Reading The Signs Of Our Times

Over at Mablog Doug Wilson continues to write on how to go about reading the meaning of historical events in terms of what God is saying. Wilson’s contention is that Christians ought to be able to read the times and by doing so proclaim what God is saying by events that happen in history. The belief that Christians ought to have the ability to do this has long historical legs in Christian thinking. St. Louis IX the Christian Crusader King concluded that God was afflicting him for his sins by not giving him the victory he was looking for on the Crusades in which he participated. The Puritan forebears in the early colonies understood God’s hand to be against them for disobedience when calamity came against them. Many of the Southern Theologians in the 2nd War for American Independence explained their defeat as God’s just judgments against them for their sins as a nation. In the same way you can find the opposite conclusions that God was giving success to undertakings because of obedience rendered by the people. You can find the kind of thing that Doug Wilson is contemplating all over Church history.

Now the positive aspect of this kind of approach is that it reminds us that what happens in history does not happen by way of mechanical necessity. This approach reminds us that God is intimately involved in history.It reminds us that Hurricanes are God’s Hurricanes. It reminds us that a rising to or falling from power is done by God. It reminds us that prosperity is ultimately due to God’s favor. Christians raised in a world where science is sovereign and so everything that happens has to be explained in terms of science need to learn that everything comes from a sovereign God who remains the sustainer and governor of the Universe.

Of course the problem with this enterprise is that it may be beyond human endeavor to climb up into God’s filing cabinet in order to say a “Thus saith the Lord” by way of precise explanation for why Hurricane Katrina happened or why 9-11 happened or why there are floods in the Midwest. Sure, we can always give the necessary observation that if towers fall and kill people what the living should do is repent unless something worst should happen to them (Luke 13:1-4) but that is a far piece from saying that the tower fell because of some legislation that passed that was anti-Christ.

On this subject here are a few things that I would like to recognize.

1.) Immediate blessing is not always the consequence of obedience and immediate cursing is not always the consequence of disobedience. The Covenanters were an obedient people but for decades they were mercilessly persecuted. The same goes for the Hugenots and the Puritans. Immediate blessing doesn’t always follow obedience.

2.) Whenever God does curse a people that curse is a blessing to God’s people who live among the cursed people. This is to say that for those who belong to God, whatever God does is blessing to them. The Heidelberg Catechism gets at this when it says “that God will make whatever evils he sends upon me (His people), in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage.” This means that if God sends a natural calamity it is both a cursing and a blessing. It is a cursing to God haters but a blessing to those God loves. God may chasten those He loves but that chastening is a blessing.

3.) Similarly whenever God blesses a people that blessing is always a curse to the reprobate. God may act favorably toward a people for the sake of His people in their midst but that very favor is judgment against the reprobate in their midst.

4.) The ability to say “This is That” gives the person who takes that upon himself to much power. If people really believe that somebody can tell them why God does such and such in history that person speaks to them with the voice of God and so has a leverage that probably isn’t going to be healthy. Cults form around people who presume to be able to be God’s interpreter on why what happens, happens.

It is my conviction that we should go very slow on taking up the prophetic mantle in order to do a “this is that” commentary at what happens in history. We don’t have the advantage of being inspired so as to have divine insight into the meaning of God’s working in this world as did the prophets in the Scriptures. On the other hand we need to cultivate the sense that all that happens, happens by the working of a Sovereign God bringing about the ends he has decreed.

Look How Far We’ve Come

According to the America mythology a cruel people once enslaved a noble race of men. Over time this noble but mistreated race of men persevered and by herculean effort, despite incredible opposition and against all odds this noble race reclaimed their nobility. Inch by inch this distinguished sable race of men advanced against all the evil machinations that a cruel majority race could contrive. Eventually, one of the noble race reached the pinnacle of achievement by being nominated to be President of these United States. A member of the noble race would be the standard bearer for the socialist party.

So on one hand we are all proud that a Black man could actually be elected as President. We are proud because it putatively shows how far we have come inasmuch as a man from a noble people — a people who did not have any rights and were subjugated by a cruel barbaric people — is now on the cusp of being elected to President. We are proud because this ennobles all of us. It ennobles the barbaric race because they have grown past their barbarity towards the noble race of men they once enslaved. It ennobles the already noble race even more because it reveals how great they really are to have come so far.

