Ask the Pastor — The Problem of Evil

15 year old Freddy Foote asks,

“If God created the heavens and earth why did he create sin?”


“If He didn’t create sin then why did He allow the possibility of sin?”


Dear Freddy,

You’ve asked an excellent question that shows that you are thinking. This is most excellent! Your question is one that hones in on the timeless problem of evil. Since your question is so excellent I want to give it a thorough answer, but you must be faithful to this process by being willing to do the work of thinking through the answer.

This is a question that every person (not just Christians or even Theists in general — but EVERY PERSON) must face. Typically the problem is reduced to the question of how belief in a God that is both all powerful AND all benevolent (kind and good) can be sustained in the light of evil, sin, and wickedness. It seems Freddy, that the reality of evil must destroy either the omni-benevolence or the omnipotence of God — or so the protestations of the god-haters proclaim. God haters, with mindless glee catcall our problem w/o realizing their own (a subject for another time perhaps). The God haters say,

“If God is good and wants to eliminate sin, but cannot, He is not all powerful; but if God is all powerful and can eliminate sin, but does not He is not good.”

How do Biblical Christians approach this? The best answers for this Freddy that I have found during my years in the ministry come from Dr. Gordon Clark and from Dr. Greg Bahnsen. You need to know that anything I write here is from my learning while sitting at their feet.

First, we must note that any answer we give must, in the end, retain both God’s goodness and God’s Sovereignty. Resolutions of the problem of evil that leave God less than good, or less than absolutely sovereign are answers that leave us with a god who is not God. I note this Freddy, because many of the answers to the ‘problem of evil’ that you find in the Church today reduces God to a being that men must pity due to God’s lack of ability of stopping that which He doesn’t want to happen. For example, I remember going to a funeral once where the deceased had perished in a car accident and the first thing out of the minister’s mouth was “God didn’t have anything to do with this.” The implication was that, ‘God didn’t want the accident to happen but sometimes you got to feel sorry for God, because poor God doesn’t always get what He wants.’ So, whatever answer we come up with can’t end with some kind of sophistry that says that ‘God is sovereign enough to not be sovereign.’ No, our answer to the problem of evil must leave God to be that which the Scripture portrays Him and that is all good and all sovereign.

Another answer we need to avoid is the answer that posits some kind of dualism. This position, which is typical of many ancient Eastern religions holds that good and evil are equally equipoised and that they are in battle and that the good god and the bad god neither ever are triumphant. Sometimes you hear this kind of reasoning in the Church when people say speak of the Devil as if He were a being that somehow was God’s equal in the celestial WWF Wrestling match. The Christian faith has never embraced dualism if only because such a position denies the teaching that there is only One God.

Another bad answer, as we suggested above, is that God is a finite and limited deity. The advocates of this position would say that God does the best He can but darn it you can really expect only so much from a deity. If the advocates of wimpy Christianity are correct that the presence of evil in this world rules out a all powerful God we might ask them if, instead of a limited good God ruling us why it might not instead be the case that we are ‘ruled’ by a limited evil god who in reality tries to get all the evil he can but being limited sometimes good sneaks in every now and then. After all, limitedness could work in both directions.

Yet another bad answer that many offer in the Church today to the problem of evil Freddy, is that God gave man free will and that God is sovereign right up to the point of fallen men’s free will. This ‘answer’ once again, limits God’s godness by suggesting that God’s godness is checkmated by man’s godness. God wants certain things or doesn’t want certain things but sometimes man is more powerful than God and so uses his free will to trump God’s free will. Many people in the Church teach this idea trying to rescue God from from the lack of goodness and the perceived problem of God being charged with being ‘not nice’ for being in complete control of sin and evil. Often you will hear people using this kind of argumentation when they say things like, “Well, God didn’t want that to happen but He allowed or merely permitted it to happen. God gave man free will and so He can’t be blamed for evil.’ Free will in human agents has been put forth to clear God of the responsibility for sin and evil. It sounds so pious but it really is nonsense, and what is worse is that it doesn’t exonerate God in the least from the charge of being ‘not nice.’ Let’s examine why.

