Born in 1952, Dale was born again and baptized into Christ in 1964. He married his lovely wife, Becky, in 1978, has 2 kids and 3 grandsons.
Who is this book for?
The book is good for those Christians who seek to strengthen their own faith or the faith of others, for those who seek to prepare their children to encounter the postmodern, naturalistic worldview to which they will be exposed long before they leave home, for evangelists who want to be able to help postmodernists see the inconsistencies in their worldviews, and for those who are torn between “secular” and “sacred” careers. And it is for those who want to understand how and why evangelical Christians have lost ground on the spiritual battlefield over the last few centuries (captured by our culture as the title describes it), and therefore what changes evangelicals need to make in the ways they think and act in order to see that trend reversed.
About the Author
Nancy Pearcey, a former agnostic, studied under Francis Shaeffer at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. She earned a master's degree in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and then pursued graduate studies in the history of philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. Since the 1970's she has been writing and speaking on topics covered in this book. See the last page of the book for more details of her impressive resume.
In the book's introduction, Pearcey quotes Charles Spurgeon, "The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage." Pearcey then states, "Today the cage is our accommodation to the secular/sacred split that reduces Christianity to a matter of private personal belief. To unlock the cage, we need to be utterly convinced that, as Francis Shaeffer said, Christianity is not merely religious truth, it is total truth - truth about the whole of reality."
Later in the introduction, Pearcey says, "We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole culture today."
The rest of the book develops this theme and supports it not only with facts and logic, but also with compelling personal examples where a secular worldview influenced believers to compromise their Christian principles.
Pearcey shows how during the last few centuries the church in America has gradually allowed itself to be fooled into thinking about “secular” things the way the world wants it to, instead of bearing witness to our Creator by acknowledging God's role and relevance in everything He created.
Structure of the Book
The section and chapter titles are interesting, drawing the reader's interest forward, but they do not clearly reveal the structure of the book if you are just scanning its table of contents to decide whether to read the book. The following structural description relies heavily on quotes from the author's introduction. Rewording would only make it less clear.
In the Introduction, the author says that the “book approaches the topic of worldview by weaving together insights from three strands. Part 1 sheds light on the secular/sacred dichotomy that restricts Christianity to the realm of religious truth, creating double minds and fragmented lives.” She says this “section also provides practical, hands-on worldview training. It will walk you through concrete steps for crafting a biblically based worldview in any field using the structural elements of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.”
The second strand is presented in Part 2, which Pearcey says “zeroes in on Creation, the foundational starting point for any worldview. In the West, the reigning creation myth is Darwinian evolution; thus no matter what our field of work is, we must begin by critiquing Darwinism – both its scientific claims and its worldview implications. In this section, you will discover how the latest findings of science discredit naturalistic theories of evolution, while supporting the concept of Intelligent Design. You may be surprised to learn how aggressively Darwinism had been extended far beyond the bounds of science, even reconfiguring America's social and legal institutions-- with devastating effects.”
The third strand comes in Part 3, which “peers into the looking glass of history to ask why evangelicals do not have a strong worldview tradition. Why is the secular/sacred dichotomy so pervasive? Here we step back from the present to take a tour of the history and heritage of evangelicalism in America. By rummaging about in the attic of our past, we can diagnose the way inherited patterns of thought continue to shape our own thinking today. We can learn how to identify self-defeating barriers to worldview thinking and how to overcome them.”
“Part 4 reminds us that the heart of worldview thinking lies in its practical and personal application. The renewal of our minds comes about only through the submission of our whole selves to the Lordship of Christ. We must be willing to sit at the feet of Jesus and be taught by Him, as Mary of Bethany did, realizing that only 'one thing is necessary' (Luke 10:42). Given our fallen human nature, we typically do not really sit before the Lord until our legs are knocked out from under us by crises—sorrow, loss, or injustice. It is only when stripped of our personal dreams and ambitions that we truly die to our own agendas. Union with Christ in His death and resurrection is the only path to sanctification of both heart and mind—to being conformed to the likeness of Christ.”
There are four appendices, a 54 page section of notes for all chapters, and a 25 page section of recommended reading. There is also a 30 page study guide if you buy the study guide edition.
Darwin Meets the Berenstain Bears
Let's take a look at Chapter 5, "Darwin Meets the Berenstain Bears". The chapter's name is derived from its second subsection, named "Kindergarten Naturalism", in which Pearcey describes a science book she once picked up for her young son.
The book featured the Berenstain Bears, and in it she found a two page spread stating that "Nature...is all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL BE!" The capitals were in the original. At the bottom of the page was drawn a bear pointing out of the page at the reader and saying, "Nature is you! Nature is me!"
Pearcey points out that the naturalistic message is clear, and then states, "The point is that if philosophical naturalism is appearing in books even for young children, then you know it has permeated the entire culture. Under the guise of teaching science, a philosophical battle is being waged. And if Christians do not frame the philosophical issues, someone else will do it - and they will not balk at preaching even to small children."
Chapter 5 continues with sections pointing out flaws in Darwinism and philosophical naturalism. Some of the section headings are: "Spinmeisters in Science", "Darwin's Beaks", "Dysfunctional Fruit Flies", "Doctored Moths", "Most Famous Fake", "Baloney Detectors", and "Punk Scientists". The last section heading refers to a new view of evolution called punctuated equilibrium, or "punk eek". This view was developed as an alternative to the "smooth, continuous chain of life forms", which evolutionists are conceding cannot be supported by the fossil record.
