Law vs. Grace. Is there Really a Conflict?

Not too long ago I found myself in a conflict over the applicability of the Law of Moses in our times, a concept known as theonomy. Theonomy is just a technical word for the idea that God’s Law/Word is the ultimate source of ethics and the rule of law for all mankind in all times and that means the Law of Moses, at least in principle.

For some reason, the very word provokes violent reactions against it in some circles. There are seminaries that will not allow pro-theonomic books in their libraries or bookstores while openly promoting books critical of the position.[1] The authors who reject theonomy out of hand misrepresent it and debate the misrepresentation, a logical fallacy called a straw man argument. Often these arguments are character assassinations and gross misrepresentations. I’ve heard theonomy called legalism, anti-Semitic, puritanical fascism and a conspiracy to overthrow the government. None of this is remotely true.

I have personally been blackballed by those who disagree with me without so much as an investigation of the facts or even being asked to explain what I believe. We live in times when prejudice has replaced analysis. We used to believe that the best way to silence a false argument was to refute it. Could it be that that the opponents of theonomy are unable to refute it? These are sincere people who believe they are defending the faith. If so, why shut down all discussion?

A dear friend who does not share my perspective observed that my counterparts in the conflict brag about living by grace but demonstrated less grace in practice than those who acknowledge the law, namely me.

To encourage me my friend sent me a devotional by Chuck Swindoll about the law. It was titled “The Legal Swamp. The text was 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

Now, I love Chuck Swindoll. He was my parents’ pastor for many years at the Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California. When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary Dr. Swindoll was the president. My father had terminal lymphoma at the time. I approached Pastor Chuck and asked if he remembered my parents. He said yes. I thanked him for his ministry to them and told him about my dad’s illness. A day later I received a hand written note in my student mailbox from Chuck to my parents encouraging and consoling them. That impressed me. This was a guy who knew the sheep he was given to tend for the Master.

I respect Pastor Swindoll but I don’t agree with his take on the law in this devotional. It starts off like this:

“Law never fails to turn me off.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t think we need it . . . it’s just that it leaves me cold. It frowns and demands. It requires and warns and threatens. With a grim glare, it dares us to forget its rules or even think about disobeying its regulations.

I know, I know. It protects us. It gives us recourse when we’ve been assaulted or abused. It’s the ultimate big stick we can wave in the face of an adversary. “I’ll sue!” has therefore become our favorite national slogan, which fits perfectly into our me-ism society.

“I’ve got my rights.”
“I’ve got it coming to me.”
“I don’t have to take that from you.”

Those are the overused words of our overkill generation. Parents are now being sued by their children. Teachers are being sued by their pupils. Coaches are being sued by their players. Spouses are being sued by their partners, and it isn’t limited to unbelievers. Christians are now neck deep in the legal swamp. Christian neighbors sue each other. Christian faculty members are now filing suit against the administrations of Christian schools. Churches not only sue one another, congregations now sue their pastors—and vice versa. Parishioners who have complaints about the counseling they received from their ministers are turning to the courts to voice their anger and to seek a financial settlement.”

All true and a sad state of affairs but is the Law the problem? Are we short on grace? I don’t see it that way. The perfect Law of God is something to delight in, to meditate on day and night. It is the law of liberty. The devotional is well meaning and honest but it reflects the false dichotomy of law vs. grace and an antinomian theology.[2]

As I read it, the devotional is a good description of the conflict between humanistic law and the Law of God. If we obeyed the law of God, if we really believed that God has the authority to provide objective law and has done so, if we therefore studied and knew the law, we would not be doing the things Chuck outlines in this devotional.

The lack of grace in a conflict by those who cry the loudest about grace is the natural fruit of rejecting the law. If you do not believe in the law you will see no problem in crucifying your opponent behind his back. Ignoring the legal procedures for dealing with offenses by holding court in private and pronouncing sentence without the accused present is not a problem. We’re under grace, not the law.

What happens when a people ignore God’s law is what Pastor Chuck describes here. We have been taught the law is a horrible thing to be avoided. As a result we never really studied it. Neither have we taken the time to review original sources of those who argue that the Law of Moses is still in force, at the very least, in principle.

A friend in Africa, Chuks Ezemandu, recently wrote the following excellent explanation of theonomy:

The Laws of Moses applied in Christ is the basis for individual, family, Church and societal sanctification; powered by the Holy Spirit. Whoever hears Moses will hear Christ. Christians should honor the law of Moses just because the words of Christ require us to do so. Theonomy is not a matter of hearing Moses instead of Christ, but rather hearing Moses because of Christ.

Matthew 18:15-20, the passage we so often use for peacemaking, is an exposition of the law in Deuteronomy 19:15. The law prohibits anyone from bringing a charge in public without at least two witnesses. Jesus says that means by law you have to go to the accused in person and in private before you make a charge public.

