Tuesday, April 24, 2012


(One’s level of piety, whether devotional or practical, depends much on knowledge being either learned or misconceived. In these analyses we have made mention, occasionally, of books that either help or hinder the grand object of piety. It seems natural, consequently, to supplement the analyses, now and again, with correlating book reports.)


Alexander Taylor Innes, Church and State, a Historical Handbook (1890; Bibliolife, n.d.), 275 pp.

(The above picture is not on the book; but it is suggestive of the intersecting of two kingdoms. The picture on the book you order will be a somewhat random affair. Mine was appropriate to the subject. There is no dust jacket, an excellent idea!)

The question of Church and State exists when conformity to national religion and its religious practice are no longer the accepted opinion (p. 2.) With some help from a Frenchman, Mr. Innes does not take long to show the tension between Church and State: “The Roman empire admitted [allowed] no association within the State independent of the State…The cold hand of the State should not press on the inner kingdom of the soul…Association independent of the State, but without destroying the State, is the great question of the future” (Les Apotres, Ernest Renan, p. 7.) If not persecution for nonconformity, the Christian of Roman times (less in our day) had to beware of civil or military participation, for recognition of Pagan rites is then inevitable (p. 14.) The Christian might also be tempted to yield even more than this, and by a wholly voluntary act, bring the Church under State rule by asking it to settle disputes among churches or sects regarding matters like ownership of property (pp. 16-19) or even orthodoxy of belief (p. 45.)

An edict in 311 ended the last persecution of Roman times (p. 22.) The year following, soldiers marched under Constantine at the sign of the cross, an event showing the subordination of State to Church (p. 23.) At this time, Constantine still worshipped the sun. Paganism was not made illegal by him; nor did he profess to establish Christianity, maintains Innes. The proclamation of Christianity as the religion of the empire came generations later (p. 25.) “When these Christians, with their intense convictions, should have themselves become a victorious majority, how long would the Christian ruler be able to keep his official neutrality and equal-handed justice?” (p. 27.) As Constantine’s convictions became more intense, though, his toleration became (a rare thing in history) vivid. Innes is strong on this point, claiming that justice has never been done to the man on this account. A long quote from the writings of Constantine follows in support of this opinion (p. 30.) However, “to tolerate all religions, but to favour Christianity, was the idea of his reign” (p. 32.) One can see the hint of a crackdown in the word ‘favour.’ Before his death in 337, municipal, as well as Pagan temple revenue, was being turned over to Church use, and forms of Pagan worship were being prohibited (pp. 32, 33.) Through the zeal of his sons, toleration decreased even more, and Constantine’s vision of uniting Christianity and Paganism into a sort of Deism faded into oblivion (p. 33.) “The wheel had now come almost full circle; for not only was Christianity now established, as Paganism had been before, but the open exercise of the one religion was now declared a crime against the State in the same way—and even in the same words—in which in the previous century the law had been bent itself against the profession of the other” (p. 38.)

It is necessary to digress from the summary to observe a little. Historical relations of Church and State are hard to study. What writer can simplify such complexity? But the subject is second to none when it comes to life principles that must be learned from a general acquaintance with it. Here is the most concerning principle that this book is suggestive of. The State is now encroaching on the Church (Canada, 2011); but without warning, and suddenly, the reverse might become the case (which I would not advocate.) Those who are glad to see the Church lose its rights should, with historical precedent in mind, back off for fear of backlash. Christians, for all their talk of peace and love, can be abruptly agitated, who knows by what moral event, and can become, with no warning, just as fanatically ardent to get their opinions into law as most of the worst of liberal activists. It can happen just like that. Liberals should draw back from poking Christians in the eye. Religious zeal is the hardest to stop once it gets moving. Revenge is not something you want to provoke a Christian to, especially nowadays, for today’s Christian has all but lost his compass, his virtue, and his senses. There’s no telling what he might do with the powers on his side.

“The Creeds of the Church down to the Reformation contained nothing on the relations of Church and State” (126.) Then come the Protestant Confessions on the subject, which are more advanced in the advocacy of religious tolerance than was then allowed in practice (pp. 130, 131.) ‘The ruler of the region is the ruler of religion’ (p. 156) proved a dictum not easily dislodged. On the other hand, the imposition of religious observances upon secular peoples leads to reactionary philosophies. While Hobbes (1588-1679) would put faith and conscience in the power of a king (p. 189), Rousseau (1712-1778) would go so far as to have Christian faith disallowed (p. 204, 207.) The State, when supreme, can go this way or that; and so a system yielding liberty for all is the aim.

