Investigations on the SBC Sexual Abuse Scandal

Coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse scandal from media sources both within evangelicalism and the national news agencies appears to be gaslighting the American public. The ongoing scandal has led to the arrest of over 300 persons associated with or directly under the employ of the SBC over the last several years. Amidst repeated accusations and many convictions of sexual abuse, a larger and more sinister (if that is possible) picture begins to emerge when the stories are individually examined.

The Houston Chronicle has put together a registry of several hundred of the known incidents. The registry (linked here https://projects.houstonchronicle.com/2019/southern-baptist-abuse/#/state/VA ) contains a short profile of each of the convicted felons and, in most cases, a link to the local news story concerning the arrests. Having spent time going through the incidents case by case it has not escaped attention that the overwhelming majority of the arrests made were for sexual acts with a minor. More specifically, a great deal of the arrests were for not only pedophilia, but homosexual pedophilia.

Reporting on the arrest of Jeffrey Clark, a former SBC youth pastor in Chesterfield Virginia, Richmond’s CBS 6 says,
Instead of spending time at the church where he once was a volunteer youth leader, 45-year-old Jeffrey Clark now sits behind bars. Police said Clark inappropriately touched a little boy at his Chester home. Clark met the child through the church youth group, police said.

Clark is not an isolated case. The Houston Chronicle’s description of Timothy Lynn Brumit, a former SBC minister in South Carolina, says,

Pleaded guilty and was convicted of charges of coercion and enticement of a minor and transportation of child pornography. Contacted a police officer via the internet who was posing as a 13-year-old boy and then distributed child porn, mainly of boys 5 to 15 engaging in sex acts with adults.

Media coverage of this scandal has not sufficiently made clear the pervasive pedophilia and homosexuality which appears to lie at bottom of the issue. With acceptance of homosexuals becoming more pervasive in our society, people need to be aware of the incredible rise in pedophilia which always accompanies homosexuality. Homosexuals comprise only 2% of the current US population but commit approximately 50% of sexual crimes. This is staggering! Could it be that the SBC has become a popular culling ground where homosexuals groom their child victims?

Such questions may seem incendiary but the scenario posited would be far from unique. Peter Damian, a 12th century pastor, complained in his day of the pervasiveness of homosexuality amongst the clergy; a pervasiveness which Damian contended went all the way to the highest orders of the church. Contemporary scholar Michael Hoffman, in his 2018 book, Occult Renaissance Church of Rome, asserts the idea that such a homosexual cabal existed within the upper echelons of the Romish Church during the days of the Reformation and still exists today. Homosexuals in such places of institutional power, whether that institution be the SBC, the Vatican, or the boy scouts, begin installing other homosexuals into power positions so as to create a network of personal in key positions. With such a network in place, children are then selected and groomed for homosexual contact.

Could this be what is happening in the SBC today? Mum is the word from mainstream media sources but concerned voices from all corners must be asking the question: is there more here than meets the eye? A close look at the details of the cases strongly suggests that the SBC’s problem is not adult men forcing themselves upon adult women; but more often than not, adult men engaging in indecent behavior with young children, and boys in particular.

The Origin of the Soul in the Process of Ordinary Generation

The source of the soul in the process of ordinary generation is far from a hot-button topic. There is no great deal of available material on the subject, no classic books (to my limited knowledge) dealing with the topic alone.

As a subject of study, theories regarding the soul’s origin will impact the Christian doctrines of original sin and Christology, pedagogic philosophies such as Tabula Rasa, and anthropological theories regarding environmentalism and positivism.

In the course of this short work it is the intent to comment briefly on the relation between specific theories of the soul’s generation and the relevant Christian dogmas but to pursue it’s outworking’s no further than a small excursion into these, the most nearly related of subjects.

Let us now meet the contestants. There are two competing doctrines as to the origin of the soul in ordinary generation (I use the lengthy phrase “origin of the soul in ordinary generation” because cases of unusual generation such as Adam, Christ, and perhaps Eve are exempted from falling under any doctrinal conclusions reached): Creationism and Traducianism.

Creationism teaches that in the process of generation the flesh of man is created by the successful implanting of the male sperm in the female egg and God then immediately (directly) creates the soul which is joined to the flesh of the newly conceived child.

Traducianism holds that conception is the direct origin of both the body and the soul; God choosing to create both mediately through the natural generation of the parents.

As is the case with many Bible dogmas there are no passages to which one can turn and find a single verse conclusion to this debate. However, once searched thoroughly, there does appear a large amount of relative material which it is my belief can decisively settle the argument.

The creation of the first man was a direct act of God. God fashioned Adam’s body from the earth and breathed a rational soul into him (Gen. 2:7). Naturally Adam’s generation would fall under the Creationist theory, his origin being the immediate work of God for both body and soul. The next created person was the woman, Eve. Here the Scripture relates Eve’s flesh as being taken out of Adam but it is silent regarding the origin of her soul. Of course there is no normal process of generation here at work, but the cautious reader must maintain a ready ear and open eye in places where the Scripture is silent.

Regardless of whether God immediately created Adam and Eve or only Adam the fact is that, Christ alone excepted, theirs is the only case of exemption from the ordinary laws of generation. That is to say that neither Adam nor Eve were conceived through carnal relations. Also bearing on the subject is that the first couple were made upright, in the freedom of a will untainted by sin, and under no condemnation of God.

The first instance of natural generation was the birth of Cain. The Bible does not give a direct testimony regarding the origin of Cain’s soul. Was it a direct creation of God or was it’s origin in accord with the natural conception realized in Adam’s knowing his wife?

Perhaps a definitive answer is beyond our grasp but a well constructed approximation can here be advanced.
Upon completion of His creative work God declared all that He had made “very good.” But in between this pronouncement of goodness upon the creation and the generation of Cain a radical change occurred. Sin entered the world and man in particular was affected. Man was no longer “very good” but was now corrupted in both soul and flesh. Ecclesiastes 7:29 says “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” If man’s soul was now really and actually corrupt then this would lend great credence to the soul of Cain being of mediate origin through the act of conception. Would God create a soul that was evil and depraved? The source of Cain’s wickedness was clearly his parental descent. Was this inheritance of wickedness merely fleshly or did it pertain to his heart as well?

Jeremiah 17:9, using the term “heart” as a substitute for soul, says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know. it?” Cain was undoubtedly created with a wicked heart (soul) seeking out many inventions. The question is, did God directly create this wicked soul? There is further Scriptural material which can supply an answer to this question.
Speaking with Nicodemus in regards the spiritual regeneration of the new birth Christ says in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” To be born of the flesh as Christ means it is to be born of woman, inclusive of flesh and spirit. The carnal mind (spirit or soul) is enmity with God (Rom. 8:7) and is so from conception. David testifies to this in the 51st Psalm: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” If the natural process of generation produces a body and a soul that are enmity with God then the strong inference would be that the body and the soul are not the direct or immediate creation of God. They are both mediately derived from the parents through the process of conception.

This line of thinking would establish Traduction as the suggested theory of the origin of the soul. Other Scriptural passages use language which would reinforce this assumption. Genesis 46:26, speaking of Jacob’s descent into Egypt, says “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins…”. To speak of the souls of Jacob’s children as coming from his loins is indicative of the fact that Moses assumed that the body and the soul alike of said children found their genesis in Jacob.

Back to the case of Eve, Paul speaks of her generation in I Corinthians 11:8 saying “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.” It is possible that Paul may here be speaking of Eve in regards to the origin of her flesh only but it is not likely. Consider: the context of this passage is that man is federal head to woman (certainly a dogma which incorporates the soul) in the same way that Christ is federal head to man. The specific topics are conduct in the worship of God and prayer (spiritual topics). The tenor and scope of this passage would indicate that Paul assumed Eve was drawn from Adam in both body and flesh. Adding further bearing on this topic the passage continues in vs 12: “For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” Man is by woman in the same way that woman is of man, and all are of God. If it is Paul’s assumption that Eve was of Adam in both body and soul and the allusion between her creation and the subsequent process of natural generation is to hold then it must also be his assumption that the soul and body are “by woman.” Of course both body and soul are the mediate creation of God; conception being the ordained secondary means employed.

In conclusion of the Biblical arguments it is necessary to observe the doctrine of secondary means. Back to the starting point of creation, we read in Genesis 2:2-3 “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The stated doctrine here is that God completed His creative work in six days and from thenceforward did “in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure (Westminster Confession v. 3). The working without, above, and against secondary causes which the confession here has in mind are extraordinary miraculous works such as talking donkeys, floating axe heads, and the sun standing still in the heavens. The scriptural footnotes attached reveal that nothing so commonplace as natural generation was viewed by the Westminster Assembly as under God’s immediate works. Of course the hand of God in conception and generation are not to be denied. He is the first cause of all things and yet “by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes… (Westminster Confession v. 2).

This received doctrine of causation, combined with the Bible’s testimony of God’s resting from His immediate acts of creation, would seem to put the scales firmly in a balance which favors Traducianism over Creationism. That is to say that the available Scriptural evidence indicates that both the body and the soul are derived from the process of natural generation.

Education and the Southern Tradition

Theories of education in any land are never easily divorced from the prevailing ideas regarding civics and economics. Education’s function, particularly toward the young, will become merely to render them fit to partake in the civic and economic institutions of a nation. Thus its methods and goals will be shaped by these spheres. The end result is a reciprocal relationship with the intended destination; successful integration into and participation with the national economy shaping and being shaped by the route traveled to reach that destination.

Our age is an age of Democracy and the means and stated goals of educational method (called pedagogy) now in vogue can only be understood when viewed with this fact in mind. Democracy (rule of the many) as a political institution is inseparably connected with the people who advocate it and staff its institutions: the middle class.

The middle class began to arise in Europe just as the Medieval era was drawing to a close and the Renaissance was dawning. They emerged as a third factor between the traditional landed aristocracy and the agricultural peasantry. Concerning themselves with the exchange of goods and being defined by their urban lifestyles, the middle class lacked the security and permanence of the older peasant and aristocratic classes.

For these and other reasons psychic insecurity became the keynote outlook of the new middle-class outlook. It still is. The only remedy for this insecurity of the middle class seemed to it to be the accumulation of more possessions that could be a demonstration to the world of the individual’s importance and power.
~~ Carroll Quigley; Tragedy and Hope; pp. 1235-1236

Liberal democracy in the West today still reflects the middle class idea that the primary way for men to distinguish themselves is through material advancement. Quigley refers to this as the “Acquisitive Society.” Naturally the goals of education in an Acquisitive Society are to teach men how to acquire material things.

The study of the ethereal is seen as a waste of time. Epistemological first principles are not necessary as long as the student picks up useful habits for trade and vocation. It is not necessary that the pupil know how to think, education must teach him how to make a living. Emphasis in this type of pedagogic economy turns to the material, the tangible, and the useful.

French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville explained the effect of the middle class mindset on education in 1830’s New England, saying,

The northerner is absorbed, as it were, by the very material concerns that the white southerner disdains. From childhood on he must struggle against misery, and he learns to place comfort above all the pleasures of the mind and heart. His imagination, concentrated on life’s petty details, suffocates; his ideas are fewer in number and less general, but they become more practical, clearer, and more precise. Since all his intellectual effort is bent solely to the study of well-being, he soon excels at it… The northerner has knowledge as well as experience. Nevertheless, he does not prize knowledge as a pleasure but esteems it as a means, and only its useful applications whet his appetite.
~~ Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; pp. 433-434

Tocqueville concludes that these are “the qualities and flaws characteristic of the middle class,” and they certainly hold sway in modern educational theory.

