The Biblical Structure of History (19):

                              Conclusion to Part 3

Gary North – November 18, 2021

A. Historical Structure and Facts

Christian historiography must begin with presuppositions about the nature of history. This means these issues: creation and God’s providence, the image of God in man, biblical law, sanctions in history, and eschatology. A Christian historian should have clear ideas about how the Bible addresses each of these five issues. He should also have decided how to integrate all five points into a coherent theory of history.

He must assume that God has imputed meaning to all of history in terms of the five points. God’s memory has flawlessly connected the historical dots retroactively because He connected the dots originally. His decree is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. He is omniscient. Nothing that has ever happened in history has been a surprise to Him. First, this is the biblical solution to the problem of the source of coherence in history. Second, this confession is the solution to the problem of identifying the source of meaning in history. Third, it is the solution to the problem of historiography.

Because God is omniscient, and because His providence holds the universe together, a Christian historian does not need to know everything exhaustively in order to know anything accurately. His goal is to think God’s thoughts after Him. He can do this because he has the mind of Christ. He also has access to the Holy Spirit, who guides Christians into all truth. That was what Jesus specifically said that the Holy Spirit would do. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit has this task: to bring all things to our remembrance.

Trust in the covenantal structure of history, trust in God’s biblical revelation of this structure, and trust in the reliability of the connection between God’s mind and covenant-keepers’ minds are just the beginning. Then the hard work begins. The Christian historian must research an existing historical narrative in terms of this question: “Does this narrative reflect the five points of the structure of history?” Historical narratives must be structured in terms of the five points. Historiography must faithfully reflect history. In his quest for a topic to write about or teach, he should look for accepted narratives that are not consistent with the five points. These are candidates for Christian revisionism. The correct goal of Christian historical revisionism is to revise humanism’s narratives so that they reflect the coherence between the biblical structure of history and the interpretations of the past. A Christian historian should demonstrate the biblical structure history by means of the historical facts. Historical facts are not autonomous. His theory of history is not autonomous. It is covenantal.

The Holy Spirit can and does intervene in order to assist Christian historians to do their work more effectively. God does not expect Christian historians to be omniscient. He understands that they need assistance in order to do their work faithfully. The humanist historian has no faith in such a personalized source of truth. This has always been true of humanist historians. Classical Greeks believed in minor divinities known as the muses. One of the muses was memory. But the muses confined themselves to poetry. They were of no assistance to would-be historians. That is why there were so few historians in classical Greece. Basically, there were only two of note: Herodotus and Thucydides. Humanistic historians have long regarded them as the originators of historiography. That is because they do not take Moses and the prophets seriously. Moses and the prophets appealed to God as the source of memory. Herodotus and Thucydides did not.

B. Humanism Is Flying Blind

What I am saying here may seem difficult to believe for someone who has not received graduate-level training in historiography. I am saying that courses in epistemology have always been nonexistent. There have been no courses on foundations of historical knowledge, beginning with Kantian philosophy as applied to historical understanding. There have been courses on methodology: research and writing skills. There have been books on competing philosophies of history. These are usually written by philosophers. Such courses are not taught in history departments. They should be taught in every history department in every Christian college. Such a course could use this book as a textbook: Historiography Secular and Religious, by Gordon Clark. It was published in 1971. Clark was a Christian philosopher. But there is a major problem with his book. He never wrote a history book, other than a history of philosophy. He had no experience in applying a biblical philosophy of history to specific historical questions. He never presented a biblical philosophy of history. The book is devoted to surveying previous historians and their philosophies of history.

This is the same problem that R. G. Collingwood had. He was a sophisticated philosopher. He wrote to impress philosophers. He did not write for the benefit of historians. He never wrote a history book. When I first read the book over half a century ago, it was clear to me that he had no idea of the relationship between the actual methodologies of history and the philosophical issues he was raising. Most of his book is incomprehensible to historians. I am a competent historian. I find page after page of his book irrelevant to the question at hand. What is the question? “How should the historian actually do his day-to-day work in terms of Collingwood’s philosophy of history?” You cannot find the answer to this question by reading Collingwood.

Historians have long been silent with respect to their personal philosophies of history. David Hume wrote a detailed history of England. He also wrote a great deal on philosophy. But he never wrote a book on how his philosophy governed his historiography. He never wrote a book on the philosophy of history. It was as if his work as an historian and his work as a philosopher were in hermetically sealed-off partitions of his brain.

This astounding naïveté of practicing historians regarding the structure of history, which most of them deny — the connection between the historian’s methodology and this structure of history, and the principles governing the production of historical narratives — is remarkable. These issues are not publicly discussed because most historians are unaware of these interconnected problems, and those few who are aware of them have not been able offer coherent explanations of how these three aspects of the historian’s task can and should be integrated.

There is an old phrase: “He made it up as he went along.” This is exactly what humanist historians have been doing ever since Herodotus. They have some vague sense of what they are doing, and some of them are quite good at it. But they cannot explain to anyone else’s satisfaction how they do it. They also seem incapable of explaining to non-historians why they do it. Some historians do it out of curiosity. Some of them do it out of a desire to change the world, although not that many of them are this dedicated. Marxists were. Some of them do it because they get paid to do it. Some of them do it because they are good entertainers. They like to tell stories. But when asked why teaching history is their calling, meaning the most important thing they can do in which they would be most difficult to replace, they flounder. They offer no clear answers. They have devoted their lives to work that they have trouble justifying to themselves or to others. We are back to the statements that leading historians made in the presence of Prof. Singer in 1970. I quoted these statements in the Preface. Historians really do not think that history has any identifiable meaning.


If you have doubts about your ability to perform as a Christian historian, either as a reader or a teacher, keep this fact in mind. You are now better prepared theologically, philosophically, and methodologically in the field of historiography than any humanist historian is. He may be a better writer. He is familiar with far more documents than you are. He may have a knack for connecting historical dots that you do not possess. But he cannot explain why his dot-connecting procedure is correct in terms of an overall philosophy of history. He has no overall philosophy of history. He does not accept the biblical philosophy of history. He does not believe there is a biblical structure to history. But, in arguing against the Bible’s view of history, he is in the unenviable position of someone who is trying to beat something with nothing.

Van Til made this point regarding humanism in every area of scholarship. He argued that epistemological blindness is the universal condition of humanist scholars. Rejecting the God of the Bible, and rejecting the Bible as a reliable testimony to this God, humanists have no coherent alternative to offer to explain the coherence of the world and to explain their ability to perceive this coherence. Van Til devoted six pages in a course syllabus to refuting Collingwood. What I have done in this book is to confirm in the field of history and historiography what Van Til recognized no later than 1962. It has taken me almost six decades to catch up with where Van Til was in 1962. I apologize for the delay. But better late than never.

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 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 Resources

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:

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 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.

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 Debt 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.”

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.

The Biblical Structure of History (18): Chapter 15, Progress

Gary North – November 16, 2021

For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody (Isaiah 51:3).

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

A. Covenant Model, Part 5

Part 5 of the biblical covenant model is succession. The system of covenantal sanctions in part 4 benefits covenant-keepers and hampers covenant-breakers. This creates the conditions favorable to increased dominion by covenant-keepers. This dominion produces positive effects over time.

Part 5 of biblical social theory is inheritance. Covenant-keepers progressively inherit the earth. Covenant-breakers are steadily disinherited. “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just” (Proverbs 13:22).

Part 5 of Christian historiography is progress.

B. Progress Described Biblically

Isaiah 51:3 describes a future society. This society is described in terms of restoration. God restores society to be like the garden of Eden. This is the imagery of the world before the fall of man. As part of God’s curse on mankind, the world outside of the garden was turned into wilderness. It became difficult for man to cultivate. The curse imposed a major economic loss on mankind. Man would have to work by the sweat of his brow to grow food. The curse increased the costs of production. It encouraged cooperation, economic specialization, and increased output.

Isaiah understood that the people of Judah would recognize the story of the fall of man in Eden. Their parents had told them this story. So had the Levites. They understood that the world they lived in was under a curse. They also understood that it is the task of covenant-keepers to work to restore a world comparable to the garden of Eden. This takes time and effort. It takes capital, especially accurate knowledge. It takes all of the benefits of civilization. It is a long-term task.

Habakkuk reminded them that this dominion process applies to the whole world. Dominion was not a geographically limited assignment given to Israelites to restore only the tiny nation of Israel to fruitfulness. The whole world had to be restored. But how? The heart of the dominion covenant is adherence to God’s law: point 3. This is the way in which people gain the blessings of God: point 4. These are not limited to spiritual blessings. They are comprehensive blessings that apply to every area of life. Man’s sin in the garden was a comprehensive rebellion. Therefore, God’s redemption of mankind in history also is comprehensive.

Habakkuk told the Israelites that the whole world will see the glory of God. This glory will be comprehensive. He reminded them that their task in life was to extend this knowledge of God to those outside of Israel. This was an evangelical function. The nation of Israel served as a kind of cultural boot camp. It was to become something like a re-creation of the garden of Eden. It was a to be a training ground for covenant-keepers. Their work will be successful, he assured them. This was a vision of worldwide redemption. The prophet said that this vision will be fulfilled in history. Biblical progress means the redemption of the world. This will be comprehensive. It will apply to every area of life that is presently under the dominion of sin. There will be no safe zones for sin.

C. God’s Visible Kingdom

Evidence of God’s comprehensive redemption will be widespread knowledge of the word of God. Dominion is not merely technological. It is covenantal. At the heart of the covenant is God’s law-order: point 3. Adherence to this law-order is the basis of positive sanctions in history: point 4. This is the message of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. The Israelites understood this. Moses had told the generation of the conquest that this was the case. Each successive generation was told what the conquest generation had been told. Jeremiah reminded Judah of this message. The nations outside of Israel will see this redemption of Israel. “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jeremiah 31:10–12). This message gave Israelites hope that the whole world would understand that God is in charge of history, and He directs history to favor His people.

Later in this passage, we read a prophecy regarding the law of God.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31–34).

The Epistle to the Hebrews cites this prophecy as being fulfilled by what takes place in the hearts of Christians. This is the promised New Covenant.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8:7–10).

Then it announces this regarding Jesus: His footstool victory through His law in covenant-keepers’ hearts.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 10:12–17).

Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah regarding the law in men’s hearts has been definitively fulfilled by the church of Jesus Christ. All of the prophecies associated with the rebuilding of Zion now apply to the church. The task of the dominion covenant still applies to all mankind, but God expects His New Covenant people to use His law-order as their tool of dominion. It was a tool of dominion for Old Covenant Israel, but the Israelites continued to violate these laws. God divorced Israel in A.D. 70: the fall of Jerusalem to Rome’s legions. Jesus had warned the Pharisees of this divorce. God will create a new nation, He said. “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 12:43). That nation is the church. This is why Paul called the church “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). We know what the fruits will be: worldwide dominion. These will be the same fruits that had been promised to Israel. The kingdom of God will be visible to the whole world. Until it is, Christians’ task of dominion is not over.

D. Kingdoms in Conflict

There are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. The kingdom of man was established by a covenantal agent of Satan: the serpent. Such an oath was implied, but it was not formal. This was implicit: the right of man to everything in the garden, including the forbidden tree. Adam through his actions passed judgment on the word of God. He decided that he would test the word of God. Perhaps the word of God was not autonomous. Perhaps it was not authoritative. It was merely one opinion among two. The serpent had offered one interpretation. God had offered the other. Adam decided that he would run a test to see whose word was accurate. He was the arbiter. He did not act in the name of the serpent or Satan. He acted on his own authority in his own name.

God has established His kingdom. He has established a law-order governing this kingdom. He presented this law-order to the Israelites at the time that they covenanted with him by oath at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19–23). Moses read those laws to the generation of the conquest four decades later. The Israelites were required by God to adhere to the laws that God had given them. God promised positive sanctions for obedience. He promised negative sanctions for disobedience.

Paul compiled two lists of laws whose violation identifies covenant-breakers. He said specifically that covenant-breakers are headed for destruction because they violate these laws. That is to say, there are negative sanctions associated with violating these laws, and God imposes those sanctions in history.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:28–32).

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:9–10).

The Bible teaches that there are rival kingdoms that compete for dominion in history. They do so in terms of rival systems of ethics. The conflict between the two kingdoms is not primarily based on power. It is based on ethics. The kingdom of man does have a tendency to manifest itself as a power religion. But the Bible makes it clear that this strategy of dominion eventually fails. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7–8). “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psalm 73:18–19). The biblical basis of long-term dominion is obedience to God’s laws.

E. Covenantal Success

A Christian historian should begin with this premise: there has been no change in the concepts of covenantal success and failure with the coming of the New Covenant. There is ethical conflict in every area of life between the two kingdoms. A Christian historian should understand that there has been an escalation of conflict because of the New Covenant. The conflict has spread outside the borders of Israel ever since the days of Augustus Caesar. There has been an increasing self-consciousness on the part of both covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers about the nature of the conflict. Each side becomes more self-conscious about implementing its worldview at the expense of the other. Renaissance humanists were far more self-conscious than their predecessors. Enlightenment humanists were more self-conscious than Renaissance humanists.

Humanists in the nineteenth century became more self-conscious than humanists in the eighteenth century. Humanists in the twentieth century continued this increase in awareness regarding the threat of Christianity to the extension of the kingdom of man. But, with each escalation of self-awareness, humanists have become more irrational. The confidence of Renaissance humanism is no longer widespread among humanists in the twenty-first century. The epistemological and moral acids of deconstructionism and postmodernism have undermined humanism. These acids have barely touched Christians. Among those Christians who did not go to graduate school, these acids have had almost no effect at all.

There is a familiar saying among humanists: “Man’s technological knowledge has outpaced his moral knowledge.” This is surely an accurate assessment. It has been accurate for as long as civilization has existed. There is a reason for this. The division of labour increases specialization in production. Men then trade with each other. The benefits from the division of labor and trade have combined to persuade men to cooperate. They sell their ideas. They cooperate with each other because this increases their output and therefore their wealth. Technological knowledge has therefore advanced far more rapidly than ethical knowledge has.

Men are ready to fight at the drop of the proverbial hat. James was correct: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:1–3). War comes from sin. Men are not equally ready to cooperate with each other in areas outside of market exchange. God understood this when He cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17–19). This curse forced men to cooperate with each other in order to increase their wealth. So, there has been steady technological development throughout the ages.

This is why men’s technological knowledge always outpaces their ethical knowledge. Covenant-breakers’ ethical knowledge is based on theft. Self-proclaimed autonomous man possesses no knowledge that he has not stolen from God. He is a thief in every area of life. From the day that Adam and Eve stole fruit from God’s tree, man has been a thief. There has always been extensive technological development in the area of warfare. In this area of life, men have progressed technologically from the beginning. They want to be able to fight more efficiently. The military victors take the wealth of the losers. But the price of this victory is destruction. War is destructive.

There are two major economic processes at work in history. One process favours cooperation through voluntary trade. The other process is warfare, which rejects cooperation. It is destructive. Trade is not destructive. Members on both sides of a voluntary transaction hope to improve their wealth. If they do improve their wealth as a result of a transaction, they seek to make another transaction. Cooperation increases wealth in the camp of the covenant-keepers as well as the camp of the covenant-breakers. Both kingdoms prosper economically.

A Christian historian who looks at the history of technology will find that covenant-breakers seem to be the pioneers in technological innovation. There is an economic reason for this. There are more of them to become pioneers. There is a greater division of labour within the camp of covenant-breakers. But both sides win when either side gets richer. Productive technological techniques are difficult to monopolize. Good ideas spread rapidly. Success is imitated in the realm of economics.

In contrast is the realm of evangelism and conversion. This is competition for souls. This form of competition is what economists call a zero-some game. One kingdom wins when an evangelist persuades someone in the other kingdom to defect. Thus, in matters of confession of faith, the warfare is more obvious than in matters of economic trade and technological advancement. Christian evangelism invites covenant-breakers to bring their talents and wealth under God’s authority. It invites them to become God’s servants. Converts move from death to life. John the Baptist announced: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). So, Christ’s kingdom expands through evangelism. This is non-violent warfare.

Jesus made it clear that covenant-breakers who sin against God knowingly come under greater negative sanctions than those who sin against God less knowingly.

But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luke 12:45–48).

With greater wealth and greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. This is a fundamental principle of life. Most societies understand this. People teach this to their children. But covenant-breakers do not recognize this truth in their own lives when they prosper. Their success leads them into disasters. This is what Psalm 73 teaches. Success for covenant-breakers is a slippery slope. It confirms their covenant. They are deceived by this confirmation.

A Christian historian should look at the past in terms of the success and failure of individuals and especially societies. He will find that periods of great success for a covenant-breaking society are followed by society-wide disaster. This is the message of Daniel regarding the four beasts, which were kings. “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:17–18). There will be ten successive kingdoms. They will all fail. “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:27). This is the pattern of history. “Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:26–27). This speaks of Jesus Christ.

