The Modern Magnificat

“And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Luke 1:46-53

Mary’s song emphasizes how God keeps His promises to His people and by way of implication it emphasizes the humiliation of the Lord Christ who was born in such a lowly situation. However, the left in the Church instead emphasizes Marxist themes. In a recent Tim Keller facebook status we see this. Tim wrote,

“Jesus wasn’t born among heads of state but among those who were at the bottom of the social ladder.”

Tim has flirted with this soft Marxism before. In his book “Generous Justice” he basically advocates a soft Marxist “social justice” approach and re-labels it as “Generous.”

The position of Mary (or Zechariah, or Simeon, or Anna, etc.) is not important because they were low on the social ladder but because they were saints of God despite their poverty and oppression. Poverty as poverty doesn’t score you any points in the Kingdom of God if one doesn’t belong to Christ and the people of God. The antithesis in the Scripture is not between Rich vs. Poor but between the Seed of the Serpent vs. The seed of the woman.

The emphasis in Mary’s Song is that God remembers His people who are being oppressed by the Wicked mighty. The whole thrust of Luke’s songs is to demonstrate that God has not forgotten His people despite the fact it might look that way and despite the fact that they are being oppressed by wickedness in high places (Herod, Augustus Caesar etc.). The fact that the Lord Christ is born among the lowly does not prove that lowliness as lowliness is a virtue. After all Jesus was born of the line of great King David and God includes the High Born in the Nativity story by including visitation from the Kings of the East. In Scripture God esteems those in Covenant, rich or poor, and destroys those outside of covenant, rich or poor.

The point in Luke’s Songs is not that God favors poor wicked people over righteous rich people. The point is that God has remembered Israel and that despite her captivity and the low status she has sunken into. This is Redemptive History and what is being accentuated is God remembering His promise to raise up a Messiah. The character of God is what is being put on display, not the status of those whom He is remembering. What is not being accentuated is that God is social class conscious. Believe me, if the story were written today, given how much the Wealthy are hated by the Communist Clergy, God would have His Messiah born among the rich and royal to add the factor of “isn’t God amazing that He brought His Messiah among such ignoble filthy rich people.” However, we don’t see in the nativity narrative of the Marxist clergy is the amazing God who keeps His promises no matter what. No, what we see are the amazing poor people who, “naturally enough” are lifted up. Given their noble poverty they deserve it after all.

Does God bring down all the “Mighty” from their thrones? Did God bring down Job? Abraham? David? Are Zaccheus or Joseph of Arimathea to be counted as less saints in the New and Better covenant because they were wealthy? Is the New and Better covenant characterized now by God hating all rich and loving all poor regardless of their faith or lack of faith in Christ? Has lack of wealth become the new standard of inherent righteousness? Is God now for the proletariat and against the Bourgeois? Did God inspire Das Kapital?

This preoccupation of the Church in the West with Marxist categories completely flummoxes me. God loves the righteous in Christ regardless of their socio-economic status and he hates the wicked outside of Christ regardless of their socio-economic status… even if they are as poor and wretched Dicken’s Artful Dodger.

Why is it that we seem to think that God loves the impoverished more than the Wealthy simply on the basis of their impoverishment? God loves His people in Christ. The Wealthy saints have a charge to keep in terms of their brethren of low estate but those of low estate are not superior to those of wealth if they are both looking to Christ and resting in him, just as the wealthy are not superior to those of poverty in terms of status before God just because they are wealthy.

God hates the unrighteous wealthy wicked because they do tend to oppress the poor but he equally hates the unrighteous impoverished wicked because they do tend to envy the rich. It strikes me that we have made the envious unrighteous wicked poor some kind of gold standard to aspire to. It is all very strange.

McAtee Dissects Leithart’s Call For Protestantism’s Burial

Recently, the Cambridge learned Rev. Dr. Peter Liethart opined over at first things,

that Protestantism is over.

I am taking the opportunity to poke some holes in his thesis.

The Reformation isn’t over. But Protestantism is, or should be.

Leithart is a Master at linguistic deception. Here he tells us that the Reformation lives on while Protestantism is dead and yet the Protestantism he describes in his article sounds a good deal more like your average epistemically self conscious Reformed congregation then it does the Methodists, Nazarenes, Lutherans and Independent Baptists I know of. So, while Leithart says we need to throw the dirt on dead Protestantism, the corpse he describes as dead reads to be a description, in many respects, of historic Reformed theology.

