What strange power does the nation of Israel hold over the evangelical church.  Under the sway of dispensationalist theology Christian reverence for Jews and the reborn nation of Israel has waxed so strong that evangelism of Jews is actually discouraged.

For example, we find this conclusion to an article by dispensationalist Allan R. Brockway,  Should Christians Attempt To Evangelize Jews?   “No matter what their theological conviction concerning the legitimacy of converting Jews may be, it is important that Christians maintain deep respect for and acceptance of “Jewish Christians” in the Christian community … But Christians would be well advised not to try actively to increase their number — lest they be found apostate themselves before the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob . . . and Jesus.”

This delicate, handle-with-care attitude of the dispensationalists extends also to the geopolitical echelon.

Myth:  If America pressures Israel to give up any land or discontinues foreign aide to Israel, she will be cursed by God.

This, according to Gen. 27:29  – “…Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”

We found this attitude in a recent dispensationalist article in World Net Daily which states “The phenomenon was best documented by Bill Koenig, author of ‘Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel.’

“Koenig points out that nine of the 10 costliest insurance events in U.S. history followed dramatic calls by U.S. officials for Israel to make land concessions in bids for peace with its neighbors. He points out with startling detail how six of the seven costliest hurricanes in U.S. history followed such events. He points out how three of the four largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history followed such developments.”

We recalled that correlation does not equal causation, but is there any validity to this hypothesis from a Biblical standpoint?  MythBusters approached this investigation on the assumption that American Christian’s understanding and attitude toward the nation of Israel must be defined and qualified by the Bible’s teaching on the relationship between Christ, Israel and the church.

Christ, Israel and the Church

Starting with the New Testament we found that Jews and Christians have been made one in the church by Christ.  This is spelled out in Ephesians 2 which explains how the Gentiles “who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:13)  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (2:14)   In another letter Paul declared, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

The conclusion seemed inescapable:  the theory that there are two peoples of God (Israel and the church), rather than just one is Biblically implausible.  And so, when people talk about “Jewish Christians” or “American Christians” for example, they introduce a foreign element of divisiveness into the church because both Jew and Gentile have been made one in Christ.  There are no elite categories of Christians based on ethnicity.

We found this union further illustrated in Romans Chapter 11, which describes how the Jews have been broken off from the olive tree representing God’s people in order that the Gentiles as a wild olive might be grafted in (Rmn. 11:17).  But after “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (v.25) “all Israel will be saved (v.26)” by Christ and thus grafted back into the olive tree.   We noticed that there is only one olive tree, not two.

Turning finally to the Old Testament we observed that this unity of Jew and Gentile is also expressed in God’s promise to make a New Covenant with the House of Israel (Jer. 31:31).  The author of Hebrews indicates this refers to the Christian New Testament (Heb. 8:8,9), thus proving that Old Testament spiritual Israel became the New Testament church. This Biblical teaching on the unity of Jew and Gentile is obviously the antithesis of anti-semitism, although it is also obviously the antithesis of dispensationalist political Zionism.

Ancient Judaism

The Jewish leaders resisted the message of both Christ and the apostles and were thus condemned by both.  Jesus was unsparing in His scathing condemnation of the leaders of the Jewish nation and their imminent divorce from God.  “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He said at one point, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate” (Mt. 23: 29,38)

It was the unbelieving Jews who persecuted the Apostles and rejected the gospel in every city.  The Deacon Stephen leveled this charge against them, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:52).

The nation of Israel — political Israel — was decisively judged by God and destroyed by Christ in the first century (70 A.D.) when Titus’ legions razed Jerusalem and the Temple.  The leaders of the nation rejected their Messiah and had Him crucified, thus sealing their own doom.  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days” the lights went out on national Israel, when the sun and moon were darkened and the stars fell (Mt. 24:29).  Those were the symbols of Israel in Joseph’s dream.

Jesus declared that the political nation of Israel was being replaced by the church when he told the Jewish leaders, “…the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (Mt. 21:43).   And what is that nation?  According to the Apostle Peter, the church is “…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation….” (I Pet. 2:9).

Thus, Jesus Himself established the doctrine of what some call “Replacement Theology.”  Nowhere does the Bible speak of a future rebuilt temple in a reborn nation of Israel.  This theory has been imposed on various Bible texts by the dispensationalist system.  Necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to dispensational theology.  The closest they can come to a rebuilt temple is in Ezekiel’s vision (40-48), but since animal sacrifices are required (Ez. 45:21-25 this can only refer to the temple rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity.

Case Closed:  MythBusters concludes that Israel as a nation was judged and permanently cast off by the risen Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the sacrificial system in 70 A.D.   Contrary to dispensationalist theology, there is no special blessing or curse associated with giving special favors to the modern nation of Israel or advocating its partition.   MythBusters Rating:  Red Flag to Bill Koenig, Allan R. Brockway and WorldNet Daily for perpetuating this myth.

Christ Himself declared that the Kingdom of God was taken from Israel and transferred to the church.  Thus, the rebirth of political Israel in 1948 has no special significance in the economy of God, although Isaiah tells us that Israel will be blessed with the other nations as the gospel gradually conquers the world.

In that day Israel will be the third part with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of Hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’  (Is. 19:24,25).