Without the law, there is no grace. Grace, like mercy, operates within the law, not outside it. Think about it for a moment. If there was no infraction of the law, what would grace mean? Nothing. It would be permissiveness. The law of God is anything but demanding your rights. But we don’t know this because we’ve been inoculated against it. In most cases we were born into the faith with an allergic reaction to the law. It is an inherited spiritual characteristic from those who led us to the Savior and discipled us.

Mankind will always be governed by some system of law. The question is not law vs. grace but in which law system will grace operate. Manmade law systems have no room for grace, they are brutal and cruel. When we pit law against grace we nullify God’s law and in effect say any law but God’s Law. The real battle throughout history has not been law vs. grace but God’s law vs. man’s law.

Grace works our salvation by what means? By Christ’s death on the cross. His sacrifice did not nullify the law, rather by it He paid the penalty for our sin. Sin is lawbreaking. Breaking which law? God’s of course. If the law were not the immutable standard of God’s character Christ’s death would be unnecessary and meaningless.

When Paul says we are under grace and not under the law he means we are no longer under the death sentence of the law and are set free to live according His law and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. But we have to study it to know it. Christianity is not a mystery religion where the Spirit magically speaks to us about what is right and wrong. It’s written down for us.

I thought it ironic that the passage for Chuck’s devotional was 1 Cor 6:1-8. It is about church courts. What do courts do? They judge. They are supposed to make just judgments as Jesus commanded. By what standard? If not God’s law, which law? Man’s problem since the fall has been his insistence on autonomy, auto (self) nomos (law).

The grace vs law false dichotomy is just another version of the same, any law but God’s law. It is the great sickness that has infected the church. The way the grace over law crowd handles these kinds of disagreements is an example of what this antinomianism produces, Pietists red in tooth and claw, as my friend Jason Lawton puts it. There is no more implacable enemy then the one who self-righteously is sure he is doing good but by his own autonomous standards.

Jesus’s and Paul’s beef with the Pharisees was not that they were keeping the Law of Moses but that they weren’t. They had abandoned the Law of Moses for their own autonomous law, their traditions. Are we any different?

I have yet to see anyone deal honestly with the arguments in favor of a theonomic view of the Law refute them. This is true even of those who have grown up with an antinomian theology. They may fight it and only reluctantly agree that maybe the Law has a role in modern society. The truly recalcitrant refuse to read original sources preferring to debate the abundant straw man misrepresentations. Why? They prefer autonomy, any law but God’s Law. May God grant us mercy to learn to love and live by grace in His perfect Law of Liberty.


[1] Greg Bahnsen, PhD, No Other Standard, Theonomy and its Critics, Tyler, TX, Institute for Christian Economics, 1991, p. 1

[2] Antinomian: against the law, especially the Law of Moses and its application in our times.

Justice and Wealth in Mexico

wealth and poverty

An aerial photo essay someone posted on Facebook portrays the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in Mexico. The title of the essay is, These Shocking Unaltered Aerial Photos Reveal the Unjust Division of Wealth in Mexico. You can see it here, Division of Wealth in Mexico. The photos are real and the problem is real but is the problem the division or wealth or something else?

Collectivism, central planning, a burdensome tyrannical tax system, the central bank, fiat money, the burden of bureaucratic administrative law and corruption cause this. I live here and live with this nonsense; this dogma that the state must do something about the economy. All of this is driven by the doctrine that the problem is distribution, i.e. the unjust division of wealth. The state and all it is “doing” to “fix” the problem of distribution is the cause. The problem is not distribution but production. A truly free market governed but the just laws of God will solve it.

The government’s policies and the bureaucracies it creates plus the regulations that result from that have created tremendous barriers to competition and entry into the market by new businesses. It is very difficult for families to start productive businesses because everything is regulated, taxed and licensed, all in the name of fixing the alleged problem of division of wealth. It’s like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

The current administration, especially in our state of Puebla, is abusing eminent domain to confiscate property and favor certain businesses and corporations. Eminent domain is a violation of the 8th commandment, thou shalt not steal. Stealing a family’s property to build an industrial park that will house an Audi plant to “create jobs” to fix the problem of division of wealth is still stealing. It is also wrongheaded; the wealth always ends up accumulating in the hands of the politicians and insiders. This God is judging, a better explanation of what is in the photo essay than division of wealth.

This is not unusual. In another part of Mexico a politician confiscated land from local farmers and built a big, showy school, a housing project, and a building for small business. What do the farmers say about this savior politician? They curse him. He is now well placed in the power structures of national politics.

The myths of the politics of guilt and envy perpetuate the system. The covetous poor believe the myths and keep voting for the same government policies that enslave them. Myth: Mexicans don’t save so we must have social security to force them to save and take care of those who don’t contribute. Truth: Mexicans are smart productive people given an opportunity. After all, they manage to survive in this horrible system and are in demand even as illegal workers north of the border. They don’t save because 1. There is nothing left to save after taxes and inflated prices and 2. The promise that the messianic government will take care of you is an incentive not to save.

