Mike Horton and Zacharias Ursinus Contradicting One Another On Natural Law

Mike Horton of Escondido wrote,

“Positive law is grounded in natural law—the law of God known to the conscience of everyone as God’s image-bearer, even if the truth is suppressed in unrighteousness…. (N)one of us comes to general revelation neutrally. But remember that we are all made in God’s image, including rebels, and that the Spirit restrains wickedness and promotes justice by his common grace. When you offer good “general revelation” arguments, you’re not disengaging from the teachings of special revelation (Scripture).

But Ursinus in his Commentary on Heidelberg (p. 506) writes,

“Furthermore, although natural demonstrations teach nothing concerning God that is false, yet men, without the knowledge of God’s word, obtain nothing from them except false notions and conceptions of God; both because these demonstrations do not contain as much as is delivered in his word, and also because even those things which may be understood naturally, men, nevertheless, on account of innate corruption and blindness, receive and interpret falsely, and so corrupt it in various ways.”

Will the real Reformer please stand up.

And so as to ward off the inevitable naysayers who offer that Ursinus and Horton are not speaking of the same objects of knowledge allow me to offer that it is simply the case that if, as Ursinus offers, Natural Man cannot know God, then, as all meaning for all facts are found in their relation to God (Basic Van Til Presuppositionalism) then what Horton offers, by definition, cannot be true.

As Bahnsen was fond of saying, men may “know” things but they cannot account for their knowing. So… while Ursinus and Horton are not talking about the exact same thing (Knowing God {Ursinus}) vs. (Knowing reality {Horton}) the implications that I note are valid.

Of course fallen men always sneak stolen capital into their God hating worldview to get it off the ground but it is never done so in admission to knowing God. As such … they hold what they”know” of reality as a thief. It is theirs but it isn’t theirs. They know but they don’t know.

Seminary Course — Propaganda

Books Dealing with the how and why of Mass Manipulation. The goal of the course is to help the student understand why propaganda is used, the meaning of propaganda as a tool of manipulation, while giving the student the ability to recognize and identify propaganda. Further the Student will be able to explain how is it that propaganda is different than truth in the way it presents itself.

Main Texts

Jacques Ellul — Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes
Edward Bernays — Propaganda
Gustav LeBon — The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

These three main texts will tell you

1.) The pervasiveness of Propaganda and its how it presents itself in a seemingly harmless way
2.) The technical means by which Propaganda is accomplished
3.) How Propaganda is advantaged by dealing with Crowds

Online Documentary


Before reading any of the main text spend the 4 hours necessary to view the “Century of the Self.” This provides a good overview of what propaganda is and how it has been used in history.

After viewing the documentary read the main texts.

As reading the texts ask be prepared to look for the answer to the following questions

a.) Where is propaganda to be found
b.) What is the relation of propaganda to truth
c.) How does propaganda build a tapestry of false reality wherein people find meaning and definition of life
d.) Why does mass propaganda become easier to accomplish then propaganda on a person by person basis
e.) The names of the men who have been masters of propaganda
f.) How does propaganda change during war
g.) How does the individual arm themselves to detect propaganda
h.) What is the relation between truth as narrative and propaganda
i.) What is the role of public institutions and propaganda
j.) What are the consequences to the individual who lives contrary to culturally accepted propaganda
k.) Can propaganda be used to advance Biblical Christianity

Supplementary Texts

Daniel Boorstin — The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America
Neil Postman — Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman — Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
Neil Postman — The Disappearance of Childhood
Edith Efron — The News Twisters
Thomas Sowell — The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
Marshall McLuhan — The Medium is the Massage
Michael Medved — Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture And The War on Tradition
Philip Knightly — The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker

The Student will write 15 page book reviews on the three main texts as well as a 30 page paper identifying and documenting propaganda in modern culture.

The Student will make chapter notes at the end of each Chapter of the books in the supplemental and then summarize the thrust of each book in their supplemental reading.

