The Loss of Liberty’s Underlying Principles

Founder of the OPC, J. Greshem Machen, wrote in 1923:
A public school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficient achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist.\
Machen wrote from a perspective where he saw this happening in Europe and noticed that the same effect was delayed in America, as he said, by “the remnants of Anglo-Saxon individualism.” Of these remnants, he goes on to say:
… but the signs of the times are all contrary to the maintenance of this halfway position; liberty is certainly held by but a precarious tenure when once its underlying principles have been lost. For a time it looked as though the utilitarianism which came into vogue in the middle of the nineteenth century would be a purely academic matter, without influence upon daily life. But such appearances have proved to be deceptive. The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.
Has this not been the trend of our school systems since the time of Machen’s writing? Has their goal not been to produce citizens capable of contributing to the economy and nothing more? And along the way, have they not stifled the higher intellectual pursuits? Long gone are the days of critical thinking and philosophy in public schools. Such things simply cannot be connected to productive output, and so they are disallowed.
Want proof that this is the state of things? I propose a test: simply mention a perspective that doesn’t fit the narrative that was given in school. Question the validity of some State program that was taught as a good and necessary thing in your school years. How quickly will you be called crazy, or worse? Even if, by sound reason and evidence, you can support your position, are you met with equal reason and evidence? Or does your attempt to back up your position provoke an emotional response?

No, The Ark Encounter is Not Scientific… And That’s OK

Bill Nye recently toured the Ark Encounter, the new exhibit created by Answers in Genesis as part of the Creation Museum. Unsurprisingly, Nye’s evaluation was unfavorable.

Nye’s position is that the exhibit is unscientific. He believes it to be a tool of brainwashing that is hindering the progress of scientific education in our country, particularly as it pertains to combating climate change.

As an atheist, Nye’s worldview is full of holes, logical contradiction, and truths borrowed from the Christian worldview which he seeks to debunk. He can give no rational assurance to himself or anyone else why the claims of science or even his own senses or reason are to be trusted without begging the question. Such is always the case of one who believes that we evolved by random chance through undirected scientific processes over billions of years.

So it is hardly worth our time rebutting him. There is some value in it, but there is danger as well.

But for the sake of our thinking, what are we to say about his claim that the Ark Encounter is unscientific?
Well this all depends on what you mean by scientific.

Answers in Genesis founder and president Ken Ham has poured a great deal of effort into advancing the distinction between Observable science and historical science. This was the crux of his position in the 2014 debate against Nye.

The argument, which has a high degree of merit and yet has not been addressed by Nye or any other critics of creationism, goes that you simply can’t apply modern scientific methods to testing historical claims because they are claims about one-time events that happened in the distant past. You simply can’t use the scientific method here. You can’t conduct an experiment to try to reproduce it in a lab. You can’t peer review the Bible.

Of course here’s the point. The Bible doesn’t need to be peer reviewed. It wasn’t written to be peer reviewed. Because God doesn’t have any peers!

So Ham’s argument is that when Nye and others say that the Bible is unscientific, they are expecting it to meet the same rigors as claims about the efficacy of new drugs, or the physics of gravity/the general theory of relativity, or biology, or chemistry, or any other of the hard sciences we have today.

But because history – not just biblical history – doesn’t work that way, we can’t apply those same rigors. Sure we can do archeology, and we can examine manuscripts. But that usually creates more questions than answers. It certainly leaves large gaps, and what we fill those gaps with is determined more by our presuppositions than hard science.

Nye would probably object that he fills in the gap with hard science. In one sense this is reasonable, but there’s an unprovable presupposition there that this is always appropriate. More to the point, he has to presuppose that the particular facts he imports from hard science are the appropriate ones and are arranged in the appropriate way.

So when it comes to whether the claims of the Bible are true, they simply can’t be tested with the scientific rigor Nye wants them to be.

