Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: Year in Review

My purpose in blogging is two-fold:

1) To practice writing on various and sundry things
2) To proclaim the Gospel’s impact in all things

To that end this year in review will cover religious issues. Some are unique events and others are part of growing or interesting trends. Obviously, given my conservative, Calvinistic, Presbyterian background, some of them will be narrow issues indeed.

I chose religion because where the church goes so goes the culture…and the politics…and the laws….you get the idea.

The church leaders and members need to keep an eye on churchly trends—at home and abroad.

1. Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question

Brian who…? He is one of the leaders of the emerging church. He tries to tip-toe around the homosexual issue with church visitors. If this is part of being "emerging church" I don't want it!

2. Growth of High-Church practice

The growth is primarily through church movements into Anglicanism. However, in the Reformed churches it is through emphasis on liturgy and the Lord's Supper (hint: weekly Communion).

3. Rocky Mountain (Tainted) Spring Water

Haggard. & then a co-worker. Then Barnes….they all drank from the same fount.

And they all came out of the closet. Terrible. Sad.

4. Christian Leader Is Doctrinally Liberal

More amazing than point 3 (everyone sins) is the doctrinal heresies that lie behind it. Remember, Haggard was the leader of a large Christian group (NEA), yet he believed in sinless perfectionism. (30:15 into the interview). And he defined "Evangelicalism" as ranging from Benny Hinn to R. C Sproul! (4 minutes into the interview). But then most Christians don't take doctrine seriously...

5. The Pope & Islam
Well, you get the picture….

6. Presbyterianism in Action

R. C Sproul Jr., son of the famous Sproul, was deposed (defrocked) for abuse of authority, illegal tax number and practice of paedocommunion. Deposition is not embarrassing for Presbyterians. Rather it shows we take discipline seriously. And discipline is to bring men to repentance. It did. Sproul and his fellow ruling elders repented. Sadly, they left their denomination and joined Wilson's group (CREC) because of their ongoing belief in paedocommunion.

7. Does It Matter How Many Americans Are Christian?

The Barna Group identifies about 40% of them as “born again” (loosely defined I might add) and 9% as "Evangelical" (more serious about the bible, etc.). So, where is the Christian impact on society….?
On the other hand,
Al Mohler (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) insists “this is a nation whose citizens are overwhelmingly Christian.” Thus, we are not a Christian nation, but a nation of Christians.
I must say, I am not sure what definition of “Christian” he is using….

8. All in the Family

Although starting a few years ago, the “family-integrated church” ideology has been gaining momentum. It is primarily homeschool centered & is not explicitly Reformed. I actually visited their conference. Many good things were said. Other questionable things were said as well. It is against any age-differentiation (ie. Sunday School, youth camp, etc.), yet properly wants children in public worship. There has been no public dialogue (for instance amongst neighboring pastors), just a public confession signed by churches (from Fundy, Arminians Baptists to OPC churches) rejecting such things as unbiblical. I am not sure what long-term impact this will have on families and inter-church relations.

9. Calvinism Is Chic

Christianity Today did a front-cover story on the rise of Calvinism in Evangelical circles (especially the Southern Baptist Convention). Now, Calvinism is certainly something to center a movement upon!

10. Federal Vision Blurred in OPC

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly’s study committee finished its report. The importance is not that the battle is done, but that it is rather just begun. The OPC drew a line in the sand. The churches and presbyteries should now begin the discussion in earnest. The issue of justification is no little thing. Such deviancy within the Reformed faith must be brought to the forefront of our churches and discussions amongst our leadership must be maintained. Other things have importance (see number 8) but pale in comparison to the Gospel—that truth which holds all others together.

This year in review is obviously narrow. Nevertheless, I hope it was informative. And it was information that moved you to reflection, encouragement or action.

Either way, keep the faith, watch your theological environment and follow Christ.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Whiteness everywhere.

Claustrophobia clawing at my heels.