Chapter 6, "The Science of Common Sense", describes how Intelligent Design provides a faithful philosophical basis on which to do science. Some section headings are "Little Green Men", "Blind Watchmakers?", "Marks of Design", "Roller Coaster in the Cell", and "Who Wrote the Genetic Code?".
Common Sense Realism and Presuppostional Apologetics
In chapter 11, "Evangelicals' Two-Story Truth", Pearcey describes the importance of the philosophy of Common Sense realism on American history and on the history of American evangelicalism. On page 313, she states that since "the late nineteenth century, there have been two major strands within Reformed thought. Common Sense realism was the Scottish Reformed tradition. It fostered an evidentialist form of apologetics, emphasizing truths knowable by believer and unbeliever alike, which function as testing grounds to evaluate competing worldviews. A later strand is the Dutch Reformed tradition... It fostered a presuppositionalist form of apologetics, emphasizing the formative impact of worldviews themselves and the need to evaluate them as unified wholes-- starting with first principles and tracing out their logical conclusions."
One hybrid approach "was proposed by Francis Schaeffer, who showed how evidentialist and presuppositionalist elements can actually work in tandem in practical evangelism." The author states that his "method proved remarkably effective for an entire generation of young people. I personally found it persuasive many years ago after arriving on the doorstep at L'Abri as a nonbeliever."
"On the one hand Schaeffer agreed with the basic tenet of Common Sense realism that everyone has immediate, pre-theoretical knowledge derived from direct experience. We are all made in the image of God, live in God's universe, and are upheld by God's common grace -- and thus we share certain universal experiences, insights, and ways of thinking. Most basic would be the truths of common sense--our fundamental sense of personal identity, right and wrong, the rules of logic, and so on.
"Yet these truths do not interpret themselves. They are merely data that need to be explained and accounted for by an overall metaphysical system. And so, on the other hand, Schaeffer agreed with neo-Calvinism that even our basic beliefs must be interpreted within a Christian framework. When speaking with nonbelievers, our goal is to show them that Christianity is the only theoretical system that accounts for the truths we know by pre-theoretical experience. All truth is God's truth, wherever we may find it, as the church fathers said so long ago; but those truths make sense only within a Christian worldview.
"This approach is based on Romans 1:19-20. The passage starts by asserting that everyone has genuine knowledge of God through the world He has made... Nonbelievers try to 'suppress' their knowledge of God, Romans goes on to say, by inventing all sorts of alternative explanations for the world. Yet none of these explanations is adequate--and as a result, at some point the nonbeliever's account of the world will be contradicted by his lived experience. That ought to tell him something....The task of evangelism starts with helping the nonbeliever face squarely the inconsistencies between his professed beliefs and his actual experience.
"Or, to turn the argument around, we want to help people see that if their worldview contradicts commonsense experience, then it cannot be true."
Examples of Commonsense Contradictions
Pearcey continues with sections describing specific commonsense contradictions of naturalism. Section headings include "Colors and Shapes", "Just a Habit?", "Are You a Nobody?", "Mere Chemistry?", "Disinformation Minister", and Philosophical 'Cheating'". A common theme here is the way that philosophical naturalism disintegrates the self into natural components that fail to explain the self as experienced. Our thoughts are reduced to patterns and sequences of neurons firing, our feelings are reduced to chemicals produced by stimulus and response mechanisms, and our values are reduced to behavior patterns that provided survival advantages to our tribes down through evolutionary ages. Our free will, personhood, and personal identity as a unified self are questioned. It would appear that we are merely figments of our own imaginations. Even our imaginations are figments of our imaginations!
Pearcey states on page 317, "But the purpose of a worldview is to explain the data of experience --not to deny it. Any philosophical system that fails to offer a plausible account of our sense of personal selfhood should be rejected as inadequate."
Another theme is our ability through our senses to know and make sense of the world we live in. For example, on page 316, Pearcey points out that in a famous essay titled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, Eugene Wigner "says the fact that math works so well in describing the world 'is something bordering on the mysterious.' Indeed, 'there is no rational explanation for it.'
"No explanation within scientific materialism, that is. But within the Christian worldview there is a perfectly rational explanation--namely, that a reasonable God created the world to operate as an orderly progression of events. This was the conviction that inspired the early modern scientists, says historian Morris Kline: 'The early mathematicians were sure of the existence of mathematical laws underlying natural phenomena and persistent in the search for them because they were convinced a priori that God had incorporated them in the construction of the universe.'
"In order to function in the world, the nonbeliever has no choice but to reason inductively, but his worldview gives no basis for believing in cause-and-effect regularities. To live in the real world, he has to be inconsistent with his own worldview."
Why This Book is So Important
In addition to this book's obvious value to the apologist, evangelist, church historian, philosopher, pastor, and parent, Pearcey guides us through a root cause failure analysis of how the evangelical church got itself backed into a philosophical corner over the last few hundred years, roughly from the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. No less importantly, it should also inspire and act as a prototype for failure analysis of how the church got itself so messed up during the preceding centuries that it needed a reformation and an enlightenment.
Definition of the Term "Messed Up" as an Applied Theology Concept Provided by Jonathan Edwards
When I use the term "messed up" in this article, the following quote defines it. It is from Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758) from his book, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:
"After religion has revived in the church of God, and enemies appear, people that are engaged to defend its cause, are commonly most exposed, where they are least sensible of danger. While they are wholly intent upon the opposition that appears openly before them, to make head against that, and do neglect carefully to look all around them, the devil comes behind them, and gives a fatal stab unseen; and has opportunity to give a more home stroke, and wound the deeper, because he strikes at his leisure, and according to his pleasure, being obstructed by no guard or resistance.
