Reformation Day Thoughts, Part 2
Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There Is Liberty
Martin Luther as Hercules Germanicus by Hans Holbein, 1523. “In the picture, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Duns Scotus and Nicholas of Lyra already lay bludgeoned to death at his feet and the German inquisitor, Jacob van Hoogstraaten was about to receive his fatal stroke. Suspended from a ring in Luther’s nose was the figure of Pope Leo X,” The Reformation Room.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
- 2 Corinthians 3:17
“Then the children of Israel…forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies” (Judges 2:11,13-14).
It’s often been noted that Israel under the judges went through a number of cycles of faith in the Word of God prosperity, followed by unbelief, leading to bondage to foreign powers, followed by repentance, and finally deliverance from oppression.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this cycle is the close connection between belief and liberty, on one hand, and unbelief and oppression on the other. The passage just quoted from Judges is a good illustration of this principle.
Put another way, spiritual liberty, faith in the Lord, leads to political and economic liberty. Rejecting the Word of God produces slavery both political and economic.
Put still another way, spiritual liberty leads to political and economic liberty, spiritual bondage to political and economic bondage.
Not only did this pattern hold true in ancient Israel, it also holds true today. It was the widespread preaching of and belief in the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone that spiritually freed the people of the nations to which the Reformation came from the bondage of sin and guilt. And those same nations were the very ones to become the freest states on earth politically as well as the most prosperous.
In his booklet Christ & Civilization, John Robbins noted this patter, writing,
Martin Luther’s courageous rejection of – in the name of written revelation, logic, and freedom – of this faith-works religion laid the necessary theological foundation for the emergence of a free, humane, and civilized society from the ancient and medieval paganism of Christendom. The result was religious freedom and her daughters: political, civil, and economic freedom (38).
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. First spiritually, then in other ways politically and economically.
The Current Rise of Tyranny in the West
Given the Biblical pattern described above, and given the tyranny imposed on the formerly free nations of the West by their own governments in the name of fighting Covid, it’s fair to ask whether the West’s current slide into tyranny has anything to do with the West’s rejection of Christ over the past century-plus.
The answer, it seems to this author, is clearly yes. Both Gordon Clark and John Robbins were of that same view. Writing in the Foreword of Clark’s book A Christian View of Men and Things (CVMT), John Robbins made the following important point,
What do the growth and persistence of totalitarianism and war mean? Why is Western civilization collapsing? A Christian View of Men and Things presents the argument that the West is disappearing because Christianity, on which Western civilization was built, has already virtually disappeared in the West. The magnificent superstructure of culture, law, economy, and society that we call Western civilization was built on the foundation of Christian truth. Once belief in that truth was lost – as well as belief in the concept of truth altogether – once the West became atheist or idolatrous, the end of its civilization was inevitable…
It follows that there can be no synthesis of Christianity and non-Biblical views, no condominium, no rapprochement, no détente; indeed, the collapse of the West can be viewed as the collapse of the attempted Thomistic synthesis of human philosophy and Christ. What happened first in the academy happened later in the legislatures and on the battlefields of the world (11-12).
To bring Robbins’ statements into the current year, the lockdowns, mask and vax mandates, along with a host of other evils – feminism, the homosexual movement, the rise of technocracy and world government, the climate change agenda, the growth of government as well as the power of the central banks that provide the financial fuel to drive that growth and the resulting destruction of the value of the national currencies overseen by these central banks, the justification of permanent deficit spending by Keynesian economics and now the even more aggressive Modern Monetary Theory, abortion, nation-breaking, taxpayer-funded mass migration, and the rise of the power and influence of the Antichrist Roman Catholic Church-State – the rise of which can be traced to the disappearance of Christianity – and by Christianity Gordon Clark, John Robbins and this author mean the express statements and the necessary inferences drawn from them found in the 66 books of the Bible – in the West.
Men and brethren, what shall we do?