Flurries & horizontal snow threaten to engulf me...

Well, it wasn't that bad, but I was getting worried when I saw a tractor rebuffed by the snow-mass accumulated in front of the house.

Its wheels spun freely in the waist-high snow.
It backed away and never came back.

"Surely," I mused to myself, "we are abandoned."

Next, a Ford truck plowed up the street. No dice.

I eventually worked up the courage to shovel the massive snow drift hiding my driveway, even though the streets were still impassable. It seemed pointless since the street was still not cleared. But it had to get done eventually, so why not now?

Meanwhile, I took a few breaks to preserve my back. And I whipped out the ol' camera. Is not God's creation wonderful?



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Surviving the Blizzard of '06

I survived the blizzard of '82.

And the blizzard of '97, & '03.

Now the Blizzard of '06.

Well, I certainly hope to survive it; it ain't finished yet!

Waking up groggy-eyed at 6:15 AM, we hit the snooze....

6:35 quickly rolled around and we crawled out of bed. It was too warm inside and too cold outside. But we persevered--we had to get to Bible Study. Because of various and sundry house repairs, we had missed the Study and the fellowship.

Leaving slightly before 7, we were encouraged because, although the wind blew through our winter coats, the snow was light. Driving down the highway to Village Inn would have been easily accomplished since the roads were not iced up and retained little snow.

But I knew in my heart of hearts it would not be easy. I could blame all the out-of-state-drivers, but frankly, it was plain caution that kept the traffic to a crawl. We would not beat the 7:30 deadline. It was 7:50 when we stomped into the restaurant on that cold morning.

Coming home (after stopping by the store--a non-too-prudent move...) we encountered, yup, more snow. Entering the loop to our neighborhood, we slowly rested the car as two other vehicles blocked the path. My normal modus operandi is to develop sufficient speed to ram through small snow drifts. Not this morning though. I helped one of the cars out. But I had to back into the main street and turn into the outgoing path in the loop to avoid the very drifts that captured the other cars.

I was home free. Slowly ascending the hill to our house, I retained my calm death-grip on the wheel while instructing my wife to remotely open the garage door so as to allow room for my planned acceleration through more snow.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

I bottomed out in the snow with the tires spinning most freely. I would have thought I discovered the frictionless wheel. Wearily climbing out of the car (really, the snow drift was over 18 inches), I grabbed the shovel and got to it.

I managed to pry the car out of the snow...

I am now warm and snug in our home writing wistfully of my time in past blizzards. I see the snow moving horizontally outside my window as the newscasters predict snow levels greater than the last 40 years.

But that's OK, just as long as I can buy my t-shirt: "I survived the blizzard of '06"


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dr. Seuss the Calvinist

After watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas for
the umpteenth time, an idea spawned in my mind. At first it was subtle, but it grew full-blown during the catchy tune that maligned Mr. Grinch:

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul. Mr. Grinch.

It was staring me in the face: Dr. Seuss was a Calvinist. I mean the ol’ run-of-the-mill, down-in-the-mouth, pessimistic Cal-vin-ist. Who could write such black and bleak lyrics besides Calvin himself?

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch.

Wow. Have any of the viewers noticed how depraved Dr. Seuss paints Mr. Grinch? Such words would easily drain the most populace meetings of Joel Osteen! What church listener could stomach such a description of mankind?

Your soul is an appalling dump heap
overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment
of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

Any well-read Christian would certainly applaud such a description as in line with such well-known passages as Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Or more famously Romans 3:10ff.: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.”

It appears that we have some good literature for clandestine evangelism.

But it is not to be.

Too many Christians take persons, book, & quotes out of context. This is such a case. Obviously, Dr. Seuss is not a Calvinist. In fact, this poem is illuminating. What is offensive about Mister Grinch is not any act done in rebellion to God; it is what he has done against mankind:

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel. Mr. Grinch.

