The Civilizational Implications of The Fruit of the Spirit vs. The Acts of the Flesh

The Civilizational Implications of The Fruit of the Spirit vs. The Acts of the Flesh

One of the great contributions, of many, of the Apostle Paul to Christian Western civilization is laying out in Galatians 5 the juxtaposition between those who live by the Spirit and those who live by the flesh. Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit and the acts of the flesh. The reason I extend the comparison to a civilizational level is because the consequences of these two kind of lives go well beyond the merely personal; nothing we do is merely personal or interpersonal. The modern libertarian mindset is tragically mistaken because it makes personal choice a sacred right as if our choices only affected us, or at most a few people around us—they do not.

Paul uses a word in this context that is also tragically misunderstood, freedom. Because of the poison of secularism, people intuitively think of freedom as “doing whatever we want.” No, that’s not freedom, that’s slavery! Here is what Paul says freedom is actually for: 

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Salvation from sin allows us to no longer be curved in on ourselves so we are now free to fulfill the law in serving others. Just think about Paul’s assertion about the entire law being fulfilled in that one command. Even as I’m thinking and trying to write about it at this moment, I’m mesmerized by the implications. Everything I do in relation to God is done in relation to loving other human beings. We are fundamentally relational because the Triune God, our Creator is. And just as John says He is love, so we are called to love. 

This has massive societal implications most Christians today are unfortunately unaware of or ignore. Because of two isms, Pietism and secularism, we have a bifurcated sense of reality. That word simply means to cause to divide into two branches or parts. Because of those isms, in our minds those parts are isolated, the branches don’t touch. One is our personal life and all that entails, and the other is “out there,” public life and all that entails. We tend to think the former has no bearing on the latter, when in fact the relationship is unavoidable and symbiotic; each depends on and influences the other, personal affects societal, societal affects personal. 

Because of the first Great Awakening and the profound influence of Calvinism in that era, America’s founding generation understood freedom as responsibility. Liberty would never be an excuse for license, or doing whatever we want. True freedom is the ability to do what we ought, to fulfill our responsibility to others. In this sense, Jesus says losing our life means we will find it.

The Implications of Two Ways of Life
We might think there are infinite shades of gray in how people choose to live, but that’s not the case. Certain ways of acting cause harmony, and other ways cause chaos. The line between those two is actually very thin. Let’s look at how Paul describes these two kinds of life: 

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 

Over the years when I would read this passage I would think how lefties and liberals despise Christianity, but what is it about the fruit of the Spirit they have a problem with? Imagine a society in which everyone exhibited such fruit. What’s not to like? In fact, as you can see from Paul’s statement about law, the fruit of the Spirit is the foundation of political liberty. The more self-governing a people are, the less need there is for law. Where the acts of the flesh reign, law is required to keep some semblance of peace. As we can see all around us, the further we get away from being a Christian nation, the further we get away from peace. The big cities in blue states make the case.

These implications are why America’s founders believed the American experiment would have been impossible without Christianity and the Bible. We could quote them all day long to prove that, but John Adams, not an orthodox Christian, is a good example. One of his more famous quotations makes this clear:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

This was affirmed by Congress six months before the Constitution was passed in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In Article 3 it states:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The Founders believed it was the Christian religion and Christian morality of a providentially ordaining God that made the American experiment possible. They knew the “acts of the flesh” would destroy it, and they were right.

Why America Must be a Christian Nation
Because of Pietism and secularism, Christians look at this passage and only see the implications for themselves and those they know personally, family and friends. Since World War II it’s gotten so bad that many Christians mock the very idea of a Christian nation; they’ll often use the supposed epithet, Christian nationalism. But what, dear reader, is the option? If a nation isn’t Christian what is it? I’ll tell you: it’s a pagan nation. We might call America (and Western countries in general) “secular,” but that is just another word for pagan. Since the progressive movement got under way in America in the early 20th century, the illusion grew that a secular society would mean freedom from the conflict religion creates in a society. America was supposedly going to be a pluralistic nirvana where all faiths and worldviews would be equal and have a seat at the secular public table. Secularism, however, is also a faith, and it refuses to allow Christianity any say in the public square. When Christians try, secularists scream, separation of church and state!  

This is evidence that there are in fact only two societal realities. We learn this from God’s call of Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Then the Lord promises to bless him, and through him all the nations of the earth. This is how God started to make a people for Himself, a people set apart from the pagan nations. For the next 2,000 years God slowly built an alternative culture and view of reality to paganism, and in Christ that was fulfilled. Now God’s promise to Abram to bless the nations through His people to the entire earth would begin, taking His God-Heaven life and spreading through the entire earth. How does this happen and what does it look like?

When the fall happened in Genesis 3, God told the serpent:

15 I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This told us life in a fallen world would be hostility between two forces, one represented by the serpent, paganism, the other represented by the seed of the woman, Jesus. There is no in between; we are on one side or the other. The serpent could do some damage, as we’ve seen for thousands of years, but the seed of the woman has the upper hand because he will strike the serpent’s head. In a word, God was promising victory to His people in the battle for reality in a fallen world. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t believe that because they live by sight and not faith in God’s promised victory, one reiterated throughout both Testaments.

On a practical level this looks like the fruit of the Spirit, and government exists to create the environment where that fruit can flourish. We call that liberty and justice. This requires government to be limited but also strong with very specific tasks toward public justice and peace. It very much looks like the United States of America as founded. This doesn’t mean other forms of government cannot fulfill these tasks, but only as Christ is acknowledged as King and ultimate authority can that happen. 

Isaiah 2, Fruit of the Spirit, and Christ’s Body
This chapter is a Messianic declaration of the victory God promised to Adam and Eve in the garden. It starts thus:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Not too long ago I saw this as a prophecy of the consummated heavens and earth when Christ returns in his glory at the resurrection to judge the living and the dead, but that is not accurate. Rather, this is a declaration of the power of the gospel to transform not only people but nations. We are in the last days which started when Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Clearly this mountain Isaiah speaks of is metaphorical, and the temple is not a literal temple (the temple that did exist was destroyed in 70 AD); Jesus is the temple. God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit by His word now teaches us his ways that we might “walk in his paths.” In other words, that we might exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

Zion and Jerusalem are also metaphors; God’s law mediated through the gospel will go out from his eternal throne to the entire earth. Verse 4, however, is a problem for many Christians because they can’t see this happening in our fallen world because there are still disputes and wars. Isaiah is clearly saying, though, that judgment between nations and disputes of many people will still exist, meaning this prophecy is for the fallen world now after the Messiah came and accomplished redemption. We learn here that these are the implications of the gospel on an international level between nations. Unfortunately, because of those isms I mentioned above, most Christians can’t conceive Christianity could be applicable to anything beyond our personal lives. God begs to differ.

