Will God Bless America? By John MacArthur

In this era of terrorism, poverty, oppression and a few less-distinct enemies, waves of patriotism occasionally revive the slogan “God Bless America.” Sadly, though, the sentiment long ago became a cliché to which people rarely give serious thought. The phrase is even seen, ironically, on bumper stickers adjacent to other bumper stickers expressing humanistic and atheistic sentiments. One assumes that even those who don’t believe in God want His blessing on our nation.

Anti-God philosophies and worldviews now clearly dominate most of Western society. God has been removed from public discourse; prayer has been virtually banned from the public arena; agnosticism and humanism dominate public policy. So it is remarkable that the slogan “God Bless America” is still in vogue. We have to wonder what most people have in mind when they repeat it.

Originally, “God bless America” was a prayer for divine blessing. In its current form, it sometimes seems nothing more than a patriotic battle cry — usually intoned without much serious reflection. Perhaps it is sometimes recited with the superstitious belief that merely invoking God’s name can garner His blessing. One thing is clear: while Americans universally want God’s favor, as a whole, they do not want God.

Some apparently believe that America enjoys God’s blessing by divine right. After all, God has blessed America throughout history to a remarkable degree. But His blessings are not measured — as most people believe — by material affluence, power, and world dominance. The greatest blessings God has graciously given America have been spiritual blessings — freedom for the gospel to be propagated, sweeping revivals like those of the Great Awakenings, and growth and spiritual prosperity for the church in our nation. The sad truth is that all those blessings were in serious jeopardy long before the terrorist strikes reminded us that our freedom and material prosperity hang by a fragile thread.

Does our nation really desire God’s blessing? Do Americans truly long for the spiritual awakening that would be the necessary condition for true blessing, or would the policy-makers and media moguls in our society be as hostile to such a revival as they are to the threat of terrorism?

And what are the means by which the people of God should seek to have God’s blessing on our nation? Can we help position modern society to receive God’s blessing merely by influencing public policy through politics and protest, or is something more needed to fulfill the conditions under which God will bless our nation? Can external moral reform alone make America fit for God’s blessing, or is something even deeper needed in the lives of most Americans?

To ask such questions is to answer them. Scripture is clear that a wholesale spiritual renewal, brought about through the preaching of the gospel, is the true pathway to divine blessing. What is needed is not merely moral reform but spiritual regeneration. And unless this occurs on a widespread scale that deeply impacts all of society, we will continue to forfeit the true blessings of God for our nation. Merely reciting the slogan “God bless America” will do nothing for us until it becomes a heartfelt prayer for spiritual renewal and regeneration.

The remedy to our nation’s moral and spiritual woes must begin at the house of God. The process starts with personal repentance. If Christians truly want to see God’s blessing on our society, we ought to be models of genuine contrition and humility rather than merely pointing fingers of blame at the evils of secular society.

The church today is in a serious state of spiritual decline. Many churches are apparently more willing to imitate the world’s fashions and opinions than to confront them with biblical truth. Meanwhile, Christians concerned about the moral evils of society often opt for all the wrong remedies — as if the only thing needed to cure the spiritual malaise of our nation were some kind of federal legislation against abortion, sexual promiscuity, pornography, or other forms of corruption.

I am by no means opposed to legislative efforts to outlaw abortion, drug abuse, and similar abominations. But political remedies to our nation’s moral ills are no cure for the underlying spiritual problems. Of all people, Christians ought to know that, and the preponderance of our efforts ought to be focused on proclaiming the truth that can genuinely set people free. In other words, the majority of our energies ought to be invested in preaching the gospel and living the kind of life that gives testimony to the redeeming power of Christ.

Lives, not just laws, need to be transformed before America will be in a position to ask for and expect God’s blessing. The blessings of God cannot be acquired by any legislative process. Law cannot make people righteous. Scripture is clear on this. No one is justified by works of law, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16). And saving faith is an individual matter; it cannot be imposed by legislative force.

In other words, society as a whole cannot be delivered from moral bankruptcy unless individual lives are transformed by the power of Christ. If that conviction does not frame the priorities of the people of God and drive the activities of the church on earth, we can forget about God’s blessing on our nation.

[Editor’s Note: Taken from Can God Bless America by John MacArthur, Nashville: Nelson, 2002]

The above article was published at the Pulpit & Pen.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Bible – Part 2

The last post here at the Battle Cry was a video clip in which Todd Friel of Wretched Radio named names and shared direct quotations of prominent evangelical leaders. The video clip criticizes a movement while intentionally not criticizing evangelicals who have embraced elements of CRT.

Racism is Real

Let me emphasize right now that racism is real. Racism has been a problem since the fall of man and the entrance of sin into a world God declared “good – very good”. It permeates every society and culture on the planet in one way or another

What is Critical Race Theory?