Should we expect them to be? Here’s what bothers me a bit about creation science. The flood is not only an historical event that took place thousands of years ago, it was a divinely orchestrated event.

The Scriptures are full of things like this. They tell of everything being created from nothing in six days. They tell of a catastrophic worldwide flood. They tell of fire from heaven destroying a city, of the waters of the Red Sea being parted so the Hebrews could cross on dry ground, of the sun standing still, of a man living in the belly of a fish for three days and nights, and of a multitude of people being raised from the dead.

These are not claims of science. They are the mighty acts of the God given to display his transcendent power over the natural world which he created and scientists study . This is the God who made the laws that scientists rely on. He therefore can suspend or change them when he wishes.

These claims require no scientific proof, not that any could ever be forthcoming.

This is not to say that the evidence of science cannot be arranged in a way that demonstrates how it does not actually contradict these claims, as is so often and vociferously argued by Nye and his ilk.

[As an aside…. My own criticism of the Creation Museum was that I wish they would do more of this, or at least would make a more prominent feature of their museum. When I went through it felt like I was walking through a life size diorama of Sunday School illustrations. There are some science bits, but they were tucked off to the side and I had to go looking for them intentionally.

[They also spent a lot of time trying to make it look like atheists are this big conspiracy out to try to attack God and his people. While we know that such a conspiracy is true in one sense – the enemy who has darkened their understanding certainly wages war against God and his people! – individual scientists aren’t necessarily consciously trying to do this. Are they contributing to that war? Sure, but they don’t realize it and wouldn’t claim to be doing that. They are as much victims of it as they are participants in it, and when you accuse them like this, it constitutes an ad hominem or a poisoning of the well. That does sort of put a toe into the brainwashing territory. At the very least in undermines credibility. But I digress.]

But let us not think that by showing how the claims of the Bible are not debunked by science we are somehow proving God’s existence. He doesn’t need us to, and it would be impossible anyway.

That’s not because he doesn’t exist, but because trying to prove God by scientific means is a rigged game and the house always wins.

When we engage in attempts to prove God’s existence to an atheist by scientific means, we enter his home turf and of necessity must employ means that he controls. We must present him with evidence he would consider compelling, but since he is the arbiter of what is compelling, he is going to set that standard such that it is impossible for us to meet.

Better to defend his attacks by showing how he begs the question in trying to disprove God.

Better still to try to deconstruct his worldview to show that it is inherently self-contradictory and relies on the worldview he seeks to debunk in order to make his arguments.

Best of all to love him in Christ, live the light of the gospel out before him, preach the good news to him whenever possible, and pray that God would open his eyes of faith.

Lexington, Concord and Dallas

Recent events have troubled me, as they should trouble us all. It seems that the hits just keep on coming, and now they’re coming rapid fire. Three incidents in one week!? That’s crazy.

Between Philandor Castile, Alton Sterling, and the Dallas shooting, there’s so much to cover. I’m not here to cover the facts of those case. What can be know, can be learned elsewhere, and there is still much that hasn’t come out yet.

But regardless of the facts of the case, what we are left with is seven men who are no longer among the living and a sickening feeling in our stomachs. Do you feel it? I sure do. All seven of these deaths are, from what I can gather, senseless and unjustified. I don’t know, maybe facts will come out to change that, but I always start with this presumption.

It doesn’t matter the situation. Death is never the ideal outcome. Aggression is never the prescribed course of action. De-escalation is always to be preferred to escalation. These situations all went seriously wrong at some point when someone chose to act with aggression and escalate the situation, and the result was death. Death for an innocent or death for the guilty? We may never know, and if we can know, only time will tell. In any case, I’m left sickened.

But there’s another feeling deep inside me, and that is a feeling that I need to address. It’s the feeling that things are happening. The stuff is hitting the fan, so to speak. I can’t help but feeling that this shooting in Dallas may be a signal of history repeating itself. Could this be the next Lexington and Concord?

