Salvation through Inflation (Gary North)

North, Gary. Salvation through Inflation.  Institute for Christian Economics.

This book has an autobiographical element for me.  While I cut my teeth as a student of the Austrian school–and am today a free market proponent–I did have a “fling” with Social Credit, though I didn’t call it that at the time.  Many of us, seeing some Enlightenment presuppositions with what we called “capitalism,” and knowing that Marxism and State Socialism were off limits, found in movements like Social Credit and Guild Socialism something of an alternative.  It can’t work, though. It can’t account for pricing. It’s also theft.

Image result for salvation through inflation

There might be another attraction to this movement.  I think some in the Alt Right will go to it. The Alt Right, like Major Douglas, is Darwinian and Nietzschean.  North responds that while there are legitimate concerns to global banking schemes and “The Elite,” any such plan of action cannot come at the expense of biblical, worldview-level analysis.

Social Credit: the claim that capitalism does not “create sufficient bank credit that allows consumers to buy the entire output of industry” (North xv). The State replaces the bankers. As North nicely summarizes, it is a conservative movement that relies on a left-wing critique of capitalism (2).  It’s goal is for the state to create fiat money so that the economy won’t be underconsumed.

Basic tenets of social credit:

* Nature is inherently bountiful
* Human institutions are the cause of scarcity (Social Credit, 77-79).
* The community creates credit (North 59).
* No distinction between public and private property (Douglas, Social Credit, 205).
* You can’t buy or sell real estate (206).
* Falling prices are bad for the economy (Douglas, The Monopoly of Credit, 28). The money supply is never sufficient to clear the market.

Scarcity and Wealth

Biblical view of wealth: Scarcity is an example of negative sanctions in history (Genesis 3:17-19).  Scarcity is defined as “At zero price there is greater demand for something than there is available supply to meet all the demand” (North 45).  Economic growth, accordingly, is when we increase the number of our options.

Biblical view of money: surprisingly, the bible doesn’t mandate that silver and gold be the only kind of money.  It just acknowledges them as valuable. And scarce. And durable and portable and divisible. Nevertheless, the Bible condemns debased metals (Isaiah 1.22).

Debasing money is counterfeiting it, plain and simple.  God condemns this (since it is deception). If it is easy to counterfeit gold, how much more so paper and credit?  You see where this argument is going, don’t you? Social Credit relies at heart on a system of counterfeiting. Counterfeiting then inflates the prices.

Interest is related to time.  One of the problems with anti-interest policies is that they try to escape the reality of time.  That is Gnosticism. Interest doesn’t have to be nefarious. Indeed, it’s unavoidable. North notes that paying is simply paying “an extra quantity of future goods to gain access to the lender’s supply of present goods” (North 179).

Problems with Social Credit:

+ Profit and loss are sanctions that guide production.  This is inevitable since men have imperfect knowledge about the future (Mises, Human Action, 291).

+ If the government issues paper money on the basis of this statistical number, the new money will” raise prices. When prices rise, the value of the “community’s” capital rises (North 63).

+ Douglas’s injunction against falling prices is refuted by the computer revolution.

+ Douglas thinks money disappears (“a week after”) but it doesn’t.  It either remains with the consumer in his hand, under his mattress, or in the form of credit. I guess it could disappear if the Joker burns it all, like in The Dark Knight Rises.

+ It is possible to cut prices below the costs of production and increase profits, which is what Henry Ford did. If it leads to more output, then it works.

+ How do you explain the historic productivity of capitalism precisely when Social Credit problems have never been adopted?
+ Tito’s Yugoslavia adopted something similar in the sense of work tickets.  While it functioned better than the USSR, it had the opposite effect of Douglas’s proposals: the time needed to work multiplied exponentially.

+ The main problem is the most obvious one: Social Credit wants to replace Bankers’ control over credit with the State’s control.  In other words, Congress. Yet both Republicans and Democrats hate Congress.