Margaret Thatcher, “Socialism works until it runs out of other people’s money.”

Mexico’s government is running out of OPM and thinks the solution is to go steal some more. The goose that lays the golden egg has no feathers. The government stole them. In the name of just division of wealth the government passed a law requiring employees to begin paying into a pension fund for their employees after they have been with the company for so many years. Business people here are smarter than GM, they know how to stay away from the pension plan trap. They fire their older workers before they incur the pension obligation. Upper level managers are often foreigners who are paid from outside the country. The lower level folks are talented young people, few of whom will make it past 40 in a responsible, well-paying position. Result: gifted, experienced folks who made a good living find themselves without a job and not able to get one at the level of their training and experience at the age of 38 to 40.

Another pervasive myth that permeates the Mexican worldview is salvation by education. People are in terror of not getting an education validated by the state. But because of policies like the pension policy mentioned above professional careers are short lived. I’d guess on average a talented young person fresh out of the state approved university system might have a productive career of 15 to 20 years before being put out to pasture. When it happens they often are not ready because they bought the myth of the good life and financed it with debt. They can make the payments while employed but when they find themselves on the outside it disappears into thin air.

wealth and poverty 3What the photographs do not show is the movement of people from one side of the fence to the other. Not all poor people stay poor and not all rich people stay rich. However, due to the nature of the system, the movement from rich to poor is greater than from poor to rich. It might be more accurate to say upper middle class to nearly begging.

It is not that uncommon for a former executive to be reduced to working all day just to put food on the table for that day with nothing left for tomorrow. His wife, who once managed a house with help, is reduced to selling homemade Popsicles on the street. She is still an honorable Proverbs 31 woman, just reduced to poverty.

The policy makers who do the damage never have to face the consequences of their decisions. They are the elite. By the time the chickens come home to roost they are out of office living on a fat pension funded by the productive people they took to the cleaners. They are serious about one thing: maintaining their power and the wealth that comes with it. They are not interested in the unjust division of wealth in Mexico. How serious are they? I was discussing this photo essay with a young friend here on Facebook. He told me the story about the farmers who lost their land and named names. In the middle of the conversation he wrote, “Roger, I´ve just been advised not to talk truths on Facebook, cuz it could not be good.” “How not good?” I asked. Not good as in the names named could come hunting you with malice aforethought.

Pray for Mexico. Pray against her enemies within, that God may bring judgment against them soon. He who loves God hates evil.

Psalm 83, an imprecatory prayer ends this way:

83:17 May they be humiliated and continually terrified! May they die in shame! 83:18 Then they will know that you alone are the Lord, the sovereign king over all the earth.

Trash or Treasure: Popular Christian Artist Tweets in Favor of Same Sex Marriage

By: Roger Oliver


Dan Haseltine, front-man for the Christian Band, Jars of Clay sent a Twitter message supporting gay marriage. You can read it here: Dan Haseltine of Jars of clay Twitters on Gay Marriage. I like their music and have two of their albums so the story interested me. No doubt the man is sincere. I read the article and here offer an analysis of the crux of Haseltine’s Twitter statement:

Haseltine Twitted, “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” He went on to write “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?”

Let me unpack this one line at a time as I understand the argument and my response.

“Not meaning to stir thing up BUT…”

Nonsense. This is meant to stir things up and put a spin on the conversation that poisons the well against opposing views before they are expressed. He is announcing what he has decided and doesn’t want to discuss it, not really.

“Is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.”

Of course there are. This is not a speculative slippery slope question; it’s about what law governs and the consequences of obedience and disobedience. Sodomy is breaking God’s law in the same way the adultery, rape, bestiality and pederasty are breaking God’s law. To remove any doubt, Leviticus 18 spells out what the 7th commandment (adultery) means in disgusting detail. Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:8-11 among many New Testament passages reinforce the prohibition. Haseltine is not hearing any other arguments because either he isn’t reading the Bible or interprets what he reads through an antinomian, pietistic lens. There is nothing to speculate about here.

The slippery slope is a type of fallacy defined as follows:

  • “The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that one event must inevitably follow from another without an argument for such a claim.”[1]
  • From another source: “The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.”[2]

I’m not sure what slippery slope argument he is talking about. Perhaps this one? “Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we’ll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.”[3] Indeed this is not speculative. We already have three women married[4] and there are numerous advocates for redefining marriage to mean whatever suits you, to children, to animals, whatever. To call this a slippery slope is another fallacy, a red herring, avoiding the issue at hand by changing the subject. Understand this clearly, Dan Haseltine is calling the conservative Christian argument against same-sex marriage fallacious.

