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Some time ago I relayed the account of a Facebook interaction I had with an individual I called “Trevor”. Trevor is a young man in his early twenties. I’ve had the privilege of having long conversations with him regarding theology and Biblical matters in general. Trevor goes to a local church and has made a profession of faith, so giving him the benefit of the doubt (since it is not my place to make a judgment otherwise) I regard him as a brother in Christ.
Last Friday, Trevor and I got into another discussion, this time about the Law and how it pertains to believers. Since he was pressed for time and our conversation was growing increasingly in depth, Trevor asked if he could pose some specific questions via a Facebook message to which I could then compose a more in-depth reply. What follows is my response to Trevor. His questions are included in the body of the response in bold italics. I hope that you find it edifying!
Part 3: Whatever Happened to Goodness?
In the first two parts, mankind is put in a very poor light because of indwelling sin. Man is pictured as enslaved to control-lust. This lends credence to Dominion Theology which is a lie. So, it is time to balance the first two parts with biblical information.
First, Dominion Theology has been the way of the world and the primary applied politic from the very beginning of time. It is the elitist philosopher class ruling over the great unwashed masses for the collective good. In all cases, the knowers are appointed by God to, according to one well-known evangelical, “save God’s people from ignorance.” And if they are to save God’s people from ignorance, how much more the rest of the world?
Remember, this necessarily requires the idea that God has established His kingdom on earth as a prerequisite to utopia. The command in the Bible to have dominion over the earth supposedly includes other men, so; argumentation over who really understands God fosters plenty of wars in and of itself aside from the other numerous issues that evolve from the basic premise. Research history for yourself; the original question, “Has God really said?” fueled innumerable religious wars and will continue to do so. Though Americanism greatly disrupted historical business-as-usual, the book of Revelation tells us that mankind will return to the pagan-state (prior to the 4th century) / church-state (post 4th century) construct with a vengeance.
Whether secular or religious, it is a theology of dominion because it separates knowledge from the common man and makes truth property of the state. Truth is always found in some higher power that appoints select classes of people to rule over others on the higher power’s behalf whether that is God, gods, Mother Nature, or “The Force.”
That’s the politic: the marriage of faith and force. The politic comes from sin which desires to enslave all things and indwells mankind prompting him to do the same. But does that mean mankind is totally depraved and in need of knowers to manage his misery? No, actually, according to the Bible, mankind is good enough to have an internal conflict with sin. Romans 2 states,
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
People in general are conflictive. They have indwelling sin and indwelling law. The latter makes the individual capable and in many instances a force for good. This is what the founders of Americanism hit upon for the first time in human history as opposed to the common total depravity construct. The Protestant claim that total inability is unique to Protestantism…is absurd.
Total depravity and deterministic caste have always been the business-as-usual politic of human history. Communism replaced the church-state void created by the American Revolution. Communism is merely an irreligious version of total depravity requiring an elite class of knowers to manage mankind’s misery. This may all be interpreted through the individualism versus collectivism question. What is the role of government? To maximize the individual’s internal work of God’s law, or manage his totally depraved misery?
Note in the aforecited Romans text that those who have never been exposed to the Bible will be judged by their internal law created in every person. The internal law of God executed by one’s conscience is part of the whole idea of being created in God’s image. Internal sin causes one to sin against God and others resulting in the conscience accusing them, or excusing them when they do well.
This ability to do well is what the founders of Americanism emphasized; i.e., individualism. Collectivism limits well-doing to the dictation of a small elitist class of people who rule over the masses. Of course, according to what they deem as being good according to their assessment of mankind in general. You do the math; it never ends well.
However, the founders of Americanism were primarily concerned with government’s relationship to the individual and contrary to popular belief, not the biblical gospel. As a foundation moving forward, we may say that the primary goal of the gospel (the good news of God’s kingdom) is not to be judged by any law, but rather to be guided by it.
If one is judged by the law, either God’s Bible or the internal law or both, it is impossible to distinguish between love and escape—love or self-preservation—restraint only to prevent judgement. However, if one cannot be judged by either law, if judgment is vanquished, if the law’s ability to condemn is eradicated, every upholding of the law must be grounded in the motive of love. With condemnation vanquished, the only possible motive still standing is love.
This is what the gospel does. It eliminates judgement and infuses the individual with a love for God’s law. And this is the difference between two kingdoms: the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness; their citizens. The former is called such because it is located in heaven and not on earth. It is yet future.
What is the state of being in regard to the citizens of each kingdom, and how does it apply to real life? And what do the Jews have to do with it? Because we are still laying the foundation the former will be further developed in the next part while the latter will be developed as we move forward.
How are the citizens of the kingdom of heaven removed from judgment and infused with a love for God’s law? How can their only motive be love, and why do they at times fall short of love?
Time and time again, this ministry has demonstrated that the reformed standard for justification is perfect law-keeping rather than the new birth. Here is a summary of the salient premises (what reformed theology must assume to be true to arrive at their conclusion). It goes something like this:
- Man is totally depraved.
- Because man is totally depraved, no one can keep the law perfectly.