Charm and cuddliness are not necessarily fruits of the Spirit. However, in the movie they reflect those essential elements of civil religion, a kinder, gentler secularism. Be nice to your neighbor; love everyone; demand nothing; be generous with other people’s tax money. These are the fruits of the Christmas Spirit.

Already in the 1950s Christmas was being neutered. Since the churches in America as a whole were theologically effeminate, proclaiming a Santa Claus god to their parishioners, it was inevitable that such a view of the birth of Christ would arise.

Too often Americans forget that those who shape ideas shape culture. Many attended church back then and many do so today. But what are they hearing? What are they tithing their hard earned money towards? It is certainly not to hear bleak pronouncements about mankind—unless it is in line with Dr. Seuss.

If one were to describe mankind in moral terms akin to the poem on, say, a radio talk show, the ratings would bottom out. Listening to the likes of Hannity, Hewitt and Medved impressing the mind with fuzzy good feelings of a commonality rooted in a vanilla Christianity offends no one except the Left (and only because its from the Right).

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas stole the hearts of millions of Americans. It taught them that Christ was irrelevant and humans can spontaneously regenerate themselves unto goodness.

There is no Gospel offense in Christmas anymore—unless it someone who is acting like a Grinch.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bumping Into Bloggers

I providentially bumped into another Reformed blogger (a rare bird). And not just any Reformed blogger, a conservative Reformed blogger! I've added him on the side: Wheat & Chaff.

Perhaps over time enough of us out West could create an aggregate. I've always wanted and aggregate :-)


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Prager's Mostly Right: Vows & Values

The national talk-show host, Dennis Prager, contends that the newly elected Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be allowed to swear into office upon the Koran “because the act undermines American civilization.”

To let this pass without a fight is to “embolden Islamic extremists” whose sole goal is the “Islamicization of America.”

He concludes the thought-provoking essay with a bang:

“When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization.

If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.”

I sometimes listen to his radio show. And I sometimes appreciate his comments. And this article is most heart-warming insofar as he summarizes the truth: taking such an oath is an affirmation of the unifying value system of America. I wish more people, even Christians, understood that fact.

In fact, the seriousness of oaths has been the hallmark of Christianity and even included in the Puritan Confession of Faith:

“Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth:[7] neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.” [WCF 22:3, 7. Proof Texts: Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Jer. 4:2; Hosea 10:4 8. Gen. 24:2-9; Neh 5:12-13; Eccl. 5:2, 5 ]

Thus, many of the early State constitutions only allowed avowed Protestants as civil officials. For only a Protestant could take an oath upon the Bible in good conscience. (In contrast, Prager has no problem commending Jews and others to take an oath upon the Bible. For him, it is a sign of supporting the “value system of America”—that Judeao-Christian values system. I find that rather strange to put it mildly.)

In spite of that, I still find his position commendable. For the fact of the matter is that America was mainly founded upon explicit Christian values (and Calvinism in particular); and voting into office men who publicly and avowedly uphold a foreign value-system (a world-view) is to undermine the intellectual, historical, religious, cultural, societal and political system of America. One element that makes treason so serious for most countries in the world is its attack upon the heart of the country's political & cultural system.

Each and every human political, cultural, societal—indeed, any human endeavor—is built upon certain presuppositions. And the Triune God was such a presupposition—an irreducibly complex & epistemologically necessary Person & Truth without which this essay would be meaningless gobbledygook.

More to the point: oaths require a higher authority to enforce them. If there is no higher authority in modern America than the polled masses or the leaders and judges—all fallible & sinful humans—then one man’s opinion is as valid as the next. Only those with the most power will be able to enforce their oaths. The will-to-power becomes all. In Ellison’s case, that higher authority is allah; hence, his consistent insistence upon vowing before the Koran. That book represents his world-view (Weltanschauung). His set of presuppositions.

This is a watershed moment.

But in another sense, it is only a outward manifestation of a century-long decline in America’s original Christian worldview.