F. Optimism and Commitment

Someone who believes that his efforts are doomed to failure in his own lifetime may be willing to sacrifice a great deal for the sake of the long-term results of his efforts. This was certainly true of Communists in the first half of the twentieth century. But if someone believes that the long-term results of his efforts are as doomed as the short-term results of his efforts, he is unlikely to make a major commitment, which involves a major sacrifice. He is far more likely to seek ways to conserve whatever he possesses. He does not want to place all of his assets on the line for the sake of a cause that is doomed to failure. A popular American phrase says not to throw good money after bad. Another phrase says not to throw money down a rat hole. Entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. They are convinced that their next venture is going to be successful, and maybe stupendously successful. They are willing to face the burdens of uncertainty about the future because they expect to profit mightily from the success of their present sacrifices.

This outlook applies to Christian historians. Someone who thinks that no one will pay any attention to his publications is unlikely to sacrifice time and money in order to master the documents required to present a coherent narrative of the past to the public. If he also believes that Christianity will be unable to extend its influence around the world in every area of life, he has little incentive to study the past in search of evidence that earlier Christians firmly believed that Christianity will extend its influence around the world in every area of life. A Christian historian who is pessimistic about the efforts of Christians to build a Christian civilization has to regard the optimism of earlier generations of Christians as misplaced. They did not understand what he firmly believes, namely, that covenant-breakers will be victorious in history. If he also believes that covenant-breakers will systematically persecute Christians, he is even less interested in sacrificing in the present in order to develop narratives about Christianity’s past. The best that he will be able to say about the optimists of the past is that they had the right attitude, but bad eschatology. They were consistent with what they believed about the future, but they misunderstood the future. They expected Christian victories, not defeats. Poor, misguided souls.

One reason why I hope that readers of this book will take seriously Chapter 5 on inheritance is to persuade them that the New Testament clearly teaches that Christianity will be successful in the future. The inheritance left by Christians to successors will not be transferred to covenant-breakers. On the contrary, the inheritance left by covenant-breakers will be transferred to Christians and to Christian civilization. The Christian historian who believes the message in Chapter 5 will be more willing to sacrifice time, money, and emotional commitment to investigating the history of Christianity’s influence in developing Western civilization. He will be more ready to confront the humanist interpretation of Western civilization, which de-emphasizes the contribution of Christianity and emphasizes the legacy left by classical civilization to the West.

Humanists are losing faith in the future. They are also losing faith in Western civilization. The top American universities ceased requiring a course in Western civilization in the 1990’s. Postmodernist historiography has called into question the historiography of the modernists, the Enlightenment, and the Renaissance. This creates a tremendous opportunity for Christian historians to re-interpret the history of Western civilization in terms of the contributions of Christendom, which is what Renaissance historians dedicated themselves to refuting.

G. Christian Revisionist Historiography

The necessary initial task is to reinterpret the history of Western civilization. This is because humanists have begun to abandon the battlefield on which they fought a successful series of campaigns, beginning with the Renaissance. The humanist version of Western history was that the classical heritage was foundational to the creation of Western civilization. Therefore, the Christian version of Western history must make the case that Christianity, not classical culture, is the primary inheritance of the West.

This revisionist program has two components: offensive and defensive. The offensive program is to show that the Bible is the basis of Christendom. Christianity has imported technologies from other societies. There is always sharing of technologies across borders and cultures. The offensive campaign must show how Christians developed a civilization that we call Christendom. It was primarily biblical, but not entirely. Christian historians must show that the crucial elements of Christendom came from the Bible, not from Greece and Rome. They should show how Christianity applied biblical principles in order to build a unique civilization in the West.

There are very few books on this. This has not been the way that Western civilization has been taught since the Renaissance. There should be detailed studies of monastic technological development. These have been produced by humanists. We need more of these studies. There must also be studies on how biblical principles affected the development of both civil law and canon law. There are few studies on this. There should be studies on how biblical laws establishing private property led to increased trade and increased technological development. This kind of research is going to take generations.

Then there is the defensive component. Yet, even here, it is mostly offensive: a frontal assault against classical culture and classical civilization. The operational model is the book by Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine. It was published by Oxford University Press in 1940. It has been reprinted by Liberty Press. It is a detailed study of the moral and intellectual collapse of classical culture at the beginning of the Roman Empire. This book must not simply be read; it must be mastered. A serious historian will follow the footnotes. Another useful book is Ethelbert Stauffer’s Christ and the Caesars (1955). It shows that the conflict between church and state was at bottom a conflict over rival views of salvation. This battle is reflected in the history of Roman currency.

To understand the failure of classical culture, Christian historians must read accurate accounts about classical Greece. The first thing they have to understand that its creative period lasted for only about a century: 450 B.C to 350 B.C. Greek culture was committed to constant warfare, and this warfare ultimately weakened Sparta and Athens, so that the Macedonian army was able to conquer Greece without a great deal of trouble in the mid-fourth century B.C. The place to start is Greek religion. Religion is the place to start every history of society. The historian must read Fustel de Coulanges’ masterpiece, The Ancient City: A Study in the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (1864). That will dispel the notion that Greece and Rome took seriously the Olympian gods.

What they took seriously were demonic beings that surrounded them on their own property. These were the gods of the underworld. For confirmation of this thesis, historians must read the works of the remarkable and generally forgotten historian, Jane Ellen Harrison. She wrote in the early 1900s. She was a master of Greek poetry and Greek pottery. She also emphasized the centrality of what she called the chthonic gods of Greece. Also crucial is the book by Jacob Burckhardt, The Greeks and Greek Civilization. He gave these lectures from 1872, and again in 1874, 1878, and 1885. They were edited and published in 1998. A Christian historian should read Plato. But, before he reads Plato, he should read the 1945 book by Karl Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1. It is a devastating critique of Plato as a defender of tyranny.

The Christian historian should ask the following questions:

What were the legacies of Greece and Rome that shaped the early church? What is the evidence? What were the legacies of Greece and Rome that shaped the medieval church up to about 1100? What is the evidence? Were these legacies positive when compared with the Old Testament and the New Testament? Or were they mostly negative?

Next, a Christian historian must study the Renaissance. This should begin with a detailed examination of books written by Francis Yates. Yates showed that it was not just Greek and Roman culture and philosophy that the Renaissance humanists revived. It was also Greek and Roman occultism. Begin with her book, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964). That book created a paradigm shift among historians regarding the rationalism and commitment to science of Renaissance humanists. She was a careful historian. She worked with documents that humanist historians had ignored or had not known about. She extended her studies into the Enlightenment. Also important is the short book by Stephen McKnight: Sacralizing the Secular: The Renaissance Origins of Modernity (1989). Then read his book, The Modern Age and the Recovery of Ancient Wisdom: A Reconsideration of Historical Consciousness, 1450-1650 (1991).

Two crucial books on the world from the French Revolution to the present are these: James Billington’s Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (1980) and Paul Johnson, Modern Times (1983). Billington begins with the French Revolution and traces the revolutionaries to Lenin in 1917. Johnson begins in 1916.

If you do not feel competent yet, do not worry about it. With sufficient study, you can become competent. You may be regarded as an amateur, but this should not bother you.

H. Publishing Agenda

You do not need to be a professor in a college to teach history. If you limit yourself to a few dozen students in a college classroom, you are limiting yourself far too much. Your audience will be much too small. Think big. Think YouTube. The first step in any publishing agenda should be to identify your audience or audiences. Each book, article, online video, or podcast should target a specific audience.

YouTube has proven that a man who is willing to study the details of specific historical topics can gain an enormous audience. A good example is The History Guy. Some of his videos have been watched by 500,000 viewers. They are usually about 15 minutes long. He just sits in front of a camera and talks. He then edits in public domain photographs or maps. The narration carries the presentation, but the support materials add credibility. Another example is Simon Whistler, who has 3.3 million subscribers.

There are dozens of extremely lively videos on American history by John Green. Green is a gifted novelist for teenagers. He is a multimillionaire, as is his brother, who co-produces the videos. There are multiple series of courses. In 2020, his 49 videos in American history had been watched by 47 million people. His targeted audience is high school students who are studying for the AP or Advanced Placement exam. These videos are nothing like any course you ever had in high school.

These teachers have reached more people than any other teachers in history, with one exception: Salman Khan. The Khan Academy in 2020 had almost 2 million full-time students taking video-based courses around the world. He has revolutionized education.

We need 12-part Sunday school courses on church history. They can be talking-head videos. They can be screencasts. Screencast technologies are inexpensive, and they are effective for teaching. You simply narrate what is on the screen.

It is relatively inexpensive to have books typeset. They can be published on Amazon as Kindle books. They can be published as print-on-demand books, which can then be sold through Amazon. If you can write a book, you can get it published.

There is plenty of demand for free courses that target homeschooled children.

Each YouTube video should have a link at the end that leads the viewers to your free website.

I. Christian Discipleship

Do not go to the trouble of producing a video until you know what you want the person who watches the video to do at the end of the video. Obviously, you want him to watch your next video in the series. I am speaking about what you want the person to do after he has watched all of the videos in the series.

You are making these people responsible for implementing changes in their lives as a result of having watched your videos. There is no escape from this law of human action: with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. You should have a specific action agenda for members of each audience. Maybe they should read another book. But that only postpones the day of reckoning. At some point, people have to put the knowledge that they possess to productive use for building the kingdom of God. Christians should not be content to be consumers of anything, including information. They should put this information to productive use. Viewers should be encouraged to recommend your videos to other people. They should become evangelists. We need Christians who understand the history of the church’s impact in building Western civilization. We need Christians to gain confidence in the long-term potential for their own efforts. They need to understand the growth of the kingdom of God in the past so that they can commit personally to the growth of the kingdom of God in the future.

Your goal should be to train leaders. They must discipline themselves in a program of self-improvement. Their goal should be recruiting and training disciples. Christian discipleship involves far more than a program to share the gospel of personal salvation. Christian discipleship must train leaders to serve as agents of the kingdom of God. There is a division of labor in this kingdom. Different people have different gifts. They have different opportunities. You should train them to recognize what their skills are and how they can put these skills to effective use in their circumstances.

Basic to Christian leadership is an understanding of the history of the church as an institution, but also understanding the history of Christian civilization. Christians should understand Christendom. This has not been taught in the churches over the last four centuries. It surely has not been taught in public schools. It has not been taught in Christian schools. Your presentations on history should be part of a much broader program of Christian discipleship and leadership training. I wrote a book about this: The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership (2021).


Humanism is now in defensive mode. It dominates the institutions of higher learning and public education. It dominates what are called the mainstream media. But their audiences are shrinking. A kind of disintegration is taking place. This disintegration became visible in 2011: the so-called Arab Spring. It was an unorganized revolt against Middle Eastern governments. It began to spread. This has been chronicled in a 2014 book by Martin Gurri: The Revolt of the Public. Social media available on smartphones have begun to fragment the establishment’s near-monopoly of control over the flow of information. It took less than a decade from the development of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to overturn governments in the Middle East and around the world. It happened without warning.

The Internet has created opportunities for evangelism and education on a scale unparalleled in human history. It is time for Christian historians and Christian storytellers to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Biblical Structure of History (17): Chapter 12, Representation

Gary North – November 13, 2021

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18–20).

A. Covenant Model, Point 2

Point 2 of the biblical covenant model is hierarchy: God over man over the creation. Adam represented God to the creation. He represented the creation to God.

Point 2 of biblical social theory is authority, which is delegated to man by God.

Point 2 of Christian historiography is representation. This has to do with a judicial office: trusteeship. It has to do with speaking God’s word authoritatively in His name.

B. Christian Historiography as Prophetic

Jesus’ command to the disciples is known in Christian circles as the Great Commission. These are marching orders for the church. Jesus announced them, and Christians are supposed to obey them.

The first command is to go and teach all nations. This means all peoples. This means every group across the face of the earth. Second, this is a command to teach the whole world about the church covenant, since it involves baptism, the New Covenant’s mark of covenantal membership in the church. Baptism is an oath sign of the New Covenant, as Meredith Kline demonstrated in Chapter 5 of his book, By Oath Consigned (1972). Third, this is a command to teach the whole world about the God of the Bible, who is a Trinity. Fourth, this is a command to teach about ethics: whatever Jesus commanded the disciples.

It is not possible to teach people about who Jesus was, what He commanded, what His church is, and what baptism means unless you teach the history of Jesus as found in the four Gospels. You must also teach what is found in the Book of Acts and the epistles. When you bring the message of salvation to someone, you are bringing the story of the history of Jesus’ ministry. You also bring the history of Israel prior to A.D. 70. You also bring the story of the creation of the world and the developments of history up until the calling of Abram. In short, it is not possible to bring the gospel of salvation without simultaneously bringing the history of that gospel. The gospel developed over time. The gospel developed as part of the general development of history: the transition from wrath to grace.

This means that the evangelist is inescapably an historian. I argue that the reverse is also true. A Christian historian is inherently and inescapably an evangelist. He brings the message of the transition from wrath to grace. This is the history of the gospel. It is not possible to understand the gospel without understanding its history. It is also not possible to understand the gospel without the commentaries found in the epistles. There is an inescapable and unbreakable link between the facts of New Testament history and the interpretation of these facts by the epistles.

A Christian historian does not select, research, interpret, and teach history correctly if he ignores the general framework of biblical history: creation, image, law, imputation, and inheritance. There is a structure of history, and a Christian historian is supposed to use this structure as a template for interpreting the past. He is supposed to do this self-consciously. Historical facts are not brute facts, meaning uninterpreted facts. They are God-interpreted facts. The meaning of these facts is imputed by God. Every Christian interpretation of history should be based on the fact that a Christian historian can think God’s thoughts after Him. He is supposed to present history in terms analogous to the absolute and authoritative imputation of meaning by God. He cannot do this perfectly, but he can do it accurately. If he could not, history would be inherently incoherent and beyond man’s ability to understand. This is the conclusion of the most radical of the postmodernist historians.

If what I have said is true, then a Christian historian has a prophetic function. A prophet in the Old Testament came before the people and also before rulers and warned them that their violations of God’s law would bring God’s negative historical sanctions on them. He appealed to history, including the law of God and the past warnings of God, in order to validate his warning of what was going to happen in the future. That office was abolished after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jesus is today the only covenantal prophet. He is prophet, priest, and king. So, when I say that a Christian historian has a prophetic function, I do not mean that he has the authority of an Old Covenant prophet. I mean that his task is analogous to the task of an Old Covenant prophet. A Christian historian is required by God to evaluate history in terms of men’s ethics-based decisions. Men’s decisions are either in obedience to God’s laws or in violation of God’s laws. A Christian historian is supposed to explain historical sanctions—positive and negative, individual and corporate—in terms of conformity to God’s law or a revolt against God’s law.

The prophet in the Old Testament evaluated the current decisions of the people of Israel in terms of God’s revelation of His laws. The prophet also warned that God in the past had brought negative sanctions against Israel when Israel revolted against His law. So, there was a strong historical component in the prophet’s message. Finally, he predicted future negative sanctions if there was no repentance. A Christian historian does not have equal access to the mind of God that a prophet had under the Old Covenant. He cannot see into the future as clearly as an Old Covenant prophet could. But he can make covenant-based judgments about the likely results for individuals and societies if they continue to violate specific biblical laws. There will be coherence between the nature of the laws violated and the kinds of negative sanctions imposed.

C. Four-Way Representation

All covenantal representation is four-way representation. It is representation upward toward God, outward toward other people, downward toward those under authority, and inward, meaning conscience above all. For example, a father must serve God. If he has a job, he has to serve his employer. He serves his wife and his children. He serves himself. How? He has his own self-image. He evaluates his own work. He has standards that he thinks he should meet. Some of these standards are ethical. Others are professional/technical. There is supposed to be coherence among all four kinds of representation.

Consider the work of a Christian historian. First, he is supposed to select a topic that is pleasing to God. God has some purpose for him in selecting this topic. He selects one topic, and he rejects all the others. Second, he has to meet standards regarding the quality of his work. Other historians may read his work and find errors. He will come under criticism. He wants to avoid this if this is possible by doing better research. Third, there are people under his authority: students, readers, and viewers of online lessons. He is acting on their behalf. They trust him. They are willing to re-think their view of a particular historical incident or trend. They may even change their behavior because of what they hear. Fifth, he must satisfy his own standards regarding the quality of his work. He does not want to feel guilty about his performance.

Covenantal representation is not easy. A Christian historian is not in a covenantal relationship with other historians or with students, but he is in a covenantal relationship with God. He is also in a covenantal relationship with himself. He is acting in the name of God and also on behalf of God. He is acting as a trustee of God. If he does poor work, this brings God’s name into disrepute. Nathan the prophet told David that this is what he had done by committing adultery with Bathsheba. The enemies of God blasphemed God (2 Samuel 12:14). A Christian historian wants to avoid anything remotely like that kind of performance. Therefore, he must count the cost: “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).