Those who thump for this answer will (usually) concede that while God’s power is checked by man’s free will what is not checked is this same God’s ability to know all things from the beginning (sometimes called omniscience). But those who contend that the free will of man clears God of the charge of the problem of evil, still have a problem with a ‘not nice’ God, for this God who from eternity past knew all that would happen throughout the history of mankind still decided to create despite knowing all the evil that would result from giving men ‘free will.’ God permitting evil by way of Man’s free will does not solve the problem of evil for a being giving man that free will, knowing before hand how it would be used, AND creating all the circumstances wherein it would be used, remains responsible for the actions of those using that free will. Besides, it is more than an open question whether or not, if in the end, any being who can’t do other then what God has always known he will do has free will but that is another subject for another day.

So, ‘Free will’ and ‘permission’ or ‘God allowing something’ is really irrelevant to the problem of evil.

So far we have eliminated from our consideration answers to the problem of evil that include the theories of dualism, limited god, and free will. Likewise we have poked fun at the notion of a God who is sovereign enough to not be sovereign. Now let us turn our attention to a positive answer.

First, though we won’t take the time to go into the historical precedents we should note that what is going to be given here for the answer to the problem of evil has long legs throughout Church History. It is not the only answer that has been given (we’ve just examined the others) but it is an answer with a long and storied pedigree in Church History stretching far behind the Reformation.

Second, we would say that belief in the doctrine of creation forces us to accept the reality that God is the cause (though not the author) of Sin. Creation ex nihilo implies God’s complete control over ALL things since such a creation eliminates any notion of any forces that are independent of God. Independent forces cannot be created forces since a created force would make it dependent upon the one who created it and created forces cannot be independent since their createdness would make them dependent to the one who created them. So, Freddy, if we introduce a power in the universe that can trump God’s will we have at the same time given up on the idea of God as the alone creator.

Obviously the answer to the problem of evil for the Biblical Christian is that God is sovereign over all things, which I take to include evil.

Scripture teaches that

Ephesians 1:11 in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh ALL things after the counsel of his will;

Romans 11:36 For of him, and through him, and unto him, are ALL things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Specifically Scripture teaches that God is in control over evil,

Isaiah 45:7

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

Amos 3:6

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

So Scripture teaches that God is Sovereign over all that happens and from that we hold that God is the cause of evil without being its author. More on that in a bit.

Before we turn to how it is that God remains good while insisting that all that happens, including evil, is God’s will we want to help clarify an apparent contradiction. Those who oppose the Biblical position on this issue will accuse me of advocating that evil things are God’s will when in point of fact Scripture teaches that evil things aren’t God’s will. For example, Scripture clearly teaches that murder is not God’s will but here I am saying that all murders that happen are God’s will. How is that objection answered?

The objection is answered by being more precise in the usage of language. God’s word gives us precepts and commands that state what ought to be done by us and we often call that ‘God’s will.’ God’s word also teaches all that happens, happens according to God’s predestining will (see the texts above) and we call that also ‘God’s will.’ Consequently we confuse matters by using the same phrase ‘God’s will’ to communicate both God’s commands and God’s decretive will. We would be better served instead to speak of ‘God’s commands’ for His Law-Word to us and restrict the use of the phrase ‘God’s will’ to refer to His predestining will. In doing so we could say that it was against God’s commands for the Jews to crucify Jesus but it was the exact desire of God’s will. Now, some will object that God decreed an evil act and we will turn to that in a second, but for now we must say that is exactly what the Scripture’s teach (Acts 2:23, 3:14-18, 4:27-28). For our purposes now, it is enough to see that there is no contradiction between saying that God’s Law Word commands certain things while God wills other things and that the violation of God’s commands by the human agent, even though acting in harmony with God’s will, does not deliver the human agent from being held responsible for his actions.

Well, Freddy, this first part is long enough for you to work through. I will return to this tomorrow, Lord willing and will try to untangle a few of the problems that I have set for us thus far. These might include,

1.) How can God be the cause of evil but not the author of evil?

