World Viewish Thinking and Evaluating Social and Political Movement

Dr. Arthur Holmes, of dear memory, was one of the most famous Evangelical Christian philosophers of the 20th century.  So many learned both the history of philosophy and the theory of knowledge, epistemology, from the British Dr. Holmes.  His students constantly heard the phrase, “world viewish thinking.”  What did homes mean by this phrase?   It was that the Bible gives us a coherent worldview, not just Bible verses about the plan of salvation to gain eternal life, or the second coming of Yeshua.  This worldview provides us with the foundations of understanding on God and his creation, the nature and worth of human beings, a definition of justice, God ‘s moral order, God’s heart for the poor, economic principles and so much more.  Holmes had massive influence on some of today’s philosophers, some of whom are in now retirement age, but younger ones in their prime.  The noted historians Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch, philosophers Merrill Westphal who taught at Yale, and Talbot’s distinguished William Lane Craig, whose papers I graded as an assistant in department.  I will apply what Holmes taught in my own words. 

Debates between Christians including Messianic Jews with other Christians and Messianic Jews and also with those who do not follow Yeshua often produce a lot of heat and little light.  This is because they do not examine their assumptions for the debates which assumptions for Yeshua/disciples should flow from a biblical worldview.  The contours of a biblical world view provide the evaluation criteria for judging philosophical, psychological, social and political views.  However, as George Barna noted in his polls, perhaps less then 5% of Evangelicals, surely less that 10% have a coherent Christian worldview.  I am not speaking about systematic theology per se, but worldview does overlap with it.  It the deals not only with the meta narrative of the Bible, which is crucial, but what systematic theology used to title, human life in this age.  I try to deal with some of this in my book The Biblical World View, an Apologetic and in my book Social Justice.  Of course, in this short posting, we cannot go into detail, but we can make a beginning.  Let’s just name a few. 

Relativism is the view that there is no objective truth, but we only have preferences in the way we see things.  The Bible says God is the source of objective truth, and that truth begins with his revelation in the Bible.  Because of that, ethical norms are clear and fixed (this does not mean there are no moral dilemmas).  In addition, God created an orderly world so that objective scientific empirical knowledge is possible.  The great defense of objective scientific knowledge is found in Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge.  Whenever a person speaks about “my truth” over against “the truth” you know you are dealing with knowledge relativism and must not succumb to it.  Furthermore, ethical truth is not a matter of emotive preferences, but defined by God’s revealed standard.  But how many are the confused believers who get shaken from their moorings by the propaganda and the social pressure of their culture.  People are socialized into their views.  A biblical people must resist this. 

For example, when we deal with transgenderism, the Bible brings us back to the trustworthiness of God in creating male and female.  From Genesis to Revelation the biblical norm of male and female is clear, and monogamous marriage or celibacy are the absolute standards for sexuality in the New Testament.  

When we deal with critical race theory (CRC) the question is not whether or not the institutions of our society are organized to exclude blacks or other minorities. That is an empirical question to be studied.  Rather the issue is that CRC defines whites as inherently evil in a more significant way than blacks.  It fosters racial division.  It then seeks to solve the problem by undercutting empirical measures of success that that are based in an objective world.  The biblical world view requires us to affirm that all have sinned and stand guilty but through Yeshua we find reconciliation, mutual support and the end of racial hostilities.  Everything is not due to white supremacy but due to sin before God. All groups historically were subject to tribalism and seek to dominate others for the sake of their tribe’s prominence and power.  The Bible affirms good in all cultures, enables evaluation of cultures, and diminishes ethnocentric pride.    

Today’s elite says all cultures are equal.  This trivializes the distinct good values and expressions in cultures and rejects the Bible as the norming norm by which we evaluate what is good and bad in cultures.  We reject cultural relativism. 

Marxism and todays social justice warriors base their definition of justice (though not always disclosed) on a Marxist definition of economic equality.  This is a wrong definition.  I believe that one can derive a definition of economic justice from the Bible whereby see that economic justice has to do with a system of economics that brings the greatest provision for the greatest number so that people are not prevented from fulfilling their God intended destiny.  All are not called the same wealth and its management.  Injustice is destiny prevention.  In this we as well see the great economic aspect of the evil of racial discrimination.  A decentralized free enterprise system with checks and balances is the best system for providing the greatest provision for the most.  It does allow for freedom to gain wealth and does not prescribe equal wealth.  However, the Jubilee Year principle (Lev. 25) and many of the prophets’ statements show that accumulation must have a limit.  Today we are moving toward a dangerous corporate socialism, not really socialism, but control by corporations and super wealthy people who virtue signal toward socialism!   Decentralization of enterprise is very important. 

There are so many areas where a biblical world view enables critical evaluation and prevents the contamination of our thinking with incompatible worldly positions.  The Social Sciences are another such realm.  Psychology, social psychology, and sociology are examples. What theories of counselling are compatible with the Bible, and which are not: neo-Freudianism, behaviorism, cognitive behavioral therapy, reality therapy, family systems and more?  All have some truth but understanding human nature and sin from a biblical perspective are crucial.  Psychological or soul healing is based on repentance, receiving Yeshua, the power of the Spirit, deliverance, identification with the death and resurrection of Yeshua and the power of the healing community.  All must be evaluated with these keys for restoration.  

The Biblical world view presents us with the possibilities of bettering the society but warns us against false utopian thinking.  Only the Messiah brings a world order of peace, prosperity and the end of war.  Western movements that have a utopian bent, Marxism, Neo-Marxism, Socialism and Corporate Socialism (really corporate fascism) are all heretical off shoots from Christianity.  Why do I say this?  Because they all profess the equal worth of human beings without the biblical basis of human beings being created in the image of God such that every human being has an equal creation worth before God. Without this foundation the quest for equality will breakdown.  Societies that were not influenced by the Bible do not even think in these terms at all unless influenced by the West. India, Thailand, China, Islamic Countries do not have the idea of the equal value of every person.  British historian Tom Holland, though an atheist, was very clear about this.  This does not mean that we do not fight for social betterment for people in our societies.  We do and must.  However, we must not lose sight that all social progress that ignores the Gospel of the Kingdom will ultimately come to naught.  The Gospel of the Kingdom is the way to reconcile races, ethnicities and to see social progress. 

Some Evangelical Christian Social justice warriors are far from the Biblical worldview.  The 19th Century Evangelical social justice warriors should be our model for applying the Biblical world view.  They fought slavery, child labor and slave level wages for workers.  However, this also shows that a Biblical worldview does not support the idea of the separation of church and state as now defined since the Bible tells us that God will severely judge nations that depart from his basic laws.  This is why if we seek to see our nation not suffer the wrath of God’s judgement, we do not on the basis of liberty, accept serious crimes against humanity through prostitution, pornography, and abortion.  Abortion is a violation of the sacred value of the baby being created in the image of God. 

I can go on and on.  I hope that in the future biblical world view education becomes part of the life of the Church including Messianic Jewish congregations.  It should begin with children, then with junior and senior high young adults.  I would love to see a curricula developed that debriefs young adults and college age students in regard to the false things they learn from their schools and social media.  Better yet, I would love to see more education done from a solidly biblical worldview perspective.   

Does the Bible Support the Separation of Church and State?

Every once and a while a Facebook friend will voice opposition to my posts as contrary to the separation of Church and State.   This is especially so for those who are personally against abortion but support the right to an abortion.  (Jimmy Carter)

My thesis is that the Bible does not support the separation of Church and State as it is presently understood.   That present understanding is the separation of God and government.  However, this was not the historic consensus as seen in such symbols as “In God we Trust” on the money of the United States and “One Nation Under God” in the pledge.  It is also reflected in Chaplains offering prayer In the Congress. 

