How Should Christians Treat Sexual Deviants?

I read an article today on christiantimes.com. The headline reads, “Ben Carson on LGBT community: Jesus died for everyone, including gays and lesbians; equal rights but not extra rights”. In the article, he is quoted as follows:

“Another reason that we must be informed and understand our Constitution is so that people don’t manipulate it,” he said, as quoted by The Christian Post. “For instance, look at the LGBT community. Now, I don’t have anything against gays and lesbians. You know, Christ died for them just like he died for everybody else. Our Constitution protects them just like it protects everybody else. … Everybody gets equal rights but nobody gets extra rights. Nobody gets to change everything.”

I agree completely with the point he is making. So, what’s my beef? It is that some of his words (assuming that he has been quoted correctly) will tend to create confusion. This article is an attempt to set forth clearly the Christian position with respect to sinners of this sort, without compromise, and without the subtle misdirection produced by “politically correct” language.

Political correctness

First of all, the word, “gay” has been made a politically correct euphemism for homosexuality. It has been perverted from its historical meaning, and thus stolen from us. Now, if we use the word according to its proper definition, there is an inevitable, though unintended, reaction to it, as if we were making some kind of sexual reference. So we dare not use it, as the AV Bible does in James 2:3 in the expression “gay clothing” or as Stephen Foster in “My old Kentucky Home, “Tis summer, the darkies are gay…”. (“Darkies” was not, at that time, a derogatory nickname for Negroes, any more than “Blacks” is in America today.) And why has this good old word, “gay” been thus perverted? For one reason, and one reason only; to make the filthy practices of sodomites seem innocent and harmless. For this reason, I avoid the use of the word; preferring to call such things what they are. I happen to think that everyone else should do the same.

Why we should have something against homosexuals

Second, what does he mean by saying, “Now, I don’t have anything against gays and lesbians.”? It is plain to me that people ought to have something against them! They not only commit acts in private that are abominable; but they have succeeded in abolishing the criminal laws against their perversions; which means that now they can run for public office and have a part in making our laws! It means that they can promote their evil practices without fear of penalty. They are even now doing just that in our government schools. This puts our children at risk! I think we should all have something against them for that.

And, just as Lot was in danger of God’s judgment because of the homosexuality and violence of the inhabitants of his city; so will we be endangered if we allow these things to be practiced in our midst. We should fear the wrath of God if we as a society are complicit, as many of us are, in the perversion of human sexuality. I resent it that our courts and other branches of government have legalized, normalized, and even created legal protections for, sexual deviancy! Our whole society is thus placed in danger of God’s severe judgment. I have something against them for creating this terrible situation.

And what about the fact that such people spread deadly diseases — not only among themselves, but among the children that they rape, and the innocent wives and husbands that they infect, and the children born with these diseases because of their mothers’ infection? I think it is only right that I — that all of us — should hold this against them.

To be fair, I know that Dr. Carson did not mean what he said to be taken too literally when he said that he has nothing against them. It is the kind of disclaimer that we hear all the time from people, especially public figures; because of — shall we say — “pragmatic considerations”. The point is that many people will take them literally; and will infer that they ought not to “have anything against them” either. Whereas they do damage to our society that is out of proportion to their numbers.

Sinners’ rights

Next, I think it ought to be said, to clear up any confusion on the point, that whether or not Christ died for a particular category of sinner has absolutely nothing to do with what those sinners’ legal rights are. The legal institutions of a city, county, state, or nation define them. They do not always define them correctly, and in that case, Christians may properly try to change them.

As to the law of God, the Bible condemns this perversion of human eroticism in no uncertain terms, and makes it a capital crime. This is not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New. Offenders against these laws have the right to a fair trial; not a right to practice their abominations without stigma or penalty.

The community of Jesus is therefore to call for the various legislatures to institute laws against sodomy and other abominations, with the biblical penalties, and for the legal authorities — not private persons — to discourage perverse practices; by arresting those who are suspected perverts, as well as those who flaunt their lasciviousness or proclaim themselves as deviants, by trying them, and by executing the just biblical penalty whenever a person is found guilty.

The law of God is still in force

Redemption does not change the moral law, or mitigate the seriousness of a crime defined as such in Moses’ law, or make the Mosaic penalty unjust or inappropriate. Nor did Jesus abolish the moral law of Moses, a point that He stressed in the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount; which not only defines what practices are to be punished, but how they are to be punished, and to what degree. He only abolished those laws which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, and the laws peculiar to the commonwealth of Israel, a nation which, at the time when He delivered that sermon, He was about to destroy.