Paul argues in Romans 1:18-32 that there is a downward spiral of consequences that leads to exactly what we are seeing today. It is a description of what happens to a people who know God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. God gives them over to their dishonorable passions. The plague of homosexuality is the bottom of the hill and a judgment of God on a society that tolerates this kind of behavior.

“I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage.”

What is the conservative argument he refers to here and exactly how does it fail to hold up to ‘basic’ scrutiny? First he asks if there is any argument other than the slippery slope and before he gets an answer judges the conservative argument not to hold up to basic scrutiny. What is the standard by which he is judging? What evidence does he present? None! This is pure Twisertion (assertions published on Twitter). Twitter is not the best forum to present a reasoned argument. It is good for spectacular speculation.

What were the arguments about women’s suffrage and how are they parallel? Akin to doesn’t make it equivalent. It turns a behavioral issue into an ontological question. Being a woman is ontological; practicing sodomy is a behavior. It is not law-breaking to be a women, it is to commit sodomy unless you completely reject the Law of God in the New Covenant as its application is explained in the New Testament.

“I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage.”

The end game of the homosexual movement is not homosexual marriage but the end of marriage completely. It is considered an outmoded form of societal organization that is being replaced by the state in the evolution of man. This is not a secret to anyone who will take the time to do a tad of research. The end game is this: no God, no marriage, no private property. This is not a speculative slippery slope, it is what homosexual activists have said.bybelstudie treasure in a clay pot

Some will say to disagree with Dan Hasletine is unloving. Someone did indeed accuse me of said sin without any substantive evidence or a clear definition of love. We appear to be incapable of thinking rationally these days. Paul says in Romans 13:8-10 that obeying the law is the very definition of love; it doesn’t prejudice your brother. Love you neighbor as yourself is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 in the context the antonym hate, in vs. 17 is defined as follows, “You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him.” If I don’t point out that your conduct is out of line with the Law of God, indeed I hate you. That I am writing this is an expression of love as it is defined in the Bible.

In the thread below the article on the web page where it was published there was lots of talk about Christian love from the supporters of same sex marriage interspersed with vile denunciations of anyone who disagreed with them. How do they define love? They only offered a negative definition: it is unloving not to accept same sex marriages. But if love is tolerance defined as acceptance of whatever another believes even if you disagree then where is the tolerance/love for those who believe homosexuality is law-breaking?

Anyone who disagrees with them is deemed to be imposing their views on others. How is a mere expression of disagreement imposing one’s views? How is silencing the opposition to homosexuality using obscene and profane expletives not imposing one’s views? By what standard do they judge?

Speaking of judging, another tactic in the readers’ blog was to call down an opponent of gay marriage for judging. One young man threw in a clever turn of phrase and said that God was judge and didn’t need a secretary. But when you call someone down for judging you are judging. His very statement was a judgment. By what standard? On whose authority?

It is impossible not to judge, it is required to live and survive as human beings on the earth. Jesus’ admonition to judge not that you be not judged is a command to judge yourself by the same standards you use to judge others. These comments from the pro-gay marriage that demand love but spew hate out of the same pen are judgments by a double standard. This is the definition of hypocrisy. It would be more honest just to say they have a different law, a different standard and will tolerate no other.

To accuse another of being unloving because he disagrees with you is not an argument, it is a personal attack and an evasion, a suppression of the truth in unrighteousness. We’re making up our own definitions. God is love, love is not God. His very character expressed in his immutable Law defines love. Enough with the hypocritical talk about love.

In conclusion, we are talking about two very different Christianities. The disagreement is about the standards that are to govern our lives. We have disdained the Law of God in the Bible with a million excuses: “That stuff was for Israel, it doesn’t apply to us.” “We’re under grace, not law.” “According to the Law you’re not supposed to wear clothes made of mixed threads? Are we going to obey that?”[5] If it is not God’s Law of liberty, then what law? In the name of a distorted view of grace we have thrown off the liberty of God’s law for slavery under humanistic law, the worst kind of legalism. How’s that working for us?



[3] Ibid.

[4] The next marriage redefinition? Massachusetts lesbian ‘throuple’ expecting their first child.

[5] You can find answers to these questions and more about the law in R.J. Rushdoony’s Law and Liberty and the pamphlet, Faith and Obedience at

The Revenge of Conscience: Abortion Clinic Counselor Films Her Own Abortion

There is a video on the Internet of an abortion clinic counselor getting her own abortion. Her name is Emily Letts. You can see it here, Abortion Clinic Counselor Films Her Own Abortion. I could not bring myself to watch it even though it is supposedly not graphic. It’s just to grotesque to think about. A good deal of the video is apparently her talking about her feelings six weeks after the abortion. I think that would nauseate me or I would find myself yelling at the screen, “What in the world are you thinking about?”

abortionThe most bizarre statement at the end of the video, “I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby; I can make a life.” And then conspire to murder it? How can such an apparently smart person do such a horrific act and talk about it so calmly? Why make a video in the first place?

