3 Marks of the God of the System

The bailiff will please show the gentleman to the door.

Every system has a god, which means that when you have identified certain markers, you have identified the god of the system. If the god of the system is not the true God, the God who made Heaven and earth, then the god of the system is an idol. In order to be an idol, the god of the system need not be an inert object, adored only by the superstitious. Paul says that those who sacrifice to idols sacrifice to demons (1 Cor. 10:20), and Paul certainly believed that the demons were there. Idolatry is not when you worship something that is non-existent; idolatry occurs when you worship something created. Because people (in the grip of modernity) have come to believe that idols are necessarily nullities, they subsequently have come to believe that anything that is not a nullity -- like the Supreme Court, or the spirit of the age, or what all the cool kids are doing -- cannot be an idol. But it can be, and if it is created and is the god of the system, then that is precisely what … [Read more...]

Keep It Up, Boys

Abortion Graphic

The graphic is from a pro-abort article at Mashable, which you can read here. This is a real sign of genuine progress. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are well on the way there. And this should be an encouragement to those Christians who have clearly understood the nature of the evils we are up against. This really is a war between fruitfulness and fruitlessness, between harvest and pillage. Because self-restraint is not their strong suit, they jammed Roe v. Wade down the throats of the overwhelming number of states in the hope that everyone would eventually come around to see it their progressive way. But it is now a full generation later, and the majority of our states still don't want it. The left is poised to make the very same mistake via the Supreme Court's decision of same sex mirage next month, and so, if they do, we should respond in precisely the same way. The only difference should be that now we require no time to mobilize, and the push-back should be … [Read more...]

Two Cheers for Nominal Christianity!

In this post, Russell Moore makes a sharp distinction between Christianity and almost-Christianity. He did so in a way that made me think of the distinction between a great point and almost-a-great-point. Moore is talking about the results of a Pew Center study which shows that nominal Christianity is taking it on the chin. Christians who actually believe what they say they believe are holding their own, and Moore rejoices in the vibrancy of faithful churches, and rejoices also in the collapse of the ecclesiastical also-rans. What he says is all quite true, and pretty helpful, and . . . almost a great point. But there is a vast territory to be explored in this sentence of his in the penultimate paragraph. "We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down." Right -- but what happens in an upside down world? What then? There is absolutely no way to create a vibrant center without also creating a wanna-be periphery. If there is … [Read more...]

My Militance

Reaching out to new dialog partners . . .

One of the stockbook arguments that liberals use is that conservative militance is "offputting." By "liberals" I am referring both to those who are openly so, as well as those who have that crisply moderate evangelical shell surrounding a gooey center. A sure way to identify a liberal disposition is to listen for warnings about hypothetical offenses. But if this were as real a concern as it pretends to be, surely someone would have taken note of the fact that liberal denominations are hemorrhaging all over the floor, while those offputting religious groups are keeping their blood inside the skin, and are continuing to grow. What if the key to growth in the next generation is standing strong against same sex mirage? Trying to anticipate all the people who might be offended sets up a demand for such people to start showing up, which they then do. If you build it, they will come. If you establish an infrastructure for catering to the Hurt Feelings of a particular class of duly … [Read more...]

So, About That Blasphemy . . .

In the aftermath of the Islamic attack on the free speech/draw a cartoon of Mohammad contest, I think it is time for us to review what we think about blasphemy laws. I want to argue that events like the cartoon contest should be protected speech, but I also want to argue that life is not as simple as some are trying to make it. Some of my points below may initially seem to be leaning in different directions, but bear with me. I do believe that we need to protect free speech, now more than ever, but not because the porn gods of scurrilous speech might get angry if we don't. 1. Blasphemy laws are inescapable. No society exists in which absolute religious freedom of speech is permitted. Every society has a "god of the system," and in every society it is possible for a man to go down to the city center and get himself arrested for saying things in public about the god of that system. Saudi Arabia does not allow blasphemy against Allah, medieval Christendom did not allow blasphemy … [Read more...]

