Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cain, Sin, & the Will of God, Part 2

The question of God deceiving Cain was brought forward last posting:

Gen 4:6-7: And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

The question of what ‘if’ actually entails was answered. Now, another related question arises:

“I don't see how God can plead with all mankind to come to Him, full knowing that he's determined that some would not come to him. The problem I have with your theology is that it forces us to see God as a deceiver.”
This is a fair question. It is a common question. Unfortunately, it is not a simple question. God & His ways are not simple nor always amendable to so-called ‘common-sense’. Romans 11:32ff: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" Or Isaiah 55:8: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Why is this important? I am explaining that my upfront commitment is to the Word of God. When a passage speaks beyond my comprehension, I should submit to it. Of course, I should study it first within the context of the interpretive community of the church (for no man is an island) and because sin can darken my interpretation of verses. The Bible is my touchstone and logic is her handmaiden. Logic should not dictate what is possible or impossible before I approach the text.
Now, the complexity of this question about Cain, sin & the Will of God first manifests itself with the idea of “will”. What is God’s will? Typically, Christians distinguish between God’s secret will & His revealed will. I was reared on such a distinction even though I was not a Calvinist at the time. Classically, it is rooted in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Thus God has His own unrevealed reasons for allowing sin, cursing David through the mouth of Shimei (2 Sam. 16:10,11), of not miraculously feeding the starving children in Africa, etc.
However, it has always been understood that God has one will. It only appears as two wills to man’s finite understanding because of the differing objects with which God relates. Speaking more theologically, the will of God is normally expressed in conservative Reformed systematic theologies as the decretive will and the perceptive will. The decretive will is “that which God wills to do or permit himself; the latter [prescriptive] what he wills that we should do.” [Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, p.220.] Thus there are two different objects in view: Himself & ourselves.

We could make a similar distinction with a father and a rebellious son. Sometimes teen-agers have to learn things the hard way. So, the father gives the son permission to drive the car with the knowledge that the son will most likely speed. The rebellious son is jailed for one night for reckless driving. The father knew as much and let the son “sweat it out” overnight. The father’s prescriptive will is: Do not speed. The father’s decretive will is: I will permit you to drive. I will permit you to be in prison. We do not say the father is schizophrenic. Nor would we say he has two “wills”. And we would not accuse him of deception. Likewise, there is no deception in God; he is speaking the truth (see the first posting).
This illustration naturally dovetails into the original question about Cain’s sin & God’s will. Man’s default position is sin. All have fallen in Adam (Rom. 5:12ff.). All are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:1ff.). Yet this does not change the Law of God. Men are not to murder, steal, lie, etc. Nevertheless, God permits such evil. In fact, the question of the morality of God predestinating all things (the basic question) is a question unavoidable to any person who takes the Bible seriously. If I were to see a man chase a woman but I did nothing about it—I “allowed” it. Would I not be guilty? Yes! If I find my enemies ox astray, but do not help it, I am in violation of the law of love (Ex. 23:4). How much more am I in violation if a woman is in need? Yet, if God “allowed” things (as most Arminians admit) the morality of the situation is the same.

Yet, in a real sense there is a difference: man, being born in sin, deserves nothing. God is not morally bound to rescue him from his physical plight let alone man’s spiritual plight.
In fact, with respect to Cain, God was under no obligation to rescue Cain from sin. So, when God reminds Cain that if he would have done the right instead of the wrong, God is only bringing Him under greater condemnation. When that rebellious child is in prison overnight, he missed his part-time job at Wendy’s. He does not get paid. In fact, he gets fired. He complains to his dad. The father rightly replies: If you were not in prison, you would have kept your job. The father is not saying: you could have broken out of prison, and kept your job. Rather, he is chiding the child. Men have cut themselves off from any good work—any movement toward God—through their own fault. Any punishment for sin will occur.
In fact, the question of God being “deceiving” is a very real question for any Christian who takes God’s foreknowledge seriously. If he knew ahead of time that Cain was not to chose the good over the evil, why not say to Cain: “I knew you’d do that! In fact, since I know you are not going to change at all I am no longer interested in talking with you or giving you the mark to protect your life (since your life will be protected anyway).” But God did not do that, so the Christian (not only the Calvinist) is asked by the unbeliever: is your god playing games with Cain? Why the deception?
It is very much related to the question of fatalism: if all is predestined, then why bother doing anything? Rejecting God’s eternal plan (Eph. 1:3ff.) but retaining God’s prescience does not solve the problem. To know the future means the future is “set in stone”. Arminians simply believe something (or someone?) else set the course of history. But the problem of foreknowledge and action is still the same.
However, following the Bible’s categories of primary and secondary causes (for lack of better names), one reads 2 Sam. 24:1 & the parallel account of 1 Chron. 21:1ff. with a sense of understanding: God predestinates the means as well as the ends. In fact, without God’s all-controlling plan and power, the ends would never be accomplished. That is the subject of the next installment.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cain, Sin, & the Will of God, Part 1

At MyChurch.org, I was given a challenge: what do Calvinists do with verses such as this?

