Evangelical Protestantism in the 20th Century


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My post title is the subtitle of Darryl Hart’s 2002 book, That Old-Time Religion in Modern America. As of this date I’ve read it twice and will soon start on a third reading. It’s not so much that it’s a difficult book to understand (it isn’t thermodynamics), but that it introduces ideas that  make your brain work (a good thing). I want to quote two paragraphs from early in the book that establish, what I think are his basic theses.

Before the First Great Awakening, churches in colonial American took their lead from European Protestantism, with a learned clergy and the formalities of liturgy and church polity informing Protestant faith and practice in the New World. Ministers needed formal training in order to be ordained; their sermons were supposed to reflect that learning, and the services they conducted were designed to immerse church members in the beliefs and ceremonies that religious authorities had prescribed. This kind of Protestantism, whether Episcpalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, or Congregationalist —the main branches of the Reformation— stressed faith as a lifelong struggle with sin and temptation, for which the teaching of and worship in the church provided assistance and encouragement. This older version of Protestantism was objective (rather than personal) in the sense that to be a church member involved being conformed to the doctrines and liturgy of the church. And it was corporate in the sense that by participating in the worship of the church, Christians lost some of their individual identity and became part of a community of believers united by the teaching and ministry of the church.

He then goes on to write two pages later:

Evangelicalism is essentially a low-church expression of Protestantism, because what matters most to born-again Protestants is what occurs not inside the church but in their own personal affairs. Simply put, evangelicalism is synonymous with born-again Protestantism because evangelicals stake the authenticity of Christian faith upon the conversion experience, not church membership.

A knee-jerk reaction to either of this statements needs to be avoided. But, as part of a liturgical church (PCA) and having been associated with non-confessional, non-liturgical, non-denominational churches in the past I think he’s on to something.

Christians, Politics, Natural Law, and the Two Kingdoms


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I’ve begun reading Dr. Darryl Hart’s A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors Separation of Church and State as I continue my study of how Christians should interact with the culture. I have long been disturbed by the way many Christians conflate the mission of the church and the mission or goal of politics. I will have more to say when I finish the book.

Natural Law, Theonomy, and John Calvin


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In both of my essays on Vision Forum I draw attention to the viewpoint of those within the theonomic community that the ideally the U.S. should be under the Mosaic judicial law code. Because theonomists and Christian Reconstructionists are usually Calvinists the following section from David VanDrunen’s book Natural Law And The Two Kingdoms is most informative.

Like others before him, he [Calvin] saw the purpose of the judical laws as that of preseving justice and order among God’s Old Testament people.  Calvin says that the judical law, “given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly.” Furthermore, he insisted that the judical laws are not to be considered binding today nor obligatory for contemporary civil law. One of the few places where Calvin polemicized about natural law is at this precise point. Some held that commonwealths had to be governed by the law of Moses rather than the “common law of nations,” but Calvin condemned such views as “perilous and seditious”, “stupid and false.” Instead . . .each nation is free to enact laws that it deems beneficial, judged by the rule of charity and equity, for the Lord “did not deliver it [the Old Testament law] by the hand of Moses to be promulgated in all countries, and to be everywhere enforced. . . .”    [page 109-110]

Vision Forum & Patriarchy Tenets


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I’m still somewhat amazed that no one who supports the Vision Forum “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” has made a serious rebuttal to what I’ve written. Either VF supporters have not found my blog or they have chosen not to respond. Are my arguments so convincing that they are unable to refute them? I may be a bit egotistical – – but not that much.

My problem with some who oppose the two kingdoms


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Scholastic dishonesty angers me, especially when it comes from individuals who profess to be Christians. I’m used to it from organizations such as the Watchtower Society and the Latter Day Saints. I’ve studied and taught about Jehovah’s Witnesses for nearly 40 years. The Society is notorious for selective quotations taken from respected scholarly books and articles which appear to bolster their heretical doctrines but which, when examined in context, do nothing of the sort. Mormons are quite adept at using common Christian terminology such as trinity, atonement, and justification making them appear to be fully orthodox. However, upon examination it is clear that they completely redefine these terms; what they mean by justification or the atonement is decidely not what historic, orthodox Christianity means by these terms.