The answer is what J. Budziszewski[1] calls the revenge of conscience. I’m going to share some extended quotes from his book, What We Can’t Not Know.[2]

J. Budziszewski is a professor of political science and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, at least he was last time I checked and when he wrote this book. He got hired because he was a nihilist. Sometime after he got tenured he came back to the faith and apparently they can’t fire him. He is a formidable apologist. In his testimony he says that one day when he was about to pull out the last part of the motherboard that makes us human bravely facing the meaninglessness of life he was hit by a question, “If what I believe is true, why do I love my wife and children so much.” That pulled him back from the abyss. He says that it was like long shuttered windows to his soul began to bang open and shafts of light flooded in.

Budziszewski’s specialty is natural law with a focus on the how we repress what we know. I have not been able to confirm this but I think he is also a Roman Catholic. I am telling you this in case you discover it later and are tempted to throw out the baby with the bath water. So, before you blow this off and head for the door because you don’t believe in natural law or that Roman Catholics can make a case for the faith hear me out.

The first book of his that I read is titled, The Revenge of Conscience, Politics and the Fall of Man.[3] His thesis is that we are going about ethics all wrong in college. We are assuming we don’t know right from wrong and are trying to come to some agreement about the difference. He posits that the problem is not that we don’t know but that we do know and are doing everything we can to pretend we don’t know what we know. Where would he get such a crazy idea? From the Bible, especially Romans 1:18-32. It’s called total depravity in Calvinist circles. If you didn’t know better, reading him you might thing he was a Calvinist.

In What We Can’t Not Know, Budziszewski makes a cogent analysis of the 10 Commandments and why they are still the foundation of all morality and ethics for all people everywhere and in every age, the thing we know that we are pretending not to know. In this and another of his books titled, Written on the Heart, the case for natural law,[4] he makes the case that before the 10 commandments were written on stone they were written into the creation and into the nature of human beings. Sin entered the world and one of its results is the suppression of this truth. Therefore, God revealed the Law in written form as part of his plan to redeem mankind.

For those of us who do not buy the typical flavor of natural law that died when Darwin published his On the Origin of Species and later The Descent of Man, Budziszewski is not arguing that anybody anyplace can reason to the 10 commandments or a version thereof without a revelation from God. He also is not arguing that the natural law exists apart from God. His thesis is that our problem is not so much that we cannot reason but that we will not. In our depravity, we flat refuse to acknowledge God and what we now he demands of us (Romans 1:18ff).

A disclaimer: This is what I took away from reading Budziszewski, almost all his books. There are more sentences underlined and highlighted in those books that there are lines of pristine text. His ideas as I have presented them here are written on my heart you might say. They have been very helpful and I have never found anything quite like them until I found Rushdoony, Gary North, Gary DeMar, and Joel McDermon. If Budziszewski were to read this he might correct some misperception. In general, I think I’m pretty close.

abortionBudziszewski sounds downright theonomic and reconstructionist though I suspect he would distance himself from that characterization. Here is the quote from What We Can’t Not Know that helped me understand the bizarre behavior of this woman who filmed her own abortion and her thoughts about it. Her purpose was, as she put it, “to provide strength and support to abortion-vulnerable/abortion-minded women in similar situations.”[5]

After reading the following quote from What We Can’t Not Know, this statement by Emily will make all the sense in the world, “Emily further states that having an abortion does not make one a bad or sad person, nor should it make one feel guilty.”[6] The quote is a discussion of the conscience, how it works, what it does. Pay special attention to the 5 furies of the conscience.

The Five Furies pp. 140, 141
Everyone knows that conscience works in two different modes. It works in a cautionary mode; it alerts us to the peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it. In the accusatory mode, it indicts us for wrong we have already done. The most obvious way of doing so is through the feeling of remorse, but remorse is the least of the Furies. No one always feels remorse for doing wrong; some people never do. Yet even when remorse is absent, guilty knowledge generates objective needs for confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification. These other Furies are the great sisters of remorse: inflexible, inexorable, and relentless, demanding satisfaction even when mere feelings are suppressed, fade away, or never come. (Emphasis mine.) And so it is that conscience operates not only in the first two modes but in a harrowing third: The avenger, which punishes the soul who does wrong but who refuses to read the indictment.

Conscience is therefore teacher, judge, or executioner, depending on the mode in which it works: cautionary, accusatory, or avenging.