It is true that the Bible does present, for the ancient world, an unusual separation of powers, prophet, priest, and king.  This is a great advance.  However, the Bible teaches that all nations are accountable to God and his law.  If the nation goes too far in perversion, violence, and injustice, it will be severely judged by God.  The Biblical ideal is for the nation to acknowledge God and his basic Law, which is not only written in the Torah but is variously perceived in the nations.  In China, this is called, “the will of heaven.”  In India, it flows from Brama, despite the polytheism and idolatry.  Africans and Native Americans note that law is from the supernatural realm.  

In Amos, Isaiah and Ezekiel, and others, a list of nations is presented as coming under terrible judgment for violating God’s standards.  The Psalms reiterate again and again that the nations are to acknowledge God.  In Psalm 9:10 we read “The wicked will turn Sheol, as will all the nations that forget God.”   This is repeated again and again. 

There was wisdom as a result of a long battle for tolerance in the United Kingdom and America. The idea was that the nation would acknowledge God and his law but would not enforce one sect of doctrinal belief to the intolerance of others.  There was a Church of England but not of the United States.  The United States early on would see Jews as embracing the same moral law from God. Yes, there could be atheist dissenters, but the corporate nation would embrace God. Most state constitutions acknowledged God. I believe it was a mistake that the U. S. Constitution was a compromise that did not acknowledge accountability to God and his Law. Yet in the 1950s we see the prevailing understanding of separation was not according to the Supreme Court of 1962 when Bible reading and prayer were taken out of the public schools.  I remember it well in my Sophomore year.  It was stark.  One day it was there and the next day is gone forever.  The decision was against a 200-year consensus of understanding.  In the movie The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille spoke in the intermission about the United States as a nation that was accountable to God and his law in contrast to the Soviet Union.  That was in the late 1950s.  

Americans find themselves in a society that has abandoned its historic view of national accountability to God.  As such, the best we can do is seek to foster laws that are in accord with God’s Law.  I have argued that my vote is according to what I perceive to be the platform that fosters righteous laws, which the Bible says is essential to avoid God’s severe judgment.  It is for the candidate that fosters such laws. Indeed, the Bible warns against those who establish unrighteousness by law (Isaiah 10:1)   Such a nation is in for severe judgment.  I do not desire that severe judgment.  Would the day return that the nation would acknowledge accountability to God and his law? 

The New “Dangerous” Left Wing Government 

My readers may be getting communication from Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming that the government that Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid-There is a Future) and Naftali Bennett (New Hope) will form is potentially a dangerous left-wing government.  This is far from the truth and a dangerous left-wing government is not now possible.  Some are also upset that the government could form with the support of the Arab party Ra-am, led by a Hamas sympathizer.  However, Bibi cannot make that argument since he sought the support from the same party and would have accepted it if he had enough Knesset (Parliament) members on his side to form a government.  One reason he failed was that one right wing protential party, religious Zionist, would not join Bibi if he had the support of Ra-am. 

If Yair Lapid is successful, the government will be moderately right-wing but hampered in implementing new right-wing policies with regard to new settlements on the West Bank and annexing more of the West Bank, and reigning in the Supreme Court.   Let us describe the parties and why the new government will be a moderate right-wing government.  

First, Lapid has said that if they succeed, Bennett will go first in a rotation and be the Prime Minister for the first two years.  Bennett seems very capable.  He is more conservative right-wing than Bibi and rejects outright a two-state solution.  While he is in the government, there will not be progress toward a two-state solution, or the government would fall.  

Second, is Gideon Saar, recently in Bibi’s party.  He also is against a two-state solution.  His policies are Likud but he had enough of Bibi who offended and marginalized him (as he did to Bennett before).

Third, is Avigdor Liberman, of Israel Batainu (Israel our home), a largely Russian party.  Liberman is also very conservative.  He has not rejected a two-state solution but the land swaps he would seek would not be accepted by the Palestinians.  Liberman desires to see the Ultra-Orthodox required to work for a living and do some kind of national service.  He is thus despised by them. Lapid agrees with him on this, but if the Ultra-Orthodox joins the government Liberman and Lapid will have to suspend any such plans. One ultra-Orthodox party says they won’t be in a government with him or Lapid. Stay tuned. 

The above three are conservative on free enterprise and on a two-state solution.  The government can only survive if they are accommodated. They will be, but not by moving to annex West Bank land but by keeping the status quo and working on other problems. 

Then comes Lapid and New Hope.  They have the most members in Parliament but not nearly enough to dominate.  Lapid seems a centrist in economics and is for a two-state solution but with strong security and keeping the larger settlement blocks.  The government he is forming will not progress to that.  Lapid believes in free enterprise but wants to lower the cost of living, especially housing and food which is way too high.  Salaries for teachers, social workers, and others are way too low.  But Israel only has so much money. 

Blue and White under Benny Gantz is also centrist.  He was a very good general and defense minister.   He will support progress and some kind of unity to make it through this period. 

Labor under MK Michaeli, is liberal but no longer socialist.  They are left of center and will be concerned to improve the lives of the ordinary citizens.  Labor has moved from the left to the left of center. 

Finally comes Meretz.  They want a two-state solution, a generous one for the Palestinians.  They have socialistic tendencies.  In a coalition, they will seek greater wages and benefits for the underpaid. 

Ra-am is the Arab Party.  They seek hospitals, roads, and more and better policing for crime. Bibi was promising that. 

Meretz is the smallest party to be offered a part in the government, 4 seats only in the Knesset. 

So don’t believe the propaganda.  This is no left-wing government.  A left-wing government is not possible in Israel at this time.  This is all about many, including former colleagues, no longer wanting Bibi to lead Israel and to have a time of transition to see him retire.  If Bibi retires, Likud could do well, and its next leader would probably be Prime Minister.  How likely is that?  Right now, not very likely. 

We need a stable government. We have no budget and are in danger without a stable government.  So, pray for Israel.  Bibi did many great things for Israel. Many believe that with his trial for bribery and his alienating so many that he is not finishing well. 

Party Politics and a Biblical World View

The recent elections in America raise some difficult issues for followers of Yeshua.  I would like to go deeper into a larger question.  That question is whether or not we can be “all in” with a political party.  As an observer of politics since the Nixon-Kennedy election, I have watched the change among white Evangelicals from the majority being Democrats or at least voting for Democrats to being Republican voters.  How did that happen?  Evangelicals were quite favorable to Roosevelt.  My Evangelical relatives spoke of Roosevelt with reverence, and that includes my mother. (I am Jewish through my father).  They saw the Democrats as the party supporting policies that would advance ordinary people, modest people like most Evangelicals were at that time.  They also felt a responsibility for the poor. Many were immigrants’ children and had the experience of hard knocks.  My own view is that the big change came due to social issues.  The right tax rates, money supplies, banking policies, and other matters of economic policy were too abstract for so many.  There was more trust for national leaders.   When the Democrats supported abortion, easier divorce, and then became pro-gay or LGBTQ as it is known today, there was a great Evangelical shift.  This is understandable.  The Black community and many Hispanics (they are more divided than Blacks) saw government support for lifting their community as more important than abortion, gays choosing to marry, or easier divorce since one could choose not to have a divorce or to live a gay life.  The issues of being supported to overcome poverty was considered a greater issue than the others.  So Black Evangelicals stayed mostly Democrat.  

I am very much on the side of the Republicans on the social issues, but my views on many other issues are more nuanced.  We have to look at things from a biblical worldview perspective.  There are first the issues of principle and then the empirical issues of what works.  Here are some Biblical norms that few talk about but should.

