Uncelebrating the Fourth – by Harry Browne

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it was excellent.  Browne passed away in 2006 from Lou Gehrig’s disease.  I voted for him for president in 1996 and again in 2000.  Some votes you never regret.

July 4, 2003

Unfortunately, July 4th has become a day of deceit.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declared its independence from Great Britain. Thirteen years later, after a difficult war to secure that independence, the new country was open for business.

It was truly unique — the first nation in all of history in which the individual was considered more important than the government, and the government was tied down by a written Constitution.

It was the one nation where you could live your life secure in the knowledge that no one would ask for your papers, where you weren’t identified by a number, and where the government wouldn’t extort a percentage of your income as the price of holding a job.

And so each year July 4th has been a commemoration of the freest country in history.

False Celebration

But the America that’s celebrated no longer exists.

The holiday oratory deceitfully describes America as though it were the unique land of liberty that once was. Politicians thank the Almighty for conferring the blessings of liberty on a country that no longer enjoys those blessings. The original freedom and security have disappeared — even though the oratory lingers on.

What made America unique is now gone, and we are much the same as Germany, France, England, or Spain, with: confiscatory taxes,a Constitution and Bill of Rights that are symbolic only — merely documents used to justify governmental actions that are in fact prohibited by those documents, business regulated by the state in the most minute detail, no limits on what Congress or the President might decide to do.

Yes, there are some freedoms left, but nothing like the America that was — and nothing that you can’t find in a few dozen other countries.  

The Empire

Gone, too, is the sense of peace and security that once reigned throughout the land. America — bound by two huge oceans and two friendly neighbors — was subject to none of the never-ending wars and destruction that plagued Europe and Asia.

Now, however, everyone’s business is America’s business. Our Presidents consider themselves the rulers of the world — deciding who may govern any country on earth and sending Americans to die enforcing those decisions.

Whereas America was once an inspiration to the entire world — its very existence was proof that peace and liberty really were possible — Americans now live in fear of the rest of the world and the rest of the world lives in fear of America.

The Future

Because the education of our children was turned over to government in the 19th century, generations of Americans have been taught that freedom means taxes, regulations, civic duty, and responsibility for the whole world. They have no conception of the better life that could exist in a society in which government doesn’t manage health care, education, welfare, and business — and in which individuals are free to plot their own destinies.

Human beings are born with the desire to make their own decisions and control their own lives. But in most countries government and social pressures work to teach people to expect very little autonomy.

Fortunately, in America a remnant has kept alive the ideas of liberty, peace, and self-respect — passing the concepts on from generation to generation. And so today millions of Americans know that the present system isn’t the right system — that human beings aren’t born to serve the state and police the world.

Millions more would be receptive upon being shown that it’s possible to have better lives than what they’re living now.

Both groups need encouragement to quit supporting those who are taking freedom away from them.

You and I may not have the money and influence to change America by ourselves, but we can keep spreading the word — describing a better society in which individuals are truly free and government is in chains (instead of the opposite).

And someday we may reach the people who do have the money and influence to persuade tens of millions of Americans to change our country for the better.

I don’t know that it’s going to happen, but I do know it’s possible. I know that the urge to live one’s own life is as basic in human beings as the will to live and the desire to procreate. If we keep plugging away, we may eventually tap into that urge and rally the forces necessary to restore the real America.

And then the 4th of July will be worth celebrating again.

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65 Comments on “Uncelebrating the Fourth – by Harry Browne”

  1. hughmc5 Says:

    Wow. Interesting piece, and many things to be said that come to mind. Two today:

    1. Great sermon on America’s UN-favored nation status: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-314_When-God-Abandons-a-Nation

    2. Browne appears to have suffered from

    A weirdly optimistic anthropology: “Human beings are born with the desire to make their own decisions and control their own lives.” Where’s Bible say THAT?! People are content to be spoon-fed as long as the spoon is full.

    Or, to even quote Browne: “generations of Americans …have no conception of the better life that could exist in a society in which government doesn’t manage [everything!]”

    Humanistic Idealism: “in America a remnant has kept alive the ideas of liberty, peace, and self-respect…” Whither the gospel? It alone gives us true liberty, real peace (w/ God!), and self-denial.

    Pragamatism: “someday we may reach the people who do have the money and influence…” What about the gospel? Oh yeah, it doesn’t always appeal or make sense to the intelligensia, much less the weathly and the power-brokers.

    A hopeless ‘gospel’: “we can keep spreading the word — describing a better society in which individuals are truly free and government is in chains (instead of the opposite).”

    “I don’t know that it’s going to happen, but I do know it’s possible. I know that the urge to live one’s own life is as basic in human beings as the will to live and the desire to procreate. If we keep plugging away, we may eventually tap into that urge and rally the forces necessary to restore the real America.”

    Tap into “the urge to live,” and then we’ll “restore the real America”? Huh?!

    And then we’ll have what, a constitutional, Republican tower of Babel, instead of a despotic, anarchic tower?