In Church and State, a Historical Handbook, Innes does not propose an ideal, not by his own pen nor by that of another. But the wisdom approaching to an ideal may be found in the research well organized by him. The question is now more between Parliament and Church than Church and king. But the issues remain basically the same. That the State exists for man, not the man for the State (Kant, p. 252) seems to agree with the State being ordained to bear the sword for the good of man, as stated in Romans 13. The ideal is hinted at more largely by Pope Nicolas I (865) on page 129, and excellently too, if we can get past the word ‘pontiff’ and pretend to see ‘Church’ or ‘church minister’ there instead. In short, his meaning is that the State and Church benefit each other most when they keep to their proper stations, the Church depending on the State to solve temporal issues, the State depending on the Church in regard to spiritual matters. A briefer, though slightly less marvelous sum of the ideal may be gleaned from Coleridge. The Church completes and strengthens the State, he says, but does so from without interference or commixture, as it goes about laying its own foundations. The Church does not ask wages or dignities from the State, but only protection and to be let alone (p. 230.) The page on Locke’s position contains more of the same sentiment, but writ more large (p. 194.) The reality is that “all ideas upon Church and State, and human welfare generally, like gases into different sides of the same chamber, must henceforth meet and mix in the one European democracy” (Innes is a UK author, p. 268.)

This is not a definitive word on the Church/State question; that is not Inne’s design. It is, just as promised, a handbook on the subject from the historical angle. And it’s a good one. This 19th century lawyer delivers a scholarly, readable, stylistically attractive synopsis.  
Content: A- (Comprehensive, knotty legal history)
    Style: A- (Better than your average legal file, I’m sure.)
    Tone: A  (Objective but not cold.)
Grading Table: A: a keeper: reread it; promote it; share it.
                       B:  an average book: let it go.
                       C:  read only if you have to.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


(This blog feature is for the purpose of critiquing what is called ‘The Good Word’ in the Red Deer Advocate. ‘The Good Word’ is supplied by those ministers in Red Deer who are united in that relationship called ‘The Red Deer Ministerial.’ Ministerial pastors (virtually all Red Deer ministers) share with one another the privilege of writing what they call ‘The Good Word.’ Thus, ‘The Good Word’ is ‘The Ministerial Word.’)

The Subject: ‘Are we a skittish Easter people?’ by Mr. Rolf Nosterud, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, in the Red Deer Life, ‘The Good Word,’ Sunday, March 25, 2012.

The Sin Committed in this Article: PROSTITUTION OF GOD’S HOLY WORD.

Here is the Proof:

In this article, Mr. Nosterud said: “Jesus once said, ‘Many are called, but few rise to answer.’”

This particular ‘Good Word’ is about how Christians ought to rise up and ‘protest for a different world!’ By this is meant that we should rise up and ‘protest the trampling of the innocent and vulnerable—wherever it happens!’ That is the gist of Mr. Nosterud’s message. We agree with the moral; but there is no gospel here, no message about how the death of Christ might be to our eternal benefit through saving faith in his name. For all their noise and preparations for Easter, Red Deer ministers haven’t much to say about the Easter message of Christ’s death and resurrection.

If it is a good thing to ‘protest for a different world,’ then it must be an excellent thing to ‘protest for a different word’ than the one given to us here by Mr. Nosterud. It must be an excellent thing to protest against the prostitution of God's word in the column called ‘The Good Word.’ To ‘prostitute,’ according to Webster’s: ‘to devote or corrupt to unworthy purposes.’ Maybe some reader or other will contend that Mr. Nosterud corrupted Jesus’ words for a worthy purpose: to preach against injustice. No matter why you corrupt the word of God, the reason cannot be important enough, can it, to make Jesus and God’s word into liars? Say that it can if you dare. Get on Mr. Nosterud’s side if you like. But we will call his abuse of Jesus’ words ‘prostitution,’ just like the Bible lovers of old would have done. Jesus spoke. It is written. Any purpose in the world will not justify this History to be rewritten! Such rewriting is prostitution; we should use the strongest possible word we can think of to single out the sin Mr. Nosterud is guilty of. It is PROSTITUTION. He prostitutes the word of God to his own purpose.

Mr. Nosterud cites no Bible book, nor number, in support of what he tells us ‘Jesus once said.’ What Jesus really said was: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22.14.) It is doubtful that even the most corrupt modern translation says anything like, ‘but few rise to answer.’ If this educated man had been loyal to quote what Jesus actually did say, he would have gained easy access to preaching the gospel, for that verse, accurately quoted, naturally leads to it. But he must think it is no sin at all to misquote Jesus in order to preach something the verse was not designed to address. To be faithful to the word of God must be less important to this man (who calls himself a Rev. Dr.) than being faithful to his own idea about what the word, even Jesus Christ, should say! 