The moral fitness of a particular punishment for a particular crime is expressed in the lex talionis, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. This is not a harsh principle, as it is usually represented. This is a provision of justice, in contrast to the arbitrary laws of pagan nations, which, for example, often punished lesser crimes with death and confiscation of property, destroying not only the offender, but his family. It limits the punishment, while not weakening the claim of justice. The punishment is to fit the crime, and this principle, so often stated in Moses’ law, provides an objective canon to enable the achievement of that goal.

But how does this principle apply to sodomites? Why does the law of God prescribe the death penalty for this particular crime? The Scripture tells us that it is because it is an abomination to the Lord:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Lev 20:13)

Paul stresses the fact that this is a sin against nature:

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Rom 1:24-27)

Now, nature is another name for God’s creation — especially His created order. The gift of human sexuality was not given that we might gratify our appetites in any way that pleases us. It was made to attract a man and a woman to each other; and to cement the bond between them in the institution of holy wedlock. It is in the stability and affectionate relationship of this union that children are to be born and reared. Normal sexuality not only gives pleasure: it produces and fosters life.

Sodomy, on the other hand, may produce a kind of perverted pleasure; but it does not produce life. It is literally a filthy act, that by its very nature causes disease and death. It is a peculiarly vile form of rebellion against God; and a great offense in His eyes. It is in consideration of the infinite dignity and majesty of the person sinned against that it deserves the death penalty.

We must also remember that the purpose of punishment is not only to visit judgment upon the perpetrators of crimes: it is also to deter others from committing the same crimes. (It would be well if we could return to the practice of the public execution of the penalties of the law, for the purposes of deterrence.) There must not only be punishment; but a demonstration of justice, in the penalties prescribed by law. If the punishments are insufficient, then this purpose will be frustrated; for the people will lose respect for a law that coddles criminals. On the other hand, if the penalties are unnecessarily cruel, then the people will abhor the law, rather than respecting it.

The difference that Christ makes

That Christ died for sodomites and other perverts is absolutely true, and many of them have been, and will be, saved. We are to rejoice for them and with them whenever this occurs. We are to embrace those who repent as our brothers and sisters, no less than former drunkards, thieves, murderers, or any other kind of sinners:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)

How we should treat them

Moreover, the general rules of Christian conduct towards those who are outside the Christian community are not to be suspended where perverted persons are concerned. That rule is to “love thy neighbor as thyself” to show respect, meekness and kindness in our dealings with them, while not taking them for intimate friends, or giving them the status or the privileges reserved for the brethren.

We are to exercise benevolent love, which desires the good of the loved one — not complacent love, which takes pleasure in him. We cannot stop abhorring his sin, and showing our abhorrence if he makes a shameless display of his sin in our presence. We cannot pretend that he is a normal, much less a virtuous, human being. But neither are we to treat him as if he were sub-human. He still possesses some remains of the image of God — however much marred they may be.

Most importantly, we are to seek to make known to him the true nature of his evil practices, to show him his lost estate, his liability to the eternal wrath of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which he can be saved from it. We are not to harm him, or to incite other private persons to harm him, or to threaten him with harm. We are to seek his good by showing him that there is hope for him, as for every sinner, in the power and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Howard Douglas King

June 13, 2016

The Myth of Intellectual Property: Part 4

Consequences of Intellectual Property Laws

Many evils result from the laws that legitimize this false category of property. “The love of money is the root of all manner of evil.” And this is all about the love of money.

First, these laws tend to work against the man who develops a useful idea and is only looking to make an honest profit from making and selling products incorporating it. For he may be sued, and find that his idea is really “someone else’s” (legally speaking). Then he may not only be prevented from using it; but he may be ordered to destroy any of his products that incorporate the idea. The possibility of financial ruin is real.

Second, patents creates monopolies that allow the holders to artificially raise the prices of items, processes or features that are patented. They also give the patent holder a head start in the race to win the largest share of the market for items that contain the patented feature. Potential competitors may never have a chance to catch up, even should they invent a viable alternative of their own.

Third, it slows the implementation of really useful ideas by creating a legal obstacle course for new products. The cost of lawyers and the bureaucracy is a burden of time and money. This burden must be sustained by someone, along with that of law enforcement, if the patent system is to continue.  It creates a whole new area of law — one that is ideally suited to covetous men who lust for overnight riches. Don’t we have enough lawyers and litigation? Huge sums are awarded in patent and copyright lawsuits. Who pays? Ultimately, society at large.

