Denying an Objective Standard

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Some positive confession preachers unwittingly have opened themselves to the subjectivism of the human potential movement, just as Dave Hunt and others have opened themselves to the pessimism that abounds among the humanists. Why? Because neither group has had an objective standard to measure righteousness. Rush-doony makes this observation: "To deny the permanence of God's law is to fall... ultimately into Manichaeanism."61 Dispensa-have been telling Christians for over a century and a half that the law of God as found in the Old Testament and the gospels no longer applies to the church today. So, where does the church get its law? What objective law-word does the church have for the State, meaning civil government?

For some, law is based on feelings. The individual has internal promptings that guide him. He looks to himself for direction, to the movement of the Holy Spirit on his or her spirit. Law becomes subjective. What's right for one person might not be right for someone else. The end of such a philosophy is that old slogan, "If

60. Bahnsen, By This Standard, p. 299.

61. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nudey, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), p. 654.

it feels good, do it." Or "do your own thing." It should not surprise us that some have turned to the subjectivism of the "positive thinking" movement: think and grow rich, the power of positive thinking, possibility thinking, etc. Furthermore, with this internal-only view of law the church cannot address the world on social issues.

Dispensationalists also do not have an objective law-word for church and society. This is why they have abandoned the world to humanism's power-seekers. They have no standard by which the Christian ought to live as he moves in the realms of education, law, politics, and economics. God's law no longer speaks today. It will speak once again only in the Jewish millennium. The church must be content with a "natural law" ethic,62 This is evident in dis-pensational social ethics. Consider the position of Dr. Norman Geisler, a well respected representative of dispensational theology, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, one of dispensational-ism's leading academic institution:

While premillennialists, especially dispensationalists, do not believe that Christians are living under the Old Testament Law today, this in no way means they are antinomian. To be sure, dis-pensational premillenarians insist that the Old Testament Law was given only to the Jews and not to the Gentiles. And they argue that the Old Testament Law has been done away by Christ (2 Cor. 3:7-13; Gal. 3:24-25). However, most premillenarians recognize that God has not left Himself without a witness in that He has revealed a moral law in the hearts61 and consciences of all

62. For a popular critique ofnatural law see Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Notions: Biblical Principles for Government (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1987), pp. 47-51.

63. This is not what Remans 2:14-15 says. It specifically states that Gentifes "show the work of the Law written in their hearts" (2:15). The context is explicit: Those who do not have the law as Israel did cannot deny that they are guilty before God. The law works on their conscience; therefore, they have no excuse for their sin even though they do not have the details of law before them. This use of the law tells a person whether he is guilty or not guilty before God. John Murray writes: "Paul does not say that the law is written upon their hearts. He refrains from this form of statement apparently for the same reason as in verse 14 he had said that the Gentiles 'do the things of the law' and not that they did or fulfilled the law. Such expressions as 'fulfilling the law' and 'the law written upon the heart' are reserved for a state of heart and mind and will far beyond that men (Rem. 2:14-15).. . . Government is not based on special revelation, such as the Bible. It is based on God's general revelation to all men. . . . Thus civil law, based as it is in natural moral law, lays no specially religious obligation on man.6*

Is it any wonder that the church has been on the outside looking in? Why are Christians surprised that the world aborts millions of unborn babies every year? Nothing objective is thought to rule the world, least of all God. For the Christian, dispensational-ists have preached for over a century, the only thing that really matters is the "spiritual." Heaven is all-important. Christians therefore have retreated from this world psychologically in the face of their declining cultural influence, as they wait for the rescue from history promised in the rapture. This pessimism regarding the future of their own earthly efforts has reinforced modem Christians' antinomianism, meaning the rejection of God's law as binding in this dispensation. Again, Rushdoony comments:

Antinomianism, having denied the law, runs into mysticism and pietism. As it faces a world of problems, it has no adequate answer. To supply this lack, antinomianism very early became predicated of unbelieving Gentiles." The Epistle to the Remans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdroans, 1959), vol. 1, pp. 74-75.

Dr. Geisler wants to maintain that this single verse is grounds for establishing that the "work of the Law" is sufficient for the unbeliever to build an entire social ethic independent of the Bible. Nations, whether Christian or non-Christian, establish governments. Does this mean that nations are free to establish the standard by which they will rule? What are the limits of power? How much tax should be collected? Should the State control education? Is homosexuality a crime? If it is, what should the punishment be if two men are caught in the act? Is bestiality wrong? How about abortion? It's convenient to say that "government is not based on special revelation," but it is not much help when you must deal in particulars. General revelation does not give answers to specific ethical dilemmas.

