Francis Chan, Church History and Why it's Important

I originally intended this to be a short Facebook post, but how foolish it was for me to assume that something like this could be expressed in few words. For that reason, I’ve chosen to use my blog site to write about it. I’m not going to talk too much about Chan’s recent comments on the nature of communion and the Eucharist as I am about what his comments demonstrate is so important for us today.

What I will say, to the critics of those who have rightly criticized Chan, saying that Chan was simply saying we needed to just stop the division, and that Jesus didn’t start 30,000 denominations, and we need to just come together at the Lord’s Supper, and that’s more important than even preaching God’s word in a pulpit, to those saying this, I would simply defer you to a number of Roman Catholics on the internet right now who are saying amens to Chan’s comments and praying that he “come home to Rome”. The fact that there are Roman Catholics saying this should be compelling reason that, whether he intended it or not, Chan’s comments are swimming in the Tiber River.

Protestants, Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy

I want to talk about what seems to be a thing these days about Protestants finding an appeal towards Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I have had friends in the past, and most recent past begin to drift closer and closer to these two institutions, people I once thought were solid in the faith. Surely, a reformed Protestant would be most immune to the lures of EO and the RCC. I was wrong, and being wrong, I’ve had to sit back and honestly reflect myself on whether I could be drawn to that.

If you haven’t listened to one of the most recent Dividing Lines (January 6th) I would highly recommend it. It’s lengthy, and I know I’ve said this before, but if there is one Dividing Line that, right now, you need to listen to, it’s now this one. I get it, you’re busy, you got family and kids and stuff. But I pray you make time to listen to this one. I haven’t gotten through the Leighton Flowers stuff as I write this, and I’m sure that’s important, but for the first hour, Dr. White discusses this issue of the current attraction towards EO and the RCC and I think his analysis is spot-on, right on the money. Almost everything he said was what I have been trying to say for some time now.

I don’t attend a reformed church, so I have the “non-denominational” believers mostly in my circle. It is because they are my primary personal encounters that I am very concermed about this. These people have children about to enter the high school and college years, and so I want to address them primarily in this article. For those people, I know that a lot of you guys will see this and think it’s just a waste of time, that all of this talk gets in the way of the Christian life. Why do we need to study church history? The only church history we need is what’s in the Bible, right? Where’s the value in learning about what is “basically just Roman Catholicism for over a thousand years”? is the general idea.

Well first, it actually isn’t that simple. Secondly, something Dr. White pointed out that I have been thinking greatly on is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are losing people today and that is because of the internet. That is, there was a time when they could control their people, because they could restrict what information they got. Now that’s not the case. Your kids can access the internet easily these days and when they do, they will almost certainly discover that the world is much bigger than they thought it was. Christendom’s history involves a greater span than just America and Palestine/Israel. Dispensationalism is not the only eschatology out there. The subject of the nature of baptism is not so simple as we were told by our leaders.

The Youth Going to Rome and the East

Parents, your children are smart. They are not stupid, they are connecting dots that you may not even see. I’ve had kids ask me some questions that frankly blindsided me, and made me have to sit down and think through certain issues. One of these days, some (perhaps many) of those kids that you try to keep from knowing about the history of their faith in the world from the first century on to today, they’re not going to settle for the “no creed but Christ” idea. I’m already seeing it happening.

The reason I think that so many young people are attracted to EO and the RCC is having grown out of simplistic, independent Baptist circles (or circles like it) that taught shallow-level concepts drudge through the youth services and they come out doing one of two things: Either throwing the whole thing out, or realizing there are places they can go to get way more interesting “Christianity” than what they were raised in, such as Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s far more magisterial, it’s got rich history and philosophy. Because young people are starving for real, substantial things, such as a real, meaningful Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) not simply a memorial service. It is far more than that.

When they realize that there were people in the ancient past that spoke far more real about the Eucharist than their own elders ever said, there is a great chance they are enamored by it, and all they need is one guy from the EO or from Rome to give them a few quotes from Ignatius or Tertullian on the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, out of its context and meaning, and *finger snap* that kid’s hooked. It’s only a matter of time from there.

Something that could have been avoided if we, A: taught them church history, and B: gave them the biblical foundations to see the problem with the citation, and also with recognizing that even if Ignatius or Tertullian were speaking about “transubstantiation” it would have been in error because neither man was infallible.

The superficial Christianity that tries to separate itself from the history of Christianity is not going to work anymore. Young people are rebelling against their traditions. Let me put it in simple terms: One of these days, your kids are going to learn about smoking. It’s going to happen. What would you rather have? Would you rather have introduced them to it yourself, and have given them the proper foundations to resist it, along with all the other problems of the world? Or would you rather have not, and inculcate them in the walls of your world in the hopes that if they ever do step outside those walls, won’t be attracted to that stuff?

I don’t know about you, but the ladder option rarely turns out well. Suddenly they learn there’s more stuff out there, stuff they didn’t know much about, and they begin to wonder why you not only didn’t make them aware of this, but that you didn’t give them sufficient reasons for why this is bad.

What Lies Outside the Walls

In a novel I am writing, one of my main characters, whose name is Bella, comes to learn that there is a whole world outside of the congested urban city she is raised in. But she’s an orphan with no money to go anywhere. She is found by another of my main characters, a half-elvish character named Annastaria, who saves Bella from her own low-life family (what family she has left). As a consequence, Bella comes with Anna on her own quest across the land, and now Bella embarks on her own journey to see just how big the world is.

This will be illustrated at an important point in the book, and I made that point very specifically for this purpose. She knows the world is far bigger than she ever dreamed it was. But with that also comes great danger. Bella has to learn that with that great wonder comes a world full of dragons, strange and dark creatures, as well as evil men and women who would seek to do her harm.

Hence I am aware of how dangerous it can be to open yourself up to that, which leads me to my final point. When I began to study church history, I had several people (some of which may read this) come to me and were concerned about me. They were concerned that I was going to be distracted by this stuff and end up going down a road that would take me off the road to Christ. They were right to be concerned, and I greatly appreciate that concern.

But it’s one thing to ask someone to be careful and be grounded first, it’s another to try and tell someone that because the “risk” of going off the road is there, don’t ever take the risk. That I cannot do. Why? Because I’m one of those young people who suddenly learned the world of Christendom was much, much, much bigger than I was ever told it was. Indeed, I have opened a Pandora’s Box that won’t close anymore. I’ve opened that door and gone to where there is no return.

Folks, you don’t simply open that door, walk past the walls and just go back to the simple life behind the walls. For someone like Bella (and even like Anna) there is no going back. Now you know there’s a whole world out there. Young people, who may be your kids, will do the same thing as Bella has embarked on. This is just the beginning of her journey. What would you rather them have if and when they do? The awareness of the world and to thus prepare for it when they open that door to go out? Or to blunder into that world with a poor foundation, subject to all the heresy that’s out there? Neither outcome is wonderful, I understand that. But if there was ever a good time for “the lesser of two evils is the best option” this is it, the way I see it.

Why did I not go off into Eastern Orthodoxy? Or swim through the Tiber River into Rome? Ultimately, the only conclusion I can give is by the grace of God. All I knew was that I was committed to Sola Scriptura, because that was the only safe place to be. It was my conviction of Sola Scriptura that carried me and continues to carry me through all the zanniness and weirdness and all the heresy in the world.

I know that we would rather the massive complexity of the history of the world simply not be an issue. Maybe in the next life it won’t be anymore, but where we are now, it is an issue, and my friends, though I don’t have kids of my own, I care about the youth. I know from personal experience, being one of these young people, what can happen when I have to find out for myself that the world is bigger than I was ever told it was. I know teaching church history is a huge risk, as Dr. White said in his latest Dividing Line, but I would rather they know about it from me than from learning about it themselves, without the guidance, without the foundation to confront it.

Why We Should Remember the Reformation

It is the beginning of October 2019, and we know what this means, do we not? No, I’m not talking about Halloween, a questionable practice amongst Americans. Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, it is a tragic thing that this tradition in America has overshadowed one of the most important anniversaries of October 31st. For myself, the greatest tragedy is that I spent my entire youth without ever being told about it (even though I was raised in a Christian home). It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I learned of this historic event, and even then, I only learned about it through self-education, not as a tradition among my Christian brethren.

What I’m speaking about, of course is the Reformation. 502 years ago from this October 31st, the famous 95 Theses that Martin Luther is said to have hammered to a Wittenberg church door, as was custom for the scholars of the day to do when they made propositions such as these, became the iconic moment that started it all. It was the posting of these theses on October 31st, 1517 that began the spark of the Reformation, which would change western civilization forever. But of course, we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves here. I want to discuss in this article why the Reformation still matters today, and why every Protestant Christian should celebrate it, and if I can speak personally, I prefer we celebrate this day over Halloween. While I find dark themes interesting, the sheer fact and weight of the Reformation is far too important to pass over, especially for a relatively meaningless holiday.

Remembering The Reformation

There are many factors that lead to an ignorance of the Reformation; some of them are unintentional, others are intentional, while still more others have a bit of both. For the unintentional ignorance, I will save for a later section. For now, I want to discuss the group that decidedly rejects any kind of allusion to the Reformation of 1517.

I once spoke briefly to a brother at church about the Reformation and church history, and he did not want to go there. He didn’t like church history, and his reasoning was because the men of church history were bad, filled with so much error and sin, and did terrible things. I smiled at him and had to say what I hope you the reader is thinking, “Strange. Sounds like you’re describing sinners!” Which is of course correct. They were sinners, just like we. I suppose we’ll stop reading about David, because after all, David was an adulterer, and a murderer.

Of course we read about David, and we read about him for two reasons (three, technically, it being divine revelation): One, he is central to the biblical story, and two, because from reading about David’s mistakes, we learn how to not do those things, and from his great successes, how we can glorify God in our own lives. In other words, it is to learn from the past of the men who walked the faith before us. To read about how their humanity limited and conflicted with them, and then how God in spite of such, used such a man (or woman) for His glory.

And that’s exactly why we should read and know church history. They were connected to the biblical story (how God works through His church, even in the darkness of pre and post-Renaissance), and two, because they did great things for God, and they did terrible things in His name. If we claim to be part of the body and church of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and King of all, we should desire to know about the body that came before us. There is a rich history in studying the church throughout the ages.

Truly, if you are not a Roman Catholic or of Eastern Orthodox, you owe your roots in some way to the Protestant Reformation, especially if you are Baptist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvary Chapel, Pentecostal, Charismatic and probably more (aside from the NAR and groups like it). The Five Solas are the basis for essentially all of these groups (in their basic form; whether they are consistent with these is not the point I am making) and those five solas find their origin in the Reformation. It is an inescapable fact.

It would seem to make sense then to want to discover the roots, history and tradition that gave rise to whatever denomination you ascribe to. Please understand, I am not here saying that everyone should become reformed as I am, but I do think that everyone who is connected to these groups in some way should celebrate this day, one of the most memorable moments in the history of humanity.

The Reformation in the West

The importance of the Reformation extends into various different areas. Firstly, let’s consider the Reformation in the west as a whole. What it did was it led to a revolt of a certain kind against the papal authority, which claimed to hold the Church in its hand, and consequentially the whole western world, and ultimately the salvation of anyone who lived in its domain. To be saved, therefore, required loyalty to the Church and its holy sacraments and dogmas.

This ultimately led to a darkness and corruption in the west. As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts, absolutely. The papal sea truly carried with it tremendous power, and with that centralization of power, history always tells us it never ends well. That kind of power typically always attracts the most ambitious, and most ruthless of men, and sure enough, it did.

This was until 1517, when Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Ironically, Luther had no intention of messing with papal authority at first. His only desire was to discuss the matter of indulgences and the abuse of them in Germany. When he did not receive his audience to discuss this matter, the consequence for the Church was that the people of Wittenberg got a hold of the theses, translated them into the vulgar (common tongue), and distributed the copies across Germany, causing the people to rise up against the papacy and its abuses of them.

While Roman Catholics today can cry foul and make a big issue about the “Revolution” (as they often call it), the fact is that the Roman Church had itself to blame in Luther’s day. Imagine what would have transpired if, instead of ignoring Luther, they responded to the theses immediately. But they opted to ignore it, which allowed the theses to stay up long enough for the people to get wind of it. The rest was history.

With the Reformation underway after Worms in 1521, when Luther was excommunicated, the result would be a split in Christendom that exists unto this day, leading to great wars across Europe, and a battle between the Protestants and the Roman Church over control of the land. While in the end, no one won, one thing the Reformation did achieve was breaking the Roman Catholic Church’s hold on Europe, never to have it again. The result of Protestantism would eventually lead to the Enlightenment (something we may see as a detriment and consequence of the Reformation, but not a direct result), the nation states, and the fall of feudalism and monarchical reign across Europe and further west.

The Reformation in the American Revolution

While the Reformation itself is not to be considered a revolution, it’s impact would lead to an eventual revolution. Two, to be exact. However, one of these—The French Revolution—was a terrible event, the other was a far greater revolution that did not lead to the rivers of blood and gore in the streets from headless, limbless bodies in the Reign of Terror carried out by one Maximilien Robespierre. This revolution would spark the conception of the most remarkable country ever to exist in history. That of course is the United States of America.