Fourth, it distorts the natural distribution of labor, diverting people from useful labor to less useful work that can be made more profitable through the exploitation of intellectual property laws. The human resources of any society are finite, and the fewer people that are employed in ways that enrich the entire society, the poorer and weaker the society. Modern technological society wastes precious human skills and labor at an unprecedented rate, by diverting labor from important and beneficial occupations — like farming and making of necessary goods — to the production of luxuries and entertainments. By attracting people away from more useful labor for the sake of promoting innovations for profit, the distortion is exacerbated.

The Destructive Pace of Change

Fifth, these laws have artificially accelerated the pace of change in society beyond the capacity of human beings. In the past, the motivation for technological change was entirely different. New tools were developed by the worker for the worker. A new tool may have allowed him to work faster or to do a better job, or may just have made the same job less painful to do. If someone else saw the tool, the owner probably would brag on it — and be flattered to see someone else make one like it for himself. Really useful changes would tend to spread. Useless changes would be rejected. Change was slow and beneficial. There was no difficulty in adapting. Society remained highly stable.

One of the gravest dangers we face today is the pace of technological change, and the rate of change in everything else that results from it. We are doing things that have never been done, and we are doing them without giving a thought to the accumulated consequences of so many changes. Not only are we risking some massive miscalculation that will plague us for generations — we are creating a world without any stable social structures to guide us. Life in the technological society is increasingly like being in an MTV video — continuously flashing images without coherence or comfort. The institutions that give life meaning were never designed to deal with constant and forceful changes such as we are faced with. Society is disintegrating as a result.

Author’s Disclaimer

This author is not advocating disobedience to the existing laws. They embody the only mechanism now in place for the compensation of countless people for their labor. In many cases the amounts people are able to secure through the system are excessive, but that is not the point. Christians must support the right of people to compensation for their labor, and therefore must support those laws which serve that purpose until better laws can be implemented.

Scripture the Judge of Human Law

But Christians must return to the Bible as their basis for judging the morality of all human laws. Without a common belief in the relevance and authority of Biblical law, we cannot possibly withstand the false and destructive ideologies of the world around us. If we are going to let the world define the basic categories of thought, we may as well give up the claim to be governed by Scripture.

Originally published as “The Consequences of Intellectual Property Laws”, part 10 of “A Christian Agrarian Critique of Technological Society” in Foundations 1:10, August 20, 2002

The Myth of Intellectual Property

Part 3: The Rights of Authors

What about copyrights? I am an author myself; and gain nothing by prohibiting a source of income arising from my published writing.  If anything, one might expect me to take a different tack on this part of the subject. But I must accept the conclusions of my own theory. My writings are not my property. I might wish it were otherwise; but the law of God and right reason overrule my wishes.

Am I saying that authors have no right to any legal protection of their works? Of course they do. Authors must be legally protected from plagiarism and the misrepresentation of their works. Plagiarism defrauds an author of due recognition. And to publish any work (especially if it is inferior) falsely, under the name of a famous author, in order to attract buyers, is fraud; and it may diminish the reputation of that author. Any injury done to a man’s good name is a serious crime.

But I must say that these are not property crimes — they do not justify an exclusive right to profit in the case of books, any more than in the case of inventions. The same general principles apply in both cases. Go ahead and profit on the sale of copies of the book you wrote and had published at your own expense, but if others wish to do the same, provided they ascribe the book to its proper author and publish the work accurately as written, who is to stop them? This was once the practice in all the world. The authors of books in the ancient world had a different motivation than mere profit.

I have already argued that the ideas found in my books are not mine in an exclusive sense. I have no right and no ability to prevent others from having the same ideas; or expressing them. This must be true then, of books as well as inventions.

But it might be argued that once a writer’s ideas have found tangible expression in writing, then the form in which he expresses his ideas belongs uniquely to him, and he ought to have the right to control the publication of his writing, as well as the exclusive right to profit from it. It cannot be denied that the form of expression “belongs”, in a sense, to the author. However, that is only in the sense that it appertains to him as his work, and no one else’s. In this sense, we all “belong” to our parents – not as property, but as uniquely their offspring. (Notice that bondservants are recognized as property in the tenth commandment; but wives and children are not.) The form of expression is still ideal, and therefore not property.

