Law Shapes or Law Reflects?

“The divorce laws (in the 1970’s)…were reformed by unrepresentative groups with very particular agendas of their own and which were not in step with public opinion.” (Changes in the law preceded the cultural shift, as) “Public attitudes were gradually dragged along behind laws that were generally understood at the time to mean something very different from what they subsequently came to represent.”

Melanie Phillips
The Sex Change Society

A culled this quote from the January issue of Chronicles magazine. (A magazine by the way that I highly recommend for those who want to be able to rightly interpret cultural phenomena.) The reason I am posting it here is for a couple reason. First, in the article in which it appears the author is using the quote to support that a far greater problem in our culture than homosexuality, pornography, and abortion is the advent of the culture of divorce. The case is made that if we were really serious about protecting the family we would spend some time reviewing how divorce laws were changed so as to make divorce more acceptable and easier to attain. Naturally, we spend more time talking about other issues because we dare not talk about the problem of divorce since so many people we know are divorced. Now, naturally we need to be sensitive to the many people who have been wrongly injured by divorce but we are doing them no favors by not seeking to create a culture where monogamy is esteemed and divorce is once again seen as taboo.

But there is another reason I cite this quote and that is how it reveals that often law shapes a people. The reason I want to make that point is that I was having a conversation with a good friend who insisted that law only reflects the conviction of a culture. In other words he was arguing that law never shapes a people but rather is the consequence of a people who have already been shaped in a particular direction. Now, there is a strong argument for this position but I am still inclined to think that law is both a reflection of a people who have been shaped in a particular direction and is a tool by which a people are shaped. Note in the quote that some elites got out ahead of the public opinion and using positions of influence (whether from Think Tanks, University chairs, or well financed Foundation positions) they were able to seize the levers of the legislative apparatus and pass laws that were contrary to the Majority consensus of the citizenry. These laws in turned shaped a succeeding generation to willingly accept as normal the policy that they put in concrete. Now, certainly the laws passed were a reflection of the elite gatekeepers convictions but only after the laws were passed, over the course of time, did the policy in those laws become reflective of the conviction of the citizenry. Thus, I would submit that we see that law is both a reflection of a people’s conviction and a tool to create a people’s conviction.

I would submit the implication of this is that should we desire to see Reformation in our culture we must likewise do, in reverse, what the elites have done in using law as a tool to change people’s minds in the direction of cultural Marxism. In doing so we will be using law to reflect how we have been shaped by God’s Law-Word and we will be attempting to use the legislative apparatus as a means to see people shaped in a God-ward direction.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

26 thoughts on “Law Shapes or Law Reflects?”

  1. Bret,

    Could we maybe say that law can shape the conceptions (or misconceptions) of suceeding generations instead of law shaping their convictions? We know that somebody’s morality has to be reflected in our legislation, and that it should be God’s, but my thoughts are that conviction is nestled in the heart, and legislation, while it can change our outward behavior(thru fear of consequnces, etc.) cannot change that. Certainly laws could shape some of our conceptions (especially if we are ignorant of history; kind of a, “I guess that’s how it’s always been, so I’ll just go with the status quo.”). My thoughts are that only a change in heart can change a person’s convictions. This would seem to me to be the only way lasting change is achieved (bottom/up not top/down).

    What do you think?

    Greg

  2. Gregg,

    It is the bottom up and top down thing that I am thinking about when I consider this issue. Now, if we are Christians we can’t believe that men are capable of social engineering by legislative fiat for that would be to embrace that man is totally determined by his environment. (a totally non-Christian position). On the other hand clearly people, at least generationally speaking, as you note, are shaped by the culture, which has been informed by a number of shaping factors. Plus, there is the reality that the humanists so desperately wanted the School system for the very purpose of changing the way we think as a people. So, there must be some truth in the idea that people are shaped somewhat by their environment.

    Here is where I am increasingly falling off the log. All men are sinners at birth and will choose sin all the time. However that sinful predilection can be channeled in a particular sinful direction depending upon cultural (and remember culture is but Theology incarnated) shaping influences. Now, in order to change sinful predilections men must be justified and born again and then having been given the Spirit as a guarantee of that which is to come they will desire the pure milk of God’s word and so as they change their culture will change.

    However, if you have a culture (for hypothetical purposes) that is 61% Christian then why shouldn’t it be the case that Christians capture the cultural apparatus to shape fallen people with a Biblical Worldview? Now those people would still need Christ but wouldn’t this christian effort to shape a culture by the means of Christian teaching be an example of Common grace to those who are going to be shaped in some direction?

    Anyway… I’m just thinking out loud here … I’m sure there is room for improvement.

    Bret

  3. It is the gospel that shapes men and reflects the glory of Christ.

    The gospel allows us to say; “Yes, I made a choice, and it was a bad one. I wouldn’t want any one else to make that choice and I’ll tell you why…”

    The misery of self-justification, however, loves company.