D. Representation and Topic Selection

A Christian historian understands that his work is highly specific. It is specialized. He cannot research everything. He must work hard to produce something of value to God. So, he has to exercise judgment in selecting what he is going to study and how he is going to do this. There is a familiar statement in English: “Do the right thing, and do the thing right.” These are different requirements. You must do the right thing, which has an element of morality about it. You must do something that you think is a good thing to do. But, once you have decided to do it, you now face all of the difficulties associated with doing it. You must do it right. Your work must be technically precise. It must meet standards associated with professional performance. If you build a bridge, the bridge should not collapse.

A Christian historian also must think very carefully about the people under his authority. How can he serve them well? How can he make his presentation meaningful to them? Before he begins his work, he must identify his audience. This raises several questions:

1. What do they know already about the topic?

2. What else do they need to know in order to understand the past?

3. What do they need to know about the past in order to make good decisions?

4. What motivation will persuade them to make good specific decisions?

The answers to these questions will determine how the historian should present the results of his investigations. Should he write a book? Should he write an article? Should he produce an online video? Should he produce a Sunday school course?

Then there is the question of the level of sophistication of the presentation. A 500-page book filled with footnotes is suitable for instructing a student who is taking an upper-division college course in history, or maybe a graduate student. It is not suitable for people who have never taken a college-level history course. Self-taught experts will have no problem, but they are not normally the target audience of someone who is about to devote three or four years to writing a book. A publisher will reject the manuscript if he does not think there will be enough buyers to justify its publication. The publisher’s editor will also get involved in the selection process. The Christian historian must take all this into account.

Then he must assess his own capabilities. Is he sufficiently skilled to write a book? If not, what must he do to get the needed skills? Next, how will he have to budget his time in order to write it? There is always great competition for his time. Time is the only irreplaceable resource in history. He must budget it carefully. If he is plans to produce online videos, what equipment is required, and how long will it take him to master its use? The same applies to typesetting if he is going to typeset the book. All of these issues involve limits. Put differently, they involve boundaries. Boundaries are associated with point 3 of the biblical covenant.

E. Representation and Selection of Facts

1. Relevant Facts

This is the issue of the content of historiography. The number of facts that God has interpreted approaches infinity from the point of view of the Christian historian. The number of documents that deal with any particular incident or trend is also enormous. The cost in terms of time to get access to documents in archival collections is high. There are travel costs and lodging costs. This cost will decline as the posting of documents on the Internet continues. The cost will be much lower in half a century than it is today. It will be much lower in a century than it will be in half a century. We can be confident that there will be superior historiography because of the reduced cost of getting access to relevant documentation.

When we speak of relevant information, we raise the issue of standards of evidence. How do we determine what is relevant? Humanistic historians do not agree on this. They do not agree on a theory of relevant evidence, and they do not agree in terms of actual practice. They have no fixed standards that determine the correct answers.

The issue of relevance is the issue of imputation of meaning. This is associated with point 4 of the biblical covenant. In covenant theology, point 2 is always closely related to point 4. Point 2 is about the person who brings sanctions. Point 4 is about the sanctions. Assessing relevance is the task of casuistry: applying fixed principles (point 3) to specific situations. In the case of historiography, the historian must decide which facts to consider, but he also has to decide how the standards of interpretation should be applied to the available documents.

The facts do not speak for themselves. Van Til said there is no such thing as brute factuality. All factual reality is interpreted factuality. Most modern historians have concluded the same thing. (See Chapter 9.) Therefore, a Christian historian must interpret the facts. He must attempt to think God’s thoughts after Him. The heart of the week of creation was this: God spoke repeatedly. He spoke the world into existence, He spoke when He gave his assessment of the quality of His work at the end of days and the end of the week. Speaking is an inescapable aspect of the historian’s craft.

It is always possible to make an error when interpreting a fact. This is why it is imperative that historians should seek out confirming facts. The Bible says that in a multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). In a multitude of confirming verifiable documents there is safety. The historian may not be able to find verifiable documents that confirm the testimony of a document. In such cases, he must look for other documents that indirectly verify the document that he thinks is crucial to his argument. If he cannot find them, he is supposed to reconsider his thesis if it rests heavily on a single document that stands alone without verification. He does not want that document to become the cornerstone of his argument. It might collapse, bringing down the whole structure.

2. Relevant Selection

Some facts will support a thesis effectively. We do not have to search for all of the facts. We will never find all of the facts. We must find those facts which faithfully represent the broader event that we deal with in our presentation. Here are two biblical examples of this selection process.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:31–32). And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen (John 21:25).

John was a disciple of Jesus. He was recruited at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He was at Jesus’ crucifixion. He wrote the Gospel of John. He wrote three epistles. He wrote the Book of Revelation. No one had more personal experience in Jesus’ ministry than he did. When he wrote the Gospel of John, he excluded huge quantities of information. He was being rhetorical when he said that the world could not contain the books that would be written about everything that Jesus did. He was conveying a message. His Gospel is a short summary of what Jesus did in His ministry. He selected specific facts by means of a criterion: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” He was open about this. He selected a small number of facts about Jesus’ ministry because he knew that nobody was going to read a multi-volume book on everything that Jesus did.

John selected relevant incidents from Jesus’ ministry that would convey the same truth that he could convey if he had written multiple volumes. He adopted an economy of writing. He wanted the readers to read all of his Gospel. It was better that they read all of a short presentation than read only a small portion of a very long one. He did not select these incidents in order to deceive his readers. On the contrary, he selected them in order to persuade readers of the truth. He was not compromising the accuracy of the message that he could have conveyed in a longer Gospel. He selected facts that would convey accurate information in a more effective way. This was a matter of persuasion as well as a matter of accuracy. This raises the issue of persuasion.

3. Relevant Rhetorically

A Christian historian is like an attorney presenting a case to a jury. He has to pick those facts that confirm the arguments that he thinks will persuade the jury. But, unlike a lawyer, a Christian historian must seek the truth, a considerable part of the truth, and most of the truth. He cannot legitimately seek the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That would require omniscience. That is an incommunicable attribute of God. But he can present a case that will lead the jury to bring a verdict that is, in the language of American jurisprudence, beyond reasonable doubt. In doing this work, a Christian historian must recognize that he faces critics who are his intellectual peers. Other historians will examine his documentation if his thesis becomes popular. He is like an attorney facing another attorney. If he is facing a small army of attorneys who are critically inclined, he must go the extra mile in advance in order to make his thesis, if not airtight, then at least watertight. He does not want it to be sunk in full public view.

Once he is convinced that he is correct, he must become an advocate. He must become a promoter. He must become a persuader. The element of persuasion is always present, but in Christian historiography, it must be a major component of a presentation, whether the presentation is a book, an article, or an online video.

In all forms of nonfiction writing, there are three crucial elements: accuracy, clarity, and persuasiveness. Writing that does not have all three elements is unlikely to gain long-term influence. If it is erroneous, the book or article will be demolished by critics early in the debate. If it is not clear, it will not gain widespread acceptance by members of his targeted audience. If it is not persuasive, it will not change the thinking of most of the members of his target audience. He has wasted his time. His goal is not simply to change their thinking; his goal is to change their behaviour. It is to persuade them to act in new ways. He had better be persuasive.

Persuasion is the art of rhetoric. Rhetoric involves several components. The most familiar component is emotion. Another is the use of familiar symbols that evoke emotion. Another is the use of adjectives and adverbs that persuade people to draw conclusions that they would not have drawn had the adjectives and adverbs been missing. There can be an appeal to pride. There can be an appeal to someone who is responsible for protecting someone else. There can be an appeal to self-esteem.

I have spent almost half a century as a direct-response marketer. I have marketed my books and web materials. As is the case in every profession, direct-response marketing has many rules. As is the case in every profession, it requires creativity, which cannot be taught by a formula. The direct-response marketer understands this: you must appeal to emotion. But an even more powerful technique is this: sell a product that the shopper has already decided to purchase. We cannot always do this in non-fiction writing, but sometimes it is a good way to begin. A Christian historian who is attempting to confirm the beliefs of his audience will find this task easier than if he is trying to persuade them to abandon a strongly held belief. I speak from experience. My book on the conspiratorial origins of the United States Constitution was a failure, not because of its inaccuracy, and not because of its lack of clarity. It is accurate, and it is clear. But its thesis is offensive to almost all Americans, and especially those Christian Americans who believe that the Constitution is inherently Christian.

A Christian historian is wise to begin his presentation with a benefit. He must persuade the reader or viewer to read his book or watch his video because there will be one or more benefits associated with having completed the task. Here is the rule of the direct-response marketer: “Lead with the benefit. Follow with the proof.” The benefit should be presented early in the presentation. In the case of this book, I presented the benefits in the Preface, Part A: Benefits of Reading This Book. The remainder of this book is the proof. As a reader, you have not finished the book. But, if you have read this far, you probably have begun to receive at least some of the benefits. I reveal this technique here because I do not want you to waste time in producing materials that almost nobody in your targeted audience will read. List the benefits early.

Here is another crucial rule for persuasive writing. Do not write to persuade a committee. Write to persuade an imaginary reader. This reader is a representative of the targeted audience that you are attempting to persuade. This individual is a composite. He is an intellectual construct. You are trying to persuade this representative person to change his mind, change his behaviour, and buy another of your books.

It is the curse of academic historiography that apprentice historians are trained to write articles throughout their education. These articles are read by professors who are using standards of evaluation that are associated with peer-reviewed journal articles. In order to advance your career in academia, you have to publish in peer-reviewed academic journals. These articles are screened by committees. Academic writing is boring. Everyone in academia knows this, and everyone has known this for generations. Yet this never changes. That is because the academic sanctions never change. The sanctions do not have to do with persuading laymen to change their minds. They have to do with gaining guaranteed employment security (tenure) or a promotion through publication in peer-reviewed journals. One of the reasons why most academic historians are incapable of gaining widespread acceptance of anything they write is that they do not write for the general public. They write for each other. They use their own jargon. They use their own criteria of persuasion. They do not care what the public thinks. Then they complain that the public accepts what they refer to as conspiracy theories of history. Conspiracy theorists try to persuade large numbers of readers and viewers. They do not write for committees. Their writing is not boring.

F. Answering Two Questions in Advance

I learned about this strategy after years of copywriting. Years later, an idea hit me: this copywriting strategy applies to every form of persuasion. This includes the writing of history. Every sales presentation should overcome two almost automatic responses by listeners or readers. Over a lifetime of television viewing, they have read or watched tens of thousands of advertisements. They have learned to tune out these ads. Even among those few ads that they consider briefly, consumers remain sceptical. They do not want to hand money over to somebody for a product or service that will turn out to be a dud. They may not ask these two questions with exactly these four words, but they respond to new ads with these two questions:

So what?

Who says?

Try to get these questions answered early in the presentation. If you do not successfully do this, the listener at any time may decide to stop listening. This is especially true of the first question. “So what?” This is the sceptic’s first line of defense. He wants to know what the benefits are if he continues to listen to the sales pitch.

The second question has to do with evidence. The listener does not readily accept the sales copy unless he already trusts the salesman, and this trust is based on either the salesman’s good reputation or else past personal experience of the buyer. When dealing with strangers, readers ask this question: “Who says?” The reader wants verification from somebody he trusts. In matters historical, verification requires footnotes. There are also potential critics who are not part of the targeted audience. They are also ready to ask the question: “Who says?” They probably have made up their minds not to accept the thesis. Historians want to see evidence. Critical historians want to see a lot of evidence. Historians who are gifted hatchet reviewers, such as the legendary British historian A. J. P. Taylor, are nearly impossible to persuade, irrespective of the evidence. A Christian historian should ignore such reviewers, except as sources of minor corrections for future editions or a follow-up book. If the critics are inherently unteachable because of their ideological or religious commitment, it is not necessary to persuade them. A Christian historian’s readers will never read these negative reviews. The critics’ influence is getting less and less as time goes on. The number of students majoring in history is shrinking.

With respect to members of the targeted audience, the sooner in the presentation that a Christian historian offers validating testimony that supports his thesis, the better off he is. The more controversial his thesis, the earlier he should present evidence that indicates that he is not the only person ever to reach this conclusion. If a Christian historian can supply testimonies from people who lived in the era surveyed in his presentation, this may be able to persuade readers that the thesis is worth considering. The testimonies do not have to come from experts who are alive today. It is worthwhile for a Christian historian to search for this kind of confirming testimony in the piles of records that he must go through in order to construct the thesis.

G. Self-Taught Historiography

No one taught me what I have presented in this chapter. I developed these approaches and skills, beginning in 1965. I am putting them into something like final form here. As with so many of my books, I am writing this only because I think these things need to be said, but nobody else has bothered to say them. If I do not say them, nobody else will.

My first exercise in Christian historiography began in 1965 when I began researching Marx’s Religion of Revolution, which was published in 1968 by Craig Press, a spinoff of Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. I had just read Rushdoony’s 1965 pamphlet, The Religion of Revolution. He argued that Marx had adopted an ancient theology of social regeneration: revolution through chaos. It occurred to me that Marx’s social theory rested far more on his non-scientific concept of social transformation than it did on dialectical materialism, the mode of production, or his theory of surplus value. I decided to investigate this. Over the next three years, I put together a manuscript. I was in graduate school. I began the project in my second semester of graduate school at the University of California, Riverside. I finished it a year after I received my master’s degree. I began the project at age 23. I finished at age 26.

The book was self-consciously a work in Christian historiography. I began with Rushdoony’s suggestion that the religion of revolution stretches back half a millennium before Christ. He identified Marxists as modern believers in this ancient pagan worldview. I decided to compare this theory of social regeneration with the social theory presented in the Bible. I announced this on page 15: “The chief motivation behind the writing of this study, however, was my desire to subject Marx to an evaluation based upon the perspective of that contemporary Calvinist system known as ‘presuppositionalism.’ The major exponents of this viewpoint are Professor Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Herman Dooyeweerd of the Free University of Amsterdam. So far as I know, no one writing in English has made this kind of analysis of Marx’s thought. I trust that this book will fill the gap.” At the end of chapter 2, “The Cosmology of Chaos,” which was the book’s major theoretical chapter, I wrote this:

The Bible affirms a wholly divergent cosmology. Man is not his own creator; he did not create himself “ex nihilo”—out of nothing. Man is a creature who must operate under law, and he lives in a universe which also operates under law. Because he is under God’s law, man can stand over creation as God’s vicegerent. Marx, however, could not admit that man’s authority is derivative; like the self-proclaimed autonomous men at the Tower of Babel, he announced the creative power of man apart from God: “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name [i.e., define ourselves without reference to God], lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth” (Gen. 11:4) . “Ye shall be as gods,” the Tempter promised, and Marx believed the promise. In affirming the powers of man for total creation, he launched the forces of absolute destruction. Man’s capacity for self-delusion seems boundless, but man has been warned of the results of such self-deception, and the Marxists shall be the recipients of their proper reward: “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel (Prov. 20:17).

As you can see, I came to the readers as an explicitly Christian historian. I evaluated Marx’s theories in terms of biblical law. I condemned his work as anti-Christian and also inaccurate in terms of economic theory. I then pronounced a judgment, predicting the eventual failure of the Marxist movement. On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev literally shut down the Soviet Union. This was the nicest Christmas present the West ever received. I did not write the book to impress my professors. I did some of the research in graduate seminars, but I did not expect them to read the book, nor did I expect either praise or criticism for it. I was operating outside the normal chain of authority within the university system. I have done the same through the remainder of my academic career. I was not looking for positive sanctions from humanists. This is why I have had to self-fund my academic work throughout my career. My donors and paying subscribers provided the funds. Accredited academia did not.

My major historical work is Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church. I had my Institute for Christian Economics publish it in 1996. Basically, it was self-published. I would not have expected any other publisher to publish it. It was 1100 pages long. I began that book in the fall of 1962. The first version of it was 120 double-spaced typewritten pages. This was my bachelor’s thesis (spring 1963). The University of California, Riverside required every student in every department to write a bachelor’s thesis for graduation. That requirement was dropped in 1964, the year after I graduated. I researched the topic on and off until 1996. The manuscript kept growing. I typed the rough draft of the thesis on a Hermes 3000 portable typewriter. I finished it on WordPerfect for DOS, version 5.0.

My book was a detailed history of the Presbyterian Church in the United States—the northern Presbyterian Church—from about 1730 until 1936. It was mainly the story of how the Old-School Calvinists steadily lost control of the church from 1870 until 1936. I explained the long-term strategy of the theological liberals. I also described their tactics, decade by decade. I identified them as wolves in sheep’s clothing. There was nothing neutral about my book.

