Gary North, RIP

Craig Bulkeley – February 26, 2022

When Gary Kilgore North passed away on February 24, 2022, at the age of 80, he left behind a massive storehouse of Christian scholarship without parallel in the modern church. For nearly fifty-five straight and solid years he applied himself as a craftsman with single-mind devotion to researching, writing, and speaking about God’s world from the perspective of God’s Word. While he lived his work benefited his large readership around the world. For generations to come it will be of great use to the Church of his Lord Jesus Christ.

The Formative Years

North was born in 1942 to Peggy North, a homemaker, and Sam W. North, a World War II veteran and FBI Special Agent. In the idyllic “American Graffiti” era of 1950’s southern California, he excelled in high school and developed skills in research, writing, public speaking, and photography. He served as president of the school’s California Scholarship Federation chapter and was elected to the statewide office of “Superintendent of Public Instruction” at California’s prestigious Boys State. In his senior year he was elected president of the student body of 2000 students. He also learned business and music working at the local record store. Under his father’s influence, he developed a healthy sense of discipline and responsibility that he carried throughout life. North’s experiences in his youth helped develop in him a sense of self-confidence. At the age of 18 he came to faith in Jesus Christ which led him at the age of 21 to devote his career to the development of biblical economics.

While a student at the University of California, Riverside, North became increasingly more aware of the essential connection between various social and academic ideologies and their foundational philosophical and theological principles. In the spring of 1962 he read R. J. Rushdoony’s Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education (1961). It was a penetrating critique of public education and a systematic dismantling of the notion of academic neutrality. After corresponding they later met at an academic conference where Rushdoony was teaching on economics. The following year Rushdoony hired him as a summer intern with the newly formed Center for American Studies. North lived that summer and the next with the Rushdoony family. His job, for a good salary, was to read full-time. He read Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State (Fall 1962), The Panic of 1819 (1962), and America’s Great Depression (Spring 1963). He learned the monetary and free market theory of Ludwig von Mises and Austrian economics. He also attended a conference that year where Mises was teaching.

Having completed his undergraduate work in history North did a year of graduate work at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. There he studied under Cornelius Van Til, the godfather of anti-neutrality. Rushdoony had shaped his books on education from Van Til’s early essays on education.

North returned to UCLA in the fall of 1964 but within a month became disillusioned with the prevailing Keynesianism and Chicago School economics. In the spring of 1965 he transferred back to the University of California, Riverside, to study history, specializing in economic history and Puritan New England. His summer reading had prepared him for the work. He also studied Western intellectual history and social theory under Robert Nisbet who later held a distinguished chair at Columbia University. He completed his dissertation, The Concept of Property in Puritan New England, 1630-1720, and in 1972 received his Ph.D.

The Cultural Crisis

But North can be rightly understood only by understanding the times in which he lived. By the mid-1970’s, now in his thirties, North saw clearly that America was far down the fast track of radical transformation and on its way to ruin. The tranquil 1950’s had given way to the turbulent 1960’s and been transformed into the full-blown chaos of the 1970’s. Vietnam raged. Decades of Keynesianism and Socialism were crippling the economy. Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974. While the U.S. Supreme Court had banned Bible reading and prayer from public schools in the early 1960’s, in 1973 it doubled down, overturned state laws across the country, and legalized the killing of babies in the womb. Organizations like the National and the World Council of Churches were promoting “situational ethics” and an apostate “Christianity” throughout America’s mainline churches. Having been taught not to bother polishing brass on a sinking ship, Bible-believing Christians and conservatives were watching the world they took for granted be dismantled before their eyes as they waited for the Rapture. Society’s bedrock foundations were crumbling and the whole social structure with it. The rot was going to the roots and it was bearing very bad fruit.

North (and Rushdoony) saw and understood the crisis and were on the leading edge of working not only to expose the unbiblical ideologies driving this transformation but, more importantly, to articulate the biblical foundations, principles and blueprints necessary for a revived social order. Rushdoony had already established the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. In February 1967 North published his first article for pay. It appeared in The Freeman, the monthly magazine of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the only libertarian think tank at the time. The Freeman was mailed to some 25,000 readers. It was the first of literally thousands and thousands of articles he would write over his career.

Other organizations were beginning to emerge in an effort to stand against the onslaught of the antagonist atheism. In 1972 Phyllis Schlafly founded Eagle Forum. In 1973 The Heritage Foundation was established by Ed Fuelner and Paul Weyrich. In 1974 Howard Phillips founded the Conservative Caucus and Weyrich started the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, later called the Free Congress Foundation. In 1976 Bill Richardson founded the Gun Owners of America and in 1977 the near century-old NRA redirected its focus to politics. In 1977 Pat Robertson launched the CBN cable network. In 1978, Beverly LaHaye established Concerned Women for America (10 plus years behind the National Organization of Women, founded in 1966). In 1979 Falwell and Weyrich founded the Moral Majority. Not to be overlooked, in June of 1974 the remnant of Austrian school economists, including North, Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman and many others, met in Vermont. In the face of a relentless humanism, conservatives and Christians were beginning to organize and take action.

But the Christians had some limitations. Generally they had a common goal: live as lights in a dark world and pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” They also generally shared a common motive: love of God and your fellow man, particularly by sharing the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. But in the area of content or standards they had little of real substance to offer. “The Bible has the answers for all of life,” was the common refrain. But other than the general command to “love,” the Christians had few if any specific biblical answers and solutions to offer for the myriad of specific problems facing society on so many fronts. Christians – the Church – had come to take for granted the predominantly Christian character of their culture and were almost wholly ignorant of the biblical principles on which it was built. More rigorous analysis and deeper study of the Bible had to be done in order to set forth those truths.

Rebuilding on Biblical Foundations

In September 1971, North joined the senior staff of FEE. When Leonard Reed, FEE’s founder, informed him that any money he made writing or speaking would have to go to FEE, North decided he would not stay long.

In 1972 he married R. J. Rushdoony’s daughter, Sharon. He would say that if it were not for her, “you probably would never have heard of me” and “the only reason that I was successful was that my wife was patient with this lifestyle.” Understanding her father’s intense academic lifestyle, she could adapt to and support North in his. In addition to being committed to their children and providing an excellent family environment, she was an excellent accountant and operations manager.

In March of 1973 Sharon suggested he write an economic commentary on the Bible, verse by verse. After 4 years of work on the project and believing the pace to be inadequate, he took a vow. To complete the work he would devote 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, until his 70th birthday. He was then 35 years old.

In the spring of 1974 he and Sharon also began publishing a newsletter at the suggestion of someone who heard him speak at a conference. They named it Remnant Review, a testimony to be faithful in the calling and trust in the promises of God. Around 1976 North founded the Institute for Christian Economics and began publishing through it. He handled the writing. Sharon handled production (subscriptions, printing, filling envelopes, mailing, and even running the mechanical dog tag stamping device for addresses). She did it until the mailing list approached 2,000 subscribers. She also kept track of the money, never losing a dime.

In 1977 North published his first direct-mail book. It was based on a compilation of Remnant Review issues. His ad for the book led to the sale of some 20,000-30,000 copies from 1977-79 at $10 each ($40 in 2022). Those sales led to 2,000 subscribers. In 1979 he wrote another ad. It grew the list from 2,000 to 22,000, at $60 ($245 in 2022) per subscriber. He had become one of the few economists (and historians) actually making “real money” from his knowledge of economics and history.

His newsletter led to a job in Washington on the staff of one of his subscribers, a medical doctor from Texas named Dr. Ron Paul who had been elected to Congress. He hired North. Later in 1976 Paul lost reelection by 268 votes out of 192,802. North helped close down his office at the end of what would be just the first of Dr. Paul’s many terms in Congress.

North continued to produce. At the core were his convictions concerning certain fundamental truths.

First, man is God’s creation and inescapably subject to his authority. He is in a covenantal relationship with his Creator and, therefore, the status of that relationship is of absolute and paramount importance. As a consequence of his sin, he became an enemy of God and a stranger in God’s world. But based on Jesus’s perfect life and on his death, burial and resurrection, God brought redemption to anyone who would call upon him in repentance and faith. Based on the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, God would declare a condemned sinner forgiven and righteous and renew his relationship with his Maker.

Second, God had made man free and designed him to fulfill the Creation Mandate: subdue the earth and have dominion over it. Though the “first Adam” and his posterity failed because of sin, the “second Adam,” Jesus, would succeed. He would redeem his people, restore them to their created calling, and empower them by his Spirit to fulfill that mandate throughout the world on his behalf and to his glory (“Dominionism”).

Third, North believed that Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission to make disciples and teach throughout the world all that God had revealed. Jesus declared that he had “all authority” in heaven and earth and that he would build his church and even the gates of hell could not stop it. Based on his Word and promise, despite the conflicts and troubles in the world, the nations of the earth would eventually bow before the King of kings, and his kingdom would be realized in history in significant measure and on a vast scale before his return (“Postmillenialism”).

Fourth, North believed that God’s Word governed all of life and that mankind would either suffer or be blessed in rejecting or following it. Whether it concerned man in his psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, history, science or any other area, the Bible was the absolute standard. No professor, politician or “public intellectual” knew better than the Bible. This applied even in the areas of the political order and the law (“Theonomy” – God’s law).

Based on these truths, man was called to engage in the great task of working to see the fallen world reconstructed to God’s glory according to the Bible (“Christian Reconstruction”). North was committed to this calling.

As North would work out these principles in his writing, chief among his influences were Cornelius VanTil (philosophy/theology), Rushdoony (law), Ludwig von Mises (economics), John Calvin and John Murray (theology), and Robert Nisbet (social theory). Each was an exceptional scholar and produced critical writings with tremendous insight. North would follow in their train and his production would be nothing less than astounding.

It is noteworthy that among those influences, neither Mises nor Nisbet were professing Christians. What concerned North was not whether one claimed to be a Christian; there was no shortage of ministers and so-called Christian academics promoting unbiblical teaching like evolution, Keynesianism, and socialism. What was critical was the quality of the scholarship and whether the ideas the individual taught were consistent with the Bible or provided valuable information and insight to help understand it. In so many areas the writings of Mises and Nisbet did this. The same could be said for scholars like Rothbard, Harold Berman, Jacques Barzun, Martin van Creveld, James Billington, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and so many others whose work North admired.

North made great strides in laying out the biblical foundations, principles and blueprints for a revived social order.

As Marxism was becoming entrenched in American universities in the 1960’s, North wrote Marx’s Religion of Revolution in 1968. In 1972 he began to consolidate his views on economics and published An Introduction to Christian Economics. In 1976 he published and edited The Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective. It was a groundbreaking collection of essays by PhDs and experts in a variety of disciplines: economics, psychology, sociology, history, education, political science, mathematics, theology, and philosophy. Each had as its central focus the truth that the Bible, God’s revelation, was the ultimate standard for understanding each field. No field was “neutral.” None, ultimately, was even understandable apart from that revelation. Even when they did function in some measure, they had in fact borrowed and presumed biblical truths despite their formal antagonism to Christianity.

North continued to produce Remnant Review and eventually brought it under his website GaryNorth.com which he began in 2005. Over its 17 years North published four articles a day, six days a week, every week. The range of topics was encyclopedic and topics were treated in depth and detail. With his 23,000+ articles he was constantly trying to encourage his readers to excel in their jobs and callings, provide insights and tools to help them do it, and give them a greater understanding of their relationship to the movement of history. His website also had active and robust forums where subscribers could and would engage with him and each other on how to apply the information to their individual circumstances.

Amazon’s Alexa service ranks the popularity of websites, of which there are estimated to be over 200,600,000 that are active. The lower the number the more popular the website. Ranked lower than 500,000 (top .25%), the website has some influence. Lower than 200,000 (top .1%), it is significant. Lower than 100,000 (top .05%), it is widely read and influential. Before North’s illness bore down on him, his website ranked around 36,000 (top .018%). No website for any evangelical news magazine, news site, theological seminary, church denomination, or publisher was even close.

Only John McArthur and John Piper, now established in well-staffed and promoted organizations (Grace to You and Desiring God), had similar web traffic. Among web magazines, only the 66-year old socially liberal and marginally evangelical Christianity Today had similar web traffic. Ligonier Ministries ranked around 80,000. Few were ranked lower than 150,000, and most, far higher, some near 2,000,000. As to time spent by visitors on the websites, the numbers are not even close. Readers of North’s website spent five to seven times more time on his than readers did on any of the others.

In addition to his newsletter and website, North published almost 100 books, half of which he wrote. Most he financed with his own money. The vast majority of what he published he has provided to the public free of charge at Free Christian Educational Resourceshttps://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/.

In 2012, after nearly 40 years, North fulfilled the vow he had taken in 1972 and completed his 31 volume economic commentary on the Bible. It was a remarkable achievement, accomplished only with resolute commitment. He then synthesized his years of economic study into six volumes: The Covenantal Structure of Christian Economics (2015, 2018), and a four volume series titled Christian Economics: Vol. 1: Student Edition (2017, 2020), Vol. 2: Teacher’s Edition (2017, 2020), Vol. 3: Activist’s Edition (2017, 2020), and Vol. 4 (in 2 volumes): Scholar’s Edition (2020). His books just on economics can be found here: https://www.garynorth.com/public/department180.cfm.

North also wrote extensively on history. Among his many books was the masterpiece Crossed Fingers (1996), a 1000-page detailed account of deceit used by theological liberals to capture the northern Presbyterian Church during the 20th Century. Ever a lover of footnotes North provides over 900 in just the first 300 pages.

To beat it all, North was a superb writer in every respect and a treat to read.

With his practical understanding of Austrian and Keynesian economics, North also knew how to interpret and benefit from market conditions. Just one example will suffice. When between 1999 and 2002 England’s worst Chancellor of the Exchequer in a thousand years persuaded the nation to systematically sell off 401 tonnes of its 715-tonne gold supply for an average price of $275 per ounce, North told his subscribers to buy. They bought. By the time of his death, gold was over $1,900.

North was also a frequent contributor to the two primary organizations that promoted Austrian economics and libertarian ideas. He provided many articles for the popular website LewRockwell.com and was a frequent speaker at the Mises Institute, particularly for its gathering of young scholars. His lectures on Mises, Keynes, and Rothbard alone were exceptional. The increasingly higher profile of the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell’s website encouraged North that it was only a matter of time before defective ideas would fail and sound ideas would prevail.