It could very well be. Only time will tell, but we may be witnessing history unfold before our eyes. Certainly if the government wants a civil war, they can pretty much guarantee it by their response here. And it would be just what you expect. They will use this as reason to beef up the police state, sowing the seeds of future conflicts with citizens. They will even point to this as justification for the pre-existing police state, ignoring all cause and effect that lead up to it.

How will the State respond to this shooting? Will they escalate?  Will they come for guns? Will they enter homes? Will they institute martial law? Will they further militarize police? Willthey involve the police/national guard?

If they do all that, how will Americans respond? In short, is America gonna America?

I can’t help but feel like history is repeating itself, and that a civil war is coming. Maybe not this year, maybe not in the next five years. But can this current conflict go on and continue to escalate without blowing up? I say no. It can’t.

So I find it necessary to clarify that I in no way condone the actions of the sniper. This was a horrible, despicable act of violence that should never be tolerated in civil society. However I may sympathize with his motivations (I don’t know those motivations for certain, not having spoken to him), this is not the way you go about making your point.

These cops were not your enemy. There’s a deep problem in the system. There’s a lot of disagreement about what exactly that problem is or where it comes from, but it cannot be denied that there’s a deep problem in the system. And some cops are part of the problem.

But these cops were not. In fact, they were part of the solution.

I find it necessary to clarify this because many might assume that I’m on his side. I’m not exactly pro-cop. Many people take me for anti-cop. I’m neither. I’m anti-aggression no matter who is involved. A lot of what earns me the “anti-cop” moniker is the way I try to point out that the problems with the system come from even having a system at all. This, naturally, causes people to say, “well then if the problem is with the system itself, then everyone in the system is automatically a part of the problem.”

In one sense you’re right. But in another very important sense, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Yes, it’d be awesome if the good guy cops would stand up to the State’s unjust laws and refuse to enforce them, like the midwives in Egypt. It’d be awesome if they would report the misdeeds of their fellow officers to internal affairs and if internal affairs would actually investigate them thoroughly to fully resolve the matter rather than sweeping them under the rug.

In this way, the fact that good cops don’t hold each other or the system accountable is unfortunate, and in one sense could be said to be a part of the problem.

But the problem is much deeper than them. It still lies with the State and the departments they are employed by. I insist that 99.9% of cops out there are among the most upstanding individuals you can find in society who joined the police force out of a genuine desire to bring justice to those who harm the innocent. This is to be commended and honored. Are there bad apples in the bunch? Sure. But it doesn’t mean that the rest are all bad too.

But that doesn’t mean that the system they work for is good. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with the State itself and the departments these officers are forced to work for because of the monopolies maintained by the State.

Good cops are in bad situations because of bad laws.

These officers who were gunned down in Dallas were examples of those good cops. They were stellar examples to boot.

They were shot while on duty serving peacefully to help protect protestors at a demonstration that was being held to protest the police.

Think about that sentence and let it soak in. These were the best of the best, guys. I need to have a word with the shooter here. What do you think you accomplished by shooting these men? What justice do you think was served?

I’m all for justice being served. But this. isn’t. it.

These cops were not the ones who shot Philandro Castile. They didn’t shoot Alton Sterling. They didn’t kill Tamir Rice or Eric Garner. But they were to helping protect the people who were protesting them! And you gunned them down. How shameful and cowardly of you.

And to all you liberty minded folks out there who might be tempted to applaud this, remember: our revolution cannot be waged on any battle field. Our battle cannot be won by force of arms. Why? For two reasons.

The first is that our fundamental principle is Non-Aggression, and War is the exact opposite. We can’t advance the cause of liberty through aggressive means. There’s something to be said for defending ourselves when attacked, but initiating conflict is never to be done, encouraged, or applauded.

Second, cops are not the problem, as I’ve already said. They are not our enemy. The system that uses them as its enforcers is, but that system will use them as front lines of any war we might try to wage. The result would be a catastrophic loss of innocent life on both sides.

