…such is the fate of those who hate God.
From Gary North’s Leadership and Discipleship, Part 4: Scarecrow Theology
The theology of [law-despising] Christianity is scarecrow theology: the denial of God’s predictable corporate sanctions in history.
A Question of Historical Sanctions
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 teach clearly that God brings corporate sanctions in history: positive (the shorter list in each chapter) and negative. […] The defining characteristic of God under the Mosaic Covenant was His power over history, as demonstrated by His deliverance of His people from bondage. God is the sanctions-bringer in history.
In the New Covenant, the defining characteristic of God is His deliverance of His people from eternal punishment: the transition from death to life. This transition takes place in history. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting lite: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (I John 3:14).
It would be a terrible error to conclude that under the Mosaic Covenant, covenant-keepers were not heirs of eternal life. Every evangelical Christian acknowledges this. But it would be an equally terrible error to conclude that under the New Covenant, God does not bring corporate sanctions in terms of men’s response to His revealed law. Yet virtually all evangelical Christians today deny that God does this in the New Covenant era. This is scarecrow theology.
God brings sanctions in history because He brings them in eternity. Under the Old Covenant, God manifested Himself as the bringer of judicially predictable sanctions in history. There was no developed theology of eternal sanctions in the Old Testament. Under the New Covenant, in contrast, God manifests Himself in His written word. But there is no New Testament revelation that God is not the bringer of sanctions in history.
Most modern Christians – and all the public enemies of God – prefer that God not bring sanctions in history. Some Christians may indeed desire Divine blessings in this life, but most everyone hates the idea of God actually judging people in this life, as well as in the next.
God is not restrained by the desires of willfully disobedient Christians, nor is He tied down by the desires of those who openly and clearly hate Him and His Holy Word of Command,
God will crush in the heads of His enemies in time and on earth, as well as in eternity.
To understand God’s sanctions in history, we must first understand His sanctions in eternity. To understand who Jesus Christ is in history, we must understand His role as sanctions-bringer in eternity. Because modern Christians have adopted scarecrow theology, they have failed to understand Jesus Christ as sanctions-bringer, and His church as sanctions-bringer.
Jesus: The Cosmic Terrorist
God is not barbaric. Rather, God is the cosmic torturer. If the word “torture” sounds too harsh to you in this context, you have not given sufficient thought to the New Testament doctrine of eternal torment. The New Testament Greek word for torment can also be translated as torture. We must not get barbarism and eternal torture confused. Barbarism is man’s attempt to replace God in bringing eternal sanctions. Covenant-breaking man imitates God by torturing other men.
Covenant-breaking men find it easy to proclaim their contempt for God and His standards of justice. They had better repent, before the covenant-keeping God pours His wrath on their heads, in time and also in eternity.
God sends people to hell temporarily. Hell is really not so bad when compared to the lake of fire. Men do not have resurrected bodies in hell. Also, they can still communicate, according to the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:23-31). At the final judgment, God will resurrect all men’s bodies and join their bodies with their souls. Then He will separate the sheep from the goats in two corporate groups (Matt. 25). The sheep will enjoy bliss forever; the goats will experience pain forever. After the final judgment, God will dump the contents of hell into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). Those perfect, death-free bodies of the lost will suffer perfect agony for all eternity. Those eternally tortured men and women will no doubt long for annihilation, but they will never be granted such immeasurable grace. For all eternity, they will be tortured. When God resurrects souls from hell, He in effect announces to His enemies: “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”
God was – and is – never required to be merciful, and allow anyone to enter either Heaven or the New Creation.
He saves who He wills, because He wills it. No apology or explanation is required on his part, for what He decides to do to us, body and soul.
In contrast, Justice and Righteousness is a natural component of God’s Holy Character – and both, if not restrained by Divine mercy, would absolutely demand that we as sinners all burn in hell, and then in the lake of fire forever.
Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is our only way to escape the righteous and uncompromising punishment of God, in this life as well as in the next. There is no other way to salvation and life, no other way to please God, no other Name that brings salvation, healing, forgiveness for our hideous and demonic folly.
The language of torture is found in Jesus’ parable of the unjust steward: “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors [torturers], till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt. 18:34-35).
Let us not downplay God’s holy office as cosmic torturer. This is torture, not rehabilitation. The fires of the Mosaic altar were representative of this final judgment. The odor of the burning flesh of animals was representative of the sight in God’s eyes of the wicked in eternity. “But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD” (Lev. 1:9).