+ Per Douglas’s A + B theorem, the money paid to B (organizations) is always paid to peopled organizations. He seemed to think they were paid to empty organizations.  This means, pace Douglas, that A can buy back the product. North destroys his argument in one sentence: every unit of money is owned by someone at all times, unless someone has inadvertently lost it (253).

 

Baptized Patriarchalism (Gary North)

This is the book that got most hardcore Reconstructionists angry at North.  It’s a reason why Rushdoony’s disciples on Facebook often forbid any discussion of North. It’s also the main reason kinists hate him, too–and for the same reason.  It’s also one of North’s best books. It’s thesis is simple: Rushdoony judicially and liturgically cut himself off from the covenant community. He then gave communion to himself.  God responded by imposing judicial sanctions on Rushdoony’s writings and thought. That’s why all of his books after 1973 are mediocre at best. Not one of them approaches the rigor of The One and the Many.

Despite the title, this book isn’t really about the “Feminist/Patriarchy” debates.  Many who would probably agree with North might bristle and think he is defending feminism.  He isn’t. His target is the home church.

The background:

“Your snare was set in 1956. In that year, a woman divorced her husband, a pastor. I do not believe she had biblically lawful grounds to do so. Half of their children – the older ones – voluntarily accompanied her when she departed. His pastorate was undermined. He left the pastorate in 1962 to become a full-time writer. He has long refused to mention his divorce in public and rarely in private” (North viii).

What is the central institution: the family? The Church? The State?  Rushdoony said the family. Maybe “central” institution is misleading.  A better one is which institution is a multi-generational, supranatural institution that continues into eternity?  It isn’t the family. North defines “Christian patriarchalism” as “the suggestion that a Christian father, as the head of his household, possesses the keys of the kingdom: the right to baptize his children and serve the Lord’s Supper on the basis of the marriage bond, not on the basis of his membership in the institutional church” (4).  

If the family has the keys of the kingdom, then the family can now bring to bear the judicial sanctions that rightly belong to the church: the Lord’s Supper and excommunication.  The church is now stripped of her legal basis.

The Tithe

This is where the argument gets really fun.  North writes, “There is an unbreakable rule in institutional theory: the source of the funding determines the structure of the system” (7). God requires the family to pay the tithe to the church and taxes to the state.  The family is not superior in that sense to either covenantal institution. But with Rushdoony’s disciples we see something else: they pay the tithe to whomever (or whatever) they see fit, and almost never to the church.

The church can excommunicate. The family (and state, per Erastianism) cannot. Excommunication is declaring God’s judgment against a person.  It is the most fearful historical sanction.

North proves the family is covenantally subordinate to the church in the case of Melchizedek.  Abraham, the family, paid a tithe to Melchizedek (25). This is the death-knell to the home-church movement.

Another huge problem is the concept of the church’s boundaries.  What is its lawful jurisdiction? Rushdoony, by combining church and family, erased these boundaries.  In one sentence North summarizes the problem with Rushdoony’s theology: This is the heart of his ecclesiology: the substitution of broad kingdom functions for specific church office. Why? One reason is money. Once he switches from judicial office to function, and persuades the reader that the sacraments are not a monopoly of the institutional church, he then lays claim to the tithe. The underlying practical issue is access to the tithe (36).  

Other problems for the familialist: there is no means of covenant renewal, save perhaps the sex act. In this case, it becomes ritual fertility.  It looks like Canaanite religion.

Point, Game, and Match

“He asserted the authority of the marital family over the two covenant oath signs: baptism and communion. He transferred the locus of authority over the covenant signs from the institutional church to the marital family, in which husband and wife seek to produce a blood line (procreation). He self-consciously and explicitly challenged the church’s entire history regarding the sacraments. He did not cite a single creed, .confession, or theologian to defend his position. He forthrightly announced the centrality of the marital family as the covenantal institution on which the other two rest. Now he invokes the language of a blood covenant. But the judicial context of the marital family is sexual bonding! Therein lies the enormous theological danger” (49).

What should we do?  “Here is a my recommendation: go to church, tithe to it, and take the Lord’s Supper. Not too radical a conclusion, is it? Warning: don’t start your own home church. Don’t ordain yourself. Above all, don’t serve communion to yourself” (68).

