Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Theocracy: Part 2


In part one, we introduced the subject of theocracy.

According to the BCSE, the real motivation driving non-Darwinists is their desire to replace our country's system of government with a totalitarian religious dictatorship. It's nothing to do with science - it's politics.

In our introduction, we drew attention to the web page on which the BCSE have taken up the challenge to document these allegations. Today, we will begin looking at it in more detail.

The Challenge

Remember just what it is that the BCSE have set out to document. In the words of BCSE leader Roger Stanyard, on the BCSE's own front page, under the heading "Creationist Ideological Objectives in Education and Politics":

Moreover, the movement includes extreme political objectives, one of which is the replacement of democracy with a theocracy based on its extreme religious opinions.

Do the BCSE document this? Or something close to this? Let's see. As we do so, we'll out of necessity have to do more explaining of Christian ideas than we've done before. Now, as I'm a Christian and a pastor, I'm all for that. But I hope your thinking circuits are switched on!

Opening Statement

The page opens with a summary statement from the BCSE that I will pass over. If I tried to describe to my wife what child-birth is like, I imagine that there would be so many levels of intertwined wrong-ness that she wouldn't even know where to start in putting me right. And neither do I know where to start putting Brian Jordan right on this paragraph. It is as if I was reading somebody discussing whether I had stopped beating my children with a baseball bat, or only stopped beating them with a frying pan.

Dr. Jordan wrote in another place "Theists are the deluded victims of centuries of conspiracy" (Yahoo BlackShadow message 1766). If Jordan actually wants to persuade any theist of this, he's going to need to represent what he's arguing against with more accuracy. So rather than attempting a response, I will just point my readers to a fair summary of the Christian faith, written by someone without an agenda to make Christians look like moon-bats.

Let's move on to the quotes. This is the meat of the matter. Today we deal with just one - but a very revealing one, both in terms of the BCSE's competence and its agenda.

1. The Rule of God

Under this heading, Jordan quotes the following, naming the author as "Howard Ahmanson":

"My purpose is total integration of biblical law into our lives."

Now, I imagine that you're saying - "Howard Ahmanson - who on earth is he?". And that's precisely what I said earlier this year when his name first came up in the BCSE's discussions.

The reason why you're thinking that is because Howard Ahmanson is an American and has no profile in the UK. Has he ever done anything in the UK? I don't know - and neither do the BCSE. So what does he have to do with the activity of UK Christians?

The BCSE list the following as "Creationist organisations to which he belongs or is associated with: Discovery Institute, Chalcedon Foundation, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies".

The Discovery Institute and the Chalcedon Foundation, however, have no representatives or operations in the United Kingdom. They are purely American organisations. Moreover, the Discovery Institute is not a creationist organisation, but promotes intelligent design. This isn't a great start if you're meant to be documenting how creationists in the UK want to set up a theocracy.

What about the "Oxford Centre for Mission Studies" (OCMS)? Unfortunately, even the BCSE really have no idea either as to whether Ahmanson is really a "member" or "associated" with this body, or indeed whether or not it is even involved at all in creationist activity. All they know is that Howard Ahmanson has a lot of money, professes Christian faith, and has given money to an American body which itself once gave some money to the OCMS. The BCSE omit to mention it in their article, but seeing as in this rare case they list their source, I was able to read that source myself and discover that the amount of money given to the OCMS was only $7,000 (worth about £3,600 at present exchange rates). The BCSE's articles on both are masterpieces of in the art of constructing masterful conspiracy theories which simultaneously confess that there's no supporting evidence... Read and see: http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/HowardAhmanson and http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/OxfordConnections

In the minds of the BCSE, though, this lack of evidence merely goes to show what a secretive lot the creationists are, and what a twisted conspiracy it is that they have constructed. Are they silent about their connections to Howard Ahmanson? Do they say "Who?" when you mention his name? It's all just more evidence of how misinformed, wicked and/or deceitful they really are!

