Irrational Fundamentalism

Text — I Corinthians 15:1-6
Subject — Resurrection
Theme — Christ’s Resurrection
Propositions — Examining the modern way of thinking of Christ’s resurrection

Purpose — Therefore having looked at the modern way of thinking about Christ’s resurrection let us praise God that in the Scriptures He provides clarity for how we should think about the Resurrection.


15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

The great premises of the Bible is that

God is real
God is Holy
Man is a sinner
Man is accountable to God
Man has sought to displace God for himself as god
God intends to judge men for this high handed rebellion
Man can find safety from that judgment in the judgment of God that fell on Christ

That God is satisfied with us because He is satisfied with His judgment that fell on Christ is attested to by the Resurrection. The Scripture’s say that  Christ

“was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

The Scripture teaches that because of Christ’s death and resurrection “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So … no bodily resurrection of Christ, no possible sense of relief from the inescapable sense of God’s just wrath and opposition to us.

The resurrection then is instrumental to the Christian faith. Without the real live resurrection of Jesus Christ from the doldrums of the grave there is no such thing as Christianity.

Of the import of the bodily Resurrection to the bible believing Christian there can be little doubt. In this Passage in Corinthians Paul turns to the importance of the resurrection of Jesus repeatedly.

14and if Christ hath not risen, then void [is] our preaching, and void also your faith,

17and if Christ hath not risen, vain is your faith, ye are yet in your sins;
18then, also, those having fallen asleep in Christ did perish;
19if in this life we have hope in Christ only, of all men we are most to be pitied.

The Early Church Father Chysostom realized how important the resurrection of Christ was to the spread of Christianity.

“For in what were the disciples confident? In the shrewdness of their reasonings? Nay of all men they were the most unlearned. But in the abundance of their possessions? Nay, they neither had staff nor shoes. But in the distinction of their race? Nay, they were mean, and of mean ancestors. But in the greatness of their country? Nay, they were of obscure places. But in their own numbers? Nay, they were not more than eleven, and they were scattered abroad. But in their Master’s promises? What kind of promises? For if He were not risen again, neither would those be likely to be trusted by them. And how should they endure a frantic people. For if the chief of them endured not the speech of a woman, keeping the door, and if all the rest too, on seeing Him bound, were scattered abroad, how should they have thought to run to the ends of the earth, and plant a feigned tale of a resurrection? For if he stood not a woman’s threat, and they not so much the sight of bonds, how were they able to stand against kings, and rulers, and nations, where were swords, and gridirons, and furnaces, and ten thousand deaths by day, unless they had the benefit of the power and grace of Him who rose again? Such miracles and so many were done, and none of these things did the Jews regard, but crucified Him Who had done them, and were they likely to believe these men at their mere word about a resurrection? These things are not, they are not so, but the might of Him Who rose again brought them to pass.”

Many years later another minister commented on how central a particular understanding of the resurrection is to the Christian faith.

“This truth (Resurrection) is so important that nothing in religion can exist without it. The apostles diligently confirmed it in the first churches; and for the same reason it was attacked by Satan and denied and opposed by many. This was done in two ways: first by an open denial of any such thing – “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12); and second, those who did not dare to attack it directly expounded it in an allegorical way, saying that “the resurrection has already taken place” (2 Tim. 2:18). Observe that our apostle in both cases does not only condemn these errors as false but declares positively that their admission overthrows the faith and makes the preaching of the Gospel vain and useless.”

(John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews 6)

This evening, following the Scriptures and following 2000 years of Church history we want to spend our time considering different ways the modern Church thinks about the resurrection.

The premise is that as Christians we not only have to affirm the resurrection but that we also have to affirm a very particular resurrection — the resurrection that we find in Scripture.

So what are some of the ways in which the resurrection is confessed today by the Church?

I.) Aesop Fable Resurrection Thinking or Irrational Fundamentalism

This is the way that a large percentage of the Church today thinks about the resurrection. There is a affirmation that the resurrection is existentially true (subjectively true) though it is likely false in terms of its historical reality.

In this way of thinking the resurrection (as well as all of Christianity) becomes like a Aesop fable. We can learn truth from Aesop fables but nobody really thinks the fables themselves are historically true.

We may say there is much to be learned from the Fox who fooled the Crow out of her cheese by falsely flattering her on her singing abilities but no one really believes that a Fox and a crow had a conversation regarding cheese.

Many people want to treat the miraculous accounts of Christianity in just such a way.

“Yes, yes … the lessons that we learn from letting the “truth” of the resurrection impact us are all very well and good but let us not get too cheeky in actually believing that this really happened in history.”

For these types of folks the resurrection and Christianity, as a whole, is one giant Aesop fable.

Emil Brunner, one of their wise men now long dead but still influential underscores this thinking in a couple quotes

“God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually exclusive.”

“All words have only an instrumental value. Neither the spoken words nor their conceptual content are the word itself but only its framework.”

“God can speak His word to a man even through false doctrine”

What Brunner is telling us with these quotes is that there is no getting at objective truth. And if there is no getting at objective truth then the what we believe is no longer the issue but only the “how” we believe — the passion with which we believe whatever we believe.

That this has entered into modern culture is seen everywhere. As one example I offer the film “Serenity,” a film I quite like.

In the scene where the Christian pastor figure of the crew, aptly named “Shepherd Book” dies he grabs the Captain (Mal) and says,

“I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”

As your Shepherd Book I want you to know I don’t care if you just believe in something. I want to know if what you believe corresponds to what God says you must believe.

As such for these types of people it is not what is believed about the resurrection that matters, in terms of content, but rather what matters is the passion with which one believes whatever content one assigns to the resurrection, or similarly, what matters is not believing set truths about the resurrection but rather what matters is having a powerful encounter with a individually defined resurrected Christ thus coming away with a meaningful experience.

“What we require of belief is not that it make sense but that it be sincere….Clearly, this is not the spirituality of a centralized orthodoxy. It is a sort of workshop spirituality that you can get with a cereal-box top and five dollars.” Curtis White — “Hot Air Gods”

This way of thinking about the resurrection insists that personal experience and individual encounter can do for us what the divine record of redemptive history can not do for us. Why try and surmount 2000 years of History in order to find out with precision what God says happened when you can have your own meaningful experience.

Here we see that the objective content of God’s revelation in Scripture gives way to the Jesus encounter — an encounter that is each and every person variable.

