People, whether they like it or acknowledge it, are products of their culture. We all are born into an ongoing story and absorb premises and presuppositions from early on in our lives. Many who profess belief and loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Holy Word have been educated by those outside the faith and hold a multitude of conclusions drawn from faulty premises. Even within the ranks of Christian homeschooling, too few parents re-examine views they've held since childhood, and fail to use a Biblical lens to evaluate whether cultural norms are in fact Biblical norms.
Take, for example, the concept of "sharing." How many children are forced to allow other children to run roughshod over their belongings because their parents have told them they "have" to share? Is this "rule" a Biblical one, or does it stem from socialistic propaganda that advocates the redistribution of property and capital?
Even in Jesus' day, the religious leaders had perverted God's law to the point that Jesus rebuked them:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (Matt. 23:15)
Jesus would begin many of His teachings with the phrase, "You have heard it said," and then follow up with, "But I say." In each case, He was addressing some aspect of the Mosaic law that had been hijacked by the religious leaders of His day for their own purposes. As a result, their disciples were unwittingly offending God while under the impression that they were being righteous.
The voice of the modern church is one of accommodation rather than godly rebuke. The "pluralistic" mindset that has been continually force-fed leaves most who enter congregations feeling that all they need is minor tweaking in their lives rather than a complete overhaul. We've been told so often and for so long not to "judge," that "acceptance" has become the mark of holiness, rather than calling people to repentance. As a result, scooping necklines, drooping trousers, body piercings, and the like are all acceptable so long as there are vocal professions of faith to override them.
So, how is anyone to discern if his presuppositions and resultant actions are in line with a Biblical worldview? The answer lies in knowing the law of God within the context of redemption and how it constitutes a faith for all of life. Ecclesiastes concludes,
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Eccles. 12:13-14)
Thus, by examining the "givens" in life within the framework of God's law-word, a believer will stand on surer footing when it comes to living out the faith in all spheres and arenas of life. God's law separates the fact from fiction.
Little Known Facts
The musical comedy You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown features a song sung by the know-it-all Lucy entitled "Little Known Facts."1
Do you see that tree? It is a Fir tree. It's called a Fir tree because it gives us fur, for coats. It also gives us wool in the wintertime.
This is an elm tree. It's very little. But it will grow up into a giant tree, an oak. You can tell how old it is by counting its leaves.
And way up there, those fluffy little white things, those are clouds; they make the wind blow. And way down there, those tiny little black things, those are bugs. They make the grass grow ...
And this thing here, it's called a hydrant. They grow all over, and no one seems to know just how a little thing like that gives so much water.
Do you see that bird? It's called an Eagle, but since it's little it has another name, a Sparrow. And on Christmas and Thanksgiving we eat them.
And way up there, the little stars and planets, make the rain, that falls in showers.
And when it's cold and winter is upon us, the snow comes up, just like the flowers. After it comes up, the wind blows it around so it looks like it's coming down but actually it comes up, out of the ground-like grass.
It is easy to laugh at these ridiculous explanations, but how many similar "explanations" have millions of students (and people in general) been fed and swallowed since their youth, not only in humanistic schools but in churches, too, simply because someone in a position of authority proclaimed them as true? Some examples:
• The earth is billions of years old, and all life began as a result of a Big Bang.
• The fetus is not a person.
• A family is defined by people living together who love each other.
But there are other, more subtle deceptions that many believers buy into that result in long-term negative consequences for themselves and their families.
Take, for example, the Pledge of Allegiance, which reads:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.
How many have ever questioned the origins and premises of this oath?