How the avenging mode works is not difficult to grasp. The normal outlet of remorse is to flee from wrong; of the need for confession, to admit what one has done; of atonement, to pay the debt; of reconciliation, to restore the bonds one has broken; and of justification, to get back in the right. But if the Furies are denied their payment in wonted coin, they exact it in whatever coin comes nearest, driving the wrongdoer’s life yet further out of kilter. We flee not from wrong, but from thinking about it. We compulsively confess every detail of our story, except the moral. We punish ourselves again and again, offering every sacrifice except the one demanded. We simulate the restoration of broken intimacy, by seeking companions as guilt as ourselves. And we seek not to become just, but to justify ourselves.

All of the Furies collude. Each reinforces the others, not only in the individual but in the social group. Perhaps you and I connive in displaced reconciliation by becoming comrades in guilty deeds. Or perhaps my compulsion to confess feeds your compulsion to justify yourself. In such ways entire groups, entire societies may drive themselves downhill, as the revenge of conscience grows more and more terrible.

My examples focus on abortion, which is both the chief means by which our own society is losing moral sanity and the greatest symptom of its loss. The discussion has been seasoned with other illustrations just to show how broadly the Furies do their work.

Two other telling quotes that shed light on what would possess a woman to video the murder of her unborn baby, one about suppressing remorse and the other about suppressing the need to confess.

The First Fury: Remorse pp. 141, 142
The most dreadful way remorse grows is by repetition of the deed, and the bitter fact is that although our efforts to dull the ache by not thinking about it may work after their fashion, they also make repetition more likely.

Needless to say, there are many other ways to keep from thinking, some of them stone-cold sober. One way is to set up a diversion. Because I refuse to give up my real transgressions, I invest in other things with inflated significance and give up those things instead. Perhaps I have pressured three girlfriends into abortion, but I oppose war and capital punishment, I don’t wear fur, and I beat my chest with shame whenever I slip and eat red meat. Easier to face invented guilt than the thing itself.

“Clinic workers may say they support a woman’s right to choose,” said former Planned Parenthood clinic worker Judith Fetrow, “but they will also say they do not want to see tiny hands and feet” (from the need to reassemble the largely pureed remains of an early suction abortion)

The Second Fury: Confession pp. 145, 146.
So driven are we by the urge to get things off our chests that we share guilty details of our lives with anyone who will listen. In its diarist mode, this kind of confession is associated with writers like Anaïs Nin. In its broadcast mode, it is the staple of talk shows like Jerry Springer, which has featured guests with such edifying disclosures as Ï Married a Horse.” But the tell-all never tells all; such confessions are always more or less dishonest. We may admit every detail of what we have done, except that it is wrong. Or we may make certain moral concessions, but only to divert attention from “the weightier points of the law.” We may tell even our cruelest or most wanton deeds, but treat something else about them as more important – perhaps their beauty, or perhaps how unhappy we are.

A person who has already repented and thrown himself on the mercy of God may no longer need to confess; the need to tell the story has been satisfied already. If he does tell the story, he now tells it less for himself than for others. But for the unrepentant man, the opposite is true. His heart is still hot, and the need to confess is still fiery. He tells his story to appease his conscience; because he is unrepentant, he tells it crookedly; because conscience is not in fact appeased, he must tell it again and again.

The Third Fury: Atonement pp. 148, 149
The third Fury draws its power from the knowledge of a debt which must somehow be paid. If we deny the debt, the knowledge works in us anyway, and we pay pain after pain, price after price, in a cycle which has no end because we refuse to pay the one price demanded. It is something like trying to fend off a loan shark. We pay the interest forever because we cannot pay off the principal, and the interest mounts.

In Biblica reflection, the theme of false atonement is very old. The Psalmist implores the Author of his conscience,

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance…
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:14, 16-17)

The Fourth Fury: Reconciliation p. 153.
The need for reconciliation also explains why the movements for disordered sexuality – homosexual, pederastic, sadomasochistic – cannot be satisfied with toleration, but must propagandize, recruit, and convert. They do not suffer from sexual deprivation, for partners are easy enough to find. They suffer from social deprivation, because they are cut off from the everyday bonds of life. They want to belong; they want to belong as they are; there can be only one solution. Society must reconcile with them. The shape of human life must be transformed. All of the assumptions of normal sexuality must be dissolved; marriage, family, innocence, purity, childhood – all must be called into question, even if it means pulling down the world around their ears. The same thing happened in another great controversy a century and a half ago. “Why did the slaveholders act as if driven by the Furies to their own destruction?” asks John Thomas Noonan: “Why did they take such risks, why did they persist beyond prudent calculation? The answer must be that in a moral question of this kind, turning on basic concepts of humanity, you cannot be content that your critics are feeble and ineffective; you cannot be content with their practical tolerance of your activities. You want, in a sense you need, actual acceptance, open approval. If you cannot convert your critics by argument, at least by law you can make them recognize that your course is the course of the country.”[7]

The Fifth Fury: Justification pp. 154-156
In English, “to justify” can mean to make something just, to show that it is just, to maintain, that it is just, or to feign that it is just. The striking thing is that the first and fourth meanings are exactly opposed. According to the first, I am justified when I am finally brought in line with justice. According to the fourth, I am justified when “justice” is finally brought in line with me. Guilty knowledge demands the former; we attempt to appease it, however, by means of the latter. We rationalize. We make excuses. We preserve the form of the law without its substance.