In other words, Prager is a day late and a dollar short.
With the liberalization of the mainline churches reaching a critical point in the 1930s (in both the Presbyterian and Baptists churches), the leavening dimension of the churches was severely hampered (the parallel rise of fundamentalistic Dispensationalism did not help much either). With the downplay of the centrality of the Bible as a God-breathed document relevant for God’s people and all their activities in life, the church weakened collectively until outright denial of the Bible and the Bible’s God was the mainstay of many churches. In short, any and all worldviews were becoming increasingly acceptable.

This decline erupted in the open wickedness of the 60s. And it is mutating quickly. The fact that Americans voted for an avowed Muslim simply demonstrates this devolution. It also contributes to the problem as well. But historically, it is not the root cause of our modern malaise. En masse denial of an absolute standard as found in the Bible is the root cause of our difficulties. Prager is absolutely right that “When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization.”

Unfortunately, there currently is no consistently widespread “unifying value system.” Christianity is the closest. Yet one man’s Christianity is another man’s heresy. That word and idea are so diluted and stretched to non-recognition that even the Clintons can lay claim to the word.

Vowing upon the Bible will not remedy this spiritual problem.
Many of our leaders break these vows and do not hold to America’s traditional unifying values. In fact, church leaders break their vows. And many do not hold to America’s traditional unifying values. Those values are not some vague Judeao-Christian ethic (ala Prager), but the unique worldview Gospel of classical Protestantism. How many would willingly submit to colonial Puritan doctrine? The only way America can revert to the days of yore is through a Spirit-wrought revival through churches with faithful Gospel preaching, for “it is the power of God unto salvation.”

We are in a cultural war. The homosexuals are enlarging their closets. The atheists are pounding the war-drums. And the schools are fulfilling their pagan mandates. Now the Muslims are infiltrating the government (see White Horse Inn interview with Muslim lawyer expert about the Muslim doctrine of lying). It appears that America is surrounded by enemies within and without.

To such men as Prager, it may indeed seem that all is coming to an end. But we Christians should know better. God’s kingdom is not America. It is greater than America. And the most visible form is Christ’s Bride, the Church. The gates of hell shall not stand against her.

This culture war is only the outward manifestation of a spiritual war.
The wicked only hate “America” insofar as she reflects the Gospel. Their real hatred is aimed at Christ. And the real battle is in the hearts and minds of the churches throughout this land. And the weapon that will win the day is the Sword of the Spirit, the church’s faithful proclamation of the Gospel to a dying world.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Something Bad; Something Good

This magazine was introduced to me by my father-in-law. I like it. It is a reader digest of several news and entertainment sources summed up into pithy paragraphs quoting one source of against another. Conservative, Liberal and in-between writers are all here.

The Week (Dec. 8, 2006):

French soccer fans riot after Israel beat them. 100 white French fans chased a Jewish soccer supporter. A black police officer confronted them. They turned on the officer, yelling epitaphs and making monkey noises.

France's enlightened socialism has certainly come a long way in race relations.

In Ambrus, Slovenia, the villagers blocked a returning gypsy family. The police intervened but eventually gave up. The Gypsies (who prefer to be called Roma) are under more persecution in Europe. One mayor in the Czech Republic evicted 100 Gypsies, declaring that he was "cleaning an ulcer."

Of course, we have our problems in America. And that racism is found in another enlightened socialistic-inclined country: Hollywood. Michael Richards, Mel Gibson & even Ted Danson.

On the brighter side: 69% of American polled believe that "spanking children is sometimes necessary." (Scripps Howard Service/Ohio University)

We won't have to worry about the steroid-crazy chess players anymore. The World Chess Federation requires its players to undergo drug screening. (p.4)

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (p.17)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mathis Manor 4: More, More & More Pix

Yes, I have more pix finally! Family and friends want to see it (if they've not been able to visit). If I could do a virtual tour I would. But that would take too much work.