Let’s ask some questions. Why does war and conflict exist? Sin. And what did the gospel come to remedy? Sin. And how does the gospel do that? Through people, specifically Christian people who have been redeemed and live in obedience to God reflecting the fruit of the Spirit. If you look back at that passage in Genesis 3, the seed is Christ, and we are his body, his church, striking the serpent’s head. It isn’t we ourselves who claim victory over the devil and his works, the “acts of the flesh,” but Christ working through us as his body on earth.

I recently read a beautiful example of Christ’s body working in The Voice of the Martyrs magazine. A North Korean defector to South Korea was staying at a resettlement center and was encouraged to explore different religions. He went to meet people, and eventually went to a Christian worship service. In his words:

At first I just went to the church because I was lonely, but through the serving and love of the Christian people, then I became curious about the Jesus they believed in. As I learned more about Jesus, then I met Jesus.

That is how it works! How God’s kingdom spreads on earth and permeates the nations. In due course not only will there be an absence of war, but the instruments of war will be transformed into instruments of peace and production for flourishing in God’s created order. Prior to Christ and the gospel, the nations such as they were only knew one value: the will to power. The stronger survived, the weaker were conquered in a never ending cycle of war and conquest. That slowly changed with the coming of Christendom, but much of the world rejected Christianity and suffered for it. The 20th century is evidence of that. We have a long way to go as we continue to fight the fall and pray and work for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Paul Ends Romans with a Postmillennial Exhortation

Paul Ends Romans with a Postmillennial Exhortation

It had been quite a while since I read through Romans, and whenever that was, I was most definitely not a postmillennialist. For much of my Christian life I was a “pan-millennialist,” because eschatology all seemed like worthless speculation and the Bible was all too confusing about it. I concluded it will all pan out in the end, so why bother. Then in 2014 I was presented with an in depth biblical case for amillennialism, or so it seemed, and I embraced it. Then in August of 2022 something completely unexpected happened; I embraced postmillennialism. Unexpected as in earthquake unexpected; you find it hard to believe the earth is moving under your feet, but you can see it and feel it. My “conversion” to postmillennialism was like that.

Other than knowing absolutely nothing about it, I had never had any kind of coherent presentation of exactly what it means. When I finally did, and it was not something I was looking for, I was shocked that it seemed to make biblical sense. What most impressed me was that the case being made for it was primarily exegetical, meaning coming out of the text of Scripture. It wasn’t relying on speculation of any kind. The other thing that impressed me, and quickly won me over, was that unlike the other two options, a-mill and pre-mill, it was an optimistic eschatology, an eschatology of hope for the here and now, not just for the eternal by and by, the next life. Christ came to push back the fall, as the Christmas hymn says, as far as the curse is found. That means the blessings promised to us by God through Abraham, are not just for our personal or interpersonal lives, but for our lives lived in community, including the communities of cities and counties and states and nations, wherever the curse of sin rears its ugly head.

The Gospel to the Nations
For our discussion, we can view the gospel primarily two ways. The way most Christians view it is solely or mostly in personal terms; it’s about going to heaven when we die, and personal holiness on earth. At best its influence extends to our closest interpersonal relationships. By contrast, the way postmillennialists view the gospel is that the personal effects are like ripples in a glass still lake; once the gospel rock hits the surface of our lives, it transforms everything we touch, literally; ripples that never end. The gospel’s purpose in the world is fundamentally transformational. This transformation happens the instant we are saved, brought from spiritual death to glorious spiritual life in Christ. The veil is lifted, and like the man born blind Jesus healed in John 9, we cry out, “I was blind but now I see!” Think of it like gospel glasses we put on and everything comes into focus. And when I say everything I mean every single thing. We go from secular blindness thinking we’re lucky dirt, to a God drenched reality where each molecule is His, every tree and rock, every apple and egg, every word, thought, and idea, all brought captive “to make it obedient to Christ.”     

This means that when God told Abram nations would be blessed through him, he meant it. Here are some of those declarations. In Genesis 12 God tells Abram that he will bless him and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. The Hebrew word used for peoples means clan, an ancient way to say nation. In Genesis 18 as the Lord is considering destroying Sodom he again mentions blessing:

17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Here a different word is used meaning nation or people. This passage in Genesis 22 is especially powerful. After God tested Abraham with Isaac and he passed the test by trusting the Lord in obedience, the Lord says:

16 “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Here the blessing is again to Abraham. His descendants will literally be innumerable, but it isn’t just the numbers that are important, but what these people do and where they do it.

Not Just Testifying but Transforming
This is a critical point in the never ending debate about eschatology. In the a-mill and pre-mill understanding, the Great Commission (Matt. 28) is focused on individuals, and ignores the nations part, but the gospel is transformational of everything it touches, including nations. The following quotations are from Lorraine Boettner’s book, Millennialism. The first is about this transformational character of the gospel:

The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political, and cultural life of mankind.

My response is, how can it not! Unfortunately, most Christians retreat behind a Pietism that doesn’t see the purpose of the gospel as transformational of all things. It isn’t so much that secularism took over the once Christian West, as it was Christians surrendered it to them.

The other is about Jesus using the word “disciples” in the Great Commission:

Christ Himself assures us He is present and is even now with us in our work . . . To reduce this great commission to the premillenarian program to preach the gospel as a witness to a world that is to grow worse and worse until it plunges into its doom in destruction is to emasculate the gospel of Christ and wither it into pitiful impotency. This is to send the gospel out into the world as a futile thing, foreordained to failure from the start. No, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and Jesus Christ, marching in the greatness of his strength, sends us on no empty errand of uttering a message that will die away in the air on an unheeding and hostile world, gathering only a few out of its innumerable multitudes and consigning the fast majority to destruction, but He sends us to “make disciples of all nations” and thereby win the world itself.

I don’t see how you read that paragraph and not become postmillennial on the spot! It gives me chills.

The last thing I will address before I get to Paul’s post-mill passage, is Ephesians 2 and Revelation 5 about Christians reigning with Christ. In Ephesians, Paul is speaking about our God making us alive in Christ “when we were dead in transgressions.” Then he blows our minds with this:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Do you know where Christ is seated this very moment? At the right hand of the Father, as Paul says in chapter 1, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” This is happening in the present age! Now, today, at this moment. The reason Jesus could give us the Great Commission was because “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him, therefore, he says go. And we can tie together the Ephesians passage about where we are seated, and what we are doing there, with this passage in Revelation 5:

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    people from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

We are saved to reign on earth, not in heaven! We are reigning with Christ on this fallen earth to bring the kingdom of heaven to overcome the works and the wiles of the devil.

