Where I live, tens of thousands of my fellow citizens engage each year in a mammoth struggle for a healthy lawn. Seeding in the fall, laying fertilizer, remembering to put down preemergent, are some of the few technicalities that if forsaken will leave you with a yard void of grass and replete with weeds. To make matters worse, there are those special few who effortlessly maintain gorgeous carpets of deep green blades elegantly edged along their equally breathtaking landscaping. I have neither the time nor the money for such toil—I simply want a full spread of healthy grass without it sucking up my spare time or costing me college tuition.
As in anything, failure is usually found in the fundamentals. I learned the hard way that unless I annually perform the basic seeding, fertilizing, and weed treatments, the most diverse display of unsightly weeds overcomes my lawn. The problem is compounded because the weeds are mixed in tightly with the grass, forcing me to spend more on elaborate weed killers to isolate the unwelcome plants without killing what little healthy grass remains.
Unless I plan on investing in scraping my one-acre yard with a bulldozer and laying down expensive sod, growing a lawn of healthy grass will take a few seasons of fulfilling the fundamentals. The basic lesson I learned was that the best way to handle weeds was to crowd them out with healthy grass. If not, the weeds would overwhelm the lawn and crowd out the healthy grass. As in all things, dominion is an inescapable concept—yearly lawn care is a war between what will dominate the field: the weeds or the grass. Even the Oxford American Dictionary defines weeds as “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.”
The War Between the Seeds
Although I often refer to my weeds as the “seed of Satan,” I realize that it’s unlikely that someone came into my yard and planted crabgrass—at least I hope not! I understand that if I end up with a lawn laden with unwanted weeds, the fault is entirely my own. If I’m not planting, fertilizing, and watering healthy grass seed while laying down a preemergent weed killer along with regular weed treatments every eight to ten weeks, I’ll continue to have a weed problem. Establishing dominion in my lawn requires a two-fold effort: planting and removing.
God also has a weed problem—a serious one at that. In fact, the entire history of the world can be summed up as God’s trying to get healthy plants to grow by overcoming the weeds. Jesus described this in one of His most elaborately explained parables:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matt. 13:24–30)
Biblical history is a war between two seeds. The parable of the wheat and tares is a metaphor for two very real types of persons who are set against one another in a cosmic conflict for universal dominion. In His interpretation of the parable, Jesus states plainly the simplistic identities of the two warring factions, their field of battle, and the timeline of their conflict:
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. (Matt. 13:38–39)
I say these are “simplistic” characters and descriptions because I find a troublesome stream of denial of this fundamental framework among most contemporary theologians. In their minds, history is more the result of one “ism” leading to another “ism” in a succession of developing antithetical ideas. This is a very Hegelian notion, but it can also be found in a good many Reformed, theonomic, and postmillennial thinkers.
Several months ago, I had a brief but heated email exchange with a prominent Reconstructionist over the issue of his silence regarding the growing police state measures in the United States such as unwarranted surveillance, illegal government wiretapping, and the Patriot Act. His offhanded reply was, “[T]he West believes that salvation comes by way of technology.” This told me little about what we contend with but a great deal about his worldview. He holds to cosmic impersonalism when it comes to organized wickedness. In other words, the police state “just happens” because the West believes in salvation by technology. It’s hard to picket and bullhorn something so impersonal.
Van Tilians have always prided themselves in putting forth a strong doctrine of what Van Til referred to as cosmic personalism. It’s the idea that the world is not governed by impersonal forces, such as displayed in evolutionary thinking, but by a cosmically personal God controlling every creature and every action. Added to this is the Reformed idea of secondary causes: the principle of cause and effect within history, as set over against the primary cause of all things—God’s eternal decree:
Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly: yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, II, emphasis added)
In short, Reformed Christians believe that a personal God governs history and that secondary causes are very real and should be dealt with on their own merits. For example, sin itself is a secondary cause. James 1:13–14 places the cause of sin within man, and using James as a prooftext, the Westminster Divines rightly state,
The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be, the author or approver of sin. (Chap. 5, sec. 4, emphasis added)
Sin, therefore, is a secondary cause that is not detached from the full extent of God’s providence. In addition, it’s “not by a bare permission” either. There is a wise and holy end for which God shall make even the transgressions of men serve His purposes, but it is done in such a way that God is not the author or approver of sin—“the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature.”
Therefore, since sin is a secondary cause, it must be treated aggressively. God’s decrees do not absolve us from the responsibility of personal sanctification. We are to “mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
Though most understand this, it seems to change when we consider the organized wickedness of evil men. It’s at that point that everything becomes an “ism,” i.e., it becomes cosmically impersonal. We have a police state because the collective West believes in salvation by technology? There is too much of a shade of impersonalism in that notion. We have a police state because that’s what a cadre of men have conspired to create! After all, did Hitler, Stalin, or Mao believe in salvation by technology? Or, did they institute police state measures because they wanted to control the population? Why would the “West” be any different?
