Here are some of my latest comments relating to some of the articles and video projects found at The Forerunner. Check back for my thoughts on eschatology, world missions, God’s Law and Society, pro-life activism, evangelism testimonies, Neo-Puritanism, revival and spiritual awakening, church history, and so on. Use the navigation sidebar to see Forerunner Weblog articles by category or see the blog archive for the category listing.
Planned Parenthood’s Kissimmee abortion mega-center has been the target of public outcry since their plans to open across the street from Osceola Regional Medical Center were uncovered in March 2014. (Photo credit: Amber Carroll.)
KISSIMMEE, Florida (www.forerunner.com) — I just got this from Dr. John Littell, a local pro-life physician who together with hundreds of doctors, lawyers and community leaders, has been working to Stop Planned Parenthood of Kissimmee.
Dear Jay and Friends for Life: Yes! The courts upheld the ban on abortion and other surgical procedures at 610 Oak Commons Blvd in Kissimmee effective today! Let’s celebrate LIFE tomorrow Saturday, May 22nd, 2015 at 1st Christian Church in Kissimmee from noon to 1 PM! Bring all you can – this will be an amazing time to rejoice and news media will be there as well. Back to my patients and God bless all the children and us as well! – Doc/John
Last July, a court issued a temporary injunction that ordered the Planned Parenthood abortion mega-center to cease doing surgical procedures, which were in violation of an agreement between physicians in Oak Commons and Osceola Regional Medical Center. Throughout 2014, The Forerunner covered the battle with the abortion giant. Here is a synopsis of events from the beginning.
See also numerous videos from The Forerunner and various news sources on this story.
In the fall, Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando won a “stay” of the temporary injunction on the abortion center. That was immediately appealed by the doctors in Oak Commons who brought the original lawsuit. Today, a court has ruled that the ban on surgical abortion procedures at the Kissimmee Oak Commons address is back in effect.
According to the Orlando Sentinel :
The 2-1 ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal focused on a restrictive covenant in the medical park that bars the property from being used for an outpatient surgical center.
Another property owner in the park, MMB Properties, sought the temporary injunction, which was approved by an Osceola County circuit judge.
The appeals court last year issued a stay of the injunction while the appeal moved forward. Friday’s majority opinion backed findings of the circuit judge.
“The trial court’s findings were that abortions are outpatient surgical procedures; that Planned Parenthood’s facility is not a physician’s practice of medicine; and, that even if the facility is operated as a physician’s practice of medicine, its performance of abortions was not ancillary or incidental to that practice,’‘ said the opinion, written by Judge C. Alan Lawson and joined by Judge William Palmer.
“Accepting these findings, we affirm the trial court’s ultimate finding that MMB had a substantial likelihood of success in proving that Planned Parenthood’s performance of abortions at the facility would violate the restrictive covenant.”
This has been a roller coaster ride and it is not over yet. There is still to come a hearing for the permanent injunction to ban surgical abortions in Oak Commons. The injunction also does not affect chemical abortion procedures.
We will band together to give thanks and pray. Forward this to anyone else you know who has been involved in opposing child sacrifice in our city.
Come celebrate with us at First Christian Church, 415 N Main St, Kissimmee, FL. Noon – 1 pm, Saturday, May 23rd, 2015.
The Role of Church and State in Executing Vengeance Against Blasphemy, Idolatry and Witchcraft
One of the main points of any system of covenantal theology should be the idea of “covenantal shift.” There are certain instances where Christ or one of the Apostles changed, if not the Law itself, the Law’s applicability and how it is to be enforced. In this article, I will maintain that the individual, family or church has no role in executing criminals under the New Covenant, unlike the Old Covenant, and that Old Covenant sanctions against blasphemy, idolatry and witchcraft are not to be enforced by the State under the New Covenant.
The Church is now responsible for enforcing the covenant in matters of worship, such as idolatry, witchcraft, etc. The Church may not execute idolaters, but must pray imprecatory prayers against non-communicants and must excommunicate church members who are unrepentant. By enforcing the Law through eternal sanctions, rather than temporal punishments, the Church now acts as an evangelistic agent to bring the heathen nations to repentance and salvation. Rather than being killed, the heathen are converted.
Hence, there has been a covenantal shift regarding the Law.
I will enumerate some points pertaining to this “covenantal shift.”
1. Regarding Jesus “changing” the Law
In certain instances, the Law of God has taken a different tack under the New Covenant. Theonomists, from the time of the Reformation until the current movement, have made a distinction between the moral law of God and other types of law — dietary, ceremonial — and have attempted to delineate exactly where the Law has “changed.” When I use the word “change,” I am speaking in the sense of it being fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ and the new order that resulted from His atoning work. The Law was in no case abolished, but fulfilled. To “fulfill” is to make complete what was incomplete. Thus sacrificial laws were fulfilled by the sacrificial Lamb who died “once for all” for our sins. The sacrificial law still exists, but the penalty of the moral Law has been paid “once for all.” Sacrifice was not abolished at the death of Christ, but the manner in which it was dispensed has been changed. Christ fulfilled the Law in several ways so that the observances outlined in the Old Covenant are no longer necessary or effectual.
2. Certain civil laws were fulfilled at the death of Christ
One example: the Church is no longer represented by the nation-state of Israel, but is now a universal body of believers made up of all nations. After 70 A.D., the nation-state of Israel was destroyed, and there is no longer one nation that has the Law of God — it has passed to all nations. Under the New Covenant, we see a more pronounced division between the civil sphere and church sphere of authority. This distinction was also present in the Old Covenant through the religious authority of priests and the civil authority of elders. But this distinction has become more clear now.
Under the New Covenant, there has been a change in the relationship between the individual and the church and state. Under the Old Covenant, it was assumed that each individual within Israel was both a member of the church body and the national civil body. Under the Old Covenant, the religious sphere had one centralized government: the elders of Levi serving in the Temple at Jerusalem. However, the civil sphere consisted of a highly decentralized representative commonwealth.
Under the New Covenant, this all changed. Not every citizen of the state is a church member and not every member of a local church is a citizen of the state. Under the New Covenant, the church is made up of local representative bodies with no centralized authority. Christ Himself is both High Priest and King. The role of the civil government is decentralized and differs little from the role of the civil government in Israel.
When Christ died on the cross, He died for all nations. Therefore, the Church’s role is now to reform nation-states from the inside-out through evangelism and enforcement of the moral law of God in the civil sphere. But the work of reforming a heathen nation’s laws is often a long and arduous process.
Under the New Covenant, the civil code has changed with regard to warfare and capital punishment. The sword (death) is dispensed by the state (Romans 13:4). In fact, warfare and capital punishment were never within the jurisdiction of the religious sphere. But because of the close relationship between the priests and the elders of Israel this distinction was blurred. The notion of the universal priesthood of the individual believer was obscure, at best, under the Old Covenant.
In the New Covenant, we see more clearly that the role of priest has passed to the individual believer. We also see more clearly that it is the state’s responsibility to carry out vengeance (Romans 13:4). In addition, the Church may never execute capital punishment or engage in warfare (except when acting under the authority of a civil magistrate) and it is only under certain conditions (as outlined in the case laws of the Old Testament Law) when this responsibility falls to the individual.