But this servile focus in education was not characteristic of the Old South. The mindset and outlook of her men was different. This was equally reflected in her institutions and economy.

Aristocracy had been transplanted from Europe to the South in a way that had never gripped the North. The Puritan settlers of New England had come with their middle class mindset and the relative barrenness of that land had not allowed the conditions necessary for gentrification to take place.

Contrast the Congregationalist Puritans of New England with the English Episcopalians and Scottish Presbyterians of Virginia and South Carolina who founded large plantations, acquired slaves, and successfully utilized the fertility of the southern soil. The status of men in such a system was based upon heredity and inheritance, just as it had been in the Old World. The daily life of the Planter was not consumed with material concern and to flout possession as a means of status was base and crass.

To miss the link between aristocracy and leisure on the one hand and slavery and the plantations on the other is to misunderstand why Virginia and South Carolina vastly outstripped New England in the production of statesmen in the Colonial era. Being freed from the daily schemes of worldly advancement the youth of the South were trained in oratory, rhetoric, languages, and literature. In short, they were trained in the Liberal Arts.

Tocqueville comments on the predominant mindset of the Planter in the 1830s:

In the southern states, man’s most pressing needs are always satisfied. Thus the southerner is not preoccupied with life’s material concerns. Someone else bears the burden of looking after these on his behalf. Free in this respect, his imagination turns to other objects, grander and less precisely defined. The southerner loves grandeur, luxury, glory, excitement, pleasure, and above all idleness. Nothing obliges him to exert himself in order to live… The southerner is more spontaneous (than his northern counterpart), wittier, more open, generous, intellectual, and brilliant.
~~ Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; pp. 433-434

This, this is the philosophy that gave rise to Madison, Jefferson, Randolph, Washington, Macon, and Henry in their generation, Calhoun and Tyler in the next, and Stephenson, Davis, Lee, and Jackson in their turn. These men furnished their conservative minds with a liberal education.

There is a warning to be heeded as these two systems of thought and education are compared. The aristocratic avoidance of labor is a weakness compared to the can-do attitude of a democratic people. Necessary to a society that will last is a balancing of both. The Southern people have for a long time learned how to work. Providence has ensured that. They must relearn how to think. If we are truly to emulate the forefathers we profess to love so much we must no longer ignore or even mock the means and standards of education that played such a factor in making them great. We must take back that which is rightfully ours.

When the finest instructor at Virginia’s finest seminary prepared a course on the topics of oratory and rhetoric in the 1870s, his shelves were lined with Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Horace. Do we still teach our sons oratory and rhetoric? Much less from the works of men such as these.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Brazier in 1819 on the subject of classical learning saying,

To the moralist they (the Greek and Latin classics) are valuable, because they furnish ethical writings highly and justly esteemed… The lawyer finds in the Latin language the system of civil law most conformable with the principles of justice of any which has ever yet been established among men… The physician as good a code of his art as has been given to this day.
~~ Thomas Jefferson; Writings; p. 1424

Tocqueville wrote on the usefulness of classical studies for a democratic people:

Indeed, a glance at texts left us by Antiquity is enough to reveal that although ancient writers sometimes lacked variety and imagination in their choice of subjects and boldness, energy, and generality in their thought, they always demonstrated admirable mastery of technique and care in rendering details. Nothing in their work seems hasty or accidental. Everything is written for connoisseurs, and the search for ideal beauty is always apparent. No literature brings out the qualities that writers in democracies naturally lack better than that of the Ancients. Hence there is no literature more appropriate for study in democratic centuries.
~~ Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; pp. 545-546

This was the taste in education in a day when our people did great things. In his 1930 essay The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley spoke of the deluge of Yankee textbooks and the reconstruction of Southern education. The eventual result of this mental reconstruction has been the abandonment of the broad and liberal education which the South used to furnish her sons. Gone are the Greek and Latin, the literature and letters, oratory, rhetoric, and the martial sciences. In their place are the servile and material preoccupations which characterize education amongst a democratic people. It is high time this stopped.

There is much to be gained in putting a stop to it. For starters, the government schools sure aren’t going to be of any help. Over the decades, nothing has contributed more to our loss of identity and character then the prevalence of government education. Southerners who really want to reclaim their heritage by seeing their children get a truly Southern education are going to have to look elsewhere than the government schools that have done so much harm to us.

As an added bonus, our nation is in desperate need for the type of men the South used to produce. We are long overdue for real leadership by men of vision and integrity who can integrate multiple fields of knowledge. The servile focus on economic production has driven democratic education into the dangerous waters of “specialization,” and left wide open the door of opportunity for those who will but walk through.

Carroll Quigley summarized our plight fifty years ago when he wrote:

These remarks bring us close to one of the major problems in American culture today. We need a culture that will produce people eager to do things, but we need even more a culture that will make it possible to decide what to do. This is the old division of means and goals. Decisions about goals require values, meaning, context, perspective. They can be set, even tentatively and approximately, only by people who have some inkling of the whole picture. The middle-class culture of our past ignored the whole picture and destroyed our ability to see it by its emphasis on specialization.
~~ Carroll Quigley; Tragedy and Hope; p. 1274

Values, meaning, context, perspective, these are things that our nation desperately needs today. They are things we can stand up and provide. The South still faintly holds onto the religious principles which make values and meaning possible for a people. She can put these things into context and perspective if she will once again take up the education necessary to do so. If she fails, we will continue to slide until our character, identity, and faith are gone.

Richard Weaver discussed the clash of these two mindsets in education and the clash of the men they produce. He feared the dominance of the compartmentalized specialist and men of mean mind. Yet these are the men we have lived under since World War II. Do we have it within us to rest the education of our young away from Washington D.C.? To begin rebuilding minds that will rebuild our land? The fields lie fallow and whatever we sow, that shall we reap.

In closing, I will have Richard Weaver summarize what has been said:

It will be useful to review here this flight toward periphery, or the centrifugal impulse of our culture. In the Middle Ages, when there obtained a comparatively clear perception of reality, the possessor of highest learning was the philosophic doctor. He stood at the center of things because he had mastered principles. On a level far lower were those who had acquired only facts and skills. It was the abandonment of metaphysics and theology which undermined the position of the philosophic doctor, a position remarkably like that prescribed by Plato for the philosopher-king. For the philosopher doctor was in charge of the general synthesis. The assertion that philosophy is queen of studies meant more to him than a figure of speech; knowledge of ultimate matters conferred a right to decide ultimate questions… In the course of the evolution that we have traced the philosophic doctor was displaced; but a substitute had to be found, for synthesis required the reconciling of all interests.
In attenuated form the ideal survives until today, though the forces of modernism conspire to extinguish it… In the United States the new and old Europe came into conflict in 1861… The South’s tradition of learning was the Ciceronian tradition of eloquent wisdom, and this circumstance explains why the major creative political figures of America, from Jefferson through Lincoln to Wilson, have come from this section. But the Civil War brought defeat… Europe, after the agony of the first World War, turned … for leadership, to gangsters, who, though they are often good entrepreneurs, are without codes and without inhibitions. Such leaders in Europe have given us a preview of what the collapse of values and the reign of specialization will produce.
~~ Richard Weaver; Ideas Have Consequences; pp. 49-51

In Memoriam or in Defense ?

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.
– Proverbs 15:20
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 22:6
A noble civilization can withstand the bereavement of its sons and daughters through warfare, through pestilence, and famine. Yet there is a ruination which, when it comes down upon the head of a people, signifies their impending doom with an ominous foreboding. This tragedy of tragedies, this point of no return, is the turning away of the hearts of a people’s posterity.
That gentle connection, that loving nurture which attaches father and son, mother and daughter, generation after generation, is necessary for the preservation of any culture. Once broken, a gulf which cannot be spanned begins to open. This unbridgeable gap is not the physical destitution of a mother who’s sons have been claimed by war, it is the distance of heart which appears between flesh and blood in the twilight of a civilization.
Southern poet and essayist, John Crowe Ransom once wrote, “Affections, and long memories, attach to the ancient Bowers of life in the provinces; but they will not attach to what is always changing.”
And change, not pursued for betterment but merely for change itself, or hatred of the past, has become the only stable factor in our land today. Men’s hearts burn within them for something new. Fools forsake that which money cannot buy in vain attempt to satiate their material desires. Everywhere the “ancient Bowers of life” are forsaken for that which is fleeting. And it shows.
We have become a people with no soul, no culture, and no nobility of character. To quote C.S. Lewis “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
Indeed there are traitors in our midst. Men who betray the hopes and labors of their forefathers to pursue the terminally trendy expectations of society gone mad. Men seek to attach dollar values to the tender affections of a mother towards the children she has born or the humble pride which a man takes in his sons. Yet these things can never be purchased, they must be earned.
What is it that truly makes up the “ancient Bowers of life?” Is it not found in the patience of a man who builds his legacy through toil and tears? Is it not found in the gentle yet tenacious hopes of the frugal woman whose love makes a house a home?
The heart breaks for every abandoned home which once sheltered the labors of a man and a woman engaged in that most virtuous of endeavors: the rearing and discipleship of a posterity and the preservation of a way of life.
Where are her children today? At what point did they cease to appreciate their patrimony and become wooed by that which slips through the hand? The empty kitchen which once knew the elegant bustle of a mother. The dinner table which was once the center of instruction. The tools of a trade, passed from one generation to another. All of these things forsaken, and for what? The deserted home-place is our true national symbol.
19th century theologian Robert Dabney once wrote, “The instrumentalities of the family are chosen and ordained of God as the most efficient of all means of grace—more truly and efficaciously means of saving grace than all the other ordinances of the church. To family piety are given the best promises of the gospel, under the new, as well as under the old dispensation.”
The true and proper estate of religion in our land will never be restored until the hearts of families return to one another. Men need not wonder from whence their deliverance will come until they regain the hearts of their children.

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
– Jeremiah 6:16

Piety and Patricide

Patricide is at the heart of modernity’s impiety. Fallen man is enmity with God and thus seeks to kill God and recast himself as the divine creator. This immediately places man at war with nature and history, for both testify to man’s limitations as a creature, his very real reliance upon the true creator, and God’s hand in history. 20th century author Richard Weaver writes:

First of all, I would maintain that modern man is a parricide. He has taken up arms against, and he has effectually slain, what former men have regarded with filial veneration. He has not been conscious of crime but has, on the contrary — and certainly this is nothing new to students of human behavior– has regarded his action as a proof of virtue.

~~ Richard Weaver; Ideas Have Consequences; p. 153

Weaver here posits that modern man has intentionally defiled what pious men once venerated. Weaver continues:

The most vocal part of modern impiety is the freely expressed contempt for the past. The habit is to look upon history in the same way that we look upon nature, as an unfortunate inheritance, and we struggle with equal determination to free ourselves from each.

~~ Richard Weaver; Ideas Have Consequences; pp. 163

Contempt for the past may be the most vocal facet of modernity but it is not the underlying root. To truly appreciate the spirit of the age one must dig a little deeper.
Rebellious and patricidal, modern man can be defined in three ways: he is Promethean, he is Dionysian, and He is Oedipal. These terms should be explained in the reverse order from which they are provided.

