Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Thursday, April 18, 2019



How many of you are aware of the number of churches that have been vandalized in France? How often do the media report crimes against Christians and their places of worship? Almost never. We don’t know if the Notre-Dame fire was an accident or deliberately set, but we do know that there’s been a lot of anti-Christian acts taking place in France, Europe, and places like Nigeria and China that are reminiscent of the lead up to the French Revolution:
Countless churches throughout Western Europe are being vandalized, defecated on, and torched. In France, two churches are desecrated every day on average. According to PI-News, a German news site, 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols (crucifixes, icons, statues) were registered in France in 2018. This represents a 17% increase compared to the previous year (2017), when 878 attacks were registered— meaning that such attacks are only going from bad to worse.
Who is primarily behind these ongoing and increasing attacks on churches in Europe? The same German report offers a hint: “Crosses are broken, altars smashed, Bibles set on fire, baptismal fonts overturned, and the church doors smeared with Islamic expressions like ‘Allahu Akbar.’”
Another German report from November 11, 2017 noted that in the Alps and Bavaria alone, around 200 churches were attacked and many crosses broken: “Police are currently dealing with church desecrations again and again. The perpetrators are often youthful rioters with a migration background.” Elsewhere they are described as “young Islamists.” (Sovereign Nations)
The Cathedral of Notre Dame has seen a lot of history, not all of it good. The recent fire is a wake-up call, even if it was an accident. Islamists see the fire as validation of their religion. Bill Muehlenberg, who lives in Australia and has a keen eye for moral shifts wrote the following:
Will Macron and other European leaders all start wearing Christian crosses in solidarity with the French Christians? Will Muslims also wear crosses to show their support for their grieving Christian friends? Hmm, I won’t hold my breath on any of these things.
He was comparing this non-response to the response to the government of New Zealand after the mosque massacres where the Prime Minister and other government officials wore head scarfs in solidary with the Islamic community.
Churches have been singled out because they stand for a transcendental moral authority that binds individuals and governments. Attacking Christian places of worship is similar to raising a fist against God. These are what the Bible describes as “high-handed sins” (Num 15:28-31). They can’t attack God directly, so they lash out at symbols representing Him. It might mean burning a Bible, submerging a cross in urine, or defacing an altar in a church.

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Another way high-handed sins are expressed is by defacing God’s image bearers by mocking God’s creation design. The body is a symbolic temple. Same-sex sexuality defiles that temple. It is a high-handed sin.
The Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century turned the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral into a secular church devoted to “reason.” “In their view miracles and other phenomena not explained by natural laws and reason were mere superstitions.”1 Reason was elevated to god-like status. “Europe disintegrated because the goddess of Reason, whom the French revolutionaries placed, in the shape of a Parisian streetwalker, upon the altar of Notre Dame….”2 became a God-substitute. She was “carried shoulder‑high into the cathedral by men dressed in Roman costumes.”3

On November 10, 1793, a civic festival was held in the new temple, its facade bearing the words “To Philosophy.”
The National Assembly passed a resolution deliberately declaring “There is no God;” vacated the throne of Deity by simple resolution, abolished the Sabbath, unfrocked her ministers of religion, turned temples of spiritual worship into places of secular business, and enthroned a vile woman as the Goddess of Reason.4
The church of Notre Dame was reconsecrated to the “Cult of Reason.” Reason, not revelation, ruled. While these philosophers were not all atheists, they reasoned as if God did not exist. For them, reason was “a law unto itself, as though man’s mind were self-sufficient, not in need of divine revelation. This attitude commonly leads people to think that they are in a position to think independently, to govern their own lives, and to judge the credibility of God’s word based on their own insight and authority.”5
The calendar was changed in a deliberate attempt to unlink history from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The Revolutionary Calendar began with a New Year One.