    Preach the gospel in season and out of season, and allow the Spirit to do the shaping and reflecting.

  4. If 61% of a culture was Christian, and they were able to change law “X” or “Y” then by all means they should do so, but at that point the new law reflects the culture; it didn’t define it. Of course, if a king was to change a law, then you have law defining the culture assuming the culture obeys. We see this at times in Israel’s history, but it never seemed to change the convictions of the culture. We might assume it defined the conceptions of the succeeding generations as they may have assumed, “Well, I guess life has always been this way in Israel.” Of course, since the law couldn’t change their convictions, most of them said this on their way to the “high places.”

    My thoughts for the moment, but I’ll think about it some more.

    Greg

  5. Robert,

    It is true that the Gospel shapes men but if men do not have the Gospel they will still be shaped by some other religion’s gospel. My musing here is if Christians can bring their convictions to a culture then they ought to realizing that doing so will in term have a shaping effect.

    The Puritans used to say…

    “The Church makes the people and the people make the laws.” (We could say culture in general). If that is true then obviously the church is having a shaping effect that touches culture.

    Bret

  6. Greg,

    The new law reflects PART of the culture. The rest of the culture is going to be shaped by the new law. I also think you are clearly correct on the generational aspect but that still needs to be counted as a shaping effect.

    I also think about guys like Stalin who used such cruel means to reshape people. Now, obviously I’m not advocating that Christians do that but I am observing that shaping does happen in a top down fashion.

    Bret

  7. Bret,

    Exactly, and America has no Christian Church. Only “worship centers”. The two insitutions that come closest are the Romans and the Mormans.

    “Full gospel” should mean understanding the role of the Church in salvation biblically.

    Maybe I should’ve voted for Romney. At least the heretics have the kind of community you spoke of in an earlier post and culture-shaping influence you speak of here.

  8. Robert,

    Actually America does have a Church (though not Christian as you note) and it is called the Government Schools.

    ‘Full Gospel’ should mean what the Gospel is and what the Gospel effectuates when it is embraced.

    Whether you should have voted Romney is entirely for you to decide. I do hope that one thing that you’ll see that I am trying to communicate is that all heretics, apostates, and pagans build community. The pagans in America seek to build community through the Government school system. The question isn’t whether or not we will have community. The question is only which kind of community will we have.

    Bret

    p.s. — Mormons is spelled with two ‘o’s’ and without an ‘a’

  9. The reason I want to make that point is that I was having a conversation with a good friend who insisted that law only reflects the conviction of a culture. In other words he was arguing that law never shapes a people but rather is the consequence of a people who have already been shaped in a particular direction. Now, there is a strong argument for this position but I am still inclined to think that law is both a reflection of a people who have been shaped in a particular direction and is a tool by which a people are shaped.

    Indeed? Then I suppose one would have to explain why the laws upon which this country were founded failed to shape this culture. Abortion, to use that as an example, was once illegal. A culture is, after all, the outward manifestation of a peoples inward beliefs. So is government. People get the government they deserve.

    Note in the quote that some elites got out ahead of the public opinion and using positions of influence (whether from Think Tanks, University chairs, or well financed Foundation positions) they were able to seize the levers of the legislative apparatus and pass laws that were contrary to the Majority consensus of the citizenry.

    Were they really contrary? Is culture the outward manifestation of a peoples inward beliefs or not? You say “The case is made that if we were really serious about protecting the family we would spend some time reviewing how divorce laws were changed so as to make divorce more acceptable and easier to attain” and that seems to me to show quite well why the law that was changed is reflective rather than causative. The law was changed, and remains changed, because that is precisely what the people wanted. Oh I grant that laws backed by sufficient penal stipulations prevent some people from doing what they might otherwise do. But that doesn’t change the person (the sin has already been committed in the mind) and it cannot hold back what is the true social consensus. A culture, and likewise that cultures government and its laws is, after all, an outward manifestation of a peoples inward beliefs.

    These laws in turned shaped a succeeding generation to willingly accept as normal the policy that they put in concrete. Now, certainly the laws passed were a reflection of the elite gatekeepers convictions but only after the laws were passed, over the course of time, did the policy in those laws become reflective of the conviction of the citizenry.

    No Bret. Reflected in their behavior, not their convictions. Those laws were willingly accepted, and only willingly accepted, because they did reflect the convictions of the citizenry. I think you imagine that the people in this nation stood aghast at first at the changes wrought by the courts when it is just as likely the majority report was “it’s about time”. The law only enabled some who were deterred by fear of punishment to act. The conviction was already there. A culture is the outward manifestation of a people inward beliefs.

    Thus, I would submit that we see that law is both a reflection of a people’s conviction and a tool to create a people’s conviction.

    A society, ultimately and consistently, can only be steered in a direction it is willing to go. Unrighteous laws that go unchallenged reflect the depraved sympathy of those who accept them. It is not law after all but lawlessness. Do such laws encourage Christians abort their children? To commit murder? Why not?