The Original Purpose and Nature of Copyrights

If the premise is true that authors have a moral right that is exclusive of others, then why doesn’t existing copyright law recognize perpetual ownership? Like the patent laws, copyright laws allow works to pass into the “public domain” eventually. If there is a real pre-existing property right attaching to the form of expression, then the law ought to recognize that right in perpetuity. This it does not do.

Rather, the law was made to encourage authors, as the patent laws were to promote scientific research. Our U. S. Constitution says,

“The Congress shall have power to… promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing to authors and inventors for limited times the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…” ( Article 1, Section 8)

This is objectionable because in doing so, the Federal Government has, in effect, created a new class of property which God has never recognized. But notice that it does not pretend that authors and inventors have a prior moral property in their works; and that there is no recognition of such a thing as “intellectual property” at all! Also notice that the end is not the profit of the authors and inventors; but the cultural and technological development of the nation. The patent and the copyright are rather intended to provide incentives to writing and invention.

Property is Linked to Stewardship

But I do not acknowledge that an author has property in his published works. For what one cannot control cannot be property. Property is granted for the sake of stewardship, which is the use or management of a thing for the profit of the one who created the stewardship. It is true that we are, in a sense, stewards of all the resources that God makes available to us — our health, our time, our training, our circumstances, etc. We would not call these things our property, but they are ours to use, and for their use we will be held accountable.

But the basic reason that God ordains property is that most tangible things cannot be well managed unless some particular person is placed over them and held accountable. (“If it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility”, the saying goes.) This requires absolutely the exclusion of other persons from the right to control the use of those things. So possession, control, the right to exclusive use and the exclusive right to profit from the use of property are interrelated concepts that are inherent in the idea of property. But this only makes sense when we are talking about tangible things.

On the other hand, it is neither necessary for purposes of stewardship, nor feasible, that intangibles be allotted to the exclusive use of anyone. And this fact excludes them from the possibility of being anyone’s property.

The Absurdity of Asserting Property in Intangibles

If God had said to Adam “have dominion over the sky”, what sense would that have made? For an insane man might assert his right to rule the sky, but who would believe that he could “have dominion over it” – or any part of it — in such a way that he could derive profit from its use more than anyone else? No control, no possession, no dominion – no property.

In just the same way, once a work is published, there is no way that an author can control the copying of it by others. He must realize that by publishing he has placed the writing de facto in the public domain. If I set a piece of furniture that I no longer want out at the curb for the garbage truck to pick up, and someone else takes it for his use, I cannot fairly call him a thief, or use any legal means to recover the furniture. I relinquished control over it knowingly, intending to dispose of it, and clearly signaling my intention. From henceforth, it is in the public domain.

It is now no concern of mine who takes it. (In fact, it is more in accord with good stewardship and God’s property laws for the poor man to be allowed to take it and use it, than for it to be buried in a landfill.) Just as the law does not recognize one’s property rights over articles set out for the trash man, it ought not to recognize property rights in anything that has been placed in the public domain by publication. What one cannot control can be no part of one’s stewardship, and is therefore not property in the Biblical sense.

Again, as we discussed earlier; without control, one cannot maintain an exclusive right to profit. And the essence of property is the exclusive right to control. But if something cannot be controlled, how can anyone claim a right to control it? And if he has no right to control, how can he claim an exclusive right to profit?

If I design a beautiful and unique facade for my home and have it built, and my house is in view of a public road, near a college of the arts; can I reasonably expect the art students who pass by to refrain from sketching or painting that facade? Would it really be morally wrong for any of them to use such a sketch to fulfill an assignment at school, and therefore profit from the use of my design? Would it be a sin against me if one of them published a painting or photograph of my facade without my permission, or payment of a royalty? Such a legalistic approach would soon tie all of us up in red tape forever.

The simple truth is that the design of the façade is an intangible, and therefore not property. When I put it on display, I make it available for everyone’s admiration and enjoyment (Isn’t that the point?), and inevitably for certain uses as well. I am not saying that the facade is not the homeowner’s property; but that the ideal aspect of it is not.

Originally published as “The Rights of Authors”, part 9 of “A Christian Agrarian Critique of Technological Society” in Foundations 1:9, August 6, 2002

The Myth of Intellectual Property: Part 2

The Absurdity of “Intellectual Property”

The idea of “intellectual property” is a recent one — in fact, it is still developing. Not only is it not a Biblical concept — It is a radically humanistic concept. Now, humanism cannot provide a coherent explanation of anything. It can give no adequate basis for morality or ethics. If a man is not accountable to God for the use of property, he can do as he wishes. That is, until someone else challenges his ownership. What then? On what basis can the original possessor defend his claim? He must apply to some entity greater than himself, with the power to adjudicate the dispute. And that is the sovereign state.

