Social Network Links
Powered by Squarespace
Search the Riddleblog
"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources


Living in Light of Two Ages



Civil Religion -- The Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity in America?


One of the most subtle and dangerous temptations Christians face during their pilgrim journey is the allure of civil religion.  James Davison Hunter defines civil religion as a “diffuse amalgamation of religious values that is synthesized with the civic creeds of the nation; in which the life and mission of the church is conflated with the life and mission of the country.  American values are in substance, biblical, prophetic values; American identity is, thus, a vaguely Christian identity.” (1)  Civil religion often functions as an alternative public religious framework for many professing Christians, especially those who accept the “Christian America” myth, or who find exclusive Christian truth claims too controversial to play any significant role in the public square. 

In modern America, civil religion is the chief rival to biblical Christianity.  If those Christians who are committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the kingdom of Christ and the civil kingdom, and who willingly placing themselves under the authority of God’s word are considered too extreme to be fully welcomed in America’s public square, those who champion a generic “civil religion” are almost always welcome.

Civil religion is an especially tempting option for Christians who have been told that religion is a private matter which has no place in the public square.  The basic tenants of civil religion are vague enough that it is hard to deny them.  They are also deeply held by too many Americans to eliminate them altogether from American life.  Rather than check their faith in Jesus at the door to the public square, Christians can embrace civil religion in the public arena and few will complain, since virtually all citizens embrace the key tenants:  a belief in a Creator; the basic goodness of humanity; equality for all; a profound sense of national purpose; and the celebration of national holidays with an almost religious reverence, (i.e, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and the National Day of Thanksgiving).  Yet, to confuse Christ’s kingdom with civil religion opens the door–however unintentionally–to exchange the truth of Christianity for what amounts to a false religion, one in which faith in the national interest eclipses the primary allegiance a Christian owes to Jesus Christ and his word.

The attraction to civil religion also arises from the fact that Christians often strive to be good citizens and apply their deeply-held Christian convictions to their actions in the civil kingdom.  Even when motivated by the best of intentions, Christians can easily find themselves attributing normative moral authority to the state, especially when the state’s current values and purposes appear to coincide with the revealed will of God (the moral law).  When national values resonate with the tenants of someone’s Christian faith, it is easy to take the next step and assume what the nation does (whether that be in matters of foreign or domestic policy) accomplishes the will of God.  The nation is believed to be God’s righteous agent and avenger, exercising God’s will, with his full authority and blessing.

When current events are read through the lens of civil religion, the nation’s struggles can be vividly portrayed in biblical images of sacrifice and redemption, and framed as part of the larger cosmic struggle between good and evil.  Our enemies declared to be “evil” because they oppose the good–our nation and its current cause.  Our national warriors are righteous redeemers, doing the Lord’s work, giving the full measure of their devotion to “save” others.  As Abraham Lincoln put it in his famed Gettysburg Address, those buried in the national cemetery gave their lives so that the nation might live.  Without question, our soldiers and statesmen have often been heroic and sacrificed much to secure our current freedom and way of life.  But their shed blood saved a secular nation from temporal peril, not their sinful souls from eternal punishment.

To read the rest of this essay, Civil Religion -- the Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity?


Have You Taken a DNA Test to Find Your Roots/Ethnicity? -- If You Have European Ancestry, This Is Must Reading

Jean Manco's revised and updated book Ancestral Journeys is one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.   

The author is a "building historian," but is well equipped to combine archaeology,  climate history, and DNA research.  She capably turns a complicated and potentially boring subject into a well-written narrative, even though you had better read it with easy access to Wikipedia in order to look up all the ancient place names and regions lost to us moderns and now unfamiliar to most of us.

Climate Change?

While going though her book, it immediately becomes apparent that much of where early Europeans lived and why they moved has to do with climate change.  Rising seas, long periods of rain/cold weather, and extended periods of draught caused our ancestors to migrate, at times even from one end of the European continent to the other.  The old notion that the ancestors of many modern Europeans were peoples driven West by Eurasian invaders (i.e., Huns, etc.,) does not tell the whole story and has been greatly revised in light of DNA evidence.

At one point people could walk from Denmark (Jutland) across marshland to that future island we now identify as "England."  Climate change is obviously cyclical.  In fact, all of this occurred before the possibility that our contemporaries would disrupt sea levels and population centers by raising the earth's temperature through the use of fossil fuels and unfriendly environmental practices.  Either early humans did the same damage to the environment we are doing, or else there must be some other cause for global warming--perhaps natural causes such as solar influences?

Into Africa, Not Out of Africa?

While not a Christian, virtually everything Manco states about the culture and migratory patterns of early humans is closely tied to that region we identify as Mesopotamia (the Fertile Crescent).  Manco points out along the way that many of the long-standing theories of the peopling of Europe have been recently overturned, which makes me wonder how long will it be before the evidence pushes folk to conclude that just because Louis Leakey found ancient bipedal hominids in the Olduvai Gorge, that it is just as likely that modern humans migrated into Africa, rather than out of Africa.   But then this would tend to confirm the biblical account, and we can't have that, can we?

