Yuge, If True!

Pardon the click bait (as if).

Roman Catholics in America (CH 555) will be offered at Westminster California the first week of August (2-5). Listener passes for the general public are available. (Members of the specific public are on their own.) Auditing is also available.

Here is the course description:

This course covers the transformation of Roman Catholics from cultural and religious outsiders (1800-1950) to leading figures in the conservative movement that launched Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and even Donald Trump. Students will examine the assumptions that Protestants made about America (that also marginalized Roman Catholics) and the ways post-World War II Roman Catholics Americanized. This transformation of Roman Catholicism is largely responsible for many Protestants converting to Rome. As such, the course has implications for Reformed ministry in contemporary American society.

Next Time You're Tempted to Blame Escondido

Since Jeremy Tate (from Called to Communion) decided to pop up here and offer guidance to we Protestants on Rome’s views of sainthood, I decided to take a wee peek at his posts. And I ran across a fairly amazing one. It may give the blame-Escondido-firsters pause. Tate’s post is about images of Jesus and he notes that both Tim Keller and John Frame were not exactly ardent defenders of Reformed Protestant interpretations of the second commandment:

It would be an understatement to say I was incredibly excited to see Dr. Keller preach in person. Even to this day, I have the highest respect for the man. As I walked into the Redeemer service, however, I was shocked by the church bulletin I was handed. A gory painting of Jesus, dead on the cross, covered the entire front cover of the bulletin. Having been schooled by “truly reformed” folk in the Deep South I could hardly believe my eyes. The leading church in my denomination was openly violating the Second Commandment! I was so disturbed I could hardly listen to a word of the sermon.

In seminary, however, I came to reconsider what the Bible actually teaches about images. My reason for re-examining the issue had nothing to do with Catholic influences, but rather the teaching of an RTS Professor, John Frame. In Frame’s massive book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, he takes exception to the historic rejection of images of Christ by Reformed Churches. He makes the argument that having no images of Jesus can lead to practical “Docetism,” the ancient church heresy which claimed Jesus had no physical body. Frame concludes his argument by writing, “So I know of no reason to forbid pictures of Jesus… And there are positive reasons to use pictures of Jesus in the church’s pedagogy.”

Tate concludes with a charitable reading of Keller and Frame:

Here we have two men, both of whom are among the most influential leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America, rejecting the traditional Reformed understanding of 2nd Commandment. These men have not rejected the historic understanding of this commandment in order to stir up trouble in their denomination. Instead, they believe that Christians are actually being deprived of something when images are forbidden. Frame specifically references and affirms the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787, which affirmed the beneficial use of images in places of worship. These men have been bold in standing against the majority opinion in their denomination in order to affirm what the Catholic Church has always believed. Images are good. Gazing at a crucifix has the effect of freeing us from our habitual skepticism as we see the concreteness of our Savior.

Everyone makes decisions for a variety of reasons, including those who leave Protestantism for Rome. But the reasons for leaving Protestantism are harder to find when know that justification, sola Scriptura, the regulative principle, and Presbyterian ecclesiology matter to being a Reformed Protestant. If you are looking for reasons to denounce the theological scholars who teach and write in Escondido, defending the hallmarks of Reformed Protestantism would not be one of them.

Janet Mefferd Is My (all about me) Hero

I participated in an interview this week with Janet Mefferd who has a radio show out of Dallas on the Salem Radio Network. I was not sure what to expect because in the places I have lived her syndicated show has not been available. The SRN affiliates near me have followed the Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher (nee Laura Ingraham), Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt line-up and in that company I don’t suppose a book about the tensions, if not antagonisms, between evangelicals and conservatives would go over very well. My sense is that they would prefer to continue the biased-liberal-media mantra that has given evangelicals a pass from conservative pundits who don’t seem to be troubled by what “Christian America” means even for conservative Roman Catholics and Jewish Americans.

