About two thousand years ago God reached down and invaded this sphere of Earth through the birth of His son Jesus. God’s invading force was met with rebellion and murder. Men have not changed one whit today. Today’s world leaders still greet the Babe of Bethlehem with hostility and death.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: December 24, 2010
Bill: Welcome everybody, it is Bill Heid. I’d like to thank you for being with us today and also say a very politically incorrect “Merry Christmas” to everyone that’s listening today. And thank you for spending some time with us. I have a very special guest today, one of our friends. It’s Mark Rushdoony and Mark’s the head of the Chalcedon Foundation as well as president for Faith for All of Life Magazine that we get and we think that’s a great publication. The website that Mark’s at is chalcedon.edu. Is that right, Mark?
Mark: That’s correct.
Bill: Chalcedon is spelled c-h-a-l-c-e-d-o-n .edu. We’ll talk a little bit about the idea of Chalcedon a little bit later, but Mark I just want to say thanks so much for being on the show and thanks for spending time with us.
Mark: Thank you, Bill. It’s good to be with you.
Bill: Well, it’s Christmas. I wanted to mentioned to you, Mark, we worked through a little bit about the incarnation then, the incarnation now, and I was thinking before, reading some stuff from some of the old Chalcedons and I was thinking the reception of the news from the Wise Men really wasn’t received very favorably from King Herod. I’m always wondering, like today, if Barack Hussein Obama and his gang – if they got that same information today, would they be equally as impressed as Herod?
Mark: Well, there’s a whole question here of authority. Really, the problem Herod had in his day was very much – in a sense it was a political one, but it was also religious, because Herod was the leader of the Hebrew nation. He really wasn’t a Jew, he was really an Edomian or the older word for that in the Old Testament was he was an Edomite – he was actually descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob, a separate people. And he knew he really wasn’t Jewish and he knew the Jewish people didn’t really consider him a king that belonged on the throne of David. He was a very brutal man. He killed at least one of his own wives and more than one of his own sons in order to maintain his own power. Some of that was done just before he died – probably the execution of the babies in Bethlehem was done very shortly before he died. So he was a dying man but he was determined that his legacy would live on, his legitimacy would live on. The idea that there was another king, even if it was an infant, who would take years to mature, was hateful to him. We all have a problem with authority because we’re all rebels. And when God brought his son to earth, yes it was for Salvation, but it also represented the authority – the presence of God on earth. That child, even though he was a baby, became the focal point of history, and he’s still the focal point of history, which is why I think it’s important to remember Christmas. As my father once called it, the reinvasion of history.
Bill: I love that, Mark! I love the reinvasion of history. It’s an invading force, right?
Mark: Absolutely. And God claims total authority. Another phrase that’s used – an idiom that’s used – in Christianity is the Kingdom of God. It’s used throughout the Scriptures. The Kingdom of God implies that there’s a king, that there’s an authority. Ultimately, Christians look to God as the authority. They understand all of life and thought, all of meaning, all of reality, in terms of the fact that God is in charge. That I’m not personally in charge, man in the form of Herod or Washington, D.C. or the United Nations – they’re not in charge. It’s really God is in charge. All men, as individuals or as collectively in one group or another, they’re responsible to God. And they’re in one of two categories – they’re either submissive to God and obedient to him, or they’re rebels against him. Herod was an obvious rebel who tried to kill Jesus. So many of our institutions … men individually are rebellious against God’s authority. So many of our institutions, our governments, are really anti-God.
Bill: And even the recognition, Mark, I wanted to play you a little clip – Jeremy, do you have that cued up? Just the recognition of which kingdom and your place inside those kingdoms has changed. Let me cue this up. This was Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Christmas – just a little snippet of it. We’re going to put it up on our website so anybody can go to the video section of our website and watch the whole thing. Can you play that now, Jeramy?[Ronald Reagan: “At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2000 years ago. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethle-hem – that he was, and is, the promised Prince of Peace …”]
Bill: And on and on and on. But listen, here’s a guy, Ronald Reagan, and you can probably take some shots at Ronnie, but listen, he understood that there was this other kingdom. Today, Mark, you’ve got a guy in Washington, D.C., and in this year we don’t hear much about the bulbs and stuff that he had. Last year he had bulbs hanging of Chairman Mao, in the White House, of transvestites and so forth. A lot has changed since 1981, at least with implicit or explicit recognition of the Kingdom. Wouldn’t you say that that’s an amazing thing?