The outside of the house looks nicer with landscaping! (I need to take a pic in the morning light, but you can see the nice looking conifer on the right.)

The inside looks better now with furniture.

We have our old dining room table, even if we don't have a couch yet...

The piano room is seen on the right.

The homebuilder warranty service has been good. I'm impressed with their professionalism, especially our contact man.
He's a very patient man.

But they can't seem to do anything about those killer rabbits eating our bushes...

But that is a problem I can live with!

All I can say is: Thank you Lord.


Friday, November 24, 2006

The Forgotten National Holiday

Trapped between a day of druidism and a season of commercialism, Thanksgiving receives less and less worth in our nation. Since we have collective amnesia and willful ignorance, we have slowly forgotten what this holiday is supposed to be about.
Of course, as the church goes so goes the culture. And we have no one else to blame for this collective laziness but ourselves. Churches by the thousands abandoned the faith of our Puritan forefathers for an easier-to-digest civic religion. Many pontificate against that Pagan holy-day, Halloween, but know little to nothing about the Reformation that originated on that day. Others bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, but preach an impotent Christ and an emasculated Gospel. Sin is trivialized, so the Gospel loses its worth. God is humanized, so Christianity becomes voiceless. We preach perfectionism through works-righteousness; we present pep-talks with glittering lights; we talk of relationships and subjectivism, all the while ignorant of the objective truth that God saves sinners, of whom I am the chief.

Understanding the depths of sin (as displayed, for example, in the sacrificial system) is the beginning of thanksgiving. For to truly appreciate the blessings of our covenant God one must know they are blessings! Of our own hands we have not wrought this bountiful land known as America. From the wealth of money to the wealth of plenty, this material prosperity originated in God alone. Just as our salvation from first to last consists of God’s sovereign initiative and power, so, too, the material blessings (let alone the spiritual!) flow from that Fount of Life.

Deut. 8:11 warns the church of old and the church of today, both families and individuals, not to forget God and His ways, lest we think we have the power to gain wealth! “…for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (v. 18). This verse alone condemns all those half-truths and false Gospels which reject the Providence of God and extol the power of the will of man. When you realize that you are but dust in the wind, then you will be truly grateful and appreciative of all that God has given you. When you realize the despicableness and wretchedness of violating God’s Law and insisting upon your own way, then you will be truly grateful and appreciative of the All that God gave, His only Son.

Dear reader, write out a list of all the material blessings you have in life. Write out the spiritual blessings you have. Which do you think of most? Which do you attribute to yourself?

Be thankful. You could have been born a Pagan in the middle of India or a Communist in the midst of China. Worst of all, you could have been born reprobate and cast into the Lake of Fire forever and ever.

What do you have that was not first given you? That is the question.


“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Col. 3:15

Thursday, November 02, 2006

October Revolution Chapters

“Happy Halloween”—This is the extent of the Reformation in the collective memory of America. The church is not much better. A local Lutheran church has an “Oktoberfest” banner inviting people for good community fun. What would Luther think? What did our Protestant forefathers suffer and die for?—so that we may be ignorant of our past and impotent in our future?

What happened almost 500 years ago was a revolution. A revolution that revived Western Civilization, propelling it into the 21st century. We are the offspring of Luther, Calvin and Knox—whether we agree with their theology or not.

This is the lost story of the October 31st Revolution—of how it started and what it meant for the church and society of Europe and America.

For God's Glory Alone: Soli Deo Gloria

1) Luther vs. Halloween
2) Religous
3) Economics
4) Science
5) Civil Government
6) Civil Government, Again
7) Personal
8) Postscript

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reformation Impact: Postscript

More information about the Christian, and specifically Calvinistic influence, could be posted but I fear information overload. Hopefully, what you have read will motivate you to further study. For those already in the Reformed camp, I pray this was a great source of encouragement and excitement. Teach this to your children, read them to your families and live them in your lives.