  1. The Gospel is primarily spoken to and for the poor, the oppressed, and the captives.  (Luke 4) This is in line with the prophets who deal with two primary sin areas that bring the judgment of God.  The first is idolatry. The second is the treatment of the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan etc.   
  2. A study of the Bible brings out the fact that human beings are fallen, prone to evil and greed.  Therefore, the Bible is oriented against the great concentration of wealth and power in the few or a controlling oligarchy.  Such concentrations will not turn out well.
  3. The Bible enjoins a broad distribution of wealth while allowing growth in prosperity by diligence.  However, because wealth is primarily in land, that is re-distributed and returned to ancestral families every 50 years.  That is the great equal opportunity idea of the Bible, the Year of Jubilee.  Note the prophets railing at those who had added field to field and built large houses on large estates and did not obey the jubilee law.
  4. The Bible requires leaving gleanings, the corner of the field, and a partial tithe for support for the poor. 
  5. Loan sharking is absolutely forbidden.
  6. The Bible enjoins a strict sexual morality and family order. 
  7. All of this is based in the fact that every human being is created in the image of God and to be treated with respect and dignity.  The courts of law and justice must show this truth.  

These are the principles.  Then there is the empirical reality.  The development of economies in the world are so very different than the older agrarian economies.  We now have wealth connected to huge corporations and industrial enterprises, many multi-national.  Modern governments in developed societies have produced huge bureaucracies.  The question for society is what is the best system of economic organization for lifting the greatest number of people, providing adequate income for gainful work that treats employees with dignity.  In a modern society, we also deal with health care and its availability and delivery.  The problem with socialism is that it leads to greater poverty and does not produce the creativity and drive to increase the wealth of the society.  The problem with capitalism as it has developed is that it has produced huge disparities of wealth distribution where there is too much power in a few and many are exploited.  They then control the government through lobbies and contributions.  Unions have been helpful, but some unions are now part of the problem.  Some unions have negotiated packages that are bankrupting cities with six-figure pensions.  This is unfair to people with no unions or weaker unions.  I think teachers’ unions are now destructive and have produced a destructive monopoly.  An education for decent vocations is a crucial issue and hence competition is crucial. 

Can free enterprise be designed that limits obscene wealth and power concentrations while allowing the motivation of reward for enterprise?  Can this success be of greater benefit to the many?  Can we see profit-sharing, stock for employees, and more for employees?  Also, how shall we deal with robotics?  What if there are just not enough jobs; will there be a robotic dividend for people.  The idea of greater leisure due to robots was the talk of futurists decades ago.  They speculated on a much shorter work week. I think Andrew Yang who runs for mayor of New York is thinking about these things.  Higher minimum wages may lead to job losses and robot replacements.  Do Evangelicals wrestle with these issues?

Then finally we think of reforms in-laws and penalties for crime.  Can we think more deeply about the fact that the Bible has no prisons for non-capital crimes, but requires restitution with penalties?  It is justice but restorative justice.  How should that orient us to reform in the justice system? 

I often think that because people do not credit the Torah and the authority of the Hebrew Bible, they miss the important teaching of the Bible and its principles for societies.  These are reasons why I cannot really be totally at home with political parties.  These parties are coalitions of interest groups.  Many of the positions of political parties are for the sake of gaining the support of those interest groups and for the sake of keeping politicians in power.  But the policies on issues in these parties do not cohere with each other.  Have you ever thought about how arbitrary it seems that a party’s policies on different issues do not form any coherent whole?  Only the Bible can give a coherent whole on issues and then pursue the truth empirically as to what works best in implementing the principles. I try to wrestle with some of this in my book “Social Justice.”

The Israel Elections and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Some of my Facebook followers have been informed about the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel from this page and perhaps from their own reading.  The election coming up again brings the issue of the conflict of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews with the rest of Israel society to the fore.  Ultra-Orthodoxy is not monolithic though it appears to be to outsiders.  The antipathy from the rest of the society is due to the fact that the Ultra-Orthodox do not as a rule serve in the army or do national service.  Secondly, generally, the men do not enter the workforce and support their families. The women work as they can.  The men study Talmud (they call it Torah study, but we should understand they mean Talmud study including subsequent centuries of traditional Jewish texts.)  They argue that this is so important that though it leads to semi-poverty and welfare dependence, they have a right to do so and that such endeavors are the key to the safety of the Jewish people in the Land. Some of the Ultra-Orthodox are positive to the State of Israel and some are against the existence of the State as a pre-mature endeavor.  The Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox represented by the political party Shas is a bit more flexible on these matters, but they support the Ultra-Orthodox consensus on these issues.  This includes a state-supported educational system for Torah study that does not include subjects that can prepare the men for work.  

An accommodation with David Ben Gurion in the early days of the State for a small number at that time has mushroomed into 12% of the population being in this orientation and costing great amounts to the whole society.  Hence the bitterness.  However, when it comes to the vote, other things generally supersede this with enough of the people that they vote for parties, especially Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, that will include Shas and United Torah Judaism in the coalition.  Without them, he does not have enough mandates in the Knesset to be the Prime Minister.  He, therefore, submits to their demands.  You recognize the Ultra-Orthodox by their varieties of old-style dress, back coats, and hats.  Different sects have different styles.  They are to be distinguished from the Nationalist/Modern Orthodox who serve zealously in the Army and excel in many professions.  There is one thing to bear in mind.  The power of the Orthodox, both Modern/Nationalist and Ultra, are a firewall against the radical LGBTQ agenda in Israel, though it is still at a problem level.  The Messianic Jewish Moshav Yad Ha Shmoneh was taken to court for not renting for a gay wedding.  This is selective and unfair since no Orthodox hall would be so sued.  There is still no gay marriage done in Israel.  That is due to the Orthodox.  Their role in the next government is a crucial issue.  As of now all of the Ultra-Orthodox are predicted to have about 15 mandates. 

So how did this ever happen?  In Eastern Europe and Russia, the origin of the Ultra-Orthodox, the men had to work.  Only a few could be full-time rabbis and students for a lifetime.  The Eastern European states would not give welfare to enable them all to bow out of work.  Many do not realize that what exists is unique to Israel, though it has now spread to some communities in the New York City region where they game the welfare system.   It goes back to a particular famous Rabbi, though not an ordained one.  His name was Avraham Yeshayahu Karlitz, known as the Chazon Ish (Vision of a Man) after one of his books.  Karlitz moved to Israel in the 1930s.  After World War Two, the Ultra-Orthodox community was devastated.  The majority of their people were killed.  The extended family structure, which was a key part of tradition transmission, was destroyed.  How could Ultra-Orthodoxy survive?  Ben Gurion was sympathetic to their plight and wanted them to survive, but not to become as they became, a state within the state.  Karlitz envisioned a new thrust to save the Ultra-Orthodox, the Yeshiva as an almost monastic community where men would study day and night.  The Yeshiva in a way replaced the extended families which no longer existed.  It was a total living together focus.  Homelife was secondary and work in the society largely eliminated for most of the men.  When it was a few it was doable.  But with large families, the Ultra-Orthodox have greatly increased their numbers.  This whole situation is a historic anomaly and unlike the traditional Judaism of centuries. It should be known as well that in the government Shas controls immigration and resists all believers in Yeshua.   

Here is a question.  Can this situation be changed such that the Orthodox have to go to work and do national service and thereby escape poverty while yet providing the firewall against radical social agendas from the secularists?  This firewall is a key to averting God’s judgment. That is my desire.  The election at the end of this month is crucial.  The reader should note my other post on the parties and the upcoming election.  These are crucial matters for all that pray for Israel.  The research of Vivian Bercovici in the Jerusalem Post for Feb. 27th was very helpful to the second part of this article. 

The Concentration of Wealth and Power

Not long ago, President Barack Obama stated that, “At a certain point you’ve made enough money.”  There were howls of protest.  The more libertarian of Republicans pushed back hard and asserted that however much money a person can make within the laws of the land was perfectly in order and no one should think otherwise.  Many believers being Republicans got on the bandwagon against his words.  It was socialism! A few years before that the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case threw out by 5 to 4 the limits on contributions by corporations and unions to organizations involved in political activity.  The campaign finance law had the backing of some Republicans and Democrats. On the Republican side, Senator John McCain was the most known. Again, some of the conservative Republicans embraced the court decisions since as the court said, such limitations of contributions limited speech.  Those supporting the law said that, on the contrary, such big money drowned out the speech of the rank and file voters.  