The Gospel: The Obedience of Faith
Which brings me to Paul’s declaration in the final words of Romans and how we do this:

 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Our gospel job is not only to preach personal salvation to the nations, but to preach and teach Christ as Lord and king not only over our own lives and the lives of our families, but over the nations. The objective of every Christian is to bring “all nations” to “the obedience of faith.” This was Jesus’ command in the Great Commission:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The command is specifically given to what we now consider nations, not merely to individuals, but to individuals in every position in society and culture. The obedience of faith means taking seriously what Jesus said about obeying “everything” he commanded them, whether that applies to business, economics, law, governing, family life, art, architecture, science, all aspects of culture; it is complete all encompassing.

What happened in what we used to call Christendom was the disaster of Pietism, a 17th century German Lutheran movement that turned Christianity from a centrifugal movement, something that moves away from a central point or axis, to a centripetal one, a force that brings things toward the center. Over time, through the First and Second Great Awakening in the 18th and 19th centuries, to fundamentalism in the 20th, secularism took over Western culture because Christians narrowed the focus of Christianity to going to heaven when we die and personal holiness. What that did was completely enervate the gospel for any kind of cultural influence, and we are now living with the consequences. That must change if we are to bring ourselves and the nations “to the obedience of faith.”

That means we begin to learn about Christianity as a profoundly powerful centrifugal force. Fortunately, we live in incredibly exciting times because there is a revival not just of postmillennialism, but of Christians whatever their eschatology realizing that their faith applies to all of life, including politics and culture. The beauty and power of postmillennialism, though, is that it gives us the theological framework for optimism, or in the title of a book I’m currently reading, it is “An Eschatology of Victory.” Christ did not become a man, suffer and die and rise again, then ascend to the right hand of God to lose! We can count on his words in our prayers and actions, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Christianity is the Only Source of Political Liberty

Christianity is the Only Source of Political Liberty

This is an assertion that many Christians, let alone secularists, will vehemently disagree with. Those who disagree, however, need to bone up on their history of Christian Western civilization. Christian England is the only place on earth where the concept of the rule of law developed that could hold a ruler of the nation accountable. Prior to that, whatever the sovereign declared was law. It isn’t a difficult case to make that the only reason liberty exists at all in the world is because of Christianity. Without Christianity all we are left with is either the will to power and tyranny, or anarchy. When societies end up falling into the latter, people would much rather the tyranny; at least it’s predictable.

This is the dynamic in which we find ourselves as we begin the new year of 2024. It will either be anarchy leading the tyranny, or liberty. It’s one or the other. The only way to liberty is through Christ, so I’ll put my money on liberty. But to do this, we need to disabuse a very lot of people of the notion that the rule of Christianity in a nation is inherently tyrannical. They deride the concept with the epithet “theocracy,” as if the rule of God over a society, what the word means, is a bad thing. It most certainly is not! Of course, that all depends on what we mean by theocracy. I address all this in my upcoming book, and I look forward to seeing what people who disagree with me make of my argument. Hopefully, they’ll agree with me after they read it.

The Necessary Idea of Sphere Sovereignty
I’ve recently become aware of Willem Ouweneel, a Dutch scholar and prolific author. I’m currently reading his book; The World is Christ’s: A Critique of Two Kingdoms Theology. He argues that a Christian worldview requires the autonomy of certain societal relationship, like churches (synagogues, mosques, temples), marriages, families, schools, associations, businesses, political parties, etc. He states, “each is relatively autonomous within its own boundaries, and should be free from interference from either the state or the church.” By contrast, “The state has the responsibility to administer public justice.” That’s all. Needless to say, the state as conceived in the modern world per liberalism and much of what calls itself conservative, known as “the post WWII consensus,” is deeply unbiblical. What liberalism has done inspired by the secularism that created it, is claim that Christianity at the societal level is inherently tyrannical. The claim is spurious and easily refuted by Scripture and history, but the distortion runs deep. Here is the way Ouweneel counters it:

The notion of a Christian state does not imply that Christian authorities enforce Christian values upon its citizens, but that they administer public justice in a Christian way. The notion of a Christian school does not imply that Christian teachers force Christian values down their pupil’s throat, but that they teach and educate according to Christian principles.

The tyranny claim is a perfect example of projection, normally associated with leftists. Liberals (secular or religious, left or right) believe the state is the ultimate sovereign, and that the state can force people to do things ostensibly for their own good. R.J. Rushdoony explains why theocracy is so often misunderstood:

Theocracy is falsely assumed to be a take-over of government, imposing biblical law on an unwilling society. This presupposes statism which is the opposite of theocracy. Because modern people only understand power as government, they assume that’s what we want.

In the Christian view, by contrast, the state has an extremely limited role, and the people within the spheres of sovereignty, like churches and families, are completely free from state intrusion except for public justice. If laws are broken, the state is responsible to adjudicate it.

The concept of sphere sovereignty is critical in the never-ending battle against the spirit of Babel, which is another word for the tyrannical centralizing state. The concept is as simple as it is contested by those who embrace that centralizing spirit. It was first introduced by the great Dutch theologian, statesman, and journalist Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) in a public address at the inauguration of the Free University of Amsterdam. The question comes down to authority and who wields it. Absolute sovereign authority rests in God alone, and He has delegated His authority on earth to human beings:

so that on earth one actually does not meet God Himself in things visible, but that sovereign authority is always exercised through an office held by men.

In this he asks two pertinent questions:

And in that assigning of God’s Sovereignty to an office held by man the extremely important question arises: how does that delegation of authority work? Is that all embracing Sovereignty of God delegated undivided to one single man; or does an earthly Sovereign possess the power to compel obedience only in a limited circle; a circle bordered by other circles in which another is Sovereign?

These spheres interact and overlap in society, but one sphere must never usurp the authority of the other. The only way this possibly works, and thus the only possibility of true liberty in any society, is the acknowledgement of the absolute Sovereignty of Christ. Kuyper explains why:

But behold now the glorious Freedom idea! That perfect and absolute Sovereignty of the sinless Messiah at the same time contains the direct denial and challenge of all absolute Sovereignty on earth in sinful man; because of the division of life into spheres, each with its own Sovereignty.

Stephen Wolfe in his book The Case for Christian Nationalism explains it well:

[I]t follows that every sphere of life requires a suitable authority, with a suitable power, to make determinations. For this reason, God has granted specific types of power by which the authorities of each sphere make judgments. The family has the pater familiar with patria potestas (“fatherly power”); civil life has the civil magistrate with civil power; the instituted church has the minister with spiritual power, and the individual has a power unto himself. The nature of each sphere dictates the species of power required. These powers and their differences are not arbitrary but arise from the nature of each sphere.

It is only when those in power acknowledge the power of God in Christ as the ultimate authority that the state will recognize its limits. This is the message the secularists (again, be they religious or not) need to be taught. The case, to me, doesn’t appear that hard to make.