The only question for the humanists is, who is the real owner? Obviously, it cannot be God. The state, once only an arbiter of property disputes, is increasingly acting as if it were the ultimate owner of all property — the sovereign state. The state has effectively replaced God as the absolute Lord, and and this means that we are all only stewards of the state.

When it comes to intellectual property, what is asserted is “an exclusive right to profit from an idea”. In the case of real or personal property, it is easy to see that the owner of the property has an exclusive right to profit from the use of that property. But that is because the property belongs to him in an exclusive sense. It is a concrete entity that cannot exist in two places at the same time. And the essence of his property in it is his exclusive right to control it. But if it could not be controlled, how could he claim a right to control it? And if he had no right to control, how could he claim an exclusive right to profit?

It is absurd to speak of “property” in relation to things that cannot by their very nature be limited to one place or controlled by one owner. Ideas can have many “owners”. And each “owner” of an idea is accountable to God for the use he makes of it. But the right to use and the right to profit are inseparable. Once I have an idea in my mind, I have the right to use it and to profit from it, but I have no right to prevent anyone else from doing the same. By contrast, the fundamental idea of property in law (as we have seen) involves exclusivity. “Intellectual property” laws try to make sure that each user pays the “sole owner” of the idea by mere assertion of a right for which there is no basis in fact.

Who is Sovereign, God or the State?

Since only God can bestow His property on anyone, “intellectual property” raises questions of sovereignty. When the state grants a patent, it can only do so if it is (1) recognizing a pre-existing property in the invention or (2) actually conferring that property for the first time. These are the only possible explanations.

But how can there be a pre-existent property in the idea? For it is plainly possible for many people to have the same idea at the same time. In that case, who would own the idea? The first one to conceive it, you say. But the first one to conceive it may not be the first to document it — for any number of reasons. If this is really a moral right, it must belong equally to all of them. But that is impossible — all cannot have an exclusive right. The first to pay the fee and get approval is the one who gets the monopoly. Further, it is not clear why the patent does not extend into the future, in perpetuity — which it must if it is based on pre-existing moral right. Rather, it is limited to a period of time.

The alternative is to say that the state is here actually creating a new property right. This requires us to understand that the state is sovereign, and that it can create property at will. It is no longer the adjudicator of conflicting claims regarding the author of an invention. [In that case, why is it bound to grant the monopoly to the party that documents the idea first? Should it not consult the public good and grant patents only to those who have a demonstrated capability to bring the idea to market? Where do we draw the line, if the state is to have such powers?]

Our conclusion must be that neither premise is true: “Intellectual property” laws do not merely recognize a pre-existing moral right to profit from an idea. But neither can we allow that the state has authority to create property. Only God can do that. Since these are the only two possibilities, “intellectual property” does not exist. This means that all the laws prohibiting the free use of ideas and imposing criminal penalties on those who exercise that right are contrary to reason and biblical ethics, and ought to be abolished.

Originally published as “The Absurdity of Intellectual Property”, part 8 of “A Christian Agrarian Critique of Technological Society” in Foundations 1:8, July 3, 2002

Authentic versus Synthetic

The Westminster Confession on the Text of Holy Scripture

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them.

But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope. (WCF 1:8)”

The Confession of Faith here states that the existing Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are to be the final appeal “in all controversies of religion”. The thing that so many miss is that it has nothing whatever to say about the manuscripts originally penned by the authors of Scripture — the autographs; but rather its whole concern is with the existing copies in the hands of the church – the apographs. (We read of “original languages’ but not “original manuscripts”.)

We know this because, in the first place, all of the originals have perished long ago and all we have are the copies. And secondly, because in this paragraph, these are the Scriptures to which final appeal is to be made, and which are to be translated into the languages of the nations, so that they can be read and searched by God’s people. You cannot do any of those things with the non-existent autographs!

These apographs include the approved hand-copied manuscripts that survived in the hands of the Greek church until the time of the Reformation, as well as the printed editions of the Textus Receptus that the Reformed church’s scholars actually used. These it establishes as “inspired” and “preserved”, and therefore “authentical”. And being authentic, they are therefore canonical – that is to say, the only rule of faith and practice. The one includes the other.