Of all the games we play with the Five Furies, our game with the Fith is perhaps most dangerous. No one has ever discovered a way to merely set aside the moral law; what the rationalizer must do is make it appear that he is right. Rationalizations, then, are powered by the same moral law which they twist. With such might motors, defenses of evil pull away from us; we are compelled to defend not only the original guilty deed, but others which it was no part of our intention to excuse. At one point in the Congressional debate over partial-birth abortion, when a senator who opposed a ban was asked at what point in the birth process a baby acquires a right not to be killed, she replied, “when you bring your baby home.” It was only one of several inconsistent positions that she took during questioning, but no matter; it shows how the justifications that we employ for our deeds take on a life of their own.

Consider the way the sexual revolution metastasized. It all began when we decided to dispense with chastity. Now that was not easy to do; there had always been unchaste behavior, recognized as wrong, but this was different. For the protection of the procreative partnership, sex had hitherto been a culturally recognized privilege of marriage. Dispensing with chastity required destroying this privilege. But one thing leads to another; to destroy the marital privilege requires denying what sex is for. It has to be separated first from procreation and second from the particular intimacy that arises from the procreative partnership and is inseparable from it.

Now no one can really be oblivious to the deep claims of these goods. To set them aside, powerful magic is necessary. One must invoke another strong good against them; the moral structure must be distorted so that it can be set against itself. And so the genie of happiness was summoned to the task. But this was not easy to do either; as Samuel Johnson said, Almost all the miseries of life, almost all the wickedness that infects society, and almost all the distresses that afflict mankind, are the consequences of some defect in private duties. Likewise, all the joys of this world may be attributable to the happiness of hearth and home.” It could not be that happiness which was invoked, or the goods of marriage would not be defeated. Comprehensive happiness had to be confused with sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, moreover, had to be asserted not just as a good but as a right, so that all the moral force of justice could be conjured on its behalf. My right implies your duty.

Back to the original question, what in the world was Emily Letts thinking about that provoked her to make such a video? The revenge of conscience. The video has been viewed on YouTube 2,860 times. It’s like a Hindu prayer wheel; it keeps going around and around and around. Remorse seems to be dead in this woman’s conscience but the need for confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification keep coming back and demanding their pound of flesh. Our entire society has driven itself mad, as the revenge of conscience has grown more and more terrible. Where is the church? Silent I fear. Time to speak up?

[1] Pronounced Bood-jeh-chef-ski.
[2] J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know, Dallas, Spence Publishing, 2003 (available in Kindle format)
[3] J. Budziszewski, The Revenge of Conscience, Politics and the Fall of Man, Spence Publishing, 1999 first edition
[4] J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart, the Case for Natural Law, Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 1997
[6] Ibid.
[7] Quoted from John Thomas Noonan, A Private Choice, New York: The Free Press, 1979, p. 82.

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Preparing Christian Soldiers for War

By: Roger Oliver
How does and outnumbered Christian remnant conquer a culture and replace it with a Christian culture? We don’t really, God does but through us by his sovereign choice. We are commanded to do our part. So the question is what to do so we don’t get benched, taken out of the game before it’s over. I think two things.
  1. Be crystal clear about your presuppositions, what you believe about God and what he is about.
  2. Be implacably consistent with your presuppositions in everything you do and say.

To do this you have to constantly train for war, i.e. be in the Word, pray, all of those disciplines that prepare a soldier for battle. I used to carry a small New Testament in a waterproof bag in my rucksack thinking I was going to have time for devotions while in the field. Two chances of that happening: slim and fat. I learned that what you don’t own as a part of your worldview does you no good when you come in contact with the enemy.

A good soldier never runs when he can walk, never walks when he can ride, never goes hungry when he can eat, never goes thirsty when he can drink, never goes without sleep when he can rest because he knows there will be a time when he will have to suffer all these deprivations. In the same way, a Christian soldier never misses an opportunity to eat the bread of life and train with the Sword of the Word because he knows there will be a time when he won’t be able to and whatever he has in his heart (thy word have I hid in my heart) is what he will have at hand to fight with.

Second thing you have to do is be courageous and act. And remember, by faith some conquered kingdoms and by faith others were sawn in half but in all cases God was glorified and his Kingdom advanced. Even those sawn in half received their special reward.