In his 2006 essay “The Religious Wars of the 21st Century,” John Robbins wrote,
The Protestant Reformation is indeed over; the brief respite of peace, freedom, and prosperity it afforded the West from the long history of human brutality is drawing to a close; and the world is about to enter a new Dark Age of slavery, brutality, and war. Only the second coming of Christ or an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit can prevent religious totalitarians from imposing their will on billions of people.
If Robbins was right, and from the vantage point of 2021 it certainly appears that he was right about the coming of a new Dark Age, what are Christians to do? What is to be our response? Or as the Israelites in Jerusalem cried out when confronted by Peter with their sin of crucifying Christ, “Men and brethren, what are we to do?”
Back in my days in business school, we were told that one option an executive had when confronted with a problem was to do nothing. At first blush, that may sound like a coward’s option, but there are times when doing nothing is a wise choice. If one is faced with a situation that is temporary and not caused by a problem with the business itself, doing nothing and riding out the problem can be a good decision. But given the present circumstances facing Christians in the West, doing nothing is likely not the best choice.
But if we decide to take action, that raises the question, what action should we take? The West, as John Robbins pointed out in “The Religious Wars of the 21st Century back in 2006, has been in collapse for more than a century. One response to that collapse by faithful Protestants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was to turn to fundamentalism. Now there is much to be commended in fundamentalism. It certainly is superior to the theological liberalism against to which it was opposed. Unlike liberalism, which J. Gresham Machen correctly pointed out was not Christianity at all but another faith altogether, fundamentalism is recognizably Christian. And yet, Christians are not called to preserve just a few fundamentals of the faith, but to teach and believe the whole counsel of God.
Another response from Protestants has been neo-Evangelicalism as represented by men such as Billy Graham and publications such as Christianity Today. Neo-Evangelicalism arose after WWII and was an attempt by Evangelicals to regain the cultural influence they had lost in the previous 50 years to liberal Protestants, secularists, and other forms of unbelief. Among the fruits of this approach has been ecumenism, in particular ecumenism involving the Antichrist Roman Catholic Church-State, in the name of fighting the culture war. This ecumenism is in clear violation of many statements in Scripture that expressly prohibit Christians from yoking with unbelievers to carry out the work of God. Unsurprisingly, the neo-Evangelical approach has failed to do anything to stop the slide of the West into totalitarian barbarism, as can be seen by our ever more putrefying culture, growth of unbelief, and erection of a control grid of interlocking governmental and corporate tyranny which threatens to obliterate liberty from the formerly free West.
So, men and brethren, what shall we do? John Robbins’ foreword to CVMT gives us the answer. He wrote, “If civilization is to be restored in the twenty-first century, it will be restored in those areas of the globe where Biblical Christianity is believed.” By “Biblical Christianity” is not meant the truncated Christianity of the fundamentalists, nor the unbelieving “Christianity” of the liberals, nor the compromised Christianity of the neo-Evangelicals. What is meant by “Biblical Christianity” is the whole counsel of God as set forth in the express propositions of the 66 books of the Bible together with their necessary inferences and best summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Our job, yours and mine, is to understand and accept as true these ideas and to apply them to our lives as God grants us the opportunity. It’s easy to speak this way when things are going well, but what about when the going gets tough. What happens when we lose job opportunities because we won’t go along with the vile teachings of Critical Race Theory, or are told we’re full of hate because we won’t bow before Transgender madness, or are denied medical care because we won’t submit to a dangerous and ineffective mRNA inoculation? What happens to our faith if a Chinese-style social credit score system is imposed on us that prevents us from buying or selling because we hold fast our faith? These are serious questions, and we need to be in prayer about them even now.
But whatever comes our way, we know that God is faithful and has purposed it for our own good. Therefore, let us be good soldiers of Christ and fight the good fight of faith. Not in our own strength, for that would be losing. On this Reformation Day, let us remember that we have the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. And he must win the battle.
Trust in Christ alone. For he alone is our hope and salvation.