On page xi, which was part of “Note to the Reader,” I identified my audience: “I wrote this book for Christians who are tired of being milked, bilked, and forced to ride silently in the back of humanism’s bus. If this is you, keep reading.” I made it plain what the benefit of the book was: not being led by humanists. The final paragraph of the Conclusion announced this:

The question facing Christians today is this: Will there be a resurrection of Christendom? Few of [J. Gresham] Machen’s heirs believe in the possibility of such a resurrection; few believed in 1937. Some of them believe not only that it will not be resurrected; it should not be resurrected. I believe that Christendom can, will, and ought to be resurrected, though next time without kings, and also without a U.S. Department of Education. This is my confession. It was also Machen’s.

I followed a similar strategy in my book, Conspiracy in Philadelphia: The Origins of the United States Constitution (2013). I began the Foreword as follows:

This book is the history of a deception. I regard this deception as the greatest deception in American history. So successful was this deception that, as far as I know, this book is the first stand-alone volume to discuss it. The first version of this book appeared as Part 3 of Political Polytheism (1989), 201 years after the deception was ratified by representatives of the states, who created a new covenant and a new nation by their collective act of ratification-incorporation.

This new covenant meant a new god. The ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787–88 was not an act of covenant renewal. It was an act of covenant-breaking: the substitution of a new covenant in the name of a new god. This was not understood at the time, but it has been understood by the humanists who have written the story of the Constitution. Nevertheless, they have not presented the history of the Constitutional Convention as a deception that was produced by a conspiracy. The spiritual heirs of the original victims of this deception remain unaware of the deception’s origins.

There is no trace of either theological or ethical neutrality in my history books.


A Christian historian is supposed to serve a prophetic function. He is supposed to review documents of the past, and then evaluate them in terms of their faithfulness in revealing that past. Then he must impute judgment for and against the participants. There were good guys, and there were bad guys. He is supposed to identify the good guys, and then show the ways in which they were good guys. He is to identify the bad guys, and then show the ways in which they were bad guys.

A Christian historian is not to come in the name of some neutral concept of the structure of history. Therefore, he is also not to come in the name of some neutral structure of historiography. The principles of his historical investigation, evaluation, and publication should self-consciously parallel the biblical structure of history itself. What I have written here has not been believed by the vast majority of historians who have identified themselves as Christians. For over two centuries, they have adopted humanistic presuppositions about the structure of history and the structure of historical writing. They have compromised their faith by compromising their work. They have not served as covenantally faithful representatives of the God of providence. He expects better from those who research and then write about history in His name.

The Biblical Structure of History (16): Chapter 11, Stories

Gary North – November 12, 2021

And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped (Exodus 12:24–27).

A. Covenantal Model, Part 1

Point 1 of the biblical covenant model is God’s transcendence, which also includes His presence. Point 1 of biblical social theory is sovereignty.

Point 1 of biblical historiography is the telling of stories about the past that manifest God’s sovereignty in history.B. The Limits of Memory

Memory is basic to success in life. For most people, it is a weak link. Most people have poor memories. They recall bits and pieces of the past. Neither they nor psychologists understand how memory works. Specialists can train their memories to accomplish prodigious feats, but these feats are more in the nature of competitive games than aids to help the performers perform their jobs and callings more efficiently. The main mental technique tool of these specialists for millennia has been to imagine a room in which the performer has placed mental images of a series of items that he then links to a series of facts he is trying to recall—facts that are normally unrelated to the images. He places these items is in a particular order. (Frances Yates wrote a 1966 book on the history of this ancient technique: The Art of Memory.) This is not how most people recall the past.

A Christian historian’s most important task is to help God’s people recognize and then trust the sovereignty of God in history. This sovereignty is manifested in His deliverance of His people, individually and corporately, out of the pretended sovereignty of Satan. Satan’s sovereignty is manifested in history by means of the authority of the kingdom of man. Covenantal warfare is primarily an ethical struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Bible stories are tools to help God’s people understand the nature of this struggle. The Bible is mostly a series of stories about struggles between representatives of God’s kingdom and the rival kingdoms. God’s covenant people learn about His sovereignty in history through Bible stories.

Stories are easier to remember than long chains of reasoning. The Bible offers no long chains of reasoning. It offers epistles: theological commentaries on the Bible’s stories and also on the Bible’s revealed laws. These commentaries have been used by theologians to produce books filled with long chains of reasoning, but most Christians do not read these books. Before there were printed books, most Christians did not know about the discipline of theology. That intellectual discipline was the responsibility of bishops and literate bureaucrats under their authority, plus—after 1100—university professors. Even today, when Christians read a book on theology, a month later (or less), they do not remember the book’s long chains of reasoning. At best, they remember a few points, but they cannot explain how they are connected.

In contrast is the Bible. The Bible offers long lists of laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It offers this message: the centrality of ethics in history. Ethics is built on the authority of these laws, which in turn are enforced by God’s sanctions, positive and negative, in response to people’s obedience or disobedience to these laws (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). Biblical history is structured in terms of this pattern: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. My book offers this thesis: the transition from wrath to grace applies to all history, not just Bible history.

If my thesis is correct, then a Christian historian has this three-part task. First, he reads other historians’ publications in search of stories that reveal this pattern in a specific narrative. Because most historians have been humanists, they did not see this pattern, but their narratives may reveal traces of it. Second, he does detailed research to identify or disprove the pattern. He examines primary source documents for evidence of the pattern. He also examines additional historians’ accounts. Third, he rewrites the humanists’ narratives to make clear what the covenantal issues were, and how they affected the outcome of the story.C. The Five-Point Structure of History’s Pattern: Genesis 1–3

1. Capital

Genesis 1:1–25 is the story of God’s creation of the world prior to mankind. Because God is personal, the world reflects this. God was purposeful. He had a plan. The plan had standards. God repeatedly announced that His work had been good. The story of this creation day sequence affirms cosmic personalism. This is the context of God’s creation of man.

God provided enormous capital for mankind. This was evidence of His grace. What is grace? It is a gift undeserved by the recipient. This gift included laws governing nature. These laws were tools of dominion for anyone who understood them. They provided cosmic regularity, which was part of a system of cause and effect.

This grant of capital would soon serve mankind as an inheritance from God. It was inheritance to mankind. Inheritance is always twofold: inheritance from and inheritance to. Inheritance from begins with life: life itself. Inheritance to extends after death. The Bible’s phrase for this process is this: the death of the testator. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Hebrews 9:16–17).

How is this a model for Christian historiography? A Christian historian should begin his narrative with background information that provides the context of the covenantal conflict of his narrative. This is the historical context. It is the context for individuals and institutions.

2. Assignment

God had a plan: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (v. 26). The plan was two-fold. First, He would grant mankind life. Second, He would give mankind an assignment: exercise dominion. The whole world would be men’s realm of authority. It would be their inheritance.

Next, God implemented His plan. He provided the next gift to mankind: life. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (v. 27). Covenantally, this was given to both Adam and Eve. Chronologically, it was given first to Adam, but before the day was over, God had given him Eve.

Next, they had to develop the capital. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (v. 28). This defined mankind: exercising dominion. This required labor. Labor was not cursed.

Next, God gave them the right to the fruits of their labor. “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so” (vv. 29–30). This provided economic motivation for them to exercise dominion. This was a positive sanction. Conclusion: Capital/inheritance must be developed. God expects humanity to increase its dominion. The value of the capital/inheritance is supposed to increase over time. Men are stewards for God.

How is this a model for Christian historiography? It offers a theory of progress. (See Chapter 5) It is mandatory for mankind to increase the value of God’s domain. Mankind has the ability to do this. A Christian historian should identify those areas of life in any historical era and geographical region that experienced advancement. Then he should look for explanations for this advancement. Advancement is normative morally. History is not cyclical. It is linear. It is also progressive. The mark of history’s progressive structure is the increased value of the inheritance over time: point 1 (grace) to point 5 (inheritance).

3. Boundaries

God announced a boundary in Genesis 2: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (vv. 15–17). Adam and Eve had almost the whole world as their inheritance. Only one small portion of the garden was not theirs. They were obligated to respect this boundary.

This was a matter of property rights. They were not to steal (commandment 8). In the Decalogue, this was the third law in the second, kingly, series of five. (The first five commandments are priestly.) This indicates that this tree was marked off by God’s name, which was sacred (commandment 3). This was the third law in the first, priestly, series of five. The priestly status of the tree indicated that it had a special legal status. It was the place for a covenantal meal. Access was closed to all humans who did not have the mark of saving grace: immunity from death. Immunity from death was available to mankind only through a communion meal at the tree of life.

This boundary was the first covenantal law governing mankind. To it was attached a negative sanction: death. This is why the dominion covenant was a covenant. It had positive sanctions associated with one boundary: almost the whole earth. It had a negative sanction associated with the other boundary: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree was sacred: separated by God by law. This boundary was holy space: separated by God for covenantal purposes. To violate this space was to commit sacrilege — a profane act.

How is this a model for Christian historiography? A Christian historian should look for major ethical issues that are associated with sacred space or sacred office. Who violated them? What were the consequences? Who honored them? What were the consequences? In this sense, Christian history is covenantal.

In a broader sense, all of man’s history is covenantal because of ethics. Most laws in the Bible are not associated with holy space. The same is true of all history. But all biblical laws are covenantal. They impose boundaries. To them are attached sanctions. If covenantal authorities—individuals, family heads, church officers, and civil magistrates—do not impose negative sanctions on individuals who break the laws, then God will impose negative sanctiolns on individuals and the derelict institutions. A Christian historian should look for this pattern of covenantal sanctions.

Genesis 1 (capital) and 2:15–17 (law) are the theological foundation for this theological principle: grace precedes law. The first story in the Bible provides information regarding this theological principle. This story is not part of a long chain of reasoning. This is why you may remember it.

4. Performance

Genesis 2 is the story of Adam’s apprenticeship in the garden. God guided him in naming the animals. Adam performed well. God gave Eve to him. This established the family, as Adam announced on his authority: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (vv. 23–24). Adam had begun to speak as a law-giver. He did not violate God’s authority in making this announcement. He was learning how to do applied theology.

Genesis 3 is the story of Adam’s journeyman status as a guardian of Eve and the garden. It was also the story of Eve’s obedience as a wife and as a guardian of the garden. (If Eve was alone with the serpent, she was acting as a journeyman. If Adam was present, she was an apprentice.) They both had greater authority than they had in Genesis 2. God was physically absent.

They violated God’s law by eating from the forbidden tree. Then their eyes were opened regarding their nakedness. This was their first experience of knowing good and evil. They sewed together fig leaves to make aprons to cover their nakedness. This was their first response to sin: self-salvation. They did not eat from the tree of life, although it was available to them. They were still not afraid of God’s promised negative sanction: death.

God returned. He first observed the setting: missing journeymen. He then conducted an investigation. He conducted a trial. He interrogated them in order to learn the truth. He asked: what, where, when, who, why, and how? Then He promised further negative sanctions: for Eve (childbearing), for Adam (thorns), and for both of them: death (dust to dust).

How is this a model for Christian historiography? A Christian historian should look for anomalies in the accepted historiography. As with Adam’s absence, something will be missing. He must then conduct an investigation. He must ask questions: what, where, when, who, why, and how? He must seek answers from the primary source documents, but also from other historians’ narratives. What are their explanations?

5. Inheritance

God did not execute them that day. Instead, he showed grace to them. First, He promised them descendants: Eve’s childbearing. Second, He promised them meaningful work: Adam’s work in the fields. Adam would have to subdue thorns. Third, He began to fulfill these promises by providing animal skins to protect them (v. 21). This was grace: gifts unmerited by the recipients. Because of the negative sanctions, they would have to work harder to pass on a greater inheritance to their descendants. As an economist would say, there would be less output per unit of resource input. (Economists use strange phrases to describe simple relationships.) Dominion would be more difficult. This would be a feature of the transition from wrath to grace. To put it theologically, it would take common grace (life and productivity) to provide the context of special grace (eternal life). But this was also true in Genesis 1. What was different after Genesis 3 was that eternal life required special grace. Prior to Genesis 3, eternal life required only a covenant meal at the tree of life.

How is this a model for Christian historiography? A Christian historian should investigate any increase of capital in a society during one historical period. He should ask these questions. To what extent was this increase the result of covenant-breakers applying their main ethical principles? What were these principles? To what extent was this increase the result of covenant-keepers applying their main ethical principles? What were these principles? To what extent did covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers share the same ethical principles? Here are underlying questions. First, to what extent did common grace preserve a society or even allow it to increase its influence? Second, to what extent was this common grace the result of either covenant-breakers or covenant-keepers? Third, did the society maintain its commitment to the shared ethical principles that maintained common grace? If so, why? If not, why not? If it abandoned these common ethical principles, what happened in the next chronological period?D. Constructing the Story

1. Theme

Every story needs a theme. The theme provides a message. This message requires a chronological structure. The story has a beginning and an end. The end is consistent with the system of causation that undergirds the theme. This system of causation is the essence of the theme. Without it, there can be no theme.

The Bible’s theme is simple: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. This theme is conveyed by a series of personal stories. At the heart of the theme is a series of trials: God’s trial of Adam and Eve, His trial of Cain, the Sanhedrin’s trial of Jesus, Pilate’s trial of Jesus, the Sanhedrin’s trial of the apostles, the Sanhedrin’s trial of Stephen, the Roman court’s trial of Paul, and God’s trial of humanity at the last judgment. We should also add covenant-keepers’ trial of fallen angels, but there are no details.

Time is scarce. Do not waste the listeners’ time. Therefore, a story should be memorable. Its theme should be memorable, and several of the theme’s illustrating characters and incidents should be memorable.

A Christian historian should not waste his time investigating any events that are unlikely to lend themselves to the narration of a story with at least one major theme. Some trends are general, and can be used to establish context. There may be causation, but if this causation is not visibly covenantal, then the Christian historian should select a different topic. Life is short, and the number of stories revealing covenantal causation is huge.

2. Questions

I have described these six questions in terms of God’s trial of Adam, Eve, and the serpent. They are questions regarding personal responsibility. I have summarized these six questions: what, where, when, who, why, and how? Any historian who provides plausible answers to all six has done yeoman service. If he can tell this story accurately, clearly, and persuasively in the time that an audience will grant him to tell the story, he has done well. It is far easier to answer questions about deceased historical figures than it is to answer questions about seemingly impersonal trends. I regard the most important historical question over the last two millennia is this: “What produced the Industrial Revolution, with its per capita economic growth of 2% per annum for over two centuries?” The Industrial Revolution changed the world more than anything else in recorded history, and it did so in just three generations—if you pick the right family. That family is the family of John Tyler, who became President of the United States in 1841. He was born in 1790, the first full year of President George Washington’s first term as the first President. His grandson Lyon Tyler died in October 2020. His other grandson, Harrison Tyler (b. 1928), is still alive as I write this (October 2021). There are at least three dozen explanations that economic historians have offered to explain this. Each of them is refuted by Prof. Dierdre McCloskey in Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2010).

3. Structure

Telling a story requires structure: words put together in a specialized way. The words must hold the attention of a listener or a reader. To do this, the narrator must provide markers that convey to the reader that the story is progressing in a coherent way. A disjointed structure produces confusion. Listeners’ attention will drift. The narrator faces boundaries. The main one is the boundary of time that the targeted listener or reader is willing to donate to the narrator. The second is the boundary of memory. People have weak memories. Most of what they hear in a lecture is forgotten within 48 hours. About 95% is forgotten in a week. So, the story’s markers must serve the purpose of providing hooks onto which the listener can “hang” his memory. This is a variation of what Yates described as the art of memory: a mental room wherein memory-triggering items are placed sequentially. The narrative must substitute for the room.

4. Lesson

A Christian storyteller’s goal should be to convey an ethical lesson. This lesson should serve as a model for judging people and events. The standards of judgment are mainly ethical. There are other standards, such as aesthetic standards. But there is no formula for aesthetic standards. There is no known biblical formula. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This does not mean that beholders cannot accurately judge beauty. There are beauty contests in many nations. The finalists in any nation would find widespread agreement from men in other nations. Men know which women are beautiful, and women also know. But they cannot explain this in agreed-upon ways, other than a few characteristics, such as weight. Stories in the Bible are structured ethically. They provide lessons regarding right and wrong. They have a judicial function. They were designed by God to train covenant-keepers in the principles of justice, climaxing in their judging of fallen angels after the final judgment of humanity.