Gen 4:6-7: And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

The question asked by the writer is: Why did God say to Cain that “if he did what was right he would be accepted, if there were no chance of his ever being accepted at all anyhow?” "Why is it that you believe that God was being so deceptive with him? I don't think there can possibly be an explanation to this.”

The answer is: Because it was true: IF Cain obeyed, God would accept him. And IF pigs had wings, they could fly. That is not a snide remark—it is true---IF the qualifications are fulfilled. Moreover, it is the nature of language to have multiple meanings for a word or a combination of words. What readers seek is a particular meaning. The questioner takes the “if” as an ‘if’ of actuality, the indicative of what Cain can do. I, however, agreeing with Luther, take it to mean an ‘if’ of possibility, the imperative of what Cain should do:

“Here is the matter in a nutshell: As I said, by statements of this sort, man is shown, not what he can do, but what he ought to do. Cain is therefore told that he ought to rule over his sin…But this he neither did nor could do, for the rule of another, Satan, already bore heavily upon him. It is well known that the Hebrews often use the future indicative [the imperfect, ed.] for the imperative, as in Exodus 20: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’…and there are countless such cases. If these words were taken indicatively [as stating that the listeners can & will not commit adultery], as they stand, they would be promises of God; and, since He cannot lie, the result would be that no man would sin…”

[Luther, Bondage of the Will, p. 157]

Or to speak more plainly: taking the understanding of ‘if’ as implying the ability of the person in question, then the questioner is actually endorsing the ability of man to obey God. In this case, it would be Cain who could obey God. In the case of the Ten Commandments, if ought (or should) implies ability, then Israel could obey God. Then grace is meaningless & Christ did not need to come. The same holds for the New Testament: Christ calls men to obedience to His Law: if you love Him you will keep His commandments. But from the Biblical doctrine of the depravity of man and the salvific necessity of grace, such verses do no imply ability at all. They only indicate the duty not the ability.

From a grammatical point of view, the imperative or subjunctive is not the same as the indicative (the present actual state of things). Thus, again, Luther aptly points out: “…nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative [commands] mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs in the indicative.” [ibid, p.159]

Then why does God use such language? Again, I will let the spiritual forefather of Protestantism speak:

“As for its being absurd that (according to the analogy introduced by Erasmus) a man whose right arm was bound should be ordered to stretch forth his hand to the right, when he could only reach out to his left—is it absurd, pray, that a man who has both arms bound, but who proudly maintains or ignorantly assumes that he is wholly competent in either direction, should be commanded to stretch forth his hand in one direction or the other, not in order to make fun of his captivity, but to disprove his false assumption of freedom and power, and to make him realize his ignorance of his own captivity and miser?” [ibid, p. 161]

Biblically, one of the functions of the law is to condemn man and show his spiritual inability to do any good: “by the law is knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Thus, what one understands about sin and ability is intimately tied with this question of Cain, sin & the will of God.

Why did God say this to Cain? 1) To show his guilt; 2) To show his inability. From God’s ultimate perspective, He spoke to Cain for His own glory (Rom. 9:23). There is no deception on God’s part (see especially the next posting) only on man’s: he hears a command of God and assumes that man himself can obey. There is no problem if one understands how language works and what is God’s purpose of the Law.

The real question that all Christians (who believe in God’s foreknowledge) should ask is: Why would God say anything given that the events will occur anyway?

But I suspect this will not fully answer the question behind the question. There are deeper questions of sovereignty & free-will inexorably bound with this surface question. The question of God’s will and intention are also bound up in this. These will be answered in the next installment.

Soli Deo Gloria

Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Effects of Inflation

“Inflation and debt also affect the nature of power in a society. First, in an inflationary economy, it is not the thrifty, hard-working man who flourishes, but the debtor (at least, for the time). The moral foundations of society have been shifted to favor the worst element. In every area, as inflation is stepped up, the scum tends to rise to the top. The sympathies of society favor this degenerate element.

