God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government, Gary Scott Smith, Editor. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1989. 300 pages, $13.95, (paper). (Reviewed by the Editor.)
The four views of civil government and its duty, all held and advocated by Reformed men, are theonomy; principled pluralism; Christian America; and national confessionalism. Greg L. Bahnsen presents the case for the theonomic position. Gordon J. Spykman argues for the position of pluralism. Harold O.J. Brown contends for the Christian America position. And William Edgar defends the view of a national confession. Each sets forth a prominent view in Reformed circles today as to what the Reformed faith requires the U.S. government to be and to do. The subject is the intriguing and controversial issue of the Reformed view of civil government. What makes the book especially interesting, and clear as regards the differences among these four views, is that the controversy is made an integral part of the content. Each of the first four chapters consists of the presentation of one of the four views, followed by response from the spokesmen for the other three positions. The fifth and concluding chapter contains responses by the advocates of the various positions to the criticisms raised by the others.
The book is the fruit of a “Consultation on the Biblical Role of Civil Government” held at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in 1987. The purpose of the conference was “to challenge the evangelical Christian community, and especially Reformed Christians, to think about what implications Christ’s lordship held for civil government.” The intention of the sponsors was “to clarify areas of agreement and divergence among Reformed Christians in order to achieve consensus where possible and, where not possible, to promote further discussion of differences.” The book indicates that the conference served this worthy purpose well.
The various positions that claim to be the Reformed view of civil government are clearly described and ably defended. The criticisms leveled by the proponents of the other views serve to clarify the differences and to highlight the problem areas of each view. This is a very useful, and usually very interesting, work on Reformed Christianity’s doctrine of the state.
If I were asked, however, which of the four views represents the biblical, and therefore Reformed doctrine of the state, my answer would be, “None of the above.” A pervasive weakness of all four views is the failure to determine the nature of the state and its calling from Christ, the King of kings, by careful exegesis of the New Testament passages on civil government, especially Matthew 22:15-22; Romans 13:1-7; and I Peter 2:13-17. There is in addition a fundamental assumption, shared by all the writers, that it is the calling of Christians to transform this world, or to reclaim every sphere of life for the King, or to re-lay the biblical foundations on which our society is based. For this, of course, Christians must somehow get hold of the mighty engine of the state, in order to re-tool it into an instrument that will effect this transformation of society and its life. That every believer must live and work in every sphere of earthly life in obedience to the will of the Lord Christ—law!—as His will is revealed in Scripture is the clear, compelling, calling of the gospel. That believers must transform the United States of America, or any nation, into a kingdom of Christ is al commandment of men. The notion is replete with errors, of which it is not the least that the kingdom of God realized in the blood of the Crucified and coming in the preaching of the gospel is an earthly, carnal kingdom.
Of particular interest to me is the theonomic view of Greg L. Bahnsen, the most biblical, reasoned, moderate, and therefore persuasive of the major champions of theonomy, or “Christian Reconstruction.” Excellent as his description of the state’s limited mandate is on pages 44, 45, positively and negatively, his insistence that the state in the New Testament must enforce the civil and judicial laws binding on Israel in the Old Testament shuts him up to the position that the state must punish all idolatry with death. Not only all unbelievers and heathen worshipers of other gods besides the God and Father of Jesus Christ, but also all false Christians, who corrupt the pure worship of God, must be judged and executed by the state. Does Dr. Bahnsen believe that God gives this mandate to the state in the New Testament? Does the state have this authority and competency? I know that the Belgic Confession (in the original wording of Article 36) and the Westminster Confession (in Chapter 23) go in this direction. But does the Scripture permit the state so to intrude itself in the business and warfare of the church; so to undertake the defense of the gospel and the over throw of false doctrine and idolatrous worship; and so really to make of the steel sword the spiritual sword of the heavenly kingdom?
In the interests of his earthly, postmillennial kingdom, Bahnsen denies that the kingdom of Christ is identical with the church. How does he reconcile this denial with the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Days 31 and 48 that the kingdom and the church are identical? How does he harmonize his denial with the confession of his own creed, the Westminster Confession, in Chapter 25: “The visible church…is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ…”?
The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge: A Christian Perspective, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Chicago: Moody Press, 1989, 1990. 333 pages. Quality Paperback. $7.95. (Reviewed by the Editor.)
This is a new, thorough, critical examination of Masonry (also known as Freemasonry or the Masonic Lodge). From its own sources, the authors expose Masonry as an idolatrous, blasphemous, Christ-denying, false religion.
Masonry turns men away from Christ in at least five ways. (1) Masonry deliberately deletes the name of Christ from its prayers and Scripture quotations; (2) Masonry requires a Christian to disobey Christ by officially prohibiting all discussion of Christ from Lodge activities; (3) Masonry blasphemously offers the titles and offices of Christ to unbelievers; (4) Masonry denies the deity of Christ; and (5) Masonry purposely downplays the unique role of Christ as Savior, e.g., by teaching that the Christian message of divine redemption is merely a revival of earlier pagan stories (p. 126).
It is incredible that any institution that claims to be a church of Christ can even entertain the possibility of allowing Masons to be members. No believer may maintain his membership in a church that approves and accepts members of the Masonic Lodge. Under the provisions of Article 61 of the Church Order of Dordt (“None shall be admitted to the Lord’s Supper except those who…have made a confession of the Reformed religion, besides being reputed to be of a godly walk….”), the Protestant Reformed Churches must continue to exclude impenitent Masons from membership in the churches as those who are outside the Kingdom of Christ.
The book is clear, concise, and well-structured. It is written for the layman. It will serve well the high-school student doing research on Masonry.
$7.95 is a reasonable price.