Yeah, you’d hope the cops would never go along with the State’s orders, but you gotta remember how strongly they believe in the goodness of the State, and how hard it would be for them to question anything the State says. All the State has to do is call us terrorists or whatever, and that will be all the justification they ever need. Because why would the State ever lie about that? We know they would. Cops, unfortunately, don’t believe that.

Cops are not our enemy. They are a crucially important servant in our society who exists to bring criminals to justice. Except for the handful of bad ones out there, cops generally want to do that job well.

No, cops aren’t the problem. The State is. But what is the State really? I mean, where does it get its power? How does it keep getting away with these attrocities? Because there are far too many people out there who refuse to question the State. The vast majority of people believe that these heinous atrocities committed by the State are somehow justified and necessary.

I mean there’s a lot of outrage that Castile and Sterling were killed. But where’s the outrage about the drug war that imprisons plenty of men and women who weren’t killed. Society is plenty fine with lesser aggressions, because they believe the States’ justifications for them. They’re plenty fine with bombing children in other countries because they’re the enemy.

No the State is not even really the problem. The State is a tiny entity compared to its people. If we simply seceded and withdrew our support from the State, there would be nothing they could do about it.

The problem is the people. Ordinary every day Americans who think that the State is this benevolent agency that only does good things. I mean, we don’t like it when the other party is in power, but even what they do is better than not having a State at all. I mean, who would build the roads, right?

So here’s the point. If Cops aren’t the enemy, but people who continue to believe in the State are, and we’re going to go shoot the enemy, who are you going to shoot? Are you going to shoot your neighbor who’s voting for Hillary? What about the guy who works down the hall who’s voting for Trump?

This is not the way!

No, our “war”, our “revolution”, if it is to succeed, must be won by persuasion. We must peacefully spread the ideas of liberty to those around us. Then, and only then, would the peoples’ support for the State evaporate, and then, and only then, will society find a better way.

This, of course, all casts the best of motives on the shooter. Who knows? Maybe he was just a terrorist? Maybe he was in ISIS? Maybe he was in the mod or from the drug cartel? Who knows?

But it doesn’t matter, because even in the best of cases, we should decry this as senseless and heinous. Also, the result will be the same, nonetheless. The State will likely use this as an excuse to further beef up the Police State. To what extent? We shall see. What will happen as a result? Time will tell.

Was this another Lexington and Concord? Was this a shot heard round the world? I seriously hope not. I would love to live in a truly free society, but war is not the way to achieve that. Plus there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t end up with a Robespierre on the other side.

I would rather these matters can be resolved peacefully. I would rather people come to realize that the State is unnecessary and simply withdraw their consent wherever and however peacefully possible. But I have a strong feeling that the pieces are already in motion, and I think it wise to begin to gird our minds for the coming conflict.

So what should our mindset be as Christians? Which side should we be on here? If there is a war, what should we do? Should we join in on either side?

I say no. We should not choose either side. This is not our war. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. For us, all of this is secondary to our great commission to make disciples. Peter calls us to live as free men, and so we will no matter what.

There’s definitely a common interest between the gospel mission and the liberty revolution, which is why I am a Reformed Libertarian. There’s also a common interest between the gospel and the peace that can be had in society when criminals are brought to justice, as the police, ideally, do. We cannot favor one side or another of this coming conflict. We owe allegiance to neither. Our allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ alone, and his kingdom is not of this world.

While we’re here in the world, though, what should we be doing? Making disciples. Liberty would give us the freedom to that in peace, a privilege we have enjoyed for a long time in this country.

Many have sensed a change in the winds, and as long as the State remains unchecked, those winds will continue to change. So what do we do? Do we make it our mission to check the State? I say no. Our obedience to our great commission is not dependent upon favorable conditions. We are called to faithfulness no matter what.

Further, our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are called to honor the emperor (1 Peter 2) and be subject to his authority (Romans 13).