Oedipal man, following the Greek myth of Oedipus, seeks to kill his father and commit incest with his mother. This ancient mythology was for Sigmund Freud the driving force behind all human behavior. Whether Freud understood it literally or symbolically is not always clear but regardless it offers a helpful insight into the actions of sinful men. As already noted, sinful man is at war with God. Even the very creation reminds man of God, His sovereignty, and His presence. This total ownership and total presence on the part of God means that fallen man is in total enmity to God. In order to win his war, he must kill God and become master of the created order. Of course this is impossible because man is made from dust, finite, and subject to decay and eventually death. Subject to these inherent limitations, man’s autonomous rule can only be an unnatural one. And just as Oedipus’s unnatural rule was symbolized in his taking of his own mother, so too does modern man seek to supplant God by exerting an unnatural rule over God’s creation. Frederick Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher, gives insight into why man, in order to supplant God, must defile all things.

With regard to the mother-wooing, riddle-solving Oedipus, an immediate interpretation comes to mind, that here through the oracular and magic powers the force of both present and future, the rigid law of individuation as well as the magic of nature is broken, the preconditioning cause is that beforehand a monstrous act against nature — something on the order of incest — must have taken place; then how is one to force nature to reveal her secrets other than by victoriously going against her, that is, through an act contrary to nature. I see this recognition sketched out in that hideous trinity of Oedipus’s fate: the same man who solves the riddle of nature — that double-edged Sphinx — must also violate the holy order of nature as both parricide and spouse of his mother. Indeed the meaning of the myth seems inescapable, that wisdom and especially Dionysian wisdom is an unnatural horror, and that the man who through his knowledge plunges nature into the abyss of annihilation, experiences in his own being the disintegration of nature. “The point of wisdom turns against the wise; wisdom is a crime against nature.”

~~ Frederick Nietzsche; The Birth of Tragedy; works I. 556-57

For Nietzsche true wisdom is a crime against nature and leads to man’s ultimate annihilation. He gives us a clue when he defines this deadly and criminal wisdom as Dionysian. For it is not the wisdom which is hid in Christ, the lawful creator of all things, but rather it is a “crime against nature” and a “monstrous act.”
These monstrous acts play themselves out all around us. From our society’s obsession with representing father figures as malevolent tyrants (a form of patricide) to it’s insatiable appetite for the sick and depraved. The trajectory of Oedipal man is an ever-heightening crescendo of willful, self-conscious, and intentional defiance to the will of God.
Having cast off the true wisdom found in Christ, man turns instead to the Dionysian wisdom which Nietzsche earlier pointed to.

Dionysus was the Greek god of sensuality, madness, and religious ecstasy. David, writing in the forty-sixth Psalm, instructs the righteous to be still and know God. Elijah the prophet knew God not as a raging wind or burning fire but as a still and small voice. In contrast to this the worship of Dionysus elevates the sensual, the ecstatic, and the irrational. Modern man is insane and he knows it. The very earth itself and the wonders of creation declare God’s glory therefore they cannot be considered logically or rationally. In order to drown out the “still small voice” man’s life must be a crashing orchestra of carnality and sin. It was customary for the virgins of Greece to dance naked on the mountainsides in honor of Dionysus. Clearly this sensuous spirit is pervasive in our land today.

The third prevalent force in modernity’s rebellion is Prometheanism. Prometheus was a figure in Greek lore known for his mischievous creations. The Greeks ascribed to him the creation of mankind and then subsequently teaching them to rebel against Zeus. His rebellious creations were instigated by his own rebellious nature. This parallels to modern man’s tendency to invest his creative energies into perversion and mischief. God gave man the capacity to be creative, to add refinement and glory to the world established by God. But man would rather not see his creations bring glory to God so instead he walks a Promethean path. Much like Viktor Frankenstein’s monster, the works of man’s hands have become as wondrous and magical as they are monstrous and unnatural. This is by design. From the ugliness of much modern architecture to the willful distortions of Picasso, man seeks to create a world that does not reflect the image of God but himself. If man can build a synthetic and fake world, if he can pervert, mar, and degrade everything that God has given him, then maybe, just maybe he can silence the testimony of the witness of God in this world.

Modern man’s rebellion is a magical quest. He has denied the natural things given him of God and has instead turned to the unnatural ways of Oedipus, Dionysus, and Prometheus. In his quest to kill God man must become the magician, employing these three unnatural spirits in his war to overthrow reality. C. S. Lewis well describes the magical underpinnings of man’s rebellion:

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the “wisdom” of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious — such as digging up and mutilating the dead.

~~ CS Lewis; The Abolition of Man; p. 88

Lewis again hits at the distinction between that wisdom which is from above and that which reflects the spirit of Oedipus, Dionysus, and Prometheus. The former being lawful, obedient, and receptively creative; in short: pious. The latter being mischievous, sensuous, and magical; in short: patricidal. The distinction between pious man and patricidal man is that the pious man seeks to bring his behavior into conformity with the natural order God established while patricidal man seeks to conform reality to his own fallen nature. In his quest to kill and replace God, patricidal man is willing to do things heretofore regarded as “disgusting and impious.”
Christians today must be extremely careful that in their efforts to rebuild upon ancient foundations they do not include in their construction materials any of the corrosive elements which rebellion has amassed to itself. They must put away that wisdom which Lewis termed magical and which Nietzsche styled as a crime against nature. Failure to do so will only be to return to the same path that has led to this current state of ruin.

Christian Fraternity

Protestants and Romanists would do well to bury the hatchet for the time being. Over the last 5 centuries Romanist aggression has killed at least two hundred thousand (that’s very very conservative) Protestants and the Romanists maintain that Protestants have stolen their property, given no justification for secession, etc..
My own ancestors appear to have been Moravians who fled Bohemia when it collapsed due to consistent attacks from Romanist Austria during the early 18th century. Compile that with a consistent adherence to the Reformed standards and a belief that the mass is blasphemous and this is no defense of Romanism.
However!
The world as it comes down to us today is at a cross roads. The century old forces of postmodernism have used up a great deal of their capital and they are wearing thin. Even as old seeds bear many sour grapes, people are turning away from the eschewing of transcendent truth and recovering Christendom’s true inheritance of Christianity, family, locality, and tradition. The pushback is tremendous. The powers which array themselves against a renewed Christendom have all the worldly advantages. Mass communication, the world’s largest militaries, and many many other resources are squarely in their hands.
To navigate these waters it is paramount that Christians properly survey the situation and understand the combatants.
When Mohammadens attack Christian civilization, they do not discern distinctions between Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, or any other strand of Christianity. Whether it is the burning of the library at Alexandria, the massacres of Smyrna and Antioch, the sacking of Constantinople, or the kidnapping of Welshman along the English coasts, they have always sought one goal: the destruction of Christendom.
When postmodernists assault the Christian commitment to God’s unchanging law they too do not single out any particular group of Christians. The Romanist nation of Argentina has maintained perhaps the most conservative commitment to anti-abortion policy in the Western World out of fidelity to God’s law and this ground that has been held should not be thought lightly of by Protestants simply because those faithful souls were Romanist.
When the media slanders Christians and Christian history they have little concern if the target is Romanist or Protestant.
Both Protestants and Romanists must realize that we have common enemies and we must be careful how we relate to one another and the world which wishes to destroy us both. Gleefully rejoicing over the RCC’s pedophilia problem is an incredibly short-sighted thing for Protestants to do. In the 2017-2018 grand jury investigation in PA the attorneys handed down not even a half dozen indictments out of three hundred priests investigated for illicit sexual conduct. This relative lack of scandal did not prevent the media from having a field day with the fact that three hundred priests were under investigation. Were Protestants indignant that the US justice system had spent tons of money and the media had created a circus out of what proved to be a non-event? Rather they joined hands with the secular media to berate the Romanists as “perverts” and “getting what they deserved”. Undoubtedly the doctrine of clerical celibacy is unbiblical and does lend towards pedophilia, however this does not excuse blatant lying by the media in attempt to slander Roman dioceses and it does not justify over-eager Protestants joining in the slander.
While Protestant missionaries have outworked Romanists in converting the heathen over the last four centuries, Romanist charity networks and hospitals are an under-appreciated but indispensable part of our nation and those of Europe. Many of the leaders in the resurgent Christendom, such as Italy’s deputy PM Matteo Salvini and most of Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban’s supporters are Romanists. These are allies that we would do well to have in re-establishing ourselves amidst the ruins or our own civilization.
Over the last several decades many Romanists have awoken to the fact that their church hierarchy has apostatized. Many of them are disgruntled with the actions of those claiming to be their spokesmen the exact same way most Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and Episcopalians feel betrayed by their denominations. May God lead them out of their error. May God lead us all out of errors and into a renewed Christian civilization.
In conclusion, Protestants hold the theological high-ground. The mass is blasphemy. Transubstantiation is not biblical. The divine rule of a universal prelate has little support from the 1st millennia of Christian history and no Biblical support. Purgatory, penance, indulgence, I could go on.
But at this point our cause is fraternal and we must see this. Celebrating in each others tragedies and joining hands with a world that hates us both is not acceptable. If one of us falls, the enemy’s efforts will be doubled against him that remains.
I pray that one day the Romanist schism comes to a close and Christendom can be visibly united. But let this be done in providence and wisdom and let not our civilization dig its own grave for clinging to a fratricidal spirit.

No Eulogies: a Southern essay

In I Kings 21, we see that Naboth did not feel that he had the right to sell the family land no matter how much money King Ahab offered. The land was not his except as a trust from his forefathers to the generations yet unborn.”

~~RJ Rushdoony

We have come to the place were every year another noble Southern family dies out, never to return. The effect that this renders is incalculable to us and incomprehensible to the mind not attuned to the appreciation of family and land. God grants land by providence and man’s chief method of glorifying God is by being a true husband and steward to the land which God has bestowed. Over the previous four centuries a particular people received a particular land. For many many generations the land was loved, cared for; families grew and were loyal to what God had given them. Like Naboth, the true Southerner looked over the head of his moment and peered into the future, he could not do otherwise. The close connection to the land and the deep impression left by one’s ancestors had driven home the point that life is fleeting and great works can only come into focus when viewed through the lense of decades, centuries, and generations. Today this inheritance is squandered and with every passing day a farm which was built up by generations goes fallow.

Materialism has built a world obsessed with wealth that slips through the fingers, that isn’t worth having. The Southerner long scorned this materialism, his was a romantic war against the pressing tides of “progress.” The Southerner did not believe in the value of motion for motions sake. Why take steps toward one’s own ruin? As the urban life spread and man was increasingly cut off from land, family, and tradition, the South became a haven and an ideal for those who were dissatisfied with the march of industrial progress, city slums, and multiculturalism. For generations the Southern farmer grew those native products of cotton, tobacco, peanuts; raised hogs, and worked close to home. Our cities were not the metropolitan, faceless sprawls of New York or Chicago, rather they were the centers of trade and refinement which grow naturally in the midst of an agrarian people. Our communities were not cold, mercenary outposts filled with strangers, but windows into the foundation of a culture which believed not in senseless change but in seeking conformity with an unchanging ideal. It was these factors: the long range vision, the commitment to land, the stability of family, the memories of lessons learned long ago, that made the South a bulwark against religious liberalism and social fragmentation.

Yet today the South has lost the heart of her children. Once proud families bow out with hardly a notice and certainly no eulogy. Short-sighted children perch, awaiting their opportunity to sell off assets accrued over centuries to finance their education at universities that will make them good progressive materialists and pluck up their roots. Communities shift, no longer having the five, six, or seven families that once populated them; now down to only two. Farms grow little more than government approved soy beans and corn. The cities, having lost their agricultural foundation, drift into the fusion of idleness and industrial “busy-work.”
In short, the South is barely the South any more. South New Jersey is perhaps more appropriate.