Aware of the dismal condition of public education, North was also concerned that young people have access to top quality curriculum. After Ron Paul ended his service in government and his final campaign for President of the United States, he and North reunited to establish The Ron Paul Curriculum. Paul had spoken to massive crowds and received over 2,000,000 votes in the 2012 presidential primary. Families across the country would be eager to have their children educated consistent with the fundamental biblical principles Paul was articulating. North could create the material and organization to provide that education. Recruiting the teachers, preparing his own courses, and running the institution, North created an online K-12 school that has trained thousands of students across the county.

North’s interest in educational curriculum was not limited to grade school. Even up to his final months, he was working on plans to create a free seminary curriculum designed particularly for pastors working in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

North was also concerned about evangelism. His 2005 website Sustained Revival: A Comprehensive Plan for a Comprehensive Christian Revival, provided material focusing on that work. https://www.garynorth.com/public/department132.cfm.

North was also concerned to help those in financial trouble. For people wanting to get out from under the weight of debt he developed the website Deliverance from Debthttps://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/. While he lived in the areas of Tyler, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee, he worked with Kairos Prison Ministry International. Some prisoners were soon to be released. Others would never be released. He taught them the gospel and that wherever they might be God had valuable work for them to do and they could serve him anywhere. During that same period he worked with a ministry that helped people learn how to get and keep a job.

Advice for the Future

North followed some important principles that enabled him to stick to his knitting, stay out of trouble, and be as productive as he was. At least 11 are worth mentioning. They are applicable to everyone.

First, a person must know his life’s calling: the most important thing he can do in which he would be most difficult to replace. North settled on his early: developing the field of biblical economics.

Second, remember the prophets. Isaiah’s job was to speak even when people would not listen and the work appeared fruitless. Elijah’s job was to speak even when he seemed to be the only one left. Jeremiah’s job was to speak but still conduct business (buy the land) knowing God’s plan for the future will prevail.

Third, forget trying to be in the “Inner Ring,” as C.S. Lewis called it. Do not yearn to be in the “in” group. There really isn’t any inner ring. Fourth, stick to your knitting. Do not get sidetracked. Press on.

Fifth, work to serve. Meet a need. Provide or do something useful. If someone will pay you for it, better still. Provide it for free if needs be, particularly if it’s consistent with your calling.

Sixth, discipline your time. It is the one resource that cannot be replaced. Once it’s gone, it cannot be recovered.

Seventh, strive to be the best, but don’t worry if you are not No. 1. There is plenty of room at the top for success and every expectation that you will surpass your peers if you simply apply yourself wisely and stick to your knitting.

Eighth, understand that you can’t fight something with nothing. Christians cannot just curse the darkness. They must pursue a positive biblical understanding and plan. When the world, suffering and at its wits end, asks Christians for help, they should be able to give biblical answers of substance.

Ninth, don’t pay too much attention to your critics. Some of North’s critics accused him over the years of having a poison pen, of being uncharitable, sharp and harsh. North’s piercing critiques, however, were usually reserved for those who held themselves out to be experts in a field, “teachers of the law,” so to speak. As they sought to persuade and lead others, he would challenge them if he thought they were leading people into error and trouble. If their work was shoddy or suspect, North was likely to expose it and in colorful terms. Some took the lead and criticized his work first. In addition to lacking depth and rigor in general, his opponents were generally short on historical background and real world understanding. When the exchange ended they were likely to find themselves on the losing side and unable to respond; they slipped quietly away. His most disingenuous critics simply misrepresented his positions and raised straw man arguments, the most uncharitable kind of all.

Tenth, be confident in God’s power and his plan to change the world. God’s kingdom would not likely come in a single generation. Nor would it come from some sudden political takeover, a centralized government, or vigilante violence. It would not come from the top down. But it would come. It would come gradually, over time, from the bottom up, as God moved in people’s hearts and they embraced a biblical worldview and system of law.

Eleventh, pay your tithe. It reminds a person that he owes everything to God.

Finally, North hoped his work would help lay a solid foundation, not be the final answer. He hoped others would take up where he left off and improve on his work. As he concluded his Christian Economics: Scholar’s Edition (2020), he wrote: “Finally, count the cost. If you then decide to become a Christian economics scholar as a calling, I offer this strategy. Correct my errors, extend my breakthroughs, write several monographs, produce videos, recruit and train followers, and do not become sidetracked. It is easy to become sidetracked, especially by money. Also, if someone asks you what kind of economist you are, never say ‘Northian.’ ‘Northist’ is even worse. Say that you are a covenantalist. Now, find your calling and get to work.” https://www.garynorth.com/public/20635.cfm

May there be many who will pursue their own callings as North did his. The world will be a better place for it.

His work is done. His rest has begun.

North was preceded in death by his son Caleb who suffered from a rare illness. He is survived by Sharon, his wife of 50 years, and their other children Darcy North, Scott North and his wife, Angela, and Lori McDurmon and her husband, Joel, and eight grandchildren.

Memorial service details forthcoming.

PIETY AND CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION

By David H. Chilton

Some time ago, I wrote a review of Arnold Dallimore’s definitive biography of George Whitefield. In the course of the article, I criticized some of Whitefield’s actions and viewpoints (particularly regarding marriage), while also affirming my respect for the tremendous evangelistic labors and achievements of the man. I mentioned that his errors stemmed from his unconscious acceptance of Neoplatonism—the idea that the “spiritual” (i.e., non-physical, internal) aspect of life is superior to the more physical aspects.

There is, of course, a measure of truth in this—regeneration begins on the inside, etc.—but the Neoplatonic perspective implicitly denies the biblical facts that man is a unit, and that God is concerned with the whole of our being and with all of life. Neoplatonism leads to a spiritual contempt for God’s material creation and for the laws God has ordained in such areas as government and economics. Without trying to discredit Whitefield’s ministry, I did draw several observations about the deleterious aspects of his views for the church as a whole.

I was not exactly deluged with mail. A journalistic rule of thumb is that for every person who writes a letter to the editor, there are about a thousand who feel the same way. The letter expressing the feelings of those thousand people came from H. Carl Shank, Assistant Pastor of Grace Church (Vienna, VA). He disagrees with me on certain points, but he is writing as a friend. His entire letter (m italics) and my response are below. I considered the issue important enough to devote a great deal of space to it, even though its relevance to Christian schools is only indirect. I hope this exchange will encourage other spokesmen for the other thousands to let me know what you all think.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

As a Reformed pastor and Christian school teacher I can readily appreciate your desire for Christian reconstruction by Scriptural reformation. However, as in most of the issues published by ICE (and affiliates), there has been a dismaying trend toward the downplay of Christian piety and the ever-present need of the centrality of the gospel message to radically change sinners. Such a trend appeared evident to me in your review of Dallimore’s book.

I too have certain grievances with the Banner of Truth style of writing, especially in lain Murray’s historically narrow selectivity of articles for the magazine. I too favor a thorough re-evaluation of the philosophical presuppositions and tenets under which the Puritans and others, like Whitefield, operated. I too agree that man’s purpose is “godly dominion.” Indeed, biblical salvation is not a catch-phrase for the type of Arminian, decisionistic preaching that wearies me and greatly distresses me.

However, I am not so certain that rigorous biblical exegesis of the terms kingdom, salvation, covenantal, etc. would yield your thesis, which is shared by all Chalcedon writers. That thesis tells us that salvation is a mere pretext for the important function of man, namely the fulfillment of physical, earthly and civil rule under God over this earth. In other words, salvation according to Chalcedonian tenets seems to be the forerunner and means to the fulfillment of the Genesis cultural mandate. I certainly hold to the abiding validity of the cultural mandate of Genesis, but “Christ and Him crucified” is in fact the central theme of Scripture and the central need of mankind. Mast definitely I deny a totally “individualistic, internal and immaterial” cast to the salvation theology of the Bible. Yet that aspect certainly is there. Moreover, people are still brought into the kingdom one by one as God works individual new birth in the internal recesses of a person’s being. Post-fall mankind will never return to an Edenic state, at least not on the earth as we know it presently. Indeed, our home is “in heaven” because our inheritance with Christ our Lord is there. Our concern is eternal life that begins now and will be consummated at Christ’s return. Our desire should be to know Christ, as Paul desired to know Him (Phil. 3).

To criticize Whitefield’s idea of marriage may be to the point, but for him in his God-assigned kingdom work, perhaps a marriage partner on earth would have rivaled an intensity of devotion for God’s glory and for the spread of the gospel that few of us possess today. You decry Whitefield’s “pietism” or his “mysticism,” calling it Neoplatonism. Perhaps that is philosophically correct. However, it seems to me that Whitefield’s desires mirrored exactly the desire Paul expressed: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is. gain” (Phil. I: 21). No matter how that is exegeted, it always comes up saying in Chalcedonian terms that Paul is a Neoplatonist, a mystic, who defines spirituality in terms of transcending our creaturely limitations. Indeed, Paul knew and taught a theology of serving God in every sphere of life. But he knew a far deeper theological truth—he wets a pilgrim and stronger to this earth. This terrain was not to be his abiding possession, even if ruled by thoroughly Christian men with thoroughly Scriptural reformation principles. Paul had learned a lesson on “wilderness theology,” a lesson the Israelites did not learn thoroughly enough.

This naturally involves us in dealing with the issue of Christian piety. Piety is not a nasty wont It does not have to assume or imply a theology or life devoid of sophisticated, intellectual and reformational study of creation and the Scriptures. It does not deny the cultural mandate. It can be properly taught and profitably exercised. Prom my study, it seems that the pursuit of biblical piety was central to the Puritans and to Calvin. One can scorn their “heavenly language,” but for the most part they knew God through Christ in His word in a way and depth we have yet to discover. ICE (and its affiliates) talks a lot about Christian reconstruction and Scriptural reformation. The Puritans and their spiritual sons, like Whitefield, engaged in the business of reconstruction and reformation through hours of fervent prayer, intense supplication for souls of eternally dying men. They preached unflinchingly and faithfully the riches of the gospel and applied it to where people lived, worked, and taught. They knew God—and what reforms society underwent from their century onwards largely came from the seeds sown with the tears (and sometimes sealed with the blood) of our Puritan forefathers. Can any of you—can any of us—lay claim to such infiltration of life as the “pietistical” Puritans and their followers in the faith had?

Such a challenge can be dismissed, but it really cannot be ignored. I truly and sincerely hope you re-examine some of the issues raised and implied in your review. Again, I am thankful for helpful clarification and analyses of issues relating to the kingdom of Christ.

Yours in His service, H. Carl Shank

EDITOR’S RESPONSE

I do not have the room to answer every line of Mr. Shank’s argument, but I believe the following will be a substantial response. I have divided his argument into the following areas: (1) the nature of Christian piety; (2) the centrality of the gospel; (3) salvation and its relationship to the cultural mandate; (4) Whitefield’s attitude toward marriage; (5) the question of Paul’s “Neoplatonism”; and (6) the piety of The Puritans. I aimed for his major points, and picked off a few stray minor ones as well; but I made no attempt to untangle every target. I know that’s a mixed metaphor, but if Mr. Shank can do it—I’ve heard of sowing seeds, but sealing them? So can I. (And there goes the first minor point. I’ve tried not to be picky, but I just couldn’t resist that one. The rest of my disagreements are more substantial, so read on.)

CHRISTIAN PIETY

Two questions must be answered on this point: (1) What is the nature of true Christian piety? (2) Does the ICE really “downplay” its importance?

Christian piety, if it means anything at all, is godly living in every aspect of thought and activity. It is, in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, to be “careful of the duties owed by created beings to God…” Piety, therefore, must be radically distinguished from its counterfeit in pietism—which centers on rapturous emotional experiences and “devotional exercises,” while steadfastly refusing to apply God’s word to God’s world. For example, Israel and Judah in the eighth century B.C. were often pietistic, with much seemingly devotional activity going on; but they were in fact godless. The prophets, speaking for God, denounced such false religion, often using strong and offensive language: “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. . . Take away from Me the noise of your songs…” (Amos 5:21-23); “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, their incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly” (Isa. 1:13). There was nothing wrong with these acts of-worship as such, for they had been appointed by God. But while the people were doing all these things, they were also neglecting to obey God’s word in all of life; and this neglect turned all their vaunted piety into blasphemous hypocrisy.

Pietism takes many forms. In our day the most obvious is that which is simply a cowardly retreat in the face of opposition: the pietist is too busy with devotional exercises to get involved in working for God’s glory. There is certainly a proper place for devotional exercises; but, after all, the basic reason for any exercise at all is to enable one to live a healthier and more hard-working life. The egotistical parlor-athlete whose entire existence is spent flexing and primping in front of gymnasium mirrors is of no use to anyone—for him, “exercise” is a means of avoiding the demands of real life. Jesus did not send the apostles into monasteries, but into the world, with the commission to disciple the nations. Our exercises are to make us strong for service.

Do reconstructionist writers downplay Christian piety? I don’t believe so, and I could quote extensively from Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen et al to document it. But since the occasion which prompted Mr. Shank to write was an article of mine, I will speak for myself. I do heartily believe prayer, devotions, self-examination, adoration of Jesus Christ, cultivation of Christian graces and attitudes, and so on. I seek to lay a due stress on these things in my sermons. I admit that I don’t stress them in my articles, and there is a reason for this. In a limited space, articles for The Biblical Educator have an overall goal: to teach teachers how to teach. Our primary purpose is not to teach teachers how to manage their personal devotions (although an article on this theme might be accepted). The same goes for the other ICE newsletters: they are written to deal with specific issues and problems that faithful Christians must face, after they’re done “exercising.” A fundamental thesis of the Reconstructionist is that piety is not for the prayer closet alone, but for all of life—that prayer-closet piety alone is not piety but pietism. But to say this is not to deny the need for a prayer closet. Piety, if it is genuine, will not be restricted to either internalism or externalism. The godly man will seek to honor God at every point of his existence. No area of life is exempt from our Lord’s demands. Thus, in dealing with these issues, the ICE newsletters are teaching “Christian piety,” for to neglect such matters is impious. The standard of piety is the law of God.