Dating?  Too Early?

Manco addresses one of the main issues I've had with DNA test companies--the assignment of very ancient dates for human origins.  I'm not a scientist nor a statistician, but it always bugged me that archaeologists boldly inform us of "certain dating" using what they call the "evolutionary effective rate" to determine the rate of mutations of the various human haplogroups (your inherited DNA type).  But isn't a genetic mutation, by definition, a random event, and can occur repeatedly within a few generations?  Must we assume that mutations occur at a fixed rate so as to push human origins back far enough to allow for some sort of human evolutionary model?  Manco concludes that using this evolutionary effective rate "overestimates ages dramatically" (231).  I'm glad to see someone in the DNA/archaeology community admit as much.  There is nothing in any of this to prove an ancient origin (50,000 BC or often much earlier) for the human race.  Much of the dating process is nothing more than sophisticated guesswork.  Manco even implies that modern humans are much more recent in origin than previously thought.


The growing interest in DNA testing changes everything when it comes to race--or it should.  I grew up being taught in public school that there were three races (Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and Negroid), and that modern humans evolved from apes.  This theory was always taught with the accompanying and despicable chart implying that African-Americans were somehow closer to primitive human ancestors than white Europeans.  One thing the proliferation of DNA testing has done is effectively put an end to such nonsense.  We all have common ancestors, and we are all, genetically speaking, a combination of many DNA haplogroups (in terms of our autosomal DNA--which the DNA companies use to determine your "ethnicity").  There is one Adamic race, and each of us are not only divine image-bearers, but we share a common ancestry and origin--an ancestral Adam and Eve.  We also share in Adam's Fall, which is the root cause of all race division and conflict.

Interesting Stuff I Never Knew . . .

I knew that slavery was the fate of weaker humans and losers in battle from the time of the earliest human civilizations.  But Manco contends that given the overwhelming number of slaves held in Europe and Middle East by the Romans and many others before and after, virtually all white Europeans have a high mathmatical probability of genetic ancestors who were slaves.  Yes, there may be a king or noble in your line, but there is almost a certainty that there is slavery too.

DNA tests have shown that reindeer originally came from Spain before migrating to Lapland, and that one group of ancient peoples (the Saami) have been closely tied to them ever since.  DNA proves that apples came from the Lli Valley in Kazakhstan, before the tree was "domesticated."

The movement of the Celts and Goths is a very complicated affair, but can be traced by language and the DNA they left behind.  "England" derives from the designation Angle-Land.  Britain is, of course, the Roman designation.  The Slavs have a very recent origin (500 A.D.) and expanded very rapidly into places like the Balkans and Eastern Europe.  This expansion also can be traced by using DNA testing and the rise of a distinctly Slavic language.

The book is filled with fascinating information like this.

As for Me

It would figure that I am not just the typical R1B white guy.  My DNA was recently reclassified by Family Tree DNA (the best DNA testing company, IMHO, if you wish to pursue this further).  My y-DNA was originally classified as G2A, one of the first y-DNA haplogroups to enter Europe, not very common (about 5% of the male population) but widely spread, originating in Eastern Turkey and Northern Iraq (remember modern countries and "ethnic groups" did not yet exist).  There is a cluster in Switzerland.

But an additional test determined I am H2-P96--very, very rare in modern Europe (a fraction of a percent, with a cluster in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland), and now counted as among the very first peoples to enter Europe after the Ice Age (92-93).  The mainstream y-haplogroup "H" is found in large numbers in India and Pakistan.  So at some point way back when, one brother went West into Europe.  His DNA survived in a few European folk like me.  But his brothers went East and filled an entire subcontinent!  The Romani (H1), left India a thousand years ago and went West to Romania.  We know them today as "Gypsies." 

Apparently, my ancestors have been in Switzerland for a long, long time.  I've always had this weird desire to paint pictures of animals on my walls.  Now I know where that comes from.  My mtDNA (my mother's mother's mother's  . . . line) is U5B, a very common and ancient DNA, found throughout Europe, with much of it occuring before the Ice Age (50).  Many of you with European ancestry reading this probably have the same mtDNA. 


Better in Turkish?

Just heard from the editor that my contribution on First Corinthians in the Lectio Continua series is now being published in Turkish.

You can order the English version from Reformation Heritage Books.  It is on sale!  First Corinthians Tolle Lege


"Whatever One Sows" -- Galatians 6:1-10

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on Galatians 6:1-10.

Click Here



This Week's White Horse Inn (Updated Website)

Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture

How are we to interpret the Bible, especially in light of the fact that there are so many different traditions, denominations, and schools of thought? Are we allowed to interpret a passage however we like, or are there some basic rules and guidelines to follow? On this program the hosts will begin a two-part series on this topic as they walk through some basic rules of “hermeneutics,” or the science of biblical interpretation.

Click Here



"Got Me a Gator"

That is one big alligator--more than 15 feet with a huge head.  It had been killing the rancher's cattle when they came to drink.  That won't happen again.


