Please listen to this timely message by Billy Graham on racism and the gospel. This sermon titled, “God and the Color of Man’s Skin,” was preached in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1965 during a time of racial unrest and the civil rights movement in the United States. You can listen to it here.
We live in a day of pervasive lawlessness, wanton destruction of personal property and the taking of human life within our own borders the likes of which no one has experienced in recent memory. Genuinely sincere people seeking legitimate societal changes that many evangelical Christians can agree need to occur, are being manipulated and co-opted by organized violent Marxist and anarchist groups bent upon the destruction of America’s moral values, social structures and form of government. Certain pernicious organizations along with radical leaders within our present government and judiciary, aided by accomplices in certain media outlets, have as their goal the overthrow of our time-tested principles of government, economics and jurisprudence and the moral and social values that constitute civilized life in America. These forces, working in concert, are instigating racial division and allowing willing accomplices to spread fear and perpetrate criminal acts of vandalism, theft, assault and murder against police, innocent people, businesses and the memorials of our national heritage.
From within our moral context, many of us are left baffled and speechless at those who are calling evil good and good evil. We probably sense the need to better understand the times in which we find ourselves living. As an evangelical Christian, I offer the following reflections on the present racial and political distress in our nation. I will consider a biblical view of the role of governments and what happens when governments fail at their responsibilities. I will also discuss what I believe to be the social and political dynamics contributing to the present lawlessness. Looking at our present situation through the advice and examples of two great Americans – Noah Webster and Booker T. Washington – I will offer a Christian perspective on American exceptionalism. And finally I will argue that only the gospel message that is truly “good news” (in contrast to Calvinist soteriology) can provide an ultimate and lasting solution, not only to our racial issues, but the many other problems we are experiencing in America and around the world.
Once more, let me encourage you, at some point, to listen to Billy Graham’s sermon provided above.
The Biblical View on the Duty and Responsibility of Civil Authorities
From its Jewish origins, Christianity was birthed into a unique era of world history. It was a time when Rome ruled most of the known world. The Roman government had a series of authoritative rulers who were considered by the Roman people to have the status of a god and both Jews and Christians had to function within that form of government. And although, in time, Christians would be persecuted by the Roman imperial government, there were periods of peace and calm – the Pax Romana, or “Roman Peace.” Although always dominating and sometimes very cruel, Roman government was one of law and order in which Christians could, for the most part, function freely and in good conscience.
Christians, therefore, were to take care that they not be a cause of political unrest. For instance, early on important questions arose among the Jews and Jesus as to who should get their allegiance – God or the imperial state. Whether or not one should pay tribute to Rome became an issue of allegiance. To pay tribute was viewed by some as betraying the honor due to God alone, yet withholding the tax would amount to sedition against Rome, something the more radical Zealots would have supported. Hence, Jesus, who did not subscribe to the agenda of the Zealot revolutionaries, enjoined his disciples to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Lk. 20:25, RSV) Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce states,
“The spirit of Jesus’ words about the tribute money is echoed by Paul in Rom xiii. 1-7, where he enjoins submission to the secular authorities, who serve God by protecting the law abiding and punishing law-breakers.”
“In very similar vein Peter writes: ‘Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right…Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor’ (I Pet. ii. 13 f., 17).”
In these texts we see the biblical view on the function and duties of governments. They actually “serve God” and they do this “by protecting the law-abiding and punishing law-breakers.” There are laws that some people obey and some people disregard. The function and duty of government is to protect those who respect and obey the laws from those who do not. They also have the responsibility to punish the law-breaker. Responsible leaders are charged with the duty to protect those who do good from those who do evil and also mete out appropriate punishment on the latter.
But note also what Peter says. “Governors” are “to praise those who do right.” “Governors” and others in authority should be able to make a clear distinction between what is right and what is wrong. They are then responsible to act accordingly toward each group – punishing those who do wrong and praising those who do right. Those who do right need to be encouraged and those who do wrong need to be discouraged. When our leaders continually fail or intentionally neglect these responsibilities, lawlessness becomes rampant, law-breakers become a danger for the law-abiding citizens and a civilized way of life breaks down.
In his early reign, the Emperor Nero was instructed by his advisors to give speeches in which he informed the people that he was going to intentionally establish a true, just and fair peace throughout the empire. It was this type of governing to which the Apostle Paul could give his approval. It was in this historical context that he instructed the Roman believers as follows.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Rom 13:3-5, NIV)
This is not a statement about our duty to naively and unquestionably obey any and all types of governments, especially those whose laws and actions are evil. Biblical scholar Ben Witherington III provides further insight into this text.
“Without question, Paul will have heard of the imperial rhetoric. In Romans 13 he is encouraging not merely political quietism but, in fact, a form of nonresistance and pacifism so that no suspicion will be thrown on Christians, either Jewish or Gentile. He could in good faith exhort his audience to pay their taxes and do their civic duties and live in peace with their neighbors because there was great and widespread hope, and not only in Rome, that Nero would keep peace and govern wisely, fairly and justly…It is seldom stressed but should be that Paul is trying to make clear that Roman officials, including Nero, are unwittingly servants of the true God. When they practice justice and mercy, they do so as servants of the God, whether they know it or not, and so it can be a part of honoring the true God to honor and cooperate with the efforts of the Roman state.”
When Paul enjoined believers to respect and pray for those in authority he could do so because those authorities were, for the most part, functioning responsibly. The normal state of affairs should be that “rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” And as long as government is performing its duty in this regard, Christians were to obey their governing authorities. Paul also instructed Timothy in these same principles.
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:1-6, CSB)
Not only does this text give us further insight into the responsibilities of good government along with gospel truths that I will deal with later, but Paul’s instructions “made clear that the young Christian movement was not an anarchist revolution, but was concerned rather to be a positive force in and for society.”
In our modern day that “positive force” may play a role when aggressor nation-states seek to alter the geopolitical landscape by military force, overpowering other nations and committing atrocious evils and other crimes against humanity (e.g., Nazi Germany). Christians who seek to be a positive force on the world stage may fight in such wars for the values of freedom and liberty. Nevertheless, regarding the duties and responsibilities of governing authorities in the first century F. F. Bruce notes that,
“In this ideology Caesar was…the minister of God to execute His wrath on the evil-doer and make it possible for the law-abiding to lead quiet and peaceable lives without molestation.”
Government authorities are acting responsibly when they create a situation in which all the citizens “may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” They should execute judgment upon those who do evil and assure that it is possible for those who obey the laws to “lead quiet and peaceable lives without molestation.”
What Happens When Authorities Fail At Their Responsibilities
Those in authority can fail at their responsibilities and therefore times of peace and calm may not last. The first Christians were not unfamiliar with trying times and suffering for their faith in God and Christ. Christians were tempted to deny their allegiance to Jesus as their only Lord given the emperor-worship which required that they speak about Caesar in terms that for them could only be used to refer to God and Jesus as Lord of all. Hence, Christians suffered various persecutions. The Roman peace was eroding and Rome’s cruelty would be directed at Christians. Bruce observes,
“It was no longer sufficient for Christians to be told that if they did good, they would receive the approval of the secular authorities, as it had been when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans in AD 57. In the First Epistle of Peter, written about six years later, we can see the change taking place before our eyes. Peter enjoins upon his readers due obedience to the rulers and asks them: ‘Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?’ (I Pet. iii. 13). But in the same breath he mentions the possibility of their suffering for righteousness’ sake, and goes on to warn them about a ‘fiery ordeal’ which is coming to test them – an ordeal in which any one of them may be called upon to suffer ‘as a Christian’ (iii. 14 ff., iv. 12 ff.)”
Bruce then gives us insight into the apocalyptic imagery of John’s revelation which relays the historical realities of that time and also gives us insight into the forces then at work; forces possibly at work in our own time and to be expected in the future.
“The Revelation of John reflects the situation of the Asian churches in the Flavian dynasty (AD 69 – 96). A fierce persecution of Christians – no doubt that of AD 64 – has already broken out in Rome (Rev. xvii. 6), and in the province of Asia, too, the hostility of the authorities is directed relentlessly against the churches. This hostility John sees as initiated by the devil, the great red dragon, who wages war against the saints through two principle agents – the beasts of Revelation xiii. The former of these beasts, the beast from the sea (or abyss), is the imperial power; the other, the beast from the land (otherwise called the false prophet), is the imperial cult. The power which in Paul’s time had operated as the minister of God now appears energized by the devil to destroy the people of God. Caesar has trespassed beyond his divinely allotted sphere and is claiming authority over ‘the things that are God’s’; and to this claim Christians can give no countenance.
What then is their defence, as the age-old enemy of God and His people stirs up the imperial power and the imperial cult to make war on them? They conquered him, says John, ‘by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’ (Rev. xii. 11). They refused to compromise their allegiance to Christ, in spite of all the blandishments and threats of their enemies; they submitted to martyrdom, and their blood was like the seed which produced a rich harvest in later generations. The victory which their Lord, ‘the faithful witness’, had already won was held up before them by John to encourage them to persevere in their own faithful witness, so that His victory might be theirs.”