Our followup report will explore why the globalist elite created modern-day Israel for the purpose of igniting World War III.

The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) was the first of the great church councils and perhaps the most important because it established the divinity of Christ as taught in Scripture.

This was opposed to Arianism, which subordinated Christ to the Father as a created being.  According to R.J. Rushdoony in “Foundations of Social Order (p.11,12),” the three main points of Arianism were, first, Christ was a created being; second, He was not eternally existent; and, third, Christ was not of the same essence with the Father.

The battle was waged over the key words homoousion (being of one essence, i.e., with the Father), and homoiousion (of like essence).   The change of a single letter by Arius had monumental consequences.  If Christ was a mere man then his claims on earthly kings were more easily dismissed than if He were of the same essence with God and thus King of kings.

Initially, Athanasius stood alone for the orthodox position.  His bold stand for truth inspired the phrase, “Athanasius against the world.”

This great triumph of orthodoxy at Nicea is somewhat obscured by various myths about the Council, in particular one perpetuated by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code:

Myth:  Constantine collated an entirely new Bible at the Council of Nicea, containing only books that speak of Jesus as divine.

Paul Pavao tackles this myth and several others in the following article:

The Council of Nicea: Dispelling the Myths

By Paul Pavao, Expert Author

Myths about the Council of Nicea proliferate on the web. My Google Alert for “Council of Nicea” yields up to 3 new blogs a day, many of them filled with misinformation.

There are three primary myths:

That the Council of Nicea determined which books would be in the Bible.

That St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, was at Nicea and slapped Arius.

That the emperor Constantine changed the Sabbath day to Sunday at the          Council of Nicea

Before we look at these, why should you believe me?

HOW WE KNOW ABOUT THE COUNCIL OF NICEA?

There are major sources for knowing about the council of Nicea:

The letter of Eusebius the historian to his home church at Caesarea explaining the council’s decision

A discussion of the council in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine

A letter to the churches from Constantine after the council

Minor references to the council in Athanasius’ later letters.

Three church histories from about a century after Nicea, referencing sources, some of which we no longer have available

The creed and the 20 canons [ecclesiastical rules] of Nicea

A multitude of letters from before and after Nicea that make it clear what controversies led to the council

Anything not found in those sources is made up.

BASIC FACTS

The Council of Nicea took place in A.D. 325, and it convened to address two major topics:

The doctrine of Arius that the Son of God did not exist before being begotten of God in the beginning.

The day on which Passover (Easter) should be celebrated.

It was called by Constantine. The three people who attended and gave numbers said it was attended by over 250 bishops, approximately 270 bishops, and 318 bishops.

DID THE COUNCIL OF NICEA DETERMINE

WHICH BOOKS SHOULD BE IN THE BIBLE?

This myth was popularized by Dan Brown in his book, The Da Vinci Code. There he wrote:

Constantine collated an entirely new Bible at the Council of Nicea, containing only books that speak of Jesus as divine.

The truth is that the issue of which books should be in the Bible is not even mentioned in any of the sources above. As a matter of fact, except for some of the general epistles, which books should be in the Bible had been settled for well over a century. A document called the Muratorian Canon has been found dating from around A.D. 160 which gives a list of books very similar to our modern New Testament. A search of which books were quoted by 2nd and 3rd century church fathers shows that their Bible was already almost exactly the same as ours.

There was no reason for the Council of Nicea to discuss the books of the Bible because it was not a controversial subject.

WAS ST. NICHOLAS AT THE COUNCIL,

AND DID HE SLAP ARIUS?

Nicholas, too, is not mentioned by any of the contemporary historical sources, though it’s possible he was at Nicea. Stories about him are not told until the 6th century, 200 years after Nicea, and the story of him slapping Arius did not arise until 500 years after Nicea.

Jolly St. Nick did rap the psychologist with his cane according to Miracle on 34th Street, but it’s best to treat the slapping of Arius as a complete fabrication.

DID CONSTANTINE CHANGE THE SABBATH TO SUNDAY?

 The issue that was addressed at Nicea was whether Passover should be celebrated on Nisan 14, on the day it fell on the Jewish calendar, or whether it should be celebrated on a Sunday near Nisan 14.

The council did decide that Passover would be celebrated on a Sunday by all churches, but it did not address the weekly meeting of the churches.

The churches had been meeting on Sunday since apostolic times. Justin Martyr mentions Sunday as the Christian meeting day by name in A.D. 150 (First Apology 67), but Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, addresses the issue even earlier:

Those who have been brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e., converted Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living in observance of the Lord’s day. (Magnesians 9, c. A.D. 110)

Entire books have been written trying to propagate the myth that it was Constantine who changed the Sabbath to Sunday, but anyone familiar with early Christian history knows that there is abundant and unanimous testimony that Christians met on Sunday, not Saturday, and that they did not require physical rest on any day.

REVIEWING THE SOURCES YOURSELF

A good, short explanation of the early Christian understanding of the Sabbath is contained in the early 2nd century Letter of Barnabas, chapter 15, which are available for free, along with all the other sources I mention here, at the Christian Classic Ethereal Library at.  Look for the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, and Theodoret, and you can follow the notes to the sources they use that are available today.