    I would submit the implication of this is that should we desire to see Reformation in our culture we must likewise do, in reverse, what the elites have done in using law as a tool to change people’s minds in the direction of cultural Marxism.

    Where was this cultural shaping when the laws of our constitution did reflect righteousness? Your argument is defeated simply by stepping back. If law was an effective deterrent to depraved behavior and a shaper of society then we wouldn’t be where we are now.

    In doing so we will be using law to reflect how we have been shaped by God’s Law-Word and we will be attempting to use the legislative apparatus as a means to see people shaped in a God-ward direction.

    Now I will certainly stand with you in crying out for a return to Godly law and for a constitution based on the Decalogue. And I will decry ungodly laws and stand against the men that enact them. But you will not change the law without first changing the mind. We will preach the Gospel while arguing for righteous laws. And when the law of the land begins to take on the character of the One Law Giver (and it will) we will know that the Gospel is capturing the minds of the people.

    A culture is, after all, the outward manifestation of the a peoples inward beliefs.

    I love you brother.

  10. Brother Mark,

    Let’s see if we can reduce this to a microcosm to make it easier to deal with.

    A child has just been born into the Pickens’ family. What is the primary shaping influence on William James?? Obviously the already existing family culture of Bill and Elisa which includes the laws of their family. The Pickens’ family culture has already shaped and will continue to shape the child. So, we could say both that the Pickens’ family culture is the outward manifestation of the family members inner beliefs AND that the family is the outward manifestation of the culture’s external shaping pressures.

    Now lets just extrapolate that to the larger setting of a culture which is a family of families. All of culture, including law, is shaping those who enter the culture just as they likewise in turn are a shaping influence on the culture. It is not just an ‘either or’ but a ‘both and.’ The Culture (including law) is shaping the individual and the individual is shaping the law.

    I believe (as I have said) that this is a chicken and egg argument. I don’t think that one can say that culture (of which law is one aspect) does not shape while at the same time is shaped.

    People both act and are acted upon when it comes to this issue.

    I guess we disagree.

    And yet the world keeps turning.

    You retain my highest respect & affection,

    Bret

  11. A child has just been born into the Pickens’ family. What is the primary shaping influence on William James?? Obviously the already existing family culture of Bill and Elisa which includes the laws of their family. The Pickens’ family culture has already shaped and will continue to shape the child. So, we could say both that the Pickens’ family culture is the outward manifestation of the family members inner beliefs AND that the family is the outward manifestation of the culture’s external shaping pressures.

    There are a couple of things that need to be drawn out here. Little William is a covenant child and should be presumed regenerate. And trusting that Bill and Elisa are diligent in their responsibility to train up little William in the way he should go, the family influences, which should be the diligent application of God’s Law-Word, will have their sanctifying effect. That Law-Word will shape the behavior of the covenant child because that child, being regenerate, is able to understand and receive its instruction. And he will receive it for That Law-Word, in seed form, is already written on his regenerate heart.

    Now we have every reason to expect the above scenario will be true in the life of little William. But what if (God forbid) he is not elect? What will that Law-Word do? Will it change the heart of the child? No it can’t. The parents can, of course, through discipline, force the child to conform to it up until the time it is old enough to assert itself. At that time, despite the influence of the family in its application of the Law-Word, it will have no hold on the mind of the child. Under the influences of the world he will gradually apostatize. There are two cultures with antithetical laws at work and it is the one that is written on the mind that will be followed.

    That is a fair picture of this country. Raised up under the influence of a constitutional law that reflected to a great degree the principles outlined in the Decalogue that law failed to sustain itself. Why? Because a few elite humanists worked to change the laws? No, because the hearts of the people, and most importantly the people of the church, had already changed. The salt had lost its savor. God gives righteous rulers to a righteous people. We get the government we deserve.

    Now lets just extrapolate that to the larger setting of a culture which is a family of families. All of culture, including law, is shaping those who enter the culture just as they likewise in turn are a shaping influence on the culture. It is not just an ‘either or’ but a ‘both and.’ The Culture (including law) is shaping the individual and the individual is shaping the law.

    I think you’re failing to take into account the antithesis. There are two very distinct cultures within the larger culture of this country. Is there any question about which is dominant? First, like the unregenerate mind, culture will not be shaped by laws that are contrary to the cultural mindset. Why? Simply because they will not be accepted. And they will not be accepted because they cannot be accepted. (Rom 8:7) This is Theonomy against Autonomy. Righteousness against unrighteousness. Gods Law against the anthropocentric law of the humanist. Any law that us contrary to the cultural mindset is ignored, relegated to oblivion and erased.

    Finally, any law that crumbled under the weight of public opinion and could not sustain itself against the societal consensus, certainly cannot now be imposed on that society by a minority. This is not just about whether a righteous law can hold a society and sustain itself (it has already failed in that respect, look to the original constitution) but about imposing that law on a society that doesn’t want it. It ain’t gonna happen. The law does not and cannot change minds. But changed minds can and do change laws.