Israel was to dispense the vengeance of God (“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord”) against the heathen and against covenant breakers within Israel. However, when the Holy Spirit was given in a fuller way in the New Covenant, God’s judgment took a different tack in the manner in which it was dispensed. Now the primary job of the individual, family and church is to function in their godly roles as witnesses to convert the heathen world. The primary job of the first three spheres is to convert the heathen, who, prior to the New Covenant, Israel (the Church) was commanded to kill. Under the New Covenant, the job of execution now lies primarily with the state.
Thus, there is a more pronounced “separation of Church and State” under the New Covenant. However, this does not make the state separate from God’s moral law. The state (or civil sphere of government) has an added responsibility under God’s moral law which the Church can never fulfill. Although the state may “preach the gospel,” its primary job is not evangelism, but the dispensing of justice. This view is bolstered by the Confessions of the Protestant Reformation.
The Westminster Confession states:
God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth, so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.
Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession of belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion states:
The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction. Where we attribute to the King’s Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England. The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offenses. It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
The Belgic Confession states:
We believe that because of the depravity of the human race our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. He wants the world to be governed by laws and policies so that human lawlessness may be restrained and that everything may be conducted in good order among human beings. For that purpose he has placed the sword in the hands of the government, to punish evil people and protect the good. And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship. They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them.
And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word. Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives in honor and respect, and obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and decency. And on this matter we denounce the Anabaptists, other anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has established among human beings.
Thus, we see clearly that the reformers held to the idea that the civil government’s role is markedly different from the role of the other spheres of government. I use this same ideology in arguing against individuals, families or church authorities wielding the sword (dispensing God’s vengeance) against the enemies of God.
3. With regard to an individual taking vengeance
The civil law is to be fulfilled only by the civil magistrate — not by church authorities, heads of the families, nor by individuals. The case law from Exodus 22:2,3 demonstrates that an individual may still use force as self-defense within the household. For instance, Exodus 22:2,3 does not deal with murder at all, but self-defense in order to secure private property. This portion of Scripture deals with “case laws” which are specific applications of the Ten Commandments to hypothetical situations that may have arisen in Israel. The Hebrew people were commanded to meditate on the Law of God and the case laws in order to obtain wisdom in how to live by the Law and how to dispense justice in different circumstances. Case laws still apply today unless they were specifically fulfilled by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. The case law of a thief breaking and entering in the night is still used as the basis for an individual’s right to “kill” an intruder and be free of blood-guilt.
Why the emphasis on the dark of night versus the light of day? This is a distinction still in use today. For instance, in many states, breaking and entering in the night time is a first degree felony, while breaking and entering in the day time is only a misdemeanor. The safety of the family sleeping in the home is the criterion for judgment here. A thief entering a house while the family is sleeping could potentially murder the person who is unfortunate enough to be awakened by the intruder. In such a case, it is perfectly legitimate for the family member to use force, if necessary to subdue the thief. If a death results, the action is not considered murder, but legitimate self-defense. A thief entering in broad daylight would only do so if the family were away from the home. However, if he did so with the expressed purpose of killing or maiming a family member, then it is perfectly legitimate to use force in order to stop this from happening. This is always the case, whether the incident occurs within the home or outside the home. In the Mosaic case laws, manslaughter differs from murder in the cases of premeditation and self-defense.
Justice under the New Covenant can only be dispensed by the civil magistrate, unless the individual is seeking to subdue a would-be murderer and accidentally kills him in the process. This is considered manslaughter and not murder. Vigilantism is also precluded.
4. With regard to family members taking vengeance
In the Old Testament, a family member could turn himself into a vigilante and pursue a family enemy. However, Jesus specifically altered (or fulfilled) the need to take vengeance when he said: “You have heard it said: and eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth, But I say to you do not resist him who is evil…. But you shall turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38,39). Jesus also changed the law with regard to hating our enemies, which we are commanded to do under the Old Covenant simply because the heathen and the covenant breaker were enemies of God. We are not to kill our enemies, but to work for their conversion. A Christian may also forgive and love an enemy of God in an effort to bring him to repentance rather than seeking the justice of the criminal law system. This Good News has now gone out to the whole world and not only to covenant keepers among Israel. However, a civil magistrate may enforce the death penalty in order to bring covenant-breakers to justice.
The case law of Exodus 22:2,3 is one example from the Old Covenant which would preclude vigilantism. In other circumstances, a family member might have acted as a “blood-avenger.” But an individual could not pursue and hunt down a killer under any circumstance and be guiltless under the Law of God. The only way in which an individual could dispense justice is by acting under the authority of a civil magistrate. In the Old Covenant this “deputy-role” of an individual member of the nation-state acting under the authority of the civil magistrate is assumed. A family member was directly accountable to the elder (civil magistrate) of his family group or tribe. However, since the nation-state role of the Israel (the Church) has ended, it can no longer be assumed that each individual is acting under the authority of the civil magistrate in order to bring an individual to justice. An individual may still non-violently arrest and turn a suspect over to a civil magistrate, but the authority to execute vengeance lies only within the sphere of the civil government.
Also of interest, is the modern vs. biblical definition of the “family,” as meaning only blood-relation. The Old Covenant definition of family had more to do with authority than blood-relation. The family sphere refers not only to blood-line, but to all those living under the covenantal authority of a head of a household. The practice of taking the name of one to whom an individual submits is to this day a common practice in Asian and Mediterranean cultures. The word, “father,” does not refer to husband, wife and children only, but to the head of a clan or “family.” A father is one who protects and succors.
Note that the Sicilian Mafia still uses the word “family” to denote a crime organization headed by a “godfather” or crime boss. This is a perversion of God’s natural order, yet it has the same cultural roots as the Hebrew understanding of “family.” The Mafia also uses an Old Covenant form of taking vengeance for harm done to family members which denies the supreme authority of the state or civil magistrate in enforcing justice in these matters.
5. With regard to church-related organizations seeking vengeance
True Christianity does not take up the sword, kill those who refuse to obey the Gospel, nor create an exclusive group to which others may not belong. It makes a mockery out of heathen systems of justice. As R.J. Rushdoony pointed out, the Apostle Paul began this revolution when he told the Christians at Corinth to set up their own courts to try cases pertaining to civil disputes. Evidently, Corinthian church members were suing each other before heathen judges and were getting rulings that were ungodly. This was a reproach to the testimony of Christ. Ecclesiastical courts grew with the Church and at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire several hundred years later, they were the only existing courts dispensing justice. Thus, the kingdom of God gained a measure of dominion through the Church’s role in enforcing the Law of God in society.
The error that the Roman Catholic Church entered into after this point was to erect a Holy Roman Empire — a church-state ecclessiocracy — to replace the collapsed Roman world order. In doing so, the Roman Catholic Church defied the godly separation of powers. However, it has always been the position of Reformed theology that powers ought to be limited given the total depravity of the human heart. Thus, even ecclesiastical courts are to be suspect and distrusted.
In a true theocracy, civil and ecclesiastical powers must be separate and limited. The state may raise armed forces to defend national borders, appoint judges and punish violations of the civil and moral Law of God. The church may hear cases pertaining to certain moral violations, defend biblical doctrine, and hear certain civil cases between local church members. The Apostle Paul maintained that the responsibility to wield the sword (execute the death penalty as punishment) is given primarily to the state (Romans 13:4). The Church may never act in this capacity. Individual Christians may do so only when acting under the authority of civil law.
Modern theonomists may disagree as to exactly what matters this pertains. However, we agree that the standard is God’s Law — not man’s law. We also agree that only the civil magistrate has the authority to wield the sword.