Christian history isn’t boring! History is, by definition, the most exciting stories and interesting facts of all time.

Paul Pavao’s Christian History for Everyman is dedicated to telling you those stories. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about first ecumenical council at his Council of Nicea pages.

Archeological evidence is still piling up to disprove the theories of professional skeptics of the Biblical miracles.  These skeptics are “professional” in the level of skill and creativity they have brought to the task of inventing naturalistic explanations for the miracles of God.

One such explanation involves the famous Red Sea crossing of the Children of Israel.  After four centuries the Hebrew slaves had been released from bondage, but their exodus was seemingly thwarted by the Red Sea.  The hard-hearted Pharaoh had changed his mind and was bearing down hard on the defenseless Children of Israel.  God miraculously opened a path through the Red Sea for His people, then closed it on the Egyptians drowning their entire army.

Myth:  The Red Sea crossing can be explained by an exceptionally strong wind that piled up waters in the shallow “Reed” Sea.

To deal with this myth, we’ve called on the services of Aaron Kolom, a former NASA  aerospace engineer.  In evaluating such evidence it is important to remember that it is illustrative rather than corraborative.  If we use scientific or other evidence to “prove” the Bible, we are inadvertently elevating the authority of that evidence above that of the Bible.

2000AD UCLA Study Group – Science Vs Bible, Wrap-Up

By Aaron Kolom, Expert Author

“Well,” said Professor Barrett, “We have examined the scientific, archaeological evidence of an Hebraic, Semitic people who lived in Egypt, the Goshen area, in ancient times; also that similar people, centuries later, conquered cities in Canaan; and there is much proof that the Hebrew Kings: Saul, David and Solomon did exist – therefore, in between, these Hebrews had to have exited Egypt, somehow and sometime.” He paused, “Thus, there seemingly, is solid, corroborative evidence of the beginning and end to the Exodus story.

Science and knowledge also, in just the past decade, have uncovered hard, artifact and iconoclastic evidence of Egyptian chariot wreckage in the Gulf of Aqaba; also, we see an amazing cleft stone boulder; and a Mount Sinai – so many details that validate the Bible story. What is interesting, as challenges to theology, is that we have not come upon any real conflicts. However, we have no clue about the “miracle” food ‘manna’ by which the Hebrews were supposedly sustained for forty years of roaming the desert wilderness; nor do we know if alkaline water can really be sweetened by the bark or sap from a tree.”

“Before a final wrap-up -” Lawrence was raising his hand, “- I’ve run into something that tends to lend scientific credence to the Exodus story in general.” He paused, “In his book, ‘The Mountain of Moses’, Larry Williams says he hired a scientific research company to analyze areal photos of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aqaba, taken by a French satellite. The procedure was a military development, now employed in all archaeological research of Earth surfaces – it discriminates subtle differences in heat patterns using special filters on photographic negatives.

The analysis reported a clear trail, estimated as being thousands of years old, going to the seashore, and resuming on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba. The trail discloses numerous large campsites, continues parallel to the Gulf and then inland to Mt. Jabal Al Laws, with an extremely large campsite nearby. The same analyses for the accepted and traditional sites for Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula show much smaller trails, and are only a few centuries old with few campsites.”

“And so,” the professor looked at each of his students, “this has been quite a journey for us this past, extremely interesting year – very enjoyable, and we all learned quite a lot about ancient peoples and Egypt. There would be no surprise to me if the number of items which corroborated the Bible narrative by artifacts and archaeological discoveries – comes close to a hundred*.

Therefore, how about an average of our personal estimates?” The professor paused. “What percentage of all the biblical stories – even what seem to be miracles, anecdotes, or what-have-you – do we think have been validated with pretty solid 21st century reality? How about a show of hands for 50% or over?” All raised their hands and kept them up; “60% or over?” – the hands remained up. The final score was one at 70-80%, four including the professor, at 80-90%; two, at over 90% – the average 86%.

“Just think” said Bethe, “if we could come upon some writings of a Hebrew who lived through that Exodus period, describing the events – as we have the Amarna letter by the widow of Pharaoh, and the Ipuwer papyrus scroll, and the Egyptian chroniclers Manetho and Cheremon – and with our 21st century verification keeping pace. Now, wouldn’t that have been interesting?”

_____________________________________________________________________

*In fact, 107 separate confirming discoveries are cited herein – each of the following numerous items is given only a single count: the total of all the coral-covered chariot wheels; the total of all the skeletal bones of horses and men; the Ipuwer scroll describing many of the Ten Plagues; the Brooklyn Papyrus with about fifty Semitic names of slaves, Amarna letters containing many biblical names; stela listing numerous ancient Hebrew cities, etc.

Aaron Kolom qualifies as a “rocket scientist” with over 50 years aerospace engineering: Stress Analyst to Chief of Structural Sciences on numerous military aircraft, to Corp. Director Structures and Materials, Asst. Chief Engineer Space Shuttle Program through first three flights (awarded NASA Public Service Medal), Rockwell International Corp.; Program Manager Concorde SST, VP Engineering TRE Corp.; Aerospace Consultant.

Visit website at http://www.brainwashedandmiracles.com to learn a bit about Science vs the Bible, from conflict to confirmation. http://www.definingmoment.tv for two book interviews.