2.) How can humans be held be responsible by God for those things they have done that God has predestined?

3.) How can humans fail to be puppets on a string if all they do is predestined by God?

4.) And most importantly, we will answer your original question, “Why did God create sin.”

See you tomorrow,

Pastor Bret

Advent Magnificat


As we approach the text this morning we should immediately note how much respect is given to Mary. Elizabeth blesses Mary. Mary speaks of how all future generations will call her blessed. Mary should be a hero to the Church. She should be respected but without being venerated. Honored, in our thinking, without being worshiped. There are two extremes to avoid then. On the one hand there is the Mary cult that exists within some of Roman Catholic culture. Here Mary is seen, by some,  as Mother of humanity, Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate for the human race. On the other hand there is the Mary that nobody knows or remembers.

Luther gets it right, I think when he wrote:

“Mary is the highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures” (Luther 1531).

Elizabeth said to Mary: “Blessed art thou among women”. Mary, then, was the chosen instrument of the Incarnation and the fulfillment of the Old Testament. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

We agree with what Lutheran Pastor Ross Mahan is telling his congregation this morning,

The contribution of the Virgin Mary to our salvation was absolutely necessary. Without Mary we lose the doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ. Jesus was true God, begotten of His Father from all eternity, and true man, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus stood in our place as both God and man to redeem us to God. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). If you lose the Virgin Mary, you lose the Christian faith.

In turning to Mary’s Magnificat we must remind ourselves to read it in the context of Redemptive History. This is a Song that fits into the unfolding of the History of Redemption and not a treatise that can be isolated from the rest of Scripture. The reason we mark this at the outset is that many have gone to this passage to justify something called Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology teaches that the Church must involve itself in a socialist agenda in order to work to release the working class from the oppression of those who have capital.

Those who believe in Liberation Theology thus go to passages like Mary’s song and from the text enlist God as being on the side of social revolutionaries. They take Mary’s words from 52-53

52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty

and apply them to every culture where class structure is at work and suggest that God is always on the side of breaking down economic class structures. Jesus, thus becomes a bandoleer sporting Bandito crusading for a Marxist New World Order.

Such commentaries as Wm. Barclay reveals this kind of thinking. Barclay can say,

“(Where the text says that) He cast’s down the mighty — He exalts the humble this is speaking of a social revolution.”

Mr. Barclay then goes on to explain the text in classical Marxist egalitarian categories,

“Christianity puts an end to the world’s labels and prestige….The social grades and ranks are gone.”

Mr. Barclay would have us believe that Christianity is a socially leveling religion. It is not a wonder with teaching like this that Americans are notorious for having a problem with authority since authority requires ‘rank.’

And again later in his commentary when explaining “He has filled those who are hungry…those who are rich he has sent empty away”, Barclay offers,

“That is an economic revolution. A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. Christianity begets a revolution in each man, and a revolution in the world.”

You see this text is being drafted in order to justify a socialist order where everyone is equal in position and possessions and a egalitarian order where everyone is the same.

And while God certainly is concerned about just social order we can authoritatively say that God does not favor socialism or egalitarianism, nor does this text even deal with those issues.

This text must be read Redemptively and Historically.

Mary is speaking as one whom is wrapped up in the the Historical fulfillment of all God’s promises to the Fathers. She is speaking from the position of one who sees that God, by what He is doing in her, is keeping His promise to Abraham and to the Church Fathers of the Old Covenant. She is not giving a socio-economic treatise here but rather is articulating her understanding of God’s covenant faithfulness.

Mary’s understanding of God’s covenant faithfulness as communicated by Elizabeth’s words of Mary,  “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord,” implies contrast contrast between Mary’s trust in God’s Word with her own husband’s hesitation, doubt and questioning.

Zechariah asked for proof that the angel’s word was true. Mary asked for an explanation of what was going to happen to her, and then gave her willing consent. Zechariah the religious professional doubted God, but Mary the peasant girl believed. However, there may also be another implied contrast here and that is between Mary, who believed God’s authoritative and legislative Word and Eve who gave ear to the whispers of the Serpent saying “Hath God really said.” Mary is the anti-Eve in this account who submits to God’s Word and is used to bear the child who would heal Eve’s wound.