6. With regard to the State trying witches, idolaters and blasphemers
Finally, we have arrived at the main point of this article. May the State enforce sanctions against witches, idolaters and blasphemers? Some believe that the State may do so.
The Belgic Confessions states: “And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist….”
However, the Confession is referring to the Roman Catholic Church, which was not just a religion of the day, but also a political power to be warred against only by another political power. Today, the Roman Catholic Church has no such civil authority in any nation. When we speak of idolatry today, we are speaking of idolatry coming from the religious sphere, not the State.
In short, we should maintain that the State has no business in interfering with matters pertaining to worship. This is the sole responsibility of the Church.
7. Regarding the Church’s role in applying sanctions to the idolater
It is the role of the Church to oppose idolatry with all our might, even to the point of publicly condemning certain idolaters (if they refuse to repent) through imprecatory prayer proclamations. Sorcery is condemned throughout the Bible [see Ex. 7:11; 8:7,18; Isa. 47:9,12]. Sanctions are imposed on sorcerers who refuse to repent [see Acts 13:6,8; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21;18:23]. As the Church, our correct response is to condemn the practice of witchcraft and sorcery and to preach salvation to those who would repent. But the Church may not execute physical vengeance. It may only excommunicate.
Therefore, the two avenues of resistance to idolatry — ecclesiastical and civil — can never result in the execution of the idolater.
8. On whether idolatry should be made illegal by our civil government
Since the civil government is not a church-state ecclesiocracy, the state should not try witches, idolaters and blasphemers. Our local community governments would be correct, however, in enforcing local ordinances against private house meetings of heretics in order to stop the undesirable effects of paganism from spreading in the surrounding community. This strategy was effective in Presbyterian Scotland and Puritan New England. The local civil government could hold all religious groups accountable to these same ordinances, knowing that those groups ordained of God will be obedient to the civil magistrates and will flourish.
The danger lies not in church or state persecuting religious groups. The real danger is when either oversteps its God-given authority, or when one tries to be the other. That is what leads to tyranny and oppression. Idolaters, such as witches and pagans, certainly can hold their beliefs and practices in private. There can be no civil law against that as long as it doesn’t interfere with public sphere of life. Private faith is an issue of the conscience. In fact, civil laws against paganism practiced in private would be unenforceable. The state of the human soul and matters of internal religious faith are matters which only God himself can judge.
One of the mistakes that modern theonomists sometimes make is in assuming that man’s government may punish all sinful activity. It may not. The vast majority of sins against God are to be dealt with by the sovereign God either in time or eternity. It is also a mistake to make no distinction between “crimes” and “sins.” All sins are crimes against God’s government. All sin is punishable by hell and death. But God does not allow man’s government to deal with all sin. Given the depravity of man, this would lead to tyranny — a hell on earth. God, in His infinite wisdom, is a better dispenser of vengeance, justice, mercy and grace than man’s government may ever accomplish.
The problem of idolatry in our society today is rooted in the deep spiritual decline of our churches. God in His sovereignty will deal with all unrepentant idolatry in time or eternity. We cannot enforce inner righteousness from the top down. Righteousness begins with personal regeneration. Therefore, it is the role of the Church to repent, reform ourselves, and preach salvation to those who have ears to hear. Judgment begins in the house of God.
Yet we should not neglect our duty as Christians in the civil sphere to enforce outward morality — and to enact laws against immorality — i.e., abortion, public nudity, drug abuse, the erecting of pagan statues, homosexual parades, or any other displays of pagan religion — or anything which is being publicly promoted due to a root source of idolatry (creature worship). Christians must do everything possible using the avenue of civil law to stop the immoral influences of idolatry from spreading in local communities.
I’ve put off writing on homosexual “marriage” for many years. My good friend and ministry colleague, Eric Holmberg, has been producing a series on the homosexual political movement for several years. I’ve shared these thoughts with Eric and he’s encouraged me to write this article. To be clear, although I agree with the Bible that homosexuality is a serious sin, an “abomination” — I don’t hate homosexuals. As a teacher in central Florida, I have an above average ratio of homosexual and bisexual students in my classroom. I treat them with the love and respect they deserve.
Among my own family and friends, I’ve seen the destructive outcome of adultery, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. These are facets of the same problem, the rebellion to God’s law concerning sex with marriage. A good friend of mine recently began sending me articles from an Internet blog defending polygamy from a biblical perspective. Soon it became known that he had fathered a child with a woman other than his wife.
The great tragedy here is not that there is sin, for we are all sinners. The tragedy is that each of these people is from a Christian background. At one point in their lives, they would have strongly condemned the behavior that they now practice.
The “judge not” objection is one of the most widely abused scriptures in the Bible. To hold a moral position is to make a judgment. It is true, however, that God commands us to extend mercy to sinners and treat all people with compassion. In the video below, Eric Holmberg exposes the fallacy of the “judge not” argument.
So it is impossible not to make value judgments, including the judgment of Christians who stand against sexual sin in our culture.
I have recently become convicted that I’ve held off in part in writing on the sanctity of marriage out of the “fear of man” and not wanting to offend certain people who are close to me. But I can no longer afford to be ensnared by feelings. These situations and related situations are coming at the church like a freight train. Our culture’s fallen view of marriage as anything other than the God-ordained union of one man and one woman will affect every Christian in coming months and years. It will eventually separate the true from the false within the church. In fact, it is already happening.
Recently, Pastor Rob Bell, who made headlines last year for disputing the biblical doctrine of an eternal hell, was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. He made the statement that Christians can no longer cling to portions of the Bible that are outdated and that the majority of the church is close to accepting homosexual “marriage.”
Is Marriage a Civil or Church Institution?
Most of my discussions with Eric have had to do with marriage from a pagan/civil perspective vs. marriage from a biblical/church perspective. My argument is that both views of marriage are exactly the same except that in the Bible we find there is a mystery revealed. Paul writes in Ephesians that marriage was ordained to reflect the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.
For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:30-32).
Unlike many Christians, I don’t find in scripture that there is such a thing as a “covenant marriage” or a “sacramental marriage” that is any more valid or binding in God’s eyes than a civil marriage.
When I married my wife, the pastor performing the ceremony pointed out that marriage is the one “sacrament” that was ordained by God before there was sin. I thought that if we call marriage a “sacrament” it is not the same as baptism or communion. God gave the institution of marriage prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. Therefore, marriage and the resulting mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28) is given by God to all people for all time.
That being stated, it is true that with the coming of Christ, He in effect reinstituted marriage and the institution now takes on a role in sanctifying the earth through Christian families and children. It is also a “mystery” revealed, which is the literal meaning of the Greek word, mysterion, from which we get the word “sacrament” — or holy rite (Latin: sacrāmentum).
In pagan/civil systems we find marriage between one man and one woman for the following reasons.
- It protects women from being abandoned by men once they are impregnated and left with children they would then have to support all by themselves.
- It protects the children from being left poor and destitute.
- It protects lines of inheritance and property rights of families.
All of the above reasons show why marriage is not solely in the domain of the church. The biblical truth of “covenantal inheritance” for the church and the Christian is also reflected in marriage. The biblical reason for marriage is that it reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. All of the above civil reasons are exactly the same, but when we see marriage through a spiritual lens, we see God’s eternal purposes as well.
