Covenant and Economics

I was bored yesterday so I went to Lew Rockwell and perused some old Gary North articles (but only for the rhetorical verve).   I found this interesting gem that dovetailed nicely with John’s comments on Scottish Economic development.

North sees those countries who took the Old Testament seriously, especially its regard to Covenant and Community, and noted, other things being equal, that they became economic powerhouses. We can hazard a few guesses as to why:

  • Since God’s law came from God, to whatever degree it still applies today, its moral principles when applied to daily live have positive benefits (common sense realism even, since God’s world is reliable).
  • The covenant is future-oriented.  Interestingly, sound economic principles are also future-oriented.
  • Dominion economics:  North notes how the Dutch, a tiny country with few defenses and surrounded by powers, became a strong power: they simply worked hard and believed God would triumph in their labors.  The same with the Scots.

It’s further interesting that all these groups (maybe excepting the Armenians.  I did study up on Armenian Orthodoxy a few years ago, but the materials were too scanty to make it a worthwhile endeavor) engaged in frugality, innovation, and profit-and-loss.

Review: 75 Bible Questions

He should have stopped after page thirty, for then it would have been a magnificent pamphlet instead of a painful book.  The opening section defending Reformed soteriology is probably the best in print.   I am still waiting on Orthodox Bridge to do a review of it.  The next section on God’s law is decent but the theonomy debate has moved on.

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The final section on eschatology is just bad.   There are good varieties of postmiillennialism.  Puritan and Covenanter Historicism, for one. This isn’t it. He offered no exegesis on the timing of the resurrection and the Bock/Blaising/Blomberg crowd have already won the debate.  He didn’t even try to interact with the epeita…eta construction in 1 Corinthians 15.  This is bad.    Further, he cannot explain why men live longer in the millennium (though he is correct, contra amillennialism, that they will and these passages should be read literally).  Further, he cannot locate a “link” between dominion and the return of Christ, which is brand of postmillennialism desperately needs (it makes sense after a few moments thought:  if there is no link between our current obedience and dominion and the late-return of Christ, then we cannot define the texts as postmillennial.   We can just as legitimately see an era like the Reformation as the “golden age” and expect an apostasy now.).  Even more, he defaulted to the view that all premillennialists are of the Hal Lindsey variety.  Tactics like these explain why Historic Premillennialism is the mainstream view among conservative evangelical scholars.  In short, this book reaffirmed my premillennialism.

The appendices alternated between insightful and sinful.  His tactics of resistance are necessary against a humanist institution.  I’ve used a few of them before.  They are sinful against a Christian institution (even one as corrupt as a certain one in the American South; 1 Corinthians 6).  This is particularly ironic since he (rightly) earlier says we should have Christian courts to adjudicate these matters.

Rehabilitating Dominion as a Theological Category

I stand by all my earlier criticisms of Reconstructionism.  Still, when I study the doctrine of sanctification and the image of God (particularly the Shorter Catechism’s language!) I cannot help but see “dominion” as an inescapable concept.

Reconstructionism’s problem was that they “grasped” too early.  Many were trying to take over a compromised system and …I don’t know what they planned to do.  Even when Gary North said (correctly) that the takeover will be by regeneration, not revolution, that begged the question, “Well, why bother with all this law-teaching on taking over the government at all?”

To make matters worse, if the Constitution is a compromise with Freemasonry, which I agree with Gary North and think it is, then why bother with the “Christianity and the Constitution” narrative?

The shame, though, is that dominion got so associated with Reconstructionism that no one will speak of it today.  But if you reject a metaphysical approach to salvation and sanctification, and opt rather (and rightly) for a covenantal approach, you are left with something like dominion.

But don’t be alarmed.  This doesn’t mean we have to go recon.  It just means we need to be honest about the bible’s language.

  • We’ve been renewed in the whole man after the image of Christ.
  • We are priests and kings (Revelation).   This is ruler language.
  • We should not submit again to slavery (Galatians 5-6)
  • We have the spirit of the Lord, which is freedom (2 Corinthians).
  • If sin is ethical in content and not metaphysical, then salvation is ethical deliverance.   Thus, dominion.
  • John Wyclif.

The logic of judicial calvinism

My antipathy towards TULIP as a designation is well-known.   Still, I suppose the moniker “Calvinism” has its uses.

Paul writes,

What if God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (Romans 9:22)

The standard (and correct) Reformed inference is that God is absolutely sovereign over salvation.   The judicial Reformer makes another inference:  the vessels of wrath get progressively smashed in history.

When North Gets it Right

I’m tough on Reconstructionists, but I will give credit where credit is due.   North nails it:

 

Again and again in my writings, I return to this theme. The essence of biblical religion is ethics. The ethical self-government of the redeemed man is the foundation of society. God’s law, not the autonomous laws of the universe, or the mind of man, or the dreams of men, is the basis of all order, including social order. 117 It is from ethics that we proceed to dominion.

This world view is future-oriented and confident. It sees man’s primary struggles as ethical, not metaphysical. We struggle against powerful forces, but we use biblical law as our guide, and call upon God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to apply that law successfully in our lives and institutions. Progress is ethical, intellectual, and also cultural and external. Progress is real, but it is necessarily progress in terms of a permanent standard: biblical law. 118 Self-discipline is of greater importance than precise ritual.

The world of the sorcerer is the mirror image of the dominion religion’s conception of God’s world. It is a world inhabited by powers. These powers battle against man in terms of ritual; any ritual error on man’s part, or any flinching, leads to disaster. Men try to harness these powers: by ritual, by subservience, or by calling even strongerpowers against them. Ethics is irrelevant.

Unholy Spirits, 158.

Why is this important?  North simply puts into practice what I have been saying, too.  Metaphysical religion/chain-of-being religion = magic.    Ethical religion (and corollary: salvation) = dominion by the godly, regenerate man.