Most Americans believe that the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag was the work of the eighteenth-century founding fathers. In fact, the Pledge did not come about until 1892. It was authored by Francis Bellamy, a defrocked Baptist minister from Boston who identified himself as a "Christian Socialist" and was removed from the pulpit for preaching politics, specifically for espousing the view that "Jesus was a socialist."2
Although not in the original form, the phrase "under God" was added in 1954 and has somehow legitimized this "loyalty oath" to many professing believers. Because they have compartmentalized their Christian faith and divorced it from politics and history, they miss the fact that the pledge has "much less to do with expressing love for one's country, than more or less blind obedience to the consolidated, centralized state that was created in the aftermath of the War between the States."3
Most Christians think that the solution to our problems is to vote conservative, and many show more loyalty to America than to Christ. They fail to see that God's law-word is a seamless garment and not a patchwork quilt of unrelated commandments. Jesus summarized the law in two great commandments. The Ten Commandments are an expansion of the two, with the case law designed to demonstrate practical applications. Thus, when you break one of God's commandments, you really break all because of that unity. Rushdoony points out,
[W]hile a man's faith has immediate consequences, those consequences are not necessarily apparent at once. Thus, a man who builds without a foundation has at once endangered his life's structure, but that collapse will become apparent only with a storm. People who try to establish their lives and their children's lives on a character without faith, on morality without roots, have thereby destroyed their future. The fact that the damage may only become apparent years later does not nullify the causal relationship.4
Just as general computer viruses don't damage immediately, but hide alongside other programs, false premises or revisionist information piggybacked on well-established facts spread in a viral manner throughout our thoughts and life. Just as trojan viruses masquerade as something they're not and eventually damage or erase a hard disk, so too the unquestioned or unexamined acceptance of what is taught will take its toll in a comprehensive way in our lives and the lives of future generations. It is only through a systematic study of the full counsel of God that one can identify the many "viruses" that have made their way into a person's computations.
Uncovering these infections would be an insurmountable task were it not for the reality that:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
In order to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works, nothing should be taken at face value without examining it first through the lens of Scripture.
[T]he man who hears the Lord's words and obeys them is the man who lives in terms of God's reality. Consequences are real to him, because actions are not autonomous nor isolated. All thoughts, acts, and words occur in God's universe, and all have their consequences in terms of the world of God's law. Nothing exists in autonomy or isolation from God and His law word. Every moment, thought, and event is inextricably linked to God's total word and is inseparable from it. To be godly means in part recognizing that we are creatures of God, His creation and for His purpose and glory, and in seeing our lives in their totality as a part of that purpose. Then, instead of piecemeal religion, we have a Biblical faith.5
In My Life
Back in the seventies as a newly married couple, my husband and I didn't have many possessions. What we had came as a result of gifts from family and weekend garage sales where we snatched up bargains. We were regularly counseled by friends that we should acquire credit cards, run up some bills, pay them off, and thereby establish a good credit rating. This, we were told, was how to become established, and someday we'd be able to buy a home. I remember the feeling of power when I saw something I wanted and could charge it. I even took enormous pleasure when I paid the monthly bills, knowing that I was on my way to becoming a good credit risk.
We were nine years into our marriage when a friend introduced us to the writings of R. J. Rushdoony, specifically his Institutes of Biblical Law. My husband and I were so taken with the book that we began to fight over who was going to get to read it.6 Slowly but surely, we were developing a Biblical mindset, something that we had longed for but up until that point had never acquired. There were many instances where we concluded that premises and perspectives that we'd been taught or picked up were simply not true. We began to reorder our lives so that every area was examined from a Biblical perspective. One episode sticks out in my mind, when an established way of living was confronted with the truth of God's Word faithfully expounded.
We returned home one evening after a long day of shopping in Carmel, California. The whole family was glowing over our purchases, and my husband led us in a prayer of thanksgiving after we examined how much we had been able to buy. After dinner, I sat down to read some Rushdoony, specifically his little gem Law & Liberty. Within an hour, I told my husband that we had thanked the wrong person. We shouldn't have thanked God for our purchases of the day; we should have thanked MasterCard. I read to him:
[P]rivate property and moral order are closely linked together. When men are governed by God, they are more provident, more inclined to be debt-free, more responsible in their management of their families and affairs, and much more prone to own, cherish and husband property wisely. A high incidence of debt-free property indicates a high degree of godly living which is both provident and free of covetousness, for it is covetousness which breeds debt-living. The basic principle of Scripture is clear-cut: "Owe no man anything, but to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). We do not truly own property unless it is debt-free. Debt is in essence a form of slavery, and the basic function of private property is to establish us in material liberty. A man who covets property of various kinds but cannot live debt-free is not seeking property on godly terms but on covetous terms.7
That night we took inventory of our financial situation. Ten years into our marriage, we had two children, two car payments, and almost $15,000 in unsecured debt. With paying the interest on this balance, it dawned on me that we were paying interest for meals that had been eaten, digested, and eliminated. Also, any "great bargains" we procured while purchasing on credit, ended up costing us more than the original price tag. It was then that we had to confront the sinful premises and perspectives in which we were abiding. Dr. Rushdoony's words stung but were redemptive.
