Regeneration is the real offense

Continuing my series on High Southern Culture.

Much of the force of my argument will not be in downplaying “racism,” whatever that term means (curse thee, Karl Marx, for thy invention).  It will assume it and then redirect it.

Many Southern apologists try to downplay the role of slavery in the War.  They will say, echoing Abraham Lincoln (“Letter 1858”), that slavery was not the cause of the war.  Historically, that is true.   Nobody cares.  The Yankee Elite have already determined the truth and you best abide by it or end up in a FEMA camp.


Granting that Southrons did some bad things, and I will focus on Forrest in a bit, I would like to open the floor for some equal-opportunity confessions:

Stonewall Jackson pissed on Virginia Law and taught slaves how to read the Bible in his Sunday School class (Letter to John Lyle Campbell, June 2, 1858).

Let’s contrast this with a local contemporary of Jackson, none other than the abolitionist John Brown.  If I merely said that Brown killed white, Southern men, women, and children, some sick pervert would likely respond, “Yeah, well, their Southern and they deserved it.”  Unfortunately, Brown also killed Northern, Yankee women and children (Otto Scott, The Secret Six).  Praise God his raid failed (who knows how many more women and children would have been slaughtered?) and he was captured by Stonewall Jackson!  History is exciting, isn’t it?

Now we get to the proverbial fly in the ointment, Nathan Bedford Forrest.   Did not Forrest start the KKK and slaughter surrendering blacks and Fort Pillow?  The first objection is more easily dealt with.   True, he was an honorary leader for a brief moment, but we must realize that the KKK in the 1860s was not the same as in the 20th century.  It was a vigilante police force simply because the Reconstructionists refused to protect Southern women.   To his credit Forrest disbanded the organization and when he appeared before a Yankee congress to testify, they accepted his presentation of the facts.

But what about Fort Pillow?  That Forrest was involved is certainly true.    But given that Forrest took over 30,000 men prisoner in war, it seems really odd that he would not do that here.  I am only going to summarize the scholarship.  There are several outstanding analyses that do a much better job.  Long story short, and consistent with Biblical Warfare Terms of Surrender, Major Bradford had numerous opportunities to surrender and only when Forrest’s men stormed the fort did they decide to surrender.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this is going to end.   Was Forrest at least somewhat guilty?  Probably.   But how come Major Bradford isn’t held to account?

But what is most interesting is that Forrest’s men stormed using hand-to-hand combat and revolvers, which when fired at point-blank range it would have left burn marks which are consistent with execution-style marks.  But perhaps most damning to the case against Forrest,

Moreover, as the Union defenders fled to the beach, the U.S. flag still flew from Fort Pillow’s flagpole – this is significant since in 19th century warfare “Striking (lowering) the Colors” was the universally accepted signal that a garrison had surrendered and an unmistakable signal to the victorious attackers to stop firing. Had Bradford sensibly lowered the U.S. flag, this would have been a clear indication to all attacking Confederates that the garrison had surrendered.

Unfortunate, but not surprising.

But that’s not the real offense.  The real offense is that Forrest found Jesus after the war.

Let’s contrast that with General Sherman’s words.  Most people are aware of how his men burned and raped slaves across Georgia.  Sherman’s own rationale is just as jarring.

"Gentlemen, Niggers and cotton caused this war, and I wish them both in Hell."

Let's end with a contrast.  After Nathan Bedford Forrest's speech to the Independent Pole Bearers

Whereupon N. B. Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.

The hypocrisy of anti-racism racism

Continuing my thoughts on High Southern Culture.  It’s easy to say that the South had slavery so the South is racist forever.  Let’s put that aside for the moment.  It’s easy to beat up the modern South on racism, real or alleged (google the Christian-Newsom murders).  My point in this post is aside from a few Northern ideologues, a more refined and polished racism is in the Yankee elite, both then and now. Southern Racism is crude and barbaric.  Yankee racism is polished, scientific, and refined.  In other words, the theory of evolution applied to social situations.

(And by “Yankee” I do not mean anyone North of the Mason-Dixon line.  I am using it to refer to the cultured and social elite focused in a few Northern cities)

At this point in the debate a lot of well-meaning Southern apologists will (correctly) point out, “Yeah, but the North has some nasty aspects of racism, too.  The KKK has as many rallies in the North and they carry the US Flag as much as the Confederate flag.”  All of that is true, of course, but it rarely convinces anyone.  As an aside I will put the high number of Freemasons involved with the Klan.  Interestingly, Rocky Branch, a town just north of here, has both a moderate Klan presence and a large number of Freemasons (the Baptist church in said town has Masonic insignia inscribed in the foundation stones; a friend of mine was literally driven from that town for speaking against the Masons).