Nearly a century ago, essayist and author Stark Young asked us the question, do we continue on our ways in memoriam or in defense? My family still maintains the defense, we give no eulogy, no graveside sentimentalities. Undoubtedly we are lost, but that which is lost may yet be found, only God knows.

Every family that dies out will never be revived. A patriarch must look from the grave down through history and see that his ancestors defected from what he worked for.
Every farm that is sold off will never be reconstituted. A plot which once knew the hopes and fears of a man and women engaged in that most noble of tasks, folk who walked the land and knew it, must now bear the weight of those soul-less box plants which “Americans” call the subdivision.

Will this trend cease? Will the hearts of the children return unto their forefathers? I pray so.
May God be pleased to work in the hearts of this people, to bind that which is broken, and to build up the waste places.
We seek not to go back, our aim must be to build and our eye must be on the future. We must endeavor as never before to go forth building into the future in a manner and spirit that is in accord with our past.

“If anything is clear, it is that we can never go back, and neither this essay nor any intelligent person that I know in the South desires a literal restoration of the old Southern life, even if that were possible; dead days are gone, and if by some chance they should return, we should find them intolerable.”

~~ Stark Young

“An interesting commentary on the present is that people close to the soil appear to have longer memories than have the urban masses. Traditions there live for generations; what their grandfathers did is real to them. Consequently they may be said to assimilate lessons.”

~~ Richard Weaver

Biblical Parameters of Deception

 

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it be a son, you shall kill him, but if it be a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharoah, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

–Exodus 1:14-21

God’s word is given to us for our instruction and direction in the faith. As the emissaries and laborers of our Lord’s kingdom on earth it is never sufficient for us to theorize of and give lip-service to the ways of our Lord. We must have practical logistics and tactics which aim to transition the implication of God’s righteous laws from the abstract and hypothetical to the concrete and corporeal. As we engage in this process we are to make full use of the wisdom, instruction, and commands given to us in the Old and New Testaments.

One such tactic which we find repeatedly employed in Scripture yet which always draws much controversy is the righteous use of deception. Deception, dishonesty, lying, whatever we should like to call it, is always a serious business and the Christian should approach the subject understanding that God hates a lying tongue and there is no place for liars in the heavenly Jerusalem. But lest we rush into places where angels dare not tread we must take a further look at the righteous use of deception as employed and divinely sanctioned by many saints in the Biblical accounts.

In the opening text cited above we find Hebrew women being forced by Pharoah to commit a very wicked act: murder children. So in response the midwives engage in a tactic which has drawn the condemnation of many Christian expositors and commentators through the ages: they lie. They don’t tell half-truths, remain silent, or attempt to conceal the matter. They plainly lie to Phaoroah’s face about the reality of the situation. These two midwives, Shiprah and Puah, were professionals in their vocation and they seem to be cabinet members, or advisors, of the Pharoah. Understanding that there were millions of Hebrews living in Egypt at this time they undoubtedly were the representatives before the Egyptian government of what had to be a multitude of professional Hebrew midwives. In fact we may gather from the Pharoah’s exact words, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women …”, that these Hebrews were so skilled at their jobs that they served the Egyptians also. Being greatly skilled as midwives, a skill even recognized by their Egyptian masters, it is unthinkable that the Hebrew midwives were arriving late for deliveries.

So they are plainly lying. There is no way to get around the fact. These women are both giving a false report to the Egyptian head of state in order to conceal a massive network of behavior which is criminalized by the Egyptian state. Far from scolding the women for their actions the Scripture has nothing but praise. In order to properly understand this we must closely examine the divine directives which allow for this as well as the circumstances which necessitate such action.

Firstly, this is not the only place in Scripture where we see saints lie. To make merely a partial list of the Biblical accounts we must include Rahab’s lies to defend the Hebrew spies during the conquest of Jericho and in Genesis 12, 20, and 26 we find Abraham and Isaac lying to protect themselves and their families. In all of these instances a great many theologians do what Scripture does not do: pass condemnation. We must bear in mind that no matter what we think of the actions in the verses given they simply are not condemned by God. Instead of seeking to read “honest interpretations” back into the Biblical narrative we must submit our reasoning to the truth of God and skillfully seek out why it is that these saints are not condemned for their lies.

And the answer would be that wicked men who seek to trample on God’s law and harm others do not deserve the truth from us. Speaking to His disciples concerning judgment, Christ says,

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.[1]

Proverbs 11:13 instructs us thus:

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Just as in war or times of intense distress God makes provision for one man to take another man’s life, so too there are Biblical provisions for deception and lying aimed at those who seek to harm either us or others. And there are many forms of falsity which the Bible shows to be legitimate tactics by which we may defend ourselves from harm and keep back dogs and swine from trampling down Christ’s kingdom.

Caleb rose to prominence under Moses as an adept spy[2]. What is spying other than employing deception against one’s enemies in war? That this is so has been plainly testified to by nations at war that treat uniform wearing combatants as POWs but execute plain-clothes spies for their actions.

In Judges 14 Samson intentionally deceives the Philistines using riddles so that the Lord might use him to deliver Israel from servitude.

While fleeing from Saul David feigns insanity before the king of Gath in order to preserve his life[3]. By pretending to be insane David was clearly lying to Achish about his mental state.

Further uses of legitimate deception involve camouflage to conceal a position during war-time and leaving a radio on at home to confuse potential thieves while the family is away. The point of the matter is that the Ninth Commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor may not be reread as “thou shalt always tell all of the truth all of the time.”

All of the actions listed above must truly be listed as dishonesty. Yet we must remember that they are all things that, in certain and specific circumstances, are commended by the Bible as righteous and wise behavior.

I do hope at this point the reader can begin to see when and why the careful use of deception is not wrong or sinful. A further analogy that may prove helpful is to that of killing a man. God’s law strictly forbids taking another man’s life yet makes accommodation for self defense. Exodus 22:2 reads:

If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him …

19th century theologian Robert Dabney makes a very perceptive comment at this point, he says,

Man may kill, when the guilty life is forfeited to God, and He authorizes man to destroy it, as His agent. So, I conceive, extreme purposes of aggression, unjust and malignant, and aiming at our very existence, constitute a forfeiture of rights for the guilty assailant.[4]

In the same way that the thief found breaking in has forfeited his right to life so too the man who seeks to harm others has forfeited their right to the truth. So in the case of the Hebrew midwives, they not only had the Biblical right to deceive Pharoah in order to protect the lives of the Hebrew children, they had a moral imperative to do so. Allow me to liken the situation to taking a life again.

If a man is witness to a woman being molested by another man then he is Biblically obligated to help her even to the point of killing her assailant. The man who refuses to help the woman is a coward and morally perverse. These same circumstances can apply to lying. If the midwives telling the truth had led to the death of infants would they be morally justified for telling the truth? Would a bystander be justified for allowing a woman to be raped so that he himself would be innocent of battery or perhaps killing the woman’s attacker? If the Hebrew women had done anything other than lie to Pharoah they would have cast the precious pearls of Israel before the dogs and swine of Egypt and been responsible for their being trampled underfoot. The Bible holds their actions up to us as a righteous standard, let us not presume to be more righteous than God.

Second, in order to properly apply the Divine allowance for falsity we must carefully understand the prescribed conditions under which it is allowed. Plainly, it is not acceptable for children to lie to their parents about their room being clean or for you to lie to your boss about the schedule on your project at work and pretend that this is justifiable. I once heard an objection to this doctrine that if we are permitted to lie to God’s enemies in order to preserve ourselves then why could we not lie to a non-Christian store owner about goods we intend to purchase in order to preserve our financial estate. Such mockery is useless. In the same way that we may not shamelessly lie in order to further ourselves or even to avoid minor loss to ourselves we may not kill over trivialities and claim it as self-defense[5]. Imagine if the driver of a vehicle shot and killed a fellow motorist under the pretense that the other driver was endangering them and they have the right to protect themselves. Clearly, such petty objections to Biblical doctrine is caviling and a disgrace to God’s word.

In order for us to deceive another and it not be a violation of God’s holy law the circumstances which necessitate such an act must comport with the seriousness of those laid out in Scripture. As God’s creatures we may not seek to lessen or strengthen the force of His word in this area. We see Rahab lie to protect the spies from certain death. Abraham lies to protect himself and Sarah from death or molestation. Shiprah and Puah lie to save thousands of lives. All of these actions are Biblically justified and in fact righteous.

One objection which I should like to deal with before moving to applications is that God will reward us if we always tell the truth. The idea is that God, as sovereign over all things will reward our refusal to violate His commandments against lying by weaving a happy ending out of any situation we may be placed in. In response to this argument Christ plainly teaches us,

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.[6]

If a thief inquires of you when your neighbors will be leaving for vacation so that they may have an easy time plundering their goods it is not a righteous thing to tell the truth. When Herod ordered the three Wise Men to inform him as to Christ’s whereabouts it would not have been a righteous thing for them to tell Herod the truth. If your telling the truth clearly serves the purpose of bringing devastating harm to yourself or your neighbor, it is a wicked thing to do.

Applications

Having established the validity and even necessity of dealing falsely with those who seek to do serious harm to us or our neighbor let us examine a few situations where this doctrine may legitimately be employed.

A school principle is required by the federal government educational standards to teach twelve year olds in depth sexual education classes. By doing this the children are given dangerous exposure to what can easily lead to addictions to pornogrophy or sinful sexual behavior. It is perfectly legitimate for the principle to instruct his teachers that they will not be doing the sexual education classes which the government standards require and then forge the test scores in order to forego punishment or investigation of the school over which he presides.

A second example may be drawn from the medical field.

It is becoming common that doctors be required, upon the writing of a prescription, to ask invasive questions of the patient and then to supply the information gained to the FBI and FDA. For a practicing doctor to act as a spy for government agencies and ascertain information regarding their patient’s ownership of firearms or storage of paper money and precious metals is morally wrong. The doctor here has not only the option but the moral obligation to conceal the private matters of those whom he seeks to serve.

A final example regards modern child abuse laws. Governments today, believing that children belong rightly to themselves and not God and the family, steadily increase the number of laws which place families at risk of having their children taken from them. Parents in America today can face hardship from the authorities regarding the right to their own children if they fail to earn a certain amount of money, have too small of a house, or do not meet the federal standards for education. If a Social Services worker comes to your house inquiring about your neighbor’s income and methods of schooling, should you tell them the truth? Is it righteous for you to reveal things about your neighbor to government agencies that might result in the seizure of your neighbor’s children or land? Again, in this circumstance the same as the others, you have the moral obligation to protect your fellow man.

Conclusion

In the Biblical account of the midwives before Pharoah it would have been a wicked act for them to deal honestly with the Egyptian power structure and condemn thousands of Israelite babies to death. God’s law gives us both the pattern and parameters for righteous deception. Let us not seek to moralize and pretend to be more righteous than our Lord but rather be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves as we work for the establishment of His kingdom in righteousness, power, and glory.

[1] Matthew 7:6

[2] Numbers 13:6,30

[3] 1 Samuel 21:13-15

[4] Robert L. Dabney: Syllabus and Notes of the Course of Systematic and Polemic Theology (Richmond, Virginia: Presbyterian Committee on Publications, 1871,1890, p. 425 f.