Marx and Satan (Richard Wurmbrand)

One only has to read Marx’s analysis of Hegel to see that Marx is clearly demon-possessed.  But Wurmbrand suspects there might be more to it. Wurmbrand is not saying Marx made a pact with the Devil.  He is saying he used Luciferian categories, language, etc. And later Marxists were openly Satanic.

For further reading: North, Gary. Regeneration through Revolution.

Satanic Evidence

Marx speaks of “building his throne against God” in language reminiscent of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

Background:

One of the rituals of the Satanist church is the back mass, which Satanist priests recite at midnight. Black candles are put in the candlesticks upside down. The priest is dressed in his ornate robes, but with the lining outside. He says all things prescribed in the prayer book, but reads from the end toward the beginning. The holy names of God, Jesus, and Mary are read inversely. A crucifix is fastened upside down or trampled upon. The body of a naked woman serves as an altar. A consecrated wafer stolen from a church is inscribed with the name Satan and is used for a mock communion. During the black mass a Bible is burned. All those present promise to commit the seven deadly sins, as enumerated in Catholic catechisms, and never to do any good. An orgy follows (Wurmbrand 8).

We will now consider Marx’s drama “Oulanem” (which is an inversion of the name Emanuel, a specifically Satanic move)  Marx writes,

The hellish vapours rise and fill the brain, Till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed. See this sword? The prince of darkness Sold it to me. For me he beats the time and gives the signs. Ever more boldly I play the dance of death.  

Wurmbrand comments: These lines take on special significance when we learn that in the rites of higher initiation in the Satanist cult an “enchanted” sword which ensures success is sold to the candidate. He pays for it by signing a covenant, with blood taken from his wrists, agreeing that his soul will belong to Satan after death (9).

Marx writes in a letter to his father, “A curtain had fallen. My holy of holies was rent asunder and new gods had to be installed” (10 November 1837).

Instead of telling his kids fairy tales at bed times, he told them stories of men who sold their souls to the devil.  Seriously. Who the *&%% does this? Wurmbrand quotes Robert Payne, “There can be very little doubt that those interminable stories were autobiographical. He had the Devil’s view of the world, and the Devil’s malignity. Sometimes he seemed to know that he was accomplishing works of evil.”

Speaking of the anarchist Bakunin, Wurmbrand has a very interesting paragraph: “Bakunin reveals that Proudhon, another major Socialist thinker and at that time a friend of Karl Marx, also “worshiped Satan.” Hess had introduced Marx to Proudhon, who wore the same hair style typical of the nineteenth-century Satanist sect of Joanna Southcott” (Wurmbrand 16).

Marx’s favorite daughter Eleanor married an avowed Satanist, Edward Eveling.

Marx’s behavior on his deathbed was rather strange.  His housemaid and whore, Helen Demuth, said he prayed before candles the week before his death.  Marx never practiced Judaism and he openly rejected Christianity. So what was happening? More interesting is that he had a statue of Zeus.  Zeus, as those who aren’t enamored of a Bowdlerized Greek classicism know, is Satan. Plain and simple.

Wurmbrand: “Britain’s center of Satanism is Highgate Cemetery in London, where Karl Marx is buried. Mysterious rites of black magic are celebrated at this tomb. It was the place of inspiration for the Highgate Vampire, who attacked several girls in 1970” (35).

Wurmbrand then has some observations on Lenin’s Satanism. The rest of the book (from about page 40 onward) is a litany of Marxist crimes, especially in connection with Satanic themes.  It is a supplement to Solzhenitsyn’s never-sufficiently-praised Gulag.  It’s not easy reading.   It’s necessary, though. If anyone is tempted by Wokism or Cultural Marxism, then he/she/xir/xim needs to read it.  And own it. Because that’s exactly what is going to happen.

The last chapter is a snapshot from a Satanic mass by a person who later escaped.  I won’t mention it here for obvious reasons.