 (I don’t see any Confederate flags)

In some ways that points to the irony of Southern race relations, an irony ably captured by Professor Ralph Wood (Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South).   The essence of his argument was that the Southerner might say mean things about the Negro and probably couldn’t make sense of the race-tainted past between the two, but at the end of the two the white man and the Negro were used to working shoulder-to-shoulder.  The Yankee, by contrast, started out with grandiose ideas about the social equality of man (an equality, incidentally, which is condemned in the Westminster Larger Catechism on the Fifth Commandment) but generally despised the Negro in practice.  Here is proof:  what is the difference in demographics between the KKK’s neighborhood and a white liberal’s?  Nothing.

At this point a lot of well-meaning Southerners will say, “But I have many black friends” or “I’m not a racist, but…”

Whether the above sentiment is true or not is irrelevant.  It just sounds so “fake.” By employing that defense you are buying into the PC-Yankee narrative.  Just bypass that narrative altogether. (For the record there are as many blacks in my general neighborhood as whites.  Which white liberal can say that?)

So where does the South go from here? It’s hard to say.  The Obama administration acted as a catalyst that woke many conservatives out of their slumbers.  It would be foolish to make prognostications when the reality changes so quickly.

On the Soul of the South

This is a hard post for me to write.  Somebody will be offended.  Since there is no avoiding that, the only fair thing to do is to piss everyone off.    And a warning note: some of the language I use will be coarse, but when I am using it I will be quoting Yankee generals, who as a general rule despised black people (contrast that with Stonewall Jackson).

This article has several goals:  I will use the thought and “soul” of High Southern culture to show the inadequacies of the Confederate position, the sinful hypocrisy of the North–which continues to this day, and to show the utter bankruptcy of modern Conservative thought (I like the moniker “High” as contrasted with “Old,” “New,” or worse, “Paleo.”  I will explain why below).

As to the actual legitimization of the Confederacy I have no wish to enter that debate.  I can give a passing answer: in terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, neither the Federals nor the Confederacy were ultimately legitimate.  See? I can make both sides angry. I will make a few passing remarks on the Confederacy, though.  I really don’t think Jefferson Davis was a competent leader.  No doubt he was morally superior to Lincoln, but Lincoln was a true genius; Davis was not.  Davis made a better martyr than he did a leader.  (Trick question:  If the Confederacy was necessarily treasonous, how come the US Government refused to try Davis for treason?)

A few words about slavery.  That the Bible does not categorically condemn slavery is another instance where the sons of this world are wiser than the sons of the kingdom.  Not only does the Bible legitimize forms of slavery, it is quite specific and provides details on how slavery (or indentured servitude) can better society.   I remember at RTS Jackson we got to Philemon in Pauline Theology.   Everyone was quick to point out that the Bible made it possible to get rid of slavery:

Me: Really, what verse?
RTS:  (Silence)

Don’t get me wrong:  I think a theology of dominion can place the discussion of slavery in a better light.  Following Rushdoony (Politics of Guilt and Pity) I believe that regenerate man is dominion man; he is a priest-king ruling over the new creation.  It’s usually better if he were free.  Of course, modern Reformed people are scared of dominion, so they really can’t combat the secularist on this point.  Chalk another one up to the sons of this world.

One thing I do not intend to give is a naive, pollyannish defense of “The Old South.”  I do think it was strong in areas we are weak.  Further, I think it’s existence (at least mentally today) sheds painful light on modern conservatives.  It is schizophrenic for modern American conservatives to condemn Obama’s big government yet praise Lincoln.  What was Lincoln but the consolidation of Federalism?  And while I love the Covenanters–and I consider myself in the Covenanter tradition on the Establishment Principle–and while I understand their desire to end slavery, I do not think they were wise to support Lincoln.  They are absolutely correct to condemn the anti-Christian nature of the American state.  How on earth do they support Lincoln, who further empowered this anti-Christian State beyond Richard Cameron’s wildest nightmare?


So where do we go from here?  As the current government spirals out of control the issue of secession will be inevitable.  I only pray we can have wise thinking beforehand.

regenerate and renewed south can sing with Dr F. N. Lee,

Now the Triune God must never be forgotten!
Again He’ll march through the land of cotton
and from here, Dixieland — we’ll yet win, America! 

For the Brave New World that now is so perverted,
in God’s good time is going to get converted
and the Earth, will get full — of the fear, of the Lord! 