In Colossians 3:5, St. Paul defines evil covetousness as idolatry, and he declares that it is a sin that we must mortify or destroy in ourselves. Such covetousness seeks to exalt the man and to increase his possessions, but because it grounds itself on sin rather than God's law, it is destructive of both man and property. Those who move in terms of God's word become the blessed meek, the tamed of God, of whom the Psalmist says, "The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Ps. 37.11).8
After this, we increased the earnestness with which we studied God's law and worked our way out of debt. Corrections were made in our thinking, resulting in some drastic changes in our lifestyle.
Another instance comes to mind where, instead of having to alter our course of action, we discovered that by God's grace we had embarked on a path that was surprisingly orthodox.
During one of our first in-person meetings with Dr. Rushdoony (after having read a number of his books), he inquired about where my son was being educated. Not knowing that the man who stood in front of me in my living room was considered the father of the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements, I sheepishly answered, "Actually, we homeschool." He gave a resounding, "Excellent!" and proceeded to fill my arms with his books on education and a number written by Sam Blumenfeld. I commented to my husband later on, "Guess what? We're accidentally doing the right thing!" However, in retrospect, there was nothing accidental about God's loving, providential hand directing us. The Scriptures are clear that those who ask, receive; those who seek, find; and those who knock will find an opened door (Matt. 7:7-11).
As I continued to read Rushdoony's works, my commitment solidified to provide my children with an education that was not piecemeal, but systematic and thoroughly Biblical. Our family learned that there was nothing piecemeal about living out the implications of God's Word.
Modern man seems to believe in piecemeal religion: he thinks it is possible to profess Biblical faith on the Lord's Day, repeating the Apostle's Creed. On Monday, he sends his children to a state school which teaches humanism. He works in terms of non-biblical economics in a humanistic state. And he sees no contradiction. Our Lord however, was emphatic: piecemeal religion is an impossibility: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).9
The Conclusion of the Matter
Only when all areas of life and thought are examined within the context of Scripture will we be able to discern between truth and falsehoods and unearth errors in our thinking. This examination needs to be systematic if we are going to advance the Kingdom of God on His terms.
The Bible, it cannot be repeated often enough, was not given to man to be an inspiring word, but the command word. It is not intended to please man, but to declare to him what he is in himself, and what he must be in the Lord. The Bible is inspired, not inspiring; it is infallible, because it is the word of God ...
A systematic Biblical theology will thus find it impossible to limit the religious realm to the ecclesiastical domain. God is totally God and Lord: the universe is totally under Him and His law-word. A systematic theology which is faithful to the living God will thus speak to the totality of man and his life.10
Proverbs 3:7 instructs us: "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." That is how we discern between the "You have heard it said" fallacies and the truth of what God's Word declares. Jesus promised in John 16:12-15 that the Holy Spirit would guide us in all truth and take what is Christ's and impart it to us. Systematically following the Lord's commands with humility and gratitude is the path to victory.
1. Music and lyrics by Clark Gesner based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.
2. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006), 156.
3. Ibid., 19.
4. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 2: Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), 532.
5. Ibid., 533.
6. The solution was easy: I read Volume 1, and he began with Volume 2.
7. Rushdoony, Law & Liberty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1984, 2009), 85.
9. Rushdoony, Law and Society, 527.
10. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), 117.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].