Some worldview consequences coming from the Patriarchy scandal

The comments immediately following this one, including the one related to Young Earth Creationist Kent Hovind, are worth reading from a legal perspective.   Backlash happens in anything.    Here are some of my predictions (not prophecies, notwithstanding my views on spiritual gifts!  LOL).   This won’t affect older theology students and pastors, but it will affect younger ones.  I have in mind those students are just beginning to explore the mature Evangelical faith in a scholarly manner.

  • All other things being equal, I expect a rise in conservative, Old-Earth creationism.  This will be a solid response to Peter Enns and a mature counterbalance to some of the extreme statements made by VF (and YEC is a huge part of their ministry).  I remember listening to a Doug Phillips lecture and he told anecdotal stories of people who lost their faith in college because the (conservative) Bible professor held to an Old Earth position.  I thought that was probably the silliest thing I ever heard.
  • A movement away from presuppositionalism.  There are good presuppositionalists like Scot Oliphant.  They are the Westminster types. I personally do not hold those views, but I respect them.  They are not the same “wavelength” as Vision Forum.  Sadly, Vision Forum, and I can say this from personal experience, was remarkably talented at communicating presuppositionalism.  I am sad to see Greg Bahnsen’s name tarnished with this (and for the record, Bahnsen voted for Bush I in the 1990s and not Howard Phillips.  That led to a break between him and Rushdoony).
  • There will be a massive PR spin on “complementarianism.”  The pendulum is going to swing back to Wayne Grudem.  Doug Wilson might scoff at such “squeamish” terms (and I Plan to do a response to his calling the victim in the VF scandal “Foxy Bubbles” and trying to give DP a free pass.  I’ve seen a number of “worldview wonks” do the same thing).  As a marketing term, “Patriarchy” is down for the count.
  • Apropos above point, I think we are going to see a muting of the “worldview talk.”  I grant that worldviews are inescapable to a degree, but so is breathing.  But nobody talks about how important it is to breathe.
  • Will there be healthy Christian alternatives to nouthetic counseling?   I don’t agree with Freud and “psychobabble” as such, but I can give several clear-cut arguments why nouthetic models are flawed.   Depression doesn’t have to be related to sin.   It can be something as simple as “lack of sleep.”  The Soviet KGB knew this for decades (which is why they would raid homes at 3 A.M., the time where the body’s circadian rhythm was lowest.   When the CIA created assassin-clones in its MK-ULTRA program, aside from the pornography, prostitution, and mind-altering drugs used on the victim, sleep deprivation was essential the process.  All of this goes to falsify the premise of nouthetic counseling at its most basic).
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Is this the final breath of Christian Reconstruction?

I am deliberately late to the Doug Phillips debacle.  My interest is from another angle:  for better or worse, the Phillips axis (Vision Forum, Morecraft, and to a lesser extent American Vision) represented the last coherent front for Christian Reconstruction (which is not the same thing as theonomy).  When Bahnsen and Rushdoony passed from the scene, there really wasn’t any scholarly impetus.  Yes, there was Gentry, but has he published in the last six years (and I think I know why he hasn’t)?  Has Gary Demar written on something besides partial preterism and America’s Christian heritage?

Someone will say, “Yeah, well what have you written?”  Nothing yet.  I do have a book on Eastern Orthodoxy in the works.  I also plan to write one on Covenantal Premillennialism.  I have an essay on premillennial monarchy in outline form.

The Christian Reconstruction world has been marked by scandals but has proven fairly resilient, mostly due to competent scholars and debaters. (This is less known, but there was another CR leader who while not committing adultery, pressed the envelope in that direction and was disciplined by his presbytery.  This happened while I was in seminary).  Vision Forum, for one, was highly successful in marketing.   I mean honestly, who wouldn’t want to buy half of those products?  I still want one of those crossbows!  But in light of recent scandals, VF has shut down.  With the exception of American Vision, Christian Reconstruction has no more outlets and it won’t make a comeback.   VF’s scandals are far beyond the founder flirting with a young nanny. Evidence is coming up of financial fraud.  Now I don’t particularly cry too hard that the IRS got stiffed.   Couldn’t have happened to a better group of people, but these kind of repercussions can be devastating.  I am glad I cut loose of CR six years ago.