Such an encounter has the advantage of canceling out the time chasm between us and the historical Christ who rose from the grave so many years ago and makes us to be contemporaries with Jesus.

Those who have a Aesop’s fable resurrection generally believe that the Scriptures are all paradox and contradiction and given such a paradoxical revelation that can mean anything, it usually does mean any number of things to different people.

And the result of this in the modern Church today does not confess the same resurrected Christ together but rather all confess different Christ’s together. We may be part of the same denomination and perhaps even attend the same Churches yet the resurrected Christ we are all confessing is, potentially, as different as each and every individual doing the confessing.

And all of this is important is because it is not that we believe in some kind of resurrection that matters but rather that we believe in a very particular God defined resurrection that matters.

Now what is behind what we have briefly discussed here happens in two different opposite ways.

1.) Assume the supernatural can’t be true. If it is not true then miracles like resurrection have to be reinterpreted

2.) Presuppose that God is so transcendent that we can’t reach Him.

So … what is the answer to this way of thinking about the resurrection?

We have to be confident in God’s recorded revelation.

1.To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Is. 8:20)

2. II Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

3. I Cor. 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

We have to do all we can to attend and support Churches which understand what is at stake in this redefining of the Resurrection. As the years unfold and some of you who are younger look for a Church as your life takes you beyond these boundaries look for a place where the Christ of Scripture and a Historical real resurrection is a reality. Make it a matter that is non-negotiable.

This Historical real resurrection is what the Holy Spirit speaks of in I Corinthians 15. Paul there doesn’t speak of “it being true to me.” He calls forth the historical evidence. He cites the witnesses that can be called forth. He is not speaking of a resurrection that was based on the truth that Christ has arisen in his heart. The Scriptures everywhere testify to the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. He has flesh and bones that one can examine by touching. He eats breakfast with His disciples.  Christ’s resurrection is as historical as your birth.

For you parents, you must train your children to think this way. If you leave them to imbibe the zeitgeist they will very likely abandon your faith.

Teach them that the resurrection was not just spiritual but real and because it was real it had impact.

We must be careful of the “Spiritual” Resurrection that wherein we have been resurrected. There is a tendency for the Reformed to make “Spiritual” speak Plato as if to mean “non intrusive in our every day to day lives.”

We have been resurrected so that our relationship to the old Adam is superseded by our relationship to the new Adam. This explains why the expectation is that we would walk in “newness of life.” We are resurrected beings and though we are not yet all that we one day will be we are creatures who live in this present age as walking and living in the age to come. Like Legolas in Tolkien’s work we live in two worlds at the same time but the creational age in which we have been resurrected is impinging on all around us that has not yet been resurrected. In some sense then we, as the resurrected, are the bearers of resurrection life to all that we come in contact with.

This reality of having been NOW resurrected with Christ is why Paul can write about our now being seated in the Heavenlies with Christ. It is why he could write that we have been NOW translated to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, whom He loves. It is why he could write that our citizenship is in heaven, keeping in mind that heaven is invading this present wicked age via His resurrected citizenry.

The “NOW” of our Resurrected status can not be hidden under the bushel of the “not yet.” The Kingdom as come and we are citizens of that future creational age Kingdom bringing the aroma of Christ and that Kingdom unto all we come in contact with.


By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

God & His Name — The Third Word

Text — Exodus 20:7
Subject — God
Theme — Prohibition against taking God’s name in vain
Proposition — The prohibition against taking God’s name in vain will remind us again of the seriousness of our undoubted Catholic Christian faith.

Purpose — Therefore having considered the prohibition against taking God’s name in vain let us, out of gratitude that Christ has forgiven us for our unseemly and sinful taking of God’s name in vain, live in such a way that God’s name is found to have a weightiness that the pagans marvel at.


We have been laboring in our Introductions to show that God’s law as a guide to the whole of the Christian’s living, both in his private and public life, has been the constant position of the Reformed Church.

Take, for example, the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 99

Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?

Answer: For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed: That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. That: What God forbids, is at no time to be done;: What he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places. That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them.

“Although Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with a broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. Without consciousness of sin, the whole gospel will seem to be an idle tale…. But if the consciousness of sin is to be produced, the law of God must be proclaimed in the lives of Christian people as well as in word. It is quite useless for the preacher to breathe out fire and brimstone from the pulpit, if at the same time the occupants of the pews go on taking sin very lightly and being content with the moral standards of the world. The rank and file of the Church must do their part in so proclaiming the law of God with their lives….

J. Gresham Machen
Christianity and Liberalism

“Modern culture is a mighty force. It is either subservient to the Gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the Gospel. For making it subservient, religious emotion is not enough, intellectual labor is also necessary. And that labor is being neglected. The Church has turned to easier tasks. And now she is reaping the fruits of her indolence. Now she must battle for her life.”

J. Gresham Machen
1912 centennial commemorative lecture at Princeton Seminary

“It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteousness. The Bible, the great statute-book of the Kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.

A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, p. 283-84

“Bodies-politic or corporations are to be regarded as large moral subjects. To suppose that men, as individuals, are under the moral government of the Almighty, and bound to regulate their conduct by His law, but that, as societies, they are exempted from all such control, is to maintain what involves the most absurd and pernicious consequences.”

William Symington

The French Confession – John Calvin

XXXIX. We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates,[1] so that some restraint may be put upon its disordered appetites. And as he has established kingdoms, republics, and all sorts of principalities, either hereditary or otherwise, and all that belongs to a just government, and wishes to be considered as their Author, so he has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the first as well as against the second table of the Commandments of God. We must therefore, on his account, not only submit to them as superiors,[2] but honor and hold them in all reverence as his lieutenants and officers, whom he has commissioned to exercise a legitimate and holy authority.

1. Exod. 18:20-21; Matt. 17:24-27; Rom. ch. 13
2. I Peter 2:13-14; I Tim. 2:2

We must understand that all Reformed men have always believed that our righteousness is found in Christ alone and yet having been clothed in Christ’s righteousness they believed that they were duty bound to live in light of God’s standard, both in their private lives and in their public lives.

Today we are taking up the third commandment

“Thou Shalt Not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold Him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

The third commandment finds us still dealing with the vertical aspect of the table where man is called to esteem God directly. In the second table we are to esteem God horizontally and so we might say, indirectly. We are mindful though that if we do not take seriously the first table of the Law (Love & our responsibility to God) we will never take seriously the second table of the law (love and our responsibility to man).