The language of the Confession not only implies that there had been no significant corruption of the text, such that the texts available needed to be restored; but it states that the text as handed down is “authentical”. In other words, it is an accurate and authoritative representation of the originals from which it was copied. You cannot have authenticity without accuracy of transmission. An inaccurate, error-ridden copy such as we are often told the Received Text of the New Testament is would be inauthentic, and would have no authority.

So the authenticity of the Scriptures is said to depend on two facts: inspiration and preservation; both of them essential. If we remove the parenthetical material from the paragraph, it will be easier to see what I am saying:

The Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.

The Confession’s attribution of authenticity to the existing text is striking. It is an exact equivalent of the word used by Roman Catholic scholars to describe the Latin Vulgate, which is supposed to be the only authoritative text used among them;possessing more authority than either the Hebrew or the Greek! In law, a “fair copy”, certified as identical to the original is considered “authentic”, and it possesses the same qualities and authority as the original. If therefore, the original was inspired, then every accurate copy possesses the same quality of inspiration.

The accuracy of the existing copies is not dependent on the diligence of the copyists alone: it depends on the faithfulness of God, who wants the church to always have the same pure word of God. Notice how full and forcible the assertion of preservation is: “being… by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages”. “His” (God’s) “singular care” “and providence” “kept pure” “in all ages”. Nothing could better illustrate the Westminster Divines’ conviction that they had in the Received texts something practically identical to what the inspired penmen originally wrote.

The textual criticism that developed soon after the Westminster confession was written, was founded entirely on an erroneous, naturalistic doctrine of Scripture. It did not assume inspiration and preservation; rather the opposite. One cannot be objective, they said, if we begin the investigation by pre-supposing the conclusion. If we assume that the Bible has never undergone corruption, then we will have to interpret the data in a way that accords with that assumption. No, we must stick to the facts, and assume nothing beforehand. The Bible must be treated like any other book; and our conclusions must be dictated by the data alone.

What’s wrong with that? Doesn’t it seem reasonable? And yet it is dead wrong. Why? Because it is impossible to be free of presuppositions. Only an idiot is free of presuppositions. To have knowledge and reason is to have presuppositions of all kinds. We work hard to acquire them. The scientist must assume that the world is stable, that it has universal and regular laws that govern it, and so on.

And the text-scholar must either assume that the Bible is God’s book, or that it isn’t. And one’s conclusions will be affected by one’s assumptions. There is no neutral ground. The critics think that they are neutral; but the fact is that they start with an opposite assumption. This is the identical method of materialistic scientists today who claim neutrality when they rule out beforehand the possibility of a God of creation and providence who rules the material world; with the erroneous justification, that such an assumption would make true science impossible. The result is bad science, or science falsely so called.

And this naturalistic textual criticism made its case against the Received Scriptures by arguing that the known worst manuscripts were in fact the best! Now, this cannot possibly be true, for these so-called “best manuscripts” are entirely discordant with one another; while the vast majority of manuscripts are united in their accord with the Received Text. But on the assumption that there was no Divine providence keeping the text pure; it is logical to assume that the oldest manuscripts are the purest; and the more recent of them are the most corrupted.

This occasioned two serious problems for them:

First, the mass of later manuscripts, allowing for spelling differences, are virtually identical. They should not be.  They should exhibit hundreds of different forms of the text, with varying degrees of corruption. But they don’t.

Second, the earliest manuscripts differ greatly from each other. This should not be; for these are the oldest manuscripts; and they are supposed to be the purest.

Instead, they are so different that it is impossible to reconstruct the text from which they are supposed to have evolved.

But even if these discordant early manuscripts had witnessed to the existence of a single text, there would be no logical reason to exchange the text approved, copied and passed on as its official text by the church in all ages for a text based on manuscripts the church had knowledge of, but evidently did not consider worth copying. By what act of omniscience do textual scholars know that this rabble of witnesses without identifying information or particular histories points to an earlier and more accurate form of the original text than the one the Greek church passed on to us?

In fact, the presumptuous quest for the autographic text, for texts more perfect than the ones God has supplied, has produced a plethora of speculative texts that can only be called synthetic. Truly they are, for they are fabricated from these worst of all manuscripts, according to rules that are so arbitrary that textual scholars cannot agree on what they should be. Readings are chosen according to the subjective judgment of the individual scholar.