But to my surprise, Janet was unbelievably positive about From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin, even to the point of insisting that evangelicals need a megadose of Augustine’s two cities for their considerations about public life. For anyone interested in the interview they may go here.

I also conducted a couple of other pleasant interviews recently, one with Scott Oakland at ReformedCast.com, and one with Matt Lewis at DailyCaller.com.

And to fill out this shameless post of self-promotion (my publicist makes me be all about me), Oldlifers may want to check out the interviews available through Office Hours from Westminster California. Unfortunately for me, the interviews at Office Hours for Season Three do not include me. That’s why I’ll be listening to Seasons One and Two.

Hide the Women and Children!

As I suspected, the review that Cornel Venema wrote of The Law is Not of Faith is not nearly as damning as various and sundry critics of Westminster California have let on. I figured that if Venema had written anything really juicy – like this is view that needs to be purged from our churches – Rabbi Bret would have quoted it by now, especially that – ahem – his Advent and Christmas duties are well behind.

Although Venema criticizes the book, its arguments and authors, he actually writes sensibly and in a guarded manner (unlike some on his faculty):

Here are some examples, all from the conclusion:

Viewed against the background of the history of Reformed covenant theology, the particular question of the distinctiveness of the Mosaic administration posed by the authors . . . is a legitimate one, and one with a long pedigree in the history of Reformed theology. That some contemporary Reformed theologians find the question itself to be puzzling or problematic does reflect, as the editors . . . observe, a loss of historical awareness and appreciation for the complex history of Reformed reflection on the covenant.

So some of the reactions to the book could actually be ignorant.

Though my review . . . offers a number of criticisms of the author’s arguments, I fully concur with the authors’ aim to uphold and teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone upon the basis of the righteousness of Christ alone. As I put it in my description . . . on the book jacket, the “authors ably refute recent attacks on the classic Reformed understanding of the grace of free justification on the basis of the entire obedience and sacrifice of Christ alone.”

Yes, that’s right, Venema wrote a blurb for the book that he supposedly found devastating in review.

Rabbi Bret and others seemed to miss that Venema actually did recommend this book for publication and to readers to read – that’s why the publisher printed this on the back cover by the president of Mid-America:

This provocative volume makes a historical and biblical-theological case for understaning the Mosaic administration in the covenant of grace as in some sense a “republished” covenant of works, which teaches that only perfect obedience to the requiremetns of the law is sufficient to secure the covenant promise of life in communion with God. The authors ably refute recent attacks upon the classic Reformed understanidng of the grace of free justification on the basis of the enire obedience and sacrifice of Christ alone. Though I am not persuaded by every forumulation here, this volume deserves the careful attention of anyone who prizes the bilical teaching that the believer’s justification rests not on any works of his own, but solely on the full obedience of Christ.

What is curious is that Venema could endorse a volume that he would later critique for over seventy pages. The ethics of endorsing and reviewing hold that once you add your name to a book’s set of endorsers, you refrain from reviewing the book – since your review would not be credible as representing an impartial judgment (oh, that’s right, no neutrality). What we have here is a case of recommendation followed by critique, which is one of the odder turns in the publishing world. The endorsement is also a fact that critics of Westminster California have selectively left unnoticed.

Venema also adds in the conclusion of his review:

. . . while I recognize the manifest diversity of opinion on the question of the distinctive nature of the Mosaic economy in the history of Reformed theology, my primary objection to the arguments of the authors . . . is to what I have termed an “accommodated” reading of the sources.

In other words, this is a debate among historical theologians. On the matter of correctly exegeting Paul, Venema comes to no conclusion. Last I knew, a minister’s historical theology was not the basis for his standing in the church.

. . . in my critical assessment of the republication thesis . . ., I have intimated that the historic Reformed distinction between the “three uses” of the law provides a better answer to the complexx question that this thesis aims to resolve.

So we are in the realm of a better explanation of the Mosaic administration, not a heterodox point of doctrine.

The implication of the republication thesis, as is stated by some of the authors, seems to undermine the positive function of the law within the administration of the covenant of grace.