Secularism and the Myth of Neutrality
The biggest enemy of liberty in our time is the myth of neutrality driven by secularism. Initially it was a response to the Wars of Religion in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Religion, specifically Christianity, was seen to have dangerous tendencies to promote violence, so in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers began the slow process of pushing Christianity to the periphery of Western culture. In this telling, Christianity is non-rational, mythological, and prone to violence. Secularism came to the rescue. Embedded in this view of secularism is the assumption of the myth of neutrality, a metaphorically naked public square. Neutral comes from the Latin “neuter” meaning “neither one nor the other,” so it’s come to mean unbiased which it most certainly is not. In this illusory “neutral” place, secularism is the unbiased referee calling balls and strikes without that pesky Christianity getting involved and inevitably leading to theocracy and intolerance, and thus violence.

Secular, understood classically in the medieval world prior to the Enlightenment, simply meant the mundane as opposed to the sacred. The Reformation rightly critiqued this dichotomy between the secular and the sacred as unbiblical, but the rationalism of Enlightenment thinkers ended up affirming the same dichotomy, only now religion ended up becoming dangerous to social harmony. As Christianity’s influence waned in Western civilization, secularism came to dominate the public square as a force hostile to Christianity, and in due course became the dominant worldview of the West. The hostility is expressed in manifold ways throughout government and every area of culture, but there is no need to inventory them here. We’re all too depressingly familiar with them as it is. What well-meaning Christians miss, unfortunately, is the all-encompassing, tyrannical nature of secularism.

In Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley start their 1984 book with a chapter titled, “The Crisis of Secularism.”

The impact of secularism…  . . . has been pervasive and cataclysmic, shaking the foundations of the value structures of Western civilization. The Judeo-Christian consensus is no more; it has lost its place as the dominant shaping force of cultural ethics.…  . . . Sooner or later the vacuum (the rejection of theology in the West) will be filled, and if it cannot be filled by the transcendent, then it will be filled by the immanent. The force that floods into such vacuums is statism, the inevitable omega point of secularism.

They wrote this almost 40 years ago, and we are now in the “later” they speak of—the vacuum has been fully filled. At the time they wrote, nobody could envision the most pernicious enemy of liberty the world has known; the globalist technocratic elite enabled by the ubiquity of the Internet. Fortunately, that same Internet is the Gutenberg press of the 21st century, and the elites will be no more successful in suppressing the truth than the Catholic Church was in suppressing the Reformation.

America’s Fight for Liberty
Most people would agree that true political and religious liberty was for the first time realized in the republic that is the United States of America. Yet, Mark David Hall answers the question of his book, Did America Have a Christian Founding? with a resounding yes! Christianity and liberty are perfectly compatible. In fact, liberty is impossible without it. Unfortunately, the myth of neutrality leads many Christians to mistakenly believe religious freedom means a type of pluralism where all faiths are equally welcome at a neutral public table with mutual respect and tolerance for all. A perfect example of this misconception comes from David French, a one-time conservative who became an implacable foe of Donald Trump (becoming a NeverTrumper). This quote comes from an article in the left-wing Atlantic magazine titled, “Pluralism Has Life Left in It Yet”:

The magic of the American republic is that it can create space for people who possess deeply different world views to live together, work together, and thrive together, even as they stay true to their different religious faiths and moral convictions.

This magic world of America that French invents out of whole cloth never existed, because in God’s created reality, currently fallen and chock full of sinners, such a pluralist Utopia does not and cannot exist. Which is why America was founded as a Protestant republic with shared biblical assumptions and the Bible as its foundational religious text. Most people don’t realize, obviously including David French, that for the first approximately 170 years of America’s history most states had anti-blasphemy and sabbath laws. Not to mention anti-sodomy laws. Doesn’t sound very magical or pluralistic to me!

America’s founders were Englishmen fighting for the rights of Englishmen, which is why someone like Patriot Patrick Henry uttered these immortal words during a speech to the Second Virginia Convention in March 1775:

What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Sadly, most Americans today have traded liberty for security. The English men and women who turned into Americans understood the true value of liberty, of self-government, because they knew their English history, which Americans have lamentably forgotten given the woeful state of so-called “public education.” The revolution was their fight for “the rights of Englishmen.” They knew about Alfred the Great, Magna Carta, The Puritans, Oliver Cromwell and his fight for religious tolerance, and the Glorious Revolution and its Bill of Rights. In fact, Pulpits across America, influential in a way modern Americans can’t comprehend, were aflame with justifications for liberty and revolution. Americans as Englishmen saw their rights earned centuries before being blithely discarded by the British government.

Covid and Recapturing of Our Liberty
None of this was in the realm of abstract “rights” intellectual conservatives love to argue about. It was real, boots on the ground, everyday living as self-governing people before God who granted them the liberty to live their own lives. Americans were eminently practical people, including its intellectual leaders. Unfortunately, with the rise of progressivism starting in the early 20th century, most Americans slowly lost the genius of America as being a self-governing republic. Instead of taking care of ourselves as a self-governing people, we gave over that care to the Nanny State. The Covid debacle was an indication of just how far we’ve fallen. Too many Americans, sadly, proved to be sheeple instead of the independent citizens America used to produce. But Covid has turned out to be a blessing in disguise because God’s job is to turn evil into good and thwart the devil’s plans to destroy his creation.

I’ve always believed the greatness that is America still resides in most Americans to some degree, and the progressive globalist totalitarians cannot wipe it out completely. Once the Covid scam came to be seen as exactly that, a scam, Americans woke up. They realized that instead of blindly trusting “experts” they should trust themselves. Because of the Internet, the globalists can no longer control “the narrative,” and truth is winning. There is a Great Awakening on so many levels. I believe we can defeat America’s woke Maxrist enemies, and re-found America based on limited government as a self-governing people. We need to pray for this daily and trust God in his sovereign Almighty providence will make that happen through us.

In Our Secular Culture Use the Word Creation, Not Nature

In Our Secular Culture Use the Word Creation, Not Nature

I’m planning on writing a book down the road called, There is No Such Thing as an Unbeliever: Faith in a Secular Age. One of the most pernicious things secularism has allowed “unbelievers” to get away with is pushing the notion that there is such a thing as an unbeliever, that belief or faith is only for ostensibly religious people. Christians have played into the secularists’ hands by using the biblical word “believer,” a word that should never be used in the modern secular context, but Christians do this all the time. In most modern versions (i.e., not KJV) it’s used about 20 times, but it was unproblematic in a world in which everyone believed in the divine, but in the last two or three hundred years it is very much problematic. This is an unfortunate habit most Christians don’t realize they need to break. I now call people either Christians or non-Christians, or whatever faith they embrace, like atheism or Hinduism, etc., not believer or unbeliever.