THE CENTRALITY OF THE GOSPEL

The gospel of Jesus Christ is central to any genuine program of Christian reconstruction. The preaching of morality—even biblical morality—will not change hearts. Sinners are transformed only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit through the message of the crucified and resurrected Savior. But that is only the beginning. Once a man has been converted, what then? The gospel has changed him from death to life: he is now supposed to live. He must discover God’s standards for his living in every area—in his family, his work, his everyday activity. Shall we then accuse him of departing from the centrality of Ole gospel? No! It is the gospel that has made the difference! He is applying God’s standards to his life just because the gospel is central.

For example: Let’s say you are teaching mathematics in a Christian school, and I interrupt your class with the accusation that you have not presented the plan of salvation—that you are wasting time with long division instead of justification by faith. You will answer: “If my students are going to grow up to be mature, faithful stewards of Jesus Christ, they need to learn how to balance their accounts. It is necessary for them to understand and believe the gospel. But the gospel must bear fruit in their lives. They must become responsible men and women, and that is the goal of my instruction.” And much the same would be said for any of the disciplines in a Christian school. To answer otherwise would be a mandate for closing down the schools altogether, and teaching “the gospel” alone. And even that would last for only one generation since we will have to quit wasting time in phonics. Our children would grow up unable to read the Bible, and that would be the end of preaching the gospel. So much for its centrality.

The point is that the ICE newsletters are not evangelistic tracts, any more than a biology class is a revival meeting. The gospel is central and foundational to all that we do. But our publications are addressed, for the most part, to Christians engaged in the task of applying God’s standards to God’s world. We believe that the gospel must be integrated into all the disciplines—that the disciplines are, in fact, meaningless without the gospel. But that does not mean that preaching the gospel is a substitute for teaching the disciplines.

SALVATION AND THE CULTURAL MANDATE

think I know what Mr. Shank has in mind when he says that our thesis holds salvation to be “a mere pretext”—but a dictionary and a thesaurus would have helped. What he means to say is: Reconstructionist believe that conversion is the first step in the Christian life, and that it leads to the fulfillment of God’s original mandate to have dominion over the earth. And he is absolutely correct. (Especially now that I’ve corrected him. Of course, if he really did mean to say pretext, he’s theologically mistaken. But I prefer to regard it as a semantic error. If I’m wrong, then he’s more wrong than I think he is.)

Adam and Eve were created as, righteous, in the image of God. As such, they were given the task of ruling the creation under God. When they rebelled, they fell from this standing, and the image of God in man became marred, disfigured, twisted and broken. Godly dominion is impossible for all the unregenerate posterity of our first parents. But salvation in Christ changes all this. Justification restores a man to righteousness in the Last Adam. Regeneration makes us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and remakes us in the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). We now have the right standing with God first enjoyed by Adam—one from which there is no danger of falling. In Christ, God has permanently restored man to his original standing; and as the new humanity we are to return to our original task of dominion. Thus, conversion is not the end; it is the means—certainly, the indispensable means—to the end: fulfilling God’s plan for His creation. Conversion is the crucial first step, but that does not change the fact that it is still the first step. The goal has always been godly dominion.

The subject is much too vast to go into here (although I plan to deal with it extensively at another time), but it is extremely significant that the Bible uses a great amount of Edenic imagery to describe salvation: We are called the “new creation”; we are said to be remade in God’s image; we partake in salvation of the tree of life; God promises to return the earth to Eden-like conditions (cf. Isa. 11:1-9; 51:3; Ezek. 36:35); and so on. The point of all this language is to remind us of our calling, and to assure us that we will be able to fulfill it. Reconstructionist are not anti-evangelistic (I’m not, anyway); but we are saying that evangelism is not the goal. To declare that birth is not the goal of life is not to be anti-birth; it simply means that infancy is not the pinnacle of human achievement. Produce all the babies you want—the more, the better. But you had better concern yourself with feeding and training them as well, enabling them to grow into responsible maturity. Christians may not have been consistent in this, but it is—or should be—central to any program of Christian education. We are training our students to be good workers for the kingdom in every sphere of life.

This was one of the great insights of the Reformation: that every lawful activity can and must be pursued for the glory of God. A man may have a calling as a pipefitter as surely as another man may have a calling to preach. God is glorified in any work which develops His earth. Janitor and statesman, judge and electrician, scientist and kindergarten teacher will alike stand before God at the Last Day to render an account of their service for Him. God does not call a man to be a plumber only in order that he may witness to unregenerates with overflowing toilets. The work, in and of itself, brings glory to God.

What about Paul’s desires “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”? Taken too literally, of course, that means that it’s wrong even to speak of the resurrection! But Paul goes further than that. In the same letter (1 Corinthians), he discusses not only the crucifixion and the resurrection, but also the following: litigation, food, marriage, sex, wages, hair length, division of labor, tongues, hats, the place of women, biology, and care for the poor. He seems to have departed from the simple gospel—and in the very letter which began with his declaration that he would never do so! As we all know, of course, he never abandoned the centrality of the gospel at all. The meaning of his declaration is that the gospel is the presuppositional framework through which he examines these other issues. In Christ all things hold together (Col. 1:17), and all things must be seen in relation to Him. He is not arguing for a “know-nothing” Christianity. He is arguing for a know-everything Christianity, and declaring that it is impossible to know anything at all apart from the knowledge of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).

Our knowledge of Christ is certainly defective if we feel that an attempt to understand all areas of life in terms of Christ’s lordship is somehow a betrayal of the gospel. The gospel, rightly understood, requires such an attempt —and promises us continuous renewal to “true knowledge” according to the image of God (Col. 3:10): thus our attempts will be successful as we submit to Him. Reconstructionist should be corrected when they fail to apply the Scriptures to the issues of life. But they cannot be faulted for seeking to apply the Scriptures to the issues in the first place. Dominion under Christ is not a departure from the gospel. It is the point of the gospel. To claim, “the centrality of the gospel” must eventually lead to the bold question: “Central to what?” It seems odd that those who are trying to answer the question are accused of downplaying the centrality of the gospel!

WHITEFIELD’S ATTITUDE TOWARD MARRIAGE

The idea that marriage is, in general, a hindrance to a godly man is unbiblical: “it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). On the other hand, marriage may be a hindrance in a specific historical situation (the context of Paul’s discussion in I Cor. 7 is “the present distress,” v. 26). I trust we all are agreed so far.

Now, as far as Whitefield is concerned, the issue is simple. If he really felt that his circumstances required celibacy, he should never have married. Having married, his biblical duty was then to love his wife, and shut up about what he might have been without her. “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released” (I Cor. 7:27). In other words, choose a wife, or don’t; but don’t complain about your choice.

If, however, you choose not to marry, you can forget about becoming ordained, since having been married is a biblical qualification for the eldership (I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). If you’re too “spiritual” to be a husband, you’re too “spiritual” to be a church officer as well: God wants experienced household-managers only as His officers (I Tim. 3:4-5, 12). Now don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one who made the rules.

The historical fact is that on several counts (not only marriage), Whitefield was a Neoplatonist. He didn’t get it from the Bible. He got it from his university education in classical humanism (of course, seminary preparation is much different nowadays—it’s still humanism, but the classical variety is a little out of vogue; besides, Aristotle is too difficult for today’s graduate students, and “Christian Marxism” is lots more fun—oops! I mean sociologically relevant). No matter how much it hurts, we should be brave and face the hard, biblical truth: marriage is a blessing. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 18:22); and that should be compared to the passage in which Wisdom says, “He who finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 8:35). True, “a constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov. 27:15); the answer is not celibacy, but marrying wisely. And anyway, the “constant dripping” wasn’t coming from Mrs. Whitefield.

WAS PAUL A NEOPLATONIST?

I am in something of a fog at this point (some of you may want to question the last three words of that statement). Mr. Shank admits that my characterization of Whitefield as a Neoplatonist may be “philosophically correct.” Yet he goes on to say that in this Whitefield “mirrored exactly” Paul’s attitude. In charity, I’ve tried to construe that as another “semantic error,” but I can’t. I’ve examined it from every side, but no matter what I do, it still seems like a genuine error of substance. Let me be absolutely clear: you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, “Whitefield was a Neoplatonist” and “Whitefield agreed with Paul.” They can’t both be true.

Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Mr. Shank feels that, “no matter how that is exegeted,” it still means a Neoplatonic, mystical wish to transcend one’s creaturely limitations. Space doesn’t permit a full exegesis of the verse here, but I do think it can be exegeted without making Paul sound like a medieval flagellant. Take that word gain. I don’t think I would be twisting Scripture to insist that our very real “gain” at death (see 2 Cor. 5:8) will not include becoming gods ourselves. Death doesn’t deify. Agreed? Okay, then even after death, regardless of the benefits, we’ll still be creatures, right? Therefore, when Paul spoke of the gain to be received at death, he was not speaking of “transcending his creaturely limitations,” correct? Voila! You have just read an exegesis which, incredibly enough, did not lead to Neoplatonic conclusions. (I didn’t do it with mirrors. It’s actually pretty easy. All you have to do is this: Don’t start with Plato and you won’t end up with him.)

In concluding this section, I must comment on Mr. Shank’s statement about “wilderness theology.” I don’t really know what he means by the term (in some circles, that may be a damning admission). But I do know this much: the basic idea in the wilderness was to get through it as soon as possible, and get on with the conquest. God didn’t want His people to stay there, and their 40-year “wilderness experience” was a judgment. It certainly wasn’t anything to be proud of. The Jews dropped dead learning their wilderness theology, and it was their children who learned “Promised-Land Theology.” They left the wilderness to the buzzards and mystics, and moved on to victory. I’m with them.

THE PIETY OF THE PURITANS

I agree (finally) that “the pursuit of biblical piety” was important to the Puritans. Circle the word biblical, and see the section headed “Christian Piety” above for my definitions. Moreover, I know of no reconstructionist writer who has ever scorned their heavenly language. There is nothing essentially wrong with talking about heaven. It is wrong only when it becomes a means of escaping from earth and the duties God has assigned to us here and now. The Puritan longing for heaven was biblical and realistic, and it was balanced with their deep sense of calling. As William Haller wrote: “Men who have assurance that they are to inherit heaven have a way of presently taking possession of earth” (The Rise of Puritanism, [19381 1972, p. 162).

Their Anglican contemporaries talked about heaven also; but there was a significant difference, according to John F. H. New: “Anglicanism was a religion of aspiration, and Puritanism of perspiration” (Anglican and Puritan: The Basis of Their Opposition, 1558-1610, 1964, p. 104). The Puritans wanted heaven, but they wanted earth too. They believed that all things were their inheritance in Christ (Rom. 8:32); they believed in an earthly victory for the people of God; and they went ahead and took possession.

Consider just one example (I could give many)—that of the great Scottish Puritan, Samuel Rutherford. He is known to many Christians through his oft-reprinted Letters (the most recent edition was published last year by Moody Press). Every page of this book reflects his all-encompassing devotion to Jesus Christ and his longing to be eternally in His presence. The intimacy of Rutherford’s expressions is almost embarrassing—it’s like reading someone else’s love-notes. But Rutherford was no pietist. He wrote another work called Lex Rex (published last year by Sprinkle Publications)—sort of a 17th-century version of The Institutes of Biblical Law. 

In his day it was a political blockbuster, and he would certainly have been executed for writing it if he hadn’t died first. Charles II had to content himself with publicly burning the book. My point is this: Considering the state of the present debate between the Pietists and the Reconstructionists, it seems incredible that the two books were authored by the same man. Many who like the Letters would think Lex Rex too “carnal” and “worldly”; and (I fear) some who enjoy Rutherford’s politics would disdain to read his more “devotional” works. For my part, I wish the two groups would get together. Rutherford himself does not appear to have realized he was doing anything extraordinary. What looks to us like “two strains” in his thought was really one: all-out devotion to Jesus Christ in every area of life. When it was appropriate, he wrote poetry about his personal relationship to Jesus; and when it was appropriate, he exuberantly blasted royal absolutism and laid down the biblical principles for a just law-order. Do you see a dichotomy or inconsistency in this? I don’t, any more than I see one between Romans 8 and 13. It’s the same man writing in each case. More importantly, it’s the same Lord, who is overall.

Admittedly, reconstructionism can degenerate into an unbiblical externalism, just as the theonomic revival under Ezra became warped and turned into Pharisaism. But it doesn’t have to—and it does only when we forget the principle of Jesus’ lordship over all of life. The Bible commands both personal devotion and cultural transformation according to biblical law. We should heartily abhor any “either-or” mentality about these things. We don’t need to abandon one for the other. True piety must include both. But we must be sure to get our standards for both from Scripture alone.

We must not baptize the immoral writings of a gaggle of ancient Greek homosexual “philosophers” in order to find out how to get close to God. That has been one of the most serious errors of the past two millennia of church history, and it is taking centuries for us to get out of it. Some sections of the church haven’t moved a step beyond Aquinas on this point. On the other hand, it may be easy for some of us to react by falling into the opposite error—and, even though I believe Mr. Shank is mistaken regarding certain aspects of both the problem and the solution, I also believe he is sincerely trying to correct us on this point. We do need to warn one another against sin, and nothing is so easy as fleeing from one sin into the clutches of another. We must reason together on the basis of Scripture, and I invite further comments from interested readers (although I cannot promise to devote this much space to the subject in the near future—we have to get back to the Christian school business). The answer will always be genuinely biblical piety, and the direction will always, and only, be found in God’s inerrant word.

Biblical Educator, Vol. 3, No, 6 (June 1981)

HOMEWORK VS. THE HOME

By David Chilton, 1982

I once knew a teacher (let’s call him Willie) who was a real hot dog in class. Little that he taught was of any value—although what has been said of broken clocks was occasionally true of him: correct twice a day. Willie used to spin absurd theories, with elaborately inapplicable applications, and try them out on his students. Whatever he taught that was worth anything could have been put in a nutshell, and, moreover, should have been. If he’d had an ounce more sense, you would have heard a distinct rattle as he walked by. But he had a gift for talking fast. So fast that his listeners were often convinced that even if they didn’t know what he was talking about, he surely did —which means that he really had them fooled.

Well, anyway, Willie’s gift of fast talking landed him the only job he ever held in his life. He became a teacher in a Christian school. Naturally, he felt that he now had a Mission: to inspire his captive audience with the same divine fire that consumed him. So he proceeded at once to do just that. He drove them nuts, too.