5. Vision

The listeners should gain a renewed vision of victory after hearing a story. The story should supplement stories of successes by Christians in extending the kingdom of God. The models for such stories are stories about foreign missionaries. These stories contain sub-themes of the organizations they set up, or their successors set up. These stories include discussions of life-and-death decisions, cultural conflicts, worldview conflicts, educational programs, fund-raising, getting out the story of the missions to supporters, past successes, new challenges, and plausible prospects for further success. Histories of foreign missions are not taken seriously by most academic historians, who see them as recruiting and fund-raising tools. I take them seriously because they are recruiting and fund-raising tools. A history presentation whose ultimate goal is not successful evangelism is a waste of time. The goal should be to persuade covenant-breakers to switch confessions. To do this, an army of evangelists who believe in comprehensive redemption must be recruited and trained. The Bible proclaims such a vision. (See Kenneth L. Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission, 1992.) So should Christian histories.E. Historiography and Discipleship

1. Mission

This is a common feature of leadership in all areas of Christian dominion. Every Christian has been given a commission by Christ: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

In my book, The Five Pillars of Biblical Leadership (2021), I identify point 1 as mission. The four other points are these: service, teamwork, mastery, and inheritance. All of these apply to the Christian historian.

A Christian historian’s mission is to explain the details of the biblical framework of history: the transition from wrath to grace. Christian historiography must reflect and represent the five points of the biblical structure of history: the providence of God, the image of God in men, biblical ethics, God’s imputation of meaning to all facts, and progressive cultural inheritance. Progressive cultural inheritance is the parallel development of the two kingdoms, God’s and man’s (Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43).

I have argued that people remember stories better than they remember long chains of reasoning. Therefore, a Christian historian serves as a practical theologian. He has a prophetic function. (See Chapter 12B). He brings his theology to his research. His historiography should reflect this theology. There is no theological neutrality. There is therefore no historiographical neutrality.

His initial mission is to teach Christians what Christ told the disciples. This must include the Old Testament, as interpreted by the New Testament’s epistles. The Old Testament is mainly stories. This is how he should teach. He should recognize that historians are in a better position to teach Christians how to apply Christ’s principles than any other profession, except for pastors. They teach this by showing how Christians in the past applied them, or failed to apply them, with what results.

2. Audiences

A Christian historian must first decide who his audiences will be. He should tailor his presentations in terms of specific audiences. He represents God to these audiences. This is an aspect of point 2 of biblical leadership: service. He should research each topic comprehensively. He should over-research the topic in terms of the needs of multiple audiences. His goal should be to present his findings to more than one audience. Not to do this is to waste research time. The most difficult part of the historian’s task is to identify the applications of the five principles of biblical history to a specific society or person. This takes creativity. Then he must do the research necessary to draw conclusions. This takes time. The product of this mixture of asking questions and getting answers is a body of conclusions. He must then package these conclusions for separate audiences.

He must recognize the limits of knowledge in each group. Overcoming these limits in most groups is challenging. This is the context of his task. This is the capital he must work with. His God-given task is to increase the value of this capital for use in the kingdom of God. This is human capital. He must make covenant-keepers more productive. Above all, he must help them become better judges. (See Chapter 14.)

He must decide how he will get his lessons to members of each audience. This is the question of media. He must estimate how much time they will give him for each lesson. This varies in terms of media: viewing time vs. reading time. Then he must estimate the size of his budget for marketing. He has to have a marketing plan. On this point, I quote Mac Ross, a marketing genius in the late twentieth century. “If you build a better mousetrap, but you do not set aside money for marketing, you will die alone and broke with a garage full of mousetraps.” If you have no money for marketing, then invest more time in marketing strategies that do not require up-front money: YouTube, Kindle Direct books, social media, and a blog.

3. Message

For a Christian historian, the message of each lesson must be this: the effects of covenant-keeping in history, compared to the effects of covenant-breaking. He identifies a historical story as an example of this message. This story illustrates and reinforces the message. The story is designed to help Christians understand God’s providence in history: the transition from wrath to grace. His story has boundaries. It has chronological boundaries. It has boundaries of responsibility: individual and institutional. Specific individuals and organizations represent movements. (See Chapter 12.) A handful of movements shape history. A handful of trends shape history. A Christian historian should identify the importance of various trends by means of the covenantal structure of history. The key issue is ethics: point 3 of the biblical covenant.

4. Commitment

A Christian historian, because he is an evangelist with a prophetic function, must design his presentation to persuade listeners of the truth regarding the providential nature of past. He uses stories to persuade people.

Accurate knowledge is necessary but not sufficient in the Christian life. Accurate knowledge must shape action. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22–25). This rule applies to the results of historiography. It is not sufficient to teach people about God’s providential control in the past. They must also believe that God’s providence applies to their circumstances.

This narration requires persuasion. This is not just persuasion that God’s providence shapes history by means of Christians’ faithfulness to His laws. It is persuasion regarding the requirement of each hearer of the historical stories to obey God in order to exercise dominion.

5. Hope

The stories should persuade listeners of the reliability of God’s covenant in providing the basis of progress in history. (See Chapter 15.) They should offer hope. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). So, this should be the motivation of a Christian historian: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus announced that He was the fulfilment of this verse. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19).

If a story ends in defeat for covenant-keepers, a Christian historian’s work is not complete. He should continue to write until the defeat is visible as a victory. Some stories in the Old Testament reveal defeats for covenant-keepers. The story of Joseph is such a story. Joseph announced the biblical principle of interpretation: a hermeneutic. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). The story of Job also reflects this. “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses” (Job 42:12).

There is also another consideration. In a war, there are necessary casualties. “And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water” (Joshua 7:3–5). The New Testament model for this is the crucifixion of Jesus. Then came the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). The theme of temporary defeat is basic to the story of the transition from wrath to grace.Conclusion

If Christian historians follow these procedures, they will produce stories that replace the prevailing humanistic stories. Humanists have no self-conscious theory of history. It is not taught in humanist institutions. They have no theory of the structure of Christian historiography. They are not good at persuading the general public. The sanctions within history departments militate against persuading the public. The sanctions favor persuading editors of peer-reviewed journals, meaning committees.

Until Christian historians regard their callings as God-given, they will not be successful in competing against an army of humanists in tax-funded schools. They will not persuade Christians in churches. Academic Christian historians are not ready for covenantal warfare. They have been in retreat since 1500.

The five-point model for historiography provides the structure for writing historical stories: capital, assignment, boundaries, performance, and inheritance. It offers a theory of telling a story: theme, questions, structure, lesson, and vision. It is a tool of discipleship: mission, audiences, message, commitment, and hope. None of this is taught in Christian schools. Christian historians are unaware of it. They also have no Bible-based theory of the structure of history to rival the assumed but unspoken structure that govern humanists. I surveyed the correct theory in Part 1. So, they lose by default.

Meanwhile, the competing historical narratives presented by humanists are increasingly divided. They have no agreed-on theory of world history. They have no agreed-on theory of how to interpret documents. They have no theory of how the autonomous historian can make sense of the past. There is no agreement on the existence of an objective past.

The humanists are vulnerable. The problem is this: Christian historians are not ready to replace the humanists. They are not self-confident. They do not have an alternative agenda. They cannot beat something with nothing. In the next four chapters, I hope to provide them with four more stones. David picked up five stones to do battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40). I think the first stone, which you have just read, would be sufficient. But historians must know how to use a sling to make the stone deadly to the enemy. That sling is Christian education.


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.


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


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.)


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 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.


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!


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.


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.


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)

The Biblical Structure of History (16): Introduction to Part 3

Gary North – November 11, 2021

A. The Myth of Neutrality

So far, I have presented a great deal of information regarding history and its interpretation. I have attempted to persuade you of two facts. First, history is not neutral, theologically speaking. I mean its actual structure. I covered this in Part 1. Second, humanistic historians are not neutral toward history and its structure. I covered this in Part 2.

Humanists ever since the fifth century B.C. have adopted some version of the myth of neutrality in order to promote their vision of God, man, law, sanctions, and time. Christian theologians and intellectuals have repeatedly been deceived by this myth. This has compromised their testimony regarding the God of the Bible and His impact in history. This has compromised their testimony in every field of thought and practice in which they have imported the myth of neutrality. This means virtually every field.

In Part 1, I discussed why history itself is not neutral. It is structured in terms of God’s covenant with mankind in Genesis 1:26–28. Now it is time to discuss why historiography cannot be neutral. It cannot be neutral because history is not neutral. God expects men’s historiography to be consistent with the covenantal structure of the processes of history. Men’s historiography must reflect this fundamental underlying structure, which philosophers call metaphysical. Because of the presuppositions of humanism regarding the autonomy of history and the autonomy of man, humanist historiography is always in revolt against God. I discussed this in Part 2.

B. Creeds and Historiography

I recommend a strategy for Christians to begin to reconstruct historiography: study the creeds of Christendom, especially the creed known as the Apostles Creed. It was not a creed written down by the apostles. It grew out of the church’s Council of Nicaea in 325. There are numerous versions of it stretching over centuries. This is called the received form.

I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, Author: James Orr)

In recommending that we begin with the creeds of the church in our attempt to understand the structure of history, I rely heavily on R. J. Rushdoony’s pioneering book: The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church (1968). I regard this book as indispensable for understanding early church history. It has been ignored by the academic community, the Christian intellectual community, and virtually all pastors. It helped structure my thinking when I read it in 1969, when I was beginning to research my doctoral dissertation on the economic thought of Puritan New England.

Chapter 1 is “The Apostles Creed and Creedalism.” In this chapter, he set forth principles of Christian historiography. He started with this principle: creeds govern the way we think in every area of life. Everyone has a creed, either implicit or explicit. There is no neutrality in creeds. Creeds are inescapable concepts. There is no such thing as a creedless society. There is no such thing as a creedless individual. Most people are not self-conscious about their creeds, but they do have opinions regarding God, man, law, sanctions, and time. They have opinions about the way the world works.

Rushdoony made a crucial observation about the uniqueness of the Apostles Creed. I regard his comment as fundamental for a correct understanding Christianity and its impact on the world. The creed makes affirmations concerning history.

The Apostles Creed is unlike all other creeds of other religions, whether humanist, Buddhist, Modern, Hindu, or otherwise. The face of all the religions is in a body of ideas or claims concerning reality. It may be a belief in the ultimacy of man, or the ultimacy of nothingness, in the office of a man (Mohammed as profit), or an ultimate dualism or monism, but, in any event, it demands a belief in certain ideas or claims. The Apostles Creed is radically different: it offers a synopsis of history, created by God the Father Almighty, requiring salvation by Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, who entered, lived, died, and was resurrected in history, and is now the Lord and Judge of history. His holy congregation is operative in history, which culminates in the general resurrection and everlasting life. The whole creed therefore is a declaration concerning history (p. 4).

Rushdoony was not aware of the biblical covenant model in 1968. Ray Sutton’s book was published in 1987. Yet, in 1968, he wrote clearly of the five principles undergirding the covenantal structure of history and historiography. He did not present them in the order found in the covenant model for history, but he did present them.

Point 1: Creation

Implicit in this declaration that God the Father Almighty is maker of heaven and earth is the claim of God to be the law-giver, determiner, and sustainer of heaven and earth and of all of history. He is its maker, and it is totally subject therefore to Him. An assertion of the doctrine of creation is also an assertion of the doctrines of sovereignty and of the eternal decree, of predestination (p. 5).

Point 2: Image

If God is the true source [of law], then the Word of God must be hearkened to by church, state, school, and every sphere of life as the one authoritative source of morality and law. As institutions and orders declare law, they must do it ministerially, as administrators under God. The Word of God therefore speaks to every sphere including church and state, and the Word of God is over the church and corrects and disciplines the church (p. 5).

Point 3: Law

The Creed thus has vast implications concerning history because of its declaration that God is the creator of all things. This declaration immediately makes God the source of all ethics, of all morality, and of all law. In all non-Christian systems, the source of ethics and of law is the state; it is the polis, the empire, or the kingdom. There is no understanding the gulf between Aristotle and Plato, for example, and Christianity, apart from this fact, and the gulf cannot be legitimately bridged. Either God is the true source of morality and law, or the state is (p. 5).

Point 4: Imputation

History is a succession of judgments, wherein God comes in clouds of judgment, and all these crises and judgments are for the shaking of the nations, to destroy the reprobate realms of man and to establish by sifting Christ’s faithful in His realm. As God declared through Ezekiel, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until he, whose right it is; and I will give it to him” (Ezek. 31:27). The purpose of this overturning, according to St. Paul, is “the removing of the things that are shaken as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:27). The successive judgments have as their purpose the removal of destruction “of all things that are made,” i.e., of the humanistic and apostate orders of history, so that Christ’s kingdom which cannot be shaken may remain.” These are all partial judgments, forerunners to the final judgment (p. 172).

Point 5: Inheritance

Not only a theology, but an eschatology, or doctrine of last things, which renounces history or sees it as defeat, is faithless to Christianity. God is maker of heaven and earth, not Satan. History culminates in God’s plan and triumph, not in Satan’s victory. To the extent that any eschatology involves the victory of evil in history, to that extent it surrenders and retreats from history (p. 5).

C. Church and State

There is a war going on between church and state. The church claims to represent God in history, although not as the sole interpreter of God’s word and law. Christianity has always acknowledged the separation of church and state. But the state has not acknowledged the legitimacy of such a separation except when pressured to do so by a strong church. The war between church and state extends back to the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. (I cover this in my commentary on Exodus, Volume 1: Representation and Dominion, [2012].)

Christian historiography must recognize the existence of this continual confrontation between Christianity and the humanist state. The absence of a clear-cut exposition of this conflict in history is characteristic of humanist historiography. Unfortunately, it is also characteristic of most Christian historiography. Christian historians do not return again and again to the confrontations between church and state throughout history. They do not regard this confrontation as inherent to history because of the war of the two views of history. Rushdoony made clear the nature of this confrontation. He did so in the chapter on the church.

The more faithful the Church, the greater its visibility, i.e., the more clearly its witness to the word and power of Christ in this world. But the true church is not alone in claiming visibility, and claiming to be the visible representative of Christ’s invisible order. The state claims its own kind of visibility; the state sees itself as the visible expression of the true order of man, and, sometimes also, of whatever gods may be. It then becomes a contest, first, as to who represents God’s true order, and, second, what is the order which is to be represented.

The humanistic order strives for visibility, first, as the dominant force in man’s society, as the omnipresent fact on the human scene, and, second, as the new order of salvation. Accordingly, man’s dominant concern in the era of humanism is political, since politics is the area where the hidden deity becomes visible. The 19th century was thus the era of political visibility; the religion of most men tended increasingly to become political. “Democracy” as the hope of the world found its culminating messianic expression in Woodrow Wilson’s dream of making the world safe for democracy by war and diplomacy (p. 181).

Church and state have separate legal jurisdictions. They also have separate systems of law. There is civil law, but there is also canon law, which governs the church. Canon law has a long tradition in the West, yet Christian historiography has generally ignored it. There are no detailed treatises of the historical development of canon law, and especially there are no discussions of the impact of canon law on the church in its development of the principles of Christian civilization. We do not have detailed studies of the interaction between civil law and canon law in confrontations between church and state for domination in society in the West. We need such studies.

In his chapter on canon law, Rushdoony set forth a coherent framework for any discussion of canon law in relationship to civil law. With respect to canon law, he wrote:

The independence of the church required it. Political absolutism, however, then as now, has been hostile to canon law. Instead of the multiple law orders, and multiple variety of courts, which characterized the era of Christian feudalism, absolutism in the state has worked steadily to reduce all human society to one law-order, the state. Every other realm must be subjected to the state rather than to God: the church, economics, science, education, agriculture, the arts, all things are made aspects of the life of the state (rather than of man under God) and therefore under the government of the state (p. 133).

There is a logic behind this. Rushdoony described it: “The supposition of the state in its absolutism is twofold. First, by asserting overall sovereignty and jurisdiction, the state is usurping the power and prerogative of God. The state makes itself the ultimate creator and lawgiver rather than God. Second, the state declares itself to be the true man as well as the true god. Every God-given aspect of the life of man, the state declares both to be its creation and also an aspect of its life” (p. 133).

D. Western Liberty

Rushdoony’s chapter on the Council of Chalcedon (451) is titled: “The Foundation of Western Liberty.” The Council of Chalcedon’s focus of concern was the question of the unique divinity of Christ. It produced this declaration:

Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He was parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us.

Most Christians have never heard of the Council of Chalcedon. They have certainly never read what you have just read. When they read it, they do not ask this question: “What has this to do with Western liberty?” Rushdoony made it clear exactly what this had to do with Western liberty. This declaration was a denial of the possibility of the divinity of man or of any agency of man. This declaration is as important today as it was in 451. He wrote:

The problem centered on the definition of the two natures of Christ and their union. Behind the problem stood the resurgence of Hellenic philosophy in Christian guise and the claims of the state to be the divine order on earth, to be the incarnation of divinity in history. The Hellenic faith held to a radically different concept of being than did biblical faith. The Christian distinction between the uncreated being of God and the created being of man and the universe placed an infinite gulf between the two, a gulf unbridgeable by nature and bridged only by grace, by grace of the salvation and by grace permitting a union or community of life, not of substance.

For the Greeks, as for non-Christian religions generally, all being is one undivided being; the differences in being are of degree, not of kind. In this great chain of being, it is a question of place on the scale or ladder of being, whereas for Christian faith the difference is one of divine and uncreated being as against created and mortal being.