    Peace

  12. There are a couple of things that need to be drawn out here. Little William is a covenant child and should be presumed regenerate. And trusting that Bill and Elisa are diligent in their responsibility to train up little William in the way he should go, the family influences, which should be the diligent application of God’s Law-Word, will have their sanctifying effect. That Law-Word will shape the behavior of the covenant child because that child, being regenerate, is able to understand and receive its instruction. And he will receive it for That Law-Word, in seed form, is already written on his regenerate heart.

    So you agree that culture (of which law is a part) has a shaping effect. We could just as easily switch the illustration around so that we are speaking of a child born (or adopted) into a non-Christian home. Will the culture-law have or not have a shaping effect on the child? Clearly it will. Look if this were not true the elites going back to Horace Mann and continuing on through to John Dewey, Harold Rugg and all those whom Rushdoony cites in the ‘Messianic Character Of American Education’ would not have worked so assiduously to capture the Government Churches (nee — Schools). Those men knew that they could, through those Schools, shape a generation(s) by teaching them a law system that was contrary to the law system that was at the very least confessed in the homes in which they were reared. The school were captured by a elite minority and used to force shape the majority of the citizenry in a direction that was different then what they had up until that time reflected. Before Dewey and his demons did their work the outward manifestation of this people’s inward beliefs was substantially Christian. Post Dewey’s Humanism the outward manifestation of this people’s inward beliefs is substantially anti-Christ. The final result of Dewey’s work was the codification of all of his methods into law as those that grew up under his tutelage began to work to make law reflect what they had become.

    Now, I will immediately grant you that if parents, and a faithful Church had known what they believed and why they believed it and what they didn’t believe and why they didn’t believe it this never would have taken root.

    You suggest that I am not taking seriously the anti-thesis but allow me to suggest that you are not taking seriously the idea that Bahnsen, North and others developed and that is that God gives time in order for the anti-thesis to work its way out from the historical synthesis in which it finds itself. To make it concrete, culturally speaking, these United States was a synthesis between Augustinian Christianity and Enlightenment Deism. From the beginning this synthesis had to break down into its anti-thesis parts. People were being shaped by the law order of both constituent parts. Which would reach the ascendancy in the cultural order? Would the pagan social order (which includes law) end up shaping Christians or would the Christian social order, faithfully passed on generationally, by the work of the Holy Spirit as parents were covenantally faithful to their tasking of rearing God’s seed shape the larger cultural order? Christians (Church and family) failed in their shaping calling and so we have what we have. A culture (including law order) that reflects paganism. Because we would not shape, we were shaped. The anti-thesis works itself out historically in a tragic direction by God’s people forgetting that they are called to be shapers (salt and light) with the result that they reflect a anti-law which has been used to shape them.

    That is a fair picture of this country. Raised up under the influence of a constitutional law that reflected to a great degree the principles outlined in the Decalogue that law failed to sustain itself. Why? Because a few elite humanists worked to change the laws? No, because the hearts of the people, and most importantly the people of the church, had already changed. The salt had lost its savor. God gives righteous rulers to a righteous people. We get the government we deserve.

    But why did the people change? They changed because they were shaped in a godless direction by surrogate parents (the Elites shaping the cultural order) in the direction of godlessness. Christ hating ministers, Christ hating University programs, all worked to shape people in a godless direction. As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is, Mark. Abandonment of Christ by a people has to be accounted for by something Mark. Now, certainly, ultimately it is because God removes His Spirit but that removal takes concrete forms in godless elites bringing in doctrines of Satan to confuse God’s people.

    Also, you might want to read North’s ‘Political Polytheism’ if you want to see some of the humanist errors in the Constitution that North believes undermined the whole thing.

    Finally, any law that crumbled under the weight of public opinion and could not sustain itself against the societal consensus, certainly cannot now be imposed on that society by a minority. This is not just about whether a righteous law can hold a society and sustain itself (it has already failed in that respect, look to the original constitution) but about imposing that law on a society that doesn’t want it. It ain’t gonna happen. The law does not and cannot change minds. But changed minds can and do change laws.

    Ruler often rule against the consensus of the majority. This is not an uncommon phenomena. Roe v. Wade was just such an example when it was implemented. Now, a majority may not rise up, due to their desire for personal peace and affluence, but that doesn’t mean that they agree when they are ruled in a direction contrary to their convictions. That law did, and does change minds. So, as I have been contending it is a case of ‘both and’ and not ‘either or.’ Law does and can change minds and changed minds can and do change laws.

    Come on Mark, Rushdoony has forever said that “History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith.” (The Quote is on the front page of Chalcdon’s web site) And why is it that the minorities (elite) dominate? It is because they capture the institutions that shape the majority. Public opinion, except in rare circumstances (last summer’s revolt against amnesty being a recent example) means nothing.

