Friday, February 26

Religion Externalized


Culture is simply a worldview made evident. It is basic beliefs worked out into habits of life. It is theology translated into sociology. Culture is a very practical expression of the common faith of a community or a people or a nation. Culture is, as Henry Van Til famously quipped, "religion externalized."

What a person thinks, what he believes, what shapes his ultimate concerns, and what he holds to be true in his heart—in short, his faith or lack of it—has a direct effect on his material well-being, behavior, and outlook; on his sense of what is good, true, and beautiful; on his priorities, values, and principles. After all, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

What is true for one person is equally true for a whole community of persons. In 1905, Max Weber, the renowned political economist and “founding father” of modern sociology, affirmed this fundamental truth for modern social scientists in his classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He argued that the remarkable prosperity of the West was directly attributable to the cultural, personal, and ethical prevalence of the Christian tradition. In contrast to so many other cultures around the globe, where freedoms and opportunities were severely limited and where poverty and suffering abounded, Weber found that faith brought men and nations both liberty and prosperity.

The Christian faith changes people. Therefore, the Christian faith changes culture. The reasons for this are multitudinous:

First, true faith reorients all of us fallen and sinful men to reality. Because of our selfish proclivities we are all too naturally blind, foolish, ignorant, and self-destructive. More often than not, we are ruled by our passions, our lusts, and our delusions. We simply have a hard time facing reality without the perspective of faith. Faith in Almighty God, however, removes the scales from our eyes and the shackles from our lives. In Him we are at last acquainted to what is right, what is real, and what is true.

Sociologist James Gleason has said, “Faith serves us all well as a kind of reality-check. It is a transcendent value that enables us to more adequately and objectively evaluate our most bewildering situations and circumstances. In other words, it gives us a perspective beyond our own purblind vantage.”

A culture shaped by what is right, what is real, and what is true will manifest significantly art, music, literature, science, and ideas just as surely as a person shaped by them will.

Second, the Christian faith counteracts the destructive effects of sinful actions and activities. Sin is not a concept that has much currency with modern social scientists, economists, politicians, community organizers, civil rights activists, and social service providers. It has become rather politically incorrect to even speak of it. Men who have rejected God and do not walk in faith are more often than not immoral, impure, and improvident. They are prone to extreme and destructive behavior, indulging in perverse vices and dissipating sensuality. And they—along with their families and loved ones—are thus driven over the brink of destruction. On the other hand, faith reforms us with new and constructive values. We are provoked to moral and upright lives of diligence, purity, sober-mindedness, thrift, trustworthiness, and responsibility.

According to psychologist Nancy Hellman, “Where poverty, violence, and destruction germinate in the rotting soil of sin, productivity, harmony, and hope flourish in the fertile field of faith. If we were to recover the concept of sin in our society—even from a moderately secularized perspective—we would go a long way toward eradicating the evils of modern life.”

In other words, a culture that understands the character and nature of the Fall is going to be tangibly, substantively, and manifestly different than a culture that does not.

Third, the Christian faith establishes a future orientation in our hearts and minds. All too often the modern men and women either flounder in a dismal fatalism or we squander our few resources in an irresponsible impulsiveness. Many of us are terribly short-sighted, unmotivated, and naive. And “where there is no vision the people perish.” On the other hand, genuine faith provokes us to live thoughtfully, to plan, to exercise restraint, and to defer gratification in order to achieve higher ends. We are induced to self-control, wisdom, and careful stewardship in order to build for the future.

Bartok Havic, the great Czech historian, has said, “History’s record is clear: a people who cannot look past the moment, past the fleeting pleasures of fleshly indulgence, will be a people whose culture vanishes from the face of the earth. Ultimately, only faith gives men a sustaining vision for that which is other than their own selfish desires.”

Fourth, the Christian faith provokes us to exercise responsibility. Outside of the bounds of faith in God we are all naturally prone to selfishness, wastefulness, and sloth. Faith on the other hand enables see past ourselves, growing into selfless maturity. We are able to become more responsible to redeem our time. We are able to become more responsible to make the most of every opportunity. We are able to become more responsible to fulfill our calling in life. We are able to become more responsible to use our money wisely, to care for our families, to serve the needs of others, and to be an example of redemptive love before all men everywhere. It is this very kind of diligent responsibility—this very fruit of faith—that we most need if they are ever to fully recover the vision of life and culture that brought the Western world to flower.

“It is faith,” says George Gilder, “in all its multifarious forms and luminosities, that can by itself move the mountains of sloth and depression that afflict the world’s stagnant economies; it brought immigrants thousands of miles with pennies in their pockets to launch the American empire of commerce; and it performs miracles daily in our present impasse.”

Senator Ted Kennedy once asserted that, "The ballot box is the place where change begins in America." Although he has been fiercely and vehemently wrong in the past, Kennedy has never been more wrong than this. As George Will has argued, “There is hardly a page of American history that does not refute that insistence, so characteristic of the political class, on the primacy of politics in the making of history.” In fact, he says, "In a good society, politics is peripheral to much of the pulsing life of the society."