Here are some more resources; the quotes I gave were to supplement these readings & authors:

Basic Readings:

1) OPC minister, Loraine Boettner, summarized the historical impact of Calvinism:

2) Professor Douglas Kelly’s excellent work, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries, (P&R), is worth buying.

3) Marvin Olasky’s book, Fighting for Liberty & Virtue: Political & Cultural Wars in Eighteenth-Century America, is a worth-while read.

4) Witherspoon was the only minister (and Presbyterian at that!) who signed the Declaration of Independence and influenced dozens of leaders at the New Jersey College (eventually Princeton), including Madison. This new book demonstrates through original letters, the influence of Witherspoon on Madison and others, even on economic issues. The Presbyterian parallels with Constitutional Republic are carefully drawn out and the resistance-doctrines of the Calvinist is further reinforced with historical evidence. Excellent book; excellent read.

Advanced Readings:

1) The History & Character of Calvinism, John T. McNeil. A standard history book.

2) Revolution & Religion: American Revolutionary War & the Reformed Clergy, Keith Griffen. This work is a short read, with a narrow topic (Middle Colony Reformed), but the first two chapters are worth the read in itself. It’s value is in the multitude of original resources (sermons, papers, etc.) that reinforce the fact of Reformed influence.

3) Politica, Johannes Althusius (abridged & translated by Fredrick S. Carney, Liberty Fund, 1995). A full-blown book on how to pattern a society and government according to God’s law and natural revelation. As the introduction notes, secular authorities are just now discovering this work and its impact upon Western governments.

4) Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger & the Covenantal Tradition, Charles McCoy & J. Wayne Baker, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991. Most of the historical goodies are in the long introduction. Unfortunately, the analysis pits Calvinistic predestinarianism against covenantalism. However, they acknowledge the religious roots.

May God be pleased to revive His church once more.

Sola Deo Gloria.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October Revolution: Personal

“Lord, have I committed the unpardonable sin??”

Wrestling with my inner soul, I cried before my God. Collapsing like a house of cards onto the bed, I incoherently bawled out my prayer of mourning. Fear clenched my heart, terror danced before my eyes, while I fought against despondency…Only to embrace her as an old friend.

I had entrapped myself in despair so often and so consistently, that it became almost comfortable, like the embrace of a bottle for a drunkard.

The same event triggered these bouts of depression: sin. Of course, it was never just any sin (white lies did not bother so), but it was sin nonetheless. And of these sins, only one stood out with great relief. It was a danger that readily consumed my waking hours, haunting me, teasing me like a shadow just out of the corner of my eyes.

Was I in God’s will?
If not, then I was in sin!
…What was God’s will for my life anyway?

These were the questions that hounded my teenage existence. Couple these questions with the quest for spiritual perfection and the conclusion becomes obvious: spiritual melancholy. It certainly did not help that I compared myself to those golden Christians I always read about: Muller, Wilkerson, Brother Andrew. All of them so readily found God’s will. They were so perfect.

And I wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

It was not until a book providentially fell on my lap did I begin to rise out of that emotional morass. My father recommended some Banner of Truth books that he stumbled across. So, while working steadily in the military, I took my spare time and read Ian Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon. There I read about these awful “Arminians”—men that claimed some supremacy over God’s will. There I read about an incomprehensibly wonderful God who controlled all things for His own glory.

But it was not just the words that began to challenge me, it was the over-abundance of Bible verses. So many verses---even in those old forgotten books of the Bible: the Old Testament. Although I implicitly believed that my life should be founded upon the Scriptures, my charismatic background undercut such a belief. These books awakened me to a newer and fresher understanding of the sole sufficiency of the Bible. Here I can find God’s will! Unbeknownst to me, I was existentially back at the Reformation, relearning sola Scriptura, the formal cause of that mighty revival.