Peter J. Leithart (PJL) writes,

When I studied at Cambridge, I discovered that English Evangelicals define themselves over against the Church of England. Whatever the C of E is, they ain’t. What I’m calling “Protestantism” does the same with Roman Catholicism. Protestantism is a negative theology; a Protestant is a not-Catholic. Whatever Catholics say or do, the Protestant does and says as close to the opposite as he can.

Dr. Leithart claims that Protestants define themselves as “not Catholic” and yet I find most of Protestantism has a great deal in common with Roman Catholics. Rome teaches a Universal Atonement, so does most of Protestantism. Rome teaches justification by faith plus works. So does most of Protestantism. Rome denies irresistible grace and unconditional election and total depravity. So do the Wesleyans, many many Baptists, most modern Congregationalists, as does your garden variety Pentecostal. What JPL should be arguing is not that Protestantism needs to be buried but that Protestantism embrace its inner Roman Catholic self. It is not a burial that is needed in terms of Protestantism but a marriage. Those are much more fun to market.

However, if we posit that there is some linguistic deception going on here then what we read PJL advocating is the burial of the epistemologically self conscious Reformed Church. It is that Church which understands that its worldview and identity stands in contrast to both Roman Catholicism and to contemporary Protestantism.

PJL writes,

Mainline churches are nearly bereft of “Protestants.” If you want to spot one these days, your best bet is to visit the local Baptist or Bible church, though you can find plenty of Protestants among conservative Presbyterians too.

Protestantism ought to give way to Reformational catholicism. Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church.

Bret responds,

PJL’s Reformational Catholicism sounds a great deal like just garden variety Reformed thinking except for the conspicuous absence of the nasty word “alone.” It is true we Reformed people don’t do Papal claims, host veneration, or Mary and Saint praying, but what we Reformed people do do when we talk about salvation as a gift of God is that we do say it is received by faith alone. We also insist that also say that all tradition must be judged by Scripture alone. When Dr. Leithart loses these “alones” we Reformed types — those very chaps that Dr. Leithart insists need to be buried — begin to smell a Papist in the woodpile.

In these “alones” is the difference between both the Reformed Faith and Roman Catholicism and the Reformed Faith and the Reformational Catholicism that PJL is championing in his First Things piece.

When PJL suggests that “all tradition must be judged by Scripture” and then seemingly describes Scripture as “the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church” all kinds of red lights go off and bells start ringing. First of all as sons of the Reformation we insist that all tradition must be judged by Scripture alone and we have always been suspicious about “the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church” because one of our founders spoke about how Pope’s and councils can err. Our understanding of the Church is that it is ministerial in these matters and not magisterial. Perhaps that is what PJL intended. Perhaps it isn’t. Either way the absence of those “alones” makes us about to be buried corpses nervous.

PJL wrote,

Though it agrees with the original Protestant protest, Reformational catholicism is defined as much by the things it shares with Roman Catholicism as by its differences. Its existence is not bound up with finding flaws in Roman Catholicism. While he’s at it, the Reformational catholic might as well claim the upper-case “C.” Why should the Roman see have a monopoly on capitalization?

A Protestant exaggerates his distance from Roman Catholicism on every point of theology and practice, and is skeptical of Roman Catholics who say that they believe in salvation by grace. A Reformational Catholic cheerfully acknowledges that he shares creeds with Roman Catholics, and he welcomes reforms and reformulations as hopeful signs that we might at last stake out common ground beyond the barricades. (Protestants also exaggerate differences from one another, but that’s a story for another day.)

A Protestant believes (old-fashioned) Roman Catholic claims about its changeless stability. A Reformational Catholic knows that the Roman Catholicism has changed and is changing.

Bret responds,

I quite agree with PJL that the Reformed faith is the alone Catholic faith. I also agree that we share some words, creeds and concepts with Roman Catholicism. However, I must insist that as those shared words, creeds, and concepts like it distinctly different worldviews (Augustinian vs. Pelagian) that those shared words, creeds, and concepts end up having diametrically different meanings.