"The Majesty on High" -- S. M. Baugh's New Book on the Kingdom of God

Summer is often considered a great time to tackle a couple of good books.  Let me heartily recommend that you add S. M. Baugh's new book, Majesty on High:  Introduction to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament, to your list.

Dr. Baugh was a classmate at Westminster Seminary California (class of 84).  But don't let his antiquity negatively influence your decision. 

This is a wonderful book--filled with great biblical insights and wisdom.  Just what, exactly, is the relationship between the kingdom of God and the covenantal structure of Scripture?  How does a proper understanding of the kingdom of God impact the way we see the relationship between the New and Old testaments. 

This is great theology with a devotional warmth.

Here's a recommendation of the book from someone you might know.

"There has long been the need for a popular book on the Kingdom of God--one which draws upon current insights from biblical theology, and which addresses contemporary issues in eschatology, ethics, and covenant theology.  S. M. Baugh has provided us with a wonderful book which does all of this.  "The Majesty on High" achieves the rare feat of being readily accessible, while reflecting the scholarly wisdom gained from years of study and teaching New Testament.  It even comes with study questions, and is suitable for both personal and group Bible study.  Highly recommended!"

You can purchase Majesty on High here.


Lion of Princeton to Get New Cover

My 2015 book on Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield, is being given a new cover by Lexham Press (the publisher).

The Lion of Princeton is part of Lexham's series in "Studies in Historical Theology & Systematic Theology."

You can read more about the Lion of Princeton here:  The Lion of Princeton


"He Is the Living God" -- Daniel 6:1-28

The Twelfth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Daniel

The sign on the door of the royal palace read “under new management.”  The Persians (Medes) have displaced the Babylonians (Chaldeans) as the occupiers and rulers of Babylon.  The Babylonian king, Belshazzar, is dead.  Darius the Mede (Cyrus) is now in charge, ruling as Persian king over the former Babylonian empire.  The Hebrew prophet, Daniel, now an old man, is immediately recognized by Darius as a wise and gifted man and an effective supervisor.  Daniel is given great authority as one of three “presidents” (counselors) to supervise the satraps (or regional governors), who handled the day to day affairs of local government.  It is a position of great honor, respect, and influence.  But Daniel’s appointment to such high office creates much jealousy among the Persians, and even perhaps among former Babylonian officials who were passed over for the prestigious job which instead went to a despised Hebrew.  A plot is soon hatched to remove Daniel from his new office, and it will not be long before Daniel finds himself forced to deny his faith in YHWH, or face being thrown to lions.  But God preserves his people in such a way as to unmistakably reveal himself to be the sovereign Lord of all–even to the Persian king Darius.

The story of “Daniel in the lion’s den” is one of the best known and most loved of all the so-called “Bible stories.”  This is a great story in its own right.  But to make full sense as to why this incident is included in Daniel’s prophecy, it must be considered in light of the larger redemptive-historical context, which is the victory of YHWH, his prophets, and his exiled people over the false “gods” of Babylon, and now Persia.  YHWH is sovereign over all kings and nations and is directing the events of which we have read throughout Daniel’s prophecy to his own ends.  Daniel’s trial and ordeal in the lion’s den in chapter 6 are part of YHWH’s larger sovereign plan to ensure that the Jewish exiles in Babylon will be allowed to return home to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and YHWH’s temple.  This comes about because YHWH moves Darius (Cyrus) to issue a decree to bring this to pass (recounted in the books of Ezra-Nehemiah).  But the one incident which seems to truly motivate Darius to release the exile Jews is when the Persian king sees first hand the power of God in rescuing his prophet Daniel from a pride of hungry lions.

There are obvious similarities between this chapter and Daniel 3, when Daniel’s three Hebrew friends (exiles just as he was, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were cast into Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, only to be delivered by a mysterious fourth man–the angel of the Lord.  God’s exile people often find themselves being persecuted by pagan officials because of their faith in YHWH.  Faith in YHWH is seen as an offence against the pagan deities and those who worship them.  In Daniel 3, it was the demand to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue, while in chapter 6 is it a demand to stop worshiping YHWH according to his word–and instead devote all prayers to the emperor Darius.  Throughout most of church history these are pressures God’s people have faced–sometimes these pressures are subtle and easily avoided, while other times they are acute and a direct threat liberty and even life.  The latter is the case in both Daniel 3 and 6.  Once again, there are loud echoes from the Joseph story who was likewise thrown into a pit, rescued in an unexpected way, and yet prospered under the hand of God (Gen. 37:24; 39:23; 41:40).

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here


This Week at Christ Reformed Church (June 12-June 18)

Sunday Morning, June 18:  In Galatians 6:1-10, Paul takes up the matter of reaping and sowing--so do we.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  Why is idolatry such a serious sin?  We continue our study of the Heidelberg Catechism as we work our way through Lord's Day 34 (Q & A 92-95).  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Will return in September.

The AcademyResumes in the Fall of 2017.

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Info), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).