It is unfortunate, but true that the failures of Christians are sometimes used as an excuse to reject Christianity.  Paul wrote, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,….” (Rmn. 2:24).

Related to this are those who point to the Puritans’ aborted attempt at applying the law of God to their culture in order to condemn those advocating for the law of God today.

A fairly recent example is “Notes on Christian Reconstructionism – Roots of a New ‘Christian’ Inquisition?” by Biblical Discernment Ministries.  This essay used the Puritan massacre of the Pequot tribe in the Connecticut River valley to condemn modern efforts to apply the law of God in American culture.  The following excerpt is typical:

“…. the Puritans were the direct forerunners of today’s Kingdom/Dominion/ Reconstructionist heresy. The Puritans believed that they were carrying to America true Christianity as decreed by God, especially as written in the Old Testament. They believed too that they were on a divine mission to America, a place specially appointed by God to be the “New Israel,” a theocratic “city upon a hill.” The Puritans viewed themselves as God’s special people, replacing national Israel, and that the American Indians were the “new Canaanites.” The fruit of the Puritan’s theology was brutal. They saw their mission as convert these “Canaanites” to Christianity, or slaughter them in the name of Christ. For example, the Puritan massacres of the Pequot Indian tribe on May 26, 1637, and again on July 14, 1637, were deemed by the Puritans to be directed by God — Captain John Mason declared, “God laughed his enemies and the enemies of his people to scorn, making them as a fiery oven … Thus did the Lord judge among the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies” (Segal and Stinenback, Puritans, Indians, and Manifest Destiny, pp. 111-112, 134-135). “Converting the pagans for God was acceptable to the Puritans, but killing the pagans for the Lord was also acceptable!”

Myth:  Puritan abortive attempts to apply the now defunct law of God illustrate why it is so dangerous to attempt any application of the law of God to modern governments.

When MythBusters first accepted this case we didn’t know what to expect.  We had heard rumors of Puritan alleged atrocities toward the Indians, but didn’t have any details.

We noted initially that the excerpt above ignores the possibility that the Puritans may have been engaged in a “just war” prosecuted to avenge repeated Pequot atrocities.  Many if not most historical critiques downplay this possibility, but there is one at least by historian Clayton Cramer which suggests otherwise.

Puritan Failures to Conform

to Biblical Law In Civil Government

 Nonetheless, however just the war may have been, the Puritan prosecution of it appears to have ignored the restraints on “total warfare” imposed by passages such as Deuteronomy 20:10-16.  This passage forbids slaughter of women and children and wanton destruction of property except in the special case of those in the land of Canaan at the time of the original Israelite invasion.  This could have contributed to the Puritan Declension.

This is not the only instance of the Puritans’ falling short of the Law of God to which their government was formally committed.  For example, the MythBusters investigation found these unbiblical provisions in the Abstract of the Laws of New England, penned by John Cotton in 1641:

  • A tax on property in Chapter III, paragraph 3, which is a denial of private ownership.  Part of this went to the salary of the local pastor, who typically was headmaster of the local public schoolhouse:  “By the yearly payment, first, of one penny, or half a penny an acre of land….”
  •  Wage and price controls in Chapter V, paragraph 3, which is a denial of the free market and restraint of trade:  “…to set reasonable rates upon all commodities, and proportionably to limit the wages of workmen and labourers….”
  • A system of jurors untrained in Biblical law in Chapter IX, paragraph 3, which cannot be found in the Bible:  “The jurors are not to be chosen by any magistrates, or officers, but by the free burgesses of each town….”

It is unfortunate that an otherwise excellent effort to apply the Law of Moses to a modern legal system, contains these fundamental assaults on human liberty, also contributing to the Declension.  This code became the model for many of the other colonies.  These seemingly harmless compromises at the very foundation of the nation have devolved incrementally to the grossest perversion in the modern public school system.

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MythBusters also identified some other examples of unbiblical government policy on the part of the Puritans:

  • Restrictions on immigration, contrary to Biblical law concerning “strangers” (Puritan Economic Experiments, p.10).
  • Implementing a state welfare system, contrary to the Bible’s system of “poor laws” (Ibid., p10).
  • Laws requiring church attendance and payment of a tax to support ministers, contrary to the Biblical separation of church and state (The Guise of Every Graceless Heart, p.76).
  • A tariff levied on prosperous peddlers in response to the complaint of larger merchants (From Puritan to Yankee, P.113).

 Puritan Declension Confirms the Law of God

All of these problems with Puritan government no doubt contributed to the declension of the Puritan’s Holy Commonwealth during the 17th Century.  But does this prove the danger of any attempt to base a system of civil government on the law of God, as asserted in the opening excerpt from the article by Biblical Discernment Ministries?

On the contrary, the Puritan Declension serves as a verification of Biblical Law found in Deuteronomy 28 and elsewhere.  This passage confirms the judgment of God on nations in history for their submission to His law, or lack thereof:

“Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth…But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Dt. 28: 1,15).

Case Closed:   The puritans did many things right in conforming their government to the Law of God.  They modeled most of their Law code on the law of God and required their elected officials to swear allegiance to God in enforcement of His perfect law of liberty.