Mark: Well, in my lifetime, and I go back further than Ronald Reagan as far as my awareness of the culture … I’m only 56 and yet in my lifetime I’ve seen a tremendous degeneration of America’s under-standing of Christianity, their appreciation from it. They’ve gone from a, perhaps, passive respect for Christianity to a more open hostility to it.
Bill: And we’re in the more hostility … it seems like the Administration today – that does tend to oscillate a little bit – but the Administration today, I would say, is openly hostile to the concept that you’re talking about. Openly hostile, because there can’t be two ultimates. That’s one thing I’ve learned from your dad. We celebrate Christmas because we believe Christ was the King of Kings, Lord of Lords. But let’s go back a little bit, Mark, in antiquity wasn’t refusing to celebrate a king’s birthday actually an act of treason? Maybe an example during Caesar’s time?
Mark: Yes, the king was considered the ultimate authority. Let’s go back to the early Christians and what they faced. They believed Jesus was the King of Kings but they, even after his crucifixion, they came to realize he’s not talking about setting up a literal kingdom in Jerusalem. His kingdom is of a different sort and Christians had to re-evaluate that. It’s very obvious from the end of the Gospels to the beginning of Acts, how much a fast learning curve the Apostles went through when they learned that there wasn’t going to be a physical kingdom. They were rather shocked when Jesus was crucified, even though he had predicted it. The issue is, who is king? Now when the early emperors approached the Christians, they said we don’t understand your religion, but you’re OK if you just offer this incense to the emperor, or prayer to the emperor. And often they weren’t so concerned that they went to the Temple and offered anything to the various deities in any given area, they were more concerned about whether they were submissive to the emperor. Because as far as the Roman Caesars were concerned, as long as they consider me number one, as long as I am their ultimate authority, I can live with this Jesus stuff. But you have to acknowledge that I come before your Jesus. And so the issue that was often brought before these Christians, as to whether or not they would be physically abused to the point of, in many cases, dying, sometimes by tortuous methods in arenas, in the Coliseum and such, the issue was the simple fact – will you offer a prayer to the emperor or incense to Caesar? A very simple act. But the Christians realized, that’s acknowledging the supremacy of the emperor of Jesus Christ and they wouldn’t do it. Thousands went to their death rather than do that simple little outward act.
Bill: Mark, that’s a great point to stop. We’re going to take a little break here. We’re talking today with Mark Rushdoony from Chalcedon and we’ll be right back, right after this.[0:09:57-0:14:55 break]
Bill: And we are back talking with Mark Rushdoony. Mark, Merry Christmas again to you. I think the point you just made was an interesting one. We’ve come full circle where Christianity seems to occupy the same position today that it did then, meaning Christianity was tolerated only if it agrees to acknowledge a superior authority of the state. You mentioned the Roman government allowing religions that officially accepted – the ones that were accepted were the ones that allowed the government to be ultimate. All religions were equal then. So today it seems like, really, if you were to rank religions here as we close out 2010, officially at least – and I know maybe not in the hearts of the populace – but officially, I don’t think Christianity ranks any higher than Satanism, Islam, Buddhism – as a matter of fact, maybe below Buddhism, because I think the other I day I read where some kind Sharia law deal was upheld in Oklahoma, of all places. Let’s go back to that conflict. There’s this ultimate thing that happened when this little baby was born.
Mark: It’s actually the dividing point of history, and that’s why it’s the focal point of Scripture. The Coming of the Seed of the Woman was predicted in the Garden, right after Sin. If you look at the bible, in Genesis 3:5 is Satan’s temptation to Eve. Just 10 verses later, after they sinned, in Chapter 3, verse 15, you already have the first promise of the coming Messiah. So it’s really the theme of the Old Testament, is God preparing a Covenant people who are to be the avenue of the Coming of the Messiah.
Bill: But in Rome too, as we look at ancient Rome as a little bit before the birth of our Savior, there was at least a need for – at least a recognition of the need for some kind of salvation. It seems today like there’s no need – that people aren’t desperate for a savior, they’re desperate for themselves to get “whatever we want now,” this consumption-oriented existentialism. Wasn’t there, in 17 BC, a major Advent celebration for Caesar Augustus, son of Julius Caesar?
