Someone shared with me a sermon from John MacArthur, Jr., called “Who is God’s Candidate?.” In it, he makes very “theonomic” sounding appeals regarding modern politics. “Is he coming around?” is the question. Just listen to some of these radical statements:
Government, as such, serves the purpose of revealing God and His law to society. . . .
God has put into the world conscience to strike an individual if he violates the law of God, and government to strike a society if they violate the law of God. Government, then, has the responsibility to enforce God’s law, God’s law. Obviously it cannot force worship, but it can enforce God’s moral law. . . .
You cannot have a society that is going to enjoy the benefits of common grace, God’s extended common grace, unless that society is under the control of a government that is defined by the law of God as revealed in His Word [my emphasis]. . . .
Government should never separate itself from God, from the true God and the true law of the true God. . . .
Recognition, reverence, toward the true God and submission to His law, as recorded and revealed in Scripture [my emphasis], is essential to the well-being of a nation. . . .
[A]ll kings fall under the divine mandate to worship the true God and to establish His law and lead their people by that law. . . .
Any ruler, any king, any person in authority who shakes his fist in the face of the true God, who rejects God and rejects God’s law, in any way, will find himself under the terrifying judgment of God. . . .
Wow! That all sounds great. So is he “coming around”?
Honestly, I get sent sermons, clips, posts, etc., like this fairly often. Whether from MacArthur, Mohler, or many others, the hopeful question from the sender is usually some form of the same: “Is he coming around?”
The sad answer to that question, in almost every instance I’ve seen for going on twenty years now, is, no. In fact, the truth may be even worse than a simple “no.” What you are witnessing with sermons like this involves a combination of factors, but boils down to a conflicted conscience.
The conflict arises with the obvious truths of the Bible that God’s law applies to all societies in all times and all places, that God has revealed that law to us for civil and judicial matters, and that God will judge nations according to that revealed law.
All of these general truths are easy to affirm for any Bible-believing preacher. They’re not too difficult to state either, although few preachers even go this far. But the option is there. So any time popular ministers feel the heat, for whatever reason—it may be that their followers are reading Reconstructionism or Theonomy, and beginning to ask questions—they can preach sermons like this, giving huge lip-service to “God’s law,” without ever really addressing any particular issue or applying it to the hundreds of injustices in society.
What this boils down to is a con-game. The preachers know that biblical law must be applied to social issues, but they fear if they preach on the specifics of what that law teaches about money, banking, taxation, education, work, thrift, criminal justice, police, defense, war, and much more, they would have so much controversy their churches would split a dozen ways, parishioners would leave, offerings would plummet, the grand event would come to an end. That’s the great fear anyway. So, they do what sounds great, but in reality is easy and safe: they preach platitudes regarding “God’s law.” This gets them off the hook (with men, anyway).
Whether this is done with the conscious intent of deceiving or not, the end result is a con-game.
This may be a tough lesson for many Christians to receive, especially to the extent they love their own celebrity preachers, and either cannot bring themselves to allow them to be criticized, or simply hold out eternal hope for them to change. But it is a lesson which young Christians and young Christian couples should learn sooner rather than later: as long as you keep giving these types of celebrity ministers so much of your time and resources, they will keep failing you in this area, and they will, unfortunately, keep holding you in immaturity as a believer.
I don’t care how many times they attack the atheists and humanists for you, as long as they avoid applying God’s law in its specifics to injustice, they have by definition nothing to offer you except the what Scripture defines as the doctrines of immaturity.
This happens with nearly all the conservative Christian leaders, and happens often. Folks have shared with me similar clips from Todd Friel, for example, so many times I wonder if they’ll ever figure it out, or get over it. I don’t care how many times these guys “address politics” and give a nod to “God’s law,” they are not “starting to come around.” They are running. They are looking for a way to avoid the issue in the name of the issue. That way is called lip-service. Let’s talk about the importance of God’s law in society and government while arguing that the only revealed particulars of that law pertaining to society and government need not apply today, or simply while never discussing them. This is not “starting to come around.” This is a con-game. Evangelical leaders have played it for decades.
Another, as I have written before, preached right through a large chunk of the law itself—some thirty sermons or so over several months—and hardly even mentioned the state at all, let alone gave any specifics. It was a masterfully drawn-out version of what MacArthur has done here. The only “applications” we ever hear from such guys are general complaints against abortion and homosexuality. Over and over again, they bemoan these two obvious blights, while repeating “God’s law, God’s law, God’s law.”
How do you preach right directly through the middle of dozens of passages which have application almost exclusively to civil, judicial, and social matters, and yet almost totally neglect such applications? Sermon after sermons, dozens of times? Only if you are assiduously avoiding the topic in the name of the topic.
Not a word is ever said about the specifics of God’s law, how it should tie the hands of the State in various areas, how Christians should respond to the challenges of God’s law when it conflicts with State-funded programs and threats from the State, etc., etc. Not a word.
And thus the vast majority of these preachers—including the great ones—give great lip-service to “God’s law,” even for civil government in general, and yet offer absolutely nothing from “His law, as recorded and revealed in Scripture” in the way of providing a blueprint for how those civil leaders and civil laws ought to operate.
Gary North nailed this point over 25 years ago, writing in 1991:
Year after year, theonomists get this sort of criticism. “No, we don’t want Old Testament laws. Yes, these laws are valuable. No, there are no biblical blueprints. Yes, we must honor biblical principles. No, we must not appeal to the Old Testament law code for our civil laws. Yes, we must respect them. No, we should not be biblicists. Yes, we must pay attention to God’s moral principles.” On and on and on: doubletalk. It is dialecticism for conservative Christians. It is judicial agnosticism.
You’ve heard the terms “con artist,” “con,” or “con-game.” You may know what these terms mean simply by absorbing their common usage, but may not know the derivation. “Con” in these terms is short for “confidence.” A “con-game” is a “confidence game.” “Confidence” is Latin word that means “with faith.”
These leaders—and I mean all of them, every single one—have spent entire careers (whether consciously deceitful or not, I don’t know or care) failing the good faith of their followers. They have offered a worldview involving “God’s law” for “society,” including “government” and “nations,” but they consistently and predictably refuse to go into specifics. So the answer is, “No, they are not ‘coming around.’” They are leading you astray and keeping you in immaturity with a con-game, and they have been doing so for a long time.
Stop making excuses for them, and more importantly, stop making excuses for yourself. They’ve helped you with the basics: faith, basic apologetics against atheists and cults, Calvinism, baptism, etc. But they have proven for decades that they intend on going no further. Stop waiting for them to come around. Move on for yourself. The full realty of God’s law for society and nations, civil leaders and law, that’s been promised for so long but not delivered, awaits.