For a time this seemed to favor Republicans but the last election showed big money by far more greatly given to Democrats. 

Then forward to the campaign of 2020.  Elizabeth Warren argued that the level of wealth held by a few distorted the economy and politics of the nation.  For a long time, she held out against contributions from the corporations of the rich.  Then Bernie Sanders railed against the billionaires.  Most Republicans pushed back hard.  Warren talked of a wealth tax to be assessed on the net worth of the individual.  How would it be assessed?  After all, wealth fluctuates as values go up and down over the course of a year.  Yet strangely the superrich mostly supported the Democrats in the election.  For decades conservatives argued that the wealthy becoming more wealthy is no problem since they have to invest their wealth and that creates economic expansion for everyone.  But there are other issues. 

I personally believe that the issue is wrongly framed between socialism and free enterprise.  Rather I think what is really happening is that the superrich project themselves as being for greater socialism to keep the leftist populists at bay while they work to control more and more wealth and power and take the nations where they desire.  What is really desired by them is a technocracy where the wealthiest oligarchs control the direction of societies.  To do this, they have to control media, communication of all kinds (including social media) and control the elected bodies through enormous campaign spending and buying politicians.  It is crony capitalism at the highest level while projecting a socialist agenda to keep others at bay.  It is a level of control that is unprecedented. Corporations now have more income than good size nations and have more power.

Recently a news organization reported on Bill Gates of Microsoft and Big Pharma fame, becoming the largest landowner in the United States. Why would he be buying all that land?  It then was reported that Gates is calling for an end to eating meat.  He is for synthetic meat and vegetarianism.  He is so super-rich that he can afford to buy huge tracts of land at higher than going prices and then take them out of meat production.  There will then be less land for cattle and the price of meat will soar.  Only the very rich will be able to afford it.   His wealth can change the direction and eating habits of the whole nation.  A case can be made for vegetarianism and the greater prosperity of the world, but do we want to see it come from such control versus communicating through education and debate.  That process is too slow for Bill Gates.  As Lord Acton of England famously said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The world may be moving toward world government control by super-rich oligarchs, and democratic checks and balances will only be a facade.  There are some very good books on this.  

As we look at what is developing, are we so sure that the push back against Warren and McCain was really right?  Does the Bible speak to these issues?  And is the concern about the superrich and their political and cultural power only a concern for Democrats or is there a biblical response? 

In the 1970s John Howard Yoder, the famous Mennonite New Testament scholar wrote a book entitled The Politics of Jesus.  The book amazingly had material that supported Messianic Jewish theology. I used it in my book Jewish Roots.  Yoder argues that the year of jubilee principle is a key to understanding Yeshua and the Bible.  Since wealth in agrarian societies was concentrated inland, the redistribution of land to the families of the original ownership clans precluded the concentration of the wealth of Israel in a few.  The prophets spoke strongly against its violation.  Today wealth is concentrated in capital and corporations.  Can there be a free enterprise that brings expanded prosperity for the many and precludes the over-concentration of wealth in a few?  There can be and in some ways, this had happened at times in history.  However, should there be a limit to the vast wealth and power of a few and the ability they have to dominate and control?  Should there be new businesses so money is more decentralized and should stock in large corporations be such that they cannot be controlled by a few?  Should there be limits on political the power of a few so that the many have greater speech and power?  There should be a conversation among Bible believers and serious study on the implications of the jubilee.  Think of it.  A billion dollars is one thousand million.  Can you imagine having to your own account 1000 million dollars?  Then think of this ten times over, ten billion dollars equal 10,000 million dollars!  We now have individuals who have to their own account over 150 billion dollars. Is that a bit frightening?  At a certain point, you do have enough money.   This is an enormous centralization of power and wealth, and I for one think free enterprise needs reform.  Those who believe in the Bible know that when we promote the Gospel and traditional morality and experience we face the push back that it is hate speech.  When we want to educate our children, these super-rich oppose us and want to drive us all in a particular direction of education that is not based on a biblical.  When we see what has happened with social media and the elite controls, I wonder if there could be common ground between some Democrats and populist Republicans on these dangers.  Let’s seriously study the year of jubilee as foundational.  Again, I do touch on this in my book Social Justice. 

The Upcoming Election: Understanding and Prayer

We are amazingly going to new elections in Israel though the last elections were less than a year ago.  Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved two governments that he recently led to gain a coalition that was more in unity with him.   It is important for those Messianic Jews and Christians who vote in Israel to understand the issues and to prayerfully vote. However, it is also important that those who pray for Israel have some understanding to enable their prayers to be joined with knowledge as well as being led by the Spirit.  Now these are my personal views, and some of you will want to do your own research. 

All should understand that Israel is a parliamentary system where the party with the most votes is given the opportunity to form a government if they have a majority or if they can get other parties to join with them in a coalition.  Unlike the United Kingdom, the Knesset Members (Parliament) of Israel are not elected according to representation from districts. The citizens of the nation vote for the party they desire.  This then leads to proportional representation nationally in the Knesset.  A party must meet a vote threshold to have representation in the Knesset.   This has produced much fragmentation and too many elections in the past few years and been part of the reason why Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved his governments.  The Knesset has 120 members. To be Prime Minister a party leader needs to receive 61 votes from Knesset members. 

The second thing that all should know is that conservative in Israel does not mean socially conservative.  For example, the conservative parties of Likud, New Hope, and Yisrael Beitenu are not anti-abortion and support LGBTQ rights.  Coalition governments that include religious Jewish parties are limited in supporting the social agendas of the LGBTQ movement.  The Rabbis of Israel control marriage.  Conservative in Israel means rejecting a two-state solution with the Palestinians or at least only accepting a very small restricted state for them.  No one on the right is talking about ceding the land in the areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  In addition, conservative in Israel is pro-free enterprise.  One of the amazing things about Israel is the decline of the left wing.  This was largely due to the failure of negotiations for a two-state solution and the intifadas or uprisings of the Palestinians after they refused the solution given during the time of Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton.  Their rejection of a more generous off under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was the last straw.   The left wing is thus now largely powerless in Israel. 

Here is my analysis of the parties and the issues

Those Parties with polling that they will be in the Knesset (Parliament)  

Right Wing Parties 

Likud: Benjamin Netanyahu: 29:  The Prime Minister has been a darling of American Evangelicals.  What he has done for Israel is enormous and he is a great patriot.  His father was a noted historian and Zionist.  His brother was killed in the famous rescue in the raid on Entebbe, Uganda.  As finance minister, Bibi brought Israel out of the doldrums of low growth and inflation through policies that fostered strong economic growth.  Such policies continued in his leadership as Prime Minister.   In my view his dealing with the Iran nuclear bomb issue was courageous.  His work in diplomacy and the peace treaties with Arab governments in the Abraham accords has been brilliant. In fighting COVID he went to economic shutdowns which I do not favor, but brilliantly negotiated to bring vaccines to Israel to make Israel the #1 success in vaccination.  The big deficit is that he does not keep his word. He now breaks his word with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.  It is alleged and it seems so, that when another leader in Likud rises in popularity, Bibi needs to marginalize him. He has alienated many who used to be with him.  This is the case with Gideon Sa’ar.  See below for Sa-ar.  Bibi is sometimes bombastic, dishonest and amazingly manipulative. He does not have a reputation for integrity. He may also be seeking elections to pass a law to not have to face a trail for corruption/fraud. To me it seems the accusations are credible and brought by his one-time partner who leads the justice department, Attorney General Mandelblit, a conservative Likud member.   Bibi has not sufficiently dealt with the high cost of housing and other cost of living issues.  He has also failed to bring justice in financing, housing, and services to the Arab Israeli citizens.  Bibi submits to ultra-Orthodox demands to be released from Army or national service and for men to not have to work so they can study Talmud.  In education this means that they resist basic leaning that can prepare them for jobs but yet their schools (yeshivot) demand enormous subsidies and get them.  This is a bitter issue for many Israelis and a real problem. 