Last Janaury [2013] Dr. Joel McDurmon of American Vision posted an article extremely critical of Dr. Michael Horton and the two kingdoms doctrine essentially asserting that the two kingdoms doctrine was responsible for Hilter’s rise in Germany. He cited one scholarly paper which supposedly supported his thesis. Shortly after his article was posted Matthew Tuininga wrote a well documented response to Dr. McDurmon pointing out how McDurmon was guilting of equivocation since the two kingdoms position taken by German pastors during the 1930s and early ’40s is not the same as the two kingdoms doctrine Michael Horton and David VanDrunen (among others) teach and write about. [see http://www.patheos.com/Evangelical/Why-Did-German-Matthew-Tuininga-04-16-2013.html%5D]  I also link to Matthew’s blog, Christian in America over on the left side of this page.

Over the years I’ve noticed that individuals or groups holding extreme theological positions, be they heretical or not, often manipulate or obfuscate the facts to support their agenda. I sincerely believe many within the theonomic and Christian Reconstructionist camp are guilty of scholastic dishonesty and seem to have taken the position that the ends justify their means.

Is Vision Forum Going Away?


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Vision Forum appears to be shutting down everything in the wake of Doug Phillips’ resignation.  Unfortunately, the damage inflicted by VF’s extreme positions on patriarchy, husband/wife relationships, father/children relationships, and their errant application of Old Testament theocratic civil law to society and Christian families will survive.

Theonomy and Christian Reconstructionism still remains and those advocating it will continue to be active.  Eschewing meaningful dialogue with those who disagree with them, and too often resorting to misrepresentations of opposing viewpoint, is an unfortunate characteristic of those who embrace this theology.

Because so many churches that are patriocentric and teach a theonomic approach to scripture call themselves Calvinistic, Reformed, Covenantal, or Prebyterian I find that I must often explain how most Reformed churches reject the interpretation and application of the Old Testament advanced by Vision Forum and those within the CR camp.



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I’ve completed my second essay on Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.  This paper deals primarily with Tenets 16 through 21 that detail VF’s position on education and a bit on family-integrated church.  I also spend more time explaining how theonomy impacts the entire VF approach and show how Greg Bahnsen and R. J. Rushdoony have influenced VF.

Click on Part 2: Vision Forum’s... at the top of the page to see how to download the PDF.


Response to an e-mail



Recently someone sent me an e-mail taking exception to the first page of my essay on Tenets 22 & 23, particularly to what I wrote about the Editor’s Note that appears on the VF Web page.  Here is my response to that person.


Let’s take the editors note apart sentence-by-sentence.

1. Central to the crisis of this era is the systematic attack on the timeless truths of biblical patriarchy.

It appears that Vision Forum considers any disagreement with their position an attack.  What about honest and sincere disagreement? For example, [Baptist pastors, X & Y] disagree with me regarding baptism (who, how, and why).  When we discuss this topic are we attacking each other? Are we assailing each other with unfriendly or bitter words? Certainly not. So right from the outset VF assumes an adversarial and somewhat hostile position against all those who disagree with them.
The authors have not yet proven that their definition of patriarchy is true much less that it is biblical.  This is begging the question. In addition, who has determined that their view of patriarchy is “timeless”?  They have not shown that the Old Testament narratives which describe the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East are prescriptive for all times and cultures. In my essay I spend quite a bit of time presenting the case that narrative portions of the Old Testament, particularly those in the Pentateuch, must be very carefully studied before they can be considered as presenting a pattern of conduct for New Testament believers.

2. We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy. . .because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike.

What do they mean when they say “professing Christians”? Are these actual individuals who have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?  If so then VF continues their assault on those who disagree with them by labeling such disagreement as an attack. For the second time they make it clear there is no room for disagreement.

3. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers.