    Sorry, Sean, Reagan, Browne, and all other humanistic, optimistic, pragmatic idealists were/ are wrong. Post-millennialists are too. So too Utopians of any stripe.

    Yes, the Constitution is the greatest humanly-inspired document to date. And it gathers dust under glass…

    On the other hand, God’s word is alive and powerful!

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    I wouldn’t read too much into the piece, but I found it a refreshing take on the upcoming July 4th celebration complete with all the pukey platitudes blowhard politicians like to rollout this time of year. But, just for fun, let me ask; you don’t think Christians are interested in keeping alive the ideas of liberty, peace, and self-respect?

  3. hughmc5 Says:

    Bless ya, Sean: Self-respect? Not if it’s akin to self-esteem…

    Respect for others and THEIR liberties, peace, etc.? You betcha!

    But the Right is wrong when they buy into humanistic presups and play (prey) upon our self-interests.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t know that self respect is akin to self esteem. But man, who is the image of God, isn’t junk either. Further, was Jesus playing upon His own self interest when the writer of Hebrews says:

    “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    Admittedly, unbelievers, humanist and (non-Christian) libertarians alike are living on borrowed capital, but I don’t see how it follows that for those for whom that capital rightly belongs why we shouldn’t claim it?

  5. hughmc5 Says:

    AZT, Will read the Durand piece you posted.

    Seen Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen?

  6. Steve M Says:

    I would agree that most of the “conservatives” have have no better bases for their positions than their socialist counterparts. Both espouse pragmatic/utilitarian reasons for their particular political stands. One groups says “if we do this, such and such will happen.” the other side simply claims a different result. Neither side bases their position on what is right and what is wrong morally (i.e. Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet)

    The Scriptures hold the answers for the best possible form of government if properly understood. Therefore, it is the gospel that will save this country if it is to be saved.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, you didn’t answer my question. Why don’t you start there. I have not seen the Brooke Adams piece, so what’s your point?

  8. AZTexan Says:

    Hugh: No, I’ve not read the Brooke Adams book. But then I’ve never needed books to tell me the Founding Fathers weren’t exactly giants of the Faith. I’m sure glad the obvious is beginning to catch on in the mainstream, though!

    Before you know it Joe Sixpack will begin to mull the novel notion that Abraham Lincoln didn’t walk on water and heal chickenpox with a tip of his magical stovepipe hat.

  9. hughmc5 Says:

    Texan,

    You mean, Lincoln [gulp] didn’t?!

    Seriously, is David Barton off his rocker?

  10. hughmc5 Says:

    Sean: This question: “you don’t think Christians are interested in keeping alive the ideas of liberty, peace, and self-respect?” Or this question: “Admittedly, unbelievers, humanist and (non-Christian) libertarians alike are living on borrowed capital, but I don’t see how it follows that for those for whom that capital rightly belongs why we shouldn’t claim it?”

    I think I at least half answered the first question, above. Self-interest in liberty, etc. is narcissitic. Christians are not called to promote self.

    NT Slaves were to take advantage of emancipation, but not necessarily seek it for oneself.

    Wilberforce was right to work for abolition for others. We work for others’ liberty, but esp. their spiritual emancipation. (See Paul.)

    Same with any of the self-centered, platitudinous hooey of the rationalistic declaration of independence in its calling life, liberty, and happiness’s pursuit all “rights.”

    As to #2, I am uncertain that America is founded so much on borrowed Christian capital, as it is on self-serving humanism.

    We are fighting a losing battle on this globe as long as we fight with the world’s weaponry against worldly thinking to try to establish worldly institutions. (Again, take Paul as our model.)

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, so let me get this, when the writer of Hebrews says that it was for the joy that was set before Him Jesus endured the cross, that He was being narcissistic? Is all self interest narcissistic and self promotion? Isn’t coming to Christ to be cleansed of ones sin in a sinners self interest? Seems to me it is.

    As to #2 have you not read John Robbins’ Christ and Civilization?

  12. hughmc5 Says:

    Oh, that MY self-interests were as lofty & holy as my Lord’s!

    No, obviously, ALL self-interest is not sinful. Piper’s made much of Heb 12 in writing of our duty and delight in the Christian life.

    It’s humanistic self-serving I am decrying.

    I ronically enough we recently recorded Christ & Civilization as an audiobook for the Trinity Foundation, and Lord willing, it will be available this Summer or Fall.

  13. hughmc5 Says:

    The only true, lasting “freedom and security” (liberty & peace) are found in Christ Jesus.

    God promises no such blessings for nations.
    He is no postmillennial utopian optimist.

    Until the final trumpet call, the two colossal kingdoms belonging to Satan & Christ will remain locked in mortal combat for the souls of men.

    Christ was not sent to safguard men’s earthly lives, procure a carnal peace, or, much less, to help them pursue temporal happiness! He was sent to die to save men from their sin.