Once we were assured that the textual critics would some day remove all doubt about the text of Scripture; but it ain’t happened yet! If you open a modern critical Greek New Testament at random, you will find a set of cryptic notes that offer, for each place in the text shown on that page that they consider uncertain, a series of choices labelled, say, A,B, C, etc., each given a rating based on the text-critics’ opinion of which is more likely the true reading. The ratings change with each new edition. The reader gets to pick the one he likes best.

These synthetic texts are no better than a series of counterfeits. And the textual scholars and publishers who have attempted to foist these counterfeits on an unsuspecting world stand on the same moral ground as those who counterfeit wills, and currency, and such. Actually, while the crime is the same, it is far less heinous to deprive a man of his temporal property than to rob him of the pure Word of God.

Every Presbyterian minster has to subscribe to the truth of the Westminster standards, and must vow to uphold and teach its doctrines. How is it then, that most of them reject the authenticity of the Received text? That they rely on their critical Greek New Testaments for the true reading? That they use and approve translations of the critical text; and teach that the Authorized version is inaccurate? I think that those are fair questions.

Howard Douglas King

Revised December 1, 2015 and April 13, 2019

Rooted in Greed

How Materialism Came to Dominate the Western World

And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. (Revelation 18:11-13)

These words were written in John’s prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, here called “Babylon” because the earthly city had become more like the ancient city of man than the city of God it typified, just as it was also called “Sodom” for its perversity in Isaiah 1:10 and Revelation 11:8. Jerusalem was one of the great commercial cities of the ancient world, and by the first century it was wholly given over to covetousness. As John tells us, everything was for sale there, including the souls of human beings. He is not speaking of the slave trade, though no doubt it flourished there, for “slaves” constitutes a separate item in the list. Rather he means that men were selling their souls for money. How like our own times!

The Force Behind the Industrial Revolution

As Ralph Borsodi showed in his valuable work, This Ugly Civilization, the industrial revolution did not introduce machines to the world. Sophisticated, cost-effective, productive machines of many kinds had been in use for centuries in homesteads, shops and mills all over Europe and America. Rather what occurred was the development of machines designed for centralized mass production. These large and powerful machines, driven by massive power plants rather than muscle represented large investments of capital, and a very large return on investment was expected.

Christians know that the Adamic curse has limited the productive capacity of the earth. Scarcity is a well-known fact in economics. Man is normally to “eat bread by the sweat of his brow”– that is, if he chooses to live honestly. The dishonest and the greedy have always been able to find shortcuts to wealth. The ordinary way to do this on a large scale since ancient times was conquest.

The British Empire in the Nineteenth century became very rich by plundering the resources of the world. The slave trade was its most profitable enterprise of all. Shortly after the civil war, R. L. Dabney wrote, “The slave trade was the corner-stone of the present splendid prosperity of that empire.” (A Defense of Virginia and the South, p.30). The financial center of the world was London, with its sophisticated system of paper instruments that allowed the rapid movement of capital from less profitable enterprises to those that were more profitable. It was a money system, as opposed to a system built on the value of real assets (land and houses and the like), and was designed by speculators and usurers to facilitate the rapid acquisition of huge fortunes — legally.

Jacques Ellul, in his classic work, The Technological Society, says”

“…it was the bourgeoisie who discovered how much profit could be extracted from a consciously developed technology… At the beginning of the nineteenth century, they saw the possibility of huge profits from this system… It is solely because the bourgeoisie made money, thanks to technology, that technology became one of their objectives.” (p.53)

The factory is the product of crass materialism. Gary North, who is certainly no leftist (and no enemy to technology) commenting on an article by R.V. Young, writes”…it was not Christianity, but the materialists who were the designers and engineers of the modern industrial system.” He speaks of ” … the industrial society, which is now ruthlessly polluting and destroying nature.” (Genesis: the Dominion Covenant, p.34)

Some Christians have been erroneously taught that the modern world was built on Christian principles. This is nonsense. Christianity has not been ascendant in the west for the last three centuries — rather it has been in decline. The wealthy and powerful — the ruthless — have made bows toward the Christian minority as required, but it is their principles — not ours — that have shaped the world. (This is not to say that Christianity has not furnished the wicked with much useful knowledge.)

To say that America’s “wealth” and “greatness” is because of God’s blessing may be true. To say that it is because God approves of our way of life is utter arrogance. No doubt the Romans believed that their vast empire was proof of their rightness and the favor of the gods!