New Hope:  Gideon Sa’ar: 14:  For many years he was high up in the Likud.  He has a reputation for integrity.  Many of his policies would be like Bibi’s.  One of the things that is important to me is that when he led the Interior Department (Misrad HaPanim), he was just in dealing with immigration.  Messianic Jews and also many others were excluded by the Interior leaders without legal grounds.  The Shas Party that controls this agency has put out orders to resist citizenship for all followers of Yeshua. They practice delay tactics.  Sa’ar is very conservative on the issue of a Palestinian state.  He is in favor an autonomy, maybe linkage to Jordan.  He does not bend to the norm that everyone has to be fully citizens of a state, though he would probably favor Jordan for such citizenship.  He will not cede the west bank.  I do not know where he is on justice for Arab Israelis and for prices in Israel.  He was marginalized by Bibi and just had enough with him and thus foremed this new party. 

Right Party; Yamina:  Naftali Bennet: 11:  Bennet led the national religious party when it was in an earlier coalition with Bibi.  Bibi was very upset with him for publicly criticizing him.  He left that party to have a larger party that could appeal to both religious people and conservative secular people. In the last coalition Bibi offered him so little to be in the government that Bennet went into the opposition.  He probably could do well in coalition with Sa-ar.  Would he also stop the progressing of the LGBGQ agenda if in power? Probably, especially if the Ultra-Orthodox are in the coalition or if the Religious Zionists were in the coalition with him 

Relgious Zionist Party and Otzma:  Bazalel Smotrich: Itamar Ben Gvir: 4:  Bazalel Smotrich seems to me to be a very radical right wing person. I don’t think he cares about Arab Israeli justice.  He recently joined with Otzma under Ben Gvir who is a follower of the late Meir Kahani who believed that the Arabs needed to leave Israel.  This joining was to enable them to pass the threshold for Parliament and was encouraged by Bibi.  Bibi says that he would not put Ben Gvir in the government (a cabinet position).   

Shas: Aryeh Deri: 8:   The Shas party represents the Orthodox Sephardic community in Israel.  For us they have a pro and a con.  The pro is that they are a stop for radical LGBTQ agendas in Israel.  The negative is that they control the Interior Department and make citizenship very hard for Messianic Jews and many others who qualify.  Sometimes this is at a level of causing real hardship.  Deri himself went to jail for fraud and is under investigation again.    They are not as radical in wanting men to study Talmud and not work but do tend to an alliance with United Torah Judaism, our next party. 

United Torah Judaism: 7  They are the Ashkenazic Ultra-Orthodox coalition party led by Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman.  The enter coalition governments to extract money for their schools (Yeshivot) and seek to preclude the requirements of their schools teaching skills and knowledge that would enable their young men to find work.  They thus crate a welfare system that is unique to them.  During the period of the government when Yair Lapide was in the coalition, laws were passed to mitigate this problem.  It was all reversed in the next government Bibi formed.  However, they are a barrier to the radical LGBTQ agenda.  UTJ is a non-Zionist party. They say they would not be in a government with Yair Lapide or Avigdor Lieberman. 

Yisrael Beitenu: Avigdor Lieberman: 7:  This party is a secular Russian Jewish oriented party.  Lieberman used to be part of Bibi’s government years ago.  He has fallen out with him.  He says he will not serve in a government he leads.  He is also committed to end the special status for the Ultra-Orthodox to not work and to support schools that do not prepare young people to work.  He would join with Likud if Bibi was not leading it and if they would begin to reform the situation with the Ultra-Orthodox.  He is also fighting for the status for Russian Jews, 400,000 of whom are not recognized as Jewish by the Shas Interior Department.  They thus cannot marry other Jews in the Land of Israel, but have to leave Israel to marry.   This is due to them being Jewish through their fathers or due to lack of documentation which is difficult from a Soviet Communist past. 

This totals 80 seats in the Knesset. Other polls are similar. Yet some would not sit with some of the others. Taking that into account, you many still only have 60 and not enough. 

Centrist Parties 

Yesh Atid: Yair Lapide: 17.  Lapide merged his party with Blue and White under Benny Gantz. They were close to being able to form the coalition with Gantz as Prime Minister.  However, some would not accept the votes of the Arab parties to do this. The votes of the Arab parties were needed.  Therefore, Gantz joined in a unity government where he would be associate Prime Minister.  Lapide did not trust this agreement and pulled out of the Blue and White and went back to his own party.  He is moderate on the Palestinian state issue. He is open to this, up but wants to keep the major settlements.  He is for strong security as well.  His big pluses are that he wants to reform the relationships with the Ultra-Orthodox, and wants to reform policies on housing and other cost of living issues to make Israel affordable to the middle class which is being priced out of being able to afford living here.  Messianic Jews were very disappointed in him because he stood against a Messianic Jewish Congregation getting their official non-profit status here. 

Blue and White: Benny Gantz: 4:  Benny was a well respected General and Army head.  He lost some credibility when he entered the coalition government with Bibi to prevent another election during COVID.  Bibi, as expected by many, broke his agreements with him:  doing a two year budget (there is still not buget) and on other matters.  Gantz has looked weak and been played by Bibi. Many thought it would have been better for him to stay with Lapide and be united in the opposition, but his view was at that time< during the COVID crisis, that a new election was likely to yield the same results and that tne national good required avoiding an election.  

The Centrist have 21 mandates in this poll.  They could join with right wing parties, but would not want to or be able to join with Shas and United Torah Judaism.  Lapide will not join a government under Bibi again.  Centrist parties could join with Labor. 

Left Parties

Labor: Merav Michaeli: 6  Labor was the dominant party in Israel for its first three decades and then had power off and on after.  The last labor leader as Prime Minister was Ehud Barak.  Since then it was down hill.  Originally the party was very socialistic orientated but today is more moderate.  They embrace free enterprise but desire better wealth distribution and more help for people.  They embrace a two state solution to the Palestinian conflict, but do not want to dismantle the settlement blocks. 

Meretz: Nitzan Horowitz: 4   This is the most leftist Jewish party.  All of the Jewish parties except for United Torah Judaism are now Zionist, or believe in the State of Israel.  However, Meretz is the most radical in regard to borders for a Palestinian state and being anti settlement in the territories of the West Bank.   

Jewish Left Parties have 10 mandates. 

Arab Parties 

Joint Arab List: Ayman Odeh: 9:  The Arab parties do not join coalitions.  In my view this is very sad.  It is because they are anti-Zionist.  Therefore, they lose political power in fighting for justice for Israeli Arabs.  They need to be more focused on the needs of their towns and bring services, roads, hospitals, police and housing, but due to their stands against Israel have no political leverage.  Justice should be served by Israeli governments bringing justice anyway, but they do not do so. 

Ra’am: Mansour Abbas: 4: Previously part of the Join list above, but now separated due to wanting an even more anti-Zionist stand.    

A New Party

Gush HaTanaki: David Friedman: I include this party not because they are polling to get into the Knesset, but because Friedman is a Messianic Jewish scholar. His party is not just for Messianic Jews.  Others leaders in the party are not Messianic Jews Their platform is very good, but they do not yet have traction. 