  14. Denson Dube Says:

    hughmc5,
    “The only true, lasting “freedom and security” (liberty & peace) are found in Christ Jesus.”
    Absolutely true. However, Christ’s Salvation extends to the whole man including his life in the here and now. We do not continue living like pagans culturally after coming to belief in Christ, awaiting a halo and a harp in the sweet bye and bye. There are, of course, aspects that await the consumation of all things, like the resurection of the body and a renewed cosmos etc etc.

    “God promises no such blessings for nations.
    He is no postmillennial utopian optimist.”
    Amen! Preach it brother! The promises are only to the elect. If a nation enjoys the influence of a majority of believers with a genuine gospel, of course that nation will certainly be blessed. On his journey to Rome, Paul suffered shipwreck and yet God graciously granted Paul’s prayers for the safety of everyone abode by preserving all souls on board. Who is to say if God may choose to preserve a nation and bless it for the sake of His elect and his own purposes and glory? After all, has he not promised ..”Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”?
    We can reasonably expect families, neighbourhoods, cities and even nations sometimes to enjoy the benefits of the blessings of the faithful elect in these societal structures.

    “Until the final trumpet call, the two colossal kingdoms belonging to Satan & Christ will remain locked in mortal combat for the souls of men.”
    I see Satan has been stretching the truth to you, again!
    Satan was defeated at Calvary and it’s been a couple of millenia aready! The mortal combat was with Christ and he triumphed. Jesus said all power is given unto Him in Heaven and on earth. As Christians, the only basis of dealing with Satan and his Kingdom is the finished work of Christ. Since Satan is an already defeated foe, what we do as Christians is plundering the spoils of war. We are not trying to win. That has been done already. Paul says that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. In other words, our legal position is where Christ is, seated in victory on His throne. We are “in Christ”. Christ said we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free. This does not only mean the truth that leads us to justification but also understanding of the implications of the work of redemption for our daily walk, so that our peace with God is also a conscious reality in our minds through our possesion of the truth. I sometimes wonder if the “happy clappies” do not have a point when they call us “doomy gloomies”! We do not seem to understand enough of our salvation to possess that peace which the apostle Paul said “passes understanding”.

  15. hughmc5 Says:

    Denson,

    As Christians, the only basis of dealing with Satan and his Kingdom is the finished work of Christ. Since Satan is an already defeated foe, what we do as Christians is plundering the spoils of war. We are not trying to win. That has been done already.

    Amen & amen. You’re right, it’s a mop-up operation, not in order to win the war. I was thinking of Ephesians 6:10ff & I Peter 5:8f, where we are exhorted to beware & battle the enemy of our souls.

    And good point about “doomy gloomies.” I am trying to maintain what I think is the biblical (Amil) balance between the rapturous joy you well emulate above (and which the Postmills at times capture), and the wariness also present in the NT (which the Premills tend to overemphasize – esp. Dispies with their Antichrist-identification-obsession!).

    As children are born into our world,
    some are elect and some are not,
    some destined for glory and some for shame,
    some are seed of the Son and some the seed of the serpent.
    They will never be at peace.

    Thank you for your encouraging words and elaboration.

  16. Steve M Says:

    Getting back to self-interest, it is neither good nor bad. It is simply the ultimate motivation behind all our actions. Some understand what is truly in their own self interest (i.e. believing the Gospel) and some are decieved as to what is in their own self interest (i.e. Eve eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), but all operate according to it. Christ was not decieved when he saw the joy that was set before him to be worth enduring the shame of the cross which he depised.

  17. hughmc5 Says:

    Steve M.,

    Neutral in and of itself, perhaps, but for fallen man it is quite problematic. Like anger or sexual desire, self-interest can and usually will be perverted by sinners.

    Of course, Jesus’ self-interest was utterly righteous, holy, just, & good. If anyone deserved joy, it was he.

    We are not endowed by our Creator with any unalienable rights to life or liberty, much less to the pursuit of happiness!

    We are given responsibilities in our duty toward God’s law, and great privileges in his promises toward his elect in the gospel of GRACE (not universal, inherent rights).

  18. Steve M Says:

    Fallen man has a hatred for God (who is truth itself). This translates into a hatred for truth and a love for deception. It is no wonder that the unregenerate can not discern what is in his own self interest. “This is the condemnation: that light was in the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”

    A good portion of God’s law deals with how we are to treat our neighbor. We are not only not to steal his stuff, we are not even to covet it. This has many implications for government that are being completely ignored today. Private property is presupposed in Scripture. Any government that attempts to trample on that right is not one that is endorsed by Scripture.

    I think in the Commandments God has put forth certain rights our neighbor should expect in the treatment he receives from us. He deserves no less in his treatment by government.

  19. hughmc5 Says:

    I think in the Commandments God has put forth certain rights our neighbor should expect in the treatment he receives from us.

    Don’t know that I’d deduce that commandments imply another’s “rights,” certainly not as are popularly defined.

    God commands me my DUTY, which is to love my neighbor and work for his good. I cannot [yet] agree that he has a “right” to such love and good. Such a right also implies a claim thereto, and hence we have judicatories.

    Usually, the trouble begins when I neglect my responsibilities toward my God and my neighbor.