In the Supplemental Reading the student will be careful to be aware of how propaganda is transmitted in media, technology, education and politics.

Defining Deviance Down

The occurrence of Defining deviancy down as it manifests itself in a social order, happens when the social order standard is violated with such regularity that the inhabitants of the social order are forced to make a decision to either enforce the standard or to change the standard. As enforcing a standard that is routinely violated is almost impossible apart from draconian measures what typically happens is that the standard is changed. Once the standard is changed then a new definition of deviance is embraced, a standard that allows what was previously defined as deviance to be now normalized.

One reason that defining deviancy down works is because eventually there becomes a money interest that supports the new deviancy. The legalization of drugs finds a host of cottage industries that profit by the legalization and soat are willing to contribute money to politicians who will support the new deviancy. In such ways deviancy becomes the new standard.

The consequence of this is that those who refuse to embrace the new definition of deviancy will now be the ones who will be seen as “puritanical,” “mean,” “uncharitable,” and “bigoted.” Once deviancy is defined downward far enough those who refuse to accept the new definitions of deviance will become social outcasts and will suffer economic displacement. Defining deviancy downwards happens because the social order does not have an anchor that will not allow them to drift with the tide. The only place that anchor can be found is in God’s Law word. Disallow God’s Law word as the norm that norms all norms and the consequence will always be a “defining of deviancy down.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who popularized the phrase “Defining Deviancy Down” gives an example

“Consider the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In 1929 in Chicago during Prohibition, four gangsters killed seven gangsters on February. The nation was shocked. The event became legend. It merits not one but two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia.”

Moynihan goes on to explain that in our current social order we experience a “St Valentine’s Day Massacre,” nearly daily and no one blinks. As a social order we have come to accept a higher level of deviancy.

Ambrose contra Symmachus, Piper, Mohler & all R2K

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them.”

Proverbs 28:4

In the 4th century Emperor Gratian’s removal of the pagan altar of victory from the Senate was the occasion for a great debate between Symmachus, the leader of the pagan aristocracy, and the ablest Italian ecclesiastic, Bishop Ambrose of Milan (St. Ambrose). Symmachus was the classical Liberal in this debate and was arguing against Ambrose that all the ancient pagan religions should be reinstated in Rome and Christianity not be allowed to be the unique religion of the people. Symmachus had all the liberal qualities that arise when liberals are in the minority. Symmachus was tolerant, generous and simply wanted fairness. Symmachus argued that many roads lead to God — why should the old religion of Rome, under whose aegis the Roman state had prospered, not be left in Peace he reasoned.

“We demand then the restoration of that condition of religious affairs which was so long advantageous to the state. Let the rulers of each sect and of each opinion be counted up; a late one(3) practised the ceremonies of his ancestors, a later(4) did not put them away. If the religion of old times does not make a precedent, let the connivance of the last(5) do so….

(Formerly our Emperor) enquired about the origin of the temples, and expressed admiration for their builders. Although he himself followed another religion, he maintained its own for the empire, for everyone has his own customs, everyone his own rites…. Now if a long period gives authority to religious customs, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, and to follow our ancestors, as they happily followed theirs….

Let me live after my own fashion, for I am free….

We ask, then, for peace for the gods of our fathers and of our country. It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road; but this discussion is rather for persons at ease, we offer now prayers, not conflict.”

Read those words of the champion of the pagan cause, Symmachus again, and ask yourself how similar they sound to modern day Symmachus like Christian clergy.

“Well, Christians should step back for a moment and recognize that there is something important here at stake. There is no reason why Christians should argue against having a Muslim holiday on the school calendar if there is a significant group or percentage of Muslims in the community – that would simply be fair and it would simply makes sense. We should not claim the privilege of having our religious holidays on the calendar and consider it some kind of Christian victory to keep other religious holidays off the calendar.”

