For centuries the Church has stood solidly against worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was: a device for wasting time … a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. … But of late she has become tired of the abuse, and has given up the struggle. … The average church member lives a life so worldly and careless, that it is difficult to distinguish him from the unconverted man!
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
In the understanding of this text, the modern Christian often takes the words amiss. The command is commonly regarded as a simple prohibition regarding the misuse of God’s name. It is generally applied to the usage of the name of God and Christ in reprehensible or undesirable situations. Modern translations render the commandment as :
“You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God” —NIV
“Never use the name of the LORD your God carelessly.” —GOD’S WORD®
“No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter” —MSG
Some paraphrase the command as simplistically as “No Bad Words”.
However, while there is truth in understanding that certain usages of God’s name are forbidden, at least three broader and more comprehensive conclusions are imperative to recognize. First, it must be asserted that the reference to God’s “name” does not merely refer to the formal titles of God, but it is inclusive of the various titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.1Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 54 Second, the inverse of what is forbidden is thereby required. Namely that man must revere the name of the Lord. Third, this command does not only restrict cursing and vulgar language, but requires that the man of God swear by God’s name in faith.
In understanding and defining “name” the Christian must look to scripture. In Psalm 29 and Matthew 6, man is called to ascribe glory to the name of the Lord.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
The Christian specifically is required to ascribe this glory as an act of worshiping the Lord. Nothing less than full credit, complete recognition and total praise are fitting for the glory that is due to God’s name. He is the great “I AM.” Because of this man must humble himself and hallow the very name of God.
The common titles and attributes of God throughout the Scriptures are those pertaining to his authority and sovereignty.
And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
The very title of Lord is one that affirms that God is the highest authority, absolute ruler and ultimate potentate. Yet while his character is continually compared to weapons of warfare and dominion, God does not domineer over his creation as the common and base human despot or a tyrant. God is characterized by titles and attributes pertaining to salvation and redemption. Christ indeed is the Lamb of Glory, a title of humility that has been conferred upon Christ the King of Kings. Herein we witness the nature of God’s character, at once humanly incomprehensible and comprehensively simple.
In Malachi the law of God is set forth authoritatively and viewed in relation to the Great King and Lord of hosts.
Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
As the manifest declaration of his nature, the statutes, rules and ordinances of God that must be spoken of with respect and kept in fear with reverence and holiness. The law of God ought always to be exalted just as David lauded it, proclaiming in Psalm 119:97 “Oh how I love your law!” The law of God should never be denigrated as though it were backward, barbaric or contemptible by the lawless, let alone the Christian. James calls this law the “perfect law, the law of liberty.” The Law, which is one of God’s manifold demonstrations of grace to redeemed man, should be considered in no less manner than any of his other works.
The Word of God is the very expression of God’s character and will. It relates to man who God is, and it teaches man what is pleasing to God.
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
The Word of God is the all sufficient rule of faith and practice. It sets forth what man is to believe about God, and it sets forth how man must act in terms of that belief. Hence man must approach the Word of God with reverence and humility. He must recognize that without the work of redemption and the power of the Spirit of God, he is incapable of true knowledge.
God has commanded that his works are to be made known to all men. Psalm 107 reflects this well:
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
This presupposes that all of God’s works are holy and wonderous. Thus it is the duty of all men to recount these deeds and works of God to future generations. These works must be proclaimed with thanksgiving and in songs of joy to all men and all nations at all times.
A proper understanding of the prohibition of the third commandment will yield a recognition of its implied requirements. In this knowledge, the Christian will embrace and observe all the right uses of God’s name, and consequently the comprehensive facets of his character. This observance is of necessity rendered in a true spirit of humility with an attitude of holiness and reverence that works itself out in the faith and life of the believer. Holiness and reverence both define and emphasize the importance of righteous character that results in righteous action.
Holiness is the attitude that recognizes the exalted nature of God, rightly viewing God as distinct from his creation, not a part of it. Holiness also affirms God’s perfect standard of justice. Holiness in the saint causes him to recognize that justice proceeds from God’s decrees and he consequently see God as the source of law. Holiness, which also has an aesthetic character, produces in the righteous a delight in, and affection for that law and justice, perceiving its beauty as it manifests the character of its Author.