“Seems to undermine” is a long way from this by Rabbi Brett:

Dr. Venema’s work in the Mid-America Journal of Theology is one more effort to pull back the curtain to expose a committee of Ozzes who are working overtime to infect the whole Reformed Church with their virus theology.

But when you are prone to seeing the world populated not by people who study and teach but either by angels or demons, Communists or the liberated, you think that evaluation of an argument is the same thing as drawing up charges.

Forensic Friday: You Say Klinean, I Say Repristination

In the current issue of the Westminster Theological Journal, William Evans from Esrkine College, has an article offering a taxonomy of the current debates over the doctrine of union. In the repristinationist wing he puts Westminster California. He even specifies that the revisionism of Shepherd and Federal Vision provoked the repristinationist effort. The other group in Evans’ taxonomy is the Biblical Theology wing of Vos, Murray, and Gaffin. Some of these distinctions among Shepherd/FV, WTS, and WSC seem a bit arbitrary since all sides claim to stand within the tradition of biblical theology (was anyone more biblical theological than Kline?). What does separate these groups is the way each wing positions itself in relationship to the past, with Shepherd/FV (Mark Horne’s ransacking of the 17th century notwithstanding) being the most novel, the Biblical Theological group extending back mainly to Vos (with a lot of use made of a particular section of Calvin) and the repristinators endeavoring to recover the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century categories for a stable theological program and church life.

Which leads to the way in which Evans characterizes Westminster California:

The overriding motive here is clear and laudable – safeguarding the Reformation doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

Here, first of all, we find a vigorous defense of the Law/Gospel hermeneutic. If salvation is to be truly gracious, then law and gospel must be distinguished. In contrast to the Revisionists, who view the Law/Gospel distinction as genetically Lutheran rather than Reformed, these figures stress the essential continuity of Lutherans and Reformed on this matter, although the attitude toward law is more positive than one finds among some Lutherans. For example, there is consistent affirmation of the “third use” of the law (i.e., the law of God as a guide for the life of the Christian).

Second, in keeping with this, there is vigorous defense of the conceptual apparatus of later federal orthodoxy, especially the bi-covenantal framework involving a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace. The covenant of works as an instantiation of the law principles is viewed as an essential guarantor of the Law/Gospel distinction. Then, in order to underscore the gracious uniqueness of the New Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant is seen in part as a “republication” of the Covenant of Works. There is also defense of a pre-temporal intratrinitarian Covenant of Redemption or pactum salutis between the Father and the Son, which is viewed as providing a foundation for the Covenant of Grace in theology proper.

What is worth noting, aside from highlighting Evans’ piece, is the omission of the worn out canard that Westminster California is simply channeling Meredith Kline. In point of fact, WSC is trying, as Evans concedes, to hold on to the insights of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Mike Horton mentioned recently, that sure puts those complaints about Westminster California’s radicalism in a different light.

Right Chronology, Wrong Westminster Professor

Plain as nose
The controversial Kerux review of The Law Is Not of Faith is now available on line. I cannot get past the first sentence: “For the past thirty years, a shift in Reformed covenant theology has been percolating under the hot Southern California sun in Escondido.”

This is an amazing opening because for thirty years the sideline Reformed world has experienced a controversy over the refashioning of covenant theology and the doctrines that flow from it. But Westminster California was not the place where the controverted doctrines came from. Did the reviewers for Kerux notice anything about Federal Vision, or Evangelicals and Catholics Together, or Norman Shepherd? Of course, not. These are real controversies conveniently ignored to go after the alleged real culprit: WSC and its part-time professor, Meredith G. Kline.

Atop the bluff of a former orange grove, a quiet redefinition of the Sinaitic covenant administration as a typological covenant of works, complete with meritorious obedience and meritorious reward has been ripening. The architect of this paradigm shift was the late Meredith G. Kline.