- Because no one can keep the law perfectly, we need someone to keep the law on our behalf.
- Jesus is the only one who ever kept the law perfectly.
- Because Jesus kept the law perfectly, we must depend on Jesus to keep the law for us.
- God “declares” us righteous because Jesus’ obedience is imputed to us.
- When God looks at us He doesn’t “see” our sin, He only sees Christ (covering/atonement)
There might be a few more details one could add in there, but the conclusion is this:
The standard for righteousness is perfect law-keeping.
The list of problems with this line of reasoning is extensive, not the least of which is the fact that the Bible says righteousness is apart from the law. But when we keep thinking about the ramifications of the above assumptions, the conclusions are obvious. In this construct, a believer is only declared righteous as long as he keeps living by “faith alone”. So if at any time he ceases to live by “faith alone” he puts his justification at risk. This means he is never really “righteous” until he gets to the end of his life. And even then, his righteousness depends on the degree to which he lived by “faith alone”. In other words, no believer can ever really “know” if he is really righteous until all the facts come in. There would have to be sufficient “proof” that reveals that his justification is authentic.
But I want to camp on a notion that I doubt very few have ever stopped to consider. If the basis of righteousness is perfect law-keeping, then how is Jesus righteous? Would not He too be required to live a perfect life? Of course the protestant response to this is a resounding, yes. They openly declare that it was by His perfect law-keeping that Jesus was righteous. That is one of the assumptions listed above. But now consider this. How could a claim be made for Jesus’ righteousness until He had demonstrated perfect law-keeping His entire life? It is impossible to claim that Jesus was righteous before he ever demonstrated one good work. Ironically, the same standard that the reformed use for believers MUST also apply to the One who makes justification possible according to their theology. And this just will not work because it makes Jesus’ own righteousness suspect (which the reformed conveniently do not allow for). You cannot reason something after-the-fact!
The Reformed gospel makes Jesus’ righteousness a function of works and not intrinsic to His nature. Jesus was not really righteous UNTIL He had demonstrated perfect law-keeping. Furthermore, such a conclusion of His righteousness could not have been realized UNTIL the end of His life.
Jesus is righteous by virtue of the fact that He is God’s Son. He has His own righteous nature because He was born of God, God’s offspring. He was not righteous because of His perfect law-keeping. It was intrinsic to who He is.
I can go to the NFL’s web store and order a jersey of my favorite football player, maybe Peyton Manning. When I receive that jersey in the mail I can now say I have Peyton Manning’s jersey, or I have the jersey of Peyton Manning. Does that mean that I have Peyton Manning’s ACTUAL jersey that he ACTUALLY wore when he played in games? Of course not. But it is still a jersey. It is similar (identical, like in kind) to Peyton Manning’s in every way with one exception; this one belongs to me.
Our righteousness is this way. Does this mean that we have the ACTUAL righteousness that Christ had? Only in the sense that it is IDENTICAL to it, the exception being is that the righteousness we have actually belongs to us! Why is that? Because it was given to us the moment we were born again. It is not a covering. It is intrinsic to the nature of our being as a child of God.
Whether reformed/protestants want to admit it or not, the fact remains that their construct of righteousness is works-based justification. It might not be “us” doing the works, but works are works no matter who does them. Not only is it works-based, it is progressive, meaning it must be performed throughout one’s life. This is why there is NO DIFFERENCE whatsoever between Catholicism and Protestantism. They both believe in a works-based progressive justification. Protestants have simply taken the “work” away from us and given it to Christ. And in the process, they have made Christ’s own righteousness predicated on works.
If you still have any doubts about the logical conclusions to which one must come when law is the standard for righteousness, consider what R.C. Sproul is on record stating. Just about the entire authentic protestant/reformed camp threw Tullian Tchividjian under the bus because his preaching wasn’t “nuanced” enough for thier taste. Frankly I am incredulous that they haven’t done the same with Sproul considering this quote. Talk about lacking nuance!
Part 2: In the Beginning, Caste
In part one we looked at the beginning of the mediation caste system. This system is driven by sin. This is a word that we should take careful study of. Exploring the use of the serpent by Satan to do his bidding will not be an objective of this series, but it should be noted that at some point sin was found in Satan (Ezek 28:11ff., Isaiah 14:12ff.). Sin is presented in the Bible as an independent entity and not necessarily the personification of Satan. Sin is a characteristic of Satan, but not wholly defined by him. They are separate entities. Certainly it is likely that Satan made the creation of sin possible, and perhaps he is even the creator of it, but sin is also a separate entity that he has no control over.
The Bible defines sin as an entity driven by a desire to control.
Genesis 4:7 – If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.
Regardless of the deception in the garden, God is still talking to mankind face to face; individually if you will. This is the second presentation of the gospel by God himself to mankind. What is presented here is no different than any other gospel fundamental presented in the rest of the Bible: indwelling sin’s desire to control the individual must be ruled over by the same individual. Note that sin crouches in wait for something that enables it to control the individual: not doing well; an act of sin. This leads to condemnation which is sin’s case for controlling or enslaving the individual. Sin seeks to possess and dominate the individual with its own desires resulting in enslavement with the endgame being death. God’s presentation to Cain is a construct that never changes throughout Scripture.