Mark: I believe there was. And of course Augustus was the first emperor as they transitioned from a republic to an empire and essentially a tyranny, a dictatorship of one man. So the republic had degene-rated over a number of years until Caesar Augustus actually took over one-man rule. That was just prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. So all this was a very recent event. But the word gospel is actually not new to the New Testament writers. It was an existing word. They really usurped that word and gave it a new meaning. The term gospel, which we sometimes abbreviate to say “good news” – and it is good news – but before the Gospel writers used it, the word gospel had actually been used of the emperors. It was the gospel of the advent of the emperor. And the good news was that the emperor was going to bring in a new golden age. And of course just like you hear – a classic example of how this works is when, at a political convention, the speeches at a political convention are just gushed with all they’re going to accomplish and all the promises that a candidate makes – I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. Every special interest group he panders to them and says we’re going to do this. Everybody is looking forward to this presidency because I’m going to get everything I ever wanted out of this president if he’s elected. Well, the proclamation of the emperor did much the same thing. It talked about this golden age when everything would be righted and it would be an era of peace and prosperity and strength. And everybody would bask in the light of the emperor. That was the good news of that very secular Pagan kind of gospel. Well, when the Gospel writers came in and started talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it was like a bombshell – “who do these people think they are? They’re claiming that this Jesus, this religious man, this prophet, is somehow going to usher in a great age of peace and prosperity? That he is going to be the answer to all of our problems? He’s going to give us more than what Rome can give us?” So it was really a rather revolutionary concept to even refer to the message of Jesus Christ as the Gospel. And yet that’s what we see in the first four books of Scripture is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Bill: So they really took this idea that existed previously – and I think I remember reading, again I think this is one of your father’s works – where the poets Horace and Virgil are all worked up and I think – I can’t remember exactly – I think Virgil said something like, when Caesar Augustus was born, that “the turning point of all ages has come.” So there’s this use of language this way. I suppose as we sing “O come let us adore Him,” that Augustus – which means, by the way, ‘worthy of reverence and worship’ – I very much believe he would have wanted to be adored and worshipped by his followers during that period of time. I had another quote that I wrote down someplace – an Egyptian inscription that read something like “the emperor” – referring to Augustus – “ruler of oceans and continents. The divine father among men who bears the same name as his heavenly father, Julius Caesar.” That’s an Egyptian writing, trying to describe this cosmic force that Augustus said that he was.
Mark: Yes, it’s basically looking to the state in one form or another as Messianic. The state is going to save man. And we still have that ideology. I mentioned the political conventions, where they’re going to solve all of our problems. An older conservative terms used to ridicule this was “cradle to grave security.” The government is going to take care of everybody from the cradle to the grave, or the womb to the tomb, as it was sometimes said. Phraseology that was common back in the ‘60s. That’s exactly what it is. It’s Messianic. The Messiah means savior, and either the state is going to save us or Jesus Christ is going to save us. The reason we always have so much trouble with the state is because man is a sinner and man rebels against God. There are two ways this rebellion manifests itself – this humanism, saying God is not supreme, I am. It either manifests itself in individualistic, anarchical means, whereby I am number one, everybody watch out for me. It’s a very self-centered, individualistic viewpoint. The more common way it manifests itself is the collective voice of man in the state. Usually it’s always the collective voice of rebellious man that wins out, because individual men just can’t stand before the power of the state, because the state has more numbers and more authority, more power. Anarchism has never been that much of a threat. It’s always existed as a philosophical position, but it’s the state that’s always been the greatest threat to men.
Bill: Let me stop you there, Mark, because I think you hit on something – a really good point. For us to maybe take a little moment and discuss – I hate to use a word like metaphysics, but what was the nature of reality with respect to what the Greeks believed versus Christians. So I guess what I’m getting at, we’re moving down towards the concept of Chalcedon later, that Chalcedon ran up against – but as this little baby born in a manger, what’s the philosophical motif that exists in Greek thought that you’re running up against that creates this state at the highest possible point of man’s existence and individuals way down? Is it because of the recognition that in Greek philosophy that’s all one thing? That there’s no created universe versus uncreated? Is that really the dividing point?
