelievers “because we’re supposed to live peaceful lives,” or that we shouldn’t be concerned with Christianity on earth “because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world,” etc. Yeah, you can make those arguments. And you can also argue that a 6-sided die cannot possibly have a 2 on it “because look — it has a 4 on it! See?!”

  26. Jennifer brings up a good question that needs to be addressed. What kinds of church out reach to teenagers should Christian teenagers be involved in?

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