How To Create National Identity

(The state),”applies itself to loading everybody’s brain with prejudices, and everybody’s heart with sentiments favorable to the spirit of disorder, war, and hatred; so that, when a doctrine of order, peace, and comity presents itself, it is in vain that it has clearness and truth on its side; it cannot gain admittance.”

Frederic Bastiat

It is in the State’s interest, especially when trying to manage a unwieldy and geographically unnatural Republic, to develop in its citizenry a shared animosity towards a common enemy. This is especially true, when, as in America, all the other natural common ground is systematically tilled under. When the common ground of a shared faith, family ties, and local custom are tilled under then the common denominator that serves to hold a people together is their shared animosity towards the State conjured bogey man. During most of my lifetime the State conjured bogey man was the Soviet Union. I say it was State conjured because it was America’s policies that propped up the Soviet Union. All the US ever had to do was cease subsidizing the Russian communists in order to see them whither and die. Today the State conjured bogey man is a third world country like Iran.

It would be interesting if Americans could find enough in common to go on together as a people if they did not have a common enemy to rally against. The State, understanding this, has an interest to create enemies in order to create a shared national identity and purpose. This artificial creation of enemies also serves the State’s ends, because when successful, it is the State that the citizenry must look to in order to protect them from their shared enemy.

Once the State has convinced the citizenry that somebody out there is the enemy then it is nigh unto impossible to dispel that impression. This becomes especially so once Americans start sending their sons and fathers overseas to fight. To take up the argument that some State conjured bogey man is not really a threat to US national interests is to automatically call into question the wisdom and bravery of their soldiers and typically earns all kinds of lack of patriotic ardor opprobrium.

Let me say this as clearly as possible. The greatest threat to America is not the Muslims. The greatest threat to America is not the illegal immigrants. The greatest threat to America is not the Democratic party. The greatest threat to America is not the neo-cons. The greatest threat to America is a centralized government whose chief interests are to increase its size, perpetuate its existence, and create enemies against whom it will spill the blood of the citizenry in order to provide the glue the keeps otherwise disparate people glued together.

Chistopher J. H. Wright — On The Law

“The motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to bless the nations. After all, what would the nations actually see? The nearness of God is by definition invisible. What, then, would be visible? Only the practical evidence of the kind of society that was built on God’s righteous laws. There is a vital link between the invisible religious claims of the people of God (that God is near them when they pray) and their very visible practical social ethic. The world will be interested in the first only when it sees the second. Or conversely the world will see no reason to pay any attention to our claims about our invisible God, however much we boast of His alleged nearness to us in prayer, if it sees no difference between the lives of those who make such claims and those who don’t.”

Christopher J. H. Wright
The Mission Of God — pg. 380

If we stipulate that the motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to glorify God and then penultimately to bless the nations we would heartily endorse Wright’s words here.

There are those who insist that God’s law is not abiding as it pertains to the ‘laws of nations’ believing instead that we should look to natural law for the establishment of law. Those who reason this way look to the Old Testament laws and insist that if we are to properly read the Scriptures in a redemptive-historical fashion we will see that the covenantal ethics that were established for the nation State of Israel fall under a rubric called ‘intrusion ethics’ and are no longer applicable today. This is a kind of Reformed dispensationalizing of the law texts in the Old Testament with the result that the greater but temporary fullness of the consummational Kingdom that was represented by the laws that governed National Israel in the Old Testament is withdrawn in the New covenant age only to await their re-implementation in the fullness of the Christ’s Kingdom that appears with the second advent. There is a GREAT deal wrong with this view but the most obvious seems to be this revisionist Reformed theology ends up making the Old Covenant a better covenant then the New Covenant. Also there is the problem that in relation to the ‘now, not yet’ of eschatology what this theology ends up doing is reversing what we would expect to find. What this theology does is that it front loads the ‘now’ in the Old Covenant choosing to emphasize the ‘not yet’ in the ‘age to come’ which Christ has brought in with His birth, death, resurrection, advent and session. In short, this theology under-realizes severely the reality that with Christ’s coming the Kingdom is present.

Obviously such people would strongly disagree with Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright’s quote above. While these radical two Kingdom types agree that the law applies to a personal ethic what they disagree with is the idea of a Biblical social ethic that is informed and governed by the Old Testament case law. Such Theologians can and have ended up suggesting that the Church should not speak out against matters like Homosexual marriage since that is an issue that belongs to the common grace realm. Ideas have consequences.