This is the great lesson of history: it is ordinary people of authentic Christian faith who are ultimately the ones who best able to shape the outcome of human events--not kings and princes, not masters and tyrants. It is laborers and workmen, cousins and acquaintances that upend the expectations of the brilliant and the glamorous, the expert and the meticulous. It is plain folks, simple people, who literally change the course of history--because they are the stuff of which history is made. They are the ones who make the world go round. For, as G.K. Chesterton said, "The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children."

Ultimately, that is our greatest hope for the future. It is simply that a new grassroots majoritarian emphasis on things that really matter--on the Gospel and its fruits--will emerge as we train up the next generation of culture-shapers. It is that a love for hearth and home, community and culture, accountability and availability, service and substance, morality and magnanimity, responsibility and restoration will capture hearts and minds and lives. It is a hope that may be stymied, obstructed, and hampered--but ultimately it cannot fail.

As the famed journalist H.L. Mencken once said, “The man who invents a new imbecility is hailed gladly, and bidden to make himself at home; he is to the great masses of men, the beau ideal of mankind. His madness must necessarily give way to right, sooner or later, though usually later.”

Or as the poet F.W. Faber wrote:

“For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.”

Thursday, December 24

December 25

Christians have celebrated the incarnation and nativity of the Lord Jesus on December 25 since at least the early part of the third century—just a few generations removed the days of the Apostles.  By 336, when the Philocalian Calendar—one of the earliest documents of the Patriarchal church—was first utilized, Christmas Day was already a venerable and tenured tradition.  

Though there is no historical evidence that Christ was actually born on that day—indeed, whatever evidence there is points to altogether different occasions—the conversion of the old Pagan tribes of Europe left a gaping void where the ancient winter cult festivals were once held.  It was both culturally convenient and evangelically expedient to exchange the one for the other.  

And so joy replaced desperation.  Celebration replaced propitiation.  Christmas Feasts replaced new Moon sacrifices.  Christ replaced Baal, Molech, Apollo, and Thor.  The Gospel conversion brought transformation to cultures and kingdoms as well as hearts and souls.  

His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.  Glad tidings of great joy, indeed.

Laudetur Jesus Christus


O Lord, You are our Savior and Redeemer, our Hope, and the Captain of our Salvation.
You are called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
You are our Advocate, the Almighty God, the Alpha and Omega, the Ancient of Days, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, and the Great Amen.

You are the Only Begotten of the Father, the Beloved Son of God, the Bright and Morning Star. You are the Chief Cornerstone, the Chosen of God, the Consolation of Israel, and the Creator of All Things.  
You are Emmanuel, God with us, the Christ. 

You are the End of the Law, the Eternal Judge of Quick and Dead, the Faithful and True, the Firstborn of the Dead.  
You are Good Shepherd and the Great I AM.
You are the Head of the Body and the Heir of All Things. 

Of You the angels exult, Holy, Holy, Holy. You are the very Image of God. 
You are Jehovah, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the Lord of Hosts, the Light of the World, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible.  
You are our Mediator and our Messiah.  

You are our Passover the Propitiation for Sins of Whole World.
You are the Resurrection and the Life, the Root of Jesse, the Stone of Offense, Rock of Refuge, the Seed of Abraham, the Once and for All Sacrifice.
You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

You are the Rose of Sharon, the Balm of Gilead, the True Vine, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Word of Life. 
You are Jesus. 
And you are worthy of all praise and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, October 30

The Ninety-Five Theses

On this day in 1517, German theologian Martin Luther carefully recopied the scroll of his soon to be revealed Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences—a document that would be popularly called the Ninety-Five Theses. The next day he would post the scroll, consisting of a series of propositions that established a theological basis for opposing the sale of indulgences.

Though written in Latin and designed to provoke only a limited academic discussion, Luther’s manifesto would almost immediately be translated into the vernacular and then widely distributed, causing a great public controversy leading to the Reformation. Who would have ever dreamed that in the little town of Wittenberg, Germany, all of Europe would be shaken by the simple act of provoking a series of questions? Certainly not Luther. But in fact, his little academic exercise would lead to a dramatic realignment of men and nations--indeed, he would eventually be excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church and become the founder of Protestantism.

But as he prepared the scroll, he certainly had none of that in mind. Indeed, the tone of the document was clearly a moderate call for little more than a bit of dialog and some serious theological investigation. He wrote, “A disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences: out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.”

The theses themselves were not any more incendiary. Instead, they discussed the character and nature of true repentance, the core values of the Gospel, and the essence of the justice and mercy of God. Hardly the sort of material one might expect to cause a furor.

Nevertheless, the faithful Augustinian monk’s attempt to open a dialog was, in the good providence of God, the catalyst for a movement which would ultimately reshape the whole of Western Civilizaton.

Thursday, October 29

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)


On this day in 1907, the entire nation of the Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). A national proclamation acknowledged, "The history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, cannot be written without the mention of his name on almost every page, for during this period the biography of Dr. Kuyper is to a considerable extent the history of the Netherlands."