[5] Christ’s command to turn the other cheek is very useful in such situations

[6] Matthew 4:7b

Spirit of the Law: A Critique of Dr. Joel McDurmon’ Cherem Principle as Put Forward in His Book, The Bounds of Love

Table of Contents

 

Part 1

Cherem and the Purpose of Law

Dr. McDurmon on Cherem

Part 2

A Ministry of Death?

Arguments from Silence: Dr. McDurmon’s Abridgment Theory

5th Commandment

7th Commandment

Part 3

God’s Judgment: McDurmon’s Paradox

None Dare Call it Treason

Conclusion

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

 

God’s Judgment: Dr. McDurmon’s Paradox

 

Dispensing with the exegetical elements of Dr. McDurmon’s recent work, we will now move towards a broader topic: the idea of judgment. In all fairness to Dr. McDurmon, he does not seem to be arguing that his posited changes in cherem law completely retracts them from any type of enforcement. In fact he specifically makes the case for two forms of punishment for these law-breaking actions: ecclesiastical censure (excommunication) and direct societal judgment from heaven (such as was manifested against Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). The central narrative of many portions of The Bounds of Love is that the civil magistrate may not rightfully attempt to proscribe sanctions against offenders in the area of cherem law

On the subject of excommunication we heartily concur with Dr. McDurmon that the Church should not tolerate such evil practices within its congregations. To be cut off from communion with Christ’s Bride on earth is no laughing matter either; for to be so separated from God’s people is to be symbolically cut off from God Himself. The goal of such censure should always be reconciliation but nevertheless, how much better off would our churches be today if they denied people access to the benefits of the Church who continually engaged in gross and unrepentant sin?

Specifically speaking, for the church to place someone under excommunication is to place them under the ban, and the idea of the ban circles right back around to the Hebrew term cherem. The connection between excommunication, the ban, and cherem is ably noted by Rushdoony when commenting on the correlation:

Curse, ban, and anathema are basically the same concept. That which is under a curse, ban, or anathema is devoted or dedicated (cherem), i.e., given over to destruction at the requirement of God. In the church, the concept of the curse, ban, or anathema appears as excommunication.”[1]

Even though the underlying theme of the curse or ban is death, the church is allowed only excommunication as its highest possible sanction, meaning it must stop there. Symbolically speaking, excommunication means the same things as the civil magistrate’s death sentence: both sanctions remove the offender from contact with law-keeping people. Dr. McDurmon argues in favor of the continued practice of church discipline and dutifully cites passages where we see such judgments handed down from the Apostles.

Yet, when we turn to the civil magistrate, Dr. McDurmon’s position is that the magistrate does not have the same operating standard as the minister; he has no sanction against the cherem laws. For Dr. McDurmon, the two different institutions operate by differing standards in the New Testament era. It is telling that his argument for this is an argument from silence.

No cases of people being executed by the civil rulers for cherem infractions can be found in the New Testament Canon we are told. The conclusion drawn from this is the civil penalties for these crimes have been revoked. As we shall see, it is premature to make these assumptions based on the silence of the New Testament. In the days of the Apostles there were no righteous, God-fearing magistrates. We do not see any civil punishments which are in accord with any Biblical standards anywhere in the New Testament. This is not because God has revoked the ability of civil rulers to punish for offenses against His law.

We do not see His laws enforced because the rulers themselves were wicked. In fact, an unwillingness to obey God and implement His righteous law is a large factor in why both apostate Israel and pagan Rome would be totally obliterated by God within a fairly short amount of time from the closing of the New Testament Canon.

Furthermore, an argument from silence is a dangerous hermeneutic to employ when dealing with Biblical law in the New Testament precisely because we do not see any upholding of Godly laws. If Dr. McDurmon is going to argue that his point is supported by the fact that the New Testament nowhere records a person being executed for violations of the laws which he has grouped as cherem, then he cannot object when another scholar posits the same proofs in support of a total abridgment of theonomic standards for law. What’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.

The concept of the church being expected to enforce a standard different than that acted upon by the state creates further problems as well. The Christian view of society holds to a form of “institutional pluralism” where the three sanction-bearing societal institutions, family, church, and state, are all governed by the same law: God’s law. Within this pluralistic, hierarchical structure, individuals have the right of appeal from one institution to another.

If a man is wrongfully disinherited by his family he can appeal to the church or state for further investigation of his claims. If a man escapes punishment by the state for being a thief, the church can excommunicate the man and thus pressure him to repent and make restitution. This is quite a balanced and well-oiled system but in order for it to function all three governing agencies must be using the same yardstick, the same system of judgment. Gary North succinctly expresses our point here:

There is no doubt that Christianity teaches pluralism, but a very special kind of pluralism: plural institutions under God’s single comprehensive law system. It does not teach a pluralism of law structures, or a pluralism of moralities, for this sort of hypothetical legal pluralism (as distinguished from institutional pluralism) is always either polytheistic or humanistic.”[2]

To foist differing standards of judgment upon the different institutions is either polytheistic or humanistic. These are strong words but they are not easily dismissed. To remove from the state the ability to punish crimes for which the family and church are expected to render judgment is to fundamentally alter the fabric of Christian society. Taking things one step further, to thus truncate the civil magistrate is not only to alter society; it is, moreover, to spell its doom. This single point is in my mind the elephant in the room throughout Dr. McDurmon’s publication on the subject, and he plainly tells us as much. When speaking of the enforcement of the cherem principles, he says that the “sanction is no longer by earthly civil government, it is from the throne of Christ.”[3] And a little later he says that the law-breakers would receive an “even worse judgment that will come from the throne of grace. This judgment fell, in history, in God’s providence, in A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was utterly destroyed in the greatest demonstration of cherem devotion to destruction ever.[4]

The implications of this admission are astounding and that it is here cited as a proof for his argument is telling. God will obliterate, completely destroy, societies for permitting actions to go unpunished which He Himself has supposedly forbidden the magistrate to punish. This is a paradox extraordinaire. According to Dr. McDurmon’s thesis regarding the Cherem Principle, there is nothing a society can do to “remove the evil from its midst” which, if unchecked, will invite God’s destroying wrath. We must tolerate the wicked acts and then accept God’s vengeance upon our land. Dr. McDurmon’s theories nullify the very nature of the magistrate’s role. He must be an onlooker to the heinous acts which will bring a nation’s judgment and destruction. Safe to say, this is not a good plan for maintaining a working society.

 

None Dare Call it Treason

 

In a society which claims God as its king (that is to say a covenanted nation) God’s law is the operating standard for all human judgment and any failure to live by or enforce that law is treason against the terms of the covenant. The role of all three covenantal institutions, as well as God-fearing individuals, is to protect and promote the sanctity of the covenant. If the covenant is broken, the society is exposed to the consuming wrath of God. In this way, we can see that a necessary function of all three of these institutions, and the foremost job of the civil magistrate, is to avert the wrath of God.

When a petty criminal steals fifty dollars’ worth of goods from the local supermarket, he has broken the law and the state can lawfully intervene and force the man to pay restitution to the store owner.[5] In so doing, the state brings justice to the situation in so far as one man has wronged another. But more importantly, the justice of God has been satisfied. Now, we all recognize that the practice of justice cannot atone for the sin committed, but it can, by its restorative action, placate God’s demand for just judgment and law-keeping.

Any crime is primarily against God because it is primarily an offense against His holy covenant law. The job of the magistrate is to intervene into the situation and restore law and order before God does so personally. Once things have gotten bad enough for God to supernaturally intervene, pleading personal righteousness won’t help much. God judges societies in history and on earth, and He judges by the standard of His revealed, holy law. Woe unto those who would remove one jot or tittle and then teach others so.

Dr. McDurmon’s revolutionary thesis creates quite a problem (if acted upon) for the covenanted nation. The civil magistrate is forced to stay his hand while God’s covenant stipulations are trampled upon and the entire nation judged. The crux of the argument here is going to be over how to define the role of the state in the dispensing of God’s covenant to man. Does the state act only to restore law in relationships man to man? Or must it have its eye fixed on rendering justice unto God and recognizing that all sins are sins against our Covenant King? The Bible is clear as to which takes precedence. God’s word says:

“If one be found slain in the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it is not known who hath slain him, then thine Elders and thy Judges shall come forth, and measure unto the cities that are round about him that is slain: And let the Elders of that city, which is next unto the slain man, take out of the droves an heifer that hath not been put to labor, nor hath drawn in the yoke. And let the Elders of that city bring the heifer unto a stony valley, which is neither eared, nor sown, and strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley.

Also the Priests the sons of Levi (whom the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister, and to bless in the Name of the Lord) shall come forth, and by their word shall strife and plague be tried. And all the Elders of that city that came near to the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: And shall testify, and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. O Lord, be merciful unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay no innocent blood to the charge of thy people Israel, and the blood shall be forgiven them. So shalt thou take away the cry of innocent blood from thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.”[6]

God’s consuming vengeance must be stayed. Clearly the focus of such a commandment as this is not only to restore man-to-man relations since, after all, the murderer is not caught. Rather the concern of the governing authorities is that in avenging Himself, God not destroy those who didn’t actually commit the act. It must be pointed out that there are also strong ceremonial elements to this passage, such as the sacrifice of the heifer, but the general equity remains and it speaks volumes. The magistrate must concentrate the ire of God against the law-breaker or else broad judgment (plague and strife) will befall all of the people.

To deny the separation of covenant-keepers from covenant-breakers is to accept the downward leveling of society. It is to tolerate that which God finds intolerable and thus invite His judgment. It is no short of covenant treason. And this point does not go unrecognized by Dr. McDurmon. He comments that “only in extreme or aggravated cases in which blasphemy or false worship aims to lead to revolution, sedition, terrorism, or treason would civil government intervention be appropriate.”[7]

The great irony herein is that blasphemy and false worship are always revolutionary, always seditious, and always treason against the God of the covenant. If Dr. McDurmon really believes that the magistrate can still intervene when covenant-breaking action could lead to or are themselves directly treasonous, then he has not really moved the ball down the field at all. This is because these actions are always treasonous!

It is on this point most of all which we would like to pressure Dr. McDurmon to please explain what he means in greater detail. Is he arguing that there are non-treasonous ways to break God’s covenant? Is it sometimes permissible to publicly blaspheme God and other times not? He himself opens up quite an arbitrary enforcement of the law when, after spending time demonstrating his thesis as to why all these commands do not belong unto the civil realm, he concludes that the civil magistrate actually still could enforce the Biblical penalties if the actions are “bad enough”. But who defines bad enough? Who defines treason? Rushdoony provides a keen definition of treason for us:

Because for Biblical law the foundation is the one true God, the central offense is therefore treason to that God by idolatry. Every law-order has its concept of treason. No law-order can permit an attack on its foundations without committing suicide. Those states which claim to abolish the death penalty still retain it on the whole for crimes against the state. The foundations of a law-order must be protected.”[8]

This point is rejected by many today in the name of “humanitarianism” and “compassion” but the truth remains that a society cannot tolerate an attack against its foundational principles. The foundational principles of a covenanted nation will be God’s treaty and the things contained therein. His laws must be obeyed and His honor and office must be respected. Any attack against the person or law of God will be the greatest form of treason that can be committed against the nation in covenant to God. The implicit import here is that Dr. McDurmon’s thesis constitutes either a shifting of its foundational premises away from those things expressed in Scripture and acted upon by Christians for two millennia, or it is has radical suicidal tendencies. Rushdoony speaks on this dilemma, saying:

The basic premise of the law and of society today is relativism. Relativism reduces all things to a common color, to a common gray. As a result, there is no longer any definition for treason, or for crime. The criminal is protected by law, because the law knows no criminal, since modern law denies the absoluteness of justice which defines good and evil. What cannot be defined cannot be delimited or protected. A definition is a fencing and a protection around an object: it separates it from all things else and protects its identity. An absolute law set forth by the absolute God separates good and evil and protects good. When that law is denied, and relativism sets in, there no longer exists any valid principle of differentiation and identification.”[9]

This brings us rather full circle in our discussion of Dr. McDurmon’s thesis. In denying the law its fundamental quality of separating the good from the evil, Dr. McDurmon has set forward a system of law where the lines become fuzzier and fuzzier until treason cannot be defined. Dr. McDurmon himself seems unable to define treason and must lamely conclude that if certain actions become bad enough they may be treason. Over against this lack of definition, it should be posited that any attack against or transgression of the law-order of God constitutes wicked treason and revolution. God’s Word is clear and we must have the integrity and honesty to stand upon it. Dr. McDurmon’s society is one which must tolerate treasonous acts and thus be subject to the downward leveling and eventual suicide which all such lack of differentiation inevitably brings.