The 5 Smooth Stones of Theocratic Libertarianism

Things in our public life together are gummed up enough that I believe we can openly call for radical reform. Whether we do or not, I think we are going to get the same treatment. We might as well respond with something that might actually help. Whatever the case, we will not be able to trim or pirouette our way out of this mess. As an insightful sailor on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor might have said, as the third wave of Japanese bombers flew over, "The time for nuance is passed." A few posts ago I mentioned the five smooth stones of theocratic libertarianism. This was in the context of an illustration using David and Goliath, and as with David, I think most of our problems would probably  be addressed in principle with just the first one. At any rate, here are the basic features of theocratic libertarianism. Here are my five smooth stones. 1. Jesus is Lord. I have been arguing for years now that what is required is a return to Christendom, but in a form that I call mere … [Read more...]

Bard Still Has an Arrow Left

As I watch the evening news, night after night it appears to me that our nation is being ruled by men who are hellbent on destroying us before they leave office. Either we are dealing with malevolence of a high order or incompetence of a higher order, and quite possibly both. Now I say this knowing that if they are successful in their vision, there will be no injustice done. We deserve everything that is happening to us, good and hard. But, that said, let me tell you why I am optimistic. At the end of the book of Esther, the Jews were enabled by the grace of God to defend themselves, and they wound up killing 75,000 of their enemies (Est. 9:16). Just prior to that, their enemies had been hoping to use the decree of Haman to wipe out the Jews, but at the last minute the tables were turned (Est. 9:1). There was a goodish bit of court politics going on, combined with a little of "no, wait, not that." “The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree … [Read more...]

The Biggest Donut Hole of All

Radical Muslims are quite energetic in their blasphemies. They want their blasphemies to come across as blasphemies. Like a toddler in the middle of an epic meltdown, they know what they want and they know how to get it. Secularists are quite tepid in their blasphemies. I mean, cartoons? But immediately I must correct myself. Secularists are not tepid at all in protecting their precious liberal state when they perceive a threat to it from Christians. They know how to play hard ball, but it needs to be against an entity they consider to be truly dangerous to the liberal order. This means that they must be fierce with the Christians. Christians who think we ought not to spend more money than we don't have are enemies of all mankind, while Muslims who blow themselves up in public places are "activists" who perhaps went a tad overboard in their zeal for the religion of peace. The problem is that many Christians have taken their cue on how to respond to the secularists by imitating … [Read more...]

Something to Use, Something to Risk

I have written critically in the past about James Davison Hunter's approach to not really changing the world. In the last analysis, his tag phrase "faithful presence" ought to be a means to victory, not a goal in itself. If we make it a goal, it is as though the coach settles for getting his team to just show up for the games, and the end result of that approach is what theologians used to call a "losing season." But my purpose here is not to dig through those old bones. One of the points that Hunter made very well, and which I appreciated very much, concerned the role of elite institutions in accomplishing whatever transformation might occur. Quite properly he leans against the idea that reformation is necessarily a grass roots "proletariat" sort of thing. I actually think that the necessity of this kind of grass roots reformation is a bit of propaganda from the other team that we have bought into, and which has been greatly debilitating. In Rodney Stark's book, The Rise of … [Read more...]

Withershins

Taxes This Year

C.S. Lewis observes somewhere that there are two different motivations for spreading the political power as thinly as possible. The first is the motive of the sunny democrat, one who believes that man is the repository of wisdom, and that before we do anything of a civic nature, we ought to check in with as many of those wisdom nodes out there as we can. The second motivation is driven by a Christian view of man, in which the radical nature of sin is acknowledged, and we confess ourselves unwilling to deposit too much power in any one individual or institution. And why? Because Lord Acton knew his onions, and aptly said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This adage does not apply to God, obviously, who is untempted and uncorrupted by His omnipotence. It does apply,  however, to all those little creatures who are still affected by the aboriginal temptation, which is "to be as God." The former view is trying share the power with all those out there who … [Read more...]