However, marriage is not described as exclusively “Christian” in the Bible itself. Nowhere in scripture is marriage a ritual, ceremony or sacrament mandated as part of the duties of a minister. In Ruth 4, marriage is described as the domain of civil elders. In the Gospel of John 2, the marriage ceremony is described as a covenant feast between a betrothed couple. The families had previously made a civil covenant with some type of dowry, payment or token in the presence of witnesses. The marriage took place when the man took the woman into his household. There was no ceremony or ritual beyond a feast of celebration. Marriage became the domain of the church in the late ancient period when Constantine gave the role of cleric and judge to the priests and bishops of the church. However, there is no record in the first three centuries of church history of a marriage being performed by an church officer.
In fact, the Dutch Reformed and later the Pilgrims and Puritans in America viewed the marriage contract as a civil affair. William Bradford wrote in his work, Of Plymouth Plantation, that in 1621, he performed the first marriage in New England as the civil magistrate.
May 12 was the first marriage in this place, which, according to the laudable custom of the Low-Countries, in which they had lived, was thought most requisite to be performed by the magistrate, as being a civil thing, upon which many questions about inheritances do depend, with other things most proper to their cognizance, and most consonant to the scriptures (Ruth 4) and no where found in the Gospel to be laid on ministers as a part of their office. “This decree or law about marriage was published by the States of the Low-Countries Ano: 1590. That those of any religion, after lawful and open publication, coming before the magistrates, in the Town or State-house, were to be orderly (by them) married one to another.” Petets  Hist, fol: 1029. And this practice has continued amongst, not only them, but has been followed by all the famous churches of Christ in these parts to this time (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1646).
It is fitting to have a pastor or elder preside as a witness to a marriage because the marriage is between the individuals and the church is acting as a witness. Thus the spiritual nature of marriage is emphasized among Christians. I have no doubt that a Christian marriage has a deeper meaning than that between two non-believers. However, the civilly binding nature of the covenant is retained through a record signed by witnesses.
Thus there is no real difference between a sacramental marriage and civil union from a practical legal perspective.
Should the state get out of the marriage business?
To defend against homosexual “marriage,” being enforced on the states by federal courts, some have proposed to get the civil state out of the marriage business and let churches recognize those marriages they want to recognize. This is a defensive posture meant to protect churches from being forced eventually by the state to recognize something as “holy matrimony” that God calls an “abomination” in scripture. However, getting the state out of the marriage business does not protect individuals from fraud. If a man marries a woman and simply wants to move on — let’s say he drains the couples’ bank account and shacks up with another woman — then the woman, possibly left with young children or with less financial resources than the man, has no recourse except to go to the civil courts to sue. In a marriage, there is relief from fraud or theft. Divorce court is also civil court, but a divorce must include some type of financial settlement. In many states, it is assumed that a married couple shares property by law. This is not the same as an arrangement between roommates or an unmarried couple.
While it is true that churches can adjudicate and enforce church discipline, they do not have the power of punishment that the state wields. At most they can excommunicate, and then unfaithful spouse would be free to do as he pleases. In short, civil marriage keeps men in check. It keeps men from acting like NBA stars and dropping litters of children with multiple sex partners. Pagan/civil marriage does not explicitly reflect the covenant of Christ and the church, but at least it elevates us from the level of beasts.
What should be the view of the church on same sex “marriage”
The view of the church on homosexual “marriage” must first be that it is the “mark of the beast.” It is the state changing the age old view of marriage and then forcing Christians to recognize these unholy unions. Rather than a man and a woman signifying the the eternal bond between Christ and the church, we have instead two men or two women signifying the union of mankind with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It signifies man’s fallen nature, rather than his redemption. The ultimate goal of the homosexual movement is to “destroy the image of God” in marriage. In this way, it is almost as insidious as abortion in that it hates and seeks to destroy the image of God in mankind. The ultimate goal of homosexual marriage, short of destroying God, is to destroy the church’s witness in the earth and therefore destroy the church. If homosexuals can force churches to accept the mark of the beast, then the church itself becomes a harlot and participates in the abomination of calling an unholy union “holy.” This is nothing new. The ancient Israelites engaged in this when they allowed the pagan practice of male temple prostitution (cf. Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24) into their culture. It was not called “marriage,” but effectively it was meant to profane the holy place of God. So sanctified homosexual unions have always been meant as an attack on God’s holy Temple, the church.
From a civil perspective, there has never been a reason until recently for homosexual marriage to exist. The three reasons that pagan cultures instituted civil marriage have no bearing on homosexual unions. Only with the advent of modern socialism and egalitarian humanism do we see this movement toward same sex “marriage.”
In ancient times, even in cultures where homosexuality was tolerated or even accepted, there was no homosexual marriage as a legal institution. Even among the Greek culture where philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle commended pederasty — sex between an adult male and a boy — there was no idea of a civilly binding marriage between two men. In fact, “homosexuality” as an orientation is a modern idea. In ancient times, it was considered either a perverse form of lust — or it was accepted as a valid expression same-sex attraction.
Now in modern times, we have the socialist state. With the graduated income tax, exemptions, health care benefits and other social programs that benefit families, homosexuality has become an “equality” issue. It assumes the idea of achieving a greater equality among social and economic standing. The answer of the church ought to be to work to cut these government mandated entitlements. The problem is that the “entitlement mentality” has become so ingrained among the poor and minorities that even though most are socially conservative, they tend to vote for politicians who are socially liberal hoping to gain greater benefits. The church can become more outspoken against these entitlements, including the graduated income tax, and work to eliminate the IRS altogether. We must once again become the salt and light that we are called to be.
That being said, acceptance of homosexuality did not come into our culture solely because of socialism. Sexual perversion became “normal” due to relaxed morality concerning fornication and adultery that arose in the 1950s and ’60s. In reality, we can trace the roots of this permissive attitude to the Enlightenment in the 1700s and the “free love” movement among the Romantics of the early 1800s. The sexual revolution is the crack that opened the door, and once the door was flung open, we began to see socialist egalitarian arguments in favor of the alternative forms of marriage — and even the abolition of marriage. The state is now being brought into the controversy to be the “fist” that will punish those who stand against “equality.”
The “Death Scream” of Western Humanism?
Egalitarian humanism has now replaced Christianity as the “civil religion” of most of the west. We are now seeing the beginning of an all out war on the church as the last bastion that ought to be opposing statist tyranny. Unfortunately, few in the church understand the history and theology or marriage or the nature of the battle we are facing.
The homosexual “equality” movement will ultimately fail because the socialist apparatus necessary to support it is a house of cards that is already collapsing. The requirement to support homosexual marriage will be mandated in an increasing number of social programs that Americans will be required to participate in. Not wanting to be responsible for their own health and welfare, many Americans are buying into wholesale government control of healthcare, education and numerous other social welfare programs. At the same time, radical Islam is a being raised up by God to punish the west as a scourge against our sexual immorality. America is seen as the “Great Satan” in that we export pornography, abortion and permissive sexual attitudes to Third World countries.
First, western humanism will collapse under the weight of its own sin. The pattern of history is that God always uses His enemies to judge His people, then He judges His enemies. Second, Islam will begin to be subsumed by the numerous Christian revivals taking place in Africa, the Middle East and the South Pacific Islands.
The Coming (Albeit Brief) Acceptance of Polygamy
A growing number of “Christians” who are being duped by the lies of the homosexual activist movement will soon begin to endorse polygamy. They will have no argument to oppose both homosexual marriage and polygamy. This is inevitable. This will come first among lawsuits by Muslim citizens who have immigrated to the United States, then among Mormon cultists, and then by application to anyone. Their arguments go like this:
- Didn’t God tolerate polygamy in the Old Testament?