A Diversion - The Chalcedon Foundation

It is instructive at this point to compare the BCSE's page on the Chalcedon Foundation with the Chalcedon Foundation's own website. This is again off-topic as the CF is an American organisation (and I can't say I'm very familiar with its position), but it's a bit more data on the quality of the BCSE's research:

BCSE: "The purpose of the Chalcedon Foundation was to further the concept of reconstructionism. It particular, this involves the creation of a theocracy (called a theonomy by Rushdoony) ruled by the literal interpretation of the bible." (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony).

The Chalcedon Foundation's own website: "Misconception 2: Political Dominion Because we believe that the Bible should apply to all of life, including the state; and because we believe that the Christian state should enforce Biblical civil law; and finally, because we believe that the responsibility of Christians is to exercise dominion in the earth for God's glory, it is sometimes assumed that we believe that capturing state apparatus and enforcing Biblical law on a pervasively unbelieving populace is one of our hidden objectives. Our critics sometimes imply or state outright that we are engaged in a subtle, covert attempt to capture conservative, right-wing politics in order to gain political power, which we will then use to "spring" Biblical law on our nation. This is flatly false. We do not believe that politics or the state are a chief sphere of dominion." (http://www.chalcedon.edu/credo.php)

And again, from the Chalcedon Foundation's own website: "No government in any form can make men Christians or truly obedient; this is the work of God's sovereign grace. Much less should civil government try to impose Biblical law on an unbelieving society. Biblical law cannot be imposed; it must be embraced." (http://www.chalcedon.edu/vision.php)

The Chalcedon Foundation's own page of misconceptions of its teaching quite interesting - it's almost as if the BCSE "researcher" read it first and decided to use it as a guide to what they do teach... http://www.chalcedon.edu/credo.php ... this reminds me of the BCSE's alien debacle.

Back To The Story - Check Your Sources

But still, let's leave aside the fellow and the Chalcedon Foundation and look at the quote. First, where does it come from? According to the BCSE: "Quoted in Christian Reconstructionism, March/June 1994, Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence by Frederick Clarkson, Part 3".

If the BCSE had a competent understanding of the Christian world, then they would know that Reconstructionism and Dominionism are movements which exist only on the fringes of American evangelicalism, and are basically non-existent in the UK. The BCSE will likely not be able to name a single UK creationist listed on its website who promotes these movements (I can't).

I suspect, though, that the BCSE already know this - as they are not the kind of movement that they would have come across without considerable effort. That the BCSE has to stoop to trawling the publications of such fringe foreign movements (and then mispresenting them!) in order to misrepresent UK creationists tells us more about the BCSE's mode of operations than anything else. Not a great way to convince anyone who's not already convinced.

What Does The Quote Actually Say?

Now, without the context I can't know what Howard Ahmanson meant by this quote. But at the outset I'd like to say that my purpose is also the total integration of biblical law into our lives. That's because I'm a Christian, and especially as I'm a pastor.

But if you were to say, "So you want a political theocracy, then?" then I'd look at you as if you were a bit funny, and then I'd reply "of course not - why ever did you think that?".

From a Christian point of view, attempts to set up political theocracies are wrong for two important reasons. Firstly, God already rules. He is already completely sovereign over all the affairs of men - and his power does not depend on what the MPs in Westminster get up to. Politics is just not as important as people today think it is. Secondly, God's plan in the present age is to call people to himself through faith in Jesus Christ, through loving persuasion - and only to put down all opposition to himself once the present age has ended, in the new heavens and new earth. For a Christian to try to set up a theocracy would be to usurp the prerogative of God to and to deny God's ability to do these things himself - as if he needed us to do it for him! God's present will is quite different - people are to bow the knee to him because they want to, not because they are given no other option.

So what do I mean when I say that I'd like to see the "total integration of biblical law into our lives"? I mean that I'd like to see everyone honouring God from their hearts in everything that they do - willingly, gladly, joyfully, by their own free choice choosing what is right, because they are persuaded that there is nothing more delightful than to obey God.