One of Willie’s methods of turning his students into walking eggplants was by assigning homework. Now, I have nothing against homework qua homework. But Willie subscribed wholeheartedly to a falsehood known as the priority of the intellect. He regarded himself as a great intellectual, and since he spent all his lazy life looking up irrelevant data —ever learning, and never coming to a knowledge of the truth—he saw no reason why he shouldn’t also make his students able chroniclers of small beer. He reminded me of the Emperor Caligula, who marched his legions down to the seashore, complete with a dazzling display of banners, drums and trumpets . . . in order to collect seashells.

It was always easy to spot Willie’s students. They were the one who dragged wearily into school every day, bleary-eyed and droopy from staying up past midnight to complete those ever-so-important assignments. When they complained, Willie accused them of laziness. When other teachers protested, he airily dismissed them as “humanists” who were more concerned about the children’s need of sleep than about “dominion.” (What an abused word that has become. The only “dominion” Willie ever demonstrated was in his uncanny ability to put himself outside a couple of tacos faster than anyone else—so he could make his getaway before the check arrived.) When he was timidly approached by the school’s headmaster, Willie talked fast, delivering a series of six-syllable words with all the gusto of a Rockefeller-funded anarchist throwing grenades. Verbally, he beat the stuffing out of the headmaster, who meekly retired to the office. And that was that. Another victory for seashell-research. But it wasn’t only sleep that the students needed. They needed time with their families. One of Willie’s many problems was that he never understood the thrust of Deuteronomy 6:6-7: And these words., which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

The instruction spoken of here does not primarily refer to formal education of any sort: “teach diligently” means simply repeat. The idea is not one of a structured, classroom atmosphere; nor is it even so much that of a regular time of family devotions, although that may well be a part of it. The point of the passage is that in all family activities, the implications of God’s word are to be repeated, impressed upon the children, worked into the fabric of daily life.

Children should be trained by their parents to see God’s covenant in every rainbow, His messengers in clouds and rain and fire, His music pouring forth from streams and birds and the rustling of leaves. They should live in an atmosphere of praises for God’s providences, of awe at His judgments, both in world history and their own circumstances. They should be reminded, again and again, that God is “infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” I know preschoolers who spontaneously sing psalms as they romp and play, who can recite the whole history of the Bible in detail, from Creation to the Resurrection —not merely because of set Bible study times, but because biblical history is constantly being retold and reinforced in their daily experiences. They see their whole world in terms of the covenant.

But this requires time well-spent at home —not just time spent in the formal learning of lessons, but time spent with the family: working, building, fixing, mending, playing games, enjoying hobbies and crafts, shovelling snow, planting gardens, expressing the love of God in a multitude of ways. The intellect must be developed; but it must be developed in conjunction and harmony with every other aspect of our being. Intellectual growth that is separated from the development of the whole person will result in a warped intellect and perverted outlook.

That, in fact, was a primary reason for Willie’s problems in teaching. Little Willie grew up without much of a family life at all. Members of his “home” were always off in a different directions, rarely communicating with each other. They lived in emotional isolation, with brothers and sisters hardly ever even calling each other by name (it was more like “Phone’s for you, Stupid”—not playfully, but with hate). So Willie locked himself in his room, hid among the books, practiced talking fast, and self-consciously, jealously, tried to laugh at the world. He attempted to construct a separate universe out of his own twisted imagination, and became a teacher in order to impose that structure on others.

A major problem with any institution is the sinful tendency to view itself as central to all of life; and that goes double for schools. The Christian school does have an important responsibility in teaching, but we must remember that our students have needs and commitments that go far beyond the demands of formal education. The school—in theory, anyway—is an arm of the home, and should support the aims of godly homes. Children should be encouraged to spend time with their families, and parents should be informed that the school intends to help, rather than hinder, their efforts in building family relationships.

Administrators should make sure that homework assignments are coordinated —to increase communication and cooperation among teachers, so that students are not overburdened with heavy workloads from all their teachers at once. And, teachers—Don’t feel like you’re a failure if you don’t assign two hours of homework every night. Your object is to teach, not dominate. Besides, handing out a lot of busy-work is fairly easy, and it’s often a substitute for the really difficult task, which is teaching. Admit it—there have been times when you’ve assigned homework to your students, for the simple reason that you haven’t done yours.

Finally: Let weekends, holidays and vacations alone. Don’t ruin them with schoolwork. Give yourself and your kids a break. Tell the students to have a good time with their families—and then go thou and do likewise.


MOTIVATION

By Loretta J. Solomon

Motivation is an important word in a teacher’s vocabulary, and rightly so. If students are not motivated to learn, behavioural problems soon appear. A well-motivated student is a joy to teach. A poorly-motivated student is a problem. There is no lasting impression made on an unmotivated student. While a motivated student learns to remember, an unmotivated student learns to forget. Keeping students interested in the learning process is of key importance’ to every teacher.

The first week of school students are highly motivated. Everything is new and exciting. They come to school wearing new clothes, carrying new notebooks and pencils. They are anxious to see their teachers, and discover what their classes are like. Soon however, as the shoes scuff and the pencil erasers disappear, motivation wanes. As daily routine is established and the schedule becomes monotonous, the interest of the students slackens.

Because interested students are indispensable for learning, the problem of motivation has been a major concern of educators. This has been one of the main reasons for the constant changes in ‘educational theory and training. Where educational instructors of the past said, “Don’t smile until after thanksgiving,” the educators of today are saying, “Be creative.” The resulting innovations are amazing. We now have individualized study programs, open spaced classrooms, audio-visual and computer equipment available for classroom use, and many other “new” practices. It is, of course, very difficult to measure whether or not these new methods have actually succeeded in keeping students interested in learning. It is easy for methods to become gimmicks, and the teacher placed in the role of entertainer rather than educator. One might question what would happen if the teachers could not keep coming up with new and better ideas. Or, are there other ways of motivating students?

One factor that has definitely influenced many students to buckle down and study is peer pressure. Admittedly this is ineffective for the few students who have experienced failure for so long in the school system that they have become calloused towards what others think of their performance. For the most part, however, pupils do not like to get consistently lower grades than their friends or be thought of as unintelligent. There has been movement to do away with the discomfort that some students feel by abolishing the grade system. This would take away one of the major motivations students have for trying to do their best. Grading is also one way of rewarding the efforts of the diligent and condemning the slothful. (There has been much debate about the pros and cons of this issue, but that is not within the scope of this discussion.)

At the center of classroom motivation is the teacher. The teacher is in the place of authority. Because of this he has a tremendous influence over the students. Students are remarkably receptive to the attitudes of the teacher though they sometimes give the impression of being unaware and unaffected. If the teacher is genuinely interested in what he is teaching, the students will know this. Enthusiasm generates enthusiasm. When a teacher is excited the students can’t quite help but become interested too. If, however, the teacher is not interested in the subject at hand, it would be very surprising indeed to find that the students were. For example, coaches whose entire interests lie in the physical education field are sometimes asked to teach history or science. Parents then wonder why their children find history or science so uninteresting.

The teacher is in control of the situation, whether he feels like it or not! It may surprise him to notice that the days when he is having an off day are the very days that the students are restless and inclined to whisper more than usual. By the teacher’s lack of interest that day, he is inviting lack of interest on the students’ part. They are responding according to the attitude he has presented. Here the problem of motivation has expanded. Motivation is needed for teachers and students alike.

How do teachers remain highly motivated to keep a good level of learning and achievement in their classrooms? In some schools they are encouraged by silent intercom systems which enable principals to listen to their teaching unnoticed. Outside of these rather devious methods of motivation, there are some which willing teachers can use to aid themselves. The connection between classroom behavior and the teacher’s attitude has already been mentioned. This connection points the way to an ever-present source of motivation for the teacher. The behavior of his class shows him if he is sufficiently inspired. The behavior of his class should inspire him sufficiently if he is not! By keeping himself in touch with the attitude of his class, he will know both if he is interesting to the students and if he himself is interested in his teaching and his subject matter.

The general theory could be stated: the teacher is only as good as the attitude of his class. As with any theory, there are a few variables to be considered. One is the general difference in certain age groups. For example, first through third graders are naturally more interested in learning than fourth and fifth; junior high more so than high school. But allowing for a few exceptions, the same principle can be used.

If this theory is true, teachers have a serious problem during those times when they find they are discouraged, or simply too tired to care. After all, their new schools get scuffed too! How do dedicated teachers keep up their inspiration for doing their best? Here Christian teachers have a tremendous advantage over non-Christian teachers. Their teaching job is a ministry to their students. Their primary goal is to present Christianity to their students to the end that they may acknowledge Christ as their Savior and grow in the knowledge of God. Teachers must remind themselves of the importance of their job before God. It is hard to imagine any other occupation which has the potential for shaping society as much as teaching does.

The Christian teacher is also aided by the promise and exhortation found in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Followers of Christ are promised lasting reward for their faithful efforts. They also have the ever-present Spirit of God to enlighten and encourage them in their task of molding young disciples of Christ. Daily encouragement can be gleaned from the Bible and from acquaintance with Christ himself, our great teacher.


BOOK REVIEWS

By David Chilton

Images of the Spirit, by Meredith G. Kline (Baker Book House), 142 pp., $6.95

I usually like to read a good book at least three times before turning to another; with Meredith Kline’s books, I have to, and this one is no exception. It is one of the most fascinating works of theology I’ve ever seen. It is also one of the most full, which is one reason why its central ideas take a while to sink in. Don’t let the book’s brevity fool you: short as it is , it’s packed with a staggering load of information. Yet Kline doesn’t waste time with argument and illustration where he thinks a couple thousand Bible references will just as well, and he rarely even quotes the verses. The only profitable way to read this book, therefore, is slowly, with a Bible handy, looking up every single reference. It’s a necessity to do so, because while most of his theses have strong biblical support, they are almost always startling. Examples:

  1. The “Spirit of God” which hovered over the earth at the creation was a theophany— identical with the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness.

  2. This “Glory-cloud” (God’s Temple) was the pattern for the creation of both the universe and man—a creation “in the image of God.”                                                    

3.When Adam and Eve heard “the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden, ” they heard an ear-splitting, earth-shattering roar—and the same goes for that not-so-“still, small voice” that spoke to Elijah on Mount Horeb.

  • The original Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3) was also the first “Day of the Lord,” in which God rested on his throne of judgment; and that is the basis for “the Lord’s Day,” in which Christian worshippers gather before God’s throne in a weekly, forward-looking enactment of the final Day of the Lord. (Kline’s argument here, by the way, while not specifically aimed at settling the question of the relationship of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day, has considerably sharpened the focus on the whole issue.)

Those are just a few of the many revelations in this volume, the main point of which is to trace the development of the basic motifs of the image of God throughout Scripture. Once you’ve grasped Kline’s insights, you can apply them to many biblical passages which do not come under consideration in his book —with results that are equally as surprising and fruitful. Kline’s goal, of course, is to be “innovative” or spectacular, but to encourage us to develop a biblical mind, that we may regain the understanding of Scripture which was held by its original readers.

Those who have read Images of the Spirit will also be interested in Kline’s additional studies along the same lines, published in Kingdom Prologue (Vol. I), a syllabus-style book which covers Part One, Section A (193 pp.) of a much larger work promised by Dr. Kline. It is available from Gordon-Conwell Seminary for $8.50 (plus postage); but since it builds so much on the previous study, I would advise obtaining a thorough understanding of Images of the Spirit before attempting to plumb the depths of Kingdom Prologue.

It would only be fair at this point to register one of several disagreements I have with Kline, on an Issue which often troubles the minds of conservatives who begin reading the works of our Bible scholars. It centers on the issue of six-day creation. It has long been well-known that the creation week of Genesis 1 is structured in a very poetic, parallel form —so poetically, in fact, that the literary symmetry alone (so the tale goes) has led conservative scholars to abandon the literal six-day hypothesis, and to allow as how the whole thing is probably symbolic anyhow.

During my brief sojourn at an allegedly conservative seminary, the professors and I were able to agree on only one thing: I didn’t belong there. One morning a prof was lecturing very earnestly on the subject of the six days, explaining how the Hebrew vowel-points, breathing-marks, vav consecutives and other assorted whatnots had ganged up on the text, and that six-day creation had lost the battle. One student turned to me and whispered: “Now there’s a case where knowledge of the Hebrew is a hindrance to understanding the Bible!” It was, of course, a cute but thoughtless remark; all things being equal, a man who understands the original languages will understand the Bible better than one who is unacquainted with Greek and Hebrew (which is why we advocate learning these languages at the grade-school level).

What then is the problem? It is this: all things are rarely equal. Something often happens to people—even conservatives—who engage in scholarly pursuits. Suddenly it becomes important (fashionable) to achieve academic respectability, which means winning the acclaim of unbelievers. Is it not strange (it isn’t, really) that hardly anyone noticed the significance of those literary parallels until Charles Darwin came along to help us rethink our theology? When I think of where our knowledge of Scripture would be, if Christian theologians hadn’t felt forced to sit at the epistemological feet of the evolutionists, my heart weeps for what might have been. And the joke is that the much-sought-after respectability isn’t there.

Think of the whole theological scholarly enterprise as a pack of dogs sniffing at each other—and then realize what’s wrong with the illustration: the “sniffing” is one-sided! The evangelicals are nosing up to the liberals, and they don’t even notice us, except to laugh. Far from gaining us respectability, our academic promiscuity has gotten us only (to change the metaphor before I get in trouble) egg on our face.

Well, what about those literary parallels! The truth is, there never was a problem, until the blind leaders of the blind invented it. God created the world in six days, and he did so artistically. Then He authored the Bible to tell us about it. The same God who created the world also created Scripture; and since He was there at the time, He ought to know how it was done. The literary parallels exist because there were real, physical parallels when it happened in the first place.

Now, Dr. Kline is a great scholar, light-years ahead of most in his Bible knowledge; but even he seems to have felt the need to pander to the liberals on this point. The important thing is, don’t let it keep you from reading his book; don’t let it worry you unduly when you run across it; finally, don’t let it suck you into the trap. The fact of poetic structure in the creation account does not in the least imply that it didn’t happen that way. It implies, instead, that it happened beautifully. When we find a literary parallel, we should not say: “Aha! It must not be true!” We should say, rather: “Aha! So that’s how it happened!”