Praying for Israel and the Election

The next prime minister will be from the rightwing camp. The big prayer issues for me are justice for the Messianic Jews, Russian Jews, and others. We need a change of leadership in  the immigration department. I pray that Shas will not be in control of this department.  In addition, even for their own sake, I want to see Ultra-Orthodox men required to work and be trained in their education systems for work or vocations.  This is a key to the Ultra-Orthodox not living in poverty. There can be some who are called to study for a life time but this should be a much lower percentage.  I am very concerned for justice for the Arab towns in Israel.  Lastly, I want to see social improvement in hospitals, wages for teachers and social workers, and great improvement in the cost of living.  Pray that the next prime minister has great wisdom in navigating the international scene and protecting the security of Israel.  In my view, Bibi has been very good at that.  

Christian Nationalism

The recent election in the United States has divided believers over claims that Christians were in idolatry of Donald Trump as a savior figure; also added to this claim was the charge of the error of “Christian nationalism.”  This is now a pejorative term.  I won’t here speak to the former claim; I know Trump supporters who were over the top in their adulation and also know Trump supporters who were in my view very balanced. The issue of Christian nationalism is an important one. The accusation is not helpful since many who make the accusation have not defined it with sufficient precision such that it could lead to a fruitful dialogue.  I think some do not realize that some use the term nationalism as fostering the sovereign nation state idea over against a one world government idea.  It does not imply as liberals accuse conservatives of white nationalist supremacy, though such folks do exist. 

Let us note some definitions.  People mean very different things by the term. They argue from foundationally different definitions.  I will list some. 

  1. Christian nationalism is a nationalism that is Christian and can be applied to any nation. It is like Christian education, Christian Art, or a Christian business. It is a nationalism that is truly Christian. It means that citizens should be loyal to their nation, should seek the good of their nation and should seek to bring its laws and culture into conformity to the Law of God. In addition, they should measure their nation by God’s law and affirm that which is good and beautiful in their culture(s) by God’s grace but reject what is bad.  For Reformed Theology, we are to seek to see that God’s Law is established in every sphere of human life in every nation.  
  2. Then there is the specifically two varieties of Christian nationalism applied to the United States in addition to the above definition.   
    1. There is first the idea that God in his providence and shown by the Christian roots of the country, brought into being a special nation whose laws and government were more in accord to the Law of God and Christian principles.  We should therefore be loyal and seek to preserve and foster these values and have respect and patriotism for the nation.  Most American Christians historically, I think, have been Christian nationalists in this sense. Washington, Adams, and Lincoln were Christian nationalists.  Washington’s Farewell Address, emphasizing the importance of Christian values and faith for the nation to succeed is an amazing address. So are the words of Adams and many others.  Those Christians who fought in the Revolutionary War and the Christian founding fathers were Christian nationalists.  Many who fought in the great wars were also such. 
    2. The second idea is that America is a nation in covenant with God like ancient Israel and a nation of special favor to the extent that it keeps God’s Law.  

I will not at this point evaluate these two varieties.  Some British Christian nationalists had similar thoughts about Britain and some 19th century Russians about Russia and Russian Orthodoxy Christianity based in Moscow, the 3rd Rome.  I do not think that Christian nationalists in these two senses should be attacked for a wrong nationalism. Their differences should be accommodated in the Body of the Messiah.

  1. Then there is a “Christian Nationalism” that is really an “unchristian nationalism” if one overlooks the sins of the nation and exalts the nation in an idolatrous way.  It sees the nation as such a manifestation of truth that it ignores the relative nature of all gains in this fallen world and the more important answer to our situation in the righteousness of the Church, revival, and the ultimate answer for righteousness in the return of Yeshua.  We ultimately will see history move toward the great battle of good and evil, and nation states will not attain sufficient righteousness to be virtuous in those dark days.  This nationalism ignores the importance of the health of the Church.  The foundation of society is a healthy, growing, and discipled people of God.  A wrong Christian nationalism does not face the issue of the centrality of revival and the health and influence of a godly Church as the key and central issue, not the nation state. This is really Christian nationalistic chauvinism, and inordinately favors the nation. 
  2. Then last is “Anti-nationalism.”  In this view, the Church is called as a people apart and is to not be involved in the political and civic concerns of the nation.  Many of the pacifist peace churches historically fit this description: Mennonites, Amish, and Church of the Brethren Anabaptists. Yeshua’s words that his Kingdom was not of this world are interpreted in terms of a counter cultural withdrawal.  Some Dispensationalists also fit within this position and said that human societies are a “sinking ship.”  We should not be concerned about the sinking ship but should get people into the lifeboats so they will go to heaven. 

For me there is a deeply important history that is very much a part of my own biography.  As a skeptical student at Wheaton College during the Viet Nam War, I watched the parade for Veteran’s day led by the Army ROTC and the patriotism that was characteristic of Wheaton College historically.  I also noted the streets filled with protestors, and even some in the Wheaton chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  Yes, Wheaton had a chapter.  I was sad about this and sad about how pained was the Admiral President of Wheaton, Dr. Hudson Taylor Armerding.   Some years of searching followed on the issues of nationalism and war and peace.   My roommate was a Mennonite, one of the well know pacifistic denominations. I studied their literature and began to doubt the importance of allegiance to the state.  I was disturbed that in European wars Christians fought Christians believing in the propaganda of their own nation. I even registered for the draft as a pacifist, though this registration was rejected as too late in my life!   The issues of the Holocaust and Israel plus Reformed Theology helped me to what I now think is a more balanced position.  I was also helped by the writing of H. Richard Niebuhr’s, Christ and Culture.  I also read the book of one of the proponents of the idea that America had a special covenant with God, Peter Marshall Jr., The Light and the Glory, maybe the best defending the idea of America as covenant with God nation.  His father was the famous Chaplain of the Senate, Peter Marshall Sr.  His mother was the famous writer Catherine Marshall.

As followers of Yeshua, how committed should we be to our nations or American or Israel?  Is Christian nationalism wrong? Here is some historical perspective.  Favoritism for ethnic identities is an old and universal trait of humanity.  It goes back to favoring one’s family, clan and then the tribe out of which ethnicities grew.  Ethnic wars were ubiquitous in history, and sometimes an ethnic group would gain power and control other groups.  Sometimes there was genocide and sometimes subjection.  Sometimes related ethnic groups would be unified in a larger governing arrangement.  What we call nation states is a more recent development that came to its height in the 19th century.  The idea of sovereign nation states in relationship to other such states was seen as an ideal arrangement.  Such states were made up of ethnic groups who were close enough in language and culture to join in larger nations. Some came into order like Italy in the 19th century.  It was thought important that everyone was a citizen of a nation state. Patriotism to one’s nation state was considered very important in producing a coherent national order. Some nation statues thought of themselves as especially glorious states.  One thinks of the pride of the French or the glory of the Hapsburg Empire, Austria-Hungary.  A trip around the large circle in front of Buckingham Palaces shows the monuments the glory of British Empire rule.  It recalls the graduation march we all know written by Elgar, “Land of Hope and Glory” where Elgar touted British rule as the hope for civilizing the world.  He was soon disillusioned by World War I.  The United States has its own mythos (I mean in a positive sense) about its God chosen destiny. 

There are two things to bring into balance.  First the Gospel to an extent relativizes one’s commitment to one’s nation as of secondary importance comparted to the commitment to Yeshua and the Kingdom of God which is to influence all aspects of life.  As such, the transcending fellowship of all believers form all ethnicities and our union together is a more important point of loyalty and unity than our membership in an ethnicity or nation state.  This is very threatening to a regime like China where the highest loyalty should be to the state and its rulers.  The Gospel brings us into a commitment to a multi-ethnic fellowship.  The teaching of H. Richard Niebuhr is also important.  It was especially written for missionaries but applies to us all.  We are to affirm the unique beauties and cultures of nations when these cohere with God’s standards of truth, beauty and goodness.  This good is there by God’s common grace, the grace given to every people (as contrasted to salvation grace).  We are to see the good redeemed and transformed in Messiah, but we are to discard that which is bad.  A balanced ethic loyalty or national loyalty can see biblically to do this.  Inordinate and idolatrous commitment will blind to the evil and aspects that are not in accord.  John Dawson in his writings speaks of a redemptive purpose for every ethnic group.  The book of Revelation chapter 21 show that every nation (ethnos) has a unique glory to bring into the New Jerusalem. 