    And then they’re compounded when I assert my supposed “rights,” which (if they exist) must be defined biblically, and not popularly, or even constitutionally.

  20. Steve M Says:

    I understand you to be saying that our neighbor can not deduce from God’s prohibition of anyone stealing his stuff or even coveting it that he, therefore, retains a (God-given) right of ownership. You will have to excuse me, because I can’t follow your reasoning. How can one know what one is not allowed to steal or covet, if he is unable to determine what belongs to his neighbor?

    Does God forbid us to steal or covet things to which our neighbor has no right at all? If I take something from my neighbor to which he has no right of ownership, have I stolen it from him? You’ll have to explain it to me, because this stuff is a bit over my head. It seems to me that if my neighbor is not the rightful owner of something, then I would not be breaking a commandment to either take it or covet it (unless someone else was the rightful owner). In either case the prohibition implies a right for someone. These rights are Biblically defined unless one chooses to ignore what the Bible is saying.

  21. hughmc5 Says:

    I think, Steve, we’re talking about at least three different things.

    You’re about [1]private ownership of property or goods; I have been about [2]our duties toward others & [3]popular thinking (i.e. the founding fathers’ vision), regarding “rights.”

    [1]I concur about my neighbor’s property — that he has a God-given right to what is his own. And I needn’t balk at the word or idea of “rights,” in and of themselves (like “self-interest”!).

    [2]I am not talking about my not stealing from him, but about positive commands like “Love him, do him good.”

    Has he God-given rights to my love and do-gooding? It seems this is the basis of Liberalism. My neighbor needs food & clothing, has a right to these, and so my duty is to provide same. Then, my government produces “Welfare” in order to streamline the process of wealth redistribution, and help me carry out the commandments of God.

    Deut 10:17ff For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

    Does the alien/ my neighbor have “right” to my food & raiment?

    I have heretofore taken the Acts 2:44f & 4:32-37 as examples for us to freely emulate, not mandates to be enforced by either ecclesiastical or civil government. Socialists pervert these, while some on the Right ignore or denigrate them.

    Since Paul & James exhort us to share with our teachers (Gal 6:6), and with all in need (Eph 4:28, 1 Tim 6:18, James 2:15f), do pastors and the needy thus have right to the wealth or goods of others?

    [3]As to my other concern, this is what is wrong with both liberal and conservative nationalists: They believe the preamble to the Declaration! This has been the seedbed of much moral & political mischief in our land.

    I thank you for forcing me to clarify my writing and my thinking!

  22. hughmc5 Says:

    Sean,

    North is a nut.

    1st Century Rome: Would they describe such a society as tyrannical?

    St Paul said in Romans 13:7, Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

    St Peter gives us, Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. (1:2:13ff.)

    Another theonomic reconstructionist nutter says of these, ‘Well, the magistrate is also to serve God’s law. If he breaks it, then we must resist.’

    Liars; the Reconstructionists are liars. False prophets. Wrong on eschatology, wrong on theonomy (cf. 1 Tim 1:5-7!), and ripe for federal vision madness.

    THANK GOD Peter and Paul [and Jesus!] didn’t try to fiscally, politically, or morally save Rome or Greece or even Jerusalem!

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the piece Hugh. 🙂

  24. hughmc5 Says:

    Hey! It got my blood pressure up to a respectable level – I owe you thanks for that! 😉

  25. Steve M Says:

    Hugh
    “[2]I am not talking about my not stealing from him, but about positive commands like “Love him, do him good.”

    Isn’t loving your neighbor and doing him good the same thing as treating him the way we are instructed to by the law? I understand that our responsibility is to God, but God has given us mainly negative responsibilities toward our neighbors. These negative responsibilities do imply positive rights. Do not bear false witness against thy neighbor does also imply the neighbors right not to be lied about.

    “Does the alien/ my neighbor have “right” to my food & raiment?”

    Your food and raiment are clearly your property and the alien/neighbor who takes them without your permission is a thief. But we recognize that all we have comes from and belongs to God. In that sense I understand your reticence to call these your neighbor’s “right” and to rather distinguish what you choose to do with them as your own duty to God instead.

    I hope I make some sense (sometimes I am not sure).

  26. hughmc5 Says:

    “Isn’t loving your neighbor and doing him good the same thing as treating him the way we are instructed to by the law?”

    It’s a species of that, but I’m differentiating between doing something for him (e.g. feeding, clothing, visiting him), and not doing him harm (stealing from him, slandering him).

    All these are loving. Some are good acts (obedience by commission) and some are refraining from evil acts (obedience by ommission).

  27. Denson Dube Says:

    Hugh,
    “THANK GOD Peter and Paul [and Jesus!] didn’t try to fiscally, politically, or morally save Rome or Greece or even Jerusalem!”
    God bless America! Why didn’t they think of that?

  28. hughmc5 Says:

    Ha ha, DD! Why didn’t they indeed?!

  29. Steve M Says:

    Hugh:
    “All these are loving. Some are good acts (obedience by commission) and some are refraining from evil acts (obedience by ommission).”