This was a self-conscience change since all Western calendars were based on the birth of Jesus Christ – “In the Year of Our Lord” (Anno Domini, AD). While the academic world has started with a New Year One (see the film Rosemary’s Baby), they have reoriented the calendar by replacing BC (Before Christ) with BCE (Before the Common Era) and AD with CE (Common Era), all designed to have the same effect.
While the Cathedral has no religious significance in and of itself since God does not dwell in a man-made structure, it acts as a symbol. To burn it is to strike at God with unrelenting fury, a sort of man-made hell.
Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “Notre-Dame de Paris,” published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,”6 informed readers about the building’s decrepit condition.
The book helped spur significant overhauls from 1844 to 1864, when the architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc redid the spire and flying buttresses.
Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, played by Charles Laughton from the book by Victor Hugo.
Rebuilding the structure did not solve the real problem. A magnificent edifice in and of itself has no transforming authority or power. Jesus said as much:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing (Matt. 23:27-28).
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame is a magnificent structure, but all the money being donated to rebuild it won’t fix Europe’s spiritual problem. The following is from the satirical site The Onion. Although satifical, it’s spot on:
We will come together as a nation to reconstruct Notre Dame, no matter the fundamental irrationality of imbuing mere man-made structures of stone and wood with any sort of deeper meaning in an existence where entropy is the only universal truth…. French officials mourned the Catholic relics and artworks lost or damaged in the blaze, even if they are “but false idols and profane images merely serving to fracture the spiritual connection one ought to devote totally to God.”
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  1. Richard Cobb, gen. ed., Voices of the French Revolution (Topsfield, MA: Salem House Publishers, 1988), 25.()
  2. Richard Hertz, Chance and Symbol (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1948), 100.()
  3. Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (1976) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 5 vols. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 5:122.()
  4. Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth; or, The Influence of Christianity in making This Nation (Nashville, TN: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), 25.()
  5. Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), 113.()
  6. There may have been a real hunchback who was a stonemason during the time Hugo was writing his novel: “The Real Quasimodo Discovered.”()

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Ed Dingess at Reformed Reasons responded to my article “Jesus Has Not Called Us to be Doormats” with “Gary DeMar: A Response to Christian Doormats.” I’ll extend him the courtesy of linking to his article even though he does not link to mine or even give the title of my article. Strange. It would also have been nice if he had been consistent with the spelling of my name. It’s DeMar, not Demar. It’s a little thing, but it’s important when someone is offering a reasoned critique of a position.
I’m writing this response not so much to answer Ed Dingess but to help those who have legitimate questions on this topic. I don’t know Ed Dingess but I doubt that anything I’ve written here will persuade him.
He dislikes my claim that there is a link between someone coming to Christ – being born again – and applying the changed life brought on by the gospel to worldview areas like medicine, education, politics, economics, and every other area of life.
The claim is often made that the church should “only preach the gospel.” He says as much: “The mission of the church is to preach the gospel, baptize converts, and to make disciples from all nations. It is that simple.” More about this further down in the article
Another person sent the following after reading my article:
I have a friend and we talk about things like the article you posted today about Christian getting involved in politics. He would wholeheartedly agree with this article. However, he says the church should only preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, etc. He makes a distinction between individual Christians getting involved in the political sphere, etc. and the corporate church staying out of it.
This is close to the truth, but I don’t know how the church could “only preach the gospel.” What would that look like 52 Sundays each year for 20 years? Add in Sunday School, Wednesday night services, Sunday evening services, and Bible studies. How does “only preach the gospel” actually work? How can a pastor preach from the Bible for 30 or 40 years and not deal with worldview issues and make application to the day-to-day life?
Myths, Lies and Half-Truths
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Dingess claims that I’m advocating an “either/or” fallacy. “Either Christians pursue advanced degrees and take jobs in secular society or should they spend their lives in full-time Christian service.” He fails to note that I said, “so-called full-time Christian service.” Christian service is broader than being a pastor, missionary, or a Sunday School teacher. Full-time Christian service is being a doctor, artist, engineer, educator, etc. A Christian who pursues studies in these fields but does not apply a biblical ethic to them is not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And where does a person gain an understanding of a biblical ethic? It’s part of the mission of the church, “teaching them to observe all” that Jesus “commanded” (Matt. 28:20). Paul writes that all Scripture is “God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). There is no directive to Timothy that he “should only preach the gospel.”
In his first letter to the young pastor, Paul offers the following instruction:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
Note that it’s “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”