Remember this rule: When a theologian tells you that something beautiful cannot be true, he is saying less about the text and more about what may have been his own personal disappointments with a high-school girlfriend. Those things are hard to get over.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, by Ludwig von Mises (The Liberty Fund, 7440 North, Shadeland, Indianapolis, IN 46250), $11.00 hardcover, $5.00 softcover

The people at the Liberty Fund have done it again. They topped themselves with their beautiful reissue of Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit, and now they’ve topped that with this stunning new edition of Socialism. By now, readers of this newsletter should be familiar with my high praise for the work of the Liberty Fund. No other publisher drives me to my thesaurus in search of superlatives as does this one—and by now I’ve just about run out. The Liberty Fund has always been characterized by excellence at every stage of the publishing process. The sheer artistry and craftmanship of these volumes are so extraordinary that one is tempted to review them from an aesthetic standpoint alone. Their beauty and durability are surpassed only by the quality of their contents, and that is particularly true of this important republication of Mises’ outstanding analysis of socialism.

Ludwig von Mises was seemingly unable to write anything without producing a classic, and thus his books continue to be reprinted. First written in 1922, Socialism is one of his most significant works, more relevant today than when it was originally published. If you don’t believe me, pick up the latest copy of virtually any evangelical magazine and see how the fallacies of crypto-Marxism are palmed off as biblical orthodoxy. When a major cultural outlet for millions of American Christians turns into a platform for the socialist message—what Mises called “a grandiose rationalization of petty resentments”—you ought to know we’re in trouble. When a supposedly “moral” majority fails to recognize these odious excretions as apostasy, Mises’ refutation of socialism is, sadly, too relevant.

Mises begins his work with a comparison of socialism with “liberalism” (in the older sense of the term, meaning “free-market society”). He then analyzes socialist “economics,” demonstrating the impossibility of socialism ever being able to succeed. As we have noted in previous issues, socialism can’t work. There is no such thing as a truly socialist state, nor can there ever be. The rulers of “socialist” countries are, as Clarence Carson has pointed out, “merely gangsters tied to Marxist ideology.” The only reason socialists manage at all is because they are subsidized by the guilt-ridden West. Socialism is, in reality, one of the most anti-social theories ever devised—and it becomes even worse when it breaks out of theory into practice. It is institutionalized envy, which is why Mises suggested that a more accurate term would be Destructionism.

Mises goes on to discuss socialism’s secular millennialism — the silly notion, held by socialists and non-socialists alike, that socialism is “inevitable”—and also its alleged ethical ideals (I recall hearing, as a young boy, a visiting preacher attempting to refute Communism with the specious and immoral argument that “Communist goals are good and Christian, but Communist methods are wrong”). Mises also deals with “Christian” socialism, observing that it is no less destructive than its atheistic counterparts. Unfortunately, the only “Christians” Mises was aware of were 19th-century versions of Ronald Sider. He failed to see the relationship of Christianity to biblical law; thus, he also failed to recognize that Christian civilization provides the only basis for “the free and prosperous commonwealth,” a genuinely liberal economy under the rule of law. On the whole, however, this work is magnificent. Proverbs 13:22 is still true, and we who are based on biblical law can make better use of Mises’ heritage than the secularists can.

But do you, as a Christian teacher or parent, really need to learn the lessons of this book? Or can you afford to leave such studies to the experts? Toward the close of the volume, Mises answers; and even if you’re all stocked-up on dehydrated food, you’d better listen:

Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.

13 Assumptions That Undermine Your Children’s Future

Gary North – March 26, 2013

Reality Check

There are 13 assumptions that pave the road of good educational intentions. Most Christian parents who send their children to college have adopted eleven of the 13.

The first one is this: “The state has both the authority and the moral obligation to fund education.” Then come the other 12.

2. “Our local public schools are not like all the others. I will enroll my child in kindergarten.”

3. “The teachers there are conservative.”

4. “I have joined the PTA. My opinions are being heard.”

5. “The teachers have the sexual revolution under control in our middle school.”

6. “The high school’s textbooks are conservative.”

7. “Our high school’s teachers are conservatives.”

8. “The curriculum in our high school is religiously neutral.”

9. “My children will resist temptation.”

10. “I want my children to be missionaries on campus.”

11. “I am sending my kids to a Christian college. They will be safe.”

12. “The college is accredited. They will get a good education.”

13. “My kids will have high-paying jobs after they graduate in the humanities.”

Here are what assumptions the parents make when they make these implicit confessions of faith.

2. “Our local public schools are not like all the others. I will enroll my child in kindergarten.”

This is what I call Lake Wobegon statistics. The parent assumes that his local school is above average. But all of the nation’s parents assume this, at least those outside the ghettos. Otherwise, half of the parents would be self-consciously deciding to send their children into substandard schools. None of them would admit that they are doing this voluntarily. So, the parent sends the child off to kindergarten, which is the first step in a 13-year or 14-year process. It begins with this assumption: the parent can legitimately transfer the authority over his child’s education to the state. It also begins with this assumption: there will be no negative consequences for this decision.

3. “The teachers there are conservative.”

The parent has no idea what the political or religious views of the teachers’ are. He knows nothing about the teachers’ background. This much is clear, however: the teachers were all certified as accredited teachers, and the accrediting associations are all licensed by the government. They are all creations of the state.

4. “I have joined the PTA. My opinions are being heard.”

The Parent-Teachers Association was the creation of tax-funded educators. It was created for a specific reason: to make certain that the educators could head off criticism of their programs by offering parents the illusion that the parents have anything valid to say about the content or the process of education. The educators were committed to this principle: the will of the parents must be undermined throughout the entire educational process. In short, they assume that the only people with the qualifications necessary for educating the child are the educational elite, which enforces its views on the students in the state licensed colleges and universities that produce the teachers. From day one, they fully understood that parents would lose interest in the local PTA as soon as their children were out of that school, so that there would be no sustained opposition to the constantly evolving theories of the educational elite.

5. “The teachers have the sexual revolution under control in our middle school.”

Millions of students today become sexually active in middle school, meaning before the ninth grade. This is why the schools are attempting to hand out prophylactics to students without first notifying their parents. This information is available on the Web.

Parents do not really care. They go along to get along. They adopted Lake Wobegon statistics six years earlier.

6. “The high school’s textbooks are conservative.”

Parents do not read the textbooks that are assigned to their children. They do not read reviews of these textbooks. There are not many reviews. The textbooks have been published by major publishing houses that are all run by graduates of the state’s education system. These textbooks are written in order to satisfy the requirements of committees of state-certified educators. The textbooks are written to pass on to students the ideological outlook of the teacher-training institutions. These institutions in turn reflect the ideology of the education departments of the most prestigious universities. These universities have been at war with parental views since about 1800.

7. “Our high school’s teachers are conservatives.”

The teachers have all been certified by institutions of higher learning that are committed to the worldview that promotes state-controlled education. This means that they are committed to the idea that the state, not parents, should have final authority over the content of education, as well as the methods of education. The parent’s only functions are to serve on the PTA and to vote yes on school bond issues. Voters are expected to fork over the money, but the money is then controlled 100% by the educational bureaucracy. The courts enforce this. Once a parent enrolls his child in a state-funded school, he legally loses all control over the content and structure of the educational program. Any parent who does not understand this from the day the first child goes into kindergarten is terminally naïve. This is a widespread condition, because the parent is the product of the tax funded educational system. The system has done its work well. It will do the work well on their children, too.

8. “The curriculum in our high school is religiously neutral.”

This is the greatest myth of all: the myth of neutrality. It is the religious presupposition on which all of the tax-funded schools are legally constructed. It is a lie from start to finish. Anyone who doubts this should read the book, published 50 years ago, by R. J. Rushdoony: The Messianic Character of American Education. Here, educator by educator, you can read what these educators said about their right to control the content of education in order to shape the thinking and therefore the lives of the students. Follow the footnotes.

9. “My children will resist temptation.”

Again, this is Lake Wobegon statistics. This is the equivalent of sending your children into what you know is a moral cesspool, and then expecting that your children will climb out of that cesspool smelling like roses. It assumes that peer pressure does not exist for students. It assumes that this excuse will never occur to the students: “Everybody is doing it.” Everybody isn’t doing it, but a large enough percentage of the most popular kids is doing it to influence the others to do it, if they get the opportunity. Parents of good-looking children are using Lake Wobegon statistics.

10. “I want my children to be missionaries on campus.”

Let me put it another way: “I want my children to be missionaries in a whorehouse.” I realize that this is an exaggeration. Whorehouses charge money to customers. Tax-funded schools are mandatory, and the bills are passed on to the taxpayers. Any parent who does not send his child into a tax-funded school may be visited by truant officer, and the parent will have to prove that he is providing an equal education to his children. The parent is assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Yet even people arrested in a whorehouse, except in Louisiana, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. (In Louisiana, Napoleonic law reigns: guilty until proven innocent. But in Louisiana, hardly anybody ever gets arrested for being in a whorehouse. The state’s motto is “Let the good times roll.”)

11. “I am sending my kids to a Christian college. They will be safe.”

Where did the teachers get their certification? Mostly in tax-funded universities, and always at accredited universities, which means state-accredited universities. The universities are part of a cartel. So, the teachers have been screened through the Ph.D. in terms of the presuppositions of the tax-funded, humanist school system. They assign textbooks that are written for committees of tenured college professors, who have committed their entire lives to preaching the worldview that is consistent with tax-funded education. The parent does not go to the college’s bookstore to look at the content of the textbooks, any more than he looked at the content of the textbooks in high school. He has no way of evaluating the content of the textbooks.

His own education was the product of earlier, similar textbooks. He also does not look to see if each class has an assigned study guide that refutes the errors of the textbooks. This is because no such study guides are ever published. This is because the professors in the classrooms believe the content of the textbooks. They have no complaints. So, the parent is paying free market prices to get a Keynesian education for his child. He is paying free market prices to get an education whose content is the same at the local tax-financed community college, which is dirt cheap, and the local state university, which is cheaper than the Christian college. How smart are the parents?

12. “The college is accredited. They will get a good education.”

The most suicidal question of all that is asked by a dutiful Christian parent is this one: Is the college accredited? This is another way of saying: Is the college staffed by people who believe in tax-funded education, neutral education, and submission to the state-licensed accrediting agencies? Accreditation means submission. It means submission to the enemies of Christianity. Christian parents want to be sure that they are paying top dollar to get educations that are certified by their religious enemies.

13. “My kids will have high-paying jobs after they graduate in the humanities.”

This indicates a complete lack of awareness of what has happened to the job market since 2008. In fact, it began happening in the job market two decades ago. The universities have cranked out millions of students with degrees that do not entitle them to any special consideration, other than this one: the students were submissive enough to sit in classrooms for five consecutive years. Businesses that want to hire submissive, uncreative, and bored employees go out and recruit such people from America’s college campuses.

Something like 57% of all college graduates today are women, which means that approximately 50% of the graduates are going to go into low-paid jobs. Jobs for which mainly women qualify are low-paid jobs. Nobody wants to say this, because it is politically incorrect, but it is the reality of college graduation. Except for those women who major in physics, chemistry, engineering, and other natural sciences, and who are employable at high salaries, the ones coming out of the humanities are unemployable except at low wages. Therefore, the men who graduate with the same degrees in the same majors are equally unemployable at anything except low wages.

Then, wonder of wonders, the student finds out that he was unwise to take on at least $25,000 worth of college debt, which is the average today. The parent finds out that he was unwise to have turned over the bulk of his retirement portfolio to his children, who come out of college with nothing more than third-rate hunting licenses for jobs.

CONCLUSION

Parents do not want to see this, because they want the state subsidy. They do not homeschool their children. They do not select which books their children were read. They do not design the best program of education for each of their children. They send their kids into tax funded schools, which operate in terms of a one size fits all curriculum, which is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, which today is very low indeed. All this comes from an initial assumption, namely, that the state has both the authority and the legitimacy of providing education. Out of that presupposition flow all of the subsequent errors.

Public Schools Give Kids Attention Deficit Disorder

Written by Gary North – November 06, 2021

From 2013:

In a recent study requiring 76,000 telephone interviews, the Centers for Disease Control spent a bundle of money. Nobody at the CDC is saying how much money.

What did the CDC find? That almost 20% of boys in public schools squirm a lot. This is twice as many as girls.

The CDC has diagnosed this at attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as “I’d rather not be here” disorder.

It is higher in states where boys can go hunting instead of sitting in school. In South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas, the squirming is intense: 23%.

The solution is drugs. Legal ones. The ones supplied by the pushers: public schools. These drugs keep people from squirming.

The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.

“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

Well, what does he know? When high school boys squirm, it’s time for drugs. Ask high school teachers, especially in the South. Therefore, “the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment.”

The free market is taking over. Kids receiving the pills are selling them to classmates.

When you are listening to some tax-funded, tenured drone, and you would rather be hunting, pills help.

In the past, the squirming disease was thought to affect 3% to 7% of children.

How is the disease diagnosed? “The disorder has no definitive test and is determined only by speaking extensively with patients, parents and teachers, and ruling out other possible causes — a subjective process that is often skipped under time constraints and pressure from parents. It is considered a chronic condition that is often carried into adulthood.”

Conclusion: When Billy Bob starts squirming, his teachers make the diagnosis. “Dope the dope!” Result: 10% of high school boys are receiving drugs for the condition.

Medicaid covers the cost of the drugs for poor families. The children in these families have one-third more instances of the disease. Conclusion: incentives work. If the government pays to treat a condition, there will be an increase in the supply of this condition.

“Sales of stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. have more than doubled to $9 billion in 2012 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the health care information company IMS Health.” The recession has not hurt this industry!

If your kid is squirming in public school, a solution is to pull him out of public school. Kids who are not in public schools usually stop squirming.

There are two main solutions: homeschooling or doing chores around the house. Teenage kids facing this choice usually stop squirming.

Homeschooling works. But when it’s either prescribing drugs or chores, I recommend chores. It’s cheaper. Also, parents avoid extra chores.

Continue Reading on www.nytimes.com

_________________________

Posted on April 2, 2013. The original is here.

The market for the drugs in 2015 was $13 billion a year.

The Biblical Structure of History: Introduction to Part 1

Gary North – October 26, 2021

My thesis regarding the structure of history is based on my understanding of the biblical covenant model. God has established five covenants with mankind: the dominion covenant, the personal covenant, the family covenant, the church covenant, and the civil covenant. They are all established by a covenantal oath before God. The dominion covenant defines mankind. This is God’s command to Adam and Eve to exercise dominion over the earth. It is found in the first chapter of Genesis, verses 26–28.