"And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful. By this means, the devil gratifies himself, by bringing it to pass, that that should be offered to God, by multitudes, under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above all things abominable to him."
Need to Extend Spiritual Warfare Failure Analysis Back to the Time of the Original Church
Think of Mel Gibson's character in the film, We Were Soldiers. While preparing to lead American soldiers into battle in Vietnam, he studied the battles lost by the French years before fighting the same enemy. Students of spiritual warfare can learn from the mistakes of the past in the same way as students of physical warfare. Looking at the world during the time between the first and second advents of Christ as a spiritual battlefield, the church can learn valuable lessons by taking this kind of analysis all the way back to the first century. To understand why, we first need to focus on the spiritual battlefield, which Pearcey describes so well on page 90,
"Picture the world as God's territory by right of Creation. Because of the Fall, it has been invaded and occupied by Satan and his minions, who constantly wage war against God's people. At the central turning point in history, God Himself, the second person of the Trinity, enters the world in the person of Jesus Christ and deals Satan a deathblow through His resurrection. The Enemy has been fatally wounded; the outcome is certain; yet the occupied territory has not actually been liberated. There is now a period where God's people are called to participate in the follow-up battle, pushing the Enemy back and reclaiming territory for God. This is the period in which we now live--between Christ's resurrection and the final victory over sin and Satan. Our calling is to apply the finished work of Christ on the cross to our lives and the world around us, without expecting perfect results until Christ returns.
"This is not an excuse for complacency. We should still strive to develop a character of such quality that people can see a difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed. Our lives should exhibit a supernatural dimension that nonbelievers cannot explain away in terms of merely natural talent or energy."
This spiritual battlefield was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the physical battlefields of the Promised Land that Israel fought to claim from the unbelieving Canaanites. Now we fight with spiritual armor, as described in Ephesians chapter six, and according to our Lord's command, commonly known as the Great Commission, the whole world is our promised land. The sword mentioned in Ephesians is a symbol for the word of God, and not a physical sword. Today, this is widely understood, and we are horrified when people use physical violence in an attempt to spread their religious beliefs, whatever they may be. But back in the time leading up to the Enlightenment, bloodshed and gore were the rule rather than the exception during religious conflicts.
To see the need to extend our analysis back to the first century, we next need to contrast behaviors of Christians in the first century with those in the middle ages. In the first century, followers of Christ were being persecuted and often tortured and killed for their faith. During the middle ages, nominal Christians were persecuting and often torturing and killing others for their beliefs. What happened during the centuries in between? What went so horribly wrong? How did the nominal church get so messed up that even the reformers were persecuting and killing other believers (such as those in the radical reformation)? How did the church become such a monstrosity, such a corrupt and unholy union with the state, that it spawned smaller, partially reformed monstrosities, and then tried to kill them (and vice versa) through decades of religious war? How did the visible church change from the bride of Christ to an instantiation of the beast of Revelation?
Good question. If we don't learn the answer, it could happen again. But this question is mostly outside the scope of this book review. Following this review’s Conclusion, I attached an addendum with more thoughts for those who are interested. But here I will address one issue in the book that ties into this question. On page 300 there is a section titled "Campbell's Rationalist Soup". Pearcey makes some good points, such as the hazards of the Baconian approach to understanding the Bible as a collection of theological "facts" and the dangers of maintaining intentional ignorance of the great thinkers of the past.
But it was implicit in Campbell's approach that because of the perversion of the church's practices from the apostolic church described in Acts to the wholesale abominations perpetrated during the following centuries, therefore the thinking of those refining the definition of orthodoxy became increasingly perverted as well. In other words, how much can you trust creeds and confessions developed by people who burn at the stake other people who disagree with them?
It's not that patristic and medieval writers should be ignored, but rather that they cannot be trusted. They and other religious leaders messed things up so much and over such a long period of time that it was not obvious to anyone just how messed up they really were. Jesus had a similar problem with the pharisees, scribes, priests, and the sanhedrin. They were the theologians and religious leaders who, over a period of centuries, added man-made layers to the law and the prophets and led the people of Israel away from God's true teaching. I think Campbell realized that the same thing had happened to the church, and instead of trying to untie the Gordian knot of twisted theological thinking, he thought it better to just push the reset button (please pardon the mixed and anachronistic metaphor) and start over with what the Bible says, just the theological facts, instead of what a sequence of increasingly messed up people in the past said those facts should imply. Great thinkers or not.
But even if one agrees with the above (and I expect most will not), there is still value in trying to understand how that Gordian knot came to be tied in church history, just like there can be value in trying to understand how those French forces got annihilated in Vietnam. If you are fighting the same enemy, then you might want to learn from other peoples' mistakes so as not to repeat them.
Total Truth is an excellent book. It gives insights into how evangelical Christians have allowed unbelievers to put a secular spin on science and other areas of thought. It also gives suggestions on how to put faith back into our thinking in all areas. The author reminds us of the cultural mandate given in Genesis to subdue the earth, and points out that in order to obey that mandate Christians have to engage the world’s culture rather than separating from it or accommodating it. She provides insights on how to engage the culture with writing that is detailed and specific, but that is interesting enough to avoid losing the reader‘s attention.
Available at Amazon
Addendum: How Did the Church Get So Messed Up by the Time of the Middle Ages?
The Spanish Inquisition was messed up. Burning Michael Servetus at the stake for heresy by the Calvinists in Geneva, Switzerland in 1553 was messed up. Violence against the Puritans, and later by Puritans against Quakers was messed up. Violence against the Mormons in early America was messed up. We could go on and on with examples, at least until the last two hundred years or so. It is appropriate to call this great perversion in practice from the apostolic, primitive church, along with other deviations, the Great Apostasy.