- Were there not polygamists among the Jews and even some New Testament Christians during the time of Paul?
- Haven’t missionaries often accepted pagan polygamists into the church when they are converted?
- If God condemns homosexuality in the Old Testament and the New Testament, and yet He tolerated polygamy, then why do modern Christians condemn polygamy?
- If Christian condemn homosexuality as an Old Testament law, shouldn’t they accept polygamy — especially among non-Christians?
- If Christians don’t accept the lax attitude of God toward polygamists and prostitution in the Old Testament, then why are we so quick to use the Old Testament to condemn homosexuals?
The only Christian worldview that has valid counterargument to these lies is that which holds in high regard biblical laws on sexuality — such as, theonomy, presuppositional apologetics and related views. Those who do not understand the relationship between law and grace (well over 90 percent of evangelicals) will be steamrolled by the political agenda of those who want to destroy the biblical view of marriage in America. We are beginning to see this already.
I will here use a biblical law or “theonomic and presuppositional” approach to explain why polygamy was never part of God’s plan, but was only tolerated to a degree in Israel due to the hardness of their hearts.
Four Views on Polygamy
There are essentially four views on polygamy throughout church history.
- Polygamy, although practiced by Israel and to a certain degree tolerated, has always been condemned by God. (This is my view.)
- Polygamy was allowed for a time by God, but now this has changed under the New Covenant.
- Polygamy is allowed under certain circumstances in the New Covenant, such as when a tribal chief is converted. These marriages are valid for social reasons, but the husband ought to be celibate with the secondary wives.
- There is no commandment against polygamy in scripture, although for practical reasons, it should not be encouraged.
I won’t go into exhaustive detail and outline the four views here. Others have written on it. However, I’ll make a few of points. The understanding of the church fathers in the early centuries was universally that God condemned polygamy throughout scripture. The reasons why it seemed to be tolerated were varied. But none of the church fathers wrote in favor of polygamy at any time in history. This was an issue because — although rare — polygamy was practiced, especially in the east among both Jews and pagans. Christians living in these cultures were taught in no uncertain terms that polygamy was forbidden by God. It was viewed as tantamount to adultery.
This is important because there were Jews who both condemned and practiced polygamy in the early centuries of the church. Those few Jews who accepted the practice pointed to the Patriarchs who had multiple wives. Those who claim the church fathers were “anti-semitic” (an anachronistic understanding of the term) — or more accurately, “anti-Jewish” — should understand that there were many valid reasons for condemning the religion of the Jews. Jesus himself condemned the false religion of Pharisaism both because of the “gnat” of legalism and the “camel” of ignoring the heart of God in the Law (Matthew 23:24). After the final destruction of the Temple in the time of Bar Kokhba in 135 AD, the religion of the Pharisees became the de facto Jewish religion.
Once we begin to examine the view of Christian scholars in the Middle Ages, it gets far more complicated. Christian Emperors such as Charlemagne had multiple wives. That is, Charlemagne had five wives in sequence, numerous concubines and 18 children. As Christianity expanded into the Holy Roman Empire’s newly conquered pagan lands in northern Europe and the east, polygamous practices and variations were tolerated. Still polygamy was rare because one had to wealthy to afford to keep more than one wife. It was the purview of royalty. As a consequence, there were notable Christian theologians (hirelings in my opinion) who wrote treatises in favor of polygamy.
Shockingly, even some of the Reformed scholars wrote that there were no commands in the Bible condemning polygamy. In the 16th century there was a Christian re-examination of plural marriages. The founder of the Protestant Reformation,Martin Luther wrote:
I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.
It’s important to note that Luther was speaking of an instance in which a man with a sick wife who could not have sexual intercourse wished to take another wife without dissolving or annulling the first marriage. Later, Luther in part recanted, but the weakness of his response and his willingness to consider exceptions is astonishing.
It is my earnest warning and counsel that Christians especially shall have no more than one wife, not only because it is a scandal, which a Christian should avoid most diligently, but also because there is no word of God here to show that God approves it in Christians…. I must oppose it, especially in Christians, unless there be need, as for instance if the wife be a leper, or be taken away from the husband in some other way.
It was probably more scandalous in the Catholic world at that time that Luther wrote against sacerdotal celibacy than in favor of polygamy. Few at the time even noted the outrage.
The heretical anabaptists (that is, the primitivists and anarchists among this group) were far more austere in their “advocacy of polygamy, appealing to the patriarchal order of society in justification of their position” (Polygamy in Christianity).
The Biblical View on Polygamy
The argument for a biblical position condemning polygamy is very similar to that of abortion. Yes, child sacrifice was practiced in the Old Testament, even among kings such as Solomon. But killing a child on a pagan altar is universally condemned in scripture. And no, abortion is never explicitly mentioned in scripture as being condemned. Although the Bible speaks of the payment of restitution for the miscarriage of an unborn “child,” abortion is never listed as a punishable crime. Does this mean that God allows for abortion? No, other scriptures indicate that a baby is a living soul from the moment of conception in the womb. The laws of homicide and murder must apply here.
Likewise, although ancient Israel practiced polygamy, Jesus’ explanation of marriage and forbidding divorce and remarriage as a form of serial adultery must also apply to polygamy. Note that Jesus said Moses allowed it due to the “hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:8). He does not ever say that God tolerated it.
While it is true that adultery is condemned as a capital crime deserving the death penalty, we never see this applied to polygamists in the Bible. At most, Paul says that elders must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2). However, assuming that this validates polygamy is an argument from silence.
We also don’t see a single historical instance of a person being held accountable for the crime of adultery, homosexuality or bestialism in the Old Testament histories. We do see several instances of Judah’s kings using banishment as a lesser punishment for the male temple prostitutes (cf. 1 Kings 15:12).
However, this does not mean these capital punishments were never carried out. At most, it means it was probably rare or that Israel failed to enforce the fullest extent of the sanctions of the Law in the death penalty, although God commanded it as a fitting punishment.
This is most likely what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of Moses allowing divorce for the “hardness of your hearts.” It was not God’s tolerance, but the unwillingness of men to punish the crime of adultery.
Winning the War
Jesus Christ entered the world as fully human and fully God. He took on the form of a man made in the image of God even though He was from the beginning co-equal, co-eternal and one in substance with God. Human beings take on this same image of God when the union of two gamete cells results in a Person that immediately begins to divide and multiply. This is both the image of Christ and the image of the Bride of Christ, the Church. It is the image of marriage and the mystery of Christ in us. The image of conception also reflects the Dominion Mandate — to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). The explosive growth of the embryo and then fetus is also the image of the Great Commission given to the Church — to fill the earth with the Good News of Christ and subdue all of life under God’s sovereignty (Matthew 28:18-20).
Likewise, the reason homosexual marriage is wrong because it violates a creation ordinance. “In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Geneis 1:27). God created one man and one woman in His image to be a reflection of Christ and the Church. This reflects our relationship to God in salvation. The union of a man and a woman demonstrates the purpose of God that through pro-creation the planet could be filled and subdued to reflect God’s glory. That is what marriage is. It’s a reflection of our creation in the image of God.
This is what separates humans from animals, even though animals also mate and procreate. It is what separates us from angels, even though angels are called “sons of God” and are called “persons” or “men” in scripture. Angels cannot marry and procreate. Only human beings are mandated with filling the earth with our progeny to the glory of God.