Each of the five covenants is structured in terms of a sequential five-point system. There are numerous ways of describing it. Point 1 is the transcendence of God. This transcendence also includes His presence. He is not part of the world, but He is present with it. He is totally sovereign. He is over the world, not part of it. Christianity teaches that God became man. God dwelt among us.

The second point of the covenant is man’s authority over the creation. This is delegated authority. We can also discuss the second point as hierarchy: God is over man, and man is over the creation. Judicially, point 2 is a system of representation. Man represents God to the creation, and he represents the creation to God.

The third point of the covenant is law. Every covenant has a system of law. These laws establish legal and moral boundaries on people’s actions. They serve as guides to men’s actions. Men know what they are supposed to do. They have guidance from God about what to do. More important, they know what not to do.

The fourth point of the covenant is sanctions. Every system of law has an accompanying system of sanctions. In biblical covenantalism, there is consistency between a law and the punishment for violating it. The punishment fits the crime. In civil government, the sanctions are exclusively negative. In the family and the church, there can be positive sanctions. So, covenantal sanctions here can be either positive or negative. We can call them blessings and cursings. These sanctions are governed by the ethical system that undergirds the system of laws. The combination of permanent ethical laws and predictable sanctions is what gives history its predictability. It also shapes the direction in which history is moving.

Fifth, there is succession. People become more skilled as they develop their talents. They must be replaced when they move to positions of greater responsibility. This was true before the fall. Post-fall, there is another reason for succession: people die. They have to be replaced. Institutions also disappear. They have to be replaced. Because of God’s ethical system of laws, and because of His system of sanctions, there is a progressive element in the development of history. Things get better over time because God rewards those who obey Him, and He punishes those who disobey Him. His sanctions shape the future.

This five-point covenant model is developed in the book by Ray Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant. My Institute for Christian Economics published this book in 1987. I wrote a short introductory book on this: God’s Covenants (2020). I wrote a detailed study: The Covenantal Structure of Christian Economics (2018). I wrote two practical books: The Five Pillars of Biblical Success (2008) and The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership (2021). In short, I have found the five-point biblical model to be both theoretically compelling and highly useful in real-world applications.

The five points of this structure are found in all varieties of social theory. Every social theory has to have all five points: sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and succession. Not all social theorists are self-conscious about the inherent structure of what they are studying, but if they are thorough in their presentation, you will find all five points, although rarely in the biblical sequence.

In Part 1, I show that this structure of history is revealed in the Bible. It is revealed in five sequential points.

The first concept of biblical history is the doctrine of God’s creation of the universe out of nothing. This was an historical event. It began history. Genesis 1 provides the account. Genesis 1 reveals that God is totally transcendent. He is completely separate from the universe. He spoke it into existence. It was not an emanation from His being. Having spoken it into existence, He is sovereign over it. He had a purpose for it. He had a plan for it. He had a decree for it. He will carry out His decree in history. In short, history is providential. It is personal. The whole universe reflects the God who created it. Therefore, the structure of history is governed by the principle of cosmic personalism. Nothing in the universe is outside of God’s providence. Everything reflects God’s personhood (Romans 1:18–22).

The second concept of biblical history is the doctrine of the image of God in man. Man was created to represent God in history. God holds him responsible for this. This task of dominion defines mankind. It will define mankind throughout history, and it will define mankind in eternity. Mankind is God’s covenantal agent in history. People are personal because God is personal.

The third concept of biblical history is God’s law. God has established a law-order that governs all creation. In society, this law-order announces a series of laws governing institutions and individuals. These laws are ethical. They have established the criteria of right and wrong. The essence of decision-making is ethical. Ethics governs the historical process.

The fourth point of biblical history is sanctions. This has to do with judgments in history. God is sovereign, so His judgments are authoritative. His judgments establish the standards of human judgment. He evaluates people’s behavior. He evaluates their motivations. He evaluates everything in terms of His standards. He enforces these standards by imposing sanctions. His enforcement of His laws provides predictability in history. At the end of the creation week, God pronounced the world to be very good. His work during the week met His standards of creation. He said so repeatedly. The technical theological word for this is imputation. God imputes value and meaning to everything.

The fifth point of biblical history is inheritance. God has established that the meek will inherit the earth. The psalmist announced this (Psalm 37:11). Jesus announced this (Matthew 5:5). The meek are people who are meek before God. They are therefore active toward extending the kingdom of God in history. With respect to history, meaning an era in which sin is still present, those who have been redeemed by Christ exercise increasing dominion. The world is their inheritance. This is made clear in 1 Corinthians 15. (See Chapter 5.) Jesus also announced this to Peter: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Hell is on the defensive. Gates are defensive tools, not tools of offense.

Humanist historians offer a rival five-point model. In summary, it is this: evolution, autonomy, relativism, nominalism, and entropy. I explain these terms in Part 2. I show how they shape the humanists’ view of history. The essence of their view is this: there is no providential God who directs history. The only source of direction in history, and the only source of meaning in history, is man. Their problem is this: they cannot decide whether they mean mankind collectively (the state) or individuals. They do not know who imputes authoritative meaning to the world: collective mankind or individual people. Therefore, they cannot come to a conclusion about the structure of history. They do not even agree if there is any meaning to history.

In Part 3, I discuss Christian historiography. I explain how the five points of biblical history should shape the way that Christians write history. There are five elements in Christian historiography: stories, representation, civilization, justice, and progress.

All of this may seem overly complex. Actually, it is not complex. It provides a handy way to understand the biblical structure of history, the humanists’ interpretation of the structure of history, and the way that Christians should write about history. You can count each system on the fingers of one hand. Well, not quite. You can count them on four fingers and your thumb. Keep reading. I will show you how to do this.

Christian Education: Tax Exemption vs. the Whole Counsel of God

By David Chilton Biblical Educator, Vol. 2, No, 11 (November 1980)

In the eighth century B.C., a king’s spy reported on the activities of a “subversive” prophet. After receiving further orders, the agent confronted the prophet and ordered him out of the country. This is not particularly surprising: governments have always had secret agents. The shocker is that the government’s man was the high priest of Israel, and the man he threatened was a true prophet of God (see Amos 7). The church of eighth-century Israel was completely dominated by the state—so much so that when Amos offended the state by his call to return to God’s law, a church official was deputized to silence him.

This is astounding. A minister as the ancient equivalent of a CIA agent? How could this be? And if it was true then, could it happen today? Well, maybe in Communist countries, we reassure ourselves. Not in America, “the land of the free” (a phrase which, these days, is about as true as the next line: “home of the brave”). Here we have separation of church and state. We have the First Amendment. No church in America is a Department of State… right? Wrong. We are becoming a nation of state churches.

Consider the case of a prominent evangelical church—let’s call it the “Free Church”—where the pastor is legitimately considered one of the most gifted Bible teachers in the country. He is a theological and political conservative, a Calvinist whose exposition on Romans 9 is better than that of Charles Hodge. What more could a church ask for? Incredibly, the church has a serious problem: it is enslaved to the state. Here’s how it happened.

The Free Church recently constructed a beautiful new building, at a seven-figure price. Naturally, they didn’t have the money, so they went into debt—mistake No. 1. “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7); the church is no longer really “free.” But there’s more. To help finance the debt, the Free Church leaders asked the members to purchase interest-bearing notes, redeemable after a specified time, to be repaid out of the future receipts of the church. (This common practice, incidentally, is specifically prohibited by Scripture—Deut. 23:19-20—but then the word “Free” in the church’s name ought to stand for something.)

Now comes the sticky part. Every year, the church files an innocent-looking form with the State of California, amounting to an annual request for tax exemption. The state requires that any church receiving such exemption must not attempt “to influence legislation or any ballot measure.” For violating this mandate, some churches have already had their property confiscated. The Free Church officers are aware of this problem, and are taking definite action: bowing, scraping and kissing up. The pastor doesn’t preach against abortion, ERA, homosexuality, ungodly taxation or inflationary banking policies. He can’t afford to: his beautiful, heavily mortgaged temple might get taken away.

Or at least they could lose their tax exemption, and it’s hard enough getting people to donate now—what would happen if the donors couldn’t claim deductions? The church’s receipts would drop. And if the cash flow stopped, the church wouldn’t be able to pay its debts to the bank and the usurious church members. Then the church would default, go bankrupt, and lose the property anyway. So the pastor keeps quiet. The whole counsel of God is not preached. The church of Jesus Christ is enslaved. Of course, the pastor does have some freedom—all slaves do, within limits. But the Master defines the limits of the slave’s freedom. Where the state defines the church and its legitimate functions, there you have a state church.

Of course this is not how the preachers of the eighth century B.C. were muzzled, but the result was the same. The priests and prophets found it expedient to follow state prescriptions for the exercise of their ministry. Therefore, the presence of Amos was irritating, on two counts. First, Amos called them back to the law of God, and they were shamed and convicted of their sin. Second, they knew that the preaching of God’s word would anger the king: he just might lump them together with Amos, and revoke their tax exemption, or whatever. Thus, to protect their position and sear their consciences, they had to oppose Amos.

But this could not happen without severe consequences. First (8:7-10), Amos warned of national disaster (earthquake, flood, etc.), which had been promised in the law as necessary results of cultural apostasy. Because God is Lord of all, the ethical standing of a people will eventually be reflected in their environmental conditions. The earth experienced tremendous physical and economic blessings in the two centuries or so after the Reformation. And, as we have rejected the Reformation message, our environment has been increasingly polluted. In Biblical terms, the earth is “spewing us out” for our rejection of God’s law (Lev. 18:24-28). Routinely, the state churches receive “comforting” and “how-to-cope” sermons in periods of disaster—but only rarely (and then vaguely) do the pastors instruct the people about the causes of disaster, which are often related to the apostasy of those who claim to be God’s people.

The second consequence of apostasy, however (8:11-14), was to be even more severe: a famine, not of bread or water only, “but of hearing the words of the Lord.” God’s response to those who neglect His word is to simply deprive them of it. Without revelation, there is no hope, for the individual or for his culture. Those who acknowledge the state’s authority to define the faith, Amos says, “shall fall, and never rise again.” Note well: It is not the oppressive acts of godless governments that cause the famine, but the flight of those who claim to serve God. Last January, a group of Christian leaders issued a “Christian Declaration,” denouncing the evils of the state in terms of Biblical law.

A prominent, “born-again,” socialistic Senator from the Northwest was outraged at the audacity of these Christians in attacking his god. He and other statists threatened the believers that, unless they backed down, the tax-exempt status of their movement would come under close scrutiny. That’s all it took. Faster than you can say “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” the reformers dropped their little manifesto. Out the window went the word of God and Christian reconstruction, but the church property was saved. And so the famine spreads.

What then should the Christian school and church do about the tax exemption problem? After all, shouldn’t Christian organizations be free from taxes and the controls they involve? Yes—but so should every institution. There is no Biblical justification for taxing institutions, although individuals may be taxed. Furthermore, tax exemption is increasingly being used by the state to bludgeon Christians into submission. I don’t recommend it, but a church that paid taxes (i.e., bribes) would probably be more free to speak out than many untaxed, regulated churches. And you thought it was a simple issue.

My point here is not to bring massive guilt on any church or school that receives tax benefits. If you are already in that position, you’re in good company—but you also need to think about the problem. Tax-free institutions are being judged in court cases as “public trusts,” meaning that the state has full jurisdiction over their activities. The crisis will be too late to start thinking about solutions. At least, in faithfulness to God, you should determine to do this much: Regardless of the cost, never allow the state to dictate the content or method of your teaching in church or school. Speak to the issues. Influence legislation. Throw out the rascals, and vote in the good guys. Make an impact on society, and turn the world upside down (i.e., right side up). Won’t that make the statists mad? Yes. Couldn’t we get taken to court and thrown in jail? Yes. Just like in the Book of Acts, when the believers realized that “we must obey God rather than men.” The conflict will escalate in this decade, and we had better make a clear stand now, while the heat is relatively mild, than set precedents for compromise.

There are other ways to deal with the problem, however. While each of the following solutions has problems, they have merit as well (besides, we haven’t thought of anything better), and so I’m throwing them out for your consideration. I’m not giving ivory-tower cogitations, but the examples of our school and church. (I have to stress that point, in case this falls into the hands of a bureaucrat. I’m not giving legal advice, just personal testimony. What my readers do is their business.)

I’ll begin with the school. Our solution really isn’t so radical—quite a few are doing it—but it’s surprising that it’s so rarely considered. The school is simply a profit-making institution. In many ways, this seems about the smartest thing for a school to do (see Robert L. Thoburn’s How To Establish and Operate a Successful Christian School, Thoburn Press, $125.00), but the best aspect, in terms of this discussion, is the freedom from state control. Not that we don’t have run-ins with bureaucratic racketeers: the head of the city planning commission tried to legally prevent us from getting the property we wanted for the school. In a private conversation, however, he informed us that the realty agency he owned had a listing that would suit us just fine. That was one bribe we didn’t pay, and we got the property we wanted in the first place. So we do have headaches, as any business does. But no one tells us what to say. We can give enormously biased lectures on any issue, and nobody’s holding a gun to our heads or threatening to charge us back taxes. We have no back taxes.

The obvious drawback is that this costs money, which is always the main issue in Christian circles. “Sure, Jesus said we should take up our crosses and follow Him, but He didn’t say anything about giving up our tax benefits!” We all want the faith as cheap as we can get it, but we have to face facts: resistance to an ungodly state is a necessary cost of Christianity. And to get the state off our backs, we dumped the benefits. It just makes it harder for them to get us. They may get us anyway—but they’ll get you first.

My second example is our church. Should it go profit-making top? I once heard someone seriously suggest that, but he never followed through, so I’m not sure how that would really work out. Of course, if I had the clear choice between being untaxed but controlled, and being taxed but free, I would pay the bribe. But those aren’t the only choices—yet. Obviously, the best thing would be an untaxed, uncontrolled church, right? We’ve got it. (Pick up your teeth and read on.) First, and most importantly, we never applied to the state for exemption. As I said, the state has no Biblical right to tax any institution. More to the existential point, the First Amendment denies state control over churches. Taxation is control—”the power to destroy”—and thus the state has no legal right to tax the church. But if you apply to the state for exemption from taxation, you are implicitly acknowledging the state’s right to tax you. Our position is simply that we won’t ask for what the state has no legal power to give.