All persons who hold to the egalitarian view of the role of women, particularly in the church, are NOT feminists. For example, conservative theologian Roger Nicole, a Baptist considered an expert in Calvinism and regarded as one of the preeminent theologians in America, is a Christian Egalitarian and also a Biblical Inerrantist. He recognizes that biblical egalitarianism is still viewed by many as inconsistent with biblical inerrancy, although he disagrees. He writes that “the matter of the place of women in the home, in society, and in the church is not an issue that can be conclusively determined by a few apparently restrictive passages that are often advanced by those who think that subordination represents God’s will for women.
Are militant feminists also egalitarian? Yes. But not all egalitarians are militant feminist.  The authors are making the logical error called fallacy of composition. And the placement of this sentence immediately after #2 subtly connects egalitarian feminism with those Christians who dispute VF’s position. The implication is being made that if a professed believer rejects “biblical patriarchy” they must have been seduced by egalitarian feminism.

4. …the church should proclaim the Gospel-centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy …

So then, if a local church does not endorse and teach “biblical patriarchy” does that mean it is not part of the church universal, the Bride of Christ?  If I don’t affirm and proclaim VF’s “biblical patriarchy” does that mean I am not part of the church?
We need to very clear what the gospel is. It is not biblical patriarchy. The Apostle Paul gives us the simplest definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1 –  4:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received,  which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Even assuming VF’s assertion that their definition of patriarchy is correct and that it is a biblical principle, that does not make it part of the gospel.  Denying the gospel as stated by Paul is to bring God’s eternal, judgmental, wrath upon me. Denying the Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy will not incur God’s eternal judgment. VF would appear to be making the very mistake the Galatian Christians were — adding conduct (law!) to grace.

5. …as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

The first sentence in part 1.B of my paper reads: “The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy” cannot be examined apart from a basic understanding of the underlying hermeneutical system known as theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism as employed by Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.
The first sentence in part 1.B.i is:  “Theonomy is the view that the Old Testament Law of Moses is binding upon all people, Christians and non-Christians, individuals, institutions, and nations, in its general principles and in all of its details, because it is a perfect expression of the moral will of God.”

Reference #5 quite clearly establishes VF’s hermeneutical system: Christian Reconstructionism.

You are quite correct that the editors did not explicitly say “disagreeing with us makes you an egalitarian feminist.”  But they unmistakably maintain that if a professing Christian “attacks” patriarchy as they define it (i.e., disagrees with them) that Christian must have been seduced by egalitarian feminism and believes false doctrine.
I cannot stress this point strong enough: believing in the importance of the family structure as carefully laid out in the New Testament is not synonymous with VF’s view as they detail it.
Yes, I believe my understanding of much of scripture is correct. I certainly wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t. But I am quite willing to change that belief if I am clearly shown from Scripture that I was mistaken. But here is the difference between Vision Forum and me.  I do not make the rather grandiose claims that VF does as to the absolute certainly of their position. Earlier I said Jonathan and I disagree about baptism. We have had numerous discussions about it and we both maintain that our positions are correct. But neither of us says the other has been seduced by false doctrine. I certainly do not say that Jonathan, because he does not agree with me, is systematically attacking a timeless biblical truth.

Vision Forum gives no quarter to those who disagree with them.

Now, as to your last comment about my statement, “VF is particularly active in the home schooling movement, although it must be stressed that only a minority of families who home school would support or actively endorse the often extreme positions of VF.”
You said: “Unless you took a survey, it seems to simply be a slanderous assumption.”
The statement is most certainly not slanderous. It could be wrong, but it is no more slanderous than me saying, “Only a minority of families in Wilson speak fluent German.”  However, I have talked to families who currently home school, who home schooled in the past, and who intend to home school. Some had never heard of Vision Forum, others had and rejected their views.  In addition, I have personally communicated with well-known individuals throughout the country — people who have written books about families and home schooling and who speak at national conferences — and they have agreed with my statement. Vision Forum, and those who actively support them such as James and Stacy McDonald do not represent the majority of Christian homeschoolers
I see well the value of home schooling, although I do not believe scripture anywhere commands it as the only option.  The views of Vision Forum, not just as regards sons and daughters, but the role of Old Testament law in the lives of believers today, is extreme and quite frankly worrisome.