And yes it is true that we are skeptical of both Protestant (for example, Free Methodist, Church of God — Cleveland Tn., Assembly of God, etc.) claims to salvation by grace and Roman Catholic claims to salvation by grace. A denial of the doctrines of Grace as well as a denial of the “Solas” lead us to being skeptical because in claims to salvation by grace we always find salvation by not grace. So, again, the burial that PJL is looking for is not the burial of Protestantism but the burial of the Reformed Church.

PJL wants to get beyond the barricades but until we can agree on those “alones” the barricades will remain. To give up those alones as being absolutely necessary is to give up our reason for existence. It is to give up everything. It is to be buried.

PJL writes,

Some Protestants don’t view Roman Catholics as Christians, and won’t acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as a true church. A Reformational Catholic regards Catholics as brothers, and regrets the need to modify that brotherhood as “separated.” To a Reformational Catholic, it’s blindingly obvious that there’s a billion-member Church of Jesus Christ centered in Rome. Because it regards the Roman Catholic Church as barely Christian, Protestantism leaves Roman Catholicism to its own devices. “They” had a pedophilia scandal, and “they” have a controversial pope. A Reformational Catholic recognizes that turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church is turmoil in his own family.

Bret responds,

I absolutely insist that many Roman Catholics are Christian. At the same time I equally insist that Roman Catholicism, as expressed in the Council of Trent is not Christianity. Rome, with its council of Trent likewise anathematizes me. Oddly enough, though I agree with PJL that a scandal in the Roman Church hurts us all but only because Joe Sixpack doesn’t distinguish between Roman Catholic Churches and Protestant Churches today.

PJL seems to suggest that all because 1 billion Roman Catholics exist therefore they must be a Church. Has it really gotten to the point that counting noses determines what is and isn’t a church? Mormonism has 14 million members and insist that they are part of the Church. Should we include them as well? Mormons talk about Jesus. They talk about sin. They use much of the same language. Why not include them?

PJL writes,

A Protestant views the Church as an instrument for individual salvation. A Reformational Catholic believes salvation is inherently social.

A Protestant’s heroes are Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their heirs. If he acknowledges any ancestry before the Reformation, they are proto-Protestants like Hus and Wycliffe. A Reformational Catholic gratefully receives the history of the entire Church as his history, and, along with the Reformers, he honors Augustine and Gregory the Great and the Cappadocians, Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus, Thomas and Bonaventure, Dominic and Francis and Dante, Ignatius and Teresa of Avila, Chesterton, de Lubac and Congar as fathers, brothers, and sisters. A Reformational Catholic knows some of his ancestors were deeply flawed but won’t delete them from the family tree. He knows every family has its embarrassments.

Now, we have an agreement with PJL. Protestantism is hopelessly atomistic. However, I don’t need to go to the artificially re-imagined Reformational Catholicism to find covenantal (social) categories of salvation. I only have to look to the Reformers. The whole individualistic thing marks Protestantism as being different from both Roman Catholicism and Reformed covenantalism. I would welcome the burial of datable conversion, decisional regeneration, walking the sawdust trail, the mourners seat, that “askingJesusintoyourheart” Protestantism. But I can do that without embracing PJL’s Reformational Catholicism.

I have learned from many of the names cited by PJL, however, I think we must be careful who we include and how we include people in that list. Will we also include the Borgia Popes, Tomás de Torquemada, Pope Leo X, Bloody Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, Cardinal Reginald Pole, House of Valois or any number of other “Christian” villains of Church History?

PJL writes,

Protestants are suspicious of a public, “Constantinian” church. While acknowledging the temptations of power, a Reformational Catholic views public witness as an expression of the Church’s mission to the nations.

A Protestant mocks patristic and medieval biblical interpretation and finds safety in grammatical-historical exegesis. A Reformational Catholic revels in the riches, even while he puzzles over the oddities, of Augustine and Origen, Bernard and Bede. He knows there are unplumbed depths in Scripture, never dreamt of by Luther and Calvin.

Bret responds,

Constantinianism is an inescapable category. All nations are formed with implicit or explicit State churches. The Crown and the Mitre always walk together. Most Protestants and many Reformed are too dull to understand that.

PJL argues for a maximalist hermeneutic. But how maximalist shall we go and how shall we know when Alexandrian hermeneutics have gone to far?