Again, this is truly dumbfounding. The doctrine of justification has been up for grabs in the heart of conservative Reformed and Presbyterian communions such as the OPC, PCA, and URC. The doctrine has received further questions and revisions in the broader Protestant world thanks to the already mentioned Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the Federal Vision, and the New Perspective on Paul. And yet, Kerux decides to lower the boom on Kline and WSC.

It should be noted that Kline, as a professor at Gordon-Conwell, was one of those who thirty years ago supported the Westminster faculty who were opposed to Shepherd’s teaching – among them, W. Robert Godfrey, Palmer Robertson, Robert Knudsen, and Arthur Kuschke. And since then it has been Klineans who have been clearest on justification, its centrality to the Reformed doctrine of salvation, and its priority to sanctification. At the same time, it has been those who have either defended or been silent about Shepherd who have been some of the biggest critics of Westminster California.

Consequently, it is an odd historical judgment that Kerux offers, and one that draws attention away from the real source of controversy in Reformed circles.

But the problems of historical analysis only get worse for the authors of the review. Not only was Kline an important critic of Shepherd but his students have been at least partly responsible for bringing a measure of calm to that controversy within the OPC thanks to the leadership of WSC faculty on the study committee on justification. That report was clear regarding the defects of Shepherd’s views and their ties and affinities to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul.

And in case anyone actually thought WSC was ambiguous about justification, the seminary has issued a statement on the doctrine, “Our Testimony on Justification,” which counters the Shepherdian claim that justification needs to be set free from its Lutheran bondage. It declares:

. . . some who claim to be Reformed suggest that too many Reformed people have a Lutheran view of justification and need to develop a distinctively Reformed view of justification. These critics usually claim that they accept the Reformed confessions, yet at the same time claim that Reformed theology needs to be changed and clarified to be distinctive. Such critics, called neonomians in the seventeenth century, today are perhaps better labeled covenant moralists.

Our testimony is directed primarily to this third group who claim to be genuinely Reformed. These covenant moralists teach, contrary to the Reformed confessions and/or historic Reformed conviction, some or all of the following:

that the Reformation doctrine of justification is not fully biblical;

that the Lutherans and Calvinists have different doctrines of justification;

that the Reformation misunderstood Paul on justification;

that justification is not by faith alone, but by faithfulness, i.e. trust in Christ and obedience;

that the idea of merit as a way of explaining the work of Christ for us is unbiblical;

that Christ died for our sins but he did not keep the law perfectly in our place (his active obedience);

that Christ does not impute his active obedience to us;

that obedience or good works is not only the fruit or evidence of faith, but is also part of the ground or instrument of justification;

that our justification is in some way dependent on the final judgment of our works.

As the faculty of Westminster Seminary California we believe that we must issue this testimony especially in relation to those who claim to be Reformed in their attack on the Reformation doctrine of justification and who claim to uphold the teaching of the Reformed confessions.

So for the last thirty years, Westminster California has through its faculty, both in the courts of the church and individual authors, during debates about Shepherd, ECT, Federal Vision, and the New Perspective, been on the right side of the doctrines of grace. Now along comes Kerux to re-write history and say that not Shepherd, Richard John Neuhaus, Chuck Colson, nor N. T. Wright was the problem but Meredith G. Kline and his students. To borrow a line from Harry Emerson Fosdick, “what incredible folly!”

The Spirit of Machen Lives at Westminster California

witherspoon bldgTo honor and mark the thirtieth anniversary of the seminary where police do enforce jaywalking laws, to offer some encouragement to the faculty and staff who labor and the students who study there, and to remind readers about the point of Westminster Seminary come the following paragraphs from the institution’s first convocation. Of course, J. Gresham Machen was the author and speaker, the date was September 25, 1929, and the place was downtown Philadelphia (woot!). The ceremonies took place at the Witherspoon Building on Walnut Street, which was the home of the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work (one of downtown Philadelphia’s more ornate facades). The school itself was located at 1528 Pine Street.