The Law of God is the norming norm by which we evaluate the condition of the nation, its history and origins. True commitment to our nations is a commitment to see first the Body of the Messiah grow in numbers and health in discipleship.  From that foundation it is to influence the nation toward embracing the Law of God.

I want to now apply all this to the United States.  We are justified in honoring the biblical roots of the nation.  The godly Pilgrims and Puritans did seek to make the Colonies like ancient Israel, a people in explicit covenant with God, under the Lordship of Yeshua and embracing biblical Law for its civic and cultural life.  This had enormous influence on later American law and culture. Then in 1776, the Declaration of Independence affirmed something that no one outside of biblical influence could affirm.  It was that all men (human beings) were created equal and given inalienable rights by God.  The nation was based on an idea of liberty and equal rights before God. That is amazing.  In a sense there was a covenantal dimension in acknowledging God.  There were covenantal origins and certainly the Christian community was in covenant with God. But sadly, this did not carry though in the Constitution, which was in many respects, amazingly biblical both in the laws and the recognition of the danger of concentrated power which fallen man could not be trusted to wield.  It built in checks and balances to preserve freedom.  Freedom of speech and religion were enshrined as foundations. That freedom was mostly for varieties of Christianity and Judaism. Other religions were not contemplated. However the Constitution did not explicitly acknowledge the Lordship of Yeshua or the God of the Bible.  Yet, many state constitutions did. Until more recent years, the doctrine of the separation of religion and state (Church and state) was not applied to states. God also was not separated from civll government and its accountability to God. States assumed the Christian faith, but there was special recognition of the Jewish people as in line with these values.  Lincoln’s words affirmed both the Declaration from a Christian foundation and Constitutional government.  Therefore, there are grounds for special respect for the history and origins of the nation.  Our British friends might question the legitimacy of the break from the United Kingdom, but the nation that was formed in so many ways was a Bible Law based Kingdom.  This was affirmed by a 19th century Supreme Court decision.  That is the good part.  The national mottos, “In God We Trust,” and “Out of Many, One,” especially present a nation not based on a common ethnicity but on shared values.  One could be any ethnicity and join. These are covenantal aspects both in the nations origins and in such statements but short of a full covenant. 

There is glory in the founding of the United States and the direction its civilization took.  However, there was one large blot.  It was slavery.  Northern leaders like John Adams wanted an end to slavery.  It came early to the Colonies and rooted itself in the South (1619).  However, to unify the nation and have sufficient strength to withstand opposition, a compromise with the South would be accepted.  This compromise was again and again made over the next 74 years when new states would enter the union.  Slavery was the great national sin.  There was glory but also shame.  In the North, the Negro was understood as equal, but in the South maybe he understood as less than in the image of God. 

The shame parts show a fallen nation.  This included white northern European prejudice when southern Catholic Europeans were considered unworthy and faced discrimination and immigration restrictions based on ethnicity. Jewish people as well faced such discrimination after the wave of Jewish immigration at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.  These continued restrictions proved deadly with the rise of Hitler.  Discrimination was allowed especially against Jews and Blacks into the 1960s.  The results of Jim Crow and discrimination were most painfully experienced by Black Americans and the effects continue to this day, though through the Gospel and better programs this population can be lifted.   We also know too well the issues of robber baron monopolies fought so rightly by Theodore Roosevelt.  Today the United States faces a similar issue with robber baron hi-tech moguls who control communication and censor and cancel believers in Yeshua who promote the Gospel and Biblical morality and law. The accumulate obscene personal wealth and power. 

The rebellion against God in the culture has grown steadily over 100 years.  Prostitution, human trafficking and the greatest purveyor in the world of pornography characterizes the United States.  The rejection of the anti-pornography laws was so destructive to marriage, family and the good morals that are necessary to a healthy society.  This has now spread to the whole world from the United States. Laws and judgments were passed that allowed for radical freedom for abortion and the loss and slaughter of untold millions of human beings; and it is called women’s health!  Our universities are hot beds of evolutionism and secular anti-God philosophies.   Billy Graham said, “If God does not judge the United States, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”  This is far from the nation of the 1950s that promoted biblical values even in the public schools!  At that time patriotism was strong along with respect for biblical law.  

In the light of all this, is there a legitimate Christian nationalism? Yes.  I approach this from a Reformed perspective which I think is closest to the Biblical understanding.  I am thankful for that background in my early training.  Such a Christian nationalism functions with the following points of understanding. 

  1. All men and nations are fallen in this world.  To over value any nation as righteous before God is contrary to the Bible’s teaching on that fallenness.
  2. The most important thing for a nation’s prosperity in God is the condition of the Church, that it is growing, discipling well and growing in influence on the laws and culture of the nation. 
  3. The special good and special aspects of the founding of the United States can be respected and acknowledged.  We are to work to preserve that which was right and good and respect our country and the meaning of its symbols that are rooted in this. 
  4. We are to acknowledge how short the nation fell from its ideals and work to redress the sins of the nation.  
  5. Our commitment to the righteous condition of the Church and the Kingdom of God should be paramount and the commitment to the nation’s righteousness and prosperity in God should be secondary since the first is the foundation of any lasting progress in the second.  The first is key to the second. 
  6. All institutions on this earth including Church institutions will not attain full righteousness but will always manifest fallenness, yet great progress can be made. 
  7. The end of all things is the ultimate battle of good and evil and the return of Yeshua. That must be the basis of our hope and not the victory of the United States or any other nation. 

We can also apply all this to Israel, a very fallen and sinful nation.  Israel is actually elect by God.  However, in working for the good of Israel and being patriotic Israelis, these seven points apply.  

Am I a Christian nationalist or a Messianic Jewish nationalist?  Only if by definition the seven points are fully embraced.  Beyond that we slip into an idolatry of the nation. And in my view, some Christians have slipped into an ungodly nationalism that is not biblical.  Let’s otherwise not divide the Body in controversy between those who are in different places in their understanding of nationalism unless we are speaking of the errors which I noted above.  

Social Justice And Post Election Reflections

Sometimes the debates among followers of Yeshua on the political civil sphere produce a lot of smoke and little light.  I often sense that people do not really engage with the other. Maybe social media is a terrible place for serious dialogue.  I love such dialogue and have never feared to enter dialogue with people who are of strongly different opinions.  As a professor, I note that this comes with the territory.  I noted this with the pro-Trump and anti-Trump people.  They often could not dialogue.  With Joe Biden as President, I hope that people can engage in the issues and not be so much be focused on a man.  However, if we do not agree on the foundations and goals, we cannot really move forward on the empirical questions of what works and what does not work.  One of the issues with people who say they are progressive is that they do not clarify the goals to which we are to progress.  I sometimes think that the people are not yet clear on basic definitions and goals.  I repeat the definition of justice from my book Social Justice.  Justice or righteous order is an order of righteousness where every person can fulfill a good God intended destiny. Injustice is an order that prevents that destiny.  The motivation for justice is love.  Love is the passionate identification with other people that seeks their good guided by law.  Biblical love always seeks real good that is in accord with the Law of God.

Having thus defined love and justice as I deduce it from the Bible, I would like to lay out some statements and see if we agree.