    Bloodied, but unbowed,

    Bret

  13. So you agree that culture (of which law is a part) has a shaping effect.

    It depends on what you mean by that. I stated previously that law, when backed by the coercive power to enforce it, can cause people to conform to it. But it doesn’t change them. It doesn’t increase the Kingdom.

    We could just as easily switch the illustration around so that we are speaking of a child born (or adopted) into a non-Christian home. Will the culture-law have or not have a shaping effect on the child? Clearly it will.

    Once again what do you mean by shape? Coerce a behavior set or convert? Has the law ever made anyone a Christian? So when you say clearly it will I ask so what?

    Look if this were not true the elites going back to Horace Mann and continuing on through to John Dewey, Harold Rugg and all those whom Rushdoony cites in the ‘Messianic Character Of American Education’ would not have worked so assiduously to capture the Government Churches (nee — Schools).

    Look Bret, they are working with reprobate clay. So I ask again so what? Obviously one can bend fallen clay in any number of fallen directions. But you can’t bend regenerate clay that way can you? Why not? Because the Law is written on the heart. The converse is also true.

    Those men knew that they could, through those Schools, shape a generation(s) by teaching them a law system that was contrary to the law system that was at the very least confessed in the homes in which they were reared. The school were captured by a elite minority and used to force shape the majority of the citizenry in a direction that was different then what they had up until that time reflected.

    And they were able to do so why? Because the clay they were working with was already predisposed to operate against the law of Christ. These “victims” are not lovers of the Law. This is about the Law-Word is it not? What power do humanist ideas exert over regenerate minds? This is about making disciples is it not? This is about the expansion of the Kingdom is it not? Those men gained their positions because the fallen men in this nation allowed it. Do you think God would have allowed it if his people had been walking on obedience to his Law? People get the government they deserve. Whatever ability those men had to cultivate their ungodly ideas rested solely on the rich ground of the reprobate mind. Those men didn’t change people. They exposed them.

    Before Dewey and his demons did their work the outward manifestation of this people’s inward beliefs was substantially Christian.

    Filthy rags right? The outward behavior of my neighbor appeared Christian right up until the day he murdered his wife. This is a matter of the heart Bret and that is the point here. Assuming you could get laws enacted that are Bible based, which you can’t but if you could, what do you think that would accomplish? Conversion? Did the Decalogue save Israel? Was the Mosaic theocracy able to stand firm? Why not?

    Theonomy is not about enacting laws but working to convert minds that will love the Law of God. A people get the government they deserve Bret. A people get the government they deserve. Nothing that you have argued here addresses that fact.

    Post Dewey’s Humanism the outward manifestation of this people’s inward beliefs is substantially anti-Christ.

    Surely you don’t imagine that appearances denote righteousness? Dewey’s ideas don’t get cultivated in regenerate minds. The law written on paper is useless unless it is also written on the heart.

    The final result of Dewey’s work was the codification of all of his methods into law as those that grew up under his tutelage began to work to make law reflect what they had become.

    What do you mean what they had become? Fascists instead of communists? Homosexuals instead of whoremongers? All Dewey did was provide a particular type of outlet for the Godless. Sin was inevitable, it just didn’t have a name yet.

    Now, I will immediately grant you that if parents, and a faithful Church had known what they believed

    What do you mean had known what they believed? Does someone believe something without knowing it? The problem is unbelief. And ignorance. But ignorance itself is sin.

    You suggest that I am not taking seriously the anti-thesis but allow me to suggest that you are not taking seriously the idea that Bahnsen, North and others developed and that is that God gives time in order for the anti-thesis to work its way out from the historical synthesis in which it finds itself.

    And work itself out it did. And why has the humanist prevailed? Because of Laws written on paper? Because certain reprobate intellectuals captured the public schools? Or was it that the ground they were cultivating in those schools was well suited to their ideas? Ungodly ideas don’t get cultivated in regenerate minds. People reap what they sow.

    To make it concrete, culturally speaking, these United States was a synthesis between Augustinian Christianity and Enlightenment Deism. From the beginning this synthesis had to break down into its anti-thesis parts. People were being shaped by the law order of both constituent parts. Which would reach the ascendancy in the cultural order?

    That Bret was determined by the number of elect and reprobate. Surely you don’t imagine that the wicked plans of wicked men, whatever they were and whatever their methods, would have prevailed over a nation comprised of a regenerate majority?

    Would the pagan social order (which includes law) end up shaping Christians

    Do you think Bret that the pagan holds sway over true Christians? That the enemy has the power to bind and blind the minds of the elect? Perhaps temporarily. But what do you imagine will call them home? What will wake them? A different set of civil laws?

    or would the Christian social order, faithfully passed on generationally, by the work of the Holy Spirit as parents were covenantally faithful to their tasking of rearing God’s seed shape the larger cultural order?

    We already know the answer to that don’t we?