Westminster Theological Seminary, which opens its doors today, will hardly be attended by those who seek the plaudits of the world or the plaudits of a worldly church. It can offer for the present no magnificent buildings, no long-established standing in the ecclesiastical or academic world. Why, then, does it open its doors; why does it appeal to the support of Christian men?

The answer is plain. Our new institution is devoted to an unpopular cause; it is devoted to the service of one who is despised and rejected by the world and increasingly belittled by the visible church, the majestic Lord and Savior who is presented to us in the Word of God. From him men are turning away one by one. His sayings are too hard, his deeds of power too strange, his atoning death too great an offense to human pride. But to him, despite all, we hold. No Christ of our own imaginings can ever take his place for us, no mystic Christ whom we seek merely in the hidden depths of our own souls. From all such we turn away ever anew to the blessed written Word and say to the Christ there set forth, the Christ with whom then we have living communion: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life”. . . .

[The] pathway of sacrifice is the pathway which students and supporters of Westminster Seminary are called upon to tread. For that we can thank God. Because of the sacrifices involved, no doubt many have been deterred from coming to us; they have feared the opposition of the machinery of the church; some of them may have feared, perhaps, to bear fully the reproach of Christ. We do not judge them. But whatever may be said about the students who have come to us, one thing can certainly be said about those who have come – they are real men.

No, my friends, though Princeton Seminary is dead, the noble tradition of Princeton Seminary is alive. Westminster Seminary will endeavor by God’s grace to continue that tradition unimpaired; it will endeavor, not on a foundation of equivocation and compromise, but on an honest foundation of devotion to God’s Word, to maintain the same principles that the old Princeton maintained. We believe, first, that the Christian religion, as it is set forth in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian church, is true; we believe, second, that the Christian religion welcomes and is capable of scholarly defense; and we believe, third, that the Christian religion should be proclaimed without fear or favor, and in clear opposition to whatever opposes it, whether within or without the church, as the only way of salvation for lost mankind. On that platform, brethren, we stand. Pray that we may be enabled by God’s Spirit to stand firm. Pray that the students who go forth from Westminster Seminary may know Christ as their own Savior and may proclaim to others the gospel of his love.

The Virus is Spreading – Spooky

virusApparently the Westminster California hermeneutic has now infected the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Ligon Duncan recently issued a statement that clarified difference among ACE members on whether or not to sign the Manhattan Declaration. (For some of the diversity among evangelicals or conservative Protestants, go here.)

Duncan wrote:

The Alliance has not historically weighed in on social ethical issues, not because they are unimportant, nor because it is inappropriate for Christians to do so, but because of the mission of the Alliance which is “to call the twenty-first century church to reformation, according to Scripture, so that it recovers clarity and conviction about the great evangelical truths of the gospel and thus proclaims these truths powerfully in our contemporary context.” Specifically, we are an alliance of confessional Protestants (and heirs of the historic Reformed Confessions) who work together to “promote the reform of the church according to Scripture, and to call the church to be faithful to the Scriptures, by embracing and practicing the teaching of Scripture concerning doctrine, life and worship.”

So if the Bible speaks to all of life, including marriage, and the sanctity of human life, and ACE is committed to reforming the church according to Scripture, then why wouldn’t the Alliance advocate the Manhattan Declaration for the church in ministering the word of God? Could it be that even when the Bible does speak to some moral matters, it does not do so in a way suitable for the larger society?

In other words, could it be that the kind of distinction between kingdoms for which Westminster California is notorious is not so radical but even appeals to the good confessing evangelicals that constitute ACE? Hmmmm.

The Westminster Hermeneutic Apparently Infects Kerux


And apparently, readers of the current review haven’t read very deeply in the journal. But a handy gadget at Kerux’s website reveals some items of note.

First this article by Scott Clark on John 2:13-22, on Christ’s cleansing of the Temple.