Yes, the Reformation was an important role in the American Revolution. In fact, most Americans, even among conservatives, don’t realize just how much they owe to the traditions that came out of the Reformation. These traditions would be extremely influential on the lives and thinking of the Puritans (who were Calvinists) that came to the Americas, seeking refuge from the persecution in Europe.

That unique Puritan tradition would raise generations after it that reach to the founders themselves. The majority of the leading founders were themselves Calvinists, and those that were not, owed their influences in some way to Protestantism, or in other words, the Reformation. Even for Benjamin Franklin, who was not a Christian by confessional standards, loved Jonathan Edwards’ preaching, and George Whitefield, two major Protestant reformers in America during his time.

As with the five solas, the simple fact of the matter is that every American who loves America, and the history of America owes much credit to the Reformation, and what came out of it in the next three centuries.

The Reformation in Liberty

While Luther and Calvin after him did not intend the Reformation to lead to what the American Revolution envisioned and realized (that is to say, the Reformation was a magisterial one), their work and influence would inevitably lead to these things. As we have shown, in brief, the Reformation led to the breaking of Roman Catholic control over the west, and sub-sequentially, it lead to the United States.

Remember, the five solas were a radical idea during the Reformation. Jan Hus and John Wycliffe, who came before Luther, had a less crystallized view of the concept of the five solas, and one of them ended up martyred over it. Imagine when Luther and Calvin come along, and especially with Calvin’s brilliant systematic thinking, putting these together in ways no one had done before, what that would end in. In other words, it was the most radical form of what Hus and Wycliffe were preaching.

The reality is that the Roman Church realized the danger of the solas. If the solas were true, it completely and utterly shattered Roman Catholic control over all of Europe. It meant that the Church could not control salvation, could not be the mediator between God and man. It had no right to stand in the way, and dictate to any man whether he was a sinner or saint. Only God had that power, and the church’s job therefore was a steward, a faithful servant to God on behalf of those whom God has Himself saved and is saving.

The consequence of this truth, therefore, meant that the church did not have the authority it claimed, and when the Reformation’s ripple effect of those who followed after the Reformers, continued to crystallize what they themselves started, the result was the recognition that no man, no matter how pious and godly he may appear, has a right over any other. The life of every man is squarely in the hand of the Almighty Himself, who owns all peoples by His sovereign right as God of the universe.

The church’s responsibility, therefore, was to be a witness to the world on behalf of her Bridegroom, her Lord and God in heaven. She is never to be seen as He the Judge on earth. Once this concept took shape in the Puritans, which would then influence the founding fathers, the concept of true liberty took form in the United States of the eighteenth century.

The Reformation Today

Now I wish to begin addressing those who are unwittingly ignorant of the Reformation. With this brief overview of the impact of the Reformation, my hope is that we now have the context to understand where we are today, and perhaps a greater insight as to why our society is crumbling around us. Listen to your standard talk show host on either left or right, and you will likely never get to the root of the problem. If you understand what led to the American Revolution and the government it produced, it would make more sense why the government that claims to be the same one of two-hundred years ago is nothing like it.

It is not an increase of God in America that is causing our societal collapse, it is a removal of Him from American society. The fact is that man was made to worship something. When the One to whom proper worship is owed becomes obscured and removed, who do we then go to for hope? Someone has to be our god, and hence, the government must come in to take that place. When man no longer has a God over him that gives him light to see who he is and who the world is, man will be left in darkness and decay, and will rot, taking everything else with him, including his neighbor, and eventually his society.

Hence it requires a recognition of the holiness of God, that He has the right to rule over us, and when we recognize that, and repent of our sins, then true liberty reigns. The Reformation restored that idea to the western world, and the United States adopted the crystallized essence of it, recognizing that true liberty is not when man is freed from all authorities, but freed from all man-made authorities, so that nothing stands in his way of being fulfilled and thus truly free in the God he belongs to.

I hope that this will inspire many of my readers to begin to study the Reformation, and the rich history from it. Not all of its history is great; there are many terrible things that Luther did. And if I can speak frank here, I don’t even think I could stand to be around Luther. In fact, Luther and Calvin both would consider me a heretic. I might not even be safe in Calvin’s Geneva because I am of a baptist persuasion.

Why then do I love Calvin and Luther? Because I look past these things, and see the value in studying what they gave to us. We have to be willing to do the same. I cannot stress to you, my reader, in these written words the deep conviction of my heart when I say this: You who do not study the history of your heritage as a Christian, who denies to your children the history of your heritage as a Christian set them up for disaster in the future. I pray that in that case, God is merciful to them, and will keep them safe despite your failure to show them these things. That is how strongly I believe in this.

I am not saying that you will lose your salvation in the slightest over this. Nor am I saying that you need to learn about the Reformation and be reformed. I believe you can truly celebrate what the Reformation gave us without being uber-reformed. You don’t need to be a Calvinist to believe in the five solas, nor to celebrate the Reformation. To my Calvinist brothers, please understand, I am not talking about consistency here, I am just stating a mere reality, that you and I must realize: Not everyone who holds to the central tenants of the Reformation are themselves reformed. You have to deal with that, just like I have to deal with it. Maybe the best way to do it is to meet your local church family that does not share your reformed convictions, buy them lunch and talk it over in brotherly love and grace.

My simple point is that those who do not learn from history are always doomed to repeat it, and even as Ronald Reagan said, freedom is always one generation from extinction. Franklin also said it is only in the religion of ignorance that man will lose his freedom. A people who know their heritage, know their history cannot be enslaved, and are far greater prepared for the future when they learn from the mistakes of their forefathers, as well as their successes.

The Reformation is, of course, not the gospel, but what it gave to us was a lesson in history that there is hope even in darkness, that God can and does do amazing things, with sinful human beings, and each and every one of us are connected to it in some way. Take some time this month and discover how you are connected to the Protestant Reformation, to the glory of God, Soli Deo Gloria!

What Harris and Sampson Prove About American Evangelicalism

By now most of us have heard the news about Joshua Harris apostatizing from the faith. I never knew about him (though I’ve heard of his book) and his background. The more and more the news came in, the more it became apparent to me why this was a big story. Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was a huge success for him, and shot him up in popularity, becoming something of a celebrity minister in evangelicalism. Naturally, then, news about his departure from the faith comes at a great and heavy shock, especially to those who looked to him as a great example of a biblical man.

Not long after this, we hear of more news of apostasy, this time from a Hillsong worship leader and artist, Marty Sampson, who posted an Instagram article on why he was leaving the faith. Once again, I had never heard of this person before, and once again, it seems like in certain circles, he was a well-known and respected minister. Either way, this is two prominent figures in their respective evangelical worlds that have rejected the faith.

There is little doubt that this will, much like the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, cause many people to question things, and begin to wonder how and where things had gone wrong. I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith, especially in reformed circles, to be mindful of the confusion and perhaps even betrayal many evangelicals feel about this. It can never be a kind feeling to discover that someone you once held at such high esteem (regardless of what other people may have thought of them) had betrayed the faith. We should pray for these people, that God would comfort them, and that perhaps these men would realize that they had never truly known Christ, and would hence truly repent and desire to know the true faith that saves.

At the same time, we have to talk about why, what Dr. James White has called, “a tsunami of apostasy”, seems to be happening right now. Granted, it seems that way primarily because we have two individuals who happen to have a significant spotlight that, when it goes out, drastically affects the lighting everywhere else. Nevertheless, more and more will come as our culture continues to deteriorate into God-hating rebellion, and if we do want to comfort those who followed these men all through the years, and help them through this confusing time, we need to discuss why (at least in a human perspective) this kind of thing happens, so that we can better ensure it happens on a far less frequent basis.

These Things Are Talked About, Sampson

I think the best way to diagnose what the problem is is found in Sampson’s Instagram article. There he states numerous “reasons” for why he is leaving the Christian faith. We cannot assume that these are recent developments. I suspect these have been things creeping in the back of his mind for many years, and he tried to push it down until he couldn’t take it anymore. His reasons include the claim that preachers “fall” and no one talks about it, miracles don’t typically happen, and no one talks about that. Finally, that there are “contradictions” in the Bible that no one wants to talk about.

It seems clear to me that these are things he could not find any solution to, and it was enough to destroy his faith. Sadly, if his faith could be destroyed by things like this, it demonstrates his faith was self-produced and self-sustained; not the biblical idea of faith, which is another theological problem that I address here.

Looking at the things Sampson said, and in particular, when he made the claims that the problems he mentioned in the church go with no one talking about them, those were some pretty strong statements. They were blanket, absolute statements; he didn’t say that people don’t often talk about them, but that no one actually does. That is simply untrue, of course, and the fact that he would say that demonstrates that Sampson was in certain circles and probably echo chambers where quite simply, no one did talk about them.

But if he had shared some of his concerns, instead of simply turning away, I can guarantee that someone somewhere, who takes their faith seriously, who knows that this is more than good vibes and being nice to people, has the answer to the alleged contradiction. I know for a fact that fallen pastors is something that is talked about, not swept under the rug. It’s just talked about in circles that will actually hold Christian ministers accountable.

It’s not discussed in the circles that Sampson was hanging around in, where the movement gets so big, that it has to engage in politics on some level to maintain its image and hence its income. This means that morally troubled pastors are not helpful for that, so they are swept under the rug, and most certainly, sound theology that is willing to divide over truth is not helpful to that kind of ministry’s growth.

Finally on this point, the same circles that will talk about fallen pastors will also be the ones willing to answer your difficulties with Scripture. The solution then is to get away from the Hillsong, good-vibes Christianity, and start taking your faith seriously. This is not a roller coaster ride. The God of the Bible is a righteous God, who demands justice–perfect justice, and you are a sinner. That is not something to glibly declare a thing Jesus magically sets aside for everyone, and is not a problem anymore.

The Origin of Good Vibes Christianity

The reality of the matter is that mainstream evangelicalism has forsaken sound, doctrinal teaching for emotional, romantic feelings about Jesus. At work, I was working on a gentleman’s car the other day, and his radio was playing a Christian music station. I don’t listen to Christian mainstream music, so I had no idea who this was, but I could tell so quickly from listening to the brief clips, and considering this sounded like the thousands of other Christian hit songs that comes out each year, all of which sound the same, that this was what I sometimes call “good-vibes Christianity”. It had the feel-good vibe, talked about having struggles but still having faith, and that they always trust and love Jesus. Your standard, dare I say lukewarm Christian who only goes to church on Sundays listens to that and gets their high from it. These are shallow songs that do not truly capture the power of God in Christ.

But songs like these honestly are not the cause of shallow evangelicalism. They are the symptom of it, feeding itself the same lukewarm poison that does not create a disciple of Christ. It just gives someone enough positive vibes wrapped in Christian buzz words to live lives of self-determination, self-interest and self-promotion until they meet their Judge in the afterlife, and may we pray God has abundant mercy, and that they learn truly in that moment what the words “mercy and grace” actually mean that they heard vaguely said in all those songs.

Of course, there are times when such desensitization is not able to keep a person fully inoculated with the good-vibes Christianity that Hillsong sells. Sampson is one such case. The result was that he could not find answers to the genuine questions he had in his mind. No amount of the emotional stimulation was able to sustain this lurking white noise in the back of his mind. He was aware of the alleged contradictions in the Bible (none of which he names in his Instagram post), but apparently, he could not find answers to these.

Which reminds me, Sampson also said in his post that he couldn’t understand how a God who is all loving would send 4-billion people to hell because they did not believe. Again, this is not a problem if Sampson knew what the Christian faith he sung about for so many years actually was. But he was not given any of this. He was pranced around on the stage because he happened to be a good musical artist, and had a way with crowds. That honestly is probably the only reason, and the “ministers” who put him out there like this evidently had no regard to his doctrinal security and personal conviction of the faith.

Joshua Harris was evidently a similar case. Here was a man thrust into a spotlight before he was really ready for it. What happens is he instantly becomes someone that people look to for guidance and help, while he is actually hiding secret, deep problems and cracks in the foundation. How can he come out and honestly express this problem when so many people rely on him? So he continues to take on the pressure of pastoral ministry when he’s not ready for it. Something eventually has to give.

The real problem here is we are dealing with an evangelical culture that does not have the doctrinal soundness, and the mental and spiritual conviction of what those doctrines stand for. As a result, men who once appeared to be great, wonderful, had the outward appearance of being men of God, eventually cave to the growing pressure of the culture around them. The flashes are there, but the conviction within is nowhere present.

If Sampson perhaps was taught right theology, rooted and grounded in solid, biblical faith, this may never have happened. That’s what the real problem here is. If Joshua Harris was given the sober truth about what it takes to be a pastor, to be an elder in a church, maybe he would have saved a lot of people the heartbreak later down the road and said then and there, “This ain’t my thing”. But It appears that there are Christian ministers and leaders out there who perhaps themselves are deceived as they deceive, who are pushing out these people when they don’t have the conviction to be in those positions.

The Importance of Sound Doctrine

We cannot look at what has happened to both of these men and continue to accept the idea that they simply apostatized, and there was no inherent reason for it. Though God always has His decree, that does not take away the fact that there are always internal reasons for why things happen. If we ignore what caused this, we will continue to see more and more people like them drop like flies. Again, I don’t want to discount the fact that God always keeps His elect, but we don’t know who they are, and hence must always be vigilant, must always be doing what God has commanded us to do, and be faithful to it.