We should not be afraid to ask how this perversion happened. Unbelievers have been scoffingly pointing at such examples for a long time. But they are like unsighted persons living in total darkness who criticize sighted persons for living in rooms with too many shadows. If only they could see the miracle that is the Light and understand how amazing it is that it is here at all! Only by seeing and having faith in the Light are we able to open the curtains to let in more.
The thoughts presented below are intended as the beginning of a study to illuminate the succession of church errors that eventually led to disasters on the spiritual battlefield and the Great Apostasy. In chess, if one fails to strategically position his pieces, he will be at a disadvantage. If a tennis player allows himself to be pulled out of position to cover the whole court, he will be at a disadvantage. Similarly, the church started making mistakes early that then snowballed over the centuries.
In their day, the Reformers recognized the Great Apostasy, at least some aspects of it. They found many problem’s needing reform, and even found some of the problems’ causes. But they also missed some because, to some extent, they were captives of their own medieval culture. They acknowledged that the church should always be reforming, but were unable to reform all the way back to the New Testament baseline for the church. They did not have examples of modern military and engineering analytical methods to borrow from during their analysis.
Just because we are focusing on what went wrong, we should not doubt that a faithful remnant, a subset of the nominal church, continued doing good throughout history. Imperfect though it was, the nominal church kept the European continent from falling back into total barbarism when the western Roman Empire fell. And it has, over centuries, led civilization to a new level where it has outlawed bloodsport and slavery, and aspires to eliminate war.
Here are some of the errors I believe the church made that contributed to it becoming so messed up:
Error #1: Overemphasis of correct doctrine (orthodoxy) with underemphasis of correct practice (orthopraxy)
Combating heresies such as gnosticism and Arianism was important, but somewhere along the timeline, believers' attitudes and behaviors changed, probably little by little. They focused on analysis of theological concepts and refining orthodox definitions, such as whether the correct understanding of the hypostatic union is monophysitism, diaphysitism, or miaphysitism. Thus, they tried to dissect Jesus under a philosophical microscope, but that lens has limitations. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.“ (1 Corinthians 13:12). Jesus is God, not just a natural object in the universe He created. He is the eternal Subject, the I AM THAT I AM. (Matthew 3:16-17, John 10:30-33, John 8:58-59, Matthew 26:63-66, and applying the Granville Sharp Rule to Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1). But their preoccupation with such analyses drew believers' attention while the enemy attacked from a different direction, causing additions and changes to the church culture, which influenced how people behaved, both inside and outside of formal meetings of the church.
Over time, culture morphed into tradition, but not before an unknown number of changes. The keepers and guardians of tradition came to consider it as important to the western church as the New Testament canon, but thankfully not before the books in the canon had been penned during the first century.
Error #2: Development of an hierarchical church control structure coupled with the error of continuationism in the papacy
The stage was set for future errors to be propagated quickly throughout the church, especially in the western Roman empire.
Error #3: Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman empire.
In 313 A.D., Christianity became a legal religion alongside others in the Roman Empire. In 380, Christianity became the official religion. In 392 pagan worship was outlawed. The nominal church was undoubtedly flooded with hypocrites, phonies, and imitators. Think of the wholesale quantities of Edwards' "manifold fair shows" and "glistering appearances." This was perhaps the greatest tragedy of the church age, a spiritual Trojan Horse.
Error #4: Over 500 years after the church began, the worldly western church implemented a form of tithing that was loosely modeled after the tithing under the Law of Moses.
Read more about this in the online article in the Catholic encyclopedia, 1913 edition. Excerpts will be quoted further down. The worldly church leadership now had more revenue to implement worldly programs instead of pursuing more modest but spirit-guided actions. Tithing was the one part of the Old Testament Law that the pharisees excelled at. The church was pulled further into Old Testament legalism and phariseeism. The flock was abused and fleeced instead of being encouraged to seek the Holy Spirit's guidance in living and giving each day for the Lord.
Error #5: Church and state formed an unholy alliance.
A racket was developed where the clergy supported the divine right of kings and the kings supported the clergy by collecting tithes for the church. Great cathedrals were built supposedly to glorify God. But how much different would things be today if just part of those resources would have been directed at missions to the Middle East and Africa?
Error #6: A Corrupted Church Invented Holy War.
This was done at the Council of Clermont in 1095. A knight could now supposedly benefit spiritually from using his combat skills. Because the church and state were closely intertwined, civil conflicts with neighboring Islamic powers were also considered to be religious wars, as were the Crusades. Centuries later, when Protestant churches seceded from the Catholic Church and formed their own hierarchies, there were major political and economic repercussions that led to wars such as the Thirty Years War and the Hundred Years War.
Error #7: A Corrupted Church Turned Violently on Itself Instead of Fighting the Spiritual Enemy.
As the church became more corrupt, men of good conscious sought reform but were forced out. Wars between "Christian" nations and principalities were fought for decades because the local church was bound to the territorial king or prince by the racket of the church hierarchy to which he owed allegiance. The reformers had been indoctrinated to think of the racketeering church as it was handed to them, and could not break out of that model. The selling of indulgences that Luther was so concerned about was just the top of the iceberg visible above the waterline of conscious perception. The reformers claimed to be guided by the scriptures only (sola scriptura). But so much was culturally indoctrinated into their thinking that they could not comprehend how Satan had put a hook in their nose with the church-state tithing racket, and was dragging them into violent abominations.
