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Archive for July, 2006

Buchanan asks: Where are all the Christians?
W.H. Chellis

Check out this Article by Pat Buchanan on the situation in the Middle East

Any thoughts?

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RE: Four-Fold Foundation or “Truth or Dare” with Darryl Hart
W.H. Chellis

O.k. time for me to stop waiting for the dare and dealing with truth.

The problem of toleration/ liberty of conscience is always with us, even in a secular setting. To what degree do we allow the propagation of subversive “faiths” is difficult (and becoming more so because of radical Islam).

Here on the blog, I have tried to advocate for a form of “confessional localism”. Within a broadly Trinitarian national context, I advocate for the existence “establishments” at the township or even county levels.

As originally intended, the First Amendment would provide no stumbling block to such a situation.

This does not answer the question of what to do with non-Christian religions (although I assume some form of toleration would be allowed for all but the most militant and dangerous faiths), but does answer the problem of pluralism among Christian denominations.

I just finished reading Barry Alan Shain’s The Myth of American Individualism, and am convinced that “confessional localism” is the only hope of restoring authentic localism and Christ honoring community.

What seems to divide us is the question of whether “nations” and “states” are moral persons or simply an aggregate of all the individuals that live within it. I believe them to be moral persons, and with Burke, affirm them to be a compact of the dead, the living, and those yet to come.

Now, if nations are organic entities greater than the sum of its parts, then they are morally responsible. If they are morally responsible, the first commandment applies to them. If the first commandment applies to them, then they must honor the true God. If they must honor the true God, then they must confess the Kingship of Jesus Christ (since all authority has been placed in His hands).

More on the organic nature of nations next month…

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Theological Theses on Christian Civil Government
W.H. Chellis

This set of Theses has been a work in progress for a number of years. Versions have been published in the Christian Statesman and Semper Reformanda. I thought they might be helpful to focus the debate.

I. The Adamic Kingdom:

1. Jesus Christ is fully God, and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
2. Jesus Christ, as God, has absolute authority over the whole of His creation.
3. As the God-man, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
4. As the only mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ has fulfilled the terms of the eternal Covenant of Redemption between the Father and Son, as well as the terms of the Covenant of Works between God and mankind in Adam.
5. The telos of Jesus Christ’s mediatoral work is the glorification of a holy catholic church.
6. God created Adam as the vicegerent of a covenant creation.
7. God created Adam as the federal representative of the human race.
8. As vicegerent and federal representative, Adam exercised the offices of Priest and King.
9. Adam exercised the office of a Priest by leading his wife, and the race that would spring forth from their union, in the worship of God.
10. Adam exercised the office of King by exercising dominion over the creation, headship over His wife and defense over the Garden of Eden.
11. Civil authority, represented by the lawful use of the sword, existed in the unfallen state of Eden.
12. Hypothetically, Adam, as a King, should have exercised the sword against the serpent that sought to deceive Eve.
13. The Garden of Eden was a holy theocratic covenant kingdom.
14. The covenant binding the Adamic Kingdom was a covenant of works summed up by the principle “do this and live”.
15. The covenant of works was enacted on the basis of God’s condescension, but does not include a principle of saving grace.
16. Saving grace, properly speaking, is either unmerited favor, or favor in the face of demerit.
17. The Garden of Eden was a law Kingdom based on the principle of merit.
18. The fall destroyed the holy theocratic nature of the Adamic kingdom.