If we do not want our children and our youth to be the next Joshua Harris, or Marty Sampson, we must learn from these fallen men, seeing that giving our youth good-vibe Christianity will not save their faith. It will not persevere in college, or in the adult world. We must be teaching our kids what the Christian faith is, and stop treating them like they are children who cannot understand theological truths. They can. I have had kids ask me about eternal security before, and I’ve heard them talk about the mystery of the Trinity. They are smart, so stop treating them like they are not. That kind of attitude towards them is why we lose them.

Look again at Sampson’s Instagram post. Show that to your kid and see if they can see the problems with it. If they can’t, your kid is in danger of apostasy just like him. Teach your children who God is, and that means teaching them sound theology. I’m not asking people to become covenant-theology, raving Calvinist reformers. I’m simply pleading that we desire to raise children to think and ponder upon Scripture.

Paul in Romans 12 calls us to be renewing our minds. Not renewing our feelings, renewing our minds. That involves intellectual exercises, and exegetial exposure to the word of God. Not eisegetical, narcegetical silliness that turns the Bible into something about us. It’s all about God. Knowing God is always first and foremost, and knowing God requires a life of devotion to prayer, worship, service and studying of His word. That sometimes means that college careers are to be sacrificed. But if you must choose between God’s word and a good career, the choice is obvious. God will always supply you with what you need. Simply throw away this life and come after Christ!

In Hebrews 5:11-14, the author rebukes and warns his audience against apostasy, and how does he do it? By telling them to listen to more emotional Christian music? No! By lecturing them on being dull of hearing, of needing milk rather than meat. In other words, not being able to discern deep theological truths that ground them in the faith to protect them against heresies and vain philosophies.

Churchianity will not save your children, nor will it save evangelicalism. Yet also still, neither will doctrine alone. The Spirit of God saves, and keeps His people. But part of that saving is renewing saved sinners in the things of the Spirit. There must be a balance between our heart-felt experience and our theological knowledge that helps us discern our feelings and our experiences. Make no mistake, a theological soundness with no functioning doxology is as worthless as good-vibes Christianity. But the existentialism, so to speak, cannot truly have any meaning unless proper theology is applied.

I can personally testify that growing in my theology deepens my conviction of the faith, emboldens me further in it amidst the pressure of the culture, and false religions around me, and more importantly, brings me into deeper worship of God. The more I know Him, the more holy He is, and hence the more I know myself and how much of a sinner I am, and hence, how much more I need Christ. That is how we sustain a healthy Christianity.

Questions Asked, Christianity Has Answers

Closing this article, I want to return once more to Sampson’s Instagram post for a brief moment. As has been stated before, it seems very clear to me that Sampson’s loss of faith was a result of a shallow, good-vibes Christianity that had a nicely decorated and impressive outer shell with nothing to show for it on the inside. Sampson said further that he wanted “genuine truth” and not simply “I just believe it”. Once again, that is sadly the reality of the Christian circles he was around, which is the mainstream of evangelicalism. He’s right. That is shallow and not worthy of being embraced or defended.

Unfortunately, that’s not what Christianity is. It goes far deeper than that. But Sampson did not get any of it because he drifted on the surface, and was never encouraged nor challenged to go deeper. As linked above, I have an article The Nature of Faith that you can read on the subject of faith and what it is. It shows that this is much more than a simple blind faith scheme.

But I would also like to say to Sampson one of the reasons this really hits home with me is because I was close to where you are. I never gave up my faith, of course, but like you, I had many questions. I was not content with just a faith in faith kind of Christianity. I had difficulties, and they needed answers. But that’s where we’re different. I knew that I needed more than what I was getting, and so I went looking, and I did, in fact, find more. I found answers. I found real answers to the questions I had–answers that did not try to satisfy what I wanted, but answers that I needed.

I do not believe that Sampson ever truly heard the gospel. My hope and prayer is that at least now, knowing he never truly knew the faith, he would actually attempt to understand what it actually is, as I have done. As I said, I’m not content with simply saying, “Jesus died for my sins”. Why did he die? Why did he have to die? Why did he have to be God? Questions like these, I needed to know the answer to, and learning the answers has deepened my faith. Knowing the answers to even the claims that the Bible contradicts itself (yes, Sampson, there are answers) has made my faith stronger, has convinced me more of the truth of the triune God, and hence given me the desire to live after His revealed word even more. I pray that happens for you one day.

For the rest of us, we must reject this empty shell of feel-good Christianity, and teach our people the faith. Yes, that will have consequences. I know it will. But the consequences are far less costly than the consequences that follow if we do not do this. We will lose more people to this culture of death. Unless we are willing to take seriously the phrase “theology matters” we will always be susceptible to this empty shell of feel-good Christianity that, because it has nothing inside of it giving it life, is a dried up shell that will eventually break apart, leaving a person in the situation that Marty Sampson has fallen into, and furthermore, will lead to incompetent Christian ministers who ordain more of themselves, more ill-prepared men like Joshua Harris, for ministry that leads only to collapse and ruin.

What Christians Can Learn from Game of Thrones

Many years ago I attempted to give Game of Thrones a try. It was at the release of season three in 2013. As a promotion for the highly acclaimed show, HBO offered people to watch the first episode for free. I didn’t know anything much about the show at all, and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t make it through the episode as it featured nudity unlike anything I had ever seen before. And it seemed particularly accustomed to violence in a way that was disturbing. As it turned out, many Christians had come to the conclusion that the show is unhealthy for a Christian to watch, and I agreed wholeheartedly.

Still, however, I found the plot of the story interesting, and it was a great shame that the overall concept was ruined by the graphic nature of the show. I maintained what I like to call a distant interest in the development of the story. I frequent some video game/television media and fan sites, and my YouTube recommendation circulations include a lot of the recent gaming and TV show news. Game of Thrones came up especially during pre-season release periods and during the season, and YouTube would have clips of episodes released.

Without watching the whole series, and rather only some key moments, I was able to essentially put together the basic plot points without going into the detailed stuff. I heard enough rumors, theories and so forth about some of the most horrific moments of the show, such as the live burning of a little girl, a boy pushed out of a window (I did see the clip of that anyway), incest, the sexual affairs, the brutal rape of Sansa and all that other stuff I really don’t need to see to believe. I don’t need to see Ramsey being a complete psychopathic nutjob. Everyone’s talking about it, I’ll take their word for it.

A Question of Purpose

But as I took in all of this information over the years, I was brought back to that episode I tried to force myself to watch in order to get to the other side, and asking myself, “Is there a point to all of this?” I never finished the episode to get an answer to the question. I lost all interest in such a pursuit because the graphic nature outweighed the desire for an answer. It didn’t seem like the show was lessening its graphic nature as it went on, and hence what was the ultimate goal? What was it about this show that drew people so much to the senseless violence? It was like a soap opera, only far more adult in content.

There was simply something truly disturbing about this show that went beyond the simple graphic content. It honestly felt filthy to watch it. Returning to Ramsey one more time, and hearing about the sadistic things he did, I remember asking myself, okay, he’s obviously insane… What’s the point of all of this? It was almost as if the show made a monster and was enjoying the reality of that monster. It was glorifying his sadism.

I realize antagonists are necessary for conflict in a story, and I love a complex, more-than-one-dimensional bad guy. But there comes a point where the writers are indulging the antagonist to a point that one has to sit back and say, “Okay, I get it, he’s a loon. Do I need to see more of this?” It’s like someone who watches a documentary about Charles Manson, and after that looks for another one, and then another and begins to take an unsettling fascination with his character. At a certain point, it honestly gets very uncomfortable, and again one must ask, where is this all going to?

The show begins with one interesting character, and I say interesting because he is the only one of his kind throughout the entire show. That is, Ned Stark. He is king of the realm at the beginning of the season. One thing I have to give the show credit for is that it begins on a high note, with a seemingly functioning, peaceful kingdom. But as the Bible says, there are wars and rumors of wars. All is not well in King’s Landing, as it seems.

Ned was the one good guy of the whole show. He was what you wanted in a strong, lead protagonist. The show seems to set Ned up as the main hero of the whole story, and it does a good job of that. But there is a purpose in doing this. The purpose is to cut that hero’s head off. Literally. When Ned is betrayed and then executed, all hell, as it were, breaks loose. That begins what one might really say the Game of Thrones.

We might go a little farther and take this into a biblical perspective. When Ned is executed, God’s judgment on a wicked land began. When all virtue, salt and light is removed from a land, you can be sure as the Bible demonstrates that this is God judging a land. From that point on, there was nothing but evil, wicked, vile debauchery having its way. The only real good character was removed.

When I say good, I intentionally leave out some of the more noble ones (most of whom die because they won’t play the game). I even leave out Sansa, who later seems to harden up, but it might be too little too late at that point. But even during the middle of the show, what amount of leadership was Sansa showing? Not much. And what about Jon Snow? Who seemed to be the only character in the show incorruptible by evil? Likewise, Snow lacks the leadership trait.

When I say “leadership” I don’t mean a kind of humble and modest attitude he seems to demonstrate in the show. At a certain point, quite frankly, all that humility becomes cowardice, and I think that’s what his character shows ultimately. He was far more fit as a person to be king and he wouldn’t do it. When the Night King threatened the land, instead of seeking the throne, he knew what had to be done. That’s the quality of an admirable man; he was willing to toss aside the game of thrones for a more pressing evil to be stopped. No one showed more qualities for that throne than him, and yet he’s not asserting his leadership in the end. And why is this? Because it’s not convenient for the show. We can’t really be having good, admirable men as models of virtue for our story. It ended with Ned Stark all the way back in season one, and it was intended to stay that way.

The Tragedy of Daenerys

When I heard about how people hated the way this show ended, I had to somewhat chuckle at the irony of it. As I stated before, while not watching the show, I did see a few clips here and there on YouTube, and some of those clips involved one of the main characters, if not the main character, Daenerys. Commercials when the show was starting, made her to appear as very innocent. But that’s not who I saw in the clips. I saw a girl gain power and order the merciless and rather inhuman execution of certain people. I didn’t know the background of these sorry individuals, but whatever it was, it was hard to tell who was the good guy and the bad guy.

So when the end was approaching in season seven, when I saw the clip of Danny and Jon Snow meeting for the first time, I saw a spoiled little brat, not very different than Joffrey. I saw someone who was getting so obviously lost in power that it was pretty clear where this was going. You can’t let someone like that on the Iron Throne. So by the end, when Daenerys cooks the entirety of King’s Landing, I was honestly not very surprised. I do understand many of the criticisms of how it led to this, but to those so naively disliking the wicked tyranny of Daenerys showing its true form, how could you not have seen this coming at all? Debate on its execution all you want, it was inevitable nonetheless.

Of course, then I began to learn about some details here and there, particularly about Danny’s parents and her “Mad King” father. So what we have in traditional storytelling formula is a child who comes from a history of evil men who can, as it were, redeem that history by not being what her father was, or what her brother was turning out to be. While she seemed to start out well, history itself shows that even noble intentions don’t always end in noble victories. In fact, rarely ever they do.

In the end, the potential foreshadowing that Daenerys could “break the cycle” of a mad ruler went up in flames with King’s Landing as she destroyed it with her last remaining dragon, killing more people in one episode than any of the vile characters in the whole series put together, and Daenerys was not able to break the cycle. For many, following Danny through all her pain for the past decade or so, to see her blow it all away here at the end was too much. I again hearken back to the fact that the signs of this were seen a mile away.

In reality, the demise of Daenerys was really an ingenious move, whether the writers intended it or not. What does it show us? Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. What the end shows, right up to the point that her last dragon burns the Iron Throne, is that all this throne has brought was death and destruction. No one person is fit to rule it, because no one is beyond the corruption that exists within them. Every single one of us is corrupt to the core with our sinfulness, born of the seed of Adam, inheriting the sin nature he induced upon us all (Romans 5).

For this reason (that mankind is inherently corrupt with sin) the founders of the United States chose to go a different path than that of a monarchy, than that of one ruler over many. Instead we would be a constitutional republic, a federal government, where power was distributed to three different branches (two of which are themselves a plurality). No one branch can exist without the other. Since absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the one thing no man could ever, ever have, was absolute power. No one is able as mere men, to hold and maintain such authority without it driving them mad. Daenerys demonstrates this. A young girl who began innocent and noble, still showed that deep down, she was as corruptible as the rest. The lure of the Iron Throne, like that of the Ring of Power, was too great for a mere mortal, even of her hardship, to grasp and resist its temptation. In the end, what difference was there between Daenerys and the Night King? In the end, what was the show trying to prove, if not that fallen man cannot save himself?

The Vicious Cycle of Nihilism

Watching it end like this also reminds me of the Walking Dead. I was listening to Steve Deace talk about this on his show (which inspired this article, by the way) the other day and it was so absolutely true what he was talking about. He hit the nail right on the head about what Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead are all about. But going back to the Walking Dead for a moment, Steve said he realized the show was going nowhere when Neagan showed up and bashed in Abraham’s and the other dude’s head (forgot his name because I honestly didn’t care for his character at all).