Albert “Symmachus” Mohler

“We express a passion for the supremacy of God… by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order-not because pluralism is his ultimate ideal, but because in a fallen world, legal coercion will not produce the kingdom of God. Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths), not because commitment to God’s supremacy is unimportant, but because it must be voluntary, or it is worthless. We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism.”

John Symmachus Piper

Contrary to Symmachus of old, and modern day Symmachus’, Ambrose was the man who stood upon the principle that Christianity as the one true religion must by necessity eclipse all other religions as the God of the Bible eclipses all other gods. Ambrose dealt with Symmachus’ arguments one by one exposing the fallacy in each of them. In that context he addressed Theodosius as to the need to put away the old pagan of religions as they were empty and ineffectual rites. In 392, after Theodosius gained control of the whole empire, he issued an official proscription of paganism, forbidding anyone in any place whatsoever, even in private, to exercise any of the ancient rites of the ancient religion. This action supporting the Christian faith the “Christian” clergy Piper and Mohler would be aghast over.

Ambrose argued against Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler such,

But, says Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler, let the altars be restored to the images, and their ornaments to the shrines. Let this demand be made of one who shares in their superstitions; a Christian Emperor has learnt to honour the altar of Christ alone. Why do they exact of pious hands and faithful lips the ministry to their sacrilege? Let the voice of our Emperor utter the Name of Christ alone, and speak of Him only, Whom he is conscious of, for, “the King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.”(1) Has any heathen Emperor raised an altar to Christ? While they demand the restoration of things which have been, by their own example they show us how great reverence Christian Emperors ought to pay to the religion which they follow, since heathen ones offered all to their superstitions.

I have answered those who provoked me as though I had not been provoked, for my object was to refute the Memorial, not to expose superstition. But let their very memorial make you, O Emperor, more careful. For after narrating of former princes, that the earlier of them practised the ceremonies of their fathers, and the later did not abolish them; and saying in addition that, if the religious practice of the older did not make a precedent, the connivance of the later ones did; it plainly showed what you owe, both to your faith, viz., that you should not follow the example of heathen rites, and to your affection, that you should not abolish the decrees of your brother. For if for their own side alone they have praised the connivance of those princes, who, though Christians, yet in no way abolished the heathen decrees, how much more ought you to defer to brotherly love, so that you, who ought to overlook some things even if you did not approve them in order not to detract from your brother’s statutes, should now maintain what you judge to be in agreement both with your own faith, and the bond of brotherhood.

Now, it is true that our leaders are hardly Christian but the principle we see in Ambrose is a Christian contending that the one true faith should be honored as the recognized unique faith of the people. This is contrary to the argument that Symmachus, Piper, and Mohler (and all of R2K) advance when they contend that the one true faith of the people is that all the faiths are equal and should be equally honored.

Who will you stand with? Christian Ambrose of Milan or the consummate Liberals Symmachus, Piper, Mohler and R2K?

The full discussion between Symmachus and Ambrose can be found here,


Luke 11:42f — Unintended Purposes


Using something that was made for one purpose in a way other then what it was made for.

Winnie the Pooh hair brush that I have stolen from my daughter to use for my beard.

Using a hammer to fix a laser printer

Bobby Pins = Inner Ear Scratchers

I dug a hole with an umbrella when I was young

Frisbee as a dinner plate

This morning we want to consider the ways that the Pharisees ended up serving the opposite purpose for which they were intended.

Read Luke 11:42-51

WOE — An exclamation of judgment upon God’s enemies, or of misfortune on oneself, or, in the ministry of Jesus Christ, of sadness over those who fail to recognise the true misery of their condition.

Woe to those whose religion blinds themselves and misleads others Lk 11:52 See also Mt 23:13-33; Lk 11:42-51

In this case in Luke 11 it may well be the case that Jesus is pronouncing judgment while at the time expressing sadness over those who fail to recognise the true misery of their condition.

I.) Woe #1 — Pharisees have missed the point

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone (Luke 11:42).