As the old song goes, “He’s still working on me….” With this renewed embracing of the whole Bible, I delved into the marvelous doctrines of Grace: sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria! Faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

It may be surprising to some to know that it was not merely or mostly the five-points of Calvinism that transformed my life; rather those points were five great sentinels of the Gospel, guarding that core belief of the Evangel: justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.

Soon the material cause of the Reformation—justification by faith alone—gripped my heart, freeing me from the bondage of works-righteousness. In seeking God’s will, I was seeking my own perfection, dreading any occasion for being “outside His will.” Such fear was not always overtly tied to the Ten Commandments. It was more linked with the horror of losing my salvation.

For, you see, I was taught that nothing could take me out of Christ’s hand---except myself. If I sinned enough, if I doubted enough, if I was far enough “outside” of God’s will, then I would descend into hell. It was all about me. Sure, the teaching of God’s forgiveness of sins was preached, but the righteousness of Christ imputed to me was a complete mystery. What that meant in practical terms was that I tried to be as sinless as possible through fear of punishment. Since Christ did not cover my sin with His righteous obedience to the Law, I had to fulfill the Law. Or at least believe “enough” to stay in God’s will. I did not want to be a “carnal” Christian.

There was no rest. I strived mightily to be faithful. Having my sins forgiven but being left with my own perfection before the Law was an intolerable way to live.

It was akin to having the red-markings of sin on the chalk-board of life erased, only to have myself write the correct answers in the pure-white chalk of perfection. It could not be done. Having started in the spirit, I was continuing in the flesh.

And grasping—or rather being grasped by—the truth that Christ not only forgave my sins but fulfilled the Law in my place rejuvenated my heart and soul. I felt born-again, knowing that nothing could take me from Christ’s hands, not even myself! Understanding that regeneration meant new desires, I would never want to leave, and I would ever strive toward obedience, not out of a sense of completing my salvation, but out of a sense of gratitude.

Everything took on a new cast: I was in God’s Hands; even sin was part and parcel of His plan. Nothing could separate me from the Love of Christ. My personal Reformation was complete. I had direction and I had renewal.

And I immediately yearned for a wider renovation in the church. And that desire has not abated. Pray that the shackles of confusion and legalism would be broken. Pray that the Church of Christ would rediscover the Gospel.

Pray that the Lord of the harvest would reap mightily.

[Postscript to Reformation Impact!]

October Revolution 6: Civil Government, Again

Yale history professor, George Fisher, a religious liberal and no friend of the Reformation, wrote:

How is it, then, that Calvinism is acknowledged, even by foes, to have promoted powerfully the cause of civil liberty? The reason lies in the boundary line which it drew between church and State. Calvinism would not surrender the peculiar notions of the Church to the civil authority. Whether the church, or the Government, should regulate the administration the Sacrament, and admit or reject the communicants, was the question which Calvin fought out with the authorities at Geneva, in this feature, Calvinism differed from the relation of the civil leaders to the Church, as established under the auspices of Zwingli, well as of Luther, and from the Anglican system which originated under Henry VIII….A second reason why Calvinism has been favorable to civil liberty is found in the republican character of its church organization. Laymen shared power with ministers… Men who were accustomed to rule themselves in the Church would claim the same privilege in the commonwealth…Another source of the influence of Calvinism, in advancing the cause of civil liberty, has been derived from its theology. The sense of the exaltation of the Almighty Ruler, and of his intimate connection with the minutest incidents and obligations of human life, which is fostered by this theology, dwarfs all earthly potentates. An intense spirituality, a consciousness that this life is but an infinitesimal fraction of human existence, dissipates the feeling of personal homage for men, however high their station, and dulls the luster of all earthly grandeur. Calvinism and Romanism are the antipodes of each other. [1]

Hamilton, a legal historian and expert on constitutional and copyright law and former assistant to Supreme court judges, discovered that:

"This [American] marriage of distrust in individuals but hope in properly structured institutions is no mere historical accident but has its roots in the Reformation theology of John Calvin…Others have made the more general case that Calvinist precepts permeated the culture at the time of the framing. Many of the Framers brought to the convention a background in Calvinist theology, with Presbyterians predominating among the Calvinists."[2]

Daniel Elazar, of Temple University, a member of presidential committees and founding member of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, created a World History Curriculum (Article 2).