Because of the rise of secularism in the period we’ve come to refer to as the Enlightenment, which has in fact brought us suffocating darkness, we must also be very careful about using the word Nature. I recently read a wonderful little book called, History in English Words by Own Barfield. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me, and I recalled he was a friend of C.S. Lewis and part of the Inklings, an informal literary group. Starting at Oxford in the late 1920s, the first three members were Lewis, Barfield, and J.R. Tolkien. That is quite the start to any group. In the book, Barfield discussed how words change their meaning over time depending on cultural circumstances. One such word he discusses is natural or nature, which as the Enlightenment developed in the 17th century completely changed its meaning to how we think of it today. The change of this word indicates a massive worldview shift in what used to be called Christendom:

At the beginning of the seventeenth century we first find the word Nature employed in contexts where medieval writers would certainly have used the word God.

Think about that shift. We might accurately describe it as plate tectonic, the earth literally moving under the feet of the meaning of words affecting how we see and interpret the world. It is a complex symbiotic relationship of life lived among human beings and how their perceptions are formed—how they see reality. There is never a simple one-to-one correlation in the meaning of words and culture as much as we might like to think there is; words and their meaning are as complex as human beings.

The Influence of Newton on the Rise of Secularism
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), one of the most brilliant men in history, and a devout Christian, would be surprised that his physics paved the way for the destruction of Christendom. Needless to say that was not his intention, but the devil is very good at what he does, lying to distort our understanding of God’s perfectly good creation, and everything else. Remember, the fall didn’t make God’s “very good” material world bad, a Platonic gnostic notion, but distorted us in our relationship to it. Thus, Newton developed a cosmology that made creation appear to be like a machine, a clock, and once God set it in motion there was no need for him to be involved. In fact Barfield’s next to last chapter is titled, “Mechanism,” and in it he writes:

[w]e should have to look deeper than all this for the true causes of a change of outlook as rapid and emphatic as that which swept through the last century. If we did so, we should probably discern, as one of the most efficient, that vivid sense of orderliness and arrangement which had grown up during the eighteenth century, the reverence for Reason, and especially for Reason reflected in the impartial laws which govern the working of Nature. To minds thus attuned direct intervention by the divine at any one point in the natural process could only seem like an intolerable liberty; and feeling as well as thought began to revolt at the conjuring-tricks apparently reported in the Gospels.

Newton did not believe this at all because he believed God not only created material reality, but He also sustains it at every moment. Without the “direct intervention by the divine at” every point, the so called “natural process” could not even exist. There is nothing in that sense that is at all “natural” about it.

You’ll notice that Barfield writes reason with a capital R to indicate not merely a God-given mental faculty, but reason having turned into rationalism—big difference. Rationalism gave man the impression that Satan was right, that he could become like God, knowing good and evil. Newton was only a baby when modern philosophy and secularism got is most substantial push with another Christian, French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650). He is most famously known for his phrase in Latin, cogito ergo sum, or I think therefore I am. That, brothers and sisters, gave up the game, even though as a pious Catholic that wasn’t his intention either. We have two choices in the reality God created. We can either start with us, or with God. One leads to disaster, the other to life and flourishing; Jews call it shalom, a kind of ubiquitous peace in which everything works as God intended it to work. Descartes, Newton, and many others, eventually lead to Darwin and the plausibility of a God-less universe in the minds of intellectual elites in the West.

Throughout the 18th century it was far too controversial to come right out with atheism, but in due course materialism became the dominant worldview of Western elites. Initially this was called Deism, the idea that God was a cosmic watchmaker who got it all started and sat back and let it roll. In Aristotle’s phrase, God was the “first mover,” who basically pushed the first domino and forever it goes. Once we get to the middle of the 19th century the intellectual and worldview playing field was set up for Darwin, who made plausible the idea that everything came to be the way it is based on “natural laws.” All we know is that the fittest somehow survive by some inexorable process, or laws, that “science” supposedly shows us is true.

The Doctrine of Creation, Not the Doctrine of Nature
Here is where we come to the contrast between creation and nature, and why as Christians in secular culture we need to always use the former and retire the latter. At least as long as the world remains driven by a secular view of reality. Nature as most people use the word today has the image of something running by itself and coming into existence by chance. Going back to William of Ockham (1285-1347), the Christian West slowly decided that it was a good thing to get rid of the concept of telos, or purpose, in nature. There were convoluted philosophical reasons in the battle over the idea of telos between Plato and Aristotle among Catholic intellectuals, but when Newton came along telos was slowly getting ushered out the back door—Darwin gave it the final kick in the behind to rid the Western intellectual house of it once and for all. Clocks, no matter how complex they are, run just fine without the messy idea of telos having to be introduced. “Nature” like a giant cosmic clock is no different. Creation, however, is an entirely other thing.

In Genesis 1, we are told God created everything according to its kind; the word is used 12 times in the chapter. I think maybe God was trying to make a point. Each kind has its own end, its own purpose, its telos. This is built into the creational order, the way God made things to be. The material world is only “natural” in that it is the nature of the way He created it to exist. But our secular world drenched in Darwinian assumptions sees in nature something that exists independent of God. In effect, nature is a product of chance. The problem with chance, however, is that it cannot create anything. Everyone knows this, of course, but indoctrination and brainwashing are powerful means to delusional ends. Yet we are all given to such secular delusions because secularism is the cultural air we breathe, which is far more dangerous than second hand smoke.

This is why Christians need to consistently remind themselves, their families, friends, and anyone who will listen, that we are not products of chance, not products of mindless, purposeless material processes. We are, as David said, fearfully and wonderfully made, as is everything in creation. We are not merely lucky dirt! But using the word nature or natural allows people, including us, to think we are. Not too many years ago I realized how easy it was for me to be seduced by the lies of secularism, and that some things are “natural.” For Christians, however, there is no distinction between natural and supernatural. C.S. Lewis points out that Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit was no more miraculous than any other woman’s conception. Sadly, I had never really considered that. Undoubtedly, he’s right! Is not a new being’s creation utterly miraculous? Are we really supposed to believe the process of creating a new life is solely “natural?” Nothing in all of creation is “natural” because all things are created and sustained by the word of God’s power!

Many Christians tend to think of doctrine as dry, boring stuff. But without it all we have is puzzle pieces and no idea how they fit together into the bigger picture. The doctrine of creation is such a big, huge, beautiful picture. It tells us that we are dependent, contingent beings; in every way imaginable creatures who are not self‑sufficient. The rebellious human heart we inherited from Adam and Eve, on the other hand, tempts us to deny that it is God who gives us “life, breath, and everything else.” Grounding our perspective in this essential dependence on God for literally every breath opens us to the significance and wondrous meaning of all things.