Only human beings are made in the image of God. The marriage of a man and a woman then is an image of creation and redemption. Homosexual unions don’t bear that image. Polygamous unions don’t bear that image. They bear only the mark of man’s rebellion toward God. This is not the mark of Christ, but the mark of antichrist. No judge’s perverse, vacuous interpretation of the 14th amendment can overturn a creation ordinance or turn rebellion into freedom.
Sadly, even many Christians believe this battle is over and we have lost both on the life and marriage front. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s ordinances are eternal. Nations who rebel against God’s laws are always judged. Equilibrium must always return because these laws are hard-wired into nature itself. Trying to ascend above these laws is a futile waste of time and effort.
Suppose we think of a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water. Desiring to get out of water, he makes a ladder of water. He sets this ladder upon the water and against the water and then attempts to climb out of the water. So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man’s methodology based as it is upon the assumption that time or chance is ultimate. On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance (Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (P&R, 1972), p.102).
Equilibrium must always return. The only foundation for human reason is the destiny and purpose authored in our beings by an eternal God. This is the imago Dei — the image of God in us. Even the idea of “rights” based purely on human reason is nonsense. The founders understood this and rightly appealed to “God,” our “Creator,” “the Supreme Judge” and “Divine Providence” as the source of human dignity and civil rights. This is necessary, since asserting human rights above God’s Law, like a “ladder of water,” must always return to equilibrium. In the long term, we will win the war. However, to win this battle in the short term, we must do two things.
- Be biblical presuppositionalists — that is, not afraid to reason using the plain meaning of the God’s Law and Truth, which is eternal.
- Be resolute and persistent enough to challenge the false reasoning of judicial tyranny through to the end in order to expose it for how nonsensical and diabolical it really is.
We have fallen this far because Christians have cooperated in attempting to build “ladders of water.” We have been inconsistent on our stand for Law and Truth. We have been afraid to venture boldly into the civil debate and point out the foolishness of man’s rebellion against God.
Notorious Orlando and Miami-Fort Lauderdale child killer now serving a one-year sentence for drug trafficking
Visualize abortionists in jail! Click to enlarge.
In 2014, Harry Perper was convicted of 1 of 19 counts of oxycodone trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy. He’s now serving a one year sentence plus three years probation. That’s actually a light sentence. Each count can carry up to 15 years, but he pleaded guilty and 18 counts were not prosecuted.
ORLANDO, Florida (www.forerunner.com) — Notorious abortionist Zvi Harry Perper had his license suspended by emergency order in August 2014 as a result of multiple counts of federal drug trafficking and racketeering charges. The indictments occurred in 2011 and stemmed from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s sting operations that helped to close almost 100 “pill mills” throughout Florida.
In 2011, Zvi Harry Perper was charged with 19 counts of racketeering, drug trafficking and conspiracy.
Perper’s case has not yet come before the Florida Board of Medicine, but a complaint was filed with the Department of Health on January 10, 2014. Another complaint was filed on July 29, 2014 and notes that
On or about May 14, 2014, in the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida, in case number 2011-CF-001934-AXXX-MB, Respondent was adjudicated guilty of attempted trafficking in oxycodone, a second degree felony, in violation of Section 893.135(1)(c), Florida Statutes.
His license was put under emergency suspension status effective September 10, 2014. An emergency suspension is given prior to a formal hearing and the licensee may not practice medicine.
A 37-page complaint outlines nine counts of medical malpractice related to prescription drug sales to patients with a history of drug abuse. Perper was indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy and drug trafficking. He most recently worked as a dealer of pain pills for a controversial clinic in Miami that was founded by a convicted drug smuggler.
Perper was the abortionist on duty at EPOC abortion center in Orlando when Baby Rowan, a 22-week gestation baby boy, was born alive and left to die. Baby Rowan’s mother, described him as a very fast-moving, hyperactive type of person.
Perper also perforated a woman’s uterus at Orlando Woman’s Center requiring a hysterectomy. He was subject to disciplinary action for “substandard care, incompetence or negligence” on February 12, 2008:
Nature of Complaint: The physician upon performing a termination of a patient’s pregnancy through dilation and curettage severely perforated the patient’s uterus and deposited materials including the fetus and placenta into the patient’s lower abdominal cavity. The patient was subsequently transferred to a medical center where another physician removed the fetus and placenta from the patient’s abdominal cavity and due to the severe perforation of the patient’s uterus performed a hysterectomy.
This case has been erroneously reported by several pro-life blogs as the source of abortionist James Pendergraft’s current license suspension. Pendergraft himself has been almost continually under suspension since 2006. Pendergraft owns five abortion clinics in Florida and has continued to operate even while his license has suspended five times by hiring other abortionists like Perper. These have included
- Abortionist James Pendergraft (extortion)
- Abortionist Walker Whaley (conspiracy to manufacture synthetic cocaine)
- Abortionist Zvi Harry Perper (racketeering, drug trafficking)
- Abortionist Randall Whitney (aggravated battery; reduced to misdemeanor on “no contest” plea)
In 2012, another Orlando Women’s Center employee was arrested on charges of rape.
Security officer Roderick Johnson (sexual battery)
Amazingly, Perper’s medical license was not suspended in 2008 due to an agreement in which he satisfied the terms of disciplinary action. Perper received a reprimand from the Board of Medicine and was ordered to pay a fine.
Perper then reemerged in the news as one of 17 doctors who were arrested in 2011 on drug trafficking charges. The Sun-Sentinel has an article about the “mafia doctors” who were arrested in 2011 for running “pill mills” in south Florida. The article is one of the few by the mainstream media that makes the connection to Perper’s career as a troubled abortionist.
Perper began working at the pain clinic after he was fined $10,000 by the state in 2008 for a botched abortion in Orlando, according to state records.
An article in the Broward Palm Beach News on May 14, 2010, exposed Perper’s pain pill clinic.
Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper has warned us about the dangers of pain clinics. Last June, he was in the Miami Herald talking about the dangers of doctor shopping, where people go to numerous clinics to stockpile pills like oxycodone, Xanax, and Valium.
“It’s almost impossible to monitor different people shopping doctors,’‘ [Joshua] Perper told the newspaper. “A person can get hundreds or thousands of pills.” He went on to talk about the explosion in oxycodone-related deaths, which ballooned to 171 in Broward County in 2008, more than double the figure from 2005. In the Sun-Sentinel, he warned of how those using the pain clinics are consuming deadly cocktails of pills.
What Joshua Perper didn’t reveal was that his son, physician Zvi Harry Perper, was himself in the pain pill business. Harry Perper dispensed pain medication at a clinic on Swinton Avenue in Delray Beach called Delray Pain Management LLC. The clinic was founded in early 2009 by a convicted drug smuggler named Kenneth Murry. Harry Perper is listed as a manager of the clinic.
According to the Palm Beach Post, the clinic was founded by convicted heroin and cocaine trafficker, Vincent Colangelo. Colangelo was running at least eight more pill mils in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to prison for 20 years in 2012.
Incidentally, the town is also home to a number of Palm Beach luxury detox centers that serve the more affluent members of the community who are facing drug abuse issues.
Perper is arrested at the “pill mill” he ran at Delray Pain Management.
In yet another ironic twist, Joshua Perper was the coroner who did the autopsy report on Anna Nicole Smith, the Playboy model who died from an overdose of prescription medication, a bizarre case that has prompted numerous conspiracy theories.