That isn’t the whole story, naturally. It helps that we have really nothing to tax. The church owns no property—we meet in homes. If we get too big, we’ll either find a bigger home, or have a good old church split (which reminds me of the church that had a revival—they didn’t add any new members, just got rid of a few old ones). A church that is regularly dividing and multiplying in smaller groups is probably more healthy anyway: it increases the members’ responsibility, and discourages clerical tyranny.

Another plus is that we are legally invisible. We have not incorporated. We’re so decentralized that we don’t even exist, legally. Now you’re wondering if we exist at all, right? What could such a church really accomplish? Well, we minister to the community, teach the Bible to scores of neighbourhood kids, testify at city council hearings, meet with local businessmen to discuss Christian economics, and pass out lots of inflammatory leaflets. Of course, we protect ourselves a little—when we published a tract condemning homosexuality and supporting a ballot measure to limit gay activity, it was titled: We Wouldn’t Dream of Telling You How to Vote on Prop. 6… Then we told them how to vote. (If you’d like a copy, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the editorial address.)

Getting back to the main issue, we must do anything we can to keep from being seduced or muzzled by government power. Maybe you don’t like the solutions I mentioned. Maybe you think I’m politically naïve. Maybe you have a better idea (if you do, write it in 1100 words and send it in). But if you think there’s no problem with tax exemption, you’re already caught. And if most Christians in this country end up agreeing with you, our future will look like Israel’s history—concession, compromise, apostasy, and destruction.

Biblical Educator, Vol. 2, No, 11 (November 1980)

The Bible and Modern Science

By James Jordan, Biblical Educator, Vol. 2, No, 11 (November 1980)

While there has been published, in recent years, much excellent material from the Creationist and Flood Catastrophist position, there is an area of real importance to science teaching which has not been addressed with any great thoroughness. That is the philosophy of science. It is assumed by our Creationist scientists that there is such a thing as “natural law,” and this “natural law” was created by God to rule the universe. This notion is, however, not Christian but Deistic.

Henry Morris, for whom I have the utmost respect, writes this erroneous paragraph in his book The Genesis Record (Baker, 1976; $12.95): “It would be helpful to keep in mind Occam’s Razor (the simplest -hypothesis which explains all the data is the most likely to be correct), the Principle of Least Action (nature normally operates in such a way as to expend. the minimum effort to accomplish a given result), and the theological principle of the Economy of Miracles (God has, in His omnipotence and omniscience, created a universe of high efficiency of operation and will not interfere in this operation supernaturally unless the natural principles are incapable of accomplishing His purpose in a specific situation), in attempting to explain the cause and results of the great Flood” (p. 195). Everything in this paragraph is wrong.

First, the problem with Occam’s Razor is that it implicitly denies the doctrine of the Trinity. (Not that Dr. Morris intends any such thing; my point is that Dr. Morris is mistaken, not that he is a heretic, which he surely is not.) The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is ultimately One and Many at the same time. His Oneness is not more ultimate than His Threeness, and vice versa. Unity is not more ultimate than diversity, and this fact is reflected in the created universe. Any attempt to reduce explanations to the “simplest” is reductionistic and denies the unity and complexity of existence. That explanation is correct which is correct, not which is most simple. Thus, the Flood may be both a simple and a very complex event.

Second, the Principle of Least Action is explained as something “nature” does. Now, this is a personification of an impersonal principle, called ‘nature.’ What is this ‘nature?’ Does it exist? The Bible does not teach any such thing. The Deistic philosophy is that God created the universe and infused it with natural laws. Now God does not interfere in the universe, but lets it run itself. Christians try to modify this Deistic philosophy by asserting that God occasionally intervenes in the natural processes, such interventions being called miracles.

This is fundamentally wrongheaded. The Bible teaches that God directly runs his universe. What we call “natural laws” are simply summary statements of what God usually does. There are no “natural laws” which God has infused into the universe to run the universe automatically. God is wholly Personal, and He personally runs all things.

God manifests His Lordship in three simultaneous ways. God is the Controller of all things, and by His providence He ordains all that comes to pass. He personally brings all things about. Second, God is the Authority or Lawgiver to all things. He rules by, His Word, or decree. His Word establishes those things which come to pass. This may look like an impersonal natural law, but it is the personal Word of a personal God. Finally, God is actively Present in all that comes to pass. God is extremely near, working things according to His plan. It is this concept of God’s presence which natural law theory cannot accommodate. It is the goal of secular natural law theory to push God out of His universe, to deny His presence. Christians make a mistake when they concede this point and only seek to retain God’s occasional presence through miracles.

This brings us to the third error in Dr. Morris’s statement. There is in the Bible no such thing as an Economy of Miracles. The doctrine of the Economy of Miracles goes along with the doctrine of natural law, but both are false. A miracle occurs when God chooses to act in a way different from the way He usually acts. Miracles occur, as Professor John M. Frame of Westminster Theological Seminary is fond of pointing out, to shock us out of our sinful complacency. Miracles have a saving function when received in faith, they manifest God’s special redemptive nearness, which is distinguishable from His general presence with His creation

Why doesn’t God do miracles all the time? Well, the answer to that is so that we can fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15. If God were always changing His ways of doing things, we could not count on the world’s going along the same way from day to day. God, however, has covenanted to keep the world on a predictable course (Gen. 8:20-22). What we have here is not some natural law which we may ‘take for granted, but God’s covenantal faithfulness which must lead us to worship. Science is possible only on the basis of faith in God’s Word, His promise to keep things going in a predictable way. We can count on God, depend on Him. Thus, all scientific investigation is based on faith, and is a branch not of philosophy but of theology.

The “law of gravity”, then, is not some natural law built into the universe, but it is God’s continual action of pulling or pushing things down to the surface of material bodies. He can reverse this action, if He pleases, so that iron floats (2 Kings 6:1-7).

The same is true of life. We do not have life in ourselves, as if God infuses life into us and then it drains out over the years until finally we die. Rather, life is a gift of the “Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,” as the Nicene Creed states. The breath of God which was breathed into human clay at the beginning is the Spirit (Gen. 2:7). Men die when the Spirit leaves them (Gen. 7:22; Eccl. 12:7). We depend on Him moment by moment for our breath.

Moreover, the angels are God’s personal agents who enforce His Word and are present in the universe running it. Both the eternally active God and His angels are busy working the universe. The Bible associates the angels with the stars (Job 38:7; Is. 14:13; Rev. 12:4; Judg. 5:20). Whether the stars are angels in one of their forms, of whether the stars are the homes of the angels, or whether they sustain some other kind of relationship, we do not know. But when you look at the stars at night, see the angels in their dance, as they govern God’s world for Him.

The Bible associates angels (stars) with the weather. Special storms are brought by the angels on special occasions (Ezek. 1, 10; Ps. 18: 1-9; Ex. 19:6; and Heb. 2:2), but weather in general is also controlled by the angels (Ps. 104:2-4). Evil as well as good angels have a hand in the weather (Eph. 2:2), which explains those sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee which threatened Jesus Christ when He walked the earth. Next time you fly in an aircraft, remember that it is God’s good angels who restrain the demons which might toss you right out of the sky.

God’s other personal agent in running His universe is man. Man was given dominion over those things listed in Genesis 1:26-28, and so man establishes the “law” for the animals, etc. We have no trouble seeing that man’s governance is not “natural law,” and if we keep this in mind, we will be able to see that the angelic and Divine governance of all things is also not “natural law,” but wholly personal.

Understanding this truth makes prayer more relevant. It also explains how the Bible can promise a change in weather, long life, change in animals’ eating habits, etc. There are no “natural laws” governing these things, only God’s flexible administration of His world.

The association of angels with stars solves a number of problems which vex some people. It tells us when the angels were created (Gen. 1:16). It tells us where they live, and why it is that they have to traverse space to get to the earth (Dan. 10:13). It tells us why Satan can be called the “prince of the powers of the atmosphere” (Eph. 2:2). It indicates why the universe is so vast in size, when man has only been given the earth to take dominion over. It helps to explain the Biblical association of angels with wind and fire (Heb. 1:7). The angels were busy during the Flood year, rearranging the world.

It may be objected by some that this exhaustively personalistic view of the universe eliminates science altogether, and makes science part of theology. Well, so what? As a matter of fact, the Christian view does eliminate modern science’s presuppositions. This does not mean that there is no place for men to investigate how God is governing His universe. Such an investigation may properly be called science, but of a Christian sort. But when we do science, let us realize we are studying how God runs His world, not some impersonal “natural law.”

The Biblical Structure of History: Preface

Gary North – October 23, 2021

A. Benefits of Reading This Book

I wrote this book so that a hard core of Christian leaders and prospective leaders will read it and then will act on what they have read. Leaders act representatively. Action is crucial to all forms of leadership: in households, churches, and everywhere else. Knowledge alone is insufficient for meaningful change, either personally or institutionally. We must act in terms of what we believe. But, before we act, we had better count the cost. Jesus said: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28–30).

Maybe you do not want to be a leader. You are a leader anyway. If you are a parent, you are a leader. Parents teach their children. If you make decisions on behalf of others, you are a leader. Basic to all forms of leadership is the knowledge of history. Every organization has a history. Successful leaders must know something about the past of the organizations in which they possess God-given responsibility. They need to know how they got into the positions they occupy. They need to know something about the successes and failures of previous leaders.

Why should you start reading this book? Why should you finish reading it? Because you are the heir to a great gift: Christian civilization. It began on the day Adam was created (Genesis 1:26). It will not end on the day of judgment (Matthew 25). It will extend into eternity (Revelation 21, 22). You owe God thanks. The more you know about the history of Christian civilization, the more thanks you will owe. He who has received more from God owes more to God. “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged” (Luke 7:41–43).

This debt includes your present knowledge of God’s dealings with His people through the ages. The Bible is filled mostly with stories of God’s dealings with His people. You know some of them. You know about God and Adam, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood. You know about David and Solomon. You may not be able to identify when they lived, but you know that historical time is linear. It had a beginning, and it will have an end: the final judgment. This structure gives meaning to Bible stories.

You also know stories about Jesus. These stories are central to your faith. You know about His resurrection from the dead. Paul put this event at the center of Christian faith. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Then he said it again: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (v. 17). If you are wise, you know about the men of faith described in Hebrews 11. They are role models for Christians in every era.

More than any other religion except Judaism, Christianity is a religion based on history. Yet Christians are remarkably ignorant about the history of the church. They are even more ignorant about the culture-transforming effects of the church. Even if they know a little about a few key figures in the history of the church, they cannot explain exactly why these people were important in the history of Western civilization. They cannot tell you what difference these people made outside of the institutional church. They have no understanding of the relationship between the church’s teachings and historical progress.

One of the reasons for this ignorance is that humanistic historians ever since the Renaissance have dominated the profession of historical storytellers. They have written stories about the history of the church prior to 1500. These stories have been almost universally negative. There has been some recent improvement in the accuracy of the humanists’ accounts of the history of Christianity, but not enough. Humanists have written the history textbooks. Textbooks on the history of Western civilization have focused on the historical impact of the rediscovery of Greek and Roman historical documents and sculpture that took place after about 1350, and especially after the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, when Greek refugees came west with copies of ancient Greek documents and the ability to teach. Humanist historians labeled the early history of the church “the dark ages.” They also labeled the history of the West up to about 1350 as “the Middle Ages.” The middle of what? The middle of civilization between the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. and the advent of the Renaissance.

In this book, I explain the nature of the intellectual warfare between two irreconcilable theories of history and two traditions of writing about history. The first is the Christian concept of history. The second is humanism’s concept of history. Both groups have adopted similar organizational categories for understanding history, but their presuppositions are radically opposed. I discuss this conflict of visions in terms of the rivalry between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. I show why you and generations of Christians before you have been deliberately misinformed about the history of Western civilization.

This book will take time to read. You will have to pay attention to some of the details. I have done my best to structure the book to make it readable, but there is no substitute for paying attention. We tell this to our children when they are young. Our children tend not to pay much attention to the warning. I hope you do.B. The Origin of This Book

In 1975, I persuaded R. J. Rushdoony to use funds raised by his nonprofit foundation, Chalcedon, to publish a scholarly book honoring Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til, who taught apologetics—the philosophical defense of the faith—at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Rushdoony had been an intellectual disciple of Van Til’s ever since 1947, when he read The New Modernism (1947), Van Til’s critique of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, the European neo-orthodox theologians who denied the historical accuracy of the Bible’s narratives. I had taken an introductory apologetics course from Van Til in the fall of 1963. Rushdoony agreed to the project. I then recruited authors who were followers of Van Til intellectually. Each wrote at least one article about a specific academic discipline.

I wrote the article on sociology and the article on economics. Yet my Ph.D. was in history. I decided that the best person to write the article on history was professor C. Gregg Singer of Catawba College. His 1964 book, A Theological Interpretation of American History, was unique. In 1975, Arlington House published his history of the National Council of Churches: The Unholy Alliance. In 1979, his next major book appeared: From Rationalism to Irrationality: The Decline of the Western Mind from the Renaissance to the Present (1979).

Singer was not a well-known historian in secular academic circles, but he was a superior historian. Catawba College was a small Christian college in a small town in rural North Carolina. He did not have ready access to a major research library. But he had a worldview that enabled him to write cogent books on major topics. That was why I invited him to contribute an article. He agreed. The book appeared in 1976: Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective. It was published by Rushdoony’s book publishing company, Ross House Books.

Singer’s essay was titled “The Problem of Historical Interpretation.” He began his essay with this paragraph:

Some five years ago at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association the writer had the occasion to meet informally with a group of the more famous historians in attendance at that conference. The subject under discussion was the meaning and purpose of history. These half-dozen scholars were of the opinion that history lacks any decisive meaning and any discernible purpose. The writer then posed to this group of distinguished scholars one question: If this be the case, then why do we teach history? The scholars looked at him with surprise and even disgust, but no answer was forthcoming from any of them. The group broke up as each went to his own particular luncheon group and discussion of various phases of a subject which they could not really justify as part of a college curriculum and yet which they continue to teach as if the knowledge of it had some inherent value.