R. J. Rushdoony aptly describes holiness in the following excerpt from a recorded lecture:
Holiness has to do with our everyday life. Leviticus, which most stresses holiness, gives us laws concerning sexuality and marriage, debt, diet, weights and measures and much, much, more. Too many protestants have a medieval view of holiness as a withdrawal from the world into a convent or a monastic establishment. And they really have turned the churches into monasteries and convents. And they separate themselves from the world and don’t want to be involved in bringing everything into captivity to Christ. … Holiness is not retreat but the application of God’s law word of every area of life and thought. … Holiness is a very wonderful and very practical thing. It is life in faithfulness to the lord Jesus Christ. And to the law word of God.2http://www.pocketcollege.com/beta/index.php?title=We_live_in_troubled_times_-_RR190A1
Thus holiness is not an abstract existential spirituality detached from the physical world. God created a complete world, comprised of both spiritual and physical elements. It is a heretical, gnostic, and Platonistic view of the world that sees a dichotomy between spiritual and physical. Instead holiness is the very spiritually practical act of obedience to God’s law. Holiness is the heart of obedience in man made evident by real works of righteousness prepared for him to walk in by faith.
In reverence, as with holiness, man is seen as the inferior to God, so by an attitude of reverence man willingly submits himself to God’s rule and standard of justice. Man sees God for the true Almighty Lord and King. Because the Christian has been redeemed from sin he stands before the Lord with “joyous song.” It is improper to view reverence as simply a stern faced sobriety. While sobriety is one aspect of the virtue, it is tempered with the oil of gladness by the command of God. The people of God, because of the work of God’s grace, act reverentially in thanksgiving with joy and exuberant praise.
Man must apply these attitudes of holiness and reverence in every area of life and thought. He cannot relegate the reverence and holiness of God to the narrow confines of his own dim imaginings or his rituals or ceremonies which in themselves are lifeless. Instead, man is required to demonstrate practical humility and a reverential attitude toward all of God’s names, and all they represent through the daily conforming of every thought and action into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The third commandment is stated as a prohibitive command. It has set a limiting factor that restricts how man must regard the name of the LORD. The full implication of this commandment has been established by recognizing that the inverse of what is forbidden is thereby required. Namely that the third commandment sets forth a solemn injunction as to how man must regard God’s name with holiness and reverence.
Even further than this, the Christian man is required to take god’s name without vanity. That is, he must take upon himself and bear the name of God in faith. He must take or swear by God’s name. Deuteronomy 6:13 declares the right manner of swearing by God’s name:
It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.
This is an injunction from the Lord himself to swear by his name. This is because the very foundation of society and every aspect of life is fundamentally religious. Dr. Joel McDurmon writes:
“ … at the bottom of every way of life, of every religion and every society, stands an ultimate oath. You have to serve somebody. Somebody is your god and you have sworn allegiance to him (or her) already whether you know it or not. You cannot escape worship, authority, or oaths. If you zip-your-lips, and lock the door and swallow the key, and refuse to take any oath whatsoever, you just took one. The question is not “oath or no oath.” The question is Whose name did you take it under? Here we must follow the example of God Himself, “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since he could swear by no one greater, He swore by himself” (Heb. 6:13). No wonder He commands us to swear by that name, too.”3 http://americanvision.org/1849/blasphemy-freedom/
It is clearly evident that the third commandment requires that man comprehensively live in terms of his faith. The apostle Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 when he says “the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17). Our Lord Jesus Christ echoed the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3 when he declared that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” As the very Word of God, the expression of his Father’s name, Christ perfectly demonstrated for us the keeping of this commandment. Ephesians clearly sets forth the manner of life that identifies Christ, and those who are taught in him:
But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
The implications of the third commandment are far reaching—far more than the sunday school bible told us when it said “No Bad Words.” God’s Word, being one with his nature, never returns to him void. It effectually conquers and commands dominion over every element of his created universe, including the territory of the mind and heart of man. The Christian man, called out of his own darkness into the light of God by the wonderful grace of this law, must live antithetically to his former self, i.e. fallen man. Being a new creation, he thus takes upon himself the creed of Christ and is re-created after the likeness of God. This likeness is one of righteousness and holiness. It is a moral imperative that the Christian man swears by God and is thereby bound to fulfill what he swears. As God’s nature is constancy itself, so the Christian life must be a life of constancy in faith wherein redeemed man is held to the standard of God’s righteousness by the Spirit and so lives faithfully in thought and deed. As the true standard of obedience to the third commandment, this kind of universal holiness and reverence for the name of God is paramount to the advance of Christendom.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 54|
Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. —Deuteronomy 4:15-19
The larger context of Deuteronomy chapter 4 outlines the careful diligence that must be shown in the keeping of God’s law, especially charging parents to teach God’s acts of providence in history to subsequent generations. Parents are commanded to “[M]ake them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deut 4:9).