Mark: The Greeks believed that all being was one. It’s sometimes called the “great chain of being.” That there are higher and lesser forms of all being, but the gods are essentially elevated men. So everything was possible. For instance, Hercules is a Greek god that started out as a man. He actually achieved divinity by his actions. Well, if you believe that everything is possible, even divinity, for man, then that can become your goal. And when you collectivize your power in the state, and as I say, there’s nothing magical about the state, it’s just the fact that the state is the highest collective voice of men. So whatever men believe, when they gather in the state, these beliefs tend to manifest themselves through the state. And if men believe that they can become divine, if men believe that by organizing, by doing this or that, that somehow they’re going to achieve the ultimate order and they can actually transcend the day-to-day problems that they see around them, that this lends itself to this idea of seeing the purpose of the state as itself messianic. The purpose of the state to create this golden age. Now the biblical view is that there’s a discontinuity of being, not a chain of being.
Bill: Now hold that thought, Mark. Let’s go to a break. And let’s cover that when we come back because that’s a picture we’ve got to paint for everybody. If we’re going to talk about how Christ gives us liberty, we’ve got to cover this. So we’ll be right back with Mark Rushdoony, right after this.[0:25:49-0:30:46 break]
Bill: And thank you for joining us again. We are back with Mark Rushdoony and we’re talking about probably – can I say this? Probably the most important thing in the history of the universe, the incarna-tion, the invasion, of God back into save us. To help us. To give us hope – real hope and change. Mark, we were just talking about painting this picture between the difference between thought, because I’m always trying to connect the dots between – people talk about Christian liberty – and I think most people really can’t make that connection because they can’t envision in their minds what it looked like to live in the Greek world. You were talking about Hercules, how the only way to get to the top is self-divinization, so you can get better – or do better yourself. But there’s still never in this universe, there’s still never a transcendent versus an imminent world. You still have a box that’s all one thing and you still have to appeal to the universe in that box, whereas Christians, I think, we’re appealing to the uncreated order for help, for liberty. Does that hit it or is there a lot more to it?
Mark: Yes. Because you have a whole different view of man and man’s purpose. As I said, man collecti-vizes himself in the state. You have to remember that in the ancient world there was no such thing as liberty. Some citizens had privileges of citizenship, but by and large there was no inherent right to liberty. The thought was actually foreign to the ancient world. And it’s because in some form or another, the state was god. In Egypt the Pharaoh was himself considered to be divine. In others, they had the priest king concept, where the king was himself some sort of a priest of God. So any opposition to the state was at one and the same time, it was both treason and blasphemy. It was impossible for any man to resist the power of the state. In Christianity you had a whole different view, and this was true in the Hebrew religion, where you had this discontinuity of being – that there was the creator/creation distinction – that man is on a fundamentally different level than God. That God was transcendent and above man. In the Incarnation, you have the only link between the transcendent God and man. That gulf between God and man cannot be bridged except through the person of Jesus Christ and on his terms. So it meant that man can’t play God. This is why the nature of the Incarnation was the biggest issue facing the early church, and it was until the middle of the 5th Century. Various heresies arose. Sometimes they controlled large areas of the church for some time. But they all had to do with the Incarnation. Was Jesus a man who became God? That basically goes back into the Greek ideas. And if Jesus can become God, other people can become God. That had implications. Was Jesus a man on whom God just put his blessing or his special power on? In which case, the gulf had not really been bridged between God and man. So there were all kinds of questions about who Jesus Christ was. And all the early church councils met to discuss this very same issue. The Apostles’ Creed, it talks about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Well there was a lot of things that short Apostles’ Creed did not cover, so the church council met to discuss the nature of Christ Incarnation – who was Jesus Christ? Was he God? Was he man? Was he both? It really wasn’t settled until the church council from which our foundation takes its name, Chalcedon, in 451. Chalcedon said he was fully God and fully man.
Bill: But prior to that, Mark, let me interrupt you for a second, because a lot of my friends think that creedal Christianity, and you’re alluding to this, but I want to really drive this point home – that creedal Christianity is a bad thing. I think a lot of people don’t have an understanding of history so they don’t realize that heresies that crept in – and to the same folks I sometimes say, does that mean you can believe anything about Christianity that you want to believe? Is it just open season? Can I believe Jesus was part man, part animal, part plant … is this anything goes? And they usually say no. OK, now you’re kind of getting it … we’re starting to rein this in. Not anything goes. You can’t believe anything you want to believe subjectively about Christ, and so you’re talking about this early Christological issue. What had crept in, roughly, to create the preconditions for the council? What kind of problems specifically had crept in that in order that they called the council – hey wait a minute, this is going too far. We will not accept this.