This apocalyptic imagery, that gives us insight into the real spiritual entities that are at work in our world’s systems and in its affairs, are recorded in Scripture for our benefit. Governments, which at one time can be the minister of God in maintaining security and peace, can become the vehicles through which the devil works to bring about turmoil and persecutions. As Christians we are likely to face similar challenges to our faith, if not immediately, perhaps in the near or distant future. But we are not without insight into what is happening and we take comfort in that fact that we are secure in the hands of the God who is the sovereign ruler over all. Bruce states,
“When Caesar encroaches on a sphere which is not his, as in fact he has been doing in so many places in our own day, Christians, who should be foremost in rendering to Caesar what he may rightfully claim, must be foremost in refusing his wrongful claims. For Christians recognize that Jesus Christ their Lord is ‘the ruler of kings on earth’, and therefore Caesar’s ruler too.
…And if as yet we do not see all things put under Him, we may at least bear witness that He is Lord. “The patience and faith of the saints’, which won the victory in the early Christian centuries, will do the same today, when new totalitarianisms, new imperial ideologies, rise up and claim the whole of life as their domain. Such a victory, in fact, is being won before our eyes by our brethren in other parts of the world who triumph through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and are prepared to part with life itself sooner than forswear their allegiance to Christ. While such faithful confessors remain, no Christian need doubt the sure advent of that day when the kingdom of the world becomes ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever’ (Rev. xi, 15).”
The Present Lawlessness
Regarding the coming of the Lord, Paul had to encourage the Thessalonians against being “unsettled or alarmed” as if that day has come and gone. He also gives them a description of what the times will be like before the Lord’s return. Note the theme of lawlessness that aptly describes much that we see happening today. Paul writes,
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thess. 2:1-12, NIV)
Note also the reference in verses 6 and 7 to “what is holding [the man of lawlessness] back” and “the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” F. F. Bruce comments,
“The restraining power is probably the imperial authority as Paul knew it, a valued protection against the lawless forces which rose up to hinder the progress of God’s work. But Paul thought it best to express his mind in veiled language; if his letter fell into the wrong hands, and explicit mention of the possibility that the imperial authority would be taken out of the way might have been regarded as confirmation of the charge of sedition brought against him in Thessalonica a few weeks before.”
Bruce suggests that this “restraining power” refers to responsibly functioning governing authorities, which as discussed above, are to serve as protection “against lawless forces.” Others think this refers to the Holy Spirit. This too is a possible interpretation. The two may not be mutually exclusive.
Law and Order vs. Lawlessness and its Present Dynamics
Our current events reveal a battle between law and lawlessness. Significant events in history always have complex causes that develop over periods of time. That said, the present distress can be pin-pointed to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. It should be clearly stated, and I don’t know of anyone who would disagree, that both the actions and inactions of the police officers involved in this incident, were appalling as well as perplexing. Not only that, they were also dreadful because they resulted in the unnecessary death of a fellow human being. In addition, they were disgraceful. They disgraced the duty and role of the majority of fine, upstanding officers throughout the nation who daily do their job of protecting law-abiding citizens from criminals intent on breaking the law and doing harm to innocent people. And through thoughtless stereotyping these upstanding officers were dishonored because they are the vast majority who go about their task in a professional and responsible manner. But now, the horrific actions of these few, vilify and stigmatize the characters and intentions of police everywhere. But such generalizing and stereotyping is of course fallacious and ought to be checked.
Incidents like this have raised much talk about “systemic racism” in our nation; a term we would all be helped to understand better if it could be more clearly defined and identified. Certainly, there are racist individuals throughout society, and we would be naive or in denial to think that racism doesn’t go both ways amongst ethnic and religious groups. Surely one race doesn’t have a monopoly on prejudice. And given the sinful nature of man, no racial or religious group is immune from it. Yet, individuals make up the group, and therefore groups are racist only to the degree the individuals are. This is why there needs to be a change in the individual if there is to be a change in the group and in society as a whole. More on this later.
Nevertheless, the task of being a police officer who has to insert himself into dangerous situations is a very difficult one. Each incident has a very different set of circumstances that contribute to its end result. And too often there is a deafening silence regarding the role of the perpetrators of the crime in the escalation of such incidents. Gross disrespect of police officers and their authority by disobeying instructions or violently resisting legitimate arrest are likely to cause an escalation of tensions that understandably lead to unplanned and unfortunate ends.
That said, we are being told that certain particular policing incidents that have occurred over the past years are evidence of “systemic racism” (e.g., Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rayshard Brooks) I would encourage you to read about and carefully examine the video of these altercations. Certain individuals in certain black communities are concerned about whether or not their lives matter when it comes to police actions in those communities. The situation has been presented by some in the extreme, as if the police are out to “kill black people.” Other stereotypes depict most police as failing in their duties and that police departments are havens of “systemic racism.” But simply because a white officer, in the course of his duties, finds himself in an altercation with a black person, or a black officer in the course of his duties finds himself in an altercation with a white person, this does not mean there is any racist component to the incident. Neither should the need for the officer to use overwhelming force to subdue the suspect or criminal be construed as race motivated. These officers are charged with engaging those suspected of criminal activity or in the act thereof, and as such will probably have to use significant physical force to apprehend and arrest the perpetrator. Race should be immaterial to the criminal circumstance, just as justice is blind. Individual incidents to which the police are called need to be carefully examined on the basis of their own unique facts. Racial prejudice, which goes both ways, and no one denies exists, may or may not be involved in any particular law enforcement incident. Each incident has its own details that need to be brought to light and carefully examined so verdicts are rendered that are just and fair. And many incidents can be kept from escalating into needless violence if the general rule of respecting and obeying police and those in authority is practiced. My point is that surely the mere confrontation between two different races in the enforcement of the law does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that either that officer, the police department or our society is “systemically racist.”
So what is it about these incidents that warrants the type and extent of lawlessness on behalf of “the protestors?” It is indeed difficult to justify the position that the present lawlessness, rebellion, violence and destruction is an effective means by which perceived injustices will be corrected. What is it about these isolated interactions between police and criminal suspects that justifies the violent lawlessness in our city streets that we have witnessed in the past months? If there is an egregious incident by police officers who are charged with the protection and preservation of the life and livelihood of our citizenry, regardless of the race of the victim, we still need a system of law and the order to prosecute those officers. And as discussed above, our governors, mayors, judges and other authorities should uphold law and order. That is their duty. So even though a person wears a police uniform, if they commit a criminal act, they too need to be brought to justice.
Will there be justice for George Floyd? Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with 2nd degree murder and the others with aiding and abetting murder. Our judicial process, which we must let take its course, is, as far as we know, working for justice in this case. And we must always be vigilant to maintain a justice system free from prejudice. But how does the lawlessness that pervades our nation serve the cause of justice if it undermines law and order? Such lawlessness cannot serve the cause of justice, and it only perpetuates more injustice against innocent citizens. It deprives many of them of their freedom, safety and livelihoods. It is difficult to understand how all that has happened and continues to happen in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death is a legitimate call for justice, especially when “due process” is taking its course against these officers.
Furthermore, what precisely are the injustices that still remain in our society that need to be remedied that would justify such lawlessness and violence? From the political perspective, why is it that after 40 years in government office Joe Biden and fellow Democrats along with Republicans have not identified for the American people where racial injustices remain and have worked to remedy those injustices? If lack of political power and influence was one of those injustices, then it is legitimate to point out that with the election of our first black president for two terms, that particular “injustice” was overcome. Therefore, it is also a legitimate question to ask why is it that in the eight years of the Obama/Biden administration other injustices were not clearly communicated and addressed. I for one do not want to see injustice in our land and am grateful to those who made sacrifices to begin and sustain the civil rights movement from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. What black individuals and communities experienced living in the South during the “Jim Crow” era under Democratic Party leadership was unconscionable. And we should be diligent to identify where or how minority groups are presently being deprived of opportunities and advantages that other groups may have and enjoy. I consider this an important matter.
But this matter should be pursued without false motives and pretenses. Black Lives Matter seeks to eradicate “state-sanctioned violence and anti-black racism.” But how is this defined? Is it whenever a white police officer has an altercation or uses force against a person who has committed a crime and happens to be black? What amounts to “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state?” Would that include the legitimate activities of police and the national guard to suppress “peaceful protesters” when they commit criminal acts like vandalism, destruction of personal and government property, theft or retaliatory violence against police? Let’s be careful not to redefine “the fight for civil rights” to include supporting anarchistic ideologies that would undermine our social and economic structures, along with the moral values that make America a nation of freedom and justice. Let’s be careful not to accept false “narratives” and false or superficial definitions being foisted on America. A media commentator observed that there was no “person of color” among the staff members that accompanied attorney general Barr at his recent hearing before the House of Representatives. The commentator concluded that this was an example of “systemic racism.” Would the fact that the two CNN morning anchors are both white also be an indication of “systemic racism?”