Some criticisms

This is one of those issues where it is “document or die.”  Wurmbrand will refer to the titles of Marx’s works, but often not any more specific than that.  I guess that can’t be helped, since most of these were pamphlets which wouldn’t have any consistent pagination.

 

Puritan Economic Experiments (Gary North)

This is a summary of North’s PhD dissertation, though it reads better than most dissertations. North outlines three major economic experiments in Puritan New England: 1) govt control of land; 2) govt control of prices; 3) govt control of fashion.

Common Ownership

The problem, as William Bradford noted, if there is common ownership of land, what is to guarantee that men will work for other men’s wives in the field, and that women will sew and weave for other women’s husbands?

Problem 1: “Free” land meant strong demand for its productivity,and town leaders never were able to find a rational, efficient means of restricting uneconomic uses of the town property (North 12).

The problems became so bad that the only way to fix them was to slowly (if reluctantly) introduce free-market solutions.  The idea of common ownership was eventually replaced by Jefferson’s yeoman farmer. North writes:

“The idea that individual men are more responsible for the administration of property than boards of political appointees or even elected officials became a fundamental principle of eighteenth and nineteenth century American life. The concepts of personal responsibility and personal authority became interlocked, and the great symbol of this fusion was the family farm” (20).

Price Controls

The Puritans inherited the economics of the medieval schoolmen (23).

What is a Just Price?

Problem 2: The effect of these wage ceilings must have presented itself almost immediately: an excess of demand for the services of artisans over the available supply (25).

Max Weber argued that the essence of theocratic and/or socialist regimes was the reliance upon substantive theories of justice (27).  But the problem here, as in just prices, is that man can never be sure of what the magistrate would do. This made rational acting and planning by entrepreneurs impossible.

Sumptuary Legislation

The Puritans misinterpreted the 5th commandment on this one.  While it is true there are distinctions between superiors, inferiors, and equals, that doesn’t mean the state has to legislate clothing.

As to time-wasting, magistrates employed “licensing.”  The licensed taverns.

Problem 3 :So when men began to follow the tenets of the Puritan faith, they found themselves steadily increasing in wealth, both personally and culturally. This was to raise an absolutely baffling dilemma: how was the fact of social mobility to be reconciled with medieval categories of fixed status, implying defined place and function (51)?

Conclusion: The hierarchy of medieval life – a hierarchy reflecting a great chain of being from God to Satan – was being shattered by the winds of change. Men and women were increasingly unwilling in the late seventeenth century. to accept the limitations of such arbitrary status concepts of the exercise of their property rights (56).

The Dominion Covenant (North)

North, Gary.

This is his commentary on Genesis. It’s not a textual commentary.  It’s more of worldview analysis.

Cosmic Personalism: our universe is created and governed by a speaking God.

Purpose, Order, and Sovereignty

Gen. 1:14-18 is more offensive than Gen. 1:1 simply because it can’t be allegorized and it ruins any attempt to harmonize creation with evolution.

The Dominion Covenant

Man is God’s image bearer and so has limited sovereignty over creation (North 29).

Economic Value: Objective and Subjective

“The doctrine of imputation lies at the heart of creation” (37). It is objectively good because it conforms to God’s decree.  It is subjectively good because God, the speaking subject, announced it as good.

Marginalist revolution in economics:  acting men impute value to scarce economic resources. See diamond-water paradox.  We never buy “water in general” or “diamonds in general.” Men do not trade indeterminate aggregates (North 40).

The value of the marginal unit determines the exchange value.  However, marginal utility cannot be applied among two or more individuals.

Subordination and Fulfillment

Man and nature–thesis:  dominion requires a division of labor (85).  Adam receives a helpmeet.

God-designed Harmony of interests

Thesis: the heart of man’s being is not his sexuality, but his calling before God (90). The marriage-sexual covenant is subordinate to the dominion covenant. If Eve is a help-meet, then we already see a division of labor.

Contra Marx, on class warfare.  The history of all societies is not class warfare, but ethical warfare against a sovereign God (98).