The Importance of Wonder and Amazement
We’ve all heard the saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Since we are material beings who swim in a material universe, like fish swimming in water, it is easy to lose the wonder of it all, to get lost in the urgency and intrusion of the now. We must learn and teach others around us to wonder. We must fight the constant tendency to take reality for granted, and lose the amazement at how bizarre life really is. Just contemplate for a moment your existence, your consciousness, the you-ness of you. How weird is that! The ancient Greeks argued that philosophy begins in wonder, and if we are not constantly marveling at the amazing complexity and beauty of nature, and of existence itself, we are doing something wrong. We must have an abiding amazement, even astonishment, at God’s astounding creativity to help us break through the banal and apparent predictability of it all.

A good example in my life is the human body. Two and a half years ago I started a journey learning about health. Listening to very smart and knowledgeable people talk about the human cell, for example, is breathtaking. To think the cell could be a product of “natural” selection and some kind of random merely material process is absurd in the extreme. In Darwin’s day they thought the cell was some kind of blob, and not what in fact it is, an infinitely complex information processing system that allows living things to live. There is only one possible explanation: God! I listen to health oriented podcasts a lot, and often hear people describe “mother nature” as doing such and so, or something “evolving” over millions of years. Baloney! That drives me nuts.

I had a wonderful example recently of someone who in spite of her Darwinian worldview couldn’t help seeing God in the human cell. I had a discussion with a woman who owns a company called Beam Minerals. I discovered her on Dave Asprey’s podcast back in May of 2021, which got me started on my health journey. As she was describing what the cell does to optimize our health or destroy it depending on our lifestyle, she was getting an amazed look and sound at the stunning complexity of it all. I said, God is the only explanation for it. And she got this strange look on her face and said something along the lines of, “I still believe in evolution,” not very convincingly, “but the complexity is just too much to be a coincidence.” Bingo! I wish I could have pushed the conversation toward Jesus, but I put a pebble in her shoe and pray she will be fully opened to God in Creation in due course.

Here’s the lesson and exhortation: Let Creation remind us that we are part of something bigger, much bigger, and more meaningful than our own often petty worries and desires. We are part of God’s grand narrative to redeem all creation!

 

Calvin and the Three Uses of the Law

Calvin and the Three Uses of the Law

In the last year I’ve come into a new understanding and appreciation of God’s law, and it’s been a thrilling journey. Up until August of last year when I had what I call an eschatological awakening, I looked at God’s law much the way almost all Evangelical Christians do. It was kind of an Old Testament thing, whereas Jesus came in a sense to supersede the law so we would no longer be condemned by not fulfilling it. It’s not that I thought God’s law was irrelevant, but I didn’t think of it much at all. It did its job bringing me to Christ, and now I live by grace and the Holy Spirit guided by God’s word. This, however, is only one aspect or use of the law as I’ll explore below. For example, one passage among many that gave me this impression is in Romans 3. Paul seems to imply God’s law is no longer necessary, although I would never have said that:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Reformed theology had given me an appreciation of God’s law. I knew it reflected God’s character, who he is, and it is as perfect as he is. I’d read Psalm 119 many times in my Christian life, the longest chapter in the Bible, and every verse but two mentions some variation of the greatness of God’s law. I believed it all, but nonetheless, God’s law was never a focus for me. Now it is—all the time.

I was prompted to write this because I recently went to the Baptist church my son attended (he’s since gotten married and now lives across the state), and the pastor made a statement that made me cringe. He said, “The Ten Commandments are not your friend.” I screamed out in my mind, you are wrong! He then went on to contrast the law with being under grace, as if they are mutually exclusive. He doesn’t seem to realize that God’s law has more than the one use of condemning sinners and driving them to Christ. We might think this is some esoteric theological debate like scholastic theologians in the Middle Ages arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but for me it changed my perspective on everything. It was like watching food coloring drop into a glass of water—soon it changed the color of everything.

Calvin and The Three Uses of The Law
Not long ago I learned this idea came from John Calvin, and I recently came across his explanation of it in the preface to his commentary on the book of Isaiah:

Now, the law consists of chiefly three parts: first, the doctrine of life; secondly threatening and promises; thirdly, the covenant of grace, which, being founded on Christ, contains within itself all the special promises.

The three are numbered differently and described in various ways, which I will do below, but all three are relevant for all time until Christ returns. Here is how Calvin describes the perpetual relevance of God’s law:

To make this matter still more clear, we must go a little farther back, to the law itself, which the Lord prescribed as a perpetual rule for the Church, to be always in the hands of men, and to be observed in every succeeding age.

So contrary to the pastor mentioned above, the Ten Commandments (the law) is indeed our friend, and our guide for life. We’ll go through each use and see what the implications are for us and our world.

Instead of the narrow view I used to have, I now realized Christ’s mission affects not only how we live, but how we see the church’s mission in this fallen world. Negatively, the purpose of the gospel is not only to go to heaven when we die and achieve personal holiness. That is an entirely too constricted understanding of the Christian faith, as if it’s implications were solely personal. Not only are the implications societal, impacting every area of life in which people interact, but that is the purpose for which Jesus came when he accomplished redemption. He came to save and transform the entire world, not just us! Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” for a reason. He gave the Apostles the Great Commission to disciple the nations because he expected that to get done. An accurate understanding of God’s law will help us to obediently contribute to Christ’s mission.

The Three Uses of The Law Distinguished
Since they come in no particular order, let’s start with the use we’re most familiar with:

1. The Law Condemns Us – One of the purposes of the law is to condemn sinners. Some have called this the law as a mirror because when we see ourselves in it, it is not a pretty sight. In fact, the closer and longer we gaze into this mirror, the worse we look. Most of us don’t feel so bad about ourselves when we compare ourselves to other sinners, and we often feel quite superior to those wretches. When we look at God’s perfect law, by contrast, we can’t feel superior to anyone. That’s the point. Paul’s two great letters regarding the essence of salvation, Romans and Galatians, have over 50 and almost 30 references to the law in them, and most are in reference to this first use. The law is meant to show us our inadequacy, and highlight our need for a Savior who fulfilled the law in our place. The danger, as Paul indicates more than once, is thinking that if we obey the law we will gain acceptance before God, that the law becomes a means to save ourselves. I won’t spend anymore time on this use because it’s one all Evangelical Christians are familiar with. Unfortunately, we tend to think it’s the only use.

2. The Law Restrains Evil – This is the civil use of the law necessary for civilizations to exist, and where I will spend the most time because it’s the most contentious. The law in the civil realm has no power to make bad people good, but keeps them from fulfilling their evil desires on innocent people. This use is where we Reformed types get into a bit of a tussle. It gets bloody sometimes, and I’m in the distinctly minority position, for now (that’s called positive thinkin’!). Those who are not Reformed tend to think we are absolutely nuts, even dangerous.