We must get this right in our thinking. If we do not love God we will never love man. If we do not take seriously the first table we will not be able to get even close to the second table. If we do love God consonant with the first table then the second table will be like water flowing downhill for us.

God’s name is His identity so that to take His name lightly is to take Him lightly.

The prohibition of the third commandment involves not only how we speak about God but also how we live in light of the fact that we are identified with God’s name. We are God’s people and we should speak and live like God’s joyful, mirthful, Holy, just, and awesome name.

Name, in the Bible, often refers not to what beings were called, but to what they were (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Sam.18: 30; 2 Sam.19: 21). A name is not merely a handle but says something specific about the person who wears the name. We are to honor God’s name.

The opposite of honoring a name is cursing it. To curse, in Hebrew, is to declare someone a nonentity and despicable. The above example of Shimei demonstrates this.

As humans there is no in between. We will be either those who honor God’s gloriously weighty name or we will curse it by not honoring it.

We now understand God’s name to be His revelation in the works of creation and redemption (Ps.8: 1,9; Prov.17: 5). God is Creator and Redeemer and that is what His name signifies. He has made Himself known by the name YHWH. These four letters mean, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14) — that is, I exist as Saviour and Liberator, I make real what I say, I do what I have promised. This is demonstrated by the entirety of salvation (Ps.106: 8).

On this basis, the Lord may demand that people reverence His name. We are to give it glory, kabod, weight. The opposite would be to minimize the name of the Lord, to underestimate, despise and scorn that name. Lev.24: 10-23 unveils a story in which an Egyptian father blasphemes God’s name — not by merely saying it, but by dragging it through the mud. Whoever blasphemes shall be put to death (Lev.24: 16). God’s own people could blaspheme. The Israelites scorned God in the wilderness (Num.14: 11) and when they enjoyed plenty, they turned to other gods (Deut.31: 20). When this happens, the pagans have reason to blaspheme the God of Israel (2 Sam.12: 14; Ezek.36: 20-32). What constitutes the essence of cursing/blasphemy is when someone thinks, speaks & acts disparagingly in regard to God.

When we consider the aspect of the speaking of God’s name we must realize that the prohibition of the third commandment means that we are not invoke His name thoughtlessly, or as if it is meaningless or to use it deceitfully in order to advance our cause as opposed to His cause under His the authority of His name.

There are several ways in which God’s name can be spoken in vain

1. The name is misused as a talisman to in order to put God into the service of our own selfish ends. We see this constantly in the Christian world. I am reminded of something I read about an traveling Evangelist who upon his arrival to speak at a “Crusade” could ask the promoters of the Crusade, “So, what’s the gate, and what’s the take?” God’s name was being used in that context just to advance the wealth and prosperity of the traveling Evangelist. He was being a kind of Sorcerer seeking to manipulate God to his ends. This was Simon the Sorcerers sin (Acts 8:14) and it might have been what was behind the account of the Seven sons of Sceva ( Acts 19:13-17).

2. The name is misused in false prophecy. False prophecy involves predictions which do not come in the name of the Lord, but pretend to (*Deut.18: 22; 1 Kings 22:11; Jer.14: 15). (Illustration — Pentecostals — “I have a ‘Word from the Lord for you.”)

3.) The name is misused in false teaching (forth-telling). Whenever false teaching or false doctrine is married to God’s name, God’s name is taken in vain. In such situations God’s name is being invoked to support something that is contrary to God’s person and Character and so is a taking of God’s name vainly.

We can tell how coldly and casually we take our Sovereign Benevolent Just God’s name by how little false doctrine troubles us.

Another example of taking God’s name falsely, that is related to false teaching is to falsely or rashly interpret God’s providence. For example I once had someone tell me that he had a dream where he was told to break up w/ his fiance and to marry a girl he did not particularly get along with. The dream, of course was providentially sent by God, the interpretation of it was a taking in vain His name.

4. The name is misused in false oaths. False oaths involve using the name of God to pass off a lie as if it were true (Lev.19: 12). (Illustration — Perjury was penalized so harshly in part because it was a taking of God’s name in vain.)

5.) To use it unconsciously. “Oh My God.” “Jesus,”

Modern profanity is not usually intended to be blasphemous. Most people who take God’s name in vain by cursing do so out of habit and don’t realize what they are doing. It is doesn’t excuse it but it does somewhat explain it. And, curiously enough, this kind of cursing might suggest, in a residual manner that God’s name is still esteemed. It is because God and Jesus is still characteristic of us as a people that His name is taken in vain. I mean, you don’t hear anybody say, “Oh my Allah,” or “Mohammed the Prophet.” And the reason you don’t is that those names are not taken seriously enough to bother to be taken in vain.

Yet this kind of casual cursing is still an echo of biblical cursing. Cursing is not a self-conscious demonstration of unbelief, so much as it is a symptom of unbelief. It is only natural that they use God’s name without thinking.

As Christians we should not take God’s name in such a trivial fashion. It drives me more than a bit batty to hear Christians, so washed in the culture, that they don’t even realize they are saying, “Oh my God.” Just as you wear an expensive article of clothing only for special occasions and you take care to keep it in good condition, in the same way we must use the name of God and of Christ.

6.) Attributing false laws on God and saying he either commands or forbids what He does not. To make sins and duties which God never made and to say He made them is to father falsehood on Him and corrupt His government.

7.) Hypocrisy — To be identified w/ God’s name and to live in such a way that is inconsistent w/ that name is taking His name in vain.

Now if we really begin to think about this, we do, if we are sensitive, begin to realize our sin in this matter. The third commandment has always been the one that has troubled me the most. Here it is that I am identified with the name of God and how often it is the case that I do not esteem His name as I ought? How often it is the case that I do not represent Him well. And when I begin to dwell on this, I realize how important it is that my Lord Christ is to me my third commandment keeping righteousness. And when I begin to recall again that Christ’s death, resurrection and Ascension is my third commandment keeping righteousness it fills me with such joy that I am once again drawn to esteeming His name anew and to once again be mindful of the honor that is owed to His name from me as His servant.