I agree that the pseudo scientific historical-grammatical hermeneutic is sometimes insufficient but we better know the dangers of other approaches before we go to them. I’ve read some of Leithart’s family members hermeneutics and it is a Alice in Wonderland experience all over again.
blockquote>PJL writes

A Protestant is indifferent or hostile to liturgical forms, ornamentation in worship, and sacraments, because that’s what Catholics do. Reformational Catholicism’s piety is communal and sacramental, and its worship follows historic liturgical patterns. A Protestant wears a jacket and tie, or a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, to lead worship; a Reformational Catholic is vested in cassock and stole. To a Protestant, a sacrament is an aid to memory. A Reformational Catholic believes that Jesus baptizes and gives himself as food to the faithful, and doesn’t avoid speaking of “Eucharist” or “Mass” just because Roman Catholics use those words.

This is where PJL gets kind of creepy. To a Reformed person this all sounds like smells and bells religion. PJL insist that it is an aid to memory but how many Roman Catholics can tell you what the incense at a Roman Catholic funeral is supposed to do to the memory? The Reformed have always centered on the clarity of the Word. This doesn’t mean that high liturgy is necessarily evil but it does mean that high liturgy better be overshadowed by the centrality of the spoken Word. If Reformational Catholicism is going to take us off the centrality of the Word then Reformational Catholicism can keep re-imagining the Reformation all it wants.

PJL writes,

Protestantism has had a good run. It remade Europe and made America. It inspired global missions, soup kitchens, church plants, and colleges in the four corners of the earth. But the world and the Church have changed, and Protestantism isn’t what the Church, including Protestants themselves, needs today. It’s time to turn the protest against Protestantism and to envision a new way of being heirs of the Reformation, a new way that happens to conform to the original Catholic vision of the Reformers.

Bret responds,

Here we get to the nub of what Peter is about. Peter wants to rethink, re-articulate, and re-apply the Reformation. He says it is about Protestantism but it really isn’t about Protestantism except in a very minor way. It really is about those blasted Reformed Churches that won’t go along with all his high worship, alone-less Christianity, and the non Roman Catholic friendly opposition. I quite agree that Protestantism needs buried but I would say it needs buried because it has to much in common with Reformational Catholicism which has to much in common with Roman Catholicism.

Perhaps Peter sees the mounting opposition to the Church in the public square in the various shades of humanism that is pressing down on us and so thinks that a new coalition has to be built to stop that. As such, he is willing to give up many of the central tenants of the Reformation in order to build that new coalition. Even if he succeeds he will fail if that is the case.

Reformational Catholicism, as championed by PJL has to many jagged un-tucked in corners in order to make a cohesive worldview. It may be the case that it will draw many people in but its incoherence combined with the fact that it does not correspond with reality will assure that it never becomes what the Reformation was and continues to be.

Combating Left Wing Christian Fundamentalism — Part II

LW Fundie writes,

5. We water down the Gospel when we eliminate the centrality of social justice.

The act of “doing justice”, as the prophet Micah references, is hard and sacrificial work. Yet, the cause of justice was extremely important to Jesus, and became a hallmark of the early church.

In Mathew 23:23 Jesus goes off on the conservative religious leaders, and tells them that while they seem to value keeping small rules, they are missing the “more important” part of the law, which is justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

However, the idea of “social justice” is offensive in much of Western Christianity, which tends to value wealth and individualism. Glen Beck famously told his listeners to run from any church that had the term “social justice” on their website.

Similarly, the concept of “mercy” offends ones senses, and doesn’t fit within a Western, guilt vs. innocents oriented culture. Giving a murderer mercy instead of death? It offends the senses. But, Jesus is crazy like that.

I love it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus came to America, he’d go off on us for the same thing– because when we focus on small rules, and resist or ignore the larger need for forms of justice in society (restorative justice, economic justice, etc.)… we have watered down the gospel and missed the most important part (Jesus’ phrase, not mine), just like the leaders in Matthew 23.

Bret responds,

Nowhere does the Scripture peep a word about “social justice.” Social justice is a completely Marxist idea. Scripture advocates Biblical Justice. The whole idea of “social justice” comes from Marxist liberation theology. God is concerned about Justice but there is nothing in Christianity that suggests that wealth is inherently sinful or that a Biblical individualism is frowned upon by God. The whole idea of “social justice” is based upon the foundation of envy. Social Justice sanctions the greed and lust of the envious by telling them that they deserve to have what they have not worked for or earned.