The list above is far from complete. A few more errors are presented below with no or minimal explanation:
• The practice of allegorical interpretation of the scriptures
• The practice of compulsory church attendance, compulsory participation in the sacraments, and compulsory adherence to ecclesiastical orthodoxy
• The influence of neoplatonism
• The translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible in such a manner as to reinforce Catholic doctrine, and also relying on anti-Christian Jewish interpretation of the Hebrew OT rather than relying on the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT that God had provided in anticipation of the time when God stopped speaking Hebrew and Aramaic to His people and started speaking Greek
• Augustine was a very intelligent and creative man, but how much did this one man mess up the church? If he, himself, had the luxury of hindsight from our perspective in time, what would he have done or said differently? Better yet, what feedback for improvement would Jesus suggest for him? Let us ask God to provide this wisdom.
• Infant ”baptism” (pedobaptism) became the norm instead of the scriptural norm of believer’s submersion in water (credobaptism).
• Modeling the clergy on the Old Covenant priesthood instead of emphasizing evangelism
• Multiple other errors yet to be identified during the second and third centuries (A.D. 100’s and 200’s)
Excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia, with Spin-Correcting Comments
Where did the confusion about tithing to the church begin? Where else but the medieval Roman Catholic Church? Maybe it seemed like a good idea at first. But centuries later the Reformers easily noticed and sought reform for more obvious problems like the selling of indulgences, but were unable to untangle themselves from the twisted custom of compulsory tithing that had become culturally normalized over the centuries as part of the "church" tradition.
To see how this confusion arose, read the following excerpts from the article on "Tithes" in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I am grateful to the Catholic Church for providing the article, which can be found online at ecatholic2000.com. The decisions and rationale provided there are from people who lived centuries ago. Critical comments are directed at them. Quotes from the encyclopedia article are in italics for clarity. My spin-correcting comments are in plain text.
"In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Cor., ix, 13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers."
This is an example of typological confusion, which is explained more fully below under its own heading. Note that the referenced verse gives the typical basis, but Paul explicitly states the antitypical conclusion in the next verse, 14 “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.“ Paul was talking about evangelists and missionaries. The church hierarchy spoke of a class of “sacred ministers” of the altar, the temple priests, as described in the type description in verse 13, but failed to follow Paul’s advancement to the antitype, proclaimers of the gospel, in verse 14. The hierarchical church modeled its clergy on the old covenant priesthood instead of focusing on evangelism.
"In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful."
Consistent with New Testament teaching. What appeared to be spontaneous from the perspective of those receiving the offering could still have been planned and proportionate to the income of the individual givers.
"In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy."
As the Church expanded, there would have been more people to support additional evangelists, so that should not have required making laws to raise money. So it must have been the various institutions that "arose." But where in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) does Jesus say to build various institutions? He said to go make disciples, baptize, and teach them, not to build institutions. The institutions did not just arise. Prompted by the enemy, the institutions were deliberately planned, organized, and built for the express satanic purpose of allowing the racketeers to justify extracting more money from the flock to pay for their creation and administration. As Edwards would say, “a more home stroke" delivered where our defenses were down.
"The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience."
The Catholic Church believed it had the authority to implement tithing in the church, modeling it on the tithing in the Mosaic Law, but adding occupational monetary income. They didn't try to hide it, but expected everyone to believe that the church hierarchy was permitted to make up divine ordinances and that we should feel obligated by our consciences to obey them. And just who were those early writers? Undoubtedly persons writing on behalf of the church hierarchy.
"The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the cannons of the Council of Macon in 585."
They prototyped the new racketeering policy in France.
"In course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of Christendom."
I somehow missed the scripture authorizing ecclesiastical enactments. The new racketeering prototype was a success and was spread throughout the region that had been the Western Roman Empire. Not so much in the East, but the western church did not hesitate to overstate its case.
"The Church looked on this payment as 'of divine law, since tithes were instituted not by man but by the Lord Himself’ (C. 14, X de decim. III,30)".
That is not a bible chapter and verse reference, so it must be from man. If it were a divine law straight from the Lord, then why did the Church wait over 500 years before starting to obey it? There is no scripture directing disciples of Christ to tithe to the church.
"As regards the civil power, the Christian Roman emperors granted the right to churches of retaining a portion of the produce of certain lands, but the earliest instance of the enforcement of the payment of ecclesiastical tithes by civil law is to be found in the capitularies of Charlemagne, at the end of the eighth century."
The racketeering church becomes the new normal in the West.
There is more, but I include one final quote from several lines later in the article:
"Abuses soon crept in."
Forced tithing to the church at the point of a government sword is abusive. We should give because of our love for God and His other children, not because we are supposed to give according to a formula absent from and contrary to the apostles’ doctrine stated in the New Testament scriptures.
Forcing people to give under false pretenses is a racket. An organization that engages in racketeering is organized crime. To the extent that the institutional church engages in racketeering, it has already taken on the image of the beast.
A Case Against Tithe Mongering In the Church
Even today, many evangelicals mistakenly assume that there is scriptural justification for tithing in the church. They are not aware that it began not by scriptural authority, but as a matter of church governance dictated by the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
This is also an example of typological confusion, insofar as they do not comprehend that Spirit-led giving in accordance with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles is a spiritual antitype of Old Testament tithing. Spirit-led giving is an integral component of Spirit-led living, which is the spiritual antitype of living under the Old Covenant. Spirit-led living is also to be in accordance with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as disclosed in the New Testament. The Word and the Spirit are two Witnesses who will always agree.