    Christians (Church and family) failed in their shaping calling and so we have what we have. A culture (including law order) that reflects paganism. Because we would not shape, we were shaped. The anti-thesis works itself out historically in a tragic direction by God’s people forgetting that they are called to be shapers (salt and light) with the result that they reflect a anti-law which has been used to shape them.

    And what is your point? Christians failed to be Christians. Christians failed to disciple their children. Christians failed to take dominion over every sphere of life. Christians failed to preach the fullness of the Gospel. Christians failed to cultivate a people who loved the Law. I agree. And they failed because they themselves don’t love the Law. But one cannot love the Law without loving the Christ of the Law. It is the gospel falling on regenerate ears that changes a culture. Not laws written on paper. When the people love the Christ of the Law; when the Law is written on the heart, then the law of land will reflect that love of the Law.

    But why did the people change? They changed because they were shaped in a godless direction by surrogate parents (the Elites shaping the cultural order) in the direction of godlessness. Christ hating ministers, Christ hating University programs, all worked to shape people in a godless direction.

    No Bret. They changed because the Law-Word was not written on the heart. And it was only their behavior that changed. The nature remained the same. Sin manifested itself differently, that is all. The God hating family practitioner became a god hating abortionist. But he was still just a god hater.

    As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is, Mark.

    Yes thank you. That’s exactly right Bret. Sin manifests itself in an almost infinite number of ways. So Mann and Dewey steered a reprobate people in a particular direction. But it is only the reprobate that went for the ride. They are in the majority. People get what they deserve.

    Abandonment of Christ by a people has to be accounted for by something Mark.

    Bret, Christians don’t abandon Christ. And the reason for any change is the not the method but the willingness of the one the method plays on.

    Now, certainly, ultimately it is because God removes His Spirit but that removal takes concrete forms in godless elites bringing in doctrines of Satan to confuse God’s people.

    Bret my brother, were those Christians walking where they should have been walking, the godless elite would have had no effect. But indeed, those godless elite were there by God’s hand BECAUSE the heart of this people had ALREADY grown cold. People get what they deserve. You reap what you sow. The visible manifestations of sin are only that. Visible manifestations of sin. The sin that we see was first a matter of the mind.

    Ruler often rule against the consensus of the majority.

    If God’s people walk according to God’s ways will he not give righteous rulers to rule over them?

    This is not an uncommon phenomena. Roe v. Wade was just such an example when it was implemented. Now, a majority may not rise up, due to their desire for personal peace and affluence, but that doesn’t mean that they agree when they are ruled in a direction contrary to their convictions.

    Then what are their true convictions Bret? Using your example that would be personal peace and affluence would it not? What is this Bret? The old adage that for evil to prevail it is only necessary that good men do nothing? Well let me just say that good men don’t do “nothing”. They do something and that is exactly why were are where we are. Where ARE the good men? Evil seed can only take root in evil ground.

    That law did, and does change minds.

    No it doesn’t Bret. It might free a god hating 250K a year family physician to be a 500k a year abortionist but it didn’t make him evil. He was already that. It is a change of nature that is required here. The law can’t do that. It is conversion Bret, not law that changes minds. You can teach a dog to walk upright but it is still a dog. Behavior modification is not conversion.

    Law does and can change minds and changed minds can and do change laws.

    Law does not convert and that is the issue. A changed mind is one that changes from darkness to light. The change that changes things, is that change alone. Otherwise any change is simply from one sin to another.

    Come on Mark, Rushdoony has forever said that “History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith.” (The Quote is on the front page of Chalcdon’s web site)

    Heh. Is that an appeal to authority Bret? Rushdoony was also the first to say that conversion was the key to dominion.

    And why is it that the minorities (elite) dominate? It is because they capture the institutions that shape the majority.

    But Bret I will say it again, seed only grows in fertile ground. I can hold the bully pulpit, but if nobody listens it does me no good.

    My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.

    There may be a lot of people being led around by your dedicated minority. But they aren’t sheep. The problem, it seems to me, is that we need more sheep.

    Now, this is taking altogether too much of my time. See you Wednesday.

    Blessings

  14. Well this set of comments takes in a whole new direction of how we define ‘Christian.’ You seem to define Christian to mean somebody who can not be shaped in a direction contrary to their confession while I am defining Christian to mean somebody who can be shaped in a direction contrary to their confession.

    I don’t know if I will answer this or not. I might leave it alone awhile but I remain unconvinced that law does not shape as well as reflect human behavior.

    Pax,

    Bret

  15. I don’t know if I will answer this or not. I might leave it alone awhile but I remain unconvinced that law does not shape as well as reflect human behavior.

    Perhaps we are talking past each other. The law may shape human behavior but it does not reflect human behavior. The enactment of laws IS human behavior. The laws that are enacted reflect the moral condition of those enacting them. And not just those that enact, but the condition of the nation as a whole as well as the saltiness of the salt. A people reap what they sow and it is the sowing that comes first.