Is there a biblical law telling us to revolt against our rulers and set up a theocracy instead? Absolutely not - in fact, quite the opposite. The Bible tells Christians that they must submit to their present earthly rulers and wherever possible obey the laws that they pass. They are not to despise rulers merely because they are not Christians, but must recognise that God himself has instituted human government. So, total obedience to Biblical law in this matter will mean: no theocracy!

What The Bible Says

Paul explains this in part of his letter to the church at Rome. At the time, their ruler was the anti-Christian tyrant Nero. If there was ever a regime that Christians might have felt justifying in trying to replace, it was his. But Paul forbade it:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no authority except from God: the authorities that exist are ordained by God. Whosoever therefore resists the authority, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you not then be afraid of the authority? Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same: For he is the servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain: for he is the servant of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil. (Continues - see the whole chapter Romans 13 for the full picture).

Seeing as biblical law requires us to recognise the present system of human government as God's will, no Christian ought to be found agitating for theocratic revolution.

What To Make Of The BCSE

My take on this is that the BCSE are displaying a common trait of those ignorant of Christianity - especially hard-line atheists. The ideas of the power of God's Spirit, or of the influence of Christian love, are alien to them. The only kind of "law" they can conceive of is secular law, and the only kind of way to influence society they can imagine is through politics. However, the Bible utterly denies this way of thinking on almost every page. It teaches Christians that if they want to influence the world for good, then they should do it by (through God's grace) being the best husbands and wives, the best fathers and mothers, the best neighbours, the best work colleagues. And over and above all of this, they should love God with all their hearts, and trustingly rely on him to work through them. i.e., we should love God and love fellow man with the totality of our lives - all that we are. This is the Biblical law. These are the weapons of Christian "warfare". They cannot be measured or counted like money or votes; but the Bible tells us that they will work far more effectively than either of those as we employ them in dependence upon God.

And as a Christian myself, I'd say that history proves the Bible right. The Roman Empire that Paul wrote under is long gone - along with a whole catalogue of anti-Christian rulers and regimes. But the true Christian church continues to survive and to advance around the world. In the 1960s "cultural revolution", atheist China banned Christianity - and today, China has the fastest growing church of the last decades, with an estimated 50 to 100 million genuine converts. Today, despite the efforts of governments and religions the world over, a majority of the human race (according to the Guinness Book of Records) would assent to the Christian proposition "Jesus is Lord". So either the Bible just made a lucky guess (if you're an atheist!), or it really is the word of God and completely reliable.

Concluding: What's Really Going On Here?

The quote on the BCSE web page is no evidence that UK creationists are fighting for a theocracy. It is made by an American who is not known to have ever done anything creationism-related in the UK. More tellingly, neither does it state that democracy ought to be replaced - and the foundation which the BCSE link the author with explicitly state that this is a misunderstanding of their teaching. Of course, without the context, I don't know precisely what Mr. Ahmanson meant by it - but my point is that it is a statement which any and every Christian ought to be completely happy with. The negation of it is that "there are areas of life in which God ought to be disobeyed" - a statement I'm sure that I can't conceive of any theist making!

Christianity is a system of "total truth" - it makes claims which relate to every part of life. It is my opinion that this is what the BCSE author is really opposed to. His problem is not that anybody is advocating a theocracy - his problem is that some people (whether creationists or not) are advocating Christianity. His problem isn't that anybody is going to make him pretend to be a Christian by law - his problem is that he just doesn't want to be troubled by the ideas of Christianity at all.

That is a theme which I believe we will see again and again as we go down the BCSE's "Theocracy" web page. The problem is not theocracy - it is Jesus Christ.

And that brings us once again to the point I've made continually. The BCSE is not an organisation whose engine is being driven by science - but by views on religion: anti-Christian, atheist religion.

David Anderson

Non-anonymous factual corrections welcomed by e-mail. Comments are moderated - please read my comments policy.

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