Mark: Well, it was different teachings within the church, basically. One church, one bishop, would begin teaching something and then his influence would predominate in a particular area. The problem was the churches were teaching very different things with very different implications about their meaning for the nature of Christianity. It really was a question – they were facing the question “what is the true Christian faith? What do the Scriptures teach?” When the Church in this part of the world is teaching one thing, and the Church over here is teaching something else – like you say, does anything go? It was not an attempt to redefine Christianity but to define what is Orthodoxy, what does the Scripture really teach about the Incarnation – about who Jesus Christ was. And it always arose from within the Church. Actual theological issues within the Church, and you had various bishops within the Church defending one position or another. We can’t say that the councils were authoritative because they were Church councils, because there were Church councils that came to the wrong conclusion. Some Church councils took a stand in terms of the heresy. At least a few of those were later repudiated by other councils. So there was a lot of politicking that went in. You talk about denominationalism now, and the politics of denominationalism, there were politics there that extended to the emperor’s palace, because the emperor – especially when Christianity was legalized – the emperor would prefer one view or another. He would sometimes try to strong arm a council into getting what he wanted.
Bill: Yes, and then you had these regional conflicts – the Alexandrians and their group versus the other group – so there was a little bit of a push-and-pull. But the interesting part, it was also not a good time for a council because the world was caving in on the Western Empire at that point too, was it not?
Mark: Yes, there were serious issues in the Church. Rome was really in the process of collapse, even after it became Christian. It was only a matter of time before Rome collapsed. So there were major problems facing the Church, but the Church was correct in assuming that we cannot address issues socially if we don’t even agree what the nature of the faith is. We can’t agree on the nature of the faith unless we agree on who Jesus Christ was. And for hundreds of years, that was the source of the controversy – the nature of the Incarnation – was he a god who acted like a man and who appeared to be a man but never really was man? If he wasn’t a man he couldn’t pay the penalty for his sins. If he was a man who wasn’t God, then we’re worshipping a man. They went back and forth on these, and some of these heretics knew the implications of their teaching. These were not ignorant men, by and large. These were educated men. They were men who studied the Scriptures, who would put most of us to shame as far as their understanding of the faith, as well as the philosophies which gave rise to a lot of these heresies. So we can’t discount that there’s a legitimacy of the theological questions that they faced. In fact, this is a major problem with the Church today. There is no means today to have a church council. There is no agreement on what is heresy. And there is heresy that’s rampant in what calls themselves Christian churches today. This is a situation that is very troubling but it does seem today we do have the problem that they faced. Anything that – does go in the name of Christianity.
Bill: It does. Mark, we’re going to take another little break and come back for our last section. I want to keep talking about how this little baby born in a manger gives us our freedom.[0:40:40-0:45:36 break]
Bill: Merry Christmas again. It’s Bill Heid with you today, talking to Mark Rushdoony about why we’re free and what this little baby born in a manger – what that has to do with freedom. Most people can’t connect the dots. We’re trying to connect the dots for you today. One of the things that connects the dots is this Council of Chalcedon in 451 where Jesus was determined to be both truly man and truly God. Mark, if you had just – if someone said “you’ve got two minutes to summarize why this baby being truly man and truly God gives us our freedom,” what would you say?
Mark: I talked earlier about this discontinuitive being, that man cannot be God, man cannot even have access to divinity. That the only link between God Almighty and humanity is the person of Jesus Christ. And we come to him on his terms. Even in coming to him, to God, through Jesus Christ, we do not become God. We become his children who obey their heavenly father. It’s cut divinity off from man and man’s institutions. The problem we’ve had politically throughout the ages is the problem of collective man exercising tyranny over others because they have the power. Christianity denies ultimate power to anyone but God. It limits all human authority. It makes all human authority – political, familial, anything subject to God’s regulation in his word. It means that man can’t play God, essentially.
Bill: Very well said, Mark. I think that’s an important part. Some of my more Libertarian friends that don’t posit a God have a difficult time saying we should be free. I say “why? In your world view, if there is no God, if we’re just evolutionary forces, why should we be free? Why should one person kneel to another person?”
Mark: I think the problem – and the problem I have with Libertarianism – I can sometimes call myself a Christian Libertarian, which Libertarians don’t really like. But the problem with Libertarian – pure Liber-tarian thought, that’s divorced from Christianity, is that it essentially says that man the individual is sovereign. And if man is sovereign, there is no ultimate authority by which you can say his extension of that sovereignty to others is illegitimate.