Blameworthy behavior of this magnitude is more the norm than the exception in ‘The Good Word.’ The word of God has been prostituted in that column, in one fashion or another, nine times out of ten, for as long as we’ve been aware of the column’s existence: since about 1995. Long-term discreditable conduct! Many letters of protest have been sent over the years, both to these ministers and to the newspaper they publish in. But not one time (and we have followed this column very closely) have we ever come across a protesting letter from one minister to another. Can their silence about each other’s false doctrines and sins be on account of all ministers always agreeing with what is written in ‘The Good Word’ by their fellow brother? Can it be that they all agree that exchanging the words of Christ for an invention is okay? Their unity is such that we never hear of any one breaking rank to reprove another of false doctrine or practice, no matter how wicked the fault. Paul withstood Peter for acting two-faced (Galatians 2.11, 12.) Acting two-faced must be a less serious transgression than tampering with the word of God! But will the Ministerial cry foul? Will it, or any minister in it, withstand Mr. Nosterud to his face? Because of past Ministerial silence when a voice was needed to correct one of its ministers, we have reason to expect nothing more honorable than ongoing cowardice in the interest of Ministerial unity.

But brotherly confrontation is okay to do; and it may even be written about. Paul did both. Where bona fide biblical unity exists, there will be a shared concern for truth, and because of this, you will notice that confrontations happen. But a Ministerial that lets each minister believe and do what is right in his own eyes, what kind of brotherhood is that? Is it biblical? That unity may be tight in some outward, superficial sense; but it has no spiritual depth, no accountability, and in consequence, no credibility. This ‘brotherhood’ is an associaton of light and darkness, which is condemned and forbidden by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6. Attempt to make a condemned association like this work, and you will have to overlook, and be silent about, the sins of your ‘brothers’ in order to maintain order and peace. This is why the Ministerial is bankrupt where earnestly contending for the faith is concerned (Jude 3.) How can you contend for the faith when there are so many faiths in your ‘brotherhood.’ Which faith would you contend for? The faith of Roman Catholicism, which says that salvation is by works as much as by faith? The ‘Word of Faith’ from Family of Faith, the aim of which, is not salvation by the Lord and the enjoyment of him, but material prosperity from him and the enjoyment of things? Or will it be the particular Lutheran faith of Mr. Nosterud, which says that the words of a minister may replace the words of Christ whenever it suits the minister’s fancy or design? Rather than contend for the faith, then, this Ministerial, in order for a show of peace to exist and continue, contends for no faith at all, not even the ‘faith of Jesus’ (Revelation 14.12.)         

Mr. Nosterud is okay with Scripture prostitution. And many professing Christians will not see much of a sin, if any at all, in what he has done. Some will, we hope, be enlightened to how awful that sin is, through this critique. If you see no sin in a minister deciding what a verse should be—no sin in his exchange of Christ’s words for his own, then is your respect for the word of God not wanting? Is your respect, then, for Jesus the Word, not extremely insignificant? Is it not even possible, then, that you are stone-blind spiritually? Do not allow the state of your religion to come down to what is typical among churchgoers in these ignorant, apathetic times. There are churchgoing persons who possess critical faculties of a very dulled character through the corrupted church culture that believes nothing should be judged, that anything goes, and that nothing counts. Pray that God will disallow your mind from withering to the point at which you don’t care what is done to his precious, soul-saving word. If God will judge at all (and he will), our reaction to his word being corrupted and abused will certainly be some part of what will be weighed by him in that holy exercise. 

The verse this minister abuses happens to be the conclusion to the parable known as the marriage of the king’s son. This verse states the fundamental reason why worldly men will not gain entrance into heaven, but instead will be ‘cast into outer darkness’ (verse 13.) The reason: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (verse 14.) “The mass miss the wedding feast, and a few choice spirits find it by the choice of God’s grace” (Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew.) How eerily ironic that this minister would abuse a text on the judgment to come when that same judgment is promised for those who abuse the word of God! “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Revelation 22.19.) Do not cavil at this by saying this warning pertains only to what is contained in Revelation, and that therefore Mr. Nosterud is not liable to judgment. Common sense reasons that one part of Scripture is as inspired as another, and that therefore God will be holy to his word everywhere. The warning, or promise of judgment, just happens to be in the back of God’s Book. Mr. Nosterud takes out the words of Jesus the Saviour to insert his own instead. What greater sin can be committed by a man in the ministry? In his article, he speaks against compromise among Christians. But what compromise is done here by the Christians’ minister?! He is not this Christian’s minister! He compromises the very word that he has been ordained to save souls and glorify his God by! He compromises the words of the very Person ordained from eternity as the only Saviour of sinful souls! This man is culpable. The word of the very Person whose words he prostituted testifies to it. That fearsome word in Revelation 22.19, though penned by the apostle John and summoned forth by the Spirit, is ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Revelation 1.1.)        

“The story of Nightingale is generally known [not anymore], which Foxe relates, how he fell out of the pulpit and broke his neck, while he was abusing that Scripture (1 John 1. 10)” (John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p. 38.)