8.) Worship apart from reverence and awe. Worship apart from joy and gratitude. Whenever we worship so that it is about our felt needs to be entertained, or amused then we violate the third command. Whenever God is really secondary to our agenda in worship we violate the third command. Whenever our hymns / music are focused on us as opposed to focused on God, whenever our sermons are self-help seminars as opposed to how God helps the helpless and instructs His people, whenever our liturgy focuses on who is up in front as opposed to who is in Heaven and nearer to us than our next breath at that point we have violated the third commandment.

Well, we could list others, and we might yet do so in successive weeks but this gives us an idea of how all encompassing this third commandment is. And of course when you add the “Thou Shalt” to the “Thou shalt not,” it becomes ever more all encompassing.

(Thou Shalt do all that one can to exalt the name of God. To fail to do so is to violate the third commandment.)


The Church today needs to hear again about the marvel’s of God’s name so that they might once again know and feel the weightiness of that name. God’s name lies so lightly upon us.

It shows.

We are such a light, frivolous, non-weighty people precisely because we serve a no God we call God who is light, frivolous, and non-weighty. We have no meaning because the no God we call God has no meaning.

If we aspire to be a great people once again who do great exploits that can only happen by returning to the great God of the Bible. Great individuals / peoples are made by the name of the God they wear and the fact that we rise so little in greatness, as God counts greatness, is found in the fact that the God of the Bible weighs so lightly upon us.

Only by taking His name seriously again might that change.

Second Word — Blessings & Cursings

Text — Exodus 19:4, 20:22-26, 34:17, Lev. 26:1-2, Dt. 4:15-24, 11:16-17, 27:15
Subject — Images
Theme — Blessings and cursings associated with Idol worship.
Proposition — The blessings and cursing associated with idol worship should cause us to to eschew all idolatry.
Purpose — Therefore having considered the blessings and cursing associated

By way of Introduction this morning we note that the Law of God for His people is not cordoned off into some private space in our lives or restricted in application to our personal lives. God’s law is totalistic in its application.

That Reformed people have not constrained God’s law to some private personal sphere or limited it in its application to some Church realm has been a conviction that has been around for a very long time in Reformed Church. That God’s law is totalistic in its application is seen by a few quotes,

“It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteousness … The Bible, the great statute-book of the Kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.”

~ A. A. Hodge

“…And this generall Rule give me leave to assert and commend to your most serious considerations and consciences. That whatsoever Law of God, or Command of His, we find recorded in the Law-booke, in either of the Volumnes of GOD’S Statute, the N.T. or the Old, Remaines obligatory to us, unless we can prove it to be expired, or repealed. So it is with the Statute-Law of this Nation, or any Nation.”

Herbert Palmer – 1601-1647
English Puritan
Sermon before Parliament — August 13, 1644

“But it is questioned whether the law pertains to the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual and distinct from all earthly dominion; and there are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the beginnings of His kingdom should be aided by the sword. But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep amongst the wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection, nor tame their violence, nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church.”

John Calvin
Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses — p. 77.

I could provide reams and reams more of similar quotes. All I am seeking to establish by such quotes is that Reformed people have for 500 years insisted the God’s law is not restricted to some personal private realm nor has God’s law been seen as less than totalistic (covering every realm of life) for all people.

And the reason I take the time to note this is that there are some pretty heavy Reformed hitters out there who are insisting that God’s law does not apply to the public square but instead the public square must be governed by a Natural law that is not allowed to explicitly reference God’s revealed Law in order to inform how we are governed.

When we come to God’s law we see a parallel in the way God’s works in ordering creation and the way he works in ordering man’s social existence. As God created order in the heavens and the earth w/ Ten words (Gen. 1:3-29) so He creates order in society w/ Ten words.

In the 1st commandment the prohibition is against serving any other God

As he have noted the 2nd commandment is a prohibition on

Making images to represent the true God (32:4)
Making images to represent false gods (any likeness of anything)

The problem with Idols is it allows the Deity to be controlled by those in charge of the Idol

This is to forget it is God who controls us, not we who control God.

1.) image worship is forbidden because it reduces God

a.) reduces God’s incomprehensibility to comprehensibility
b.) reduces God’s majesty and transcendence
c.) reduces God’s nearness & covenantal intimacy.
d.) reduces God’s Sovereignty

All of these put us in control of God

2.) image worship is forbidden because it creates self willed worship

God will not only be worshiped alone but He will be worshiped alone only in and by the way he dictates.

3.) image worship is forbidden because in it we become like what we worship (Ps. 115:4-8)

I.) A Brief Word On God’s Character Seen In The Second Commandment

The Hebrew word qana [a”n’q] and its cognates are the most extensively used words for jealousy in the Old Testament. In Exodus 34:14 we learn that “the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” In Deuteronomy 4:24, God is described as “a consuming fire, a jealous God, ” giving the idea that he will judge because of his jealousy. In Joshua 24:19, Joshua challenges the people to serve the Lord but reminds them that serving God will be difficult because “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.” In Zechariah 1:14, when the Lord is asked why he allows Jerusalem to be down-trodden by the nations, he replies, “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.” In verse 15, he continues to explain that while he intended to punish Israel for her sin, the nations have “added to the calamity.” Because of his jealousy,God will restore Jerusalem to its rightful people and will build his temple there (v. 16).This concept is also brought out in context of the last days in Joel 2:18: “the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.” The Hebrew noun is alsoused to describe a man’s jealousy for his wife ( Num 5:14-30 ) and God’s passionate anger against sin ( 1 Kings 14:22 ; Psalm 78:58 ).

God’s jealousy in 20:5 describes His passion for His Holy name. His people were to be known as God’s people so that if they committed idolatry it was God’s name (His character, His renown) that would be besmirched and seen as less glorious than it always remains. Eventually, this idolatry problem finds God removing his shekinah glory from the temple in Ezekiel 8:3. In Ez. 8:3 we have a description of an idol that was set up in the temple mount “that provokes to jealousy.”

God deigns to place His name upon us but in being adorned with His name we are not to provoke Him to jealously by involving ourselves with idolatry.

II.) The Familial Promises Attached To This Prohibition

A.) Cursings

Sanction and Blessing. To the second commandment are appended a sanction and a blessing.