Of course, Geisler"s argument falls to pieces if the Gentiles mentioned in Remans 2 and 3 are believing Gentiles. See the insightful discussion by James B. Jordan in The Sociology of the Church: Essays in Reconstruction (Tyler, TX: Geneva Ministries, 1986), pp. 107-10.

64. "A Premillennial View of Law and Government," The Best in Theology, gen. ed., J. I. Packer (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today/Word, 1986), p. 259.

premillennial; its answer to the problems of the world was to postpone solutions to the "any moment return" of Christ. Anti-nomianism thus led to an intense interest in and expectation of Christ's return as the only solution to the world's problems, Christ's law being denied the status of an answer.65

Dave Hunt and other critics of dominion theology and Christian reconstruction have become pietists, retreating from the social problems of this world. Some positive confession adherents have been seduced by elements of mysticism. What do Dave Hunt and those he criticizes have in common? A denial of the law of God as a standard for righteous living.

But many of the positive confession preachers are escaping from this antinomian trap. (Dave Hunt's attacks on them are important motivations in this defection from dispensational anti-nomianism to Christian reconstruction. ) The law of God is being accepted for what it is: the law of God. The whole Bible is accepted as the standard for righteous living for individuals, families, churches, and civil governments. This is what Christian recon-structionists have been saying for a number of years, long before New Age humanism became popular and Dave Hunt began to write on the subject.66

4. Reincarnation, karma: Salvation is a multi-lifetime process of progression or digression.67

New Age humanism makes its "leap of being" from mere man to god through raising the state of consciousness, evolutionary development, reincarnation, or some combination of the three.

65. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 654.

66. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 1973; Law and Soa'efy(Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982); Law and Liberty (Tyler, TX: Thoburn Press, 1971); James B. Jordan, The Law and the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economies, 1984); Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics and By This Standard.

67. "If one accumulates good karma, positive benefits accrue in later lives. Bad karma produces future punishments. Eventually one may leave the cycle of birth and rebirth entirely through the experience of enlightenment." Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age, p. 150.

Reincarnation has been popularized over the years through the writ ings of Edgar Cayce68 and most recently, Shirley MacLaine. The Eastern variety of reincarnation would never have been accepted in the Christian West if it had not been stripped of the hideous concept of the "transmigration of the soul."

Reincarnation as it is usually understood in Hinduism states that all life is essentially one (monism): plant, animal, and human life are so interrelated that souls are capable of "transmigrating" from one form of life to another. A person could have been an animal, plant, or mineral in some previous existence. This version, however, is unpalatable to American tastes, so the movement of human souls is in the newer version limited to human bodies.69

Modern proponents of reincarnation have cleaned up the Eastern variety. You don't hear Shirley MacLaine telling people that she was a rock or a slug in a former life. The typical reincar-nationist usually believes that he was once some exotic personality. This is not true reincarnationism. This is "I've always been a star" reincarnationism.

There are enough able Christian evaluations already on the subject. 70 Suffice it to say that Christian reconstruct ionists do not believe in any form of reincarnation (Heb.9:27-28). And this is just the point. No one we know even hints at believing in reincarnation. Dave Hunt nowhere accuses anyone of believing in it. Yet reincarnation is foundational to New Age humanism. If recon-

68. For an insightful analysis and critique of Cayce's views see: Gary North, Unholy Spirits: Occultism and New Age Humanism (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1986), pp. 193-225. Cayce was an avid Bible student. It is reported that he tried to read through the Bible once each year. He tried to reconcile his occultism with the Bible and failed, ignoring Hebrews 9:26-27. See Phillip J. Swihart, Reincarnation, Edgar Cayce & the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975).

69. John Snyder, Reincarnation vs. Resurrection (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), p. 19.

70. Mark Albrecht, Reincarnation: A Christian Critique of a New Age Doctrine (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987); Robert AMorey, Death andthe Afterlife (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1984), pp. 182-3, 264-5; Pat Means, The Mystical Maze (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1976), pp. 238-40.

structionist theologians are being seduced by New Age humanism, then why haven't they adopted any of its central planks? Why haven't they adopted monism (pantheism) or evolutionism?

Who's Really an Ally of the New Age?

It's possible that those who hold to a pessimistic earthly world view can be seduced by some New Age premises. New Age humanists believe, as John Naisbitt says, that it is possible to reinvent "the world we live in."71 Christians who fail to counter this secularized, man-centered, power-oriented religion will find themselves unsuspecting allies with numerous militant humanist groups. As we have already noted, the humanists fear Christians oriented toward dominion far more than Christians oriented toward defeat.72

Christians may also be unwitting allies of the New Age in another sense. If Christians retreat from the cultural issues of the day, who will, humanly speaking, visibly control the future course of history? If Christians won't, humanists will. Thus, Hunt's vision of the future becomes the worst kind of self-fulfilling prophecy when it is taken seriously by Christians. Christians retreat because there is no hope. As more Christians retreat, there is less hope, Finally, the whole cultural field is left to humanists who insist on taking us down the road to an international statist utopia.