But let us never confuse this with an obligation to capitulate to his demand that we call evil good and call good evil. We must, as the pillar and buttress of the truth, reserve the right to speak the truth. And when his evils cause the weak to be oppressed around us, shall we remain silent? I say no.

So as long as we have latitude to do so, I say we must proclaim the cause of liberty. It is secondary to the gospel, but it is critically important nonetheless. The two go hand in hand, I believe, for where Christ is regarded as King, allegiance to earthly kings ought rightly to subside.

Our message must begin and end with Jesus as Lord and Savior. But in the middle what are we saying? Are we calling good good and evil evil? I do hope so.

Be wise and vigilant.

Undermining the Theonomist Syllogism

It seems to me that the Theonomist argument can be boiled down to the following Syllogism:

P1) God does not change.

P2) If the Law has been abrogated, then God has changed.

C) The Law has not been abrogated.

The Reformed Libertarian objection is with P2. This is not necessarily true. If the purpose for giving the law in the first place was so that it would be a typological and eschatological foreshadow of things to come with the intention all along that it would be abrogated when those things came to fulfillment, then it is not a matter of God changing for him to abrogate the law now that those things have come to be. Rather it is a symptom of God NOT changing that he would be faithful to fulfill that plan.

For example, when Israel committed the sin of the golden calf at Mount Sinai and God was going to wipe them out, Moses interceded for them. He reminded God of his promises, and God appears to change his mind. It almost looks like God is a nearly unhinged human person who Moses talks sense to until he calms down. It even uses a word that is very similar to “repent” for what God does here.

So did God change? Certainly his course of action did! Does this mean he is no longer immutable? No longer simple?

Of course not. It meant that his purpose all along was to evoke this intercessory ministry from Moses. He never really intended to destroy Israel because he knew and sovereignly ordained what would happen. One major reason for this was because it gives us an amazing picture of Jesus’ intercessory work for us.

The same idea or pattern holds here. The judicial/civil Mosaic Law for Israel was meant, in large part, to foreshadow the coming greater Kingdom of Christ. That Kingdom is now here in a different sense, and that sense clearly does not involve using the sword against outsiders (1 Corinthians 5).

So the theonomist argument is not proven by this syllogism. Rather it begs the question of whether God’s purpose was for the law to be a type/foreshadow or whether it was intended to be set in stone for all ages.

And the answer to that question will inform our interpretation of what Jesus means by what he says in Matthew 5:17-18.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

What is meant here by these words “abolish”, “fulfill” and “accomplish”? What we understand the original purpose of the Law to be will inform the definition of those terms, won’t it? It will lead us to a certain view about whether and to what extent Christ’s life, death and resurrection fulfilled and accomplished some or all of it.

The Reformed Libertarian position, from considering the whole of Scripture and especially the whole of the New Testament, is that yes the Law is typological. It has indeed NOT been abolished, but has been, in large part, fulfilled and accomplished by Christ and the New Covenant which it was foreshadowing. There are nuances to this view, but the overall point is the same: The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace, the Old Covenant (including Abraham’s) were all Covenants of Works with Grace coming retroactively from the New as a foreshadow. All the preceding Covenants were typological of the New and all must be interpreted in light of that typology, including elements like the Law of Moses.

No the Law has not been abolished. Certainly the moral principles of the Law (the standard of God’s holiness it sets forth for all people and especially his covenant people) is very much the same today as it was then, and the Law is inestimably valuable at teaching it to us, for it is God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient revelation of it.

Yet it’s application to the New Covenant must take into account the ways in which Christ has fulfilled and accomplished the typology of the way it was applied in the Old Covenant. Therefore the practical application will of necessity look different today (1 Corinthians 5 gives us a hint of this).