I would disagree slightly with Steve and say that I caught the hint that the show was going nowhere at the end of season one (if I am recalling correctly) when the group of survivors found the laboratory with a doctor who was experimenting on his undead wife. It seemed then and there like the show was giving us a direction for the team to go in on how to redeem all of this, but the doctor blew up the whole lab, committing suicide, and taking all his research with it. At that point, it was clear to me that the show was closing the door and locking it shut, with no way out. Neagan’s introduction was simply the nail in the coffin for me, the catalyst for me giving up the ghost and leaving the show to become quite literally a walking, dead show.

The only difference between the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones is that at least Game of Thrones manages to end its existence by connecting the infinite, vicious cycle back to where it all starts to go round and round again. For the Walking Dead, it seems like they are going to carry this entire endeavor as far as they possibly can, which, as it seems now, it has finally run out of life.

The question here to ask at the very end is, what was the purpose of it all? What was the goal? What message were the creators trying to convey? I bring things back to that question I asked myself when I tried to watch that one episode in the opening of season three: Is there a point to all of this? After everything that happened, even with the Iron Throne being destroyed, one might think that this was a time where there had to be a better way to do things. Instead, all they do is convene in a counsel in the end, and make preparations to rebuild and to crown a new king.

It seemingly ends right back to the way it all began, minus an Iron Throne and a functioning King’s Landing. But you see the point of it all; it goes back full circle. The throne has a new ruler, Bran, and whether he will be good or bad, no one knows, but either way, it starts over again. The betrayals, the politics, the lust, violence, sex, wars and all that wicked mankind has to offer. The cycle is not broken. Even the mighty Daenerys falls to the lure of power upon the throne.

If there is anything to grasp out of the entire drama of Game of Thrones, its that humans have an inherent sinful problem, and it leads them to do the most vile things that you see in this show. On that, I can certainly agree. To me, the greatest irony of this entire show is that it depicts the wickedness of mankind without God and His grace, and what a godless society leads to; a vicious cycle of endless misery, and the most amazing thing is that secular people all across the world who love their sin hated the way this ended. It goes to show that even indulging in the sin they love, the imago dei shows forth amidst all that suppression of the truth, and they know that in the heart of hearts, they yearn for something more than what this world has to offer.

Because all this world has to offer you is death. I am reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes and what the great takeaway of it was. Over and over again the author’s great complaint is summarized as grasping for the wind. He is trying to find in this life something to satisfy the longing in his heart. He has all he could ever want. He has women, a great palace, riches and was a god among men. He was wiser than all, a library in and of himself. Yet he was not happy. He had no joy.

Fredrick Nietzsche is often known for his famous saying “God is dead” and it’s said as a chant and cheer. Most people don’t realize that Nietzsche uttered the words in great despair. As the father of nihilism himself, Nietzsche did not find the idea comforting. And towards the end of his life, he expressed a deep longing for eternity. He would die in insanity.

Of course, what can you expect from someone who sees the future only as more of what we have now? When your entire worldview has nothing to look forward to beyond this world, when you have no redemptive element, there is nothing else to do but repeat the cycle we all know in this world. How can a man who creates a world like Game of Thrones give you anything more than what the show started and proceeded with when he has no redemptive element, no doctrine of fallen man, no God, holy, righteous and awesome, to have the power to redeem?

A Desire for Eternity

All mankind, being made in the image of God, thus shares a common truth, and that truth is redemption. That truth is eternity. It’s why we contemplate the abstract, purpose, love and life. It’s why we write music, it’s why we love to travel, it’s why we desire in and from each other a deep love. But what we carry with that common desire is a corrupt sin nature. That sin nature, as the Bible teaches, clouds and distorts these natural desires. The desires are part of who and what we are. The sin twists it.

Hence, while we may desire purpose, redemption, and fulfillment, our clouded hearts and mind, not looking to the God who provides these things, will seek their fulfillment in something other than Him. It’s why progressives do what they do. They, like us, want a Utopian dream of peace, prosperity, and justice. But you need God to make this real, you need one to rule as the unifying truth to bring order to that. This the progressives will not tolerate, and hence someone has to fill that position of “God”. And so the government becomes the god. Twisted mankind must be the supreme, just ruler of twisted humans. And twisted man will be anything but just.

Game of Thrones gives us a picture of this vicious cycle. When the established order of fallen, sinful man proves itself unworthy of such power as the Iron Throne, what do they decide to do next? To repeat the cycle, because while Game of Thrones, intentionally or not, shows you the reality of fallen man, it doesn’t give you anything to fix it. Because as we have seen, when you don’t have a God who has a purpose in all things, who transcends all time and space, who holds the universe in His hands, who is righteous, glorious and true in all ways, who is sovereign and absolutely supreme, you can offer image bearers of that God nothing to satisfy the longing in their hearts.

[He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.] -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV).

What was the great difference between Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings? There are many, many differences we can point to, but if we can sum it up in one, it would be as what I alluded to previously. It is the Iron Throne and the Ring of Power. Both are very much alike in many ways. They are the objects of absolute power in their respective worlds. The difference was that in the Game of Thrones, everyone wants it, and kills for it. In the Lord of the Rings, it’s clear that the great power is far too great for anyone to wield. The difference is that in the former, the power is being sought, in the ladder, they are trying to get rid of it. Because in the former, it operates on the will for power, without any warnings against it, and in the ladder, it operates on the recognition of what that power does to even good men. It is the difference between a man-centered story, and a God-centered story, in essence.

And so you see how the Lord of the Rings offers a very important message to its audience about absolute power in the hands of men. Game of Thrones may do this, but it never destroys it, because it cannot, because the worldview of its creators do not have anything else to offer. If man as we see him today is all that we have, then a warning about absolute power in his hands is a foolish endeavor. Of course, the alternative then is nihilism. No purpose, no redemption, only death.

“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” -Augustine of Hippo

A King Worthy to Rule

In Christianity, and in truth, there is indeed a great and wonderful future and answer to all of this. I said earlier that Daenerys proves that even someone who seemed to start so innocent, with such a noble cause, can turn to madness in the end with the lust for power. It proved that no man, no mortal, corrupted with sin, can truly hold a throne. And I criticized the fact that after this is so clearly proven in the show (whether intended or not) that perhaps it is best we have no monarchy at all. It seemed as though I was criticizing the entire idea of a kingdom.

But I did no such thing, of course. A mere man, mortal and corrupted with sin cannot bare the reality of a throne. What about one who was not a mortal, was more than a man, and was not tainted with the corruption of sin? Imagine a great king who had none of these fatal flaws. Ned Stark was the best we had in Game of Thrones, but he was just a man, and he was mortal. What about a king who could not be slain, could not be fooled, and ruled with a righteousness so pure, no shadow of turning was in him?

After God had secured a home for David and Israel in 2 Samuel 7, David, the chosen king of Israel, declares that he wishes to give the Lord a temple to dwell in. In response, God tells David through Nathan that He had asked for nothing in return, because David could not give God anything that was not already His.

Instead, God gives David a promise through Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. That promise was to establish David’s house forever. David’s line would not perish, hence. Israel would have a king that would never be removed. Ever since, Israel has been looking forward to that great promise, for that wonderful king who would fulfill the promise of God to David.

But how can anyone fulfill this promise? As Game of Thrones shows us, everyone dies, even the king. In the Bible, and in reality, it is no different. Old covenant Israel is replete with kings who lived and then died, and however good they may have been, their dynasty and legacy died with them. Generations to come would soon forget all the good deeds they may have done for Israel. Surely, then, God’s promise to David had to go beyond mere mortality. If in the end, death always wins over a great king, how can anyone truly fulfill God’s promise?

In the psalms, we have particular “royalty psalms” that speak specifically to this picture of a great king over Israel. Psalm 2 is one of these, and it speaks of a mighty king, who is almost a kind of divine figure; holding a very close relationship to God. In fact, in verse 6-8, the king in this picture is said to have been “begotten” by God. This king therefore bears a very unique relationship to Him, and to him, God gives the nations, indicating this king is sovereign over the world under the authority of God.

In Psalm 72, another picture of a great and wonderful king is given. He is a righteous king, who is merciful to the oppressed, and absolutely righteous and just against all evil-doers. In the midst of the psalm, in verse 5, one might almost say that this king’s rule is eternal. Psalm 102 may perhaps be the most telling of all our examples here of the character of this king. It begins with a mysterious saying:

[The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”] -Psalm 110:1 (ESV)

The construction of the words are strange. “The Lord says to my Lord” is what we find most peculiar. There seems to be some form of conflation going on. Two Lords are in view here. If we connect all of this with Psalms 2 and 72, we might say here that Yahweh says to David’s Lord (since in each psalm, Yahweh appears to exalt a king, and particularly in 72, one whom He calls a son) to sit at His right hand. The first Lord is capitalized in the text, which is the translator’s way of telling you that you are reading the tetragrammaton for Yahweh (YHVH), the covenant name of the God of Israel.

The use of the phrase “sit at My right hand” is to show absolute power and honor in the Bible. It signifies that the King of Israel is the ruler on behalf of Yahweh. Later in Psalm 110, another fascinating statement is made:

[The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
    he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.] -Psalm 110:4-5 (ESV)

Verse 4 is the tetragrammaton once more, and so God is speaking to David’s Lord that he shall be a priest, but not only a priest, he shall be a priest forever. He sits at the right hand of Yahweh. What do we make of this? Three things. (1) He is a king; (2) He is a priest; and (3) He is eternal.

The Bible hence gives us a picture of what Israel was to look forward to as the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. But as you might see, who could possibly fit this description? It’s a tall order to fill, to say the least. Firstly, the king has to be a perfectly good and righteous ruler. That means he cannot have the taint of sin. The king has to be eternal, as well; his reign is forever.

That great King, the Bible says, came over two-thousand years ago, and told the world that he was the King of the Jews, descended from the line of David, and fulfilled the promise of God to establish that throne forever. That King was Jesus Christ. The New Testament connects Jesus to the line of David (Matthew 1:17, Romans 1:3). Jesus is also declared to be divine and eternal in his nature (John 1:1-4, John 8:58, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8-12).

The book of Hebrews declares that in Jesus was the fulfillment of Psalm 2. Notice in Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is declared to have sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (or of God the Father). This is said right after Jesus “makes purification for sins”, something the High Priest does, and Jesus, in Hebrews 5:6, is the fulfillment of Psalm 110:4.

Jesus then is that great King that Israel had been waiting for, who would fulfill the promises of an eternal King. He is King because He is man, and He is eternal because He is God. As we have said earlier, corrupt, mortal men cannot truly rule the throne of the world. What about someone who is immortal, incorruptible, and is more than a man, and by his very nature alone has the right to rule the world? All of this, Jesus Christ is. Corruption cannot take hold of him, as it is shown in the gospels, such as Matthew 8:1-3. Leprosy was a form of extreme, physical disfigurement that infected anyone it touched. When Jesus touches the leper, rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the leper is cleansed. The power of Jesus and his divine origin is demonstrated here. He has the power over sin, death, and corruption.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Old Testament was looking forward to a pivotal moment in the future for a figure to appear by divine appointment who was going to bring an end to Israel’s great suffering. That moment came in the person of Jesus Christ. If you read Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s great desire is to show a Jewish audience that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. The Messianic figure of Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 9:6-7 is fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 1:23).

In Matthew 3:2-3, the prophecy of the one who prepares the way of the Lord from Isaiah 40:3 is fulfilled in John the Baptist. Consequentially, this fulfills the prophecy in Malachi 3-4. In those prophecies is a description of the coming Lord and a great judgment that then follows after the Lord comes to His people. The coming of Elijah in Malachi 4:5 is also fulfilled in John the Baptist, and therefore this prophecy was being fulfilled at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.

It is the prophecy that would lead to the ultimate judgment on the nation of Israel, leading to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 70A.D. Before that time came, however, Jesus’s ministry and message was summed up into one phrase. He went about telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”. The call was a call to turn away from sin, because the kingdom of God was in their midst. God had come, and He “tabernacled” among His people (John 1:14). The King had finally arrived, and hence proclaims a warning to surrender to His reign and rule, or perish (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14, Mark 3:2).

Jesus is always speaking among the people in such a way that the kingdom of God was here and now (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 5:19). After Jesus had lived, died and been raised from the dead, He gives the great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. He says that all authority had been given to him, and to therefore make disciples of the nations. The kingdom of God was here, and now the message of the gospel, of the risen King, who will rule with righteousness and justice commands us all to come to him in repentance and faith and service to his Lordship, bringing all nations into his subjection.

As we have said, it is the Gospel of the Kingdom. So far what we have given was the gospel of the King, however. He is the most central figure of that role, but there is good news for us as well. As I had mentioned before, we have a great sin problem, and how can a holy God allow sin to dwell in His kingdom? He cannot. What then must the just King do with us? He must destroy us. All corruption must end. But God has done something wonderful to answer this problem.

The Gospel of Salvation: A Story of Redemption

First let’s remember what happened in the garden. Adam had not sinned yet, and hence he had no corruption. But once he committed the sin, he forever doomed his seed. Romans 5 is a great descriptor of what we call in theology the Federal Headship of Adam. All born under Adam’s seed inherit the sin nature at birth (Psalm 51:5). After Adam had sinned, God had the tree of life guarded by cherubim (Genesis 3:24) so that no one may enter paradise (Eden) again.