Unfortunately, they also failed to apply, or misapplied the Law of God in many instances, which no doubt led to the gradual declension of the Biblical Commonwealth.   Rather than disproving the abiding validity of the Law of God for government, The Declension confirms the authority of His law in the providential judgments associated with disobedience.   MythBusters Rating:  Red Flag to Biblical Discernment Ministries for failing to discern the permanent authority of God’s law.

Once upon a time our Pilgrim forefathers sailed on the Mayflower and established a tiny village on the shores of Cape Cod.  Because their charter required all produce be kept in a common storehouse, a lot of them didn’t work very hard and half the colony starved to death in the winter.

The next summer everybody grew their own food in their own garden and they all had plenty to eat.  And that was how the Pilgrims learned the bitter lesson of socialism and free enterprise flourished in America happily ever after.

That little story has become a favorite of American Christians as they gather around their annual Thanksgiving tables.  Unfortunately, while the story is true the moral of the story is not.

The Puritan refugees, who settled 10 years later just up the coast in Boston learned little about economics from their Pilgrim brethren.  In fact, Puritan experiments with economic control and price fixing during their first half century in the New World were a primary factor contributing to the Declension of the Holy Commonwealth.

Ironically, these experiments drove the more worldly grandchildren of the pioneers to embrace a more Christian, capitalistic system of economics, but divorced from its Biblical base.  Thus, the Holy Commonwealth became associated with an unpopular system of social and economic control.  To the modern Christian mind, this unfortunate development has been obscured by the popular myth.

Myth:   After the disastrous winter of 1621, and the Pilgrims’ experiment with the common storehouse, the New England colonists abandoned socialism.

The story of the Puritan’s 50-year dalliance with a controlled economy was documented by Dr. Gary North in his doctoral dissertation in the early 1970s.  The work appeared originally as a number of short articles and then in book form in 1988.   MythBusters relied heavily on this research for purposes of the investigation of the Puritan economic experiments.

The Puritan end or goal was a Shining City Set on A Hill, a model of statesmanship to which all the world would look.  Concerning the laws of God, they sought to “keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people'” (Dt. 4:6).  This is the law as a tool of evangelism.

Unfortunately, their means did not match their ends.  Their application of the law was faulty.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the realm of economics, in particular common ownership of land and price fixing.

Common Ownership

To secure their goal the Puritans tried to structure their new society so as to maintain maximum oversight by the church.  This extended to the physical layout of their towns and fields.  This was challenging because most were obviously farmers.

In order to keep everybody as close to possible to the church, all of the homesteads were located in town, with fields extending out in long narrow parcels.  Some of these extended out as far as two or three miles, often in a wedge or cone-shape.

This arrangement enabled the clergy and neighbors to hold one another accountable, but it was very inconvenient for farmers who had to waste a lot of time traveling to the farthest reaches of their fields.

Moreover, the legitimate desire for profit, led inevitably to animal husbandry in addition to simple agronomy.  Raising of crops was sufficient for little more than subsistent agriculture.  It was more profitable for farmers to increase their planting and utilize the grain to feed the livestock.

It was initially deemed more efficient to run all the livestock in a common pasture.  Less fencing would be required to keep the cattle out of the crops in a commons than in individual plots.  The unforeseen drawback was that individual cost-benefit analysis associated with private property was eliminated.

Thus there was strong incentive for individuals to take advantage of the benefits and shirk the costs.  Illicit benefits included midnight tree cutting and overgrazing.  Shirked costs were associated with keeping the fences repaired and compensating the herdsman.

All of this led to unenforceable regulation and bureaucratic wrangling that went on for half a century until the commons was distributed to private owners.  This inefficient use of public property has been called “the tragedy of the commons.”

Price Fixing

Puritan economic control went even further in attempting to establish the “just price” of various products by law.  This concept stemmed from the tension in Puritan social theory between a strong sense of diligence in one’s calling and unscrupulous exploitation.

Magistrates sought to regulate the tendency of men to slip over the fine line between devotion to their calling and avarice or greed.  The latter was said to find expression in price gouging or charging an “unjust price” for one’s produce.

The problem of course lies in defining exactly what is the just price.  It is the arrogance of the bureaucrat that tells him he is capable of such knowledge. The price fixing regulations took the form of caps on wages that could be charged by artisans and laborers and a 33% profit margin for businessmen.  This was America’s first excess profits law.

The immediate effect of this price fixing was suppression of productivity and an increase of demand over supply.  When officials deemed that citizens had learned their lesson the controls were relaxed, only to be imposed again later.  The cycle of economic disruption by price fixing  repeated itself endlessly until King Phillips War in 1675-76.

When the Puritans finally abandoned their heavy-handed control and price fixing, the economy boomed.  The unfortunate by-product was the self-sufficient Yankee of the third generation who now regarded the Holy Commonwealth of his grandparents as quaint, but impractical.

Case Closed:  MythBusters concluded that Puritan economics failed because it was not based on Biblical law.  Rather it was based on the early scholasticism and natural law reasoning of Thomas Aquinas.  Had the Puritans been more cognizant of Biblical law, their experiment would have succeeded because “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God…that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16).