Second, production gives way to consumption as the primary concern of the people. Third, there is thus a power shift in society from godly men to ungodly men, from the thrifty to the thriftless. Spending becomes a personal and a political virtue.

Fourth, the power to make or break the social order passes into the hands of debtors. General Lewis W. Walt (USMC, Ret.) has called attention to this most tellingly. When the U.S. Establishment (banks, civil government, etc.) has extended massive loans to states, firms, and organizations at home and abroad whose ability to repay is limited, then in time these borrowers control the Establishment and the United States. They can threaten to default on their loans and create economic disaster for the U.S. The response then is to give them even more! Thus, in the 1940s, Aramco sold oil to the Japanese at a lower rate than to the U.S. Nay, and American bankers supported the Panama Canal giveaway, hoping that its revenues might help Panama to repay them.”

The Roots of Inflation, p.51

Monday, January 19, 2009

Top Ten For This Year, & Next Year, &...

People like top ten lists. I like top ten lists. I've read a few over the years ranging from the top Christian music and sermons to more ambitious top best things happening in Christiandom.
This list will be in the latter category. But with a twist...

Top Ten Christian People & Organizations

Big Names:

1) Banner of Truth: The work of this organization has not been praised enough. They brought me to the Reformed faith through their book, The Forgotten Spurgeon. Their magazine and books are found wherever there are thoughtful Christians seeking Reformation of their doctrine and lives.

2) Founders Ministry: Although I am not intimately knowledgeable of this organization, I do know they are trying to infuse the gospel of free grace back into the Southern Baptist Convention--that is inestimable.

3) White Horse Inn: Another group that helped me along my path to Reformation. They have dialogue with a Reformed baptist and a Lutheran, but always in the context of self-conscience confessionalism, while not downplaying their differences. A must in this day of public compromise. The Gospel of free justification is already transforming the lives of general Evangelicals.

4) Ligonier Ministries: Although mostly associated with R. C. Sproul, Sr., this ministry should last beyond him. His winsome style and uncompromising public stand for the Reformed faith in all its offensive glory has influenced many souls toward a revival of doctrine and manners.

5) Reformed Worldview Thinking: The Reformed denominations, OPC, RCUS, etc., are officially dedicated to thinking God's thoughts after Him. These sister denominations, even with their differences, are a small but strong witness in the face of the withering Protestant branch known as Evangelicalism. Their churches are small but their hearts are big. Determined to stand for the truth in love, I pray the Lord to use them in a mighty Second Reformation.

Little Names:

6) Reformed Presence: Both locally and internationally, through the radio and internet, in publishing and lectures, schools and seminaries, the Reformed doctrine and practice is surely spreading. It includes not simply the big names but, in many ways more importantly, the little names. We easily forget, that although Luther was the straw that broke the Roman Catholic back, he was not alone.

7) Faithful People: The leaders of faithful churches depend upon the prayers and support of faithful members. No man is an island and no pastor is an island. The people need to faithfully attend the means of grace, seeking God's will in the Commandments. It is in the pews, amongst the laymen, that the Gospel of our Sovereign Lord is propagated among the masses through private luncheons, email debates, neighborhood picnics and everyday witnessing.

8) Everyday Pastors: It is easy to hitch the wagon of revival to the big, noticeable names because they draw the crowds. But in reality God's revivals of yesteryear spread simultaneously amongst faithful preaching of the Good News. Such pastors stand unswervingly upon the Truths of the Reformation, in public and private. They counseled with one another, admonished one another, and reinforced each other's ministries. Oh, that the Lord of the Harvest would bring unity amongst the leaders to preach and teach all of God's counsel, especially against the reigning heresies of this day.

9) Faithful Churches: It is not enough to have individual piety, or church piety, there must be collective sanctification as well. When the churches work in harmony (both publicly and privately), casting out hate and suspicion in their hearts by the power of the Spirit, there God is working mightily. Corporate prayer and church cooperation is imperative: God is not pleased with a divided Church any more than with the divided Israel of old.

10) Faithful Understanding of Reformation: This last point is about the sum total of what Reformation entails--it is the organizational and organic, individual and collective, doctrinal and moral revival on a larger scale. It is returning to the Word without shame and a clear trumpet call. It is preaching, teaching, writing and admonishing, through all mediums possible, the truth of man's total depravity and God's total sovereignty. It is radically returning the church to her roots in the free righteousness of Christ. The church in America today does not need more "does" and "don'ts"--it just needs the Ten Commandments as a means of convicting them of their sins and need of a Savior. The church needs the Gospel crystal clear.