Now this is not to say that such things as unbiblical wealth and oppression don’t exist. We are neck deep in such today with our Governmental Fascism and social order Corporatism. However, speaking out against unbiblical wealth in favor of unbiblical poverty is idiotic. Both the wicked wealthy and the wicked poor must repent for their respective oppression and envy.

But our LW Fundie does not make these kind of distinctions. Instead he gloms on to the idea of “social justice,” as it exists in its Marxist paradigm.

And the idea that we can now set aside, by a humanist “mercy,” what God demanded when He said, “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man,” in the name of a humanist Jesus, is just ridiculous. There is no warrant from Scripture that the magistrate can set aside God’s law in order to give mercy to a killer while at the same time showing insult to the family of the victim. If LW Fundie’s Mother was murdered would he think it mercy to coddle the murderer? Given his version of Christianity he probably would.

I would contend that the Jesus that LW Fundie serves is a different Jesus then walks through the Scriptures. It is a Jesus of his own left wing fundamentalist imagination.

LW Fundie wrote,

4. We water down the gospel when we explain away the whole nonviolent love of enemies part.

What if Jesus actually meant it when he said: “you have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye’ but I tell you to love your enemies”?

What if he meant it when he said: “put away your sword”, “don’t respond in-kind to an evildoer”, and “he who is without sin is free to cast the first stone”?

If there’s anything we know for sure about Jesus, it’s that he taught/practiced a radical, non-violent love of enemies, and that he invites us to do the same. Instead of picking up a weapon, Jesus actually says that in order to follow him, we will have to pick up a “cross”– a symbol of radical, nonviolent love of enemies if there ever was one.

Yet, we have a way of watering those teachings down so that they don’t apply to us, or our country. We start with small loopholes, which in time grow bigger and bigger. We’re able to water it down to the point that ever expanding military budgets are embraced and supported by Christians, the pro-gun movement becomes a championed movement of Christians, and that preemptive war is taught and encouraged by evangelical leaders (as it was after 911).

Once we start finding small loopholes in the command to nonviolently love our enemies, those loopholes get bigger and bigger… until we are able to safely drive tanks and fly drones through them, with little affect on our conscience.

At that point, we need to continue watering it down, because there’s a lot of blood we need to wash away.

Bret responds,

1.) Let us say on this score that never was Jesus loving his enemies better than when he picked up a whip and scourged his enemies with a violent love via that barbed whip and sent them flying out of the Temple. Does LW Fundie aspire to that kind of love? What of this violent love of Jesus that LW Fundie skips over?

2.) Love is defined as treating people consistent with God’s law. So, when a man commits murder against another man, as an example, love requires that the social order see to it that he forfeits his life. When we do so, we are showing love to God, love to the murdered and love to murderer.

3.) It seems to be assumed here that love is defined by man quite apart from consideration of God’s law. This sounds like advocacy of situational ethics.

4.) “Put away your sword” — Situation specific. Jesus is speaking to Peter as he attempts to save Christ from what Jesus was predestined to do. Earlier Jesus had told Peter that the two swords they had were sufficient and that the disciples should sell their cloak to buy a sword (Luke 22), thus indicating that swords have their place. However, the place wasn’t in Gethsemane. Put away your sword is not a passage that supports pacifism. All those degrees and LW Fundie hasn’t learned about context?

5.) “He who is without sin cast the first stone” — Stoning was the means by which the death penalty was applied. He who cast the first stone was the one who had brought the charge (Dt. 17:7). The death penalty could not be invoked legally if the eyewitnesses were unavailable or unqualified. Jesus was striking directly at the fact that these witnesses were ineligible to fulfill this role since they were guilty of the same sin, and thus deserved to be brought up on similar charges. They were intimidated into silence by their realization that Jesus was privy to their own sexual indiscretions. Jesus was not teaching, contrary to LW Fundie’s hermeneutic that we should be non judgmental against those who have committed serious crimes. He was not teaching tolerance and humanist non-violent love. He was teaching the proper way in which to carry out justice.

How does someone get two Masters degrees from a Seminary with a (false?) Evangelical reputation and miss basic hermeneutics?