Airborne all the way. Rangers lead the way. 😉 (Got hit with the martial spirit this morning)


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Rushdoony on Government

By: Roger Oliver 3/24/2014

Random quotes from Rushdoony, Systematic Theology Vol II, the church. Pertinent passages strung together that I posted in Spanish in an article on and on Facebook to provoke thoughtful questioning of the new educational reform in Visión México. Expands on another Rushdoony quote, “We must abandon the renewed paganism of statism. We must become a truly Biblically governed people.”

If we abandon the paganism of statism, what kind of government should replace it? What does it mean to be a truly Biblically governed people? Elder based government based on the family from the bottom up rather than a top down bureaucracy.

God thus ordained that the family be the nucleus of government. Various references to elders in the Bible make clear that eldership is a pattern for government in a variety of spheres. There are elders of the people or of the country, who made up the civil government.

This Biblical form of government requires that men and the families be trained to govern. The basic government is on the family level, and all other forms of government rest thereon. This means that a society is as secure as its family structure. This is a fact often confirmed by sociology and psychology, and with reason, because God has so ordered life. This structure ensures a strength in government. Whether in church or state, it is a stabilizing force.

What this pattern of eldership does is to create a network of responsible and governing men on the local level. Government is not primarily a function of remote state officials, or high-ranking church officers, but of every man in his place. Instead of a concentration of government at higher levels, government under God is diffused throughout society, and responsibility is made a mandate for every man.

It must be said that modern men are largely slaves. They leave the government of their children to their wives, the schools, or the church. The free man is thus a governing man. The slave, one who seeks security above freedom, cannot be an elder.

Without the law of God, and the examples of God’s judgment on lawbreakers in Scripture, history will be the continuing and weary round of judgment on unconfronted covenant-breakers. Even more, it is not merely knowledge of the law, but a life of faithfulness which is required. The goal is “that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:7).

The training for government in church, state, and other areas is in Scripture essentially within the family. Men must early be prepared for responsibility and eldership by being taught that their sins are more serious in the sight of God because they are men. It is not enough for boys to be trained to be good; they must also be trained to be able rulers of themselves and of their domain under God. An elementary qualification of any covenant man is cited by Paul as he discusses the church: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8.)

The attitude of modern man is that status is a license for irresponsibility. Women have imitated men, and the feminist “liberation” movement is a demand for irresponsibility, and hence its close ties to the sexual revolution and to the homosexual and lesbian causes. The covenant child must be taught that he must be the most responsible person in his society if he is a boy, because he must function as an elder in his home and calling.

We dare not share in the evolutionary doctrine that the family represents an early and primitive stage in the history of man, and the state a higher one. Neither church (i.e., the Christian synagogue) nor state can be given apriority over the family.

The family is central to the covenant and therefore to every Christian institution, church, state, school, and all things else. Some churches still number their membership by families instead of individuals, a sound covenantal practice (In terms of I Corinthians 7:14, if one member of a family is redeemed, the family is numbered in terms of that one person.)

God’s Kingdom is much more than the Christian Church, state, school, and family and it is more than time and history. The necessity for salvation, God’s Kingdom, and God’s church refers to more than man’s institutions, although it can be inclusive of them. However, on the premise of the necessity of the institution of the church, men required membership of all men (It can be added that the state also sees itself as a necessary institution and as something more than man and transcending man.)

The eldership is a means of recapturing government for God; it is the starting-point of dominion, and it is the essence of godly government. In this calling, the wife is a help-meet in the exercise of man’s calling and dominion.

The alternative to God’s government is centralization, totalitarianism, and tyranny.

Accountability is a popular subject these days in the church. I always ask, “To whom and by what standard.” Provokes more quizzical looks than answers. Accountability would be dealt with appropriately in a family based elder leadership system.

The overseers’ job is primarily justice, judgment according to the Law/Word of God. The Biblical model found in Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1 is a natural organization of families, tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. If the leader of a group of 10 families cannot solve the problem he was to appeal to the overseer of the group of 5 of these groups of 10, i.e. 50. Two 50’s make a group of 100 with an overseer for the same purpose. 10 groups of 100 make a group of 1000 with an overseer at that level for the same purpose. The focus is on justice, not control. (Exodus 18:13-26, Deuteronomy 1:9-17.)

“Without the law of God, and the examples of God’s judgment on lawbreakers in Scripture, history will be the continuing and weary round of judgment on unconfronted covenant-breakers.”

How should this affect the way we present the Gospel? What to do when you discover a new convert still sleeps around, at least with his girlfriend. It needs to be confronted in discipleship of course, but again, by what standard if not the Law? Should not something about this have been part of the gospel presented to this guy from the get go. Should we not be presenting Christ as Savior AND King?

I find myself using more and more the armament of apologetics as part of sharing the Gospel. But I’m still stuck in second gear because of a lifetime of formation using a Gospel tract and an perhaps oversimplified “presentation” of the Gospel. If you have any thoughts on this matter I’d love to hear them.

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