And whatever else we believe about baptism or sabbath keeping or the second commandment or whatever…. One thing is crystal clear to us Reformed Libertarians: the standards of the Law are no longer to be enforced in exhaustive detail with the sword by the civil magistrate. For God’s covenant community no longer takes the form of a civil nation. Instead, the purpose of the sword bearing magistrate is to defend the life, person and property of those who “do good” (Romans 13).

The Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism

This is a cross post from Facebook, but I thought I would preserve it. Somebody asked me for the Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism. So here it is:

1) Man was made in the image of God, the primary characteristic of this being the dominion mandate, meaning that God has given men a stewardship responsibility over their lives and the portion of creation under their control. We are to exercise this dominion in accordance with God’s law and for his glory.(Gen 1, Matt 25)

2) Since other men are conspicuously absent from the rather exhaustive list of things man is to have dominion over, and seeing as how men are to consider the lives (Gen 6:9, Ex 20:13) and property (Ex 20:15,17) of other men to be off-limits, and since God holds each person individually accountable (Matt 25, Ezek 18, 2 Cor 5), it can therefore be concluded that the dominion mandate falls on each person individually.

Therefore each person has the individual responsibility of self-stewardship (which the secularists call self-ownership). This grants each person the duty and human right to exercise the authority incumbent in the dominion mandate over his own life, person and property. To restrict a man’s dominion over such is to offend against the image of God in him, which is really to offend against God. (psst: this is the Non-aggression Principle)

Because sinful men love to offend against God and therefore have no respect for their neighbors, God communicated these standards, first in seed form as part of the Noahic Covenant (Gen 9:6) and later in fuller detail in Exodus 20-24 (though they were clearly in force by the first generation after the fall (Gen 4) though we have no inspired record of them being communicated).

In doing so, God set forth a principle of justice for this fallen world that those who do wrong to their neighbor should be harmed in equal measure to the harm they caused (Ex 21:23-25).

Thus property rights are to be seen as the foundational principle on which the apparatus of justice in a civil society is to be constructed, and by which justice in a civil society is to be measured and evaluated.

As part of that apparatus, God has instituted the role of magistrate in society. The magistrate is anyone who serves other men by bearing the sword against those who wrong their neighbor. (Romans 13:3-4). In doing so, he is not to be “a terror to good conduct”, meaning he is only to bear the sword against those who do evil, as God has defined his role.

Thus, the very maximum any government has theological authorization to do is to serve citizens by aiding them in defending their life, liberty and property and bringing vengeance upon those who agress against them.

Any government that uses its power to break God’s law is a corrupt and invalid government in God’s eyes. Any government that abuses its position to take away the rights of those who’s rights it is tasked with protecting, is no true government at all, but a criminal organization.

We Christians are still called to be ordered under such a government (even Nero), but that does not make such government valid. And in as much as we have influence in the government, as officials or as voters, we ought to use our influence to direct government to follow God’s standard.

The only governments God considers morally valid are the ones who use their sword against wrong doers and only against wrong doers.

Ultimately the only government that will prefectly meet that qualification is King Jesus.

Justice under the sun is always going to be imperfect. However that should not stop us from upholding the perfect standard as the target we are aiming for in our political action.

Now, as stated here, this is a very broad tent under which many forms of government might fit including certain forms of theonomy and a constitutionally limited republic (provided that the constitution is actually founded on these principals and the republic is actually limited by such constitution.)

I believe further logical and exegetical analysis would swing the balance around to favor anarcho-capitalism much more strongly, but I’ll save that for a future post.

For now, it is not so much my aim to convince the world to be Anarcho-Capitalists, though I would love it if that were so. For the time being, it would be sufficient if everyone could simply agree to the founding theological framework I have described here as the grounding for all analysis of government. I think MOST Christians, certainly Reformed ones, DO agree to this, though many have not fully thought through the logical implications of it, and thus are not Anarcho-Capitalists. I think the primary reason for that is a lack of knowledge and clarity about what Anarcho-Capitalism actually IS and what it is not. See Al Mohler for an example of such confusion.