Secondly, we want to note here the way Mary was shaped in her thinking. We note that much of what we find here in the Magnificat is typically reflective of a Hebrew mindset which includes a large familiarity with not only what the Scriptures say but also what the Scriptures mean.

Comparing this Magnificat to I Samuel 2:1-10, where we find Hannah praising God for opening her womb with the child Samuel, we find large similarities.

Hannah speaks,

5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.

Mary speaks,

3 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah speaks,

8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.

Mary speaks,

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.

Hannah speaks,

10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

Mary speaks,

He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

And these are only a few of the more obvious similarities. Clearly there is a relationship between Hannah’s praise and Mary’s.

But also we should realize that Mary’s song is also shaped by the Psalms. Many of the phrases that she uses are likewise found throughout the Psalms.

Now, I bring this out not just to note something interesting about the texts but more importantly to challenge us to be imbued with Scripture and to imbue our children with Scripture so that when they open their mouths they are echoing the mind of God not only in what the Scripture says but also in what the Scriptures mean. Clearly Mary understands herself and what is happening to her through a mindset informed by Biblical categories. The challenge that is brought to us through this song is that we likewise would see all of life through a Biblcially informed frame of reference.

Now we continue to try and understand these words redemptively historically. Mary says in vs. 50

His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation

These words are takes from the covenant of Genesis 17 where God says to Abraham,

7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

Which is articulated again in Dt. 7:9

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;

So, you see Mary is saying that God has kept this promise to the Fathers through the child that is growing within her.

And we might add here that because Mary see’s God’s faithfulness to His people in the past she can be confident that God’s people will always exist in the future and that is why she can say with such confidence that ‘henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.’ Mary could not say this w/o a confidence in the fact that God would always keep and maintain a people who would forever call her blessed. If it is revealed to Mary that all generations shall call her blessed then we can be confident that God will always have a people, throughout the generations who will call her blessed. The Church isn’t going away.

In vs. 51 we find the phrase

He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

This phrase ‘scattered the proud’ is a metaphor derived from putting to flight a defeated enemy.

This echoes the sentiment of Scripture where God arises to defeat His enemies.

Note here that it is God who is baring His arm. God does all the saving here and that is clearly seen in the reality that she is carrying a child that was given not by human agency.

Now, here we should say again that Mary sees the faithfulness of God in the past being brought again into the present. In the past God out of Faithfulness to His covenant did these things and in the present out of faithfulness to the covenant He is again doing these things. As God was faithful to Israel in remembering them in their bondage during the time of Moses, and as He was faithful in making covenant with David, so He is now being faithful to His people by making Mary the Theotokos … the God bearer.

And we should note in doing these things He is not simply setting aside the rich because they are rich but because in their wealth and station they have set God aside and are oppressing His people. Mary exalts that God is setting the rich aside because the rich have God’s people under their boots. God’s people are not to be esteemed solely because they are poor. It is not their poverty that makes them estimable but rather it is because they are God’s people who happen to be poor and oppressed that makes them estimable.

My point here is that rich are not to be despised simply because they are rich but rather because they are rich and forget God and so oppress God’s people. And similarly, the poor are not to be thought noble simply because they are poor but rather only if they are poor and are lovers of God. Wealth and poverty by themselves are not indicators of peoples value before God.

When we get to vs. 52 we see Mary’s understanding that History is the personal outworking of God’s personal involvement,

“He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.”

Calvin notes,

“She teaches us, that the world does not move and revolve by a blind impulse of fortune, but that all the revolutions observed in it are brought about by the Providence of God, and that those judgments, which appear to us to disturb and overthrow the entire framework of society, are regulated by God with unerring justice.”

History is personal. It can not ultimately be explained by the actions of men or by the confluence of events. History is not mechanical (Enlightenment thinking) or magical (Animistic thinking) but it is personal. It has upon it the fingerprints of God.