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A Christian perusing law should do so in terms of a biblical worldview and not adopt a form of Platonic dualism where his or her Christian faith is “personal” and does not apply to every area of life. Dingess adopts this dualism by describing anything outside “full-time Christian service” as “secular society” and then misrepresents my position by claiming, “According to Demar [sic], working in full-time Christian service is equivalent to rejecting the world.” No, full-time Christian service encompasses every area of life. His sacred-secular dualism is the problem.
He quotes the following from my article but doesn’t explain why it’s a “strawman from top to bottom.”
What would happen in today’s world if what’s left of the salt and light of Christianity were withdrawn? Not only can’t a biblical case be made for such a narrow shaping of the Christian worldview, but it would also be impossible, impractical, and frightening to attempt to defend and implement such a position.
Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church
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It’s a legitimate question unless you believe the “rapture” is going to rescue Christians from such an inevitable world. Many Christians do believe it’s futile to try to change the world because for them the end is set and that end is a rapture, rise of the antichrist, the slaughter of millions of Jews and billions of the rest of us. No worry, since the “rapture” makes all these things inconsequential for the Christian. See my book The Truth About the Rapture: A Biblical Study.
Once again, Dingess has missed the point when he writes, “John MacArthur is not arguing that Christians should withdrawal from society and not engage them with the gospel.” Whoever said that people should not be engaged with the gospel? No one. It’s a prerequisite for change: being born again (John 3:16) and being a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) For what end?
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).
“Good and acceptable and perfect” in what and where? In everything! Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) said, “there is not one inch of creation of which Christ doesn’t say ‘Mine.’”1
Dingess then writes:
MacArthur is specifically talking about the mission of the church in the context of modern political and social activism. There are far too many Christians who believe that changing political and social structures is indeed the mission and objective of the church.
Are Christians to remain infants (Heb. 5:13), going over the gospel message for decades with no instruction on how the Bible applies to law, education, economics, politics (there are two books in the Bible called “Kings)?
Whoever said, “changing political and social structures is … the mission and objective of the church”? It certainly is one of the structures that should be addressed from the pulpit since politics has a bearing on every aspect of our lives.

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The fact that pastors have the freedom to worship, preach, publish, assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances (the First Amendment to the Constitution) is because Christians addressed “political and social structures.”
As I mentioned, I would get to this comment by Dingess:
The mission of the church is to preach the gospel, baptize converts, and to make disciples from all nations. It is that simple.
It is that simple until one asks, “What does it mean to make disciples of the nations”? I’m not sure what translation he is using that says, “from all nations.” But let’s assume the Greek means “from all nations” rather than “of all nations.” The question remains: What constitutes an individual disciple of Jesus? How does a disciple know if he or she is a disciple? Are disciples only to “preach the gospel”? James didn’t think so (James 2). Many who believe as I do are not looking for political solutions to problems. Our involvement in the realm of civil government is to decrease the authority and power of the State, not to use it for social engineering.
Shouldn’t a disciple of Jesus know what the Bible says about abortion, same-sex sexuality, economics, education, politics (since the law and the prophets addressed these subjects), etc. and apply that knowledge to the broader world, the created order that God says is “good” (Gen. 1:311 Tim. 4:4), “for the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (1 Cor. 10:27Ps. 24:150:12)?
Then there’s this:
Demar’s real problem has to do with his hermeneutic more than anything else. Demar reasons, “The poor today are oppressed more by government policies than by individual oppression. A Good-Samaritan Faith requires Christians to get involved in politics in order to halt the oppression of the poor by policies that make people dependent upon the State.”
Anyone familiar with government wealth transfer legislation that has been designed to help the poor knows that when something is subsidized you get more of it. There have been multiple generations of impoverished families.  Since the War on Poverty in the 1960s, we have more people subsidized by the State. There is nothing in the Bible that says that a civil government should be involved in wealth confiscation to help anyone. Legislation is written in such a way that intact families are a financial liability to receive government aid. A woman gets more money if the father is absent and if she has more children,
I suggest Dingess does some study in this area since he is woefully misinformed. He then goes on to show how misinformed he is on economic and political matters:
I cannot help but take exception to Demar’s handling of the Good Samaritan. The point is that even one’s enemy is indeed one’s neighbor. And you must love your neighbor as you love yourself. The parable has no direct bearing on or relation to manipulating social structures using the Torah or Christian principles. Jesus was speaking to the individual heart. He was not speaking to Rome.
Yes, even my enemy is my neighbor, but there is nothing in the Torah or the New Testament that directs the State to involve itself in wealth redistribution to “help” the poor. Dingess is right, “Jesus was speaking to the individual heart. He was not speaking to Rome.”
He goes on to write:
DeMar goes so far as to include reference to the story of Ahab’s oppression of Naboth as one example of how the government oppresses the poor. What governmental policies oppress the poor? Ahab targeted Naboth deliberately. This was a man oppressing a man or better one’s man’s wife oppressing a man. The oppression of the poor, the widow and the alien in ANE [Ancient Near East] culture was real. It had nothing to do with some Israelite policy that made it more difficult for the poor to get out of their poverty.
I don’t know where to begin in answering this. “What government policies oppress the poor?” How about keeping the poor dependent on the State? And it’s not just the poor. Wealth confiscation is oppression. It’s theft. Legalized abortion is oppression. Ongoing wars are oppression. Forcing people to bake cakes for same-sex weddings is oppression. Immoral monetary policies are oppression:
How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
Your drink diluted with water.
Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s plea come before them (Isa. 1:21-23).
There are numerous government policies that make “it more difficult for the poor to get out of their poverty.” I could suggest some books for Dingess to read on this topic. I’ll deal with the rest of his response to my article at another time.
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  1. Quoted in Douglas Groothuis, “Revolutionizing our Worldview,” The Reformed Journal (November 1982), 23.()