As America is falsely characterized as a nation of “white supremacists” and its commitment to upholding the values of law and order are mischaracterized as “authoritarian,” groups like Black Lives Matter or Antifa will be perceived as fighting for the “good” and the “right,” as defined by them, by toppling America wholesale. We are all against white supremacy and fascism, but America is certainly not a white supremacist or fascist nation, and certainly the vast majority of Americans reject being defined as such. Therefore, we don’t need an anti-fascist movement like Antifa bent on disrupting and reconstructing America under a Marxist socialist ideology. Yes, of course, black lives matter because all lives matter, but we reject the political and social upheaval of America that Black Lives Matter, as an organization, has as its purpose. To the degree that they have as their goals the overthrow of America’s fundamental political philosophy and systems, the annihilation of time-tested social structures (e.g., the nuclear family) and the obliteration of Christian moral values and duties, we should call these groups what they really are – treasonous. After all, our enemies can be both “foreign and domestic.”
Disrespecting, berating, attacking or eliminating police or other authorities is certainly not a “civil right.” Making all people economically equal via governmental edicts is certainly not a “civil right.” As I will demonstrate below from the advice of Noah Webster and the life of Booker T. Washington, there are all sorts of distinctions among people that as regards to their personal talents, social status, economic prosperity or educational advancement that, no matter what their race or ethnicity, spring not from governmental action, but from the development of certain inner character qualities. These qualities cannot be legislated from the outside. They need to be personally developed from within. This is not to say that changes in laws are irrelevant to the issues of justice and personal potential. The “Jim Crow” laws that were violations of the civil rights of black people in the South needed to be remedied by the repeal of those laws by law. My point is to say that the changes in law need to spring from an objective Christian moral framework that produced the character qualities evident in people like Martin Luther King, Jr. who advocated non-violent change, not to alter the American political system and social values that allow for such changes, but to improve that system with respect to any injustices within it.
That said, it rather looks to me that any legitimate “civil rights” issues that should be addressed have been squelched and “the race problem” commandeered to accomplish the goals of subversive political groups seeking the overthrow of American values and systems of government through the tactics of intimidating and dismantling authorities and creating social unrest. I don’t doubt that the perspective I have stated here, which does not coincide with the thinking and agenda of these subversive groups, will be considered “racist” and the views of a “right-wing extremist” and therefore need to be silenced. But that would just prove my point. Such groups want to “cancel” any voices or opinions that do not align with their own views, but this is contrary to our first amendments rights of the freedom of religion, speech, press, petition the government for a redress of grievances and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.”
So the principles of justice, such as, probable cause, a person is innocent until proven guilty, that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt and that everyone has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers must be maintained. There is a “due process of law” that every person deserves that should not be compromised. But it is sad to say that the present forces of disorder are far reaching. They are even becoming genuinely “systemic” with regard to jurisprudence. When we forfeit our right to a jury trial to the corrupt partiality of a sole arbiter in the arbitration process, observe judges legislating from the bench and failing to make decisions on the basis of the law, deciding in defense of criminals and against the law-abiding citizens, failing to detain or jail law-breakers, or being motivated by political appeasements and repayment for appointment to the bench, then the system of American justice has been corrupted and will crumble. This is a truly systemic problem. And when there is no justice in the land the nation will destroy itself from within.
Even if we grant there have been incidents of racial injustice perpetrated by police officers, which we all agree would need correcting, there are still those who are using police confrontations to incite racial divisions for causes other than the establishment of a just society. They want to establish a new society based on different values. That is why they are calling for the removal of the policing function in a society, by defunding or other means. This would allow lawlessness to increase; a lawlessness that serves their nefarious purposes. Therefore, the animosity and disrespect we are witnessing against police and their authority seems to be a necessary step in the dismantling of our present systems of law and order by those whose aim is to rebuild the nation on political systems that history has proven inferior to ours in many respects. The present dismantling of traditional policing and the neutralizing of our ruling authorities through violence, intimidation and fear or their own acquiescence to a Marxist socialist ideology, are necessary for the success of the anarchist’s agenda.
People from all other parts of the world endeavor to come to America. Historically, America has proven its form of government to be superior to all others. It is the one nation whose values must be maintained so it can remain a beacon of light for the oppressed. It is the nation that cherished and was founded upon a belief in God which gave birth to freedom, equality, justice and law and order. To the degree we have acknowledged and lived on the basis of these values we have prospered. But there are those who seek to destroy these values and the American civilization built upon them. The reality of the situation goes deeper than our eyes can see. From a biblical Christian perspective, and what certain Scriptures previously quoted have revealed, is that there are objective spiritual entities and forces for good and objective spiritual entities and forces for evil at work in the world. The political and social spheres of the nations of the world are the stages upon which these more fundamental spiritual entities are at work. Later I will tell of the ultimate solution to this spiritual problem, but in the meantime let us consider some practical wisdom that will provide some perspective along with solutions to many of our present divisions.
The Way Out of Lawlessness
As I have already indicated, the word I use to describe what is happening in our nation today is lawlessness. From our brief survey of Scripture we have concluded that lawlessness, wherever it occurs, is destructive of a just and civil society. We have also seen that the governing authorities are responsible to know the difference between right and wrong and support the right while punishing the wrong. Lawlessness is a sure sign of a failure of our civic leaders to perform their oaths and duties.
But why all this lawlessness? What causes people and our leadership to not understand the vandalism, theft and violent destruction of life and property as the evil that it is, and as such needs to be stopped? What other higher principle or cause could there be for which such lawlessness needs to be encouraged or tolerated?
Noah Webster (1758-1843) was an American lexicographer who in 1828 produced An American Dictionary of the English Language. He was also a lawyer, schoolmaster, author, newspaper editor and an outspoken politician. What Webster says below reflects the beliefs of many, if not most, of the people in his day. He gives us both insight into the reason for America’s success and where the solution to today’s problems of racial division, poverty, violence, criminal behavior and feelings of confusion, meaninglessness, hopelessness and despair lie. He writes,
“Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion. Men began to understand their natural rights, as soon as the reformation from popery began to dawn in the sixteenth century; and civil liberty has been gradually advancing and improving as genuine Christianity has prevailed…the religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and his apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitution of government…
…The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible…As to maxims of wisdom and prudence, the Proverbs of Solomon furnish a complete system, and sufficient, if carefully observed, to make any man wise, prosperous, and happy. The observation, that “a soft answer turneth away wrath,” if strictly observed by men, would prevent half the broils and contentions that inflict wretchedness on society and families.
Let your first care through life, be directed to support and extend the influence of the Christian religion and the observance of the Sabbath. This is the only system of religion which has ever been offered to the consideration and acceptance of men, which has even probable evidence of a divine original; it is the only religion that honors the character and moral government of the Supreme Being; it is the only religion which gives even a probable account of the origin of the world, and of the dispensations of God toward mankind; it is the only religion which teaches the character and laws of God, with our relations and our duties to him; it is the only religion which assures us of an immortal existence; which offers the means of salvation, and consoles mankind under the inevitable calamities of the present life.
…the moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts because that are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
As the means of temporal happiness then the Christian religion ought to be received, and maintained with firm and cordial support. It is the real source of all genuine republican principles. It teaches the equality of men as to rights and duties; and while it forbids all oppression, it commands due subordination to law and rulers.”
This certainly seems to be a sensible solution to “vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war” – being a precise description of what we are experiencing today throughout our land and throughout the world.
The older generation still alive today can testify to the singing of Christian hymns, the reading of Scripture and the pledging of allegiance to the American flag, which included the words “under God,” in the public schools. Today Christianity is maligned as delusional and the flag is being burned in our streets signifying the outright rejection of all that America stands for. As the influence of Scripture and the Christian faith wane in America, we will no longer be able to tell right from wrong. We, as a people, have lost our moral compass which was once provided to us by the Bible. Christian theism was the belief system that was pervasive among those who settled our nation and established its government. This moral drift, which has been a long time coming, is now affecting every part of our culture. The present social and political upheaval has occurred because as a nation we have forfeited our belief and trust in God along with His principles and precepts as found in Scripture. Note the correlation between the biblical descriptions of lawlessness I quoted earlier and our present day events. That is not a coincidence. The Bible is a book of timeless and prophetic truths that have direct application to our lives today. That is where we need to turn to learn the truth about God, ourselves as sinners and our need for salvation through faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul gives an apt description of what it will be like in “the last days.” He writes,
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, NIV)
Even in this negative description, if we take the antithesis of each vice, there is sound instruction for all on how to live. “Don’t be narcissistic. Think about the good of others.” “Don’t be greedy for money. Give to the needs of others.” “Don’t be boastful or proud. Be humble.” “Don’t’ abuse others. Be kind.” “Obey your parents.” Etc. Who can argue that a community based on such values wouldn’t be fine place to live? It would also seem that law enforcement would be kept to a minimum because crime would be kept to a minimum.