Other than when He was condemning pharisees for behaving badly, Jesus did not mention tithing in the New Testament. He certainly never instructed anyone in the church to tithe to the church or to anyone in the church. Neither did Paul, Luke, Peter, John, James, or Jude. The writer of Hebrews mentioned Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek to support the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over that of Aaron, but did not instruct his audience to tithe to the church. Since Jesus commanded his disciples to teach their disciples to do whatever He commanded them, we can infer that He did not command them to tithe to the church.
Tithe mongers claim that since tithing in some form preceded the Law of Moses, that we under the New Covenant are still supposed to practice some form of it. By means of this human reasoning, a practice not prescribed for the church in the New Testament is smuggled into the church as normative. What other practices were smuggled in the same way?
In order to prove that a tithing requirement for Christians to the church is contrary to New Testament scripture, consider two cases, one for gentile Christians and another for Jewish Christians.
In the first case, if gentile Christians had been required to tithe, it would have been the fifth item mentioned in the list of things required of them by the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Note that circumcision, the issue that prompted the Jerusalem Council to meet, also preceded the Law of Moses and began with Abraham, who was also the first person recorded as paying any kind of tithe in the Bible. According to the Council (Acts 15:28,29), neither tithing nor circumcision were required of gentile converts.
In the second case, Jewish Christians after Pentecost would never have tithed to the church (on pain of stoning), but would have continued tithing to the Levites as prescribed in the Law of Moses until God destroyed the temple economy in 70 A.D., when the curses promised for failing to keep the Law were administered in divine judgement by means of the Roman legions. After that event, no Jews were able to tithe according to the Law. Not even a pharisee, if any survived, could tithe any more.
In the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke where Jesus told the pharisees that they ought to have tithed, and not to have left the weightier matters of the Law undone, it was clearly tithing under the Law of Moses that He was talking about. There were two annual tithes and a triennial tithe of the crops of the field and the increase of the flocks and herds. These totaled, as a yearly average, either 21.7 percent or 23 and a third percent of one's annual tithable income, depending on how successive tithes were calculated. Neither income from a trade nor from fishing were tithable income, so neither Jesus nor His fishermen disciples would likely ever have tithed a day in their lives.
But when current day tithe mongers use those pharisee passages (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) as proof texts for tithing, they really don't mean the same thing by the term, tithe. They mean a kind of generalized Platonic ideal of tithing, one that involves putting a check or cash in the offering plate, not a sheep, basket of grain, or a pharisee's mint leaf as under the Law of Moses. This is a fallacy of equivocation: same word, but two different meanings. I would also be ashamed to use a passage where Jesus was judging the pharisees as a proof text to show that we should behave like them.
I am not just getting up on my soap box about the false teaching of tithing in the church. This example demonstrates how our adversary uses smoke and mirrors to trick us into seeing things that aren't there, and not seeing things that really are there. I empathize with tithe mongers, understanding that they have been misled through all this confusion.
Having attended church services for over 50 years, I have heard too many stewardship sermons where the preacher went back to the Old Testament and beat Malachi's dead horse, and not enough where he stayed in the New Testament and preached what Jesus taught about giving and generosity. By the expression “beat Malachi’s dead horse”, I mean the predilection for some preachers to preach all their stewardship sermons on Malachi 3:8-10 (thus beating a dead horse) but applying the passage directly to believers‘ monetary giving instead of advancing to the antitypical spiritual sacrifices expected of the priesthood of all believers, as described in 1 Peter 2:5 and elsewhere. This is another case of typological confusion. The final cause of the Old Covenant tithing system was providing sacrifices for the temple altar, hence the temple storehouse. Today, it is when we fail to offer our spiritual sacrifices of praise, thanks, loving and faithful service, and giving that we rob God. But we are not under the same curse because we are not under the same Law, but rather we are under grace.
And beware the argument that if people gave 10 percent in the Old Testament, how much more should we be giving today? Some actually gave over 20 percent, but others were required to give nothing. This is still making it about a non-existent formula or law instead of about following the Spirit of Christ.
On a personal level, most Christians I have associated with speak of tithing all the time, but use it synonymously with giving in the context of the church. They are not tithe mongering. Some have understood it more strictly, but also know and accept that there are believers who consider tithing to be legalistic. They are not necessarily tithe mongering. They are faithfully practicing what they have been taught, and God has blessed their faithfulness. The blessings Jesus associated with giving don’t stop because someone‘s understanding is blurred by typological confusion, and God’s grace is frequently applied to our imperfect understanding and obedience. So I generalIy find it undesirable to raise the issue on a personal level, lest I cause unnecessary discord and division.
But here in this analysis of the spiritual battlefield, it is an integral part of church history that has caused great harm to the church. It must be mentioned.
Two Underlying Behaviors leading to the Great Apostasy
There were two behaviors that gave major trouble to Jesus and Paul. It should be no surprise that the same two behaviors have given major trouble to the church throughout its history.
The first behavior, one that gave so much trouble to Jesus, is phariseeism. By this term, following the destruction of the Jewish Pharisees in the first century, I mean a tendency of people for overlaying inferred and speculative doctrines of man on top of the scriptures, and then caring more for the thinking and inferences of man than on the plain (not necessarily literal) meaning of scripture. This behavior also typically includes a zeal for enforcement.
Examples of systems where phariseeism can be seen include Covenant Theology with its extra-biblical, man-inferred "divine" covenants, Dispensationalism with its unwarranted and speculative multi-millennial gap between Daniel's sixty-ninth and seventieth week of years, and Calvinism with its redemptive fatalism and smug confidence that its interpretational lens is clear enough to see and comprehend (1 Corinthians 13:12 notwithstanding) all the fine points regarding the interaction, in the spiritual realm, of God's sovereignity and man's ability or inability to exercise free choice. And the introduction of ecclesiastical tithing by the medieval Roman Catholic Church has already been mentioned.