    Mark

  16. No, Mark, I think we have a real disagreement here and your latest comment underscores it.

    You seem to think (and correct me if I am wrong) that human expression culminates in the individual. It is the individual who must sow in order to reap a collective expression (culture). I agree with that to a point but I also believe that human expression likewise culminates in the aggregate so that a culture sows thus leading to a reaping of an individual expression. This is why I believe that culture (w/ Law as one aspect) shapes as well as reflects the heart of individuals.

    Bret

  17. You seem to think (and correct me if I am wrong) that human expression culminates in the individual. It is the individual who must sow in order to reap a collective expression (culture). I agree with that to a point but I also believe that human expression likewise culminates in the aggregate so that a culture sows thus leading to a reaping of an individual expression. This is why I believe that culture (w/ Law as one aspect) shapes as well as reflects the heart of individuals.

    Above you say that law (I assume culture w/ Law as one aspect as you say here) shapes human behavior. Here you say that it shapes the heart. You use the terms heart and behavior interchangeably as if the one is the other.

    You are missing the point brother and it is one that is woven throughout everything I’ve written so far. Your conflation of the two terms underscores the point. Can law convert? Can a seed germinate and grow in unfertile ground? Does a good tree bring forth bad fruit? You can train a dog to be vicious or train it to be submissive and compliant. But you can’t train it to be cat.

  18. behavior is the outgrowth of the heart, so if one shapes the heart one shapes behavior.

    It is true that you can’t train a dog to be a cat. The metaphor would seem rightly to suggest that you can’t train a non-Christian to be a Christian. Who would disagree? Certainly not me! However, while a Christian can’t be trained to be a non-Christian, some of his or her outward behavior can be trained to at least look Christian. This is where the political use of the law comes in right?

    Similarly, Christians can be trained in the ways of unrighteousness, at least to a degree. After all, since Christians remain in a state where they have always to contend with the Adamic nature (Romans 7) theoretically Christians could produce a culture that is ungodly and Christ dishonoring. I’d like to think that is what is happening in this culture. We have reams of Churches filled with reams of Christians but they are being shaped in a godless direction by a godless law.

    A good tree does not bring forth bad fruit, but unless we are willing to say that a good tree always produces only good fruit we would have to say that all these Churches with all these Christians need to be saved. Maybe that is true, but I keep hoping that it is instead just a matter of teaching them the way more better. If a good tree always produces only good fruit all the time then it wouldn’t seem to make much sense for the Apostle to so often warn Christians off of decidedly non-Christian like behavior.

    Were the Corinthians good trees? Were they producing good fruit?

    Bret

  19. behavior is the outgrowth of the heart, so if one shapes the heart one shapes behavior.

    One may shape behavior negatively only because of the already misshapen heart.

    It is true that you can’t train a dog to be a cat. The metaphor would seem rightly to suggest that you can’t train a non-Christian to be a Christian. Who would disagree? Certainly not me! However, while a Christian can’t be trained to be a non-Christian, some of his or her outward behavior can be trained to at least look Christian. This is where the political use of the law comes in right?

    Sure. And this brings us back to the point that started all this. The question is whether a set of elite Christians (similar to the elite humanists—Mann, Dewey etc.) can infiltrate the humanist halls of government and claim the territory. I say absolutely not for we are where we are because we (individuals and nations) reap what we sow. The collective mind of this nation was already far from God and the humanist rise to power was the result….not the cause. It’s judgment. An apostate people get an apostate ruler over them. Now it is certainly true, and I have never suggested otherwise, that once God lifts his hand of protection and gives a person or a nation over to their futile way of thinking things get worse. If you want things to go the other way then you will have to change minds. When that happens culture will follow. Revive and convert.

    Similarly, Christians can be trained in the ways of unrighteousness, at least to a degree. After all, since Christians remain in a state where they have always to contend with the Adamic nature (Romans 7) theoretically Christians could produce a culture that is ungodly and Christ dishonoring.

    But if we read Rom 7:24-8:14 one wonders exactly how much leeway we’re given. All who are being led by the Spirit of God, “these” are sons of God.

    I’d like to think that is what is happening in this culture. We have reams of Churches filled with reams of Christians but they are being shaped in a godless direction by a godless law.

    What I would like to think is that this current state of affairs is the means God will use to awaken his brain dead Church. Because if it doesn’t then I wonder just how many reams there really are? At any rate you will not change anything until you first change minds which has been my point all along. Revival and Conversion will have to precede any change in law. That seems obvious since at this time even the Reformed church is filled with Two Kingdom nit wits teaching in the seminaries.

    A good tree does not bring forth bad fruit, but unless we are willing to say that a good tree always produces only good fruit we would have to say that all these Churches with all these Christians need to be saved. Maybe that is true, but I keep hoping that it is instead just a matter of teaching them the way more better.

    Again, one hopes this is the means the Vine Dresser is using to prune the vine.