Vs. 54f reveal that Mary has had Redemptive History in mind all along.

54 He has holpen His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

If the Blessed Virgin has social orders in mind at all, it is not about social orders where the poor get their share but rather it is about a social order where righteousness gets it share. But, again, social orders are not on her mind, but rather the faithfulness of God to His covenant promises and His covenant people are on her mind. God had promised to send a deliverer and now that time had come. This deliverer — this savior is the one who would rescue God’s people from God’s wrath, from their sin, and from the works of the devil. This savior would overturn social orders but only because he first conquered individual men by taking from them their heart of stone and giving to them a heart of flesh. This Messiah that Mary was carrying would crush the unrighteous, both rich and poor, and seat in their places those who would love righteousness and serve mercy.


During advent season we continue to magnify the Lord w/ Mary for the Lord Christ continues to oppose the proud while giving grace to the humble. He opposes the proud by retaining His wrath against the wicked. He gives His grace to the humble by coming near to them in Christ.

Catcher’s Mitt

A few thoughts from Mitt Romney’s “Faith In America” Speech.
Governor Romney said,

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

Pastor McAtee responds,

This is a curious statement. There are a good number of countries that have religion and yet have no freedom. In those countries Freedom and religion most certainly do not endure together. Iran and Saudi Arabia come immediately to mind. Therefore it seems that it would be more accurate to say that Freedom requires a certain kind of religion. Now, as we look through History we might conclude the only religion that brings about true Freedom is Christianity and that doesn’t include Mormonism which is no more Christian then Shintoism is. Christianity alone brings true Freedom because only Christianity provides release from Spiritual bondage and without a multitude of individuals in a given culture being set free from their enslavement to sin the culture that is built can never be one characterized by Freedom. People enslaved to sin don’t build cultures of freedom.

Governor Romney should have said, “Freedom and Christianity endure together or Freedom is stillborn.”

FYI… if one wants to see the Mormon attitude towards Freedom one might want to look up the ‘Mountains Meadow Massacre’ or do a little investigation into their unique doctrine of blood atonement or spend some time researching their gestapo organization called the ‘Dannites.’ Mormonism, as a religion, can no more produce Freedom then the US government can produce efficiency.

Governor Romney said,

As Governor,… I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as President.

And yet a couple paragraphs later he could say,

I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

Pastor Bret inquires,

Ok, on one hand Mitt endeavors to live by his Mormon faith and has every intent of being true to his Mormon fathers and to his Mormon beliefs (does that mean he was wearing his required Mormon holy underwear during the speech?) and yet on the other hand those beliefs that he endeavors to live by and to which he will be true won’t confuse him with reference to his obligations of his office. It seems to me that there is a contradiction there and it is the same old contradiction that we hear all the time from candidates, and it goes something like this…

“Personally and privately I am against or for (fill in the blank) but in my capacity in public office I can not force my conviction on the general public.”

The simple response here is …

Given the fact that all public policy reflects somebody’s personal and private conviction could you tell us whose personal and private conviction will you be forcing on the general public since it will not be your own?

Another question might be …

How can you say that you are going to be true to your (in this case) Mormon faith when you won’t allow your Mormon faith to inform you on policy decisions?

Anyway, the whole notion that a man’s religion doesn’t guide whatever he does is a pure sophistry concocted by ambitious politicians, and itself is reflective of the true religion of most moderns. If Romney’s Mormonism doesn’t guide him in his policy decisions then Romney is not Mormon just as ‘Christian’ candidates are not Christian if their religion doesn’t inform them in their decision making process as a public official.

I suspect though that Mitt is probably like most ‘Christian’ politicians and that his Mormonism is just a label.

Governor Romney said,

I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.

Pastor Bret responds,

Mitt is not a Mormon but a Unitarian just as our current President. A vote for Mitt is not a vote for a Mormon but for a Unitarian. Mitt is a disciple for American civil religion where what is really important about God is that he can be mentioned in Inauguration addresses, invoked at football games, and enlisted in support of expanding Empire through War.