In September 2011, Governor Rick Scott announced he would not reappoint Perper to another three year term as Chief Medical Examiner. Perper expressed surprise at the decision, saying that Scott gave him no reason. He subsequently announced his intention to resign at the end of October of that year, and enter retirement according to an article in the Sun-Sentinel.
DEA agent Keigh Barker, right, escorts abortionist Zvi Harry Perper, son of the Broward Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua A. Perper, to a awaiting police car after his Delray Pain Management clinic was raided by agents on February 23, 2010.
The Forerunner has followed Perper since 2007 and has compiled the following articles.
- Abortionist Zvi Harry Perper charged with racketeering and drug trafficking
- Perper, Zvi Harry (verified) – Delray Beach
- Orlando Abortionist Pendergraft suspended for fifth time
- Is Kermit Gosnell an outlier?
Personhood is a shift back to a Christ-centered view on the sanctity of life and all dignity of life issues. We begin with a recognition of the dignity of the human person at all stages of development due to the image of God in all human beings, the imago Dei.
To understand the Personhood strategy, you simply have to look at three passages in the Bible, which are easy to remember, Genesis 1, Jeremiah 1 and Luke 1.
Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.
Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Luke 1:39-45 – Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Personhood represents a paradigm shift in the pro-life movement. We begin with scripture and insist that the right to life is God-given. We are all created in the image of God. In fact, we were made in God’s image from our biological beginning in the womb.
Years ago, I first heard someone say that the political end of the pro-life movement failed at its inception because it was never Christ-centered and you can’t fight a demonic force with natural weapons. We hear the phrase, “You can’t fight Goliath in Saul’s armor.” This means that man’s efforts will fail, but God’s plan for victory is according to His plan.
At first, I thought it was a cynical comment. Finally, I realized that the truth is far worse than that. Our struggle does not begin and end with abortion. Abortion is just an obvious outcropping of a deep spiritual problem we have as a culture in failing to recognize some of the most fundamental of all biblical truths.
A Brief History of the Recent Pro-Life Movement
To explain why the Personhood paradigm is much larger than just a plan to end abortion, we first need to understand a bit of history.
Roe v. Wade did not establish a women’s right to choose abortion. It established the right to privacy concerning the abortion procedure and was meant to protect doctors from criminal proceedings.
The Personhood of the unborn child is already established in many of our laws. Case in point: Ariel Castro, a man in Cleveland who was convicted of kidnapping and continually raping three women over a period of years, as well as the killing of a preborn child, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He could have been sentenced to death had he not pleaded guilty to first degree murder. Ironically, he later committed suicide in prison. In this case, the law recognized the Personhood of the preborn child that Castro conceived through rape.
Charles Van Zant, a Florida state representative from Keystone Heights, has said that Roe established a “loophole in the law governing murder.” This assessment is a valid interpretation of the law concerning the personhood of the preborn. We recognize forced abortion as killing in some cases, but we make exceptions for the criminality of murder in other cases.
Paradigm Shift #1 — The Bishops’ Plan
At the time Roe v. Wade was passed, the only large religious body that had an active plan to end abortion was the Roman Catholic Church. Most Protestant denominations were either silent on the issue and some even issued statements of agreement with Roe. Now we would expect that from liberal bodies such as the United Methodist Church, the Episcopalian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the United Church of Christ (Congregationalists), the PCUSA. We expect a weak view on the pro-life issue from the unorthodox — the Seventh Day Adventists, the Unitarians, the Mormons and so on.
Much to our shame, some evangelicals joined the chorus of briefs that were written in favor of Roe. Even the conservative Southern Baptist Convention prior to 1973 called on all Baptists to work for abortion rights.
Resolution On Abortion, adopted at the SBC, June 1971:
WHEREAS, Christians in the American society today are faced with difficult decisions about abortion; and
WHEREAS, Some advocate that there be no abortion legislation, thus making the decision a purely private matter between a woman and her doctor; and
WHEREAS, Others advocate no legal abortion, or would permit abortion only if the life of the mother is threatened;
Therefore, be it RESOLVED, that this Convention express the belief that society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life, in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves; and
Be it further RESOLVED,
That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.
Resolution On Abortion And Sanctity Of Human Life, adopted at the SBC convention, June 1974:
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have historically held a high view of the sanctity of human life, and
WHEREAS, The messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis in 1971 adopted overwhelmingly a resolution on abortion, and
WHEREAS, That resolution reflected a middle ground between the extreme of abortion on demand and the opposite extreme of all abortion as murder, and
WHEREAS, That resolution dealt responsibly from a Christian perspective with complexities of abortion problems in contemporary society;
Therefore, be it RESOLVED, that we reaffirm the resolution on the subject adopted by the messengers to the St. Louis Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 1971, and
Be it further RESOLVED, that we continue to seek God’s guidance through prayer and study in order to bring about solutions to continuing abortion problems in our society.
Resolution On Abortion, adopted at the SBC convention, June 1976:
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have historically held a biblical view of the sanctity of human life, and
WHEREAS, Abortion is a very serious moral and spiritual problem of continuing concern to the American people, and
WHEREAS, Christians have a responsibility to deal with all moral and spiritual issues which affect society, including the problems of abortion, and
WHEREAS, The practice of abortion for selfish non-therapeutic reasons want-only destroys fetal life, dulls our society’s moral sensitivity, and leads to a cheapening of all human life, and
WHEREAS, Every decision for an abortion, for whatever reason must necessarily involve the decision to terminate the life of an innocent human being.
Therefore be it RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Norfolk in June 1976 reaffirm the biblical sacredness and dignity of all human life, including fetal life, and
Be it further RESOLVED, that we call on Southern Baptists and all citizens of the nation to work to change those attitudes and conditions which encourage many people to turn to abortion as a means of birth control, and
Be it further RESOLVED, that in the best interest of our society, we reject any indiscriminate attitude toward abortion, as contrary to the biblical view, and
Be it further RESOLVED, that we also affirm our conviction about the limited role of government in dealing with matters relating to abortion, and support the right of expectant mothers to the full range of medical services and personal counseling for the preservation of life and health.
This complicity in the abortion holocaust is a dark stain on the evangelical movement. It ought to give us cause to pause and consider that evangelicals were in large part responsible for legal abortion. Although most evangelical churches eventually shifted toward a no compromise position, the initial confusion hurt the burgeoning pro-life movement and delayed activism.
The Catholic Bishops’ plan was a comprehensive, state-by-state plan to pass a Human Life Amendment at the federal US Constitutional level, but it also included a grassroots strategy of passing state laws and amendments and using the “states’ rights” clause of the tenth amendment to resist federal tyranny in the form of legalized child killing.
The Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, to their great credit, refused to compromise with the “exception clauses” of Roe for rape, incest and the health of the mother. Sadly, they didn’t have the support of the majority of Americans and especially of the large Protestant church denominations, such as the Southern Baptists, who would not join in an uncompromising, no exceptions stance. The Bishops’ Plan failed in part because many state and federal legislators were only willing to support a plan that had the “exceptions.”
This was the first split in the pro-life movement.
Paradigm Shift #2 — The Hyde Amendment
In 1976, Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the Federal Budget appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). His amendment denied Medicaid funding for abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger or she is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, but only if the woman reports the incident at the time of its occurrence. Despite opposition from pro-abortion groups, Hyde attached this amendment every year to the same appropriations bill. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde amendment (Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 100 S. Ct. 2671, 65 L. Ed. 2d 784 ; McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S. Ct. 1101, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393 ). See: After Roe v. Wade.