The Problem of Tiffany Sugartoes

Scripture refers to that kind of ruler who frames "mischief with a law" (Ps. 94:20). Those who do this kind of thing are men who sit on thrones of iniquity, and God refuses His fellowship with any such thrones. There are many ways to frame mischief with a law. Everyone grants that one example would be when a despot pillages all the poor peasants in order to fund his Belshazzarian kegger tomorrow night. That would be one example. That would be the big E on the eye chart. But are there other examples of thieving mischief? While some established thieves are debauched, others are a bit more clever. If Suleiman the Magnificent takes 20K from me in order to beef up the personnel department of his seraglio, then that is both tacky and theft. But if Obama the Magnificent takes 20K from me in order to provide loan guarantees to Goldman Sachs, and they use it to provide a holiday bonus for a rising junior executive, who uses it on a weekend blowout in the Hamptons with a girl named Tiffany … [Read more...]

Property and Love for the Poor

Perfectly Legal

I have written a great deal on how the framework provided by biblical ethics honors and preserves the institution of private property. The argument is not complex. Just as "thou shalt not commit adultery" presupposes and honors the institution of marriage, so also "thou shalt not steal" presupposes and honors the institution of private property. The private property that is honored is that which comes to a man through the ordinary processes. “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor. 9:10). God is the one who gives us the power to get wealth (Dt. 8:18), and it comes up to us from the ground. It does not float down upon us from the state. We learn the principle when learning to love the haves -- but it applies even more to the have nots. When a people are being liberated from covetousness, envy, and the larceny resident in … [Read more...]

With All Your Protections in a Binder on His Desk

After my Due Process post, I received a letter from a friend -- a tax attorney -- who agreed with my central point about the modern tyrannical state, but who did want to defend the IRS on the point I was making about due process. "Although I agree with you that the modern administrative state is overreaching and Tyrannical, I believe it is untrue to characterize IRS assessment and collection processes as being 'without due process.'” As he defines his terms, I quite agree with him. And as I am defining mine, he (I think) would agree with me. By due process, I did not mean orderly process, or defined process, or published beforehand process. I agree with my friend that all that and more occurs during the processes of tax assessment and collection. Bureaucrats are nothing if not rule-guided creatures. But before expanding further on what I mean by due process, I need to lurch off into this side paragraph for a moment to explain what I am doing. On this point, I am simply tracking … [Read more...]

Due Process, or Do the Process?

Now it is a funny New Yorker cartoon, but Charles the First actually tried it.

Some, like myself, believe that coercion without warrant from Scripture is a very bad thing. For others this category of coercion is largely invisible. It just appears to be part of the way things are. In this installment, I want to explain how unlawful coercion is a very real characteristic of our governmental system, and also explain why it is so destructive. This is important for us to grasp because the "powers that be," to use Tyndale's phrase, are entrusted by God with the lawful power of coercion. They do not bear the sword for nothing (Rom. 13:4). At the same time, these authorities, who may lawfully coerce, can also cross over a particular line and become abusive and tyrannical. If we don't know where that line is, or how to police it, then we are naifs, babes in the woods, tyros, despot-fodder. I have been working off the phrase in the Declaration that says that men have certain inalienable rights, including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This was a … [Read more...]

Stuff Inviolate

I have been arguing that property rights are human rights. I have been insisting that it is not possible to love your neighbor without respecting his stuff. I have been saying that the commandment thou shalt not steal presupposes the institution of private property in just the same way that the prohibition of adultery presupposes marriage. And in the same way, I cannot honor the command not to covet my neighbor's wife if I cannot come up with a definition of "wife." But there has been some surprising pushback on this simple idea, so let us dig a little deeper. So what do I mean by property? Within the boundaries of the law of God, property entails the authority to retain or dispose of material goods without the permission of another. If you are renting something, or leasing it, you do not have the right to dispose of it in the same way you would if you owned it. When you rent a car, you are answerable to someone else for the use. When you own a car, you can paint the passenger … [Read more...]