We find the idea of blessings for obedience in many places in Scripture. Lev. 26:23=24 is one such example

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

In the Exodus reference we see that if the head of the family turns away from Yahweh to worship images, his entire family will be swallowed up in his self-willed worship. His sin becomes their stumbling. “The third and fourth generation” are mentioned, because sometimes parents lived to see these, and so with their eyes beheld the punishment inflicted upon their posterity for their sins, which must be distressing to them; The idea here is that these warnings might impress their minds and affect them, to think what their sins would bring upon their descendants, who would quickly come after them, and share in the sad effects of their iniquities, and so be a means to deter them from them.

Note how this reinforces Federal Theology.

That this blessing and curse are added to this commandment is significant. Lying and stealing are serious crimes, but turning your back on the Lord to practice self-willed religion is most serious.

This teaches us that true religion is not a matter of voluntary choice which is w/o repercussions. It is required by God, and failure to meet His requirements leads to judgment. To assume that men are free to worship or not worship w/o radical consequences for a family and even a society is to negate the very meaning of Biblical faith. The life of a family and a society is its religion and if that religion be false, then the family and the society is headed for God’s cursings. Obedience is thus not a matter of taste: it is a question of life and death.

B.) Blessings

If there are cursings that descend upon the family for the head of the family’s sin so there are blessings. All the way to the most extended generation imaginable, God will show his favor to those who are faithful to Him and keep His commands. David’s house continued for generations, even though they were punished for Solomon’s sins (1 Kings 11:34, 38-39).

“Showing Mercy” — This idea of Mercy in this text communicates the idea of God’s loving Kindness and Devotion to His people for the sake of His covenant with them. This idea of God “showing Mercy” is a strong term that communicates God’s unfailing commitment to His people.

Scriptures also describes this covenant faithfulness as “abounding in love,” (34:6) as a “Mercy that endureth forever (Psalm 136), and as so great that it takes back unfaithful Gomer (Hosea 2:19).

What might we say here?

You can love your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren best when you love God, thus leaving Generations yet unseen a Godly legacy.

For those without a Godly heritage in their family we can still take hope because Scripture teaches us that God, being merciful often graciously interrupts this cursing of the generations. These blessings and curses are not rules that God can not interrupt for His own ends. Pious Jehoshaphat had a godless son Jehoram (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 8:16-18). Three godless sons and a godless grandson (2 Kings 22-23) succeeded God-fearing Josiah.

III.) Other Considerations Concerning Idolatry

The Impact of Idolatry On A Culture

In OT Israel the health of the body politic (commonwealth) required the prohibition of Idolatry, because the toleration of Idolatry meant the overthrow of God as God unto His people, which would result in death for the people. (All those who hate me love death).

As such in the OT Idolatry was punishable by Death since it constituted Treason against God.

Deuteronomy 17:2-7

2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge[a] the evil[b] from your midst.

Now, were we to implement this kind of procedure in our culture people would think it extreme, yet we are not inclined to think it extreme that people are put to death for treason against the State (Julius and Ethel Rosenberg).

But of course we do not visit Idolatry with capital punishment in this country but Calvinists over the Centuries have had other views.

‎”The third opinion (of Calvinism) is, that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing Heretics and Sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, doth require. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox Ancients, (vide Optati opera, edit, Albaspin. pag. 204, 215.) so it is followed by our soundest Protestant Writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a peculiar Treatise De Hareticis à Magistratu puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand [de magist. polit. cap. 2. quæst. 3. dub 2.] and other Lutheran Writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all Heretics without distinction are to be put to death: The truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this Question, that is, that Heretics are to be punished by mulcts, imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death. What is it else that Calvin teacheth, when he distinguisheth three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate betwixt brethren: others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity: a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishments?”

~ George Gillespie
Westminster Devine”

Calvin writes in his defense of the execution of Servetus:

Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church . It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affectations which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that be almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honor, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories. [12]

Philip Schaff’s comment is important:

Calvin’s plea for the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy by death, stands or falls with his theocratic theory and the binding authority of the Mosaic code. His arguments are chiefly drawn from the Jewish laws against idolatry and blasphemy, and from the examples of the pious kings of Israel. [13]

Gillespie and Calvin understood that to allow a alien law order, which allows Idolatry and all manner of sin which also is defined as criminality, to thrive in the name of some kind of enlightened pluralism was, in reality, to support the alien gods and the alien law order. To allow a law order to thrive that is alien to God’s law order to is to breathe life into the alien law order and to consign God’s law order to the garbage dump.

So, where Idolatry is allowed to have its way in any culture / social order means the eventual extinction of that culture / social order as people will disregard any social order constraints that get in the way of their self-assertion and desires. Just as Israel apart from the one true God was a nation where “every man did what was right in His own eyes,” so any nation that stands apart from the true God will have a culture where every man does what is right in his own eyes.

The only cure for this is Jesus Christ. Only Christ can provide the atonement necessary for those who have served false gods and desire to return to the only true God and the life that he promises.



The Fall & Idolatry … A Prototype Explaining The 1st Commandment’s Prohibition

We find the sin of Idolatry going back to the Garden in Genesis 1-3 even though such sin is not explicitly stated.

In point of fact when our first parents quit being committed to God and reflecting His image at that very moment they were replacing reverence for God with reverence for an Idol and were being conformed to the image of the Idol they had turned to and were reflecting its image.

To see the idolatry of our first parents we have to understand that the purpose of Adam & Eve’s placement in the garden.

Gen. 1:28 teaches that our first parents were to subdue the entire earth

“God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In having dominion they were to reflect God’s image on the earth as God’s vice regents — His Stewards. In taking dominion Adam & Eve were reflecting God’s character and filling the earth with that Character.

Genesis 2:15 continues that theme,

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

They were to serve it and guard it.

The idea of cultivating and protecting the garden was how Adam was to display the functional calling of God’s Image

Just as God subdued the Chaos they were to subdue the Garden.
Just as God ruled over all of Creation as seen in His Creative work they were to have dominion
Just as God filled the earth with teeming things they were to be fruitful and multiply themselves

This idea that Adam was set in the sanctuary Temple garden as a royal Image of God is an ancient concept that we find in other ancients contexts. Parallels from other Eastern cultures find the images of gods adorning their temples and include the idea that the King of the people is an ancient image of God.

The clearest example of this is found in the Egyptian King Rameses II (1290-1224 BC) when referring to his God inscribed, thou hast fashioned me in they likeness and thy form, which thou hast assigned to me and has created.”