In terms of this Greek perspective, salvation is not an act of grace but rather of self-deification. Moreover, the central institution in history becomes the state, because the state as the highest point in power in history maintains the nascent or incarnate divinity of being either in the body politic, the rulers, or in their offices. In various forms, this faith was the substructure of all pagan statism. Thus, the issue very literally was one between Christ and Caesar (pp. 63–64).

I am aware of no textbook on the history of Western civilization that is written self-consciously in terms of the theological conflict between humanism and Christianity. There is no textbook that describes the creeds and councils of the early church as setting forth the principles of Western liberty. Obviously, we cannot find textbooks written by humanists that explain this. The problem is that we cannot find textbooks written by Christians that explain this.

Chalcedon challenged more than humanistic political theory. It challenged non-Christian views of the structure of history. “Statist theology however demands that time govern eternity, and man govern whatever god exists, or, better, be his own god. Any theology which weakens the Definition of Chalcedon weakens the primacy of the triune God over history, and any theology which denies Chalcedon must of necessity to affirm history as the primary area of determination. Time then alone is the source of the historical, and the supernatural is denied” (p. 75).

Any denial of Chalcedon’s declaration goes beyond weakening the primacy of the triune God. It is a denial of the divinity of Christ. “God the Son not only does not determine time in history, He is denied historicity because He demands reference to the ontological Trinity, to eternity, to be understood. The only Christ permitted is a totally human Christ, one totally immersed in time and exclusively and totally a product of history. This is ‘the historical Jesus’ of higher criticism. ‘Demythologizing’ criticism has a similar goal: to reduce Jesus to history, to a total meaning from within history” (p. 75).

Few Christians understand the nature of the comprehensive challenge to Christ’s divinity by humanism. Is also a challenge to biblical ethics. Here is the issue: “A God who is not the creator is an alien to the universe: it is its own evolving law. A God who is truly the savior of the world is of necessity its creator: He has made it, and its only possible health is in the restoration to communion with Him. His law therefore as the only truly regulative principle for the world” (p. 77). “Sovereignty, duty, and law are inseparably united. The source of law in any system is not only the locale of sovereignty but also the god of that system. God only is the true sovereign and the true source of law” (p. 77).

Chalcedon’s declaration made it clear that Jesus Christ has two natures: divine and human. As the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ was God, but His perfect human nature was not divine. Man did not become God. This declaration was crucial for the maintenance of liberty. “To have permitted belief in the confusion of the natures would have meant that man could become an aspect of his own God, aspire to be, in his union with Christ, his own lawmaker and co-creator. Humanity would have been introduced into deity, not in a community of life but in a community of substance” (p. 78).

Thus, he concluded, “In the Christian view, man’s life is not comprehended by the state; it is comprehended only by the triune God. Man’s unity is only truly realizable in God and His Kingdom; man’s individuality is again only realizable in and through God. This means that man’s eternal destiny is a predestined one and bound to the grace of the ultimate One and Many, the Trinity. But it also means that man’s present life is freed from the predestination of the state. Man’s self-realization is not in the state but in God” (p. 79).


With this as background, I now discuss Christian historiography. Christians must be self-conscious in their understanding of the comprehensive warfare between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. This understanding must govern what Christians think about every area of life. They should be alert to the invasion by humanism and the categories of humanism into their thinking in every area of life. Christian historiography must be comprehensive. It must reconstruct the history of man in terms of the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Who is Lord? Who is sovereign? Christians must be clear in their answer. This means that they must also be clear in their discussion of history.

They must understand history in terms of this covenantal warfare. Sadly, they have not been given guidance in this battle by Christian leaders. Self-conscious Christians who understand the nature of this warfare are rare. Therefore, most Christians have been guided by Christian leaders who have been confused about the comprehensive nature of the confrontation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Christian historians have rewritten history in ways that make it more humanistic in tone and content than Christian. Christian historians in their writing ignore God. They do not mention the providence of God. They ignore the laws of God. They ignore the structure of historical sanctions that God announced to the generation of the conquest.

When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:10–18).

Christians today have eaten and are full. In every area of life, they have begun to forget the God whose sanctions have blessed them. They have offered thanks to modern science, modern politics, and modern economics for their blessings. It is time for Christians to rethink sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and time in terms of the biblical covenant. It is time for them to become highly suspicious of history as interpreted by covenant-breakers. It is time for them to adopt biblical historiography.


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.


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.


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.

The Biblical Structure of History (13): Chapter 9, Nominalism

Gary North – November 08, 2021

The bits and pieces of records left from the past can be arranged into different and contending pictures. To be more direct, since human society is composed of relationships, many of them carrying implications of power and elements of concealment, one’s point of entry into a past moment will always affect one’s findings. No workable definition of objectivity can hide the likelihood that students of the human past will always have to deal with more than one version of what has happened. – Appleby, Hunt, and Jacobs (1994).

A. Covenant Model, Part 4

Part 4 of the biblical covenant model is oath. A covenantal oath invokes God’s sanctions in history, positive and negative.

Part 4 of biblical social theory is sanctions, positive and negative. It implies judgment, which is based on God’s imputation: good and evil, right and wrong.

Part 4 of humanist scholarship is nominalism: competing interpretations. These are judgments. There is no known way to reconcile them, for that would imply a uniform standard for settling disputes. Nominalism denies the existence of any such objective standard.

B. Realism vs. Nominalism

On what basis can men impute value to anything? Humanism has been searching for an answer to this question from the days of the pre-Socratics. Humanism has never found an answer that is consistent with its presuppositions about God, man, law, sanctions, and time.

I began this chapter with a quotation from their 1994 book, Telling the Truth About History (p. 262). The three authors made it clear that there is more than one version of what has happened. There are, in fact, so many versions of what has happened that nobody has a good enough memory to recall all of the competing versions of major events. Anyone who doubts this should try to compile a list of books on the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The three authors then asserted that this in no way undermines the coherence and accuracy of historiography. They wrote the following: “The fact that there can be a multiplicity of accurate histories does not turn accuracy into a fugitive from a more confident age; it only points to the expanded necessity of men and women to read the many messages packed into a past event and to follow their different trajectories as that events consequences contact and eight through time” (p. 262). The authors assumed that there are accurate histories out there, somewhere. On what basis philosophically could they legitimately assume this? In the mid-19th century, a few German historians did believe that there can be accurate historiography of objective past events. That faith was almost gone by 1920. It was publicly abandoned in the 1930s. The concept of objective historical accuracy did indeed become “a fugitive from a more confident age.” The last defense attorney of that elusive fugitive was Arnold Toynbee. He is forgotten by the general public and most practicing historians.

Men search for objective knowledge. Objective knowledge, by definition, is based on objective facts. Christianity teaches says that objectivity is based on God’s imputation, which is comprehensive. God created the facts, and He judges them in terms of His permanent standards. He is sovereign over history. His interpretation of history is objective because He has comprehensive knowledge of what has happened in the past, and He is in control of historical causation. He also has a perfect memory.

The humanist denies the existence of such a God. He thereby makes himself responsible for identifying objective facts in every area of life. The humanist historian must identify objective facts in the past. But he does not have comprehensive documentation of the past. How can he make accurate judgments about the objective past? How can he prove that his imputations of historical relevance are correct? What are the objective standards of imputation? There is no agreement among humanist historians regarding this issue, except to deny all objective standards.

I come now to realism vs. nominalism. First, realism. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines philosophical realism: “Realism: in philosophy, the viewpoint which accords to things which are known or perceived an existence or nature which is independent of whether anyone is thinking about or perceiving them.” This definition excludes God, who perceives everything. All facts are interpreted by God. This is the basis of objectivity in every area of life. Deny this, and objectivity disappears—a fugitive in hiding.

In the history of Western philosophy, some humanists have sought objectivity outside of history. Plato sought objectivity in trans-historical conceptual forms. Behind every table in history is a conceptual form of a table that is outside of history. But Plato could not explain how the trans-historical forms are connected to the material realm of history. Aristotle also believed in forms, but he argued that they are embedded in the realm of matter. Both positions are called realism. The forms governing history are either transcendent to history or embedded in history. That is to say, they are either transcendent or immanent. Humanists have been unable to show how changeless transcendent forms are connected with the ceaseless change of history. How do people perceive these forms? This is the problem whose answers divided Parmenides and Heraclitus. Our minds are subject to change. How do we use our supposedly unchanging reason to identify that which is permanent—objectively permanent? There has never been any agreement on the answer.

Second, nominalism. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines nominalism: “Nominalism: in philosophy, position taken in the dispute over universals—words that can be applied to individual things having something in common—that flourished especially in late medieval times. Nominalism denied the real being of universals on the ground that the use of a general word (e.g., ‘humanity’) does not imply the existence of a general thing named by it.” This view insists that observers impute meaning to the world around them. There is no inherent meaning in the world. There is no inherent objectivity. Objectivity is a myth. There is no underlying reality. The only thing that matters is what individuals think matters. The problem here is that there are a lot of individuals who have opposing opinions about what really matters. There is no way to reconcile these competing opinions.

The humanist does invoke the God of the Bible to solve this problem. But God is the solution—the only solution. He interprets reality: objective. He speaks a word of judgment: subjective. He will impose final judgment at the end of time: objective. The humanist invokes mankind. But mankind is not unified. Individual imputations conflict. There is no agreed-upon way among humanists to determine which imputations are correct, and which are incorrect. As humanists have become more consistent with their philosophical presuppositions regarding human autonomy, there has been less agreement regarding objective reality and its interpretation. This applies to the study of history.

A major defender of nominalism in the writing of history is the French historian Paul Veyne. His primary work in this field is Writing History: Essay on Epistemology (1984). His main critic is Marcel Gauche, who defends realism. The debate is perpetual. This is because humanism is dualistic. Humanism is also dialectical: the attempt to hold two contradictory positions at one time. Neither Veyne nor Gauche defends a pure version of either nominalism or realism. Again, I quote Van Til, who said that scholars on each side of some irreconcilable humanistic dualism are like two washerwomen who make a living by taking in each other’s laundry.

In his important book, The One and the Many ([1971] 2007), Rushdoony made this comment on nominalism:

If God has truly causally created all things and is himself sovereign, self-contained, and triune, then no fact is a fact apart from Him, nor can any fact have a valid interpretation in and of itself. God-created factuality means God-interpreted factuality. Apart from God, there is only the concept of brute factuality, facts in and of themselves and without any relationship or meaning in terms of one another, a sea of meaningless and unrelated particulars, or else the absorption of all facts into the ocean of being and their loss of both identity and particular meaning. The first means a world of anarchistic atoms or particulars, and the second means a totalitarian and obliterating unity (p. 16).

With this in mind, consider the 1933 presentation of a dedicated nominalist historian, Charles Beard.

C. Charles Beard on Imputed Meaning

1. Beard’s Influence

Two years after Carl Becker delivered his 1931 speech to the American Historical Association, “Everyman His Own Historian,” Charles A. Beard delivered what was essentially a confirmation of Becker’s thesis: “Written History as an Act of Faith.” It was published in the January 1934 issue of The American Historical Review, pages 219–32.

Beard was a far more prominent historian than Becker was. He was the most famous and the most prestigious historian within the Progressive movement. In 1913, his book, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, created a sensation. He argued that the Framers in Philadelphia in 1787 promoted a specific kind of ownership, which was not primarily land-based. They were part of the commercial class. They wrote the Constitution to benefit this class. He followed with this book: An Economic Interpretation of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915). In 1927, he and his wife wrote what immediately became the most prominent American history textbook in American colleges: The Rise of American Civilization. This book and its two sequels remained the dominant American history textbooks for the next two decades. In 1926, he was elected president of the American Political Science Association. This was unheard of: president of both societies. His academic influence was unique.

2. The Centrality of Man in History

I take seriously the title of the speech, “Written History as an Act of Faith.” This was religious language. Perhaps Beard was trying to be clever. If so, what was he trying to conceal by means of this cleverness? The content of the article indicates that he was struggling to provide answers to a series of epistemological problems that are the inescapable products of humanism’s rejection of Christianity.

The first issue that he dealt with was omniscience. He used the word. He understood its centrality in both history and historiography. Without omniscience, the world becomes incomprehensible: chaotic. He wanted to avoid this result. “The hypothesis of chaos admits of no ordering at all; hence those who operate under it cannot write history, although they may comment on history” (p. 226). He did not explain how people can even comment on history. He rejected the Christian God. He said that all historians had done this. “Contemporary historical thought is, accordingly, returning upon itself and its subject matter. The historian is casting off his servitude to physics and biology, as he formerly cast off the shackles of theology and its metaphysics” (p. 225). What did Beard substitute for an omniscient God? History itself. “What, then, is this manifestation of omniscience called history? It is, as Croce says, contemporary thought about the past.” This laid the epistemological foundation of his speech, namely, the authority of human thought. He invoked the name of Benedetto Croce. Someone else who did this was Collingwood, beginning in 1935. Beard spelled out the implication of Croce’s theory of history: it is created by autonomous individual thought.

History as past actuality includes, to be sure, all that has been done, said, felt, and thought by human beings on this planet since humanity began its long career. History as record embraces the monuments, documents, and symbols which provide such knowledge as we have or can find respecting past actuality. But it is history as thought, not as actuality, record, or specific knowledge, that is really meant when the term history is used in its widest and most general significance. It is thought about past actuality, instructed and delimited by history as record and knowledge—record and knowledge authenticated by criticism and ordered with the help of the scientific method. This is the final, positive, inescapable definition (p. 219).

First, he limited his definition of history to human beings: their thoughts and actions. This limitation points to man as a sovereign. Nothing outside of man was an element of Beard’s definition of history. This idea was widely shared in his day. It was also Collingwood’s view. Second, thought is central to his definition of history, as it was for Collingwood. “But it is history as thought, not as actuality, record, or specific knowledge, that is really meant when the term history is used in its widest and most general significance.” Men think. This was the starting point for Descartes: “I think; therefore, I am.” This is humanism’s substitute for God, who thought before He created the world. This raised a serious problem: nominalism. Without God, there is no authoritative thinker. Men disagree. This leads to epistemological chaos: pure subjectivism.

3. The Need for Imputation

History is everything that men have ever done. This is beyond human calculation. How can historians provide a coherent narrative? How can they make sense of the immensity of the past? By a careful selection of facts. “Every student of history knows that his colleagues have been influenced in their selection and ordering of materials by their biases, prejudices, beliefs, affections, general upbringing, and experience, particularly social and economic; and if he has any sense of propriety, to say nothing of humor, he applies the canon to himself, leaving no exceptions to the rule.” This evaded the problem: the historians’ colleagues do not agree with him or each other.

What he called the omniscience of history in all of its complexity becomes selected facts by historians. God was once thought to be omniscient, and omnipotent as well. Christians believed that He has provided coherence to history, both objectively and imputationally. He has directed everything. He has imputed meaning to everything. But He is gone in modern humanists’ thinking. This puts history in charge. But history is not in charge. It is blind. It is silent. It does not impute meaning. Then what will replace history? Historians. Lots and lots of historians. They will select what they think is important for their peers to remember. They will impute meaning to whatever they have selected. To do this, they must also impute meaning to everything they decided not to select.

This introduced subjectivism into the discussion. Beard embraced subjectivism wholeheartedly. “Contemporary thought about history, therefore, repudiates the conception dominant among the schoolmen during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth century—the conception that it is possible to describe the past as it actually was, somewhat as the engineer describes a single machine” (pp. 220–21). This repudiation of realism has created a crisis for historiography. “As Croce and Heussi have demonstrated, so-called neutral or scientific history reached a crisis in its thought before the twentieth century had advanced far on the way” (p. 221). The crisis is spreading. “This crisis in historical thought sprang from internal criticism—from conflicts of thought within historiography itself—and from the movement of history as actuality; for historians are always engaged, more or less, in thinking about their own work and are disturbed, like their fellow citizens, by crises and revolutions occurring in the world about them” (p. 221). Subjectivism is now dominant. “Once more, historians recognize formally the obvious, long known informally, namely, that any written history inevitably reflects the thought of the author in his time and cultural setting” (p. 221).

Beard called history omniscient. This language was deceptive. Historians create history, he argued. He knew that historians are not omniscient. He had a word for them: guessers. “That this crisis in thought presents a distressing dilemma to many historians is beyond question. It is almost a confession of inexpiable sin to admit in academic circles that one is not a man of science working in a scientific manner with things open to deterministic and inexorable treatment, to admit that one is more or less a guesser in this vale of tears. But the only escape from the dust and storm of the present conflict, and from the hazards of taking thought, now before the historian, is silence or refuge in some minute particularity of history as actuality” (pp. 221–22). When omniscience becomes guessers, there is a crisis in men’s theory of knowledge.