The Hyde Amendment was opposed in the beginning by the Catholic Bishops, since it included the “exceptions,” but supported by several evangelical groups who had by now joined the pro-life movement. Although there is evidence that some lives have been saved due to the Hyde Amendment, Personhood advocates worry that any law that allows child murder in certain cases actually strengthens the pro-abortion agenda. It undermines our argument that abortion is child murder. Other life advocates argue that the “exceptions” become a necessity to save some lives even while they “chip away” at Roe and try to eliminate abortion incrementally and gradually.
Paradigm Shift #3 — Personhood
The modern Personhood movement was begun by Georgia Right to Life president Dan Becker. Personhood came about when Becker sought to revive the strategy of the Bishops’ Plan focusing on passing a Human Life Amendment to the state constitution of Georgia. Ironically, the evangelicals now lined up behind Becker’s agenda, while National Right to Life and the Catholic Bishops now opposed it (although the local policy has recently changed in some states such as North Dakota). Their reasoning as I just outlined was that any state law or amendment that did not have the exceptions was unacceptable as a sound strategy to chip away at Roe.
In 2008, Personhood USA was established by Cal Zastrow and Keith Mason, who are now working toward legislative and voter initiatives in over 30 states. In every state where it has been tried, several “pro-life” organizations, including Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, National Right to Life and the Catholic Bishops have opposed Personhood.
It’s ironic that now several conservative “pro-life” commentators, such as Sean Hannity, hold the view that the exceptions are necessary in order to pass restrictive legislation — even though the Roe decision was framed around these very exceptions! They want to reverse Roe as a decision even while they keep it in place through legislation.
In terms of paradigm shifts, compared to where we were at in 1973, the pro-life movement now stands on its head.
Why Personhood now?
The shift in the pro-life movement is to go back to square one and define that a human being is a Person from biological beginnings with no exceptions for the circumstances of conception.
Already the nation of Mexico, where the capital city recently made abortion legal, about half of the state legislatures have passed Personhood Amendments that would keep the federal government from imposing abortion on the states from above as occurred with Roe v. Wade in the United States. In our country, we now have to work backward and pass Personhood even while trying various ways to undo Roe. The reality is that we cannot do one without the other. Overturning Roe won’t make abortion illegal in each state. Passing Personhood won’t supersede Roe. Now we have two tasks to accomplish at one time.
But this strategy has already worked in Mexico. Poland is moving toward having Personhood in their national constitution. The nation of Hungary has the first constitution of the 21st century. Hungary has the following in their newly written constitution:
“Human dignity is inviolable. Everyone has the right to life and human dignity; the life of a fetus will be protected from conception.”
Personhood is a worldwide movement led by the Holy Spirit. The focus of pro-life groups in many countries around the world is shifting from regulating abortion to defining what a Person is.
Pro-life advocates in our own country support Personhood philosophically almost without exception. The only difference between Personhood advocates and the rest of the pro-life movement is a disagreement over timing. They want to wait to stack the Supreme Court bench with conservatives and overturn Roe. We want a grassroots movement that will vote on Personhood amendments now. I often tell people that if we work toward Personhood now, we will eventually get there. If we delay our obedience, then we will be counted among those who opposed Personhood even when our support was needed the most.
The Biological Time Bomb
There is a biological time bomb ticking. The advances we saw in physics and chemistry in the early 20th century resulted in major paradigm shifts in those sciences. Biology is lagging behind, but huge advances are around the corner. Philosophers and religious leaders have thought about the issues surrounding life, death and immortality for thousands of years, but the structure of the DNA molecule has been known for less than 60 years.
What does that mean? It usually takes a generation or more for a major discovery to percolate through an entire scientific field. The major battles that Personhood advocates will fight in the next 50 years will have nothing to do with abortion. In fact, abortion may all but disappear due to advances in science. In a couple of years, a woman will be able to walk into any store and buy an over-the-counter fertility monitor that may be worn as a watch. This will have the function of telling within a 99.9 percent certainty when the wearer is fertile.
Technology can be used for both good and evil. We should welcome these advances and prepare to use them to save lives. We certainly won’t be able to stop the bio-technological tidal wave that is coming. We’ll also have scanning devices within the next ten years that will be able to “see” in real time the baby as it develops in the womb — not just during a trip to a doctor — but through an “ultrasound baby monitor” that may be worn at all times just like today’s heart monitors.
Medical technology will be used to save lives in a greater capacity than ever before. Abortion will become increasingly intolerable as a “choice” for women.
However, with this biological time bomb, there is a Pandora’s Box of new possibilities that bring serious moral, legal and ethical questions. There is on the horizon the possibility of cloning, genetic engineering, eugenics, embryonic experimentation, organ harvesting, human-animal hybrids, euthanasia, nano-technology, advanced artificial intelligence, “cyborgism,” “post-humanism,” “trans-humanism,” and so on. This might seem like science fiction to you, but if you are part of Generation-Y, you will live to deal with the social conflict these developments in bio-technology will cause.
Personhood.net has a must-see presentation on these emerging bio-technologies.
The paradigm shift that we see coming is based on the fact that most pro-choice advocates are actually pro-Personhood once we take the concepts of “anti-abortion” and “pro-life” out of the argument. There is a 50-50 split over the topic of abortion, with many in the “mushy middle” advocating some type of compromise. Over 90 percent of college students interviewed agree that such horrors as eugenics and experimentation on living fetuses ought to be illegal. When they are asked to provide the rationale for their stance, they will often invariably say that this is a developing human being and ought to have the right to dignity.
It is imperative that we seize the opportunity to create cognitive dissonance in the minds of young people who may otherwise think of themselves as pro-choice, perhaps due to the pressure to be politically correct, but are otherwise in favor of Personhood as the only alternative to what they see as Nazi eugenics and other dehumanizing abominations. From there the mental shift to recognizing the full Personhood of the unborn child without exception is just a short step away.
Another resource, The Abortion Matrix, is a video seminar and DVD was developed to enlighten Christians to the spiritual reality of this fight.
Education, Constitutional Initiative, Legislation/Political Action
If you haven’t worked for the Personhood Amendment, there is still time to get involved. People ask me when we are going to be on the ballot in Florida. In fact, this is a battle we will be fighting for the long term. We are a young movement. Florida has a much more difficult requirement than any other state to get a constitutional amendment initiative on the ballot — except for maybe California.
In reality, we are in the foundational stages. Personhood Florida is the first state affiliate of Personhood USA, which itself about five years old, and we are working closely with the national organization to establish a protocol for all state affiliates. We began as a single issue PAC, which sponsored the amendment. In 2013, we filed for recognition as a 501c3 organization, which does the education. Then we are in the process of filing our 501c4 which will handle fundraising for the ballot amendment and political action, legislation and campaigning.
We have three goals, education, the citizens’ initiative and then legislation, political lobbying and endorsing candidates who endorse Personhood.
The important point we should be clear about. Personhood is not about overturning Roe v. Wade or even about abortion primarily – we are thinking about sanctity of life issues that are 50 years down the road – and that is how we can win – by recognizing the sanctity of life by defining what a Person is. Personhood is due to the image of God present in all human beings. We are not asking government to define Personhood – we are asking government to recognize it as an inalienable right.
We don’t see much of a downside to the next Personhood vote in November. Win or lose, we believe that we will be the winners in the long run because as the Personhood movement gains national attention we will gain the momentum needed to advance in other states, the nation and the world.
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
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“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
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Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
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