Reformation is not reformulating old truths, refocusing on doing, or revamping the family. Judgment begins in the house of the Lord, so reformation will begin in the house of the Lord. As Elijah the prophet was to bring the hearts of the family together, so the preachers of today must preach Christ and Him crucified to bring the heart of the church together.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christian Nurture, Homeschooling & A New Blog

A new blog will contain more postings on radical homeschooling, carrying over the last few homeschooling postings.

I am no Cotton Mather. He studied up to 12 hours a day. And his voluminous outpouring of books, pamphlets and sermons demonstrates that fact.

But I do have much information from my study of the history of Christian education--including homeschooling. My original 12-page work was submitted to a Christian organization and if it is published I'll tell the world. For now, I'll parcel out the info from an upcoming book expanding that original work.

And that parceling will take place on a new blog: Christian Nurture.

Tell your friends. You want to know what a Family-Integrated Church is? Need to be informed about radical homeschooling? Want a critique on the latest trends in conservative homeschooling circles? This will be your blog.

And there will be regular homeschoooling for the rest of us. There is much to learn from our Christian fathers and mothers on child rearing and I aim to bring that to the public.

Some homeschooling leaders seem to think that being a minister can be put on the back burner while promoting homeschooling. But ministers don't work 9-5. They must always be ready to teach the Word, in season and out. So, as a minister of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit, this blog will be centered on that Gospel as the touchstone of Christian nurture.

Lord willing.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Future of Homeschooling

Over the last two years there has been much brouhaha about the explosion of homeschooling. Statistics and numbers fly readily from the pens of writers and lips of hosts: 2 million nation-wide; double-digit growth; incredible SAT scores. Hyped claims of revival, reformation and the culture-changing power of homeschooling have mushroomed. As one bright-eyed romantic exclaimed, homeschooling has been a “veritable reformation of life” among a dying culture.

Sadly, this optimism is driven by an uninformed idealism. The 2 million number is suspect because unprovable: most of the number includes an assumption about how many homeschoolers have not been counted. The National Center for Educational Statistics has the latest number at about 1.1 million—with 18% of that number including students that attend 25 hours or less of class time outside the home. So, practically the 1.1 million number should ignore 18 percent. And if the 2 million number is accurate, it should shrink proportionally as well: 902 hundred-thousand and 1.640 million respectively.

When the retention factor is analyzed, the future of homeschooling becomes more questionable. The latest 2007 Peabody Journal of Education summary paints a more accurate picture: “much homeschooling occurs in intervals of 1 to 4 years. This implies that the total number of 18-year-olds in 2006 who have been homeschooled at least intermittently is around 375,000, or about 10%.” Only a 63% retention rate exists into the second year of homeschooling. And after year six 48% are still homeschooling (only 15% for secular families). Similar numbers are acknowledged by some homeschooling leaders (CHEC Update, Fall Quarter, 2008).

There’s more. Many assume that most homeschoolers are college-educated, middle-class, white conservatives. However, the Barna poll demonstrates that 49% of these families fit this description. And just over half (51%) are not classified as “born again”. Only 15% are (loosely) Evangelical. Half of the homeschoolers polled consider themselves somewhere between conservative and liberal.

More importantly, the Barna Group numbers display a level of poor spirituality I had only guessed at from my own anecdotal experience: most homeschoolers deny that Satan exists and half believe that salvation is obtained through good works.

The future of homeschooling is decidedly not looking bright. Even if the numbers are actually growing, who cares? If the numbers grow but the spiritual life does not grow what have homeschoolers achieved? What have the leaders wrought? If vast numbers are ignorant of the depths of their sins and the power of the Gospel of sovereign grace, hypocrisy and false assurance will rise. Then the future may be pleasant people, clean neighborhoods, and whiten sepulchers full of dead men’s bones.

The future of homeschooling is bright if and only if the faith grows with it. Hyping it will not help. As a viable option among many, the families that choose homeschooling still need to have their life and methods rooted in the same Gospel as the Reformation. For it is only in the Person and Work of Christ that homeschooling—or any schooling—can be part of a reformation of life and a bright future for mankind.


[More observations on homeschooling; a new blog on Christian nurture and homeschooling]

Some Observations about Homeschooling

I live in the state with the second largest homeschooling organization in America--but with a population ranked 22nd.