James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
After the deception, sin indwelled mankind and caste was born. This is because sin’s paramount desire to control others is now manifested in mankind. From the top of humanity down, people seek to control each other through a massive number of different means and techniques. After the deception, this dynamic was found in the parents of humanity:
Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Unlike God’s command to Cain to rule over sin which desired to enslave Cain, this is a statement of fact: because of sin, the woman will desire to control her husband, but he will instead rule over her. This is because women are in general physically inferior to men and perhaps less aggressive as a practical matter.
What God is stating here is an unfortunate reality caused by the introduction of sin into humanity that goes along with the other bad news in the same verse, not His intended design for man’s relationship to the woman. Sin finds cause for divisiveness and the demeaning of others as inferior in every aspect of reality. Various and sundry relationships between men and women, including marriage, are no exception.
This is the caste dynamic found in the first two human beings and driven by sin. Because of sin, humankind only desires freedom for the self while desiring to enslave others for one’s own benefit. Again, this sin dynamic touches every metaphysical nook and cranny of humanity. God told Cain, “you must“… “rule over” sinful desire. He told Eve that Adam “shall” rule over her desire to control him. This was more bad news to go along with pain in childbearing, not God’s model for a good marriage. An extreme manifestation of this realty as an example may be found in the movie, The War of the Roses.
As God dealt with mankind face to face in the beginning, even after the garden deception and sin’s subsequent invasion into humanity, he continued to tell man to be fruitful and fill the earth (Gen 9:1). He never told man in the beginning to subdue each other, to have dominion over each other, or to rule over others. It could be argued that God’s imperative against murder is also an imperative against the enslavement of men by other men and the taking away of their freedom. Ruling over others, especially on an international level, will almost always require the taking of life or at least a threat thereof. This is invariably the end result when indoctrination doesn’t persuade one to be subservient. Genesis 9:1-7 is but one example of a mandate by God to subdue the earth coupled with a warning to not take the life of other men; the earth is to be conquered—not mankind.
Hence, in direct opposition to God, mankind refused to populate and subdue the earth and instead invested in conquest of other men. This is more than likely what is going at the Tower of Babel in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. This is because sin seeks to control, enslave, and conquer by any means. Toward the end of human history as we presently know it, and as foretold by the book of Revelation, we find an interesting notation:
Revelation 6:2 – And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. 3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
With the exception of the United States of America, the vast majority of human governments from the beginning of time have been and continue to be predicated on conquest. Sin is at the core of this reality. Found in man, it seeks to control the individual because of its desire to do so and forms the outward behavior of people to do the same. It will seek any excuse to conquer others whether social standing, ethnicity, education, or visual appeal. It manipulates, lies, steals, and if necessary murders in order to gain control of others.
Primarily, human governments have always made their case for ruling over others by claiming they are ordained by God, gods, or some cosmic force to do so. From the beginning, pagan-state governments seek to conquer by divine mandate. They are mandated by God, supposedly, to be a force for the collective good in the world…by conquest if necessary. The caste religion that justifies conquest has always been the same basic model: a determinist god ordains the knowers to guide the masses who are unable to know, and government is ordained by the same god to enforce their state-owned truth. It is absolutely true that Hinduism is the oldest religion known, and this model is well reflected in it accordingly. Until the American Revolution completely upset the apple cart of human history, religious caste was the only game that was played and manifested in pagan-state governments. Later, church-states were added to the murderous fray.
And there is a glaring problem with this model that has manifested itself throughout history: God has never come to earth and ceremonially coroneted any particular government to conquer the earth on His behalf and for His glory. Though church-states have made the case through numerous church counsels overseen by puritan “Divines,” Jesus Christ was never in attendance. Humorous if not so pathetic, Protestant evangelicals have always been fond of placing an empty chair at such meetings to represent the presence of Christ who is apparently sitting there just because they say He is, and allowing others to speak for Him.
The case has always been made and continues to be made in God’s absence. And, the substitute is deception and the sword. For some strange reason, God supposedly wants to use man to conquer others and set up His own kingdom on earth for the collective good. In other words, God has thrown His hat into the ring of political intrigue that has always dominated human history and continues to do so. This indeed is a strange and juvenile concept. When God decides to finally establish His kingdom on earth, Bible prophecy is clear in regard to the means used: He takes care of the matter Himself. In the book of Daniel, a stone made without hands smashes an idol that represents the kingdoms of the world. The message thereof would seem evident.
This series of posts are about God’s true kingdom, a kingdom presently in heaven, not on earth, and the relationship of the Jewish people to that kingdom. We have a long way to go in developing the big picture. That picture exposes the value of a treasured people and why their lives matter so much.
In the next part, we will further explore the anthropology of sin and the characteristics of the earthly kingdoms spawned by it. And as we journey forward, we will examine what God is presently seeking on earth if not a conquering kingdom by proxy.