The passage sets forth two principles to be considered and obeyed. First there is the responsibility of self-government. Verse 15 of Deuteronomy chapter 4 clearly establishes that man must live in the fear of God, mindful of his actions in light of God’s righteous standard. The Christian is only able to judge what is right or wrong by the authority of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit and so be conformed to the image of Christ. Self-government is basic to biblical law.
The second principle to recognize is that man is responsible to communicate the truth about God to others. There is an emphasis put upon family discipleship because the family is the basic social unit. Through the family, subsequent generations are discipled in the faith. But discipleship is not prescribed for the family alone. The family is equipped by the shepherds and teachers of the church “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” So as members of the body of Christ, we as Christians are to keep watch over ourselves and admonish one another in the faith.
Immediately following the charge to “watch yourselves very carefully” (Deut 4:15) the passage gives examples of ways in which we might act corruptly or err in the practice of right and holy worship. Man is warned to check himself, guarding against his propensity to form a view of God that is not found in his all sufficient testimony about himself, the Scriptures. The charge, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it” (Deut 4:2), was uttered in the immediately preceding verses, and is followed by the command, “take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” (Deut 4:9).
We must remember first that God is spirit and has “no form” (Deut 4:15). If we ascribe any form of our invention to God, or identify God “in the form of any figure” (Deut 4:15) we have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25), and created a false representation of Almighty God. “[H]e is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Christ alone is “the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3), being the second person of the triune Godhead.
As the first warning identified man’s presumptuous nature and his tendency to create a god after his own image, so the second warning concerns man’s tenacious rebellion in rendering worship to something other than God himself. The basic faith of so many who identify themselves with Christianity is actually the tragic doctrine of humanism. Humanism as a belief system is one which can captivate any Christian who seeks to distance himself from the full implications of this commandment. A Christian is properly identified as a humanist when, while he denies that he is party to any form of external physical idolatry, he yet refuses to yield his mind on even the smallest issue of life to the law of God. This was aptly noted by R. J. Rushdoony when he wrote: “Humanism is the second oldest religion known to man. It goes back to the Garden of Eden and to the tempter’s creed as set forth in Genesis 3:1-5.”1
The basic duty of the Christian faith is to live obediently in terms of God’s Word by faith in Jesus Christ. Habakkuk 2:4 declares that “the righteous [man] shall live by his faith.” To live in terms of any other faith than that faith which professes and performs obedience to Christ’s commandments is to live in opposition to God, and to embrace the very oldest of lies; that man can “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). This is something that each one of us does in self-deceit. We make excuses, identify something as unfair, or harbor notions of self-justification for our lawless actions in order to relieve the guilt of our conscience. The Christian must of necessity abhor the vileness of sin. He must wage war with the false concept of peace with any other faith, and he must discharge his obligation to advance Christ’s everlasting Kingdom.
As with all issues of life, the comprehensive sufficiency of scripture must by necessity be assumed in order to consistently apply these principles of worship. God’s Word alone is the final measure by which any and all forms of worship must be examined and applied. The eminent importance of this issue cannot be overemphasized. Deuteronomy 12:31-32 demonstrates this:
When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. —Deuteronomy 12:31-32
Two themes in this passage are crucial to recognize. First there is the antithesis of the Christian faith and the humanistic faith. The humanistic faith was the faith of those nations which served other gods and disobeyed the commandments of the one true God. They were to be deposed and destroyed by Israel, the saints of God. This was a concrete enactment of the proverb that says “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil” (Prov 8:13). By consequence of regeneration, “the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) has set the mind of the Christian “on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5) “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled” (Rom 8:4). The redeemed man who has been converted by the Spirit of God unto saving faith in Christ cannot dwell peaceably with evil, either in the world or within himself. The natural man runs towards humanism. The Christian must be at war with him.
What the natural man perceives as good and right worship can never be faithfully performed toward God and it is imperative that the Christian submit himself to the command of God who declares: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” (Deut 12:31). The Christian is forbidden to worship God in a manner that is derived from man’s mind. It was by the mind of man that “every abominable thing that the LORD hates” (Deut 12:31) was “done for their gods” (Deut 12:31). History is replete with the detestable horrors fallen man has stooped to in worshiping his gods, such as what is recorded here; “for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut 12:31).