    I am assuming that the opposite of obedience by commission would be a sin of omission and the opposite of obedience by omission would be a sin of commission.

    I have been of the opinion that if we kept the law (and none of us do) that we would be righteous (free from sin of any kind). My understanding is that the law is perfect. If it were properly understood and obeyed it would be entirely sufficient. If we followed it we would love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself (but we do not).

  30. hughmc5 Says:

    Good acts (obedience by commission) means doing good to/ for my neighbor.

    Refraining from evil acts (obedience by ommission) means my not doing evil to my neighbor,

    so yes,

    “the opposite of obedience by commission would be a sin of omission” [my neglecting to do him good] “and the opposite of obedience by omission would be a sin of commission” [my doing him evil].

  31. Steve M Says:

    Hugh
    If we followed the law perfectly, would we be guilty of any sin whether by commission or omission?

  32. hughmc5 Says:

    Denson (et. al.),

    This from J.C. Ryle on Christ’s superiority:

    Our Lord Jesus Christ’s dominion over the devil should be a cheering thought to all true Christians. Without it, indeed, we might well despair of salvation. To feel that we have ever near us an invisible spiritual enemy, laboring night and day to compass our destruction, would be enough to crush our every hope, if we did not know a Friend and Protector. Blessed be God! The Gospel reveals such a One. The Lord Jesus is stronger than that “strong man armed,” who is ever warring against our souls. The Lord Jesus is able to deliver us from the devil. He proved his power over him frequently when upon earth. He triumphed over him gloriously on the cross. He will never let him pluck any of His sheep out of His hand. He will one day bruise him under our feet, and bind him in the prison of hell. (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:1, 2). Happy are they who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him! Satan may vex them, but he cannot really hurt them! He may bruise their heel, but he cannot destroy their souls. They shall be “more than conquerors” through Him who loved them (Rom 8:37).

    ~ J.C. Ryle on Luke 8:26-36, from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 269.

  33. hughmc5 Says:

    Steve M,
    As I see Scripture, if we followed the law perfectly, we would be guilty of no sin, whether by commission or omission.
    {Thanks for spelling correction.}

  34. David Reece Says:

    hughmc5 and Steve M,

    It seems like your conversation may be unclear because hughmc5 is saying that all rights can be enforced by government, and Steve M, you have not answered this problem. Maybe you did not see the point I think hughmc5 made?

    In any case, It is true that one has a right to anything that another has a duty to give. having a duty to do something to or for another person give that other person a right have something done to or for them. hughmc5’s point is valid up to this point.

    However, hughmc5 seems to think that all rights are enforceable by the government by definition. hughmc5 does not make the distinction between a moral right and a civil right. A moral right is a broader category in the Bible than a civil right. A moral right includes the right to another person’s love. However, civil rights are those rights which the Bible commands the civil magistrate to enforce through coercion. the bible limits the civil magistrate to specific powers, and so the magistrate’s duties to protect certain rights (life, property, contracts) creates the subset of moral rights called civil rights. This is basically the same distinction between sin and crime.

    All Biblical crimes are Biblical sins, but not all Biblical sins are Biblical crimes. In the same way, All Biblical civil rights are Biblical moral rights, but not all Biblical moral rights are Biblical civil rights.

    I know I’m late to the party, but I thought I might still be able to help to bring clarity.

  35. Denson Dube Says:

    David,
    “All Biblical crimes are Biblical sins, but not all Biblical sins are Biblical crimes. In the same way, All Biblical civil rights are Biblical moral rights, but not all Biblical moral rights are Biblical civil rights.”

    Did you mean, “”All Biblical crimes are Biblical sins, but not all Biblical sins are civil crimes”?

  36. David Reece Says:

    Denson Dube,

    No, I meant “All Biblical crimes are Biblical sins, but not all Biblical sins are Biblical crimes”. By Biblical crimes I mean crimes as defined by the Bible. I agree with Clark and Robbins that crimes are those sins which the Bible attaches civil punishment to, and that some of the crimes of the Old testament have been abrogated as crimes in the New Testament because of the ending of the Theocracy of Israel and its replacement by the Church.

    I understand that we must distinguish between what are crimes in our nation and what the Bible says are true crimes, but my point was that a biblical duty need not always be a duty that the government enforce with coercion. This is a part of my defense of a theory of rights that I believe is in the Bible and was presented by Clark and Robbins before me.

  37. hughmc5 Says:

    David, R.,

    Welcome to the party – thanks for food for thought!

  38. LJ Says:

    I have a quick question to test the waters and see what the folks on this blog think regarding the powers of the civil magistrate and what laws should be enforced.

    Should the governing authorities, the civil magistrate, uphold the death penalty for certain crimes that have not been abrogated in the New Testament, e.g., adultery, prohibited sexual behavior like bestiality and homosexual sex, and kidnapping?

    If the authorities should not enforce the biblical sentence, please tell us why and how you justify your answer?