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Democratic Socialism is Not Biblical by Gary DeMar

The alleged “biblical” values of Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic Socialism

The folks at Sojourners have been pushing socialism in the name of Jesus and the Bible for decades. Claiming that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s economic policies are “biblical” is the height of absurdity. She does not know anything about economics. Her claim that a $3 billion tax break can be spent is prima facie evidence of her ignorance.
Here’s the latest incarnation of Democratic Socialism. The sad thing is, the Bible is being used to support it. The following is from Dr. Obery Hendricks who teaches Religion and African American Studies at Columbia University:
Virtually from the day she assumed office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her avowed democratic socialism have been under attack. Much of the condemnation is from the same crowd that so vigorously insists that America is and always has been a “Christian nation.” This is quite ironic, because democratic socialism and the Bible share a strikingly similar vision of what constitutes a fair and just society. Capitalism, however, does not share that vision.
Democratic Socialism is theft by popular vote, by the majority. If the majority can determine what to do with other people’s property, then the majority can determine what to do with people. How about Democratic Abortion, Democratic Slavery, Democratic Limits on Speech and Assembly?
By the way, Columbia University has an endowment of nearly $11 billion. The majority of that money came from people with money—money they can afford to give away. Columbia most likely owns stock in companies that are worth billions of dollars.
To support his position, Dr. Hendricks makes the following arguments (followed by my responses):
  • Health care for all
    Jesus modeled universal health care by healing everyone who asked, regardless of their gender, nationality or ability to pay. “Great multitudes followed him,” mostly poor peasants, “and he healed them all” (Matthew 12:15).
Response: When the government can turn stones into bread and heal people by touch, then I’ll be for it. Jesus never outlined a government healthcare program. Jesus didn’t say, “Follow my example and call on Rome to establish a national healthcare program.” When non-miracle workers are mentioned, it’s the Good Samaritan who comes to mind. He used his own money to care for the man who was nearly beaten to death (Luke 10:25-37). That’s not Socialism, that’s private charity. Over the centuries, hospitals and charitable organizations have been named Good Samaritan in honor of the unnamed benefactor.
  • A fair wage
    Prophets consistently excoriated those exploiting their employees. For example, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages” (Jeremiah 22:1317).
Response: The above passage doesn’t say anything about a government-imposed “fair wage.” The employer and employee agreed on a wage and the employer did not pay him. Notice that it says “makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages.” The employer was stealing. When employees and employers agree on a wage and the work to be done, the employer is required to pay the worker in full: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields which has been withheld by you, cries out; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts” (James 5:4) and “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning” (Lev. 19:13). Who gets to define “fair wage”? It is the private agreement between the parties, not the government.
  • A minimum income for everyone
    The book of Leviticus is clear: “There should be no poor among you … if any of your neighbors become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them … so they can continue to live among you” (Leviticus 25:35-36).
Response: Once again, there’s nothing in this passage that mandates wealth confiscation and redistribution by the government. The goal is to help the person out of their temporary condition. Money should be lent to him or her at no interest (v. 36). This is a far cry from empowering the State to create a massive bureaucratic welfare system that often keeps people in poverty and dependent on the State.