    If a good tree always produces only good fruit all the time then it wouldn’t seem to make much sense for the Apostle to so often warn Christians off of decidedly non-Christian like behavior. Were the Corinthians good trees? Were they producing good fruit?

    Sure there was some good fruit. But when God was done pruning were there enough branches left to save the tree? That, I think, is the question. Where is the Church at Corinth today?

    Mark

  20. True Story.

    Mimi grew up in a typical evangelical home where at a very tender age she asked ‘Jesus to come into her heart.’ Her parents, per typical evangelicals, didn’t teach her what it meant to think like a Christian beyond a bit of counsel to ‘be nice, be polite, and always say “please and thank you.”‘ Mimi attended her church youth group even serving as Youth Group president her Senior year.

    At 18 Mimi headed off to Liberal State University where she took a required course entitled ‘Aids In America.’ From this course, Mimi, the Christian, learned to think like a Humanist on the issue of homosexuality and Aids. Now, was Mimi shaped by the culture? Is she no longer a Christian because she is thinking upside down on this issue? Was the behavior of this Christian Young lady shaped by Humanist elites?

    We could augment this with a pretend example.

    Dexter grew up in an Atheist home. His Father was head of the local ACLU and his Mom trained Nurses in Seminars exploring ‘healing touch.’ Dexter, like Mimi, wasn’t taught how to think like a Atheist, though being an unbeliever the natural tendency to think in a Godless direction aided him in being like Mom and Dad. For some odd reason Dexter chose Christian University to attend where he had to take a required course in ‘The Nature Of Science’ taught by a disciple of Gordon Clark. Dexter excelled in this class becoming convinced of many of the things that were taught. From this course Dexter the Atheist learned to think like a Christian on the issue of ‘The Nature Of Science.’ Now, was Dexter shaped by the Christian culture? Is he no longer a Atheist because he is thinking rightside up on this issue? Was the behavior of this Atheist Young Man shaped by Christian elites?

  21. At 18 Mimi……………………..Was the behavior of this Christian Young lady shaped by Humanist elites?

    Was she ever really a Christian? How do you know? Ah yes she made a confession. She was a Baptist then? Why did she choose a liberal state university anyway? Did this prodigal daughter ever return home?

    We could augment this with a pretend example.

    Oh goody. I like little pretend stories.

    Was the behavior of this Atheist Young Man shaped by Christian elites?

    Bowzer was a nimble whippet hound and demonstrated a keen ability to learn. Bowzer’s owners sent him off to obedience school to become an outstanding puppy. But for some odd reason, (odd how those odd reasons pop up isn’t it?) for some odd reason Bowzer wound up in a class with cats. In fact the trainer was the very same trainer who trained the cats of Cornelius VanTil. Who’d a thunk it? But I digress. When his owners brought him home they discovered that he enjoyed sleeping on the TV, jumping up into the lower branches of the apple tree, and stalking birds. He had also developed and inordinate liking for fish. But most amazing, and the thing that delighted his owners the most was that he preened himself fastidiously and had learned to bury his you know what. Yessiree there was a real benefit to teaching Bowser to act like a cat.

    Now, was the “behavior” of Bowzer shaped by the trainer of cats? Oh yes indeed. He never could get the cats to really warm up to him though. Might have been his meow, for no matter how hard he tried, it always came out woof. Whenever he opened his mouth for any length of time his bark gave him away.

    Oh yes there is one thing left to tell. His owners changed his name from Bowzer to Barak.

    Mark

  22. Not being sure what the point is I remain silent.

    My point, in story time, was that both Christians and non-Christians because of shaping influences can end up embracing convictions that are inconsistent with their avowed confessions.

    Bret

  23. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. ” 2 Peter 3:17&18

    Where then is boasting (or barking)?

  24. Yes, there are many of these admonitions not to be wrongly shaped.

    “Be ye not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

    Obviously Christians can be shaped in a direction that is contrary to their confession and similarly non-Christians can potentially be shaped in a direction that is inconsistent with their God hating confession.

    All of this is why culture (including law) shapes as well as reflects.

    Bret

  25. All of this is why culture (including law) shapes as well as reflects.

    But never transforms.

    In another chapter of the story above we find that Bowser, who has been shaped by trainers to act like a cat, cannot help but show his true self. For whenever Bowser is around other dogs he gets carried away and his fundamental nature surfaces. In spite of all his shaping, and in spite of the many ways that he has learned to behave like a cat, it is obvious that he is most certainly still a dog. It’s what makes Bowser dangerous. Later in the story we find that the community of cats have more Bowsers than cats. It gets so bad that the few cats who insist that Bowser and those like him are not cats at all, are not to be trusted and should be cast out, find themselves being the ones outcast and rejected. The group, it seems, had forgotten what it was to be a real cat. It is not that all of the cats didn’t recognize that there was a problem. Others did. But they thought it was the training.

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