In short, CRT looks at nearly every facet of our society through a ‘racial’ lens. As one author states:

Critical Race Theory Calls for Permanent, Codified Racial Preferences

At the heart of Critical Race Theory lies the rejection of colorblind meritocracy. “Formal equality overlooks structural disadvantages and requires mere nondiscrimination or “equal treatment.”[1] Instead, Critical Race Theory calls for “aggressive, color conscious efforts to change the way things are.”[2] It contemplates, “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm”[3] to be used in distributing positions of wealth, prestige, and power.[4]

That’s just one characteristic of CRT, perhaps the main one leading to many other characteristics and eventual outcomes at all levels of our society. This post is not intended to be a discussion of CRT. Rather, it asks a different question.

How should blood washed members of the body of Christ, and the church, behave?

Should the church behave like the society around us, and contemplate “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm?”. If we believe the words of prominent evangelicals (watch the video clip), it could seem like we are.

What does the Bible say about us?

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-6)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11)

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom 12:5)

Does racism exist? Yes. It is born in the heart of sinful men. CRT would have us believe that ‘inanimate’ entities and institutions are racist (but just certain ones). As with any evil, racism begins in the hearts of the sinful human beings who make up entities and institutions. They key to lasting change is found in Christ, and only in Christ,  with the radical transformation of the human heart into the likeness of our Savior.

Does racism exist in the hearts and minds of professing believers? Only to the extent that the sin of racism has not been conquered in Christ. When racism raises its ugly head in the life of a believer, it must be confessed and repented of before a Holy God, and when appropriate, before those whom we have wronged.

What we, as individuals and as the church, do NOT need to do is behave like the society and culture around us, when the behavior of our society and culture contradicts what the Bible clearly states and teaches.

We should be shining examples of how things should be, not the way they are.

For further reading, should be interested:

Racism, Justified: A Critical Look at Critical Race Theory (Highly recommended)

What is Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory, RTS, and SBTS

Critical race theory – Wikipedia

A Tale of Two Songs

This last Sunday in Church we sang our usual three worship songs. One was the classic 1834 hymn, The Solid Rock, based on Matthew 7:24-27. The other two were more contemporary; Hillsong’s “From the Inside Out,” from their 2006 Album United We Stand, and “In Christ Alone” written in 2001 by Stuart Townend, which has become a worldwide favorite. Here are the lyrics,which are the subject of this post.

“From The Inside Out”

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out

“In Christ Alone”

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless !
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in —
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

Both songs contain truth.Both songs stir the emotions. At the same time, they seem to be different, lyrically and thematically speaking. – at least it appears that way to at least one old guy.

So I ask you who read this to examine the lyrics of both songs and let us know if you too see differences, and what might the differences be that you notice. If you don’t see much difference between these two songs, tell us that too. If I’m losing my mind, I need to know!

Biblical Doctrine and Extrabiblical Terminology

by Mike Riccardi

John-Owen-PortraitDuring the Arian controversy of the fourth century, the Arians employed many arguments against the doctrines of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Perhaps one of the most popular arguments was that men like Athanasius were using unbiblical terminology to describe the nature of God and the person of Christ. The famous word homoousios — i.e., “same substance,” indicating that the Son was of the same substance of the Father, not merely of similar substance — was nowhere to be found in Scripture, while the Arians insisted upon the “plain sense” of texts like John 14:28, where Jesus confesses, “The Father is greater than I.” In the sixteenth century, the anti-Trinitarian Socinians leveled this same argument against historic orthodoxy. “Trinity” was a word that was absent from the Bible. The Reformed Orthodox were simply imbibing man-made tradition, whereas they (the Socinians) were aiming to be true to Scripture by using strictly biblical language.

John Owen saw it as a personal calling to answer the numerous heresies of Socinianism, and the church has been the richer for his efforts. Early on in his “A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity,” Owen answers this common objection, and explains why employing extrabiblical terms like “substance,” “subsistence,” and “Trinity” is not only permissible but necessary for faithful biblical interpretation and theological discussion. He writes:

“And herein [i.e., in discussing the Trinity], as in the application of all other divine truths and mysteries whatever, yea, of all moral commanded duties, use is to be made of such words and expressions as, it may be, are not literally and formally contained in Scripture; but only are, unto our conceptions and apprehensions, expository of what is so contained.

“And to deny the liberty, yea, the necessity hereof, is to deny all interpretation of the Scripture, — all endeavors to express the sense of the words of it unto the understandings of one another; which is, in a word, to render the Scripture itself altogether useless.

“For if it be unlawful for me to speak or write what I conceive to be the sense of the words of the Scripture, and the nature of the thing signified and expressed by them, it is unlawful for me, also, to think or conceive in my mind what is the sense of the words or nature of the things; which to say, is to make brutes of ourselves, and to frustrate the whole design of God in giving unto us the great privilege of his word.