Costs, Choices, and Tests

Value is subjective because man is a personal  being. God, also, is a personal being. He imputes value to His creation.  Man imputes value to creation within a hierarchy of values (101). Is it worth giving up x to get y?  Choice requires preference, and preference requires standards, and standards require an authority structure.

Scarcity: Curse and Blessing

Common Grace, Common Curse

Linear growth overcomes cyclical stagnation.  Because the ground is cursed, men must allocate resources and divide their labor.

The Burden of Time

The meaning of life forces us to consider the meaning of time (118-119). Time is the god of paganism and chance is its throne.  Time is “dead necessity.” For biblical man time is opportunity (120).

Godly Deception

Everyone gives Rahab trouble for her lie (even though James says she was justified for that very act).  But as North points out, her lie is irrelevant, analytically speaking. She committed high treason and no one bats an eye at that (184-185).

Jael lies, too.  In fact, she violated her husband’s international treaty with Sisera.  She lied to him and drove a spike through his head. Rather than anguishing over the “Nazis at the door question,” the Holy Spirit, speaking through Deborah, says “Most blessed of women is Jael” (Judg. 5.24).

Towards a review

Do not approach this book as an exegetical commentary.  It’s nothing of the kind. North begins with the presupposition that all ancient (and modern gnostic) cosmologies die upon the rock of the speaking, self-contained God.  From there he shows that such disciplines as economics can’t consistently exist in a random universe which worships the chaos gods.

Nuggets

*Any serious claim to godhead must maintain the unity of the Godhead. Since man is god, he must be made to unite.  We see this with covenant-breaking man and the United Nations. Man, collective man with the scientific elite at the top, must be unified.

* Pagan cosmology, both ancient and modern, is committed to the chain of being. God is part of this chain.

*Evolution requires several leaps in being.  One, to get the process of life started. And another leap to develop consciousness distinct from the atoms bumping into each other.

*Cyclical views of time are connected with ancient chaos rituals.  In doing so, the participants engage in a drama of the creation of the world from the unformed (and hence chaotic) hyle.  It is a demonic power from below.

Conspiracy: A Biblical View (North)

Reposting from an old blog

North attempts to vindicate the reality that there are “planned conspiracies.”

Jesus’s way:  open ministry.  This reflects the principle of “open covenants openly arrived at,” which is fundamental to Western law (North 2).

The Reality of Conspiracies

Cosmic Personalism: men are responsible, personal agents.  Further, there is a personal struggle in history, involving cosmic agents (Gen. 3:15).

The Establishment’s Conspiracy

North identifies “the conspiracy” as “the Establishment.”  This is  the Deep State, or the Swamp.  What makes this unique is that it is a conspiracy of insiders against outsiders.

Setting the Agenda

Thesis: : through their domination over the major educational, political, and financial institutions, these conspirators have “set the agenda,” especially the intellectual agenda, for the last century (14).

The Biblical View

No one is claiming that God is going to lose in history and if there is a conspiracy, then Satan is all-powerful.  No offense, but detractors who keep insisting that those who have a biblical view of history mean that are either ignorant, incapable of reading comprehension, or dishonest.  Take your pick.

The People’s Will

North: When the people of a society accept the idea that the people’s will is absolutely sovereign, they thereby condemn themselves to a life of manipulation by corrupt elites that will seek to rule “in the name of the People” (21).

Df. conspiracy = a confederation set up together to obtain evil ends (22).

The Conspiracy’s Theology

God’s law was public, revealed law.

Secrecy is a key move.  For those who reject the conspiracy view of history, they must explain why these groups always meet in secret (and usually independent of elected officials; think Jekyll Island, Bilderbergs, etc).

Conspiracies also need to gain control of the intellectual outlets, as well as the means for making them public.  

Court Historians

Thesis, Part 2: The conspiracy view of history is based on the following presuppositions. First, people make history; impersonal forces do not. Second, events do take place within historical limits: economics, politics, ideas, etc. Third, powerful people are powerful. Fourth, powerful people seek to achieve their goals by means of public and quasi-public institutions that are financed by the general public, including their enemies. Fifth, in order to achieve many of these goals, the planners need to conceal their plans from their enemies” (60).