The story of redemption in the Bible is the story of being able to enter Eden once more, where God dwells, in His paradise with Him. During the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, Bezalel made upon it two golden statues of cherubim (Exodus 37:7). This was the mercy seat. When the high priest offers the blood of the sacrifice, he splatters the blood on the mercy seat as an atonement. A life for a life, as it were.

As the book of Hebrews shows us, all the constructions of the old covenant artifacts were a picture of the real ones, the heavenly ones (Hebrews 7:4-5). The symbolism was the return to Eden, to remove the angels guarding the way by a sacrifice. No one could do this, which we will see why as we explain how God redeems us in Jesus Christ.

Here is where Jesus fulfills the role of the High Priest. The high priest in the Old Testament was to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. He offered a sacrifice in their place for Yahweh on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. But as the Book of Hebrews tells us, the high priest himself was sinful, had to offer sacrifices for himself, and did not live forever to be a perpetual mediator for the people of God. As Hebrews 10:1-4 sums up so well, the sacrifices of bulls and goats could never truly take away the sins of people. Man owed the debt. Only man could pay it. But for me to pay my debt means for me to die and perish. Then my salvation is hopeless in me. There is only doom.

Now we read on into Hebrews 10, in verse 5, where the Son speaks to the Father and says that a body had been prepared for Him. Now the Son, as a man, can pay the debt man owed, and He could pay the debt eternally because His life was of eternal value. In verse 11, the author again elaborates that the ordinary high priest could not truly fulfill all righteousness, being a sinner himself. Christ, who lives forever as High Priest, with an everlasting sacrifice in His own blood, offers one sacrifice, once for all who believe, purging their sins in eternity, becoming their Priest and King, and saving them fully and completely for the coming kingdom.

[For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.] -2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV).

Notice here that the Scriptures declare Jesus to be sinless. It was because he was a spotless lamb, his atonement was pure. When I trust in Christ, my sins have been forgiven in his blood, and now his righteousness becomes my own before God. Hence it is through Jesus Christ, the Bridge, the Doorway that I may enter Eden again. As Jesus himself says, no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). All of my sin, therefore, has been dealt with on the cross. Does this mean I no longer sin? Not so. John says in 1 John 1:8 that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. How do we make sense of this, then?

From Death to Life

In the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Lord will make a new covenant with Israel, and in this new covenant, God will put His law in their hearts and remember their sins no more. This the author of Hebrews declares is fulfilled in Christ in Hebrews 10:17.

In a similar prophecy, Ezekiel in chapter 36:25, Yahweh says that He will cleanse His people of all their idols. In verse 26, He declares that He will remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh that He will cause to obey Him. He will give us a new heart. This we call regeneration. A dead man comes to life (Ephesians 2). The point here is that something takes place when my sins are forgiven. The Spirit of God dwells in me. To put this all together, once I am saved, God begins to work life in me. Sin dwells in my current body, but as Scripture tells us, we are to be killing this flesh daily. Only regenerate Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will begin this process.

In Romans 6, after explaining the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul asks a rhetorical question, which is that if I have been forgiven of all sin, doesn’t that mean we can just live our lives in sin and continually say we are forgiven since all our sin is forgiven? Not so. Paul’s answer is that if you have been truly born again, something has happened to you. What is that? That you were buried and raised with Christ. Your sin is killed with him. Hence sin here means more than just bad actions–your corrupt state under Adam’s headship has been dealt with, though it still lives in this world. Now begins the new creation in the New Adam, born from eternity, that shows forth into this world.

This is what baptism represents. Notice what Paul says in Romans 6:5-8. He speaks of dying with Christ and being raised with him. Baptism symbolizes the going down under (the grave), and coming up alive, anew, and washed of sin. Hence the story of redemption, if we can sum it all up, is a story of how God conquers death through it. Through dying in Christ, we shall live (John 11:25-26). He says that he who believes in him [the Christ] and that he has been sent by the Father, has eternal life; they will not face the judgment but have “passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

An Eternal Hope

Thus in the gospel of Jesus Christ we have that great hope, that great redemption that was fulfilled in Christ when he came over two-thousand years ago, and will one day, at the end of time, be fully consummated in a new heaven and new earth, and for us who hold onto him, follow him in faith and repentance, restoration unto a new, pure and sinless life.

He is all that man was supposed to be, but couldn’t be and more. Like Game of Thrones, the Bible tells us of a great story. In the story is great evil, great pain, destruction, sacrifice, betrayal and loyalty. There are epic battles, and history-defining moments. But unlike Game of Thrones, the God who has written this story, who is telling this story always has a divine purpose; He is telling not simply a story of the reality of where we are now, but of a coming reality beyond this, where He will redeem all the evil, and all the pain, in something far greater than what we have.

The progressives, as we have said, desire a great Utopia. But their Utopia is built on this world, which is passing away. Like the story of Noah, it mattered little how big your house was in the world before the flood. It was going to be destroyed in the judgment. Only those who rest in the Ark will be saved. Only those who cling to the cross of Jesus Christ will be saved, and will exit the Ark of Christ into a new and restored world. Only, unlike Noah, this world will remain new every day. It never ends. It is an eternity of love, an eternity of music, an eternity of joy, an eternity of traveling, an eternity human relationships, an eternity of learning and grasping hold of an eternal, never-ending God.

There will be no sin that corrupts, corrodes and destroys. There will be no factions, no need to take sides. For all there are neighbors, all there are reconciled children of a great and merciful God. And they will serve a King whose reign never ends, whose glory is their light in the day, whose justice will never, ever fade away.

Reformed Theology and Antisemitism

By now we’ve all heard about the California Synagogue shooting carried out, allegedly by a young 19-year-old white male which happened Saturday, April 27th, a week from today. I heard about the story while taking a break from social media, i.e., Facebook when my phone’s news alert rang it in. I didn’t spend too much time on it, to be honest, and normally if a reported shooting doesn’t get up to about three alerts, with multiple fatalities from three different sources, I tend to consider it an incident, while no less terrible, as thankfully not a horrific slaughter.

This left one dead and multiple others wounded. It appears that the shooter (his name will not be mentioned) had a weapon malfunction. I suppose I should also be thankful that the shallow brain matter of these individuals tends to also mean they don’t know much about firearms and that unlike the Hollywood movies, they can in fact jam or have various other malfunctions. Californians aren’t typically known for their stellar firearm knowledge. Thank God for that too.

An Attack on Reformed Theology

But with the dark humor aside, what I want to do here is to really address the problem of the blame game at play by media outlets and people who are using this terrible event to attack what is known in Christianity as Reformed Theology. I thought it particularly useful for myself to address it, being among that denomination myself. I am a Reformed Christian of the baptist persuasion and a full-blown, five-point Calvinist. A Washington Post article has gotten a lot of attention recently on its attempt to expose the gunman’s theological beliefs, and tie his actions to that belief.

It doesn’t really surprise me that people who don’t know anything meaningful about Christian theology would commit a genetic fallacy here, and to straw man a particular aspect of Reformed theology, which is covenant theology (I will get to this later). What surprises me is how much I am seeing Christians, yes, Christians promoting and affirming this kind of cheap shot at the reformed community. And for that, I felt particularly compelled to respond to the claims of this article from the Washington Post and address this error.

As I said before, I didn’t give a lot of attention to this shooting at first. That was until I learned that the alleged shooter belonged to an OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). That is a reformed church community. When I learned this, I became interested in the shooting, and especially because it was being politicized to shine a light on the reformed community as a whole.

As always, the attempt is made, by the Washington Post article, not to directly point a finger at a worldview, but to make it possible to do so. It’s a subtle form of the genetic fallacy, which is to falsify a perspective based on bad examples, or inconsistent examples of that perspective. That’s just what this whole thing is. It is an attempt to paint reformed theology as an extremist version of Christianity, and that its fullest form can lead to what this alleged gunman arrived at: antisemitism and white supremacy. But of course, the fullest form of reformed theology recognizes no such sinful ideologies. This is an utterly deficient view of reformed theology. It’s an insult to even say this is a subset, deficient view; it is not recognizable as reformed theology at all.

This straw man is what I will expose in this article, and then I will deal with the need to stop with this blame game exercise and instead be consistent (I certainly will be consistent with reformed theology) in rightly putting the blame where it belongs. Unlike the progressive think tanks out there who try real hard not to make socialist Venezuela real socialism by slapping “democratic” on the front to put lipstick on the pig as a way to create the false narrative of addressing straw men against socialism, we in the reformed community know what we believe, and are so confident in it, that we can truly defend it against these kinds of false attacks on our theology.

Calvinism as Justified Murder?

Evidently, the shooter was Calvinistic in his theology and used that to justify his shooting. According to sources, in his manifesto, he sums up Calvinism and how it views the triune work of God. He says that he was chosen by the Father, saved by the Son and is kept by the Holy Spirit. That is, in a nutshell, what Calvinism is teaching. Calvinism is the soteriological doctrine that salvation is a work of God, predestined before the world began.

It has a strong emphasis on God’s absolute sovereignty over all time and space, which means that the future is not simply a thing God knows about, but that it’s entire reality is decreed by God. Consequentially, that means that the ultimate destiny of all human beings has already been divinely predestined. For a further explanation of Calvinism, see my article here.

It would appear, then, that the shooter used predestination as a scapegoat to the shooting, and presumes on his own eternal security that, no matter what he does, he will not die in his sins, because he is elect. This of course is a gross violation of not only Calvinism, but a crucial element of Reformed Theology–dare I even say plain Christian theology. But particularly in the realm of Calvinism, you are hard pressed, browsing through reformed teachers for a few minutes, not to find one of them criticizing strongly the idea that because you were born in a Christian home, and even an orthodox Presbyterian home, baptized as a baby into the covenant, that you’re saved.

I’m not Presbyterian, as I said (I am reformed baptist), but even I will defend my Presbyterian brothers here fervently that what it seems like is this young man used his baptism into the covenant as a means to presume he is saved. That is absolutely not what the paedobaptist position believes for a second. It is, as I said, a gross and serious misunderstanding of the position. The paedobaptist position is rather a means of grace, a sign of the covenant, and a faithful covenantal father fulfills his duties as the head of a house to initiate his children into the new covenant as they did with circumcision in the old covenant. It was not to declare the child saved, it was rather the duty of a father, faithful to the covenant to baptize his children.

The kicker, of course, is that we all know that Scripture teaches clearly that just because a boy was circumcised, did not mean he got his ticket to heaven punched. Just as the concept of the sign of the covenant continues into the new, so does the concept of reprobation (even being within the covenant community) carry over.

Election Unto Repentance: True Faith

Furthermore, if you read Calvin’s Institutes, Calvin spends laborious time on the doctrine of faith and repentance to explain what it does to a genuine, elect believer, and as an antithesis, what it does not do. Yes, salvation is a work of God, but the consequence of this is that God will begin to work in the heart of His elect to a degree that brings repentance, stronger faith, and servant-hood to God and to others. If the opposite is happening, that’s a sign of reprobation, not a sign of salvific election.

The elect of God are known by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). The good fruit we are speaking of is the growing in holiness, the obedience to God’s laws (Psalm 1, 19) and increasing faith and knowledge in Him. As Jesus says, if you love him, keep his commandments (John 14:15). One of those commandments is that you shall not commit murder (Exodus 20:13). If someone is not heeding to any of this, they can spout their election all they want, it’s a false profession.

Paul, in Ephesians 2, also says that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We are elected unto good works, righteous deeds, love, kindness, forgiveness and gentleness towards others. Not to murder others. Vengeance is absolutely forbidden for a Christian. Paul prohibits this idea strongly in Romans 12:19, declaring by the Holy Spirit that it is God who takes vengeance. So even if one makes the argument that the Jews of today are responsible for the death of Jesus, to kill them in response is vengeance, strictly forbidden by God.

Hence, the shooter evidently shows a massive deficiency in understanding what the doctrine of election means, and proves the contrary, that he is under the judgment of God, not under His grace. Using God’s predestination as a license to sin is also another symptom of reprobation. The author of the Hebrews warns his audience in a similar context:

[26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.] -Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV).

If you are familiar with Hebrews, what is most striking about its totality is that contextually, the author is exhorting, rebuking and warning, not pagan idolaters, but professing covenanters of God. Yes, that is professing believers.

A true child of God, elected and regenerated by the Spirit (and the Spirit does not entice anyone to sin) desires to obey Him, to put off their own sin, and they do not use God’s sovereign provision of forgiveness, justification and eternal security in Christ as a means to sin, and sin so deliberately as to commit murder. This is a fundamental teaching of Calvinistic doctrine. Election is not based on our presumption, it’s based on the God-breathed testimony of Scripture as to what a true, regenerate sinner acts like.

Replacement Theology

I’ve dealt with this accusation already in another article here, where I write a more extensive and detailed argument for covenant theology. So I will not waste time here going through what anyone can find easily on my blog, and all over YouTube with a simple search. But, it’s worth while to make brief comments on this straw man against covenant theology.

The section in which the Washington Post article criticizes (and therefore tries to make a connection to antisemitism) begins by articulating a dispensational position:

“Evangelical leaders often point to the strong support of Israel by conservative Christians in the United States as evidence that evangelicals today embrace Jews. That support of Israel is based in part on Christian theology that claims Jewish people must be in their homeland of Israel to bring about the eventual second coming of Jesus.”