We are currently where the Romans were at in their Empire before they fell. All religions were to be tolerated as long as their adherents would pinch incense to Caesar. In America all religions draw one closer to God and are to be accepted except for those religions that insist that all religions except one leave men without God and without hope.

Governor Romney said,

It’s important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions.

Pastor Bret responds,

I wish he would have elaborated a little bit on what this common creed certainly is. I seriously doubt that Americans share a common creed of moral convictions.

Governor Romney said,

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.

Pastor Bret responds,

Actually, we don’t separate but rather we distinguish between church and state affairs in this country. The whole notion of separation the way it is currently understood today is relatively recent. Secondly, while we agree that no religions should dictate to the State we would say that the State’s actions always reveal that it is operating in submission to some god or god concept. A Biblical Christian would advocate that the since the State always operates in submission to some god or god concept that it submit to the Law-Word of the one true God.

Governor Romney said,

Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: Does he share these American values — the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another and a steadfast commitment to liberty?

Pastor Bret responds,

Note the Governors PC speak where he references human kind as opposed to mankind.

First, the equality of mankind is not a doctrine that Biblical Christians could support UNLESS one is talking about the equality of all men before the law. Currently, equality of mankind typically means that legislation works to make sure everyone is the same — a most unbiblical doctrine.

Second, if a steadfast commitment to liberty is an American value then why does America kill 1.3 million people annually?

Governor Romney said,

The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed….We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.

Bret responds,

There is a great deal in the Governor’s speech about religious diversity. One needs to keep in mind that when this country was founded that there most certainly was NOT a great deal of religious or ethnic diversity. Oh sure, there were different flavors of the Christian faith which created what we might call broad ideological common ground but what the founders in no way attempted was to create a civilization that could embrace competing Christian, Mormon, Islamic, Jewish or Hindu faiths. A culture’s strength lies in its homogeneity and begins to weaken when it becomes to diverse UNLESS the intent is to build a culture where the homogeneity is built upon the reality that nobody takes their confessed religion to seriously, thus allowing the common religion that unites the various religions to be a commitment to the God of the civil religion who instructs the adherents of the diverse faiths that their devotion to the God of the civil religion must outweigh their devotion to their respective lesser gods.

In the end I don’t see how Governor Romney’s milquetoast Mormonism should prevent the typical American Christian from voting for him anymore then it prevented them from voting for George W. Bush with his milquetoast Christianity. Both these men, like most religious Americans today, are adherents of the same faith, and whether one votes for Tweedle-dumb-Mormon or Tweedle-stupid-Christian in the end they both belong to clan Tweedle.

Americans who won’t vote for Romney who is Mormon, but will vote for Huckabee because he is Christian are shallow in the worst sort of way. Both Romney and Huckabee are going to give us more big government. Both Romney and Huckabee belong to their respective religions only after they belong to the civil religion.

The Biblical Christian on the other hand would take a long hard look at Ron Paul.

They left this out of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

They belong to us. We also belong to them. They are divided out among us and mingled up with us, and we with them in a thousand ways. They live with us, eating from the same store-houses, drinking from the same fountains, dwelling in the same enclosures, forming parts of the same families. Our mothers confide us, when infants, to their arms, and sometimes to the very milk of their breasts. Their children [grow up with us] and then, either they stand weeping by our bedside, or we drop a tributary tear by theirs… There they are– behold them. See them all around you, in these streets, in all these dwellings; a race distinct from us, brought into God’s mysterious providence from a foreign land, and placed under our care, and made members of our households. They fill the humblest places in our state and society; they serve us, they give us their strength, yet they are not more truly ours than we are truly theirs.

~ quoted from James O. Farmer The Metaphysical Confederacy pg. 210

The history of the ante-bellum South is a complex matter that our history has simplified to the point of painfulness, and the reason it needs to be re-examined is that as long as we mindlessly excoriate the ante-bellum South in our thinking we end up missing that which was virtuous from the culture those Americans built.

Half a Lord?