 

 

Review: Cornelius Van Til, an Analysis of his Thought

by John Frame. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1995.

This is my second time to read through this book.  The question obviously arises:  should you read this book or Bahnsen’s book on Van Til?  They are two different books dealing with two different approaches.  Bahnsen’s book is a manual on Van Tillian apologetics, but has relatively little on Van Til’s actual theology.  That is where Frame’s is valuable.

The Metaphysics of Knowledge: God as Self-Contained Fullness
This is Frame’s favorite aspect of Van Til’s thought, and probably the best section in the book. This is another way of saying God’s aseity. God is sufficient in himself. From God’s self-containment, we may say that God’s unity implies his simplicity: “If there is only one God, then there is nothing “in” him that is independent of him” (55). How does God’s revelation play into this? Due to the richness of God’s nature, we could never know him left to ourselves. However, if God, a self-contained God–and a self-contained God who meets the standards of immanency and transcendence, reveals himself, then we have certain, sure knowledge of who this God is (transcendence) and how his revelation applies to concrete situations (immanence).

God is the original and man is the derivative (Christian Theory of Knowledge, 16).  By analogical we don’t mean what Aquinas meant.   Our knowledge is a finite replica of God’s (Introduction Systematic Theology, 206).

Absolute Personality
Non-Christian systems die on the altar of personality. Either they posit personal, but finite gods (Greek pantheon) or impersonal, infinite gods (Eastern religions). Only Christian theism posits a personal, absolute God. They do so because of the Trinity. To quote CVT, “the members of the trinity are exhaustively representational of one another” (qtd. Frame, 59). To end this section with a quote and call to action from Frame, “Impersonal facts and laws cannot be ultimate, precisely because they are not personal. They cannot account for rationality, for moral value, for the causal order of the universe, or for the universal applicability of logic” (60).

The Trinity
Ah, this is where the heresy charges come in! And given the renewed interest in Trinitarianism, this section can be very useful. Van Til begins by stating and affirming what the Church has taught on the Trinity. His position can be summarized in the following moves: Trinitarianism denies correlativism, the belief that God and creation are dependent on one another. God is three persons and one Person. Watch closely. He calls the whole Godhead “one person.” He is not saying that God is one in essence and three in essence. The main question is “the one being personal or impersonal?” (67). Van Til is calling the whole Godhood one “person” in order to avoid making the essence of God to be merely an abstraction. Frame argues, “If the three persons (individually and collectively) exhaust the divine essence (are “coterminous” with it), then the divine essence itself must be personal” (68). And if God is an absolute person (he is), and he is one (he is), then there must be a sense in which he is a person. Granting the Augustinian circumincessio, every act of God is a personal act involving all three persons acting in unity (68).

The Problem of the One and the Many
I think Rushdoony was more excited about this than Van Til (see Van Til’s response to Rush in Jerusalem and Athens). How do we find unity in the midst of plurality? Unbelief cannot answer this question. It always tends toward one or the other extreme. If abstract being is ultimate, then there are no particulars. If abstract particular is ultimate, then there is no truth. The Trinity is both personal one and many.

If all of reality is one, then how can we make distinctions?  If all of reality is just sense data, how can we unify them in our consciousness? We are faced with the danger of either pure abstraction or pure matter.  Frame has a very good discussion of this on p.73.

Revelation
Contrary to popular opinion, Van Til does hold to general revelation. Given his view of God’s sovereignty, all things reveal God’s decree. (Man is receptively reconstructive of God’s revelation. It is his job to re-interpret previously God-interpreted facts.) In short, Van Til holds to the typical Kuyperian view of revelation. From this Van Til posits a three-fold division in God’s revelation: a revelation from God, from nature, and from self (120). This is perspectival, btw. As to Scripture, it is self-attesting and bears God’s full authority. As such, it must be inerrant.