That is what dispensationalism believes. It believes that the land promises God made to Abraham have to be fulfilled. It goes on from there to say this:

“But the branch of Christianity that [the shooter] comes from does not share that belief, Messiah College historian John Fea pointed out. In Reformed denominations, including [the shooter’s] Presbyterian tradition, “replacement theology” teaches that the Christian church has replaced the Jewish people in God’s biblical promises to Israel.”

That there is the straw man. Reformed theology does not teach that the church has replaced Israel. Again, for a fuller explanation, either go look at covenant theology explained by reputable teachers, or read my article on the subject. Covenant theology argues that God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham when He brought Israel, led by Joshua, to the promised land (Joshua 1, 4). That promise to Abraham had already been fulfilled. But even the author of Hebrews says that the land promise was not the true promise of God that we were to look for (Hebrews 4:8).

Paul, in Romans 4, takes that very promise, looks forward to a greater fulfillment that is in Christ, and that promise is to inherit the world (Romans 4:13). The idea that God still has a land promise to fulfill to ethnic Israel is not taught in Scripture. Does this mean that ethnic Israel is cut off and now can be condemned by God? Not at all. The whole point of the nation of Israel was to be the catalyst for God’s greater and ultimate purpose for Jew and Gentile to be redeemed in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and hence, being such, we inherit the world–the world is the promised land, not Palestine.

Paying Penance to Society

The title to this section is, I know, somewhat out of place. But there’s a purpose to the dramatic nature of it. The other day, in a Facebook group, I stumbled across a post from someone who appeared to be trying to use the shooting as a means to justify criticism of Calvinism. This was not posted by a secularist, but by a Christian. That, I think, is very significant. In the Washington Post article, it cites a Reverend Duke Kwon who appears to have made the audacious claim that while many people rejected the idea that the shooter was espousing genuine Christian beliefs, he believed differently.

The person in that Facebook group I just mentioned had a history of using genetic fallacy argumentation to connect Calvinism to slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Now they are using this shooting to connect Calvinism to antisemitism and an evident desire for mass shootings. I think any Calvinist, and reasonable person outside Calvinism can and ought to see how absolutely offensive this is, not to mention absurd. This is the first time in modern history of a shooting done by a professed Calvinist, and now suddenly Calvinism is treated as if it is causing mass shootings? This was, at best, an anomaly.

I made sure this person knew how offensive that is, and what I get in response is the accusation that I, as a Calvinist, am trying to downplay this man’s sin. The Washington Post article pulls a similar move:

But while some said [the shooter’s] background in the church has nothing to do with his alleged crime, and the church shouldn’t have to answer for him, others called for a moment of reckoning.

That’s a huge problem right there. As I told this individual, I as a Calvinist am not responsible for the utter abuse of its theological system by another sinner, and I refuse to apologize for it. I have nothing to apologize for. That man is responsible for his own sin, and he will answer for it. The reformed worldview is not responsible for this twisted version that I have shown here to be a twisted, unbiblical view of reformed theology. The article attempts to expose a double standard (again, all of this ultimately is to attack biblical, conservative Christianity) on evangelicalism:

“When there’s an act of ‘radical Islamic terror’ — somebody claiming they’re motivated by their Islamic faith — if we’re going to call upon moderates in Muslim communities to condemn those things, we should do the same. I wholeheartedly, full stop, condemn white nationalism,” said Chad Woolf, an evangelical pastor in Fort Myers

I don’t know who pastor Chad Woolf is, but I can tell him that I too condemn white nationalism, or white supremacy, but I don’t do that as some form of penance that I owe to society for the actions of a man who happens to claim for himself, not simply the religious worldview I adhere to, but to a theology within that worldview that I also adhere to.

Additionally, I do not, nor have I ever, after an Islamic terrorist attack condemned the religion of Islam for it. I don’t ask or demand Muslims around the world to separate themselves from these radicals or be accused of aiding and abiding them. That’s virtue signalling and I refuse to engage in such mob-like tactics. Instead, I will do what all Christians ought to do, and hold the evil-doers accountable before God, and that they will answer for their actions.

The sinful depravity of fallen, corrupted man leads evil men to do evil things. Yes, that is a reformed doctrine. There is nothing reformed about holding a group of people accountable for the sins of their ancestors. Religion doesn’t lead men to commit vile acts of sin. Religion becomes a catalyst, a gateway to act upon what is already deep inside the very core of their being. Sinners sin. Hence, the removal or shaming of a religion doesn’t do anything to end the disease.

The Bible teaches that man is desperately wicked (Romans 3) and that he uses any means he can to suppress the truth (Romans 1), and that comes in the form of religion, even. So what is the solution? The solution is that men need a new heart, not a new lifestyle, nor a new religion. The doctrine of regeneration (a reformed doctrine, by the way) teaches that no man will ever truly change, repent and be restored unless he is given a new heart.

[ 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.] -Ezekiel 36:25-26 (ESV).

The prophet Ezekiel declares on behalf of the LORD that God, in the new covenant, will cleanse His people, and give them a new heart. That’s what we need–a new heart. This Jesus taught consistently, and especially in the gospel of John, where Jesus talks about the very heart and core of a person, and that it was because of this that we did not need new life lessons, or moral reminders–we all knew about it clearly. What we needed was a rebirth in such a way, into such a new life that we would be able to obey that which God commands of us.

But until that happens, a person will always run off into sin and love the sin. They will never see the world in the way God does, and hence never seek to reconcile His creation to Him as He seeks to do. The reprobate never desire any of this. And since this man saw fit to murder image-bearers of God in such cold blood, how can it be said he is one of God’s children?

This idea that Christians and most especially Calvinists have a special penance to pay as a result of the wicked heart of this young man is truly offensive, and as I said, I won’t be doing any such thing. Instead, as a consistent Christian and Calvinist, I will point to the real, biblical problem of his heart. He is evil and wicked at the core, and needs a rebirth of the heart that would cause true Christian living. That goes for everyone. The answer is, and always will be the gospel.

It’s one thing for the secularists and the progressives to harp onto this idea of a group or sect paying penance for the sins of one who allegedly belongs to their group, it’s another for Christians to be calling for it from others. That is not a biblical idea by any stretch of the imagination. One might try and say that it is taught clearly in the fall and headship of Adam, but the argument demonstrates further a misunderstanding of this fundamental Christian doctrine.

We are not punished for Adam’s particular sin of eating the fruit. That is not accounted to me in Original Sin. What is mine to bear is the corruption that Adam passes down to me as being under his federal headship. That corrupt nature that affects every aspect of my being is what leads me to sin, and what brings me under the righteous judgment of God. That isn’t the same thing as the racial, or cultural concept of original sin. That is unbiblical. The truth of Scripture is that every single one of us, all on an equal level, stand condemned and in need of mercy before a holy God, and hence the gospel of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation is the answer, through and through for all sin and pain.

Antisemitism, Predestination and Reconciliation

I saved this section for last because what I wish to say here I think is a fitting end to this article I have written in response to the Washington Post article, and to those, particularly Christians, who wish to use this tragedy to score political points against reformed theology.

Here I will tackle the notion that the shooter believed he was justified in his targeting of Jews because it was the Jews who murdered Jesus. That’s actually not entirely true. It is true, particularly at Pentecost, Peter rebukes the Jews, charges them with murder against their own Messiah (Acts 2:23). But later, the Bible says it was also the Romans and the cowardly governor Pilate who were held accountable for the murder of Jesus too:

[27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.] -Acts 4:27-28 (ESV).

That is, Jews and Gentiles were responsible for the death of Jesus. So if the shooter were to really take his argument to its conclusion, he should be killing anyone on sight. Antisemitism based off of biblical language is absolute foolishness, evil, and utterly senseless. It has to take Scripture and twist it. As I said, it is a subset, sub-biblical concept. It takes bits and pieces here and there and ignores everything else. No one who is truly desiring to honor God, and thereby honor His word by basing their theology off a full understanding of all of Scripture would ever come to this debase, disgusting idea of antisemitism.

Notice again that this event was indeed predestined by God. Yes, it was God’s plan all along that the Messiah would be crucified. That is, God used the men involved in the crucifixion to fulfill His own purposes, which are always good.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” -Genesis 50:20 (ESV).

This right here is crystallized in the gospel. What men mean for evil, God always, always means for good. The same is in the crucifixion, which is the apex of this verse. What the evil Jewish leaders meant for evil, what the Gentiles meant for evil, to murder their God, God always intended it to save many who yet live, who will live eternally, to inherit that promise. That day was evil and wicked, but God, as He always does, redeemed it in the person of Christ because He is able, He is God, He is unstoppable. He is that good.

That is what God does for all of us who believe in Christ. All our pain, all our suffering has a purpose. As Paul says, God works all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He knows more than anything your pain and suffering, because He predestined it. Why? Because He has a purpose in it. Ephesians 1 gives glory in our election to God and God alone because He is merciful (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Therefore I would like to submit here to all those who have suffered as a result of this terrible tragedy and the wicked sins of an individual who used God’s sovereign decree by which that man had no right to use for sin, and he will be judged for it, to all of those affected by this, as a Calvinist, I propose to you the God of the Bible, who holds your destiny in His hand. He knows you deeper than you ever could, because He formed you. I would submit to you that your suffering, being under His divine authority, and Him always having a good purpose in all that He decrees, has a good purpose for you in that suffering. He can redeem your pain if you trust in Him. I don’t know how He will, as I am today still seeing my own pain being reconciled.

But my great comfort in knowing all the pain I endure daily is that God has a purpose in all of it. I know that whatever happens to me is for my good, and God knows that better than anyone. I rest in that sovereignty and that God I propose to you. Be reconciled to Him in Jesus Christ. Jesus is that Messiah that the Jews were waiting for–the Scriptures declare it. And now you need a God who can reconcile the pain you feel. So be reconciled to Him, and repent and believe in Jesus Christ today.

Star Wars: A Symbol of Progressive Power

In his book, How Should We Then Live?, Francis Schaeffer begins with the important declaration that we all have worldviews, we all have presuppositions, and that we all operate on those presuppositions more than we tend to think we do. It was an incredible thing for me to read at first, not having considered it before. And even after I read it, I did not think it was true. I actually held that people, especially people who have a faulty worldview that does not line up with the necessary presuppositions of life itself, operate on those presuppositions while opposing them at the same time. Atheism being a prime example. Denying the uniformity of logic, arguing it is instead a cognitive construct, while not actually living on that basis for a fraction of a second.

But I think there is some key truth to those words. What Schaeffer means is first that everyone has a worldview, and second, that denying that we have a worldview–a set of assumptions–means they operate unconsciously and will eventually reveal themselves at some point, and when they do, they can be either remarkably consistent with reality, and efficient in living, or can be tragically ironic as they are self-destructive of the worldview, and of reality. The more we deny the truth of our worldview assumptions, the more enslaved we are to them, and hence the more pervasive they show themselves in the things we do… such as running movie franchises.

What does this have in relation to the new Star Wars franchise, however? I recently watched a critical review of The Last Jedi that pretty much went on a perfect timeline of what happened to me as I saw the movie. I asked a co-worker about his thoughts and he had the exact same reaction as I did. To put it simply, I saw it, and I enjoyed it. I went home that evening, and reflected on it, and it was still exciting. But as time went by, I found myself increasingly, more and more disliking the movie. The experience was as if I had suddenly tripped and tumbled downhill. I try to cling to a branch or rock to keep from falling further. Sure, I was pretty far down the hill, which was bad, but it was better than falling farther, and at least I hadn’t gone over a cliff yet. But then that branch I clung to snaps, or that rock was actually cracked and separated from the base enough that with my sudden weight, breaks it off completely, and I start tumbling again.

I went from, “It was okay” to “it was kind of messy” to “okay, it wasn’t that good” and to “Okay, it was bad” and then finally to “wow that was actually a terrible, terrible movie”. Much like in Scripture, when I would read an amazing passage that reveals so much, such as Jesus’s words in John 13-17, it was like more and more and more and more was being realized the farther I went, and the more I meditated on it. Except for Star Wars, it was in the opposite direction. The more I contemplated it, the worse it got.

Progressive/postmodern thought is a fascinating, if not blatantly confusing form of inconsistent thinking permeating our society today. What it serves to do is to dish out the vision of a Utopian paradise utterly contradictory to its principles by grabbing the emotional strings of the masses, emptying logic and reality in the process and filling them with more emotions to have the package of logic and reality without actually being such. To do this, they seek to change the history of our world all together; the history of science, religion, politics and philosophy, all completely done away with, and in doing so, change reality itself, giving them a whole new basis of truth to then push forward to that Utopian dream. I think this kind of thinking finds itself truly working out in the world of media today, where in Marvel, for example, entire character franchises are being “revisioned” in the light of postmodern thought, destroying what was, for the sake of what wokeness declares will be (whatever that is).

For our current subject, I think no other franchise demonstrates this quite as clearly as the new Star Wars trilogy. The release of The Force Awakens, followed by The Last Jedi is truly the epitome of progressive/postmodern thought carried out as it destroys a beloved franchise to the cancer that it truly is.