6.) Championing the 2nd amendment is done because I love my wife and family enough to want to protect them from those who would harm them. It is true we must love our enemies but how much more must we love our friends and family. So, Scripture teaches we must love our enemies but never at the price of hating our loved ones and to allow myself to be disarmed per LW Fundie’s desire to take my weapons, would be a lack of love for my family and a violate of the 6th commandment.

7.) Everyone will be glad to know that I agree w/ LW Fundie regarding the sin of preemptive war and the sin of Christians supporting the military-industrial complex.

LW Fundie writes,

3. We water down the gospel when we over emphasis sins rarely mentioned in scripture, while conveniently neglecting the ones that are talked about constantly.

The top two sins spoken against in scripture are idolatry and greed- sins that don’t often make the playlist in many churches today. Honestly, I rarely hear sermons on either of those topics. Maybe idolatry, but definitely NOT greed.

When’s the last time you heard a sermon condemning the wealthy who neglect the poor? That’s talked about all the time in the Bible, yet I don’t hear that message in many American churches. When’s the last time you heard a preacher condemn anti-immigrant attitudes? The Bible I read sure does talk a lot about the way we should love immigrants.

I think we’re watering down the gospel so that other people’s sins appear to be worse than our own sins.

Your sins? Well, you get a concentrated version. My sins? Watered down, please.

Bret responds,

1.) Recently I did a sermon series on the greed of the wealthy and the envy of the poor. I wonder when the last time LW Fundie did a sermon on envy. I recommend Helmut Schoeks, ENVY: A Theory of Social Behaviour and, Gonzalo Fernandez de la Mora’s,Egalitarian Envy: The Political Foundations of Social Justice. If LW Fundie would read those two books maybe he could move past his soft Marxism.

2.) On immigration I would recommend that LW Fundie read Peter Brimelow’s, Alien Nation, and then do a sermon series. It is true that we are to be kind to the stranger and alien, but it is not true that we are to sacrifice our children and their future so we can turn our nation over to the alien and the stranger. It is not true that we are to allow the State to destroy what little is left of the Christian ethos among us by supporting the destruction of it via the importation of aliens who have no familiarity with Biblical Christianity.

3.) Still, LW Fundie’s counsel to not concentrate on sins that are easy to concentrate on while ignoring our own sins is wise counsel. However, I wish LW Fundie would take his own counsel and concentrate on the sins of pacifism and Marxism.

LW Fundie writes,

2. We water down the gospel when we exclusively use the concept of “penal substitution” to explain the Gospel.

Many of us grow up believing that the penal substitution metaphor for explaining the gospel is the gospel. It goes something like this:

You broke the law, which made God angry. Jesus paid your fine by taking God’s wrath in your place. Since Jesus paid your fine, you can be set free.

However, the penal substitution view of the atonement, is just a small glimpse of the cross– and in isolation, is a watered down version that reduces the cross to an individual transaction.

The “classic” view of the atonement is called “Christus Victor” and is a bigger way of understanding the cross. With the classic view, it is understood that Jesus was reconciling all of creation and freeing it from the works of the Devil. Within the classic view, yes– Jesus was reconciling me, but he was also reconciling everything else he made too.

This has big implications: in the watered down version of the gospel, it’s all about reconciling individual people. However, when we look at the classic view, we find out that God not only wants to reconcile people, but that he also wants to reconcile creation (environment), broken social systems, whole communities… and that means, my job as a “minister of reconciliation” is to get busy– not just reconciling people, but reconciling everything else too.

If you’ve only understood the gospel in light of the concept of “penal substitution”, let me just tell you that the Gospel is way, way bigger than you’ve ever realized.

And, so is your part in that.

When we reduce the magnitude and beauty of what Christ did on the cross to an individualistic, legal transaction– and little more– we’ve watered it down to the point where we can’t taste the depths of its magnificent flavor.

Bret responds,

I have no problem with Christus Victor motif. Indeed I see little reason why it can’t work hand in glove with the Scriptures teaching on Christ as our Penal Substitute. What I do have a problem with is how LW Fundie defines reconciliation in a Marxist direction. Throughout this piece there has been very little concrete reference to God’s law but countless appeals to trendy Cultural Marxist memes. From the wicked dastardly wealthy, to the wonders of socialism, to the fanged greedy, to social justice, to pacifism, to the environment, all we get from LW Fundie is Cultural Marxist causes. There is more of Lenin than there is of Christ in LW Fundie’s Messiah.