    LJ

  39. LJ Says:

    @ Hugh: Until the final trumpet call, the two colossal kingdoms belonging to Satan & Christ will remain locked in mortal combat for the souls of men.

    So do you take the “shall not prevail” regarding the “gates of hell” to occur at the final trump? I always saw this as Christ assuring his people that he had, indeed, defeated Satan, that the Kingdom had come, and that through the preaching of the gospel righteousness would eventually fill the earth.

    Is this the same old Hugh? Hugh McCann?

  40. hughmc5 Says:

    LJ,

    To recap:

    James 4:7b~ We’re to Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

    Eph. 6:11ff~ And Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
    …that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore…
    …take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
    …praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

    (These are quoted just to show the nature of our combat: not with people, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

    And 1st Peter warns us (5:8f)~Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. {Quotes from the ESV.}

    Hence, until the final trumpet call, the two colossal kingdoms belonging to Satan & Christ will remain locked in mortal combat for the souls of men.

    Increasingly, both kingdoms increase as grows our human population: some men elect unto life, some reprobate unto Hell’s fires.

    Hell’s gates fail as God’s ambassadors take his message to the 4 corners to raid Satan’s house and translate folks from darkness to light.

    The non-prevalence of the gates doesn’t mean postmillennial or millennial [near-]universalism, of course. It just means we sometimes see “success;” to wit: Peter preaches & 3000 get saved, Stephen preaches and is stoned to death. Of course, fidelity to Christ is the true success ~ Stephen being no less successful than Peter or Paul. God’s gospel will successfully harden the reprobate, just as surely as it will enliven the elect.

    “Eventually fill the earth”? A la Isaiah 2 or 11:9? Nope, Postmillennialism is a bust.

    But Christ’s gospel/ kingdom was even already all over the place in the 1st Century! Col. 1:5f & 23 ~ “the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing;” and it had then “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.”

    It then, as it does now, enjoyed its predestined success, whether scores were/ are converted or driven to blasphemy, the gospel’s reaching the peoples of the world is its success!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    ‘Tis the same old Hugh, sadly, in some respects. But a totally new Hugh has come in the 2 Cor. 5:17 sense! Praise God!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    BONUS question:

    Should the governing authorities, the civil magistrate, uphold the death penalty for certain crimes that have not been abrogated in the New Testament, e.g., adultery, prohibited sexual behavior like bestiality and homosexual sex, and kidnapping?

    Were such outlawed with death as the penalty, then the magistrate would be remiss not to uphold such laws, of course. We are far from being a theocracy, much farther than when Rushdoony & Bahnsen walked the earth. We never were, and never will be such, although it appears our Muslim friends will try to overthrow our Constitution with their sharia jihad. But that’s another subject…

    Where were we? Oh yeah, Browne’s article.

  41. LJ Says:

    Thanks Hugh, glad it’s the same old Hugh, and I get your train of thought regarding Postmill. I’m sure you’re familiar with the partial-preterist interpretations of some of these passages. I am inclined to the partial-preterist interpretation in an R.C. Sproul kinda way. Maybe I’ll take a stab at that later.

    But regarding the “bonus question” I realize we’re not a theocracy, far from it, but the question I’m asking is SHOULD the civil magistrate punish these particular sins? If so, what should be the punishment? Finally, what is your justification for your answer to the two questions or what is the epistemological basis for your answers?

    LJ

    “Is not my word like fire?” says the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29

  42. hughmc5 Says:

    “I am inclined to the partial-preterist interpretation in an R.C. Sproul kinda way.”

    DITTO. And maybe Sean will post on this issue.

  43. LJ Says:

    Yeah, I didn’t want to get off subject. But it seemed like the discussion was relevant given David Reese last comment above “I understand that we must distinguish between what are crimes in our nation and what the Bible says are true crimes …” and your response.

    I think one’s eschatology often drives one’s theology. And the theology that SHOULD underpin our constitution is critical.

    Anyhow, glad to chat with you again.

    Rev. 20:3 … And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

    Devil be bound … not destroyed 🙂

    LJ

  44. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Hugh. Not much to say other than I’m a-mill. I can’t say it drives my theology as much as it does perhaps my view of history. As far as the application of OT “case law,” I’m in agreement with the WCF that “the sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people [Israel], not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.” Consequently, I don’t object to the death penalty being generally more restrictive in its use than it was under the OT dispensation and in regard to Israel. I also like to wear clothing made from mixed materials. They breath nice and wear well. 🙂

  45. hughmc5 Says:

    Hey, Sean,

    Thanks. I meant that you might put up an article at some time about eschatology &/or theonomy. But glad to see your bent.

    Well done on the other issue. It’s almost impossible to answer without people getting up in arms.

    I guess a stickler could still press:

    Does the general equity of the sundry judicial OT laws require that the “the governing authorities, the civil magistrate, uphold the death penalty for certain crimes that have not been abrogated in the New Testament, e.g., adultery, prohibited sexual behavior like bestiality and homosexual sex, and kidnapping?”