 

Conclusion

 

We have submitted these petitions with a spirit of both humility and grave concern. If the forcefulness of the arguments presented is found distasteful, may the reader be assured that no hostility is borne by the writer. Writing rebuttals and critical reviews is a rather tough business, especially when conducted amongst friends.

In review, the main thing which we hope to accomplish by this work is to establish a better foundation upon which to further the examination of Dr. McDurmon’s Cherem Principle thesis. To Dr. McDurmon, three requests are made in conclusion: the hermeneutics used to reach the conclusions which this book does must be solidified, it must be shown that this new system can produce a definition of and defense against treason, and until these theses have been more thoroughly evaluated the rather uncharitable put-downs of past Christians need to be revoked.

In too many places throughout the reviewed work the hermeneutics and exegesis appeared to be a derivative of the conclusions. Over and above the exegetical qualms, the end result of the Cherem Principle thesis leaves us on a seemingly slippery slope.

Lastly, I have chosen here not to respond to Dr. McDurmon’s marathon of shame wherein he glibly condemns everyone from John Calvin to 17th century Reformed Baptists as being “dangerous” and Papists who only used God’s law as a pretext to advance the social theories of Justinian and Constantine. Aside from advancing characterized versions of historical figures, Dr. McDurmon’s rather heated accusations fall to the ground unless it can be ably demonstrated that the civil magistrate is forbidden to enforce those laws which he has identified with his “Cherem Principles”.

In a spirit of agreement we would thank Dr. McDurmon for not trumpeting our forefathers opinions and views as the gospel truth and we would concur that there are a great deal of men today who are little more than romantic play actors fantasizing about good-ole days that weren’t actually so good. That being said, our efforts in the here-and-now must be towards the goal of furthering God’s Gospel message and all of its ramifications to the praise of the glory of the riches of His grace. A great deal of excellent and pointed work has been done over the last fifty years, work which looks to bear fruit in the near future. Let us not turn aside from that path lest we forsake the good way and lose the small amounts of ground we have gained.

“Treason doth never prosper for if it succeed, none dare call it treason”

 

Acknowledgments

 

In closing I am obligated to express my indebtedness to my wife Rachel, whose self-sacrifice in watching our kids and doing the chores allows me the time to write. To Dr. Paul Raymond for allowing me to use the library at New Geneva to aid in the compilation of sources. Eli Jones and Caleb Green of Richmond Reformed Bible Church for their constant help and support throughout. Again to Caleb Green for taking the time to narrate this into audio form (narrating most of it twice because I couldn’t stop editing it). Fred Beall, for contributing the cover art. And especially to Jonathan Character who single-handedly structured this work into a format and presentation that was hopefully comprehensible. Finally, as a show of sincerity, I would like to thank Dr. Joel McDurmon who has shaped a great deal of my understanding of the Christian faith.

Sola Deo Gloria

Sola Gracia

Sola Scriptura

Solus Christus

Sola Fide

 

 

[1] Rushdoony, Institutes, p. 660 (content in parenthesis supplied)

[2] Gary North, Political Polytheism (Tyler, Texas: The Institute for Christian Economics, copyright 1989) p.576 (emphasis in original)

[3] Dr. McDurmon, Bound of Love: ch. 3

[4] ibid

[5] Or in the case of our “enlightened” society today, the state apprehends the petty criminal, forces the store owner to pay further for the criminal’s incarceration where he is exposed to much more severe criminals and he then returns to society prepared to engage in much worse acts than robbing a convenience store. Meanwhile, law-abiding societies have been paying for the whole operation.

[6] Deuteronomy 21:1-9

[7] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[8] Rushdoony, Institutes: p, 38

[9] Ibid. p. 119

Spirit of the Law: A Critique of Dr. Joel McDurmon’s Cherem Principle as Put Forward in His Book, The Bounds of Love

Table of Contents

 

Part 1

Cherem and the Purpose of Law

Dr. McDurmon on CheremA Ministry of Death?

 

Part 2

Arguments from Silence: Dr. McDurmon’s Abridgment Theory

5th Commandment

7th Commandment

 

Part 3

God’s Judgment: McDurmon’s Paradox

None Dare Call it Treason

Conclusion

A Ministry of Death?

 

The discontinuity encountered in regards to the cherem principle is directly related to the difference in nature of the Old Covenant compared to the New.”

Dr. Joel McDurmon – Bounds of Love

 

In moving down the road toward his theory of why cherem laws no longer apply, Dr. McDurmon has sought to establish one connection for us to see: their supposed link to specifically Old Covenant conditions. The idea being that if these laws, (1st-5th & 7th commandments in his view) are firmly attached to the ceremonial types and shadows of the Older Covenant, they may be rightly assumed to have passed away with the coming of the New Covenant[1].

Before focusing directly upon this abrogation hermeneutic, we wish to point out two things concerning the three major factors which Dr. McDurmon seizes as the occasion for the temporary installment of the Cherem Principles. The first is that the Bible itself never explicitly connects the dispensation and jurisdiction of its own civil law-code to God’s presence in the temple, preservation of the seed, or physical inheritance of the land.

We read that God demands holiness of His people for His own holiness’ sake, but there is no mention of Dr. McDurmon’s three points. In order for one to “arrive” at the conclusion that these principles are what led to the temporary establishment of cherem law, there must be a great deal read back into the text. In other words, it is not a point at which one arrives, but rather where one begins and from there attempts to fit the rest of Scripture into that narrative.

Also, as pointed out already, Dr. McDurmon is operating with an alteration, or rather a redefinition, of what cherem law fundamentally is. Second, if God’s consuming presence in the Holy of Holies is what gave rise to the demand for such stringent standards, why aren’t the standards even higher today? We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that at Pentecost, “there came suddenly a rushing and mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they sat. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like fire, and it set upon each of them.”[2] 

Furthermore we know that our “body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, whom ye have of God.”[3] So while it is true that God’s direct presence is no longer upon the Ark within the inner sanctum of the physical temple, His presence is much more diffused throughout the world and in a much more direct way. As the new and greater temple, Christ’s Church carries God’s presence throughout the world and His consuming presence indwells them directly. It seems odd that God would institute a higher standard for society in a day when His Spirit remained within the center of the temple than in a day where He directly inhabits millions upon millions of people all over the earth. Certainly the consuming presence of the Lord is felt much more today than it ever was under the Older Covenant.

As an aside, flowing from the misunderstanding of a higher standard for societal righteousness, Dr. McDurmon continuously states that the Cherem laws demanded immediate destruction. This is a bit of a red herring on Dr. McDurmon’s part as no such claims are made by the Scriptures themselves. Putting aside any disagreements with Dr. McDurmon’s seemingly inconsistent allotment of just what is and isn’t cherem law, even the laws which he narrows down as cherem do not specify immediacy in any way. In fact one of the case laws which he cites as a Cherem Principle violation expressly says the following:

And if it be told unto thee, and thou has heard it, then thou shalt inquire diligently: and if it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel, then shalt thou bring forth that man, or that woman (which hath committed that wicked thing) unto thy gates, whether it be man or woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he that is worthy of death, die: but at the mouth of one witness, he shall not die. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him, to kill him: and afterward the hands of all the people.”[4]

Note here that before anyone is put to death witnesses must be summoned, a verdict handed out, and a sentence pronounced. The description given is that of a regular court hearing, and like all court trials, it would seem to be a lengthy and involved process. To further complicate matters, this passage says that in this affair the witnesses must be willing to cast the first stones. This would serve to eliminate false witnesses or even timid honest ones, as many men would shy away from engaging in the actual execution. For the judges in Israel to find multiple witnesses who would obey God by partaking in the actual act of removing the evil influence, not just giving a testimony could take a great deal of time. The connection of cherem to immediacy in verdict needs to be dropped.

A second exaggeration coming from Dr. McDurmon is his claim that the passage previously cited (Deut. 17), if applied today, “would seem to require the death penalty for merely leaving the Christian faith. A simple apostate would, under the strict application of this passage, be required to die at the hands of the State.”[5] In opposition to these assertions, the Bible never demands men be punished by the magistrate for their personal beliefs or in-home religious practices. The proscription is against proselytizing. Under Biblical law, men are free to believe whatever they wish, as God never allows the State to pass judgments based upon its evaluation of men’s hearts and minds. What the Bible does forbid is for apostates to publicly proselytize within the community.

Consider Deuteronomy 13:

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thine own son, or thy daughter, or thy wife, that lieth in thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, (which thou has not known, thou I say, nor thy fathers) … Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hear him, neither shall thine eye pity him, nor show mercy, nor keep him secret: but thou shalt even kill him, thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and then the hands of the people … If thou shalt hear say (concerning any of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell in) Wicked men are gone out from among you, and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known, Then thou shalt seek, and make search and inquire diligently: and if it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you, thou shalt even slay, the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword: destroy it utterly, and all that is therein…”[6]

This passage makes clear that although the wicked act was turning away from the Lord, the thing which must be punished by the magistrate was the missionizing, the attempts to lead others away from the Lord also. A nation ruled by God’s law is not a nation which engages in constant inquisition so as to “ensure” the citizenries’ spiritual estate. The Bible makes this very clear and Dr. McDurmon’s equivocations toward the contrary further reveal a presupposition which he seems to be bringing to the table in all of this discussion. This underlying attitude, prevalent throughout his book, comes to the forefront in the following statements:

The law continues, as we have noted already, but it is now written on the minds and hearts of God’s people, not merely on stones and books. It is that the New Covenant is administered by the Spirit, from heaven, not from the letter on earth. It is also marked by permanence: whereas the Israelites broke the Old Covenant and God cast them away for it, this New Covenant is wrought by God Himself in our hearts and cannot be broken. It is also marked by general forgiveness as opposed to the call for immediate cherem death.”

And after citing from 2 Corinthians 3 he concludes:

This is hardly to say that the law in its entirety is brought to an end, but to show the difference in the nature of the two covenants and their administrations. The first was a ministry of the letter and death, the latter a ministry of the Spirit and life.”[7]

We can all agree with Dr. McDurmon that the New Covenant has certain and definite advantages over the Old, yet in order for him to posit his abridgment theory, he must advance the idea that the removal of any civil enforcement of cherem law is one such advantage. It should be noted that the repetition of the objectionable claim that the Old Covenant called for “immediate cherem death” reappears in the quote above, but of more importance is the fact that here this statement seems to be fleshed out in terms of Dr. McDurmon’s more comprehensive view of the Old Covenant.