Christians affirm that these sacrifices were substitutes for men, but they draw back in aesthetic horror when anyone suggests that they go all the way with their theology of final judgment. They do not acknowledge that God delights in the fires that consume His eternal enemies. That He delights in the destruction of Satan and his host they freely admit, but men? Sacred men? Creatures made in God’s image? It just couldn’t be true! God just couldn’t delight in the symbolic scent of ever-burning human flesh. But He does. He gets exactly what He wants. He is not wracked eternally with guilt or remorse for the lost.
Let’s go over that last paragraph again.
Now, let’s hear as some run-of-the-mill humanist condemns God as she rushes over to the abortionist, or openly flaunt her utter contempt for God in some other vicious yet pathetic manner.
Or perhaps we should listen to some humanist condemn God, while in the same breath cries out for more power to the Leader and the State… while eagerly supporting whatever politically-driven mass murder; politically-driven theft; brutal torture (“For the right reasons… State Security, of course!”) or other pack of lies the Ruling Class – who, as a rule, hate God the most – have decided to push.
(It is wise to remember that the Ruling Class really does have the backing of a substantial portion of the population. We are ruled by people who despise God because the population want to be ruled by God-haters and covenant-breakers.
To know why this is so, I recommend a careful examination of the pulpit, the seminaries, and the church leadership. The health of a culture merely reflects the health of the Church, after all.)
The prophet brought God’s covenant lawsuit in terms of God’s revealed law, but the truth of this lawsuit was to be acknowledged by men in terms of their own consciences, not their fear of visible sanctions in history. The mark of spiritual maturity is one’s reliance on a combination of God’s visible written revelation and one’s invisible conscience, not God’s visible historical sanctions and one’s invisible fear of such sanctions. This is not to say that we are not to fear God’s sanctions; we are. We are to fear God’s future sanctions, which are not visible to us today. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
There are a lot of short-sighted leadership running around nowadays – in the Churches, as well as in society in general.
This short-sighted behaviour will have long and enduring consequences. Perhaps everlasting consequences – on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
After all, no matter how long you wait, Germany will never regain the boys she lost in two world wars. Japan will never regain the children she aborted (instigated by Americans, by the way), and the greatness she would have gained as a Christian nation is probably shut off from her forever. A beautiful nation, cast into the flames, her land slated to be inherited by God-fearing Chinese and Koreans and Philippinos. (shakes head)
…the church possesses what should be the most terrifying of all sanctions in history: the authority, recognized and enforced by God, of condemning men to eternal judgment.
While this condemnation is historical, covenantal, and therefore conditional, it is nevertheless real. Men are condemned publicly by the church in order that they might repent in history (I Cor. 5:5). But if they do not repent, the church’s formal condemnation is what condemns them in God’s heavenly court. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And l will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).
The Old Covenant did not mention the lake of fire. God terrorized rebels into submission through visible fire. In the New Covenant, God terrorizes rebels by the doctrine of eternal torment. God is a cosmic terrorist. He tortures His enemies without mercy forever. He places their perfect resurrected bodies, capable of bearing exquisite agony, into fire forever. As Otto Scott has said, God is no buttercup.
The leadership of the Church is largely silent today, as if her silence will prevent God’s judgement… in time and on earth, as well as in eternity.
I am unsure how God will judge this Christian leadership, but I am glad that I am not in their shoes.
Modern Christians rarely have heard an imprecatory psalm prayed from the pulpit against some covenant-breaker. They have never heard Psalm 83 read officially from the pulpit against specific individuals.
O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD. Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish; That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth (Ps. 83:13-18).
If any pastor would dare/to pray such things, he would lose many church members. They would transfer to other less controversial congregations. Why? Because these Christians regard the God of the Old Covenant as the theological equivalent of a fairy tale beginning with “Once upon a time.” They want no part of such a God. They prefer a God who brings only negative sanctions beyond history. Such a God supposedly does not call his ordained priests and magistrates to enforce His written law and its mandatory sanctions. They prefer to live under the rule of covenant-breakers who do not call God’s people to obey God’s word. They stand side by side the covenant-breakers and yell: “We’re under grace, not law!” In fact, Christians are under pagan lawyers and pagan law codes. They prefer it this way. They do not want to be under God, under God’s law, under God’s institutional sanctions, and over history. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, they prefer life in Egypt to life in the wilderness, and life in the wilderness to life in Canaan.