  • Fair treatment of workers
    The Book of Deuteronomy declares, “you shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the immigrants who are in your land …” (Deuteronomy 24:14).
Response: Once again, this passage is dealing with unethical behavior: “you shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy.” Paying a person an agreed-upon wage in a timely fashion is not oppression. On the contrary, it is oppression to coerce and control other people’s wealth through the State.
Dr. Hendricks quotes three passages from the Old Testament and does not find a single passage calling for wealth confiscation and redistribution. This is a solid indictment of so-called “Christian Socialism.”
Others have pushed Socialism in the name of the Bible. Dr. Hendricks is not the first. In the Foreword to Tony Campolo’s book Red Letter Christians, Jim Wallis tells a story about a secular Jewish country-music songwriter and disk jockey who told him that a new social movement was being birthed as a result of Wallis’ book God’s Politics and other “social-conscience” books. Here’s how Wallis tells it:
“I love your stuff and have been following your book tour.” Then he told me he believed we were starting a new movement, but he noticed we hadn’t come up with a name for it yet. “I’ve got an idea for you,” he said. “I think you should call yourselves ‘The Red Letter Christians.’ You know those Bibles that highlight the words of Jesus in red letters? I love the red-letter stuff. The rest I could do without.”1
Wallis continues by telling how he shared this story with Campolo, whom he calls “the ‘godfather’ of Red Letter Christians” and how excited Tony got when he heard it.
Campolo declared “that there are more than 2,000 verses of Scripture that call us to express love and justice for those who are poor and oppressed.”2  What Campolo, Wallis, and the folks at Sojourners need to find in these 2,000 verses, however, is one verse that gives authority to the State to redistribute wealth.
Campolo takes verses that are directed at individuals and turns them on their head by giving them a political twist. Here’s a representative example:
Most important, when we reflect on all Jesus had to say about caring for the poor and oppressed, committing ourselves to His red-letter message just might drive us to see what we can do politically to help those he called, ‘the least of these’ (see Matt. 25:31–46).3
Campolo sees a political solution in these verses when Jesus is addressing what individuals have or have not done. By “politically” Campolo means government intervention and wealth redistribution.
To base government programs like welfare, food stamps, and social security on Matthew 25:31–46 is without foundation. The division in Matthew 25 is between sheep and goats, that is, individuals within nations.
Nations don’t visit people in prison; private citizens do. Governments put people in prison; private citizens do not. Civil governments are the biggest hindrance to helping the poor, and it’s not because they don’t tax enough and redistribute wealth efficiently. High taxes and control of the money supply (inflation/deflation) enable civil governments to control people and their property.
Wealth redistribution policies, with all their good intentions, have the effect of hurting the poor and making them dependent on civil government—forever.
Liberals love the Bible when they think they have found something in it that supports their concocted moral, social, and political theories. Even some conservatives fail to recognize that the Bible does not support an expansive tax-and-spend centralized government no matter how beneficent the cause is said to be.

Dr. Joel McDurmon's 'God vs. Socialism'
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For a fuller examination and response to “Red Letter Christianity” and “Christian Socialism,” see our resource,God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.
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  1. Jim Wallis, in the Foreword to Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2008), 9.(↩)
  2. Campolo, Red Letter Christians, 24.(↩)
  3. Campolo, Red Letter Christians, 22.(↩)