“In all of the places where Reformed Protestantism was strong, there emerged a Protestant republicanism that opposed tyrants even as it demanded local religious conformity. Reformed Protestants in England became the Puritans, whose name indicated that they wanted to purify the Anglican Church as much as the Catholic, which they had rejected. In the seventeenth century they launched the first of the great modern revolutions, the English Civil War, against royal absolutism, opening the way for modern democracy.”

“Hence the constitutional democracy that we all know today has its roots in that Reformed Protestant revival of the biblical idea of covenant which was not only important in the fight against tyrants and hierarchies but could be made operational in political systems that would protect liberties.”

Elsewhere (amongst his plethora of socio & politico-economic international essays) Daniel further claims (Covenant & the American Founding ):

“A majority of the delegates to the Convention were affiliated with covenant-based churches…The Presbyterians, however, were already moving toward full-scale federalism. As Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., noted: "More than either [the Congregationalists or Anglicans] the Presbyterians in their reliance on federalist and representative institutions anticipated the political makeup of the future United States. Indeed, as the first government came into office under the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Presbyterians held their first nationwide General Assembly. In the Presbyterian system, congregations in a local area formed a presbytery; several presbyteries in a region formed a synod; and then came the General Assembly. As a result, the system of federal democracy established by the U.S. Constitution has often been referred to as Presbyterianism writ large for civil society…[3]

Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, an Austrian, Roman Catholic, aristocrat, intellectual and National Review contributor asserts:

“If we call the American statesmen of the late eighteenth century the Founding Fathers of the United States, then the Pilgrims and Puritans were the grandfathers and Calvin the great-grandfather…the prevailing spirit of Americans before and after the War of Independence was essentially Calvinistic in both its brighter and uglier aspects.”[4]

This fearlessness brought them to preach against public evils, whether from the populace or the prince. Naturally, the princes did not like this. Calvin, himself, was eventually kicked out of Geneva for “meddling” in politics: he clashed with the local counsel over church discipline: he wanted it controlled by the church; they wanted it controlled by the city. Already, Calvin began the ongoing power struggle between church and state.

John Adams bluntly acknowledges the wide-spread influences of both the French-Calvinist’s work Vindicus Contra Tyrannus and the English Calvinist work of Ponet (A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power), both which defended the right of the people to rise against tyrants.[5] Certain elements in the Declaration of Independence echoed past religious thought such as “all men are created equal,” which was originally expressed in the Puritan work Lex, Rex in 1644. Even further back in time, a Dutch Calvinist, Johannes Althusius, wrote Politica (1603), a complete systematic presentation of a representative Republican government including political resistance theory. Pre-existing resistance theories existed, but were not as fully developed until the Reformation under the likes of Calvin, Bullinger, Knox, and others.

A modern encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics summarizes thusly:

In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings.[6]

The story of Reformed influence on political theory has yet to be fully written.

[1] George Park Fisher, The Reformation, revised, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 207ff.,

[2] Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, ed. Michael McConnell,, “The Calvinist Paradox of Distrust and Hope at the Constitutional Convention,” New Haven; Yale University Press, 2001, 293.

[3] The Covenant Tradition in Politics, vol. 3 (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1998), 77ff.

[4] “The Western Dilemma: Calvin or Rousseau?” Modern Age 15, no. 1 (1971): 5.

[5] The Works of John Adams [1851] Vol. 6, p. 3-4.

[6] James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 5, (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 153.

The story of Reformed influence on political theory has yet to be fully written.

[Next: Personal Application & Postscript (with recommended books)]