If the Puritans had paid attention to a few basic Biblical principles of economic theory they could have saved half century of grief.  As seen in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, God gives property to individuals to manage on His behalf (Acts 5:4).  In one of His parables Jesus established the principle that the private land owner has the right to set the wages for his laborers.

 

 

With the best of intentions our Puritan forefathers set foot on the shores of New England determined to become a Shining City On a Hill – an example to the world.  Yet before the 17th Century had run its course the Holy Commonwealth was as good as dead.

Although the Puritans did many things right, they did enough fundamental things wrong to exclude the blessing of God on their enterprise.  But what?  What did they do or fail to do?  It is incumbent on us to learn from their errors in order that we might “get it right” the next time God provides an opportunity to build from the ground up.

This is the first in a 3-part MythBusters series exploring the fatal errors of the Puritans:  1) covenant errors, 2) economic errors, 3) political errors.  The Puritan’s most fundamental error is found in a place you might least expect it.  It is found with the Puritan children.

Myth:  Children of believers should be excluded from the Lord’s Table until they have matured to the point of being able to examine themselves.

MythBusters noted first that Abraham is the father of our faith.  God’s covenant with Abraham included His children.  “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you” (Gen. 17:7).

The Testimony of Scripture

This being the case, we surmised that God’s covenant with Abraham would demonstrate how He expects believers to treat the children that are providentially born into their families.  Circumcision, the sign of covenant initiation was given to Abraham (Gen. 17:10) and Passover, the sign of covenant continuation was given to Moses.  Children participated in both.  MythBusters looked carefully at the Old Testament and arrived at the following summary points:

1) Infants were circumcised without any knowledge or faith. They were thus branded by the Father as included in the covenant He made with Abraham (Gen 12). This was the ordinance of covenant initiation, signifying God’s choice, rather than man’s.

2) The youngest children — boys and girls — shared in the Passover meal without any knowledge or conversion experience. Exodus 12:24 clearly states that, “you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.”  God used the Passover as a teaching aid to nurture their knowledge and faith, when He instructed the youngest son to ask his father what this rite meant to him (Ex. 12:26). Growing up children were treated as believers and assumed to be believers until or unless they apostasized. Their faith was grounded in God’s promise to Abraham, whether or not they experienced a religious conversion.

3) Adult converts to the faith were circumcised as adults (e.g. Shechemites of Gen. 34). Thus, the Old Testament gives us both “infant circumcision” and “believer’s circumcision.”  This carries over in the New Testament as “infant baptism” and “believer’s baptism.” Both are Biblical depending on the situation.

Why would God change in the New Testament, we asked?  Did God suddenly realize that He had been doing it all wrong in the Old Testament?  The answer seemed obvious, but we decided to dig deeper into history.

The Testimony of History

A survey of church history revealed that many churches practiced paedo-communion until the appearance of the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation prior to the Reformation.  At that point laymen started to shy away from handling “the very body and blood of Christ.”

Tommy Lee in “The History of Paedocommunion:  From the Early Church Until 1500″ quotes one scholar who summarized the evidence at hand by saying that “it is now well established that in the early days of Christianity it was not uncommon for infants to receive Communion immediately after they were baptized.”  Even John Calvin, who was adamantly opposed to paedocommunion had to admit that “this permission was indeed commonly given in the ancient church.”

MythBusters concluded that the Puritans were obedient to step 1) above in that they baptized their infant children, baptism being equivalent to circumcision (Col. 2:11,12).  However, they departed from the Biblical pattern, point 2), by refusing to let their children participate in the communion meal, formerly called Passover.  This was the halfway covenant.

This communicated to the boys and girls that they were not part of the kingdom of God until they had an experience that would satisfy their parents. This practice directly contradicted Jesus’ command to “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk. 10:14).

Cultural Implications of the Halfway Covenant

By this hindrance the Puritans drove many of their children out of the covenant and into an unbiblical “halfway covenant” in which they were baptized, but not permitted to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Instead of Salvation being God’s choice and baptism being His brand on His children, the emphasis in the halfway covenant shifted to man’s ability to describe how he chose God and what that experience felt like.

The Puritans paid a steep price for failing to do it God’s way, as Jesus warned.  “And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mk. 9:42).

Not allowed to simply rest by faith in the promise God gave to their fathers via Abraham, many of the children in the halfway covenant never experienced an emotional “conversion” that would pass muster with their parents or the congregation.

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Under the halfway covenant the entire congregation had to vote their approval of every conversion experience, the vote often preceded by a questioning period.  This democratic procedure is the hallmark of the Congregational denomination.  Rather than run this spiritual gauntlet, many young people gradually drifted out of the church and out of the Holy Commonwealth.

Thomas Lechford in his “Plain Dealing; or News from New England, stated that, “…some are so bashful, as that they choose rather to go without the communion, than undergo such public confessions and trials, but that is held their fault.”  [Quoted by Terrill Elniff on page 63 of “The Guise of Every Graceless Heart.”]

The Halfway Covenant was formalized when the children of the second generation were born. The question arose: should these third generation children be baptized?  It was formalized by a synod of 17 ministers in 1657 and then…..