4. The Desire for Meaning

He understood the psychological problem facing him and his peers: “. . . the historian would be a strange creature if he never asked himself why he regarded these matters as worthy of his labor and love, or why society provides a living for him during his excursions and explorations” (p. 222). I regard Beard as a salesmen of an idea: the nominalist view of history. A good salesman knows that one way to sell something is to remind the potential buyer early in the sales pitch that he has a problem. The salesman then offers a solution. Beard was doing his best to bring a message of hope to his fellow-guessers. But what was this hope?

He offered nothing. Not yet. Instead, he kept piling up the problems.

He insisted that there are no laws of history. This was his denial of realism. “Undiscouraged by their inability to bring all history within a single law, such as the law of gravitation, they have gone on working in the belief that the Newtonian trick will be turned some time, if the scientific method is applied long and rigorously enough and facts are heaped up high enough, as the succeeding grists of doctors of philosophy are ground out by the universities, turned loose on ‘research projects’, and amply supplied by funds” (p. 223). But without laws of history, there is no science of history, he said. This is a good thing, he said. This protects our liberty from the tyranny of historical laws. He was a junior Heraclitus warning his peers about Parmenides. “If a science of history were achieved, it would, like the science of celestial mechanics, make possible the calculable prediction of the future in history. It would bring the totality of historical occurrences within a single field and reveal the unfolding future to its last end, including all the apparent choices made and to be made. It would be omniscience. The creator of it would possess the attributes ascribed by the theologians to God. The future once revealed, humanity would have nothing to do except to await its doom” (p. 224).

What did he offer as a substitute? Something that sounded suspiciously like historical relativism. That had also been Becker’s substitute two years earlier. “Having broken the tyranny of physics and biology, contemporary thought in historiography turns its engines of verification upon the formula of historical relativity—the formula that makes all written history merely relative to time and circumstance, a passing shadow, an illusion.” But he immediately dismissed this suggestion. On what basis? Relativism. Relativism will fail—absolutely.

Contemporary criticism shows that the apostle of relativity is destined to be destroyed by the child of his own brain. If all historical conceptions are merely relative to passing events, to transitory phases of ideas and interests, then the conception of relativity is itself relative. When absolutes in history are rejected the absolutism of relativity is also rejected. So we must inquire: To what spirit of the times, to the ideas and interests of what class, group, nation, race, or region does the conception of relativity correspond? As the actuality of history moves forward into the future, the conception of relativity will also pass, as previous conceptions and interpretations of events have passed. Hence, according to the very doctrine of relativity, the skeptic of relativity will disappear in due course, beneath the ever-tossing waves of changing relativities (p. 225).

So, he invoked social evolution to forecast a world somewhere in the distant future that will abandon relativism, at least for a while. Then an absolute will appear, replacing relativism. And what will that absolute be? History!

Contemporary historical thought is, accordingly, returning upon itself and its subject matter. The historian is casting off his servitude to physics and biology, as he formerly cast off the shackles of theology and its metaphysics. He likewise sees the doctrine of relativity crumble in the cold light of historical knowledge. When he accepts none of the assumptions made by theology, physics, and biology, as applied to history, when he passes out from under the fleeting shadow of relativity, he confronts the absolute in his field—the absolute totality of all historical occurrences past, present, and becoming to the end of all things (p. 235).

When relativism is replaced by its successor, there will be three rival views of history to choose from: (1) history as chaotic; (2) history as cyclical; (3) history “on an upward gradient toward a more ideal order—as imagined by Condorcet, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, or Herbert Spencer” (p. 226). Beard rejected all three (p. 226). He then faced this challenge: you can’t beat something with nothing. What is the missing fourth option? This: the scientific method.

5. Deliverance: The Scientific Method

He had denied that history is a science, yet he was an apostle for the scientific method, which he did not define or even describe.

But members of the passing generation will ask: Has our work done in the scientific spirit been useless? Must we abandon the scientific method? The answer is an emphatic negative. During the past fifty years historical scholarship, carried on with judicial calm, has wrought achievements of value beyond calculation. Particular phases of history once dark and confused have been illuminated by research, authentication, scrutiny, and the ordering of immediate relevancies. Nor is the empirical or scientific method to be abandoned. It is the only method that can be employed in obtaining accurate knowledge of historical facts, personalities, situations, and movements (p. 226).

The scientific method preserves democracy and liberty. “It has a value in itself—a value high in the hierarchy of values indispensable to the life of a democracy. The inquiring spirit of science, using the scientific method, is the chief safeguard against the tyranny of authority, bureaucracy, and brute power” (p. 227). The scientific method is the barrier separating civilization from barbarism. “The scientific method is, therefore, a precious and indispensable instrument of the human mind; without it society would sink down into primitive animism and barbarism” (p. 227). Nevertheless, it has limitations. “So the historian is bound by his craft to recognize the nature and limitations of the scientific method and to dispel the illusion that it can produce a science of history embracing the fullness of history, or of any large phase, as past actuality” (p. 227).

Scientific history is the realm of realism. He had abandoned it. Scientific method presumably is in the realm of nominalism: agreement among historians. Yet he spoke of it as something real, something objective. Somehow, these supposedly antithetical concepts—scientific history and scientific method—can and must cooperate. This dualism must somehow become dialectical. First, there must be realism. There must be objective truth. There must be causation, even in the realm of ideas. There really are objective realities to investigate after all. “This means no abandonment of the tireless inquiry into objective realities, especially economic realities and relations; not enough emphasis has been laid upon the conditioning and determining influences of biological and economic necessities or upon researches designed to disclose them in their deepest and widest ramifications. This means no abandonment of the inquiry into the forms and development of ideas as conditioning and determining influences; not enough emphasis has been laid on this phase of history by American scholars” (p. 227). Second, there must also be nominalism: competing interpretations of history. Becker had announced two years earlier: every man an historian. Beard accepted this.

It is that any selection and arrangement of facts pertaining to any large area of history, either local or world, race or class, is controlled inexorably by the frame of reference in the mind of the selector and arranger. This frame of reference includes things deemed necessary, things deemed possible, and things deemed desirable. It may be large, informed by deep knowledge, and illuminated by wide experience; or it may be small, uninformed, and unilluminated (p. 227).

To sum up contemporary thought in historiography, any written history involves the selection of a topic and an arbitrary delimitation of its borders—cutting off connections with the universal. Within the borders arbitrarily established, there is a selection and organization of facts by the processes of thought. This selection and organization—a single act—will be controlled by the historian’s frame of reference composed of things deemed necessary and of things deemed desirable. The frame may be a narrow class, sectional, national, or group conception of history, clear and frank or confused and half conscious, or it may be a large, generous conception, clarified by association with the great spirits of all ages. Whatever its nature the frame is inexorably there, in the mind (p. 228).

This speech was a conceptual mess. He invoked epistemological salvation by an undefined scientific method, yet he warned against scientific history—the historiography of objective truth, of realism.

D. Multiple Imputers of Meaning

Collingwood insisted on the autonomy of the individual historian. The historian has to impute meaning to the past. He has to select from the vast array of historical documents those that are relevant to his narrative. Becker held the same view of imputation. The historian imputes meaning to the past. But he introduced the crucial fact of historiography: there are lots of interpreters. Becker multiplied them like locusts. Every man is his own historian. Beard also sided with subjective imputation as the substitute for objective history. Here was their problem. Mankind is not united. Humanism declares that mankind is autonomous. But this doctrine of autonomy does not stay bottled up in the concept of collective mankind. It spreads into every area of life. The many interpreters of the past disagree with each other about what was significant in the past. This is the curse of nominalism. The Bible describes it. There was initial agreement at the Tower of Babel, but God divided the people. There was a common confession, but God divided it. There was a common society, but God scattered it. This is nominalism’s problem. There is no way to reconcile philosophically the divided declarations of men regarding the past.

There are certain methodological agreements that enable professional historians to evaluate each other’s work. But footnotes do not unify historians. Footnotes are not in agreement with each other. Documents are not in agreement. There is no scientific methodology that enables historians to find objective truth. Their nominalist philosophy denies the existence of objective truth. This denial leads to relativism. Historians do not want to admit that their competing theories of history promote relativism. They protest are in vain. Their protests are denied by their subjectivist philosophy of history. They deny the legitimacy of nineteenth-century scientific historiography: realism. They invoke nominalism. But, with nominalism, it is every man for himself. It is every historian’s interpretation at war with every other.

Whatever unanimity exists among historians is a matter of convention, not historical truth, according to nominalistic philosophies of history. Historians within the guild band together to outlaw certain historical interpretations. In United States history, the most obvious of all the guild-banned narratives is this one: President Franklin Roosevelt lured the Japanese into the war in December 1941. The premier historian who promoted this view was Beard. In 1948, his final book appeared, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. It was published by Yale University Press. In it, he argued that President Roosevelt had adopted measures that deliberately provoked the Japanese government to attack the United States, thereby enabling Roosevelt to take the nation into the war. Instantly, he lost his reputation. He died in September of that year. He became a retroactive pariah after 1948. Had he not died shortly after the book was released, and before the savage reviews of it appeared in professional historical journals, he would have learned that scientific methodology could not save his reputation.

E. Postmodernism

Postmodernism is an intellectual movement that has extended nominalism far beyond anything envisioned by historians in the 1970s. It is a view dominated by the idea that there is no objective truth. It is dominated by the idea that texts, including historical texts, must be interpreted entirely on the basis of their autonomous internal coherence, not social meaning imputed by self-interested outsiders. This view leads to radical skepticism. It is anti-establishment. The Wikipedia entry on postmodernism is accurate.

Postmodern thinkers frequently describe knowledge claims and value systems as contingent or socially-conditioned, framing them as products of political, historical, or cultural discourses and hierarchies. These thinkers often view personal and spiritual needs as being best fulfilled by improving social conditions and adopting more fluid discourses, in contrast to modernism, which places a higher degree of emphasis on maximizing progress and which generally regards the promotion of objective truths as an ideal form of discourse. . . .

Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism, often criticizing Enlightenment rationality and focusing on the role of ideology in maintaining political or economic power. Common targets of postmodern criticism include universalist ideas of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, science, language, and social progress. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to self-consciousness, self-referentiality, epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, and irreverence.

Within the guild of academic historians, there were few practicing postmodernists until the twenty-first century. They have since multiplied in the humanities. Defenders of the academic establishments were disarmed after 1820 by the prevailing nominalism that today dominates the humanities. Postmodernists are anti-realists, but so are virtually all of the other members on a faculty. Realism went out of fashion along with high-button shoes.

Appleby, Hunt, and Jacob identified the problem in Telling the Truth About History. They dated in four decades late. “Since the 1960s, all the regnant absolutisms of the nineteenth century been dethroned. A many-pronged attack coming from a variety of perspectives has zeroed in on the goals of objectivity and truth-seeking. A fluid scepticism now covers the intellectual landscape, encroaching upon one body of thought after another. The study of history has been questioned and its potential for truth-finding categorically denied” (pp. 243–44). Fluid scepticism is not a solid foundation for epistemology.

Postmodernist historians deny that historical writing is based on truth-seeking. They see it as defending existing politics and existing social structures. The three historians rejected this interpretation. But on what philosophical basis did they reject it? By something they called “practical realism.” They did not define this. They did not even explain it. They were trying to create a new theory of history. They called for “a different, more nuanced, less absolutist kind of realism than that championed by an older—we would say naïve—realism. The newer version—what is called practical realism—presumes that the meanings of words are never simply in our head, nor do they lock on two objects of the external world and fixed reality for all time” (p. 247). There was never any historiographical movement that described itself as holding to practical realism. Modernists denied realism. The philosophers also denied it. It is true that all groups attempted to import realism when they got into the bind of complete relativism. Nominalists for centuries have adopted this unofficial strategy. But there was never any developed, self-conscious philosophical defense of a middle ground between the two positions. There was dialecticism: back-and-forth invocations of each view. There was also informal borrowing from each other’s position. But there was never a self-conscious effort to develop a philosophy of historical interpretation that was a functional hybrid between the two systems. Realism and nominalism are mutually exclusive philosophies.

The chief problem for nominalist historians is to find ways to reconcile competing historical interpretations. This is the problem of the imputation of meaning. If God is not there to do this, then man has to do it on his own authority. But man does not have the capability of doing it on his own authority. So, the three authors wanted a middle position. But they did not want to take a stand against imputed meaning. They wrote this: “The realist never denies that the very act of representing the past makes the historian (values, warts, and all) an agent who actively moulds how the past is to be seen. Most even delight in the task” (p. 249). Yes, realists do delight in the nominalist task. That is because they are really nominalists.

The three historians wanted human autonomy. They wanted historians to exercise the power to shape the past. “Practical realists are stuck in a contingent world, using language to point to objects outside themselves about which they can be knowledgeable because they use language. This slightly circular situation in which the practical-minded find themselves may not make for heroes, but it does help locate truths about the past. More important, practical realism thwarts the relativists by reminding them that some words and conventions, however socially constructed, reach out to the world and give a reasonably true description of its contents” (p. 250). They called this a “slightly circular situation.” It is 100% circular.

The three then invoked the objective reality of language. (This is also what a Christian historian should do, on this basis: God spoke the world into existence. Next, God spoke to Adam. Adam and Eve spoke with each other.) These three historians also invoked a common language. But they had no metaphysical foundation for this invocation. They had no epistemological foundation for it. The best they could come up with is this: “reasonably true description.” By what standard? By whose imputation? Revealed by what methodology?

They offered what they called a new theory of objectivity. “We think that a case can be made for a qualified objectivity after this refurbished objectivity has been disentangled from the scientific model of objectivity” (p. 254). But they never offered any philosophical justification for their hybrid system. All they did was offer hope in some future technical reconciliation of the ancient dualism. They told us what scholars must do. They did not tell us how these scholars are going to do it. They did not tell us why they are going to do it. They also did not tell us why no historian has done in the past four centuries. As you read the following passage, listen for a faint sound of Judy Garland singing “somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high.”

No longer able to ignore the subjectivity of the author, scholars must construct standards of objectivity that recognize at the outset that all histories start with the curiosity of a particular individual and take shape under the guidance of her or his personal and cultural attributes. Since all knowledge originates inside human minds and is conveyed through representations of reality, all knowledge is subject-centered and artificial, the very qualities brought into disrespect by an earlier exultation of that which was objective and natural. Our version of objectivity concedes the impossibility of any research being neutral (that goes for scientists as well) and accepts the fact that knowledge-seeking involves a lively, contentious struggle among diverse groups of truth-seekers (p. 254).

Their book describes many of the problems that humanist historians created for themselves when they abandoned faith in the Bible and faith in the providential God who created all things out of nothing by the power of His word. What the book does not describe is any philosophy that is half realism and half nominalism. It also does not describe the outline of a philosophically grounded methodology that will enable historians to bring forth objective reality out of the cacophony of competing autonomous interpretations by their peers.


There is a popular phrase: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to his own facts.” In terms of humanist epistemology, everyone really is entitled to his own facts. This is the implication for every philosophy of autonomy. By the mid-1930’s, leaders of American historiography went public with respect to the impossibility of neutral historiography. This included the impossibility of neutral facts. All facts are interpreted, they admitted. But the inescapable implication of this admission is this: there can be as many historical facts as there are historians. Modern humanist historiography does not have a theory of objective historical events in the past, objective historical documentation, and objective interpretation of this documentation.

Rushdoony in 1968 contrasted the Christian view of history and the humanist view.

For the Orthodox Christian, who grounds his philosophy of history of the doctrine of creation, the mainspring of history is God. Time rests on the foundation of eternity, on the eternal decree of God. Time and history therefore have meaning because they were created in terms of God’s perfect and totally comprehensive plan. Every blade of grass, every sparrow’s fall, the very hairs of our head, all are comprehended and governed by God’s eternal decree, and all have meaning in terms of it. The humanist faces a meaningless world in which he must strive to create an established meaning. The Christian accepts the world which is totally meaningful in which every event moves in terms of God’s predestined purpose, and, when man accepts God as his Lord and Christ as his Savior, every event works together for good to him because he is now in harmony with that meaning and destiny (Rom. 8:28). Man therefore does not create meaning; instead, having rebelled against God’s meaning, having striven to be as God and himself as a source of meaning and definition (Gen. 3:5), man now submits to God’s meaning and finds his life therein. For the humanist, the dynamics of history are in titanic man, as he imposes his will and idea on the world. For the Orthodox Christian, the dynamics of history are in God the Creator, and man accepts those dynamics and rejoices in the blessings thereof when man accepts Christ as Savior and then follows the leadings of the sanctifying Holy Spirit (Foundations of Social Order, p. 8).