Secondly, LW Fundie does not understand the Scriptures that teach the penal substitution of our Lord Christ. It is not as LW Funide articulates that Christ accomplished transaction for a bunch of individuals. Scripture teaches that Christ gave Himself for the Church. Christ gave Himself for the covenant community. So, LW Fundie’s caricature of Penal Substitution is just inaccurate. (He’s gotten so much else inaccurate what is one thing more among friends? Also, on this score the atonement was never primarily about reconciling individuals or reconciling all of creation. The atonement was primarily about reconciling a justly wroth God to sinners.

Thirdly, on this score, the only way creation is reconciled is by reconciled people. Hence the emphasis on the atonement, after it falls on the reality that in the atonement Christ rescued the Father’s name from being impugned because of forestalled Justice, while at the same time demonstrating the Father’s love, falls on reconciled Saints. The Saints are the ones who, in their sanctification, bring the impact of their reconciliation on all of creation. Creation will not be reconciled unless the Gospel goes on to those who need to hear that they might be the reconciling agents. As such, to pit the penal substitutionary death of Christ against the Christus Victor motif is just wrong-headed. They imply one another and the latter is not somehow more significant than the former. If anything it is Christ’s satisfaction for His Church that makes the reconciling work of Christus Victor possible.

Fourthly, it scares me to death that LW Fundie wants to be involved in “reconciling work.” Given some of his expressed soft Marxist views I think he needs to go back to Christianity 101.

On this point I honestly see very little evidence that LW Fundie understands the atonement and that it is primarily about God before it is about man.

LW and STILL a Fundie writes,

1. We water down the Gospel when we invite people to trust Jesus for the afterlife… but not this life.

Flowing from number 2, when we exclusively use the Penal Substitution metaphor for explaining the cross, we end up focusing on getting people to trust in Jesus for their “eternal life” later, but fail to invite them into the eternal life that they can experience right now.

Maybe I’m just thinking big here, but I’d like to see people trust Jesus for the here-and-now.

Maybe I’m just weak, but I need a Jesus who can help me in the here-and-now.

I want to see people trusting Jesus with their finances, their jobs, their families, their personal safety, and everything else.

And, Jesus is good for all those things too. A Jesus that can save me later, but not now?

That’s just a watered down version.

Bret responds,

I’ve been a minister for 25 years and I’ve never seen anyone make a connection before between the penal substitution of the atonement and a lack of living the Christian life. Always, when I’ve heard it preached properly it is preached with the idea that Jesus came to give live and give it abundantly. When I’ve heard it preached I’ve always heard it preached in the context of “eternal life begins now.” When I’ve heard it preached I’ve always heard it preached as “What God freely accomplishes in the atonement (forgiveness and right standing with God) He works in you by the Spirit so that you increasingly conform to the image of His Dear Son. I’d like to see concrete examples of where all this irresponsible preaching on the penal substitution of Christ is happening. For that matter, I’d be overjoyed to know that most ministers have a handle on the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitution.

In closing I invite LW Fundie to try to quit reading his Christianity through his soft Marxist lenses.

And in a final word … Folks, if a guy can get two Masters degrees from Gordon Conwell and come out spewing this kind of stuff it is time to give up on Gordon Conwell as a option for Seminary.

Why We Have The Ministers We Have

“If you tell young men that entry into the ministry is based on passing written exams in institutions of higher education, they will spend most of their time and effort mastering the techniques necessary for passing the exams. The churches must select candidates from a limited supply of survivors. Problem: there is no evidence showing that passing written exams prepares men to pastor churches. There is considerable evidence based on actual Church growth rates that these skills are inversely related: the greater the skill in passing formal exams, the less the skill in pastoring. Additionally, there is a positive correlation between the ability to pass written exams and political liberalism. As Ladd and Ferree concluded in 1982, based on a detailed survey of the opinions of 1,112 members of American seminary faculties, “Those who teach in schools of religion and theology resemble fairly closely a larger community of academic humanists of which they are a part.” Of those responding, 50 percent or more described themselves as politically liberal. The Episcopalians were the highest: 78 percent. Then came Methodists (69 percent) and Presbyterians (63 percent). The only faculties below 50 percent were Southern Baptists (32 percent), other Baptists (17 percent), and Pentecostals (7 percent). Those students who seek access to a seminary education must first prove themselves skilled at passing collegiate exams designed and imposed by politically correct liberals, atheists, feminists, and New Age mystics on the college campus…. The Church’s preliminary screening process is placed in the hands of the Church’s mortal enemies. This has been going on for eight centuries. You get what you pay for, and hierarchical churches pay ministerial candidates for passing academic exams. The operational rule is: “Those who baptize infants have been academically certified by liberals.” … The weak point in churches that baptize infants is their intellectual pride.”