The beginning biblical survey provided a reality check on the political and social ideologies being proposed for America today. Which ideology is in accord with the truth of the way things really are and is therefore the ideology that will provide the security and peace most people want. Socialism? Communism? Totalitarianism? Anarchy? What ideologies have historically lead nations down the path of political and economic struggle or demise? Which ideology is the one that promotes freedom of religion, freedom of speech, law and order, equal opportunity for all, individual responsibility, incentive and economic prosperity and growth? Which ideology is informed by the timeless, abiding biblical truths that promote the good of all people? I submit to you, that even with all its needed improvements, it has been our American experiment that was founded on the principles of the Christian religion that has tended to produce the various freedoms, safety, security and prosperity that Americans once enjoyed and most want to see restored in our land.
Democratic Party Governmental Systemic Racism
The most serious example of “systemic racism” may be found in the halls of congress and local governments. Indeed, it may be the case that the racial issues that presently confront our nation are either largely manufactured or are being exacerbated by radical left Democratic politicians for the purpose of maintaining or gaining political power. Frustrated with President Trump, because he is not a Washington insider and refuses to compromise his core beliefs and agenda for this country, Democrats are bent on ousting him no matter what tactics need to be employed. It certainly seems that this is a case of the ends justifying the means. Therefore, Democrats seem willing to adopt into the party the more radical Marxist and anarchist groups who have their own agenda to dismantle the present form of government and construct another according to their own political and social ideologies. While feckless Republicans stand idly by watching Democratic run cities being taken hostage by violent mobs, the silence of the Democrats to call these daily confrontations what they actually are – riots – serves to encourage them. And when Trump takes responsibility to protect federal property with federal law enforcement, Democrats spin it as if that show of force is turning what would otherwise be “peaceful protests” into the lawless bedlam that they are. But this “explanation” is to turn things on its head for political gain. The hope is that enough people won’t see through their duplicity and nonsense. These riots have nothing to do with “racial justice.” They have everything to redefining law and order as “authoritarianism” or legitimate police actions as “police brutality” and the necessary force of the national guard as “gestapo tactics.” They have everything to do with instigating racial animosities and destabilizing the nation and the economy so that the situation can, at the right time, be blamed on president Trump and those who are promoting lawlessness and disorder can gain power.
Many in congress who are beholden to big money donors and special interest groups take advantage of the black race for their own political ends. A political philosophy and party that creates a dependent class that it can exploit for its own agendas is perhaps the most serious “systemic” problem we face. Black lives matter only as far as they serve the purpose of propelling the Democratic Party into power. This party engenders racial division and prolongs racial conflicts. It insults and demeans black people by stereotyping and pigeon-holing them as disadvantaged and oppressed while suppressing the Christian values that enable people to live upright lives in peace and prosperity. They suppress the Christian message of love for God, love for neighbor and salvation in Christ. Noah Webster’s advice of personal responsibility and self-discipline are ignored. They would rather send the message that black citizens cannot succeed without the gifts and provisions from the Democratic Party; gifts and provisions which keep them beholden to government and their party in particular. This strategy gets votes and that party’s lust for power and control is a predominant cause of the corruption, violence and mayhem we are witnessing today. To the degree that they continue to project upon both black and white Americans the sins of our regretful history of slavery and the struggles in the reconstruction and civil rights eras, and discourage the character traits of self-respect, individual self-discipline and moral responsibility that provide peace among neighbors, goodwill between men, establish security, promote industriousness, economic prosperity and educational advancement, the Democratic Party is a contributing factor to the collapse of our society from the within.
The Democratic Party Alternative: The Christianity of Booker T. Washington
The life of Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) stands in direct contrast to the contemporary liberal Democratic political ideology. He was born into slavery and yet achieved economic prosperity, political prominence and significant educational advancement, becoming the head of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. What was the explanation of Washington’s success? Historian Marvin Olasky writes that “Washington always emphasized individual responsibility” and “humility over pride.” He told his people that “we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life.” He believed that “education and hard work would pave the road to political rights.” But the most important thing in his life was his Christian religion. Olasky writes,
“He saw Christianity as the remedy for all social evils, asking and then answering the question, “What is the remedy for lynching? Christian education of the white man and the black man.”
Washington taught his students that biblical teaching should be the basis of their work: “I want every Tuskegee student as he finds his place in the surging industrial life about him to give heed to the things which are “honest and just and pure and of good report…” He wanted students to do everything coram deo, “in the sight of God.””
“Some also thought it strange that religion was more important than politics in his life; as Washington’s daughter, Portia, said, “We never at home began the day without prayer, and we closed the day with prayer in the evening. He read the Bible to us each day at breakfast and prayed; that was never missed. Really he prayed all the time.”
Olasky documents an exchange between Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth that gives us insight into the two very different paths their leaders were proposing for Negro advancement. Washington’s path was in sympathy with that of Sojourner Truth.
“The message of changing society person by person, heart by heart, was different from that of many previous black leaders who had grown up in the anti-slavery movement. Frederick Douglass, who did not have the Christian base on which Washington would stand, once spoke passionately in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as he described bigotry against blacks. He finally cried out, “The Negro has no hope of justice from whites, no possible hope save in his own right arm. It must come to blood. The Negroes must fight for themselves.”
Douglass sat down, his case powerfully made, but then Sojourner Truth raised the eyes of those in the audience with one brief question: “Frederick, is God dead?” Douglass had no answer for her. When Washington became a nationally recognized black leader the tone of the black-white debate changed.”
Washington knew that the solutions to racial strife and wealth accumulation were not ultimately to be found in government. Today, “reparations” to black people is being discussed as a way to remedy the injustice of slavery and other types of governmental and private sector inequities that have occurred against minorities (i.e., redlining). But Washington was adamant about where the true solution was to be found.
“He expressed faith in God and refused to turn to what some believed was a higher power, government.”
Washington was concerned that the highest ambition of many Negro’s was to hold a government office or work in a position connected with the government. He said,
“I never liked the atmosphere of Washington. I early saw that it was impossible to build up a race of which the leaders were spending most of their time, thought and energy in trying to get into office, or in trying to stay there after they were in.”
Rather than looking to the government, Washington’s formula for personal and economic success was,
“Believe in God, follow God’s principle’s for building strong families and strong businesses, and all the rest will come eventually.”
There is talk these days about African Americans having missed out on “generational wealth” and a “divest to invest” strategy which would reallocate monies from police departments into black communities. Washington added his perspective to the creation and maintenance of wealth which was also an issue in his day. Olasky writes,
“Once he told a crowd of five thousand at a Harlem Casino in New York city to “stop staying here and there and everywhere and begin to live somewhere.” He talked of the need to save money not in abstract terms but with sympathetic description of the temptations each city store window offered: “The dollars almost jump out of your pockets as you go by on the sidewalk.”
Still, Washington always emphasized individual responsibility. He told the Harlem audience, “You men working for rich men here in the city smell the smoke of so many twenty-five-cent cigars that after a while you feel as though you must smoke twenty-five-cent cigars. You don’t stop to think that when the grandfathers of those very men first came from the country a hundred years ago they smoked two-for-five cigars.”
Washington’s advice reminds us of the tenth commandment against covetousness. Through individual responsibility we need to set our own course, accumulate our own wealth and establish ourselves in the will of God for us as individuals, not to demand for ourselves what we see others have acquired. Governments are to provide the law and order that creates the peace and security that are necessary for all people to profit from what America has to offer – given they develop the character traits of individual discipline, hard work and taking personal responsibility for their thoughts, attitudes and actions.
Washington was certainly not unaware of the inequities of his time, but that is what makes his perspective all the more remarkable. Even with all its racial division, having grown up in this land that had a Christian presence and where the Bible was taught even among the slaves, Washington called people to practice the biblical morality he knew was part of their American experience.
“Washington’s greatest contributions came when he spoke against the grain, challenging prodigal sons to come home to the biblical morality they had been taught.”
And if suffering does happen to come your way, let it not be for what you bring upon yourself because of your own undisciplined, irresponsible, immoral behavior. Stay away from trouble and trouble will most likely stay away from you.
I submit to you that the Christian faith and the attitudes and actions it produces is what this nation needs for it to be healed of its ills. Washington understood that liberty without virtue would lead to a new form of slavery.
Yet, there are today certain influential people in government and education that fight for the expulsion of the mention of God and the Christian faith from public life. In doing so they tear from our social fabric those threads of eternal truths and the change of mind and heart exemplified in the life and example of Booker T. Washington that keep that fabric together. Those who want to expunge every vestige of God from the public sphere are not only clearly violating our first amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech, but want to suppress the truth about the positive effects that Christian theism and the gospel have had in the founding and progress of our nation. It is only by virtue of certain biblical truths (e.g., that we are all made in “the image of God” (Gen. 1:26, 27), that “God shows no partiality” (Rom. 2:11), etc.), that we could produce the form of government and jurisprudence that we have enjoyed since our founding. Documents like the Declaration of Independence unashamedly reference “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” and that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The seeds of the abolition of all injustices reside in the Christian theistic principles enshrined in our founding documents. Booker T. Washington was correct. Christianity is the remedy for all social evils.