“The general court of Massachusetts eventually intervened in 1662, summoning a synod of churches to decide the issue once and for all. After a long debate, the Halfway Covenant was established. A person could be a voting member of the church and community simply by being baptized. One no longer had to exhibit proof of Christian conversion. And as long as a person’s children were baptized and of legal age, they could vote, too.” 

By refusing them the Lord’s Supper in the halfway covenant, the church alienated its own children and drove them away from its nurturing arms.  It led to gradual separation of people from the authority of God in the church.  As instructed implicitly by the church, they regarded themselves as autonomous individuals fully capable of choosing how they would approach God and everything else in life.  As they were weaned away from the church by the halfway covenant, they looked to other institutions to fill the vacuum, civil government in particular and democratic participation in its process.

Conversionism is preoccupied with discerning the work of God in children.  It places the hope of salvation in experience rather than the Word of God.  This effects us in every way possible because the covenant is all encompassing.   Conversionism grounds salvation on individual human experience.  Consequently, an individualistic, sociological outlook on life takes hold by which the young person interprets reality and evaluates political claims.  Rights rather than responsibilities move to the forefront; what God demands, rather than rights is central to the covenantal approach..

This explains why so many Christian young people today are falling away from the faith. Surveys indicate that as many as half leave the church after graduation from high school.

In the formative years they were “hindered” by their parents from inclusion in the kingdom of God, contrary to the promise of God and the command of Jesus. In many cases they are denied both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, even worse than the halfway covenant.  Is it any wonder that so many fall away.  God told the Philippian jailor to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Case Closed:  MythBusters concluded that the practice of excluding children of believers from the Lord’s Table until they are able to examine themselves is based on a dangerous myth.  The implications of this myth extend far beyond the four walls of the church into every nook and cranny of the culture.  Because of this practice many Christian children are driven out of the church never to return.  God’s requirements for adult converts cannot be applied to the children of believers.

Somebody once defined an oxymoron as “someone who forgets to breathe.”  There are some really funny oxymorons out there:  military intelligence, government worker, government organization, and pretty ugly, among many others.

That last one describes Paul Ryan’s lastest decision to a tee.  In a brilliant political move, calculated to appease the GOP’s restless Christian conservative base, Paul Ryan yesterday announced his support for Obama’s new policy of open acceptance of homosexuals in the military.

There is no word in the English language to describe that last statement.  Facetious doesn’t even come close.  But the decision was so politically obtuse, irony is perhaps the best way to communicate its absurdity.  And it illustrates another great oxymoron that is not quite so funny, namely, “Christian conservative.”

Many evangelicals who think both candidates are totally unqualified to be President of the United States, have nonetheless been teetering on the edge of casting a vote for Mitt Romney.  Arguments that a refusal to vote is a vote for Obama and all the Bible really requires in the political realm is a peaceful environment for the spread of the gospel had begun to make traction.

Timothy calls on Christians to pray for political leaders so that, ” …we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (I Tim. 2:2).

Enter Paul Ryan as reported by Americans For Truth About Homosexuality.  Ryan’s oxymoron is not only a slap in the face to Christians, but it puts a big nail in the coffin of an old myth that has lingered for decades in the Christian right.

Myth:  Social Conservatism and Christianity have the same political objectives and a vote for one is identical to a vote for the other.

Far more dangerous, Ryan’s decision is a slap in the face to God, and we’ll get back to that in a minute.  His decision is a classic example that Conservatism is nothing more than a commitment to something that has been around for a while.  We’ve always done it that way and it’s worked in the past for most of us, so why rock the boat.   This is our time-honored tradition.  But times change and if a majority comes to agree that there is a better way to live with the changing times, so be it.  This is a species of “historicism.”  What is, is right.

We’re just not “early adopters.”  We peer cautiously into the future.  We’ll resist the change for a while, but when the consensus starts to shift you can count on us to go along with the crowd.   “Let’s move on” is our motto.  On to the next round of heel-dragging, accommodation, and eventual defeat.

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No one has stated this more clearly than Rev. Robert L. Dabney, field chaplain to General Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War.  But, lest you immediately dismiss Rev. Dabney as a hopeless bigot, let me point out that there was a theological reason behind his opposition to women’s suffrage.  Prior to that time Christians in general believed that God deals governmentally with the husband as representative of the family, as when he spoke with Adam not Eve immediately after the Fall.   Although it is lengthy we quote it here in its entirety:

“It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always, when about to enter a protest, very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance.

“The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

A moment ago we noted that the biggest danger in this decision lies in the offense that it gives to Yahweh God.  For that we will let Him speak for Himself.

  •  “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22).
  •  “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act, both of them shall surely be put to death; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them” (Lev. 20:13). 
  • “And although they know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Rmn. 1: 32).

Case Closed:  Although the issues and agenda of conservatism and Christianity may at times coincide, there is a world of difference between the two.  Conservatism is based on the shifting sand of human tradition, which is subject to constant change.  Christianity is based on the unshakeable foundation of God’s holy word, which is unchangeable.

Hence the oxymoron, Christian conservative.  Habitual use of the oxymoron Christian conservative is a bit like trying to mix oil and water.

MythBusters Rating:  Blue Flag to Americans For Truth About Homosexuality for their courage in standing against the tide of popular media opinion regarding homosexual “marriage.”  Don’t miss the oxymoron, popular opinion.