I will have more to say about the idea of the revisionist ‘intrusion ethic’ in my next post. Also I haven’t forgotten that I need to finish the Dr. J. P. Moreland paper on the problem of to many Christians taking the Bible to seriously.

It’s God’s Story

Different texts have different concerns. While the stories of Aesop Fables may help us navigate this present evil age, the narrative of God’s story that we find in Holy Writ is intended to get us into the age to come or alternately teaches us how the age to come overcomes this present evil age. Aesop fables tells us how to live in this world. Scripture teaches what God has done to make us fit to live in the next World AND how His work of making us fit for the next world re-creates this World so that the Kingdoms of this earth become the Kingdoms of our God.

We must be careful not to read Scripture as if it is a story about us. The purpose of Scripture is to give God’s story of Redemption and what it is He has done to put us in His Story. There is a perpetual danger on our part of taking God’s story and stuffing it in our own personal narratives with the result that God is the kind of co-star whose role is to approve of our story line while making sure that we, in our lead roles, look good. When we read Scripture like this Scripture goes from being a Story about the glory of God as seen in providing redemption for sinners to being a Story about our glory as seen in how we have spent our lives with God as our co-star who gladly conforms His actions according to our script.

The danger of reading scripture like this is that conceivably someone could quote Scripture backwards and forwards rattling off Scriptures from memory like a Brooklyn Bookie rattles off odds for the latest sporting events and yet we wouldn’t have any idea what Scripture means or teaches. To ‘know’ Scripture like this would leave us as ignorant of the Gospel as the Bat People Tribe who have never heard of Jesus who live in the deepest jungle of Borneo.

We need to keep this in mind when we come to passages like the Benedictus which is before us this morning. If we were to follow an all too typical type of sermon we might say something like,

“Zechariah serves for us as an example of faith, all be it tardy, that we ought to follow. Zechariah eventually obeyed God and we should also. Zechariah teaches us that God never gives up on people, even if he has to discipline them for a season and so if we have failed God we can still be faithful and He will give us another chance.”

But is it really the purpose of this pericope to teach us to emulate Zechariah’s example, or is there something about God’s story that we are to draw out from this?

Quite clearly we would be abusing this Scripture if we turned Zechariah into some kind of moral exemplar while all the time missing that what is happening here is that God’s Story of Redemption is reaching its climax. Zechariah’s prophecy isn’t even about Zechariah let alone about us. Zechariah’s prophecy is about God’s novel reaching its climatic moment. All the anticipations and adumbrations are being fulfilled. All the disappointments of the Novel in past characters and epochs that failed are going to be set right. The Hero who will kill the tyrant dragon who has so long unjustly oppressed the King’s people, as so many Damsels in distress, is being introduced into the novel. This is the Hero that has been promised by the King’s spokesmen (1:70) throughout the ages and it is the literary relief that God’s novel needs in order to go forward.

Zechariah’s son will be the last great royal Herald going forth with trumpet fanfare to announce the coming Hero (Luke 1:76f). But this novel has its own twist. Both the Herald and the Hero are rejected by those they came to rescue (“His own received Him not”). Worse still some of the royal people are traitors (Not all of Israel is of Israel) and are in league with the Dragon oppressor, aiding and abetting in the attempt to destroy the Herald and the Hero.

Yet that gets us ahead of where Zechariah is at in Luke 1. Zechariah is one of the Characters of the novel who the author is using to announce that the great King is true to His promise to provide a deliverer to redeem His people (Luke 1:68, 74).

First we should note that the story is linear and has teleology. That is to say that the part that Zechariah has to play in the story is consistent with earlier portions of the novel and is indicative that the Novel has a destination. This Hero comes from the promised house of Heroes (Luke 1:69) – a house that had been reduced to a withering stump (Isaiah 6:13). Further the coming of the Hero is consistent with promises that were given by God way early in the novel (Luke 1:70 cmp. w/ Genesis 3:15) that He would provide a dragon tyrant slaying Hero who would deliver and redeem His people from the clutches of His enemies (Luke 1:71). Indeed, Zechariah being filled with the Spirit of the Author of the Novel (Luke 1:67) can say that this Hero was part of a storyline that includes in it earlier Heroes such as David (Luke 1:69) and Abraham (Luke 1:73) who were literary anti-types of the great Hero in God’s novel.