Evidence
CVT does not disparage the use of evidence, many critics to the contrary. Rather, he denies the use of “brute facts.” Given the Trinity, all facts and laws are correlative. Brute facts are “uninterpreted facts” and therefore meaningless, the constituents of a universe of pure chance. This means we cannot separate facts from meaning. We cannot challenge the unbeliever on a particular fact if we do not challenge his philosophy of fact. Again, see RJ Rushdoony on facts and evidence (JBA).

Common Grace

Van Til’s contribution to this debate is that he puts common grace on a timeline, emphasizing “earlier” and “later” (CGG, 72).

The Crack of Doom

Van Til makes the interesting point that common grace decreases as time goes on. “Differentiation sets in” (83). Frame questions this as he does not see the world necessarily getting more and more wicked.  Frame is partially correct but he resists the inference Gary North will draw.

Frame thinks North reads too much into the word “Favor,” which is ambiguous in English.  Perhaps he does, but North’s argument is still the same:  we should speak of common gifts instead of common grace. God gave the Caananites an extra 40 years.  This was a gift.  Was it “favor?”  No, he ethnically cleansed them 40 years later.

And Van Til, pace Frame, is very clear on the timeline.  As history progresses God will withdraw his common grace from the wicked, and show his love towards his children by watching the wicked wipe them out (or so reads Van Til’s timeline).  Frame avoids the postmillennial challenge:  if the unbeliever is epistemologically self-conscious, he can’t function logically, so how can he have dominion?

Conclusion

There are also chapters dealing with Barth, Dooyeweerd, and the theonomists.  They are well worth your time but beyond the scope of this review.

Politics as Athanasian Pluralism

Gary North might have just solved my dilemma on Cromwell and the Covenanters.  As a Presbyterian I want to like the Covenanters, but given how they universally failed every political and military test, and how a national church is unworkable, and how most modern Internet Covenanters are hyper-legalists, I just couldn’t do it.

And while I like Cromwell, I was always troubled the nature of the Independents and schismatics in the New Model Army.  But maybe that’s just the cost of doing business in a fallen world.  I was tipped off to this possibility by reading Gary North’s Conspiracy in Philadelphia, arguably his best book. He described Cromwell’s project in this way:

He created a trinitarian civil government in which all Protestant churches would have equal access politically, and the state would be guided by “the common light of Christianity.”(I call this “Athanasian pluralism.”) [North 27].  North footnotes chapter 12 of Political Polytheism.

I think the New Model Army got into some problems because it had abandoned aspects of Covenantal Thinking.  In his just execution of Charles I it didn’t rely on the earlier Covenantal models of John Knox. So what would a Cromwellian system guided by the 5 Point Covenantal Model look like?  I think Athanasian Pluralism is a good start.

Political and ethical pluralism is bad.  But there can be a biblical pluralism.  It just means a plurality of covenants in a society.  At this point I am heavily relying on chapter 12 of Political Polytheism.

Dominion Christianity teaches that there are four covenants under God, meaning four kinds of vows under God: personal (individual), and the three institutional covenants: ecclesiastical, civil, and familial. 2 All other human institutions (business, educational, charitable, etc.) are to one degree or other under the jurisdiction of one or more of these four covenants. No single human covenant is absolute; therefore, no single human institution is all-powerful. Thus, Christian liberty is liberty under God and God’s law, administered by plural legal authorities (576).

The Solemn League and Covenant fails because it collapses civil and ecclesiastical covenants into one, so that the SLC is neither.

The Failure of Political Confessionalism

North explains why political Presbyterianism failed so badly in England:

Other oddities of the five-year effort of the Assembly are also worth mentioning. Scotland’s Solemn League and Covenant (1643) had been signed in preparation for entry into a war against the King, whose safety the 1639 National Covenant had promised to uphold.  Scotland became a military ally of Cromwell and the Independents, who rose to power and then destroyed the judicial basis of the Scottish National Covenant: first by executing the King; second, by imposing Protestant religious toleration on the realm, including Scotland.
As it turned out, a group of Englishmen established the foundational documents of Scottish Presbyterianism. In 1648, the year after the Assembly completed the annotated Confession, England went to war with Scotland (North, Crossed Fingers, 994).