After watching and helping homeschoolers for thirteen years, I will shortly be homeschooling myself. In the last few years I have actively participated in homeschooling events as well. And even tutored history for homeschoolers.

Now, as I reflect upon what will happen when God's child comes into this world, I will be in the thick of it. Although not a recognized source of information in these homeschooling circles that won't stop me from bringing my observations. I will let the facts speak for themselves.

The Good News

1. Many homeschoolers are zealous about nurturing and educating their children.
2. Many are average parents working hard in a sinful world with good results.
3. Many children have testing advantages in SAT, etc.
4. Many children are socially adept.
5. Many children retain their parents' values.

These are good things. These are some of the fruits of homeschooling. Parental involvement is important in the life of a child (as I learned from my parents while attending public school) as the parents' activities and attitudes create the atmosphere of the home.

The Bad News

Now for the other shoe:

1. Many homeschoolers are less than optimal about nurturing and educating their children.
2. Many are average parents working hard in a sinful world with little results.
3. Many children have no testing advantage in SAT, etc.
4. Many children are socially inept.
5. Many children retain other parental values.

Someone will throw stones at me for writing this. But, then, that is the nature of critiques. This is an honest evaluation from my own experience. Homeschoolers still have a bell-curve: good, bad and C-students.

The "less-than-optimal" (distracted, lackadaisical, indifferent, whatever the reason) is simply due to fallen man's temptations. It is not a critique on homeschooling per se. Similarly, point two reflects the disparity between effort and results in a fallen world: even when parents do the best they can in good conscience, brainiac children and virtuous broods will not always materialize. The social ineptness of children is a nice way of saying that just because a child is homeschooled it does not follow that good manner spontaneous appear. And, of course, in line with the above, retaining parental values does not occur as a matter of course in home educated families. In fact, in most households (Christian, pagan, private or public school), children do retain the values of their parents: if the actions of parents are louder than their words, children general follow their actions.

But They're Still Smarter...Right?

What about that scholastic advantage? The latest work by Brian Ray and Bruce Eagleson, State Regulation of Homeschooling and Homeschoolers’ SAT Scores, notes in the introductory background information, that there are mixed results on the testing advantages of homeschoolers (SAT and ACT) (two studies show virtually no statistical advantage and two more show some advantage). As for college exams: "The few studies done on home-educated students’ performance on college-admissions tests suggest they score about as well as do those who are not homeschooled." This evaluation is confirmed by an earlier study (First Year College Performance, 2004) which found no "statistically significant" difference between homeschool and non-homeschool students in their first year of college. In short, children are not short-changed with respect to college by being homeschooled (answering a recent question from a concerned homeschool mom).

The first thing someone will challenge will be these statistics. Perhaps I used research biased against homeschoolers? Haven't we always heard that homeschoolers outperform their peers? Dr. Brian Ray is the founder of the NHERI: National Home Education Research Institution. Certainly not a group against homeschooling!

As for my own experience, I find the typical bell-curve amongst them. Some are brighter than others. Most may be brighter than their public-school counter-parts, but frankly, a little love, attention and discipline by parents can easily accomplish that. Besides, smarts is more than being able to take a test.

The Growth of Homeschooling Speaks for Itself...?

Actually, growth does not speak of anything than...growth. That growth must be interpreted. And in the first instance, in my experience, a significant minority of that growth arises from the lack of good Christian schools. Some parents frankly homeschool because there is no other option. This partly explains the recent number I read, that 65-75% of homeschooling families will quit this year. The retention rate is low.

Another interesting fact I have observed is that more and more parents don't homeschool full-time. Tutors or local group-schooling are being employed more often. This is reflected in the very numbers that many leaders hype-up. The National Center for Educational Statistics released their 2004 report on the number of homeschoolers: 1.1 million. But, reading the fine line shows a different story:

...in both 1999 and 2003, about four out of five homeschoolers (82 percent) were homeschooled only, while about one out of five homeschoolers (18 percent) were enrolled in public or private schools part time [less than 25 hours a week]."

And Your Point Is...?

About two years ago I overheared a homeschooling leader retell a story. He was meeting with political movers and shakers in the state. They were discussing the woes of the public school: orphans, disruptive children, single-parent homes, etc. The overzealous homeschooler declared to the present company that he had the answer to those problems. "What was it?" they curiously asked. "Homeschooling."