Second, as we read this part of the story we realize that this story is framed by covenant (Luke 1:72). This is the literary tool used to unite the whole story. Covenant is how God, as a Novelist, brings unity and diversity into His story. The literary tool of covenant allows the novel to keep building while at the same time providing a sense of wholeness to the story as it unfolds. When Dr. Luke wanted to show early Christians that the Heroes’ life and ministry were the fulfillment of God’s ancient purposes for His chosen people, he pointed to the covenants and quoted Zechariah’s prophecy which reveals that believers such as Zechariah in the very earliest days of ‘the new and better covenant’ understood Jesus and His messianic work as a fulfillment (not a ‘Plan B’) of God’s covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:72-73). God didn’t shelf the previous story of the Old Covenant with the arrival of Jesus and start a new story with the intent of getting back to the previous story once he had finished the new story. No, Zechariah’s appeal to the covenant reveals that the characters in God’s novel understood that this was one incredible narrative.

The Novel doesn’t change plot lines with the coming of Jesus. The author of the Novel doesn’t suddenly switch to an alternate plan of rescue for His people all because His royal people reject the Hero. Quite to the contrary this was part of the Author’s intention from when He began writing His novel.

Another thing we want to see about this novel is that it is interactive, which is to say that God’s story is not a story that leaves us unaffected. While it is certainly not the case that we are to turn God’s story into our story, it is the case that God takes us up into His story so that we become participants in his story. Zechariah notes that the salvation (deliverance, redemption) that is being provided by the Messiah is to have the effect that God’s people might ‘serve Him without fear.’ The idea is that having been delivered we might be loyal servants (hence royal priesthood) to God. The redemption provided by God in His story doesn’t end with a people who deaf dumb and mute to the extension of God’s Kingdom. No, in God’s story we are delivered in order to serve. God does not become a participant in our story but we do become participants in His story, and we do so by rendering Him the service a delivered people delight in rendering.

The Myth of Multi-culturalism and the Myths That Support It

“Every culture and society exudes a certain convictional glue, an undergirding outlook on life and reality that preserves its cohesiveness. When that adhesive bond deteriorates, the sense of shared community tends to come apart at the seams. Recent modern thinkers define this bond of conceptualities or value-constellations as myth, that is, man’s representation of the transcendent or divine in human or earthly terms.”

Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation, and Authority
Vol. I, pg. 44

And herein is found the lie of multi-culturalism if by multi-culturalism one believes that one contiguous society can be sustained by a plethora of competing outlooks on life and reality which preserves its cohesiveness. The great lie of the push of all things multi-cultural is that in point of fact multi-culturalism is an attempt to create a mono-culture with all the attendant adhesive bonds and convictional glue that all shared communities share. The current multiculutural project in the West is every bit as homogeneous as the shared Muslim culture of Saudi Arabia or the shared Shinto culture of Japan. There is no more tolerance in the mono-culture of multi-culturalism then there is in the mono-culture of say Pakistan or India.

This reality explains why clear expressions of Christianity are so hated by the multi-culturalists. Epistemologically self-conscious Christians (herein after referred to as Es-cC)are a threat to moderns who desire a mono-culture built upon the myths of multi-culturalism. Es-cC attack the convictional glue that holds together the multi-cultural project identifying and labeling it as the idolatry that it is. The great problem with the Church in the West today is that it doesn’t understand that it is defining its Christianity within the pagan paradigm and by the unbelieving parameters of multi-culturalism. This is not the first time that this type of thing has happened in the history of the Church. B. B. Warfield commenting on the first century Church and its penchant for the superstitious noted,

“The fundamental fact which should be borne in mind is that Christianity, in coming into the world, came into a heathen world. It found itself, as it made its way ever more deeply into the world, ever more deeply immersed in a heathen atmosphere which was heavy with miracle. This heathen atmosphere, of course, penetrated it at every pore, and affected its interpretation of existence in all the happenings of daily life. It was not merely, however, that Christians could not be immune from the infection of the heathen modes of thought prevalent about them. It was that the Church was itself recruited from the heathen community. Christians were themselves but baptized heathen, and brought their heathen conceptions into the church with them little changed in all that was not obviously at variance with their Christian confession. He that was unrighteous, by the grace of God did not do unrighteousness still; nor did he that was filthy remain filthy still. But he that was superstitious remained superstitious still; and he who lived in a world of marvels looked for and found marvels happening about him still. In this sense the conquering church was conquered by the world which it conquered.”