The boy who was born in 1837 was at first thought to be dull, but by the time he was twelve he had entered the Gymnasium. Years later he would graduate with highest possible honors from Leyden University. In short order he earned his masters and doctoral degrees in theology before serving as minister at Breesd and Utrecht.

The brilliant and articulate champion of Biblical faithfulness was called to serve in the city of Amsterdam in 1870. At the time, the religious life of the nation had dramatically declined. The church was cold and formal. There was no Bible curriculum in the schools and the Bible had no real influence in the life of the nation. Kuyper set out to change all of this in a flurry of activity.

In 1872, Kuyper founded the daily newspaper, De Standard. Shortly afterward he also founded De Heraut, a weekly devotional magazine. He continued as editor of both newspapers for over forty-five years—and both became very influential in spreading the winsome message of a consistent Christian worldview.

Two years later, in 1874, Kuyper was elected to the lower house of Parliament as the leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party—and he served there until 1877. Three years later he founded the Free University of Amsterdam, which asserted that the Bible was the foundation of every area of knowledge.

Following a stunning victory at the polls, Kuyper was summoned by Queen Wilhelmena to form a cabinet and become Prime Minister of the nation in 1902—a position he held for three years. A number of politicians were dissatisfied with Kuyper’s leadership because he refused to keep his theological and political views separate. To him, they were identical interests since Christ was king in every arena of human life. He believed that Christ rules not merely by the tradition of what He once was, spoke, did, and endured, but by a living power which even now, seated as He is at the right hand of God, He exercises over lands, nations, generations, families, and individuals. As he famously declared at the Free University's inaugural convocation, "There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence, over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not say 'Mine!'"


Kuyper was undoubtedly a man of tremendous versatility—he was a noted linguist, theologian, university professor, politician, statesman, philosopher, scientist, publisher, author, journalist, and philanthropist. But amazingly, in spite of his many accomplishments and his tremendous urgency to redeem the time, Kuyper was also a man of the people.

In 1897, at the 25th anniversary of his establishment of De Standaard, Kuyper described the ruling passion of his life, "That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God."



Tuesday, September 8

Antediluvian Man

"A sharp antithesis cuts a wide swath,
Across the whole fabric of space and time,
It’s divide sets kith and kin on separate paths, 
It’s jagged serrated edge altogether divides,
With Cain to one side, and Seth to yet another,
‘Tis the tale of two cities, two destinies, two ways,
Enoch and Enosh twin sons of different mothers, 
Till mighty Rephaim impose a paler shade of gray,
Hoping to forget such bitter, tragic, noxious climes,
We skulk in caves, and graves, and bones, 
Heedless of the hope invested in archon-lines
As told in musty, dusty, glorious tomes." Tristan Gylberd

Thursday, July 23

The Song of Jenny Geddes by J.S. Blackie


‘Twas the twenty-third of July, in the sixteen thirty-seven,
On the Sabbath morn from high St. Giles the solemn peal was given;
King Charles had sworn that Scottish men should pray by printed rule;
He sent a book, but never dreamt of danger from a stool.

The Council and the Judges, with ermined pomp elate,
The Provost and the Bailies in gold and crimson state,
Fair silken-vested ladies, grave doctors of the school,
Were there to please the King, and learn the virtues of a stool.

The Bishop and the Dean came in wi’ muckle gravity,
Right smooth and sleek, but lordly pride was lurking in their e’e;
Their full lawn sleeves were blown and big, like seals in briny pool;
They bore a book, but little thought they soon should feel a stool.

The Dean he to the alter went, and, with a solemn look,
He cast his eyes to heaven, and read the curious-printed book:
In Jenny’s heart the blood upwelled with bitter anguish full;
Sudden she started to her legs, and stoutly grasped the stool!

As when a mountain wildcat springs upon a rabbit small,
So Jenny on the Dean springs, with gush of holy gall;
Wilt thou say mass at my lugs, thou popish-puling fool?
No! No! She said, and at his head she flung the three-legged stool.

A bump, a thump! A smash, a crash! Now gentle folks beware!
Stool after stool, like rattling hail, came twirling through the air,
With, well done, Jenny! Bravo, Jenny! That’s the proper tool!
When the Devil will out, and shows his snout, just meet him with a stool!

The Council and the Judges were smitten with strange fear,
The ladies and the Bailies their seats did deftly clear,
The Bishop and the Dean went in sorrow and in dool,
And all the Popish flummery fled when Jenny showed the stool!

And thus a mighty deed was done by Jenny’s valiant hand,
Black Prelacy and Popery she drove from Scottish land;
King Charles he was a shuffling knave, priest Laud a meddling fool,
But Jenny was a woman wise, who beat them with a stool!

Saturday, June 27

The New Barbarism

"We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles." Hilaire Belloc

Friday, June 26

Supremely Wrongheaded

The Supreme Court has a long history of brazen, wicked, deadly injustice: Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, Buck v. Bell in 1927, and Roe v. Wade in 1973 immediately come to mind.

The Biblical Worldview

A shorthand summation of the Biblical worldview in just four verses:

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)


I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

The kingdom of this world is the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)