    And it begs the question of what’s judicial, what’s ceremonial, etc.

  46. hughmc5 Says:

    Or does the general equity of the sundry judicial OT laws require that the the governing authorities, the civil magistrate, imprison, or give sensitivity training, or lecture, or slap wrists for certain crimes that have not been abrogated in the New Testament, e.g., adultery, prohibited sexual behavior like bestiality and homosexual sex, and kidnapping?

  47. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think it’s safe to say that the general equity in the United States would not be served by putting homosexuals or adulterers to death, even if it may be perfectly acceptable in, say, Iran. As for kidnapping, I thought that was a capital offense as a result of the fall out from the Lindbergh kidnapping. I know Congress made it a federal crime.

  48. LJ Says:

    Sean, I have already ditched the tassels on my chinos.

    But is there not a distinction between laws which are ceremonial, e.g., blood sacrifices or separation laws, and laws which are moral and, therefore, eternal laws, e.g., murder, theft, lying (perjury), etc.? T

    The “general equity” rule would apply to the one and not the other, right?

    I don’t understand this statement by Sean: I think it’s safe to say that the general equity in the United States would not be served by putting homosexuals or adulterers to death, even if it may be perfectly acceptable in, say, Iran. As for kidnapping, I thought that was a capital offense as a result of the fall out from the Lindbergh kidnapping. I know Congress made it a federal crime.

    It might not be pragmatic to execute homosexuals or adulterers or kidnappers today, but that’s not my question or, actually, the three questions I asked. Three questions. I’ll try again:

    1. What laws SHOULD the government enact?

    2. What should the punishment be for violation of the enacted law?

    3. What is the basis, the epistemological foundation, for either (1) or (2)?

    LJ

  49. LJ Says:

    I should be more clear. The general equity clause, I think, applies to those laws that might be today called civil laws. For example, putting a rail around your porch today might be generally equitable to the roof top railing in the O.T. to protect people from falling off. The reimbursement for the theft of an ox in the O.T., since it was used for the livelihood of the owner, might be equitably applied to the reimbursement for the theft of a tractor today, used again for one’s livelihood.

    None of this would be perfectly equitable since it’s “general”. But by what other standard than scripture do we make our laws? Natural law?

    LJ

  50. Sean Gerety Says:

    Not sure what you don’t understand, but I don’t think there is any obligation per the Confession to enforce the OT judicial laws.

    I came across this in a brief search by Sherman Isbell:

    General Equity



    The Confession uses the term general equity to identify the element in the judicial laws which is of enduring obligation. The meaning of this term is evident from the chapter in which it appears. There is an equity or righteousness which on four other occasions in this chapter is said to still oblige, amidst all the changes in redemptive history. That equity is the moral law, which 1) was first given at creation, 2) was afterwards delivered in the ten commandments, 3) is distinguished from the ceremonial and judicial laws as such, 4) is always backed by the authority of the Creator, and 5) is strengthened by Christ in the Gospel: “God gave to Adam a law, . . . by which He bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience . . . . . This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness . . . . . Beside this law, commonly called moral, [are the ceremonial and judicial laws] . . . . . The moral law doth for ever bind all . . . to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.”



    Confirmation that “general equity” signifies the moral law is furnished by an examination of the earlier Reformed and contemporary Puritan literature which forms the background and context for the writing of the Confession. These writers regarded equity as identifiable by reference to well-known standards. In the classical Reformed tradition, equity is the righteousness of the moral law, which is 1) embodied in a natural law binding upon all men as creatures under the authority of the Creator, and 2) common to moral teaching found in the Scriptures as a whole. We shall see that Calvin and the Puritans did not allow the judicial laws to define equity. Conformity to the moral law was the standard against which these writers reviewed the judicial laws and isolated the elements of perpetual equity in them. Outstanding statements of this hermeneutical perspective were given by Calvin, William Ames and Francis Turretin, and many others gave briefer expression to the same teaching.

  51. LJ Says:

    I looked but couldn’t find wrist slapping or lecturing in the O.T.

    Granted the distinction between civil, judicial, and ceremonial is sometimes hard to ascertain. But separation laws, clothing laws, dietary laws, blood prohibition laws (these are difficult sometimes!) are fairly easy to distinguish from “typical” ceremonial laws, right?

    LJ

  52. LJ Says:

    Once more:

    1. What laws SHOULD the government enact?

    2. What SHOULD the punishment be for violation of the enacted law?

    3. What is the basis, the epistemological foundation, for either (1) or (2)?

  53. LJ Says:

    General equity is very interesting and I would love to get your feedback on what it means exactly and how it might be applied to certain cases. But what I’m really interested in, from a theonomic perspective, is:

    1. What laws SHOULD the government enact?

    2. What should the punishment be for violation of the enacted law?

    3. What is the basis, the epistemological foundation, for either (1) or (2)?

    Sorry for being repetitive. I’d just like to know what you think the answer is to these questions.