It’s not so much that young thinkers don’t want to be associated with “immoral” scandals (and the details are fuzzy, beyond the “not knowing in a biblical sense” admission).   That’s bad enough but sadly, fairly common.   If the financial allegations are true, then legal issues arise and it becomes plutonium.  Young Van Tillians are simply going to go to Westminster Seminary.  Theonomy’s day is over.  While the Obama administration is seeming to vindicate everything Gary North has said, it appears to be too little too late.

Theonomy Files: No. 6: Theological Studies and the Steroid Effect

One of the dangers in taking steroids while lifting weights is that despite all the gains, the level you reach is likely the highest you will ever reach.   Once you get off steroids, and even the biggest “user” won’t take them perpetually (No one does steroids, or even creatine, during the regular season for risk of dehydration), it is unlikely you will ever reach those levels naturally again.

We see something similar in theological studies.   Deciding which area to major in will determine how deep one’s theological knowledge can get.   Here was my (and many others; and for what it’s worth, throughout this post substitute any Federal Vision term in place of a theonomy term and the point is largely the same) problem in institutional learning:  I immediately jumped on how important apologetics was for the Christian life to the extent that I made apologetical concerns overwhelm theological concerns.  While I believe Greg Bahnsen died entirely orthodox, and I do not believe theonomy is a heresy (only an error), focusing on Bahnsen’s method to such an extent, both in apologetics and ethics, warped the rest of theology.   I essentially made theology proper (and soteriology and ecclesiology) subsets of apologetics/ethics, instead of the other way around.

I won’t deny:  I became very good at apologetics and ethics, but I didn’t know jack about theology outside of a basic outline of Berkhof.   Studying Reformed theology among sources, and worse, movements, who are only barely Reformed (Bahnsen excluded), limited how deep I could go in Reformed theology.

I’ll say it another way:  when I was taking covenant theology we had to read sections of Gisbertus Voetius and Cocceius in class.  I got frustrated thinking, “These guys are tying in the covenant of works with natural law.  Don’t they know how un-reformed natural law is?”  Problem was, I was wrong.  But if you read the standard theonomic (or FV; by the way, the FV fully adopts the Barthian, and now historically falsified, Calvin vs. Calvinist paradigm) historiography, there is no way to avoid such misreadings.  Even worse, said historiography fully prevents one from learning at the feet of these high Reformed masters.

By the grace of God I’ve repented of that misreading.  I spent this spring finding as many Richard Muller journal articles and taking copious notes.

A short thesis on theonomy

I’ve found Rev. Brian Schwertely’s sermons on theonomy helpful for me.  I should like to clarify what I believe on theonomy:

1.  I do not hold to the Bahnsenian thesis ala Matthew 5:17.   Better stated, I don’t feel bound to defend it.  Truth be told, I really doubt Poythress and the Biblical-Theology Klineans were able to deal with it in such a way that didn’t gut the Reformed ethic of any real meaning; that said, I don’t debate that particular passage because I don’t think my own position turns on it.

2. Specifically, I hold that the moral principle within the judicial case law is binding, but not necessarily the case law itself.  I think this is what “general equity” of WCF 19.4 really means.   While Bahnsen clearly demonstrated that Westminster Seminary had no clue what “general equity” means, I am not entirely convinced that Theonomists were able to say that 1) the judicial law is binding in exhaustive detail but 2) not this particular law (e.g., an unbetrothed virgin has to marry her seducer).

3.  Per #2, this formulation allows us to avoid the worst aspects of Christian Reconstruction, avoid being tied down in endless debates over exegeting Matthew 5:17 (or even worse, any kind of Klinean spin-off), and interpret the Scottish divines in a faithful way that allows a distinct theocratic witness.