One lesson taught is the end of the theocratic arrangement in Israel:

It is ironic that those who were to care for God’s resting place, the place symbolic of God’s covenantal communion with his people, should be so insensitive to Jesus’ actions and words. What the priestly aristocracy does not realize is that by opposing Jesus, the temple guardians are opposing the temple itself! As in the garden and in the theocracy, God’s people have again desecrated God’s temple. Not only have they polluted piety for profit, but they fail to recognize the very purpose for which the temple stands–it is a house for God. We know this because they failed to recognize God when he came to the temple!

Because they lacked the Spirit, the Jews completely misunderstood Jesus to be speaking about the temple in which they were standing. Jesus is saying that his body is the temple. He is the “true” or the “real” temple (Jn. 6:32,33). Jesus’ temple supersedes the Herodian temple. Jesus’ and John’s words explain his act of cleansing the temple. Jesus is prophetically foreshadowing the final destruction of the temple. . . .

[T]he Jerusalem temple is an unsatisfactory habitation for our God. Like everything else connected with the old covenant, the temple is an incomplete expression of God’s grace. To redeem us, God must tabernacle in our flesh (Jn. 1:14). In this way the destiny of the temple is bound to the destiny of the Christ.

We also learn from Clark about the importance of holiness after in the new covenant:

God’s requirements for the holiness of his dwelling place have not been watered down in the new covenant. In fact they are greater. Coexisting with the other “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) joined together to become a “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:21) means even greater holiness than that of the old covenant. We no longer have to watch Moses go to the tent to meet with God; he has come to us in his Son and now in his Spirit.

Clark even affirms the importance of union with Christ:

Not only are we God’s temple, but we still have a religious life in the temple. For the evangelist, to truly be in the temple is to be in Christ because he is the true temple. John wrote his gospel to the end that we might find ourselves standing in the temple (Jn. 20:31; Col. 3:3). To be in the temple is to be in communion with God. It is to have intimate, personal fellowship with God. Whoever is united by the Spirit to the ascended Lord is now in the true, heavenly, Spirit-filled, temple and worships truly.

Perhaps even more arresting than Clark’s meditation was David VanDrunen’s essay in Kerux on the culture wars. Since WSC continues to receive demerits for not being hard on crime, and apparently the Kerux review hints at this (only a few have actually seen the review because the print run is so small, and those who have read it have yet to finish it), VanDrunen’s piece, “Biblical Theology and the Culture War,” is particularly worthy of notice.

Here is one point that VanDrunen makes during his reflections on Jeremiah 29:

This brief look at biblical theology should teach us a number of things about this battle. Most important of all, it teaches us that the culture war rages in Babylon, not in the Promised Land. A number of other important considerations arise from this. For one thing, it reminds us that in any of our cultural struggles we are not to set as a goal the annihilation or even the radical transformation of society. The existence of Babylon is completely legitimate. This is a particularly relevant message for Americans especially to heed. America is portrayed as the Promised Land so often—it is the hope of the world, the shining city on the hill, with liberty and justice for all. It is the refuge for the teeming masses of distant shores yearning to be free. It is a land of never before attained prosperity and military strength. America certainly is a great land, and patriotic affections are good and healthy. But it is not paradise, and never was. And neither is any other place on earth. To view any earthly land as the Promised Land is to set our sights both too high and too low at the same time: too high for our nation’s prospects and too low for what the Promised Land really is. People wage culture wars in Babylon, and to whatever extent they win or lose, Babylon continues to be just that—Babylon! It will not be annihilated, and it will not be transformed into something else.