Our God will yet revive us
and our King will bring
both Dixieland and Yankeeland
and all the world to serve Him!
Don’t shirk, let’s work,
and live the Gospel Story!
Begin, we’ll win,
and give God all the glory!


Survey of Christian Epistemology (Full)

Typical van Til book.  Numerous interesting insights on Greek philosophy.  Sort of spirals out of control on Idealism as he (likely) tried to fit his dissertation into three chapters.

Medieval Epistemology

CvT is friendlier to Augustine in this volume than he was in A Christian Theory of Knowledge.   Here he emphasizes the differences between Augustine and Plato and focuses the discussion on the problem of knowledge that Plato raised in the previous chapter: what is the principle of Unity (One) and Diversity (Many)?

For CvT this solution lies in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Without a doctrine of creation, the sense world is seen as an “ultimate” (48).  And if we start with an ultimate plurality, how will we get to unity?  Plato never found unity in the Ideal world, for the Idea of the Good never acquired supremacy over the other ideas, and there remained the problem of the Idea of mud, hair, and filth.

The scholastics accepted the Greek idea of the soul, which parallels the chain of being.   At the lowest level is the vegetative part, then the appetitive, then the cognitive (this also parallels comments made by John of Damascus).

Universals and Paganism

The problem of universals is simply a restatement of the problem of the One and the Many.

Donum Superadditum

Something (image of God) received with man’s being.  The origin of this thought lies in the pagan idea of a material universe with an evil inherent in it existing independently of God (62).  It’s hard to see on this gloss how God could have created man “good” apart from endowing him with a little something extra.

Modern Epistemology: Lutheranism

Luther thought of the image of God in purely moral categories, neglecting such as the will and intellect.

Van Til analyzes the Lutheran view of the sacrament as it relates to the person of Christ, and as such to epistemology:  the human can become divine.  It is an intermingling of temporal and eternal (70).  As such, Lutheranism also finds itself facing the same difficulties that Platonism faced.

Original Sin and Representation (78)

Van Til has an illuminating discussion on original sin.  He addresses the common challenge to it:  it is illogical because we can’t be tried for someone else’s actions.   But he points out that this only works if we reject the category of representation.

He says that the principle of representation holds because the members of the Trinity are mutually representational.  That is an interesting suggestion, but I am not sure what he really means by that.  He goes on to say that God creates in representational categories (78-79).  Again, very intriguing but not really that clear.

Modern Epistemology: Arminianism

For Watson finitude involves evil (82).  “No creature can be entirely perfect because he is finite” (Watson, Theological Institutesvol 1, p. 33).  This mutes the distinction between general and special revelation. But as Van Til points out, this is paganism.  It posits a world independent of God.  If God created the world there is no reason why it can’t be perfectly good (Van Til, 82).  Van Til asks the question, “Why [on the Arminian gloss]could not God create a perfect though finite being?”   The only real answer for the Arminian is that there must be laws and conditions above God to which he must answer (90).

Van Til then employs the standard (and in my opinion, devastating) objection to Arminianism:  was it in God’s plan that man should fall into evil?  If he says yes, then he is a Calvinist.  If he says no, then he posits a Platonic man outside the plan and power of God (83).  Like Plato, this posits a world independent (to some degree, anyway) of God.

Van Til then goes on to discuss the Arminian contention that for an ethical act to be truly free, it must occur in an impersonal vacuum (Miley, Systematic Theology, I: 409, quoted in Van Til, 87).  The problem with this is given what we confess about God, and that all facts are in a God-vacuum, then on Miley’s gloss it’s hard to see how any action could occur. Van Til points out this is an anti-theistical position.  He writes, “[this] act could not occur except in the Void” (88).

Modern Epistemology: Calvinism

Van Til links Calvin’s project under the “Covenant” (96).  He notes that we see his “representation” in the Trinity as well.   The persons of the Trinity are exhaustive of one another.  This allows man to find the principles of unity and diversity within the Trinity (and hence, within eternal categories).

If the Trinity is representational, then man, too, thinks in representational categories (97).

Dialogue on the atonement

These are taken from real conversations:

Covenant Keeper (CK):  Why did Meschiach have to die?

Anchorite: To defeat Satan.

CK:  Is that all?

Anch: Well, it dovetails with other issues, but that is the main point.

CK:  Fair enough.  Did Christ’s death satisfy God’s wrath against sinful humanity?

Anch:  Wrath doesn’t mean what you think it means. from an Orthodox perspective the “wrath” of God is a synonym for the inherent spiritual state of human beings estranged from God which has its origin not in God, but in human rebellion against the will of God.