The governing authority of God’s Word over the manner that we worship God is stated thus: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deut 12:32). Here is the ultimate standard that we as Christians must adhere to; namely that God himself has prescribed the manner of worship that is pleasing to him, and we are thereby forbidden from worshipping God in any manner other than he has revealed to us in his Word.
The Word of God is set forth as the only infallible source of God’s revealed will to man. If man turns to any other source to determine how he ought to worship God, whether through the examples of other religions, personal experience, or witty invention and the cleverness of his own mind, his worship will be regarded by God as abominable. It will have no merit whatsoever, and will incur the judgement and wrath of God, instead of his blessing and favor. May God give us grace that we might abstain from all things that are forbidden in the second commandment.
For 2,000 years the historic Christian church has remembered the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in human flesh. This event celebrated around the world declares the advance of Christ’s Kingdom; of the increase of His government there shall be no end! No expression of man has described this work of our Messiah so well as Handel’s oratorio. His is a singular work that vividly sets to song the prophecies and fulfillment of the advent, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, kingdom advance, final victory, and accomplished salvation of our Lord. I’ve used his masterpiece as a springboard for an outline of Scriptural texts that proclaim the promise and fulfillment of the gospel of the kingdom.
Decreed from the foundations of the world and foretold immediately after the Fall, God promised salvation through the seed of the woman in the person of Jesus Christ. The following verses reveal the promise of our Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)
To a venerable and reverend brother, connected with him by ties of spiritual kinship, Boniface, lowly servant or the servants of God, greetings of love in Christ.
With humblest entreaty we beg thee of thy brotherly mercy to be mindful of our weakness and to make intercession for us since by reason of our sins we are buffeted from all sides by the storms of a dangerous sea: asking Him who dwelleth on high and looketh down on the low things and pardoneth our faults to put the word into our mouths so that the gospel of Christ’s glory may have free course and be glorified among the nations.
How to Cowardly Abandon All Resolve and Condemn the Teaching of Those Who Fall from Favor and Lose Popularity
After the manner of Erasmus
When the sands of time have shifted, the winds of change have altered course, and the status quo yields so that his principles are no longer held in vogue, the time has come for the Christian to compromise his beliefs, concede his standards, and abandon the ship of faith in cowardly despair.
Clearly this is the only tactful course of action to take. Can he justify continuing to adhere to an orthopraxy which the sin of prominent men have tarnished? Surely the sin of such men has tarnished their message enough to justify condemning all they taught. How would he answer his critics if he were to continue to practice a lifestyle which has now been brought under such intense scrutiny? How could he easily defend such a course of action?
When prominent figures fall from favor in the eyes of their fellow Christians, all reasonable men are responsible to renounce those teachings and separate themselves as far from the danger of association as possible. He must forget that their teachings are from the Scriptures and that the Scriptures use terms and explicitly state the principles that he formerly held to.
Some Christians may argue that the Scriptures are sufficient for governing all that relates to faith and practice — But with their singular loss of popularity who wouldn’t abandon such opinions? A Christian can’t hold to principles taught by men who have fallen from favor — he may be said to be associated with sinners! What would that do to his “testimony” and “influence”? A Christian can’t be condemned by the world. He should seek the world’s approval.
While many Christians may have at one time agreed with the theology taught by these prominent figures — some may have even quoted their teaching from the pulpit! — such scandalous association can no longer be drawn between them. They must feign ignorance of the true scope of the teaching — they must convince others that they were duped into believing such ideas — any benefits they had claimed stemmed from such doctrines must be generalized or explained away. If a Christian previously voiced assent to the teaching, or gave prestigious awards to such teachers,1http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/hslda-gave-this-man-their-prestigious-lifetime-achievement-award-just-4-years-ago/ he must denounce them, and run to the safety of the next wind of doctrine2Ephesians 4:14 that blows from the Christian left.
This is only fitting. How else would a Christian save face in a culture that is already apathetic to his values and beliefs? The only valid option is obvious: look at the teachings from a new perspective — one that is antithetical to his previous viewpoint. A new viewpoint that has an autonomous standard of morality and seeks to interpret the commands of God from the cultural bias of antinomianism.
With a new standard of interpretation, anything is fair game. A Christian can berate his former friends and allies in the faith; those whom he labored hard with for the work of Christ’s Kingdom. He can now neglect kindness toward his friends and forsake the fear of God3Job 6:14 for political expediency and cultural influence.
Betrayal is the next logical step — and why not? If one can’t associate himself with the philosophies of men who have sinned, he should also publicly discredit them, preferably by claiming that he “knew” there were warning signs all along.