“I am thy Son who thou hast placed upon thy throne. Thou hast assigned to me thy Kingdom.”

J. Richard Middleton can write on this,

“The description of ancient Near Eastern Kings as the image of a god, when understood as an integral component of Egyptian and / or Mesopotamian royal ideology, provides the most plausible set of parallels for interpreting the imago Dei in Genesis 1. If such texts … influenced the biblical imago Dei, this suggests that humanity is dignified with a status and role vis-a-vis the non human creation that is analogous to the status and role of kings in the ancient Near East vis-a-vis their subjects… As Imago Dei, then humanity in Genesis 1 is called to be representative and intermediary of God’s power and blessing on earth.”

So Adam and Eve were God’s Image in His Temple Sanctuary Garden and functionally speaking by having Dominion (guarding and serving Gen. 2:15) they were to mirror God’s glorious Image. Further in being fruitful and in multiplying they were filling the earth not merely with progeny but with image bearing progeny who would be reflectors of God’s glory.

These Image bearers however betrayed the end for which they were created by choosing to serve an Idol.

Adam failed in his divine image of dominion by not guarding the garden and allowing the Serpent into the Temple Sanctuary of God, and eventually that lack of Image reflecting guardianship eventually gave way to being ruled by the Serpent. Instead of casting the serpent out He, himself served the Serpent and was cast out.

In all of this we see the move to Idolatry. Remember that Idol worship is revering and prioritizing anything but and above God. We see this in

Adam’s allegiance shifting from God to the Serpent
Adam reflecting the Serpent’s character and not God’s

Whereas Adam had been God’s truth spokesman as seen in naming the Creating, Adam now speaks deceitfully like Satan.

Whereas Adam had trusted God’s legislative word, Adam now trusts his own word as seen in trusting the Serpent

So Adam’s shift from trusting God to trusting himself to trust the Serpent meant that Adam no longer reflected God’s image but was beginning to mirror the image of his Idol.

Perhaps the highest form of idolatry seen in the fall is the determination of Adam to make his own Word to be legislative of reality as opposed to submitting to God’s Law Word. For this sin of reflecting and mirroring the Serpent, who once upon a time determined himself to do what Adam and Eve have now done (de-God God and en-God himself by ascending to the most High,) God casts them out of the Temple sanctuary garden just as God has cast Satan out of heaven long ago.

So in this we see that the root of all idolatry is in deifying our own capacities and thereby attempt to make God of ourselves and our choices and all their implications. At the root all idolatry is human rejection of the Godness of God and the finality of God’s legislating moral authority. Idolatry always works to blur the distinction between the Creator and the creature. Man, in erecting Idols, aims at injuring God and always mortally wounds himself.

The fall displays sin to be the rearranging of existence around the self conditioned self, with the result that self conditioned self is the center of all it does. Gen. 3 teaches us that all sin thus begins with idolatry and is always in service having other gods before God.

What are your besetting sins? Whatever those besetting sins are they are besetting sins because at root some Idol of self is seeking to displace the God of the Bible in your heart.

And Idolatry is always, in the end about the Transcendent Self. Even in animistic cultures where Idols are more concrete the purpose of serving the Totem or the Idol is to ensure the worshipers of their own safety, advancement and aggrandizement. In animistic cultures the Idols are served because of how the Idols can serve the worshipers and magic is introduced as manipulative alchemy to bend the gods to ones will.

In Biblical Christianity this is flipped around. The God of the Bible serves Himself by serving His people w/ the purpose that we might serve Him. God does not exist at our disposal, we exist at God’s disposal. We are not using God to advance our autonomously arrived at agendas, God is using us to advance His agenda of ruling all the Earth.

Another characteristic of Idolatry we see in the fall is the building up and protecting of the Self. The building up of the self is obvious enough as it is seen in the refusal of the self to submit to God’s ordained order. However, the centrality of the self in Idolatry is especially seen in God’s investigation of the matter. Adam protects the Idol self by blaming Eve, and Eve protects the Idol self by blaming the Serpent. Wherever you see Idolatry you see justifications and rationalizations for behavior that a repentant self would own up to.

So, Idolatry is concerned with creating a bubble of the Self (making the self look larger and more intimidating than it really is) and it is concerned with protecting at all costs the image of the self.

Illustration — Tolkien’s Gollum (Smeagol)

Ivan Provan has said in his book, “Worshiping God in Nietzsche’s World,”

“the fundamental idolatry described by the Bible lies also at the heart of the varied modern idolatries: the idolatry of the self. The self is at the center of existence as a god: ultimate significance is found in god-like individual autonomy, self-set goals and boundaries.”

All of this explains our current infatuation with the self. We worry about our children’s self-esteem and we worry about our self-image. We talk about being self-aware and encourage ourselves to have self-confidence to overcome self-doubt. And some of these might be fine if they were set against the back drop of worshiping God as God but more often than not they are set against the back drop of the self-conditioned self and are thus seen as self worship.


So what are our idols?

One might suggest that one of our chief Idols is what I might call “Nowism.”

Nowism is the idea that however things are now is how they are going to always be and as such we would do well to align our thinking w/ the “now.” Some have called “Nowism,” “Historical determinism.” It is an Idol because it is believed that it controls all.

With this kind of thinking theology is re-tooled so that whatever is fashionable now is used to reinterpret the Christian faith, or Christian ethics. And so because of “nowism,” we get the attempt to add the Belhar Confession to our confessions because the multiculturalism that it reflects is seen as a trend that just can’t end.

But the Idol of “Nowism” means also we reinterpret what is modest in light of the prevailing tendency. Nowism means that we reinterpret worship through the lens of Top 40 music and self-help psychology because that is what attracts people.

However, the Idol of “Nowism,” is a unsure thing as history is not dictated by trends that can not be overcome but it is dictated by God who is the judge over history. Imagine how inevitable “Nowism” must have been in Sodom 5 minutes before God’s judgment.

Another oldie but goodie Idol is “401K’ism.” (You can not serve both God and mammon)

Americans tend to have us much confidence in the future as they have money in the bank. We can tend to measure our status and importance by what we have that others do not have.

But 401K’ism doesn’t afflict only the wealthy. The poor can be and often are afflicted by this as seen in their envy and hatred of the wealthy simply because they are wealthy. This envy — this delighting in the failure of others even if we aren’t helped by their failure — is seen and ginned up in every political cycle as voters are reminded how unfair the economic order is.