“An Enemy Hath Done This”
In respect to my lawn, nobody was involved in planting any of my weeds; but in God’s case, someone had done some planting. In the language of the parable, the farmer knew “[a]n enemy hath done this” (Matt. 13:28). It was not the result of things just happening, nor was it the development of some “ism.” He knew there was a conspiracy of evil men dedicated to destroying his progress. His solution, however, was not merely the exposing of evil, but the maturation of the wheat. We destroy evil by crowding it out with righteousness.
The enemy, in our case, is the devil, but the tares that are sown are the “children of the wicked one” (Matt. 13:38–39). They are the offspring of Satan, and they mimic the dominion calling of the church. They are committed to victory—a victory that is defined by the removal of all vestiges of “wheatness” from every area of life. They are seeking a reversal of Zechariah’s postmillennial prophecy:
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. (Zech. 14:20)
Whereas the tares are seeking to remove God’s name from every area of life, the children of the Kingdom are to be engraving God’s name on every area of life. This has always been the nature of the conflict. Matthew acknowledges this historical aspect when he cites Psalm 78:2 in relation to the parable of the wheat and the tares:
I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 13:35)
The great secret is that history is the outworking of two seeds vying for dominion over the field. The tares know this and are aggressively working to eradicate the wheat. On the other hand, the wheat appear indifferent to the dominion pulse thumping in the heart of the wicked, and denounce as “whacko conspiracy theorists” any suggestion that such wickedness has actually organized itself. They believe in a devil, but they struggle with the idea of devilish men working in the centers of power. They do not readily recognize what Rushdoony refers to as “mankind’s secret church”:
But another Society has been in history from the beginning also, the Society of Satan, whose foundation was stated by the tempter to Eve, manifested in the Fall, proclaimed at Babel, continuing long as mankind’s secret church and increasingly manifested openly.1
Our Lord presents history as the children of the Kingdom struggling against the children of the wicked one, viz. those who were “planted” by an enemy of God. Whereas Christ presents the two seeds in the symbols of wheat and tare, the Old Testament displays the historic struggle as a clash of human lineages.
Enmity Between the Seeds
The origins of this war began long ago in the paradise of Eden when at the behest of Satan, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Not only did this transgression result in immediate judgments upon both man and the serpent, it commenced a ceaseless conflict between two lines of humanity:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)
The war began immediately as Cain—the son of Adam—jealously murdered his brother Abel because he could not master his own wrath and sin (Gen. 4:7–8). But there was an even greater reason for Cain’s murderous spirit: he was a tare, a child of the wicked one planted in order to remove the wheat from the earth. The Apostle John makes this very point in language similar to that of Jesus’ explanation of the wheat and tares as the children of God versus the children of the wicked one:
Whosever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:9–12, emphasis added)
The nature of world history as a war between the two seeds is so fundamental that John concludes, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (v. 13). Since world history is essentially a war between the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one, we should not be surprised that the world despises our existence. If Cain hated Abel, the world will hate you because as Abel still speaks (Heb. 11:4), so the seed of the wicked one still seek to silence the voice of the righteous.
God Destroys All Tares and Replants the Wheat
Like weeds, tares quickly multiply without any purposeful cultivation while the wheat requires great diligence that can often yield meager results. This was the case when not long after the murder of Abel, the polluted genealogy of Adam produced an entire generation that provoked the total judgment of God. His world had already become a field of tares:
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually … And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth. (Gen. 6:5, 7)
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (v. 8). Only a single strand of wheat would be preserved to begin again, and Noah became a new seed representing another attempt by God to create a field full of righteousness. For this reason, Noah was given the charge to multiply in language reminiscent of Adam’s original dominion mandate (Gen. 1:28):
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. (Gen. 9:1, cf. v. 7)
The obvious implication here is that Noah was to do more than simply replenish the earth with people. He was to fill the earth with the righteous. That would be no simple task, since there was no written standard of God’s expectations, no form of salvation, and no individual empowering of the Holy Spirit. The end result was that very soon the world would grow wicked once more.
The Tower of Babel
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Gen. 11:4)
Out of the lineage of Noah arose Ham—the son who exposed his father’s nakedness (Gen. 9:22). Out of Ham’s cursed lineage came Nimrod—the founder of Babel (Gen. 10:10), and he became the prototype of tyrants. The word Babel means confusion, and was so named by God after He confused their speech in judgment and sent them scattered throughout the earth:
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Gen. 11:7–9)
The wicked seed inhabiting Babel did not want to be scattered over the earth—they wanted to rule over it! They wanted to build a city with a monumental tower whose top would reach heaven. This has long been the desire of the tares: to build world-ruling empires that tyrannize over other men. It stems from their desire to be as god (Gen. 3:5), and that was the central lie of Satan, i.e., the means by which Satan plants tares. Like God, Satan is a sower of the word; but his gospel is “ye shall be as gods.”
Since man has no power from God, he must rule by other means. The only manner in which the tares can rule is through an expansive civil government—a centralized superstate, if you will. This was the vision of Babel’s tower and the reason why for thousands of years the Tower of Babel remains the symbol of human autonomy.