In contrast to the moral good and change in behavior Christianity produces in the individual and by extension within the nation, the rise of atheism inevitably leads to the absence of any objective grounds upon which to establish moral values and duties. The result is individual or societal moral relativism. And the removal of the references to God in our public life is one example of the intolerance that those who are supposedly fighting for tolerance have with those who hold to a different point of view. Godless political ideologies fail to encourage the formation of an individual’s inner moral and ethical character. They fail to communicate that an individual is first and foremost personally responsible for their actions and their habits and the character that develops from those habits. Upon that character, given equal opportunities, and even in the face of adversities, rests that person’s future for good or for ill. Their character will dictate their own economic prosperity and educational advancement. There are those who would rather breed blame and discontent promoting the lawlessness that runs rampant in our city streets day after day.
If you are astonished at how some people can approve of today’s lawlessness, then you have sufficient moral insight and perspective to know that something is very wrong in their thinking. People are suppressing and defying the moral principles and ethical standards that are not only found in divine revelation but are in accord with the “laws of nature and nature’s God.” We all know what is morally right by our conscience, common sense and moral intuitions. Please do not forfeit these. Yet many have. Certain governors, mayors and persons in authority cannot honestly face things as they really are. The rioting, vandalism, looting, assault, arson, the defacing and destruction of personal and public property along with the disrespect and violence against law enforcement and outright murder, is in their minds a “peaceful protest.” In the thinking of most people these are the acts of criminals who need to be arrested and punished. Seeing things backwards, some political leaders claim that law enforcement is to blame for inciting people to violence. As I mentioned above, attempts to bring law and order so as to protect the lives and livelihoods of peaceful citizens are labeled “Gestapo activities.” When police, who are verbally abused, need to fight back against being pummeled with bats, bricks, bottles and lasers, it is called “police brutality.” In the reporting from certain media outlets, no responsibility is placed upon the law-breaking criminal “protesters” for their refusal to obey police orders. Their disobedience to authority is the cause of the violent clashes. And the more the “protesters” commit criminal acts the more they escalate the conflict. After all, police have the responsibility to prevent crime and arrest criminals. A complicit media frames the issues in a negative light against law enforcement. Instead of “Portland criminals vandalize, destroy and set fire to police property while police attempt to rein in the violence by making arrests,” it is reported as, “Feds use tear gas against Portland protesters.” This is an attempt to project the situation in our streets as akin to the civil rights era in which the police, who were unprovoked, perpetrated the violence upon genuinely peaceful protesters. In order to project that image, these criminals must always be described as peaceful and innocent while the police are described as using brutal tactics. This gains sympathy for a “divest to invest” strategy and justifies defunding the police.
So what are we witnessing in these current events? There are complicated forces at work, but most fundamentally from a biblical point of view we are seeing the failure of mankind, in and of himself, to solve his most pressing problems. Even our space satellites are now being “weaponized.” Wherever mankind goes he brings conflict and strife. Why? Because his most pressing problem is within himself. That problem is called sin. All people have a sin nature and therefore all people sin. Small sins, large sins, it does not matter as far as the problem itself and its solution is concerned.
The Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Prov. 14:34) If we insist on ignoring the problem of sin in man, the civilization and values America stands for and offers to the world will continue to erode. And as history informs us, the old forms of socialistic and violent totalitarian dictatorships will emerge to replace America as we know it. History, being a window into the past, is therefore also a window into the future. Certain ideologies produce predictable and inevitable results. Certain courses lead to certain ends. We know which ideologies fail to produce security, peace, justice and prosperity. And those who would implement those ideologies here know that America’s history must be rewritten or erased. For evil governments to gain a foothold and ultimately be embraced and entrenched in a nation like America, America’s history must be expunged. Its historical markers and monuments must be removed. That is precisely what we are now experiencing. Any cultural history, thought and speech that does not agree with the ideologies that are taking control through violence, intimidation and fear must be “cancelled.” For instance, in a recent congressional hearing called by congressional Democrats to hear from Attorney General Barr on topics of concern to them, Barr was effectively silenced by them by employing the technical tactic of “reclaiming my time.” It was a sham “hearing” in which Democrats merely wanted to use Barr as their sounding-board to pontificate on their political opinions and agendas. They did not want to hear from the attorney general except to answer “yes” or “no” to their leading, prejudicially biased questions. If this continues, the false gods and idols of totalitarian dictatorships will replace the abiding values that the Christian influence established in our nation from its beginning.
Certainly there are injustices that stain America’s past. Some were even wrongly “justified” on religious grounds that had nothing to do with the Christian faith rightly understood. But, the grounds for the removal of those injustices were contained in the biblical truths that informed the American mind. A key biblical truth that would in time dislodge slavery and other racial injustices is that all human beings are “created in the image of God.” (Gen. 1:26, 27) In the searching and convicting light of this truth, when it is truly believed, slavery and racial injustice cannot long endure. Moreover, the Bible’s central message is the “good news” that the salvation God accomplished in Jesus is for all persons. That means that God loves all people. This good news not only serves to put everyone on an equal footing but offers the inner transformation by the power of the Spirit which removes the hatred and prejudice that stem from our sinful nature within. More on this later. But suffice it to say here that without a belief in God, a respect for God’s Word and the transformative gospel message at work in the lives of America’s citizens so that they are, for the most part, able to govern themselves and live in harmony and peace, the maintenance of harmony and peace will have to be enforced by ever more authoritarian government intrusion. Trust and confidence will shift from self-government under God to the frail reeds of local and national governments run by those who have not been transformed by the gospel and will therefore seek to acquire more and more power and eventually absolute control. The words “In God We Trust” printed on our currency and “one nation under God” in our pledge of allegiance mean something. They are a testimony to our theistic heritage. There is no substitute for the inner changes a theistic worldview and the gospel create in the individual and in a nation. Government has its essential and legitimate role as I pointed out in our biblical and theological survey. But it cannot create the internal change necessary for a change of heart, mind and life. Only the gospel message can do that. This change is the basis for individual discipline and moral responsibility. It is the virtuous character of its citizens that makes a nation great. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12) applies not only to the psalmist’s Israel, but to any people who acknowledge the God of the Bible and live according to the truths in his Word. Without a reverent acknowledgment and belief in a higher divine authority and being informed by God’s revelation in Scripture, disrespect for authority and lawlessness will increase. History teaches us that “re-imaginings” that spring from the minds of men that believe they are the measure of all things and may fashion their lives and the world according to their own desires and designs, cannot make progress in creating a just peace in a nation or in this world.
In contrast, if there is a God and he is the Creator of mankind, then there is a design for human relationships and societies which we must acknowledge and adhere to in order to promote human rights and live in peace without fear or want. If God is good, those things that he reveals about how we should live and govern ourselves will be good for us. Human institutions, to the degree that they intentionally incorporate what God has revealed regarding man’s sin nature and are founded upon these Christian truths and principles, and allow for the promulgation of the “good news” of God’s saving work in Christ, will continue to thrive.
The testimony of history is that America has been exceptional among all the other nations of the world as to its civil government, system of justice, ethical and moral standards, social and religious freedoms and the opportunities allowed by its free-market economic system. Historically America valued the sanctity and dignity of human life. It encouraged individual responsibility and the freedom and security that lead to peace and prosperity. All these are necessary for a sense of personal worth, liberty, industry, economic prosperity, educational advancement and equal opportunities for all. Now, was all this merely accidental? Why is America exceptional in these ways? History bears out that the pervasiveness of theistic belief, and Christian belief in particular, had a weighty formative influence on the thinking and in the lives of its settlers, founders and first citizens. The influence of the Christian mind and life upon our entire culture is incontrovertible. Therefore, if there is a Creator God that has revealed himself in nature, conscience, Christ and Scripture, and there was a people who were humble enough and intent enough to seek and acknowledge that God and his ways, it would seem that something like America is precisely what we might have expected to emerge in time. Of course it was imperfect in many respects and there were many injustices done throughout its history, but this too only confirms the biblical truth of sin in man. Nevertheless, if its people put their trust in the God who is there, and take seriously his revelation to them with regard to both sin and salvation, then we would expect to see the good of the America we once knew restored. We would not be experiencing the dissolution of that America that is occurring right before our eyes. In other words, America needs a Christian spiritual revival. And if the true gospel of “good news” were to be preached and taught I believe that revival would occur. This is why the restoration and preservation of the true gospel message, especially within our evangelical churches, is so important. Because salvation in Jesus Christ is God’s central purpose and work in history, the preservation and proclamation of that “good news” throughout the world is God’s utmost concern. That is the message that gives hope, purpose and meaning to our lives which otherwise remain hopeless, purposeless and meaningless.