“Wherefore, in the declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity, we may lawfully, nay, we must necessarily, make use of other words, phrases, and expressions than what are literally and syllabically contained in the Scripture, but teach no other things.

“Moreover, whatever is so revealed in the Scripture is no less true and divine as to whatever necessarily followeth thereon, than it is as unto that which is principally revealed and directly expressed. For how far soever the lines be drawn and extended, from truth nothing can follow and ensue but what is true also; and that in the same kind of truth with that which it is derived and deduced from. For if the principal assertion be a truth of divine revelation, so is also whatever is included therein, and which may be rightly from thence collected.

“Hence it follows, that when the Scripture reveals the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be one God, seeing it necessarily and unavoidably follows thereon that they are one in essence (wherein alone it is possible they can be one), and three in their distinct subsistences (wherein alone it is possible they can be three), — this is no less of divine revelation than the first principle from whence these things follow.”

Several comments are worth making.

Necessary for the Refutation of Error

First, Owen notes that, not just in Trinitarian discussions, but in “all other divine truths and mysteries whatever,” it’s necessary to use terminology that doesn’t appear in Scripture in order to explain precisely what Scripture does and does not mean by the terminology it does use. As soon as a teacher of error invests biblical terminology with a meaning that Scripture does not intend, they have made it necessary for the defenders of truth to use language that is not used in Scripture to distinguish the genuine biblical sense of the terms in question.

The Arians insisted that Scripture’s description of the Son as “begotten” and “firstborn” meant that the Son had a beginning, since, with respect to human relations, the “plain sense” of these terms imply origination. In order to explain why that was not the case, Athanasius, Augustine, and others employed extrabiblical terminology to explain the genuine meaning of the biblical terms. Begottenness, for the eternal relations between Father and Son, didn’t imply origination, but the Father’s eternal communication of the divine essence to the personal subsistence of the Son. Scripture doesn’t speak of “essence” and “subsistences” in any explicit fashion, but these terms are employed to best capture what Scripture does say and distinguish it from false teaching.

This is Simply the Task of Interpretation

Second, note how this practice is absolutely essential to any biblical interpretation whatsoever. “To deny the liberty, yea, the necessity hereof, is to deny all interpretation of the Scripture.” If employing extrabiblical terminology to describe biblical truth is somehow always polluting the purity of exegesis with the the “human reasoning” of “theology,” then we’d have to jettison not only our theology books, but also our Bible commentaries, historical sources, and lexicons, and prohibit our pastors from saying anything from behind the pulpit beyond the reading of Scripture. Any commentary on biblical truth involves using words not used in the text.

Anchored to the Text

Third, observe how Owen is explicitly concerned that one anchor extrabiblical terminology in the text of Scripture itself. Though these terms might not be found explicitly in the text, they are nevertheless “expository of what is so contained.” We are aiming to express “the sense of the words” of Scripture. We use words other than what are in Scripture, but which “teach no other things” than what are in Scripture. Owen is not some systematician running roughshod over the biblical text; if nothing else, his two-million-word exegetical commentary on the Book of Hebrews ought to qualify him as an exegete. No, it’s his love for Scripture and his genuine concern that the author’s intent be preserved pristine that drives him to this practice. Theological deduction must always be moored to the text.

The Legitimacy of Deduction

Fourth, he makes the excellent observation that the logical implications of a divinely revealed truth are no less divinely revealed nor less true than the principle from which it’s deduced. Some interpreters who tend to be wary of the legitimacy of systematic theology get uneasy if there are too many levels of argument or inference from a particular truth of Scripture. If there are more than three if-then statements in a theological argument, it must not be biblical. But that’s just simply not true. If A is proven to be a scriptural truth, and if the rest of scriptural testimony along with the laws of logic demand that A implies B, and B implies C, and so on through to Z, Z is no less biblical than A. Or, as the Westminster Confession puts it, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (1.6). That which is deduced “by good and necessary consequence” is no less biblical than that which is “expressly set down in Scripture.”

*     *     *     *     *

And so, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity — which is summarized by the confession that God is one, and that this one God eternally subsists in three co-equal and consubstantial persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which persons, though distinct from one another, each fully possess the undivided divine essence — is not an unbiblical concoction devised by human reasoning and philosophical speculation. It is biblical, even though the words “Trinity” and “essence” and “subsistence” don’t appear in Scripture. By teaching that God is one, and that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, Scripture shuts us up to Trinitarianism. That we have to borrow metaphysical language to explain the scriptural realities makes those realities no less scriptural.

As you interpret Scripture and aim to faithfully hold the parts together into a coherent whole, don’t get caught up in the crass biblicism of the likes of the Arians and Socinians, because, ironically, that would be unbiblical.