Bill: And what did Jean-Paul Sartre say? “If I’m God you must be the devil. My neighbor must be the devil.” IF you have an idea that’s different than mine, there has to be inevitably conflict, because someone outside us isn’t arbitrating our conflict.
Mark: Right. The source of moral – man’s rights – is the individual. There’s no real basis of saying why that would be true. Why are my individual rights somehow sacrosanct in the Libertarian view?
Bill: And how would that be any different than Mao’s power out of the barrel of a gun?
Mark: There is none. It’s basically a matter of definition. Where do you see sovereignty? And as I said, in practical application, the guys with the numbers always win out.
Bill: That’s true. Let’s fast forward a little bit and try to cover a little ground. We don’t have too much time but … as we move forward, let’s jump into – like we’re Mr. Peabody when you get in the time travel machine – let’s fast forward to Charles I. You’ve got this idea, again, where even though this is an ostensible Christian king, you’ve still got this idea that somehow inside Charles you’ve got lodged in him the divine right of king. Did people not come up and even ask for his touch so that they could be healed? Didn’t it find its locus in the king, even again back through history, even though you had this definition? You find in divine right of kings, the same problem with who are ostensibly Christian kings.
Mark: The West really … Chalcedon really set the tone that man can’t be sovereign; man can’t claim to be god. But they really rebelled on that throughout history. In fact, the church even rebelled against that because I believe the Catholic Church really assumed to itself authority that belonged to God. I think we tend to rebel against this idea that there are limitations on us. I think the church rebelled against it. And the modern age really saw, again, this revival of the ancient idea of the state as supreme, but they did it in Christian terms and they said it was the divine right of kings – that God has chosen me to be king, therefore no one has the right to limit my power. I’m doing this in the name of God. So they kind of baptized absolutism in this idea of the divine right of kings.
Bill: Did you ever see the movie Cromwell, Mark?
Mark: Yes, the old one?
Mark: Yes. Yes. It was some years old. It was an outstanding movie.
Bill: There’s a great scene, and I always remind my kids of this, but there’s a scene where Cromwell – the actor playing Cromwell is walking up – and the king’s forces have all abandoned. He’s sitting there and he says to Cromwell and Ireton who’s along with him, “I know of no authority that allows you to arrest me” – which is really the prinicipial argument, right? He hit it on the head. So Cromwell looks at him and says “your majesty, that’s exactly what this war’s being fought about, is what’s authoritative. Are you God speaking on earth, which you say you are.” Of course the Puritans at that time said “no, you’re held under God’s rules. There are rules that you have to be obedient as a king.” You’re covenantly tied to us. That covenant ties you to these rules. And you’ve broken them.
Mark: That’s right.
Bill: So he ended up getting his head cut off and there’s much – a lot of people angry at Cromwell for that – but really the idea was, basically saying to the kings, no you’re not divine. The state and God aren’t walking together on earth in your body.
Mark: And really, the English Civil War was a development of that idea of the limitation of authority. Magna Charta had before that. The English Civil War said no, the king must be under the law. The American Puritanism that came over to this country early on further developed this idea. The constitution of the United States was really a development of this Christian idea, that we must limit government. There must be a limitation on human authority. This was the age old problem that ancient Rome had no solution to. The only solutions to absolutism, to tyranny, in history have been Christian. That’s why liberty, as we understand it, has really been a development of Christianity as it has moved west. It’s the decline of Christianity and of a Christian understanding of these things that has really allowed tyranny, absolutism, to re-emerge in the West, even in the United States.
Bill: Very well said, Mark. What we’re talking about is we’re trying to trace this line – this historical development over time – of this baby being born and then what’s that mean. We keep coming back to “what’s that mean?” Inevitably, Mark, we get to the idea where it has to mean something more than the simple Gospel. When we’re going to define Christianity we have to say all of the Bible for all of life. I think it was the Puritans that really started to make these self-conscious applications instead of just saying “Christianity is saving souls,” which it is – we would never demean that or take that away. It is, at least it should be, a part of Christianity, but to limit it to that ends up creating tyranny as well.