Gary North
Crossed Fingers — pp. 766-767

A few more observations,

1.) Besides the observations offered by Dr. North above we have to contend that Educational programming is liberal by its very dynamic. What higher education is really a model of is bureaucracy and bureaucracy is inherently liberal since it is committed to top town authority and working within the system. When that system is functioning as Humanist then the bureaucracy’s job is in support of the beast. In bureaucratic systems students learn never to challenge the system, never to question authority, and never to work outside the bureaucratically assigned boundaries. That which educational bureaucracies overwhelmingly produce is men and women who look like the liberal bureaucracy where they attended. Bureaucracy always reproduces itself.

2.) Even thinking about the whole “college experience” we conclude that it is Liberal. We take children out of the context of that which is familiar (Family life) and place them in the context of that which is strange and unnatural away from family. Why do we do that? Is it because we want to get the children away from non liberal influences so that they can be properly propagandized with the Liberal Humanist agenda? Further, in the big University settings we pack and stack them in co-ed Bacchanalian centers called dormitories so that those young adults who are coming from more conservative homes can be compromised with is licentiate humanist ethic and morality.

3.) Of course the implication of all this is that at a very fundamental level the guy you’re listening to on Sunday Morning is likely Liberal. Oh, naturally, most ministers are not going to lead with their chin on the matter, and it may only come up in putatively conservative churches in very subtle ways. But if Dr. North is correct in the above quote then your minister is likely Humanist and the reason you don’t see that is because you are also.

This also applies to the Seminary teacher as well. The reason our ministers are humanist / liberal, whether of the R2K type, the FV type or the Cultural Marxist, or the Statist type is because they learned it from their Seminary professors.

Naturally, like all things, exceptions exist. But they are far more rare then most people believe. A few students happen upon a College or Master’s program where some key Professor managed to slip through the Humanist net himself and so is able to mentor and teach a young student in a Biblical direction. Alternately, God still awakens men and women to see through the parlor game that Humanist Higher Education is.

The Christian Church member needs to realize that higher education is not their friend and that because ministers are produced by the humanist educational system that most Churches are not their friends either.

Could this be one reason why we were told to “not conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind?”

The Cultural Marxism Captivity of the Church

” … a significant clerical group under Professor Nieburh’s influence is able to rationalize and to some extent at least justify the perpetration of almost any crime because it serves, as Lenin said, ‘the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat.’

… Until we come to understand the effect on a wide section of Protestant clergyman in this country, we are not going to get very far in understanding the way in which the Church is integrated, in part, into this whole communist movement.”

Dr. J. B. Matthews
The Actor — Alan Stang — pg.80

Dr. Matthews was a investigator who worked with the House committee on un-American activities. As such, the quote is dated.

Still, I would say the thrust of the quote remains true. Much, if not most, of the American clergy has been either saturated in the Marxist paradigm (Cultural Marxism today) or has been coated with a patina of Marxism so that even orthodoxy as it comes from their lips is tainted with Das Capital. From Tim Keller’s retooling of “social justice”

to Carl Trueman’s British Socialism, to much of the Church’s embrace of illegal immigration and everywhere in between the Church is a hotbed of Cultural Marxism and the clergy are those at the point of the spear of this agenda. Even Churches that insist that the Church must not speak on public square issues create a open door for the success of cultural Marxism in our culture and social order by suggesting, through its silence, that God is not opposed to Cultural Marxism.

Unless one is epistemologically self conscious holding a Biblical Worldview the Church and its clergy are dangerous realities. I think it is fair to say that he who dines with the contemporary Church had best dine with a long spoon.

A good book length treatment of the compromise of the contemporary church is C. Gregg Singer’s “An Unholy Alliance.”

Click to access gsua.pdf

The work is dated, leaving off sometime in the 1970’s but if one reads carefully and one is at all aware of what is going on today in Denominations one can get a feel for where we are at.