When the desires of God’s people deviates from the desires of God, God’s people draw closer to a serious whipping. For God will chastise those who He loves.
If God does not bring corporate sanctions in history, Christians conclude, then God’s anointed officers should not announce or bring judicial sanctions in history in God’s name. People should not be excommunicated; imprecatory psalms should not be prayed against specific evil-doers; and the listed capital crimes of the Mosaic law should not receive the death penalty, except (possibly) murder. In short, God’s civil law should not be preached today, we are assured, and God’s negative civil sanctions should not be imposed. No biblical sanctions!
Then what is modern preaching? Nagging. Preaching becomes the equivalent of the nagging mother who keeps telling her misbehaving child, “I’ll tell your father when he gets home.” The child, a present-oriented little monster, only increases his rebellion. “If you don’t stop, I’ll spank you,” repeatedly announces his mother, who does not believe in spanking. “In a pig’s eye,” the three-year-old responds, if not in thought, then in action.
Preaching has become an exercise in nagging. It has ceased to be the announcement of God’s covenantal corporate lawsuit and its appropriate sanctions in history. The God of contemporary preaching is presented in some version of “God’s gonna get you, you bad old sinner . . . but not in history.” To which the bad old sinner, like the spoiled three-year-old child, responds: “In a pig’s eye.”
Children are naturally rebellious.
Nagging, Mercy, and Sanctions
The God of the Old Covenant flooded the whole world, drowning every person on earth except eight adults. Noah’s sons were adults; so were their wives. God drowned all the babies on earth. Screaming in fear, choking to death, crying hysterically – they all died terribly, never knowing why. Not one survived. Not one was shown an ounce of mercy. God cut off the future of that generation of covenant-breakers by destroying their children before their eyes. And on the far side of death, what awaited those children was far worse than drowning. At least the water had not been boiling. God is no buttercup.
Children do not understand the consequences of their rebellion. They will learn… one way, or another.
Best they learn now, while they can repent of their sin at the throne of Jesus Christ.
God through Jesus Christ shows mercy in history. That is, God postpones imposing His final negative sanctions for the sake of His elect (Matt. 13:29). I conclude that this is the reason why He also postpones His lesser negative historical sanctions. But when the doctrine of postponed historical sanctions becomes the doctrine of non-existent historical sanctions, preaching becomes nagging.
Nagging is a substitute for imposing negative sanctions, whether parents do it or preachers. God does not withhold His negative historical sanctions forever; neither should parents and preachers. Modern theology insists that God does withhold predictable negative sanctions until the second coming. This makes God into a nag. Rebels learn to dismiss nagging as irrelevant, the whining of someone without power. Here is their problem: God has a long fuse, but the explosion eventually comes. To the extent that Christians are under the authority of covenant-breakers, this is our problem, too.
Best to get as far away from the epicentre of God’s wrath as possible.
But modern preaching denies that Jesus will bring predictable corporate sanctions in history: Jesus as a cosmic nanny. He brings lollipops (sugarless, of course) for good little girls and boys, but never a spanking for bad ones. If it were up to modern evangelists, God would have instructed Moses to bring this message to Pharaoh: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
God had a plan for Pharaoh’s life… a plan involving disgrace, and failure, and death.
God has a plan for your life too. Better find out what that plan is.
Christians cannot lead today because their theology denies the theological foundation of Christian leadership: the doctrine of God’s predictable corporate sanctions in history. Christians do not believe that God will back them up in history when they bring a covenant lawsuit. If God is a wimp in history, they conclude, then His people should go and do likewise. So they do. This they have done for over three centuries. At best, they have served as non-commissioned officers in one humanist army or another: left wing or right wing.
God is a cosmic terrorist in eternity against those whom He hates. He is usually a nanny to His elect in history while they are young. But modern Christians downplay God’s terrorism in history, preferring to view Him as a nag. God’s enemies do not grant Him even this much authority. Until the corporate negative sanctions come, this generation of Christians is unlikely to change its view of God. They much prefer a nagging God to a sanctions-bringer. In this, they have sided with their covenantal enemies. For this, they are in bondage to them. Scarecrow theology has done its work well.
Scarecrow theology will work until the punishment of God is inescapable and undeniable. Even at this extreme, I believe that most will still refuse to repent, but those who God has called from eternity past will indeed repent, and – turning their back on scarecrow theology – will once again walk in obedience to the Law-Word of Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth.
The future lies with those who obey God.