The English Presbyterians had been trapped by the decision of the Scottish Presbyterians to defend the King and a Throne-Church theocratic order, which had been affirmed by the language of the Solemn League and Covenant (Sec. VI). English Presbyterians could impose Church unity only by force, but the only significant force available was Cromwell’s New Model Army, which opposed Presbyterianism.95 Haller writes: “The advance of the army under Cromwell’s leadership meant the final defeat of the work of the Westminster Assembly.”96 He concludes: “The English people were never again to be united in a visible church of any sort.,,97 After the Restoration, English Presbyterianism refused to accept the Westminster Confession of Faith as binding, and in 1719, the denomination went unitarian (996).

After 1647, the Presbyterians had a monumental problem. The Church’s foundational documents had been written to gain the acceptance of a civil assembly that included non-Presbyterians-as time went on, a growing number of non-Presbyterians. The documents did not fit together. The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government (1645) had no required statement of faith, i.e., no theological stipulations. It required no oath from Church officers or members. The Confession of Faith (1647) also did not mention Church oaths. It did not specify how its own stipulations were to apply judicially. The burning question should have been this: What was the covenantal relationship between these two completely separate documents? But no one in authority asked it in 1648, and no one in authority has asked it since.

This is why intellectually the Political Covenanter movement failed before it even began.

Safe Sects: Healing

North on Charismatics, Calvinism, and Healing.  Summarizes my own journey.  Let’s put aside all of the “in your face” stuff like prophecy and tongues. I understand the case against continuationism. I really do. (I admit. I don’t understand any case for or against tongues). But where in the New Testament do you get the idea that Jesus will pull the plug on healing once the ink is dry on Revelation?

Cessationists say, “But where is healing today?”  To which I say, Look around.  The evidence is there if you want to find it.  But the case for healing is more than just the overwhelming amount of evidence.  It is the nature of the covenant.  I love what North writes,

If God heals in history, then He must bring judgment in history. To deny the one is to deny the other. Yet the modern church denies either or both of these aspects of God’s work in history. Churches do not want judgment, for it begins at the house of the Lord (I Peter 4:17). So, they reject the biblical idea of healing. They are consistent — consistently wrong.

The apostle James presupposed something we don’t know. Oil has judicial qualities.  It’s not just “advanced medicine.”

Modern charismatics aren’t completely correct, to the extent that they are individualists.

On the other hand, by preaching physical healing through the authority of the church, the charismatics raise a crucial issue: establishing the limits of God’s healing in history. God heals individuals, not cultures, insist the traditional charismatics. By what theology can such limits be placed on God’s healing? Dispensationalism? But dispensationalism denies the legitimacy of all church-invoked, church-administered healing, not just cultural healing. Traditional dispensationalism is in this sense consistent; charismatic dispensationalism isn’t.

 

Gary North quotes

This is just for fun. I am not necessarily endorsing the finer points of what he is saying, but only pointing out how good a writer he really is.

“When you criticize someone with followers, the followers recognize that, if you are correct, they have been sucked in. If they had been sucked in, then they must not be too bright, or at least they were not well enough informed to form a critical judgment which would have led them to identify their leader as someone not worth following. So, a criticism of the leader produces a particular response in the followers. They feel that there has been an attack on them personally. The critic is saying, loud and clear, that anyone who has followed this particular leader is not a good judge of character, intellect, or facts. They are quite correct. This is exactly what the critic is saying.”

“The negative penalties of the Old Testament case laws were not harsh but just, not a threat to society but rather the necessary judicial foundation of civic freedom… the Old Testament was harsh on criminals because it was soft on victims.”
― Gary NorthVictim’s Rights: The Biblical View of Civil Justice
“Do you really believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, plans to be a loser in history?”

“Microeconomics: The study of who has the money and how I can get my hands on it.Macroeconomics: The study of which government agency has the gun, and how we can get our hands on it.”