Hegel’s oft-quoted definition of the divine, “The state is god walking on earth,” meant that the outworking of man’s reason is personified in the state. After all, how could a decentralized, self-governing population represent anything but individual minds and individualized reasoning? Therefore, Hegel saw divinity in the collective mind of the state. This is especially true in the United States where a once-independent republic of self-governing peoples have gradually reached a form of serfdom to an ever-expanding, massive, federal bureaucracy, i.e., man’s new world order:
The people are one in this new world order; their language is one, and now they are creating a world government to play god over mankind [Gen. 11:6]. With such a power over mankind, “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (v. 6). Total power will mean total government and control. When men play god, they primarily seek to dominate other men. They then turn science and knowledge into strategies of control in every sphere of life and thought.2
The tares of today—just like those of previous eras—are utilizing the power of the state to restrict, silence, and eventually eliminate the voice of the wheat. There is no other way this can be accomplished. Only a massive civil government has the capacity to place such restrictions on righteousness while codifying wickedness into law. This is the premise behind abortion—it’s an institutionalizing of state-sponsored murder. It is the premise behind all wickedness that is legislated by the state. These tares have no fellowship with God, because they are founded upon sin. Therefore, they utilize the state to legislate evil and institutionalize their mischief:
Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? (Ps. 94:20)
The Goal of the Tare: A One-World Order
Following the original Tower of Babel would come other attempted tyrannies of world empire. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome—all of them the evolution of tares and their worldview. Tares do not believe in a decentralized system of civil government because a decentralized system cannot support power, and power is the aphrodisiac of tyrants. This is the common trait shared by Nimrod, Pharoah, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, the Caesars, et al. Power can only be enforced through the apparatus of the state, and therefore, the most significant human threat to Christianity itself is statism. And since Christianity has the stated goal of a converted world, the anti-Christian system itself seeks a world government.
This is not the stuff of conspiracy theorists; it is thoroughly Biblical. Which is why the Bible reveals a timeline of empire following empire until the Kingdom of Christ comes to destroy all earthly kingdoms. This is what makes Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the four-part statue (Dan. 2) so important. It demonstrates how the war between the seeds is a war between world-ruling kingdoms of absolute dominion with the promise that the Kingdom of God would prevail:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan. 2:44)
As Rushdoony notes, “The four empires are depicted as one man.”3 In like manner, the apostle Paul represents our soteriological connection to Christ as being “one new man” (Eph. 2:15)—one religious body with comprehensive spiritual authority over every area of life. Whereas Daniel’s statue is primarily political, the implications of each portion were universal. So also is the Kingdom of God, as Rushdoony makes clear:
The kingdom of God is not depicted as a political kingdom, but its unmistakable sovereignty in the political as in every other sphere is plainly affirmed. To separate that kingdom therefore from the economic, political, and educational aspects of world order, and from reference to the messianic pretensions of these and other activities of man, is to do violence to the kingdom and to misunderstand it. While the kingdom is not of this world in that it is primarily and originally an eternal order, its triumph in and over this world is set forth in the resurrection, a historical event, and shall be developed in terms of the whole of history.4
The parable of the wheat and tares is a symbolic representation of the primary narrative that defines world history. In this understanding, existentialism and postmodernity have no place, for they deny that such transcendent historical meaning can exist. For them, there is no devil contending with the Kingdom of God and no evil men plotting world dominion. To them, the universe is cosmically impersonal, and for the most part, Christians join them in this viewpoint. All meaning is isolated to the individual’s interpreting mind, yet they do not recognize that the kingdom of darkness finds great advantage in their denials. Without transcendent meaning in history—and a corresponding embracing of Christian dominion—the field is open for the advancement of the tares. Like everything else, dominion is an inescapable concept.
The End of the Story
The wheat and the tares are the story of history, and it’s a story in which we all play a pivotal role. Our responsibility begins with using this parable as a framework for how we see our world, work at our jobs, train our families, and teach our congregations. We are a community of wheat developing into the full stature of our Lord while the tares also work out the implications of their nature. I’ll conclude with Rushdoony’s synopsis of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision:
The romanticism of isolation and self-exaltation is replaced with communion in community. This requires a long process of historical maturation, beginning with the call of Abraham, who in vision saw that city and rejoiced (Heb. 11:8–16; John 8:56), and culminating with Christ’s coming again, the eschatological end of history, when the process is completed. Then the tares will be fully tares, and the wheat fully wheat. Epistemological self-consciousness, man’s knowledge of himself as a creature, his analogical knowledge of God, will effect the full restoration of godly man, even as the full implications of the Fall overwhelm the covenant-breaker or the reprobate. The implications of history having been developed, time shall be no more.5
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Commentaries on the Pentateuch: Genesis (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2002), 104.
2. Rushdoony, Genesis, 110.
3. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001 reprint), 19.
4. Ibid., 54.
5. Ibid., 19.
Topics: Christian Reconstruction, Church, The, Old Testament History, World History, Church History, New Testament History, Pentateuch, Minor Prophets, Biblical Commentary, Eschatology, Epistles, The, Gospels, The, Dominion, Government, Culture , R. J. Rushdoony, Theology, Justice, Conspiracy, Statism, Reformed Thought, American History