What I am not saying is that Christianity is about establishing a Christian nation. Christianity and the Kingdom of God is about telling people about the “good news” of their salvation. And as we saw in the biblical survey above, Christian belief and discipleship may lead to persecution. Neither am I saying that this nation was established by a monolithic religious group intent on the same righteous goals. Far from it. Indeed, there was a mix of interests, motives and practices. Some were good and wise which lead to America’s productivity and prosperity. Others were very evil and left deep scars of injustice upon the nation’s history. There were even those who attempted to justify these evils on the basis of Scripture, as in the case with Southern pre-civil war slavery and the post-civil war struggle for civil rights. But these were of course atrocious misinterpretations of the text. The indigenous American peoples were unjustly routed from their lands by those who were not only genuinely seeking to establish a unified nation for all peoples, but others who were motivated by greed and were intent on amassing land and wealth out West. But again, these dark blots on America’s history, only go to prove the biblical truth that there is something very wrong within mankind which the Bible calls sin. One only needs to watch the news to see sin in action. And because of our sin, which separates us from God, we are in desperate need for reconciliation with God and salvation from the just divine judgment due our sins. Again, the gospel is the answer.
The facts of history are very complex. But there is a central point to all history. It’s the cross of Christ. The Bible testifies to God becoming man for the very reason of remedying the problem of our sin nature from which all other problems flow. And if the Christian answers sound to you too simplistic so as to be summarily dismissed, then I challenge you to attend more carefully to current events. I would especially point out to you the statements of particular political “authorities” who are being intimidated by the nature and level of the violence in their cities and are therefore declaring what is wrong to be right and what is right to be wrong. Their lack of wisdom and common sense leave the common man at a loss to understand such thinking and actions. My point is that sin is real. It is deceptive, it confuses and it leaves people perplexed and in darkness. Neither we the people nor our leaders, in and of ourselves, are capable of providing a lasting solution to these problems.
God’s Solution: The “Good News”
Having presented some of the biblical material on the duties of governments and provided some of the evidence of the Christian influence in America from the lives of Noah Webster and Booker T. Washington, we can confidently say that a significant contributor to our present national distress is the rejection and absence of Christian theism, the knowledge of its biblical commands and precepts and most importantly the teaching and preaching of its central message of the gospel as the “good news” of salvation in Christ. If history teaches us anything it is mankind’s failure to devise governing structures that can create a just and lasting peace apart from the change of mind and heart that only comes from belief in the Christian gospel. That is what the history of this nation testifies to in the examples I gave above. Those examples could be multiplied. That is the reason why America, while not perfect, has nevertheless been exceptional compared to all the other nations in the world.
In our day of atheistic intellectual and moral relativism, we need a good dose of truth. Where is truth to be found? It is found in the One who said “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn. 14:6) It is found in Jesus. Everything about Jesus and what he came to accomplish for us is the truth about life. Jesus is also “the way” in the midst of a time where many have lost their way. And given the death that all of us will someday die, whether at the hands of riotous mobs or as a real possibility due to Covid-19 or from some other cause or just old age, Jesus is “the life.” I have said emphatically that George Floyd’s death was a sad tragedy. But his death did not have to be an ultimate tragedy if he believed in Jesus Christ as his savior and his sins were forgiven and therefore had and still has eternal life. That is the life that Jesus offers all of us today. Jesus said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25, CSB)
It is this promise of life that counters the profound helplessness and sadness we experience in watching George Floyd’s life being taken from him. And even more so, God is a God of justice. In Christ he justifies us, that is declares us “Not Guilty!” so that we are no longer under the punishment due our sin. But this also means that those that are the victims of injustice in this life, those who do not get justice here and now, will get it in the future when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15, CSB) On atheism there is no ultimate justice for those who never received it. They never will get justice. But on Christian theism victims of injustice will receive justice. God will make sure of it. But since God is just and must mete out justice, how then can we escape the “sentencing” due us because of our sin? How can we be justified? Well, God took care of that too. We all need the assurance that before God we too can be justified, for we all have sinned against him. The Apostle Paul explains how before God in his divine “courtroom,” we are declared righteous and are justified in Christ Jesus by faith.
“22 The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 … in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:22-26, CSB)
God is holy and just. Therefore he cannot turn a blind eye to sin and injustice. But he himself, out of his love and grace, becomes a man in Jesus to take upon himself through his death on the cross the just penalty due us because of our sin. And this justification brings us peace with God, even in afflictions. And these afflictions develop character which produces hope.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:1-5, CSB)
Yes, justice needs to be done for victims like George Floyd. But if we are tempted to blame God for the injustices done and ask “Where’s God in all this?”, we should not overlook the fact that Jesus was familiar with injustice and suffering. Amid our present day injustices, racial or otherwise, we have a Savior who experienced the worst of human injustices – false accusations, false charges, an unfair trial, rejection by his own people, curses, beatings and humiliation. And these all culminated in a torturous crucifixion on a Roman cross. Why did Jesus die? Not as a good teacher who was leaving us an example to follow. Jesus died to take away our sins. The apostle Paul wrote,
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 And not only that, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:6-11, CSB)
We are presently experiencing racial strife in our land. There is obviously a need for reconciliation. Reconciliation is a major theme in the gospel message. Reconciliation between the races begins with being reconciled to God. The Apostle Paul pleads with all of us to believe the “good news” of the gospel and be reconciled to God.
“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:20, 21, NIV).
Recall Paul’s words to Timothy.
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:1-6, CSB, emphasis mine)
The “good news” message is clear. It is that God “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is a genuine and true statement about the will of God. He desires that every person be saved and come to know the truth. The “good news” is that God loves you and has accomplished your salvation in Jesus’s death on the cross. He also “gave himself as a ransom for all.” The Apostle John wrote,
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.” (Jn. 3:16-18, CSB)
God wants you to be saved and has done everything for that to become a reality for you. It is not his will to condemn you or that you end up in hell because of your unbelief. He wants to save you. All that you have to do is believe this message of salvation in Christ and trust him as your Savior and Lord. Jesus said,
“I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12, CSB)
Evangelical Christians believe this “good news” of the gospel is the answer to mankind’s predicament. God so loves each and every one of us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die on our behalf so that we would not have to suffer the wrath of God for our sin, but instead have eternal life. This is the life transforming message that needs to be heard as much in America today as it does throughout the world. If sin is the problem then salvation from sin is the solution.
Once a sinner believes this good news, God, by his Spirit creates a “new man” out of the “old man.” Paul writes,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17, CSB).
Paul made a distinction between a life controlled by our own former human desires, that is, the desires “of the flesh,” and a life now lived according to the Spirit of God. He writes,
16 “I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:16 – 26, CSB)
The list of the “works of the flesh” reads like today’s newspaper. But note the stark contrast with the “fruit of the Spirit,” which I am sure most of us would like to see characterize our own lives and our life together as Americans.
The “good news” of salvation for all is what brings inner peace which translates to outer peace. It is what brings about the character traits of the Spirit that we need so desperately. That we are all created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27), that with God there is no partiality (Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34), that God loves all persons (Jn. 3:16) and that Jesus died for each and every one of us (1 Jn. 2:2) are the truths that establish the dignity of every human being and their equal standing before God. They are the truths of the “good news” or gospel message. In the probing searchlight of their truth no racial prejudice can survive. All racial divisions are crushed under their weight. These are the truths that give each of us a place in the kingdom of God and thereby also counter the inordinate desire for political power and position here and now in an earthly kingdom.
Our present turmoil requires a change of heart. That can only come about by proclaiming and believing the “good news” of salvation in Jesus. Jesus said that,
“A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Lk. 6:45, CSB)
“…what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander. 20 These are the things that defile a person…” (Matt. 15:18-20, CSB)
America is exceptional because it is a place in which there is freedom to exercise our respective religions, and within the framework of America’s Christian heritage these prejudices have no place and the injustices born of such prejudices can, sooner or later, be abolished. The genius of America is that due to the theistic worldview and Christian thinking of its founders, the principles that are necessary to both prevent and correct injustices are latent within its founding beliefs and documents. For instance, the founding fathers understood that men are not by nature good, but sinners prone to acquire power for themselves. Taking this into account, they established a system of checks and balances between the three branches of government. They did not want the rise of a totalitarian monarch. To the degree that Christian truth holds sway in the society injustices cannot stand. How could they endure amidst the truth that we are all made in “the image of God” (Gen. 1:26, 27) and that “God shows no partiality” (Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34) and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16) and that “He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). Prejudice, hate, looting, vandalism, destruction and murder cannot survive amidst a people who truly believe the biblical teachings of divine love, grace, reconciliation with God and newness of life in the Spirit (Rom. 5 and 6). These wrongs simply cannot endure among people who live according to the Spirit. “In Christ God was reconciling the world unto himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2 Cor. 5:19) This is the basis for reconciliation among neighbors. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15) This is the basis for unselfish living and loving others.