Changing History

We will start with how the Progressive/postmodern mindset, changes history. And by that, we don’t mean in some noble set of cliche words that is meant to make an impact on the world. What we mean is that you actually alter history itself, ignore it completely, and base an entire premise on an inconsistent view of what has come before. Historical ignorance is fueled either by genuine ignorance, willful ignorance fueled by ideology, or a hybrid somewhere in between.

The reviews that I watched on YouTube about it all basically said the same thing, and one of those things was how this new trilogy betrays the whole franchise itself. How so? Because you still have Jedi, you still have Sith, star destroyers, and you also have the original cast even; plus you still have that cool intro prologue, with the burst of the theme song, and then the slow turn to some planet and star destroyer that pulls the audience in to see what the significance of this place is. So how can that ruin the franchise? Because very plainly, as has been said many times, the development of the characters, like Han, Leia and Luke seemed to be completely ignored in the franchise (with the possible exception of Leia).

In the original franchise, Luke was unrealistically optimistic and hopeful for saving his father from the dark side, and it paid off in the end. He allowed himself to be tortured by the Emperor, and possibly killed, destroying any chance of killing the Emperor and ending the Empire’s blight on the galaxy forever. He went through all of that so that his father could be saved, and it worked. Why then, when it came to the revelation of why he ran off in The Last Jedi did he seem to completely flip on that? He was about to kill a boy, who was just talking to a Sith lord (a Sith lord we never really get to know anyway). He hadn’t even done anything evil yet.

And even if he was to become evil, again, Luke was willing to throw away his chances of assassinating the Emperor for saving his dad. You mean to say that he wouldn’t take the same sort of risk to save a boy, who, even if he had “Vader tendencies” in his mind, was no where near the mental fortitude of Vader at such an age? That age is a critical moment of teaching a child and influencing them, not killing them. It is a complete betrayal of Luke’s character, and I would go a step further, it is simply ignoring and forgetting Luke’s character entirely.

Then with Han Solo, who starts in the franchise as a lowlife smuggler. He doesn’t care much for anything but money, and then finds himself in a cause to overthrow the Empire and he is given a new, noble purpose in life that changes him throughout the series into a more honorable man, willing to fight for truth and justice. He settles down with Leia even, and they have Ben (whom Luke tries to later kill). Then at the start of The Force Awakens, he is back to his old self again; all that character development just goes out the window. Apparently Han was dismayed by Ben’s turn, and so he went back to his old self. Now I realize, and especially as a Christian, that there are lapses and often times what we might call “back sliding”. That happens, and if they wanted to explore Han recognizing his weakness and temptation into the old life when things get difficult, that would have been great. But again, this doesn’t seem to happen. Instead, lore development is being completely tossed aside, and for what purpose? We will see here in a moment.

Nevertheless, the question seems begged, why then was he so suddenly willing to go after Ben when the chance came? For a man who was running away from his problems, he seemed pretty eager to jump back into the fray without a second thought, and his timing couldn’t be worse. Where was that eagerness when Ben was still a kid? It’s just difficult for me to imagine a man who did all of that (which Rey actually notes to him in the movie, so the movie developers don’t deny it) would come undone so quickly. You took on the Empire; the Roman army; the German war machine in 1940, and saw your friend bring his lost father back to the light side. You mean that none of that built into Han a character able to withstand these hardships? I’m beating my head against a brick wall of course; we all know what the answer to all of this is. The historical development of the franchise is simply ignored and cut away for the sake of “progress”, which actually means for a Utopian, brave new world.

Aside from the characters themselves, there seems to be a huge problem with the lore. Remember, at the end of the Return of the Jedi, the Empire was removed, and so one assumes that a new Republic was established. Shouldn’t that be what we walk into in The Force Awakens? It almost seems like we do, as the Republic is mentioned a few times, but it is so vague that the Republic might as well not even be there. You saw no sign, whatsoever, of a Republic having been established. On the contrary, the good guys are revealed to be “The Resistance”. What in the world do you need a resistance for if you are the established Republic Order of the galaxy?

Of course, this is a thirty year span. A lot can happen in that time. I can accept that. Perhaps the Republic has had a lot of political turmoil that has led to serious internal cracks in the foundation, possibly atomizing parts of the galaxy, faction warfare and so forth. I get it, and that’s fine, but that still does not answer the question as to why there is no Republic presence anywhere to be found. A Republic divided is still a Republic. In the United States, things are becoming increasingly more divided, but we still manage to have a presence all over the world. And “General Leia” (as she wanted to be called) was part of the resistance. Shouldn’t she be at the head of leadership in the Republic? Even if it is just being the high commander of a Republic fleet. Again, this is ignored.

But as if the Force Awakens wasn’t itself challenged with historical consistency, the Last Jedi suffers even more, showing just how corrosive and serious the Progressive mindset can be, by forgetting the history of the movie that came right before it, which, in terms of the movie’s timeline, seems to have only been roughly fifteen minutes to a day (give or take on when Rey meets Luke to when Po launches the resistance attack on the First Order). When we last left the gang, the giant planet gun was blown up, which I think was a very key strategic base of operations for the First Order. A ton of resources had to go into building that thing, and it got wiped out. Not to mention there was apparently a massive First Order presence on that planet when it went out.

Then we come to The Last Jedi and the resistance is still on its heels, desperately so, and Po is poised to launch a giant resistance attack on the First Order fleet, led by the guy who, some fifteen minutes to an hour ago (assuming no break from the first movie to the next) was running for his life from the exploding planet, and he was originally headed to Snoke when he did, not heading a large First Order fleet on a search and destroy mission.

Rey’s character, who is supposed to be the new main protagonist of the franchise, also seems to suffer development problems in a historical sense, and with this point, we really show how Ron Johnson basically flipped J.J. Abrams the bird for all the work he put into the Force Awakens. In the Force Awakens, it seems very clear that Abrams is setting up a trilogy that will explore the origins of Rey. She seems to be a nobody, living on a desert world. Then she can fly the Millennium Falcon in some truly amazing ways (I did love that scene, by the way). Then we learn she’s force sensitive in a way that is shocking.

There are clear hints that there is more to this nobody girl than meets the eye. The Force Awakens sets up a mother of a sequel, with a cliffhanger that got me excited for the next movie. In The Last Jedi, just how much Ron Johnson cared about Abrams’ work in the previous film was symbolically portrayed when Luke takes that lightsaber we were waiting for him to grab in The Force Awakens and tosses it over his shoulder in a humorous jab at the tease. Now admittedly, when I saw that for the first time, I laughed with the audience. But again, when we later reflect on the movie, we realize it was not only bad, but insulting. It betrayed that cliffhanger; I can’t imagine Abrams saw that scene with any sense of compliment.

This jab would be what carries the movie. The whole time Rey spends on the island is utterly confusing in itself. I was waiting to see the immense training she would undergo with the legendary Luke Skywalker, the struggle to grow that makes the character interesting. We all love that stuff. And I had thought that with Rey staring down into a dark pit, we would finally get something. It was teased so well. But once she goes down (and is able to swim despite living on a desert world) we instead get this extremely confusing, never truly explained scene that seems to indicate the consistent theme through the movie, which is to forget the past. Who cares?

Well I can say I cared. I wanted to know who Rey really was. Kylo in his conversations with Rey also tells her to leave the past be, and the movie seems on board with it, and her past becomes a mute point. It’s irrelevant by the climax of the movie.

Then with Luke being left alone on the island, he is visited by Yoda in some spiritual sense. Let’s paraphrase the conversation once more. Yoda appears to be telling Luke to forget the past by destroying that tree with the sacred writings of the Jedi. “Needs it, who does?” says Yoda in essence. Because the past doesn’t matter anymore. Now Yoda has embraced postmodernism. What matters is what is before us. Of course, I don’t deny that in some sense we need to let go of the past, but there is a difference between letting go, and completely forgetting. As Schaeffer says in his book, dwell on the past, and you’ll lose and eye. Forget the past, and you’ll lose both eyes.

As can be seen, the progressive/postmodern worldview of Kathleen Kennedy plays itself out as her leadership causes the future of the Star Wars franchise to not only forget its franchise origins, but with the help of Ron Johnson, The Last Jedi forgets the history of The Force Awakens. For what purpose? For the purpose of wokeness, for the purpose of progressivism. The past doesn’t matter anymore, it’s how we will shape the future, and give to future generations in terms of categories of thought to move further into the future. “Let the past die” as Kylo says. Yes, that seems to be working out very well for him. We will explore further these implications when we conclude, but for now, the next part of how the worldview of Progressive/postmodernism foreshadows its end result in the new Star Wars franchise.

Changing Reality

As I said before, there are (in my view at least) two stages of promoting the progressive worldview. The first is to propagate a revisionist perspective of history, which then essentially disconnects us from history. Once that is accomplished, one can effectively establish in the minds of the masses a new reality. Change history, change reality. It’s that simple. How then, does the new Star Wars trilogy betray reality?

I was tempted several times to talk about these glaring problems as I reviewed the historical problems of the new Star Wars trilogy. I resisted, in order to put them in their proper place, which is here. I go back once more to the plot problem of the absence of a Republic presence, despite establishing one at the end of the Return of the Jedi some thirty years ago. Now that is a long time, and I grant that. But instead of exploring how things got to a point where the Republic seems to have lost all control and influence on the galaxy, we’re left with a gaping hole of information that no one in development seems remotely interested in explaining to us.

What’s more, the First Order seems to come from left field somewhere and there is seemingly no resistance at all to its rise to power. In the opening prologue of The Force Awakens, Luke’s disappearance allows for the rise of the First Order. I get that Luke is supposed to be a very powerful Jedi, but you mean to say that Luke was the only thing keeping the First Order from rising to power? The prologue says that it “rose from the ashes” of the Empire. That indicates they are a remnant cause, which makes sense. But that still does not explain how they could get to a level that they get with what are clearly limited resources.

It is the resources here that we want to focus on, because this seems to be a real problem throughout the trilogy. You don’t simply declare your organization and then suddenly have masses of armies and an overwhelming fleet. That kind of stuff takes time and resources to develop. And if you are what the First Order is said to have been when it came to power, you will not be able to attain that kind of power without some serious help. If the Republic is the one in charge of the galaxy right now, chances are, the Republic would be making life difficult for the First Order.

Which means that in order for the First Order to actually get to where it is in the span of thirty years, it would have to work from within, taking over the government that has those resources to make a planet gun and a massive military force. Instead it seems that the First Order was its own entity, didn’t hide its agenda and managed to rival the Republic in thirty years. The only way that happens is if they infiltrate the Republic, weaken and cripple it, or the Republic is woefully incompetent to see the rising threat of the First Order.

Let’s not forget that this First Order was able to convert a planet into a giant gun within that thirty years. That in itself would take unfathomable time and resources to do. Again, if the Republic is at a point of internal turmoil that it cannot adequately sustain the First Order threat, then that’s fine, but a little hint perhaps? Instead there is none.

This all seems based on the idea that bad guys don’t need economics or logistics to make things work. And once again, the issue of logistics seems to carry over in a more pervasive way in The Last Jedi. The giant planet gun is blown up, along with I presume a couple thousand if not million troops and military hardware and the First Order seems unfazed by it. If you were to really take the time to watch, for example, a WWII documentary, you would see one of the struggles both sides had was the struggle for resources. You don’t just send masses of forces into an area without considering how well you can rearm them, reinforce them, not just with more troops, but ammo, weapons, fuel for your engines and so forth.

Do you have adequate resources to produce more planes? More tanks, ships and guns? With every battle, whether you win or lose, it costs you resources. You have to think about these things as you go into these situations. Hilter was a bad guy, but he didn’t just pop out of nowhere. He needed resources to build his war machine. The Romans needed resources, and they also needed political and societal stability, which eventually crumbled, bringing the empire with it.

In reality, of course, money doesn’t grow on trees, despite what Alexandria Ocasio Cortez seems to think. But you see, in a progressive/socialist Utopia, why does that even matter? Doesn’t the FED just print money? Let’s just print all the money and give it to all the persons, and then utterly transform our infrastructure in ten years, including building railway systems across the ocean? Debt is only a construct of the mind. You don’t really need to pay it off. Free college, free healthcare, free everything. Why even have money anyway?

Who says you can’t build a giant planet gun in thirty years, despite having no logistically realistic means to do so, nor any resource means to do so? None of that matters, especially when you need bad guys, and not just bad guys, but overwhelming bad guys. Because no one has ever used the idea of underdog rebel fighters trying to beat overwhelming odds before, right?

But you see the real big problem I’m getting at here is the unrealistic portrayal of the bad guys in this movie. They come out of nowhere it seems, you don’t know much about their convictions except that they hate the Jedi, so presumably they have old Empire tendencies. Other than that, there isn’t much. It’s the same threat repackaged. It is a forgettable enemy that serves only the purpose of being a giant mountain for the good guys to take down.

Generic bad guys aren’t really threatening because they are one-dimensional. So instead of going through the trouble of having to develop a more-than-one-dimensional bad guy, you just start the whole gig with them being in power and the good guy has to overcome them. No one knows who they are, no one is supposed to care. Bad guys aren’t interesting at all. They’re just screaming, insensitive jerks.

