Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Reply to A Question About Ron Paul’s ‘08 Presidential Campaign

[revised 12/18/09]

While there is much to agree with in Chuck Baldwin’s column of Jan. 28, ‘08 on Ron Paul and his supporters, “Why Are Ron Paul's Supporters So Angry?”, let’s not put the “high horse” of politics before the gospel or Christianity. Contra the conservative Baptist pastor’s closing comments, if American Christians would just support “the principles of liberty, the U.S. Constitution, and limited government” is not enough in itself to provoke “a spiritual revival as well”, however much that is needed. Rather the problems of modern American Christians are far worse than just their “elitism, and partisan phoniness,” though their “ignorance” does have a lot to do with it. 

Neither was it because “America's Colonial preachers and Christian people fought for liberty and independence, [that] God gave us two Great Awakenings.” Rather the First Great Awakening preceded the struggle for independence and arguably the Second Awakening in the 1830's deteriorated into the revivalism and pelagian perfectionism of Finney that plagues the American church to this day. Finney’s abolitionism also arguably deteriorated into the radical atheistic abolitionism that plunged this country into a bloody civil war, while at the same time every other major Western power abolished slavery without bloodshed.

Even further, while we can agree with the following statement, it does not go far enough in exposing the root of the matter:
“Today's Christians – and especially our pastors . . . apparently have never read our U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights. They are seemingly oblivious to our great American history and heritage. They seem to lack the most elementary understanding of even the most basic American principles.”
Rather if judgement begins in the house of God as 1 Pet. 4:17 tells us, it must also be said that “Why Are Ron Paul's Supporters So Angry?” entirely fails to mention that:
'Today's Christians – and especially our pastors . . . apparently have never read the great (English) confessions and catechisms of the Protestant Reformation. They are seemingly oblivious to our great Protestant history and heritage. They seem to lack the most elementary understanding of even the most basic Protestant principles'.
In other words, American churches are apostasizing from historic Protestantism and have been for some time.

That, if not modern American Christianity however sincere, is largely an aberrant form of Protestant Christianity. Of the three main streams flowing from the historic Reformation, the American church is largely anabaptist, if not Lutheran/anglican, rather than presbyterian/reformed. But you cannot get constitutional limited government from pietistic or erastian churches. Broadly speaking, these theologies consider caesar to either be the antichrist or a new secular pope that is gladly and patriotically obeyed. Neither can you get constitutional and representative republicanism from independent/congregational or hierarchical church polities.

But the doctrinal roots of the puritanism, if not the English speaking peoples - WASPs - that founded this nation and its moral and political culture are summed up in the high water mark of the Second Reformation, the Westminster Standards 1643-1648 which have long been known after Scripture as the constitutional basis for presbyterianism. And if the First Reformation broke the back of the pope, the Second broke the back of the divine right of kings, however forgotten or ignored it is these days in American church and state, as the present administration lays further waste to principles of constitutional government and the opposing party only skulks, connives and lusts for their chance to do exactly the same.

Even further, while the religious uniformity in church and state intended by the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 never came to pass in the three kingdoms of the British Isles on the basis of the Westminster Standards (which include a Confession, two catechisms, a Directory of worship and church government), a tremendous doctrinal uniformity still resulted. The congregationalists went on to draw up the Savoy Declaration in 1658 and the baptists, the London Confession of 1681 which in large part followed the Westminster Confession, while the New England colonies in 1680 only added Chapter 20 on the Gospel to the thirty-three of the original. While there were differences on church government and the sacraments, in the main and soteriologically they were the same. The battle cry of the Reformation gospel was affirmed: Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone by sovereign predestinating and electing grace alone, to the glory of God alone, as set forth in the Scriptures alone.

Can American Christianity say as much today? Sadly, no. The doctrines of predestination and election are anathema and the glory of God as the motive for worship and life is a grating rebuke to the church growth sensibilities and seeker friendly mentality and worship of modern American churches. But this compromised state of affairs didn’t happen overnight. With Wesley in the First Great Awakening, Whitefield notwithstanding, an evangelical arminianism gained a foothold and now has largely prevailed in America, being further mixed with dispensationalism, premillenialism, fundamentalism, antinomianism and pentecostalism. But previous to this and along with all the above, the Protestant Reformation again as a whole broke the back of a man centered theology that preached that man could cooperate with God for salvation. Or more specifically that man’s sinful free will could choose the good in Christ.

In a word again, arminianism. In short, if trinitarianism is fundamental to understanding the gospel, broadly speaking, modern evangelical arminianism says God created the world, Christ died on the cross and now it is up to the sinner to make a “free will decision” for Christ; this all the while the Holy Spirit stands in the marketplace with nothing to do, which only opens the door further to pentecostal charismania. This “how to be born again” theology is contrary to the total depravity of all men in Adam and God the Father’s unconditional election before the beginning of the world of only those for whom Christ died and whom the Holy Spirit irresistably regenerates and enables to persevere unto salvation. In other words, the God centered gospel and theology of augustinian calvinism versus a man centered gospel and theology of arminianism aka modern american evangelicalism.