As a Postmillennialist, I believe that Christians will ultimately be victorious, and that the just society will be established in time and history. But who will seriously contend that the West is advancing toward that goal today? It is rather advancing towards judgment.

Technological society is a system that is based on greed, also called covetousness. Covetousness is a sin of excess, the desire of more than is proper — excessive and unrestrained desire — a desire that is allowed to reign in the heart where God alone should be King. It is therefore idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

The factory was born of the greed of the first industrialists, as Ralph Borsodi argues. They made their profits by taking over one industry after another, and abandoning each one as the level of return (inevitably) dropped when competition brought prices down. It was not enough to make a profit on goods. There will never be enough money made by just producing and selling goods. One must move into an industry and undercut all the competitors first, then raise prices until the profit on each piece is large. Then others will be attracted to the industry by the enormous profitability. Finally, you get out when competition brings the prices down, and go plunder another industry. All of this economic conquest is enormously disruptive to society.

Sustained by Avarice

Not only was the factory created by greed — because it depends for its survival upon mass consumption, it must foster in every way possible the sin of covetousness in the masses. A society that only makes and consumes what it needs is anathema to the factory system. Both a taste for luxury and a willingness to live in debt must be nurtured. The masses must be convinced that there is something really wrong with the simple agrarian way of life. It’s not exciting or fun! Fun is spending money on things just because you want to — not because you need them. Fun is spending without regard to the future. And for those who have money and care more about security than fun, security is having a lot of money.

What happens when aggregate demand falls below aggregate production? The last time it happened was called the “Great Depression”. When Borsodi wrote his book (1920s), America was on the doorstep of that event. Borsodi spoke out clearly on the dangers of “over-industrialization”. He also predicted that it would lead to socialism — as it clearly did. We have managed to avoid a depression for a long time now (thanks to a world war, a cold war and the opening of global markets), but who knows how long before it happens again? Global demand is down, and overcapacity is a huge problem worldwide. Factories are being idled, and the demand for labor in the U.S. is at a nine-year low today. The rates of personal and corporate bankruptcies are very high. Yet people seem to keep spending — at least in the U.S. For how long? [This was written before the financial crisis of 2008, HDK]

An Inherently Evil System

This evil of materialism is inherent in the technological society. It is the dominant principle. Hence “efficiency”, defined as the cheapest way to do anything, the most profitable — rather than the best way for all concerned — is exalted as the “Dao”, the “Way”, the “summum bonum“. Without the highest efficiency, nothing can be done at an adequate profit.

This is especially true because the factory has an “Achilles’ heel” — what Borsodi calls “the institutional burden”. Because of the centralization of production, certain advantages (economies of scale, mostly) accrue to the factory — advantages which allowed it to destroy their original competitors, cottage industry and village crafts. But there are offsetting weaknesses to the factory, which Borsodi charts for us. Factories can only sustain this burden if they are ruthlessly efficient. Otherwise, given a comparable level of technological development, decentralized, home-based production becomes more economical for the things people most need.

The egregious evils of the Factory are not to be seen as incidental to the system, but rather symptomatic of its fundamental unsoundness. The widespread adoption of the principle of efficiency is evil in itself. We should be trying to make exchanges that are mutually profitable (I Cor. 10:24) — not seeking to make the most profit possible for ourselves at the expense of the other party. Business must be regulated by the golden rule. Otherwise the quality of products will continuously degrade.

A disregard for the real well being of the masses is expressed in the haste to get gain. It not only causes the collapse of traditional and vital institutions; but also the pollution of the vital and irreplaceable common resources of air, water and land. Technological society is a dying society, always in turmoil and rushing toward chaos.

All of this is a result of the prevailing notion that man is autonomous — not accountable to God or dependent on him, and that this life is “all there is” on which technological society is finally based. Men holding these views think nothing of trampling on God’s law.

A prime example is the legalization of usury in Cromwellian England, contrary to God’s law (and the teaching of the church ever since it was founded) which effected a revolution in macro-economics. Now, the aggregation of “capital” which concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, was made easy, and vastly accelerated. The wealthy became rich, and the rich became super-rich — almost overnight. Now, they had power to make the rules, so that they could not only protect their riches; but increase them even more! Where did all this money come from? You know the answer: from the exploitation of working people like you and me, who were just trying to make a living.

Howard Douglas King, Revised April 13, 2019

Originally published as “Rooted in Greed”, part 6 of “A Christian Agrarian Critique of Technological Society” in Foundations 1:6, June 25, 2002