In the second paragraph, he drew a conclusion regarding the world of humanist academia:

This incident is by no means unique. The professional historians in this country and in Europe have come to the place where they have little faith in the subject to which they have devoted their lives. Historians with increasing and distressing frequency are openly admitting that history has no meaning and shows little or no purpose or goals. But neither is this anti-intellectual attitude peculiar to the professional historians. The existentialist and positive philosophies have entered into the thinking of most areas of human thought and activity with devastating results. In conjunction with the Freudian school in psychology, they have made irrationalism and anti-intellectualism fashionable and have virtually removed the concepts of purpose and meaning from the thinking of many historians and those who proclaim themselves to be “social scientists.”

His assessment was correct. Leading historians in 1970 no longer had faith that history reveals any authoritative meaning or purpose. This lack of faith is far more widespread today. It had been building for half a century before Singer wrote his essay. Yet this pessimism regarding the relevancy of historical research and publication has in no way slowed the publication of arcane articles in professional historical journals. Historians continue to write these articles, despite the fact that the articles are rarely quoted by other historians or even read by them. Then why write? They do it to keep their jobs in major universities if they do not have tenure, and to get job offers if they are stuck in colleges with poor academic reputations and low pay. In 1970, publishing journal articles was the way that untenured assistant professors became tenured associate professors and full professors—in every field in the humanities and social sciences.

When the acknowledged leaders in any profession begin to doubt its legitimacy, that profession borders on the fringes of irrelevancy. In the case of the academic discipline known as history, the number of students willing to major in the field has steadily declined. There are so few high school teaching opportunities available to graduates with B.A. degrees in history that the number of students willing to take two years of upper division courses has declined. In 2017, 15 million students attended American colleges. In that year, fewer than 25,000 history degrees were awarded, down from over 36,000 in 2008. The number of history majors declined by two-thirds from 1969 to 1985. (Colleen Flaherty, “The Vanishing History Major,” Inside Higher Education [November 27, 2018]. https://bit.ly/HistoryMajors)

There was a time in American history when history courses were part of the core curriculum in both high schools and colleges. In high school in the late 1950’s, I took a one-year course in world history and one-year course in American history. At the University of California, Riverside in the 1960’s, a one-year course in Western civilization was required for graduation. That academic world is long gone. In 2020, an article was published by Forbes, a business site: “Who’s Afraid of Western Civ?” Here are the numbers: “By 2011, none of the 50 top U.S. universities required Western Civilization, and 34 didn’t even offer the course. Nationwide, only 17% of colleges require Western Civ, and only 18% require American history or government.” The turning point came on January 15, 1987 at Stanford University, when 500 students and a visiting celebrity, Rev. Jesse Jackson, demonstrated against a required course in Western culture. Their chant received national publicity by the media: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go!” The faculty took the hint. It dropped the course in 1989. (A long, carefully documented article on the rise and fall of the Western Civilization curriculum was published in 2020 by the National Association of Scholars: “The Lost History of Western Civilization,” by Stanley Kurtz. https://bit.ly/LostHistory2020)

Singer made it clear in 1976 that the academic discipline of history was in a state of crisis. He blamed the presuppositions of secular humanism. Unfortunately, he never wrote a book on the purpose and meaning of history. His article offered no insights regarding an explicitly Christian way of interpreting and writing history. He was therefore in the distressing position of trying to beat something with nothing. Nevertheless, his essay serves as an introduction to Van Til’s writings on history and historiography. This book fills in the details.C. The Nature of the Crisis

In Part 2 of this book, I go into the details of the crisis in modern historiography. I became aware of this crisis in my senior year of college, 1962–63. I took a course in historiography in the second semester. The history department required history majors to take this course. Had it not been required, it is doubtful that many students would have enrolled. I was an exception. I was interested in questions regarding epistemology, the philosophical study of what people can know and how they can know it. I had been reading the works of economist Ludwig von Mises for two years. Also, beginning in the fall of 1962, Rushdoony began sending me spiral-bound syllabi written by Van Til for his students. What I did not know was this: in 1962, Van Til had written a multi-volume mimeographed syllabus, Christianity in Conflict. It was a history of Christian apologetics from the second century onward. His contention was this: the early church began a tradition which undermined the testimony of the church, namely, the use of Greek philosophy as a way to defend the teachings of the church and the legitimacy of the gospel. In Part I of that syllabus, Van Til devoted six pages to an analysis of a book by R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History. Van Til had correctly identified the scholar who was arguably the major humanist philosopher of history in the mid-twentieth century. Singer relied on Van Til’s critique to write his article.

In that course, I read two anthologies of essays on the philosophy of history and the writing of history. Two of the essayists, Carl Becker and Charles Beard, had delivered presidential addresses to the American Historical Association in the early 1930’s. These articles were included in one of the anthologies. I discuss them in Chapters 8 and 9. In most of the materials on the meaning of history written after 1920, historians presented some version of historical relativism. They were in reaction against the ideal of late-nineteenth century historians: the objective interpretation of history. This had been called scientific history. Any claim of scientific precision and authority was not taken seriously by leading historians after 1920.

A neglected cause of this loss of faith in objective history was the rise of the Copenhagen school of physics in the 1920’s: quantum physics. That movement had declared that the realm of subatomic physics is not governed by the same Newtonian laws of cause and effect that govern the realm of atoms, where you and I live. This change of view began to affect the social sciences. One influential scholar who understood the impact of quantum physics outside of physics departments was Roscoe Pound, who was Dean of the Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1937. After this, he became a University Professor at Harvard. In 1940, he wrote this in his book, Contemporary Juristic Theory: “Nothing has been so upsetting to political and juristic thinking as the growth of the idea of contingency in physics. It has taken away the analogy from which philosophers had reached the very idea of law. It has deprived political and juristic thought of the pattern to which they had conceived of government and law as set up. Physics had been the rock on which they had built” (p. 34). Physics was no longer a reliable rock in 1930. I discussed this reconstruction of Newtonian physics in Chapter 1 of my book, Is The World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview (1988).

. . . God created the world, and then He created man to exercise dominion over it (Gen. 1:26–28). Man’s mind comprehends his environment—not perfectly, but adequately for a creature responsible before God to exercise dominion in God’s name. It is only because mankind has this interpretive ability that science can exist. Even more crucial, it is only because God created and actively, providentially sustains this universe that science can exist.

Few Christians have been told that without three key doctrines that stem directly from Christian theology, modern science could not have been developed: first, the creation of the universe by a totally transcendent God out of nothing; second, the sustaining providence of God; third, linear (straight line) history. The pagan world, including Greece and Rome, did not believe these doctrines, and it did not develop theoretical science. Similarly, both Chinese and Islamic science failed to carry through on their hopeful beginnings in science because they rejected a Christian worldview. Because the West believed in these three doctrines, modern science became possible.

Because modern man has abandoned all three of these doctrines, modern science has become increasingly irrational, despite its tremendous advancement. As the experiments become more precise, physicists have lost faith in the coherence of the universe. The twentieth century has abandoned the stable, rational worldview of late-nineteenth-century physical science (pp. 13–14).

What I wrote about modern natural science in 1988, I am writing about modern historiography in this book. The problem is the same—skepticism—because the cause is the same: the abandonment of a worldview that affirms the possibility of objective knowledge. The twenty-first century is increasingly an era of subjectivism. This started in the late-nineteenth century, and it accelerated after World War I. In his book, Twilight of Authority (1975), Robert Nisbet observed:

Twilight periods are rich in manifestations of subjectivity, and our own is no exception. The retreat to inner consciousness that began in literature at the very beginning of the century, but which was offset for a long time by still-powerful currents of objectivity, has become a major phenomenon in the cultural setting of the present, and may be seen not only in literature and the fine arts, but in substantial areas of the social sciences, philosophy, and, variously, in the wide range of popular therapeutic explorations of self. This subjectivity would be less significant if it were not associated with what has become an enlarging distrust of reason and science in some of the areas of inquiry which only recently have become accepted in the terms of rationalism (pp. 139–40).

As I explain in Part 2, the spread of subjectivism has steadily undermined humanistic historians’ trust in the meaningfulness of their research and the research of their peers. This subjectivism is an inescapable result of the academic world’s rejection of biblical creationism. It assumes a rival view of origins: impersonal, purposeless, meaningless cosmic evolution.Conclusion

I have learned after six decades of experience in teaching, primarily on the printed page and the computer screen, that it is more effective to start with a presentation of what is correct before launching into detailed criticisms of what is incorrect. The old saying is true: you can’t beat something with nothing. It is best to begin with something, and especially something true. This is why I devote Part 1 to a presentation of the biblical foundations of history and also historiography. These five covenantal categories are foundational to the study of society: sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and succession. The Bible identifies the content of these five categories in the realm of history: creationism, the image of God in man, biblical law, God’s imputation of meaning, and cultural inheritance over time.

In Part 2, I survey humanism’s rival construct. Humanist historians rely on the same five categories in their pursuit of an understanding of the past—sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and succession—but they substitute different content in four of the five: evolution, autonomy, relativism, and nominalism. On the fifth point, succession, they remain silent. It is too depressing: entropy—the heat death of the again purposeless universe. (See Chapter 10.)

In Part 3, I discuss how and why Christian historians must reconstruct the epistemological foundations of their field from the bottom up, and then begin to produce historical studies that are consistent with the Christian worldview regarding the structure of history. There is such a worldview. The fact that Christian historians have ignored it for so long has undermined their understanding of historical development. They have adopted too much of the humanists’ covenant model, which is implicit in the history profession’s university screening system that certifies professional competence. But there is no formal university course in presuppositions in any academic discipline. At most, there are courses in methodology, which never mention the presuppositions that undergird the professors’ worldview. But the humanists’ presuppositions exist, and they shape the thinking of most professional historians.

An Educational Commentary on the Bible

AN EDUCATIONAL COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE

19th October, 2021 By Rodney N. Kirby, (circa 1980)

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…And the rib, which: the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man…Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18-24)

In this [20th] century, under the influence of John Dewey, a primary function of the school has been seen to be “socialization.” The children must learn to become “socialized,” to “get along with others,” to function properly in a “democratic” society.

Early childhood education (kindergarten and nursery school) has thus become all-important. Children must learn how to play together, how to share, and how to co-operate. It is thought that if children are not sent to school at the earliest conceivable age, they, will grow up to be social outcasts.

The same reasoning applies to teaching older children at home, rather than sending them to an ungodly school. These children are seen as somehow being “deprived”—deprived of the chance to interact with their peers. To many Christian parents, this concern is so strong that they succumb and send their children to schools they know to be anti-Christian, simply for the “socialization”. (All these children are “deprived” of is being taught in the ways of Hell.)

Our passage for this lesson shows us something different. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone (vs. 18), just like people today say it is not good for children to be alone. But notice that God did not give Adam a “peer group” with which he was to “socialize.” (Neither did God make “Adam and Steve,” gay lib notwithstanding.) To solve Adam’s problem of aloneness, God made a wife—Eve. Thus began the first human institution—the family.

Broadly speaking, this shows the centrality of the family in society. God did not make for Adam a church, complete with elders, deacons, committees, and choirs (the “War Department”). Neither did God make a civil government, including legislators, judges, and bureaucrats (certainly FDA would have required a label, “Caution: Eating this fruit may be hazardous to your health!”). God instituted the family first of all. The family is central to man in carrying out the cultural mandate—note the context (vs. 15). Before Adam could effectively subdue the earth, he needed a helper suited for him. God gave him a wife to assist him in exercising dominion.

This centrality of the family has definite implications for our schools. In Social Studies (or History), we must not neglect the family. As we study a given society, we must study the family structure which dominates that society. Does the father take the lead? Is the family governed by the mother? Does the family unit frequently include grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. (cf. Gen. 2:24)? Are two homosexuals considered a “family”? Is the family weakened through the use of ungodly laws (e.g., inheritance taxes)?

We must examine such questions as these, and note their implications in the rest of society. For example, the imposition of inheritance taxes results in the loss of the family farm, and the increase in corporately-owned farms; a disregard for the importance of the family has definite economic implications. Taking a covenantal view of history, we examine societies in the light of God’s commands, and one of these commands is the cultural mandate. Since the family is central to this task, we would be missing the point entirely in our study of history if we neglect the family.

Getting back to the original topic (the “socialization” of the child), we may take a fresh look at the problem. Concern for such “socialization” has only arisen in recent years. Twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, no such concern was prevalent. Was it because people then were somehow less enlightened concerning the social needs of the children?

No, the problem is that these same years have witnessed a breakdown in the Biblical concept of the family. Divorces are more frequent; government economic policies of monetary inflation force many mothers out of the home to find a job; gay rights, kiddie lib, and extramarital sex have all sprung up. The family is disintegrating.

God’s solution for Adam’s “aloneness” was to provide for him a family. This is the same solution we must give for the social development of the children. In the family, children learn how to get along with other people—how to converse, how to show loving concern, how to cooperate, and how to settle disagreements. The family is the main instrument for the “socialization” of the child. (Granted, it was easier in the days when a family consisted of eight or ten children—a family was practically a community in itself!)

The godly family teaches the child how to do these things in a Biblical way. The corrupt family of the present day also teaches the child how to behave—it teaches him to run away from problems (divorce), to seek for instant self-gratification (extra-marital sex), and to assert his own “rights” without regard to anyone else (woman’s, children’s, gay lib).

Parents have told me, when I told them I had a problem with their child fighting, “He picks that up from all the kids at his church; they are always picking on him.” However, I have noted that these family members are constantly fighting among themselves—husband and wife, brother and sister, parents and children. The problem is at home, not at church. Fighting families produce fighting children.

Hand in hand with the centrality of the family in “socialization” goes the family’s role in discipline. Discipline in the school is only effective if it is reinforced at home. The old rule of, “If you get a whooping at school, you’ll get another one when you get home” is valid. If the parents are lax regarding discipline, then no amount of strict discipline at school will (humanly speaking) really change the child’s life.

The importance of the family in fulfilling the cultural mandate must be emphasized in high school, as students consider their life’s calling. In “career counseling,” the student must be made to see that establishing a godly family is the most important thing he must do to prepare for work. Men must see that, except in rare cases (cf. Matt. 19:10-12), they are to marry, and that a wife will be a vital asset in the exercise of their calling. Likewise, women must understand that their calling is generally to marry and be supportive of their husband in his work. This would all necessitate teaching the biblical view of the family to high school students in some formal way—perhaps in an ethics class.

God has created the family and given it a key role in His world. This must be carried out in our schools, in order that the children might effectively carry out the dominion mandate. Let the world have “liberated” women and children—they will only lose dominion, and we Christians can take over that much quicker!