Yesterday we covered A. W. Pink’s views of God’s law, particularly that part of the Mosaic judicial code that we view as remaining binding for today. As we saw, Pink’s views agree with those of theonomists who declare that God’s standards of civil justice and punishment are eternal and should be on our books today. Today, I would like to draw your attention to Pink’s comments on the failure of the church to preach this part of the law as it should, and the consequences of that failure. Mainly, I want you to understand how forcefully Pink placed the blame exactly where it should be: the pulpit.
A couple comments from Pink in yesterday’s post reveal his views of the social consequences of preaching God’s judicial standards. We saw him write in one place:
If the principle of this statute—the infliction of corporal punishment on those convicted of crimes of violence—was universally and strictly enforced today, it would make this world a much safer place to live in.
And in another place, more dramatically:
Ere passing on let it be pointed out that this law of judicial retaliation ought to be upon our statute books today and impartially and firmly enforced by our magistrates. Nothing would so effectually check the rapidly rising tide of crimes of violence. But alas, so foolish and effeminate is the present generation that an increasing number are agitating for the abolition of capital punishment and the doing away with corporal punishment, and this in the face of the fact that in those countries where capital punishment is most loosely administered there is the highest percentage of murders, and that as corporal punishment is relaxed crimes of brutal violence are greatly increasing.
There is no question that we have departed from God’s standards for all of life and indeed for civil righteousness and justice. The more time passes, it seems, the further we depart from it—not only as a nation, but as the people of God who ought to be preaching these standards to the whole nation.
Placing the Blame Where it Belongs
Pink felt this same burden. He recognized that his view of civil government and Mosaic civil punishments—i.e., what we call Theonomy—may not be popular, even with his 1950 audience. In his first chapter on the law of retaliation, he wrote,
Of course we do not expect to carry all our readers with us, and we shall be rather surprised if we receive no letters condemning us for such “harshness.” But let us point out what we are firmly convinced are the causes of the moral laxity and the immoral sentimentality which now so widely prevails.
Pink did not hesitate to call out these “causes.” Then, as now, it was the pulpit:
We unhesitatingly blame the pulpit for the present sad state of affairs. The unfaithfulness of preachers is very largely responsible for the lawlessness which is now so rife throughout the whole of Christendom. During the last two or three generations thousands of pulpits have jettisoned the Divine Law, stating that it has no place in this dispensation of grace. And thus the most powerful of all restraints has been removed and license given to the lusts of the flesh.
A large part of this was due to liberalism, but a huge portion was among dispensationalists as well. And the ethic of dispensationalism had affected many others—premil and amil. As a result, a catastrophic chain reaction exploded throughout society. They quit preaching the law, and as a result, the humanist ethic took over. The results are plain to see:
Conscience has been comatose: the requirements of justice are stifled: maudlin concepts now prevail. As eternal punishment was repudiated-either tacitly or in many cases openly-ecclesiastical punishments were shelved. Churches refused to enforce sanctions, and winked at flagrant offences. The inevitable outcome has been the breakdown of discipline in the home and the creation of a “public opinion” which is mawkish and spineless. School-teachers are intimidated by foolish parents, so that the rising generation are more and more allowed to have their own way without fear of consequences. If some judge has the courage of his convictions and sentences a brute to the “cat” for maiming an old woman, there is an outcry raised against him. But enough. Most of our readers are painfully aware of all this without our enlarging any further: but few of them realize the causes which have led up to it—an unfaithful pulpit, the denial of eternal punishment, the misrepresentation of God’s character, the rejection of His Law, the failure of the churches to enforce a scriptural discipline, the breakdown of parental authority.
This chain reaction was, as surprisingly as it may strike its grace-lipped proponents, little more than a rehash of the error of the Pharisees. As such, it was the work of the devil leading purported men of God to overthrow God’s order in both church and state:
[A]s the Jewish leaders sought to ingratiate themselves with the people rather than to please God, they pandered to this evil lust. In this we may see the workings of the Devil; for in all ages his policy has been directed to the overthrowing of the Divine order. The great enemy of God and man has ever sought to move corrupt leaders, both civil and religious, so to temper things to the depraved inclinations and popular opinions of the people that true piety may be overthrown.
Pink spares no measure in criticizing such leaders harshly:
It is at this very point that the true ministers of God stand out in sharp contrast with the Devil’s hirelings. The latter are unregenerate men, with no fear of God in their hearts. “They are of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4:5). They trim their sails to the winds of public opinion. They accommodate their preaching to the depraved taste of their hearers. Their utterances are regulated by a single motive: to please those who pay their salaries. But the servants of Christ shun not to declare all the counsel of God, no matter how distasteful and displeasing it may be to the natural man. They dare not corrupt the Truth and refuse to withhold any part of their God-given message. To glorify their Master and be faithful to the trust He has committed to them is their only concern. Consequently, they share, in their measure, the treatment which was meted Out to Him.
Indeed, preaching the whole counsel of God is unpopular. For this reason, preaching Theonomy is unpopular. But the longer the pulpit refuses this aspect of its prophetic office, the more it is capitulating unwittingly to the work of the devil, and the further the blessings of Reformation slip into the depths of a depraved culture. The true preacher of righteousness—the Divine Law and Divine order—will preach it all anyway, no matter how unpopular it may seem.
While there are plenty of preachers in Pink’s tradition today who claim to desire great reformation in the churches, their desire seems to end as soon as the society and law is mentioned. The law is relegated to only personal and ecclesial uses, if any at all. When challenged, lip service is given to the importance of the law. But when detailed applications are called for, every denial of “the judicial code” and condemnation of “political activism” that can be given is.
Yet Pink blames these truncated pulpits. He condemns them openly. He proclaims the “true ministers of God” as ones who preach the whole counsel of God. In the context we’ve seen, that whole counsel includes the judicial law and its civil punishments, and for want of it, we have the degeneration that we see.
So where are these preachers today? I refer you to our recent publication on the American pulpit 1760s, and the entire century leading up to the American Revolution. I refer you to the call to today’s pulpits to reclaim the same substance and boldness. It is time we renewed this call, and raised up our preachers again.
And now, also, I can refer you to Arthur Pink in the 1950s. Even if you don’t like the tone and unbending radicality of a Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North, or McDurmon—at least see the same fundamental message in Pink, and go from there. The conclusions at which you arrive will have you fighting should-to-shoulder with theonomists, and you’ll be looking back at several generations of our pulpits and statehouses alike with the sense of mission we have.