The point of contact between Warfield’s observations about first century Christianity and its culture of superstition and the observation about 21st century Christianity in the West and its embracing of the ethos of multi-culturalism is that in both cases the Church was guilty then and is guilty now of re-enforcing, instead of challenging, the prevailing idolatry du jour. A genuinely muscular Church would in no way countenance official faith pluralism, or political polytheism as the means by which the mono-culture of multi-culturalism is built and sustained in the West. Those who are Es-cC will sense that they are pilgrims and strangers in this current culture and will struggle in finding a cultural harmony with those (‘Christian’ or otherwise) who have embraced the adhesive bond and convictional glue that binds the adherents of the multi-cultural cult together.

When considering the mono-culture of multiculturalism we should ask what are the adhesive bonds and convictional glue that holds this culture together. Phrasing it another way, per the quote of Henry, we are asking what is the guiding myth that provides cohesion for multi-culturalism. There might be several ways to answer that question but this is what I see as the elements of stickiness in the convictional glue that hold the multi-culturalism of the West together.

1.) All gods are welcome and indeed beckoned as long as they know and keep their place. Any gods (save the god of multi-culturalism) who intends to create a culture that is consistent with his tenets and precepts is a god that must be banned as intolerant.

2.) Because all gods are equal, therefore all individuals are equal and because all individuals are equal therefore all ethnicities are equal and because all ethnicities are equal therefore all cultures are equal. In the multi-cultural myth there is no better or worse. No shade of differences in ethnic or cultural or individual inherent talent or ability. All are inherently equally smart, inherently equally athletic, inherently equally verbal, etc.

3.) Because order must be maintained all the gods must have a God who define the limits of how far the gods can go. This god of the Gods is the State in whom we live and move and have our being.

4.) People do not belong to a place or time but are interchangeable parts who can be shifted around on the global chessboard without consequence or damage to them or the place or time where they are transplanted. Nationality or ethnicity is not a reality but is only an idea that can be changed like eye-shadow.

5.) The ultimate destination is a world-community utopia where people are all of one tongue and one lip.

6.)Freedom and democracy are the ultimate values but it is a freedom and a democracy defined in a multi-cultural pagan paradigm. This leaves us a freedom to serve our gods as long as we don’t take them seriously and a democracy that is defined as voting for the kind of freedom just defined.

All of this needs to be kept in mind by Americans who are Christians. We believers need to realize that when we mindlessly support American domestic and international policy we are very likely supporting the advance of a culture that is in anti-thesis to the culture that would be normally created by a stoutly informed Biblical Christian faith.

More On Moreland & To Much Bible

Philosopher and Evangelical Dr. J. P. Moreland goes on is his recent paper to answer the question as to ‘Why are Contemporary Evangelicals Over-committed to the Bible.’

Moreland’s answer is to briefly describe the shift in Western thinking in the 20th century by using the University illustratively. Moreland briefly traces the demise of the University in the 20th century to its abandonment of objective categories that informed all men about the nature of reality (i.e. — Natural Moral Law). Moreland insists that the Evangelical problem of over-commitment to the Bible stems from what he considers a wrong reaction to this shift in 20th century thinking. According to Moreland, Christians abandoned natural moral law theory because academia had putatively proven natural moral law theory wrong. Moreland then contends that the only place for Christians to maneuver to was a over-overcommitment to the Bible. Moreland thus makes his analysis of the over-overcommitment to the Bible to be historical and sociological, believing that Biblically and Theologically Christians had a grand legacy in natural moral law theory. In brief Moreland surmises that the shift to a over-commitment to the Bible by Christians must be accounted for by using other categories then theological or biblical opting to use historical and sociological considerations as lenses to explain the unfortunate overcommitment to the Bible that has arisen.

Before pressing on to more core concerns we must insist that Dr. Moreland’s methodology is questionable. By insisting that historical and sociological tools of analysis are superior tools to answer the question as to ‘Why Evangelicals are over-committed to the Bible’ then Theological tools Moreland is setting up the kind of over-specialization that he later bemoans in his paper. Moreland insists that the curse of the shift in University thinking in the 20th century is that because of the abandonment of the Christian God, who was the source of all truth because He is a single unified mind, the curriculum in Universities no longer had a single integration point and thus Universities became Multi-versities. This resulted in over-specialization where there was little or no relation between one discipline and another as taught at the same University. Now, what I hear Dr. Moreland saying here is that Theology is the Queen of the Sciences and we jettison sanity when we give up the Biblical God. I agree with that but if that is true then why does Dr. Moreland insist that Historical and sociological tools are better fitted to analyze the problem he is considering then Theological tools? If History and sociology are dependent upon Theology (and they are) then the best tool to analyze any sociological or historical problem is a Theological tool. Is Dr. Moreland’s appeal to Historical and Sociological tools as means of analysis over against Theological tools not indicative that he himself has fallen into the over-specialization that he so rightly abjures? Are not sociological shifts beholden to Theological shifts? Dr. Moreland should have given us the Theological reasons why Christians shifted away from a natural-moral law theory and thus became over-committed to the Bible. Dr. Moreland insists that Christians didn’t need to shift to over-commitment to the Bible since they had such a deep history of natural moral law theory to rest in and yet they became over-committed to the Bible. Dr. Moreland gave us the Historical-Sociological reasons for the shift but the question still remains, if we believe in a unified field theory of knowledge; ‘What were the Theological reasons for this shift that has been described historically and sociologically?’ If that question would have been answered then we might have been able to ascertain whether those Theological reasons were Biblical.