    LJ

  54. Jim Butler Says:

    For a good biblical, theological and historical analysis of the threefold division of the law, see “From the Finger of God” by Philip S. Ross.

    jim

  55. Denson Dube Says:

    “I also like to wear clothing made from mixed materials. They breath nice and wear well.”
    And, oh the smell of bacon, hmmm, and some of those crunchy fried creepy crawlies(prawns)!

    But seriously, as LJ keeps asking … how do we determine what laws can be enacted by the government? Natural law …. red in tooth and claw?

    The epistemological basis is biblical revelation. There can be no answers without God speaking, who is truth.
    The greatest commandment is to love God and my neighbour. But “love” is not specific. How do I know I have or have not loved my neighbour? The bible says love is to keep God’s commandments. The Decalogue pertains to that which we must not do in relation to God and man. Government laws should be derived from the part of the Decalogue that pertains to man. Murder, the taking of the life of another, and theft, the taking of another man’s property and bearing false witness. All other laws are derived from the decalogue by good and necessary consequency. The distinction between criminal and civil law is necessary. While fornication or the breaching of a contract may not be a crime , the spouse, or the wronged party should have recourse to the law in suing for divorce and compensation. There should be laws for keeping of the peace, the maintenance of orderliness and quite. Under civil law, should be a myrad of other laws like driving on the same side of the road fair business practice and competition etc etc. All these I view as “good and necessary consequencies” from the Decalogue and other parts of scripture.

  56. LJ Says:

    Given what Denson just wrote and if he is correct that the only foundation, standard, by which man may erect a government is Biblical revelation, how do we answer these next two questions?

    1. What laws ought to be legislated?

    2. And once laws are legislated what sanctions should the government meet out to the offenders?

    How do we know the answer to these two questions?

    JRob went to great lengths to point out that the primary, if not the ONLY, function of a Biblical government is the punishment of evildoers. I agree.

    How is evil defined and once it is defined what punishments should the government execute?

    LJ


  57. LJ, I was asking those exact questions myself not too long ago. I found this article helpful http://www.reformedreader.org/rbs/tarba.htm (look near the end for practical observations)

  58. David Reece Says:

    LJ,

    I agree with your point.

    I think we have to take everything that is listed as a sin to which a civil punishment is attached and assume it is a crime that should be punished in the way that the Bible says it should be punished, then we can look for rules of abrogation and mark off individual examples by that method.

    By civil punishment I do not mean to distinguish between civil and criminal law. I don’t really know that the distinction is very useful besides stating who may press for judicial action. By civil punishments I have meant punishments to be enforced/implemented by the civil magistrate.

    I think this requires a rigorous connecting of texts and of systematization of a political philosophy from scripture alone. I think most of the work has been done already by reformers of the past, and the best summation available can be found in Robbins’ material on political philosophy.

    The Old Testament lists coercive punishments for murder, man stealing, rape, theft, fraud, incorrigibility in children, intentional harm to person or property, negligence leading to harm of person or property, sabbath breaking, apostasy, blasphemy, witchcraft, sorcery, false pretension to prophecy, failure to follow cleanliness and separation laws, adultery and unchastity, sodomy/homosexual behavior, bestiality, and incest.

    I do not see how we can go by any other method than to start here (unless anyone has additional examples to add) and to then work from this list to those things which have been abrogated to come to a final list of crimes that should continue to be punished by the civil magistrate.

    I think this must be how we define the “evil” that the governors are to punish. I honestly have no idea what the Confession really means when it says that the laws are not in force except as guidelines for general equity.I guess I agree if it means that the payments and penalties can be of the same value but by different means. So, stoning could be replaced with hanging, but We cannot choose to not enforce some of the punishments for any of the crimes listed unless there are abrogating texts in the Scriptures.

  59. hughmc5 Says:

    Another choice quote from Bishop J.C. Ryle on Satan:

    There is a devil! We have a mighty invisible enemy always near us–one who never slumbers and never sleeps–one who is about our path and about our bed, and spies out all our ways, and will never leave us until we die. He is a murderer! His great aim and object is, to ruin us forever and kill our souls. To destroy, to rob us of eternal life, to bring us down to the second death in hell, are the things for which he is unceasingly working. He is ever going about, seeking whom he may devour. He is a liar! He is continually trying to deceive us by false representations, just as he deceived Eve at the beginning. He is always telling us that good is evil and evil good–truth is falsehood and falsehood truth–the broad way good and the narrow way bad. Millions are led captive by his deceit, and follow him, both rich and poor, both high and low, both learned and unlearned. Lies are his chosen weapons. By lies he slays many. J.C. Ryle on John 8:37-47.

    From http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/07/12/the-character-and-intention-of-the-devil/

  60. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Hugh,
    The devil is a liar, who lies even about himself and many people believe his lies. Whatever his stratagems, God is sovereign and the devil is only a creature. Our only refuge from this incorrigibly evil creature is our redemption, the imputed righteousness of Christ through his shed blood at Calvary.

    John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.

    I John 5: 4, “For evryone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”(ESV)

    I John 2:13, “I write to you fathers because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one”


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