Mark: It does. We have to proclaim the whole council of God. When God gave his law unto the people, just after he rescued them from Egypt, he says “I am the Lord, thy God …” And he gave them a law. The purpose of the law – they had never had their own law. They had lived under the law of Egypt, before that under various Pagan laws in Palestine. For the first time they were going to be a separate people so God says “I’m giving you a law.” That law was essentially of a tribal government, a localized government, a family-oriented government, with a very small state and it was many years before they had a king and God only gave them a monarch because they demanded it. He said you’re going to be sorry. Liberty is in the tradition of God’s government over his people and it always has been. When most people look at Christianity and they worry what a Christian law would look like? Very quickly the conversation will come around to one thing that they greatly fear about Christian ethics in law, and that is something to do with sex. What about adultery? Are you going to make that a capital offense? What about homosexuality? Somehow sexual sin is associated with liberty in the modern mind. It shows you the degeneracy of the modern mind. In reality, a Christian society would be a very liberty loving one; one with small government; one that places responsibility on the individual, on the family.
Bill: And early on, Mark, in this country – again, in your father’s history description of early America – he’s fond of – Orr was fond of talking about the Tocqueville quote where Tocqueville’s wandering around America, supposedly to be checking out the prison system, and he just starts noticing how American culture is different than European culture. I think there’s one part there where he can’t believe there’s no cops. He says “there’s no police officers.” Well, that’s because during that period of time, government was similar to what you’re talking about – you had people who were self-governing. There didn’t need to be a lot of laws because there was family law, church law and individuals governed themselves with God’s law. Today if individuals won’t govern themselves, what we find ourselves into is a situation where big government comes in and says “if you won’t govern yourselves, we’ll govern you.” It’s a disease that feeds itself, wouldn’t you agree?
Mark: It is. Essentially, when we’re talking about biblical law or Christian law, we’re talking about Chris-tian law as it applies to self-government. External government has its limitations. If you try to control society through laws you end up with statutory law, laws about everything, even dictating whether you can talk on a cell phone, how you’re supposed to be attached into your car. The police end up enforcing various people’s pet peeves.
Bill: Yeah, there’s no end to it.
Mark: Right. There’s no end to laws. Now, in California we have a law, for instance, when it’s raining you have to turn your headlights on. Not a bad idea, but it’s law, and I can get a citation if it’s drizzling out and I don’t have my headlights on. Do you know how that law came to being? Some legislator had a contest and asked people to suggest what do you think would be a good law to pass? Some woman wrote in “when it’s raining, everybody should have their headlights on.” So, he took it to the state legislature and somebody’s pet peeve became a state law.
Bill: well that kind of sums it all up, I think, that there’s an awful lot of law for the sake of law. As we say, there’s never any end to it. Remember, everybody, when we’re talking about law, we’re not talking about law to justify. We’re not saying in any way that you’re saved by the law. We’re talking about sanctification. David talked about the law being a blessing to him. It’s not only a blessing to individuals, it’s a blessing to nations. I was thinking about the Isaac Watts notion, Mark, the part of that song where he comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found. The law that we have that God gives us, that you’re talking about, allows us to make those blessings flow – to create or to work within that invasion that you’re talking about – the Jesus invasion, where we’re trying to make the blessings flow, in a world that’s fallen.
Mark: Exactly. It’s “obedience to God has its blessings.” What we’re talking about, as far as biblical law, it’s not imposing Godliness on an ungodly people, but it’s merely obeying God. Because when we obey God, I compare it to jumping off of a cliff. When you jump off a cliff, bad things are going to happen to you. It’s built into God’s universe. And when we disobey God’s law, bad things happen to us as individuals and to our society, our culture, our whole civilization. That’s what we’re seeing today. So we’re talking about we need to talk about obeying God. We need salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, but we also need to tell people that a lot of our problems could be fixed if we just start obeying God.
Bill: Mark, I couldn’t have said it any better. I think with that we’ll wrap it up today. We want to say thank you to you, and we want to say thanks for spending some time with us, everybody that’s listening. Go to Chalcedon.edu and spend some time looking around. Type in some stuff in the search box, you’ll find it a great resource. We would suggest that you give them donations. We do. It’s a great outfit. Mark, you’ve been a great guest and I just want to say thank you again.
Mark: Thank you very much. And by the way, if it’s a little easier for them to type in the words faithfo-ralloflife.com and they’ll get to our website.
Bill: Thank you so much and thank you Mark. Merry Christmas to everybody.