Natural Law/Common Grace verses God’s Revealed Law-Word
The primary distinction in our understanding of the law comes between Old Testament Israel and the New Covenant Church. Most Christians believe that God’s civil law to Isarel was abrogated when Israel ceased to exist and Jesus ushered in a new kingdom. I do not believe that because God’s law and the gospel are not in any way at odds. It is always and everywhere for all time a reflection of His being, and He calls all to obedience to it if they are to experience His blessing and true human flourishing. If they don’t, the results will always be bad. On societal law we keep the badness to a minimum through the common law, which developed over a thousand years going back to King Alfred the Great of England in the 9th century. King Alfred based his law on the Ten Commandments.

Most Christians and conservatives, by contrast, believe we can have a basically secular society, and natural law or common grace is enough to keep society’s dark impulses in check. This doesn’t work because God’s revelation, and thus the knowledge of how fallen human beings are to live in harmony with other sinners, is not limited to creation. God has also revealed His will in his word, the Bible, and in Christ. Jesus commanded discipling the nations to include, “teaching them to obey everything” he commanded them. This means a nation if it is to be obedient to God and experience his blessings, it must be affirmingly a Christian nation. America was founded as a Christian nation, and that is how Americans saw themselves until well into the 20th century. The Supreme Court affirmed as much in 1892 in a case providentially titled, Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States:

These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.

Today, most Christians, let alone non-Christians, would accuse me of trying to make America into a theocracy, apparently a scary proposition. In their minds when they see or use that word, they don’t see what it means, a society ruled by God, but the Christendom of Medieval Roman Catholicism and the Spanish Inquisition, or the Salem witch-trials, or in a modern fictional horror story, The Handmaiden’s Tale. In other words theocracy equals tyranny. R.J. Rushdoony counters these spurious claims:

Theocracy is falsely assumed to be a take-over of government, imposing biblical law on an unwilling society. This presupposes statism which is the opposite of theocracy. Because modern people only understand power as government, they assume that’s what we want.

Those who misunderstand theocracy think secularism is the only means to liberty, except the evidence doesn’t back that up. All we need is to open our eyes. Secular societies inevitably lead to tyranny exactly because of what Rushdoony said. Modern people think government is sovereign, and the individual and the family is limited. Christianity and God’s law, by contrast, sees government as limited, and the individual and family as sovereign. We either bow down to power, or we bow down to Christ. There are no other options on a societal level.

The key words Rushdoony uses are “imposing” and “unwilling.” All secularists, be they religious or not, believe if we bring Christianity and God’s law into the public square, we will be “imposing” our faith and it’s moral values on others. Believing this, skeptics of an ignorant type make the statement, “You can’t legislate morality,” which is like saying, you can’t cook food; food is what you cook, as morality is what you legislate. The only issue is whose morality, and from whence it comes. As we see clearly, the secular leftist state is tyrannically imposing its morality, the latest example being transgenderism enforced by the state. Talk about “imposing” law on an “unwilling” society! Few people in Western societies are secular progressive absolutist woke leftists who believe sex is merely a social construct changeable at will, yet the woke have no problem imposing their policies on an unwilling society. That’s the way it works—no neutrality, God’s law, or man’s.

The difference is God’s law is the “law of liberty” (James 1:25, 2:12). When Jesus proclaimed “liberty to the captives” in Luke 4:18 quoting Isaiah 61:1, he wasn’t proclaiming liberty from the law of God, but the liberty coming from obedience to it. As the Apostle Paul states in I Timothy 1, “the law is good if used properly,” and it “conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God.” It will be either God’s law or the will to power of paganism. Liberty was established in Christian Western civilization because Christians affirmed God’s laws as normative for the nations. It’s either God and liberty, or secularism and tyranny or anarchy, the logical conclusion of man’s law without God.

Secularism is a jealous god, and it will have no other gods before it which is why a proper understanding of theocracy is so important. Christians must understand something the Christians of the first three centuries of the church understood all too well: “Jesus Christ is Lord” is a political statement. If they refused to confess Caesar as Lord they were seen by the Roman state as a threat to its absolute power. This is exactly where we are in the twenty-first century West. It is Jesus as Lord, or the state as Lord. My goal is to persuade Christians to simply be open to the concept of the law of God in Christ as the only Christian option against secular totalitarianism.

3. The Law is our Moral Guide – Finally, because we are saved by grace doesn’t mean we become antinomians, or against law. We do not use our liberty in Christ, as Paul argues in Romans 6, to go against God’s law, i.e., sin; the reality is exactly the opposite. When our hearts are transformed from spiritual stone to flesh ( Ezk. 36:26), we go from being God’s enemies (Rom. 5:10, Col. 1:21), his implacable foes, to his beloved children. The transformation includes our affections. We now want to obey and please him, and are distressed when we don’t. His law is our delight, holiness our aspiration, and our chief desire in life is to please Him. What ties God’s law together is the beautiful bow of love, as Jesus taught us, the greatest commandment.

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Conversion: The Poverty of Atheism and an Eschatology of Hope

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Conversion: The Poverty of Atheism and an Eschatology of Hope

My next book, currently in the publishing process, has Great Awakening in the title. Those familiar with Western Christian history know that phrase refers to two periods of spiritual renewal and the spread of Evangelical Christianity in America and England. I believe we are in a third period of great awakening, thus the inspiration for the book. I loved being able to lay out my red pill journey which has also happened to millions of people since Trump came on the scene in 2015. If you are not familiar with the term red pill, watch this short clip from the 1999 hit movie The Matrix with Keanu Reeves and you’ll understand why the phrase is so apropos for our times. If you’ve never seen it or it’s been a while, I encourage you to watch it. The dialogue is nothing short of prophetic. Morpheus ends telling Neo, Reeve’s character, “All I’m offering is nothing more than the truth, nothing more.” This revealing of truth has been happening in the Western world for more than ten years and preceding Trump, who just happened to be the very unlikely man God used to trigger untold millions to their own red pill journeys to truth.

What Brought Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Christ
First, I was surprise this confirmed atheist had become a Christian, but reading her testimony, “Why I am now a Christian,” I was doubly blown away by her confirmation of the main thesis of my book. God is doing something amazing, something revealing, in our time amid all the chaos and suffering. In fact, all the turmoil and misery is allowing many people’s eyes to be opened, and not just to spiritual realities, although they are all connected to God. We pray they eventually embrace Jesus as the only one who can make sense of it all. Unfortunately, human beings must often endure suffering (physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial) to realize the truth of things beyond their own parochial interests.