Does your Mammon own you or do you own your mammon?

Another Idol is the Idol of power

This is seen in the domineering husband and father who rules the home not with a servants heart but with a tyrant’s intent. It is seen in the shrew and wench of a wife who will have her way no matter what and so seeks to undercut the authority of her husband at each turn. It is seen in the Boss who views his employees as his playthings or in the employee who is always conniving to displace the rightful authority of the Employer.

It is seen in the modern messianic state that claims ownership of all things, and claims the right to formulate laws without any reference to transcendent moral absolutes. Because it is a Idol of power it seeks to reduce other authorities to impotence such as local magistrates, family, and Church.

Another Idol is the Church and what passes for Christianity

It is an Idol because of its compromise with the idols of the age and its refusal to serve no God but God. When we so prioritize the Church simply because it is called “the Church,” that we turn a blind eye ourselves to the idols of our age we have committed Churcholatry.

Of course anything can become an Idol. We can love our family so much that it displaces God and so we are guilty of familolatry. Many men have been guilty of workoltry, and yet work is a positive good. In our culture there seems to be a tendency towards Celbrity-olatry, but I think we could file that also under Nowism since the celebrity reflects the “now.”

It may be the most difficult thing in life to constantly keep our Idols in check. We are self-deceivers and it is difficult for us to see the truth about ourselves. But if we are to press on in Christ likeness we have to be careful of idols we might create.


G. K. Beale

“God has made humans to reflect Him, but if they do not commit themselves to Him, they will not reflect Him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: We either reflect the Creator or something in creation…. All humans have been created to be reflecting beings, and they will reflect whatever they are ultimately committed to, whether the true God or some other object in the created order…. We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.”

The Magical Worldview & Modern Man

Text — Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:10-11; Isa. 8:19; Micah 5:12; Mal. 3:5; Acts 8:18f; Acts 13:4-12; II Tim. 3:8, Gal. 5:20

Heidelberg Catechism — Q. 94-95

Q. 94. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

A. That I must avoid and flee all idolatry, Magic, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures because of the risk of losing my salvation. Indeed, I ought properly to acknowledge the only true God, trust in him alone, in humility and patience expect all good from him only, and love, fear and honor him with my whole heart. In short, I should rather turn my back on all creatures than do the least thing against his will.

Subject — Magic
Theme — God’s forbidding of Magic
Proposition — God’s forbidding of magic should cause us to look to see if a magical worldview impinges on our thinking today as modern men so that we might forswear it.


We are not talking this morning about Magic as entertainment. Not talking about Card tricks, pulling rabbits out of hats, or illusions.

Magic — Definition

“Any action of man whereby he attempts total control over the powers of nature and other men so has to manipulate nature and men to a unnatural end.”

Magic is the attempt by man to gain control over the world of man, nature, and the supernatural. In magic, man attempts to become god over all things and to assert his power and control over all reality. According to Kurt Koch:
At the threshold of human history stands the command of God: Replenish the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). The task and right of man was the peaceful conquest of the earth’s powers in agreement with the will of God. In opposition to this command, Satan, the great master of confusion, made the arch-temptation: Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). The antithesis of the command of God is magic, hunger of knowledge and desire for power in opposition to the will of God. With this, young mankind found itself at the crossroads.
Kurt Koch — “Between God & Satan”

Its purpose, according to Scripture, is to divert people from God to man (Isa. 8:19).

Magic thus becomes a religion in as much as it is attached to controlling reality through the control of Idols.

Religion — “Submission to that which is ultimate” — Dr. Paul Tillich

Biblical Religion — Man submitting to the triune God moving in terms of God’s law Word and handling all things in light of God’s Word.

Magic — Man submitting only to himself through his Idols and seeking through manipulation total control over all reality.

Pagan man sought that control via incantation and what we moderns consider strange rituals.

Modern man seeks that control via social manipulation by any and all means. What is important though is that in both cases what is being sought are the instruments to control via one’s own fiat word other men and all reality in a way that is not in harmony with God and His Word. In both the animistic or ancient world and the modern world magic is a means of deception whereby man seeks, by power of his fiat word, to alter real reality.

Modern man laughs and scoffs at the Shaman, Witch Doctor, or Druid in the third world with their slain chickens, and feathers and bones and yet modern man seeks every bit as much to leverage Magic in order to manipulate his reality to move in terms of his fiat word as the Shaman, Witch Doctor and Druid.

And yet Modern man engages in his own type of magic in order to manipulate & control his world & the world around him.

Modern man still looks to Shamans, Witch Doctors, and Druids to leverage magic in order to manipulate reality to move in terms of his fiat word.

Different Modern Expressions of Magic

I.) Much of Psychology is nothing but a form of Magic

Remembering that we have defined magic as the attempt to use raw power (consider Simon the magician’s desire for power in Acts 8) to gain total control over men and / or situations with the purpose of manipulating them to move not in terms of God’s authority but in terms of man’s fiat (self-legislating) word.

And this is what much of Psychology / Psychiatry / Counseling does. It does not look to God’s word for authority and insight but rather seeks to control men through theories that come from a worldview that is distinctly non-Christian. The humanist psychologist seeks through his fiat theories and therapeutic word to magically create alternate realities whereby his patient is magically cured.

The Shaman … can be viewed as a early psychotherapist.

Herbert Benson M. D.
Harvard Professor

There is abundant evidence in many forms of modern thought, especially the so called “prosperity” psychology “will power building,” and systems of “high pressure,” salesmanship black magic has merely passed through a metamorphosis, and although its named be changed, its nature remains the same.”

Manly P. Hall
Masonic, Hermitic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy — pg. C1, C11
Cited from Dave Hunt’s Occult Invasion, pg. 432

We too often forget that psychology as a discipline originated in the attempt to understand man without taking into consideration the God of the Bible. Previously man had been understood in terms of God, but with Psychology man would now be understood without God and the elite would be able to control man through this understanding of man. Psychology thus became a kind of magic that accepted almost unquestioningly in all of our institutions, including our Churches.

And so this discipline that began with feeling the bumps on people’s heads as become a form of magic consulted in how to manipulate people to act in ways that are uninformed by God’s revealed word. The psychologist, like the Shaman of old, uses incantations and rituals in order to alter someone’s perception and to gain control.