CK:  So wrath of God means not-really-wrath of God?

Anch:  I wouldn’t put it like that.   God isn’t punishing us for our wrongdoing, but allowing us to reap the consequences for our wrongdoing.

CK:  But the Bible repeatedly speaks of God’s actively punishing sinners.

Anch:  You have to understand that the Bible uses a lot of metaphors and that’s only one of them.

CK: But it is a metaphor, right?

Anch.  Yeah, but there are a lot of metaphors.

CK: But God says in Deut. 28:22 that he will (active voice) plague covenant-breakers for their sins.

Anch:  Ah ha!  I’m familiar with your modern Reformed theologians.  That passage you quoted is from the Old Testament and relates to God’s “special dealings” with his theocratic people.

CK:  (Mutters to himself, “Marcion, thou hast conquered!)Touche.   Okay, this is going nowhere.  Let’s move the conversation.  The Bible says Christ died for our sins, so on the Anchorite gloss did Christ die for our sins?

Anch:  “Remission of sins and the healing of the soul are one and the same thing. Our repentance of sins is also our remission. Repentance means the change of our heart and mind, and our coming close to God, instead of living far from Him.

CK: This means that salvation is ontological, not ethical.  This means that our problem is with being human, not with rebellion against God’s law.

Anch: That’s right.  It frees us from death, and Paul says death is the enemy.

CK:  Yes, but Paul specifically links Death and Sin (Romans 5), so we are back to the discussion of sin.   On your gloss, what is sin?

Anch:   Sin is missing the mark.

CK: I agree.  What mark?

Anch.  What do you mean?

CK:  Sin is missing the mark.  What is the standard?  John defines sin as breaking God’s commandments, yes?

Anch.  Yes.

CK:  God’s commandments = God’s law.  Legal language.   Will God punish covenant-breakers?

Anch:  No, that is figurative for our experiencing the consequences of our bad decisions.

CK:  That’s not what the text says.  The text says God will cut off covenant breakers (Lev. 7:20)


A truism on penal substitution

A commenter asked a good question at a site which rejects penal substitution:

“Exactly how does Christus Victor save me from my sins?”

The answer:

In response to your closing question: Can anyone explain how the death/resurrection of Christ is linked to forgiveness of sins in this model?,” I would say: Focus your attention on the whole diamond — our God and Savior Jesus Christ — not just particular aspects like the forgiveness of sins, his vanquishing death, his rising from the dead in isolation from each other. Focus on the Person of Christ. Seek to have a holistic and integrated understanding of salvation.

Maybe I missed it, but was there an actual answer to that question?  Here is a tip for Anchorites:  come to grips with the fact that Reformed link death-justification-resurrection (Romans 4:25).   At first your dishonesty was annoying.  Eventually a lot of inquirers will see through it and call it for what it is.

Anchorites point out that Death is the primary problem, not sin.   To which I would say, “Paul links sin and death.”  Further, in the NT’s use of atonement language, the phrase “dying for our sins” (or some variant) is ubiquitous.  This raises the logical truism:  If Christ died for my sins, then Christ died for my sins.  Conclusion:  Christ death forgave my sins.   Penal substitution might not be perfect, but it best deals with these issues. Further, Isaiah 53:10 references the guilt offerings in Leviticus 5.  It has Christ dying for the guilt of his people.

If I say something like, “Christ’s death overcame the powers,” which is true, the question still remains, “Why did he need to die?  What is the connection between that and remission of sins?   As Michael Horton points out to Robert Jenson, how is what Christ actually did made pro nobis on a Christus Victor account?

Survey Christian Epistemology: The Greeks

Abstractness and Greek Epistemology

For Plato “abstract” is the opposite of empirical (33).  The sense-world is associated with ultimate plurality.  It is the world of “Becoming.” Because all is in flux, there is no unity in the sense world.  It can only find its unity in the world of ideals.

But the world of Ideas cannot solve the problem of knowledge, either.  Further,  Which Idea is most ultimate and why?  It appears then that the world of Ideas has a diversity in it as well.  The world of the ideas, on the other hand, is Absolute and unchanging.  To which world, then, does the soul belong?

If the soul belongs to the world of Ideals, and as such is eternal, then why did it leave it that world in the first place?

Who Can Think in Eternal categories?

We can’t use temporal categories to talk about the non-temporal world.  Further, we can’t use eternal categories to talk about the temporal world, since the former are immutable and the later mutable.  We need a God who can reveal this manner of speaking to us.