And yet, people like the “new atheists” and others in our institutions of higher learning have significantly influenced the thinking of many people. They are anti-Christian and anti-religion. They consider people who believe in God delusional. But you will have to tell me what is delusional about the kind of civilized society described above that stems directly from a belief and reverence for God as compared to the destruction and degradation we are presently witnessing that are the expressions of the godless mind and heart of mankind when left to himself. And of course the atheist will object that he too is a moral person. Which person is actually deluded? The one who enjoins people to practice the disciplines and developed the character traits described above on an objective basis of theism, or, the one who enjoins people to practice the disciplines and developed the character traits described above but has no objective basis on which to do so; one who’s moral values and duties are based on their subjective personal preferences. Who is delusional? The authorities that promote law and order or those authorities who allow for lawless, violent criminals to invade our communities while describing them as “peaceful protesters” and fail to support those whose job it is to keep law and order? Again, don’t get me wrong. Atheists can be good, moral people. But that is not the issue. The more important point is whether they have an objective grounding for the moral values and duties they themselves practice and would like to see others embrace. The fact is that they have no objective ontological ground upon which to hold to such values and duties. Without an objective grounding for one’s moral values and duties outside oneself or one’s society, they become merely subjective and relative to the individual’s preferences or a societal consensus which ultimately devolves into who wields the most power so as to impose their subjective values upon everyone else. The theistic worldview has an authority and authoritative standards that are outside of ourselves to which, if we all refer in reverence and obedience, will produce significant social harmony and peace. Reverence and respect for God is a good thing.
Therefore, the biblical Christian solution to the extraordinary escalation of violence and the evil forces behind it is Christian theism and this message of “good news.” It is the message of God’s love for us all and the forgiveness of our sins by Christ’s death on the cross for each and every one of us which is received by faith alone. This message needs to be proclaimed throughout the land.
Paul understood the practical effects of a knowledge and belief in the gospel.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.” (Titus 2:11-14, CSB)
Note Paul’s description of what we were redeemed from – “all lawlessness.” The gospel has instructive value and transformative power for an otherwise lawless culture and society. In the “godlessness” and the indulging of “worldly lusts” I see an exact description of our present current events. In stark contrast, the theism that teaches us about God’s grace having appeared in Christ and that brings salvation for all people, instructs us “to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.” Surely, this “good news” is what we all need to hear.
Calvinism and the Gospel as “Good News”: A Challenge for the Evangelical Church
So what might the present rise in lawlessness suggest? It suggests that the gospel of this “good news” is not being proclaimed from evangelical pulpits and by evangelical Christians. Perhaps evangelical Christians are forgetting this “good news” or are just not telling it to others. An “evangelical” should be one who brings the “good news” of the salvation that is found in Christ alone, to be appropriated by faith alone, to their neighbors and to the world. But I submit to you that the true biblical gospel message is fading away and even missing in so many churches that call themselves “evangelical.” Why do I say this? Why do I believe the biblical “good news” is fading away?
I would like to suggest that a rising tide of Calvinist soteriology (i.e., the doctrines of salvation), is eroding the gospel as truly “good news” within our churches and Christian thinking. That soteriology, which is antithetical to the biblical message of truly good news, hinders that message from reaching the unsaved in our land. Calvinism distorts, and therefore erodes, the promulgation of the biblical gospel message as the “good news” that it is. And if it is correct that the gospel is the preservative in our society for good in that it changes and sanctifies a man’s mind and heart to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh, then that is the antidote to the rise of lawlessness. I don’t think any evangelical Christian would disagree that a change of heart, which only the gospel can bring about, is the ultimate answer to our present ills. Therefore, whatever is diminishing the true biblical gospel is also allowing for an unrestrained expression of the sinful nature of man to be unleashed in our society and culture. The “salt” of the biblical message as truly good news is missing.
And even thought we must emphasize brotherly love among fellow believers, here truth also matters. God is a God of truth (Isa. 59, Ps. 86:15, Ps. 120). Jesus is “the truth” (Jn. 14:6). “Love rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6, CSB). And it is a fact that there are two incompatible soteriologies being taught in our churches today – Calvinist and non-Calvinist. These two soteriologies are mutually exclusive. It is not that they express different yet legitimate aspects of the same message. No. They are substantively incompatible with each other. And as such, they both cannot be the accurate teaching of Scripture on salvation and the gospel. One or the other (or both) is false and therefore a misinterpretation of Scripture. (See my post, “Ravi Zacharias on How to Come to Grips with the Truth”).
The biblical definition of “the gospel” is “good news.” Recall the verses surveyed above that clearly teach, in contrast to Calvinism, that God loves every person, Jesus died for all, God desires that everyone be saved and he makes a genuine and true offer of salvation to each and every sinner. You can hear this truly good news in Billy Graham’s sermon cited at the beginning of this document. These basic non-Calvinist gospel truths are the foundation for our reconciliation to God which is the basis of reconciliation with others. Only these truths can lead to the removal of racial animosities and prejudices. If God loves every person, we need to love them too. If salvation is universally offered to all, then all men have value in God’s eyes. And as far as salvation is concerned, the status of being “in Christ” transcends all distinctions – distinctions that may be utilized for gaining illegitimate advantage by one group over another. The Apostle Paul writes,
“27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28, CSB)
The point is that those who believe are all one in Christ. But the exclusion of some over others in salvation and in the eyes of God is at the very heart of Calvinism. Calvin (1509-1564) defines predestination as follows,
“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.”
This definition of the biblical doctrine of predestination is misguided and a serious misinterpretation of the texts on this teaching. We can also see how it is antithetical to the “good news.” And even though the Calvinist will of course vehemently reject any implications that this doctrine is prone to create a mindset of division and perhaps superiority that could support racial divisions, we must note, and the Calvinist will admit, that their doctrines of the eternal divine decree and God’s sovereignty are a universal divine causal determinism. As a determinism it has God foreordaining and causing everything that happens throughout all time down to the minutest details. As such it makes God the author of all evil, including racial prejudice, slavery and violence, and is therefore evil himself. Calvinist Christopher M. Date gives this definition of God’s sovereignty. He sates,
“I prefer the phrase “meticulous divine providence” because of that word “meticulous” – I think it’s helpful. Because what I mean is that God in eternity past decreed absolutely everything that would take place in time. The unfolding of history is the manifesting of God’s decree down to the tiniest detail. So God doesn’t merely know the future because he foresees what people are going to do, he knows the future because he has chosen precisely what it’s going to be, and he’s predetermined everything people will do.”
Therefore, the fact of the matter is that the lawless rioting, violence, destruction and murder we are presently witnessing is predetermined and caused to occur by God himself. The Calvinist cannot logically escape the fact that on their universal divine causal determinism God predetermined George Floyd to be who he was and caused Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers to do what they did. Both Chauvin, Floyd, and all the violence and lawlessness that is being perpetrated, as well as all the good that is being done, has been predetermined and is being irresistibly and effectually caused by God. And each person’s eternal destiny in heaven or hell has also been unalterably predetermined. But is this is the case, then where has the “good news” gone?
The fact of the matter is that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination teaches particular exclusion of the mass of humanity from salvation rather than universal inclusion of all sinners in God’s love, mercy and salvation. And if a “gospel” message that is proclaimed to every sinner is a message that does not apply to every sinner, then it is not good news to every sinner and not good news at all. It may be “news,” but it is not “good news.” Furthermore, with respect to the non-elect, God himself would be made out to be a liar. He would be telling people something about them that is not true. And the Calvinist who might preach a gospel message of universal inclusion in God’s love and that Christ died for all while offering salvation to all would certainly be hypocritical. He would be speaking inconsistent with his own soteriology and his words would also be a lie to the non-elect hearer.
The Calvinist’s doctrine of predestination clearly states that “all are not created in equal condition,” which not only echoes through time in stark contrast to a fundamental tenet of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” but is also incoherent with the truth of Scripture that we are all made “in the image of God” (Gen 1:26, 27); a doctrinal truth that bestows equality and dignity upon each and every individual. Having made them “in his image,” God loves each and every human person. All lives matter to God! In contrast, the stark reality of Calvinism is that only some lives matter to God! Many lives simply don’t matter to God. There are many people (i.e., the non-elect or reprobate) that God does not love and does not want to save. Therefore, they cannot be saved. In fact, he has created them for the express purpose of assigned them to eternal punishment.
Therefore, Calvinism, which has God predestining to eternal separation from himself a mass of people that he himself created, does not accord with the biblical gospel as “good news” for sinners. The point to see is that “the doctrines of grace” (i.e., TULIP) cannot be employed in the preaching of the gospel and therefore find no place in Christian evangelism. There is no good news in proclaiming that “all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.” There is no good news in Calvinism, and that is why Calvinists themselves, when doing evangelism, do not preach or teach their “doctrines of grace.” What they do preach and teach is in contradiction to their own soteriology. They, in effect, become Arminian in their soteriology.