If logical arguments and scriptural principles of interaction with others fail, he must appeal to sympathy and emotions in a manner as culturally relevant as possible; applying the world’s parameters for arguments and discussion. The ridicule he may take for adherence to the Scriptures comes at too great a cost.
Satire aside, consider God’s response: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”4Psalm 2:4 ESV This is not a new phenomena; it has been the struggle of men throughout history to hold fast to the truth. For instance, the denial of Peter:
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. 5Matthew 26:69–75 ESV
Peter denied having known Jesus and of following his teachings — teachings which he knew were trustworthy because they were taught in the Scriptures. Later he proves that he knew they were true by his own instruction to others of these teachings. Sadly, many are like Peter and waiver when their ideologies are questioned because of their association with what is quickly becoming unpopular.
We’ve grown so accustomed to playing follow-the-leader that when prominent proponents of our ideology fail, and we’re left standing without a spokesman, we shrink at the thought of responsibly standing up for what we believe in. Our actions demonstrate that we don’t know the Scriptures well enough to give a defense for our beliefs. We have not been ardent students of the Word, and therefore can’t own the sentiments ourselves. In our depraved nature we will do anything to escape the embarrassment of our own stupidity — even abandoning all of our principles for temporal safety. Without resolve, we run like cowards.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, … their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. 6Revelation 21:8 ESV And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.71 Corinthians 6:11 ESV So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.82 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV
“The Denial of Saint Peter” (1625) by Nicolas Tournier. Public Domain.
Footnotes [ + ]
|4.||↑||Psalm 2:4 ESV|
|5.||↑||Matthew 26:69–75 ESV|
|6.||↑||Revelation 21:8 ESV|
|7.||↑||1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV|
|8.||↑||2 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV|
“Entire civilizations rest on the simple foundation of family. One of the great lessons of history is that when the family collapses, the civilization crumbles with it. A people will not long survive without strong families.”
“In the progress of the city of God through the ages, therefore, David first reigned in the earthly Jerusalem as a shadow of that which was to come. Now David was a man skilled in songs, who dearly loved musical harmony, not with a vulgar delight, but with a believing disposition, and by it served his God, who is the true God, by the mystical representation of a great thing. For the rational and well-ordered concord of diverse sounds in harmonious variety suggests the compact unity of the well-ordered city.”
“[Christian emperors] are happy if they rule justly; if they are not lifted up amid the praises of those who pay them sublime honors, and the obsequiousness of those who salute them with an excessive humility, but remember that they are men; if they make their power the handmaid of His majesty by using it for the greatest possible extension of His worship; if they fear, love, worship God; if more than their own they love that kingdom in which they are not afraid to have partners; if they are slow to punish, ready to pardon; if they apply that punishment as necessary to government and defense of the republic, and not in order to gratify their own enmity; if they grant pardon, not that iniquity may go unpunished, but with the hope that the transgressor may amend his ways; if they compensate with the lenity of mercy and the liberality of benevolence for whatever severity they may be compelled to decree; if their luxury is as much restrained as it might have been unrestrained; if they prefer to govern depraved desires rather than any nation whatever; and if they do all these things, not through ardent desire of empty glory, but through love of eternal felicity, not neglecting to offer to the true God, who is their God, for their sins, the sacrifices of humility, contrition, and prayer.”
While visiting with a family on a recent road trip, the topic of discussion included a friendly dialogue regarding the causes and results of what is commonly referred to as the Civil War. The results of this discussion lead me to prepare a list of the top 10 books that I would recommend as introductory reading about the Civil War.
Let me preface this list with the following disclaimer. The purpose of this list is not to set forth ten books that comprehensively cover every aspect of the war. Although there is one book in this list that does indeed attempt to set forth a comprehensive overview of the war, this list is not intended for the purpose of setting forth ten books to understand the entire war and all the events associated with it. This list is not intended to set forth books from either a pro-Union or pro-Confederate viewpoint. However, none of the books that are in this list approach the war from a neutral perspective. Every author has a decided opinion and worldview that affects their understanding of the war. Nor is this list meant to be considered as the best ten books to read in order to understand the Civil War. You will notice that none of these books were written during or immediately after the war. In fact the earliest book in this list was initially published in 1901. I firmly believe that the best resources for truly understanding history is to read and study source documents, yet the books that have largely assisted me, and opened new avenues of source document study are books that examine and discuss source documents.