My point is that homeschooling is not a panacea. It is simply an educational method. Nurture is important. Very important. But the narrow question of methods is not as important.

My other point is to encourage homeschoolers to be self-critical. Another homeschooling leader from out of state admonished the parents not to be too arrogant about being homeschoolers, "after all," he declared, "we know we are right, but we shouldn't shove it in the face of others." Forget self-critical. How about some humility?

I don't agree with all of the following but here is a homeschooler's professional evaluation of some myths (and even dangers) of homeschooling that any concerned parent should be aware of: The Myths of Homeschooling. Other myths include a homeschooling-is-almost-Gospel approach of some of the leaders. Others have commented on this, even those who are relatively new to homeschooling, such as Dangitbill's Homeschooling is Not the Gospel. I'll certainly have more to say to this little error!

This does not discourage me from homeschooling at all. The liberty I have in Christ means applying the best solution to the current situation as I see fit--homeschooling fulfills that requirement. In the upcoming months, I will bring more home education observations to the table. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

As the Church Goes So Goes the Culture

This election year can bring the most stalwart conservative to his knees—but only if basic Biblical principles are forgotten. This section, Second Reformation, is here to encourage the faint of heart by recalling those principles—truths and doctrines taught at the founding of our nation, rooted in the theology of the First Reformation.

One such principle is the close alignment of spiritual and political freedom. A theme hammered by the early Election Day sermons of yesteryear and even by our Founding Fathers. This principle asserts that the two freedoms are inter-related such that the fall of one affects the other. However, this effect is not in a symmetrical fashion, for although a loss of political freedom does affect the spiritual freedom of the church as an organized institution, it never means the loss of that basal and foundational freedom in Christ. In fact, the spiritual freedom in Christ created our American political freedoms. Whenever the spiritual freedom is loss the demise of political freedom is sure to follow.

Evangelical Christians tend to forget this truth—especially the fact that spiritual freedom in Christ is a precursor to true political freedom. We must recall that wherever in life man lives and works, there he is called of God to obedience. He must obey in the liberty of Christ. But if the Christian man is ignorant of the liberty of Christ as found in the Law of Christ, his actions in the culture he lives in will be negligible if not a negative act toward cultural renewal.
The revival of Josiah (2 Chron. 34ff.) began with the king’s repentance after reading the long-lost Law of God. And that Law of God—the Word of God—was found in the House of God—the Church. This brought about a change in the Jewish culture as the idols were torn down—both physically and spiritually. The Church, by the power of the Word of God, was used by the Lord to bring revival.

And this was promised by the John-the-Baptist passage of Malachi 4:4-6. What instrument does the Spirit use to bring the hearts of the children to their parents? Legal laws against homosexuality? Voting the best political leader? All good in themselves but of no avail against spiritual powers! The Holy Spirit used the Church, specifically the ministers of the church (Elijah-John the Baptist) to bring His Holy Word to an Unholy people. Revival—Reformation—comes by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, especially preached.

This preaching theme is consistent in the Bible. The OT had its prophets always bringing the Law to convict the hearts of the hardened Church and the Gospel to redeem the repentant. This is no less true in the NT. Christ’s main mission was not to challenge the political status quo. He neither ran for office nor focused on all the miserable laws Rome enacted. No, He preached to the Church of the Jews. And His apostles followed a similar course. Politics were never lost sight of in the NT (John the Baptist lost his head over it), but the focus was upon preaching truth to a dying world.

The NT Church grew because they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42). And that steady diet of doctrine and fellowship brought about a slow but steady transformation of the Roman culture. The Church was a leaven in the culture.

History bears truth to this fact. As the Church waxed and waned so the culture was sanctified or defiled. We need to take back our churches before we can take back our nation. Too many churches preach anti-Reformational doctrines of wealth and prosperity, deliverance by politicking or simply salvation by voting for God. And all of this is because of the doctrinal ignorance that the Barna polls demonstrate over and over again.

What is the lesson? If you want our country back, then support good churches, especially good Reformed churches. Strong political leaders usually come from a culture empowered by manly preaching that offends the effeminate. Too many Christians support weak churches but want strong political leaders. More importantly, a true Gospel preaching—the total helplessness of man and the total sovereignty of God—will bring the nominal Christian population to its knees, if the Lord wills.

Now is not the time to look backwards wistfully on our American past, but forward to reconstructing the churches of God through faith and repentance. Before America can repair her political house, the churches must first get their own spiritual houses in order.