Consider this: “For the humanist, the dynamics of history are in titanic man, as he imposes his will and idea on the world.” But dynamic man, being dynamic, is always changing. He must impose his will on the world in order to keep rival dynamic men from imposing their will on him. In his 1945 novel, That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis has a power-seeking villain say this. “It does really look as if we now had the power to dig ourselves in as a species for a pretty staggering period, to take control of our own destiny. If Science is really given a free hand it can now take over the human race and re-condition it: make man a really efficient animal. . . . Man has got to take charge of Man. That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest—which is another reason for cashing in on it as soon as one can. You and I want to be the people who do the taking charge, not the ones who are taken charge of.”

Humanists find that they cannot exercise such control. They are not omniscient. The world is highly complex. This law of change confronts them: “You cannot change just one thing.” This is accompanied by the law of unintended consequences. This in turn is accompanied by Murphy’s law: “If something can go wrong, it will.”

What applies to planning for the future applies to our understanding of the past. The past was complex. Documentation is incomplete. It is often contradictory. Interpretations compete for public acceptance. Public agreement declines as the cost of producing and accessing rival interpretations decreases. Cacophony increases. Put differently, intellectual entropy increases. It increases when humanists become more consistent with their theory of the future: cosmic entropy. I cover this in the next chapter.

Christian Education: An Objective Theology of the Covenant

The Biblical Educator – January 15, 2022

By David Chilton (circa 1980)

Many of you will assume that the following article is just another article on infant baptism. But it isn’t. Many more will think it is not relevant to Christian school issues. But it is. So, on second thought, perhaps you’d better sit down and read it.

The Bible teaches us to think of salvation, the family, the church, and all of life in terms of the Covenant. From the beginning in the Garden, man’s relationship to God — which covered every aspect of his existence — was covenantal: that is, salvation was not individualistic (concerned only with the individual believer), but instead involved his entire household. This does not mean, of course, that all members of a believer’s household were regenerate: but we’ll get to that in a few moments.

Consider some examples of covenantal relationships in biblical history: Adam was the Head of the Covenant between God and all mankind; when he rebelled, he and all his descendants were damned (Rom. 5:12, 18). The godly line of Seth is contrasted with the ungodly line of Cain, the high point in each covenantal line being the seventh generation from Adam (Gen. 4:1 – 5:24). Then came Noah, with whom God established the Covenant by which his whole household was saved (Gen. 7:18; 9:9). The Covenant with Abraham also involved his household — not merely his children, but his slaves as well (Gen. 17:9-13). As Meredith Kline has conclusively demonstrated in By Oath Consigned (Eerdmans, 1968), the biblical idea of Covenant is an authority structure: the Covenant is imposed upon a man and includes all those under his authority — wife, children, slaves, and so on. This aspect of the Covenant is inseparable from the Covenant itself. Thus, when Paul told the Galatians that their conversion placed them in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gal. 3:7, 29), he was telling them that their situation was exactly the same as that of any non-Israelite in Old Testament times who had become a believer: his initiation into the Covenant brought in his household (authority structure) as well (see Ex. 12:48). If you are in the Covenant, all those under your authority are to be placed into the Covenant structure as well.

Now, some of you are already disagreeing — and I haven’t even gotten to the main point of the article yet. But in order to keep you reading, let me ask you a question: Do you believe in the Ten Commandments? Forget the “theonomy” thesis for a moment; just concentrate on the original Ten. Do you believe they’re still valid? If so, you are required to believe everything I’ve said up to now., For if you believe in the Ten Commandments, sou must believe the Second Commandment, including the part which is rarely quoted: “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:5-6). This passage teaches that curse and blessing are covenantally passed from generation to generation. If you believe the Ten Commandments, Covenant theology is inescapable. (And, by the way, if you believe that much, then you must also believe what Deut. 28 says about blessings and curses passing through generations, ultimately affecting whole cultures. And that makes you, in principle, a theonomist. Welcome to the club) Now you know why those who reject theonomy are finding it necessary to dump the Decalogue. There’s no middle ground.)

All this is not just a bit of high-flown theologizing. It has a very definite bearing on our daily conduct. Our attitudes and actions toward one another must be in terms of the Covenant. This means much more than infant baptism alone: our whole life must be lived under Covenant law — and that holds implications which few of us have ever considered. In order to understand them, we must examine what Covenant membership involves.

Covenant Membership

The visible sign of admission into the Covenant is baptism (which has taken the place of circumcision, Col. 2:11-12). In the Old Testament, all those under covenantal authority were members of the Covenant. Period. This is not to say all Covenant members were regenerate — far from it. In the line of Seth, both Methuselah and Lamech were alive when God announced His Covenant to Noah — yet they seem to have been included in the ungodly world. Lamech died before the flood came, but Methuselah died in the year of the flood, and perhaps in the flood itself. Another example is Ham, who was certainly in the Covenant, but who inherited a curse instead of blessing. Ishmael and Esau were children of the Covenant, but to all appearances unregenerate. And many Covenant members throughout Israel’s history were unregenerate as well. I’m not saying any of this is ideal. We would like it to be otherwise. We would like all men to be saved. But I am saying this: Regeneration is not, and never was, the condition of Covenant membership.

If not, what is the condition? Covenantal obedience. Look at it like this. Let’s say an alien desired to join the Covenant in Old Testament times. He and all under his authority would receive the sign of circumcision, and from then on all would be ruled by Covenant law. All would have the right and responsibility to partake of the Old Testament version of communion (Passover and the other feasts). Can we assume that all members of the household were, subjectively speaking, “converted”? Not at all. Yet all were in the Covenant, with all the responsibilities and privileges that membership entailed.

Take a more extreme example. When Israel captured their enemies in battle, they took them as slaves. According to biblical law, these heathen slaves were immediately circumcised and included in the Covenant, with the right to eat at the feasts. Their defeat in battle and consequent status as slaves under a covenantal authority structure automatically rendered them members of the Covenant. They were required to put away their false gods and heathen practices, and to worship and obey the true God. Regardless of their personal attitudes, they were —objectively speaking — no longer heathen. They were members of Israel, the people of God. It has always been true, of course, that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom, 9:6); Covenant membership does not guarantee saving faith. But all Covenant members were objectively on the same footing. All partook of communion. All were blessed or cursed by Covenant standards. All were addressed throughout the Old Testament as “my people” — until the time came when Israel’s disobedience resulted in the excommunication of the nation as a whole, and the Covenant line began to be filled by the Gentiles, who were grafted into the covenantal tree of life (Rom. 11:17-24).

The essential point to grasp here is that one’s covenantal status — one’s membership in the church, the people of God —is based on objective, not subjective, criteria. There is no rite of “confirmation” in the Bible for admission to the covenantal meals. If you are in the authority structure, you are (or should be) in the church. Membership is not voluntaristic. In the Bible, if oaths had been sworn over you by your lord husband, parent, or owner), you were a member of the people of God whether you liked it or not. Ultimately, if you didn’t like it — if you rebelled against the Covenant — there was only one way out: being “cut off” from Israel (which, at the very least, meant excommunication).

Perhaps the best way to see what happens when we apply objective theology to practical issues would be to contrast it with the practice of two conflicting schools of thought — Realism and Nominalism.

Realism vs. Nominalism — vs. the Bible

Which is more important — unity or diversity? Should society’s needs come first, or should those of the individual? What is most basic to reality — collectivity or individuality? This issue is known in philosophy as the problem of The One and the Many (see R.J. Rushdoony’s book by that title). Historically, the question has been answered from three different perspectives. Realism (it’s called that in philosophy, for reasons that will become apparent; but Realism is not realistic, really) sees oneness and unity as being basic to all reality. It is the view that names, symbols and rituals are real things, which completely determine the particular things that they define. Nominalism, on the other hand, holds that symbols are just names, not realities. Nominalists see diversity and individuality as being most basic:

But the biblical answer is to be found in Trinitarianism. God is triune, and all reality is structured in terms of Him. A brief definition of the Trinity might be this: One God without division in a plurality of Persons, and three Persons without confusion in a unity of essence. God is not “basically” One, with the individual Persons being derived from the oneness; nor is God “basically” Three, with the unity of the Persons being secondary. God is One, and God is Three. There are not three Gods; there is only one God. Yet each of the Persons is Himself God — and They are distinct, individual Persons. But there is only one God. To put it in more philosophical language, God’s unity (oneness) and diversity (threeness, individuality) are equally ultimate. God is “basically” One and “basically” Three at the same time. And the same goes for all of creation. Both unity and diversity are important — equally important. Neither aspect of reality has priority over the other.

Let’s say a Realist and a Nominalist happen to see my wife kiss me. The Realist will say, “Aha! A kiss is symbolic of love. That kiss proves Darlene loves him!” But the Nominalist will retort, “Whaddya mean? A kiss is just a kiss, like the song says. Sure, it’s a symbol of love. But it doesn’t mean she really loves him. The question is, what’s the attitude of her heart?” I, however, am a Trinitarian; and when my wife kisses me, I recognize it as a symbol of her love, but I also enjoy it because it’s not a “mere” symbol. It is an act of love, and the two go together. I’m sure you’d like to read more of this hot stuff, but let’s go on to some less romantic issues of the Covenant, and consider how each of these views approaches them.

  1. Government. The Realist school, holding that unity is fundamental, maintains an episcopal form of church government —power from the top. The Nominalist, believing that diversity is ultimate, and that each person’s individuality is sacred, favors a congregational pattern in which power is exercised democratically, from below. Realism tends toward totalitarianism; Nominalism tends toward anarchy. The biblical form of government is presbyterian, in which there is a balance of power within a structure of authority.
  2. Baptism. Realists believe that ritual washing with water really removes original sin. Nominalists see baptism as “a visible sign of an invisible grace,” in which the important thing is whether the individual has already made a decision. They do not see baptism as a means of grace. To them, it is ultimately a “mere” symbol, and cannot be efficacious. The Bible, in contrast to Realism, does not teach that baptism regenerates; nor does it teach, in contrast to Nominalism, that one must give evidence of regeneration before being baptized. Baptism is a means of grace, and signifies not the subjective experience of the recipient, but the objective imposition of covenantal authority over him.
  3. Communion. For the Realist, the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are really transformed into the body and blood of Christ. The Nominalist believes communion to be, again, a “mere” symbol of an inward attitude in the individual — and it’s the attitude that’s important. This is why most Nominalists practice open communion, in which anyone can walk in off the street and partake of the sacrament. The radical Nominalists (e.g. the Quakers) dispense with the sacraments altogether. The biblical teaching is that the bread and wine are always only bread and wine; and yet that in the Supper we are having dinner with Jesus, who feeds us with Himself as we eat and drink together.
  4. Excommunication. When a Realist church excommunicates you, you’re damned. The decree of those in power effectively consigns you to eternal perdition. Of course, if you’re a Nominalist, you’ll regard the decree as just so many words, and you’ll start attending a Nominalist church down the street. Nominalist churches hardly ever excommunicate anybody — and if they do, the judgment has all the awesome significance implied in not receiving the church newsletter anymore; and the excommunicated person gets his name listed on the rolls of another church. The biblical doctrine is that a lawful sentence of excommunication places a person outside the visible body of Christ, and denies him the opportunity to meet the Lord at His Table. But excommunication does not necessarily mean damnation. It is, in fact, a last-ditch effort to bring the offender back to the faith. The judgment is efficacious (one way or the other); but it does not make a determination of the condemned person’s eternal state. Excommunication has to do with the visible church.
  5. Church membership. For a Realist, eternal salvation is guaranteed by membership in the visible church — baptized children are unquestionably regarded as regenerate. For a Nominalist, eternal salvation has little, if anything, to do with church affiliation: everything depends on the individual’s decision to accept Christ — and if he has “decided for Christ,” he is considered a Christian. Church membership is nice, but purely voluntary. Children are unquestionably regarded as unregenerate (except for the Nominalist’s “safety net” — the wholly mythical, unbiblical notion of an “age of accountability,” before which children are not accountable to God for their actions, and are “saved” without being regenerated). The biblical view of church membership is objective and covenantal: All baptized persons (church members) who have not been excommunicated are to be regarded as in the household of God. They must be addressed as members of the Body of Christ, and even “little ones to Him belong.” Communion is to be served to all church members unless they are under discipline. But communion is to be withheld from those who are not members of a church, regardless of their claims that they have accepted Christ. Unless they belong to Christ visibly, through membership in a real authority structure, there is no objective basis on which to regard them as Christians. Note: I am not saying a non-member is necessarily unregenerate; just that there is no objective evidence he is. Nor am I saying that communion may be served only to members of my own congregation or denomination; but that communicants must belong to a visible structure somewhere. Communion is thus neither “open” nor “closed,” but restricted.

Theology: Objective and Subjective

All those who are united to a visible church — by which I mean any orthodox, creedally-defined church — are to be regarded as fellow members of the Covenant. Their theological understanding may be woefully limited or defective; nevertheless, by their baptism into the triune Name, they are under the covenantal authority of Christ, and belong to Him. They are to be served communion. They should be required to tithe. In short, all the rights and responsibilities of Covenant membership belong to them. Voting and office-holding, however, are not automatic rights of the Covenant, and may legitimately be restricted to those heads of households who have received sufficient instruction in the faith, and who demonstrate in their lives those characteristics appropriate to the exercise of such responsibilities. Our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) must be objective. Yet this is not to discount the necessity of regeneration and personal faith. Regeneration cannot be visibly perceived (John 3:8), but it is no less real. Preachers must exhort their flocks continually to believe, repent, and obey the demands of the Covenant to which they were sworn. But they must not address their people as “presumptively unregenerate,” for Covenant members are the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ. Read the writings of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles — do you ever find them speaking to the church as heathen? Never; not even in I Corinthians, and the congregation in Corinth was really a mess. Church members, even erring ones, are addressed as called saints (the same expression as holy convocation in the Old Testament). They are commanded to live in terms of their covenantal calling, and exhorted to refrain from living after the manner of the heathen (who were always differentiated from them). There is no rite of “confirmation” in the Bible, because there is no need for it: Baptism is the confirmation into the Covenant. You will never find a distinction in the Bible between “communicant” and “non-communicant” membership, because all Covenant members took communion (except for those who were excommunicated). One obvious objection to all this is that it can result in multitudes of disobedient, rebellious, apparently unconverted people taking communion. And such an objection is completely correct. That will be the result, until the day comes when church officers repent of their lily-livered pussyfooting and get serious about church discipline. The Table can be protected. But it does not need to be protected from children.

One of the chief reasons for the downfall of the Puritan theocracy was its confusion between subjective and objective theology. The Puritans rightly understood that eternal salvation is inseparable from regeneration and faith; but they confused that with requirements for church membership and communion. Thus they devised “tests of saving faith” which members had to pass successfully before being admitted to communion. These soon degenerated into demands for a subjective, datable experience of conversion — and such an experience had to conform to specific canons produced by the scholars of New England. If your experience didn’t match the order contrived by the theologians — if you had no memorable “experience” at all— in short, if all you had was a love for God and a desire to serve Him in covenantal union with His people: Sorry, try again next time the session meets.

The result was that thousands of church members became “non-communicants,” thousands more never attempted to join the Covenant, and the Puritan Hope of a Christianized culture went down the drain. Solomon Stoddard’s misguided attempt to salvage the situation was demolished by his grandson, Jonathan Edwards: and for all the good that was done by Edwards, White-field and the Tennent family in the Great Awakening, that event marked the end of a hope for a covenantal theocracy in America. Joining the Covenant became entirely relegated to a subjective, “spiritual” (i.e., neoplatonic) realm, completely unconnected to objective Covenant union in a visible church. Authority and discipline went out the window, and so did the possibility of Christian reconstruction. Now, almost 250 years later, true evangelicalism is synonymous with philosophical Nominalism. Subjective theology is the order of the day, and any attempt to return to a biblical worldview looks to most people like heresy. The first time I read Norm Shepherd’s article on “The Covenant Context for Evangelism,” I thought he had abandoned Calvinism. The trouble was that / hadn’t been reading Calvin. I’d been reading Arthur Pink, Gardiner Spring, and the Banner of Truth.

There are many applications we could make of Covenant theology, and I’ve hinted at a few already. But I’m running out of space, so I’ll suggest one more, with specific relevance to Christian schools. If the children in your school belong to Covenant homes, do not treat them as if they need a- conversion experience. Instead, speak to them on the basis of the oaths to which they are already bound. They are in the Covenant, they are members of Israel, the Body and Bride of Christ. They are not little angels, but they’re not little pagans either. They have been sworn to Jesus Christ as His own. Objectively, they are His children; subjectively, they must live as His children.

(For further reading on the issues raised here, see Shepherd’s article, mentioned above, in The New Testament Student and Theology, ed. by John H. Skilton [Presbyterian and Reformed, 19761; Jim Jordan’s “God’s Hospitality and Holistic Evangelism” [Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Vol. VII, No. 21; Jordan’s “Theses on Paedo-Communion,” available from Geneva Divinity School; Edmund Morgan’s Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea [Cornell University Press, 19631; and Terrill Elniff’s The Guise of Every Graceless Heart [Ross House, 19811.)