The Religious experts and cultural gatekeepers were so focused on the important minutia — mint, rue, and cummin — (comparatively speaking) that they missed the larger purposes in the midst of the important minutia. The Lord Christ did not say to ignore the important minutia but he did clearly communicate that one can get so bogged down in details that one misses the forest for all the trees.

This is why the Lord Christ told them at another time that you ““strained gnats and swallowed camels” (Matthew 23:24).

So what was the larger point that the Lord Christ is faulting them for missing.

Luke 11:41 be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

There was a lack of generosity on their part. There were people in genuine need but they were being bypassed so that the religious experts could pad their pocketbook and escape their responsibility.

Another example of this is in

Mark 7:9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

ATS Bible Dictionary

The son would say to his needy parents, “It is a gift- whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me,” that is, I have already devoted to God that which you request of me, Mark 7:11; and the traditionary teachings of the Jewish doctors would enforce such a vow, and not suffer him to do aught for his parents against it, although it was contrary to nature and reason, and made void the law of God as to honoring parents, Matthew 15:3-9. The Pharisees, and the Talmudists their successors, permitted even debtors to defraud their creditors by consecrating their debt to God; as if the property were their own, and not rather the right of their creditor.

The point of application is to look not only to our own needs but also to the needs of others … the needs of others who very likely cannot do us a favor back.

Illustration — Two Seminary Students tithing to one another.

II.) Woe #2 — Pharisees have a wrong preoccupation

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces (Luke 11:43).

Already a theme is developing here. That theme is that the Pharisees had prioritized themselves. They were their own gods and all of their reality was spinning around them. The problem here, when reduced to its essence, is that they were selfish idolaters worshiping themselves.

There is another sub theme going on here and that is the idea that the religious gatekeepers were pimping it up for their own clique. While Jesus identifies them as “full of greed and wickedness” here and elsewhere as full of “dead men’s bones,” they moved in a context that never would have told them that truth.

Instead they were part of a “mutual admiration society,” and that society played the game of “you stroke me, and I’ll stroke you.” So, they’d attend, for example, their version of the Oscars or their version of Synod and the mutual admiration society would go out of their way to compliment or exalt their own who were also members of their clique … their mutual admiration society.

The problem here again though, is that they were doing this all at the expense of looking out for and caring for those in need.

It is the same type of thing that Jesus gets at in the Parable of the good Samaritan. The fault there was that the religious gatekeepers took no pity upon the one in need, to busy to do for themselves or for members of their own mutual admiration society.

So … they were motivated and driven by their desire to have the approval of their fellow members of the mutual admiration society, rather than God’s.

“they loved the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces”

We should pause to note the consequence of this sniveling groveling for recognition from fellow members of their cult clique.

1.) A loss of the ability to speak the truth

One is not recognized by the mutual admiration society when one speaks truth to fellow mutual admiration society members. As such one simply ceases to speak the truth and eventually, if practiced constantly over a long course of time, one loses not only the ability to speak the truth but also the ability to recognize the truth.

At bottom all of this, for the religious gatekeepers, is not only about padding their credibility with the Mutual Admiration society but it is also about avoiding the opposite and that is the curse of being seen as irrelevant, unimportant and insignificant to those who comprise the mutual admiration society. Prophets have always been hated and rejected and the religious gatekeepers in this passage would rather disassociate themselves from the truth then to experience the fate of being despised and rejected.


Now, the danger in all this is that it could be the case that people who hear this kind of message resolve to be as insulting as possible in the name of “telling the truth.”

First, remember that Jesus did not speak this way to all men. This kind of speaking was reserved for the religious gatekeepers who were locking everyone else out from true religion.

Second, remember that there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. Not every opportunity to speak like this may be the best time to speak like this.

Thirdly, none of this overturns Scriptures requirement that our speech must be seasoned as with salt.

