“This little book introduces Christians to a new way of thinking about the world around them – a positive, optimistic way of thinking.”
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This little book is about victory. Not just victory over indwelling sin in each regenerate person’s heart, but victory over the effects of sin in every area of life. It can be done. Not perfectly, of course. Perfect victory over personal sin comes only on the day of a person’s death, or on the day of resurrection, whichever comes first. Perfect victory over the effects of sin throughout the universe comes only at the day of judgment. But progressive victory over sin in the individual’s life can and should be mirrored in the progressive victory over the effects of sin in the society. This is the message of Deuteronomy 8 and 28:1-14.
Christians haven’t taken seriously this vision of victory since the 1870’s. They have become convinced that the best we can hope for is individual sanctification. They have rejected the concept of social sanctification. What is personal sanctification, anyway? It is the progressive conformity of a person’s life to the standards set forth by the Bible for ethics. It means becoming conformed to the perfect humanity of Christ. (It never means becoming conformed to His divinity; men do not evolve into God.) Sanctification is a process of being set apart from the world of sin and ethical rebellion – again, not perfectly, in time and on earth, but progressively. Regenerate men become “meat eaters” rather than “milk drinkers” (I Cor. 3:2).
Then what is social sanctification? It parallels personal sanctification. As godly people begin to restructure their behavior in terms of what the Bible requires, the world about them begins to change. They serve as leavening influences in the whole culture. As more converts are added to the rolls of the churches, and as these converts begin to conform their lives to the Bible’s standards for external behavior, all of society is progressively sanctified – set apart by God for His glory, just ‘as He set apart Israel in Old Testament times.
What I try to show in this book is that the vision of victory that God gave to Abram when he was still without a son, and that He gave Moses before he confronted Pharaoh, and that Christ announced after His’ resurrection (Matt. 28:18) is still valid. It should still motivate His people to present themselves as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). But for over a century, this vision faded in the hearts and minds of regenerate people. A vision of defeat, in time and on earth, replaced the older vision of victory. The churches went into hiding, culturally speaking. They left the battlefield. The humanists won by default.
Since 1980, however, a change has begun to take place. Ministries that previously were uninvolved in social and political affairs have begun to mobilize opposition to abortion, secular humanism in the public schools, and various Federal welfare programs that encourage sexual immorality. Their leaders have begun to use the language of victory, in stark contrast to the cultural pessimism of books like Hal Lindsey’s Late, Great Planet Earth.
Newer ministries, such as the Maranatha campus evangelism organization (headquartered in Gainesville, Florida), are forthrightly proclaiming the “crown rights of King Jesus” over every area of life. Students associated with Maranatha are bold in challenging humanism on the campus. They see that God calls His people to exercise dominion (Gen. 1:28), in time and on earth, as His representatives and ambassadors. The outlook of these students is far different from that of students in the 1950’s through the 1970’s who were associated with other campus ministries. In those earlier days, almost all the efforts of these organizations were evangelical in the narrow sense: saving men out of the world, but not training redeemed men to take responsibility over the world.
As I write this introduction in the opening month of 1984, I am struck by the anomaly of three separate Christian ministries’ attempting to establish Christian law schools. For decades, the leaders of these ministries, along with virtually all other conservative Christian leaders, opposed the idea that Christians have a moral responsibility to proclaim an exclusively Christian world-and-life view for the governing of all human institutions. They consciously asserted that “we’re under grace, not law.”
But then the secular humanists finally opened fire on Christian organizations. Christian leaders discovered that their millions of converts had taken them seriously. These converts had not rethought the legal foundations of American freedom. They did not go to law school and become self-consciously Christian lawyers. So today these ministries are having great difficulty in finding enough faculty members to establish a single new law school, let alone three, and not one legal theorist who comes forth ready to explain the details of an explicitly Bible-based law code. Yet R. J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law was published in 1973, giving these ministries enough time to have trained up an army of young Christian lawyers. But the leaders of today’s besieged ministries did not believe Rushdoony’s message in 1973, the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the infamous Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand in the United States.
Christians are now playing catch-up, the game the humanists have been playing in this nation since at least 1800. The humanists finally caught up. Then they overtook the Christians. They have gained sufficient control over the media, the public schools, and the seats of power, so that they think they can coerce Christians into compliance to the religion of secular humanism. A handful of Christians have begun to resist, but not many. The escalation of the Christians’ confrontation with government bureaucracies has only just begun. (See my essay, “The Escalating Confrontation with Bureaucracy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance, issue 3 of Christianity and Civilization.)
This little book introduces Christians to a new way of thinking about the world around them – a positive, optimistic way of thinking. The book’s chapters originally appeared in various newsletters published by the Institute for Christian Economics: Christian Reconstruction, Biblical Economics Today, and Tentmakers.