II. The Kingdom of Christ:

19. In Genesis 3:16, God introduced a new holy theocratic kingdom of grace.
20. The kingdom of grace is called the holy catholic Church.
21. As a reward for His perfect obedience to God the Father, Jesus Christ has earned the right to rule over all things in heaven and on earth.
22. It is necessary to distinguish between three aspects of Jesus Christ’s mediatoral kingship: His Kingdom of Power, His Kingdom of Grace, and His Kingdom of Glory.
23. Christ’s Kingdom of Power is His universal authority over the whole of creation.
24. Christ’s Kingdom of Power includes all of providence.
25. Christ’s Kingdom of Power includes all of history.
26. Christ’s Kingdom of Power includes all human institutions including political authorities.
27. The purpose of Christ’s Kingdom of Power is to ensure the calling, preservation, and glorification of His Church.
28. Christ’s Church militant is His Kingdom of Grace
29. Christ’s Church triumphant is His Kingdom of Glory.
30. In the period between fall and consummation, Christ’s Kingdom of Power is a secular (or common) kingdom operating on the principle of law tempered by the principle of common grace.
31. Common grace is God’s merciful goodness to the whole of His creation.
32. Common grace is God’s merciful restraining of human depravity.
33. Common grace is not redemptive.
34. The foundation of God’s common grace is the cross of Jesus Christ.
35. The fountain of God’s common grace is Christ’s mediatorial rule over His Kingdom of Power.
36. In the period between the fall and the consummation, Christ’s kingdom of grace is a holy (or sacred) kingdom operation on the principle of law and the principle of saving grace.

III. The Kingdom of Israel:

37. The Kingdom of Israel was a type of the Kingdom of Glory unique in human history prior to the consummation.
38. At Mount Sinai God established Israel as a holy kingdom of law and saving grace.
39. Holiness refers to either cultic separation unto God, or moral righteousness.
40. The Kingdom of Israel was holy in both a cultic and moral sense.
41. The principle of saving grace operated in the Kingdom of Israel, both, on the level of corporate redemption (i.e. “I am the Lord you God which has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage…), and on the level of individual salvation.
42. The principle of law operated in the Kingdom of Israel on the typological level (i.e. Israel as a type of the Kingdom of Glory in the new heavens and new earth) providing the merit-inheritance principle for the retention of the land of promise (i.e. “Do this and you shall live…”)
43. The principle of law operated in the Kingdom of Israel on a normative level providing a standard of duty for God’s redeemed people.
44. The moral law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, universally binds all man as creatures made in the God’s moral image.
45. The judicial laws of the Old Covenant were of two types: laws of general equity and laws of particular equity.
46. Laws of particular equity were typological shadows.
47. Laws of general equity reflect the moral nature of God and are part of the universal natural law.
48. Theocratic Israel reflected an overlapping unity between cult and culture that typologically pointed to the Kingdom of Glory.

IV. The Christian Nation:

49. The Church is the only holy Kingdom (in the cultic sense) between the day of Pentecost and the day of final judgment.
50. Under the New Covenant the Church owes allegiance to Jesus Christ and must submit to His will as revealed in the Holy Scriptures alone.
51. Under the New Covenant nation-states owe allegiance to Jesus Christ and must submit to His will as revealed in nature and summarized in the Ten Commandments.
52. Because political nation-states are part of Christ’s common kingdom (i.e. the Kingdom of His Power), and the Church is part of Christ’s holy kingdom (i.e. the Kingdom of Grace) the separation of Church and State is a biblical necessity.
53. Because the Kingdom of Power and the Kingdom of Glory have the same King and the same ultimate purpose, these Kingdoms’ are not contrary but complementary.
54. The separation of Church and State does not necessarily condemn an established Church system.
55. Christ’s Kingship over the nations does not necessarily demand an established Church system.
56. The State has no right to interfere with matters that are entirely holy.
57. The Church has no right to interfere with matters that are entirely secular.
58. Both Church and State must look to Jesus Christ as King and Lawgiver.
59. The “Theonomic” ethic does not take sufficient account of the Kingdom of Israel’s unique theocratic and typological structure.
60. A Christian nation (i.e. one that confesses Christ’s Kingship) is a not holy nation (in a cultic sense.)
61. A Christian nation may, improperly, be called a holy nation (in a moral sense).
62. A Christian nation benefits from the covenant of grace, but does not enter into it.
63. Jesus Christ governs Christian nations on the basis of law and common grace, but not on the basis of saving grace.
64. Unlike the Kingdom of Israel, Christian nations have no typological significance.
65. Nations are moral persons responsible to God for their corporate obedience to Jesus Christ
66. As moral persons, nations are more than the aggregate of each living individual.
67. As moral persons, nations reflect a covenant community of souls binding together the living, the dead and the unborn.