He specifically defines it as a ministration of death and says that it was administered by the letter on earth. This is a characterization of the Old Covenant which any good Covenantalist, especially one of a Theonomic Postmillennialist strand such as Dr. McDurmon, should be not quite pleased with. Whether properly understood today or not, the Old Testament era is still part of the greater Covenant of Grace. It is by no means a “ministry of death” and it cannot be so heavily separated from the New Covenant without doing damage to several rules of interpreting the Scriptures. The Westminster Confession of Faith warns against finding such radical discontinuity within the covenant structure, it reads:

There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.”[8]

We may attempt to compare and contrast the different administrative eras of redemptive history in a variety of fashions, but they may not be set at odds with one another. Any and all of the eras of covenant history are a part of God’s greater Covenant of Grace which was set forth after the fall of man. Each differing era of covenant dispensation is a part or segment of the overall Covenant of Grace and to refer to any aspect of that life-promising, life-giving covenant as a “ministration of death” is inconsistent.

Furthermore, if we carefully examine the statements made by the Apostles in the New Testament which Dr. McDurmon draws from, we may come to see that they in no wise teach us to look at the Older Covenant eras as opposed but rather as progressing continuously towards the glorious unveiling of the New Covenant. Roderick Campbell gives us a useful rule of interpretation for evaluating such statements, he says:

Neither Jesus nor Paul intended to minimize the written or spoken word. No! it is not the word inscribed on stone or the spoken word shouted from the housetops that is the killing letter; but it is the word, whether Law or gospel, when not received in faith and love and when it does not produce the intended effects in heart and life. It is not the Law, whether of Moses or Christ, that kills; it is the neglect of the Law which is designed to lead men to Christ, and the neglect of the gospel which is the infallible remedy for the transgressor of the Law … When Paul is contrasting “the letter” with “the spirit” (2 Cor. 3:6), he has in view the preaching or the hearing of the word when it is not accompanied with the quickening and illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit, or when it does not produce the appropriate effects.”[9]

The contrast between a ministration of letter and of death and the ministration of the spirit and of life is not a contrast between the Old and New Covenants but between the proper and improper uses of the law (1 Tim. 1:8). If the law is viewed soteriologically then it is always a ministration of death, Old Testament or New. But when given its proper pedagogical place and accompanied by the Spirit of the Lord, it is always “holy, just, and good.”[10] In commenting on 2 Cor. 3, Dr. Bahnsen agrees with us when he says: “Paul does not despise the law, but exposes the error of exalting the law at the expense of the more glorious gospel … The fault lies with law breaking, not the law itself.”[11]

 

Arguments from Silence: Dr. McDurmon’s Abridgment Theory

 

Be all these things as they may, Dr. McDurmon’s thesis centrally hinges upon the fact that what he is defining as cherem law is specifically abrogated in its civil enforcement by the coming of the New Covenant. The reader familiar with Dr. McDurmon’s work will note that he himself told us, when speaking of the hermeneutics of continuity, that we must be careful in our exegetical method. Merely the fact that the New Testament does not repeat a specific law (or even mention it in one way or the other) may not be taken to assume that laws’ abrogation. The Christian’s rule of interpretation must be Christ’s own words from Matthew 5:18: “Not one jot or tittle shall pass away.”

The passage of Scripture which gives us the clearest picture of exactly which laws belonged unto the abrogated aspects of the Older Covenant is Hebrews 8-10. In particular Hebrews 9, in dealing with the provisional and thus temporary aspects of the Older Testament, tells us plainly that through these very things,

“the holy Ghost this signified, that the way into the Holiest of all was not yet opened, while as yet the first tabernacle was standing, which was a figure for the present time, wherein were offered gifts and sacrifices that could not make holy, concerning the conscience, him that did the service, which only stood in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal rites, which were enjoined, until the time of reformation.”[12]

The message here is a clear one: ordinances of meat and drink, divers washings, and carnal rites served a pedagogical purpose unto the incarnation of our Lord. Now that the fullness of glory has been revealed, these shadows need not remain. Christ, the long awaited King, Servant, Messiah and Savior has come and now the Holy Spirit indwells the Chosen People even as it once resided only within the inner sanctum of the temple.

These are the ways in which the New Covenant is “not like unto the Old.” To push the meaning of this passage from Hebrews further than this is to open the door to a dangerously wide variety of potential meanings. Yet, despite the inherent dangers, this is precisely what Dr. McDurmon does. When defining his central thesis as to the difference between the Old Covenant and the New, he cites Hebrews 8:8-12.

Now, Dr. McDurmon appeals to this passage as the clear and present reason for why the civil enforcement of cherem law is abrogated in the New Covenant. There is one rather large problem with this use of Hebrews to support his claims: the text in Hebrews interprets itself as to what laws the author has in mind and Dr. McDurmon’s Cherem Principles are nowhere to be seen. When writing to his Jewish audience, the author of the book of Hebrews was more than careful to spell out the points of discontinuity between the Older and New Covenants and their administrations.

As a rule of interpretation, it should be noted that when the Apostolic epistles address primarily Gentile audiences (such as Romans and 1 Timothy, and especially such passages as Romans 3:30-31, Romans 7:7,12-14, and 1 Timothy 1:8-11) the authors are careful to stress the holy and persisting natures of Old Testament law and when addressing a primarily Jewish audience to focus upon the points of abrogation and differences between the Older and New Covenants.

The reason for this is the background and understanding of the various recipients of the epistles. Different people were at different levels of maturity and struggled with different things. Both groups struggled with the law in different ways. For the Jews, they struggled to understand the ways in which Christ superseded the temporary administrative elements of the Older Covenant; laws which we Protestants have generally classified as ceremonial. Their problem was not antinomianism (against the law) but rather legalism.

The Jewish members of the First Century Church generally assumed total legal continuity between the two covenant administrations. In fact, and one of the primary reasons for the book of Hebrews being penned was to correct them in this belief. But for our present purposes what we must bear in mind is that every point of Older Testament law which is not specifically repealed here by this letter the recipients would have assumed to be still binding.

That they stopped far short of finding the abridgment of any “Cherem Principles” in this passage is evidenced by the fact that Dr. McDurmon is the first scholar in Christian history to advance this Cherem Principle abridgment thesis. The danger in grounding an argument in favor of “differences” in the covenant eras which is not directly contained in the text itself, an argument from silence in reality, is that the argument can be made to go anywhere.

Dr. McDurmon seeks to posit that one of the differences between the Old and New Covenants is the civil enforcement of his Cherem Principles, but the door which he here opens by not positively appealing to any direct passage from the surrounding context in Hebrews is that any scholar may now freely walk in, employ Dr. McDurmon’s hermeneutic, and declare that the difference between the Old and New Covenants is actually a total nullification of Old Testament law, or really anything which we should like them to be. If we do not limit our own definitions of covenantal discontinuity to that which the text expressly lays out, then we open it up to an incredibly wide spectrum of potential meaning.

Furthermore, that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews expected the people to assume continuity in matters upon which he does not touch cannot be denied as he twice appeals directly to the Old Covenant law in order to establish the severity of ignoring this word from God:

Wherefore we ought diligently to give heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we run out. For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast, and every transgression, and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be preached by the Lord, and afterward was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”[13]

And a little later he adds,

For if we sin willingly after that we have received and acknowledged that truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for judgment, and violent fire, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despiseth Moses’ Law, dieth without mercy under two, or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be worthy, which treadeth under foot the Son of God…[14]

The Apostle is here asking a rhetorical question. This is the use of a popular logical argument on the part of the author: if p, then q. If you would receive this (p) for breaking the covenant in the Old Testament era, then expect this (q) in the New Testament era. If we remove the first part of the equation in the Apostle’s logical progression the entire line of reasoning collapses. But this is exactly what Dr. McDurmon does when he appeals to Hebrews 10:26-29 as support for his abridgment theory. He writes:

Keep in mind, the author was writing to Hebrews about the change from Old Covenant to New Covenant under Christ. The issue here would have been mass apostasy. The Hebrews who remained in unbelief after Christ would have been committing idolatry (false temple worship) and apostasy (denial that Christ has come in the flesh). Under the Mosaic administration, they would have been devoted to destruction (Ex. 22:20; Deut. 13; 17:2-5) by the civil government. The author of Hebrews acknowledges this. Yet he does not prescribe a cherem death penalty administered by the civil government. He prescribes an even worse judgment that will come from the throne of grace.”[15]

Dr. McDurmon here takes the argument made by the author of Hebrews and turns it on its head. Dr. McDurmon makes the severity of the threat to rest upon the nullification of the laws cited by the Apostle. Over against this interpretation of the passage at hand we may consider the words of Dr. Greg Bahnsen:

The punishment of the apostate under the new order is much sorer than under the old, and the equity of this terrifying judgment under the New Covenant is established by appeal to the Older Covenant law (read Heb. 10:26-29) – thereby assuming its foundational validity. Since the New Covenant brings with it further and worse punishment, we certainly should not see a turning back from the judicial tone, the law and penal sanction, of the Older Covenant. To the contrary, there is an intensification of it![16]

“To the contrary,” Dr. Bahnsen tells Dr. McDurmon, the Apostle’s appeal to Old Covenant law underscores its abiding validity both morally and in the penal sense. If the foundation for the proscription of punishment be here removed, what promise have we of judgment? Clearly, the context to which Dr. McDurmon attempts to fit these passages from Hebrews is not their natural or Biblical setting.

 

 5th Commandment

 

In order to hold his thesis together concerning which laws he has placed under the label of cherem, Dr. McDurmon must maintain some rather unusual and tenuous positions regarding the Fifth Commandment. Although placed within the First Table by Dr. McDurmon, the Fifth Commandment has traditionally been viewed as a bridge between the two broader sections of the Decalogue.

When we read the commandment to honor father and mother, the broader implication is to give due homage to all those in positions over us. Of all the various authorities under which a man in this life must live (family, church, state, and ultimately God Himself) the family is the lowest on the chain of command. Thus when we find the death penalty invoked by the law for disobedience to parents, the implication is how much less insubordination to the higher authorities will be tolerated. One of the case laws attached to the commandment makes this clear.

Deuteronomy 17:12 says,

And the man that will do presumptuously, not hearkening unto the Priest (that standeth before the Lord thy God to minister there) or unto the Judge, that man shall die, and thou shalt take away evil from Israel.”

Aside from the obvious fact that a man who must of needs come before the priest or magistrate for judgment has already broken the law, the greater sin here is in refusing to hearken unto the sentence handed down in punishment. Not only is the man in view now a criminal, he is doubly dangerous because of his blatant disregard for the way in which God has ordered human society be structured. That this commandment contains its own explanation or reason for this death sentence is telling. It simply demands that the evil be put away from amongst the covenant people. Rebellion against rightful authority will not be tolerated. God will not have any blatant rebels before Him.