In stark contrast to Calvinism, sinners need to hear of the love, grace, hope and salvation that God has accomplished for them in Christ. They need to assuredly know that they are loved by God and that the salvation God has accomplished in Christ applies to them personally and individually. They are certainly included, not possibly excluded. It is not a matter of “I hope I am among the unconditionally elect,” but a matter of knowing God’s love and that any sinner can be saved by believing. There is hope for every sinner. God is a God of hope. Paul tells the Romans,
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13, CSB)
Moreover, contrary to what the Calvinist claims, the exercise of faith or believing is not a meritorious work or a contribution one makes to their own salvation. Salvation has already been accomplished by God alone. Believing is the God ordained means by which God’s saving work in Christ is appropriated to oneself. That is how a sinner is saved – by believing. On Calvinism, you have to first be regenerated or “born again” in order to believe. And faith is something God gives only to those he has predestined to salvation.
The point to note is that on Calvinism it cannot be universally proclaimed to all sinners that “God loves you” or that “Christ died for your sins” or that “God wants you to come to him and be saved” – at least not with any degree of integrity or honestly. If the Calvinist does proclaim these truths, they do so disingenuously and hypocritically because their words are inconsistent or contradictory to their doctrines of unconditional election (i.e., predestination) and effectual calling or irresistible grace. Calvinism cannot provide the sinner with the assurance of their salvation. It may very well be that you are not among the unconditionally elect and therefore God will not save you. There is nothing you can do to be saved. That is what unconditional election means. If you are not among the unconditionally elect, you cannot be saved.
So the Evangelical Church in America faces a serious problem and challenge. It needs to decide what its “gospel” is going to be. It needs to face its interpretive and theological relativism in its denial of the fact that both of two mutually exclusive soteriologies which lead to two mutually exclusive or inconsistent “gospel” messages cannot both be the biblical teaching on the matter. The relativism that afflicts our culture has infiltrated the Evangelical Church. Again, if we believe that a change of mind and heart in the individual sinner is the real remedy to our present national distress, and I don’t think any evangelical Christian would disagree, then the biblical gospel of truly good news is going to have to be revived and proclaimed first in our own churches and then to the nation. Our confusion over the gospel must be resolved.
“I am convinced if the church went back to the main task of proclaiming the Gospel it would see people being converted to Christ and it would have a far greater impact on the social, moral, and psychological needs of people than anything else it could possibly do.”Billy Graham, (Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador, 1999)
The material on my website provides a detailed examination of the nature of this soteriological and “gospel” problem along with the hermeneutical divide that is at the heart of the Calvinist / non-Calvinist controversy. I have also laid out a challenge to the Evangelical Church in other posts and papers, particularly in “Ryken v. Ryken: Calvinist Inconsistency in Light of Billy Graham’s Gospel” and “Two Incompatible Gospels: A Serious Matter for the “Evangelical” Church.”
Finally, the gospel teaches us that this life is not all that there is. It promises that our physical death is not the final word but that eternal life awaits us. Eternal life is the alternative to eternal separation from God who is all-loving, all-good and the source of life. Look at the present violence, lawlessness and death. That is something of what hell is like. It is where God and his goodness and love are not.
Now, because God is the living God and the source of all life, Jesus could not be held bound by death. By his resurrection he conquered death and God vindicated the life, ministry and claims of Jesus as to who he was, where he came from and why he came. “Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (Jn. 10:10, CSB) “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.” (Jn. 12:46, CSB) The sad taking of life need not be the sad end for the one whose life is taken if they believe in God’s “good news” of salvation in Christ Jesus and trust in him as their Savior and Lord. Those who believe will, as Jesus promised the thief on the cross, be with him in “paradise.” Jesus himself suffered an unjust death to take away our sins so that those who suffer injustice by the hands of wicked men may take comfort in Him and receive the eternal life he gives.
Now, I want to emphasize to evangelical Christians that given all else that we or others with good intentions can accomplish, the ultimate solution to the problems threatening our civilization today is found in the true biblical gospel message of “good news.” Paul writes,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16, CSB)
During these stressful times I am thankful for Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who are telling the world about salvation in Christ through a simple presentation of the truly “good news” in their TV advertisements. When we give the gospel to others the Holy Spirit is at work to the end that they would believe. It is God’s desire that they be saved. God does not send people to hell. They send themselves there by refusing the offer of salvation in Christ. As the central message of Scripture, it is this “good news” of the gospel that God wants the church to preach, teach and witness to the world. That is what God wills because it is through that message that God works in the lives of the saved and the unsaved alike. We all need to hear the gospel over and over again for our encouragement in the faith and the salvation of the lost.
The violence, lawlessness, self-delusion and pernicious political activities that are taking hold of our nation stem from man’s sin nature. Now sin must be taken care of. That is what the gospel is all about – faith in Christ, the forgiveness of sin, cleansing, a change in mind and heart, abundant life in the Spirit and eternal life.
Government has a crucial role to play, but when it abandons its function the Christian must be engaged through all legitimate non-violent means, especially in bringing the gospel to all people, and perhaps suffering for doing so. We are living in times that seem to portend such persecution and suffering. The Apostle Peter wrote,
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of Godrests on you. 15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?
18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
19 So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.” (1 Pet. 4:12-19, CSB)
Paul writes the following to Timothy.
“8 So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. 10 This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, 12 and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:8-12)
Jesus gives us these insights.
“Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:12-14, CSB)
The mission of the church is to proclaim the true gospel to the whole world – “then the end will come.” This is why the Calvinist / non-Calvinist controversy is so important. It is the true biblical “good news” that must be proclaimed to the world, not anything different or anything less (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; 2:5, 14; 3:8, 22)
As we face the future we should remind ourselves that there is no higher or more powerful authority than Jesus. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Matthew records the commission Jesus gave his disciples.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:16-20)
I’ll end with these words from F. F. Bruce. He writes,
“As the Christian surveys the world of today, he sees very much land to be possessed in the name of Christ, but to take possession of it calls for a generous measure of that forward-looking faith which is so earnestly urged upon the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Those first readers were living at a time when the old, cherished order was breaking up. Attachment to the venerable traditions of the past could avail them nothing in this situation; only attachment to the unchanging and onward-moving Christ could carry them forward and enable them to face the new order with confidence and power. So, in a day when everything that can be shaken is being shaken before our eyes and beneath our feet, let us give thanks for the unshakable kingdom which we have inherited, which endures for ever when everything else that men’s hopes may be pinned to disappears and leaves not a wrack behind.”
Russ Busby, Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador (San Diego: Tehabi Books, 1999), 255. From Franklin Graham, Billy Graham in Quotes, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 60.
 F. F. Bruce, The Apostolic Defence of the Gospel, (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1959), 45.
 Ben Witherington, III, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 306.
 James D. G. Dunn, “1 & 2 Timothy and Titus” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, vol. X, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015), 389.
 F. F. Bruce, The Apostolic Defence of the Gospel, (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1959), 55
 Ibid. 54.
 Ibid. 58-59.
 Ibid. 59-60.
 Ibid. 57.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifa_(United_States) Accessed July 27, 2020.
 Noah Webster, History of the United States, New Haven, 1833. From The Christian History of the American Revolution: Consider and Ponder, Compiled by Verna M. Hall, (San Francisco: The Foundation for American Christian Education, 1975), 255-256.
 Marvin Olasky, The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision From Washington to Clinton, (New York; The Free Press, 1999), 120-121.
 Ibid. 118.
 Ibid. 110.
 Ibid. 111.
 Ibid 110.
 Ibid. 116-117.
 Ibid. 125.
 Ibid. 121.
 Ibid. 122.
 https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-defunding-the-police-really-means/ Accessed July 27, 2020.
 Ibid. 120
 Ibid. 124.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 926.
 This is the phrase William Lane Craig uses to describe Calvinism. I think it advantageous because it specifically mentions the universal and causal elements in Calvinist determinism. It is important to realize that the Calvinist’s definition of the divine eternal decree and sovereignty are deterministic in a way that encompasses all things down to the minutest detail (universal) and makes God out as the cause of all that occurs (causal), including evil. Dr. Craig uses the phrase in his five-fold critique of Calvinism in which he concludes “that the Calvinistic view of universal divine causal determinism is one that is unacceptable for Christian theology.”
I have examined this critique in chapter 4 – “Why the Calvinist Views of Sovereignty and Salvation Are Certainly False” which can found in the “Table of Contents” menu on this site.
See William Lane Craig, Defenders 2 Class, Doctrine of Creation: Part 10. Oct. 21, 2012. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-creation/doctrine-of-creation-part-10/ You can read the transcript or listen to the lecture at this link. Accessed October 8, 2019.
 “Unbelievable” with Justin Brierley – “Does God Predetermine Everything?” April 26, 2019. https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Does-God-predetermine-everything-Chris-Date-and-Leighton-Flowers-debate-scripture (12:09 – 12:47)
 F. F. Bruce, The Apostolic Defence of the Gospel, (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1959), 85-86.