Fourthly, remember we said at the outset that the woes were pronounced in the context of Jesus sadness that these men he is speaking to do not recognize the true misery of their condition. It is comparatively easy to get righteously indignant but perhaps we should never speak this way until we are genuinely saddened that we have to speak this way.

III.) Woe #3 — Pharisees Have Inverted Their Purpose

“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it” (Luke 11:44).

In order to make full sense of this verse we have to correlate it with a passages in the law,

Numbers 19:16

16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

So … the Lord Christ is telling them that people who come in contact with them were defiled.

The stated purpose of the Pharisees was to lead the people and nation back into righteousness and holiness but instead they were having the exact opposite effect. And this was being done without even the courtesy of they themselves being marked as “graves.”

Keep in mind the obvious that the problem here wasn’t with their physical person but rather was with what they were communicating and teaching to the people.

Woe unto a people or nation when their putative leaders in holiness and righteousness becomes a means by which they are infected by a cesspool of uncleanness.

So, the Pharisees were themselves both unclean (sinful) and defiling to others. Per Numbers 19, those who came into contact with the Pharisees were rendered unclean. Doubtless this is why the Lord Christ says to them elsewhere,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

They, who were intended to be a blessing, were a curse.

That which the Pharisees prided themselves in being and doing was the very opposite of the reality of the matter.
This pronouncement by the Lord Christ may have been the deepest cut of all to the Jewish Ministerial Corps.

We’ve talked about this before … but will mention it again here … those who abandon God’s law word begin to occupy an upside down, inside-out world and in that “Alice in Wonderland World” everything becomes inverted.

“In A Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis wrote about a man who ordered milk and eggs from a waiter in a restaurant. After tasting the milk he commented to the waiter that it was delicious. The waiter replied, “Milk is only the secretion of a cow, just like urine and feces.” After eating the eggs he commented on the tastiness of the eggs. Again the waiter responded that eggs are only a by-product of a chicken. After thinking about the waiter’s comment for a moment the man responded, “You lie. You don’t know the difference between what nature has meant for nourishment, and what it meant for garbage.”

The Spirit of the Age when uninformed by the Spirit of Christ always teaches this kind of upside down world, where good is evil and evil is good. Bertrand Russel, the 20th Century renown Atheist caught something of how this achieved methodologically speaking,

“The social psychologist … will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: first, that influence of home are obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before
the age ten. It is for the scientist to make these maxims precise and discover how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies of policeman”

This is the kind of thing that happens when a person, a family, or a culture falls into the Rabbit hole.

Luther, echoing the point that the Lord Christ is making here said,

“It is the nature of all hypocrites and false prophets to create a conscience where there is none, and to cause conscience to disappear where it does exist.”

We should not only be on the lookout for this in others or in the culture around us. We should also pray fervently that God would press His finger upon where we are living in the upside down world… where we have become unmarked graves. We are … I am … also a carrier of upsidedownitis. May God be pleased to open our eyes so we might repent.

So … the Pharisees had inverted their purpose. How much more the modern Church today?


1.) ” Do forget the OT, please. Seriously. You must understand that Romans 12 – 13 and the rest of the NT is a radical departure from OT Israel. Israel’s mandate was to make the land of Canaan (and other nations by extension) submit to its rule and reign. The NT Church is to submit to the reign of the nations. These two mandates are not only different, they are opposite.”

2.) “We express a passion for the supremacy of God… by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order … We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism.”

3.) “There is no reason why Christians should argue against having a Muslim holiday on the school calendar if there is a significant group or percentage of Muslims in the community – that would simply be fair and it would simply makes sense. We should not claim the privilege of having our religious holidays on the calendar and consider it some kind of Christian victory to keep other religious holidays off the calendar.”

4.) “Here we have two people who desire to be married and what does the Church tell them? What does the Church say? The Church says ‘no.’” “Can you believe that the Culture and Corporations are fully invested in giving homosexuals “marriage” rights and yet the Church is lagging so far behind?


Page 1 of 33812345»102030...Last »