And from there all contemporary ahistorical heresies depart further, including a wholesale antipathy to any kind of sound doctrine or substantive study of Scripture along with a hatred of the law of God as the rule for a Christian’s life and a fascination with a stupefying premillenial rapture/last days madness. Ultimately you will get no principled resistance to civil tyranny when man’s free will already tyrannizes over the grace of God in the Gospel in his church in acting as the punchbowl and fountain for all the other flavors of kool-aide the churches are drinking, Gideon’s three hundred aside. Arguably a religion that allows for the deification of man’s free will, will also allow man’s will to be deified in the state. Which means that the church will not vote for freedom and liberty in the classic American constitutional sense. That is anathema to her and runs contrary to her principal genius.

Any attempt to budge the American church off the dime without addressing this theology and issue is doomed to failure in the long run. The gospel of american arminianism does not produce the kind of fruit that the Protestant Reformation originally produced in America, albeit later mixed in with an Enlightenment idolatry of the separation of church and state which necessarily allowed for and constitutionally promoted a civil religion in the place of Christianity, much more forbid any religious oath or test like the Solemn League and Covenant for political office. While one may wish to separate church and state, we think it impossible to separate religion and state. Neutrality is impossible. The state has to affirm some kind of law and law is not only coercive, it inevitably and ultimately in its basis and principle is religious, even if it is restricted to the second table of the Ten Commandments. Choose you this day. What will we have? The religious compromise and pluralism of the Constitution or the one true Protestant religion, Biblical Christianity as originally called for in the Solemn League and Covenant and confessed in the Westminster Standards and largely agreed to in the other English statements of faith? That just might be the real question in the 2008 Presidential campaign as we look around at the economic, moral, political and religious wreckage in the American nation.

God doesn’t bless national and ecclesiastical disobedience by bringing to pass campaign slogans about freedom and prosperity other than as a precursor to judgement. Just as in all the hullabaloo over Y2K, the emphasis was on guns and gold - God or repentance didn’t enter the picture for all our Y2K prophets, even professing Christians like Gary North who went south with the profits. So too, God and repentance doesn’t seem to enter the picture for the 2008 campaign. All will be well if only candidate X is elected. Humanly and constitutionally speaking in a sense we might agree, compared to the socialist alternatives, whether marxist or fascist offered by the mainstream clone candidates from either party, but there is more to it than 'God bless America and our constitution'. Politics is not the real solution, not even that of the only real presidential candidate in the race that has the track record that demonstrates he could and would honestly take the executive oath of office to protect and defend the constitution.

The chief reason for this beyond the historical ignorance and doctrinal compromise of Protestantism mentioned above is the blasphemous religious pluralism of the US Constitution. Regardless of its implicit presuppositions, of at best a possibly Christian religious pluralism as opposed to a deistic pluralism, which the constitution presumes nationally, it is insufficient to the day. It doesn’t work. We know that for instance, because Utah was not admitted as a state until 1896 - after the Mormon church outlawed polygamy in 1890 and the Utah constitution outlawed it in 1895. In other words, the First Amendment rights of the Mormon Church were trampled upon. As they should have been. The institution of marriage (and the Sabbath) according to Scripture occurred before the fall and is therefore common to all men. For a nation with a Protestant Christian heritage like America, to allow polygamy is unacceptable backsliding, First Amendment or no.

But neither can Islam be allowed First Amendment rights today when polygamy and jihad are fundamental to Islam, if not also the further ethnic curiosities and anomalies of honor killings and female circumcision. While it is true as Paul and others have said, part of the reason muslim terrorists are “over here”, is because America is over there and they see that presence as a declaration of war upon Islam, the genius and spirit of Islam is still essentially ‘kill the infidels’. Like the western antichrist, the papacy, the eastern antichrist is primarily concerned with an external works righteousness and the sword and superstition is mightier than the spirit.

All this is off the radar for the compromised Protestant church and the secular nation we have further become and constitutionally and unrealistically expect. Nevertheless as Dylan put it, ‘you gotta serve somebody’. If isn’t going to be the state, it will be prosperity and money which can buy sex, drugs and rock and roll and that’s good enough to go with for a lot of Americans these days. And while most American Christians are not so base as to be motivated or vote on that basis, a free will religion has essentially supplanted the historic Protestant gospel. Again, apart from genuine reformation and revival of American Christianity, any political solution is only good for the short run.

Further the Scripture saith:
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? Jer. 5:31
That’s the answer to the question in the title of Pastor Baldwin’s most recent essay on the same topic, “What's With All These Clueless Christians?”. The preachers and people are all happy when less than the whole counsel of God is proclaimed in Christ’s church.

In other words, the remarks attributed to Luther might be applicable.
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle field besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
As soon as the pastors and preachers and churches in America begin preaching, teaching and standing for and the people begin demanding the whole counsel of God as it was declared at the Protestant Reformation, as compared to the arminian fundamentalist premillenial dispensational anabaptist and lawless version of the historic and true Protestant gospel and religion that now reigns, then perhaps we will see some ground gained in the political arena. Until then, in our opinion, it will only be more of the same. It’s your choice, Preacher Baldwin. What will it be?

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