We remember that we are talking about magic, and in order to reinforce our understanding of what magic is we offer another definition from M. Stanton Evans,

“In it’s most fundamental terms pagan magical mentality is an effort to obtain the secret knowledge which will give one mastery over nature and other people. As such it has long been a component of the modern outlook. Much of what passes these days as science, (Scientism is the more accurate term) is in fact magic in modern dress. Scientism and magic appear together at the age of the Renaissance … and have been ingredients in secular thought ever since.”

II.) This definition of magic thus brings us to another modern expression of Magic in the modern world and that is Scientism.

Alduous Huxley’s book Brave New World” opens in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The year is a.f. 632 (632 years “after Ford”). The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is giving a group of students a tour of a factory that produces human beings and conditions them for their predestined roles in the World State. He explains to the boys that human beings no longer produce living offspring. Instead, surgically removed ovaries produce ova that are fertilized in artificial receptacles and incubated in specially designed bottles. The Hatchery destines each fetus for a particular caste in the World State.

Science is being used, in Huxley’s novel, as magic in order to give sovereign man the ability to have totalitarian control over his world. Man is the idol and science is used as magic in order to control the idol.

But, Huxley’s BNW w/ it’s use of science as a means of magic is not that far fetched from our own world. We don’t quite control birth by caste yet but we do do things like abort 90% of babies diagnosed in utero with downs syndrome thus taking into our own hands the prerogative of God. The push for abortifacients by our Federal gov’t. in our name is nothing but magic seeking totalitarian control. Interestingly enough “pharmakiea” (poisoner) is the word used for “sorcery” (a aspect of magic) in Gal. 5:20

According to Luther (Luthers Works, Vol 27)

“According to Jerome sorcery is called the poisonous art; for the Greek word ‘pharmakon’ means poison or medicament. Hence a sorceress is called poisonous. Therefore the apostle is referring to magicians, wizards, enchanters, and any others who, by means of compacts with devils, deceive their neighbors, harm them, and steal from them.”

Further we use science to control people through drugs and there is work going on in developing designer medicines in order to bring forth a particular personality profile for certain occasions.

I would submit that there are times when there is more sorcery about science than there is science about science.

Of course Science is good and pleasing to God as it is consistent with a Biblical worldview but when Science seeks to overthrow Biblical theology and seeks instead to absolutize itself it becomes a form of magic as it seeks a control that is inconsistent with God’s Word.

Remember, Science is only as good as the Theology it descends from. So, when Science goes outside the bonds of Biblical theology it is serving some other god or gods and when it becomes absolutized so that by its power it seeks total control of man it becomes a form of magic and is thus to be supped with, with a long spoon by Christians.

III.) Another Modern Expression of Magic is our Political Structures

Rose L Martin in her book High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A, 1884-1966, quoted G. D. H. Cole as stating that an objective of socialism is the “abolition of God.”[2]

Remember we said that the purpose of magic is to divert people’s attention away from God and His word and as the State seeks to be the all encompassing arbiter of good and evil legislating for against it the politicians and bureaucrats who comprise the state become a league of magicians.

On this point R. J. Rushdoony could say,

“(The State) plan(s) to abolish sin and guilt, poverty, disease, and hunger, even death itself, and create a new paradise on earth. The new politics is a politics of total control, and it therefore hates God, because God represents a roadblock to power. God is the enemy who must be destroyed so that man can become his own god.”

Non-Christians like Orwell and Huxley in their novels “1984” and “BNW” both understood this totalitarian and magical aspect of the State in defiance of orthodox Christianity, and the reality that the State seeks to use fiat legislative magic to overthrow God explains the hostility of the State towards those who are epistemologically self conscious Christians.

When the Bureaucrats and legislators create and enforce fiat humanist legislation that is unrelated into God’s law they are preforming a kind of magic whereby they are seeking, by means of deception, to use their power to control men. Their words in their legislation thus becomes a kind of “magic spell,” which is cast in order to get people to do their bidding.

IV.) Another important area where magic prevails today is in art.

Here I am borrowing from RJR’s chapter 12 in Law & Liberty

T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, in his study, Mona Lisa’s Mustache: A Dissection of Modern Art, observed that “modern art is not modern at all. It is a revival of one of the oldest systems for getting power. It is a revival of magic.”

The modern artists are totalitarians who despise man and liberty. As Robsjohn-Gibbings noted,

According to the futurists, “Man has no more significance than a stone.” We find Kandinsky, the leader of expressionism, writing haughtily of “the vulgar herd,” and “the mob,” we find the surrealists insisting on the “greatest possible obliteration of individuality,” and Picasso, the leader of cubism, calling for “a dictatorship of one painter.”

To men such as these, art could be only a medium through which they would gain power over the fellow beings they consider so insignificant. So art becomes like a Kewpie doll used by a Voodoo Witch Doctor in order to inflict disorder into people’s reality.

The modern magical artist hates above all to be moral, law-abiding, and meaningful; he belongs in his imagination to an elite group whose purpose is to smash the present order and remake it totally in terms of their own elitist plans. According to one artist’s manifesto, “The artist ‘should be understood as a contemporary magician … How are we to wield power; how are we to influence:’ and not ‘Are we scientists or poets?’ is the question to be posed … Seers, we are for the magic of life.”

Modern art seeks to destroy God’s meaning, to obliterate it from man’s mind, so that man will no longer see God’s order in things but will relearn all things as taught by magical art. Its purpose thus is total brainwashing.

Modern art thus becomes a kind of visible sorcerer’s spell by which the viewer is hexed into accepting the meaning of non-meaning as cast by the Artist.

The magic of the Artist is found in his ability to thrust a hexed people into chaos where integration into the void is the goal by the means of a artistic spell that leads people into concluding that meaning, at best, is person variable. The hope of the magician Artist is that out of chaos order will arise. Those who are deceived by the Sorcerer artists’s hex will increasingly discard meaning and order as declared by God’s interpretation of reality but will instead re-interpret reality according to the spell of the Sorcerer Artist.

It is a form of magic … sorcery.


We fail to see how we are given to magic in our culture because we tend to think that the magical worldview belongs only to animistic cultures. We don’t take seriously God’s word or the Heidelberg Catechism’s injunction against magic because having become so used to the magic around us we fail to see it for magic.