“Because Salvation is a total concept, a savior has dominion and authority over every realm of life. If His Lordship is not total, his salvation is not effectual. Therefore, anyone who claims to be a savior must of necessity assert an overlordship over every realm of life and thought…. Churchmen, by withdrawing the idea of salvation to the soul, so that Jesus Christ is the Savior of men’s souls and not Lord of heaven and earth and the only Savior of all things, have thereby in effect denied that Jesus is savior. None can be savior who is not also Lord.”

R. J. Rushdoony
Christianity & The State — pg. 27

The Church in the West is in great peril. Indeed, the peril is so great and the problems so complex and varied and the hour so late in solving that peril that only my certainty of God’s sovereignty brings me peace. One of the chief problems in the Church today is the insistence by some of the Church’s best and brightest teachers and spokesmen, that there is no such thing as Christian Culture and that Christ is only Lord in a direct way over the Church while conceding that He is Lord over what they style the common realm in a indirect secret way. This Theology is what I will dub ‘radical Two Kingdom Theology,’ and it has possessed the thinking of many Reformed Churches and Seminaries.

The theory behind Two Kingdom Theology is that Christ has two Kingdoms. One Kingdom we commonly call the Church and there He rules by grace. The other Kingdom (The Kingdom of His left hand as it were) is what is commonly styled the ‘secular realm.’ Christ is clearly Lord over the former Kingdom while He is ‘Lord in a different way’ over the secular realm. The nearest I can translate this is that Christ has made His sovereign will as Lord known in the Church but His Lordship in the ‘secular realm’ is conducted by way of His secret eternal decrees. The implication of this doctrine is that the Church, through Christ’s spokesmen in the pulpit, is not to speak at all of Christ’s Kingly office over what is called the ‘secular realm,’ instead being content to Sunday by Sunday remind God’s people of Christ’s Priestly office.

Now, the radical two Kingdom Theology, freely admits that individuals in their ‘secular calling’ may seek to apply God’s Word to their callings but the Church is not to counsel them or pretend to give them God’s Word on their ‘secular callings’ because to do so would be to confuse the two Kingdoms, and besides, the Bible, so the theory goes, doesn’t speak to cultural issues.

Advocates of this position insist that there is no such thing as ‘Christian culture,’ insisting that only individuals can be Christian or not Christian. Radical Two Kingdom Theology teaches that to desire a Christian culture is to want to seize by storm the Eden that God has prohibited to us until the return of Christ. Radical Two Kingdomists insist that until Christ returns we must always live ‘East of Eden.’

Now, first it must be said that this Theology insures as a consequence what it teaches by way of theory. What I mean by that is that if we convince Christians that Christ and His Lordship doesn’t directly apply to the ‘secular realm’ then we can be certain that the result will be that we will always be living East of Eden and that we will never know what it means to live in a Christian culture. If the Church refuses to speak God’s Word to God’s people as to the claims of Christ over every area of life then the results will be that each Christian man will do what is right in His own eyes. If the Church will not speak Christ’s Kingly voice from Scripture making known His mind over the putatively secular realm, then individuals will be left to themselves to come up with their own theories which will lead to thousands of Christian voices hawking thousands of different ‘Christian’ positions.

Examples abound but let us restrain ourselves to just one realm. If the Church refuses to speak God’s Word as it pertains to what just Government looks like we will find ourselves with individuals insisting that there is such a thing as Christian Fascism or Christian Socialism or Christian Communism, or Christian Anarchy or Christian Tyranny, and the Church, having all these people in her bosom, must not speak to the issue or to God’s people since the Bible isn’t about these issues. The two Kingdoms must remain separate at all costs. Now multiply this example into the myriad of realms that exist and you will begin to see all the confusion this will sow among God’s people.

Now, having observed all this we must ask how is Jesus a savior in this doctrine? Ok, we grant that with this doctrine Jesus saves our souls in a very restricted sense (when we die our souls get to go to heaven) and He saves our Church lives but how does His salvation reveal itself in any of the rest of our institutions and the relationships that comprise those institutions? In short, as Rushdoony notes above, this Kingless Jesus is reduced to being a savior who really is no savior.