V. The Kingdom of Glory:

68. In the Kingdom of Glory, the realm of the common (i.e. secular) will be subsumed into the holy theocratic Kingdom of Glory.
69. Christians should not expect a universal acknowledgment of Christ’s Kingship over the nations prior to the Kingdom of Glory.
70. Christians should expect, and pray, that the Kingdom of Grace will positively, but organically, transform cultures and nations as Christians live out their common (i.e. secular) callings to the glory of God.
71. At the consummation Christ’s Kingdom of Power will be subsumed into His Kingdom of Glory.

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The Four-Fold Foundation of National Confessionalism
W. H. Chellis

Jesus Christ is King over all. This is a biblical truth in need of an application. How do we, citizens of a twenty-first century America far removed from first century Palestine, apply the truth of Christ’s reign, not only over the Church, but also over such institutions as the family and the state? The confessional answer of the Reformed Presbyterian Church is found in chapter 23 of her testimony:
Every nation ought to recognize the Divine institution of civil government, the sovereignty of God exercised by Jesus Christ, and its duty to rule the civil affairs of men in accordance with the will of God. It should enter into covenant with Christ and serve to advance His Kingdom on earth. The negligence of civil government in any of these particulars is sinful, makes the nation liable to the wrath of God, and threatens the continued existence of the government and nation (RP Testimony, Chapter 23: 4).

Scandalous as this breach of public orthodoxy may be to the modern American ear, the
Reformed Presbyterian Church refuses to accept the premises of secular politics, that public affairs should have nothing to do with God and His Word. Rather, RP’s continue to embrace the social Kingship of Jesus Christ over all peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations. We refer to our particular position on politics as National Confessionalism. This month we will take an introductory look at the basic outlines of the National Confessional position.

Covenantal Confession of Christ

The Great Commission causes confusion for modern American Christians. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus proclaims to His Apostles:
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and disciple the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

At first blush, the passage does not seem problematic. The confusion is not based on textual ambiguity but rather upon cultural prejudices. American Christians, trained to think of life as the chaotic interaction of autonomous individuals, find it difficult to grasp the social and covenantal implications of Jesus’ words. Notice, Jesus Christ did not say, “Go therefore and make individual disciples from out of all nations….”. Rather, Jesus declares that it is the duty of His ordained ministry to “disciple” the nations themselves. Both the nations and the individuals within those nations are called upon to make covenantal confession of King Jesus.
This raises the important question of application. How do nations make a covenantal confession of Christ? Psalm two describes Christ’s enthronement at the right hand of the Father in vivid language. We are made privy to the voice of the Father declaring to the victorious Son, “ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2: 8). In response to Christ’s heavenly coronation, the psalmist gives practical advise to civil authorities declaring, “Now therefore, O Kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, let He be angry, and you perish in the way…” (Psalm 2:10-12).
What does the Psalmist mean when he calls upon rulers and kings to “kiss the Son”? To “kiss the Son” is to publicly honor His royal authority (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Kings 19:19). Therefore, National Confessionalism asserts the duty of families, villages, counties, states, nations, and empires to “Kiss the Son” by declaring their fundamental allegiance to Christ’s Kingship. Such public confessions are most appropriately asserted through organic constitutional and legal declarations. Such confessions, the most primary application of the social Kingship of Jesus Christ, stood as the common foundation of Western order and liberty from Emperor Constantine (313 A.D.) until the French Revolution (1789 AD).

Defending the Moral Law

Of course, Christ receives no honor from empty words or hollow professions. Rather, Jesus declares, “if you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).” This is true on the individual as well as the corporate basis. As individual believers who confess the name of Christ are called upon to adorn their profession by conforming their thoughts, words, and deeds to the moral law of God, so must families, towns, counties, states, nations and empires to do the same.

While it seems obvious to declare that men and nations are to be conformed to the moral law of God, it is more difficult to define that law precisely. Historically, the vast majority of Christendom was committed to the belief that the Ten Commandments represented a summary of the moral law. Yet a summary is not the same as a transcription. The robust ethical requirements of the commandments must be given flesh through insightful modern legislative and judicial application. The process of doing so is not a simple one and calls for great wisdom to be displayed by legislators and judges. Civil authorities must call upon their knowledge of historical precedent, wisdom literature, Old Testament case law, and the common law of nations to apply the law of God in a helpful and consistent way.