  1. A just society is one that is in conformity to the principles of Biblical Law. This is not possible unless there is a revived, growing and discipled Body of Believers in the Land of sufficient numbers to form a consensus on justice.
  2. The quest for justice seeks to lift people to their highest potential. In this there is the desire that people have sufficient humane employment, adequate food, shelter, medical care and education as a basic minimum.
  3. The Gospel is the greatest instrument of social justice since it provides personal transformation and empowerment.  With God people are able to overcome supernaturally.  If truly appropriated, Gospel power is the greatest lifter of people.
  4. The Bible requires that we treat all people as equally valued and created in the image of God. There is a biblical quality that no humanistic system can match. Indeed, the quest for equality in society is due to historic biblical influence, though today it is not recognized by secular humanists.
  5. The Bible has special reference to those who are poor form the black community due to the historic injustice of slavery and the intergenerational poverty that still affects many.  The emphasis of the Church should be to come along side and help in those communities as a first priority with financial, business, educational and other help while recognizing that the Gospel is the  first priority.   
  6. The intact family is one of the greatest and proven keys to lifting the poor.
  7. While disparities of wealth can be part of a dynamic economy that lifts the whole society (Kennedy’s statement that a rising tide lifts all boats) the concentration of wealth in ways that are super disparate is not good.  Indeed, that there are super rich people controlling tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth brings them super power. Such concentrations of wealth lead to the fulfilment of the saying, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Economies need to be organized so that the wealth is distributed more equally and that levels of the super wealth of a few are precluded.  The political power of the super wealthy should be circumscribed.  This is in keeping with the Jubilee principle of Lev. 25 where all are to be given a new opportunity every 50 years.
  8. A just society fosters stable families.
  9. A just society discourages abortion
  10. A just society does not have government policy that undercuts the faith and morals of Bible based people.
  11. A just society enables education according to the world view and moral convictions of world view people groups.    

We can argue about how much government help should be given, how big corporations should be, how much socialism, the dangers of crony capitalism, the levels of taxation to produce the greatest lift to the most in society and much more.  But these are empirical questions, not the foundational ones.  Great justice is not possible without a revived, strong and sacrificial people of God.

The Coming Great Tribulation: Central to Eschatology or the Last Days

The recent political upheaval in the United States has been a catalyst of discussion on the last days.  It shows the great divides in the Body of the Messiah on the issues of the coming tribulation, our cultural responsibilities, and what we can hope for in this age.  One preacher in a large network spoke of the loss of the election by Donald Trump as a temporary set back.  He said that the Church will go on to triumph in all nations.  Another wrote to me that the loss by President Trump was God’s sovereign decision and would now be the beginning of the Great Tribulation.  Some believers voted for Joe Biden so that things would go back to some kind normalcy while ending the rule of a bombastic personality they despised as bad for the country.   I don’t think normalcy will happen with the ascendency of identity politics and cancel culture. Can we shed some biblical light on the issue of the responsibility of believers to work for social transformation and the coming of the Great Tribulation?  I think so.

Many who teach on eschatology or the doctrine of the last days, begin with the question of the three main millennial views. Pre-millennialism teaches that Yeshua will return after the Great Tribulation, and then He with the saints and Israel will rule on earth for 1000 years.   The survivors of the nations that had not yet been converted will accept Yeshua’s rule and live long lives.  At the end opf the Millennium, there will be one more great rebellion and then the final judgement at the Great White Throne.  Then we will enter the New Heavens and New Earth, the Eternal Age.  A-Millennialists believe the Millennium is symbol for the present time and refers to the rule of the Church for most of this age at the end of which is the Great Tribulation, the return of Yeshua and then the Great White Throne judgment.  After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth.  The Post Millennial view is the view of radical dominion where the Church or Christians will take over the whole world and rule it without the return of Yeshua until much later (some literally after 1000 years)  For such Christians including some of the great revivalists and social warriors of the 19th century, the Great Tribulation was past.  I do not claim that believing these different millennial views is a matter so foundational so as to claim heresy for any of them.  I want to take a different approach and then deal with the issue of our responsibility for cultural transformation.

My new tack is not to start with the doctrine of the Millennium but the Great Tribulation.  The great consensus of historic Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) and Orthodox Judaism is that there will be a great Tribulation at the end of this age and then the Messiah will come (or return if you follow Yeshua).  This consensus again is overwhelming from the second century to today.  It is difficult to find serous scholars who disagree. That consensus was also, until a new view in the middle of the 19th century, that believers who are alive at the end of this age would pass through the Great Tribulation.  Both historic Pre-Millennial and A-Millennial teachers and scholars were the same in teaching this.  For Pre-Millennialists, who believe in the election of Israel, the Tribulation is very connected to Israel, whereas this is the case for some A-Millennialists who believe in the election of the Jewish people and their special inheritance in the next age of the New Earth. (The great scholar on revivals Dr. Richard Lovelace taught this.)  A-Millennialism does not necessarily imply replacement theology though the majority historically were replacement.  The Catholic Church is still Amillennial though repudiating replacement theology and embracing the election of Israel and her key role at the end of this age.

Though I am not a Catholic and have significant issues with some Catholic doctrines, their statement on the classical view is clear and covers the consensus of historic Protestant churches as well.  We read in paragraph 676.

The Church will enter the glory of the Kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.  The kingdom will be fulfilled then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. 

My book on the Book of Revelation is entitled Passover, Key to the Book of Revelation!  I was therefore amazed to read this statement.  What the Catechism calls progressive ascendancy is the view of postmillennialism.  The reason why the coming Tribulation is the overwhelming view of historic Church and Orthodox Jewish scholars is the overwhelming evidence of text after text.  Ezekiel 38, 39, Isaiah 25-27, 60, Joel 3, and Zechariah 14 all show that this age will end in a final battle.  Paul summarizes it well.  Speaking of the return of the Lord and our being joined to him, he states,

Let no one deceive you in any way for that Day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the one destined to e destroyed.  (II Thes. 2:3).

The case for no Great Tribulation in the future is based on a few verses and is not based on  a comprehensive survey of the texts.  In Matthew 28 Yeshua commanded us to go and “Make disciples of all nations.”  This is interpreted to mean that the nations will be submitted to Yeshua.  Then the parable of the Kingdom as being like leaven that permeates the whole dough in Matthew 13 is strongly emphasized.  But this ignores all the many verses that say again and again that the end of this age is the great and final battle of good and evil.

This brings us to the question of social transformation.  Yes, the postmillennialist brings a strong motivation for social transformation.  I should define social transformation.  Social transformation is basically brining the laws of society into conformity to the Law of God.   The Reformers, the classic Protestants, did believe in efforts for social transformation.  They produced great social transformation.  I think of one of my heroes in this, the Prime Minster theologian, Abraham Kuyper of Holland 120 years ago.  If we were to end this age in the Great Tribulation, what motivated them?   They were wise and knew that there could be delay.  After all, it was in their day 1500 years since the days of Yeshua on earth.  If the Christians do not seek to bring God’s Law to society, then the generations before that last day will suffer oppression and death.  Care for the condition of the generations and justice during this life, motivated them to seek righteousness in the society.  They also knew that social transformation was contingent on the health of the Church.  A weak, declining and powerless Church would not be able to effect lasing social transformation.  The Wesley revivals in England gave way to Wilburforce and the end of slavery.  This is why we must always seek the health of the Body of the Messiah first.  Repentance, revival, and the expansion of growing discipling communities are the foundation.  Righteous wholehearted commitment and life together is the absolute prerequisite for all progress.  When the numbers of committed believers who believe in social engagement are strong enough, society is changed. However, we need to always be aware that revival and health in the Body can lead to two possibilities.  The first is that it will lead to social transformation as it did in the early Church and the Reformation.  The second is that it will prepare us to fight the last battle.  We don’t know which will happen, but we don’t have to know.  We are to “Occupy until He comes.”  That means we work first for a strong Church and then social transformation.

Sometimes those who are invested in social transformation speak like post millennialists.  I question them and find that they are not really post millennialists.  They speak of Kingdom advance in the larger culture.  Amen.  However, I wish that they would bring their proclamation into coherence with the Biblical teaching on the Last Days.  It would end much confusion.