Ayaan is an example of someone who didn’t become a Christian merely to go to heaven when she dies, although that was a significant motivation for her embracing Christ. If going to heaven when we die, and personal holiness, both of infinite importance, are all Christianity is, then it is a terribly impoverished and truncated view our transformational faith. I don’t think such a narrow kind of Christianity would have persuaded her of its truth. Rather, it was the magnificent breadth of what salvation from sin means in Christianity that grabbed her in spite of herself. She saw that it affects everything, spiritual, material, personal, cultural, societal, political, every single thing. What her story displays is the power of Christianity to transform not only individual lives, but lives lived in community as nations. This is why Jesus commanded the eleven disciples to “make disciple of all nations,” not just individuals.

Who exactly is Ayaan Hirsi Ali? In case you don’t know of her, she describes herself as a, “Human Rights Activist & Author.” She grew up Muslim and, as she explains in the piece, got serious about her faith in 1985. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 shattered her Islamic worldview, and in due course she embraced the New Atheist kind of atheism, although she was not an arrogant blowhard like many of the New Atheists were. She was in the Dutch Parliament for a few years, and eventually moved to the United States and became a US citizen. In addition to being widely published in the media and an author, she has been employed by several conservative think tanks where she consistently defended Western civilization. 

When I saw the headline that she had become a Christian, I was very pleasantly shocked. I have what I call a “heathen prayer list” I pray over weekly. It has on it well-known atheists and non-Christians, among others, who God has placed on my heart to lift weekly before the throne of grace. Ayaan was not on the list, but her conversion gives me hope that my prayers are not uttered in vain. Here is what drove her to Christianity:

Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation.

We endeavour to fend off these threats with modern, secular tools . . . But we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that “God is dead!” seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in “the rules-based liberal international order”. The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

She then contends everything we value in modern Western society came from Christianity, citing Tom Holland’s wonderful book, Dominion. She adds:

Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

The Poverty of Atheism
Her final sentence understates the fundamental problem of atheism and the materialist (matter is all that exists) worldview: Atheism cannot answer any questions—not one. The only possible answer atheists can give for why anything is, is, just because. That’s it. Atheists have no idea, and cannot argue persuasively or logically, why anything happens or the way it happens. As I often say, if all we are is lucky dirt, mere matter in motion, then chance is the only explanation for everything. Atheists will often fall back on the “evolution of the gaps” argument. It is remarkable what they believe matter without purpose can do, what it can supposedly accomplish. When you read or hear them say evolution or natural selection does such and such, just put in the word God and the meaning is exactly the same. Only God doing or causing something is a far more plausible explanation because, well, he’s God! Biblical theism maintains God is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator and sustainer of the world, of all material reality. God has explanatory power, atheism by contrast has none, as Ayaan discovered.

We can expose the poverty of atheistic materialism on many levels. But before I briefly mention a few, it is important for those of us who want to defend the veracity of the Christian faith in a secular age that we understand everybody has a worldview, an understanding of the meaning of reality based on faith. In other words—everyone is religious. Everyone lives by faith regardless of if they practice something we would recognize as a “religion.” The question is, what do we have faith in, what do we trust, and is it justified true belief. The best we can get in this life is beyond-a-reasonable doubt faith (a very good reason to exercise humility toward people who do not share our faith), and Christianity is the only one that can get us there.

It is also imperative if we’re to effectively defend Christianity’s truth claims to know that for three hundred years starting in the so-called Enlightenment, and the resultant growth of secularism, Christianity has been on the defensive. Christians have done an admirable job in defense, but somewhere along the way the idea was accepted that Christians must defend their worldview and faith, while the atheist secularist skeptical sorts do not have that obligation. That became the default position in the secular nirvana of the modern age. There is, however, no default position that doesn’t require a defense. Every faith makes claims, and those claims need to be defended if people are to believe them. I used the phrase explanatory power above, which means the persuasive power of an explanation for something. In this case the question before us (and one we should ask ourselves, loved ones, and friends every single day) is what best explains reality, and everything in it. The materialist atheists are the ones who should be on the defensive because they have to defend the indefensible.

How does, for example, matter and chance explain morality, right and wrong, good and evil? It can’t; they just are. Where do these phenomena come from, these things that are deep within every human being? The only answer is that they don’t come from anywhere, they just are. We have to suck it up, deal with them the best we can, and move on. Or take meaning and purpose in life, what Ayaan calls a “simple question.” Mere matter and chance can give no answers to that, as she discovered. The only solution the atheist materialist can give is, make your own meaning and purpose and hope it’s enough. That doesn’t seem to be working well for the almost 50,000 people last year who killed themselves, and many more who likely tried. How about beauty? Chance doesn’t really satisfy as an explanation. Just compare a Jackson Pollack “painting” to a Rembrandt. It is difficult to call paint randomly thrown on a canvas beautiful, while the great Dutch genius Rembrandt’s work is breathtakingly beautiful. It leaves one in awe.

The Necessity of an Optimistic Eschatology
What Ayaan understood, and what attracted her to Christianity, is that she sees it as a totalizing life and worldview, as is every life and worldview. I recently wrote here, and often talk about, the myth of neutrality. When secularism came to dominant the once Christian West in recent decades, there was nothing to stand in the way of the dissolution brought about by the new paganism. Whatever worldview rules America and the West, it will have specific answers to ultimate questions just as Christianity has, including about meaning, morality, truth, justice, why we are here, and so on. In addition, and this is what Ayaan saw with her own eyes and experience, every worldview that informs a society and culture has consequences. If that isn’t Christianity, the results will not be good, as we see all around us.

What Christianity brings to the societal table is the truth about the why of everything. It gives us the big picture answers and promises of God revealed in creation, Scripture, and Christ. Many conservatives think something called natural law and a vague theistic religiosity is enough to provide the foundational supports for civilization, but that won’t work. As Ayaan discovered, every blessing of the modern world came as a result of Christianity, and it can only be saved by Christianity. This won’t happen, however, without an eschatology of hope. Such a view of “end times” (i.e., eschatology) is only available on the view that Jesus came to win, to bring the kingdom of God to earth. The “end times,” or last days in biblical terms, started when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. 

Every Christian wants their faith to influence the culture, to bring righteousness and justice and peace, but few think it’s possible because they don’t have the theological framework that says such a thing can happen. I was one of these Christians not too long ago. I expected everything would inevitably get worse, then Jesus would return to save the day. Needless to say that’s not the best mindset for winning culture wars or political battles, both inevitable living life in a fallen world among fallen people in fallen societies. We are told throughout Scripture that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and that Christianity will ultimately win in this world. This is not wishful thinking, but biblical affirmation. The Apostle Paul says this clearly in I Corinthians 15:25 that, “Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Paul also said Jesus did this, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” Col. 2:15. He also tells us that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” Eph. 1:21. This is no pipe dream, but what God intended when he sent his Son to earth to strike the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15) and redeem His creation. 

Such an eschatology of hope, what is called postmillennialism, is in my humble opinion, required if we are going to daily engage the battles for the soul of Christian Western civilization.