To understand this is to put things into perspective. If the America of 50 or 100 or 200 years ago was Babylon, and if the America of the next generation, apart from the outcome of this culture war, will still be Babylon, should we not conclude that culture wars really are not won or lost, at least not absolutely? Living in Babylon by definition implies living outside of Paradise in a land which does not in any special way belong to the church, and as such is more or less filled with injustice, immorality, and any number of other depravities which motivate the culture warriors. As long as the church has lived in Babylon, it has been involved in cultures with marks of degeneracy. And as long as it continues to live here, it will face the same thing. It is only at Christ’s return that wicked culture and its supporters will be abolished completely: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:6-7). The culture war has been raging for ages and it will not end until Christ returns. Why do we so often act as if the 1960’s, with the corresponding rise of the drug culture and sexual promiscuity, marked the beginning of this war? Perhaps the battle rages more fiercely and more visibly now, but even Christians living in Norman Rockwell America should have realized the existence of the culture war—the same culture war which rages around us now. As a wise man long ago observed, there is nothing new under the sun.

Does this mean that fighting the culture wars is wrong? VanDrunen says, “of course not.” But if Christians do fight in those battles they need to do so with a proper understanding of the stakes involved:

God commanded the people in Jeremiah 29 to seek the peace and prosperity of the city in which they lived, and this applies to us as well. We know that a nation with increasing numbers of cocaine-addicts, abortions, thefts, child-abuse cases, illiterates, etc., etc., will not retain desirable levels of peace and prosperity for long. Therefore we do have an obligation to do things which will, if not eliminate such things, at least substantially reduce their rate of occurrence. The peace and prosperity of our society, not to mention our personal peace and prosperity, depend on it. And the political sphere certainly is one of the institutions of culture which will make its indelible stamp on the peace and prosperity of the society. Christians therefore should have an interest in the political process when their form of government allows it, as ours does. To turn our backs on politics would mean to turn our backs in part to the command of God to seek the peace and prosperity of our nation. We may debate amongst ourselves which political positions to promote and how much emphasis should be given to the political process, but the interest and involvement in politics which we see among the “religious right” is in itself a good thing. But, it must always be accompanied by the realization that we are participating in the politics of Babylon. What should we hope to gain by our cultural, including political, activity? Only a relatively better life for society, ourselves, and our children in the years to come than what we would otherwise face. We seek not the destruction of our enemies, but simply a modestly better society which in the future will face exactly the same kinds of threats and require the same sort of opposition. Perhaps we can turn America back to the culture of the 1950’s. But the 1960’s will always follow.

Our first hope naturally is for the peace and prosperity of our nation. But perhaps we should be secretly pleased when these turn into disorder and depression. We have noted how many Christians today yearn for the days of public virtue present years ago in our nation’s history. It seems that there is little doubt that as far as public virtue goes America has seen better days. But when we see how such memories distort the biblical understanding that we live in Babylon, when we see how they cause our hopes to seek fulfillment not in the next world, but in this, when we see how they paint a falsely idyllic picture in our minds which we ignorantly project into the future, does it not make us at least wonder how much good such relatively peaceful and prosperous days really do. If God answered our prayers and blessed our cultural efforts by bringing us days of unparalleled peace and prosperity, would that not in itself be a tremendous temptation to set our sights no higher than Babylon? Are not days such as ours good reminders of what Babylon really is—a pagan, depraved, and hopeless place over which an angel from heaven will one day shout: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great” (Rev. 18:2)? The Israelites were apparently satisfied with the peace and prosperity of Babylon— only a tiny fraction of them returned to the Promised Land when the opportunity came. Will we as a church do any better?

Yes, let us pray for the peace and prosperity of our land for the sake of the physical well-being of ourselves and our children. But let us also be thankful for God’s often disappointing answers for the sake of the spiritual well-being of his church.

Articles such as these make Kerux worthwhile reading, especially for those inclined to read it along with the Talmud.

(By the way, the Nicotine Theological Journal‘s policy is never to turn on its contributors.)

"Office Hours" at Westminster California

Not to be confused with the BBC show, “The Office,” and not to confuse David Brent with W. Robert Godfrey (though sometimes I wonder), Westminster California is starting a podcast entitled “Office Hours.” Season One features interviews with Godfrey and Julius Kim. A preview of the season is now available, complete with instructions and incentives for subscribing.

Now the only question is whether R. Scott Clark is more like Tim or Gareth.