Also, we should realize that while Christians work hard at making sure that culture isn’t Christian or that it is kept secular the other gods are not so shy or withdrawing concerning their intent to be Lord over all. This is just a way of saying that if the Church refuses to speak the Kingly voice of Christ as it pertains to cultural issues the consequence will not be that the culture remains common but rather the result will be that the adherents of the false gods will bend and shape culture so that it reflects the will of their false gods. In their haste to avoid the notion of Christendom the radical two Kingdomists are insuring that the tide that will come rushing in is ‘Islamadom,’ or ‘Humanismdom,’ or ‘Multi-culturaldom,’ or some kind of culture that will be beholden to a false god. This is because every culture is a reflection of and instantiation of some god or gods.

Now, having raised the warning about Radical Two Kingdom theology we should admit immediately that Reformed people have historically embraced the notion of Two Kingdoms, but they have always recognized that these two Kingdoms are interdependent and not isolated and divorced from one another. For example many if not most of the 1st and 2nd generation of Reformers held that the Magistrate was to uphold BOTH tables of God’s law. Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, Beza, Martyr, Knox, Wollebius, A’Brakel, Voetius, Turretin, Ussher, Durham, Perkins, Cartwright, Dickson, Rutherford, Gillespie, Nye, Palmer, Burroughs, Thornwell, all hold that the magistrate is God’s minister and as such should enforce God’s law – both tables. Try advocating the position of these Reformers at Westminster West today and see what kind of response you elicit. So, we freely concede that there are two Kingdoms and that God reigns differently in one than the other (use of the Keys vs. use of the sword) but what we do not agree on is that the use of the sword should not be self-consciously and explicitly Christian and neither do we agree that we should be satisfied with God’s muteness and secret sovereignty over the what is called the ‘secular realm,’ especially when God has made His mind known on many issues we find in this ‘secular realm.’

A few more loose ends here and then we shall finish. Radical Two Kingdomists insist that the kingdom of Christ is concerned with spiritual and eternal affairs and advances by Word and sacrament. First, we will be glad to agree that the Church advances by Word and Sacrament but where we do not agree is the notion of the idea of ‘spiritual’ here. It is true that the Kingdom of Christ is concerned about spiritual and eternal affairs but does this mean that Godly economic policy (as one example) is not a spiritual or eternal affair all because it lies in the Radical Two Kingdomist ‘secular realm’? What does ‘spiritual’ mean for the Radical Two Kingdomists? Does it mean ethereal? Abstract? Non-Concrete? Gnostic? Is the only spiritual part of me my soul or is all of me, both body and soul spiritual? And if all of me, body and soul is spiritual then why can’t it be that all that I do for the glory of God, under the unction of the Spirit, by the authority of the King’s Word is likewise spiritual? I do not believe that the Christian can do any of his actions as less than a pneumatikos being (Spiritual one).

To answer a final objection the Radical Two Kingdomists believe that by applying the Bible to all of life we dilute its effectiveness in its Gospel proclaiming and saving capacity. The thinking goes if you apply the Bible to everything it will not be seen to be good for anything. So, by these lights, if God has a word that applies to the family realm or the educational realm that automatically lessens the authoritativeness of God’s Word in the salvation realm, after all men can’t take serious God’s Word about their souls if they also have to listen to God’s Word about Biblical Education. First, we would say such thinking reveals, again, constricted thinking in terms of what salvation means. It is true that God’s Word is about salvation but it is not a Word that deals only with personal and individual salvation. The salvation Christ brought with him is cosmic and so when you find a word in the Scripture that applies to family life it has the intent of bringing the effects of His salvation that He brings personally to men to their larger corporate lives. There is not bifurcation here between a saving word to the individual in one place and a word that isn’t saving to a particular sphere or realm in another place. All of God’s Words are saving Words and when we live those Words out we experience the fullness of the Salvation that God came to bring.

In the words of Rushdoony, ‘None can be savior who is not also Lord.’