It is of note that when commenting on this passage Calvin speaks of honoring parents only after giving space to proper submissiveness before God, the civil magistrate, and the ecclesiastical authorities. Viewed in this light, it becomes clear why this command is placed where it is; it has a bearing toward our service to God (First Table) and our service to man (Second Table). The most clear case law application of the Fifth Commandment is Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and it upholds the idea that honor and respect is the central focus:

If any man have a son that is stubborn and disobedient, which will not hearken unto the voice of his father, nor the voice of his mother, and they have chastened him, and he would not obey them, then shall his father and his mother take him, and bring him out unto the Elders of his city, and unto the gate of the place where he dwelleth, and shall say unto the Elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and disobedient, and he will not obey our admonition: he is a rioter, and a drunkard. Then all the men of his city shall stone him with stones unto death: so thou shalt take away the evil from among you, that all Israel may hear it, and fear.”

As an aside, it bears noting for clarity’s sake that the children which Deuteronomy 21 commands to be put to death are not five years old. In fact, it is not talking about minors at all. The passage is dealing with adult sons who are polluting the land with their wickedness and have continually refused to hearken unto the rebukes and chastisements of their parents. Notice the mentioned crimes are drunkenness and public disorderly conduct, not the actions of a fifteen year old. Parents are commanded to be the first to lay a hand in judgment upon their children for being rebellious parasites on society.

How much easier it is to apply the rod at a young age than to have to give public witness to one’s bad parenting by testifying that their own adult and criminal son deserves death at the hand of the civil magistrate? It should also be pointed out that this passage gives its own reason for its inclusion in the law. It has attached at the end, “That all Israel may hear and fear.” The law is again self-interpreting.

Notice there is no mention of the Lord’s alter fire presence or land inheritance laws contained in either of these case laws. Instead, there is just a Biblical injunction to remove the evil from society. Any connection to a heightened sense of judgment owed to the Lord’s tabernacle presence must be read into the text via the readers prior assumptions because we are given no hint that this law is anything more than what it plainly claims to be. Nevertheless, Dr. McDurmon advances his thesis and says this:

“…the Fifth Commandment is part of the First Table. It is a general principle but was also directly tied to inheritance in the land. Under Old Testament law, a son would inherit the land by mandate, not by choice of the parents. A rebellious, incorrigible son was therefore a threat. His wicked influence was to be permanently purged “from your midst” (21:21). (Note that this law is not said to apply to daughters, who could be just as wicked and rebellious, and just as incorrigible, yet could inherit the land only in rare circumstances)”.[17]

Not only is Dr. McDurmon here reading a great deal into the text which is nowhere plainly stated, but in attempting to interpret this commandment as having to do primarily with inheritance, he violates a fundamental rule of interpreting Biblical law. Biblical case law always works from lesser to greater in application. When a Biblical case law says that a man is responsible for another’s injuries in the event of an accident, the inference is how much more is the man responsible if the act which caused harm was intentional. Rushdoony speaks on the 5th commandment saying:

Biblical law is case law, and this law does not deal simply with sons. It means that if a son, who is beloved of the parents and an heir, must be denounced in his crime, how much more so other relatives? A family turning over its son to the law will turn over anyone. Thus, daughters were clearly included. The law said, “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel” (Deut. 23:17). “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore” (Lev 19:29). The evidence would indicate that no Hebrew girl could become and incorrigible delinquent, and, in periods of law and order, remain alive.”[18]

This comment makes it clear that the Fifth Commandment absolutely does apply to daughters just as much as sons. If a family will turn its eldest son, its most prized heir, over to the civil authorities, how much more willing will they be to bring other relatives (such as daughters) to judgment? The principle of moving from the least application of the law upwards toward weightier matters is one of the basic rules of interpreting Biblical case law. If a theory necessitates the removal or ignoring of hard and fast hermeneutical guidelines, serious work to the theory is required.

As opposed to Dr. McDurmon’s assertions, the law applies to all incorrigible rebels who refuse to hearken unto the God ordained authorities. This is its clear intention and it has always been interpreted as such. Furthermore, Rushdoony gives no indication that this law is today abrogated, in fact he declares that “The law is clear enough; if only the interpreters were as clear![19] He then condemns the rabbinic exegetes for attempting to find loopholes in the plain import of this law and likens them unto the Supreme Court of our own land who would attempt to void the obvious implications of every standing law. For the serious student of Biblical law and its application to society, exegetical gymnastics such as this simply won’t be satisfactory.

 

7th Commandment

 

Having presented our arguments against Dr. McDurmon’s handling of the Fifth commandment, let us now advance to the Seventh. Dr. McDurmon begins talking about what he labels the “Seed Laws” (which fall under his greater Cherem Principle) in the same fashion he has broached his other thesis. He says that,

It is easy to conclude that all such sexual sins resulted in the confusion or defilement of the seed, or the defilement of inheritances, and were thus assigned the death penalty on such grounds – not merely on the grounds of their nature as sexual sins. We can tell in each of these cases that the death penalty was invoked not because of the nature of the sin or crime itself, but because it occurred in overlap with these particular sacred boundaries in the Old Covenant administration.”[20]

Again, it must be insisted that it would only be “easy” to make certain conclusions regarding the intent of these laws if that intent was plainly stated in the text. And in the case of the supposed “Cherem Principles”, no such statements are to be found. Only if we accept the hypothesis that the alter fire, the land as a covenant agent, and the immutability of fleshly inheritance conferred a heightened sense of judgment, can we find any evidence that breaking sexual laws is not simply an affront to God’s law-order in and of itself but a violation of cherem and thus of temporary import. Dr. McDurmon exegetes Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10 next to support his claims. These passages read thus:

If a man be found lying with a woman married to a man, then they shall die even both twain: to wit, the man that lay with the wife, and the wife: so thou shalt put away evil from Israel.” (Deut. 22:20)

“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, because he hath committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall die the death.” (Lev. 20:10)

The demands of this law are clear: the death penalty is applicable to all who commit adultery. However, in order for it to fit into Dr. McDurmon’s system adultery must be seen as a confusion of the seed and not necessarily a civil crime in and of itself. Dr. McDurmon bids us “Consider, for example, the references to adultery just mentioned. One case involves a married man sleeping with a married woman (Lev. 20:10). The other involves any man sleeping with a married woman (Deut 22:22). Each could receive the death penalty. But what of a case between a married man and an unmarried woman? There is no mention of it, although the law regularly specifies when any particular law applies to man, a woman, or both. The silence here is therefore evidence of a non-law.”[21]

In reading this last quotation, one must pause for a moment at the sheer chutzpah with which this statement is put forward. Dr. McDurmon here attempts to convince us that a married man may lawfully have an extramarital affair, as long as his partner is unmarried!

Assuredly Dr. McDurmon would grant that the adulterous act does give the offended spouse the right of divorce, but nevertheless this entire assertion is preposterous. Adultery of any variety falls under the Biblical stipulation that an adulterer be put to death. Biblical law is clear: if an unmarried man has intercourse with an unmarried woman the offending man must pay the girl’s father her bride price and marry her unless the father absolutely refuses the man as a husband for his daughter. If the man is married, he is an adulterer and deserves death.

The simple wording of the general commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” covers this. To attempt to justify his “exegesis” here, Dr. McDurmon appeals to the Levirate marriage laws and the allowance for polygamy. Neither of these laws, however, have a bearing on the command to abstain from sexual relationships outside of the marriage bond. The polygamist, even as socially unacceptable as his behavior may be, is technically legally married to each of his wives. The Levirate laws were for preserving the priesthood and were thus ceremonial, but even here the man was required to enter into legal marriage with his sister-in-law before cohabitation was legal.

Interestingly, Jesus Himself, when responding to the Pharisees in Mark 10, condemns Dr. McDurmon’s understanding of the laws governing adultery:

Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her.”[22]

If a man is committing adultery by divorcing his current wife for the express purpose of marrying another woman, how much more does he stand condemned if he engages in an adulterous affair while still married? Assuredly there can’t be too much question as to the meaning of this passage.

It is ironic that Dr. McDurmon actually brings this passage from Mark into focus while positing a different interpretation. Citing the entire passage, he finds Christ’s words to be a revocation of the Old Covenant’s laws concerning divorce and adultery. He tells us:

Altogether this means that Jesus reinstated the original power of marriage … The ramifications of this are profound. It is clear now that marriage is no longer tied to the seed laws and inheritance laws – those being abolished.”[23]

Dr. McDurmon here attempts to do what no exegete should ever do – pit Jesus against Moses. He attempts to say that Moses allowed a temporary allotment for divorce because of the supposed seed and inheritance laws under the Old Covenant administration; an allotment for divorce which is now rescinded by Jesus’ further word in Mark. But this will not do.

Jesus does not rebuke Moses or even cast aspersion upon Christ’s own laws of marriage and divorce given at Sinai. Rather, He challenges the prevailing definitions of divorce which were everywhere wreaking havoc in His own day. Concerning arguments akin to Dr. McDurmon’s, Greg Bahnsen warns us saying:

When we turn to the antithesis on divorce we again find no grounds for asserting that Christ breaks with the outlooks of God’s inspired word. While some have alleged to find a repudiation of Older Testament morality here, in actuality it was the hard-hearted and distorted interpretation put forward by the Pharisees that Christ reproved, not the law itself.”[24]

Dr. Bahnsen then informs us that this prevailing understanding of marriage and divorce seems to have originated with a particular sect of rabbinic scholarship, that of Rabbi Hillel. He says that “its teaching seemed to prevail in Christ’s day, permitting a man to divorce his wife for talking to loud, for poor preparation of his meal, or even for not being as beautiful as another woman.”[25] That it is this view of divorce which Christ repudiates, not the Mosaic law, cannot be denied.

Rather than attempt to see the Mosaic commandments on divorce as temporary, we should understand that the hardness of heart for which God’s law makes accommodation is the hardness which was introduced at the fall, in the garden. When Christ tells His audience that from the beginning it was not so that divorce would be granted, He is not speaking of human history up until the onset of the Mosaic law but rather of the nature of man before the fall into sin.

The only reason here it becomes necessary for Dr. McDurmon to attempt to pit Jesus’ teaching on divorce against Biblical law is to uphold his own tenuous arguments. Again Jesus is not concerned about a confusion of seed or the Cherem Principles. Any such meaning must be artificially read into the text.

[1] When I say that Dr. McDurmon speaks of these laws having passed away, I must remind the reader that he speaks of only the earthly enforcement of these laws at the hand of the civil magistrate. Dr. McDurmon still holds that these actions are violating God’s commands and warrant His judgment, but that the judgment will be handed down directly from heaven instead of the indirect use of the civil magistrate as the agent of God’s wrath. As we shall see later on, this presents major problems for Dr. McDurmon’s thesis.

[2] Acts 2:3-4

[3] 1 Cor. 6:19

[4] Deut. 17:4-7

[5] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[6] Deut. 13:6-9,12-15

[7] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch.3

[8] 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 7, S. 6

[9] Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, copyright 1954) p. 47

[10] Romans 7:12 — Romans 7 speaks directly to this issue and Paul argues that the law is spiritual (v. 14) but because of our sinful carnality it kills us. The defect here does not belong unto the Law of God, but our fallen nature.

[11]Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy: p. 221 (emphasis in original)

[12] Hebrews 9:8-10

[13] Hebrews 2:2-3

[14] Hebrews 10:26-29

[15] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[16]Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, copyright 1977) p. 195 (emphasis from original)

 

[17] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[18] R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Copyright 1973) p. 187

[19] Ibid. p.185

[20] Dr. McDurmon Bounds of Love: ch. 3

[21] ibid

[22] Mark 10:11

[23] Dr. McDurmon, Bounds of Love: Ch. 3

[24]Dr. Greg L Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, copyright 1977) pp. 97-98

[25] Ibid. pp.98-99