And yet on the other hand this very man, who has had projected upon him the role of poster child for of how far America has come, treats a different constituency in this country far worse then his people were ever treated. This Black man from this noble race denies life and liberty to the unborn. When Obama was an Illinois state legislature in 2002, he voted against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act. The bill was designed to extend the same medical care to babies who happen to survive an abortion attempt as is enjoyed by all babies born alive under duress. In other words Obama’s vote was a vote in favor of leaving babies who had survived abortion gasping for life, squiggling and crying in pain. Obama’s vote was a vote to legally forbid medical treatment to those babies. More then that it was a bill requiring that medical treatment not be given. When a similar bill came before the US Senate not even NARAL, the pro-abortion organization, was in favor of it.

Come on people… this barbarity makes the treatments of slaves in earlier US history look like floods of mercy. This support for hacking, burning, and torturing the unborn and then voting to leave them in their agony if born alive completely overturns the whole myth about a noble race. A noble race which has overcome oppression doesn’t act this way towards a different people contending for their own liberty.

Is this the way a man acts who comes from a people who have themselves overcome tyranny and oppression? Is this the way a man acts who is supposed to be the living embodiment of how far we’ve come as a nation? Is it progress to elect a man from an oppressed people who oppresses another people — the unborn — in ways far more severe then his people were ever oppressed?

Yes indeed… Look how far we’ve come.

Change, Change, Change…

Barack Obama’s campaign theme has been “Change.” This sing-song of change has already mesmerized large portions of the electorate. If you read people write about Obama or if you listen to people interviewed you begin to notice there is real belief on their part in the idea of change for the sake of change. They don’t ask what Obama’s change is from and to. They don’t ask just exactly what change Obama has in mind. They don’t care if the change that is being proposed is realistic or possible. They only want change.

Most Americans, not being able to remember the last episode of their favorite television sitcom, don’t remember that this is not the first time that change has been a campaign theme. Jimmy Carter, in 1976 ran a campaign theme of change. America had just been through Watergate and Vietnam and Carter, a political neophyte, ran as an someone outside the beltway who could bring real change to Washington D.C. Again in 1992 Clinton & Gore ran on a change campaign promising to bring generational change to Washington D. C. Even as far back as 1952 in the Eisenhower campaign the idea of “change” was prevalent.

Now some of this is natural and inevitable. One way to move the party out of power into power is by accentuating the differences and calling for change. The problem though, is that in recent campaigns you don’t really get an explanation of the differences on a policy by policy basis but rather instead what one gets is an appeal to change that is based on change for changes sake. Since 1976 the appeal of change has been been on a more visceral, emotive and personal level. Change is now more about somebody’s charisma then it is about the policies by which they would govern.

This kind of change — a change for change sake — is the kind of change that one would expect of a people who are governed by an existentialist World and life view. For the existentialist the central motif is the idea of becoming or of always being in process. An existentialist world and life view thus automatically recoils against continuity and the status quo since existentialism is itself about always changing, always becoming, always remaking ones-self. Is it the case that Obama, with his campaign theme of “change” has tapped into the mother vein of American self-consciousness? Has he become the existenialist candidate for a existentialist people.

This cry for change is also reminiscent because in it we may hear echoes of pagan religion where the pursuit of chaos was seen as the means of social regeneration. This was a theme that R. J. Rushdoony mentioned frequently in his writings. An embrace of change merely for the sake of change as that is pursued by a functionally existentialist people communicates the irrational belief that order and social regeneration can arrive by the means of chaos. What else can a support for change merely for the sake of change be but a pursuit of the chaotic?

Also when we consider that to support change merely for the sake of change, with no ability to rationally articulate whey change is being supported is a prime example of existentialism where an irrational faith in irrational faith is all the reason one needs to have in order to believe in anything. If the American electorate, or any large portion of it, is going to vote for Obama merely on the “gut instinct” that the change he represents would be “good” then we must conclude that that portion of the electorate are functional existentialists.

Now, this is not to argue that change is always bad. A hard bitten allegiance to the status quo and to old paths represents its own set of unique problems. Change has its place, but there is a difference between notions of Biblical change and notions of pagan change. I see very little in the messianic attraction to Obama’s call for “change” that is representative of Biblical notions of “change.” What I see instead is a existentialist people prepared to vote for a existentialist candidate for existentialist reasons.

Wall Street Journal Analysis

“The truth is that, more than we like to admit, polls consistently show a correlation between race and ideology in American society. White voters, as a group, are more likely to favor a limited role for government here at home and a more aggressive posture overseas. In general, polls show Democrats — and a disproportionate share of black voters — favor a smaller, less adventurous military and a larger role for government on the domestic front.