Am I ringing any bells? If I am, it’s because that’s how the progressive/postmodern “woke” movement sees current society. Society is the enemy. Established institutions are the enemy. The institutions have to come tumbling down. Who were they made by? Don’t know, don’t care; all that matters is that they are oppressive jerks, probably white men, and love money. Why were the institutions made? Don’t know, don’t care, for the same reason as the answer to the first question. They’re made by terrible men, so they themselves are terrible institutions. The historical significance for why these institutions exist, why the western thought is as it is, western society is as it is, developed over the last two-thousand years is utterly irrelevant. They are the First Order, the Empire, and they must be overcome by the new woke “diverse” group of rebels, and of course, to really ice it off, you need the leader of that gang of woke rebels to be a female.

It may be pure coincidence, but I notice that it seems like the women of the new Star Wars trilogy are not only very strong and firm and noble, they have their heads on their shoulders and so forth, but it seems like the men are the ones who are a complete mess and incapable of adequate leadership. Po is a hothead pilot who tries to lead a mutiny, seeming to have an issue with orders, and has an annoying tendency to make inappropriate conclusions that cause serious trouble in the resistance, which, by the way, if the purple-haired what’s-her-face lady simply told Po what they were doing, would have significantly lessened such turmoil.

Kylo Ren is an overgrown brat who doesn’t know who he is. All he knows how to do is be a big power-hungry jerk, an insecure Vader wannabe, who throws a fit when things don’t go his way. Fin is a likable guy, but he’s basically comic relief, the clumsy guy who doesn’t really know what he’s doing (serves literally no purpose in The Last Jedi by the way) but he’s got a big heart, so we like him anyways. Still, no real leadership in that guy. Then the not-important guy they were sent to find, on a mission that wasted up to at least 30 minutes of the film, seems like a likable criminal, but turns out to be a traitor in the end. Then there’s Snoke. After that is the First Order general who is a little crazy as well. Even Luke himself, against all Star Wars history, is a lost soul who has given up on life because he’s actually weak. It’s the ladies that seem to have everything together.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I don’t favor a strong female character. In fact, I’ve wanted a strong female lead in these movies for some time. However, Rey becomes less likable as the movies roll out. She’s become a Mary Sue, having no real faults, nothing relatable about her. Sure, she struggles to know who she is, but that doesn’t stop her from being a master Jedi from out of nowhere anyway. The realism is completely stripped away. Yes, I know that it’s just a movie, but the problem is that when ideology fuels your interpretation of reality, it’s going to affect how you produce art as well. Kathleen Kennedy has said that her main focus starting the trilogy was that they have a female lead and not to honor the franchise, tell a good story, or anything that makes movies and stories good.

This is what happens when you sacrifice reality for your woke ideology. Reality simply isn’t important anymore. Good story isn’t important anymore. History isn’t important anymore. All that matters is that wamen are great, men are indecisive pigs, untrustworthy and cause all the problems, society is racist and capitalism is evil. You don’t need complex plots when all you’re thinking about is progressive agendas, progressive agendas that are completely and deliberately separated from historical reality itself. It’s not about consistency, it’s about wokeness.

The new Star Wars franchise is the epoch of progressive thinking. It really does become a kind of allegory, or a kind of tale of what progressivism does. The troubling thing is that it’s operating principles have permeated a cancer within established franchises and completely destroying them. What happens when such ideology actually targets real institutions themselves? Real history, real science, real economics? If you want a picture of what the progressive/postmodern worldview intends to do with our world, look no further than what it has done to the Star Wars franchise. It foreshadows what is to come if we continue down this road. The corrosion breaks down the foundations. Great and mighty pillars of civilization come crumbling down, bringing the whole place down with them.

That is the goal of the progressive/postmodern movement. As the saying goes, to build, you have to first destroy. That’s what needs to happen. Natural evolution is a beloved worldview of many of these people. It is “wonderful” that creatures evolve into something else. Of course, the problem with evolution is that it works by mutation, and mutation does not correct, does not perfect, nor does it make more complex. It actually destroys, and that is what this does as well.

The Good News

Fortunately, the end is not so bleak as has been shown here. In biblical history, very often God rebuilds a strong society on the ruins of a formerly judged one. His judgment is always paving the way for something greater. The consistent testimony of Scripture is that every time God brings forth His judgment, the remnant are left (Romans 11:4, 1 Kings 19:18). Remember the story of Noah. The days of Noah are filled with wickedness, and the Lord brought judgment on them all. But He kept a remnant in Noah and his family, and after that was a new world.

In each case, the removal of one civilization was to bring forth something greater. Sounds much like evolution that I just criticized, did it not? With an important difference, of course. God always has a purpose in His removing of great kingdoms from the earth. Evolution does not. In light of that, God is always destroying things that have already gone rotten. He is not causing rot at sound foundations. They destroy themselves, and are rightly judged for it (Romans 1:22-27). It was not God destroying established institutions that brought structure and true order to a plural society, but rather God destroying things that attempted to uproot His established order for society.

The call of the gospel is to repent. Repentance means to change ones mind. The changed mind is not changing to some idea out in left field, rather it is turning back to God. The prophet Isaiah says that we have all “gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Earlier in Isaiah, the Lord is calling His people to “remember the former things” (Isaiah 46:8). In the opening chapters of Jeremiah, it is all about repenting (turning away from sin, and to the Lord). Unlike what progressive/postmodern thought is attempting to do, which is to destroy not only what is, but what was, God is destroying what is, to restore us to what was. The call is to return to God, to our Creator, our origins, to remember who we are. The more we stray, the more we walk in darkness.

C.S. Lewis convincingly argues in his book The Abolition of Man, that a continuous stream of thinking into the subjective, relativistic world that we continue in does not bring us to a greater understanding of man, but of abolishing what man actually is, and any meaningful definition of what it means to be man. Is that not what we see in our world today? Continuing down the tunnel of subjective thinking, we remove ourselves from any meaningful universal order and system (which is God) to give us meaning, guidance and purpose. Hence we are left to make it ourselves, in ourselves and in doing so, men cannot tell if they are men or women, boys or girls, what is real and what is not.

In the Christian message, returning to God in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ restores our fellowship with Him (Romans 5:1-5) and a new life begins in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). That new life is not fully recognized while in this perishing world, but we look forward to it, not to a destroying of all things, but a restoring of all things (Romans 8:18-21) .

Such we will eventually see when all is said and done. In these days, we may see great and greater strife and destruction. Men will fall away, but God has always been faithful. The Bible tells us that these dark times are birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). The image is meant to describe the great struggle and anguish that comes in child birth. But after that is the miracle of life, and a new child brought into the world. The same is for God’s kingdom. We are in great birth pangs, but they point us forward to everlasting life in the kingdom of God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us look forward to that great day in these dark times.

Finding the Balance

Why “Finding the Balance”? Throughout my young adult life, one thing has been commonly put upon my mind as I reflect on important issues in life, and that is simply finding the proper balance to these important issues. This is especially important in topics regarding politics, religion, worldviews, and culture. These are areas that deal with life itself, and can themselves be a matter of life and death. How do we find the right balance to an issue that does not have us falling off the proverbial horse on either side?

Whenever I would consider an issue, I found that there were primarily two positions vying for acceptance. In some cases there were more, but the primary separation was between two parties. Almost as often as I found two separate parties, I also found that I disagreed with both, finding that the two sides tended to have their ups and also had their downs. In some cases, one side had less faults than the other, and visa versa. I am not here saying that I am the standard to judge by which they are right, but the point being made is that where most saw that you are either “left or right” I saw that it didn’t need to be that way.

Black, White and Gray

It is often called a false dichotomy, or a fallacy of false alternatives. If you don’t support universal healthcare, you must hate society, and sick and disabled people, and love big corporations. If you do not support the wars, you must hate the United States, the military and everyone serving. If you support a border wall, you must hate all immigrants. If you don’t support the presidential nominee, you must be in favor of the other. In each of these cases, there is a false dichotomy problem, where not every option is actually considered. Just because I do not support the wars in the Middle East does not mean I think the US military is a bunch of gun-ho, blood thirsty haters of Muslims. And just because I don’t support government-run healthcare does not mean I don’t like disabled people, or very sick people. There are better ways to solve these issues, and I stand for neither of the major sides. Both sides suffer serious imbalances that I cannot afford to help make more imbalanced.

Very often in movies, TV shows, video game plots and various other storytelling outlets, you see things in the plot painted in a sort of black and white scenario, where there is a clear bad guy and a clear good guy. Much like in Star Wars, you have the Light Side and the Dark Side, and it’s very obvious which is which. These are popular story mechanics, but I find that the more interesting stories are the ones that blur the lines, that provide that “gray area” where good and bad are not always that easy to tell, or when the right choice has poor consequences. Why not have three sides fighting for control, with three different views on how to solve the problem? That would cause some real conflict with the main protagonist. Because while one side is clearly unacceptable, two others may be, but which one? This is the sort of thing I try to do in my own novel-writing. In such a scenario, it would be even more complex of a story, and provide a more realistic, if not more interesting plot, because the reality of the matter is that history tells us that there was very rarely (if ever there was) ever a “black and white” scenario, where the good guys were clearly the good guys.

While the Allied powers against the Axis powers were the guys to root for, men like Winston Churchill were not without their great sins and power grabs, particularly Churchill’s dealings with Stalin towards the end of the war, and even before Berlin was captured, all sides were in a race for the city, to be the first to claim the hill. In the French Revolution, one could argue very easily that the population’s revolt against the corrupt aristocracy was just. But they lost all sympathy when they went mad, led by Robespierre in the Reign of Terror.

Even in biblical history, though the patriarchs and apostles were favorite characters to follow, they still had their great sins. The only one who didn’t was Jesus. Otherwise, conflicts are simply not as simple as we make them out to be, not so easily balanced out. It is because of this reality that we need to be careful not to fall too far into leftist extremism, or rightist extremism.

The Narrow Way

It is this necessity of proper balance that I think Jesus meant when He said these words:

[“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”] -Matthew 7:13-14 ESV.

Whenever I read this passage, I have always pictured a man walking down a long, stretched-out bridge, from one side to the other, and the bridge extending across a large canyon. But this bridge has no rail guards to it, and it is very narrow. Too far the left, you fall, and too far to the right, you fall. There is a proper balance that must be walked to get across safely. That is the kind of imagery Jesus is giving us here. So what does he mean? For many years, I struggled with its meaning, but I do believe it carries many applications. The main point is that we must walk this life with the right balance, and an imbalance will cause great trouble and even death.

Take for instance the discussion of the nature of Christ in the fifth century, at the Council of Chalcedon. Two parties were vying for acceptance (it wasn’t so simple, but for the sake of discussion, we will mention just these two), both of which eventually were condemned as heresy. One was Nestorianism, which argued that the human nature of Christ and the divine nature were so divided, that they were indeed separated from one another, arguing that Christ was a duality of persons in one. The other was the Monophysite party, arguing that the divine nature and human nature of Christ are so intimate, that they are fused and mixed with each other.

You see the contrast of both views. The former separates the two natures of Christ to a point that He is two different persons. The ladder joins the two natures in such a way that they become confused, and in essence some kind of mutated hybrid of divine humanity is made. Instead, a balance had to be found, where you do not fall too far into the Nestorian heresy, and then too far into the Monophysite heresy, and so the Chalcedon Creed, which defined the Hypostatic Union of Christ was formed, showing that Christ was truly God and truly man, in such a way that the two natures are not separated, but neither are mixed together.

One of the hardest lines to walk in the Christian life is the walk of faith and grace. Very often we can get caught into feeling that we need to do righteous deeds, and certainly, we are commanded to do, but we also risk becoming too reliant on the law for our position in God’s sight that we fall into legalism. But if we turn that around, and decide to go the other direction into grace, we may go too far and remove the law from any sense of purpose at all, and conclude that because we are forgiven in Christ, we are free to live however we want, and sin however much we want. This also must be avoided.

So the risk here is to emphasize too much of the law, and fall off into legalism, or to emphasize too much of grace, and fall into antinomianism. We must walk that fine balance, which Scripture provides, that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28) but that that faith is a faith that produces works of repentance and growing faith in the Christian life (Ephesians 2:10).

In the triune nature of God Himself, we must understand that God is both One and Many at the same time. But if we emphasize too much of His Oneness, we risk Unitarianism in the form of modalism, where God’s Oneness overshadows His Manyness and hence the three persons become three modes or mere masks that the one God puts on at various times. On the other hand, if we emphasize too much of God’s Manyness, we risk forms of trithesim (three gods) or polytheism. We must have the right balance, a balance that Scripture provides, between the One and the Many of God. In the Trinity do we find true balance of unity.

You see how in these important matters (and there are countless more), we must be able to find the right balance. In essence, what this blog/project of mine is meant to be is to be me speaking genuinely how I feel about issues regarding religion, theology, politics, culture (and as a bonus, I’d like to talk about writing, art and related topics as hobbies I enjoy). The gospel is the primary focus of all my writing, and it is the biblical conviction of finding the proper balance in every situation that drives me. Because as I see the world unfold, I see that there is a scale, and most people end up on one side or the other. We need to remove ourselves from the think tank of the standard talking points of each imbalanced side, and take the biblical view, allowing it to define our categories, our worldview, and to give us the tools to find that straight road, that balance that brings forth life, truth and understanding.