Another methodological problem that besets Dr. Moreland’s paper is his failure to realize that the Universities didn’t lose a unified field theory of knowledge. The shift that Dr. Moreland Chronicles in the University life is not a shift from a God who provides a coherent integration of knowledge to no god but rather it was a shift from a God who provides a coherent integration of knowledge to a god who provides a incoherent integration of knowledge. God is an inescapable category and the fleeing from the God of the Bible is not a fleeing into nothing but rather a fleeing into the arms of some other god or god concept. So whereas the God of the Bible provided coherence precisely because every academic discipline was beholden to His interpretation of reality the new god of the University system yielded incoherence precisely because it was the god of humanism where each discipline is beholden to the law word of the sovereign individual who has the most clout in any one of the Universities departments. This kind of campus god created chaos as potentially the Romanticists could own the literature department and the Marxists the economics department and the Transcendentalists the politics department and the Existentialists the philosophy department and the Augustinians the Theology department, etc. etc. etc. It may be seen as quibbling but the University retains a unified field theory of knowledge and that unified field theory is that only in chaos can we find a genuine unified field theory. This is embraced because the god the University has embraced is the author of confusion. The chief reason I make this observation is so as to insist that Theology remains the queen of the sciences at the University today — a very bad theology but theology still.

It is at this point that we should return to Natural moral law theory. Dr. Moreland contends that Natural moral law theory should have never been abandoned by Christians but this assertion doesn’t seem to take into account a Christian Natural moral law theory only makes sense inside of a Christian World view. For example, it might be argued that the logical positivists who pushed the fact vs. value distinction had a Natural moral law theory of their own. They held that it was self-evident (a key component of Natural moral law theory) that fact vs. value was true and that no religion (except their own) had cognitive features that needed to be taken seriously. What Dr. Moreland hasn’t seemed to discover is that Natural moral law theory really didn’t go away but rather what was seen as being taught by nature was that nature taught that all there is, is nature. The point is that in many respects we have not moved away from Natural moral law theory but rather have transitioned to a Natural moral law theory that is consistent with pagan beliefs and Theology. Dr. Moreland doesn’t seem to realize that Natural Moral law theory is only as good as the presuppositions with which it begins. If Natural moral Law theory begins with the presupposition that the God of the Bible is then the Natural moral Law theory that we end up with will be broadly Christian. Conversely, if the Natural moral law theory begins with the presupposition that God is a non-cognitive value then the Natural moral law theory that we end up with will be broadly pagan. At this point, even at the cost of being over-committed to the Bible, the only point of appeal is God’s Word.

Dr. Moreland ends this section by saying,

By and large, Evangelicals responded during this shift by withdrawing from the broader world of ideas, developing a view of faith that was detached from knowledge and reason, and limiting truth and belief about God, theology and morality to the inerrant Word of God, the Bible. If I am right about this, then Evangelical over-commitment to the Bible is a result of the influence of secularization on the church and not of biblical or theological reflection.

First, it would have been helpful if Dr. Moreland could have given some names of who those who withdrew from the broader world of ideas. Second, one wonders if Dr. Moreland considers any Christian who disavowed Natural moral law theory as one who developed a view of faith that was detached from knowledge and reason. Third, it seems that Dr. Moreland defines ‘knowledge and reason’ in keeping with a Thomistic model. Fourth, any theory of Natural moral law that is disconnected to the the question of presuppositions is defective and will never get off the ground. Fifth, Dr. Moreland doesn’t seem to take into account that Christians may have retreated from Natural moral law theory because they began to realize the implications of what it means for the unbeliever to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and they began to appreciate that a proper understanding of general revelation (that which Natural moral law theory is pinned to) is only as good as a right understanding of special revelation.

Criticism on Moreland’s Third and final point later.