Lest I offend and alienate everyone in my audience except New Covenant Theologians, I am not saying that anyone who subscribes to one of these systems is a pharisee! I grew up as a dispensationalist before I knew what one was. I am saying we have all been indoctrinated in systems of thought that have conclusions of men added to the theological facts of scripture. And for some time it has been commonly acknowledged that our understanding is subject to being clouded by our biases. Fortunately, perfect theological understanding is not required to have saving faith in Christ, and I think He has true believers involved in all these systems and others. But truth seekers ask questions and compare alternative viewpoints to improve their understanding.
So I eventually switched over to amillennialism. That was hard because there were a number of scriptures that I had understood the way dispensationalists do, but learned to understand them more typologically, and, in Revelation, symbolically. There seemed to me to be fewer and less significant difficulties with this approach, but I am not committed to the inerrancy of amillenialism (historic premillennialism is my second choice). Rather, I am committed to the inerrancy of the scriptures of the canon as originally penned. I avoid being overly committed to a theory of man in order to stay better focused on the way of the Lord.
Some of my favorite theologians (not Calvin) are Calvinists, such as Charles Hodge and Francis Schaeffer. Others, such as Alexander Campbell and George Eldon Ladd, are not. I don’t quite agree with all they teach, but my understanding is improved by hearing their views. I suspect that one of hell’s punishments will be having to listen to an eternal argument between unsaved Calvinist and Arminian theologians, hopefully a small fraction of each group, about whether they lost their salvation or never were really saved to start with. The only thing that really matters at that point is that they are all condemned goats, and the question they continue debating is then academic.
I believe 1 Corinthians 13:12 is a limiting principle in our ability to perceive in the spiritual realm, similar to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in the physical realm (compare Hebrews 11:3 to the inability of physicists to identify matter and energy to be either waves or particles) and Godel’s incompleteness theorem in the logical/mathematical realm.
We do well to try to understand as much as we can, but we also need to recognize when we have bumped against our human epistemological limits and accept the full counsel of God in the Bible. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Those Calvinists and Arminians who reach heaven will understand fully, even as now they are fully understood. Perhaps they are the ones who spend less time butting heads like goats and more time following the Shepherd like sheep (less concern for orthodoxy, more for orthopraxy). Based on biblical statistics, we might infer (if we are not over-analyzing the metaphor) that the sheep are right where the Shepherd wants them about 99 percent of the time (Matthew 18:12-14). A big part of that is helping people who need help just because we care. Goats don’t care (Matthew 25:31-46).
An inherent risk of studying theology is learning to think and behave like a Pharisee. Part of that risk is starting to believe that one understands as much about God and the things of God as does God Himself, which is blasphemous. In this life, we can only fully understand a god that we have created in our own image and in our own minds, which is idolatry. Beware your inner Pharisee!
The second behavior, one that gave so much trouble to Paul, is Judaizing. After the first century, Judaizing had little to do with people who were ethnically Jewish, but involved Christians pulling themselves back into the Old Testament, especially into the Mosaic Law. This behavior also typically includes a zeal for enforcement.
Older examples include the introduction of tithing by church edict in the sixth and seventh centuries and the separation between clergy and laity patterned after the Old Testament priesthood. Ecclesiastical tithing is also a prime example of phariseeism, so that both troubling behaviors are associated with this topic.
Tithing is also a current point of confusion in the church and continues to be an example of both phariseeism and Judaizing. It is a strategic vulnerability for the church, and apparently Satan really wants to sell the church on tithing. He enlists all the human help he can get to help him with his tithe mongering.
Other, more recent, examples of Judaizing include the Hebrew Roots movement and those postmillennialists known as Christian Reconstructionists. Some churches now require new members to first sign a legal document called a covenant membership agreement, in which the new member voluntarily places himself under contractual legal authority of the church elders. Other than for their marriages, believers only need one covenant, and it is with Christ, not the local church. But this is another case of Judaizing.
Judaizers are saying that Jesus' way is not good enough; we have to go backwards to Old Testament legalism. In Galatians 5:4, Paul said, " whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." But people keep going back to the law.
Part of the problem is that people start to look at the New Testament through the lens of the Old, instead of the Old through the lens of Christ, who is revealed to us in the New Testament. The Kingdom of Heaven, of which Jesus Christ is King, is not of this world (John 18:36). Many people over the course of history have not accepted that, and have insisted on making it worldly, as in the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel. The heavenly kingdom exists in a spiritual dimension that spiritually dead people cannot perceive, and that spiritually living people are easily distracted from by things physically observable.
Some Judaizing is due to typological confusion arrising because some Old Testament scriptures have two layers of meaning, a direct physical, earthly meaning (typical) and an indirect spiritual, heavenly meaning (antitypical). Take for example Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus alluded to this passage to help explain to Nicodemos the concept of being born again spiritually in addition to being born physically. Nicodemos had trouble advancing from the fleshly type to the spiritual antitype.
So Jesus explained it. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14,15) This reference was not serendipitous. It fits too perfectly to be chance. God orchestrated this Old Testament incident to teach the Israelites to trust God, while also providing Jesus with an illustration showing Nicodemus and us how that if we look at Jesus on the cross and trust Him, He will make us whole spiritually and welcome us to His heavenly kingdom.
In Acts chapter 2 at Pentacost, when the church was born, it was not just individuals, but a faithful remnant of the physical Kingdom of Israel that was born again, born from above as Spiritual Israel, antitype of the earthly kingdom. Paul confirms this in Romans 2:28 by stating that one is no longer a Jew because of physical circumcision (type) but because of Spiritual circumcision of the heart (antitype). In Romans 9:6, Paul contrasts physical Israel with spiritual Israel, insofar as each contains a proper subset of the other.