The purpose of this list is to set forth ten books that act as a framework to introduce the conflict known as the Civil War. There are many other books besides these ten that are well worth reading, and some that profoundly impacted me that did not make it on the list. The first book I ever read that portrayed Lincoln in a negative light is included on the list (The Real Lincoln, Thomas J. DiLorenzo), yet the list doesn’t include the book that actually solidified my understanding of Lincoln as a jurisdictional usurper (The Fate of Liberty, Mark E. Neely Jr.). Not a single book by Al Benson, Jr. or Walter Donald Kennedy made this list, yet I would insist that anything that either of these men wrote is worth reading. Another book that did not make the list that is absolutely indispensable for understanding the the growth and expansion of Christianity during the war is the 600+ page work by J. William Jones titled “Christ in the Camp”.
My hope is that the following list of ten books will act as a catalyst to further the study of the Civil War, and lead to a better understanding that the world we live in today is a result of the providential events that took place in 1860-1865.
Lectures on the South, Joe Morecraft
This book is first on the list because it is always the first book that I recommend whenever someone is seriously desiring to study the Civil War. Henry Van Til observed that “culture is religion externalized.” What a person believes affects his actions and outlook on life. “Lectures on the South” clearly demonstrates the reformed Christian heritage of the south and the abandonment of historic Christianity in the northern states in favor of Unitarianism. This examination of the religious preconceptions of both sides in the conflict is essential to understanding their actions leading up to, during, and after the war.
Outlined in just under 700 pages is a comprehensive overview of the entire war, covering in three parts the causes of the war, the war itself, and post-war/reconstruction. Essentially it is a textbook that outlines every aspect of the war from a Christian perspective. So much could be said about the material within the book, but I believe that the essential benefit of this book relates to chapters 9 and 10 which outline the necessity of understanding the religious perspective of the north and south in order to recognize that the true battle was one between a Christian South and a Unitarian North.
There are so many books that relate to antebellum slavery, that it may be surprising that Doug Wilson’s book made the top ten list. Yet I am not aware of any other book that addresses the issue of slavery from such a consistently Christian perspective and examines the practice of slavery in the south with what the Word of God says slavery is and how it ought to be governed.
Initially published in 1901 as a 66 page booklet, it was later expanded in 1904 into a book of 273 pages. The book begins with the observation that Lincoln has been deified by the north, that he has been misrepresented as the savior of the nation and that he was not the great emancipator. The book sets about demonstrating that Lincoln was a man with many faults, and that many things that are said regarding Lincoln’s greatness are purely imaginative and undeserved.
This was the first book that I ever read that contradicted what I had learned about Lincoln as the defender of liberty and the great emancipator in school. It was my first exposure to Lincoln’s solution of slavery as colonization of blacks to Africa. It was the first time I had ever heard that Lincoln’s desire was for an immense federal government, or that Lincoln usurped authority that belonged only to congress (suspension of the writ of habeas corpus), or that he ordered presses burned and publishers imprisoned. The point of this book is that Lincoln was an enemy of liberty.
This book demonstrates through the citation of source documents that “Lincoln was a product of the Enlightenment.” Lincoln is regarded as a deist while according to Herndon “He lived and acted from the standard of reason—that throne of logic, home of principle—the realm of Deity in man.” This book also demonstrates how Lincoln was deeply impressed with the notion of evolution.
No other book examines the systematic destruction of republican government in the United states from a Christian perspective with constant citation, reference, and accompaniment of source documents. I have never read or seen the abridged edition, but I could not imagine being without a single supporting essay or document that is provided in the expanded edition.
Throughout this book it is demonstrated over and over that the Union army waged a horrific and terrifying war against the civilian populace of the south. The great number of atrocities that were perpetrated against women, children, and non-combatants is truly outrageous. This book demonstrates that the consistent and logical end of armed conflict that is unrestrained by Christian law is an abandonment of moral restraint, and thus total war.
Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
It is a commonly held belief that the South was racist for maintaining the practice of slavery, and that the north was free of racial tendencies on the basis that they prohibited slavery. This misconception is proven to be false as it is demonstrated that it was Northern ships that transferred slaves from Africa to America, that northern men financed the slaving voyages, and that northerners would kidnap free blacks and transport them to the south as slaves.
This book argues the case for southern secession by examining the the legitimacy of secession from many different viewpoints. It examines it on the bases of the original thirteen colonies declaration of independence from britain, the perspective of Great Britain on the war, that Jefferson Davis was never tried for treason, etc.