Distinguishing Kingdoms

It is important to note that the universality of Christ’s mediatorial Kingship does not destroy the legitimate distinction between Church and State. Rather, a biblical view of Christ’s Kingship strengthens the distinction by reminding us that the Church is the special object of Christ’s loving care and concern. Paul declares, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church…”(Eph. 1:22). The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this truth stating, “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies”(WSC Q&A 26). The point is clear: Christ reigns over all things in order that He might infallibly build and protect His Church. Therefore, we rightly recognize that Christ’s rule over His holy kingdom the Church is to be distinguished from His rule over His common kingdom among the nations. Christ’s holy kingdom is founded upon His saving grace and love and is administered in Word, sacrament, and discipline by Ministers and Ruling Elders. Christ’s common kingdom over the nations is founded upon the standard of Divine justice tempered by common grace and administered through the sword by civil magistrates. Christ’s holy kingdom offers gospel mercy while His common kingdom provides justice and stability. Thus, National Confessionalism affirms the need distinguish Christ’s holy Kingdom the Church from His common kingdom inclusive of the nations.

Defending Christ’s Church

If properly distinguishing the two kingdoms demands a biblical separation of Church and State, we must consider the proper relationship between these important institutions. The prophet Isaiah spoke of their relationship in the new covenant era, “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, And lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD, For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23). Such a vision is a far cry from the modernist “freedom from religion” mantra.

What duty does a Christ-honoring civil authority owe to the Church? Should the Church (or a denominational branch of her) be “established” by law? Should the Church be financially supported by tax dollars? Should the Church’s confessions and creeds be legally enshrined as public orthodoxy? To these questions, National Confessionalism answers with an ambiguous maybe (depending on historical context and practical realty).

On the other hand, if we ask whether the Church should be free to worship Christ according to His own command, whether the Church has the sole right to interpret the Scriptures and define doctrinal truth, or whether the Church should be free to speak boldly in application of God’s holy law and merciful gospel, then the answer of National Confessionalism is an absolute, universal, and unqualified Yes!

The Last Best Hope

Abraham Lincoln once described America as the “last best hope for mankind.” He was wrong. Christ alone offers hope. He is, indeed, the “desire of the nations” (Haggai 2:7). In His name the nations are offered a true and lasting hope (Isaiah 2:2; Rev. 21:24-27). The National Confessional approach to the Kingship of Christ offers this hope to a world desperately in need of its message.

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American Religion?
Peter Leithart

Over on the First Things web site, Michael and Jana Novak offer some Independence Day reflections on the meaning of a nation being “under God.” They trace Lincoln’s claims about the “new birth of liberty” and “nation under God” to Washington and Parson Weems, Washington’s biographer, suggesting that Lincoln’s Gettysburg address echoes Washington’s words like “mystic chords.”

Quoting from Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Savannah, in which the first President identified the God of the Exodus as the God of America, and named him “Jehovah,” they conclude:

“To understand the public religion of America from its beginnings until now, it is essential to study the language, the conceptual structure, and the presuppositions about world order that quietly and ‘on deep background’ formed the minds of Washington, Lincoln, and all successful leaders who have been able to touch most deeply the soul of the American people.

“This same public religion, which is accessible to atheists and agnostics in their own fashion, should always echo in the minds of children, as in grown men and women, so that the spirit of liberty may thrive forever, beyond the power of any Caesar to add or to subtract.”

But what sort of public religion is this that honors the Jehovah of the synagogue, and is accessible to “atheists and agnostics in their own fashion”? It is certainly not Christianity, which knows only one God who is accessible through the one Mediator Jesus. It’s the American religion, which is all religions and none.

Worse, the Novaks’ public religion provides no bulwark against the power of Caesar, since it is nothing but American Caesarism. Its Scriptures are the Declaration and the Constitution, its sacraments fireworks and the flag, its prophets Lincoln and Washington, its church, if not its god, America herself.

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