So an error to avoid when applying an Old Testament passage to our walk with the Spirit is getting stuck in the type, and not advancing to the antitype. This is a subtle form of Judaizing.
Dispensationalists have made this mistake with their presupposition that the church is separate from Israel during this dispensation. Israel has not been replaced by the church, the ecclesia, but was spiritually transformed into the church, similar to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
This mistake leads to a huge over-estimation of the eschatological, or end times, role ethnic Israel has in the future. I see the dispensationalist view as falling for a Satanic head fake instead of advancing to the antitype. They accept the false notion that prophesies about physical Israel still remain to be filled typically at this time. Because of this, many believers are letting their political and foreign policy preferences be affected by a phony end times story, spiritual fake news. Our job is to be a faithful witness, not to figure out how to help bring about the end of the world.
After more than a hundred generations, a large percentage of earth’s population have some DNA from the man Israel, progenitor of the nation bearing his name. A much smaller percentage are ethnically Jewish (for which I understand the mother‘s lineage is important). But born-again Israel, the church, is inclusive of anyone, regardless of their physical DNA, as long as they trust and follow Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).
This view that Israel is separate from the church is an example of looking at the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament. But Jesus taught about spiritual things by using physical analogies, as in His parables. He demonstrated that His Father taught the same way by embedding physical analogs of spiritual things in the Jewish scriptures (typology). Looking through the lens of Christ enables us to learn about spiritual things by allowing the Spirit to reveal truth foreshadowed in these Old Testament symbols.
Much of this revelation has already been made by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. For example, Peter pointed out in 1 Peter 2:5 that we believers are living stones being assembled into a spiritual temple. Galatians 6:16 speaks of the Israel of God in a spiritual, antitypical context. Galatians 4:26 refers to “the Jerusalem that is above.”
In the Greek, the opening verse of John’s Revelation literally states that the unveiling of its truth will be ἐσήμανεν, signified (sign-ified) by an angel sent by God. As in English, so in Greek, the verb is based on the same root as the noun for sign, σημεῖον. Most contemporary translations gloss over this by using “made it known” or “communicated”, which in some contexts are adequate renderings. But here, in the symbol-densest book in the Bible, they are thereby hiding in translation the explicit notice that a symbolic message follows. This notice is like a programmer including in a section of code a comment specifying that all local variables are pointers, not literals, by default. Why all the signs? Because God spent hundreds of years teaching us His people what the signs mean in order that He could reveal all these spiritual things to us using the signs!
I also recommend the following book by G. K. Beale:
Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation
and this one by Vern Poythress:
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation
No purchasing link is provided to these books because they are not the subject of this article. They can be purchased from christianbook.com.
You can access an electronic copy of Poythress’ book without charge at frame-poythress.org.
Application to Today’s Spiritual Battlefield
To apply what we have learned to today's world, the risk is not so much of unholy alliances between the church and government, but we should be wary of developing unholy unions between the church and business.
Today we may have the opposite problem with the church and government. While we are now wary to avoid formal government ties to specific church hierarchies, individual believers also have a spiritual responsibility to act as ”salt of the earth” for the government. In the United States, each person is one of “We the People”, the highest civil authority, from which the government derives its authority. As members of this civil authority, believers will answer to God for the influence or lack of influence we exert to keep the government operating in compliance with the godly principles proscribed for civil authorities in Romans chapter 13.
It was a sin of commission to bear the government sword to force people to give to the church. But it is a sin of omission to not bear the government sword to enforce justice upon evildoers. The United States is being attacked from within by forces of darkness that want to destroy us. Some who are elected choose not to enforce the law or even join in the lawlessness. We should vote for candidates who seek justice, and encourage others to do the same. In Plato’s Republic, it was suggested that the just should ultimately overcome the unjust because the just can trust each other and work together, while the unjust can’t (at least not for long).
How do you tell the just from the unjust? In Matthew 7:6, Jesus said of false prophets, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” For example, people and organizations who advocate or attempt killing police or burning down federal courthouses are evil, no matter what politically correct name they falsely claim for themselves. They pretend to be sheep, but are ravaging wolves. Don’t be fooled. Warn the flock.
For more information about the deceptions we face on today's spiritual battlefield, I recommend the following book by James A. Watkins:
The Devil's Matrix: This World of Lies, Deceptions, Illusions & Distractions
I read the Kindle version from Amazon. No purchasing link is provided since it is not reviewed here, but the author has provided an excellent online summary of his book here:
- The Devil’s Matrix: This World of Lies, Deceptions, Illusions & Distractions
The Devil’s Matrix is the latest book by James A. Watkins, a long time magazine article writer at HubPages. The book shows how a blinding false reality has been purposefully created for Americans through the employment of Lies, Deceptions, Illusions
Conclusion of the Addendum
Some of my statements have been blunt, if not harsh. This is to more clearly call attention to some truths that are hard to perceive through the mind fog induced in our time and place by the enemy, not to condemn people in the past or present who fall victim to the enemy's deceptions.
Even as the church affected Rome, Rome affected the church. The ancient world was cruel and violent. People paid a lot of money to put on violent, bloody spectacles, not only in the Roman Coliseum, but elsewhere. Things changed slowly in the ancient world compared to now. The intent here is neither to excuse nor to condemn those of the early church for their mistakes, but to learn from them.
We have the advantage of hindsight, and should not hesitate to use it. To ignore the mistakes of the early church and fail to learn from them would be a mistake on our part.