The growing list of some 250 sheriff’s around the country willing to resist the illegal Federal crackdown on private ownership of firearms is heartening. The problem is there is not much foundation for this resistance based on the authority of the U.S. Constitution.

Oath Keepers is an American nonprofit organization that advocates that its members (current and former U.S. military and law enforcement uphold the Constitution of the United States should they be ordered to violate it.  The Oath Keepers’ motto is ‘Not On Our Watch.”  And their stated objective is to resist those actions taken by the U.S. Government that overstep Constitutional boundaries.

That entire paragraph is a direct quote from the Oath Keepers website.  MythBusters is grateful for the work of Oath Keepers and wish them success in mobilizing resistance to the encroaching Federal tyranny.    The appeal for passive resistance is the first line of defense.

Anything more than that at present could get you in big trouble under the Constitution.  MythBusters initial reaction was that Oath Keepers’ appeal to the U.S. Constitution could ultimately be turned against them.  This is because the Constitution handed over almost all defense-related powers — including the militia — to the Federal government.

Myth:   Local jurisdictions, especially the county sheriff, are authorized by the Constitution to organize armed resistance against the Federal government.

This myth showed up last week in our mail box in a letter from the Council On Revival.   COR is a group devoted to the noble goal of a 24-year Master Plan For Rebuilding America.  Unfortunately, they also are attempting to build on the sandy foundation of the United States Constitution.  This sentence caught our eye:

“Hopefully such confrontations will not arise, but the probability of a tyrannical, socialistic government (if it degenerates to that) attacking citizens in any county would be GREATLY REDUCED if even 60% of all U.S. counties had their own “well regulated militia” armed and ready to fight to the death if necessary for their God-given, constitutional rights.”

MythBusters began this investigation with a careful reading of Article I of the United States Constitution.  We came away with several key observations.  First, only Congress, not the states is authorized “to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.”  Later Article I says that “No State shall, without the consent of Congress … keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace…or engage in war, unless actually invaded….”

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The only thing the states can do is 1) appoint the officers and 2) train the militia as specified by Congress.   This seemed to confirm our initial hunch that the plan outlined in the previous paragraph may not be legal under the United States Constitution.

But we decided to dig deeper.  Here’s a little project for you.  Read through Article I of the U.S. Constitution and write down all the powers related to defense that the states gave away to Congress.  Never mind, MythBusters did it for you.  Here’s the list of supposedly “limited powers” related to defense that “we the people” turned over to the national government in 1788.

Congress has authority to:

  • To lay & collect taxes…for the common defense
  • To declare war….
  • To raise & support armies
  • To provide & maintain a navy
  • To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces
  • To provide for the calling forth the militia

1)      to execute the laws of the Union

2)      to suppress insurrections

3)      to repel invasions

  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia
  • To provide for governing such part of them  [the militia] as may be employed in the service of the United States
  • To make all laws which shall be necessary & proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States

States have authority to:

  • Appointment of the officers [of the militia]
  • Training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress

States are specifically forbidden to:

  • … keep troops, or ships of war, in time of peace
  • …engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

The central government has 13 positive powers related to “defense,” compared to the states two positives and two negatives.  Do the algebra and that is 13 to zero in favor of the central government.  They are no doubt smirking, “All of the power related to the militia belongs to us, but we’ll let you do all the heavy lifting of training them for us.”   What a deal!

According to the Constitution the states can’t even defend themselves without permission from the Federal Congress.  It would appear that anybody relying on the United States Constitution for defense against Federal tyranny needs to readjust their thinking cap.

The Bill of Rights never repealed the above powers.  Does the 2nd Amendment’s call for a well-regulated militia, overturn the power delegated to Congress in Article I for “organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia…”?   We don’t think so.

Conservatives like to boast that these are part of the “limited, delegated powers” that were granted to the Federal government in Article I.  Everything not listed here is reserved to the states or to the people.  Very comforting.  The big question is, what is not listed here?   Certainly not the right to regulate the militia.

Try this test:  you have 1 minute to write down 1 legitimate, Biblical power of government that is not included on the list in Article I.  OK, time’s up………Maybe you need more than a minute?

Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn’t allow for the well-regulated militia to be “organized legally under one’s own county sheriff or state governor,” as COR would like to believe. This is one of the main reasons that Patrick Henry so adamantly opposed the Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention.

As he stated on June 9, 1788: “Are we at last brought to such an humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense?…. The power of arming the militia, and the means of purchasing arms, are taken from the states by the paramount powers of Congress….”

Case Closed:  Oath Keepers and COR are asking former government officials to honor their oath to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.  They could get what they ask for:  Under the Constitution they themselves might be declared domestic enemies for trying to mobilize and encourage the states to “keep troops, or ships of war, in time of peace.”

This is why Patrick Henry said of the proposed Constitution, “I despise and abhor it.”   Better to appeal to the “higher law” of God in the Bible.   We can only conclude that God’s judgment is descending on this nation precisely because this covenant-breaking Constitution has rejected that very law.  MythBusters Rating:  Yellow Flag (caution) to Oath Keepers and COR for their dangerous reliance on the U.S. Constitution.