Hunt's critique of Christian reconstruction and dominion theology is curiously one-sided. This is partly because his view of the New Age is one-sided. Hunt concentrates on the upbeat, optimistic side of New Age humanism. But there is a pessimistic side as well. Douglas Groothuis quotes from a California Democratic

71. Naisbitt, Megatrends: Tat New Directions Transforming Our Lives (TVewYork: Warner Books, 1982), p. ix.

72. See Frederick Edwords and Stephen McCabe, "Getting Out the Vote: Pat Robertson and the Evangelicals," The Humanist, Volume 47, Number 3 (May/June 1987), pp. 5-10, 36; and CovertAction, Special Issue on the Religious Right, Number 27 (Spring 1987). We don't know who publishes CovertAction, but it's indexed in the "Alternative Press Index." We don't want to fall prey to guilt by association, but we think that tells us something about the published political preferences.

platform whose wording was based on a New Age "Transformation Platform" (1982):

Ultimately, all humanity must recognize the essential inter-connectedness and interdependence of all human beings and all of nature — humanity has no other choice if we are to stop world annihilation. 73

This apocalyptic and pessimistic strain of New Age thinking comes out in some aspects of the thought of Jeremy Rifkin, who is, according to Gary North, largely responsible for New Age infiltration into Christian circles.74 Rifkin says that the law of Entropy "destroys the notion of history as progress." Rifkin describes the ecological crisis faced by people in the industrialized countries.

We look around us only to find that the garbage and pollution are piling up in every quarter, oozing out of the ground, seeping into our rivers, and lingering in our air. Our eyes burn, our skin discolors, our lungs collapse, and all we can think of is retreating indoors and closing the shutters.75

Rifkin is hostile to the dominion mandate of Genesis.

The fact is, we made a mistake. Our parents made a mistake and so did theirs. It began a long time ago when God said to the first of our kind, "You shall have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." We thought God meant for us to subdue the earth, to become its master.76

As a result, Christians have been responsible for the exploitation of the earth's resources, and have brought us to the mess we are now in. Of course, Rifkin is optimistic that things can change,

73. Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age, p. 122.

74. North, Is theWorld Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldoiew (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988).

75. Jeremy R\Mn, Entropy: A New World View (New York: Viking, 1980), p. 3.

76. Rifkin, Declaration of a Heretic (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), p. 107.

once people stop trying to maintain the existing order and adopt the Entropy world view. But there is certainly a pessimistic thread to his argument. In fact, his whole point is to encourage people to adopt his world view in order to prevent ecological and political disaster.77 As Gary North says, "Rifkin's outlook, if we believe what he says about entropy and the universe, leads to pessimism and retreat, not revolution."78 Later, North describes him as a man without legitimate hope.79

Now, what happens when Rifkin comes to pessimistic premil-telling them that the only way to turn things around is a "new economics" and a "new social order" and a "new politics"? Will all the pessimists be discerning enough to see the evil solutions that Riikin proposes? It is at least possible that dispensa-tional premillennialism will have prepared conservative Christians to capitulate to Rifkin's New Agism,


First, the Creator-creature distinction is foundational to Christian reconstruction. This is a radically anti-pantheistic doctrine. The idea that man could ever evolve into God is nowhere hinted at in any of the literature published by Christian recon-structionists.

Second, Dave Hunt's analysis of Psalm 82 and John 10 is in error. It is not supported by any Bible commentator that we know

77. There are. some interesting connections here that Hunt, in his concentration on victory-orientedreconstructionists, has missed. Rifkin's book is endorsed by Senator Mark Hatfield, a left-wing evangelical Senator. Hatfield says,

Entropy: A New World View explains, with sometimes disarming simplicity, the breakdown of the existing world order. It has compelled me to re-evaluate much of the safe and comfortable thinking which governs our day to day lives. This is an inspiring work. (Back of book jacket)

Hatfield is not a reconstructionist. In fact, he would doubtless be quite adamantly opposed to reconstruction. Yet, Hatfield has endorsed a New Age book, while no reconstructionist has done so. Will the real New Age sympathizer please stand up?

78. North, Is the World Running Down?, />. xxxiv.

of. The texts that some apply to all Christians actually refer to man as a magistrate who represents God in the exercise of his high office.

Third, Dave Hunt sees no hope for the world because he does not have an objective standard by which to evaluate the world; thus the world cannot be directed in the areas of righteousness.

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